Looking along a long straight road amidst lush green farmland

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Heading Home Day 1

Ride Date 15 July 2023

By Ren Withnell

150 miles. According to Google maps our trip could be an easy 150 miles from the campsite here in South Molton to our room for the night in Sambourne, Redditch area. I'd say what, probably 90 miles of motorways and 60 miles of main country roads? 4 hours, maybe 5 if we take it easy with plenty of stops. 

Obviously we're not going to do that. It'll be much more fun to travel across country. This is England! This is our green and pleasant land. Who wants to see motorway when you can experience the wonder and beauty of rural England? 

Mark is off to Looe in Cornwall, the scabby swine, he's got more holiday to come. Rik is on his big phat pink Harley following Rob in his campervan, they're heading straight back home. Janine's off in her van back to that London village place. We bid each other goodbye and farewell and slowly head out.

I kid you not - we're barely 10 miles from the campsite, down another of these tiny country lanes when I spot a cute little tea room. Withypool Tea Room is small, cosy, and seriously be-caked. I'm reminded of the cafes my Dad would find when visiting Yorkshire - I'm taken back 45 years as I step inside. Fearing for our waistbands we settle for a humble brew to see us on our way. 

The motorcycles with camping kit outsite a cute tea rooms in Devon
This is my kind of cafe.
A tall shelf filled with cakes at the tea rooms
Oh yes! My kind of cafe. I'd best not... perhaps?

Countryside gives way to town at Bridgwater. After that Glastonbury is marketed as a historical and mystical place, our first impressions suggest otherwise. We're on as scruffy and ramshackle an industrial estate as you'd find anywhere. This appears to also serve as some kind of caravan graveyard too. Otherwise the rest of "Glasto" appears perfectly normal, possibly nice in places. 

Scruffy old industrial buildings with glass and concrete at Glastonbury
Delightful Glastonbury.
Rough, ramshackle caravans around an industrial area in Glastonbury
Luxurious accommodation.

We pass the Tor, I was hoping to stop and get some images but no safe parking places present themselves. I feel no ancient spirits nor transcendental enlightenment, merely pleasure at noticing the higher than normal percentage of "alternative" types among the tourists. Maybe we should stop and look around here properly, but not today.

Frome comes and goes nicely enough. Chippenham is circumvented. It's dry until Cirencester where indecisive rain forces us to stop for another brew and to waterproof up. As soon as the waterproofs are on the rain stops. Stow-on-the-Wold is posh and way out of our price range. 

This is proving to be a long ride. Perhaps it's my mood? Perhaps it's the notion of going home to regular life and work? I'm OK, I'm not miserable but I'm not feeling it either. This is once again transportation not exploration, these towns are towns, these fields are fields, these lanes are lanes. My ass is getting numb and I'm ready for a stop.

Sharon chose tonight's accommodation and that's a great relief to me because if it's no good then it's her fault not mine. Sambourne, just south of Redditch, presents itself as a pretty village, quite tiny and I suspect there's some money hereabouts. The Green Dragon pub fits right in with flowers outside the old white painted black trimmed building. The accommodation is out back, a block of 5 or 6 chalet type rooms in a row. 

A long row of rooms or chalets painted white behind the pub
These are our lodgings for tonight.

There's a strangeness here though. It's Saturday evening, teatime, and the sun is out. A village pub like this should be filled with diners as well as a cohort of youths "topping up" before they head into the city. Maybe it's not that kind of a place? Even if it's a traditional local pub for local people you'd expect a handful of regulars propping up the bar and a random couple in the corner having a secret liaison. Not a soul. It's like the Marie Celeste. 

A ghostly apparition appears, gaunt and abrupt. This aged lady books us in, not impolitely yet not kindly, merely functionally. A few moments later a tall chap in his 50s greets us in a much more open manner and takes us to our room. He's chatty and helpful which is welcoming, alas both Sharon and I are worn out so the conversation goes nowhere.

The room is basic, functional and a little dated but given the price I'd say it's "about right". The floor tiles in the bathroom are the sort you'd find in public buildings in the 70s. The shower likely dates from not much later too. However it's clean and dry and everything works. It's a room, a comparatively cheap room, in a pleasant village, what's the problem?

We are both totally and utterly shattered. My tummy has been absolutely fine this last 2 days but for just 15 minutes it decides it's going to remind me about how upset it was on Thursday. I'm so tired I don't care. It's 1930 and we both lie on the bed thinking we'll have a rest before doing, well, we don't know, something? A half hour later I think it might be more comfortable if I take my clothes off for a bit. That's the last thing I remember.

Why are we so blummin tired? Yesterday we did nothing save chat and play cards all day. We've both been sleeping well enough. We've not done anything special today we haven't done before. With the benefit of hindsight and reflection we might have covered around 180 miles, that's not a BIG number until you realise that's 180 miles through a number of towns, not 180 miles of motorway and open roads. I reckon we left around 1000 and arrived at 1800, that's 8 hours ride and town work is hard.

There's that, there's the unknowns too. I don't think either of us were feeling it today for no particular reason. Maybe my tummy has taken it out of me a little more than I thought? Maybe the wind was blowing the wrong way or perhaps Sharon hadn't chanted the correct mantras this morning? Who knows - but we are both alive and unharmed, the bikes are working correctly, no disasters, and we are both sleeping deeply. To be frank there's nothing wrong at all and if I were awake perhaps I'd be thankful.

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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

Bogger said :-
Caravan graveyard?? You've had a sheltered upbringing you have. positively posh I'd say.

It's a load of Gypsies/travellers for heavens sake.

08/09/2023 12:36:59 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
He's getting closer - watch out Crazyfrog.

I often go through Sambourne to get to a nice road that runs along the ridgeway towards Brrom. Then a brief stop at the farm shops - great plums at this time of year - then drop back towards Alcester and the high road back up to the ridgeway.
08/09/2023 15:08:11 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
Just looking at your route, I hope you followed one of the routes I suggested some time (years?) ago and followed the old Roman road (Icknield Street) from just south of Broadwy down Saintbury Hill and via Bidford on Avon to Alcester. In fact if you'd continued on it you'd have arrived in my back garden. On second thoughts.......
09/09/2023 13:37:03 UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
I know the Green Dragon quite well, but it somehow escaped my notice that it has accommodation. I've no idea how it manages to keep going as it doesn't seem to open at lunchtimes, and even when it is open, there's only ever a handful of cars in the car park.

As for the tiredness, you have to remember you're over 50 now, welcome to my world :( I used to do 12 hour days in the saddle without a second thought back in my 20's but a recent 350 mile 7 hour blat back home from Bonnie Scotland was enough to make me feel like a zombie for several days afterwards. I'm not sure it's the distance, just the time spent in the saddle and maintaining the required level of concentration. A day out with friends on Monday on the 125 was enough to make me sleep like a log at bedtime. Time in saddle was about 5 hours and distance covered about 175 miles, mostly on lanes and B roads. I think I'll be trying to make sure that 5 or 6 hours is the maximum I do in the future. At the end of the day, it's supposed to be fun!
09/09/2023 18:35:28 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
Couldn't agree more. Even 50 miles these days takes its toll but at least I'm still riding even if not as far or fast as I used to. The one thing I miss is the French trips as even getting to Portsmouth would probably wipe me out for a day or so.
10/09/2023 10:24:43 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I'm not so sure this particular collection of caravans belongs to the traveling community Bogger. There was a distinct lack of people in and around as has been my experience of such folks. I suspect they were either abandoned, there to be scrapped, or, well, being used as accommodation for people present in this country without the correct documentation. Who knows.

Route you say Ian? I fear you maybe labouring under the notion I have a plan and know what I'm doing. Sat nav has made me lazy, I've no idea where I was.

CrazyFrog and Ian - yes I am getting on a smidge these days but I'm not ready to curl up and die just yet!

350 miles would do me in good and proper even as a younger man. As stated though it's not miles it's time that matters. 10 hours of town work might only add up to 150 miles, 150 miles on twisting quiet country lanes can pass in a flash.

I also believe in "biking fit". If you're regularly doing the miles your body and brain can cope with them better. If you only do local weekend jaunts then try to immediately ride for 9 hours, you're going to suffer in so many ways.
11/09/2023 16:40:15 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
I like easing into a longer ride Ed, you're wise you are......
Maybe a couple of easier days to help getting bike fit before hitting the longer days, and if you can a good few day rides on the run up.
I'm still thinking about a Sicily ride next year Ed, that'll need a couple of easing in days before motorway/trunk road howling.
Whatever happened to the term trunk roads? I blame Tom Tom.
11/09/2023 23:32:03 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Trunk roads! Yeah, I've heard that term from the old timers so err, are you old Upt'?

Sharon and I have noted during the winter month our weekend rides tend to be a half hour run to a cafe, maybe an hour to a warm bike shop somewhere. Then you get that first nice warm day sometime in March, maybe even April and enthusiastically decide a 160 mile return trip to the Peak District might be just the ticket. The 80 miles there is great fun, it's also charming to be somewhere pretty drinking tea. The start of the return leg is fine but somewhere around Macclesfield or Holmes Chapel you think "I'm tired now, my ass hurts, I just wanna be home now".

If you're off to Sicily next year Upt' I'd be building the motorcycling stamina about... now.
15/09/2023 07:52:46 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
It also depends very much on the bike. The Tiger I had with its screen etc and comfy suspension and seat was like sitting in an armchair. The XBR is comfortable but suffers a bit from wind blast. The Norton is - shall we say - challenging with its minimal suspecnsion- but very rewarding.

Upt's V-Strom will be in the same category as the Tiger was.
15/09/2023 11:11:26 UTC
ROD¹ said :-
My thinking is that Rens 500 Honda is similar to Upts V Strom. They are both middle weight adventure bikes.
On the subject of long days, mileage ect, I believe there is a four wheel alternative which will carry two people in comfort with space for all the luggage, and will be more fuel efficient than taking two motorcycles.
Ren may even have saved on the overnight stops with this option!
15/09/2023 12:23:52 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
We are all physically quite different. While my CB500X is of the same "style" as the Tiger or the VStrom it's a considerably smaller machine. I suspect both Ian and Upt' would be quite cramped on my 500 in a back to back comparison with their respective machines.

It's also come to my notice that some folks find sports bikes as comfy as a sofa, others like to sit-up-and-beg, some like to lay back cruiser style and so on. I personally find the CB500X very good, I'm sure others out there would find it tortuous.

As for cars. Pffft.
15/09/2023 16:07:35 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Cars are for shoppin and visiting mates in the middle of winter, they have no other purpose.
I concur Ed, having sat on a 500X I couldn't envisage using it as a long distance two up bike. It feels very compact compared to the STrom.
15/09/2023 23:56:06 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
I have no mates and Mr Waitrose delivers my shopping. However I do use my car to tug my catravan about.....
16/09/2023 16:20:16 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Waitrose? Why did you have to say that. He'd have let Asda slip by. But Waitrose.......? It'll be like an oil thread.
16/09/2023 16:33:26 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Waitrose!! Considering your left leaning political viewpoint Ian I'd expect you'd shop in Lidl with the common folks such as I. And there you go, living it up with the upper echelons, buying your caviar and champagne from Waitrose?

Yeah, sgunna be just like an oil thread this Upt'
16/09/2023 16:53:03 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Left leaning?
Well I supposed you'd get back to where you started eventually.
Waitrose, pffffffftttttt.
Just thinking......it might be about 50 miles to our nearest Waitrose, that'd be a long way if you kept leaning left.
17/09/2023 10:06:15 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
43 miles if we went South.
61 miles if we went North.
That's a long way for a bottle of milk.
17/09/2023 10:09:23 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
It seems to have escaped your attention that Waitrose (part of the John Lewis Partnership) is effectively a workers' co-operative being owned by its staff. So by patronising it I'm moving the revolution a tiny amount forward rather than stuffing the wallets of Tesco, LIDL etc!
17/09/2023 10:14:55 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Not for long Ian, not for long now.
17/09/2023 12:57:23 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
Oh, I think it will survive. Longer than wilko anyway.
17/09/2023 17:14:32 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Well dodged Ian, I'm impressed. No I didn't know Waitrose was a worker's co-op.
19/09/2023 08:14:17 UTC

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