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The Brit Butt Rally moved to a new start/finish location this year so Friday afternoon saw me arriving at a Premier Inn in Wakefield. Not the actual start/finish location, which was another Premier Inn also in Wakefield but a few miles away. As I arrived I met my Australian friend Margaret Peart who had just arrived from Ireland. After getting sorted in the room and setting everything out ready for the evening's planning session we made our way over to the other hotel, arriving just in time to get technical inspection and the odometer ride completed before the evening meal. I had a small problem with the bike at technical inspection - the QR connection from the auxiliary tank was leaking slightly. No problem I thought, since I was prepared for this and had a new spare in my spares box. I fitted it, only to find it was still dripping - but this time from the other side of the connector: refitting half the old connector and half the new connector made a dry fitting! Margaret and I completed the odometer run up the M62 to J28 through the traffic and got back just as dinner had started.
Dinner was a chance to catch up with a few people - others I meant to see after the rally, but several did not make it back.
After getting the rallybook and returning to my hotel I spent an hour inputting all the controls into Mapsource, transferring them to Autoroute and putting them onto two large paper maps to give me an overview of possible routes. I came up with a route in half an hour which gave me (just) something over the minimum requirement of 27500 points. I then spent the next three hours trying to find a better route, having convinced myself there had to be one worth more points. I tried all sorts of combinations before eventually going back to my original route, which included going to London, the Isle of Wight and through Wales. I really wanted to go to Scotland or Cornwall but there were not enough points in either direction to make it worth heading in those directions. I also decided it made sense to add in the name bonus for a total of 2400 points, and worked out it was probably worthwhile going as far as 5 miles off route for each one.
I woke up at 4.20 on Saturday morning, looked over my planning and suddenly realised that somehow (!) I had forgotten to add the 5000 point rest bonus into my calculations - my route didn't look so bad after all.
I started by heading east to Spurn Head Lighthouse, I stopped several times before the causeway to try and get a photograph before going all the way to the lighthouse, passing several riders who had gone past me on the way there. From there I headed south across the Humber Bridge to pick up the War Memorial at Metheringham and then Tattersall Castle. It was only about 9.30 then but I was already yawning and really wondered if I was going to be able to keep going - a combination of five month old
twins and spending all Tuesday being interviewed for the job I have been doing for the past two years had not given me the most restful preparation for the rally!
I picked up my first three letters R (Ruskington) - O (Oakham) - B (Barnack) - on the road towards London before also collecting the Eagle at Normans Cross and the 64 Miles to London milestone. I met John Young at the Village Pump in Hatfield Broad Oak, who was going well and surprised me by saying he had already visited all three London locations. The traffic going round the North Circular was very heavy in places and I had to battle though it to reach the Ace Cafe where I dashed in, grabbed the person at the end of the queue and got him to take my photograph. From there I rode to the London Motorcycle Museum where I met Gerhard, and then lost him as I took a wrong turn on the way to Westminster and the Victoria Monument.
I headed east out of London to the Clock Tower at Sheerness and then the RNLI Memorial at Margate, where I stopped for a quick drink and a cereal bar. I again saw Gerhard going into Margate as I was leaving. A short diversion gave me E (East Sutton) on the way to the Clock Tower in Sandhurst. Heading out of Sandhurst I saw a sign to Bodiam and realised it was only a few miles out of my way to pick up the castle for my castles ride, so I made a short visit (I had packed a separate camera and the placard as I intended to pick up Carisbrooke on the Isle of Wight if I had been going there!) I got R (Robertsbridge) on the road from Bodiam to Brighton and the West Blatchington Windmill. Gerhard was parked up there when I arrived, giving us the chance to take each other's photographs. We then both headed west towards Portsmouth.
I kept trying to work out if it was worth visiting the Isle of Wight - I really wanted t avoid it if possible, but there were 1950 points there, plus that castle which meant I had to go there some time this year. I also realised that getting the ferry would give me two extra rest breaks and time to check over my route and get something to eat. The only problem was the timing - I reckoned I had to get the 10 pm ferry back from the island, and the GPS calculated I needed 1 hour 25 mins to make it to all three locations. It was already about twenty past 7 and I was 42 miles away, so I thought it might be possible if I made the 8pm ferry. I did, 3 minutes before it sailed and just got on board. However, when the ferry got to Fairbourne it just sat there - it seemed they had a problem with opening the doors. Twenty minutes later I disembarked. I had already dropped the castle and the GPS was telling me I could just get to both the bonuses in 56 minutes - I realised the error of this when despite my
best efforts I still arrived at Lord Yarboroughs Monument 8 minutes behind the schedule. I decided I had to forget about the other landmark, the lighhouse at Nitin and
headed back to the ferry, stopping off to photograph Carisbrooke Castle. Another rest on the ferry and back to Portsmouth.
I can't remember the next bonus, except that it was a Clock Tower and worth 250 points - it does not matter anyway as I missed writing the mileage in the rallybook so lost the points anyway! Nearby I did however get T (Twyford).
It was midnight when I arrived in very quiet village of Vernham Dean looking for a gravestone in the churchyard. I was still there half an hour later, taking the bike apart so I could pick it up after a fox ran out on front of me as I was looking for the churchyard and I went down on the gravel. I had managed to remove the panniers, seat and the auxiliary fuel tank which was leaking out petrol when a couple of land rovers pulled up and one of the drivers helped me pick up the GS. Just then Kevin & Lyn
Weller pulled up and helped me get the bike and my spirits back together, many thanks to you both! We were right outside the churchyard so quickly found the correct stone.
I checked the bike over - apart from a few more scratches and slightly bent left handlebar (it matches the right one now), it seemed fine - it was later I realised I must have put my tankbag down in the leaking fuel because both my drinks bladder and plastic foodbox now tasted of petrol, giving me nothing to eat or drink on the way on Sunday. One of the exhaust brackets was also broken but I fixed this up with some cable ties.
I met Kevin & Lyn at the next bonus in Avebury, before continuing north, via R (Rockley) and O (Osbourne St Andrews) to the Old Town Hall at Faringdon. This was my turning point - I knew now that if I got the other four letters I needed and the rest bonus I should now have the minimum points requirement of 27500 points in the bag. However it was now 2.20am, pouring with rain and I was a couple of hours behind my schedule so had to recalculate my route. I got the map out and decided to drop Wales completely and add a trip back down to Cheddar. I soon found A (Aldbourne) and L (Luddington) before getting on the motorway, going through Bristol and arriving in Cheddar as it started to get light. The caves were deserted, but opem, meaning I could go inside to take a photograph and claim 1000 points, instead of only 500 for an outside picture - a real result!
It was now 4.30 and I still had to take my restbreak so I headed to the nearest services, Gordano on the M5 and took my break between 5.10 and 8.20. For once in four years I did not meet another rider at the rest break. I left 10 minutes late to wait out a thunderstorm. The rest of the day was a circuit through the Midlands - Monnow Bridge - British Camp, Malvern - Clee Hill (where it was so windy, I thought the bike would blow over). I found my last two letters, F (Frome Hill) and E (Edwin Ralph) on the way to Clee Hill, with a great road along Snail Bank connecting the two.
From Clee I headed east via Ann Hathaway's Cottage in Stratford, to the Sundial Seat at Hornton. Getting above Leicester I felt very tired and at 1.15 stopped for a coffee. I sat down and the next minute realised I had fallen asleep and it was now 2.28! I still had 108 miles and two bonuses to go before the finish. I raced up the A1 to Belvoir Castle, went round in circles as the GPS got very confused and then round the castle as I was twice given wrong directions to the main car park and got caught up in a line of wedding traffic. My last bonus was the Flight of Fancy sculpture at Hucknell before getting to the finish at 4.43, having covered 1335 miles on my odometer.
Throughout the rally I was convinced I must have missed a better route, but that was my route, and I rode it, and was honestly amazed to find it was enough to gain the win. It was a hard rally to plan, and the number of DNFs probably point to the fact that there was something of a mismatch between the points available and the required points score needed for a finish, but congratulations to every one who stepped up to the starting line and competed, and thanks to all the organisers and helpers who made the event possible.