Saturday 11th February 2017.
A reasonably late 11:00hrs start at Costa's in WSM was compounded further by a new found tardiness by our both new Winter recruit , Mr Ricky Freeman but also Mr G. It was cold , wet and very grey. This was going to be tough.
The M5 to Bristol is not pleasant even when it is sunny but 6 silly souls took a steady (bang on 50 mph) cruise up to Avonmouth where we could do the normal jump off and pick up the A road north to the old severn crossing. We needed a quick 'vape break' and let Pompey vent about speed (normal shit) before tackling the bridge to Chepstow.
I had planned to take the Devauden route up from Chepstow to Raglan. A somewhat different and normally superb route akin to the normal back Usk B road but slightly longer. However, what I hadn't factored was the amount of spray from cars and the effect this had on the visibility and my general route finding ability. I missed the turning completely and had to take the long way round via the outskirts of Monmouth. Annoying buy hey it wasn't actually cold so good to take advantage.
The obligatory Usk Steel Horse cafe awaited and eagerly tucked into a somewhat belated Breakfast. Malcolm's scooter was worrying all of us with its well mannered behaviour. It could not possibly last and surely a matter of time.
Up and running again, we took in the Abergavenny and Crickhowell A40 by-pass to catch up with a bit of time and as it was trying to snow a wee bit I decided to cut out the LLangattock Escapement climb due to mud. The road up as part of a quick recce to the turn off for the Mountain was grim enough so it was abandoned for another time. I was definitely time for another stop and some stamping of feet.
Now, I know that we are a close group, do some strange things together and live in a little bubble at times but things have got steadily worse in terms of nerdiness over the last few events and today saw us commit a new all-time low. This will forever be known as 'the clutch shuffle share'. This process/dance involves everyone trying out the weight/strength of every others clutch lever with a little pulling motion. You have to also moan or groan as you do it in appreciation or derision of the clutch you have operated. This could have been easily a Monty Python sketch - really. Lots of "ooooh, thats hard", "cor, feck that" and " feel mine its lovely".
What a bunch of twats and no wonder the passing car drivers were giving us the strange eye. Never again......
A last squirt up passed the Reservoir and into Talgarth was immediately halted by a large road closure. A detour through Talgarth up around the back via series of rough tracks ended the day in class. The Dragon's Back mud-mire awaited us.
New Tent, new bags and new rolls fitted it was time for the customary tot shot to start the evening before diving into the pub and away from the grey and damp weather that had chased us all day. It really was a grey day.
Pubs, open fires and ale are essential in Winter and why we do this in bloody February. A quiet night by our standards followed with great food and giggles. We did finish off the barrel of their strongest ale so we cant have been that quiet. Lots of vaping though and definitely not as enjoyable as roll-up. Are we all turning to a life of clean living?
Sunday 12th February 2017.
A late start for us and considering the weather wasn't really that cold this was a relative lay-in and one that Russell could have even accepted, if he had been here. The snow storm overnight had taken its toll. Ricky's GP decided that it had had enough of the damp and wasn't planning on starting even with a good kick of Easy start. Never worry, the cafe is just down the hill so you can roll it all the way there - Honest....
The Cafe was the target where It would be warm and provide a reasonably good quality breakfast that was certainly needed. However, it was actually a little over 3 miles down the hill and It was very cold outside but Ricky still looked a little warm when he rocked after rolling(ish) the whole way down to get himself a seat. It was just too miserable weather to hang about and fix really so the Recovery was called in to save the day. I thought I was joining him on the tow truck when my scoot also decided to stop doing electric stuff and refuse to start. A quick switch out of the wet and dirty old CDI proved to solve the issue and so said our last goodbyes to Ricky and hurried on our way and into the wind.
The route back through Usk is such a familiar road these days but the road conditions were certainly more challenging and unpredictable than normal due to mud and water. Good quality tyres are a must for these winter trips and this weekend they had been really tested.
A relatively straight shift through to Aust where a last group round of handshakes left us with only the M5 to contend with. Never nice and just boring.
In all, a cracking weekend in some real dower weather and shitty roads. A blue sky even if it's cold helps a lot on these winter runs and this definitely was grey... That said, its the fun on the bikes and the silly camping that makes it such a mad and yet GOOD thing to have done
Marc 'Hong Kong' Gouldsworthy
Malcolm 'Its never ridden so well' Elmer
Colin 'It better be warm or its on Ebay tomorrow' Fear
Ricky 'Easy Start' Freeman
Stephen 'I can't fecking see a thing' Green
Oh and Dave Clarke (almost left him behind then as its so easily done)