I loaded up and set off on Friday afternoon. I haven't got any panniers for the XT, so it all had to go high - sleeping bag, tent, odds and ends in the top box and personal stuff in a tank bag. To start with, it handled like a pig on stilts, but I soon got used to it being a bit top-heavy and it didn't give me any problems.
The journey up, to Baskerville Hall Hotel near Hay-on-Wye (where Conan Doyle wrote that book), was wet and cold, but I was grinning all the way. There's just something about setting off on a trip, however modest, that excites something deep down. I'd opted for an open-face helmet and goggle-style sunglasses for this one, as I knew there wouldn't be any high speeds, so all the passing motorists could see me smile too.
The weekend was in a field next to the hotel - pretty rough and damp, but we got a fire going and things warmed up. There were a few from the UK, but many from Belgium and Germany. I had brought a few cans of beer with me and these ran out disappointingly quickly. But then one of the Belgian guys came to the rescue with a bottle of Duvet, or Duvall, or something - by that time, I wasn't interested in spelling stuff. All I knew was it was 8.5% and went down very well. Later, we repaired to the bar for food and more beer. By 11 pm I had had enough, in both senses, and went back to my tent.
The night was very cold (frost on the grass in the morning), and I didn't sleep much. I can say with a degree of authority that the dawn chorus in Clyro starts at 3.30 am and is very loud. I dozed a bit and at about 8 am decided I ought to show my face. Unfortunately, as I moved my leg to get out of the sleeping bag, I got a sudden bout of cramp. I straightened my leg violently to relieve it, and ripped the zip right out of my sleeping bag.
The entry fee of £15 included breakfast, lunch and a barbecue on the Saturday, which seemed to be stonking value. We had a ride-out which went by Abergavenny bus station (millions of bikes) and then to the Skirrid Inn, where we had lunch. In the afternoon, we came back to Hay over the mountains, stopping for an ice-cream at Llanthony Priory. We had an excellent barbecue, helped by the fact that the organisers had catered for about twice the number that actually turned up. The cold and draughty night that I had anticipated following my fight with the sleeping bag was much improved by the loan of a blanket from Tom, one of the German contingent.
This morning, I struck camp and made my farewells before the hard work of moving all the wooden furniture back the hotel started, and I had a very wet but pleasant ride home.
- Camping is a young man's game, and does not suit bad backs or cramp-prone legs
- Yamaha XTs are great for short journeys but cane your arse after 50 miles
- Don't take cookset and fuel to a meeting where you know there will be food and drink
- Yamaha XTs are very happy at 50 mph, and feel as if they will carry on for a week
- When kept to said modest speeds, they will return between 60 and 67 mpg (compare with my usual 52 for haring around locally)
- And the well-worn but still relevant: lay out everything you think you will need and leave half of it behind.
Thoroughly cold, uncomfortable and enjoyable weekend, all in all. The next one is In Belgium in September. Hmmm.
I might. The XT didn't let me down this time, after all.