Sunny Sunday Dragon

I woke at the time I usually wake up – because that’s just what an adult routine does to you. But also because, no matter how much a lay in would have been nice, or how warm I was in my nice big poofy down sleeping bag, my bladder said I needed to move in the direction of a loo…. Like, right now. Maybe this really is what being an adult is like, is this the start of being old??!?!

I got up and donned my warmest gear and waterproof boots to cross the marshy, yet crispy, ground to the porta-loos. Normally, as a bloke, I’d pick the nearest and most convenient tree or bush, but surrounded by 3000 bikers and their tents in a huge open field, it’s a bit hard to pass off peeing for anything else. Especially with a huge plume of piss-steam rising from my piping hot stream.

After depositing last night’s multiple pints of beer and digested pizza into a blue box, there was no way I was going to be getting back into my sleeping bag. So I set about making hot water and tea for our group. The majority of the camp was still and eerie looking. Old smoke drifted to a halt in long shallow puddles hovering just above the tents peaks, waiting to be wafted away when people rose, like the ghosts of last night’s bad decisions. I watched the scene gather more life while I prepped and cooked my breakfast – Haggis slices with scrambled eggs in soft buns with tea.

There are no prisoners in the morning of the Dragon. You get up and on your way. You’ve survived the rally and now it’s time to do the bare minimum to get home and warm. As this was the first time I’d motorbike-camped with the KTM, and I was up early, I had fun pottering around and working out the best system. I’d brought my top box over to my tent because it was full of all my cooking bits, stove, gas, saw, knife, cutlery, torch, charger brick, speakers (oh yes we had music) and some bike gear like chain lube, puncture kit and high viz. It was a useful container, but difficult to carry without handles. Also, I think I need some dividers or some way to segregate the kit in there so it’s easier to access without having to repack it all every time… another project to add to the list.

Because my tent was damaged on arrival, I had been in touch with the shop, who in turn had been in touch with the manufacturer to provide a replacement. Except they didn’t have one to give me. When I explained that I needed a tent for this event, they said, “thats ok, use it and then send it back to us”. This was a winner because that meant I could use the tent, see if I liked it and test its real world use, pack it up wet and then send it back without having to worry about drying it out! It had done a great job and I think it’s a good tent for my needs, so it’s a shame it was a dud.

Over the next couple hours, the campsite awoke and at varying speeds, packed up and departed. We were in no rush. The weather was good and the bikes were stuck in the mud haha! Oh yeah. Forgot about that.

When parking, I’d followed a gravel farmers track along the field till I found a space unoccupied and just ploughed into the mud. There was no way I was coming back from the Dragon without some mud on me! How would anyone know where I’d been?! But now we had the type 2 fun of getting ourselves out, preferably, shiny side up. Some of the smarter amongst our group had stayed on the gravel, so had a relatively easy time spinning around and heading out. Only once I was packed up and had loaded the bike, did I realise that I’d just made my job harder. Loading the bike after having dug it out would have been a better move. But no matter! Some manly grunting and manhandling later and the bikes were freed and we headed off into wales.

With glorious sun overhead and dry(ing) roads we chose to go over the mountains in the direction of home. Weaving across the road to clear the mud from our tires, we hit the A5 at what I considered a rather sedate pace for these guys. Maybe they felt a little hung over? Getting up to the Canolfan Cwm Idwal visitor centre we pulled over because someone had a good idea to get a group photo. There wasn’t anywhere here to get a nice background, so I took off back down the pass to a layby I knew. I asked them to wait 5 mins for me to get ready and I videoed everyone pulling in.

We then spent far too long dicking about getting a photo haha! To get us all in frame and the mountains in the background we had to climb a small way up the hill and perch a phone on a rock. I really wish I’d brought my stick and tripod, it would have been handy. But we got some good ones showing off the bikes we brought.

Moving on, we stopped at the Tollgate Cafe just outside Llangollen. Every time I’ve passed this way I’ve wondered about this little roadside cafe and never stopped so I was happy to pull in. But everyone else was desperate to pull in. Other than the tea I’d made, no one had had any breakfast yet and it was about midday by now! I smug-ly had a second breakfast roll and coffee to keep myself warm for the drive home. 

This was where we split and head our separate ways. Gen, Harry and the southern clan had another 3 hour ride back down to Wiltshire. Rob, Adam and myself were heading due East. 

Now I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a good ride. I love going cross country into wales. I did it loads of times in the car, van and motorbike for weekend trips during uni. I know the roads quite well and they are great fun. But I was actually a bit annoyed at the weather being so good this weekend. It was the first rally for all the guys in the group apart from me. How come they got such an easy deal!? I suppose my first rally was relatively good (cold) weather. What if only newbies get good weather? Do we have to bring a newbie each time as some sort of sacrifice to the Dragon Rally gods of good weather? Who knows, but I’m sure next time the weather will revert to type and continue its infamous reputation.