24th April 2000 - Second Shake
I wanted to get to the Ace Café well before the start time mainly in order to find other Club members so that we could ride down together. As it was, I managed to get there by 10am, which meant I had half an hour to wander around. The café's small parking area was already completely full and bikes were parking on both sides of the road outside. Later the marshals were directing bikes into the forecourts of nearby businesses, luckily shut for the Bank Holiday. Unfortunately I didn't manage to find any WMA members, but I did find an ex-member, Les (AKA Lily the Pink, after his bike and matching boots from when he was a member). I also found some friends from the Barrel Bikers Buckingham MCC (Les' current club) from the Milton Keynes area. The weather was rather dull, with grey clouds threatening rain at any moment, but luckily nothing came of them.
There were quite a few trikes there, including 'The Addams Family' vehicle, which is adorned with spiders' webs and bats and has a coffin-shaped tank, complete with handles! There was also a five-wheeler (perhaps a 'quike'?) with exhaust pipes all of two feet long.
While we were waiting, the coach, that was hired to take non-riders down, left, (I didn't actually see more than about four people in it - mostly kids). There was an announcement over the PA that the run would now be leaving at 11am; this was the first time I had understood an announcement made over that system. A bit more wandering and a few more photos later, people started getting their gear on and mounting their machines, if not actually starting them, so I did likewise. There followed another announcement that was back to the clarity I was used to - unintelligible - and people were starting their engines. One guy had a problem with his BSA - his kickstart had fallen off on the way to the café - so people gave him a bump start.
The run wasn't as much fun as last year, as we were stopping for all the traffic lights and at roundabouts. Last year we had a police escort and they, assisted by many marshals on bikes, were stopping most of the traffic in out path, giving us a clear run out of London. Perhaps the sheer number of machines involved made it too difficult this year - there were at least double the participants this year. Also, there was only one stop for a rest and for stragglers to catch up. Once again this was at a location where there were no facilities. This, coupled with the fact that there is only one loo at the café, could make the run uncomfortable for some, as this year it took around two hours to get to Southend, (most of which seemed to be taken up with getting out of town). After the run leader had finished his cigarette we started off again - even though people were still arriving. Fortunately for those who were still trying to catch up, there were no junctions we had to negotiate, as we used the A127 pretty much all the way. Before I could leave, my bike tried to show who was boss by refusing to start for a while, but I managed to force it into life. The same thing that had happened outside the café last time I visited it, after our Club run to the London Motorcycle Museum the week before - most embarrassing!
When we got to Southend, another change confronted us. Instead of heading straight for the nearest parking area we were pointed along the sea front. Along either side of the road, as in the middle, bikes were deeply packed and, as soon as I got to the roundabout at the end, I ignored the waving marshals (as most other riders were also doing) and headed back to have another look for a space. Eventually I managed to find a suitably sized gap, and managed to heave the bike onto the central reservation, almost back at the start of the sea front road. After changing out of my boots, I decided to wander along the front to find out where those marshals I ignored were directing people. This walk showed me that there was more to Southend than I had seen before, including an immense theme park and, of course, the pier, on which most people use a train to get to the end. I kept on walking and eventually came upon a truck with a rock'n'roll band playing on the back, followed by even more bikes parked - two rows deep - along the road.
Wandering back to my bike, I was unfortunate to stop at a burger vendor that must have ranked as one of the slowest ones in the country. I waited over twenty minutes for them to cook whatever it was the people in front of me ordered, before getting fed-up (or rather, not) and going elsewhere. (In fact I went to the Wimpy - I haven't been to one of those for years.)
When I was heading home I once again used the A12 to get back to the M25, which may have added a few miles to my journey, as no other bikes seemed to be using it and there were a few riders joining the motorway at the A127 junction, which was further north. (I think I did the same last year, but I couldn't remember which road I used and which one I should have used.) I managed to get the petrol gauge well below the empty level before I turned off at the Potters Bar exit and searched for some petrol. I managed to get 16litres in the tank, which I rarely manage in the normal course of things. I always follow the 'Empty' level of the gauge because, even though there is a reserve tank, the fact that I have to take the whole side fairing off to get to the reserve tap makes me unwilling to risk it, unless I really need to. I have only used it twice, both on the way home from work (and it was raining both times!)
Phil Drackley - Phil the Spill