Another Smoggy road trip.

It’s holiday time again!

First stop, Edinburgh. Smoggy is fettled, panniers packed, tyres checked and I’m on my way. A delicious meal at the Thai restaurant round the corner from the flat was a great way to start.

Hair appointment first thing and a much needed visit to the chiropractor to sort out my ribs that have a tendency to get out of alignment. Clunk click, sorted, with not too much screaming this time!

Coffee at BMW, and returning my new (leaking) gloves. I’d just managed to break in the other ones, FFS! I also booked Smoggy in for his next service, which is only 400 miles away. I guess that’s going to blown out the water! What happens when I have no miles left? Smoggy might emit a sigh each time I start him up, or I might get a warning on my dash that says ‘Fi, yer late for Callum’s regular session of TLC.’ I know, not enough space on the dash for all that. Maybe just ‘FUD’ might appear. In the scheme of things though, at 76,000 miles on the clock, running over the service interval won’t make the blindest bit of difference. The warranty expired about 60,000 miles ago!

Off down the A68. I love this road, with its lumps, bumps and technical bits. I’ve done the trip to Croft so many times now, I’m getting to know the road very well indeed. Knowing where the Scottish speed cameras are is a bonus. Not that I am speeding…… I head towards Barnard Castle, where Ed and I were recently on our summer trip. We had to go directly to Leeds from there and missed heading into James Herriot country. So, after a wee stretch and liquid refreshment, I picked a random village in the Yorkshire Dales and headed off.

It was a delight. Riding on roads I hadn’t ridden before, the advantage of Roadcraft training is you just relax and get on with the ride. Roads that are technical, surrounded with beautiful trees, stone dykes, cows sheep and yes, shit on the road. It was 24°. How perfect.

My plan as to aim to be off the bike by 6pm. I’d only left Edinburgh at lunchtime, so didn’t know how far down the road I’d get. On the way, on the A68, I rode up behind a van. It was black, rediculously loud and laughingly low. What set it off was the number plate, FR02 LOW. Brilliant. Speed bumps are probably an issue!

Randomly, I chose Aysgarth as my destination. No idea why, other than being in the heart of the Dales with further route options available. At 5:50pm, I saw a welcoming looking inn. I stopped, and asked if they had any vacancies. None. Try two doors down, I was advised, there’s a B&B. Nae luck there either. Both people said there was another inn further down the road, which I’d already seen, however, it was lacking that ‘pavement appeal’. Both followed up with, “I’m not RECOMMENDING it, however, they will have rooms.” Aye, right. Not going there then. The B&B owner suggested I went a mile down the road to Carperby. I pulled up outside and saw they had a vacancy sign in the window. There were some customers sitting outside in the sun who immediately engaged in conversation with me. It was nice and welcoming. Granny even asked to have her photo taken next to Smoggy. I couldn’t persuade her to chuck her leg over the bike. Mind you, she would probably have needed a crane to get her off again!

The photo of gran with her new mode of transport would probably have ended up on Facebook….. Eventually. Only GPRS out in the sticks. I’m still waiting for three photos to upload on to Facebook and that was with (poor) wifi! I gave up!

Earlier in the day, when I was still in 3G range, I checked out Bookingdotcom to get an idea of prices. The cheapest in the area was £90, so when I went into the Wheatsheaf, and asked the owner if she had a room for me, she looked apologetic and said, “It’s the last room, it’s a double, it would be £70”. I’m in. That’ll do just fine. I was too hot and I knew I was tired from my fun ride. The room was lovely, albeit, I wouldn’t have wanted to share the double bed with anyone! Super-kingsized beds spoil you!

Shower and wine. Well, truthfully it was wine then shower. I always get my priorities right!

All the people I met at the inn were lovely. Some were amazed that I was 1) a woman on a bike 2) riding on my own 3) wondering what the hell I was doing going to Milton Keynes! I think they had a bit of a hard time getting their heads around my ultimate destination, Thruxton, to instruct at two skills days.

The inn itself has a bit of history, and is where James Herriot spent his honeymoon!
James Herriot

The inn was busy and the young waiting staff were under pressure. The food was good and fresh though and worth the wait. I was hungry and on the verge of shaking from needing food…. Or was that the wine?

A muggy night, window open and pretty much slept on top of the duvet all night. I was wakened by a wee dog barking, “yip, yip” as opposed to the “woof, woof” of a bigger dog. That woke up the baby, “waaaaaaaaaaa!” I rolled over and went back to sleep until my alarm rang.
Small bed!

Fuelled with a breakfast of poached eggs and bacon and marmite on toast, I packed my stuff in my panniers and set my sat nav for my next village destination, Grassington.

What a beautiful area, just gorgeous. Some narrow parts, where two cars had to slow to pass each other. I came up behind a lady driving a Civic. She obviously didn’t have a clue that I was there, I had to give her a pip of the horn to warn her I was coming through. That woke her up. She looked about 5′ nothing, nose level with the top of the steering wheel. Basically, she probably couldn’t see out her rear view mirror!

On a wider stretch of road, it all happened in a flash:
What the hell is THAT? Across the road was what looked like a 4 foot caterpillar, or was it a hairy snake? I’d knocked my speed back. It was a trail of baby stoats, I think, nose to tail crossing the road as a complete baby family. What happened next, fans of our furry friends, was fluke. The lead baby shot ahead, Smoggy’s wheels went between baby #1 and baby #2. As I checked in my mirror all of them were birling around in confusion, but still very much alive. Phew. I hope they all got to the other side of the road.

Out of the National Park and set Sally Satnav for Milton Keynes. A bit of a pig to get to the M1, but hey, sometimes to ride the best, most exciting roads, you have to ride the crappy ones. I was lucky on the motorway, apart from one cock. Driving in the fast lane. For about 15 miles. Oblivious to the queue behind him or the fact some drivers were undertaking him. I popped into the middle lane. Eventually he saw me. I gave him the hint that there were actually OTHER lanes to used. He shrugged his shoulders and waved his hand as if to say, “I’m going straight on!” Much head shaking from me and yet again, showed him with a sweep of my hand the free middle lane in front of me. Eventually, he got the hint. I’m sure I could hear the ‘hoorah’ from the car drivers behind me. As I passed him, he got thumbs up and much nodding of my head. And a smile. Wanker.

A fuel and mocha stop before the final part of my journey to Milton Keynes, the home of roundabouts! I get it now: roundabout, 70. Roundabout, 70 and repeat, a lot! It’s a science, if you don’t keep up or ride assertively, you’ll get left behind, so, if in doubt, join in the party. It’s taken years, but I get it now, it’s fun!

Fabulous to see my friends again, the Palk family. I have a couple of nights here and then on Sunday I head down to Thruxton, for two IAM RoadSmart Skills Days. Then back to MK again.

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