Malta - Devizes
Saturday 11th July.
Awake in room 221 of the Travel Lodge, with that throat full of fur first thing in the morning, last night I must have been drinking, feeling.
Must drink water and make a nicehotcuppatea.
There’s a ride-out planned fer, er … D’oh, I don’t know when today!
Shower, shit, shower again.
Knock, knock, knock on the door … it’s Kwaksam, exasperatingly un-hungover and young and keen and ready to go ride around Wiltshire. Sam needs to get the keys to my alarm padlock, that’s keeping the chain secure that’s binding three 900’s together in the Travel Lodge parking area.
“Ok Sam, Hang on a ‘mo …”
Dry, dress enough for decency. Find keys. Remember that last night three of us agreed to lock our 900’s together. Remember eating in town … oh yeah, and the Wadworth XXXXXX, and walking all of the way back to the Travel Lodge, before that bad ‘ah’g’wan’ influence Kwaksam prompted a final blotto Irish whiskey nightcap before lights out.
No wonder there’s a certain woolliness about me brain this morning.
Before too much time for reverie, Sam cheerfully returns the key, lock and chain to me.
Get on gathering together my helmet, gloves, tank bag, oversuit, camera, water, earplugs, gum, dosh.
I could do with a stop for some strong black coffee.
Go find 900.
Ride carefully out from where the Travel Lodge is hidden behind the trees, then turn right, along past the rows of respectable houses, past the Saturday morning quiet command centre of Wiltshire Constabulary operations, then motovate a bit further on to turn right into camp-site Rugby Club.
Dismount, carefully placing 10mm thick plywood rectangle so that weight of 900 rests full-square upon it. No sinking into soft southern camp-site Rugby Club turf and embarrassing falling over for My Baby!
Discover that I’m too late for the as advertised Full English Breakfast, cos you lot had already scoffed the lot … I blame the Organisers, no thought at all for those amongst us who may require a later breakfast sitting than those camped right next to the kitchen. Ah well, what can you do?
So, stoically ignoring the hungry rumbling of the empty belly, saunter up to the The Organiser and enquire ‘What’s the plan, man?’
“Ah! Graham. There you are. Right. Get yourself into the Rugby Club bar and get interviewed by the man from The Press.”
Find Mr.P, Kwaksam & Kaj, sitting with he who must be the man from The Press.
Yup. A journalist alrighty. Immediately proving it by passing an asinine comment about my appearance … oh dear. Normally, such a crass remark would provoke a pithy response, but in the circumstances it being Craig’s event finding myself as a representative of the Gpz900r OC … let it pass.
Is The Press man a stringer for the comic? … oh double oh dear.
Interview resumes, the journalist continues questioning, in what seems to me to be a condescendingly insincere, blatantly false, matey fashion.
Asked my name, I attempt to give my forum user name, ‘©-©.’ MCN man ridicules that and insists on a real name.
I say ‘Graham.’
‘Graham what ?’
‘Just Graham. That’ll do.’ I’m really, resisting the urge to get up and walk out … but in the circumstances it being Craig’s event finding myself as a representative of the Gpz900r OC ... Teeth clenched. Calmly co-operate until interview is over.
‘Now …’ MCN man announces in a manner that suggests we should all be awfully excited and honoured ‘ … I want to do a Photo-Shoot of you with your bikes.’
Oh Joy! … here’s something to really calmly co-operate with.
Off we go! Move my 900. Choose the plain white background of the rear of the Gpz900r OC marquee as an easy, convenient, no fuss, no bother, get it over and done with quick, suitable spot for a shot.
MCN man doesn’t like it. Asks, ‘Why are you being such a nob?’
‘Why are you being so un-co-operative. Y’know, instead of me being here for …’ He gestures disparagingly around at the Gpz900r 25th Birthday Bash ‘…this! I could have been covering the RD air-cooled meeting today, but decided to come here instead … c’mon, co-operate and help publicise what Craig has achieved.’
In the circumstances it being Craig’s event finding myself as a representative of the Gpz900r OC … I’ve gone along with it thus far … resisted the temptation to punch the MCN man on the nose. Teeth very firmly clenched, calmly co-operate, and manoeuvre my 900 to where the MCN man would like it. Then compliantly pose with it, as surely to God(dess), this un-pleasantness must soon be about to be over!
Then it’s Sam’s turn to be immortalised by the MCN man.
Oh dear, England. No wonder journalists are reviled.
Mass exodus of 900’s to the local petrol station for topping up of tanks.
Arrive back at camp-site Rugby Club in time to catch the last few words at the end of Craig’s briefing for the ride out.
“ … when I indicate, the rider behind me will halt at the turning and direct all riders the right way until the last machine has passed, then he or she will rejoin the ride at the tail.
Remember, stay safe, you have nothing to prove. Right, Ladies and Gentlemen … start your engines and follow me.”
Better pop on the over-suit now, then, as the sky blowing in from the west looks rain bearingly ‘iffy.
By the time I’ve donned the two-piece and I’m ready to start, most of the rest have already moved off and are queuing in an orderly fashion to leave the site and get out onto the main road. Soon catch up and get into the thick of the pack and out onto the highway, all riding responsibly past Police HQ and off out of Devizes, north eastwards past Coate and away along the fun and games roads that the local knowledge of Craig knows.
Onward we roll over the wide-open Wiltshire landscape. Never mind the spits and spots of rain and the damp road, cos up ahead the long trail of Gpz tail-lights before me is curving up and over, disappearing into a dip, then reappearing climbing again to the crest of a hill … wow, how cool to be here, just one in amongst so many others making this long, single file line of nine’s stretching each way, ahead and behind, as far as the eye can see.
The Gpz900 convoy encounters caravan’s, horse boxes and the inevitable car and fourbyfours baulking that interrupts the novel, uninterrupted flow of one make motorcycles. Gaps lengthen between head, body and tail of the Gpz900 ride out, as four wheelers sneak into and slow the pace even further. Bah. Which general thwartedness leads me into deciding that the others ahead of me may be entirely happy at this reduced rate … but I ain’t. Cos I ain’t travelled 1,988 miles to spend Saturday crossing Salisbury Plain stuck in a convoy behind a slow moving camper van and a bumbling along 4x4 … so I start passing other 900 riders to get myself past the dawdling obstruction at the head of the bunch I’m in. In the circumstances, all of the other 900 riders are exhibiting remarkable signs of patience and self-restraint. Such admirable behaviour and exemplary road craft would never happen in Sicily, or Italy. During my journey, some Latin impatience must have been absorbed by me, cos after about ten minutes of steadily making progress past the riders ahead, I find myself almost at their head, halted at a junction, right behind Our Leader, Craig.
He who must be obeyed turns in the saddle and indicates that I should stop right where I am. That henceforth I must be responsible for directing everyone to follow his disappearing white-wheeled rear off to the left.
Thus He commands. Thus I obey.
Such a Grand Sight to see, so many Gpz900 after Gpz900 after Gpz900 passing me, all colours of Gpz900 and all models of Gpz900 pass by and get directed off to the left. Lose count of how many Gpz900’s have gone left, negotiating the junction I’m at … and when will I know that they’ve all gone by and it’s time for me to tag on at the back? Will I be here way past teatime, patiently waiting for nonexistent stragglers?
But after what seems to me like quite a long while, the last 900 in the tail gets to where I am and waves at me to follow on.
Great. Start again on the game of seeing how far I can progress along the line, get to the front, then get to stop and do the junction thing again and watch’em all go impressively by … maybe even have the opportunity to take a pic or two. Get to a gap in the line, next 900 is far ahead, almost out of sight, disappears through a bend. Bit of a rapid gear change chase to catch up, get to the bend … straight road stretching away ahead … eeek … no sign of the line … accelerate again … Oh look, on the right I can see Stonehenge! … woah, what’s that on the left, was that a glimpse of the Gpz900 pack parking? Yes. Slooow down or you’ll miss the turn into where they are!
phewww. Made it … D’oh. Turned left too early. The 900 Ride-Out all parked on the other side of the fence from the bare earth track I’m upon.
U-turn and around to the right left turn to take me into the 900 parking lot.
Meet Kaj and Kwaksam in amongst the throng of OC members milling about the Stonehenge parking area. Sam says to me, “So, you decided to flout Craig’s orders … it took the self-restraint of a saint not to follow you on that overtake, grrrrhhh!”
“What order was that, then ?”
“The No Overtaking order He gave us at the briefing …”
“Ah … I didn’t hear anything about a no overtaking order, arrived too late to hear all but the end of the briefing, didn’t know we were bound for Stonehenge, certainly didn’t know about No Overtaking… oh dear, I say, on the way here, I’ve just about overtaken everyone in the whole ride-out … ooops!”
To Everybody on the 25th Birthday Bash Saturday Ride-Out.
No Excuses, just my apologies.
You were all extremely well behaved and all far too polite to say anything about how much of an irresponsible old fart I must have seemed to be when sneaking past the lot of ye.
Chastened, return in line in as orderly, no-overtaking fashion as I can manage to camp-site Rugby Club in Devizes. Where, after a sixty’ish mile mass spin, the whole lot of us park the however many 900’s there were in one long line abreast for the taking of the for posterity pics.
Then Mr.999Recovery attracted a bunch of us to an impromptu recounting of the tale of how the Gpz900r first came into his life.
Then he blessed us with an additional sensible bit of years-of-999Recovery- experience advice, advising us all to keep the weight of our 900 key-rings as light as possible, so as not to put undue strain on our Nine’s ignition key and ignition lock barrel.
Oh dear … I know I have.
Tricky thing guilt.
But - a tantalizingly distracting whiff of BBQ pork wafting about us banishes any thoughts of guilt, and indicates that succulent large pig roasting is well under way. As we automatically gravitate towards the Big Hog, our Organiser reminds we wee piggies that we won’t get anywhere nearer a juicy slice of pork, or a crunchy bit of crackling from the delicious roast porker, unless we are wearing our Gpz900 25th Birthday Party attendee identity bands.
18.56 Text a message to Ms.B & Mr.Dingli, back on the island in the middle sea
‘Here I stand in an English field, surrounded by a host of Gpz900’s. Being British summertime, it is of course raining … but spirits are far from dampened!’
Sometime soon after, The Organiser announces over the tannoy (Craig using his loud, Pay Attention, voice) that the bar is open and the Hog roast is ready. For me personally, soon thereafter, track starts to get a wee bit lost as the Rugby Club Guinness commences its familiar, Guinnessey, fuzzy time warp effect on my memory.
Recall talking lots, eating lots and being handed pints lots.
And also being handed the Furthest Travelled Trophy
For which I do remember making brief thanks at the time …
Now, Gentle OC member Readers, that I have your full, sober attention. I’d like to thank you all very, very much for making the 25th Birthday do so much fun to attend, and so especially thank both The Organiser, Our Hero, Mr.D, and his, the ever charming, Mrs D. Without whom, none of the 25th Birthday Bash (or my furthest traveling to it), would have been at all possible - Your efforts are really Appreciated.
Naturally I also wish to thank my Gpz for being the best motorcycle in the world and for transporting me here, there and everywhere for most of the last twenty-five years - It’s been Adventurous.
To my Lawyer, Alex G - Ya’worth Every Penny.
Special thanks also to the Half-Italienne for being an inspiration to travel to, anywhere, at any time, during the last twenty-five years - It’s Amourous.
But I digress from the evenings Guinness drinking and talking and eating, and meeting and more talking and drinking more Guinness … the Music and dancing (well, in my case, a kind of enthusiastic but subtle shifting of weight from one foot to the other), then more talking and jokes and laughter, and excited talking, and interesting talking, and knowledgeable talking and completely drunken waffling on and on … until I do remember sensibly locking and leaving the 900 amongst all of the other 900’s at camp-site Rugby Club, and again, actually walking un-aided all of the way back to the Travel Lodge.