Ted Trett beat me to it, yes it was just like that, I got to the first one in 1973 too. The only thing I can add to it was the ride. What a fantastic road.If anyone ever gets the chance to get up there you must ride along the A686 from Penrith to Haydon Bridge. Bikers heaven solo or outfit. It bends, climbs, through forests, out onto open moorland, swoops down valleys alongside rivers and the views are great.
The ride was good but all in all the rally was a 400 mile round trip for me and chatting with a fellow rallist in the local hut that passed for a pub while waiting to be served I was told "You should have been here last night. It was a hell of a lot better." So I made my mind up next year to be there for the Friday night.
So the following year, 1974, I knocked the day off work, packed the outfit and set off. I was in no rush. I'd got all day for a steady tour up the M6 then across the A686. I stopped for a pint in Alston and a sandwich then carried on to Haydon Bridge, crossed the A69 and got on the B6319, which after a short way turns into the B6320. Wark is only a couple of miles further on.
I was in a world of my own when a BSA 650 and single seater side car outfit came roaring past me 3 up and the pillion waved. They too were going to the rally. A mile or so further on I just crested the top of a hill was coming down what I can only discribe as a series of steps and I spotted the outfit a bit further on stopped on the the grass verge on the other side of the road. I slowed down as the two people I could see were flagging me down. My first thought was they had broken down as I could see stuff scattered about. But on stopping I noticed the sidecar body was about 15 feet further down the road. "We've had an accident and we can't find our friend!"
I stopped the engine, got off the bike and asked what happened and was told that they had taken turns at driving and the lad who was at the throttle had never piloted an outfit before and had lost control, had clipped the verge and somersaulted the outfit. The new gas cooker on the rack was flattened, the contents of the sidecar were scattered down the road, but the sidecar floor was still bolted to the chassis. I looked over the hedgerow into the field trying to find the missing rider. Nothing. Just then a small moan came from the bike. The missing rider was in the drainage ditch under the bike!
The three of us lifted the bike from over him and got him into a seated position, basically unscathed, shaken and very confussed. I doubt very much that the outfit had somersaulted, not enough damage was done, it was more likely a heavy person had bounced on the cooker and flattened it. We gathered the contents of the sidecar from the roadside and after a couple of cigarettes loaded it all into my sidecar. I took the third person on my pillion and carried on to the rally site, leaving the remains of their sidecar body on the verge.
We pitched tents and as predicted, had a damn good Friday night. The lad that was under the outfit was complaining of pain in his leg so was taken to hospital some time in the night. He had suffered some damage after all.
Saturday evening was as good as ever thanks to Drew Grant and friends not to forget Piglet (Scott) who was the brunt of most of the laughs.
Sunday morning dawned cold and clear and very quiet. Lying there, pounding head, dry mouthed, trying to get that extra bit of sleep. Thankfully no twat had yet started his bike up just to make sure it was still working. Some people were already awake you could hear low voices muttering. "Shreek!" a woman voice, a mans voice! "F---ING GET OUT!" "Shreek" "GET OUT YOU SILLY F---ING COW" "Shreek!" "GET OUT! GET OUT!" Whats going on? I jumped out of the sleeping bag and shoved my head out of the tent door. SMOKE! BLOODY HELL! Tent fire. I grabbed the water bag from the side of my tent, a whole 4 pints, what a pathetic action but I tried. In a few seconds the tent was gone along with all in it. All the couple had was what they stood up in. Helmets, jackets, waterproofs, tent, sleeping bags all gone.
The cause was a damn camping gaz stoves with the small gas cylinders. Not enough heat to cook with, low heat when running low. You need 2 to do any good. They changed the cylinder when it was running low, cooking inside the tent because the wind takes all the heat away and the fatal mistake not throwing the (empty) cylinder out away from the tent. It's still got gas coming out and the other stove ignites it.
That was the first of four tent fires I've seen over the years. Only one was caused by cigarettes the other 3 were campng gaz stoves.
I attended 4 Rievers Rallies and enjoyed every one. Great weekends, great company.
- Les Hobbs