A mid-summer mini-adventure

Last weekend saw the second running of the Horizons Unlimited 'HUBB UK' event to be held at Donington Park Farm (following on from the old 'Travellers Meetings' held at Ripley, slightly further north).

Shamefully, despite having had these events on our doorstep since moving to the Derby/Nottingham area nearly nine years ago, we'd never managed to make it to either one (quite often due to actually being away somewhere) .  In an effort to rectify this situation, I'd signed us up for this year's event over Christmas (with Sarah five months pregnant).  The original plan was that - baby Toby having arrived in the meantime - we'd use this as a test run for family camping somewhere where we could easily bail out for home at any time of the day or night.  In the end, we decided we weren't quite ready to share a tent with an eight-week-old baby, and just made day-trips to the site from home on Thursday and Saturday.

 A few of our favourite speakers:

  • Ian MacNab, on lightweight cycle touring and racing the Tour Divide.
  • Helen Lloyd, on cycle (and horse!) touring in Asia, including Siberia in winter.
  • Simon Jarratt, on Australia and New Zealand in a VW T4 Transporter.
  • And of course, Grant and Susan Johnson, on the trip that started it all (at least as far as Horizons Unlimited is concerned).

And of course there is the fun of wandering around the site and taking a look at everyone's camping and travelling setups.

A herd of vintage Carawagon Land Rovers:

There were some very expensive and shiny demountable camper setups there, but I liked this one best.  This actually belongs to a guy from my local TRF group.  He reckons he can get the caravan off the back in under an hour to return it to a normal dropside LT35.

The cutest Kawasaki minibike and trailer combination:

RallyRaidProducts LC4-50, as raced by Jenny Morgan in the Hellas Rally (and to be raced by her in next years Dakar).

And where else would you find a C90 that's been ridden back from Mongolia parked next to an ex-California Highway Patrol Kawasaki cruiser?

By late afternoon on Saturday, Sarah was about ready to head home, while I was keen to see the inimitable Ed March talk about leading a group of complete strangers on Honda C90s (including the one above) on a ride from Ulaanbaatar to the UK.  Fine, said Sarah, as long as I dropped her home first, I could even camp overnight.  There was just one problem in my head - I could justify to myself turning up in the car with Toby, but doing so on my own to an "adventure travel" event would be a bit lame.  Even taking the Tenere seemed like overkill when the destination was only five miles down the road.

There was only one possible solution:

Tent strapped to the bars of the trusty Tricross, sleeping bag, mat, and a few other essentials stuffed into my Kriega R35.  The ride back would be about 90% off-road, including fighting through some somewhat overgrown bridleways:

Back at the event site, I tracked down rally-buddy Tony and set up camp opposite him.  Satisfyingly, the bike also fitted nicely inside the tipi with me.

Accommodation for the night sorted, Tony and I headed to the bar for a couple of beers before sitting down to watch Ed's (extremely funny presentation).

Blast from the past #2

Summer 2008, somewhere in the depths of a Belgian forest, a few miles from the German border.  We (Sarah, her brother, and I) are a few days into a two week spin through Belgium, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France.

We hadn't got off to a great start.  The GPZ500S that Sarah was riding - that's her in the picture - had blown an exhaust header gasket on the way down to Dover, leading to us spending an extra day on the French side of the channel applying half a tin of exhaust repair putty to stop it sounding like a tractor.  After this delayed start, we'd ridden the width of Belgium in a day, including a stop at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit along the way.

Our aim had been to get across the German border, then find somewhere to camp.  Embarrassingly, we had a bit of trouble actually finding Germany - our desire to stick to minor roads despite only having a very large scale map of Western Europe meant these things happened occasionally.  Eventually, after a long day on the bikes, our patience ran out just as a sign for a campsite appeared at a junction.

We had some misgivings as the road left the town and plunged into the forest, getting narrower and narrower and with no more signs, but after a few miles there was indeed a campsite, and after an interesting conversation with the proprietor - me trying a mixture of French and German, him what I assume to be Flemish - we were rewarded with a place to pitch our tents.

I took this photo as we were riding back out of the campsite the next day.  Don't worry, we managed to find Germany at the second attempt.

Blast from the past #1

As if trying to stick to one regular blogging project wasn't likely to be difficult enough, I thought I'd try for another one - unearthing some interesting memories from the tens of thousands of photos lurking on my hard drive, and giving them a bit of fresh air.

It's July 2005, and the end of a whirlwind couple of weeks in which we'd both graduated from university, signed the tenancy agreement on a new house a hundred and fifty miles away where Sarah already had a job offer lined up.  I'd been to a job interview on the Monday, been offered the job on the Tuesday (over the phone, while stood outside Bath Abbey waiting for Sarah to come out of her graduation ceremony), then got on a ferry to France on the Thursday to spend a month touring round Western Europe.  This was probably Friday or Saturday.  We're camped at St. Germain-les-Belles, just south of Limoges, in central France, a site which had been a stopping point en route to the Mediterranean for family holidays throughout my childhood.

The vehicle is my parents' Volkswagen T25 Caravelle, which they bought new in 1989, and in which they took my sister and I on several of those holidays in the early nineties (before 'upgrading' to a caravan).  Over the next four weeks it would carry us into Northern Spain, across to Barcelona, around the Mediterranean coast into Italy, across country to Venice, northwards into Austria then Bavaria, then back home across Germany and France.  Sadly this trip proved to be its last hurrah - it suffered a terminal engine failure six months later and has been quietly rotting in the back of a barn at my parents' place ever since.