13th July 2003

Take one scorching hot cloudless Sunday morning, 26 gleaming Harleys, and a bunch of excited riders... that was the scene at Warr’s car park on 13th July. A concise ride briefing from organiser Colin Houliston, a safety briefing from DCI Michael Howells, top tips from our supremo Road El Capitano Peter ‘Scottie’ Scott (I love the smell of napalm in the morning...), and a word of warning from caring Conor McAnally regarding the dangers of heat exhaustion and dehydration. Then the helmets were on and, after much unnecessary revving, we were off led by Michael for the first leg.

John and Ian

Less than a mile to the first bit of excitement - is that a record? Col and I were directing the ride up Munster Road when we saw the hazard lights behind us. ‘There’s been an incident’ stated Colin in a very adult fashion. ‘Omigod Conor’s back there!’ I squeeked in a not especially adult response! Anyway, turned out that the only life at risk was that of a seriously misguided youth whom had omitted to apply adequate attention or braking prior to bringing his scooter into contact with Scottie’s rear fender. Gasps all around! However, Scottie had been fed that morning, and the youth’s head remained attached - although still blatantly brainless.

The boys rode up to us, Scottie with his usual expression (I think you know what I mean!), Conor ‘Get in’ McAnally grinning broadly and assuring us that all was well as he merrily carried on down New King’s Road in completely the wrong direction.

Keen to catch up with the ride, imagine our surprise to see the bikes roaring out of a side street in front of us... the old bill had led them the wrong way! Much eyebrow raising (though not from Scottie of course, tell me, is that botox?) but no harm done. Colin and Smiley Steve Beauchamp detoured back to collect the drop offs. Hurrah! the system worked perfectly! Then a sighting of two magpies for joy at Hammersmith - oh, we’re loving it!

The jaunt down the M4 was heavy going for all, but without event (except for when Scottie turned off in a strop at junction 12 - and several bikes very nearly followed him!). I could bore you with my bouncy near death moments at the mercy of Colin’s suspension, but what purpose would that serve, ahem? And there was the moment when Scottie was bravely surging down the hard shoulder (is that strictly legal?) and flicked an 8 foot long plank straight in front of us as at 70! Col muttered something about inspecting his tyres when we stopped whilst I myself was rather keen to check my underpants!

Just before the stop off at Hungerford, Steve Hughes had the biggest fright when poor Jill had a funny turn and fainted behind him on his beautiful 100th anniversary Ultra Classic. Luckily Steve had the foresight to select a bike with a jolly comfortable armchair seat for his wife - ahem, did I say that? And she did have Lovely Les and Super-Scottie either side of her at the very moment - come to think of it, maybe it was the sight of Scottie...? I’m pleased to report that Jill rallied immediately and used the episode as a legitimate chocolate scoffing opportunity - go girl!

Some on the spot repairs were effected to the bike of an unfortunate rider who’s handlebars seemed to have ‘come a bit loose’ on the M4! Jill and I enjoyed the sun and a chat whilst the rest of the ride enjoyed Scottie’s briefing number two - for those who hadn’t been listening properly the first time! A lesson in ‘formation riding and anticipation’ from the maestro - oh, he’s so damn good!

Then came the fun part! Colin and his sturdy chrome Fat Boy took the lead and we set off into the stunning scenery - smack behind a very slow horse box. Finally the evil eye of Colin prevailed, the horse box turned off and it was ‘Hi ho Chromo! Away!’ We were soon swinging around the rolling curves of the Vale of Pewsey, with the ‘white horse’ in the distance, and a long ol’ snake of thundering Harleys behind us. Looking good!

A rush of baking hot air in the open country, then sudden delightfully cool shaded woods - this is what it’s all about! Get some! In a quiet, picturesque village, Conor roared up to advise Colin that he needed to put on some pace - it seemed the snake was getting a bit bunched up. No problemo and away we went. Within seconds we were all alone! No-mates!

Arriving at Stonehenge, Scottie had sneaked ahead - if you can sneak on a Heritage Softail! - and was directing the car park traffic when we arrived. We had a specially reserved area set aside, good planning guys! Long after we were all parked up, Scottie was still directing the coaches and cars whilst the officials looked on shamefaced. Spookily, Smiley Steve was there when we arrived... but aren’t you ‘tail end Charlie?’ Poor Smiley had experienced technical problems en route, and had been forced to drop back and find his own way with no-one behind to help him out - that’s his story anyway. Luckily the valiant attentions of Warr’s top servicing gurus, John Towns and Ian Thomas, were called upon once more and, with the help of Conor’s spare plugs, the smile was back on Smiley’s face. Hooray!


The photo opportunity was seized, many sweaty bikers in front of the Pre-historic Stones - hang on, isn’t that what happened in Barcelona, 2 weekends before?

The Warr’s team had their own very exclusive photo shoot and then we all agreed that it was time to set off for the real destination - the pub!

Across Porton Down and into sunny Hampshire to the welcoming Fox and Hounds in Crawley village. But who is that chap in the road, cigar in mouth, waving us all into the car park? Why, it’s General Paton, surely? Actually it was a rather hot Nick Page, who had been eagerly awaiting our arrival for some time! We all enjoyed a delightful break in the gardens of this lovely Virginia creeper-clad pub, a hearty poughmans and some typical biker talk (how long does it take you to polish your chrome? Oooo really?!) The friendly pub staff seemed surprisingly calm about keeping Scottie waiting longest for his food, although I was a bit worried about the fate of the many wasps who were intent on falling into his beer. St. Conor of Assisi seemed content to waft and tickle the drowsy wasps away, and I of course squealed like a girl and taught everyone some new words.

Very content, we eventually set off up the A31 and over the Hog’s Back, up the familiar A3, before we all peeled off in our own homeward directions. Happy to arrive home, I’d had a top day and felt absolutely knackered from all that sitting there doing nothing! Thanks to Colin and his trusty mates Conor, Scottie, Michael and Smiley Steve for working tirelessly to plan and scout out such a great route and for such a fun and successful July ride-out! And to our heroes John and Ian from Warr’s for saving the day for Smiley! If you enjoyed the ride too, be sure to let them know, it’s hard work to plan a ride-out but rewarding - hopefully you’ll lead a ride round your neck of the woods soon! Bring it on!

Belinda Rydings