Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Pete's Iceni Rally

Iceni Rally 2015
With all of the Rallies that I like to compete in being in the spring, I was delighted that Mark Fowler offered a new Rally in September. Pitched as a rally for novices or veterans who wish to hone their skills, I did feel that I still fall into the former category as I dont feel like a veteran and dont seem to have much skill but Mark insisted that after two Brit Butt Rallies, I am indeed a vet!
Mark very generously sent out the Rally books early but due to pressure of work and so on, I didn't actually get to sit down and concentrate on a plan until a couple of days before the start. Mark had owned up to a couple of typos, so I was very careful to make sure that I had the right detail in my plan, ( I went for a bonus in Devon that should have been in Cornwall on the South West Peninsular Rally because of not reading the information properly!) although the electronic information was correct, so if I knew how to enter that into my satnav, I could have saved a lot of time and trouble, as you will see later. I linked all the combo bonuses but when it showed an 8 1/2 hour loop without other stops I could see it needed trimming, so I chopped out Southend as I know that can be a pig to get to. I had spotted that Mark had a very clever bonus in Norwich by using the time shown on the station clock when you arrived, to my mind this meant that 1259 points were potentially available; this was very cool and soon after working that out a very do-able ride emerged, even though it would cost me 200ish points at the end by being late.
Happy that I had a plan that I could ride, I set off for Cambridge. This means a blast along the 303, onto the M3, around the M25 and up the A1M, three hours door to door. The only problem was that firstly, it was the opening night of the Rugby World Cup and most of the south of England was heading for London, secondly someone decided to play bumper cars just by Fleet services and the tailback from that eventually stopped; I had seen but ignored the warning signs thinking that I could always filter through but not this time, I was well and truely stuck. After 20 minutes and checking that my stepson Tom was okay as he left an hour before me on the same route, the traffic started moving and they sent us off through Hook! Hook is not capable of taking 3 lanes of motorway but again I soldiered on and headed away north to the M4, which was packed but again I soldiered on and after 5 hours travelling, I arrived at Papworth Hospital?! I double checked co-ordinates and realised I was no where near Histon, so tapped that in and 10 minutes later got there, phoned Mark when I got a signal, got the correct co-ordinates for the HQ and arrived for signing on. I then went to the Hotel to much amusement from John Young, Martin Buck and Roland who all questioned whether I was actually cut out for navigational rallies at all!!
My plan had been tight but became tighter still when I heard the rules surrounding the time on the clock in Norwich; by rounding up the minutes, the maximum points were actually available at 12:45 not 12:59! Okay still do-able but very tight and then....Duxford Airshow was on and the tank at Duxford was my first bonus!! The Gods were conspiring against me but I decided to push on regardless and maybe drop Norwich if not achievable and extend my route later on. Also Mark offered 100 points per county border sign so it was possible to cancel out any lateness penalties, so barring cock-ups and by pushing on I decided to stick with my plan but I must confess the anxiety levels were high.
Well after the start, the first cock-up wasn't long in coming! Instead of taking the M11, I misread my satnav and went straight on! The problem was that once I had looped back around again, taking 3 extra minutes, I did it again! I really couldn't believe myself this time as I know exactly where Duxford is having visited before for a Trident and Rocket 3 Owners club meeting. Anyway, hoping that was the days cock-ups over I pushed on and arrived to see a packed road, I did spot that the VIP lane was also the motorcycle lane into the park so took that and it took me straight to the tank, phew!

I pulled away from there and cut through the cones, to see a very grumpy looking bloke in a hi-vis jacket waving at me, so I gave him a cheery wave back hoping that may cheer him up a bit. My times of arrival had already slipped, so I was doubtful of Norwich being an option now but I had a couple of hours riding to do so I would see how things panned out.
I met Matt Champion at the Greyhound, a fellow TR3OC member and veteran of a SS1000 organised by John Young; I did it on my Tiger, John and Matt did it on Meriden triples, heros!

I then stooped at 12, the Adventure Bike Shop and 36, the Angel Hotel in beautiful Lavenham, owned by Marco Pierre something? A celebrity chef anyway. When are they going to have celebrity welders?! I then went to 05, the Centre Parcs entrance and 14 the Desert Rats memorial, that luckily, I remembered to include my bike in!

By this time I was keeping a close watch on time and thought that Norwich may be on if there were no more cock ups. So I pushed on to 34 and luckily had an offer of a photo taken for me so didn't have to resort to an embarrasing 'selfie'.

Many thanks to the lad who took this, I'm sorry if I didn't stop for a natter but I was on a mission by now! Norwich was now in my sights but I had to be a bit rude and make 'reasonable progress' through the ever thickening traffic. I had decided to skip Norwich if in doubt but it was tantallisingly close as I turned off the dual carriageway and took my chances. I really could not believe it when I got there at 12:40 and was on cloud 9. I was also slightly paranoid and didn't want to risk losing this at the scoring table, so took two or three shots before the deadline of 12:45 so there was no argument.

To say I was ecstatic at this result would be an understatement; in my mind I was dusting off the top step of the podium!!
Such was my euphoria that I didn't notice what crap progress I was making out of Norwich; the traffic was diabolical and time was slipping rapidly. I pushed on up north to the Harrier (I had to take this as I've made parts for these!)

I also took this for John Young!

Anyway, enough time wasting and time to push on to 32, a memorial in a churchyard BUT at somewhere called Cley the traffic stopped!! Literally gridlocked! It only started moving when someone got out of their car and waved other drivers back. Apparently this happened a lot as other riders experienced this as well at different times. Anyhow I got to Sutton Bridge 26 and took this, after visiting 20 and 32.

Just before I got here I had spotted the border sign for Norfolk and of course it's neighbour Lincolnshire on the other side of the road, so that was my 200 points that I was going to be late dealt with.
I knew my 690 point option of Rutland Water was no longer an option, so headed off for Peterborough Lido to find this!

I checked and double checked the co-ordinates but knew deep down something was wrong; either that or I had discovered the reason that nobody went to Lidos any more.
I pushed on to 'Grafham Water' to take this.

A gate yes but no bleedin water!! I left with that sinking feeling and just made sure I made it back on my sheduled time, which I did and maybe the realisation that yet another cock up had occured showed in my face?

Or had I fallen asleep!
At the scoring table I discovered my mistake; we were Rallying around East Anglia and therefore around the meridian, so what I saw as an insignificant minus sign in front of a zero, actually meant I should have been t'other side of the bleedin meridian. Spooky thing was that the last one was by a gate as well but even I couldn't blag that one as genuine! Suffice to say, that knocked me clean off the podium (I hadn't made it anyway) but I did end up in 9th place, so rode back to deepest, warmest Dorset with a seriously warm glow, if not chilled slightly by another dose of the 'what if's'!
I will include this shot of John, wearing his Vetter T

shirt while his bike wears his Vetter Windjammer in support of his good friend Craig, who is thankfully on the mend after hitting a deer. Get well soon Craig!
Great Rally Mark, well done and put me down for next year!

Pete Churchill

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