A motorcycle parked in front of a tent on a pleasant green campsite

Home Travel StoriesCornwall In Winter 2017

Eating The Elephant

By Ren Withnell

When I write these things I usually do one day per page. Not this time. There's not enough to say about the first two days of this trip to warrant two pages.

Motorways are a means to an end. If you are at point A (Bolton) and you have a limited amount of time to get to point B (Cornwall) motorways are efficient and easy. They are also boring. Today the motorway is particularly boring as the rain is a light mizzle (mist and drizzle). This blurs the visor, not so much as I can't see the trucks and cars but enough to prevent me from taking in my surroundings, such as they are. If a moment arises to look around the fields and factories are shrouded in a fine mist that hides any details that may be of interest. 

A very blurred stretch of road with rain drops over the whole imageThis is an approximation of my interesting and enthralling view today.

The only thing to sustain my interest is survival. Between the droplets on my visor I must beware the other road users. 

Mile after mile after mile after mile. I'm clock watching. Just 20 miles to the next services, that'll be 48 miles to junction X which leaves only another 123 to my final junction. How do you eat an elephant? One small, long, drawn out chewy bite at a time. After a month you've eaten a leg, that's only another 3 months and you can start on the body. Urgh, shoot me now please.

Philosophy isn't coming clearly today either. It is not too cold considering this is January yet cold enough to snap off my train of thought before I can be lost in them. 

Am I doing this to prove something? If so why, why does my ego need to prove anything? I'm 45 and while I haven't given up on the idea of being a big butch roughty toughty biker completely I must admit the motivation is lacking these days. But then why? Why do we have egos anyhow and when do they...BRRRRR!!! My frozen fingers need a wiggle.

Will we ever have world peace? If people on a motorcycle forum can fall out over what colour a motorcycle should be and whether or not matching leathers are a good idea then what hope is there for mankind? Even if we had no religion, no race, no gender and no sexuality we'd still fall out over the type of shoes...URGH, a trickle of mizzle is dripping down my neck.

The light brown, khaki or beige panel on Ren's CB500XBeige, dull uninteresting beige, all motorcycles should be THIS colour.

130 miles before I stop at the services for a pee and a stretch. It is pretty comfy this CB500X, normally I'd manage about 40 to 60. I throw a sausage roll down my throat as sustenance and crack on once more. More mizzle. More distracted thoughts and finally junction 22 comes into view. Bliss.

Withy Waters Campsite greets me with a smile, a cup of tea, a pitch for my tent and a warm shower. I imagine this place in summer is a hive of activity but tonight it seems I am alone. There is a pub a mile away but I'm not quite in the mood for a walk although my stiff legs would probably appreciate it. Instead I linger in the shower, take my time getting dried and dressed, spend an hour talking to Sharon via Facebook and watch some surprisingly average American crime program a friend gave me and I've put on my phone. 

The tent is up and the bike is parked at Withy Waters CampsiteAt least I got the tent up before it went dark. Only just mind.

I must be getting old. I used to get bored if I had more than 3 minutes spare in a day. I've managed to waste a whole evening just washing, facebooking, watching nonsense and looking at my map. It's cold. Not bitterly cold just nippy so as I slither into my sleeping bag it doesn't take long before I'm comfortable enough to nod off. 

Get up. Beans for breakfast. Tent down. Hit the road. More mizzle. More lost thoughts. More motorway. I hope the A30 will bring some relief, regrettably it is just a 2 lane motorway. I can sense there are hills here but the mist keeps their shapes and their character from me. Plough on Ren, plough on. Remember today like yesterday you are just eating the elephant. With this weather it tastes more like a whale. A blue whale. I don't think I've even got through the dorsal fin.

Waitrose in Okehampton brings forth a croissant to eat now and a pot porridge for tomorrow's breakfast. I'm so rock-n-roll ain't I? The weather is starting to break and my the blue whale feels more like a small horse now. Not far, not too far at least. 

I get to thinking too. I "follow" a few travellers on social media. They love nothing more than to post up images of themselves and their travel weary motorcycles surrounded by wilderness, wide open spaces, tranquil remote bays, pretty little villages and remote mountain trails. What I don't see are images of themselves and their often bloody expensive motorcycles parked outside Tesco while they buy pot noodles and pasta because these are the only things you can easily transport and cook on a single stove with a billy can. 

Ren's 500 in the car park outside a Waitrose supermarket in OkehamptonThis is what wild motorcycle adventure looks like most of the time.

They're selling a dream. The images are just tiny teeny little splendid moments set amongst endless miles and hours of drab roads and tracks interspersed with everyday life necessities like shopping, sleeping, pooping, washing, fixing and pitching bloody tents. Stories like this only show us the highlights, the best bits, the creme-de-la-creme. I guess it's inevitable, no-one wants to see images of shopping malls and motorways do they? 

Summer Valley campsite also greet me with a warm smile, a cup of tea (2 for 2, go me), a pitch for my tent and the use of a small but comfortable lounge in the toilet block. There's WiFi internet here too, perfect. After pitching up and settling in I take a walk to the local boozer some half mile walk down a very dark country lane. Thankfully I have my torch and my high-viz jacket on.

The sette and the books in the lounge at Summer Valley CampsiteA comfortable chair, a room and some WiFi make life much more bearable at Summer Valley

"So where ya working?" Eh, what? Oh, high viz, big boots, scruffy clothes and a weary face, I probably do look like some travelling road navvy or brick layer. I explain as the couple at the bar look cautiously at me. I can see they're thinking I'm bonkers but they humour me with casual conversation which proves most informative.

I came here to learn and learning I am. They believe over half of the local working age populous will presently be without gainful employment until the season returns at Easter. It seems Redruth for example once had a thriving mining industry but that collapsed with the price of metal, there is hope though as new technology and changing prices may mean a brighter future once more. Second homes are indeed a big issue with even the most basic houses being far out of the reach of locals who only work 6 months a year serving tourists in bars and restaurants. "If it wasn't for the minimum wage most folks would still be earning - I don't know, £3.50 an hour at most, part time and for half the year."

My friends are retired and seem to have retired comfortably. I can see Cornwall's issues are a concern to them but not directly, they are informing me not preaching to me. As I walk back to the site I finally start to think this trip could *possibly* be quite interesting after all.

Why Oh Why Oh Why? Ren explains why he thinks it's a good idea to travel to a UK holiday destination in winter. Kind of like asking a madman why he's mad really.
Eating The Elephant It's the first two days of Ren's brief jolly to Cornwall in January. Motorways, could anything interesting possibly happen?
My Guided Tour The winter sun is out in Cornwall and Ren gets a brief yet perfect guided tour of one area. What more could he ask for?
Familiar Faces, Familiar Places It's the fourth day of the Cornwall expedition. After hypothermia comes sunshine and the chance to catch up with an old friend.
Devonian Delights It's another cold cold morning as Ren starts the journey back home. He's expecting a rather dull ride today but there's a few surprises in the countryside.
Meeting Ian Before Ren returns home to end his Cornish expedition he meets a certain Mr Ian Soady.
What Did I Learn? After returning home from his Cornish adventure Ren is asking himself what he has leared and was it all worth the effort?

Reader's Comments

125Tony said :-
Hi Ren, I've read lots of travel stories both in paper back and online and yes it's lovely to see these nice places and of course the obligatory motorcycle on it's side with a wheel out having a puncture repaired. The reader however might as well have been beamed direct to the destination. What you and a few others have done in my opinion is to take the reader with you on the journey. We need more of the mundane everyday stuff, Mundo Enduro did it very well even showing us what and how they were eating and cooking and general living under canvas. The two fella's on a GN and SR125 did it very well.
Keep up the good work. More please....
25/1/2017 6:18:44 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
I am careful to not overdo the whole "isn't motorcycle travel GREAT!" because not all of it is. I'm going to put together an post about why I am careful. You'll have to wait.

Hope ya well 125Tony.
26/1/2017 5:14:34 PM UTC

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