It was 0700 hrs when Julie and I hit the road on a cloudless warm Sunday May morning, a bit like one of those long forgotten hot summer days, it felt really unusual! We were off to Bowness in the Lake District for a dress rehearsal run of the Help for Heroes (H4H) charity run due on June 6th 2010, The Walton household was the first stop for tea and toast then off we went up the Skipton bypass for an instruments check, everything worked ok including the speedo!

Along the A65 to Devils Bridge we rode. The day was warming up nicely, I was unzipping already, my body still tuned for snow and cold northerly winds and I was intent on forcing warm air and sunshine on my pale skin, determined to fine tune it to summer conditions! We passed by the bridge onwards ever more quickly now until the RV point where we threw out the anchors at a lay-bye to meet up with two more waiting Wings. Chrissy, Mark and snot dribbling Christine with her hubbi Geoff who stood firmly upwind intending not to catch anything! How can she have a heavy cold in these “schorchio” conditions? At least their jaundiced looking 1800 would not show the snot trail as it dribbled down her curves and along the bikes panniers…Tangerine dream my arse! Thoughtfully I asked Geoff to have a few miles at the back when we pushed on again. Mark was a mite troubled as he had come to the conclusion that his CB was in fact well and truly buggered, these were in for another quiet day and so Chrissy brought along a wedding magazine to read.
Bowness car park was reached at 1000 hrs, some familiar faces were already there as were some not so familiar. Tina led the girls away for a loo inspection whilst us men went and talked manly stuff. I was introduced by Barry to Peter Steen the man behind the idea. A wild haired handsome 6 footer, Peter amused me straight away with his “Go compare” looks. He reminded me of a huge ripe fruit, his red race leathers peeled open to his bum where they hung loosely down his side, his hugely curvaceous belly took centre stage as I reached up and over to shake his hand. A right nice bloke he seemed and easy to get one’s attention. I take my hat off to this man and his gang for daring to stir up this huge H4H bike ride idea. We stood around chatting as a few more Wings arrived. There were a couple of Goldwing events happening this weekend and quite a lot had committed to these events. I have no doubt they will do a good job on the day when put in their positions, many had experienced this either as a marshal or having partaken in such things before at those very Gold Wing events, just remember to wave you arms and point in the direction of the ride, don’t just stand there like dolts!
Now then, where the hell was Jayne with a Y? She was supposed to be here, as one of the “pink ladies” at the very front of the parade she ought to be here to get a little practice and to get a feel of what it’s like to have a zillion lights in her mirrors and hear a cacophony of shyte music in her ears for 60+ miles!
When she finally turned up with pretty head bowed she said her darling hubbi had thoughtfully wrapped a chain around the bike overnight and clamped it with a big rusty old lock he’d found. Good man I hear you say……Hubbi had found a good sturdy lock alright but failed to locate a rusty key to go with it! The whole of Bowness closed its ears as Jayne threw a few dozen fecks into him whist stomping up and down. “AAAAAGhNOOOoYOuFEKKInUSELESsARSEWIPe!!!!!!!!!” her pert little bum positively wriggled with incandescent rage….. (Probably) That very same rage hacked the rusty keyless lock off in minutes, sparks and bits of hack saw blade by then littered the pavement. The tarmac gang up the road covered over hubbi with a fresh layer turning him into a mini roundabout complete with directional arrows that protruded from hacked out holes in his head. She maybe small and pert but don’t ever cross our Jayne!

Time was rolling forward to 10.45 as Mick and Evelyn had managed to join us as the last of today’s Appy Wanderers, it wasn’t one of our ride outs, no today was a dress rehearsal for the charity ride for Help 4 Heroes, the Appy Wanderers and none Wanderers alike had volunteered to marshal the event. Peter had some of his team along with him to practice their bit too namely Max and Lesley Fursley. Time to roll, engines coughed gently into life, as dozens of first gears snicked into place and we moved off. David and Tonia of the rusty coloured trike followed Barry and Tina and Jayne. I think these guys were new to the trike world but were keen to do their bit and help. They would scare the oncoming traffic with their style of cornering that’s for sure, I know life is short but please don’t make it any shorter you guys!! Mark and Chrissy followed on The Purple Pussy, Chrissy flicked the pages of Women’s Wedding Gowns as they passed, bless! Then came Heather and Derek Thornton on their dark red 1800,Paul Mann passed by smiling, that’s just what the sun makes one do! Clive passed on his nice black 1800. Clive was one of the Cumbrians and a really nice bloke, let him tell you the story of his rotating gear foot, if he doesn’t bolt it tight it comes loose you will not believe it when I tell you Clive has a false lower leg and handles his bike better than a lot of wingers, just tap his left foot next time you see him….or is it his right? I shake my head in wonderment at him and am often in stitches at his “leg stories”. Geoff and Christine slithered by on their snot smeared 1800, Margaret Jones came next on the Virago, she likes to be called M and only visits whisky distilleries because she is interested in the process?? Hubbi Ian AKA “Fatha” came next on the Lord of the Rings 1800, we tucked in behind him bringing up the rear, off we go then, eleven 1800 wings and one 1800 trike, we brought lunch with us today on account of no 1500 bread vans turning up, Tony Walton on the old Baguette Rouge Trike would have done a good trade today, he will blend in with the first leg up the lake side on the 6th on his pond green 1500 solo, I hope he puts some lights on to give the poor guy behind a chance to spot him!
The run is just over 65 miles and traverses some fantastic scenery, from the leafy start along the lake up on a rather tatty road surface, this was a good few miles and quite handy because it will keep the pace slow whilst I urge the horde to get moving out of the car park yelling “C’mon keep up you buggers!” Before long the road opens up and runs down between the hills turning into a duel carriageway, the A5029 is a splendid road that urges more throttle! A right turn brings it down again and it wiggles towards Grizebeck, we ride along on the edge of The Lake District National Park, several of us ride jacketless as the sun remembers it’s actually May. The roads are warming up with traffic too, we all find our way through with relative ease, the vehicles generally oblige our group pulling over to let us pass even some tractors do the same, having mainly solos makes progress that bit quicker today. Now we rode up the coast, the beach and sea a few miles to our left whilst Black Combe the tallest point of this huge hill range sat to our right at 600 metres, it’s a beautiful hidden garden of England, we rural misfits ran sweetly up to Bootle and lunch, I practiced my back door skills with a twat in a black fast Merc, I introduced him gently to Mr Patience. We turned into the café car park as the black Merc surged past, hopefully we will meet him again on the run for real, now that would really make my day!
What do you mean no bacon sarnies? I asked shocked and stunned, what am I going to do? Mr Manns chair collapsed and he crashed to the floor as if to reinforce my feelings! Carrot cake and sausage baps were brought out but some lovely local lasses fussed over by the old maid, the regular lady wasn’t working today which is a shame because I quite fancied some scrambled eggs. This is a nice place to stop, it’s really roomy, has a large car park and the staff are quick and efficient with the food, though Paul has plenty to say about his rotting chair…And before you say it Paul is not a fat bloke like….he was ok and we all had a chuckle together.

The sun and sky had got the hang of this summer thing and chilled everyone; we basked like contented Michelin folk soaking up the rays and the lovely hill views. This really is a pretty part of England; I have been here twice and will no doubt come back again, not only for the ride on the big day in June. Every now and again pocket rockets cracked the silence picking up the pace as they cleared the village and bolted off down the clear road towards Waberthwaite, my body has never fancied one but they certainly sound great and always manage to turn my head.

In contrast we purred as we left in ones and twos, we waited for the new Lynne and John, I shouted to Barry we’d be an extra minute of two, Fatha grinned, this means we will have to go a bit faster to catch up, was that a gleam in his eye or just the sun? Echoes of 2005 the foo fighters and an Austrian mountain came to mind.. Mali the Dwarf, Fatha and Barry..three naughty boys!
We soon caught up, grinning from ear to ear as Sellafield showed itself in the haze on the left hand coast, it’s an odd looking structure in an odd sounding place. The town of Egremont was next with its big and busy roundabouts, Fatha and his Cumbrians would marshal this place, there would be no hanky panky on the roundabouts with this band of straight talkers in charge, the ace in this pack is Eddie, a huge man with beatle hair cut and for sure a throwback from the 60’s, and a huge Who fan, Eddie has a funny, charismatic, monotone aurora that will mesmerise the most impatient driver to a standstill. Go Eddie!
We turn onto the smaller A5086 through Cleator Moor, Rowrah and Asby, just three villages that time and progress seems to have locked in the 1960’s It’s a long straight forward last leg that winds away north east to Cockermouth, the last roundabout and the end of the H4H charity ride, a 60+ miles meander that is sure to raise a lot of money and give the good folk of Cumbria something to talk about for a good while! We posed for a group shot before splintering off; some went home others joined us in a ride to places unseen, eight bikes I think.

We headed back the way we came with Fatha on the Lord of the Rings and M on the Virago, the pace was upped and we made good passage turning off the A595 shortly we had a short fluid break, we then back tracked to Gosforth and Wellington village. Derek and I overshot the turn as we closed the main group at top speed! We turned around again and caught the group up a few miles along the humpty bumpty minor road. Fatha was taking us by memory to Nether Wasdale and a view to kill for, the dam with a huge rock backdrop was stunning, it’s called Wast Water and contains an old village. After more photos and some tomfoolery care of a naughty little blonde and a dominant male, this happens often and always results in both rolling about on the floor much to the amusement of the others, partners and anyone else in the area, so far the police have not had to be called. We turned next towards Eskdale Green and rode alongside the Ravenglass and Eskdale railway. Onward to Boot and we arrived at the foothills with Hardknott Pass ahead of us, the road had narrowed down and had passing places. Fatha did well to get us here, it was over ten years since he’s come this way, Barry thinks it was about five years since he last came this way.Some of us had Alpine experiences with Honda Goldwings so this was going to be familiar to us, never-the-less Barry warned for folk to keep plenty of space between the guy in front just in case, “Yes mate duly noted” I said to myself and settled into second gear and began to lean forward a little as the road headed skyward from the flat valley floor.

The road looked bad..really bad all of a sudden, it was just over a car width and had no edging, it was a hotch pot of lumpy dark and light grey tarmac, the camber was all wrong for bikes it was going to be a difficult climb, each switchback was blind too, a huge rock or a hillock on seemingly every bend prevented the passenger warning of any oncoming traffic. OK loads of revs and clutch, no brake and just keep rolling, keeping the momentum rolling is the key, none of this stop start bollix on this absurd excuse for a road, all exciting stuff I thought as the shout went up “Bike down“ I glanced up and saw Geoff had stopped, Derek was twenty yards in front of me, he stopped too but his bike just kept slowly slithering back I watched as he struggled to hold it still, he slid back into a rock and that just flipped the 1800 over towards me on the downhill. Heather flopped onto the floor, Derek was spat out of his seat and shot Casey Stoner like coming to a halt a couple of yards from me. I was powerless to help until I struggled to park on a flatter bit (joke) and banged it in gear, killing the engine we ran up the hill as Geoff ran down from his precarious perch up above, Both were up on their feet and with us at the bike, key out and pushed into Derek’s pocket first then get him to turn around and lift the bike with his legs and straight back, Geoff pulled from the other side. I and a car driver pushed then helped to push the bike upright, side stand came out and the bike was planted safe but sideward! I couldn’t see them but up and above two corners away Mick and Evelyn picked themselves up with help. These four corners were in really bad condition and we had come to a halt right in the middle, committing the cardinal sin! I was totally in the wrong place to assault the next bend and parked on a lip of gravel for f***s sake!! I jumped on counted to ten gritted my teeth and gunned up and round the two obstacles….calling them corners would be against the trades description act! Julie walked up after me and remounted we then crested the pass. Glancing back I shook my head and decided we would not include this road in any Appy Wanderers ridouts unless we became too great in numbers and a cull was required!

The downward ride was much easier but still the road was appalling, ripped broken and so narrow, if I said you would not get the usual family 4X4 up without ripping the sides you’d get the picture? I won’t be coming this way again unless I morphed into a.)…A Swaledale sheep… b.) An Andorran mountain goat… c.) Or a member of the Elite US 10th Mountain Div complete with private Sherman tank!
A few miles along the flat we pulled over at a pub for a well earned break and soft drinks. The sorry state of the road had caught everyone by surprise, the 2008 AA map doesn’t give any hint of its severity, and neither does the map source, even when zoomed right down to 1000 metres. A few bumps and bruises and some cosmetic cuts and scratches…and a new one inch vent hole in Derek’s pannier. The crash bars on the Honda Goldwing 1800’s really do save the bikes from major damage at slow speed “get offs”

We had a meeting as to what to do now, it was 1900 hrs, Ambleside was to be our heading, on the way we said goodbye to Clive, M and “Fatha” they turned towards Carlisle, we pushed on past Ambleside, Windermere, fuelled up just after, then pressed on to the A65 and Kirkby Lonsdale, one by one we succumbed to the lure of fish and chips in Skipton, this road is most welcome especially in the twilight, most of the pocket rockets had gone home leaving us with a peaceful quiet passage, the rural misfits came closer to Skipton and supper in the cobbled courtyard. By 2200 hrs we had all fed and watered our hot bodies, the day was done for most with just a short hop to home, we said our goodbyes, most of us would meet up the following weekend in Pitlochery where we will discuss a new trike for Derek purely on health and safety grounds you understand!!

Julie and I landed home (70 miles further on) at Walnut cottage after a mammoth 16 hrs in the saddle; it was a fantastic day, all 300+ miles of it. We ventured through the North West of England and discovered Cumbria’s secret garden, forging new winging roads to be remembered for future rides, pushing the envelope on the distant high roads of Hardknott Pass. If we had been around in the last century it would have been the Appy Wanderers who discovered the Americas and not Mr Christopher Columbus!
The Scribe.
Remember to left click on the photos if you’d like to see them BIGGER!

Thanks also to the Chrissie and Christine for their photos this time. xxx