An Impromptu Decision.
As I sat on my sofa on a Sunday afternoon I was a little phased. Several different things were running in my head – just as they had been for several weeks now. And that was my main issue: none of them were going forward. It was frustrating.
At the beginning of this year I had planned to try and get in two tours within the UK to test myself. Firstly-and most importantly- was touring ACTUALLY something I would enjoy doing? Secondly how would I cope with the various issues that usually come up when you start looking at travelling distances greater than your everyday commute. Broedom of being on the road, packing, traffic, having to move on to the next place the next day etc.
Trouble was the school holidays were looming, and there seemed no point in taking time off at the same time because any lovely twisty roads would just be clogged with holiday makers.
Hold on, I thought: they’re not off until at least the 12th. Today is the 7th. What about going this week? Before the kids are off? It seemed like a long shot, but I checked with my boss quickly and he cleared me for the Tuesday to the Friday. So I looked at where I thought I would go and then checked hotel availability and prices, just out of curiosity. There were still places available in areas where I wanted to stay. “Now or never” I heard in my head. I chose now.
So that was it: in just over a day I would start my first proper tour. I couldn’t stop smiling. My plan was to do the Atlantic Highway, specifically the part which runs from Porlock down to Bridgwater and then on to Newquay,taking in Padstow on the way. En route I would go up to Cheddar in Somerset and ride through the gorge there, before heading across to Minehead – my stopping point for the first night and only 6 miles from Porlock.
So after a quick hectic pack on the Tuesday morning (and yes I should have done it the night before, as you’ll see later on) I filled the tank up on Kingpin and, at 9:30, I hit the road.
I had my usual worries about my bike being incapable of making the trip, especially at motorway speeds. And as usual Kingpin batted them away by performing effortlessly. It didn’t take long for the first 80 miles to be devoured, after which it was ME that needed the break. And it was while I was sipping my latte overlooking the airfield I was sitting by, that I realised that I shouldn’t be here. In other words I’d overshot the turning for the road to Cheddar and was still going west instead of heading north. However, since staying on my current route would take me through the Moors, I decided to carry on as far as Taunton and then turn north to Minehead.
A good choice as it turned out: the A358 between Taunton and Minehead became my first experience with ‘twisties’. And it was thoroughly enjoyable winding between the hedgerows and watching the countryside roll by. And the lack of traffic (well most of the time) meant I could ride unhindered and gain the best experience.
At around 3:30 Minehead came in to view. I parked up on the esplanade half in disbelief that we’d actually made it and half looking forward to the Atlantic Highway the next day. I’d travelled 181 miles – around 3 times further than I had ever gone before.
Overall the experience had been a very positive one, and I had learned three main points from it.
Firstly: twisting roads on a motorbike are FUN! Absolutely no question about it.
Secondly: cars ruin them.
Thirdly, and this was not something I had expected: touring is like being lightly sedated. We used to go to Cornwall for the summer holidays when I was a child, and travelling in the car for however many hours it took was just the necessary torture required to get to the pasties. I used to hate the tedium of sitting in the same position for hours, after having run out of things to do in the first half an hour or so. Even nowadays if someone suggests a long trip by car somewhere, I can feel my face muscles droop into my ‘do we really have to?’ face.
But biking this trip was different: on the bike the road trip WAS the holiday, and the destinations just became a place to rest for a while before carrying on to have more fun.