I got up at the usual time on Friday, despite having a day off, but there is all the difference in the world between getting up to go to work and getting up to go to Yorkshire. I was meeting four other forum members at a truck stop on the A1, where we had breakfast before hitting the road.
The first leg was a dull hop up the dual carriageway, enlivened when a Hawk took off from nearby RAF Wittering and gave us a short but sweet private airshow. After the struggle through Sheffield we switched to the A57 and the scenic Snake Pass, stopping in Holmfirth at Sid's Cafe from Last of the Summer Wine. This was rather lost on me as I've never watched it, but I enjoyed my tea loaf with Wensleydale. My other favourite sight of the trip was a village with the charming name of Netherthong.
The roads grew smaller, with sheep to either side (and occasionally in the middle) and a landscape criss-crossed by drystone walls and shallow streams. Soon before six we pulled in to the car park of our destination, the Green Dragon Inn at Hawtry, to greet companions from elsewhere in the country. I think we all slept soundly, despite the presence of a folk festival in the bar.
Saturday was the group rideout: a dozen scooters parading in convoy through the countryside. We had a quick stop at Skeldale House in Askrigg, its frontage famous from the TV series of All Creatures Great and Small, then rode through the beautiful Dales countryside to the village of Reeth, where we found an ice cream parlour. Yorkshire is Tour de France crazy at the moment, and the shop was offering a special commemorative mango and banana Tour de France ice cream, though I went for an orange and lemon St Clements.
We climbed higher, pointing out lapwings in flight and, once, a curlew taking off. Lunch was at the highest pub in Britain, the Tan Hill Inn, where a brisk breeze stopped us getting too hot. Then it was downhill, round a couple of hairy hairpins and past more cute spotty-faced lambs, to Kirkby Lonsdale and the Devil's Bridge. This is a biker meeting place, and was heaving on this hot and sunny Saturday.
Our ride leader announced that there were only two junctions between here and a straight run back to Hawes, which I took as my cue to shoot past him as soon as I'd counted off the two turnings. I paused before the Ribblehead Viaduct to take a photo, then enjoyed the last stretch far ahead of the pack, with my friend Bob behind snapping at my heels. The dips and bends allowed you to see for miles, though I hit one a bit hard and fast and grabbed some air, which sobered me up a bit. At the end of the run, Bob and I pulled up at the side of the road and beamed at each other. One of God's own roads, as they say.
All too soon we were saying goodbyes and looking forward to next year. I set off in the company of two other southbound souls, and we revisited some of the roads from the previous day. Unfortunately, what should have been pleasant hilly stretches were a nightmare of roadworks and cycle races, and we were more than ready for lunch by the time we reached biker caff The Yondermann in Derbyshire's Peak District.
We parted company soon afterwards, and I reversed Friday's A1 - M11 - A12 - Blackwall Tunnel journey. I got in shortly before six, with just over 700 miles on the clock for the weekend. Which reminds me I should lube my chain tonight.