Saturday, 11 August 2012

I took a wrong turn and ended up in biking heaven

As summer has finally made an appearance I thought I'd plan a longer, more interesting trip than my usual local rides. I decided I'd like to visit the national motorcycle museum, on the outskirts of Birmingham. As this is 'up north' to a London lad like myself, I went to the bother of looking at a map. The obvious route for a non-biker would be straight up the M40 motorway, but that would be no fun. As I was studying the map, I noticed quite a few towns and villages to the west of the motorway all had names with hyphens, so I decided to 'ride the hyphens' or more accurately, 'ride-the-hyphens'. So, this morning saw me up early and out on the road, a list of towns and road numbers scribbled down on a piece of paper in my jacket pocket. I headed out west on the A40/M40 then turned off to go through my first town, Henley-on-Thames. Now I must add here that I intended stopping and taking a photo of the Triumph in front of each town sign to prove I'd been there, but there was so much traffic I didn't bother at Henley.

The next town on the list was Stanford-in-the-vale, which I was quite excited about visiting as it had three hyphens; unfortunately, it was about now that the fatal flaw in my plan made itself known - I have a terrible memory, made worse by age, so all my efforts to remember the road numbers or indeed the intervening town names came to naught. I found myself lost and turning into increasingly-narrower and narrower roads somewhere to the west of Oxford. Then I spotted a sign for Woodstock, which made me start singing " by the time we got to Woodstock they were half-a-million strong" etc, and realised I was miles away from my route. I eventually stopped and checked my i-phone satnav and realised I'd already missed Stanford-in-the-vale and Lechlade-on-Thames, but had a fighting chance of finding Shipton-under-Wychwood. I also noticed that all traces of traffic had melted away, and I was now riding down long, sweeping roads with the Triumph feeling nice and steady and the engine finally loosening up, the open silencers making a  particularly spine-tingling sound . A couple of more wrong turns found me riding down a single-track road, when I spotted a sign for a Roman villa. Thinking this would make an interesting diversion, I parked-up and walked down a long lane, only to be confronted by some old stones in the middle of a field - not what I'd anticipated. However, it did give me time to stop, rest and consider my next move.

Remains of Roman villa in a field

2500 year-old mosaic floor
 As Trobairitz often lists items in her blog, I thought I'd steal her idea and list the things I realised in that field:

  1. Motorcycle boots do not make good hiking boots
  2. Me and the Triumph were never going to get to Birmingham in one day at this rate
  3. I didn't actually want to go to Birmingham any more.
Once I'd made that realisation I decide to just enjoy riding these lovely roads, and end up wherever - with the proviso that if I spotted a hyphenated name on a road sign I'd head there; which is how I managed to ride through Shipton-under-Wychwood, again without stopping for a photo. More and more heavenly roads, until I reached Burford, which is one of those picturesque Cotswold villages, all honey-coloured stone, thatched roofs and, on a day like this, a bustling high street with everyone sitting outside the pubs watching the old convertible cars parading up and down. I stopped for a Cream tea in a delightful cafe and enjoyed watching the world go by. I also checked the i-phone again and realised I'd ridden south and west, now with absolutely no chance of getting to that motorcycle museum today.

I wasn't far, however, from Lechlade-on-Thames, so set off in that direction. By the time I got there I realised I was getting tired, plus the only way I'd get any more hyphenated towns was to backtrack up north, so I took an instant decision to head for home. Going back through Marlborough, Newbury and Thatcham the riding was still excellent; I bypassed Reading and picked up the M3 motorway back up to west London, finally got home around 5.30pm. So that was nine hours and 250 miles - and I didn't really go anywhere! As you can see from the lack of photos, I also failed in my attempts to 'collect' hyphenated' town photos. Hmm...must try harder next time.


  1. Great post. I think it was a neat idea to do a hyphenated-town-ride.

    I think you might benefit from a G-P-S though.

    Aren't lists fun? There is always something to learn on a ride. I am glad you had a good day even if you didn't make the museum. At least you still have a destination for the next nice day of riding.

  2. Trobairitz, glad you didn't mind me stealing your list idea. G-P-S I'm afraid would be a step too far, although I am considering a tank bag with clear map pocket on it.

  3. No worries. I don't own the list thing. it is just a way to mix up the posts a little bit.

    Tank bag with a map pocket sounds like a good idea. We still prefer to use a paper map when we can ,but the GPS is nice for finding restaurants and such. The GPS takes some of the fun and adventure out of it though.

  4. If you travel without destination (or direction for that matter) you end up in hyphenated picturesque towns. If I do such in my neck of the woods all I get is dead ends ;-)