February 1973, Stonehaugh, in the Wark Forest, Northumberland. Organised by Tyne Cyclones MCC
This was my first 'proper' rally, and the journey was made on an aged Triumph 3TA - with the added 'advantage' of a T90 cylinder head and 10:1 pistons. It could almost pull the skin off a rice pudding (going downhill).
I set off from Sale at an unearthly hour on the Friday morning, along with Julian Burke and his girlfriend Gayle - who were both on a real T90. Julian's bike was in far better condition than mine and was certainly more reliable.
We headed off north, up the M61 / M6 doing a steady 55mph. I remember well the sight of a blazing barn, close to the side of the M61. We could feel the radiated heat from the other side of the motorway, but felt more for the poor farmer who was watching his property go up in smoke.
Our route took us up over the tops to Alston, it was my first trip so far north and I was staggered by the beauty of the area. The views were quite breathtaking.
Arriving the rally site, a Forestry Commission campsite in Stonehaugh, we were met by members of the organising club: Drew Grant, instantly recognisable by his fearsome red beard and his kilt, and his bother, Scott. Drew rode a variety of bikes, his 'Pussy', a Panther sloper, seemed to be his favourite of the time. Scott rode a BMW in later years, I can't remember what he had at the time of the rally (it was a long time ago!).
There was quite a lot of interest in a small group who arrived on Honda CB750s, as few could afford them they were a rare sight in those days.
On the Saturday morning two friends arrived, Tom Daintree from Old Trafford, on a Norton Model 50 (350 single), and Ian Burgess on a 600 Dominator. Ian was one of my heroes, he worked at the local motorbike shop, Reg Brown's in Sale. Tom recently died but Ian is still around, and having recovered from a stroke a few years ago is doing well.
In the evening everyone headed to the Forestry Commission social club, a large wooden hut ... with a bar. Things got going when Tom produced a guitar and an evening of singing, drinking and making merry ensued. It was an excellent evening, one that motivated me into doing many more rallies over the next few years.
Sunday morning dawned ... brightish. Well, it wasn't raining! As my bike wasn't the most reliable machine in the world we set off home soon after breakfast so as not to put too much pressure on the poor old thing. The views heading home were even better than those of the outward journey - it was a clear day and you could see for miles. The journey went well, punctuated - quite literally, by a flat rear tyre at Killington Lake Services. A repair soon had it sorted and we were on our way homewards again.
That was probably the most mechanically unremarkable journey that the 3TA ever undertook, it broke down on nearly all the others!
It was a superb weekend, one I will never forget. I met lots of new people, learnt loads, and realised that this was a great way to motorcycle. Quite an experience for an 18 year-old.
I really must get a bike back on the road and do it all again!
- John Jocys