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

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A Real Ride Out

Ride Date 11 April 2021

By Ren Withnell

I would be lying if I said I've not ridden the bike through the 3rd Lockdown. I've been using the bike to visit Sharon (my bubble) most weekends. Rather than just heading straight there and back I've been finding "interesting" routes and the more I explore the area in which I live the more I realise there are indeed some pockets of perfect loveliness here in the grimy gritted rain soaked streets of the North West.

Sharon has used her bike quite a bit less, but again it would be wrong to say not at all. She's come to my place a few times but she lacks my local area knowledge and she's not as comfortable as I am with being lost so she's stuck to her known routes. We've ridden together a few times too but only locally. 

Tomorrow (12 April) is when all the shops can open but on the 29th of March the "stay at home" rule ended. Last weekend we rode to a friend's house to dine alfresco in the garden which was both lovely - and odd. The last time we did anything like this was September 2020 so for 6 months give or take we've had very little social contact. 

The evening was perfectly pleasant, our friends welcoming and entertaining and the food was fabulous. But I and particularly Sharon reported feeling odd, wrong, surreal and almost immoral. After so long a time of being harangued into not mixing to finally be mixing is proving more difficult and mentally challenging that expected. It does not take long to become institutionalised.

Ren' friend Bernard using a set of motorcycle clocks as goggle and looking silly
With friends like this, maybe we should have stayed at home.

This weekend brings cold frosty nights but the promise of a mostly dry Sunday. We do want to ride but we are both somewhat out of practice when it comes to a BIG ride. I think a gentle day out from Halewood toward Derbyshire and the Peak District should be about right. It's 1030 before the bikes are ready, we are ready and our little picnic is ready too.

We cross the Mersey using The Mersey Gateway, smug in the knowledge as motorcyclists there's no fare to pay. As we approach the M56 I spy the flashing lights of the Highway Officer's vehicles, poop, the motorway slip road is closed. Blast. We shall have to detour down to Northwich then head east. 

Somewhere around the back of Sutton Weaver I unintentionally turn into a dead end. Ho well. I stop for a stretch and chat as it's a lovely dead end. Sharon asks "How come you don't go into a meltdown panic when the road is closed?"

First things first. Safety. Whatever lane you are in, wherever you are going even if it's the wrong direction, safety. Follow the lane, follow the road rules, look about, keep safe. Just go anywhere safely, calm down, take a breath and pull over when there's a safe spot to do so. You can THEN work out a new route. 

Luckily I know where I am and I have enough local knowledge to plan a new route. Frustrating - but we don't need to be anywhere at anytime so this is not a problem. 

We end up coming into Knutsford. As I approach the town centre I think "I've been through here many times, but never looked around." As such rather than pass through I find a car park and we park up, Sharon looks a tad perplexed until I explain. She's more than happy to have a mooch around.

Knutsford is not super pretty nor quaint nor ancient. There are one or two 70's design errors, some modern sympathetically styled offices, a handful of older buildings and a remarkable number of small car parks hidden around the back. It does feel like we could be very comfortable here though, it might not be amazing but it feels, oh I dunno, pleasant, nice.

Sharon regrettably looks into the window of an estate agents. Yeah, right. If we sold both our homes and got a mortgage we could afford a small room in a shared house. We'd both have to work until we're 75 too... Sorry sweetie but you're dating the wrong chap, you need a premier league footballer not a scruffy biker nerd.

We head east once more. I intentionally turn off the main road when I see a small side lane and we explore. While Cheshire lacks the grandiose mountains of Wales and Scotland, or the vast skies of Lincolnshire, or the babbling brooks and bulbous hillsides of North Yorkshire, it is still a charming area. 

Sharons Kawasaki in front of a big green field in Chshire
Lovely countryside, the leaves are still not on the trees yet.

There are farms and tiny clumps of houses. There are streams and cows in the fields, crops aplenty too. The thing that sets Cheshire apart in ways both good and bad is the money. Some houses are old and small and pretty, some are modern and crisp and tasteful and yet the odd ones are opulent and at times vulgar in their ultra manicured, high walled and electric gated luxury. I find myself pondering if I am genuinely displeased or subconsciously envious.

Further on we stop once more to admire the snow on the peaks of The Peak District. We're in a small village just west of Macclesfield, parked outside of a row of bungalows. A chap steps out from behind his hedge and on realising we are merely polite explorers relaxes to engage us in conversation. There was snow here this morning, the lockdown has greatly increased the numbers of visitors here and he used to own a Norton you know. We swap details of wonderful Scottish roads before making our excuses to depart. 

A lane outside Macclesfield with regular but nice houses looking over to the Peak Distric
If you look REAL close, there's snow on them thar hills.

We haven't made it to Derbyshire or The Peaks yet alas time is marching on, we've already been out for 4 hours. It's time to head homewards but not necessarily straight home. More back lanes and sweeping country roads take us towards Holmes Chapel. 

We've been sauntering mostly, 15 to 25 mph down back lanes. We're on the main roads now and we need to up the pace as not to hold up traffic. The sun is high and the roads dry so I press on just a little. I suspect Sharon is enjoying this too, she's keeping pace without issue. I smile a wry smile in my helmet, recalling almost 8 years back as a learner how she'd struggle to muster 40 in a straight line, now here she is carving curves at 50 and 60. I have to focus and push to keep my ego intact and prove to myself I still have the edge.

I make the mistake of leading her back around the outskirts of Warrington. A myriad of traffic and roundabouts soon has her cursing me as she hates this kind of riding. Naturally I do like to ruin an otherwise good day out don't I. We arrive back at her place after 5 and a half hours of riding, walking, chatting and exploring. 

It has been a good day out. There still remains this tiny little voice saying "you shouldn't be doing this, you're a Covidiot" but as each mile passes it gets quieter and quieter. 

As a final thought it's a point I wish to push. We are in the peculiar mid-ground between normality and lockdown. We all need to balance our natural desire to mingle, socialise and ride while not rapidly spreading this disease. Equally we need to be aware of how easy it is to become TOO isolated and find it a struggle to socialise once more. Even if Covid is eradicated (unlikely) there will be many side effects of lockdown to come. Keep your distance and yet keep sane, a difficult balance.

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Reader's Comments

Bogger said :-
I know what you mean about being isolated for so long.

Ooh the shops are open...can't be arsed. Ooh the pubs are open....can't be arsed. Ooh I can go out on my bike for pleasure...can't be arsed.

Although I have worked as usual through the lockdowns etc.

Work? unfortunately I have to be arsed.

Ah well.

13/04/2021 22:03:40 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
Being an antisocial curmudgeon I haven't really missed much during lockdown and the thought of mixing with hordes of unknown people makes me feel very uneasy even though both of us have had our prescribed 2 vaccine doses. Being retired I have no work to be arsed about either. Even the voluntary stuff I do related to clinical trials has virtually dried up as all the clinical staff have been redeployed to Covid patient-facing stuff and ther trials mostly paused although that will probably ease up in the next few months - but who knows?

I was hoping that we might squeeze our usual French caravan trip in this summer but that's definitely off the cards. Instead we've booked a tiny caravan site near Cleethorpes for 10 days. What will it be like? No idea.....

As for the bikes the Norton hasn't turned a wheel since last summer although I'm thinking about a few short local runs in the next couple of weeks. And the Fanny-B has benefited from much attention and is now on the final straight after a complete nut and bolt bare metal rebuild. I'm sure that when it's up and running I will hate it and look to pass it on.
14/04/2021 12:20:22 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
I think I'm with Bogger, it's as though we've had the wind well and truly removed from our sails.
Glad you kind of enjoyed it though you lovely people. Although I can't imagine I'd want to sit next to friendly or unfriendly folk at the moment. Strange Innit.
The good news is that the winter decorating is done, the spring gardening is moving on with aplomb and the BeaST of Wooler was started yesterday. 4th pod saw er burst into life, now all we need is better temps and less snow and salt.
Will Spain be on? Feels a bit deja vu. Have we been here before?

14/04/2021 13:39:48 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
The hoarding masses of the great unwashed have been out and about, boozing and causing trouble. I have to remember though while they may appear plentiful they are in fact the minority. I'm curious to know, even if a treatment and cure were found tomorrow how many of we regular folks will got back to the way we were before?

Bogger, Ian, Upt' - Is it that you feel uncomfortable with mingling as yet due to the fact that Covid is far far from eradicated? If there were a 100% guarantee that if you caught Covid you'd be fine with a pill and a day's rest would you be out socialising as before. Or has the lockdown somehow changed you and your thoughts regarding socialising? I'm trying to understand how much is a wise and sensible level of self preservation and how much is a new understanding of where you wish to fit into society.
14/04/2021 19:20:05 UTC
Bogger said :-
Regarding Covid. I'm more than prepared to take my chance with it personally. I've been to work everyday, but you can't socialise at all? Hmmm

I'd rather not expand any more on my thoughts on Covid it would get me into trouble. But I would be more than happy to socialise with anybody or any number of people at any place or time.

But I don't, because other people may not have the same views as me. So it is only fair on them, to keep ones distance as per the 'rules'.

14/04/2021 22:27:57 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Like the wise Bogger states very succinctly, to aire your opinion on the issue of covid is probably ill advised and will only lead to undue ridicule and finger pointing.
But that's unlikely to stop us.
I am not overly fearful of catching the virus, that because of my care and precautions and if I did or have caught it then because of my fairly good health and not too old age, it should all turn out OK'ish.
I also have the advantage of having had one of the barely tested vaccinations in my left arm and by now it's probably got all around this long drawn out poor excuse for a body.
For I and I think many others we have sort of got used to the new normal, haven't you and the Madame du la Soleil become fond of sipping hot beverages from a flask in quiet faraway places, like Shutlingsloe.
Should I spend the next four months planning a Spanish and Portugal motorcycling extravaganza for I and Er'Indoors or just do a little pruning and do another flaming repetitive day ride to a location where I may find a coffee and even a toilet if I'm lucky. Then I could ride home and do a little more pruning, although if I couldn't find a toilet I would have to change my undergarments first.
It's shite innit.

14/04/2021 23:38:57 UTC
Jim said :-
Funny old world, isn't it. TI and I have had quite a good lockdown, and are not looking forward to the return of compulsory socialising. I'm not too troubled by the virus, you're now more likely to get cancer due to eating bacon than you are to die of COVID, and I'm still having bacon. Although I have had an armful of Pfizer's finest, and will shortly be getting my second.

Interestingly though, I'm perfectly happy to continue to wear a mask in shops. And it looks like working from home will be a permanent state of affairs - again, great for an anti-social old so-and-so like me. Seriously considering moving to Ullapool if I never have to go to the office again.
15/04/2021 10:28:15 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
It's not just deaths of course - people are starting to realise that so-called long covid has affected around a million people - most younger than those old codgers like myself who are more likely to snuff it. I have a friend / colleague from my clinical trials work - in her 40s, very fit and healthy - who came down with this a year ago and still has intermittent periods of incapacity. So despite having both (Pfizer-BioNTech) jabs I'm still cautious especially as new variants are popping up.

In terms of actual deaths it's worth considering the fact that nearly 130,000 people have now died in the UK of Covid. That's around 1 in 500 of the population. And another wave is quite likely. Being as I said antisocial by nature keeping away from other people is a matter of course for me but then I'm lucky - if I was stuck in a 10th floor tower block flat with small kids and on a low income I would probably think otherwise.
15/04/2021 11:25:33 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Ullapool you say.....
Now I think whatever property you end up buying needs to have a guest room with a very large bed and ensuite, and a lovely view of the Summer Isles would be nice.
No pressure.

15/04/2021 14:25:18 UTC
Jim said :-
Consider it done, Upt’. Shouldn’t be too hard to find, it’s more the outside toilet for Ren that might tax the estate agent. A small field for the annual BAT gathering would also be needed. BATFest! You heard it here first.
16/04/2021 07:52:20 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I'd like to think that we'll be allowed on the wonderful campsite in Ullapool one day. I shall take the lovely en suite guest bedroom and the rest of you plebs can use the campsite.
16/04/2021 12:02:46 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Well that's just typical, he's pulled rank on us.
Anyone up for a mutiny.
16/04/2021 12:58:14 UTC
Borsuk said :-
I'll bring the SPTT.

Ren, you can rent my bike trailer as accommodation for a modest nominal fee. By the time I finish kitting it out it will have all mod cons including a kettle.
16/04/2021 13:38:11 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Mutiny Upt'? I'll see you keel hauled me laddie! I very much doubt I'm in charge here anyhow, I just do all the work while you reprobates mock me relentlessly.

I look forward to ensconcing myself and Sharon into your bike trailer Borsuk. It's the kettle that tipped it for me although the word "rent" concerned me no matter how modest the fee is.

I would indeed fancy a meeting at Ullapool, maybe we could make it happen. Previous experience suggests organising such things is akin to herding flies though.
16/04/2021 21:10:16 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
Just tell us where & when. Don't try to consult people or you'll never get a consunsus. Those who want to will turn up; others will keep away.....
17/04/2021 14:00:21 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
You're absolutely right Ian. If you were to wait for a date that suits everyone you'd be waiting forever.
17/04/2021 15:11:07 UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
Yep, I'd be up for a Bat Fest, subject to being able to shoe horn it onto my bulging social diary of course.
17/04/2021 17:49:10 UTC
Jim said :-
BATFest is gaining momentum! Ian is right Ren, just pick a date and place that suits you, trying to get everyone to agree is a thankless task. Perhaps a couple of options put to a vote. Build it and they will come.
17/04/2021 20:18:04 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I'll continue my thinking on this subject on the chit chat :-)
17/04/2021 20:47:57 UTC

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