Once again it was a 10.15am meet at Conyers with Ian Scott taking us round Swaledale, Teesdale and Wensleydale via a very pleasant, varied route.  It was to prove to be quite an eventful day; little did we know of this of course as we set off at 10.30.

It had been a bit drizzly when I had gone into Stockton first thing, but the forecast said it would clear up.  So by the time I had unchained my bike from its ground anchor the drizzle had stopped, though the amount of cloud around was still threatening.  We were to be lucky – we had a dry run apart from a few puddles in the morning, and a nicely muddied road at one point.  We were warned that on part of our intended route had been a crash the previous evening involving a motorcycle and a car.  I thought, thanks, I didn’t really want to know that!

The drop off system worked perfectly again and we all arrived safe and sound in Masham town centre for refreshments after about an hour’s ride.  The bacon butties tasted fabulous – must be the best ones around, and I was roundly chastised for being ‘posh’ and drinking a cappuccino rather than an ordinary coffee.  That was excellent too.  Our route from there was via Leyburn into Swaledale, then a climb up to Tan Hill before descending into upper Swaledale again.  Then it was the Buttertabs run to the Cheese factory at Hawes for another bite to eat.  No one had a crystal ball handy otherwise we might have chosen a different route to avoid the mishap that did occur.  A tractor held us and a few cars up before the ruins at Jervaulx, but the driver was a kind fellah since he pulled in to let the queue go past, and we accelerated down the bank and past the Abbey grounds, soon catching up a truck.  As we arrived at a narrow humped back bridge a vehicle appeared from the other side so the truck driver stopped to allow the car to come through.  However, the bridge is insufficiently wide to allow this to occur.  Now I didn’t invent the phrase about good intentions and the road to hell, but it certainly applied here.  The trucker obviously had been asleep on the approach to the bridge, or had failed to use his mirrors, and promptly put his truck into reverse.  The six feet or so between the back of the truck and Ian’s bike rapidly diminished, and from the back of the line I saw the glass fly away from the front of his bike and the dip as the truck struck the front of it.  Fortunately Ian and his mum who was riding pillion were unhurt, and his bike was able to be ridden round the rest of the route.  The damage was limited to a smashed headlight, damaged front mudguard and oil cooler mountings, and various scratches to the fairing as far as we could see at the time.  The wheel and handlebar system seemed to be ok apart from cosmetic damage.

We continued on a way after about a half hour delay, and encountered a number of animals determined to play chicken.  At various times there were rabbits and sheep or lambs determined to test our reflexes but we were not found wanting.  I managed to mis-judge a corner over the Butttertubs, and ended up dropping into first on the apex of the turn.  I managed to keep rolling, and Ian and I soon caught up a slowly driven Mercedes whose driver decided to slow down to let me pass half way round a bend.  It takes all sorts I suppose.  Up to the cheese factory we went, parked up, and rejoined three of our number who had decided to go a shorter route to Hawes.   Perhaps it was to humour Neil on his Firestorm with its short range between fill-ups!  Richard had taken his camera and was taking great delight in photographing everyone’s lunch, particularly mine as I was eating it, I know not why.  Perhaps he thinks I am a greedy so and so.  Well I can’t help having a liking for foods now can I?

Leaving Hawes, we set off towards Sedburgh, but turned off just before the railway viaduct, turning right towards Brough which we reached without incident.  The only item worthy of note was the gypsy caravan travelling at walking pace in the opposite direction, with the lead gypsy waving to us as a thank you for slowing down to avoid upsetting her horse.  At Brough we took the road over the watershed back into Teesdale, heading towards Middleton in Teesdale.  I expected we would stop to avail ourselves of the culinary delights of Betty’s café, but no, we turned off and headed for Eggleston Hall instead. As I marked the turn off the Middleton road I thought, golly, Richard’s bike was loud.  Has he lost his can?  But no, it was still there on his bike.  At Eggleston investigation revealed the pipe linking the collector box to the can had snapped clean through where the clamp went round it.  So it seems Mr Honda’s build quality is not as good as it is reputed to be.  Nick Heath Robinson came to the rescue; procuring an empty Coke tin from the café, I carefully cut off the ends using Robin’s sharp little knife then slit it along the length and presented the resulting thin metal plate to Richard who promptly fitted it successfully to his exhaust system.  It wasn’t quite as quiet as Mr Honda had originally designed, but certainly better than it had been for the previous ten miles or so.  We were also treated to an impromptu display of body flexibility as Gaynor tried unsuccessfully to adopt an unusual support position on the gravel.  She blamed the gravel for her lack of success.  Now, what is that phrase about bad workmen and tools?

And then it was time to leave for home.  Out of the 11 bikes at Hawes only four arrived back at Conyers by around 6pm, the others having gone their separate ways.  The general consensus was a good day, again, had been had by all.  Many thanks, Ian.

Nick Robinson

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