The Great CBF600 Biker Jaunt 2017: Windermere UK
We [four CBF600 riders] have just returned from a weekend away at Ullswater, Lake Windermere and Sykeside Campsite. For me, it was a 250 mile round journey at least so I plan to share here, with photos and some of the elements of the trip. Our trip had been planned for weeks, with the deposit being paid by me for the campsite where we would stay, so we waited and waited till June 17th [some of us more impatiently than others] and then, when the final day came, we all met up at Scotch Corner Services here in the UK. After a brief stop to check things over, have a brew and take a few photos, off we went, with Tony in the lead as he was Mr SatNav for the trip. Not only did he know his way there, but he has the gadgets with him to cover all eventualities.
Half way there, we stopped and out came the visor wash from Tony’s bag of tricks. Talk about being organised. By now the heat was about 30 degrees but with bike jackets, helmets and gloves on, even thin ones for summer, it was getting slightly unbearable for me. I am a big fella so suffer in this kind of oppressive heat.
On we went, to Penrith, where the plan was, with me not understanding it fully, that we would stop for a drink, cool off and then head off to the site. Going 60mph all the way over the A66, for me, was somewhat annoying in a way because all week I knew that road would be there for me to test the bike out properly. I wanted to add at least another 20mph onto that, but I behaved myself and finally, as we arrived into the Red Rooster Cafe in Penrith, bike followed bike, I followed on in third slot and as the leader made a super quick left and then right, I got all confused and wondered where I was going.
I assumed he had made an error, very unlike him, so wobbled my way out of his way, veering left, off down a road, with our final rider behind me. I think I put him off, but he says that is not so, for after I had turned round, gone back up the hill and parked the bike, I found that the front end had gone out on him in some freak accident. Luckily, no one was involved apart from bike and rider and another biker came to his aid to lift the beast up. As we all chatted over a cup of tea or coffee, it struck me that it seemed to be taking forever to get to our destination. I am so impatient at times. It is the PTSD in me I am afraid.
From Penrith down through Ullswater is a seriously pretty ride, but when you turn right onto the road at the side of the lake, your breath is suddenly taken away. Now, it was getting interesting! I have been to places like Venice and it is stunning but this was on a scale with Venice easily. I have canoed in Windermere when I was younger, swam in it as well, so know the beauty of the place, but it was like I had forgotten about it for so long. The last time I went to Windermere was a decade ago or more with my wife, so Ullswater was simply breathtaking. Trying to ride, take bends and gawk at the scenery is an interesting experience and we did not stop to take photos, so I knew I was missing the chance. But we rode on, trying to find the campsite at a place called Hartsop.
In the end, we got lost, found our way again and arrived at the site, tired, hot, incredibly sweaty and began pitching our tents. Now this is where I learned two immutable truths about myself. Number 1 is that I am an old fart who does not do camping very well and Number 2 is that I am never buying cheap crap again. My tent was advertised as a three man tent. Aye, if your arse is as short as a Pygmy Chinaman. Putting it up damn near killed me [mainly because I am partially disabled and tire very easily due to injuries sustained in a car crash]. But the tent went up, eventually and I was left with a pole that seemed to be spare.
Hmmm, thought I. Like with the bikes in the past, now where the hell does that bit go?
Just then, Tony saw the place where it went, across the top with the flysheet, so it was shoved through in good old Yorkshire style, resulting in it poking out the front end and breaking the flysheet where it slotted in. With no log cabins or huts on show, this could be interesting, thought I. My tent is broken! But no, out came the bag of tricks again and two minutes later, the tent had a band aid on it in the form of black insulating tape to keep it in place. I had huffed and puffed my way through putting the damn thing up, so simply added “don’t worry Tony. It is getting binned anyway.” They all laughed, but I meant it. If ever I go away on the bike again, it is like Le Mans in 2004, where I stayed in the Hotel Mercure.
Bugger camping! My wife has that one right I am afraid!
Eventually, we all had tents up and it was now about 3pm, so we all headed off for a rideout, down towards Lake Windermere. The road was simple enough, with only one turn off on it, to the right. Kirkstone Pass was the main road, but there was a lesser taken road, sometimes no more than a track and the plan was to turn right there, but one of our troop decided, in his words, to “have a bimble” down the main road, when we turned right. We would not have minded, but he was second rider at the time, so he saw the lead rider turn right and carried on going. We all stopped and waited for him to return, but there was no sign of him so one of us went to catch him up, returning having not been able to find him. Now, we were split up. Not good!
It was so comical to the three of us how it all happened, that while waiting, Tony took some photos, one of which is shared here.
On seeing it when we got back, it inspired me to write this poem, based on the real event that shall go down in the annals of biking fame, if I have anything to do with it, for it simply is majestic in its daftness. It is written in honour of Robert Frost and my mate Paul, who when he should have turned right, went straight on down into Windermere as we went over the pass. Boy did we give him some stick for that!
The Road That Should Be Taken
The biker sat on the hill side, thinking of his future
He pondered the twisted route that he would now take.
And as he sat there, thinking of the delights ahead
He thought of the destination, the glittering lake.
So he thought to himself, now should be a good time to go
Upon this, one of life’s great adventures to master.
And as he pulled the throttle back, he saw the road
Fall and appear before him, daring him to go faster.
He thought of all of those less fortunate than he;
Those for whom this sight would never please,
And chuckled to himself as he continued to ride,
A faint, but growing laughter that would not cease.
For he knew the truth of it all, the one, undeniable fact
That there would be others who he could only call
‘The ones who travelled a road that he would not take;’
The ones whose names were not Chris, but Paul.
By the time we met up in Windermere, I was beginning to suffer from the heat and from my illnesses, so I was glad that we could sit and rest, but my phone had gone on the fritz from setting off so bless em, they tried to find me a new one. It was then that I saw the strangest thing ever in the form of two Police Officers, both dressed in black from top to toe on a 30 degree day, carrying sub-machine guns or such like. Paul, in his usual style, simply said to one of them, “Aye, but I bet they’re not as good as the old SLR eh?”
They ignored him and walked on!
Eventually though, after some time to chat, we headed off down to the bottom of the lake, where there is a magnificent stopping place, close by the water, where you see the real beauty of the place. Now with the bikes as well, it made for some wonderful camera work, most notably Tony when trying to set a timer on a mobile phone camera. If you have ever tried to balance a mobile phone at that angle, you will appreciate this shot.
By this time, Tony had to take off for home and leave the three of us to the campsite for the night, so we returned and had a meal, a few beers and then tried to get some sleep. Once again, things got in the way; a snoring fella in the next tent, a host of crows going KARRRR all night. I did sleep, but not much and the following morning, had decided that the tank bag would be binned because the magnets were rubbish [it was a cheap ebay one so I only have myself to blame] as well as the tent. I even managed to break my boots as well, so they went in the bin. In the end, I came with a bike full of gear and left with it half full, not an untypical thing for me.
But I insisted on taking one form of luxury with me; a pillow from my bed! I got some stick for it in the form of “have pillow, will travel” comments from the fellas, but there was no way I would sleep without it. I am just a pampered old fart at heart. I know this to be the truth.
But that was not the last thing to go wrong for me at least. No. On the morning we were coming home, I packed the bike and decided to take her up to the main entrance, mainly because of the walk and the steepness of it. I cannot walk up stairs in a house easily and a steep incline like that took me three stops to master just to go to the pub. And there, I waited for the other two to pack up their tents. I was simply exhausted.
An hour went past and nothing, so wanting to get off, having changed my mind to go back down through Ullswater, so I could take some photos [remember the way in, how I could not take any?] I put my specs down and clipped them under my bungee net on the back seat, then put the helmet on, rode down to tell them I was setting off a different way to them and then headed off for home. I just needed to be on the road.
Yes, you guessed it. My specs were still [at some point] attached to my bungee net, so at some point, my £150 specs came off that and were lost. I only realised as I was near Ullswater, stopped to check the net, saw no glasses, swore vehemently to myself and then carried on thinking I am not turning round now!
So, it has been an interesting weekend away in a lot of ways, where certain things have been learnt. Firstly, I am too old in the tooth for camping. Next time it is a hotel, BB or a log cabin set up. They can camp but I am for the luxury after a hard day in the saddle. Secondly, buy the right things for the bike, especially the boots. Mine wore through, stopping me from walking down to the water side, forcing me to rest. I have since, yesterday in fact, bought some proper biker boots and will road test them soon. Thirdly, and most importantly, plan accordingly for all contingencies.
The bike ran like a dream. I was doubting her ability to do this trip, if I be honest, because of some noise coming from the engine, but riding home, on the A66, a quarter tank of fuel and worrying about there being no petrol stations anywhere, I just carried on going at 55mph to conserve fuel and fell upon a BP garage, where I could fill up. From there, back to Scotch Corner services was a blur. Nothing overtook me; that is all I am saying here. Don’t want the Rozzers to come knocking. The bike handled really well at low and high revs, took off at 7k into lands I have only experienced with the GSX1400 before now and I completely fell in love with her all over again. I had been thinking of trading, but not now. The CBF600SA is simply, one of the best bikes I have owned.
But when I got to Scotch Corner, I heard something that made me chuckle so much that I simply have to share it here. A man was overheard, by me, talking to some other folk, who mentioned Kendal and Windermere, where we had just been, so it got my attention. The man then asked the other, “Ah right, do they have their own sheep there, or do you have to take your own?” I rode home the forty miles or so, chuckling happily at that one. The best comics could not have done better.
On the whole, it was a fab trip, even though there were issues, a bike dropped twice, excessive heat, the loss of specs etc, but the bikes, the place, the journey, the ride, as well as the sheer thrill of it all makes it something that I shall treasure in my memory till the day I forget when I get too damn old, or till the day I shuffle off this mortal coil and go racing in heaven. Thank you to Tony, to Chris and to Paul, for making this little holiday something to treasure. You are all friends of the highest calibre now, all found on Facebook, in my estimation and that is not bad from me, for I do not make friends easily and do not have a lot of folk who I would trust with my life. You lot fit the bill perfectly.
God bless you all.