PatrickAs dawn spread over the Little Chef on the A3 Southbound just beyond the M25 three bikes were parked. Laden down with kit to make Charlie and Ewan gulp… Well that was the plan. However in reality I’m amazed we THE JTR team made the trip at all.

Firstly a sudden stomach bug laid Matthew low and Friday night saw him pulling out of the trip. Stace had problems with his tent and needed to repack his bike prior to departure so he arrived late and as for me I’m lucky I made it there in one piece having seen what got tangled in my rear axle whilst travelling to the meet point.

However despite all of these mishaps at just before midday we set off. Line astern for Devon. The sun was shining and it was a great day for a ride on the bike. My Africa Twin handles weight quite well and spent most of the trip in the middle of the group. This amused Matt – at the back not least because of the need for him to be down wind – as he was kept wondering why one box was smaller than the other.

We settled into the swing of things quite well. The looks of disbelief from the drivers we passed with out camping kit was priceless. We avoided motorways as best we could and made good time. We planned a stop every 100 miles for break and a chat. This helped break
up the ride and kept us fresh.

Towards late afternoon found us passing a sign for the Dartmoor National Park and the hunt was on for a camp site. As the light faded we at last found a sign. The location looked promising as there was a tent in a field near the farm house. Alas however as apart from a few ponies and some sheep no one was about. We had a dilemma do we pitch and run the risk of being turfed off or do we look to free camp? Fortunately as I was away scouting possible free camping locations the farmer returned and for a small fee we could pitch up.

Pitching in the dark was a useful lesson to us all. In hindsight we need to pitch with enough daylight and space our tents better. And what tents to pitch from the flick of a wrist 12 second tent of Stace to Matthews back door special to my mini Sydney Opera house. Between us we have enough covering to store all of out kit indoors!

As for food and camp admin again we need to do a little bit of work. Looking ahead we’re looking at ‘All in’ type of meals as this will be simpler and use less equipment. A stove each man is a must as we can’t cope with just one and it’s also not fair for one person to be left with the job of cooking. That said this is exactly why we’re doing these training runs. We all agreed that is was great to learn all this stuff now rather than later.

And so to bed….Or perhaps not. Matthew was making his way back to the campsite following a visit to the facilities when he was caught in the bean of a high powered lamp. Was it people out lamping? Where using a high powered beam you seek out the light reflecting in the eyes of game and shoot? Luckily for Matthew it was not – especially as being ready for bed he had put on his all in one pyjamas with bunny ears…

It was however more likely to have been a ranger looking for illegal free camp sites – the rules of which ban camping within 100 metres of the road or in site of the road. A disturbing moment for Matt nonetheless.

We settled down to sleep. BANG went the shotgun…. Dam foxes keep the farmers busy at lambing season.

We awoke refreshed. At least I did – it was cold but not unbearable. The day showed a promise of rain so we broke camp quickly and headed off. Again hindsight piped up. We need a breakfast before starting out as stocking up on energy before the off will help stave off tiredness and possible accidents.

Homeward bound and another Little Chef and numerous coffees later we were nearly home, despite my best efforts to get us lost Stace lead us home. A good weekend and a real viable training run completed. We had a range of issues to deal with just like we will on our trip so we’re glad for the opportunity to practice them now rather than on the road to Moscow as that would be a CATASTROPHE…..