Up and away by 10.30am, Cubbie was pointed to the north and I did that thing again - you know, just following my nose and seeing where we end up - this time it was alongside the Union Canal, and conveniently, there was a wee barge / boaty thing that chugged into view as I was taking a couple of photos. Onwards towards Winchburgh, home of a multiple-Tiger-Cub-owner whom I've never actually met, and still haven't met, even though I made a lotta racket going through the town, and then it was up to the mighty Forth Road Bridge. Hmmm. Got a little lost looking for the back roads, wanted to avoid the M9 if at all possible, and found myself at a back entrance to Edinburgh Airport, where I met five nice plane spotters - thanks for he sponsorship guys. Made it over to the bridge, following their directions, and I can tell you there are 99 joins in the surface, and every single one of them is jolly uncomfortable when you're riding a rigid Cubbie. Opened just two years after Cubbie was built, (so that would be 1964) it is over 1.5 miles long (well I measured it at a mile I'm sure they're right), has a central span of 3300 ft between its two main towers and the side spans, are a mere 1340 ft long. Did you know that the supporting cables are 2 ft in diameter and were spun on site using 11618 parallel high tensile steel wires 5 mm in diameter. Cor blimey, I love these Forth Bridge Facts, wakey wakey back there! 39,000 tons of steel and 115,000 cubic metres of concrete were used to build it, and get this, the total cost of the bridge including the approach roads consisting of 13 kilometres of dual carriageway, 13 kilometres of minor access roads and 24 minor bridges was £19,500,000 - that's £250,000,000 today, give or take a few quid. Phew. Have to admit, it was a slightly scary feeling riding across it, not because of the 150 ft drop to the sea, or because little strands of cables keep snapping, but because there is nowhere to hide if a breakdown should occur.... I've no idea which county it's in either, but I'll look it up for you.
Once over the bridge, we took a sharp left and headed out on the A985 (a nasty fast and very busy main road) to Kincardine, turn right, then left, and it's into Clackmannanshire. Intrigued by a sign for the Tower Trail, I ended up at the Market Cross and Tolbooth in the centre of town. The bottom of the cross bears the marks of many a prisoner’s chain. Built in 1592, the Tolbooth used to comprise the court room, prison cells, jailer’s house, and the best bit - the instruments of punishment. Outside was a nice comfy bench that didn't wobble up and down, so I took time for a rest, a swig of water, some crisps and a breakfast bar. This is the life, eh, and all for charity too. I was supposed to be having lunch at the Clackmannan council canteen, but this being Easter Sunday, I didn't think it would be open - however, if I can get back there again before the end of the County Challenge, I would be delighted if that particular offer from Rod was still open. Following the Tower Trail signs took me to Alloa for a peek at the Tower, but the closest I could get was in the Tesco car pack next door. Onwards to Kinross-shire. Again, I have an offer of places to go and people to see there, but as I was in the area, I thought I might as well tick it off and if time permits, I can always go back. I've seen the signs for Saline before, and always wondered what was there.... so I went there...but apart from beautiful empty roads, daffodils o the verges, coos and sheeps in the fields...blue skies and bright sunshine, there was nothing much there at all. Just the way I like it. I tried to head to Dunfermline just for a lookie, could have popped into Luader College where I learnt the trade of Furniture Restoration and the rules of life, but ended up going up and down and round and round and back out on the man road towards the bridge. I didn't fancy that, so turned off into the historic village of Charlestown, followed by Limekilns, which I think, officially, are both in Fife. Now, I could claim to have ticked Fife off the list too, but I really do have some very attractive offers for that county, things like gliding and dungeons, so I'm going to make a doubly special effort to get back there before my time runs out at the end of May...or maybe the beginning of June... Limekilns is beautiful. The River Forth was sparkling and twinkling in the early afternoon sun, I could see the bridges, cranes, and wildlife. And two people sitting on a bench. I popped over and asked them for the best way to circumnavigate Edinburgh, so that I could get to Berwickshire. We got chatting and they asked all about Cubbie, saying it was a much nicer bike than all these modern status symbols people ride nowadays.... then the lady handed me a fiver and wished me all the best for completing the challenge. It's so nice to find some really genuine and trusting people out there.
On their advice, once I was back over the bridge, I kept on the A90 / A902 / A199 and followed the very few signs I could find to Leith. Keeping to the north of the city I avoided all the tram-related road works (odd that, they're installing trams in Edinburgh city 65 years after the last one was decommissioned) and wanted to head out on the coast road through Prestonpans and Cockenzie towards North Berwick, which isn't actually in Berwickshire, it's in East Lothian these days. But Cubbie's clutch was getting increasingly heavy and stiff to operate, and tiddling through the Easter weekend traffic wasn't helping, not to mention both of us were getting hot and stuffy. At 14:30 I found myself on a dual carriageway, the A1 as it happens. Turned off at Tranent, an old coal mining town 402 miles north of London. London? I'm sure I've heard that name before. It's quite a nice wee town (Tranent, not London), although the roads were horribly busy, and the people friendly and helpful. The accent is noticeably different out there, which is peculiar because it's only a handful from miles from Edinburgh. Unless these people I spoke to all happened to be from out with the area. I wanted to carry on heading south to Gifford and then up and over the Lammermuir Hills, where somewhere, I would stumble over the border between East Lothian and Berwickshire, but Cubbie had developed a rattle. One of those ones where you ride along varying the speed, gears, riding position, anything, just to try and work out where it's coming from. With no success in identifying the noise, and my left hand growing ever more sore from the heavy clutch, and time pressing on, I made another executive decision (I've made a lot of them during Cubbie's Counties) to turn back inland and make my way to Humbie, then cross the border there, somewhere near to Fala / Gilston. I've no idea how I ended up on that particular road, as the small junctions didn't seem to be marked on my map, but there I was, in Berwickshire, yay! Good, I could head back to Starry Towers now. Phew, I was hungry, cold, tired, aching, had a sore hand and Cubbie seemed to be going to be poorly, the rattley noise getting louder as we went faster, so rather than try to find the squiggly roads, I opted for the main route up to the Edinburgh City Bypass, the dreaded A720, but somehow diverted into Dalkeith. Oh me, it was going wrong. The sign posts didn't say anything I wanted them to say and there was a silly great big bus in my way blocking the junction I needed to cross, I couldn't hold the clutch lever in any longer, so popped it into neutral, kept the engine revving to let the driver know Cubbie was behind him, and waited patiently for my turn. Then when I finally got across, I realised I should have turned left and had to go back and do it all again! Sitting at just under an indicated 50mph on the bypass, lights a-blazing, Cubbie a-rattling, we held a steady course until Hermiston Gate, turned off just before there, 'cos that would have taken us onto the M8, and zoomed along there until we hit somewhere-or-other and into Dechmont at 17:40. What a day! Wow! FIVE counties achieved - Clackmannanshire, Kinross-shire, Mid and East Lothian and Berwickshire. Wow, wow, wow. No wonder I was tired. Still, no time like the present to check out that rattle and sort the heavy clutch. Well, that was aided somewhat by a liberal application of Star's 3-in-1 oil, although the cable action still felt a little 'grungy'. As for the rattle, Kawa suggested via a text that I should check the primary chain case for oil, so I undid the drain bolt and a few mins later, presented Star with a tub full of black scummy old oil. In case you're wondering where John had got to, he was away working, leaving Star to cope with a Cubbie visit all on her own! Poor quine, still, she did admirably, allowing me to park in the back yard behind locked gates. Refilled the case with fresh Q8 oil, then checked the gearbox, it only needed about 50ml of oil, so presume that wasn't the culprit. Glancing over the rest of the bike I noticed the chain guard, which I had tied up in the morning with a cable tie, had been rubbing on the spokes, so maybe that was it. All I know is I gave the whole bike the once over before settling down to a huge plate of Star's famous chicken-in-a-sauce-with-garlic-bread-tatties-and-carrots-yum-yum-followed-by-a-chocolate-ecclair-yum-yum-yum-again!
Deep breath, part 2. Star had to leave the house just before 7am on Bank Holiday Monday, so I had arranged Plan C with Bantam Cub, which was to meet me at 9am in a small village called Fauldhouse, just on the southern tip of West Lothian. He was coming in from Ayrshire to accompany Cubbie and me for a few hours. My alarm went tring-aling-ling at 6am, up like a rocket, packed my bag, did all the usual morning refreshing routine and was standing on the pavement, shivering in the early morning frost, at half past six. That’s 06:30. That’s a time of day I quite enjoy but don’t often see. Starry was away on the bus, and I gave Cubbie another check over, just for the sake of it, topped the petrol up from my can, lights, horn, toot-toot, tyres, brakes, everything still worked. I was a little anxious about the rattle, and the small hiccup that had developed on my way back last night. Sometimes, after a stop for a photo, I wouldn’t be able to kick the engine over. It wasn’t like it was seized (I hoped), it felt like the thing that happens when I do that thing to free the clutch off – well I don’t do it any more, as it sort of jams things up. It’s tricky to explain when one is not altogether familiar with the correct technical terms. I was told once, by a man who knows these things, if the bike has been standing a while, even overnight, always pull the clutch in and kick the engine over a few times to free the clutch plates, but with Cubbie, I’ve always found that rather than free anything up, it seems to cause a jam, a sticking, makes it impossible to kick it over, and I have to wheel the bike back and forth to free it up. So this was the symptom that I was getting after riding, then stopping, then trying to start it again. It was absolutely fine if I waited five minutes or so, or wheeled it about and then tried again, but rather wearing on the leg, and rather worrying. So those were the things on my mind when Bantam Cub texted to say he was on his way, so I saddled up and set off to meet him. Got about 2 miles along the road and turned back to get my padded waterproof trousers on – my legs were frozen! Set off again, joined the A89 that took us out west, before a sharp left and into Fauldhouse. One of the reasons I chose to meet BC there was because there is a street called Sheephousehill, which rather fascinated me. I arrived a tad early, and was just dithering around trying to find the aforementioned street, when I saw a little Bantam Cub coming towards me. He made good time, 45mins, Google said an hour and 17mins. Still, Google doesn’t measure ‘time by Cub’. I showed BC my intended route, but we agreed that if we saw a road that looked good, or a signpost that looked interesting, we would just divert. We started off by doing a double lap of the roundabout before heading up and over the hill towards the coast, but things didn’t go quite to plan as I must have taken a wrong turn and we found ourselves rapidly approaching Dechmont – home of Starry Towers and where my car was parked. Convenient really, as BC had brought with him a staggeringly heavy parcel of spare Cubbie bits – for my next project….oh yes…not telling you what it is yet…but as he’d already lost if off the back of his bike once, it was better off being dumped in the car. Back along that great road to Linlithgow, stopped at the canal for a few pics, grabbed a passer by so that we could both be in at least one photograph, just for posterity ya know, you lot aren’t getting that one on here. My stomach was rumbling well and truly, so we had bacon rolls and a cuppa in a nice little café on the main street, before riding boldly up to the front door of the Palace. It is assumed that there was a manor house of some sort on this site back in the 1100s, but when Edward I arrived in 1301, he built a huge fortress around the house and neighbouring church, taking it as his own by the sounds of it, but it only remained in English hands until the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. After that, the locals did the place up a bit, knocked the surrounding fortress down, and Kings David II and Robert III used it from time to time, until it was destroyed by fire in 1424 – when the whole town was raised to the ground. Good old James I started the rebuild in the following year, and over the decades, what you see now, was created, adapted, altered and generally tinkered with. Neither BC or I wanted to pay to go in, so we took the pics, and scooted. BC was taking a photo of me and his BC began to smoke rather dramatically, although he didn’t seem bothered.
Next stop, Bo’ness steam train, fantastic, we arrived just in time to see a train leaving the station, plumes of black and grey smoke choking the sun, the porters whistle followed by the peeep peeeep from the big funnel, and slowly it chuffed away, heading towards Birkhill Fireclay Mine. I quite fancied a ride on the choo-choo and a trip round the mine, but time was pushing on and we had counties to conquer. It was then time for the Big Moment. The Editor of Old Bike Mart had given me the go-ahead to test the Bantam Cub, so it was time to swap bikes. BC was a little concerned about riding Cubbie, and about me riding his bike, and I was a little concerned about him riding Cubbie and me riding his bike, so all’s fair and square in the worry stakes. It’s not often that anyone actually wants to ride Cubbie, but BC was up for it. Obviously I can’t go into detail about the test here as you’ll need to purchase OBM to read all about it….but I can say I really enjoyed it and feel privileged to have been allowed to ride BC’s bike. We covered a good few miles on each other’s machines, ending up on a single track, dead end road, with a fabulous view of the road and rail bridges. We had equal sized grins on our chops and swapped notes about the bikes, did the static and action shots and then my stomach began rumbling again. Lunch was in a quaint little pub in Queensferry, where I finally found out who won the Masters Golf – I tried watching it on Sunday night but as it looked like it was heading for a play off, and I had to get up at 6am, there was no way I could have stayed up for it, and actually, I had trouble keeping my eyes open after about 10pm, such were the rigours of the previous 194 Cubbie miles. Freshly cooked fish and chips with a nice side salad went down rather well, setting us up nicely for the return to Dechmont. Subsection 2 of Plan C was to load Cubbie in the trailer and drive to Doune, leave the car there and ride around Argyll, and be back in Doune for about 7pm for the VMCC Stirling Castle section meeting. BC decided he would like to tag along – absolutely fine by me, very nice to have company, but it would take him miles and miles out of his way, and his gear lever kept falling off. But a little thing like that does not deter a Cub rider, even if it is a BSA Bantam Cub…but we’ll not go there or I’ll be in trouble…so with Cubbie suitably strapped down, we set off. I got lost in Linlithgow and BC got to Doune before me. Arranged to meet McKwak in the car park of the Red Lion, but he had a job on so couldn’t make it, set off towards the bright blue sky and more sunshine…without my jumper, and without my padded / waterproof troos…oh dear…big mistake. The A84 to Callender was jam-packed with bank holiday tourists, fortunately all going the opposite way to us, although we did pick up a 30mph numpty, whom we hounded unashamedly until an opportunity arose for both Cubs to nip past. It was about 40 miles to Crianlarich, and even then we hadn’t crossed the border, but I was frozen. The sun had dipped behind the mountains and there was still a goodly amount of snow in the distance. Brrrrrr. What a gent, BC gave me his jumper. So we carried on to Inverarnan, which by my reckoning was the border for Argyllshire.
Ah, the perfect end to a very nearly perfect weekend, even though I didn’t get home at 2am. 400 bottom numbing Cubbie miles, 7.5 more counties done (Fife counts as a half) and a few more pounds raised, which takes the total to £1827.80, and look at that - over 31,000 hits on this here little bloggy. No reoccurrence of either the rattle or the funny clutch/engine thing I described so well earlier on.
.a couple of Cubs in a couple of boxes.
Thanks to Chairman Ted for allowing me to gatecrash the meeting, and to Shorty for staying behind at the end and helping to load Cubbie, and leading me out of Doune to set me on the road north. In my befuddled state I could have easily driven to Portsmouth without realising. Thanks to Bantam Cub for joining me, so sorry you had to end the journey with a trip in a van, enjoyed your company and my ride on your bike. Thanks to Star for being a great hostess, and for the Easter Bunny, sorry to Gixer that I missed you (this is sounding like one of those Oscar speeches, sorry for that), thanks to the plane spotters and the couple in Limekilns for the cash – oh and also to the guys I met at the meeting whom I’d never met before but seemed to know about Cubbies Counties and insisted on pushing a few pounds into my shaking paws. Have I missed anyone? Thanks to everyone for reading. Thanks to Mrs BC, for I don’t know what in particular, but who, incidentally, is no relation to BC, I just thought I should clarify that. And goooooood night.