Looking across to the snow capped alpine mountains seen from the back seat of a motorcycle

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An Easy Ride To Carlisle

Ride Date - 15 September 2020

By Ren Withnell

Well this is strange. During the strictest lockdown of course the weather was excellent. As the restrictions lightened the typical UK weather returned. Last week was cool, almost cold, and wet, very wet. Today is a little grey this morning but the forecast is looking pretty good overall. Maybe Madame Moisture won't be bringing the rain. Maybe, ahhhh yes, maybe she's not coming and that's why it's going to be dry.

I'm wrong, she is here! The Z250SL looks resplendent complete with Tour-A-Plank and luggage and Sharon is happy because the sun is struggling through the clouds. 

The luggage on the Z250SL and Tour-A-Plank
This is the first real outing for Tour-A-Plank V3. (That's V2.6 with paint)

There's no rush today. It's about 120 miles from my place to the Travelodge just north of Carlisle. There's no point getting there early as it's a Travelodge which means it'll be cheap, clean, comfortable and located somewhere dull and boring outside of town. In fact it's next to a petrol station off the M6, not the sort of place where you'd go for a pleasant walk in the evening.

After a brew we set out into the big wide world. The motorway is the route of choice to bypass Preston and Lancaster then as the scenery opens up I start to consider my options. It's mid afternoon, the sun is breaking through well now and time is very much on our side. I peel off the motorway onto the A590 then follow the signs for Kendal and the A6.

In Kendal we stop off at Sainsburys to grab a snack and a drink and a pee-break. The cafe is shut due to Covid but we're happy to share a sandwich and a bottle of orange outside in the sun. 

The Z250SL and CB500X loaded with luggage in the car park at Carlisle Sainsburys
It's not all mountains and quiant villages this adventure malarky.

I've travelled the A6 across Shap before and yet it still comes as a surprise to me that the A6, here at least, is a small country lane. I mean, it's the A6, THE A6, the road that runs from London to Carlisle, one of the UK's major arteries, an important and historical route. I have yet to accept it was once all these things but that was a long time ago. Much like Amurica's Route 66 it's been chopped up, bypassed, superseded and faded away. 

Which is good! It means Sharon and I are riding a pleasant route through rolling countryside without too much traffic and the sun, yes the sun, is on our backs. 

Carlisle can draw similarities to the A6. It has a history dating back before Roman times along with ancient walls and a plethora of buildings from many eras. And now these historical artefacts are overshadowed by modern car parks, shopping malls and industrial complexes. As cities go it ain't so bad, but it is still very much a city. Cities have petrol stations and that's why we're here. We fill up in preparation for tomorrow's ride and head north to the Travelodge.

Travelodges are bland, simple places built on cheap land. You won't find manicured gardens, just a car park (usually). You won't find stylish seating and dining areas, just corridors and a foyer with an automated chocolate and crisp dispensing machine. However, you will find the prices are very competitive, it has been my experience that the staff are super friendly, the rooms are clean, functional and comfortable and that is all we need tonight.

After throwing the gear in the room and making a brew (there's a kettle and enough for one round of tea, you can ask at reception for more), Sharon jumps onto the back of my bike and we head back into Carlisle. Morrisons supplies us with a sandwich for tea and croissants for breakfast so we head back.

On the return leg the sun is setting. The sky is a dark deep orange and I'm reminded of the promotional shots from "Apocalypse Now". 

Deep dark orange skies, the outlines of pylons and a menacing feel to the evening sky
Throw in a couple of Hueys and this could be 'Nam.


Contact ren@bikesandtravels.com if you'd like to sponsor a page.

Northern Ireland - A Covid Prologue The lead-up to this journey seems to have been a bewildered shambles. So how did The Dynamic Muppets manage to rescue their trip from the tangled mess of 2020?
It's A Bumpy Lumpy Ride Sharon's life is never simple. While getting ready for maybe, possibly, perhaps going to Northern Ireland she takes a moment to explain why she's been so quiet on here.
An Easy Ride To Carlisle It's an easy, lazy and relaxed start to this holiday with a handful of miles to cover and the weather behaving itself for once.
Space Sharon's luggage situation has improved but it's going to take a while for her to unwind, chill out and settle into today's journey. Aaaaaaand relax.
A Ferry And Hint Of Northern Ireland Ren is doing what Ren does best - flapping.
A Dip Into Irish Waters Today's lesson - don't place yourself behind angry small mythical critters.
Causeway And Coast Getting into The Giant's Causeway poses a challenge for a miser like Ren, can he avoid his wallet seeing the light of day? The Causeway Coastal Route and Torr Head Scenic Route may ease the shock for him.
Giants And Hobbits Sharon enjoys a rather wonderful day exploring more of the Causeway Coastal Route. Languishing in luxury on the back of Ren's bike while he does all the hard work. Sort of.
Ards Peninsula, Wonderfully Modest Today it's the turn of Ards Peninsula to be explored. Throw in the regular dose of disorganised nonsense and some fair weather, it might be a good day!

Reader's Comments

Jim said :-
Didn't fancy riding through the lakes to get to Carlisle, Ren? Shap's all very well, but I wouldn't have missed the chance to ride through Kirkstone Pass and up past Ullswater. Although when I went that way in August there were so many tourists it made the roads a bit slow - but that just gave me a chance to raise my eyes occasionally and take in the scenery.
28/09/2020 01:26:16 UTC
Upt'North said :-
The M6 gets a hard press don't ya thunk. I believe it to be the longest motorway in the UK and the Preston By-pass section has been open for almost 62 years. Built by Tarmac and opened by the PM of the day Mr. Macmillan.
At Shap it manages to reach 1050 ft. With Tebay services providing beautiful vistas, sunsets and a few ducks too. I know the world provides higher roads but at that far North you have no doubt it's wild upt'North.
I don't blame you pulling off on the A6 though, a nice road, but like you say, lost in time.
Has M.M. turned over a new leaf, will she be referred to as a Shining Ray of Light?
I have got a soft spot for the M6, it paid my wages for 15 years, or rather the idiots on there did.
Keep the good work up Ed and M.M. the masses depend on ya both.
Upt'North.


28/09/2020 01:36:49 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
It's a balance thing Jim. I didn't want it to become a BIG ride even with time on our side, but I take your point as Kirkstone Pass and Ullswater is an excellent route.

Upt' - The M6 over Shap, while still a motorway at least it provides open scenery and some visual stimulus. And Tebay is beautiful when the weather's good. Equally so the height and remoteness makes for some, erm, "interesting" experiences when the weather is against you, I'm sure you know.

Fear not, the next time it's raining we can still blame Madam Moisture. After all, what is the point of having a partner if not to blame them for things? I don't even live with her but I still curse her if I can't find something or if my house is a tip (which it usually is).
28/09/2020 04:48:52 UTC
Snod said :-
Did you stop at the chippy in Shap? Because you're fools if you didn't. Especially if you're there on a Thursday when they do the special smoked haddock - super double yum!

Also no comment about how soft you've obviously gone with the paint on the plank. Wait is that a comment? Oh well :P
28/09/2020 08:21:05 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I didn't know there was a chippy in Shap Snod. As for Haddock, look mate, if we were meant to eat fish we'd be born with gills. Fish, YUK!

Re the plank paint. Obviously with me being all big n mean n tough n manly I would have left it "oily wood" coloured, it was Pwincess Parker what dun painted it. Now shush, I'm having my nails manicured.
29/09/2020 08:45:21 UTC
Sharon said :-
Snod,
I painted tour-a-plank to protect it. I did originally want to paint it black but at £20 for outdoor undercoat and £20 for thd exterior black paint I was like err nope. So the green paint was in tester size at £4 so green it was to be. I may add some flowers or ferns on it at some point
30/09/2020 11:18:00 UTC

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