Thursday, 10 May 2012

Early in Belfast, Breakfast in Cork & Lunch in Letterkenny. “Brilliant!”

Ireland SS1000 in 24 Hours

Well after talking so much about the petrol tank I’ve almost forgotten how to write  a ride report.

As ever I had a plan, a big old plan to be 100% honest about it. I’d been looking at a multi-day ride and had drawn up an IBA UK Saddle Sore 3000 mile ride. The idea came to me after reading a few posts on the IBA UK site about riding a 1000 miles in each of England, Scotland & Wales. Before I could get off my backside, Kevin and Lynn Weller had bagged the Wales SS1000. Top marks to them both for a completing a very intense ride covering two laps which were roughly like a figure of eight. You can read the ride report on TheWellers Blog.

So meanwhile back at the old MapSource program I was beavering away to sort out the logistics of covering the whole of the UK’s three countries. It was all slotting together nicely with the Scottish leg starting just north of the border at Gretna and through Glasgow up towards Fort William carrying on all the way up to Durness up in the far north west then across the north coast to Wick.

I then planned to tracking the coast line all the way around the Murray Firth and across to Fraiserburgh, at which point I would head south to Aberdeen down to Perth, Dunfermline and across, then crossing the Firth of Forth to Edinburgh. Finally riding along the A1 as far as Bellhaven Bay were I would back track and head down through Moffatt returning to the services at Gretna. A very interesting and enjoyable 1033 miles door to door.

UK leg was very easy, Carlisle, South to Clacket Services on M25 across to Gordano’s Services on M5 all the way down to Penzance then return all the way up the M5 and M6 to finish just west of Chester a cool 1036. The last leg of my trip would be a ride around the coastline of Wales, twice for good measure coming in a respectable and all-important SS1000 beating 1056 miles.

How easily those routes have tripped of my tongue but I can assure you getting a route that is both above 1000 miles and not madly over ambitious and achievable within the 24 hour cut off time was not that easy. Then add in the final requirement that each leg must finish as close to the start of the next leg as physically possible you then begin to understand how much thought and time I’d put into this ride. At the last minute after days of sorting cover and working out when to start the ride to cause the least amount of upset on the “home front” I thought why not do all four countries and added Ireland to the mix. The route was very easy as Stena Line sail from Cairnryan just north of Stranraer into Belfast. Perfect!

Belfast, Cork, Letterkenny job done 500 miles each way. A quick email to Chris who advised me to  ride via Galway to ensure 1068 miles. I then emailed the routes to Phil to give them the once over not wanting to waste 4 days riding.

Only to read Phil’s post on the IBA site a little later

British Isles Saddlesore Insanity

FazerPhil Admin Group

Posted: 01 May 2012 at 2:34pm

“After discussions with Mike Kneebone IBA President I am pleased to announce the "British Isles Saddlesore Insanity"

The rules will be published on the website soon but the basis is to Ride and get verified a SS1000 in each of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland”.

You can then apply to IBAUK for a special "BISSI" certificate which will be issued FOC”

Posted: 01 May 2012 at 6:43pm

“You can collect them when you want as long as they are documented as separate SS1000 within each country. If course if you want to do one after another altogether that’s up to you as long as they are documented SS1000's with each of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

Yes the reason we went for British Isles rather than UK was so the Ireland ride could include the North and South. It would be very monotonous to do a SS1000 in N. Ireland. I thank Chris for his previous advice on the title”.

So the challenge was  on 4 SS1000 mile rides back to back each being logged individually in each of the four countries that make up the United Kingdom.

All ready for the "Big Adventure"

I’m not going to bore you with the sandwiches, drinks and snakes plus my usual riding back up kit packed in the top box.  Setting off from Kendal at 8.00pm on Sunday night with my ticket for the midnight ferry to Belfast tucked away in my top-box. The ride north was fantastic as my Garmin 660 is running on 2012 maps and route was planned on 2010 maps. This resulted in a weird and wonderful ride once I had left the M6 north bound heading towards Dumfries I was taken straight through the Galloway Forest at dusk.

Riding happily along the A75 the “Garmin Lady” instructed me turn right  onto the A712. First thing I saw was A712 Closed from Monday 8th May. Damn, “What date is it Raymondo, is it Monday yet?”.
There is nothing worse than following the Sat Nav instructions into a set of road works, not wanting to moan ,(having been berated for it on line recently) I’ll just say the road surface was amazingly smooth. Within 10 minutes the road began to twist and turn as the forest lay down the rules as to where it would be allowed to run. The dark night started to close in and there was a really thick mist settling on the road which thinking back I should have stopped and taken a photo of.

The view took my mind straight to a scene from the “Robin of the Hood” series introduction on TV a few years ago. The mist floated up from the new road surface, the trees hung over me causing the road to turn into a deep, dark tunnel. As the trees backed away from the road the whole area took on a mystical feel and there I was all alone riding through this wonderful mysterious land. I could have quite easily have been astride a mighty black stallion. The mood overtook me and I just loved being there, my senses were working overtime seeing all sorts of moving shadows and magical building appear and disappear as I rode by. The road is called “The Queens Way” which just added to its mystique.

Suddenly a huge black dear bolted across the road some 30 feet ahead of me, I really was part of Robin Hood’s wonderland. Shame it was totally the wrong forest, Nottingham being a good 230 miles further south, I didn’t care the experience was mystical and I loved it. (Note to self, return to Galloway Forest as soon as possible).

Sadly, all too soon my magical ride came to an abrupt end as I was thrown out of the forest, having not seen a single vehicle, back onto the A75 to join the train of trucks heading north to Stranraer.  

“Good evening Mr Walton, how are you tonight?”
What a welcome, I’ve never arrived at a dock where the staff knew who I was before I’d even switched the engine off and lifted my helmet front up.
“I’m fine thank you”
“If you would just like to ride over the my colleague at the next gate we will get you loaded straight away”
Within 5 minutes I was watching the deck hand fasten Mr T down in readiness for the 2 and half hour crossing. Finding a nice quite seat near the front restaurant I started to get my boots off and get my head down as it was quarter to midnight. No chance, the coaches had unloaded their teenage contents and that was the end of the peace and quite for the entire trip. There is nothing worse than a teenager drinking coffee at midnight, it was like watching a human pinball machine on speed. They were everywhere, sleep? you must be joking! Still the barman was kind enough to sign my start witness form with a single word question “Why?”………..

Riding out of the docks I pulled into the petrol station to fill up self-service. My card was rejected!

Pulling off the main road through Belfast I was lucky enough to find a 24 hour service station but I had to pay for my fuel before he would switch the pump on, a little like Spain really.

I only had £7.50 on me so that’s what I put in.

The route south was easily found and with next to no cars what so ever on the M1 / A1 / N1 amazing it was just like being back in England except the N1 name. The weather was mixed but the Gerbing Heated jacket and gloves worked well when the temperature bottomed out at just 3 degrees.

I noticed just south of Dublin I’d only got half a tank of fuel, so pulled off and filled up at 6.00am for the final hours ride down to Douglas which is just at the back of Cork.
Riding through the town at 6.15am was really nice with some amazing buildings lining the River Lee in the town centre. Again I just could not be bothered to stop and take any pictures. Tank full I headed off towards Mallow, Limerick and on to Galway where I required a receipt. As I didn’t need petrol I just bought a bottle of cola- which is still in the garage! Then it was off up the N17, N83 and then onto the N15 past Sligo finally arriving at Letterkenny the turnaround point for lunch. Then it was back the way I came back to Belfast via Galway and Cork, 1068 miles in 22 hours.
The south bound route is simply a dual carriageway motorway so nothing I’ve nothing to say about that other than I just wished the UK roads were so empty. 266 miles of simple riding with three 1 Euro tolls, if only France was that cheap.
Heading north was a lot more interesting and fun with the roads more akin to A & B road status in England. The mountains, streams, villages, towns are so interesting and beautiful.
Riding back to Belfast my jacket gave up the ghost. The weather was not great with everything from sunshine to rain and I even got pelted with hail stones during the evening. The weather really got stuck in, just north of Dublin. The rain was relentless but so was I and pulling into the same garage in Belfast around 11.45pm Monday night the attendant was amazed at where I’d been.
“You’re mad you are, so let me get this right. Since 2.15 last night till now you have been to Cork, Limerick, Galway, Sligo, Letterkenny and back again, Mental!”
Then he signed my end of ride witness form. Nice lad and I assured him I would be back as I really want to see Ireland properly next time.
So that was Day 1 SS1000 Ireland DONE!

Belfast by night

Lying on the floor at the side of my bike in the staff car park from 12.00 till 2.35am was not great as it was still raining. My return ferry was at 3.30am but the ferry was on time, empty and I slept all the way back to Scotland where Day 2 SS1000 was just waiting for me to get on my bike and ride. BUT!

Something happened on the return trip between Cork and Belfast which I never thought in a million years would happen. I got bored, not your run of the mill not impressed with the weather type of bored but seriously board shitless (excuse my French).  Jeannie had told me earlier in the day that Ben had had a really bad nightmare about me, not going into details about what but judging by the Back breaker hug I got when Ben arrived  home from school to find me waiting for I can only surmise the night mare was horrendous.

I realised that it wasn’t a challenge any more to ride 1000 miles in less than 24 hours and what was worse is I was doing it on my own again! After the last couple of rides I knew and had promised myself that I’d ride with a riding partner or pillion in future and here I was doing it alone again. The question the barman had asked was screaming at me “WHY?”. You know what I have no idea, I’d just been to Ireland one of the most beautiful places in the world and all I’d visited and seen properly were 4 petrol stations. How sad is that?

No, I didn’t think twice about what I was going to do at 5.30am on Tuesday morning, I was going home! The long way home too, so home I rode. Taking in the entire south west coast of Scotland from Stranraer  to Gretna. The scenery is magnificent, the view amazing, the people so friendly  and I rode through some of the most stunningly beautiful countryside I have ever laid eyes on. On road that can only be described as “Made for motorbike riding”.

I like my Castles!

East Stewartry Coast National Scenic Area

Calling in at “Devil’s Bridge” near Kirby Lonsdale I had a nice cup of coffee and reflected on my decision. I would have ridden some 300 miles by the time I’d reach Rochdale, I could have been well on my way to Durness. Did I regret my decision………. Not one bit! I belong with my family it’s that simple. What a fantastic way to finish a brilliant couple of days in the saddle.

20th & 21st July 2012

So from now on when I ride any amount of miles I will be sharing those miles with either a riding partner or a pillion or even better, both!
My days of solo mega miles have been drawn to a close. Will I achieve the IBA UK British Isles Insanity Saddle Sore Certificate. Well with England in the bag in the form of RBLR SS1000 South Route 2010 and subject to verification by Chris at IBA Ireland that’s two down and two to go.
Wales is next but I’ve already got a group of 5 Manc Rider including myself all gearing up for that.
The riding diary is crammed to the rafters as it is every year and so here’s the next couple of  months agenda

25th to 27th May - IBA UK Brit Butt Rally
1st to 3rd June – Super Tenere.NetWorkshop Meet in Ashford in Kent
22nd – 24th June – RBLR 1000 at Squires near Skipton

1st July – Manc Riders  North Yorkshire Ride Out

5th – 8th July – Horizons’ UnlimitedMeeting at Belper in Derbyshire
7th July – IBA UK Brit Butt Light Rally

4th August - Manc Riders Derbyshire Ride Out

So looking good to go, just need to sort a date for the Welsh SS1000………………………..

Scotland at dawn is simply beautiful.

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