The Brit Butt Rally

[or how NOT to be a Finisher!]

It happens to everyone who rides in endurance rallies, at some stage, the dreaded DNF - Did Not Finish. This time it was my turn to totally blow a rally finish. The litany of boo-boos is almost endless:

1 The bike wasn't totally prepared the way I would have liked.
2 I didn't sleep after receiving the bonus listing.
3 For some reason, I couldn't transfer the waypoints from AutoRoute into Mapsource for uploading to the GPS, no matter what I tried.
4 When I went to Tesco at 5am to get fuel, the unattended pre-pay system rejected four of my cards, so I gave up on getting fuel from there.

On leaving the hotel at the start of the rally, my GPS took me on a roundabout tour of the immediate area near the hotel, through all the backstreets, before I gave up and got onto the freeway myself- and then it took me in the wrong direction, to nowhere, wasting lots of time! Argggh, I HATE that GPS sometimes!!

6 It was cold early in the morning when we left - NICE!
7 Then, it was HOT
8 It got HOTTER.
9 Did I say it was HOT???
10 Goat-tracking through the Lakes District is NOT conducive to fast rally riding.
11 It was HOT.

Get the picture yet? It was just not my day, at all. But some of it was my own fault. I should have arrived at the venue earlier, perhaps the day before, and had everything ready on the bike, and a full tank of fuel, so that I wasn't rushing.

I shouldn't have loaded AutoRoute 2010 the previous night, and expected everything to work beautifully - without first testing it fully. I fought with it until midnight, then gave up on it and started again from scratch, entering all the bonuses into Mapsouce and noting down the order in which I was to attack them. But by then, I was so wound up, I couldn't sleep, continually going over the route in my mind, getting up several times to check if perhaps a different approach would be better, etc etc etc. And to make it all worse, I hadn't found the tea-making facilities, hidden away in a cupboard, so I'd sat there all night without even a cup of tea!

It was cold when we were departing, which was one of the few good things to happen that day. After the disaster of not finding my way to the first bonus [61], I set off for the northeast, grabbing the 7th Artillery Desert Rats monument as my first bonus.

Below: Believe it or not, there is actually a radar station dome hidden here in the fog on the east coast.

Below: Further north to Hillington, where I met up with another rider at this bonus site.

The fog was finally burning off, and the day was warming up considerably. Then up along the coast to Hull, to get the Jolly Fisherman statue. Ohhhhh, lots and lots and lots of people go to the coastal areas in nice weather, don't they???

below: Then to the Grey Reef Shark

Out onto the Yorkshire moors, beautiful scenery everywhere. Believe it or not, the thing jutting up in the middle of the photo below is another radar station at an RAF base. I didn't dare risk the wrath of the gun-toting guards at the base entrance gate, so went further along the road to a small unofficial car park overlooking the base to get the required photo

From the Yorkshire moors across to the Lakes District. Just absolutely brilliant scenery and wonderful riding, including dodging all the woolly multi-coloured highland sheep and their lambs wandering all over the road, ending up here on Blakely Ridge, below, at the Lion Inn, in the middle of nowhere.

I'd ridden past this museum on the way to the Lion Inn, and it had niggled at my mind all the way across the moors - was it a bonus, or was it not? On checking the bonus book, yes, it was a bonus!! But I'd left it out of my planning for some reason. D'Oh! So snapped the pic and made a donation to get the party card, a requisite for the two-part bonus here.

Well into the Lakes District now, I finally arrived at the Kirkstone Pass Inn, where I had to get a photo of the bike in front of the main entrance of the pub. A kindly diner offered to take one of me on the bike, saving me from getting off. The diner commented that another rider had been there just minutes before. I'd seen the rider stopped just up the road, completing his rally book.

I was in the wilds of the Lakes District. I trusted my GPS to get me to Wasdale Head. Yeah, it finally got me there - over basically a 35 mile goat-track across Hardnott Pass, amongst others! A tiny single lane track, barely wide enough for a car, basically paved, climbing and descending 30 degree switchbacks and slopes, up and down, twisting and turning! Horrors! It brought back vivid memories of riding Sani Pass, the gravel road linking South Africa and the plateau kingdom of Lesotho, back in 2004 on a hired 650 Funduro. But Sani Pass was definitely worse, overall, with more, and tighter, switchbacks near the summit. But it was all glorious scenery, sheer cliffs and hillsides, yellow gorse in places, rocks, green green grass, the sheep grazing along the track, magnificent views out across the dales from the summit. I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

Below: I made it to Wasdale Head in daylight, a requisite time frame.

Still in the Lakes District, I headed off for the Archway, over on the west coast, having crossed the country during the day's riding. The GPS took me straight past the bonus site, again, and I ended up trundling up and down the street further on, looking for it, until some locals helped me out. When I eventually got back to it, the priest or whoever pulled in behind me in his car.

"Are you lost?" he queried.

"No, I'm OK, thanks. That's what I'm looking for", as I pointed to the archway.

It was not quite dark, so I snapped the photo and departed, while the priest was still fixing the broken plumbing!

The excessive heat and lack of sleep [for 41 hours, at that stage] had finally taken its toll. I'd been staggering when I got off the bike at the archway, and knew that I wouldn't be able to go much further that night. Called in to a Maccas in Workington to rest the body, have a cuppa and check the mapping for the remaining bonuses - and fell in a heap, so to speak! My back was aching severely from the heat, my eyes would barely stay open, and I knew my planned night's riding wasn't going to happen, in the interests of safety. I had to get a motel and sleep for a while to recoup. Gretna services was as far as I got, then into bed, cursing that there was neither an alarm clock nor a phone (for a wake-up call) in the motel room. Yep, you guessed it. Although my body clock had been told 4.00am, it refused to wake me, so I overslept, until 6.50am. But at least I met the requirements of the rest bonus! <G>

I felt much better for having slept, and my back was no longer aching as much. I was on the road, refuelled, by 7.08am, heading northeast to Jedburgh Castle Gate, below.

Further east, to Bamburgh Castle over on the coast. I'd passed Sam Clarke leaving a service station as I was departing Jedburgh, so we did some spirited riding through the early morning quiet along the almost deserted roads to the castle, where we obligingly took each other's photos, as the castle, the rider and bike had to be in each photo.

Sam was off and running to some other bonuses after a quick chat, during which he'd mentioned that he'd been a bit worried about having enough miles, the minimum requirement being 1206 miles.

Without thinking, I said "If you've been to Scotland and back, you'll have enough miles, for sure." I'd ridden to Scotland and back a few days previously, and it had been over 500 miles each way. Of course, I'd totally forgotten that I'd gone up to near Aberdeen, whereas the border region was much less distance!!

I set off for a couple more bonuses on the way south, which would give me enough points to be a finisher. Stopped at a level crossing waiting for the boom gates to rise, a car pulled up behind, and started tooting. I looked back, and the driver was pointing at the back of my bike. curious, I dismounted and there was my rally flag, laying over the exhaust pipe, still attached around the topbox by the springy clips!! How lucky was that! Thanks, mate.

Half an hour later, Sam's worries about mileage were recalled. I rapidly checked the mileage on the GPS. Oh, no, I had only 804 miles at that stage!! Frantically calculating distances and times to the other bonuses, I realised that it wasn't going to happen. It was 1.00pm exactly, 4 hours until the finish time. But I had to do at least 300 miles, in 4 hours, an average of 75mph, to get the required 1206 mileage. Impossible, given the need to get at least two more bonuses of say 5 minutes each, a refuel stop of 4 minutes, and the heavy traffic and roadworks that I would be encountering all the way back to the rally hotel near Cheshunt.

My rally was over. I'd DNF'd. It was stupid to even try to finish, as it was totally against all odds. And the safety factor had to be considered as a priority. I pulled out, and headed slowly (?) down the motorway, stopping a few times at services to rest my back which was aching badly again in the excessive heat. At one services stop, I spent time sprawled on the lawn in the shade, chatting with a young couple on a sports bike, Tyronne and Jenny, about world travelling. Keep your dreams, kids! Nice to meet you both, and thanks for checking in on the website, too, Tyronne.

I rolled into the hotel carpark at 4.20pm, and declared myself a DNF to Roger as he checked me back in.

But after a refreshing shower, I went through the motions of being scored, just to see if I'd leave any points on the table. Nope, perfect - at least I got all the paperwork correct!

Huge congratulations to Robert Roalfe (with whom I'd stayed a couple of times since arriving in the UK) on winning his third consecutive Brit Butt Rally by a big margin. How does this man do it? I wonder. I must say I and a few others were a bit disconcerted to hear not one, but two, rallyists called out as finishers, without their having met the finisher requirements of both 1206 miles and 28000 points. Heck, does that mean I could have been classified as a finisher with over 28000 points, and just a few less than 1206 miles, had I bothered to get the last two bonuses?

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