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Le Jog

A diary account by Ian Alexander of a trip from Land's End to John o' Groats by the  V.O.C. Coventry Section in 1986. Eddy.

Land’s End to John O’Groats - an emotive journey attracting varying travelers, walkers, cyclists, motorcyclists, cars, able bodied and disabled. Many dream of making the trip but never fulfill their ambition.  One dreamer made the mistake of voicing his thoughts in the hearing of Ian Alexander, Coventry Section Organiser. Before they knew what had hit them, a group from the section were en route!

On a very wet summer evening in June, 1985 at an out of town section meeting, Barry Bassett made the remark that he had always wanted to do an “End to End” run but never had the opportunity. The general discussion revolved around former historic journeys such as the 1912 ACU 1000 mile trial and a more recent V.M.C.C. run on veteran machines.

The seed was sown; Ian and Barry decided to suggest the run as a forthcoming event at the A.G.M. which was due to be held the following week. The suggestion was received with howls of disbelieving laughter and seemed doomed to be relegated to the realms of unfulfilled dreams.  However, over the next few weeks several others expressed interest and it was decided to hold a meeting of all those who were keen to have a go.

September, 1985 at the Alexander home, around 15 people met to consider all the advantages and disadvantages. It was agreed that the trip was definitely on and that we should all pay a non-refundable deposit by the end of October as a firm commitment. It was also decided to try and raise money for a local Charity.  Chris and Barbara Fagg volunteered to arrange sponsorship forms etc. Eventually the party consisted of Barry and Jacquie Bassett, who made the original suggestion and would travel on the team Bassett Scott, (their Vincent engine was adorning the dining table) John Lycett on his 1951 Rapide, Chris and. Barbara Fagg, Len Granger and Tony Roberts also on Rapides, Mike Colin and Ian Alexander on Shadows, John Attwood and Don Alexander on a pair of Comets. Marion Alexander and Judith Lycett were to drive the family Golf and Citroen respectively with luggage, tools and food plus a trailer each to take the 2 Comets and Scott to Land’s End and back from John O’Groats
A second meeting was held at the home of John and Judith Lycett during which we planned the routes.  It was decided that this would be an enjoyable and relaxing week with a steady mileage and plenty of opportunity for sight seeing; we were not out to break any records - just to get there. We worked out an average 180 miles daily.
John L spent many hours on the telephone over the next two or three months, booking accommodation at suitable distances. He even had to go to the extreme of sending a group photo to show we were not young tearaways likely to smash the place up.  Ian had already booked us in at Sennan Cove Hotel for Land’s End and the famous John 0’ Groats Hotel.

 The final organising meeting was held two weeks before the departure date at which stage few of the bikes were roadworthy.  This meeting was to decide on what spares to take; it took a lot of persuading to convince Don that we needed any (such confidence). We also decided to take coffee, tea and soup in the cars for the odd elevenses stop (not to forget 10 packets of Jammie Dodgers). After the meeting, long hours were spent in garages and ‘phone lines were red hot with advice pouring from one to the other.  At last all nine bikes were ready and the great day arrived.


Saturday June 21stload1

Six twins took to the road in bright sunshine for their first leg of the journey. The two Comets and the Scott were on the trailers at this stage.  Most headed straight for Exeter Services, the first meeting place for lunch, but Ian in his usual well organised fashion headed off towards Stratford to purchase a new pair of motorcycle boots as he thought the weather would be too hot for Derri boots.  He then met Mike at the M5 junction at Tewksbury. We all met at the Exeter Services - the new blue boots were transferred from a tank bag to one of the cars as the weather looked a little doubtful, holiday makers on their return journey were keen to tell us how atrocious the conditions ahead were. Mike’s Shadow was throwing out gallons of oil over both himself and anyone else within a two mile radius.  After due examination it was decided that there was nothing wrong with the bike, the fault lay with a new breather fitted in the wrong place (front inlet rocker cap). The cure was to insert a N.G.K. sparking plug into the rubber hose in an effort to block it off. (Does the VOC’s Technical services Officer know that N.G.K. plugs can cure oil leaks?)

load2

We left Exeter and all arranged to meet at Land’s End.  As we rode across Bodmin Moor the sky became almost black and within a short while we were riding and driving through a cloud burst; the roads were awash making it difficult to tell if we were still on dry land or had missed the coast and were travelling through the sea!

Mike and Ian arrived at Land's End where Derek Fearn and others at the V.0. C. Land’s End Rally made them welcome with cups of tea and shelter from the rain. Twenty minutes later the two cars and trailers arrived but no sign of the four Rapides. Thinking the worst, that one of the bikes had succumbed to the weather, we decided to find the hotel and hope they arrived later.  Sennen Cove Hotel was the venue for Saturday evening, approximately two miles from Land’s End. Imagine our surprise when on arrival at the Hotel, the remaining four twins were all safely locked up and their riders all drying out inside.  Comments of ‘1t’s too wet to go and see Land’s End, you must be mad” did not mollify those who had stood waiting for an hour. Mike and Ian decided to have a T shirt made with “I was at Land’s End on Saturday, where were you ?“ and spent the evening moaning (in a good natured way). The hotel owners were very helpful and dried off all our motorcyle gear in preparation for Sunday.

Midlands to Land’s End approx. 300 miles.


  

Sunday June 22nd.

Although the rain had stopped, we awoke to the mournful wail of the foghorn, “There be a hoopa in the bay” we were told when we found that we could barely see out of the windows.  We rode down to Land’s End for the official start of our journey. The V.0.C. Rally was in full swing when we got there along with a T.V. crew from John Craven’s Newsround.  The T,V. reporter enquired about our run and picked Barry and the Scott to do an interview (30+ fabulous Vincents and they chose a Scott).  Barry claims he had no idea the cameras would be there but we spotted him combing his hair before arrival and suspected he was out to impress.  They were going to film us all moving off but they had to film the Land’s End Rally riders departing for a short club run because we had a slight delay as John L and Ian tried to get 13 Land’s End brochures and get them stamped with the official Land’s End stamp to prove that we had actually set off on “our” historic journey.  At l2.00 we were ready and headed off for the lunch stop at Jamaica Inn on Bodmin Moor.jamaica_inn

The weather was being quite kind now but five miles from the start Chris and Barbara stopped with a dead motor. This was soon solved when water was found in the magneto cut out button. On the way to the lunch stop we passed a chap also starting an End to End but travelling on skis fitted with small wheels (totally bonkers).  It looked hard work up hill and quite terrifying down hill - no brakes. Lunch at Jamaica Inn was uneventful and as we left we said goodbye to Bob Matrim from London who had travelled the first 50 miles with us.

Before arriving at Cheddar, our next overnight stop, we had a break for afternoon tea (oh, so British) and again the skies opened.  Where does all this rain come from? Fortunately, the sun soon followed, drying us all by the time we reached Cheddar Gorge.  John Lycett had done an excellent job in booking the various hotels, ensuring that there was a safe place for the bikes to be locked away each night.  At this particular stop we were allowed to use the hotel’s Bird Garden — John was very much at home here as he owns a crazy 6o year old parrot called Sue (drinks anything alcoholic).  Although the weather had been fair, Ian would not risk wearing the new blue boots which had travelled up in Judith’s car.

Left to Right in the photograph are:
John Lycett, Ian Alexander, Len Granger, Barbara Fagg, Don Alexander, Tony Roberts, Marion Alexander, Jacqui Bassett, Mike Colin, John Attwood, Judith Lycett, Barry Bassett, Chris Fagg.

  

Land’s End to Cheddar approximately 190 miles.

 


Monday June 23rd.

Monday morning and the sun was breaking through. We decided to ride up through the Gorge.  Don’s Comet had by this time lost all its baffles; we were rather worried about starting an avalanche as it boomed its way through the Gorge.  We headed up towards Bristol; the Clifton Suspension bridge is quite remarkable and must have caused more than one accident as people looked at it instead of where they were going.  We crossed the Severn Bridge and stopped in the Wye Valley north of Chepstow where we had a coffee break in a very picturesque wooded area.  A lady in a car pulled up she had followed one of the Vins from a garage and could not believe it when another seven turned up.  She was from Australia and her husband used to own a Comet.  After having a good long chat, we all departed.  Many thanks to the lady who made a generous donation towards our collection.

We were due to meet Jim Reynolds of M.C.N. at 1.00p.m. in a pub just south of Church Stretton.  We were a little late but Jim did not seem to mind and took several notes and photos; the write up appeared in the following week’s paper.  This was about the only photographic session where Barry and Jacquie on the Scott did not steal the limelight. Scotts seem to attract lots of admirers usually old asthmatic men (probably caused by riding the smokey two strokes in their youth). 

Monday evening’s stop was at the Redbrook Hunting Lodge Hotel near Whitchurch.  It was a superb hotel.  The bikes were locked away in a garage. We were rather caught out during dinner - several of us ordered soup of the day.  “It is mulligatawny” said the waiter, “fine” we all agreed not admitting that no one had a clue what it was.  We were soon to find out, to say it was hot would be an understatement, several were tempted to save it in flasks and try running the bike on it.  Monday was also the eve of Mike’s Birthday so we all had a 10p bet as to how old he would be.  Ian was not paying attention and when asked for his opinion he replied 82.  Mike refused to buy him a drink! From the first day, Len had been suffering with a poorly big toe. It was getting bigger and more painful daily; by Whitchurch it was throbbing like a Belisha beacon.  Ian’s boots had done yet another other day by car.

Cheddar to Whitchurch approx. 179 miles.


Tuesday June 24th.

The hotel at Whitchurch was only spoilt by one thing - on Tuesday morning when John and Judith and Marion and Don returned to their rooms after breakfast, it was to find that the decorators had moved in making the rooms and bathrooms unusable!  Do all hotels redecorate after motor cyclists have stayed the night ?

John Lycett had produced route cards for everyone in large print for ease of reading on the road, Before each mornings start.  Marion would instruct us as to where we were to meet up for morning coffee, lunch, tea, etc, e.g. the first lay-by North of Bonar Bridge or some place of historic interest.  This system worked very well and soon a slick routine developed where the ladies dispensed Max Pax drinks from pump thermos flasks filled each day with boiling water from the hotel. 

This leg of the journey was to take us through the industrial North and although we planned to avoid motorways, we decided to make an exception and used the M6 to by pass the worst congestion and get to the beautiful Lakes countryside.  For the first and only time the cars travelled separately.  Shortly after we left Whitchurch, we came upon the cars and trailers parked in a lay-by with Judith looking glum.  The nearside front wheel bearing was making a nasty noise so Judith drove into Warrington with John as outrider to get it repaired.  As they had a three hour wait while the repair was done they treated themselves to a long relaxed lunch in a nearby hostelry.  The remainder of the group met at Shap for lunch.
Unfortunately, after the delay with the car, it was 3.00 p.m. before we arrived and the pubs had all shut up shop.  We had to buy up all the batches and biscuits we could find and we had an economical but rather frugal lunch.  We were however, treated to cream cakes to celebrate Mike’s Birthday.

After lunch, Jacquie travelled on the back of Mike’s Shadow as the Scott seat was getting a little hard. and this also allowed Barry to cruise the kettle a little quicker.  The remainder of the journey to Annan was uneventful.  Marion, travelling alone now in the Golf, realised how much she missed the company of Judith in the Citroen.  Although the two drivers were not sharing the pleasure of motorcycling they were enjoying their involvement - Land’s End to John O’Groats is still an achievement no matter how it is done.  Travelling alone was not quite the same, however, and she was very pleased to welcome Judith and John back when they arrived at the hotel only about 1 hour later than the main party, having gained a bit of time by storming up the M6.  As this was the first long distance Judith had undertaken, she was more than happy to follow Marion’s lead, convinced that she would have got lost if left on her own.

annan

The accommodation at Annan was a big disappointment after the two previous stops.  The Management was very lax.  Only two copies of the menu for the whole hotel and 90% of the dishes listed were off!  Chris and Barbara, who are vegetarians, had rung through the week before to book their meal but they had no more luck than the rest of us. It was easier to ask what was available than to try and chose anything.  John had, as usual, asked for secure accommodation for the bikes.  On arrival, we were shown round to the back of the hotel and a flight of steps.  Even Tony, (a well built chap) couldn’t cope with them.  (The Manager thought John must have meant pushbikes!)  After some delay, one of the group discovered a fire door and this was opened to allow access to the ballroom where the bikes were allowed to stay for the night.  We did put cardboard under each machine to protect the floors.  We held an oil drip competition but we won’t mention the winner’s name, we don’t want to upset Len.  Mike, of course, had left all his oil at Exeter.  Judith decided that having left her mark at Whitchurch (hence the decorators) she would do a little something at Annan.  When she opened the wardrobe door the full length mirror crashed down and shattered all over the bedroom floor.  The Manager was asked to send someone to clear up the mess but several reminders had to be sent before the job was done.  Despite the disadvantages, we had an enjoyable evening together and Marion gave her usual briefing for the next day, detailing coffee and lunch stops.

  • Len’s toe still painful.
  • Ian’s boots still in the car.

Although nearly everyone took a camera, Chris soon established himself as the official photographer.  He was everywhere with his cameras so we all had to be on our guard.

At the start of the week John A had said that he didn’t think his Comet would make it to John O ’Groats and if it did he would buy everybody a drink.  We were now into Scotland and John was thinking up ways to sabotage his own bikes.  In fact both Comets were running very well although Don’s would have sounded more at home at Cadwell having no baffles at all.  The Scott was also running sweetly and Barry’s confidence in reaching John O’Groats was growing.

Whitchurch to Annan approx. 187 miles.


Wednesday June 25th.

We left Annan and drove through some of the beautiful Scottish countryside.  There was one very crucial junction, made worse by a temporary diversion, which if missed sent you into Glasgow.  Don duly missed the turn and took Mike, Tony, Len and John A through the Gorbals of Glasgow.  Barry, Jacquie, Ian, John Lycett, Chris, Barbara and the two car driving ladies headed in the correct direction for the coffee stop.  After waiting for more than an hour it was decided to head for the lunch stop at Luss, hoping we would all meet up O.K.

On the A74 south of Glasgow two of the riders had stopped for petrol.  The pumps were quite a distance from the road and we saw the two follow - up cars sail on past.  This caused little worry as the bikes were running like clockwork. Several miles ahead after long climbs in the mountains they came upon the cars and trailers in a lay-by. “What’s up’ we said. Nothing, we had caught Barry up and have stopped for a breather!

Fortunately, all the intrepid Glasgow wanderers managed to find their way to Luss.  We all adjourned to the nearby picnic area for sandwiches and jammy dodgers.  Later we strolled down to the shores of Loch Lomond.  Lots of photos were taken, silly and serious ones, while eating ice creams.  Back in the car park where the bikes were lined up a Canadian on a huge Honda Aspencade swopped badges with us.  He was on his way to Heathrow Airport where his bike was booked on a flight home.  The following week Noel Edmunds was to be married in the village -  thank goodness we didn’t clash with that, although if we had, no doubt it would have been Barry and Scott that would have ended up on the “Late Late Breakfast Show”. (They are both experienced TV. personalities).view1

We left Luss to travel through some of the most beautiful scenery that only Scotland can provide; sweeping around the tight bends and hammering up some of the climbs in the Glens on a Vincent Twin is sheer magic.  Mike and Jacquie thought they spotted an eagle (could have been something to do with the whiskey). John Lycett and Ian stopped to take photos of snow capped mountains.

Tyndrum was our Wednesday night stop.  Ian’s boots had done yet another day in Judith’s care.  The hotel was in a small Scottish village, anyone calling for petrol had rather a long wait, although the garage was open and there was plenty of petrol there was no electricity to operate the pumps. The next garage was a mere 35 miles away.

Not long after arrival, the four ladies retired to the small shop next door to the hotel, Jacquie being guided round the shelves as, unfortunately, on arrival at Luss she removed her glasses from her pocket to discover a screw had worked loose and one lens crashed to the ground.  Judith purchased a tinned Haggis (a promised gift for their son).  The real thing may not have travelled too well in the heat of the car. Everybody else made do with post cards.

From the start, Barbara and Jacquie had been recording the daily mileages, even taking into account tyre diameter and section and although some travelled together on identical bikes, the mileage would differ.  Poor old Ian stands no chance of winning a navigation trial as his was consistently faster than everybody else’s (must have Triumph internals in the speedo).

Anyway, back to Tyndrum; Barry and Chris went a short trip on the Scott to view the local trains.  We all booked into the hotel and after a superb meal we caused the usual noise and chaos along with silly and exaggerated stories of the day’s happenings.  (The eagle’s wingspan had now grown to 40 feet.)   Feeling uncommonly energetic, we decided to go for an evening stroll along the nearby West Highland Way.  This only lasted a few yards as the midges tried to devour us for their dinner.  The bar was found to be a much more comfortable place and certain members of the party set about sampling the local 100% malts.

Annan to Tyndrum approx. 149 miles.


Thursday June 26th.

The sun was shining, no clouds and the big day had arrived for Ian to wear his new blue boots.  Marion again gave everyone detailed road instructions, John A was getting more worried about having to buy everybody a drink, John Lycett was being as daft as ever although he was suffering a little charging problem (with his bike).  Tony looked disappointed after paying out large amounts of money for a Rukka suit and no rain in Scotland to test it.  Don was giving the local sheep heart attacks, Len was by now hobbling badly, removing his boot and putting on his slipper at the slightest opportunity, even traffic lights if they were on red too long.  Mike was suffering from the grabs (we think he meant his clutch).  Jacquie had a sore bum and aching back so opted for the super comfort of a Vincent (who started laughing?).  Judith and Marion seemed quite happy driving the mobile McDonalds, complete with coffee, tea and jammie dodgers.  Chris was threatening to sue anybody who published a picture of him on the back of Barry’s Scott. Barbara said she would disown Chris if the picture was printed (£5 for the negative) and Barry was smiling from ear to ear as the Scott was defying all predictions of disaster and was running exactly as Typhoo would have planned.scott on A82

We all set off in a good frame of mind; John Lycett, Ian, Chris and Barbara were last to leave and horror of horrors as they crested a small hill there sat a lonely and silent Scott down in the valley.  Barry looked very despondent, the cars arrived and dished out the very welcome coffee.  All engaged brain to ponder on Barry’s little problem; no sparks was the cause of silence.  This was soon traced to be a duff coil.  We had no direct replacement but a spare coil was taped to the frame using a subtle shade of yellow tape. Barry continued ahead along with the cars while the three Vins stopped in Glencoe for the obligatory poser photos.

With the spare coil affixed with yellow tape, Barry admires the view further along the A82.

 Lunch was at a village called Drumnadrochit, very difficult for us Sassenachs to pronounce so Mike renamed it Drop Yer Bucket (typical of a Brummy). Here we met a lad on a B.S.A. 31 who had arrived from Australia, purchased the B.SA., toured England and Scotland and was returning to London to sell the bike and fly home.

Yet again, before he could continue, Barry had to fight off crowds of 0.A.P’s admiring the Scott.  We rode towards Brora, our Thursday evening bed, via Bonar Bridge.  We saw lots of redundant oil rigs anchored in the Cromarty Firth and a little later on where people with binoculars were scrutinising a cliff face.  Ian and John Lycett joined the eagle spotting club.  The moors were very barren and must be very bleak during the winter months.brora

The Hotel at Brora was built by a mill owner, a very imposing building complete with long sweeping stairs, oak paneling and. suits of armour, together with an indoor swimming pool, Badminton courts and. ice rinks.  We all found our rooms and were changing for dinner when we heard a Vin running in the courtyard.  Everyone shot out to catch the thief only to find Dr. Michael Simpson on his open D twin.  It is without a shadow of doubt (pardon the pun) the most original Vincent we have ever seen.  Even the paintwork, dull chrome and cad are original.  We returned inside for our meal which was superb, we even had our own printed menu headed Motor Cycle Dinner.  As we ate we were enthralled by Michael’s beautiful Scots accent as he sat chatting to us, it was almost musical.  After dinner we took the bikes into the ice rink.  Fortunately, we did not have to stand them on the ice (could be difficult).  Michael departed reluctantly, he seldom has a Vincent meeting on his doorstep.  We retired to the bar where only John Lycett, Mike and Tony were brave enough to sample the local malt whiskey.

The group lines up with the bikes after breakfast.

 

Tyndrum to Brora approx. 181 miles.


Friday June 27th.

7.30 a.m., everyone in the swimming pool except Ian, Chris and Barbara, lazy devils.  Don came down as group photographer, what an excuse.  Len enjoyed his swim until he kicked the football into the pool, his shout of pain must have woken everyone, he had forgotten “the toe”.  After breakfast we lined the bikes up in front of the hotel for photos; we sent the manager a copy later. This was the big day, we were only 80 miles from John O’Groats.  According to Barbara and Jacquie’s calculations, we would be a few milesscott_a897

short of 1000 Marion worked out a route which would give us those few extra miles.  We travelled for 38 miles on a single track road with passing places that seemed to go on  for ever.  Don, John A and Barry went off first; the twins followed later.  Soon we smelled Barry in the distance and there he was at a small railway station in the middle of nowhere (he is a railway enthusiast).  We all stopped for yet more photos.  The Station Master was also garage operator so we filled up with petrol.  The Weather was boiling hot and this was the first signs of life we had seen for ages.  (It was Scotland and not the desert).  The scheduled stop was further on but as the Station Master/garage operator was also Publican John Lycett persuaded us to stop for a drink (he is as bad as the parrot).  We could have stayed longer but the two Comets had carried on to Dunnett Head which was the official lunch stop; so we had to leave.  We had one more unofficial stop outside Dounrey Power Station where we picked some radio active heather thinking it might help the old Miller lights as it glows in the dark.

That Scott again on the A897

 

dunnett_headDunnett Head was bleak; John A had been dreaming of “murdering a pint” and was horrified to find intense but we had to be content with Max Pax coffee and seven cartons of orange between 13 of us.  Lunch was again sparse, a few batches and the inevitable jammie dodgers.  It was a good job all the hotels gave us a good breakfast before we left and a good evening meals.  This was our last stop before John O’Groats and John A and Len were not happy men.  John had by now resigned himself to the fact that he would have to buy us all a drink - ‘One Pot’ was going to make it after all.  Len was not so sure, his bike had developed a bad whistle which we suspected may be a burnt valve.  This, together with his “ever enlarging” big toe made him wonder whether he would make it.  We decided to break our normal habit and travel the last few miles in convoy.  As the idea of the journey was Barry’s brain child, he and Jacquie led the procession on the Scott.  Marion and Judith in the cars at the rear had a superb view of the long line of Vins snaking along the narrow solitary Scottish roads in blazing sunshine.  Why didn’t we take a video camera?  We finally arrived at John O’Groats at 3.30 p.m. on Friday, 27th of June having covered just over 1000 miles since leaving Land’s End?

 

 

dunnet_head

 The John O' Groats professional photographer arranged us all below the large John 0’ Groats to Lands End sign.  He also kindly volunteered to take photos using our cameras, although he was rather taken aback when twelve cameras were produced for him to use.  John and Judith had brought along two bottle of champagne - you could not have found a happier bunch of people anywhere as we toasted each other’s success.  We spent an hour or so buying various Scottish souvenirs in the tourist shops and sent our final post cards home.  We booked into our rooms in the John O’Groats Hotel which is just as you would imagine it; you could easily picture people arriving after epic journeys in the Edwardian Era, 20’s and 30’s with the decor being much as it is today.  Mike and Ian had a small battle over who was going to use the bathroom with a sea view.  Mike won although he later got his comeuppance when after eating crab for dinner he got a touch of the runs and found himself in the bathroom more than he would have liked.

All the motor-cyclists had clubbed together and purchased the car-driving ladies a necklace in thanks for doing an excellent job with the back-up vehicles.  John Lycett and Ian had also secretly purchased 25 badges manufactured to a design of John’s, a Vincent picture over an outline of Britain.  These were all handed out on Friday evening along with a bottle of J.0.G. Whiskey for John Lycett in recognition of all his hard work.

After all the celebrating, we all went for a walk along the jetty (it was still daylight) apart from Len who retired to the bar to drown his sorrows and rest his toe. Barry was still grinning like a Cheshire cat; justifiably proud of the Scott’s performance, secretly hoping that it would silence all the leg pulling.  (No chance).

Although it would be wrong to single out one person as achieving anything special, mention must be made of Don who with an artificial leg, did 1008 miles
on his Comet.  Things we take for granted such as getting on and off the bike or pulling it on to the rear stand are not easy when it is difficult to get your balance.

After a pleasant evening spent on the jetty watching seals swimming nearby and taking yet more photos, we returned to the hotel when, true to his word, John A bought us all a drink.  We then all filled in the End to End record book.  All the bikes were locked into the cow shed which was fine except for the floor being 2 feet deep in dung.  As we wheeled the bikes round to the shed we witnessed a beautiful sunset over a calm sea.

Brora to John O’Groats - approximately 114 miles.


Saturday June 28th.

After breakfast we loaded up for the return trip. John Lycett returned to his room to find Judith looking at a pair of ladders leaning on the window sill and a man descending rapidly; she claims he was painting!  We were all slightly subdued as we had reached our goal and only the return trip to look forward to.  The two Comets and the Scott were loaded on to the trailers.  Jacquie decided to travel back on the pillion of Mike and Barry travelled on Ian’s pillion.  Len’s bike was still running and he was determined to ride as far as he could.coffee_stop

We stopped for coffee at Bonar Bridge after a fabulous ride along the East Coast.  Unfortunately, Len’s bike finally expired, most appropriately at the gateway of a burial ground, so we loaded it alongside John A’s Comet and Len hitched a lift with Tony on his Rapide.  We headed towards Aviemore.  The heat by this time was intense and to add to the problems, the trailer with the twin and Comet on was beginning to collapse.  Aviemore was not quite what we had expected so we quickly headed on towards Edinburgh.  Despite the heat there was snow on the surrounding mountain tops.  Ian with Barry as pillion and John Lycett had travelled most of the day together.  Unfortunately, Ian ran out of petrol on a busy stretch of the A9 -  pushing a twin in the wrong direction towards a lay-by on a busy main road is very exciting, ask Barry.  The cars soon arrived and Ian used the spare gallon they were carrying (nobody really thought anyone would be silly enough to run out of fuel).  The A9 is a beautiful motorcycling road, but now by-passes all the villages and both Ian and John had to get their tanks filled up.  After one fruitless search they eventually found petrol at Blair Atholl.

By now it was getting a little late so the last 120 miles were travelled at a speed well over the recommended limit set by the boys in blue.  By the time they reached the Fairway Hotel at Aberdour Barry could hardly move.  After 330 miles on the pillion of Ian’s Shadow, he thought the seat felt more like a concrete slab.
The evening meal was followed by a short walk down to the beach.  We decided to put Chris’ boast of being a champion stone skimmer to the test and after a hard fought battle, the undisputed champion was Mike.  (Chris claimed he was out of practice as Rugby is a little short of beaches).

John O’Groats to Aberdour -  330 miles.


Sunday June 29th.

The final day, Chris and Barbara had decided to stay on for a further day so that they could attend the Edinburgh Pipe Festival.  When they got there a chap who they had previously contacted looked after their bike and kindly presented them with a genuine haggis.  Chris and Barbara hadn’t the heart to tell him they are vegetarians so packed it away carefully and passed it on to the Lycett family (Is this the first haggis to travel on a Vin down the M6 ?).

The trailer had bent a little more but looked as if it would last the final 300 miles.  We travelled down some very minor roads with stunning scenery as far as Carlisle.  Ian and John Lycett stuck rigidly to the route and navigated through the city, meanwhile the remainder of the group cheated and joined the M6 above Carlisle.

Lunch was at the first service station on the motorway.  After a bite to eat we all kitted up for the final leg; only one more stop at Keele Services where we would say goodbye to Mike.  John kicked his bike several times but not a spark of life.  He pulled it onto the rear stand and had another go, sweat was pouring from John’s Belstaff jacket. Everybody stood round the bike thinking the same -  surely it could not let us down on this the last day.  Then in a flash of inspiration, some bright spark (pun intended) suggested that John should re-fit his plug caps which he had himself removed to prevent the bike being stolen.  It is a good job we couldn’t hear what he was muttering under his helmet.

After a cup of tea at Keele, Mike turned off for the M5 and home and the rest of us headed for the Alexander residence where in true  English fashion, we finished the holiday with another cup of tea!

To round off - all the bikes completed the run from Land’s End to John O’Groats.  The two cars and five of the twins did 2,000 miles each during the week.  On further inspection, Len’s bike proved to have a burnt valve caused we believe by incorrect main jets and a tight tappet but a new valve was purchased and the bike was back on the road within four days of returning (not bad for a 35 year old obsolete motorcycle).cheque_presentation

We all had a truly memorable holiday with the added bonus of collecting £1040 sponsorship money which was to be given to the local Rugby Mencap.  Two weeks after our return Barbara arranged for a presentation to the Chairman of Rugby Mencap.  The local newspaper also came along.  We hid Barry’s Scott behind the hedge and had Tony Roberts’ Rapide as the centrepiece.  After receiving the cheque, Mike O’Neil explained how the money would be used.  Flats are being built so that some of the disabled people can have a private life of their own.  If enthusiasm counts for anything, they will soon have their building.

The holiday was a complete success, we all had a fabulous week.  Roll on 1988 and the Coventry Section’s next holiday.

Ian Alexander.

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