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Three Wells Moped Run

30th July—5th August 2017

Dave Watson

A lukewarm response to the sixth of our big runs hotted up at Carl Squirrell’s (organiser of the first two) house just after Christmas, until then I just had Dave Wickens (rider) and Matthew Hodder (back up) confirmed.  Jim Davies and Phillip Chenery committed again and Keith Backhouse was approached, he said straight away he would like to join in.  Game on.  Shortly afterwards the itinerary was roughly (very) sorted and the Travelodges were booked.  I was to lead on Day 1 and the other DW very kindly offered to do five days for us and, new boy to us but not to biking trips, Keith Backhouse said he would do Day 7 and that was it sorted.

I had decided the normal mode of transport my PC50 (not touched since last year) would be left at home as would the super sub NVT Easy Rider (it’s got to blow up one day) and break with tradition and use autocycles.

Jim Davies (Ipswich) and Dave Wickens (Burgess Hill) arrived on Saturday and we had a good catch up and a meal at Hemsby before they retired to a chalet that had kindly been loaned.

Day 1: Sun 30th July

Phil arrived early with two bikes and was unloaded; when the others arrived just before 8:00am, spare bikes, petrol cans, bags, etc, were soon all loaded into Matthew Hodder’s Kangoo and on to my three-bike trailer, we were all ready and left Martham at the planned 9:00 start time.

Three Wells Run: Day 1

It wasn’t long before there were only the two of us!  Phil’s normally super reliable PC50 had conked with an oiled up plug; he got it going again and we carried on to Bacton for breakfast (highly recommended), straight on at Cromer were Matthew Hodder had pulled into the car park and on to the first of the Wells: Wells Next To The Sea on the north Norfolk coast.

Three Wells Run: Day 1

Phil checked his oil and was using an alarming amount; we had a pleasant break chatting to the many visitors in the brilliant sun and just as we were leaving a fellow EACC Norfolk section member introduced himself; we set off and it started to rain (to save boredom I won’t mention Phil’s oil refills or the times it rained again).  We headed to the Sandringham visitor centre, via a photo opportunity at the main gates, for afternoon teas and a refuel (about the only time we arrived before Matthew Hodder).  Through Kings Lynn and out of Norfolk to Sutton Bridge, Lincolnshire for another top up.  Next stop was to be our Travelodge at Spalding were the bookings were OK (always a bit of a worry, but must say we have never had problem); the legend that is Matthew Hodder had taken the bags to the rooms and the kettles were hot.

Three Wells Run: Day 1

A walk into town and our first ’Spoons of the week was visited.

Day 1 pictures at:

Day 2: Monday 1st August.  145 Miles

With no eatery on site and knowing what we know from last year’s run we headed for the truck stop near Colsterworth for a hearty breakfast.

Three Wells Run: Day 2

Not many photo opportunities today but we did stop for a leg stretch in a pretty village where the Bown was in stealth mode.

Three Wells Run: Day 2

We called into the National Memorial Arboretum which is worthy of a proper visit on another day but we just visited the café area.  Through Channock Chase and onto the Telford Travelodge that we had been too previously.

Three Wells Run: Day 2

Very handy for having an adjacent Toby Carvery.

Day 2 pictures at:

Day 3: Tuesday 2nd August

Breakfast was taken in the Toby and it was good to have our saviours from last year, Clive and Ann Fletcher, join us for the day.  We headed for Ironbridge via a leg stretch stop to take in the view of the winding river Severn.  We pushed our bikes over the bridge and parked up and had a nice walk about.

Three Wells Run: Day 3

We then went through the Shropshire Hills area which was a real challenge for some and I was glad I had chosen to ride the Bown as there was only the one hill that beat the autocycle (and me).

Three Wells Run: Day 3

Matthew had reached Craven Arms before us and found us the Museum of Lost Content where we made good use of the refreshment area and we added to the honesty box.

Three Wells Run: Day 3

More hills and bike issues in the wet but we eventually arrived at Llandrindod Wells, our second Wells of the run and a visit to the National Cycle Museum where it was almost closing time but the kind lady stayed open and allowed us to bring our very wet machines inside.  She was pleased to see the Bown and knowing it was from Wales asked to take a picture.

Three Wells Run: Day 3

From there it was to be Hereford Travelodge and a short walk into town for the Wetherspoons both of which were visited on the first run, seven years ago.

Picture overload at:

Day 4: Wednesday 3rd August

Bit of an easy day today, ideally I would have liked to get to Bristol but the Travelodges were not moped friendly, ie: next to motorways and expensive, so we were booked in at Stonehouse.

A relaxed breakfast at Sainsburys and we headed to Tewkesbury and parked up for a look around.

Three Wells Run: Day 4

We visited the Abbey…

Three Wells Run: Day 4

… and generally chilled.

Three Wells Run: Day 4

Then we headed to the Stonehouse Tavelodge, another with no eatery on site but no problem as the nearby village had two pubs and we enjoyed a nice meal in the quieter one.

No other pictures today.

Day 5: Thursday 3rd August

The day started early for some!  As mentioned on day 1, Phil was using vast amounts of oil in the PC50 and it also kept cutting out (with a clean of the plug it would go again) so his spare came out of the mighty Kangoo and the PC50 went in.  With no eatery on site we were going to depart at 8:00 then somebody remembered Clive & Ann were going to join us again, so we waited until 9:00 for them and stopped at a garden centre for breakfast.  We were heading for Clifton when Phil missed a turning and went down a large hill and under the bridge (not in the plan), Clive & Ann to the rescue but he did have to come back up the steep hill again and his spare bike was not performing well.  I had never seen the bridge before and the others had to wait while I took some pictures.

Three Wells Run: Day 5

Three Wells Run: Day 5

Dave then took us to the dock area for a visit where the SS Great Britain is a popular tourist attraction; it was a bit hectic leaving the town and we headed out towards Cheddar Gorge.  Phil was struggling with the head wind now.  Thanks to Dave for including this on the itinerary, he met up with a friend and it was probably nearly 50 years ago when I was last there.

Three Wells Run: Day 5

We then proceeded to our third Wells of the week and happened to park outside a shop called ‘Insane’! and walked to the cathedral to meet up with Matthew for a group picture.

Three Wells Run: Day 5

At a leg strech on our way to Devizes, Phil noticed one of his exhaust studs had snapped off and on checking snapped the other one off as well; it really wasn’t his day.  As if that wasn’t enough it was Curry night at ’Spoons!

What a great Day!  My pictures are at:

Day 6: Friday 4th August

We always knew this was going to be a long haul but it would allow for a shorter last day.  After yesterday I think Phil would have liked to be in the car with Matthew but that was not going to happen so Jim loaned him his Honda and he would ride his spare Moby and I would rest the Bown and ride the New Hudson.  Clive and Ann and local Roger Kirkman were to join us for the start of the day.

Three Wells Run: Day 65

Roger rode a few miles with us then peeled off; after he left us we stopped and Jim’s Moby didn’t want to play anymore,  Matthew had been for petrol and was behind us so the Moby was reloaded, we said goodbye to Clive & Ann and Phil would have to persevere with the Graduate.  We stopped in Wantage for a nice breakfast at the ‘Buzz’ café.

Three Wells Run: Day 6

At a leg strech and a look in the church Dave’s normally super reliable Puch, Maxi didn’t want to start but, after a plug swap, was fine.

Three Wells Run: Day 6

We did several miles on the busy A507 and, at a leg stretch, stop I persuaded Dave to take us on a more rural route; this would involve doing a few more miles but I was happier doing this as we were heading for the A505 that I knew would be busy past Duxford, especially at the junction with the M1.  At Saffron Walden we had to find our own petrol then, with it coming over really, dull we followed Keith’s sat-nav to the Fourwent Ways Travelodge.  Matthew had delayed the booking in the nearby village pub by half an hour!  We just locked the bikes up, chucked the helmets in the car and walked to the pub and arrived spot on at 8:30.

It had been a long day and not many picture opportunities just a few at:

Day 7: Saturday 5th August

Breakfasts were taken in the adjacent Little Chef and then it was time for our new boy to have a go as leader and give Dave a break (he loves it really).  We set off and all was well until we came to the first planned break!  Mr Leader missed the opening and the waiting Matthew, we went back and it (truck stop) was closed anyway.  We pressed on and stopped for a leg stretch amongst freshly harvested fields, the next planned stop was to be Old Buckenham Airfield.

Three Wells Run: Day 7

A nice break where tea and scone with jam was only £2.  Matthew ‘easy life’ Hodder headed to Martham from here.  We had an unplanned stop when Dave’s freewheel wasn’t any more and became a fixie; he simply removed the split link and dropped the chain into a pannier without getting any grease on his hands.  A pee stop in Loddon and onto Reedham Ferry when it started to rain (oops, I said I wouldn’t mention the rain).

Three Wells Run: Day 7

Did I mention it started to rain?  Well at Moulton it chucked it down and for whatever reason Keith’s Novio conked out (just as it did in the pouring rain  heading for Llandrindod Wells) the others had gone on.  Keith changed the plug then drained the carb, he was determined it would get him to the finish which I am glad to say it did.

Three Wells Run: Day 7

We all made it, 840 miles in total over the seven days.

Day 7 pictures are at:

Mother Hen and the Mighty Kangoo ready for action.

Matthew Hodder

The story so far…

Dave is an ideas man and most of his ideas are sound, a few months ago he had an idea which he called ‘Well, Well, Well’.  I guessed, incorrectly, that it might include destinations in Kent, Somerset & Norfolk but I was only 33% wrong.  The ride would take in another country altogether and would go as far as Llandrindod Wells.  I was enthused and offered myself and the Mighty Kangoo as team backup aka ‘Mother Hen’.  A plan started to form and the Doctor got to work.  Selective publicising to fellow enthusiasts and an adventure started to look possible.

Travelodges were booked, maps were pored over and routes planned.  All I had to do was turn up with others doing all the hard work, until the start that is.  Dave asked me to confirm my commitment, which I happily did, so we were on.  It may seem strange that I got quite excited about spending seven days in my little van, on my own with the van reeking of petrol (not a favourite of mine), but I did look forward to the event with more than a little anticipation.  Dave, David & Keith were doing some of the hardest task, route planning, which I have tried to do without much success.  I can sort my own route out in a way I understand but transferring that to a format which others can use is a very trying task indeed.  I’d like to point out that without Dave’s enthusiasm, organisation and general goading along the ride would never happen and we would not have so much fun.

Six chaps, all old enough to know better, gathered on an overcast Sunday morning to set off for destinations known via routes yet to be discovered.  Keith was the new boy to long distance mopeding, but a seasoned rider in all other respects.  Jim, Philip, Dave & David are old hands at the game, each knowing well some of the trials they would face.  I have been back up chap before on the Yarmouth to Yarmouth ride in 2015 and I learnt a great deal on that run, mostly to be calm and not to fret too much.  I really enjoy being Mother Hen, sorting out rendezvous, planning my own route, booking in to Travelodges & managing the kitty.  It isn’t a restful break for me but it is a complete break from my job, which is good for me.

Sunday’s run was Martham to Spalding via Wells next the Sea, basically half circumnavigation of Norfolk plus a bit further west.  I met the riders in Bacton & Wells.  I was there for them in Cromer too but they ignored me; that meant all was well so on we went.  A short stop on the quayside & we were off, the lads towards Holkham and me to Fakenham for more fuel.  We would meet again in regal surroundings not too far from a lavender farm.

Sandringham tearooms, where a raised pinky was required when supping ones tea, was our afternoon break before whizzing westwards to Long Sutton.  I missed a photo opportunity when the bikes came over Sutton Bridge.  From the edge of Lincolnshire we all headed to Spalding ‘heart of the fens’.  I got there in time to book in and sort out the rooms, though I think I left bag lugging up to the chaps because of the four flights of stairs to be climbed or a lift to wrestle with.  We had a good walk into town to find a branch of ’Spoons in which to have our evening meal and thus a pattern was set.

Next day, Monday, the start of the week, we were off to have breakfast near the A1 in a truck stop.  I was acutely aware that my trailer backing skills were under scrutiny as I backed neatly into a space near the café.  The boys arrived as I woke from a nap (hint to back up drivers; always nap when you have the opportunity & not when driving).  Fed, watered & drained the ride was on again heading out of Lincolnshire for Leicestershire.  We rode / drove in 20 counties in all or possibly more; you work it out.

Lunch for me wasn’t always with the riders and machines because we didn’t share a route and they would stop in places that I didn’t visit so I often ate alone in supermarket car parks & lay-bys.  This isn’t a problem because supermarkets have reasonably priced lunch time food and quite clean toilets too.  Within the first few days I had visited all the big four supermarket chains and used some local independent filling stations.

Some of the roads we used to get across England are roads which I had cycled on when riding my delivery bike from Holyhead to Lowestoft; that’s another story (available from me by request).  I can recall the next fuel stop but I drove on to Ashby de la Zouch afterwards and then made a bee line for Telford or perhaps a Z line which appeared to involve many roundabouts and the sort of scenery which makes you think you could be anywhere in ‘out of town’ UK.

When I arrived at the Travelodge, which is next door to a Toby Carvery, there was a wedding reception in full swing.  It was a classy do, with many attendees driving white vans, the wedding car being driven on trade plates and a bridesmaid getting changed in the car park.  Hey! We do see life on these runs.

Fortunately the party broke up just before all the riders arrived.  The accommodation was as expected: clean, dry & useful, you can’t want for much more.  The carvery was short on meat variety but otherwise edible and affordable as was the breakfast the next day.

The irrepressible Mr & Mrs Fletcher arrived on Tuesday morning to accompany the bikes on their Gilera 125 scooter.  Clive & Ann are a valuable and much appreciated addition to any run and they turn up all over the place.  After the riders left heading further west I headed south to meet them at Ironbridge.  Filling up with fuel is number one priority so after a quick top up I was on my way to the famous bridge, which I had never seen before, except in books.  I got parked after making my way via umpteen roundabouts, including one where the left turn was not permitted and drivers were instructed to go right, around the roundabout in order to turn left.  I was impressed with the little town, the bridge & the scenery.  I got some good shots of the ’peds & riders including the lesser photographed Fletchers.  Once a wander had been carried out and snaps taken we were all off again.

Craven Arms was our next rendezvous for a ‘side of the road’ refuel.  Taking some moderately good roads I twisted and turned my way through Shropshire countryside towards the town which takes its name from the Craven Arms Hotel, situated on the junction of the A49 and B4368.  The hotel is named after the Lords Craven, who owned nearby Stokesay Castle.  I waited outside town for a while in a rough lay-by.  While parked there I spotted something lying in the road, a tent peg!  I am not sure it would have done anyone much good to run over it so I picked it up.  The lay-by was too rough and too small for van , trailer and bikes so I rolled on into town and pulled up next to an agricultural dealers yard.  I walked from there to find a café & found a likely looking establishment with an odd museum just up the road.  The Museum of the Lost Content looked like an ace spot for a few photos.  When everyone arrived they each noticed that the museum had a café so we went in.  The proprietor was dismayed that we didn’t want to view the collection but seemed resigned to our use of the café, which didn’t involve paying to see the rest of the building.  The best way to describe the museum and its contents is to say, ‘Go & see it’.  The café was an unmanned oddity reliant on honesty and the best bargain stop we found all week: £1.50 got you a hot drink & a doorstep slice of cake, except for Philip who missed out & only got a cup cake.  Sorry Philip.

Fuelled up, relieved and regrouped, the folks rode off while I went to the agricultural dealers, toilet, & petrol station in that order.  The first was on Philip’s behalf to get SAE 30 oil, the rest are self explanatory.  I can’t recall another fuel stop before Hereford where the Travelodge shared a yard with the cider museum and stood next to Sainsbury’s.  We had another evening meal at a branch of ’Spoons and off to bed for a good night’s rest.  Hereford Travelodge was one of the quieter places we stayed in during the week.  Not too much traffic and no rowdiness.

Wednesday morning we met the most cheerful member of supermarket staff of the trip.  She was helpful, cheery and pleasant, a lady of a certain age but she made eating out a la supermarket a far more happy occasion than it might have been.  Sainsbury’s should clone her.  Breakfast wasn’t too bad either.

Sainsbury’s filling station staff were not top of my favourite list.  Having previously used a branch in Spalding with no trouble I was dismayed when I was told I couldn’t fill three cans at once.  I was quite abrupt with the staff member who stopped me from getting all the fuel we needed but I grudgingly complied with the two can rule, paid & drove off towards Wales.

My younger brother lives in Tewkesbury & we had planned to meet him for an informal guided tour of town but he had full time employment arrive after a long search so we were not able to get together.  Instead I pottered about close to the car park in the slightly damp but picturesque town for a while until the bikes & riders arrived.  The lady car park enforcement person told me I needed two tickets (was it my day as jobsworth target?) because the trailer occupied a space in the not very full car park.  When I started to complain she told me I could move to the bigger spaces in the same car park, a helpful & wise suggestion which I took up. She later returned to talk about the bikes; she had owned an electric bike which she found to be less useful than she first thought.

The chaps turned up in the car park next to the one in which I was parked but we soon got together and equally quickly dispersed for a look around and lunch, which meant that after waiting 90 minutes I was on my own again.  Never mind, I was able to wander without worrying if I was needed back at the van.  Tewkesbury is a pleasant place to look around with many timber framed buildings, a rather striking abbey and a good selection of shops.  While wandering around I popped into Poundland (other cheap shops are available) and bought a padlock to fit on the trailer hitch.  It had been noted the night before that while we were fastidious in locking up the bikes, we hadn’t remembered to lock the trailer to the van.  After a wander and some refreshment, the bikes & riders were off again, heading for Stonehouse.  I took in the scenic surroundings of Morrison’s where I could fill all the cans I wanted without restraint and then hit the M5 for a blast south.  Note my idea of blasting with the van full & trailer in tow is 50mph without interruption.  Motorways are a boring method of getting somewhere else sooner than using back roads, but they seem to work.

At the Travelodge, which was just off a roundabout in nowhere particular, I booked in, avoided the rain and had a snooze.  The posse arrived some time later and I had already found where the local eateries were situated.  The chaps got freshened up and we headed off for the bright lights of Stonehouse, a two pub village a mile away.

The popular pub, The Old Badger, was busy and unable to cater for six hungry men so we walked on to the Kings Head.  This recently restored and rather smart hotel was as silent as the grave, so much so that when the lady in charge appeared she said ‘Oh!  A crowd’ and so we were.  The beer was good, the staff polite and cheerful.  The food was good but the bill made me & the kitty wince.  Well you can’t always eat at ’Spoons.

Our planned 08:00hrs start on Thursday was slightly skewed because one of us, not me, remembered that Clive & Anne would be meeting us for a 09:00hrs start, so they would probably appear around 08:45hrs.  Between showers of rain we refuelled the bikes, filled petrol cans, tweaked vital parts and readied ourselves for the off.  Then we waited & no sign of Capt & Mrs Fletcher of the 1st Gilera Redoubtables, by 9 a reluctant decision was made to roll out without them, in the sincere hope that they would catch us up.  My mission was to locate a branch of Wyevale Garden Centre to use as a breakfast stop.

The garden centre at Milbury Heath, Wooton under Edge has the most peculiar entrance / exit road system, which I navigated twice.  On the first occasion it was a voyage of discovery to find out if the place was open and to see if the café (restaurant, darling) was open.  The next time I arrived it was with a posse of mopeds behind me.  Having found the site I doubled back to a lay-by, in which I had just pulled up when I could see Mr Wickens arriving.  Instructions were passed on and David whizzed off to assault the hill between the lay-by and breakfast.  As the bike passed me while I waited, I counted an extra one; Clive & Anne had caught up with the chaps after quite a long ride to reach them.

Wyevale provided warm & dry accommodation, cheerful staff and reasonably priced food.  A quick toilet stop for those in need and we were off again, me via the M5 to Bristol for a drive under the Clifton suspension bridge and the riders to travel over said bridge to meet me at the SS Great Britain.

I like Bristol, my paternal grandmother was a Bristolian & my Dad survived bombing during a short stay there in World War 2.  The dockside has had a renaissance since I visited the city in 1971.  There is the great ship herself & the associated museum, plus a dockyard museum at the M Shed and other attractions at the dockside too.  I resisted the opportunity to take a canal boat trip around the harbour but I had plenty of time to wait for the bikes & boys, plus Anne.  I sussed out local cafés, the SS Great Britain experience (£13 for seniors) and the nearest toilets.  So that when folks arrived I could give them directions.  By the time the riders and bikes arrived I had taken in the local scenery, taken several photos and walked back to the main drag to see them arrive.  They parked handily near a large banner declaring that they were at the SS Great Britain, ideal for a photo and then they dispersed for a very quick whistle stop before refuelling and riding off towards Cheddar without me.  The Kangoo & I were off to Wells in Somerset to park up and wait.

Negotiating my way out of Bristol wasn’t too difficult but it did take a while because the city and its suburbs seem to go on for miles.  I topped up fuel and lunch supplies on my way, mistakenly picking up a smoothie instead of a fruit juice.  I don’t like bananas at all, and most smoothies contain banana.  I gulped it down trying not to think of what was in it.  The journey to Wells was a gentle one, except for the climb up and over the Mendips.

Wells has much to recommend it: narrow streets, roadside rills which run with clear water, a large expanse of greensward and a fine cathedral said to be the most beautiful of English cathedrals, the church of St Andrew the Apostle is in the early English Gothic style.  I enjoyed a pleasant lengthy wander in the town and around the outside of the church but I didn’t venture inside because I was waiting for the others to arrive.  One feature of Wells that I didn’t enjoy was the car parking.  It is a busy small city with little on street parking and some rather small car parks.  As I tried to get the van & trailer into, and out from, several full car parks I met a chap in a small black hatchback who drove towards me & flatly refused to reverse.  He got out of his car to make a big issue of the matter, so I slowly and carefully backed the van & trailer out of his way only to see him fail to park in an adequate space & impede me on my way to the exit; happy parking.  I found a cheaper place to park not so close to the town centre but just as convenient and with space (just) for van & trailer.

The little city gave me plenty to see and a few charity shops to visit.  You never can tell what might turn up in a charity shop; I keep a mental note of book titles I am looking for, plus a few items that I know friends and family collect.  After a reasonable spell the chaps arrived and I met them close to the cathedral.  Much photographing of people and the place occurred because this was the final Wells.  In effect we had made it so the many miles to get us home were just that, the journey home.  Meanwhile we had Devizes to find and two days travel before getting home.

Refreshed & refuelled we agreed to meet again at the Travelodge.  Our evening meal would be at ’Spoons, which would give us all a chance for a walk and a chat before we sat down to eat.  I trundled out of town via yet another petrol station and drove out of Somerset to Wiltshire.  Devizes almost had me fooled until I got some helpful directions from an older gent who smiled when he looked at the bikes on the trailer.  With local guidance I got to the Travelodge, booked in, got bags into the rooms and had a brew up.  It wasn’t too long before I heard a ring ding ping ping form David’s Puch.  I ran downstairs, from the second floor, to meet and greet everyone while stowing helmets away and helping to secure bikes to the trailer and each other.  To get parked I had used my stealth method of parking with the trailer wheels backed up and over a kerb thus giving me the ability to get almost entirely into one space.

When all parties were washed & dressed ready for the evening we walked into town, about a mile or so and found the local ’Spoons.  It was curry night so bargain food and drinks were in order.  The kitty was not greatly harmed on this occasion and each of us had enough to eat & sufficient to drink.  The walk back in the dark was quiet and without incident.

Friday morning we were getting ready to assault the most counties in one day.  Before we got loaded we unloaded two bikes.  Philip had no desire to carry on riding his Graduate, which has no rear suspension and seemed to be the slowest bike.  Philip’s oil burning PC 50 was inside the van and the options were limited but Jim had an idea: he would ride his Mobylette, Philip could then ride Jim’s PC & all would be well, well, well.  Dave decided that, for no other reason than the ability to do so, he would swap to riding his 1955 New Hudson autocycle and give his 1951 Bown a well earned rest.  As we played bike swap another rider appeared, Roger Kirkman on his very smart Honda CL50, which most of us incorrectly identified as a Nang Fang 50; Roger took the insult very well and patiently explained that this was a genuine bike form the early 1990s.  Roger set out with the others but turned off soon after.  Meanwhile Anne & Clive were back in the fray, at least until just after Avebury.

I knew I would have to take the same route as the riders to get north of Devizes and then further east.  Our first rendezvous was Wantage, birth place of Alfred the Great, and I hoped to use the M4 as a way of bypassing the riders and the towns en route.  Following my normal routine I filled the petrol cans before leaving town and headed north toward Swindon, via some spectacular scenery including the main road right through the middle of Avebury stone circle.  Just after passing a megalith or two I saw the bikes had all pulled off the road. I quickly pulled in behind them and soon saw what the problem was because there was Keith pushing Jim up the road trying to get the Moby going again.  A quick decision was made to put the Mobylette back on the trailer in place of the Graduate and to let Philip take charge of his Honda once again.  We changed bikes in record time, no ramps were used and we just lifted the bikes off and on.  Ready for the road once again, I was off, Clive & Anne had left us and the bikes made their way, with their riders, towards Swindon.

The M4 was boring and convenient; it got me where I wanted to be without too much fuss.  I got to Wantage, surveyed the town and decided that I would be best to meet the horde on the road into town.  Leaving Wantage on the B4507 I encountered the worse length of tarmac of the entire journey.  How I kept the bikes on the trailer or the trailer on the tow hitch I cannot tell.  Eventually I pulled into a side road with a good view of the road ahead. Just as I received a text from David to say they were two miles from town, I could hear the bikes pulling up a hill towards me.  Dressed in a red fleece and wearing a hi-viz waistcoat, I jumped up and waved like a crazy person.  All this was to no avail as most of the group sailed on by without batting an eyelid.  Someone spotted me and alerted the others to my whereabouts.  A prompt U-turn brought them back to me.  We agreed a rendezvous in town and set off to find breakfast.

Once again parking was a conundrum but my manoeuvring skills soon got me out of a tight space and found me a 2 hour spot of on street parking.  The lads had found a good little café ‘The Buzz’ where we all tucked into reasonably priced fare.  A quick photo shoot in the marketplace and we gathered to refuel & set off on our ways.  It took me a while to sort out how to get into the Sainsbury’s forecourt for fuel but I was soon underway again after a brief chat with a gent who asked where I displayed the bikes.  He had displayed his at the Bath & West showground at Shepton Mallet.

The next time we met was a lay-by after the M40 and another after the M1.  Note; it is useful to past over or under a motorway before looking for someone who has stopped in a lay-by, just after a motorway.  Cake was on the minds of some at our second lay-by rendezvous but not for me.  I shot off around the home counties to reach the Four Went Ways and to go through the Travelodge ritual.  In order to avoid having to eat at a Thai restaurant, I had booked a table for 6 at 20.00hrs in a good local pub.  The man at the Travelodge told me we couldn’t walk to the pub, due to it being via A roads with no pavement. I replied that no was not an option, we would not be driving or riding and we would be walking to a table we had booked.

I don’t often fret about the chaps when they are on the road, after all they are big boys, not five-year-olds, but I did start to get concerned after they had exceeded their ETA.  by a wide margin.  Then texts arrived explaining a delay and the likelihood of late arrival; I delayed the pub by 30 minutes.  The result was thus: bikes arrived 19:57hrs, quickly locked up, a brisk walk to Babraham & arrival at the pub by 20:30hrs.  The meals were worth the walk and the evening passed well.  Not our cheapest or dearest night out but well fed and happy people left the pub.

The final day started with breakfast at the Little Chef which was a short walk across a litter strewn car park from our accommodation.  Fed & fuelled the chaps mounted and rode off under the leadership of Keith who had taken on the lead role for the final day.  I had agreed to meet them outside Bury St Edmunds at a truck stop.  For me that meant a trundle along the non inspiring A14 to sit and wait, which I did, until the bikes and riders whizzed past.  The truck stop was shut & I had sat in an empty car park waiting in order to save confusion.  If I had moved on or tried to catch them elsewhere they might have missed me.  They soon turned around and found me after they had mistakenly ridden past.  A very quick pit stop saw them all on their way again & I ticked off another page in my ‘I-Spy Tesco Stores’ and got fuel & a drink then pottered off to meet the bikes & riders again.

Old Buckenham Airfield is worthy of a visit at anytime, it made a good place to stop for a bite to eat, in Jimmy’s Cafe, and a useful site to refuel the mopeds for the last leg of the journey.  I arrived in plenty of time to have a quiet cuppa and watch some aeronautical activity before the horde arrived.  They had ridden in from Old Buckenham village, home of the Ox & Plough pub which hosts the famous Old Buckenham bike nights throughout the summer.  All the bikes were still going strong although some riders looked ready for the final stop and a sleep in their own beds.  I was going to take a fairly direct route home via main roads while the chaps had a ferry crossing to look forward to, so I wished them ‘Bon voyage!’ and let them roll out towards the east coast.

I was soon back in our village and popped in to say hello to my dear lady then drove around to Dr Watson’s surgery to unload and bid farewell to everyone.  The bikes and riders soon arrived and all looked glad to be back.  David had a long journey home to look forward to, back to West Sussex with car, trailer & two mopeds.  Others had shorter trips back into Suffolk.  There was much mutual congratulating and bonhomie as we unloaded, reloaded, packed up and said cheerio, until next time.