Looking along a long straight road amidst lush green farmland

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Riding To Devon

By Ren Withnell

Ride Date 8 September 2018

We're off to Brixham in Devon. 270 miles. It's not a journey I've made often but it's a distance I'm used to, it's the same distance to my Dad's place near Worthing. While I'm not exactly relishing the prospect of the ride I'm not stressing. I daresay I'm bike fit at the moment with all the riding we've done through this fabulous summer we've enjoyed.

What would make the whole experience better would be if the M6 was not a 60 mile car park. Tangent alert!

Smart motorway. From the outside looking in all that is required are a few gantries with some LED signs, smartening up the hard shoulder and a new paint job. I am sure a motorway infrastructure engineer could explain the complexities but they are escaping me somewhat. 

It took 5 or 6 years to "do" the smart motorway on the M60 near home. In all that time the roadworks were set at 50mph. I KNOW this is NOT a FACT but it FEELS like the only difference after the roadworks are the 50mph signs are shiny digital 50 signs rather than bent metallic ones on rusty twisted stands.

I try my best not to be a cynic, I know a few and they drive me mad. I'll shut up now.

After crawling through the roadworks another set appears. We crawl through them. Relief is soon followed by another set then another. Oh joy, joyous joy.

Our first break is taken at Frankley Services as we get on the M5. While not exactly a haven of luxury we purchase a slightly less than bank-busting pasty from the Greggs concession outside. The thing is it's raining now and we want to rest inside. Sharon finds some random tables upstairs so we sit there.

Sharon sits at an ordinary table at Frankley Services

By the time we reach Bridgewater services the rain has passed and the skies are hazy warm. The road into the services and past the entrance looks wet and a pedestrian flaps her arms in a "slow down!" motion. I put my foot out to feel the surface, it's like polished ice.

Dark, wet looking substance that's been spread by car tyres on the car park at Bridgewater Services
I don't know what it is but it's slippier than teflon and baby oil.

We manage to park without incident. I can see pedestrians slipping, I can see cars spreading whatever this substance is and I can see no-one doing anything about it. I go inside to inform the young lady behind the counter of the shop. She tells me she'll let the site manager know. I slither back out to Sharon with a brew, we both agree Bridgewater services are bloody awful.

The motorway rolls on and on. There's traffic then there's space. In spite of the roadworks and the traffic and a brief spell of rain, I fear to say this, but today has been an acceptable day's ride. All we need to do is get to Brixham via the A38 then the A380. Not too far now.

I believe Torquay on The English Riviera will be a pretty small harbour town. Paignton too. Brixham will be merely a quaint village with a tiny harbour and a handful of little shops. Being out of the prime season and the kids being back at school it'll be easy going. 

Hmmmmm. Pants.

The A380 skips most of Torquay but inland of Paignton we...are...in...more roadworks. Is it me or is the whole of blasted England just one giant exercise in digging and traffic cone art?! Keep calm we are almost there. I am tired. I'm ready to stop. At least I don't have to put the tent up.

Brixham is hardly a quaint little village. It is a town, not a big town but a town. We pass by what I shall describe as "lived in" houses and finally we find the caravan site. Thank goodness for that.

We are expected. Good. The static caravan is clean, tidy and pleasant. Excellent. I have tea, sugar and milk Perfect. Life is always a lot lot better with a brew, a comfortable chair and somewhere congenial to sleep. While in the moment of the ride I was starting to lose my patience. Now with tea inside me upon reflection it wasn't so bad. We're here in good time, we are safe and well and ensconced in agreeable accommodation. 

I had planned for the risk of a considerably more stressful trip. I did not want to arrive shattered and emotionally broken only to have to seek out food. As such I have the makings of a very basic meal with me yet we decide we are in good shape and a walk into town to buy provisions will do us good.

We chose Brixham because it is smaller than Paignton and Torquay, we chose Brixham because the marketing gave the impression of a small harbour village, we chose Brixham because Sharon's been told it is gorgeous and quaint. The housing between the caravan and the town is mostly ordinary and a few are in a right old state. This is not the chocolate box picture perfect experience we were expecting.

Brixham town centre isn't big but it's certainly not a quaint little village
It's not a city, nor is it a delicate little fishing village. Brixham is a town.

With supplies from the Tesco Local and a brief look around the harbour we walk back. We dine. Cooking in a static is by far and a way better than cooking in a tent. The sink is to hand. The stove won't fall over. We have real plates! The toilet is to hand. I could get used to this. 

A clean and well provisioned kitchen within the static caravan that we are staying at
It's far too easy cooking in the static. Where's the challenge?

I reflect. In the midst of the ride here there were times that it felt like we'd never ever get here - or in fact anywhere else. Then again I'd kept my calm. Years back I'd have freaked out and lost my temper. While getting older brings aches and pains and a drop in energy levels it also smooths out the angst and anguish. Youth is wasted on the young, age is wasted on the old.

I do however need to get a handle on my ridiculous expectations. Why did I, perhaps this time even we, expect this area to be rural, charming, peaceful and almost deserted? I must be stupid. I must have noticed the plentiful caravan sites to choose from. I must have noticed the size of the towns on the maps I poured over. I must have been aware of this being a popular holiday destination.

You'd think that I must have noticed. Evidently I did not. Evidently I'm an idiot. Oh well, not to worry, we'll be fine. We are here and we are safe and we are comfortable, that's what really matters.

If you have a motorcycle travel story you'd like to share contact ren@bikesandtravels.com

Riding To Devon It's a long and arduous trip down south to Devon. Or - perhaps Ren is being a drama queen and a bitter cynic.
A Walk Around Brixham Our intrepid motorcycle muppets don't even touch a motorcycle today. In fact it's quite a day for doing things differently for Sharon!
Dartmouth, Slapton and Salcombe South of Brixham the coastal landscape is proving to be quite rural and enjoyable for Sharon and Ren.
The English Riviera - Urgh The dynamic muppets take a haphazard tour of The English Riviera. What will the crankiest two-wheeled twit make of it all?
ButtFast And Buckfast Abbey Ren is having and uncomfortable day. There are things that should not be shared and Ren is sharing them here. Oh dear.
Rocks And A Better Brixham Sharon And Ren scrabble over rocks on Dartmoor and Ren reviews his opinions regarding Brixham
Torquay By Ferry Sharon and Ren bob along the ocean waves to see what Torquay is all about. Context dear boy, context.
Going Home From Devon There's only the small matter or riding home from Devon now for the dynamic muppets. Can Sharon recover from her breakfast tragedy though?
Lessons from Devon Ren is pondering the problems with the trip to Devon.

Reader's Comments

pocketpete said :-
I did suggest to the highway agency last year that they could have save 143million on the northern smart motorway rollout. They chose to ignore my very sensible suggestion.

My suggestion was simply leave the motorway alone save the millions and just turn on the existing 40mph max speed signs. This would be just as effective as the traffic doesnt even get above that speed on the best of days and would have saved all that lovely money. Brixham sound nice though but no tent Im quite shocked.
13/10/2018 12:54:08 UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
I'm always amazed by the bike press panning 125's as a practical means of motorway transport. For the vast majority of England they're ideal, as they're narrow enough to filter through all the miles of stationary traffic. ;-)

Whoops, I'm being cynical again.....
16/10/2018 12:04:57 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Cynical CrazyFrog? Never.

Pocketpete - Nope, no tent. Static caravan. We did consider a hotel, in fact we could have found a "rough" one for the same price as hiring the static. But then I realised we couldn't cook in the hotel which would mean I'd have to spend money in restaurants. Apparently you can't walk around naked in the hotel either.

I'll leave you all with that thought in your mind's eye for a moment. You're welcome.
16/10/2018 01:04:53 UTC
Borsuk said :-
Ahhhhgggggggg. Where's the brain floss when you really need it. Good timing Ren. I need alcohol in large quantities to get rid of that thought and I'm on my way to work.
16/10/2018 03:28:56 UTC
Tom McQ said :-
Before I book ANY holiday destination, I always take a quick mooch around the place via Google Street View. It takes seconds and it firmly sorts out those marketing boys!

17/10/2018 08:24:52 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Tom, I don't think Google would have helped me this summer but you are SO right, buyer beware!
On a long trip of about 4000 miles we decided that on this occasion we would book most accommodation upfront rather than just ride into town and mooching about for somewhere to lay our weary bonces.
Most of the accommodation was good to excellent and at good prices too, but there were a couple we would not revisit and interestingly both of these were on biker friendly web sites and not otherwise advertised or rated on the web etc. Both were absolute shockers, filthy, bad plumbing, bad food etc. Both were obviously being run as under the radar b and b's, there were no signs outside etc.
So Google, yes it's a great tool, but beware of places under the radar because no one can give them a bad review!
Anyway we lived to tell the tale and it could have been worse, you know, camping!
17/10/2018 12:17:42 UTC
NigelS said :-
The M6 roadworks, ah yes. I live in Stone which is 'situate equidistant twixt J14 and 15' on the other car park also known as the A34, as any good estate agent will tell you. The problem is that as Highways England has decided the M6 should be a 'Smart'' Motorway (whatever TF that is supposed to mean - there's nothing 'Smart' about a Motorway that doesn't have a hard shoulder and some ejit in 1993 rust bucket Transit breaks down and starts taking the ladders off the roof on the inside lane like a couple of weeks ago on the M42 at rush hour, I can tell you). In the meantime we in sleepy Stone have to suffer outrageous traffic jams taking a whole hour to do the 3 mile school run. Because when several cars and a truck crash into each other in the roadworks on the M6 whilst all travelling at 50mph and going in the same direction (why?) then the traffic is diverted onto the A34 BUT that too is undergoing a widening scheme at the moment to accommodate an increase in truck traffic for the new Jaguar Land Rover car storage facility at the edge of the town. (As an aside, this too is a pretty pointless exercise as JLR have released a statement saying that if we do not secure a trade agreement with the EU as part of the Brexit negotiations then they will cease production in the UK and there won't be any new cars to store!) So with Highways England carrying out simultaneous roadwork schemes on the only two main arterial routes going north from the Midlands through the Cheshire Gap, we are enjoying an Autumn of total, utter, full-stop traffic chaos here in Stone. Finally, and I will complete my rant on this very positive note, when you do drive through the roadworks on either of the two routes in question, you never, ever see anyone actually working. Last week I did see one man down a shallow hole with three others in hi-viz jackets standing at the side of the 'ole scratching their 'nads and obviously giving sound advice to the one with the spade. Frankly, I am not optimistic about the state of this country . . . . we're doomed, all domed?
17/10/2018 03:54:43 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Let it go.
Put it in the safe and turn the key.
Perhaps a little meditation, hommmmm.
But yes, the M6 and A34 I remember it well.
I used to live at Meir Heath me duck. And not only travelled along the road to work but then worked on the M6 and M54 all day. I escaped with my sanity, just!
I think an escape might be in order, dig a tunnel head North.
I drove (sorry) 20 miles today to Alnwick and 20 miles back, think I saw about 20 cars. Most of them were Dutch.
Buy a spade, but be careful how far you go, I almost ended up in Scotland!
Now relax and take a tablet.
17/10/2018 05:05:14 UTC
NigelS said :-
Upt'North what's this then, we swapped places marra? We moved to Stone from Morpeth in 2013. Funny ole world! And as for Dutch drivers we spent many a happy hour in the carpark overlooking the causeway over to Holy Island being entertained by tourists waving from the refuge while their cars floated back to Holland without them.

17/10/2018 05:32:56 UTC
Upt'North said :-
I'll say it again, small world innit.
I'm sure you'll know Wooler then and also sure you'll know that my claim of 20 cars was no exaggeration.
Probably saw more tractors.
You'll be glad to know that the causeway hasn't changed. Or the Dutch.
Enjoy Stone, it's a nice wee town, if getting ever bigger of course.
17/10/2018 05:40:22 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
God you two, get a room!

I enjoyed watching Vera, the first series painted the North East in a particularly noir style, all misty and moody, cold and grim. When Sharon and I went there a few years back we found the place to be just as misty and moody, cold and grim.

Tha later series toned down the noir aspect. Either the tourist board put in a complaint or the weather up there has improved due to global warming?

Right I'd best tell Sharon we're going back to the North East. She'll be thrilled!

18/10/2018 03:22:17 UTC

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