Coventry to Coventry the long way 2020

Page edited 29 October 2020

E2E JOGLE the long way down.

I spent 3 days riding about 600 miles to Wick near John O’Groats. Overnight stops were in Whitley Bay and Pitlochry.

Avoiding motorways, I rode steadily north losing the tail light lens and use of the speedo. On day 2 the wind picked up on the A1. I made a detour into Eyemouth to visit my mothers ashes. The following day I was nearly blown off the road on the A9 south of Inverness.

My rest day in Wick was spent checking over the bike, visiting a local man’s interesting collection of motorbikes and walking along the coast to a man made rock pool which was swam in by a late friend’s wife when they frequently holidayed in Dornoch.

Day 5. Wick – John O’Groats – Inverness. Approx 150 miles.

After riding 15 miles I arrived at the John O’Groats signpost about 9.30.a.m. It was fairly quiet on a Monday morning. The area was uncommercialised and open to all including vehicles. Whilst there a group of 13 Yorkshiremen rode in on Honda 90 Cubs. They were doing the popular ‘North coast 500’. A circular route around northern Scotland. On the road towards Thurso I was overtaken by 12 riders all dressed as Evil Knievel! A little later as I pulled into a lay-by for a coffee and comfort break, a couple in a motorhome saw me and offered me a mug of tea.  whilst chatting I discovered They lived ‘up the road’ from me in Dudley, West Midlands.

I then rode further west to Tongue then south along the A836 which in places was little more than a single track road but very scenic as I rode alongside a couple of lochs with the mountains in the background. It was on this road that I approached within a hundred yards of a herd of cattle in the road. A farm worker assured me that they were no bother. They were huge Highland cattle with horns about 2 metres wide!   I cautiously passed them in the narrow road much to the amusement of people in a car waiting to come the opposite way.

Further on I stopped to take photos. Then the bike worryingly took several kicks to restart.

The ride to the A9 was fairly uneventful, just scenic. The road then crossed the Cromarty Bridge which looked quite intimidating but was, in fact, no problem with little cross wind. A little further on I crossed the slightly shorter bridge into Inverness and my b&b,

There was a pub a 100 yards away so I booked a table for an hour later. Unfortunately I had to cancel and walk to a&e at the hospital conveniently just down the road. I spent 2 hours there and was diagnosed with a urinary infection. Blood and pain! It was probably caused by dehydration. Regular drinks of hot water rather then tea or coffee for the next few days and antibiotic capsules twice a day.

Supper was a cold cheese pasty from a late shop ….and a mug of hot water.

Day 6.  Inverness to Dunfermline. Approx. 150 miles

I chose to ride to Perth using the A9. After the windy ride north I was a bit nervous but it proved to be much calmer. I needed some hard-to-get 20/50 engine oil. I knew Halfords sold 5 litre cans. Luckily a branch was nearby.

Leaving Perth, I took the A9 to Auchterarder and onto the A823 to Dunfermline. The route took me past the well known Knock Hill racing circuit. The rest of the ride was uneventful and I found my overnight stop without much trouble.

I was recommended to dine at a place nearby but even at 6.00 it was fully booked. I therefore walked a half mile to a Harvester restaurant. Luckily it stayed dry all day so the walk was pleasant.

Day 7.  Dunfermline. to Windermere approx. 120 miles.

This had promised to be a good run. Over the Forth and through the borders to the lakes. But it was actually possibly the worst day, with only a couple of bright spots.

The first section of the run was to the restricted A9000 bridge over the Forth.  However I had permission from The operations manager. My bike was one of very few vehicles on it, and it gave me a great view of the famous rail bridge

The route south took me along country lanes in deteriorating weather.  It was very steady progress in poor visibility.  Cold and wet,  I saw a small sign for a cafe. It was constructed from two shipping containers in a T shape. But take out service only! There was no outside canopy to shelter under. Upon entry the lady owner took pity on this dripping wet biker, allowed me to sit in and gave me tea and home made cake, insisting that it was ‘on the house’ she even switched on the Wi-Fi so I could check my route. What a star!

Back on the road I was progressing nicely along mostly traffic free roads now in dryish weather. Then disaster!! I ran out of petrol. I had been careful to fill up on the several previous days but today I forgot with other things to think about. I was assessing the situation when I saw large buildings a few hundred yards further on. It was offices for the S.S.E. wind farm situated in the area. I coasted into their car park and walked across to the building. A man opened a window. I asked him if I could get fuel locally. In his van he had a couple of litres which he emptied into my tank then refused to accept any payment. Another star! He advised that fuel was available in Biggar a few miles further on.

The ride from there to Gretna Green was slow but uneventful. I arrived about 5.00pm in the dry and took a couple of photos. A bit touristy but worth seeing.

 I then had to navigate approximately 55 miles to Windermere which for various reasons, mainly rain and fog, dodgy navigation and nightfall, took forever.  After a couple of phone calls to my hosts at the b&b I was guided in, cold and very wet at 10.50 pm. I was made very welcome and given beans on toast and a mug of tea. 2 more stars. I was very glad that the next day was a rest day.

Day 8.  At rest in Windermere.  no miles

Today an easy day. The lake was 1.5 miles down the hill. I used my bus pass. At the picturesque lakeside I phoned to book a seat on the next available boat. The weather was cool but dry with no wind. It is a lovely trip a few miles north to Ambleside and then back again on a different boat.  The places of interest were briefly described which added to the cruise. Back on Terra firma I watched the nautical activities before catching the bus back up the hill.

For my evening meal my hosts recommended a good pub/restaurant so I booked a table by phone and walked there. It was halfway back down to Bowness but no matter as it was a dry evening and a pleasant stroll.

At breakfast my host, Liz, told me of her youthful off road rides on her boyfriends trail bike – he competed in events – until she fell off and was banned from the bike!

She vowed to buy a Vespa when she got her pension in a year or two. A very nice lady.

Day 9. Windermere to Stafford. Approx 145 miles

This turned out to be a day of wrong choices, frustration and breaking my own rule. When planning the route I was aware that on my ride to Barrow- in-Furness on my Suzuki AS50 a few years earlier I had used the A6 so this time I decided to use the A65 along the edge of the Yorkshire Dales. However by the time I reached Kirkby Lonsdale along a narrow undulating road I decided I’d had enough of this type of terrain on previous days so I decided to head for the A6 at Lancaster. Luckily the turning was only half a mile further on. I rode through Preston and Salford into Manchester following the A6 signs. Previously I had no problem passing through. This time the signs stopped! Unaware that I had crossed the ring road – not signed, I have checked Google Street level – I got lost in the centre and spent over an hour trying to find the A6 or the A34. Eventually I was given slightly better directions and ended up following the M6 south signs. At least it was in the right direction. I knew my hotel, the Best Western at Stafford, was half a mile from junction 14 so I decided to break my own rule. I joined the motorway at Junction 19. It was then easy to exit at J14 and 5 minutes later I arrived at the hotel. I dined in the hotel and had another early night.

Day 10. Stafford to Wellington, north Devon. Approx. 170 miles.

At 9.00am I ventured out onto my route in light drizzle. It remained so for a lot of the day. I had little problem riding down to Worcester and joining the A38 which went all the way to Taunton after passing through Gloucester and Bristol.  The only deviation, which was not too unfortunate meant that some how I rode under the Clifton suspension bridge which towered above me. I then rejoined the A38 which eventually took me into Taunton. I managed to get my t*at nav to work again and guide me to Wellington and my pub accommodation. Once again, upon request, I was found a secure parking spot in the courtyard at the rear of the pub. It was full of benches and tables. Luckily it was also partly covered so I was able to unload and reload in the dry. I dined in the pub and imbibed a pint of local cider. Nice!

Day 11. Wellington to Trevose Head, Padstow. Approx. 112 miles

On a nice day this is quite a pleasant run but on this day Storm Alex had other ideas! Having not watched any television or read any newspapers on the trip I was unaware of just how bad the storm was.

As I left Wellington around 9.00am it was lightly raining. I rode south using mainly minor roads. Passing through Tiverton and Crediton, I was aiming to join the A30 near Exeter. However I decided to use a narrow lane which took me to a junction with the A30 further south west saving me time and several miles. I progressed along the main road into Cornwall as the rain got worse. My steering was getting a bit imprecise prompting me to stop at a service area to check the tyre pressures, which were correct. Continuing in increasingly bad weather I arrived at a junction just after Launceston but decided to carry on down the A30. Bad move!! The A30 is dual carriageway and reasonably straight, although hilly. What I did not realise was that the wind was up to 60mph with heavy rain As well. Going over Bodmin Moor that afternoon was the worst conditions I can ever remember being out in. The very long uphill sections slowed me to almost walking pace in second gear whilst almost blowing me off the road. Then going down the other side the horrendous gusts and abysmal visibility still kept my speed down. I eventually reached a major junction which showed Bodmin straight on and also Bodmin left. Which way?

On that corner was a large Vauxhall showroom so I parked on the roadside and squelched to the showroom door. I entered to get advice on directions. I was absolutely dripping wet to the skin from the waist down. Not nice! After leaving a trail of water across the showroom to the loo and back they outlined my route. I apologised for the ever growing puddle around me. Back at the bike the kick start  went straight to the floor without engaging with the engine. After backing off the clutch adjustment, rattling the cable and rocking the bike in gear, I got engagement and it started first kick.  After that the clutch lever needed help to engage and was jerky. The 20 miles to my overnight refuge was interesting as I had a faulty clutch to contend with as well as the wind and rain. Oh the joys of motorcycling! The route, following the signs, was fairly straightforward. I know this area a bit and was able to reach my destination and meet up with my wife Rachel and her friend Hilary in their rented stone built coach house on the headland near Padstow. A nice meal and a brew were very welcome, as was the glass or two of cider which followed.

Day 12 and 13. At rest on Trevose Head. No miles

This morning, Monday, I had planned to ride down to Lands End and officially finish the run. The weather was dry and pleasant, but I didn’t go for a couple of reasons.  Most importantly the bike needed attention. I didn’t know yet whether the clutch was alright. The Coach house was booked until Thursday so no panic and no more b&b’s had been booked yet.

 The heavy rain had got into the clutch and front brake cables making them very stiff to operate. This was why the kick start would not engage. Not having WD40 with me, Rachel and Hilary drove into Padstow and got me a can whilst they were there.

I released the clutch cable from the lever and, using a vinyl glove, made a reservoir to hold oil and taped it to the outer cable. This was held vertically with a stick to form a drip feed into the outer cable. Some 20/50 was poured into the glove and left to penetrate the cable. The kickstart now operated properly. When the oil had disappeared I reattached the cable. Silky smooth! Later WD40 was squirted it into the brake cable and on all other suitable moving parts. During a test ride down the lane the steering felt stiff so WD40 was sprayed again into the top steering bearing.

In the morning The weather forecast was not good again so we took a long, relaxing walk on the local beaches and cliffs, although it was windy in places. The sea was dramatically rough.

Day14. Trevose – Lands End – Trevose. Approx. 110 miles

Today was the day, the culmination of months of planning. The weather was sunny and pleasantly warm. I chose to use smallish roads and rejoined the A30 near Newquay. The ride to Lands End, passing Hayle, St Ives, and Penzance was refreshingly calm with just a few spots of rain for a minute or so but no wind.

The last few miles to Lands End were along a narrow-ish lane.  At the pay booth I told the gate man that I was about to finish the End to End run so he kindly waved me through. In front of me loomed the entrance to a set of buildings. I parked temporarily to get some photos then enquired of a hi-vis jacketed employee, where the famous sign was. He replied that it was the other side of the buildings, but that no vehicles could be taken there. “Why not?” “Covid” “How many cars and bikes have Covid?” “I don’t make the rules, I just work here”

So having moved to a proper parking space -it was quite busy- I entered under the arched entrance, had a ‘comfort break’ and a celebratory mug of tea in the courtyard. Lots of people were milling around the area where there were souvenir shops and a cinema showing videos of local attractions. Out the other side of the complex a path led down to the roped off area around the iconic sign. A longish queue led to a booth where you paid to have your photo taken under the sign. I was just inwardly bemoaning the commercialism when “hello Barry”. In the queue was a lady I had worked with, and her partner! I said that I was not happy about having to pay for a photo when at John O’Groats it was open and uncommercialised. However I joined the queue. Photos were allowed from outside the barrier so I got them to take a couple of me whilst by the sign. The official photo would be posted to me, I was told. I returned to my bike via a path around the seaward side of the buildings, taking a few photos en route.

The ride back to Trevose Head was uneventful. As I walked in the door the heavens opened. Perfect timing.

Days 15 and 16. The ride home. Trevose to Ilchester (near Yeovil). Approx 125 miles then home – Coventry. Approx 140 miles.

The rain returned to accompany the first part of my ride north. This time I took the north coast A39, the A395 at Davidstow, where the cheese comes from, to join the A30.  I decided to ride through Exeter which proved straightforward, following the signs. Progress was then steady and dry following the A30 then the A303. I arriving at my late booked hotel in the little town of Ilchester, near Yeovil, mid afternoon. Following my request the T90 was wheeled into a secure garage alongside a nearly new Harley-Davidson. Thank you Brendon.

The following morning I passed RNAS Yeovilton en route to rejoin the A303. A few miles further I passed the turning to Sparkford and the Haynes Motor Museum. Eventually I turned north after an inadvertent detour into Shaftesbury where the famous Hovis advert was filmed on Gold Hill. I Then passed through various towns to Cirencester before joining the A429 Fosse Way. About 40 miles further on I arrived home after 16 days away.

Barry Heath