Rally Tales

Hog & Bog 2

(August 03, 2011)

HOG N BOG 2011 (Gary Hawkins )

I made plans to go to the Hog N Bog Rally early this year. Ticket purchased, ferry booked and as I planned to tour around Donegal a bit before going to the rally, hotel booked. I enjoy this rally the people are great and the area is a fantastic place to visit. There were no takers from SOCA but three friends from the Hogs Bollocks were up for it. The plan was to meet up in Stranraer on Wednesday night, stay in a B & B then on to the Ferry to Larne next morning. My plan was to leave work at 3.30 drive home pick up the bike then head north to join them – easy peasie.

It all started to go wrong about 11 am. , a pair of thieving b*****ds in a van decided to stop and nick some toilets, packed and waiting to be loaded from the rear of our unit. I duly reported it to the scuffers with the van registration (from the estate CCTV) about 10 minutes after the event when it was discovered. Yes, they would rush around, 6.30 that evening would be the earliest they could come! Bugger. I rang the guys and informed them of the problem and plan B was put into place. I would leave home at  1.00 am Thursday morning and drive up to Scotland and meet them at the Cairnryan ferry at 6.45. After making my statement to the baby faced youth purporting to be a policeman I finally got home just after 8.00 had a bit of tea and got off to bed by nine. It was a bit of a struggle to get off to sleep but I got a couple of hours before getting up at 12.30am and getting all my gear on and setting off on time as planned.

My new screen took a lot of the hard work out of it and I made good time up the M6 north. Off on the A75 and along past Gretna, Dumfries and Castle Douglas all went well but after about 40 miles (its 90+ miles from the motorway to the ferry) it started to pee down. About 20 miles shy of the ferry I hit a mega pot hole that fair rattled my fillings and thereafter the bike started to feel a bit strange. The back end was snaking about somewhat and it dawned on me that the back tyre was going down. I slowed up and took it steady but about 8 miles short of the ferry the bike tried to chuck me off as I went round a bend and I had to push it into the side of the road. The tyre was as flat as a fart, it was 5.25 am, I am in the middle of nowhere, its pissing down and each of the numerous HGV’s rounding the bend misses me by a couple of feet and chucks a sheet of water over me. Oh yes and I had forgot my f***ing mobile! If you heard some funny noises early on the 4th of August it could have been me swearing and kicking the shit out of the hedgebank. After  about 20 minutes I managed to flag down a van and the driver very kindly lent me his phone to ring the RAC to collect me. ‘He will be with you in 45 minutes sir’ she softly said. The trailer turned up at 7.50, the ferry left at 7.30. They wanted to take me to somewhere in Stranraer, no, no, no, Quickfit or ATS don’t do Harleys - I want it back to Stoke. Eventually I got my way and we set off back south. I was to say the least ‘airlocked’ I could not speak to the recovery driver (I never asked his name) for the first couple of hours. He was a very steady, very very steady driver, a teetotal caravanner so it was  meeting of kindred spirits! (250 miles and 6 hours in a small car not exceeding 50 mph!). It suddenly dawned on me that if one of the guys had rang Susan to ask where the f**k I was she would not be a happy bunny and I would be in the doo dah. I asked to borrow his phone and checked in with mein Fuhrerin. We finally got back to SHD in Stoke at 2.00pm. I explained my problem to Steve there and he informed me his tyre man was away on holiday until next day – damn. I abandoned the bike and the RAC driver then kindly (considering how morose I had been) dropped me off at home.

After a  change into dry clothes and a cuppa I decided to regroup and move to plan C. Re-book the ferry for Thursday night and go back to Cairnryan on the Suzuki , go across to Larne and meet them at the hotel in Donegal – simplz. I contacted P & O ferries, I had missed this morning’s ferry because of a breakdown could they please book me on one about 8/9pm that night. No- they were all full until midnight on Friday, surely one bike and one teenie weenie person could be fitted in No, No, No. To say I was vexed at this point is an understatement. Fortunately there was no one else at home to hear me ranting and stomping about.  Once my blue was over another cuppa and I thought about what options were left. Easy really: call it a day, it was not meant to be or find an alternative. I had been looking forward to it for months so I decided I was bloody well going! Plan D was hatched.  I fired up my computer and went on to the internet and checked the other ferries. Hollyhead - Dublin departing 9.30pm Thursday night arriving Dublin 1 am Friday morning £51.00 one way - click, click, click - booked. I then planned a route up to Donegal from Dublin ‘yes I should arrive at the hotel about 5am tell the night porter’ I texted to the guys. I repacked all my stuff on to and into the Suzuki and said goodbye to Susan once again. I left Maison Hawkins at 6.30 and set off for Holyhead.  Travelling via the M6, M56, and A55 I made the ferry port at Hollyhead just after 8.30. The ferry left port bang on time and I had a snack and tried to get some zzzz’s but it was very busy and I couldn’t find anywhere to stretch out comfortably. I did manage to find a chair however and do a bit of cat napping.

I disembarked on time and headed out of the port into Dublin, where the roads are not particularly well lit or signed. The new tunnel which I had hoped would spirit me out of the city to the M1 north was closed so I had to feel my way through. Luckily I spotted an airport bus so I ‘locked on’ and followed it out of the city north. I filled up the bike just north of Dublin at Swords then headed on. M1 north then off to Ardee, up the N2 to Moynahan before crossing the border and on to Omagh and  Strabane. The roads are somewhat potholed and quite twisty in part, there is hardly any street lighting and to cap it all it rained on and off but I made it to the ASDA in Strabane at ten to four where I stopped for a quick stretch and a drink.

On the bike once again at four travelling north over the border into Donegal. After going through Letterkenny  I went on along narrow tight B roads to the Hotel at Downie. I arrived bang on 5am in the first grey light of day. The night porter let me in and I went up to the room. My banging about woke up Tom who I was sharing the room with but within minutes I had crashed out and was in deep Z mode. I woke up at 9 am, had a shave and shower and felt almost human again. Once dressed (always best with my svelt physique) it was downstairs for porridge and honey and a wonderful Irish fry up breakfast – bostin! I can heartily recommend the hotel and the rest of the guys Graham, Helen and Tom reckoned to have had a fantastic night on the lash the previous night. They had been in a nearby pub with impromptu music and the ‘craic’ until the ‘wee small hours’ when the Garda had come into the pub and told them all to ‘feckin well quieten down’.

About 10.30 we were all sorted and set off in bright sunshine to follow the north west coast of Donegal and then come around in a loop through the mountains to head off to the rally. We had a great days riding along a beautiful rugged coastline, lots of quaint villages (no signs of ASDA, Morrisons or Greggs in the high streets of this part of the world!). There were even people digging peat. The twisty roads without too much traffic need your concentration but are well worth the effort. Whats not to like?. Well if I have one criticism it is that in some of the beautiful scenic places there were lots of houses scattered about kind of spoiling the views. In Ireland planning permission is not required apparently, buy a plot and build what you want on it. It doesn’t even have to be constructed in the traditional style or materials of the area.

We got back to Letterkenny about 3pm where we refuelled the bikes and ourselves with tea and buns. We then set off on through Londonderry (Derry) over the ‘Peace Bridge’ then to Coleraine via  Limavady for the rally. After booking in we parked the bikes and within 45 minutes our tents were pitched, everything was set up, B.O.T. tee shirts (Bollocks on Tour!) donned and I had my first pint of Guinness in my hand. After the previous 48 hours I have to say that it was one of the most enjoyable pints I have ever sunk!  After an early alcohol frenzy we ventured inside for food. There was a good selection of quality food available – not just burgers and live music all evening from about 6pm. After food the beers continued to flow until the bar shut at 1am and we spilled outside for a ‘supper’ burger. Strangely we all awoke fairly late with thick heads. After a very leisurely breakfast and a few brews we decided against the official rideout to Londonderry (Derry) and instead to ride over to the Bushmills distillery about 15 miles away.

We set off and after about 5 miles the heavens opened with a deluge the like of which I have only seen in Florida and China where they call them ‘tropical storms’. We had to stop and not just us, even the cars were stopping with a 4 inch covering of water everywhere even on level roads. When it eased we continued on into the distillery but we had just missed the tour so had to settle for an excellent lunch in their café and a look around the shop. We rode back to the rally along the coast road via Dunluce castle and Portrush arriving back in bright sunshine. We were then able to sit in the sun outside the clubhouse sinking a few Guinness and gassing.For some very strange reason pre rally we had decided that we each would need to take flat caps and whippets to demonstrate our ‘Englishness’. As we sat in the sun with our cardboard ‘best friends’ and flat caps we got some strange looks. We eventually found a friendly local to judge the dog (whippet) show. Graham won (and was awarded a trophy) but I am convinced there was some skullduggery involved. I am not a sore loser!

About seven we sorted some tea and moved inside to watch the bands. This is one rally where great bands come as standard and dance floor stayed full except for the usual presentations. We finally turned in about 2 am and grabbed a few hours kip despite the best efforts of some nearby who had brought the party back to their tents. I’ve done it myself so complaining is not really a viable option.

Sunday morning started nice and we were able to grab some breakfast and pack away all our gear and tents without harassment.  We were ready for away by 10 am so said our goodbyes and set off south towards Ballymena before a pleasant ride east over the foothills of the Antrim mountains to Larne. We got booked in for the ferry then sat about chatting until it was time to board. The crossing was calm and thankfully brief getting into Cairnryan around 2.30. We disembarked and headed across country for home. As I passed the spot where my first attempt had come to a halt I noticed my boot marks in the hedge bank, 2-1 to me I think. The remainder of the journey home was uneventful apart from  three very heavy showers on the M6 , some argy bargy with three Irish juggernauts on the A75 and Toms exhaust falling off, amazing what can be done with the handle off a paint tin!.

In the end it turned out to be a great weekend ,well worth the effort and I will be booking my ticket for 2012 in January.!

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