Locks, Docks & V-Twin Barrels

15th April 2018

So, as they say, better late than never and C&F are back on the road again after a nasty weather front delayed our start to the riding season in March. Eventually the clocks “spring” forward, it’s no longer pitch-black outside when the alarm clock does its worse and it’s April; time to fire up those V-twin Harley’s... game on!

Rewind back to March and preparation, as the newly appointed Road Captain, is all important. The bike is cleaned, route is sorted (or is it?), squeeze in another recce to show it to Steve Graham to get his views, he gives it the thumbs up, and so we’re good to go... and then the phone rings! It’s the manager of the pub I’ve booked for the ride to end and have lunch (next to the Kennet & Avon Canal by a Lock); “Hi Ray, sorry but we’re closing for 6 weeks for a refurbishment so can’t take your group booking”... oh joy!! As Corporal Jones said many times “don’t panic!”, get on to Google and we’ll have this sorted in no time, simples! The condensed version is that by 10pm that night I’m still driving around Berkshire trying to find a suitable venue and I’m seriously considering going back to see the manager of the original pub I’d booked to test out Corporal Jones’s theory that “they don’t like it up ‘em!” Then my luck changes, I’m told about the Crab & Boar and off I go to meet the manager, Roger, who could not have been more helpful and welcoming; result!

So, the day finally arrives, weather is looking like it’ll be kind(ish) to us and the bikes roll in one after another, what a glorious sound! It’s great to catch up with friends we’ve not seen over the long winter and it so good to see the Chapter out in full force again, 2018 riding season is about to kick-off!

84 people are checked-in, Ride-brief done (thank you for not heckling me Vince and to the RC’s for your assistance) and C&F are back on the road in style! Keeping such a large group together getting out of London was always going to be challenge and sure enough by the time I reach the A4 I’ve only got 4 bikes behind me... gulp! However, everyone does their bit and, with the expert support of the RC’s, by the time we reach Junction 5 of the M4 we’re all present and correct and no one misses the junction; happy days! On that note, well done & thank you to all of you who marked a turning or junction where I dropped you off, staying in place until the Last Man arrived meant we didn’t lose a single bike, so give yourselves a big pat on the back (if you can reach!), top job C&F!

The Mill Theatre in the picturesque village of Sonning are ready with teas and coffees for 84 thirsty people, with David and his team doing us proud. For some reason my invitation to join Mr & Mrs George Clooney next door for breakfast went missing in the post (at least that’s what his PA said before telling me to do something that (I think) is physically impossible and slamming the phone down on me!) so the group photo is done by RC and Official Chapter Photographer Steve Graham, whilst of course he’s multi-tasking being Last Man AND after taking the Sportster rider’s back to the fuel stop; not bad for ex RAF!!

Off we go, heading west through the wonderful villages of Goring (where the eagled-eyed amongst you would have spotted the late, great George Michael’s house just before the bridge on the left), on to Streatley, then turning north-west just before Newbury to arrive for lunch at the superb Crab & Boar in Chieveley and to end the ride just before the rain started... phew!

From what I can gather everyone enjoyed the food and Roger and his team looked after circa 45 of us, great job!

So, that’s it, my first ride done as a Road Captain, the first of many I hope. Without wishing to sound like some well-oiled, celebrity numpty who’s making a “thank you” speech at an awards ceremony, a few thank you’s if I may: to John Warr for opening up early, for teas, coffees and pastries, showing me how to work the check-in kit and a few last-minute top-tips on leading a ride, much appreciated. Thanks also to all 84 of you for joining the ride and making it such a great day for us all, hope you enjoyed it. Lastly, but certainly not least, to Steve as Last Man and to the rest of the Road Captain team for their invaluable help on the final recce and on the day itself; top job gents!

Next ride is Calm Water, on Sunday 13th May and led by Steve Graham; I’ve seen photos of the final venue and t’s a gem, so don’t miss it!

Ray Campbell - C&F Road Captain