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A Key And A Quay

Ride Date 12 July 2023

By Ren Withnell

This sleeping well in a tent is most peculiar but I'll take it thank you very much. I tap Rob up for another early morning brew then later breakfast is taken in the cafe bar restaurant thingy once more. Everyone's doing things like showers or tinkering with their bike or losing their gloves so it's coming on for 1200 before everyone is where they ought to be.

Mark's CBF500 in black against a backdrop of hardy Exmoor grasses
Mark's CBF500. Far more sensible than a Harley.

Sharon's taking her 250 today, Mark's on his CBF500, Rik and Rob are on their respective Harleys and Janine's on the back of Rob's bike once more. That's 5 vehicles I have to keep an eye on today including myself and I am seriously concerned sat-nav is going to take us off-roading again. I checked again last night - there is no setting set in my Garmin for "twisty roads" or "most interesting route" or "let's offroad!". I'll still be keeping an eye on the damn thing.

The A361 to Barnstaple is once more slow and frankly uninteresting, but at least it's not a dirt track. Once in Barnstaple I find a Tesco for fuel. I'm still good so I wait just beyond the petrol station while everyone else fills up. And wait. And wait. Sharon joins me and we wait. And wait. And wait. Eventually Rob and Rik join us, reporting Mark's bike key isn't working. Poop.

Over the next half hour I have to force everyone off the service road we're blocking and onto the nearby Homebase car park. Safety anyone? Rob's all set to ride 45 minutes back to the site to get Mark's spare key then 45 minutes back, I proactively discourage that while I have a look see. The tank cap wouldn't open so now the key's been forcefully twisted. Now the key's twisted it won't operate the ignition barrel. I extrapolate my tools and untwist the key - the ignition now works absolutely fine. 

A dirty scruffy army surplus bag hangs from the crash bar of Ren's 500
These bags ain't just for lookin' cool, they have tools in 'em too.

It turns out the tank cap key mechanism works just fine too, but the spring that pops the cap up is sticky. As the cap hadn't popped up the assumption was the key wasn't doing key things and the key was forced, twisting it. I show Mark how to lever the cap open by turning the key as usual and gently levering up the cap. I put my tools away, feeling oh-so-slightly smug. I've learned to internalise that smug feeling and keep my trap shut as I'm just as likely to make a similar mistake myself anytime soon.

The next stop is another car park in Barnstaple. Mark wants waterproofs as his current ones aren't up to the task so off everyone goes while Janine and I thankfully stay with the bikes and the helmets. We chat between ourselves then everyone returns, resplendent with purchases of jackets and pants and gadgets and lord knows what else. Roughty toughty bikers? I'm on a shopping trip not an adventure apparently.

The A39 west out of Barnstaple brings relief in the form of countryside and improved traffic flow. This is farmland countryside, arable and dairy, quite flat and verdant green. We're only 30 to 40 miles from our campsite yet the geology here is quite different. Being a smart and wise I eventually cotton on "oh yeah, we're out of Exmoor now I suppose". You know, I could have been a genius if I wur cleva.

I am slightly concerned when sat-nav steers us off the A39 and onto some lesser roads, but I understand it needs to if we are to reach our destination. My concern level rises as we move from dual track to single track and yet the road surface remains, well, road and not mud. We wendle through Hartland and Stoke (not that one), these are tiny villages and hamlets, pretty and rural.

Paranoia creeps in. The road down to Hartland Quay is steep and twisty and I worry how Sharon's doing. I forget. I forget we've been down steeper roads, I forget she's crossed Bealach na Bà, I forget she's ridden through England and Wales and Scotland and Northern Ireland and The Netherlands and France and Germany And Belgium and Spain. She's an experienced rider, she's fine, we're all fine. 

Looking down the steep rock faces to the ocean below at Hartland Quay
Oooh I say!

I'd noted Hartland Quay a few weeks back while looking at places to visit on this trip. It looked a bit remote and coastal which I like. Now I'm here I find it's far more impressive than I'd expected. Admittedly the word "Quay" implies a small harbour or at least place to land a boat, I later learn the harbour is no more but there is still a slipway... somewhere. What is impressive are the rock formations and the way the hotel come shop come museum clings to the rock formations before the mighty ocean. 

Layers or rock are bent and bowed to form a flat cave by the water's edge
There's forces at play here.
Rocks with layers at all angles, the sea, steep cliffs and sand at Hartland Quay

We spend some time here, drinking tea in the forceful sea breeze, wandering around looking at the rocks and the waves. I really do love riding my motorcycle yet I also enjoy simply being in such charming places with friends. We're here chatting, just relaxing, just doing something while not really doing anything. I wonder if retirement is like this? 

Sharon smiles at the camera with an ice cream in her hand, the sea and the impressive rock formations behind her
Well someone's happy.

I don't like going back the same way we came. As such I program in "Holsworthy" which should take us south, then we'll cut across country eastbound then head north. I'm so clever aren't I. Except sat-nav keeps on trying to lead me down more single track. I ignore it and stick on the A39 until the route sat-nav suggests looks more like a road rather than a farmyard entrance. 

I honestly couldn't tell you where I am. Somewhere between the A39 and Holsworthy. I wish I did know as this is a sea change from the other Devonian roads we've endured so far. Fast, empty, twisty and quite fun. We're not riding like plonkers but we're moving rather nicely and soon Holsworthy comes into view.

Aaaah, drat. I was hoping for a cafe with tea and cake, I find none. I'm quite sure there will be, Holsworthy is that kind of place so I stop us all in a random council estate to consult the maps. It's pointed out to me that it's already 1600 and we're still a couple of hour's ride from the campsite. I thought it was only about 1400. That's the problem with being a genius, you miss the obvious. 

We start the ride home. Initially it's all good with more fast roads then we start to hit busier and busier villages then towns. Blummin sat-nav is driving me spare trying to lead me down every back lane it can find, luckily I've hooked onto signs for Bideford which I know is in the right direction. As we eventually roll into Bideford I can see Rik looking grumpy and gesturing to his own mobile phone sat nav. I pull in by the river.

A low and old bridge with many arches crosses a calm river in Bideford
Bideford has a lovely bridge. 

My sat-nav is an old thing, his Google maps has traffic information. He can see we're heading right into some bad traffic and has been trying to grab my attention for ages. I can see the relief on Rik's face when I suggest it might be best for him to lead us the rest of the way. Sure enough Madam Google leads us back to the site in an orderly manner without mishap but I dare say we're all pretty worn out by now.

The evening settles into it's routine with one slight twist. It's Rik's birthday today. Rob is one of them chaps who's very good at thinking about others and doing things for others, you know, a nice human being. As such Rob has stowed on his camper a shop bought cake in preparation. He had hoped for a "princess" cake but alas he couldn't find one so it's a "unicorn" cake, the sort of cake you'd get for a 4 year old. We all sing "Happy Birthday" and indulge in the cake. Mmmmm... cake. 

Rik holds his little child's cake and smiles
Happy Birthday Rik.

Hartland Quay turned out great, definitely worth a look. The area around Hartland is lovely and there's a few roads in and around there where if the mood takes you it's possible to open the taps. I did mess up a little with the return leg. In trying to find an interesting route I only achieved leading us on a tour-de-stupid making for a tiring ride. Ho well. We have enjoyed 2 good days of riding and considering the forecast had been for a total washout it's all a bonus. The only problem is the next 2 days do look rather wet. We shall see.

Share your tales - click here.  

Prologue - North Devon 2023 It's that time where Ren explains this trip. I'm not getting the sense of a great forthcoming adventure, rather more of an old school chill out holiday with friends on motorcycles.
Cheating The Rain To Cheltenham And they're off! It's a mixed up weird kind of start to this holiday with indecisive weather and packing and planning errors. No disasters though... sorry.
Dawdling Into Devon Another easy day's ride sees the Dynamic Muppets into the delights of Devon. There's a mish-mash of roads to negotiate and the weather ain't helping.
North Devon Sat-Nav Adventure On the first day exploring North Devon Ren manages to lead the merry crew into the non touristy bits of the the Exmoor coastal area. This ain't no country for Harleys.
A Key And A Quay With the weather hanging on in there it's ride time again. Ren manages to accidentally find somewhere nice before leading them all astray. Not to worry, there's cake.
2 Days Of Nothing With bad weather, ill health and camping frustrations this could be a disaster. Luckily it turns out to be more of a damp squib really.
Heading Home Day 1 The real holiday is over, it's time to do the bit that no-one really wants to do and that's go home. England is a lovely place but sometimes you're just not in the mood.
Heading Home Day 2 It's the final day's short ride home which means Ren's reflecting upon the Devonian excursion. Before that there's a village in need of some looking at and tea to be drunk.

Reader's Comments

CrazyFrog said :-
In answer to your question Ren, yes, retirement is a bit like that, and very nice it is too!
19/08/2023 09:35:10 UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
Perhaps it's the fact that you're getting a free brew in the morning that's helping you sleep? After all, you haven't the expense of that tea bag playing on your mind as you try to nod off!
19/08/2023 09:38:17 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
Your description of hanging around waitinng for people describes perfectly just one of the reasons I prefer to ride in solitary splendour. Quite apart from the fact I have no friends.....

Hartland Quay does sound an interesting spot.
19/08/2023 10:26:34 UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
I must admit that the older I get, the more I like being in my own company. I don't like group riding on bicycles or motorcycles because it makes me very nervous. You seem to spend more time trying to keep the group together instead of concentrating on the road. When I'm on my own, I can please myself exactly what I do. If I spot an interesting looking lane, then down it I go, if I spot a bench with a nice view I'll stop and sit and read my book for an hour. If I'm hungry, I stop and eat without having to consider what everybody else wants to do. Perfect!
19/08/2023 10:34:45 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Your comment about retirement, no, nowt like that.
If you've got a paint brush, a lawn mower, a screwdriver or a broken electrical appliance in your hands, then that's just like retirement.
What you're experiencing is a holiday, a jolly, a vacation, time away from normality.
19/08/2023 13:24:04 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
CrazyFrog - perhaps you're right! It causes me deep emotional pain to part with my own money, even a few pence worth of tea, milk, and petrol or gas or electric to heat the water.

Ian and CrazyFrog - yes group riding is undoubtedly problematic on so many levels. I compare it to "hearding flies". It can be frustrating and I have seen some appalling riding standards. However I enjoy the social aspects. It's as simple as that for myself, the reward is worth the effort.

Upt' - I've seen enough retirees exactly as you state. It seems a common outcome that respective partners and family ensure your retirement is not actually retirement. The modern retiree nowadays will be lumbered with grandchildren care too, just when you thought you were done with the little snot gobblers.
20/08/2023 07:34:09 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
"However I enjoy the social aspects"

To me, those would be possibly even worse than the riding issues! I'm quite happy to have a casual chat to complete strangers while having a coffee (or breakdown!) stop but the idea of spending days or weeks with a bunch of people with whom my only probable connection is that we all ride bikes fills me with horror.

The benefit of forums such as this is that usually I don't have to physically meet these people - most of whom are probably admirable individuals, and one I know to be a very nice chap. Down Ren, it's not you pleasant though you are.......

As for retirement it's brilliant although like many other things needs enough funds not to be scratching around. And having chosen to avoid offspring ourselves don't have any of those grandchildren (see also previous point). I have noted how various relatives who had seemed reasonable turn into gibbering idiots when these turn up.
20/08/2023 15:26:45 UTC
Bogger said :-
Riding in a group is fine IMO. You just have to choose your riding companions carefully in the first place.

If anyone would like to buy some Grandchildren. No if anyone would like two free grandkids just drop me a line. I'll even deliver them FOC.

Buying breakfast Ren? Have you had a bump on the head recently.

I concur sitting about, nattering rubbish, can be quite enjoyable. Even better with a pint in your hand.

21/08/2023 13:05:57 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Are you home Bogger?

It's all quite personal the whats and whys and hows and whos we choose to ride with or not ride with, socialise or not socialise with. We're all different and we hopefully choose that which works for us.

Sharon's gotten around 60,000 miles under her tyres now. I'd say 55,000 of those miles were spent following me. She can and she will ride solo, but her definite preference is to ride with someone else (usually me). For her motorcycling is something you share. This appears to be diametrically opposite to Ian's perspective and I'm somewhere in the middle, happy to share, happy solo.
21/08/2023 18:39:21 UTC
Bogger said :-
Yes I'm home, with a tale to tell.

21/08/2023 20:30:16 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Is it a tale of adventure and shenanigans? Is there mystery and intrigue? Knowing you it'll be a tale of beer and food with a little motorcycling thrown in.
23/08/2023 08:13:34 UTC

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