Reading over last year's post, the experience was remarkably similar. It was held at the same place, Baskerville Hall Hotel near Hay-on-Wye, the house where Conan Doyle wrote the famous dog story.
Great ride up, great company with visiting Belgians and Germans, enjoyable Saturday ride-out, good barbecue on the Saturday night ...
lots of late-night drinking round the fire-pit ...
some inspired lunacy from the Belgians ...
Someone tell them the Vikings were Danish ...
and a great ride home. I was cold, just like last year, and I got cramp in my sleeping bag, just like last year. In fact, for a truthful report on this weekend's activity, you might as well read last year's post and change the dates. So what was different?
It was the first time I had properly used the tent I got last August, a Vango Beta 350 (eBay bargain), and the expense was fully justified. Although it took longer to set up than the small one I took last time, the room inside, and the way you can stand half-upright to put trousers and boots on, was well worth the effort. Old gits need room.
It poured down on the Friday evening and the Saturday evening too, but the tent stayed dry inside. It was bloody cold like last year, too. The new sleeping bag, a Vango Nitestar, is supposed to be a three-season bag, but it was only on the second night, when I had managed to close up all the little ventilation panels in the tent, that it came close to getting me warm. But both bag and tent were a country mile better than last year's choices.
The Saturday ride-out was, a little disappointingly, scheduled to cover the same ground, and visit the same locations, as last year. However, a small bit of drama put a stop to that. We were riding along a narrow single-track road north of Abergavenny, passing some farms between high hedges, and we were doing a sensible speed - no more than 20 or 30 mph. Suddenly, a rider's arm went up in the air - a sign for everyone to stop - and then I saw, five or six bikes ahead of me, a bike on its side in the ditch. It seems that a small dog (a Jack Russell) had run out of a farm gate and run alongside the bike for a few yards and then turned under the bike's front wheel and had been run over. The bike had gone down and slid along the road and into a ditch, and the rider with it.
By the time I got there he was standing up, but didn't look good and was complaining of chest pain. Alun the organiser and I are First Aiders and we checked him over and decided that a visit to A&E would be a good idea, so one of the ride marshalls was sent to get a van to transport the bike back to the camp and the rider to hospital. The dog, meanwhile, was being taken at high speed to the vet by a very anxious lady, the owner of the farm. Easier than explaining to forty motorcyclists why her dog wasn't under proper control, I suppose.
(We learned, later on, that the rider had a broken foot and bad bruising of the chest. The dog didn't make it, sadly, although its end was quicker than that of the original Hound of the Baskervilles. The rider was on a nice, unrestored Suzuki GT750, and had only joined us for the day. He had told his wife he was going off to price up a job, but came with us instead. I bet that took some explaining. Damage to the Kettle was fairly superficial.)
"It'll polish out ..."
Lunch was partaken in the Skirrid Inn ...
... and ice cream was had at Llanthony Priory, just like last year.
On return, we lined all the XTs up together (lesser bikes were excluded for the purposes of a photo for the archive). 28 bikes, and strict size order was enforced, so from the left we had:
- XT225 Serow (as ridden by Lois Pryce on her American north to south adventure)
- XT350 in well-used but fair condition
- XT500, all versions, and a couple of heavily modified supermotos
- XT600, three - mine, and two much newer ones
- XT660 Ténéré, only one and highly desirable in a lovely milk-chocolate colour
That's mine, third from the right.
Pics of some of the more interesting machines will be the subject of a separate post.
Although the true XT500 owners rather sneer at the 600 (electric start, four-valve head, monoshock and modern *cough* styling), I have received a formal invitation to the Belgian equivalent XT meeting in September. I am seriously considering doing this one. It's a long way for a little'un, but I am confident that the bike is up to the task - the rider less so. It would be a lot of fun. I think I need to think about this, and perhaps do some more garden visits to build up my Brownie Points with my accountant and leisure services manager.
The XT didn't miss a beat, and managed an average of 63 mpg. Over the last few weeks, it's just going better and better. It stomps along at 60-70 mph, and feels like it could go on for ever. I love this bike.