Patrick James' reports on the Winter and Raider Rallies

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Patrick died whilst taking part in the Alto Turia Rally 2003, and will be sorely missed for his wit
and cheerfulness, his enthusiasm and helpfulness.
Patrick

Patrick in the Hafren Rally 2002   Pat taking part in the Hafren Rally 2002

Here's his report on the Winter Rally 2003:
As with last year's Winter Rally, due to circumstances beyond our control our Wasp XS650 outfit entry had to be withdrawn at the last minute.  So I decide to do my bit for sport and country and go down to marshal for the weekend.

Provenance finds me stationed at the first marshal point, a slimy rutty slope that Marianne had already warned the sidecar entrants about in advance.  Waving farewell to the 2 marshals who have accompanied me this far, I inspect the slope to ascertain the spot most likely to cause problems.  With interest I note the grassy knoll where the sidecar route joins the main route, an off-camber bump with a nice prickly bush exactly where the passengers will be placing their posteriors for the turn.  I park up the DR, discard helmet and extraneous clothing and equipment, and take up position opposite this nasty corner.

Leaning up against a tree, basking in the warm glow of the Welsh sunshine (hem hem) I wait in daydream mode.  From high above comes the faint drone of an aeroplane taking unknown people to unknown places, a drone that steadily increases in volume, louder and louder, coming nearer and nearer, louder and louder still...  With a start I snap open my eyes as two fire breathing hell-chariots burst from the trees, each one mounted by a pair of vacant-eyed dribbling ghouls.  THE SIDECARS HAVE ARRIVED.  "OUT!" growl the fiendish pilots in unison to their Hadean underlings as they spy the off- camber bank, and with a roar unleash the evil power of their satanic steeds.  However as they join the main slope the outfits grind to a halt, unwilling to climb the treacherous ascent, digging themselves in with a rasping wail.  Hastily the infernal occupants dismount to vent their unholy wrath on these stubborn automata.  As I rush in behind to push, the mighty beasts buck and weave in protest, howling in anger, spraying flumes of poisonous roost behind, but their sadistic masters prove too strong as they mercilessly beat the screaming monsters up the slope, heaving their flaying necks back and forth, hauling them off balance at each futile effort to anchor their chair wheels on the grassy bank.  By now the death-pilots' henchmen are flagging, being dragged up by the chains of bondage attaching them to the outfits, yet they are urged along brutally by the bullwhips every sidecar pilot carries to keep his passenger in order.  With a final surge the outfits rear up over the brow of the steep section and drop their heads in submission, briefly resting on the flatter yet slimier going, until the pilots haul their tortured minions back onto the chairs and gun the slavering beasts into life, thrashing the last vestiges of demonic energy out of them to the top of the slope.

My heart is racing at almost coronary levels, from a combination of physical exertion and the aura of evil that has just pillaged my tranquil haven.  As I turn round to descend the slope and compose myself, the first of the solos arrives and the carnage begins all over again.  Like a number eight forward in a chaotic mechanical ruck I throw my exhausted body mass behind the various machines that are spinning wildly off into the trees, digging themselves in, rearing up and toppling over to trap their traumatised riders underneath.  Wheezing, gasping and gulping down great gobs of air I retire from the now cleared slope, aware that higher up more of the same is happening but too exhausted to climb up there.  As I attempt to clear off the sods of roost that pepper my once bright yellow marshal's vest, a sudden silence causes me to look down to the step at the top of the tough option.  There on the step is a recently stalled twin-shock Honda...  The bespectacled rider turns my way, and with a broad grin announces, "Ze bike, Ah 'ave stalled 'er!".  From his enunciation and intonation my acutely disposed hearing detects a hint of an accent - probably a local.  Still smiling he fires up his bike (definitely trail rather than enduro), gets it moving, and up on the pegs with the back wheel spinning gently, proceeds to fishtail his way up the slope, up the bank on the left, back across the slope, onto the slimy grass on the right, back across the slope again, briefly up the slope, into the trees, out of the trees, back down the slope...  Our maestro of pirouette stops for a breather, which is just as well since he is about to head down an adjoining trail which leads I know not where.  "Ah am a beet all over ze place 'ere, non?" he proclaims still grinning.  I reconsider my assessment of his origin and decide I was wrong - more likely North Wales.  We exchange pleasantries and he is off again, boldly going where no bike has gone before on his continuing uphill slalom.

I return to my post, and after a short time a low throbbing emanates from the sidecar route.  The tone of this throbbing is far deeper and richer than anything that has passed before, a mellifluous note that oozes power and sophistication.  I watch in awe as a huge mass of gleaming metal and plastic strides majestically into view.  It is the AFRICA TWIN, 220kg of solid oriental engineering.  Slowly and steadily, its brave yet foolhardy rider guides this Leviathan over the grassy knoll and up the hill.  Only at the step dug out by protesting outfits and spinning 2-strokes that have passed before does the rear wheel begin to lose grip, and the mammoth machine slows to a halt, all vertical momentum lost.  Passing the rider my psychiatrist's card, I grab the conveniently positioned top-box rack and between us we haul the behemoth over the step.  The rider remounts and with a helping push the noble pair are on their way again, patiently picking their path over this hostile terrain until they are able to realise their full potential back on the fireroad.
A moment of light relief arrives in the shape of a fat hairy builder aboard one of Austria's fastest, newest and orangest enduro weapons.  Cruelly I cannot help but laugh as he proceeds to stall it all the way up the slope - now I know why he refuses to ride anything without a magic button!  By now the higher seeds are on their way, announced by the repeated roar of speeding bikes, the squeal of heavily applied brakes, the scraping of locked tyres on fire-road gravel, and the excited shouts of FWO-heads who have narrowly avoided a mass pile-up.  My workload has dropped off significantly, a trend briefly bucked as one of the top-seeders impresses the hell out of the riders following him by stopping for a chat with me halfway up the slope.  None is more impressed than the rider who topples over as he is forced to a halt.  And as the last of the riders disappears over the brow of the hill, peace is restored, and once again I am free to soak up the tranquility of solitude*.  In time the wildlife begins to re-emerge:  birds twitter in the trees, a mole pokes his head through the soil, an ickle bunny rabbit hops daintily across the track it could be a scene from Bambi were it not for the squirrel chewing on his nuts.

After a while my new-found friends scatter as a lone marshal on a KTM purrs by.  I wave but he does not appear to have seen me.  The sun disappears behind a bank, I feel the temperature dropping, and a general aura of gloom and loneliness settles in all around.  As I reapply the numerous layers removed during my recent exertions, it occurs to me that I never asked how many laps were being done today.  Was it one or two?  Was that a sweeping marshall I missed?  Have I been abandoned, doomed to find my own way home through the unfamiliar forest in the impending dark?

Not having a watch, I have no idea of the time, and no way of gauging it from the sky due to the fluctuating light levels caused by the passing of dark clouds.  Standing there alone on the hillside, with the swaying of the trees lulling my brain, my body temperature falls, my heart rate slows, and I slip into a semi-hallucinatory state compounded by the several lungfuls of 2-stroke fumes fed to me earlier by a wildly spinning CRM.  Realising I have not eaten anything since breakfast, I delve around in my toolbag and find the half-eaten squashed Mars Bar that I always have left over from the last trailride. For some reason Mars Bars always taste better like this than they do fresh, maybe it's the added fibre they pick up.

Eventually after what seems like hours a low thundering growl can be heard in the distance, and a change of atmosphere in the forest around me occurs.  The trees' swaying takes on a more frantic nature, their limbs thrashing from side to side, the trunks straining almost to the point of distortion.  The thundering growl strengthens and birds burst from the branches high up and in great flocks flee towards the horizon.  A tingling starts at the back of the neck, and a shiver runs through my bones.  As the thundering growl reaches deafening proportions a single SIDECAR erupts from the undergrowth - over the course of the first lap the forces of good have exorcised the other hell-chariot.  As they disappear over the brow of the hill, I return to my post to cleanse my soul and recompose myself ready for the arrival of the solos.  A handful arrive, but things are much less dramatic second time around and my heartbeat stays well clear of its rev limiter.  Things go quiet again, until I hear the gentle burble of a low-tuned single coming up the optional section.
"Allo! Ah am 'ere again!"  It is my old friend Jean-Paul Smileur (that's what we call Anglesey people round my way), looking tired, dishevelled and a little bit battered, but still complete with large grin.  With a wave goodbye and unebbing enthusiasm he meanders off again much as he did before, here, there, everywhere, but eventually upwards.  Begad Sir, you may be foreign but you show damned fine spirit!

The riders seem to have got the hang of the slope this time round, and I find myself helping more on the step at the top of the optional section: while the aftermath of a blockage on the step passes, the Africa Twin waits patiently at the junction and then tractors gently up the hill with just a small helping push; the fat hairy builder on the sleek orange machine bumbles by and up the slope without any bother; a well off-course CCM refuses help and makes it up unassisted.  The fast boys announce their arrival again, though this time their pile-up is at the step as the front-runner stalls at the top.  Soon the last riders pass, followed by Colin who releases me from my post and sends me off to find out for myself what he and Marianne have laid on for everyone, and to pick up anyone I find on the way.  I bid my hill farewell and set off towards ruts, roots, rocks, mud, fireroads and eventually civilization.

Paul Weller, That's Entertainment, 1980. Also "Top Ten Pretentious Lyrics", Private Eye

Patrick
Patrick on his Suzuki DR350
The Brits at Alto Turia
The British contingent at the Alto Turia - Pat's is the fourth from right

From:  Patrick James
Date:  Tuesday, August 13, 2002     2:19 pm
Subject:  Raider Rally report - Wasp XS650 Outfit Inaugural run Preparation

Friday 6pm:  arrive at Neil's for last minute "finetuning" of outfit prior to inaugural run.  Fine tuning involves:  replace swing arm bearings;  replace front wheel bearings;  swap MT21 for Comp 3;  fit horn and front light;  add new links to 530 endless X- ring chain;  change front forks;  fit petrol taps to new petrol tank;  fit new petrol tank.
Friday 12 midnight:  all done except fuel tank taps.  I go home for a night of fitful sleep dreaming of major rebuilds in the queue for scrutineering.

Saturday 8:30am:  arrive back at Neil's.  Fuel tank sorted though Neil deems tap fitting "temporary", so no petrol enters tank yet.  Load trailer, I head off to MoT station while Neil completes 'blacking' of boat he was supposed to do for a customer yesterday.
Saturday 10:30am:  arrive back at Neil's with magic ticket in hand.  Go to Post Office to buy tax disc while Neil loads his kit into car.  Nearly not allowed.  Set off for Rhayader.
Saturday 2:30pm:  arrive at Rhayader amidst derision from solo-riding mates.  All impressed by large Boddington's Beer sticker on front of tray though.  Sign in, get nice sticker number 2.  Put fuel in tank - fuel stays in tank.  Connect battery (no rectifier wired up yet), wire up lanyard, fire up and trundle round car park.  Back brake doing bugger all so set about rusty pads and disc with sandpaper.  Back brake still doing bugger all so trundle around car park several times with back brake engaged.  Back brake improves slightly.
Saturday 3:30pm:  pass scrutineering!  Scrutineer is even impressed with the lack of play in the chair wheel.  Not so impressed with the right hand footpeg which folds forwards instead of back but lets it through.  Get kitted up and head out into the grassy practice field with much trepidation - this is my first time as an outfit passenger....

Neil opens the throttle, front wheel heads for the sky, oufit veers forward and to the left, then resumes a straightish line as the wheel comes down and I hang on for my life.  We complete 3 laps with Neil shouting at me all the way round "OUT! OUT!" (left hand corners and cambers) "IN! IN!" (right hand corners and cambers).  Pull into the car park, Neil is hoarse, I am completely knackered from hanging off the side as far as possible, my arse getting intimate with the thistles.
Quick rest and we set off again.  Slightly less shouting this time.  After 2 laps I shout to pull in as I am knackered again.  The bastard carries on for a third lap.  Somehow I make it round without falling off.  Yellow outfit has been on our tail all the way round.  Stop for longer rest and a cup of tea.
I agree to do two more laps so long as I can have a go driving afterwards.  By accident I find a bar that my foot can hook under and hey presto my leaning is  a) enhanced, and  b) much less tiring.  2 laps go quite well, then I hop onto the driver's seat.
Set off nice and gently and the thing seems to go roughly where I point it (no magnetic barns around here).  Speed builds up with confidence until we approach a hairpin left through a gate which I approach too quick.  Neil leans left, I back off the throttle but the thing don't turn.  As the gatepost approaches I bottle it and sling the outfit right, almost catapulting Neil into the wire fence.  We grind to a halt as Pike, Spicer and Co. turn up to check we are OK and announce that they have cooked their YZ outfit.  We pass on our commiserations (they don't look THAT upset about it) and head off again.  Remainder of lap goes OK and 2nd lap we get through the gate no bother.

By now we have learnt that some of the other outfits have been round the "Supercross" track as it became known, lying ominously behind the marquee.  So we grudgingly feel obliged to tackle this looping track set on the side of a very steep hill.  All goes fine until the steepest roughest uphill where once again the front wheel comes up and the outfit attempts to pirouette back down the hill.  We battle against gravity and pile through the tape on the left.  We walk the outfit backwards down the hill and have another run at it.
Much the same thing happens but this time John Adams and his friend come to the rescue, both clad in their smart blue BMW suits.  We push the outfit up the worst of it and complete the lap, almost getting the bellypan stuck on the lip of the table top but getting away with it.
Saturday 6:30pm:  return to trailer wondering if this really is such a good idea.  Disconnect battery, check nuts and bolts etc., check fuel taps (no leaking so temporary fit now permanent), lock outfit to trailer, head to B and B to wash up and buy beer for the evening and provisions for the big day.
Saturday 8:30pm:  return to base to eat, drink, reminisce and talk b*llocks in marquee.  Also pick up a couple of tips off sidecar pilot Karen MacQuarrie (she completed the Welsh this year so knows what she's doing).
Saturday 11pm:  finish eating, drinking, reminiscing and talking b*llocks in marquee and return to B and B, leaving diehards who are starting over an hour later than us drinking cider in the marquee.  Neil puts battery on charge and goes for long bath.
Saturday 11:45pm:  wake up with a start not remembering what I have done with the key for the lock attaching the outfit to the trailer.  Search pockets, bag, washbag, under the bed, behind the bedside table, run down to the car and search that too.  Nowhere to be seen.  Neil takes the news philosophically, sure we can find someone with an angle grinder if the worse comes to the worse.
Sunday 12:30am:  Neil jumps out of bed and puts light on.  Battery is hissing, gurgling and spitting acid everywhere.  Neil unplugs charger, cleans up surrounding area, allows battery to calm down, removes battery vent plug and plugs charger back in.

The big day:
Sunday 7am:  wake up having not slept much at all.  Check room surfaces for battery acid corrosion, pack up and head over to The Bear for breakfast.  Exchange pleasantries with a Marshal, an XR650 rider and a KTM Rallye rider.
Sunday 8am:  arrive back at base.  Lock key not in marquee, near trailer or in lock itself.  Approach John (he of the blue BMW suit) and Cynthia (also in blue BMW suit - these BMW riders like their suits so much they wear them even when they're not on their BMWs) to see if they have any cylinder keys I could try out (this has worked before on this lock).  Cynthia's key opens it first turn!
Yoshi and Colin (last men standing in the marquee last night) emerge from their tent looking as if they were the last men standing in the marquee last night.  As a reward they are treated to a view of my arse as I change.  Yoshi mumbles something about wanting to throw up and disappears back into the tent.
Sunday 9:00am:  on the start line all ready to go, next to sidecar goddess Karen MacQuarrie and her extremely capable looking passenger.  We're off!
Sunday 9:01am:  newly repaired Camelbak breaks.  Stop and try and find place to tie it to where I can still drink from it.  Paul Tedder mistakes us for Pike/Spicer but thanks for stopping anyway mate.  Can't find place where I can drink from so attach camelbak out of harms way.

(Times approximate from now on)
Sunday 9:15am:  first bit of dirt (downhill rutty lane) completed slowly but safely.
Sunday 9:30am:  first green/orange route choice (green route for wimps).  Take orange route up snotty rutty lane.  Get stuck as tray bottoms out.  Get going again with sidecar wheel up on top between the ruts.  Get stuck as forward-folding peg jams into side of rut.  Lift bike out of rut as can't kick start it in rut at ridiculous angle.  Get going again, bike falls into rut, gets stuck again.  Notice passenger grab rail bracket has come off and grab rail is free at one end.  Haul outfit to side to allow bikes and green outfit pass.  Walk back looking for bracket.  Can't see it.  Help push green outfit out of large puddle.  Fix grab rail with a stick and some tape.  Allow several bikes by, then get going again.  Hop off to push as we get stuck in same puddle as green outfit, push succeeds but Neil keeps going as clutch is heating up, he can't find neutral and wants to keep what little momentum he has.  Catch him up 50yds later.  Eventually get to end of snotty bit after much sliding and pushing.
Sunday 10:30am:  2nd green/orange route choice.  Neil suggests I go and have a look before committing ourselves.  Walk past several bikes waiting at the top of a steep slippy slope, looking down at several other bikes making their way gingerly down in varying degrees of uprightness.  Fireroad can be seen through the trees at the bottom.
Return to Neil. "It's quite steep and slippy but we've got 3 wheels so it'll be fine." says I.  Head on in and after a short wait to allow the path to clear start the descent.  As front wheel locks, things look more hairy from on the tray than from on foot.  As rear wheel locks, things look distinctly yeti-like, outfit slews to the right, back end comes round, chair wheel bites, Neil shouts "She's going over!" and go over she does.  Neil is launched in an arc over my head as I tumble out of the tray and both somersault down the slope all too aware the outfit is probably doing the same behind us.  Desperately scrabble to the side and look back to see outfit upside down but fortunately stationary after about 360 degree roll.  Previously apprehensive solo riders at top now looking even more apprehensive.  Right outfit and walk it to bottom.  Recompose ourselves and head off somewhat steadily, breathe a sigh of relief as we hit tarmac again.
Sunday 11:00am:  both nearly have heart attack while trundling along back roads as figure appears from nowhere and clumps Neil on shoulder.  Yoshi and Colin (last men standing from last night) have caught us up and decide to slot in behind us for some entertainment.  Arrive at first fuel stop and join huge queue.  Broken camelbak now looking poorly as out of harm's way tieing point was not so out of harm's way and has been well and truly trampled on.  Fill up with fuel and head off for the Hafren forest...

Sunday 12midday:  arrive at first check in Hafren forest.  Neil grumbling about lunch.  Marianne suggests we complete first lap before lunch.  Begrudgedly set off again.
Sunday 12:15pm:  next green/orange section.  Can't wimp out, because Colin and Yoshi are with us.  At least they will be able to help push.  Clear snotty bit getting stuck only twice briefly.  Stall in ditch coming onto fireroad.  Colin and Yoshi getting their money's worth.
Sunday 1pmish:  arrive at 2nd check.  Other sidecars left 20mins ago.  Get bite to eat and stock up on tins of Tango.  Re- repair grabrail - stick has broken.  Use tyre lever wrapped in tape instead.  Set off with warnings from Marianne not to get in way of solos on special tests.
Sunday 2pmish:  complete green/orange section again with only one stuck-type experience and clearing ditch OK arrive at 1st special test.  No solos behind so set off on fast fireroad blast, driver and passenger in perfect-ish harmony.  Complete ST feeling chuffed with ourselves, only overtaken by one solo.
Sunday 2:30pmish:  2nd ST.  Good going but tighter so harder work esp. for me.  All going well until end of ST.  Approach on right-hander, I see finish gate and relax.  However finish gate is a sharp left through cones.  Neil starts turn into cones while I am still 'relaxed' and on his side of outfit, result:  outfit heads straight for fetching young blonde timing official.  Judging by facial expression her duties do not include bodychecking 3-wheeled contraptions.  I dive left but by now Neil has decided mowing down officials not altogether in spirit of rally, so slings outfit hard right, we bump up bank and come to a halt in ferns.  Young lady looking somewhat flushed (natural reaction in the presence of two such handsome chaps hem-hem) but fortunately sees funny side of things.  Neil b*llocks me for not leaning left.  Colin and Yoshi who have been waiting for us still enjoying the show.

Sunday 3pmish:  exiting Hafren forest outfit loses power then splutters to a halt.  Tank still has fuel in, fiddle with carbs (stop me if too technical) shows fuel there too.  Outfit fires up again.  200 yds later same thing.  Fiddle this time shows no fuel in carbs, but fuel in tank.  Remove pipe under tap, no fuel comes out. "Ah" says Neil "I thought the tap feeder pipes were a bit long when I fitted them.  Drink tin of tango then transfer 2 litres (6 tango-tins-full) from Yoshi's capacious tank.  Y says price for petrol in middle of Hafren forest 5 per litre, though he is willing to accept payment in kind.  Those of you who know him will not be surprised to hear it involved draining of another capacious tank of his.  I think I've said enough.
Sunday 3:30pmish:  outfit goes onto 1 cylinder, struggles up hill but doesn't make it to brow.  3 T-T-Fs transferred from Y again, by now price of petrol is getting obscene and I mean XXX hardcore.  10mins later arrive at garden shed posing as fuel station.  Judging by queue of bikes down road they are doing a normal month's business in 1 afternoon.  Arrival of sweeping marshals makes it official we are tail-end Charlies.
Sunday 4:30pmish:  having repaid Yoshi's generosity by filling both him and Colin up at the petrol station (and promising Y we would put in a good word with the sheep nextdoor to the campsite), Neil, myself, Y, C + sweeping marshals arrive at Penrhiw-wen byway outside Rhayader.
Taking note of big sign 'KEEP TO THE TRACK', conscientiously bounce along ruts at considerably sub-solo speeds, Neil paddling desperately with right leg, me shouting at him to keep damn thing moving, C + Y following behind with large grins on faces.
Pull up at large track-swallowing puddle beyond which number of riders and marshals hanging around trying to start drowned bikes, among whom we spot John L.  Y proclaims riding behind us for last mile or so was worth entry fee alone in comedy value.  Forward-folding peg now permanently folded backward due to excessive rutwall contact (hence Neil's marathon 1-legged paddle).  Suggest he drives side-saddle but from expression on his face he has not taken suggestion in best of humour.  Marshal declares puddle not in fact too deep but drowned muppets hit it too fast.  Y and C potter through in true trials fashion (max control, min speed) so we follow despite other marshals desperately signalling to go round (think they have had enough of retrieving dead bikes).  Outfit ploughs through with bow-wave creating Penrhiw-wen's first ever spring tide.

3 bikes refusing to start so Neil and I don yellow flourescent jackets, fire up orange flashing lights and tow each bike to top of downhill run into Rhayader.  By end of byway only John L's bike refusing to go, and outfit's clutch starting to misbehave.  Carburation a bit dodgy too, revs are all or nothing.  Tow John L as far as main road where choices are left for home or right to continue course.  Neil looking longingly at left turn saying we should take John home.  Bugger that says I we've come this far we have to finish the lot.  Fortunately marshal insists on towing John home, so we head off for 3rd special test at very slow pace.
Sunday 5:30pmish:  arrive at 3rd ST (narrow twisty track cut through bracken covered slope), last remaining timing chap is packing up to go home.  After much pleading and grovelling he agrees to let us complete ST so long as we shut gates.  Eventually agrees to time us as well.  Head to start and wait for signal from road.  Signal comes, charge up first slope, lose traction and stop.  Reverse down, try again in higher gear.  Charge further up slope mostly through bracken and stop with apex in sight.  Large amount of pushing eventually gets outfit moving again and onto flat.  Marshal arrives from opp. end of ST, word has got out 'one of our sidecars is missing'.  He follows and helps push us back out of bracken after clutch decides not to disengage and we fail to make corner to next slope.
This slope accomplished with much shouting, sweating, bracken-mowing and help from marshal, and we crawl down final slope to end of ST.  Neil by now completely knackered from fighting lack of clutch and dodgy carburation while dangling outside leg, we trundle through Rhayader escorted by marshal.

Sunday 6:30pm:  as we pull into base marshal points us right down field.  Neil nurses outfit across slope feeling precarious due to lack of downhill footpeg (I can tell this from renewed repeated shouting of 'OUT!'), then looks up with dismay as marshal points us through gap in tape onto 'supercross' track.  "NOOOO NOT THE ******* SUPERCROSS TRACK!!!" cries Neil.  Persuading him that they'll only take us round the easy bit he nails it up the slope no bother and we roll down towards finish line where Marianne and friend are patiently waiting for their last competitors.  Dismount feeling like we have completed some epic overland trip, all smile pitifully at us, even fetching young blonde timing official from Hafren forest.  Head back to car park which is now deserted with exception of Y, C, John L and the Blue suit brigade who greet us with big cheer, and the Pike/Spicer entourage.  Heaven waiting in the form of tins of beer.
THE END     Patrick

Huge thanks to Marianne, Colin and their helpers for staging the day, I enjoyed myself thoroughly, albeit in a perverse kind of way.  Also thanks to everyone else for helping us out on the way round.  If ever you fancy that extra challenge, I can recommend taking to 3 wheels! It's hard work but you do get a sense of achievement, in our case this included:
actually making it all the way round first time out
being first bike out, last bike in (I am particularly proud of that accolade)
the fact that driver and passenger are still talking to each other

And to top it all we were given the award for best entertainment!  (take low bow, dodge shower of rotten veg, exit stage left...)