Dragon RallyFirst Dragon was in 1984 as a passenger with my brother-in-law in his sidecar. I recall my first view of the site was of a man sitting at a four chair and table patio set, complete with umbrella. Not what I had expected. Weather was nice in the day, dry with weak winter sunshine and I recall seeing lots of lovely old bikes, including a number of vintage flat tank machines there and an immaculate flat tank race spec Norton. There were numerous Dutch sidecar outfits there as well.
I recall how ill prepared I was for camping. I had a Moonbag sleeping bag which is around 10mm thick, open topped and having a reflective aluminiumised Milium lining which was alleged to keep you snug in all conditions. I had remembered from summer camping, years before, that air beds give me backache, whilst the bare ground sheet does not. So I took nothing to put under my sleeping bag. As a result of this I was very cold in the night due to penetrating cold from below. I flattened my leather jacket as much as I could and attempted to sleep on top of that, in the foetal position, with my arms outside the bag holding me in a tight ball. However, each time I fell asleep the grip relaxed and an arm dropped onto the groundsheet, got very cold and woke me up.
In 1985 I took a roll up mat, but still took the Moonbag, with obvious results.
Did my second Dragon in 1985 in treacherous conditions, (on L plates), and experienced my first 18 foot snow drift when travelling through the gap left by a snow blower. I now know what the Khyber Pass must be like.
Travelled from Atherstone on a Honda CB100N borrowed from a friend and took 11 hours and 10 minutes to arrive at Gwerch Castle at Abergele, arriving just in time to see the bar towels thrown over the pumps.
I picked up someone en-route (Ian) who had broken down at Llangollen and finished the day two up with my 45 pound back pack on Ian's back. Weight distribution was absolutely wonderful in slippy conditions!
On arrival we had to leave the bike at the bottom of the hill on thick packed ice and go hand over hand along a fence up the hill to the castle with all our gear. It reminded me of the Cresta Run.
Tents blew down in the night due to the wind coming up the slope from the sea. I only had an open-topped lightweight summer sleeping bag with no hood to it. Movement in the night caused showers of ice to fall from above where condensation had frozen in the tent. Boots had to be heated in the morning before they would fit.
We were stopped by the police as we left the site on the Sunday and were followed for miles in deep rutted snow by some clever chap in a Landrover who thought that the appropriate place on the road was 3 feet from our back end. No amount of hand signals (of any kind) would encourage him to back off or overtake and there was no way we could stop or pull over without getting driven over.
Don't you just love these hardy 4x4 types!
Never been as cold before or since.
I must take this opportunity to thank Debbie Wall, (now Redding) who loaned me her CB100N in both 1985 and 1986, and also her then boyfriend, now husband, who offered no objection to her generosity.
Did the day meeting a couple of weeks later, where I met someone who told me had been unable to go on the day as he lived at Telford which was impassable. Telford was around half way for me.
After those two experiences I am unsure what prompted me to go in 1986, unless perhaps it was a question of "man or mouse". Squeak to you again sometime!
After a break, other Dragons have been from 1992 onwards. I recall stopping one year for fuel at Betws Y Coed in driving rain (possibly 1995 or 1996) and wringing around ¼pint of water from each leather glove on the forecourt. I was asked by the female cashier, "Get caught going home?" My negative reply indicating that I was on the outward journey to camp at a rally. Further questions followed and my indication that I did not yet know where I was camping prompted a look that was really something else. She could not give me my change quick enough!
The site turned out to be Capel Curig, back at the waterworks, and I recall seeing a square drain cover above the site on the car park, where its four corners were broken off, prompting a two foot high, four jet fountain from its corners due to excess pressure. Looking down onto the site the intense rain could be seen moving in waves as it does on film sets when they spray water from a fire hose into a high powered fan. It did save me from having to wash the salt off the bike that year.
I did twenty one Dragons in total. Met my passenger Ian on the 21st anniversary in 2006 quite by chance in the Dragon Marquee.
Enjoyed waking up to the severe frost in 2008 as it made me feel quite at home.
- Barrie Mansel-Edwards