A Report by Steve 'Jagster' Jagger (expletives and all !!!)
For those who may not know this was a fundraising 'rideout' organised by the Royal British Legion Riders Branch in aid of the Poppy Appeal. Linked to this was the opportunity to gain membership into The Iron Butt Association (IBA), the Worlds Toughest Riders as they are known. Also involved in this event were White Dalton Solicitors.
I had decided on a 6am start weeks before but, due to circumstances this, the very first part of my plan, changed as at the last minute I decided to pitch camp at Squires on the Friday afternoon. We had to attend a briefing which was scheduled for 8pm so with the weather looking favourable I thought OK, 8-9pm briefing, a pint and chat till 10pm, set the alarm for 5am, in the tent and tucked up by 10pm.
At this point I'm feeling both apprehensive and excited as I snuggle in but the aim now is to get some shut eye. No feckin' chance, there's blokes talking, women laughing, bikes revving, I would have got more peace at the Farmyard with mi mates and on top of the bedlam, its feckin' freezing. I look at the clock and it's already Saturday 2am .... the next time I look it's 4am, and the laughing has stopped but now it's the bleedin' birds singing their tits off, and i'm still feckin' freezing but hey ho, I've actually had 2 hours sleep.
Bollocks to this I think, I may as well get up and put the kettle on. I have a coffee and a cereal bar,fire up the bike and get round to the start point in the main car park. It's 5:20am and I'm away. Not the prep I anticipated as I am cold and angry with the noisy bastards and angry with myself for feeling so crap. The most I've ridden in a day prior to this was 340 miles and here I am embarking on 3 times that trip and I feel like I've been on a 4 day bender.
I aim the bike for the exit, head for the A63 and onto the M1. I totally miss the M62 junction and give myself another bollocking, track back, join the M62 and in no time at all I'm longing for the first checkpoint at Birch Services. I pull in at Birch and am greeted by Roly, a fellow Legion Rider who is marshal here, he enters details on my log, I go get fuel and I'm off, feckin' hooray, that's the first in the bag!
Three hours on and I'm still cold, onboard I am carrying bottled water and cereal bars and some pasta for later, but I'm drooling on the thought of a full English. I've cleared the Lake District and am thinking I should pull in before Glasgow. I pull in and buy a large coffee, tackle another cereal bar, then a cig. Whilst smoking my cig I realise I am actually talking to my bike, I have just said to the bike: "I know you're prepared and up for it mate but I feel like shit and I cant see us doing this today, I'm sorry." "Christ stop being a wus and get on with it" was the reply (in my head anyway), so we did.
I clear Glasgow on the M74, over the Erskine Bridge and onto the A82 heading for Fort William. This is more like it, the sun has warmed me up a little and the road is similar to the Snake Pass, Jagster is cheering up now, although my shoulders are tense due to cold and stress but improving by the minute. Then alas I round a bend and am facing a queue of about 25 vehicles at temporary lights. Oncoming traffic is steady so I'm filtering, I almost get to the front when the second car in the queue decides to block my path. I'm stranded by his back door and an Artic is approaching with the driver hanging out of his cabin, I think he was wishing me a good morning and pleasant journey but I didn't quite get the accent. I'm leaning away from said big lorry almost touching Mr. Volvo, then after a few more cars the road is clear, the lights are still showing red, I pull forward slightly, Mr. Volvo man has his window down and is enjoying a fag by the smug look on his face. "Thanks for that you slack Scottish bastard" I holler and I'm away.
Within a few minutes he was past what was the lead car and is now on my back wheel, lights flashing and horn blaring. This continues for a few miles at speeds of 50-60 when I decide that on the next bit of straight road I will back off, move over slightly and hope he simply overtakes me, I have too much on to be playing games. This does happen and I have no doubt Mr. smug faced Volvo man feels oh so smart as he whizzes past throwing me a wanker sign and horn blaring. I keep a safe distance between us and a few minutes later we have a second roadworks and yes the lights are at red, but this time theres no oncoming and only five standing cars. I pull alongside him, remind him he is still a "Slack Scottish Bastard" and fly to the front, the lights turn green and I'm away, happy with the knowledge that that's the last of old misery guts.
I'm warm now and I'm in the groove, quick fill up at Fort William, the touristy traffic is heavy now, coaches and camper vans a plenty, plus the dreaded lycra lot pedalling up mountains being the hindrance that they are, crazy twats cause havoc on these roads, but I'm in the zone picking em off and heading towards Inverness.
Before long I've made it to Wick and realise I've done 12hrs and am half way so must be on target but cannot allow much of a break so it's a quick coffee, yet another cereal bar and a treat of a Kit-Kat, a cig and off we go. There's still snow around up here on the tops, it's quite nippy with sunshine and showers but the riding is superb, on a sunny day it looks like the Amalfi Coast roads in parts, I'm now feeling confident and enjoying it all.
By 10pm. I'm closing in on Edinburgh but the fuel gauge is very low and since the last fill up I've covered 230 miles, there's another 35 miles to the next checkpoint so I dare not risk it and opt for the next garage. It is here that I decide to take on some food so extend my stop to 20mins, the longest all day. Another biker informs me that when I rode in I was without headlight, "shit my bulbs gone" and what I thought was a spare turns out not to be. He suggests I shadow him to next checkpoint, it's still light, but wont be for much longer, I'm riding on full beam. At the checkpoint they have no bulbs, don't need fuel so buy a choccy bar just to get the required receipt, and we carry on to Berwick. I have not even stopped the bike when new mate strides towards me stressing he cannot go any further with me blinding him, I agree and we spot a BMW rider filling up. "Excuse me mate but do you have a spare bulb?" "Sure, I'll sell you it and I'll change it for you."
Feckin' gentleman me thinks, so very grateful. He rags out my duff bulb, goes to his top box then returns shaking his head saying it's a different size and wont fit, his bike being newer than mine and those crazy fun loving Germans have changed the design, oh bollox, but drama over, nice Geordie garage man has one which is quickly purchased and nice BMW rider man fits it, jobs a good 'un.
Off I go on what is now the last leg of the ride, straight down the A1 back to Squires. Not so. A1 closed at Scotch Corner to Leeming the info states so it's a nasty 30 minutes detour or use your loaf, namely Tyne Tunnel, A19 South to Thirsk then rejoin A1, no flies on the Dodworth lads eh ! The A19 in the Middlesbrough area is snided with police vans, it's raining and it's just starting to feel like a long day, but back on the A1 and the finish wont be long now.
I see the hi-viz tops of the marshals in the road near to Squires entrance and I have a huge grin and warm glow as I pull into the car park to a posse of marshals clapping my return. The paperwork is checked and all is fine, job done, a large coffee and brandy is handed to me, handshakes abound and guess what .... I am not looking forward to the tent.
It's Sunday at 3am. I hang around for an hour then decide on a fully clothed kip until the cafe opens at 8am for that breakfast I've been fancying. At 10am it's presentation time, an award for furthest travelled to the event is called, the rider steps up, and it turns out he rode from Slovakia, done the 1,000 and is then riding back home, he is English, name is Lee and it's the guy that changed my bulb on route. RESPECT. I thank him again and he enquires would I like to buy his bike, I'm obviously looking blank when he smiles and says, "If you do, I will fly back home". On reflection he makes my trip look like a bimble to the shops.
As is usually the case, met some fantastic people and you could feel the camaradery and of course it's all done for a worthy cause, long may it last.
BMW R1150RT. Apart from the bulb, there were no issues. This really is a comfy workhorse, ideal machine for distance riding. Cost of fuel for the trip £115.
As we had rode with John Hannon on the previous day on his final journey, I have to say there were times when I thought of him and sought inspiration. May I thank all of you that have supported me by way of sponsorship, I shall inform you of the amount raised when I know the figures. Would I do it again? - Defo, bring it on.