Monday, 19 September 2011

33 miles to Moffat

“Dad you’ve got ‘Tuesday’ socks on!”

“Doesn’t matter does it?”

“No but I don’t like Mondays?”

“Tell you what then, from now on we’ll call it Ben’s Tuesday, how’s that?”

“Ye Ok, Ben’s Tuesday I like that”

“So Ben’s Tuesday it is then!”

And with that Ben got into the shower. So “start-eth” another Monday morning in the Walton household, a million miles from what turned out to be one of the most fantastic touring weekends I’ve had in a long, long time.

It all started with a business card that’s all, a simple business card that had been given to me by Clint as we parted company after travelling back to Heysham from Douglas. We had both completed the Isle of Man TT 1000 as members of the Iron Butt Association. I had been chatting to Clint during the crossing and he’d told me all about his hotel in Moffat called The Buccleuch Arms Hotel and how he welcomed bikers and had fitted it out accordingly. Little did I realise at the time what he really meant was it was a bikers dream location with what can only be described as a “Shit-Hot!” set up but more of that later.

Jeannie and I had “Respite” coming up and just for a change I suggested we go to Scotland with Ben for a change. I dug out Clint’s business card and had a look on the website. Then it dawned on me, why not take the bike up and have a bit of a mooch around the Scottish Borders. Now I know we never tend to “ship” Ben out but the more I thought about it the more the idea seemed to take a hold. Then the brainwave struck light- an epiphany!

“Why don’t we invite the Manc Riders to join us?”

“That’s a brilliant idea”

“I’ll check the prices, dates and stick up a post”

“The dates are already in the diary as Jo and Karen are working 16, 17 and 18th of September, remember!”

“Right that makes it easier, one less decision to be made, sorted I’ll get it posted”

And so on 14th July at 10.21am precisely I posted 

“Who’s up for a weekend in Scotland?”

16th to 18th September

It read..............

Right Folks here's an idea that I hope you will all be interested in.

A Weekend Bike Trip to Scotland 16th to 18th of September.

I've been sat here thinking Spain is such a long way away so why not get my finger out and sort a weekend up in Scotland that is not too far and can be enjoyed by all.

As ever "I know a man, Clint" a fellow IBA Rider who has a very nice Family Hotel in Moffat.

The Buccleuch Arms Hotel, High Street, Moffat

The Hotel is HERE! The great news is it is a 2 hour ride from Rivington Services (Formerly Bolton West Services) on the M61 which I would suggest as a "Meeting Point"

Now for the Best Bit................................ If you’re on a bike you get 15% Discount on the B&B room rate....... How great is that?

They have available as of NOW 0930 hours Thursday 14th July!

Six Twins - £84 per room per night but as we are on bikes it works out at £72 per night B&B

One Double - same as above

Family Room (which I have booked) the room has a double and a Bunk Bed) - £30 per person per night including discount!

I am happy to get the rooms booked but there is a £20 per room deposit to pay on booking.

So for the cost of some fuel and £72 each for two nights B&B I think this may just be the break we all could enjoy.

If you can let me know soonest I will get the rooms booked or just ring and book a room.

I hope your all happy with the idea...........................

Let the posting begin

The posting’s flooded in but as it was a weekend quite a few of the “Usual Suspects” were working. The weekend came ever closer with 4 folks having put their names down & booked their twin rooms directly. Spot on I thought only to have one withdraw just a week before but hey that’s life, shit happens. So as of Thursday night our small group consisted of Shafter, LBK, Trooper, J & I. (I’ll use the Manc Riders pseudonyms as there quicker to type, plus “They know who they are!”).

The plan was to meet at Mc D’s near Accrington at 10.00am Friday morning, giving J & I time to get Lilie Rose & Ben sorted for school. As it happened fate played a blinder for us. Ben’s School Weekend trip to Kingswood Activity Centre in Derbyshire fell on the exact same weekend as the trip so J & I having booked a family room, were free to ride up to Moffat with the rest of the team. Down side being LBK didn’t hear Shafter & I discussing the Friday morning start and so was unable to book the Friday off! Nothing a voltmeter and some solder wouldn’t be able to rectify though!

Thursday night’s posts on the web site started to come in thick and fast ranging from good luck wishes to the usual “total crap” that we are all renowned for posting. One thing I love about the Manc Rider’s is the way “EVERY” single post no matter how interesting or important to someone always ends up in a total chaos and bull shit. I have just one word for you lads, “Bell”....... but we love it.

“We’re more a collection of piss taking, world correcting, bigoted, self opinionated, macho bullshit filled Manc’s who ride bikes” as one of the conversations on Friday night in the bar after one too many sherbets’ went. True mind!

Aftershave, check! All set for the off
after waking up at 5.45am

It was 9.00am on the dot when J& I rode off the drive, J having taken Ben up to school with his weekend bag, Lilie Rose was at school and the girls would do the rest for the weekend. Just riding down Wardle Road a smile crossed my face, the thought in my mind being “How bloody fantastic is this, a weekend away with J on the bike for the first time in years”. I just knew no matter what the weather had in store; looking at the forecast it was going to be interesting to say the least, we were going to have a ball. It’s been a tough old year what with love, life and operations tipping The Walton Household on its head at times but this weekend was going to turn out to be the “Pot of Gold at the end of the Rainbow”.

Rochdale was rather quite for a Friday morning, we had just managed to miss the morning rush hour traffic. Other than switching Mr. T’s mode control from “sport” to “touring” as he tries his best to through J off the back every time I changed gear. It was a nice smooth run to Mc D’s just of the roundabout at Accrington. We arrived at 9.35am and settled into a couple of coffee’s and a bacon and egg roll for myself. Shafter and Trooper arrived 10 minutes later, filled up and came round to join us with a brew.
“So what’s the plan of attack?” Shafter asked
“We’re easy mate, I’m more than happy to rely on “Shafter-Nav” to get us up to Moffat” I replied
“Ok, sounds good to me, what do you think Trooper”
“Whatever, sounds good to me too” Trooper replied.
That sorted we sat and chatted a while J catching up with Shafter and Trooper having met them both previously but with more folks around, so it was nice just to make idle conversation and get to know them a little better.
10.00am saw us mount up, Shafter taking the lead heading for a little cafe in Hawes, North Yorkshire, Trooper in the middle and yours truly taking up the “Tail-end Charlie” position. Now the night before as ever, I’d been on Mapsource and plotted a straight forward A Road’s route up past Burnley, Nelson, Settle, Kirby Lonsdale and on to the Tan Hill pub for lunch then cutting across to the M6 and up to Moffat. A simple route taking us about 3 to 4 hours riding with a good lunch break place that I’d visited before.
Shafter-Nav was having none of that! Now I’ll just post a picture of the route as to try and explain it in full would take me until next weekend but here is a brief resume of what I can remember.

This is a great route if you have all day to play.

Rochdale over to Settle  took us through some beautiful little villages, past Padiham, Sabden, Four Lane Ends, Waddington, Newton, Slaidburn, Long Preston, Horton in Ribblesdale, Chapel le Dale on to our first stop in Hawes. What an absolutely amazing ride, not a single motorway or dual carriageway in sight, in fact most of the way had been what I would call single track minor roads. Most would have struggled to justify for “B Road” status! It was great and so far so good the rain was staying away.

The cafe in Hawes was very cosy with about 15 bikes dotted around outside, most of their owners were in this small cafe, lid’s everywhere. As it was just after 12.00 we decided to make this a lunch stop and ordered our meals, which arrived,  and vanished just as quick. Very efficient I thought to myself, the chef in me coming out! Try as I might I cannot for the life of me remember what everyone ate I was still in awe of “Shafter-Nav”.  Amazing, Shafter just has a look at his pocket size road map, looks where we are heading, smiles that all knowing smile and puts it back in his tale pack on the Moto Guzzi V11 beast he has chosen to ride this weekend. Years of being a motorbike courier have set him up well for the task in hand. His title of Shafter-Nav is well deserved and I know both J and Trooper were as impressed as myself at his in built ability to find the most amazing roads. What made it even better was the fact we had seen only a hand full of cars all morning.

Hawes - a very picturesque village.
Well worth a visit.

A quick photo and we were back on our bikes and ready for leg two to Kielder Forest Park. The route took us past Apperset, Nateby, Brough, photo stop on the B6276 on to Alston, skirting Stanhope heading ever closer to the Scottish Boarders. Now one thing I omitted to mention about our departure from Hawes was Troopers comment, “At least it’s not raining” which we all berated him for because as soon as the words had left his lips it started spitting. Nothing major at first just enough to make sure you knew the roads surface was wet.  However, that was all about to change over the coming two hours the rain just got heavier and heavier.  Before long it was absolutely tipping it down and it did not matter what waterproof clobber you were wearing you just knew that at this rate sooner or later you were going to get wet! And wet we got! Piss wet through in some cases.

Now as Trooper had brought this awful weather upon us it’s only fair I mention a little about his attire which had kept J chuckling pretty much all morning. At well over 6 foot tall this quietly spoken, gentlemanly figure was well kitted out. Good helmet, jacket, gloves, rucksack, boots and gloves. The only weak link in his armour was his waterproof trousers which he wore over jeans. Now how did we know he had jeans on, simple really, because whenever he sat on his Suzuki Bandit 600 we could see at least a foot of them hanging out the bottom of his far, far too short waterproof trousers? I’m sorry Trooper but listening to J chuckle and debate if you would get wet through “Rising Damp” had us in bits all the way up to the forest but what a gentleman. It was a pleasure to have you with us.

Kielder Forest Park Visitor Centre is beautiful but when your dripping wet through it loses a little of its allure. So much so we returned the following day in order to enjoy its beauty and tranquillity to its full potential. This is somewhere The Walton’s will definitely be revisiting as a family. It is just an amazingly beautiful part of the world and what’s even better it is not a million miles away from the Lake District. The lake is huge with so much wild life, birds and views plus a well stocked visitors shop next to the cafe. The staffs were fantastic not batting an eye lid when we removed our soaking wet jackets, scarves, gloves and helmets, leaving them on one table whilst we sat and had a cake and coffee at another. Or in J’s cafe a piece of Carrot Cake and Bovril! There’s some logic there somewhere but none of us could quite get our heads around the combination.

Stunning views if only it would stop raining.

Putting the wet kit back on had us all thinking about how far we still had to go. J ended up putting my spare gloves on as hers where so wet she couldn’t even get them back on. I plumbed Moffat into the Garmin, 62 miles, we could live with that. Shafter-Nav had different idea’s, Scottish Border which came and went, Hawick, Selkirk and on to Moffat via Hell’s Hole National Park! That said it all. Arriving at Selkirk, Shafter-Nav suffered its first hiccup, but all credit due he was on exactly the right road going in the right direction, straight into the town centre right at the first round about over the second, then we missed a left, no drama left at the T junction. Slowing at the end of the road at a give way sign to put us back on the same road we should have turned left on 100 yards back.

Then there it was ......................................... the dreaded sign, soaked through, sitting in wet pants, water trickling down the inside of J’s head-over we all read it at the same time!

The united sound of our groan must have measured at least 5 on the “Richter Scale”

“33 F****g miles, you have got to be taking the piss!” I shouted!
“J, are you OK?”
“You sure”
“Just ride”
I could sense that 33 miles was 30 miles too far, for everyone. Still it was only raining lightly now and so we cracked on. The A708 mirrored the river Yarrow, much the same as many of the B Roads had done on the way up, undulating with the countryside then taking us down the full length of one of the most beautiful valleys I have ever seen in the UK mainland. I vowed there and then to return to take a few pictures; little did I know at that point it was going to be tomorrow. 

Arriving in Moffat I was pleasantly surprised to find the hotel slap bang in the middle of the high street. A large white building with its main features picked out in black paint. It looked warm and inviting and what was more important “DRY!” Shafter lead us past the front door, up a side road and in through a gap in the wall. There in front of us were Clint’s “Piece de la Resistance” 10 metal bike garages in a row along the side of sufficient hard standing to ensure access was both smooth and simple. Each garage which was not in use had a key in the door ready for our arrival. Clint appeared as if like magic to welcome us to The Buccleuch Arms Hotel. What an end to a fantastic 9 hour 243 mile marathon ride from Rochdale to Moffat without touching a single motorway.

Home for the weekend but
We'll be back. 

Now that is what I call sorted.
Nice one Clint you've got this spot on.

That night in the bar after a nice hot shower and a change we discovered LBK had arrived hours before us but was nowhere to be seen. Trooper who was sharing a twin room with him informed us his kit was in the room just no LBK. As it was now heading to 8.00pm we started to wonder if LBK was around town and would he have eaten. As it was we were all starving so moved from the bar area on one side of the entrance hall way/reception area to the opposite room which was being used as a restaurant area. All neatly laid out our table was in the corner with a bench seat around the corner wall seating J, Trooper and myself and a further two settings for LBK and Shafter.

By 9.00pm we decided to order as we had already alienated half the inhabitants of the restaurant with our somewhat loud  tales about the day. The conversation flicked from the Manc Riders website and postings we all made, to concern over LBK’s whereabouts. The volume increased slightly until Trooper told us about his electrical problems. I had noticed on the way out of Selkirk that Troopers indicators had been going off erratically and then not at all. To the extent that I thought he had been pointing something out to me just before we turned left out of town only then to realise he was using hand signals. Well when Trooper piped up and said.
“I think my indicators are on the blink” I just fell about in hysterics which in turn took the whole table down into fits of laughter. The poor souls at the side of us scrapped desert in a desperate attempt to vacate the table. Mid way through what was an amazing meal of pasta with seafood for me, J had Chicken, Shafter went with the Venison and Trooper I have no idea but I do know we were having a ball. Shortly after being served our main courses it a mad thought sprang into my head.
“I think I know where LBK is”
“What! Where”
“The waiters eaten him” (sorry Mr. Rotund Waiter it was the drink speaking not I, honest Guv)
Well Shafter almost choked, Trooper stared in amazement at the sincerity of the statement and J just exploded into fits of hysterics.  10 minutes after we had finished eating later, who should come wandering in but LBK.
Combat shorts and T shirt looking around to see if he could spot us. When he took out his small glasses, popped them on his nose and said “Ah there you are” it was all we could do not to slide under the table. J started to say “Where the hell you been we’ve been worried sick” but she was to slow LBK was off to the bar for a Guinness.
The rest of the night flew bye with tales of “Jibbing” navies in a small town outside Lockerby followed by a very expensive taxi ride home for the four of them. However with a wallet full of cash and a grin the size of a large banana LBK was having a whale of a time. I had a look around at 10.50 pm; we had managed to empty the entire restaurant area. I hope no one was offended with us having such a great night but it just had to be done. Sides aching, stomachs full and absolutely no idea where we were going the following day we all headed up to our respective rooms for a well earned night’s sleep. “See you at 9 in the restaurant folk’s”

Saturday morning, kit dried on the red hot radiators in our room, jeans and t-shirt on, it was off to a hearty Full Buccleuch Breakfast. Fantastic and the coffee was bang on too.
“So where we off today” I asked
“I want to get some snails from Jedburgh” came the reply from Shafter.
“Nice one, can you get me some Garlic ones when you buy them"
“There confectionary not snail snails”
Oh! Ok, Right that’s sorted then Jedburgh it is then”

After such a fantastic night I’m always sceptical that the momentum will be lost and folks will get a little fed-up but there was none of that what so ever this weekend.

10.00am we were on our way again for a steady ride around the Scottish Boarder region. Shafter-Nav taking the lead, LBK followed with Trooper and yours truly in my favourite place.  We headed north to Tweedsmuir then on to Peebles. The roads were clear the weather fine and sunny with the odd shower thrown in, just to keep us on our toes but the majority of the time it was sunshine.  We continued along the A72 heading towards Galashiels but dropped back down through Selkirk then East along the A699 and finally South down the A68 to Jedburgh. Stopping at a cafe which was attached to an Edinburgh wool and clothing shop. Right next door was a Shell Petrol Station. Lunch ordered, drinks drunk, a quick “conflab” around Shafter’s map whilst he shot off into town to buy his elusive snails. Trooper filled up at this point.  On his return we all tucked into one of Shafter’s snails, Hard mint toffee in a strip that had been folded over on its self. Tasty!

And very tasty cake it was too by all accounts.

LBK!!! Were's my bed side rug?
Let me think what did I do with it........

"So where to go now" Snails in hand Shafter was a happy man.
“Why not head back down to the forest so we can get a couple of photos in the dry?”
“Good idea but you can lead”
“Because you keep vanishing to take photos, if you’re in front we all know what you’re doing”
“Ok, I can live with that” and with that I pumped Kielder Forest into the Garmin and Rochester as a way point and off we set.

One thing we had been doing all weekend was taking photos of Castles and that continued on our way with the odd old ruin popping up here and there. Just before lunch Shafter had spotted a sign for Stobo Castle which when we rode through the gates I noticed also turned out to be a Health Spa complete with authentic Japanese Gardens. Perfect location to unfurl the Manc Riders Flag and grab a photo shot. The castle look splendid set in its own land with winding tree lined drive which had jet black cows meandering around. All very plush and up market, I’m still wondering what the poor old receptionist must have thought seeing four dirty great motorbikes rumbling up the drive only to stop short of the final drive way to .................. take photos!

Looking good Manc Riders, looking good.

Stobo Castle Health Spa
in all it's splender.
All weekend I had found the roads amazing and this final leg to Kielder did not disappoint. One of the combinations of bends was so smooth and inviting I ended up scraping my left foot peg on the deck. J was none too please when I screamed “Yee Ha!” as I knew there would have been a small shower of sparks fly up. Sadly no one even saw them, gutted! “That was too far over for my liking” came the response to my “How did you find that” question.  The last run down one of the hills turned out to be interesting as two GSA’s flew past our small convoy much to the dismay of LBK who was chomping at the bit in my wing mirror. I was glad the idiot following them on the black Honda managed to pass us before we indicated as he would most certainly have taken one of us out as we turned right across his somewhat speedy path.

Amazing how a little sunshine can change a place.

Cheers Shafter.
In the sunshine the Kielder Forest Visitors Centre was even more inviting, the coffee and cake even more tasty and the views, the views were breath taking. I’m so pleased we chose to return to this beautiful spot. Heading back to Moffat I lead again following the exact route we had taken the day before but this time fresh and in the sunlight plus more importantly, dry, it was fantastic! We stopped at the border post for another Manc Riders Flag Photo shoot, and again at the foot of one of the many winding hill climbs just before Hell Hole. We even had time for Shafter to give us an impression of how he had felt the day before at the dreaded Moffat 33 miles sign.

J refused to lay down in front of the border



and away............

Say's it all, well for Friday's trip it did!

In fact on the way back we must have stopped at every sign post, valley, lake, and vista we saw but no one cared because it was all in a good cause. Ray’s Report, this! At the Dumfries and Galloway sign Shafter pointed out something just inches away from my right foot. Road Kill! So far we had seen numerous rabbits, a couple of fox, a badger and quite a few unknown entities but this poor mite really did look rough.

The evening meal was a sedate affair after Fridays night’s antics with a walk to the local Italian Restaurant only to be told there was at least an hour’s wait. Our good fortune lasted as the evening meal in the hotel was outstanding. I can thoroughly recommend the Rump Steak cooked medium rare leaning more to the rare, Perfect! By 10.00pm we had all headed north to bed, happy and content after a perfect day in the saddle.
Sunday, I had subjected we go to the Cumbria Bike Show being held at Hutton in the Forest but LBK came out with a stunning idea.

“I’d like to visit the Memorial Gardens and crash site in Lockerby on the way down”

“Lead on my dear sir”

Blinding, simply blinding. Thank you LBK, for putting us exactly where we needed to be on a sunny Sunday Morning in September. Respects were paid, thoughts of sympathy shared and the odd tear could be seen being wiped away from corners of eyes, a perfect ending to a perfect weekend with the Manc Riders.

“So would you like me to take you down to the show?” I asked
Shafter summed it up,
“Why try and fit a quart into a pint pot, let’s go home”

And home is exactly where we went.
Now normally I would leave it there but for one final drama!

J and I left the guys to peel off to the services on the M61 for a brew but as we needed to be back for Ben by 2.00pm and with the Garmin saying arrival time 1.45pm we rode straight home.
When this happened!

Take a picture then.......
You've photographed everything else!

It's Ok I only hurt my head, neck, back, bum everything!

Hay Ho! Bruised and battered, walking around like she’s got a boiled egg up her arse and not wanting to let the witch out!  J is getting on with life as per normal but with an exceedingly stiff neck and me well I’m now looking for a new helmet in Pink!
“Hello Ben, how was your day” Kiss and a hug x x  x

“Hi Dad. Good thanks’. What you been doing?”

“I’ve been writing my ride report, do you want to read it”

“Na............ I’ll read it later”

You know what, one day, I really think he will and I will smile, knowing every minute I write, every word I use to describe our adventures he will be able to read aloud to Lilie Rose one day and remember .......

“The Wandering Walton’s”

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