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since 04.04.2000

Barre1 Bikers 14th Firkin o' Bitter Rally.

1st-3rd February 2002

Words and pictures by Diane

On a cold dark night the wind ripped at gale force along the greasy tarmac, constantly threatening to overwhelm the small green motorcycle that burbled throaty defiance as it forged into the blackness, its single candlepower headlight failing miserably to actually illuminate the road ahead.But I made it from Burton upon Trent across to Junction 22 of the M1 and thence down to Watford Gap services.

Waiting for Nigel to turn up, I cheerfully thawed out a little and even got some feeling back into my shoulders and arms where I had been fighting against the headwind for the last 57 miles. The people in their nice warm dry cars were convinced I was mad anyway, even before they spotted the camping gear strapped to the little Zed 400.

(Reader, make sure you are sitting down for the next part!).
On arrival, Nigel confessed that even he had had trouble with the wind - he'd had to drop down to seventy at some points! I was pleased to see that Nigel had not taken advantage of the empty pillion space to bring even more luggage than usual (hey, I've heard about this guy) and together we forged on the next 30 miles to the Swan at Salford, just off Junction 13. Arriving at the site we were greeted at Control with unlimited free tea and coffee (available all weekend and much appreciated) and friendly faces all round. We booked in, which included being given a very useful itinerary/programme of events for the weekend and then went to set up the tent.

This was the maiden outing for the tent, previously only been set up in my lounge to check it over and the poor thing really wasn't designed for the weather we were experiencing on Friday. The first inkling of this was when the elastic-shot-cord poles for quick erections (fnurk) went twang and fired the (black) tent poles over the (dark and deeply grassy) field. Having found the things and managed to slot them onto the tent inner to make a jelly mould shape, it became very obvious that the tent was not rigid enough to stand up to the wind - the way it was smeared across the ground about one foot high was a good clue. Ok, rethink. The "porch area" had a metal ridgepole and A frame so we had to point the tent into the wind so the metal frame would take the brunt of the gale and prevent the rest from collapsing. By the time we had got it all sorted the pub was closing and we were knackered anyway so we collapsed into bed and spent the next eight hours listening for the sound of the flysheet tearing and making regular forays out into the night to replace the tent pegs as they pulled out of the incredibly soft ground at roughly hourly intervals.

Saturday morning and we were pleasantly surprised to find the wind had dropped and the tent was still in one piece! We had a superb cooked breakfast provided by the landlord at a very reasonable price, made some new friends and then decided to pootle out on Nigel's big Zed 11 for the publicised run out. As one of us doesn't "do" mornings (guess who?), we just missed the main group setting off but were lucky enough to meet Ian, a very pleasant young man currently on probation with the Barrel Bikers, who guided us over to the run destination at "Sooty's". Those of you who read bike magazines will have seen Karalinka's "Mega Monsta" bike which was built here and was on show and we were able to wander around the workshop area poking our noses into the current projects being built, finding out what lotions, potions and tools the professional bike builders use etc etc, while being plied with free tea/coffee/sandwiches and cakes.

Later on there was a custom show with a very wide range of machines and styles and finally we were treated to a display of stunt riding by Mick and Emma of Tristech. Rather her than me, mate. A much-appreciated Ian guided us back to site in plenty of time for the silly games - is it just me or does Milton Keynes consist solely of identical bits of road with roundabouts every half mile and lots of signposts to everywhere except for the place you are trying to get to?

Sent Nigel to get the beers in while I made a prat of myself stilt-racing on cable drums, but he was back in time to witness Chilli from Balls MCC and myself be judged winners of the doubles sack race after some atrocious cheating by both teams! More silly games followed including a highly original throwing contest (not to be confused with the eating/drinking contests) where all participants were issued a piece of A4 paper to make an aeroplane. Certain persons were found to have exceeded the design parameters (wrapped their paper round a halfbrick) but the clear winner was the chap with the black belt in origami whose plane swooped and looped and flew for almost a minute to the delight of everyone watching.

The evening entertainment was provided by the Peartree Bridge Family who played two sets with a wide range of styles and got everybody dancing on whatever bit of surface they could find; floor, stools, tables.

After the pub shut, the beer and the bullshit flowed around the campfire despite it starting to rain and I felt quite sorry when I had to wimp out and call it a night. The tent was 1) still there 2) upright 3) dry, so we crawled in and crashed out.

Sunday morning and time to go after another excellent breakfast. We made good time back up the motorway and were soon back in the Midlands. My first rally since 1986, and a bloody good weekend.

A big thumbs up to everyone concerned.