The Icicles Challenge 2015
The Icicles Challenge (better late than never)
There are two reasons why I am writing up this challenge for our website, firstly I was ordered to do it and secondly I don’t appear in any or the photos taken my fellow riders. Conspiracy or ‘cock-up’ ? you decide but I want to make sure that anyone who thinks I am ‘one socket short of a toolkit’ can read this and be assured that ‘I was there’ and they are absolutely correct.
I feel the following account needs some sort of warning as to the accuracy of my recall as it has been nearly twelve months since the trip, however, in view of the vast amount of alcohol needed to stave off the cold I not sure my recollections the following morning would have been any more accurate.
Our leader’s original idea was for a more testing but shorter challenge during winter, this evolved into a camping expedition on the top of Brecon Beacons during a week of heavy snow and sub zero temperatures.
Undeterred Posh Marc, Moods, Greener and myself met at our usual rendezvous at Aust Services and prepared for the short trip to Brecon (by my SatNav 60 miles and 1 hour 28 minutes) and lunch in a warm pub by a roaring fire. If you have read any of our previous trips you probably guess that it didn’t exactly work out like that.
But first things first, we set out across the bridge and headed towards Chepstow before turning off on the B road route to Usk and the sudden change from grey tarmac to pure white ice and snow. This is the point where anyone with any sense screams, stops, turns round and goes home, so we of course carry on, all be it a little gingerly, but worth it as the weather was good and the scenery and views breathtaking.
However once used to the road surface (is there no grit or salt in Wales) it was not that difficult, in fact there was only one minor incident caused more by my incompetence than road conditions. I have been riding motorbikes and scooters for over forty years but I am sure I am not the only one who occasionally forgets how to steer..........so just me than. We had been riding on a twisty B road through some beautiful country side when we came upon a lovely little village with a lovely little sharp right hander but as I approached the turn I simply forgot how it was done and drove straight one. I was spared injury (but not embarrassment) as this straight on took me into a Church Graveyard. However, my blushes were sparred as following me as usual was our trusty Rear Gunner Marc who had the good grace to follow me in and so we could pretend we had stopped for a better look at the Church’s architecture.
The next phase of the trip is a little hazy mainly because it went on for hour after hour after hour and several of us became convinced we were passing through places we had already visited. Then we noticed that a large lump of a snow capped hill had been on our left hand side for hours and we realised that this was Brecon and we were circling it! (There are some amongst us that believe our illustrious leader has Red Indian blood which makes him completely surround a camp site before entering) This circuitous route was latter described by Der Fuhrer as ‘The Genius Route’ I will leave you to decide if Genius is the right word for someone who takes you through Hay on Wye on route from Bristol to Brecon, certainly Mr Moody had many other words for it.
But Hay on Wye is where we ended up and the light was starting to fade, so we pulled over at a Fire Station to ready ourselves for last big push up the Hill and it started to rain and I was beginning to feel tired, hungry and miserable when suddenly the whole world took on a brighter hue. No the weather didn’t change just Steve Moody finally ran out of patience and threw a ‘World Class’ tantrum which lasted for many minutes and covered the full gamut from gurning through swearing to feet stamping.
After several minutes of this we all felt much happier and warmer it’s at times like this that only way for a human to feel happier about his/her situation is to know that someone else is having a worse time.
So we set off on asteep ascent of the Mountain (we were closer now and with its snow cap it was beginning to look like a mountain) and it had stopped raining ......it was snowing now! Then it was really snowing and really settling and we were going slower and slower ..... then ahead was a strange set of orange flashing lights and we were saved for it was a gritting lorry. We don’t know if the guy driving the lorry had any idea that 4 idiots on shopping mopeds were following his tracks but I have never been so grateful to see a gritter (even if it did sand blast my paintwork and take the chrome of Mod Moody’s horncast).
We pulled up along side the Dragons Inn to be greeted by our Genial Host, who was a man of few words but eloquent facial expressions without saying much he managed to convey Shock, Surprise, Sympathy, Incredulity, Disgust, Loathing, Pity and finally greed when he remembered that although we were certifiably insane we were none the less paying customers trapped in (outside) his pub.
The ground was frozen, but not too hard, so pitching the tents went off painlessly and so time for the gadget off and drinks. Personally the traditional competition for the best camping gadget was somewhat soured by Mr Goldsworthy’s entry which were basically bags full of a gel substance that you pissed into which would then maintain their heat allowing you to spend the night cuddling your own piss.... not British in my opinion.
It was about this time that our neighbours turned up, just when we thought we were mad a couple turned up for a nights camping, in minus 7 degrees, on a mountain top in the snow, next to four pissed up scootering idiots........to celebrate their wedding anniversary!!!!!
So on to shots, now I had brought Sloe Gin, Rum and Malt Whisky which three of us set about with gusto all but Mr Moody as after several enduros I have yet to find a spirit he will consume, basically if it doesn’t have Thatchers on the tin he aint drinking it.
I was worried that Steve M would be cold as he was not fortified like the rest of us so I resolved to put a late entry into the ‘gadget-off’ by turning my gas cooker into a flame thrower and setting fire to his tent..... time for the pub I think.
.....and what a pub, crackling log fire, real ales, awesome meat pies and a coach load of self improving Americans, well you can’t have everything, Oh and our neighbours turned up later but didn’t seem that friendly, not sure why!!! The evening continued way past closing time and concluded with a Pool tournament won by Mr G and Me.
So back to our nice warm tents for a sleep which actually wasn’t that uncomfortable or cold, the next morning however was a different story, it is my job to rise early to ensure that Mr Moody has his morning cup of tea served in his bed. Whilst the rising bit wasn’t particularly difficult the tea making was nigh on impossible, apparently it had been minus 7 degrees overnight and the gas and milk had frozen. Fortunately I adapted Mr G’s ‘make your urine work for you’ concept and peed on the gas can to defrost it and then thawed the milk over the gas stove...... tea is served my lord!
The sunrise and view from the campsite was beautiful, strangely our neighbours left without bidding us goodbye, Driving out of the site over slush, mud, ice and snow was definitely character building especially on standard tyres. As usual Steve Ms scooter wouldn’t start in the morning so we all dismounted and pushed him through the same stuff onto the road to attempt a jump start, which didn’t work.
Luckily Mr Moody not only travels with a Butler but also a Chauffer/Mechanic who was able to swiftly change his plug, start the scooter and travel the short distance to the first cafe for breakfast.
There my recollections end, it was either that the trip back was uneventful, I was still drunk, too old, too scared or probably a little of each.
Cast in Order of Appearance