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Home Travel StoriesThe Jernatter Rally 2015

Going to Takoda

By Ren Withnell

The Jerwossit rally? No, I read it right, the "Jernatter Rally". It's at the Takoda campsite, Takoda? What is up with these people, do they not speak English? Kirkby Stephen, I've heard of that place at least.

So let's start at the beginning. Being a wannabe round the world motorcycle rider I'm connected via social media to a handful of people who've actually walked the walk rather than talked the talk. Among them is Bernard Smith (worldtour.org.uk) and I spotted this rally mentioned in one of his Facebook posts. It's been a while since I did a rally and I need things to do in winter to keep the seasonal blues at bay. 

I worked out right from the start this won't be the typical kind of rally that I'm used to. Most "biker" rallies run along the lines of music, bands, beer, drunkenness, silly games, parties and more beer. I suspect this will be more of a gathering, talking, hanging out and chilling out affair, although knowing British culture I'm sure there'll be some drinking involved. Other than that I have no idea what to expect. For once rather than being afraid of the unknown I am actually viewing it as an adventure, an opportunity to just see what happens. This is not like me at all, I like to plan.

What is even more surprising is the gf wants to come with me! The gf, the girl who would still be cold in a sauna, the girl who hates the wind, the girl who defines happiness as "At least 20 degrees, no breeze and sunny". The rally is in February, it could be minus 6, it could be raining or even snowing! Never-the-less it seems after surviving and thriving through the hell that was France in 2013 (France 2013) and getting her own bike she is slowly but surely becoming a tough cookie. Even so we agree that if snow is on the cards we'll have to give it a miss.

Sharon walks down a sun filled french street with her sunglasses on, smiling.
This is how Sharon (and most sensible folks) prefer their weather on a ride out.

So here we are, Friday mid morning with both our 125's loaded to the gunnels, a forecast of some rain but no snow or ice and a distance of about 85 miles to cover. The first few miles to the far side of Preston are dry, dull, and boringly ordinary, we ride these roads all too often. We make a brief pee-stop at Barton Grange garden centre, the gf is impressed with the quality of the plants for sale, I honestly thought they were plastic, they looked so neat. We turn off the A6 and follow signs for Quernmore, Caton then arrive at Devil's Bridge for a brew and a break.

2 overladen 125cc motorcycles on the car park at Barton Grange Garden Centre
Is Sharon smiling or has she got wind...again?

85 miles isn't far and we've already covered 60, it's barely past lunchtime and we're almost there. It feels great to have time on our side. From here on the roads are quiet so we dawdle. I lead at 25 to 40 mph, the gf has no problem keeping up and we both have plenty of time to soak in the hills as they grow into mountains, we contentedly roll by. There's small patches of snow, there's sheep aplenty, there's rocks and boulders, green grass and hardy bushes, trees, streams, drystone walls and crumbling farm buildings. It's all very rural and all very relaxing with no haste at all. We pull to the side when the odd car catches up and wave them by. I'm glad I don't have to be somewhere else really soon, each driver looks more tense than the last.

I feel disappointment when we finally rejoin the main road into Kirkby Stephen. We're forced to up our speed to avoid being a rolling road block. My overladen 125 is hardly fast even by car standards but we still manage to keep apace with the traffic, sort of, ish, mostly. It's uphill that's the problem and there's some big hills around here. I'm in third at full revs, 40mph, as we climb, much to the angst of the executive types who like to carry out dangerous overtakes on bends. Downhill I'm back behind them, wondering why they can't negotiate a bend properly until I realise they're doing deals on their mobile phone. 

I came to Takoda Campsite (Takoda Camping) a couple of weeks back on my return from Scotland (A Long Ride) so finding the site is no issue at all. It's mid afternoon now and as we park up there's already a handful of large big-trailie motorcycles and a couple of tents up. I am curious as to what the reaction will be to 2 interlopers on 125s. I also spot a Jawa 350 and a Ural combination, good, our bikes are definitely not the strangest here. In fact our 125's barely even raise an eyebrow. I have to admit I'm slight deflated by this, I was hoping to be the hero for riding such a small bike with so much gear, but then that's just my ego running away with me, stupid boy.

several motorcycles including the 125s at the campsite near kirkby stephen
Our 125s don't look out of place, no, not at all...

I learn the rally is organised from the Adventure Bike Rider forum(Adventure Bike Rider). Not being on the forum is what causes the gf and I to stand out, not our 125s. As we pitch and settle in various people arrive and it seems most are at least known from the forum if not already acquainted and established friends. That's not to say our welcome is cold, far from it! Bernard Smith introduces himself, it's good to put a real face to the name rather than Facebook images. Other folks greet us with firm handshakes, questions of our journey and the mutual curiosity all riders seem to have for each others chosen motorcycle. As the rain falls from time to time and the light fades more and more folks turn inside to the comfort of Takoda's hall.

Takoda campsite sets itself apart from most other campsites with the free use of this room, hall, area, space - oh gosh I don't know what to call it. It was once a very large shed, almost a barn, made of sheet steel. Now it houses the campsite's toilets and showers in the rear half and this space, this room, at the front. Within the room there are plenty of tables and chairs, 2 heaters and not much else. That is nothing special in itself but it transforms this weekend from camping squashed into a tent into a weekend with both the tent and the room. It means we can all gather inside out of the rain and talk without shivering and getting soaked in mud. 

the room at takoda, a plain room with tables and chairs filled with bikers
It's a room, so what? But it makes all the difference.

After talking to some new faces dinner is served in the form of "Lapscouse". Rumour has it this is some Scandinavian form of "Scouse" aka one of countless variations on stew. There's carrots and onions, suet dumplings, spuds, meatballs that are just slightly spicy and some chorizo for good measure. I was "fer clempt" (Wiganese for starving) and this hot stew with a slice of garlic bread went down a real treat. I even borrowed a little extra bread from another diner to mop up the juices.

After this most folks including the gf and I saunter down to the local pub. In there next to the warm fire I strip off layer upon layer until I'm down to my t-shirt and trousers. It's been quite a long time since I've been this warm in public. We sit and talk, the gf and I drink pop, everyone else is on something stronger. We hear tales of rallies and merriment, of broken motorcycles, of trips that have been and trips that are yet to come, of places I dream of and places I've been. I feel different this weekend, I'm not in a rush to be anywhere and happy to sit here and listen, sometimes to talk.

3 riders drinking, smiling and giving the thumbs up at the pub in Kirky stephen
Beer, smiles and thumbs up, just talking bikes and travels.

Back at the campsite in the hall another group sip their bottles of beer and talk. It's not as hot here but the welcome is just as warm. More traveller's tales, more motorcycle disasters and more opinions on the best bit of camping, touring and cooking kit. I listen and learn, in some ways I still feel very green. Some of these people have been around the world, many of them have been much further than the little bit of Europe that I've seen. I could spend all night here but both the gf and I are tired. Bedtime. This tent feels cold and damp after the warm pub and pleasant hall. 

Going to Takoda It's the first day of the Jernatter Rally for Sharon and Ren. But will they be accepted by real travellers on real bikes? Only time will tell.
A Day In The Hills Sharon and Ren enjoy the beauty of the Dales and the Cumbrian hills. Oh what it means to ride gently through the countryside.
Delightful Yorkshire Dales Sharon and Ren ride home from the Jernatter Rally. There's so much more to the Dales than they ever knew.
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