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Saturday 21 September 1985
Weekend ride: Salcombe Youth Hostel
Day 1
Dry and sunny
9 Participants: Mark Hunt, John Iles, Brett Jamieson, Michael Jones, Philip Mills, Mark Moxham, Paul Palmer, Luke Rake, Paul Willard
A cycle trip that goes exactly according to plan, with no unexpected incidents along the way, can sometimes make dull reading in a report. When things go wrong however the author has plenty of material with which to keep the reader entertained – at the expense of those poor unfortunates on whose shoulders the trouble fall. The reader will be pleased to hear that this report falls easily into the second category.

Everything had, of course, been planned in minute detail: six Dart Valley members would leave Buckfastleigh at 1330, led by Michael and John; four Torbay youngsters would start from Marldon at the same time, led by Tom Mills; both groups would meet at Totnes Plains shortly after 1400 along with two further Torbay members; at 1415 the group of twelve would proceed to Totnes station to meet the 1410 arrival from Dawlish, from which would emerge nine Dawlish Dawdlers and nine cycles, that group having boarded the train at 1341; the group of twenty-one would be joined by Steven Hills, accompanying his Dawlish group by car due to knee troubles, the whole group then proceeding at leisurely pace to Salcombe.

Nothing could possibly go wrong. British Rail had been informed will in advance of the need for cycle space, and alternative plans had been made to allow for the possibility, however remote, of the train being late.

There were not problems, with the exception of two last-minute cancellations, until the Totnes group arrived at the station. An official was standing near the entrance, watching us with calculated coldness. As we approached he moved forward.

“Would you be Mr Jones?” he asked, failing to disguise a grin.

Michael recognised that grin. Years of experience in dealing with BR personnel told him at once that he was trapped: the official was about to derive immense satisfaction from telling a group of his customers that BR had let them down, and there was nothing he could do about it. He replied in the affirmative.

“There’s a message from Mr Hills of Dawlish,” he continued. “He and his party won’t be coming.” The official was by now positively beaming.

Michael stared at him long and hard before asking the obvious question: “Why?”

“Something about the van being full – the chap in the office took the message. Anyway, he won’t be coming.” With that the official turned and walked into the station, whistling happily.

Interrogation of the gentleman in the ticket office yielded a hard and unfriendly repetition of the previously disclosed message from behind the comparative safety of his glass barrier: evidently he had been expecting us to be less than pleased.

A few minutes later the train arrived, carrying the smallest guard’s van Michael had seen for many years. Two motorbikes took up most of the available space.

Clearly there was nothing to be done. The group proceeded at a moderate pace through a muggy, foggy South Hams in the general direction of Salcombe, wondering whether Steven would have any chance of getting his youngsters to the hostel that night.

Suddenly, catastrophe struck again: Mark Moxham’s bottom bracket was causing problems. A closer investigation revealed that the adjustable cup had become a little too adjustable. It was quickly screwed into place but a few miles down the road it had slipped out again.

It soon became apparent that the threads of the cup no longer engaged with those of the frame, making it virtually impossible to effect a permanent repair without the facilities of a bike shop. Pieces of paper and tin foil were periodically wedged into the threads all the way to Salcombe. In this way Mark managed to hobble to the hostel in fits and starts, but clearly something would have to be done that evening if the same rigmarole was to be avoided the following day.

Whatever the importance of repairing Mark’s bottom bracket, food immediately took a higher priority on arrival at the hostel. The warden had reserved the attic dorm – the largest in the building – for our group, but it didn’t take long for everyone to carry their bags up the numerous sets of stairs, wash and change and return to the dining room.

The warden approached with a tray of soup and announced that Steven had just telephoned – from Harberton. They were on their way, much to everyone’s amazement. Some hasty calculations gave an ETA of around 2215, but what state would the younger lads be in after such an ordeal? We settled down to enjoy the meal, feeling particularly grateful that we were settled into the warm hostel.

Halfway through the main courses the warden appeared again. This time the message was from Andrew Billington who had intended to join us for supper. Things had apparently not gone to plan and he would not be coming.

At around 2210 we vacated the games room and picked our way gingerly through the inky darkness of the hostel drive. As we reached the bottom a familiar sound reached our ears. A moment later and Steven’s car was bearing down on us, closely pursued by eight weary young cyclists. The ninth, Philip, had been granted the honour of riding in the car with Steven, much to the resentment of the others.

The succeeding conversations revealed that the group had finally managed to get a train as far as Newton Abbot and had cycled all the way from there. No wonder they were all exhausted! They seemed to have some difficulty deciding whether food or bed would receive the highest priority; the matter was resolved, however, when the warden closed the kitchen at 2300.
Sunday 22 September 1985
Weekend ride: Salcombe Youth Hostel
Day 2
Dry and sunny
9 Participants: Mark Hunt, John Iles, Brett Jamieson, Michael Jones, Philip Mills, Mark Moxham, Paul Palmer, Luke Rake, Paul Willard
The return journey was, fortunately, fraught with fewer difficulties. When repairs had been effected to Luke’s tyre, damaged the previous evening during a skid, the twenty-strong group set off for the ferry to East Portlemouth under a cloudy but rainless sky.

When the complicated task of ferrying eighteen cycles across the Kingsbridge Estuary in a boat the size of a saucepan had been completed (it took four trips) the group set off for South Pool. It was near Waterhead that a passing ice-cream van was forced off the road and stripped of its entire stock; the gentleman concerned considered that there must have been divine intervention, as this was the last day of his season!

Lunch on the beach at Torcross was particularly enjoyable. When everyone had finished running around, taking photographs and pouring pebbles down people’s shirts the group set off once more, heading this time for Strete and Tuckenhay. Once again young Philip managed to get a lift in the car for quite a bit of the journey, as did Mark Moxham whose bottom bracket had finally given up the unequal struggle to hold itself together.

A short stop for light refreshments near Dreyton was followed by the discovery of a large hole in Luke’s front tyre. The repair effected at the hostel had been only temporary but it had been expected to last until he got home. Philip appeared dismayed at the discovery as he knew only too well that there was only room for two people in the car.

Corkscrew Hill brought the group, inevitably, to Bow Hill. Philip tackled it bravely and managed to continue all the way to Totnes despite being irritated from time to time by the sight of Luke and Mark speeding past in the car. On one occasion it was Luke and Paul in the car – Paul had loaned Mark his bike so that he could have a chance to do some cycling!

Salcombe 1985 was certainly different. Support cars can sometimes be a nuisance, but on this occasion it proved essential and added something to the whole adventure. Let’s hope that 1986 will see further cooperation between our local Sections and that we are able to maintain the high standards of fun and adventure that were set by this year’s event.
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