day 1, saturday 31st july 99

The day starts well - I nearly knock the bike over while loading the luggage, but I'm finally on my way to Jeremy's house at about 1:15. On the M4 I see a red Cavalier on the opposite hard shoulder in large amounts of flames. Curiously, there are no people anyway near the car. How did it arrive there? Is this an omen? Are we all doomed?


Time for tea!



I arrive at Jeremy's house to find marvin, Andy the Pugh and Jeff Wain have already arrived. I am very hot and sweaty and so very grateful to slurp down the pints of squash that Jeremy's wife Karen has thoughtfully prepared for us. Jeremy lends me a tank bag, which helps distribute some of the load and I give everyone their T-shirts. This means, of course, a total re-packing. First of many, no doubt.


All here!

Jim fixes it


I adjust the Trixie's suspension - upping the front and rear preload by three clicks. Later this turns out to be a mistake. Iain turns up with one of his front calipers swinging loose. He says "I thought I heard some knocking from the front"! Crispin arrives, with Jim turning up last of all. We set off for Portsmouth at around 5:30 p.m., Jeremy leading the way. Shortly after setting off, something falls from Iain's bike. Jim stops and retrieves it, but doesn't look to see what it is or contains - it turns out to be an empty envelope. Go figure. Later a car swerves out of Jeremy's way as he attempts an overtake, the driver very nearly mounting the kerb. What a berk...

By the time we get half way to Portsmouth (only 75 miles in total), I am very uncomfortable. Rock solid rear suspension from too high preload is taking its toll. I also notice that a couple of times at low speed (say around 40-ish), Trixie's bars are shaking a bit. I will have to adjust things again later.

We arrive at the docks only for marvin to find that his horn, which was attached to his left engine bars, is dragging along the road. He casually removes it and put it into his top box, where it remains for the whole trip.

On the ship we're on the top deck of the vehicle area and are given a pillow each to go between the railings and the bike - with long bits of rope hanging down from the railings for tying down the bike. No clever tie-downs, then. Arse. Curiously, a crewman does the bike tying down thing for Jim, but not the rest of us. Being a Super-Spy and International Man of Mystery obviously has its benefits.

There are 2 cabins. Crispin, marvin, Andy the Pugh and I share one. It has curtains at one end, but no window, or should I say porthole, behind the them. Weird. The button on the built in radio clearly marked Radio 1 plays Radio 4. More weirdness and I'm starting to become impressed.

Shower. Shave. Cut face and throat to ribbons. Arse again. I nip down to the bar to meet the others, where we establish cabin rule #1: "if you want a wank, out into the corridor!" Fair enough. The "out into the corridor for that" theme will continue for the rest of the journey. From the bar, we go to the restaurant, which turns out to be a carvery. What difference there is between this and the self-service place next to it escapes me. We eat only reasonably for far too much money (17 for food and one drink).

As general tiredness sets in, I go back to the cabin and hope sea-sickness doesn't set in. The rest of the chaps go off to the bar to have an unpleasant near miss with 'Helga'. As they sit drinking, a large blonde woman wearing rubber gloves and a plastic apron bears down on them. Jeff decides that her name is Helga and she's about to administer a forced colonic irrigation to each and every one of them. Fortunately, this turns out to be just his wishful thinking.



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