Being the owner of a badly crippled Commando I had resigned myself to being away from the rally circuit for a while but when Dave Hill said that he would like to attend a rally I talked him into taking me to the Fosse Riders rally over the bank holiday.
With most of our members away on holiday we were the only two heading for Donington that weekend, I found the Guzzi T3 very comfortable and most of the trip was spent listening to the lazy beat of the exhaust and waving to the dozens of bikers heading in the opposite direction on the M1 to the bike show.
If any of you got wet over the bank holiday then I am sorry, it was my fault. For the first time this summer I left my rain kit at home and it poured down; visibility on the motorway was down to about a hundred yards so our speed was reduced to forty. After a thorough soaking that lasted about six miles we were at last able to see and Dave opened the big Guzzi up. Streaking past an artic at something like the ton Dave realised we were about to overshoot the turn off for Donington. Now I had read about the Guzzi's linked braking and now I was experiencing it. Throwing the bike across the front of the artic Dave stamped on the brake; I just had enough time to witness the horror on the lorry driver's face before we hit the brick wall. Well, that's what it seemed like. Dave had put her on the hard shoulder and applied the anchors. I'm sure I pulled the rack about six inches forward as my arms were ripped out of their sockets. Whilst I was still recovering Dave did a spot of trial riding to regain the slip road and in no time we were at Donington Park.
I was still very quiet until after we had paid out fee with soggy pound notes, suffered some Fosse Rider jibes: "Usual club turnout I see. Ha ha!", pitched our tent and sat in the museum cafe calming my nerves with their revolting coffee. While I plopped sugar cubes into my 'coffee' in a vain attempt to disguise the taste, Dave inspected his blue hands. (The dye had run in his gloves)
A hearty breakfast made us both feel a little better and we were joined by Dave Cockerton who bought us both tea. He couldn't camp however, as he had to work on Saturday afternoon, but he stayed for the morning chatting up the local talent before pointing his F1 back into the rain clouds.
We headed back to our tent and were surprised to see our neighbours (NOC members) packing up to leave. When we had pitched the tent our other neighbours had upped and left as well. Do 850 Guzzi upset people I wondered.
'Must have heard about Terry's singing' thought Dave.
Recognising one of the noggin owners I enquired as to why they were going and was relieved to hear that they were trying to fit three rallies in and were off to the Bull Dog.
The beer tent beckoned and we headed there with the intention of drinking them dry. We were assisted in this task by Mick and Stuart from the Corby and Kettering club. What goes down must come out (is that right?) and as it was an awful long walk to the loo, Mick's brand new Z900 was pressganged into service as a taxi. Mick and Stuart were not camping either and when the bar was closed they headed home and Dave and I rushed over to the woods for a spot of botany (Skol lager does that to you. Our taxi driver had just left).
Permission had been gained by the host club for people to walk round the track so we did, but we had to take refuge when the heavens opened again. Returning to the tent we relaxed in the surprising sunshine that had just arrived, played a game of Mastermind and laughed at the antics of the welly flingers. Our peaceful afternoon was cut short though by the appearance of the notorious Crane sisters who had decided to visit us for the day. Seriously though, it was very nice to see the girls and after a rough piggy back fight resulting in me and Sheila getting knocked over we called a truce and went for tea in the cafe again.
Having brought my camera with me I wanted to take some shots of the ancient petrol pumps outside the museum but Shirley didn't like the idea of having to pose against one so had to be forcibly restrained by Dave and Sheila. This was followed by some general horseplay resulting in Dave and myself depositing the girls in a large litter bin and deciding to go for another walk around the track.
The girls came along, of course, because we had told them about Donington Hall, that beautiful stately home that nestles between the hills on the far side of the track. After staring at the house from the gate (the grounds are private property) we inspected the old stone arch bridge that the race track used to go under and discovered some beautiful old trees in the wood. Finding a tree that was completely hollow inside we all crammed in and then decided to climb it. As normal when I climb trees I got stuck and even Dave who bravely/foolishly came to my rescue couldn't help; in fact he destroyed all my footholds before climbing down for a good laugh. Knowing that the fire brigade were grossly overworked I attempted to climb down on my own accord, finally falling into a pile of rotting vegetation. At least it was a soft landing.
Smelling rather less sweetly than we did earlier, the beer tent once again called up and we fought our way to the bar for another pint. Dave and I chatted to some rallyists for a while and the ladies went in search of a telephone to assure mum that they were OK. On returning we all decided we were hungry so we decided to go in search of food. Having paid deposits on our glasses however, we attempted to reach the bar to return them but by now the tent was full of very thirsty bikers and the bar wasn't even visible. Shirley came to the rescue and convinced two bikers near us that our glasses actually contained Skol. "Yes, I know they look empty dear, but have you seen the advert?"
Suckers! Glasses sold we rushed to Sheila' (back up vehicle you see) and headed for Long Eaton. Pulling out of the car park she forced another driver to reduce speed and when he overtook her later he gave her a very meaningful look. Dave and I were pretending we didn't exist. Later a car did exactly the same to her and when Dave, Shirley and I cursed the driver Sheila sweetly said "It doesn't matter, I do that". From then on I was very quiet until we reached the Navigator at Trent Lock.
After being forced to carry the girls to the pub 'cos of the muddy puddles (I won't divulge a lady's weight but my knees were buckling) we enjoyed a pint and a chat with one of the locals. A walk along the river bank rewarded us with a lovely sight of the Steamboat Inn where we ordered drinks and enquired about food. Basket meals were unavailable that night but they could fit us in the restaurant later; a check with the ladies who had to be home for midnight (turn into pumpkins you know) and we booked the earliest free table (9.45).
With stomachs rumbling we had a few drinks and Shirley upset a poor lad who was playing the fruit machines by standing next to him. After he had lost a great deal of money she conned us into sponsoring her assuring us she would win (she didn't and further sponsorship was with drawn). After a brief walk round the lock we took our table in the restaurant and pondered over the menu. Shirley wanted scampi (which they didn't do) so had to settle for trout after much persuasion. The rest of us settled for beef. Chatting idly between ourselves the minutes ticked by and still no food. Shirley trying very hard to stop her stomach being heard announced "I didn't want it. I was forced into it and now I haven't got it" which gave the other diners a good subject of speculation and conversation. With still no food at eleven Dave went to the receptionist to complain explaining we couldn't wait any longer because the girls would be late. Not mincing words he said "If we can't have it now we'll have to leave." So we left (hungry)
Dropping us off at the site the girls hurried home and Dave and I rushed for the beer tent but they had closed. Still we were able to see the floor show before returning to our tent to be kept awake by the noisy revellers - must have been quite a party, perhaps we should have stayed. We fell asleep at last to be regularly awakened by the planes landing at the airport. I'm sure one landed next to our tent, it sure sounded like it.
We awake to a fog that swirled around the tents and left everything soaked. A cold wash woke us up properly and nursing our poor stomachs we headed for the cafe where we had to queue for nearly an hour to get breakfast. Feeling alive again we went for a walk to inspect the bikes and look up old acquaintances. With the fog lifting we headed for the restaurant again because Dave had left his jumper there. This retrieved we enjoyed some high spirited bend swinging down the A6 to arrive at the girls home in time for dinner.
The Fox rally was a lot better organised this year although a bar extension would have been welcome. Because of some uncertainty as to whether the Fosse could have the site as planned the badges weren't ordered until late and will have to be posted on to us. Although the host club organised a number of games, the main activities were inspecting each others bikes, drinking and walking around the race track. I for one can't wait for the track to open for racing. It was Dave's first rally and he is already looking forward to the next one and the girls have already decided to attend the Goose Fair rally so watch out Nottingham, here we go again.