Camchain and tensioner seen up close in a cutaway bike engine

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North Pennines And Epilogue

Ride Date 21 September 2020

By Ren Withnell

I don't know if Sharon's sickening for something. A quick check online assures me being awake before midday and also being practically chirpy in the morning is not listed in the Covid 19 symptoms list. I can only surmise she is excited at the thought of not spending this evening with me. How can you know you are truly happy unless you've experienced true misery? This is my gift to womankind.

I am 111 miles from home, Sharon is 136 miles from salvation. And yet the sun is in the sky this Monday morning and it would be a shame to just ride the motorway all the way home. I check with Her Ladyship and she agrees, a detour would be acceptable. 

Without sat nav and only a very limited knowledge of this area we head out. Initially we're on the A66 heading east and I do know this will take me towards Newcastle Upon Tyne. No, we really should head south soon so when the opportunity arises I take a right.

Where? I haven't a clue. Looking back on the maps I suspect we came through Plenmeller then Whitfield and Bearsbridge. Wherever we are it is gorgeous with fat rotund hills, extensive vistas and open roads to ourselves. There is still so very much I have yet to find in England let alone the rest of the world. 

I know I'm going in the right direction because the sun is pretty much ahead and that makes it southish at this time of day. I've no idea where I am though. After an hour or two I'm ready for a stretch and there's no rush and Alston's heritage railway station has a bench to sit on. Google maps guides Sharon to a public toilet in the town while I sit and drink tea from our flasks on the bench.

The historic train station at alston and sharon sits on a bench drinking tea
Time for a sip and a rest.

As I wait I'm joined by a couple aboard a big touring BMW, an R1250RT I'm guessing. They sit on the other bench and soon we strike up a conversation. They're a retired couple making the most of this weather on a day out from the York area. We have a moan about Covid and enthuse about motorcycles as Sharon returns. They talk of their European tours as though they are mere weekends away, they've done some riding this couple.

Coming out of Alston the road we need south is closed. Dagnammit! I try a detour and we end up on a narrow lane that soon degrades. At the point where it becomes gravel are 2 other riders, trying to turn around. One has got himself embarrasingly stuck, nose down in the verge. I park up and we heave together to get the massive Tiger 1200 back onto what's left of the lane. He's thankful, if perhaps a tad abashed.

The road is closed and Sharon is pointing in the delightful scenery
"Oy! Man! The road is closed. Sort it out."

Google suggests this track will lead us to the road we're aiming for. It's OK but it could get rougher and Sharon has luggage and is on her "posh" bike. It's probably for the best that we turn around too. We manage this between us without too much concern.

It's only coming back through Alston and following the official diversion signs I suddenly get a sense of deja-vu. Aaaahhhhh yes, of course! This is the road to Haggs Bank Bunkhouse, I've been here before! More by luck than planning we pass through Middleton in Teesdale then Brough and into Kirkby Stephen. By god this area is beautiful, particularly when the sun makes the effort to shine.

The rolling hills, hazy in the sun, in the North Pennines

And yet as we pass through Kirkby Stephen time is marching on and we still have many miles to cover. At this rate it'll be getting dark before we reach Preston so it's prudent to head for the motorway. There's so much to see around here but that's enough diverting for one day.

The motorway leads us homeward bound comfortably without trouble. Admittedly I'm ready for a stretch by Lancaster services so we pull in. After partaking of the toilets and finishing off the remaining tea in the flasks I bid Sharon a farewell with strict instructions to let me know she's got home safe. We part company on the motorway just south of Preston, she takes the M6 for Liverpool, I the M61 for Bolton.

With time to reflect, what do I think of Northern Ireland? I'll start with the negatives. It's not the "...est". We've been to more beautiful places, we've seen prettier shorelines, we've been to quieter places, we've ridden better roads. It also shares a common language, road rules and in many ways a similar feel to back home so it lacks the sense of novel difference that a European trip may have with weird languages and currency and culture. If you are much travelled then Northern Ireland isn't going to "blow your mind".

But! There's always a but. It does feel a little different to home. While not empty there's more space. There are plenty of beautiful places to be found. There are good roads to be ridden. There is much to explore, it's bigger than I thought, we've barely even scratched the surface. Next time I think it would be wise to explore the hilly bits and get inland. According to the couple we met on the return ferry the people are very friendly. I'm afraid we can't comment on this too much as Sharon and I barely interacted with anyone in these Covid times. 

As a break away for Sharon and I this has been a very successful trip. Despite my flapping on the second day this has been a comfortable, relaxing and worthwhile journey. It has also been informative. Both Sharon and I have been surprised by comments on this trip regarding "the troubles" and how the history effects people's preconceptions of Northern Ireland. 

If you look closely there are the odd reminders of the divisions that caused so much pain on both sides. And yet we never felt threatened or concerned as we explored the various shores or went shopping in the supermarkets, we felt as safe there as we did in any other part of Europe. My only advice might be in more social times to keep your political views to yourself, but this is good advice anywhere in the world when meeting strangers.

And Upt', no, not a drop of rain.  

If you've got a 2 wheeled tale to share - click here.

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!
A Bit Of Irish History A history lesson and tomfoolery by The Queen Of Rain. Thing is, it's not raining. Something is wrong here, very wrong.
Lough Neagh And Money The Dynamic Muppets circumnavigate the largest lake in the British Isles. Is this the sort of place where a prudent miser like Ren would fit in?
Reflections Another watery day in Northern Ireland and still no rain on the horizon. Sharon contemplates the many and varied lives we get to live.
Ferry, Friends And Mostly Scotland In a remarkable twist Ren is not flapping! Nor is he ready to go home. But alas and alack 'tis time for this all-too-brief inspection of Northern Ireland to end. Take comfort in Scotland Ren.
North Pennines And Epilogue It's the end of the journey for the dynamic muppets yet there's still time for a little detour, or two. What did Ren make of Northern Ireland?

Reader's Comments

Ian Soady said :-
I lived in Weardale (well, Bishop Auckland) till I became an adopted Brummie many years ago. Weardale and Teesdale have some of the most beautiful countryside around. You can spend a day zigzagging between the two and take in the highest through road in England over Chapel Fell. The gates can be a bit tricky however especially if there's a strong wind (as there often is). Your track was probably the one over Coldberry End which I attempted many years ago on my Honda Dominator but gave up as I was on my own and didn't fancy getting stuck under the bike.

The lead mining museum at Nent Head is worth a look. It's fascinating that 150 years or so ago the area was an industrial wasteland with lead mines everywhere. The lead ore was exposed by building small reservoirs then letting the water out to run down the hillside scouring away the topsoil down what are called "hushes".
16/11/2020 10:57:44 UTC
Bogger said :-
Every day is a School day.

16/11/2020 12:46:28 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Well blow me down with a feather. No blummin Moisture.
Yes you pair of rascals, the roads around Alston are darn good. I think our first ride this year was down to Barnard Castle then up through Alston and back wom. Blummin Lovely.
You'd have to be stupid to have spent three breaks in the Nent Head area and not know about the museum. So stupid I am then.
Give my best to Madame du Soleil.

16/11/2020 17:09:22 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Don't you be calling her Madame du Soleil Upt' she'll be getting silly ideas.

Ian - the link is to Google maps and the track I believe we decided not to take. It's one of them times - I felt like it ought to be OK, probably just a gravel track. But when you don't know for sure it would be all too easy to find ourselves getting into an uncomfortably gnarly situation and struggling to turn around and get back out. Sometimes it's just easier to backtrack and avoid the potential risk.
17/11/2020 12:16:03 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I've found this YouTube vid of someone riding said track - "The Wardway". It seems perfectly passable but not for Sharon's with shiny 250s. She'd be fine on the 125 down there, we've recently done some trails on the unsuitable 125s that are proving to be, well, quite suitable actually.
Posted Image
17/11/2020 12:25:07 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Isn't it time for a new strapline on the front page? Unless you're waiting for next year, "Spring is here, winter has passed - yey! Now we get to stay at home and tinker with our bikes without frozen fingers. Great..."

seems a little out of date......
21/11/2020 15:50:54 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Yes Ian you are absolutely correct. I have been quite remiss and I shall correct my oversight next week. I'm having one of "those" times at present. I'm also struggling for content due to lockdown. Both my bikes are barely turning a wheel which means there is little to report. Ideas? Anyone?? I'm gunna regret asking that aren't I...
21/11/2020 16:06:54 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Sorry Ed, the permafrost is keeping me in Upt'North on the 55th parallel.
I think in the interest of science you could ride naked except for ya pants around Lancashire with temperature sensors attached to your body with duct tape. You could report back on when your bodies organs started to shut down and then for fun produce a video of someone, maybe your able assistant M du S, pulling the duct tape off.
You could become a YouTube sensation or maybe just cold.
Glad I could help.
21/11/2020 18:45:05 UTC
Ross said :-
Oh thanks, Upt', there's an image I can't get out of my brain!

Ren, dunno if you've seen this?... ... you could try making your own version to see if it works and it'll keep you occupied for a bit...gotta be better than riding in your pants!
22/11/2020 09:53:53 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Ross, I appreciate your pain but Ren's purpose in life is to look after his fans/fan?
A little discomfort upfront could provide Eds readers with important and relevant information for riding in cold weather, plus for the rest of us it'd be a giggle. And I bet M du S would pull the tape off so gently.
It would keep us happy until Ch....... and beyond.
For a follow up he could do ice and snow riding reality video's. Obviously only when the snow is knee deep and at least 10 below. Clothes would be optional.
Sorry again Ross but Ed did ask for ideas.
22/11/2020 13:27:25 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Thank you for your suggestion Upt'. Unfortunately I am unable to fulfil your perfectly reasonable request due to the fact that while I am many things, entirely stupid isn't one of them. In the interest of scientific research I have these last 30 years been riding through winter and I have gleaned a great deal of useful information. I know about salt and rust. I know about grip levels. I also know that even with clothing I have been close to hypothermia on several occasions. Oh the stories I could tell... wait a minute...

A chain bath Ross! Looks to me to be rather akin to a chain guard turned upside-down. I haven't got a spare chain guard at present but I'll keep my eyes open. I'm not convinced WD40 as used in the video meets with my "cheap and cheerful" criteria though. I reckon a dribble of diesel from the 4 wheeled large object moving machine might be the ticket though. Hmmmm, got me thinking now.
23/11/2020 09:21:54 UTC
Ross said :-
Ren said "I'm not convinced WD40 as used in the video meets with my "cheap and cheerful" criteria though"

...and I always thought you shouldn't use WD40 on sealed chains because it could damage the o-rings (x-rings?)!...can't remember where I saw that, probably the internet, so it must be true!!
24/11/2020 08:04:52 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Quite so Ross, quite so. I have heard that WD40 damages o-rings and seals and then in equal measure I have seen videos of o-rings left soaking in WD40 for days at a time with apparently no ill effect. As such I lean towards WD40 not being a problem BUT I play safe and generally avoid WD40 on rubber. Go figure.
24/11/2020 08:52:20 UTC

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