Day 4 – Cardiff to Litchborough (162.8 miles)

What was supposed to be ‘one or two beers’ last night, turned into four, then five then six. I haven’t gone drinking in months, so those beers really floored me and I woke this afternoon (yes, that’s right, I slept through the morning) feeling like I wasn’t going to be ready to ride for at least another week!

I spend the down time productively though, outside it’s rather cloudy, so I stay in editing the pictures and updating the blog for all my avid followers (yes, that’s you Mam). The clouds start to clear in the late afternoon and luckily, so does my head. By 4pm I’m raring to go, so I pack up all the gear (going back three times for things I forgot), say my goodbyes and leave just before 5pm.

The Sun is blazing as I cruise up the main artery roads up towards Monmouth, where I rejoin the Bike8 route. I’m itching for some corners and am not disappointed. I’m not sure when I cross back into Britain but I first realise it while snaking between Cheltenham and Gloucester. Gloucester Cathedral (at least I assume that’s what it is) sits on a hill and dominates the skyline. I make a mental note to come back down and spend more time here in the future but today is just a fly-by.

The minor roads in South East England all seem to be lined with wild garlic, the smell rising in the warm air makes me think of summer walks. But I don’t have to think of that; it is summer! And I’m enjoying the ride!

Most of he roads through to Banbury and Chipping Norton are undulating and gently curved, making for an easy ride. The 50/60mph limit is frequently interrupted by 30mph villages and settlements, so progress is slow, but by and large the villages are either so beautiful that you want to slow down and have a look, or they’re built around tightly curved roads that you’d have had to slow down for in any case, so the time spent in 3rd gear is easy to forgive.

 

3 miles outside of Chipping Norton I round a corner in a little village, whose name I didn’t catch, and am treated to a view of a beautiful old church, bathed in Sunlight and surrounded by friendly looking trees. I take this as my queue to stop, take some photographs and eat dinner. I consider shooting a video (surely it’s quicker than writing all this out!) but a groundsman fires up the lawn mower, which doesn’t make for a pleasant background sound, so I start up my own motor and head off.

I’m heading East, running away from the setting Sun, which means the views of bright yellow rape-seed fields and lush green pastures are all awash with golden light. The perfect time to be taking pictures but if I stopped for every view I’d never get anywhere! This really is a beautiful part of the country, it’s beauty is more understated than the valleys of Wales but somehow all the more endearing because of that. I promise myself I’ll stop soon and take a picture of a yellow field.

And I do stop soon, another corner in another village presents me with another great old church building that I simply have to photograph. The stone has an orange hue, which is further accentuated by the ever lower hanging Sun’s rays, and it looks perfect against the blue-sky backdrop.

It’s about 8.15pm by this point and I really must start looking for somewhere to camp. In my mind’s eye I see a small stand of trees between two yellow fields, where I can hang my hammock for a good view of the Sunset and the Sunrise next morning. Wouldn’t that be ideal?

 

Meanwhile, the Earth is relentlessly spinning me away from the Sun and I’m not having any luck finding the perfect spot, so I pull up next to just such a field (alas, with only one tree near it) to photograph the sunset. It really is a beautiful view and I’m having too much fun taking pictures! As it turns out, this very field is of historical significance; it’s where, in 1935, Robert Watson and Arnold Wilkins proved that Radar can work to track plane movements, helping us to win the war. A scan of the horizon reveals no planes but it does tell me I’ve still a way to go before I’ll find any suitable trees, so I pack up and prepare to leave.

The Fut has other ideas however! For some reason she won’t start! All the electrics are working but the starter motor doesn’t even attempt to spin when I press the button. I do all the ‘idiot checks’, sure that it’s something simple (Is the bike in gear? Is the kill switch engaged? Is the side-stand down?) but no joy.

I make a bad job of calling the recovery company. It takes me a while to realise that the Zumo is assuming control of my phone via bluetooth and I’m trying to use the phone sans Bluetooth headset. Finally I sort myself out and get through to someone. Chris is very calm and helpful but, unfortunately, he can’t find any record of my account. I only took this policy out last week, so chances are the data hasn’t migrated from the systems of the company who takes my money to those of the company that actually does the work.

In the end I decide to camp out in the tent and call back in the morning. Could this be a premature end to my journey…

 

Just before settling down for the night, I head back to the bike to arm the alarm and immobilizer. Hold on a second! The immobilizer! Of course, it must’ve armed itself while I spent so long taking pictures. A quick check confirms that the Ape is just fine, it was all a ruse to get me to sleep near a yellow field like I’d hoped (albeit in a tent this time!)

I can look forward to tomorrow again now.

 

Goodnight!

2 Replies to “Day 4 – Cardiff to Litchborough (162.8 miles)”

  1. Hi Daniel,
    Although our somewhat tenuous connection via ebay, thank you for pointing me towards your motorcycle diary. I have read with interest your posts and now see why the mirrors are no longer available for sale (oops!). I will continue to follow your trip.
    As a fellow Futura owner and puzzled by the absence of a factory fit top box to accompany the panniers, I went investigating further. Apparently they mess with the handling of the bike and Aprilia only recommend a roll bag across the pillion seat. Hence your need for redistribution of weight to regain some confidence in the handling. I hope you have now got it sorted.
    Cheers
    Mark

    1. Hi Mark,

      I’m glad you’re liking it so far! I have two more entries to post (now that I finally have a good connection) but I need to sleep first! They should be up tomorrow afternoon sometime.

      Yes, I was aware of Aprilia’s recommendation about a top box but I prefer it for keeping the bike slim when commuting. My mistake was down to packing things by category rather than thinking about weight distribution!

      Dan

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