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

Home Travel StoriesDowntime In Devon

2 Days Of Nothing

No Ride Dates 13 And 14 June 2023

By Ren Withnell

The forecast for today is mixed. This lot aren't lightweight fairweather softies, they've all seen their fair share of leaky waterproofs and slippery roundabouts I'm sure. The feeling today though as the rain comes and goes is there's definitely no rush to get out and ride, if at all. It is possible after a day of Off-Roading and a yesterday's Tour-De-Stupid that a restful easy day might be in order. I've broken them haven't I.

Anyhow, Janine's keen for us all to take a walk. 

We have to be careful here. Janine's one of those people that thinks nothing of walking up Mount Snowdon or perhaps cycling around half of Derbyshire. Sharon can walk some but I'm not a big walker and Mark has various health issues. We need to ensure she's planning a stroll and not an expedition.

Ren pulls a silly face and looks like a dumb idiot
I'm more of a thinker than a walker.

Dunkery Beacon is the highest point of Exmoor. She's planning an expedition isn't she. I was thinking a gentle stroll that passes cake shops and cafes where we stop for an hour then walk for 20 minutes to the next cafe. She's taking us to the summit of Exmoor with ropes and crampons. Further investigation on Google assures me I'm facing a 2.5 mile walk with a bit of a hill on a gravel track. OK ok ok, fine.

Janine's van has legal seating for 4 and we are 6. It's logical to me I'll take my 500 with Sharon on the back and we'll put our walking boots in Janine's van with Mark and Rob and Rik. This is done and we're soon wiggling our way through more back lanes and single track in a north-easterly direction. Janine finds the car park, we lock the bike, we change into our walking kit and we head out. This works, this works rather well. Sharon, we need a support vehicle with us on our travels.

3 minutes into the walk and everyone is huffing and puffing and blowing and wheezing like old steam engines. Everyone except Janine, and Rob who for some reason seems fit. Yes it's a gravel track, rough in places, and while it feels like 5 miles it's probably just over half a mile from the small car park to the summit. It's steep though. It is steep if your middle aged and unfit at least. 

3 people next to a large cairn atop of Dunkery Beacon in the sun
Brave, intrepid, heroic and out of puff.

We all survive the ascent. Mark's looking somewhat grey, Sharon and I are OK once we catch our breath and stop shaking, Rik's recovered, Rob's fine and Janine looks like she's just walked to kitchen for a brew. We take our pictures and look across the waters to... wait a minute, South Wales! 

Ren and Mark look out to the scenery and South Wales from across the Severn estuary
"I con see the pab from 'ere!"

Mark heads straight back down to the van, seeking rest and recovery. The rest of us continue following a minor detour of around 2 miles. I wouldn't go as far as to say I'm "enjoying" my walk but I will regrettably admit it is pleasant to be here in the hills and the countryside, in the warm breeze, and chatting. All in all this makes for a good change in pace and the exercise will do us good.

Back at the campsite and Rob, ever the helpful, has had a stew in the slow cooker all day and that's tonight's tea. This is followed by the remains of Rob's birthday cake, biscuits and crisps. I'm stuffed, absolutely stuffed, I've eaten too much. By 1800 it is decided we're going to take another walk around the campsite just to see what's what.

We set off. I don't feel too good, I've eaten too much haven't I. We get to the far field and I'm trailing behind. Urgh. We get to a rough-n-ready path through the trees at the far end of the site and I'm getting a little shaky here. By the time we come back out of the trees and heading back to the site I'm turning to jelly and my stomach is gurgling and cramping. This isn't a case of "eaten too much", this is something else now.

As we approach the toilet block I'm barely hanging on. "Are you OK?" Sharon asks. "No..." and I run into the toilet block. 

In my mid 20s I really suffered with my stomach. Cramps, poor digestion, loose stool, feeling sick and occasionally vomiting small amounts. I was dying. Over a period of 2-3 years I had cameras in both ends, a barium meal X-ray, samples tested and lots of prodding. When the doctors didn't find anything obvious the diagnosis was "Irritable Bowel Syndrome" - IBS. 

What really changed things for me was learning that each episode didn't kill me. Once I could accept I was unlikely to die I could adjust my attitude to "oh hello my old unwelcome friend" and wait it out. Once I stopped freaking out the episodes moved from several hours of hell to an hour or so of gripes that would pass. Most importantly for me these gripes didn't stop me going out or riding the bike and just living my life. I am sure there is a physical problem but the vast majority of my suffering was psychological, once I'd sorted my head out things improved.

Now at the age of 51 I'm sat in a cubicle and, well, let's say it's rather unpleasant in here due to my own emissions, both ends. I've had a few episodes of this these last 3 years, I cannot work out why. This is a bad one though. 

Sharon often tells me off for sneezing too loudly. I try to sneeze quietly like she does but it just happens? I know it's unnecessary but that is, well, I dunno, that's how I sneeze. It's the same with being sick. I'm trying to be quiet but I just can't help with the long drawn out painful "nnnnnnnggghhuuuuuuuurrrrrrggghghghghg" before the tiniest pathetic miniscule droplet of vomit is produced. It's bad enough at home but in a public facility? It's frankly embarrassing.

It's all in the head. I'm not going to die. If I can keep myself calm this whole experience will be a lot less horrendous. After a half hour I hear a voice from the gent's toilet entrance "Are you OK?" I inform Sharon "Not really, but I'll get there". There's nothing she can do anyhow. After another while I depart the toilets in seek of rest. I get 30 paces from the toilet block - nope - I run back in.

It's dark by the time I try again. This time I make it to the tent and I crawl into the sleeping bag, drained, exhausted and shaking. This is a bad episode, real bad. Actually, thinking on, Mark was ill on Tuesday and it's been doing the rounds. Maybe this wasn't an episode, maybe I've just gotten a regular old tummy bug? No matter. Sleep.

And sleep I do. Merciful, deep, comfortable sleep. I awake the next morning feeling absolutely tickety-boo. Rob tells me his stew didn't make anyone else sick - no Rob, I didn't think it would be food poisoning from a stew that had been cooked for 8 hours. Mind you the stew did have vegetables in it, it is possible my body went into some kind of shock from an influx of "vitamins". 

Yesterday the rain was occasional and light, today is another story altogether. If you don't like the weather in England choose another app. Unfortunately all the apps agree today is going to be a washout. Obviously with me being a big butch roughty toughty biker I'm still up for a ride out and yet when no-one else is I'm not really bothered. I suppose I'm getting mellow in my dotage.

Mark's static is a far more pleasant place to spend a rainy day than the cramped confines of a soggy tent. Rik and I remain in the static while the rest jump into Janine's van in search of essential supplies (tea, milk, biscuits, cake, sweets, maybe even some real food?) The hunter gatherers return and their hunting and gathering has been successful. Along with the goodies is a deck of cards.

Rik balances a stack of place mats as you might stack playing cards
I suspect Rik might have just a little spare time on his hands.

I've seen many many films which show poker at some point, and I've never understood how it works. Today, dear reader, I am going to learn. Rob and Rik try to explain to Sharon and I which hands are worth more than others, various charts are brought up on various mobile phones, many mistakes are made and yet eventually it starts to make just a little bit of sense.

No, fool! We're not playing for cash! We're playing for skittles, as in the little brightly coloured sweets. It's a damn good job too otherwise both Sharon and I would be bankrupt and destitute. It turns out I'm definitely not ready for a wild west saloon or a Las Vegas Casino. I've learned a valuable lesson the easy way today, poker is fun but not with real money.

At around 1600 Rob's phone rings. It's the campsite, Riverside, they need Rik and I to move our tents. Say what?

I do know the patch of grass we're camped on is next to a tap and an electric point. It's not unusual to pitch on an "EHU" pitch and no-one's said anything these last 4 nights, but apparently our pitch is booked and we should have pitched in a non-EHU spot. I'm a bit miffed but with help from our friends the 2 tents are soon moved about 25 feet to the other side of the track. All done.

No. Sharon is livid, boiling and seething and she WILL have her pound of flesh and Rik is not far behind. While I'm back at the static Sharon and Rik are at reception. Now a "terribly sorry, we should have been clearer where you pitch, we should have said something through the week" would have hone a long way here. However Sharon and Rik and are accused of being idiots for pitching on EHU pitches, it's obvious isn't it and they can stuff their idea of any refund or even an apology. In fact they're lucky they've not been kicked off the site. 

Back at the static Sharon is apoplectic. 

A bright orange nuclear mushroom with Sharon digitally dropped into the image
Artist's impression of a somewhat cross Sharon

The rest of the evening goes well in the comfort of Mark's static. Knowing Sharon as I do she will seethe and she will plot her foe's demise, she's also mature enough to not let this spoil the evening. We continue to loose skittles at an alarming rate while drinking endless tea and eating endless snacks.

Apart from a short ride to and from yesterday's walk we've barely turned a wheel. I was poorly last night. The weather has been bad all day today. We've encountered a problem with the campsite. As I climb into the sleeping bag at the now newly sited tent how do I feel?

All things considered, fine. I'm immensely thankful my ailment came and went in a few hours rather than a few days, that would have been awful. Yes I'm frustrated with the campsite but stuff it we're leaving tomorrow anyhow. I'm thankful Mark booked a static as we had somewhere comfortable to hang out on this soggy day. These last 2 days haven't been filled with exploration and excitement, they've been chilled out days. It may be good for me to have a couple of chilled out days from time to time. But... tomorrow we ride! Homewards. Dang.

Sponsor a trip - contract ren@bikesandtravels.com.

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

Upt'North ¹ said :-
Vegetables Ed, they're no damn good for you. They'll get you everytime. Exercise too!
Whisky, beef and recumbence is all a body requires.
You know all your worldwide audience is glad you suffered.
Strange innit.
You're still not selling it too me/us.
27/08/2023 09:44:11 UTC
nab301 said :-
Ren , glad to hear you were enjoying yourself over the summer!
Your episode was probably just the result of unaccustomed exercise speeding up lets say natures movements . Apparently while food poisoning can reveal itself in minutes it can take up to 72 hours to appear as symptoms.
27/08/2023 11:55:39 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Upt' - "Whisky, beef and recumbence is all a body requires." if this be so then It's no wonder I've been poorly sick all these years. I knew my audience would enjoy my suffering, swines!

nab301 - lord only knows the full details but I've survived and that's all we can ask for. Now, prey tell, how do you know so much about food poisoning huh?

29/08/2023 08:12:25 UTC
nab301 said :-
I'm sure you don't really want to know Ren , but it was back in the 80's and involved most of your symptoms with lets say some brighter red colours for about a week .
The follow up investigations involved not a barium meal but a barium enema...The only saving grace was that Klean prep wasn't around in those days and preparation only involved starving for 3 days, with water , clear soup and milk free tea being the only intake allowed while somehow still attending work on foot (it being the winter of 1982 and biking being impossible that week. ) The end result of all this was luckily a clean bill of health with no positive diagnosis other than food poisoning of some sort. (No dodgy take aways had been consumed in the previous weeks )
31/08/2023 12:38:43 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I am thankful we don't live in the times before anaesthetic, sterile surgery, and all the mod cons of modern medicine. However I also wonder how future generations will look back in horror at the investigations and treatments of today. "They used to ram various pipes and tubes and cameras and chemicals up good folk's rear ends!". Oh the indignity of it all nab301.

I didn't think my laxatives were working the evening before I welcomed an entire film crew up my derriere. The packet suggested I need to be close to a toilet "around 2 hours after administration". 3 hours - Nothing. Oh wait, I have a rumble. Tell ya what, blummin effective stuff that. Being further than 2 feet from the loo was a terrifying notion for around 3 hours, all the while I was singing Johnny Cash's Burning Ring Of Fire.

Roll on Star-Trek's all knowing all fixing hand held scanners. "Ah Bones - my tummy's sore" - "bleep bleep bloop bleep" - "Just an infection ensign Ren" - "bleep bloop bleep" - "there you go, you'll be fine now".
31/08/2023 18:20:16 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
As some younger people of my acquaintance might say - TMI!!!!!!
01/09/2023 11:11:14 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I daresay you're quite right Ian. These things are part of our lives and I reckon most of the readers will have their own unpleasant tummy tales.
02/09/2023 07:42:33 UTC

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