Over the weekend of February 11th-12th three rallies were held; the famous Dragon, the unofficial Elephant in Austria and the little known Snowman Rally.
Weather conditions were pretty awful that weekend with sub-zero temperatures, black ice and snow. Even so about fifteen hundred hardy bikers attended the Dragon, four hundred the Elephant and two hundred, including three Leicester Phoenix members, signed in at the Snowman.
Originally quite a group of us had planned to visit the Snowman but with one thing and another by the Saturday morning it looked as if I was the only one stupid enough to still go. Then Dave Cockerton rang me up and, after a chat with Lincoln Police to determine the road conditions, we agreed to go. Dave was taking a pillion passenger, Leigh Kenny.
We eventually left Leicester about 4pm and after a brisk but cold ride we arrived at Caenby Corner, five miles away from the campsite when it started to snow. The snow settled very quickly and by the time we reached the rally campsite behind the Highwayman pub it was already a couple of inches deep.
After booking in and sinking a free cup of coffee we attempted to unload the rapidly snow covered bikes and erect the tents. Then after numerous snowball fights we walked over to the pub and joined the hundred or so rallyists who were sitting in little groups talking bikes and getting warmly drunk. A few pints later and after a walk in the snow filled car park we joined a small group of bikers and started a sing-song. Others joined us for the choruses and the jukebox was turned off.
Eventually we ran out of songs so the tinned music was restored and Leigh, Dave and myself spent the rest of the evening (11.30 last orders) playing darts with some of the local bikers.
The snow was still falling as we went to bed but it didn't bother us very much and we spent a comfortable night thanks to our airbeds that insulated us from the ice-hard ground.
On Sunday morning we were among the first to be away from the site and we found the roads unsalted and under six inches of snow. With a safe top speed of five miles an hour we dodged the deepest snow and tried, sometimes in vain, to prevent the machines from sliding down the road camber. It took us well over an hour to travel the fifteen miles into Lincoln but at least the A46 had been gritted and semi cleared so we made much better time to Newark although the attitude of some car drivers who drove on our tails and overtook on corners forcing us from the 18 inch wide strip of cleared road into the thick slush did nothing to improve our tempers or our nerves.
In Newark Dave stopped and coming to a halt behind him in six inches of slushy snow I found my leather soled boots no match for Dave's wellies and the Duke slid over as I battled for grip. Luckily there was no damage and we repaired to a friendly little transport cafe near the river for some dinner and a well earned rest.
It was only when we attempted to leave the cafe that I remembered that the snow was covering up cobblestones. Dave's BMW seemed OK with Leigh on he back but the Ducati's rear tyre soon filled with snow and refused to grip. Attempting to give a helpful push I remembered too late that my boots didn't grip either and down I went again. Once again there was no damage which was fortunate as I had only fitted my Pantera fairing the week before.
Once on the A46 again we strove for home on the wet but snow free road. Drama once again struck when we were riding over the Belgrave Road flyover. An impatient ten year old MG overtook me on the inside with inches to spare and attempted to do the same with Dave. With only an inch to spare between his wing and Dave's pannier, I could hardly bear to look. I continually sounded my horn and Dave moved out to let him through and we chased after him, eventually stopping him near the clock tower.
Dave gave the driver a few choice words and a constable turned up to enquire what was going on. After Dave had explained the situation, the nice policeman decided to take a look at the driver's licence and his car. We continued on our way; Dave to take Leigh home and me in search of a garage that was open. No luck though, and the tank ran dry, washing all the dirt into the filters. After pushing about 500lb of Italian iron along Aylestone Road to the only garage that was still open and persuading the young lad who was about to lock up to sell me a gallon of petrol I discovered the Duke had had enough for one weekend and refused to start. An inspection of the HT leads showed them to be covered in ice. It was then that a lad on a Kawasaki 650 turned up and, after spraying the leads with some dampstart that he had, we attempted to bump start her. No luck though, it was obviously the filters.
An hour later the Ducati was ferried home in my mother-in-law's Landrover and I was enjoying a well earned bath. It had been quite a weekend.
There is a bit of a report on the Snowman Rally in the Rallies section.
Good clear report