Its almost February, and the year starts with rain rain rain. (Oh no weather again),
The 'season' to be jolly (Christmas), was cool and enjoyable. Family, friends, food and despite a strain on my waistline, the start of 2014 was as an unemployed man (again).
FARR ATV Ltd closed due to the current economy and my position of General Manager was finished at the start of December.
Despite trying hard to turn around the fortunes of the company, I was brought in a bit late and the Chinese owners decided to call it a day as they have bigger fish to fry.
I had the opportunity to go for a ride from home to South Wales and back (360 miles), to see a potential stone rendering job.
The A49 runs from Warrington to Ross-on-Wye and I nipped down the M56 motorway for a couple of junctions (J10) turning onto the 49.
A cool day despite the blue skies and low winter sun, it became obvious that the southerly direction I was travelling on would ensure that the sun was in my eyes for the next 3 or four hours.
The route through Whitchurch heading for Shrewsbury offers some excellent vistas as the wide and often busy route passes stately homes, crosses rivers and takes in some of Cheshire's best bends and long straights. Shrewsbury within an hour and a half, , Ludlow, Leominster , Hereford the scenery gets better, the roads smoother and more biker friendly. There are a few interuptions going through these towns as those road users going about their daily routine carry on regardless.
Despite the share of trucks and tractors, its a week day so its not too busy and overtaking the slower travellers is taken without fuss. The R1200GSa has a high seat so looking over and around cars is simple and despite the sun in my eyes, the internal dark visor on my helmet allows me to flick through the options of glare supression and darker spots under the trees or in the shadow of buildings.
After a couple of stops and starts for fuel and a coffee, I arrive in Ross on Wye and detour to the house I was visiting.
By 2.45 pm I was starting the bike once more to return 150 miles north again. This time by highway/motorway.
The M5 runs from the south coast (Exeter) to Birmingham then links up with the M6 that will drop me back onto A roads within 8 miles of my front door.
It will be dark with the next 2 hours so I want to get on the motorway and be a good few miles north and try and get through the usual traffic mayhem of the 'rush hour'.
I think the term 'Rush Hour' that was given to the hours before 9 am and the other side of a working day at 5 pm, was true many years ago. The roads across our small and crowded country should be given a new title.
The 'Slow Hour', as there is very little rushing on the countries roads any time between 7 am and 10 pm, most days.
Today is getting to that stage.
The motorway allows me the option of the odd, short, 80-100 mph blasts to get away from the busy bits where a 40 ton truck doing 55 mph tries to overtake another one going 54 mph.
This mad overtaking hobby, takes 4-5 miles to finalise as the overtaker can go no faster due to his engine being restricted, the overtaken will not slow down, as he is on a mission and why should he slow down to help get the rest of the road users on their way?
Its getting cold out there, and it wasn't until a few days later that I realised I had taken the thermal liners out of my trousers. As the sun tries hard to stay just above the horizon and give a golden glow to the darkening sky, I add the spot lights to my front illumination. The theory is that if they see me coming, they may refrain from pulling out before I pass.
I added a hi-viz vest to my outfit today as I was aware that it would be dark by time I get home.
The M5 is fast and fluid for many miles, but as expected the junction known as the RAC Building, (Where the M5 and M6 meet), also starts the first on many 50 mph roadwork sections.
It was 1958 when the M6 opened, and since then there has been roadworks somewhere on its length, every year. ever since. With the combination of narrow lanes and slow traffic it is impossible to filter down the middle, so I slot in between cars, and wait my turn at 50.
Soon my junction is ahead, and as I crawl the last few miles through town, I am cold and tired. The clutch lever seem heavier to operate, putting my feet down is harder each stop. Car driver seem less happy to let me drop into small spaces as I hop from spot to spot.
Turning into my drive is a relief, though the chore of getting all this riding gear off and putting my bike to bed is still to come.
Total miles today 360. Did I get the job..... no.