Do you all know what the Scottish Double Plus1 is now? Hang on then, I'll quickly explain. The Double consists of two rather longstanding Vintage Motorcycle Club Regularity runs organised by the Stirling Castle section and the Central Scotland section. The S&T (it used to be the Strathsomethingorother & Trossachs but I think the abbreviation is best) run by the Stirling Castle bunch at Crieff is the first event in the Double, and for many years, the National Assembly of Vintage Motorcycles has been held in Blairgowrie on the following weekend. As well as the locals, loads and loads of people come from England, Wales, Ireland and beyond come to take part, making it a must do event in the vintage calendar. So big, in fact, is the Double, that most years you can expect to see several of the VMCC Office Bears (ok, it's late, I could just leave it as Bears but better not in case they read it...ahem...Office Bearers) taking part. A few years ago, after a smidgen of research and enquiries from the riders and other organisers, the NE Scottish section of the VMCC (that's the one I'm in) started planning a new event to compliment the Double. To make it convenient and attractive for the entrants who visit for both parts of the Double, it needed to be held midweek, and so it was that the Plus1 was born. Well, it'll probably take about 15 years before we can get away with calling it the Scottish Triple!
I heard about the S&T when I was writing regularly for a publication that I no longer write for. Then I found out about the National too and visited both of them on my MZ Skorpion to see what they were all about. Since then I've done both events on Cubbie, helped out at the National when Shorty was short of a volunteer and I've had the ultimate pleasure of being sidecar ballast for Pilot Rae on his 19fifty-something Ariel-trials-ish-outfit for a couple of years in a row. This year I was to be ballast on both weekends, does it get any better? Not much.
I set off from Cubbie Towers no less than 3 times in an attempt to get to Peter & Janes house for tea on the S&T Friday. You might not think that's too hard a challenge, but trust me, it obviously was. I can't remember all of the reasons why I had to keep going back, but the 2nd time was to remove, from it's dust encirlced place on the sideboard, the trophy that I'd won last year for being A Jolly Good Sidecar Passenger. I finally arrived at Peter & Jane's a little later that planned, but still in time to be handsomely fed and watered. After supper (too late for tea you see) Peter and I wandered along to the rugby club in Crieff where the entrants were socialising (drinking copious amounts of lemonade) and mentally preparing for the long and tiring day ahead. We didn't stick around too long as Peter had to be up at the crack of dawn to help with some behind the scenes work - the kind that no one ever realises goes on, but without which, events like this wouldn't run so smoothly. I got a good nights sleep, pottered down for brekky and then made my own way along to Crieff to see if Pilot Rae had arrived. He had. Just. I scuttled around chatting and photographing and making notes, doing the usual GBC bit, which is really rather fun. I was just about to tuck into a bacon roll, whilst chatting with Harry Doy, Chairman of the Stirling Castle section, when the Pilot hollered for my attention. Turned out we had to leave in about 3 minutes - that's the thing with these events, they're timed to the last second and riders must select an average speed that they will try to stick to. There are checkpoints along the way and if you don't set off in time, you're never going to get to a checkpoint at the right time. So it was on with my coat, gloves and glasses, helmet nearly on, jump on sidecar and eat bacon roll while we queued at the 'start' line. Goodness knows what pictures are doing the rounds, last year was bad enough, but we'll not go there.
The route was a cracker, around every corner was a breath taking chocolate box view, made all the more enjoyable by hanging off the sidecar and seeing the world from a rather different angle. I think I surprised (scared?) Pilot Rae by demonstrating an ability to text, take photos and corner all at the same time. Well, what can I say? Multitasking is nothing. Lunch came at a convenient moment; I was starving! My superb navigational skills (oh yes, I also had to do that while I was texting the location of our first aid box to Mrs BC who needed to bandage a badly chopped up finger - not one of hers I hasten to add) led us to the Clachan Cottage Hotel at Loch Earn where we feasted on freshly cooked fish and chips, followed on my part, by copious amounts of Appletize. Man it was thirsty work all that leaning and jumping around. Pilot Rae did it again though, and just as I was half way through my third glass of fizzy refreshing apple juice I noticed him waving his arms and jumping up and down. Turned out we had to leave in 3 minutes. He's very competitive you know. We were off again zapping along narrow lanes and over hill and down dale. I don't think they have hills and dales in Perthshire, more like mountains and glens.
The afternoon route is always a bit shorter than the morning leg and we were soon back at the campsite. A few hours to chat to the people I missed in the morning, and then it was time for the al fresco buffet, which went down well. The sun was still blazing late into the evening and a fine time was had by all, especially those won won silverware, and the list included...are you ready...wait for this...Pilot Rae and Gorgeous Ballast Chick. So I needn't have bothered going all the way home for the trophy after all...
Sunday, ah, yes. There was a social run, but the other option was to nip along to the Crieff Hyrdo, a local outdoor activity type of place (complete with quad biking, zip sliding and all those kinds of things) and spectate at a trial that Our Bob P was competing in. Just getting there was a bit of a trial, with the smooth tarmac road gradually turning into something more akin to a mountain trail. We rounded the bend into the area where all the competitors were parked up, only to to be faced with A Rather Steep Descent on Loose Slippery Rocks and Stones Complete with Ruts and Rows of Parked Cars to be Avoided. Normally a simple job of just tootling down but the trials-ish outfit seemed to be sliding ever closer to the cars, and there was nothing my weight could do about it. Pilot Rae seemed a little concerned telling me to learn further and get my weight over the wheel, but with the chair on the left and the cars to the right it looked like we would just gracefully slide into the side of them. Luckily we didn't and Pilot Rae isn't called Pilot Rae for nothing as he skillfully got us out of the rut and swung the chair round at the bottom of the hill before we plunged to oblivion.
We didn't actually get to see much of Our Bob P, but we did end up riding a couple of bikes and tackling a section of the trial. I dunno, you can't take us anywhere! We were chatting to the Clerk of the Course who was buzzing around on a _ _ _ _ _ _ (I'll fill that in later when I've checked my notebook) and after learning that I was once going to start doing some trials, until my Bultaco broke a piston ring, he offered me a go on his bike. Well, one couldn't refuse, so I jumped on, selected 2nd gear and pop-pop-popped off to play on the novice quad bike course. T'was great fun, although I decided to give the water splash a miss, didn't want to get someone elses bike dirty. After a few minutes I began to get the hang of off road riding again - I'm no master for sure, but just some of the little bits of advice that I'd gathered started to come back to me. Pilot Rae and I wandered around for a bit, watcing a couple of sections and then managing to lose each other. I ended up at the section back up the hill, by the golf course, where I bumped into a guy who builds rather expensive and trick trials Cubs. He doesn't ride them, but the lad who does is rather good so I'm told, and usually gets placed in the Scottish Six Days over at Fort William and the like. Can anyone be good on a trick top of the range bike? Probably not.
Chance then had it, that I should bump into the Clerk of the Course again. The section was rather quiet, most people having been through, and as we chatted about the age of the youngest riders - 7 or 8 years old and in charge of 80cc trials bikes, blasting them up rocks and through rivers - he then offered me another go on his bike. But actually riding the section. Yikes. The only trial I've ever ridden was the Caerphilly Spring Surprise several years ago. And I can't say that I did too well... Still, gotta get back on the hoss as they say. This time he made me fire the bike up, and I missed on the first kick and it gave me an almighty kick back. Ouch. Then I got it, up the hill, turn around, head down to the start flags. Ah. I hadn't noticed it when the Real Riders had been going through, but the start was in a ditch, at the bottom of what looked like it was a stone wall at some point in its life. Heck, I just rode at it. Slowly. NO FRONT BRAKE. Which is what I told myself on the Spring Surprise Trial just as I grabbed at the lever and sent both the bike and my little old self plunging down the hillside. NO FRONT BRAKE GBC. Ok, so no front brake, what's the problem? The bike simply tricked up to the wall, with a tad more throttle it popped the front wheel over and on a closed throttle we slid (in full control) into the ditch. Phew, if I can do that I can do the section. I do believe I was in first gear for this job, and the next challenge was to get the front wheel up and over some tree roots. If a 7yr old kid could do it, surely I could, so I did. A blast of throttle and a bit of bouncing saw GBC sailing high and away over the roots, just gaining control as the first directional change loomed. The beginners route left the ditch, climbed the bank, negotiated some trees and after that I was lost. I managed the bank climbing with the aid of a foot down and more revs, avoided the trees (you'll see why that's important in the minute) and poddled up to the end of the section, where I wasn't entirely sure which way to go, so I just popped over a small rock, around someones foot and out the end. Boy oh boy that was MEGA FUN. I wasn't even any good, how can it be so much fun???
I was still giggling and burbling and trying to form the words 'thank you' when Pilot Rae turned up. Always game for a laugh, it was then his turn to tackle the section. He, of course, dropped fearlessly into the ditch, over the roots with aplomb and blasted up the bank, front wheel in the air and straight towards the tree...it is with regret that I have to announce the fact that....I didn't get the shot of him saving the situation just millimeters from impact, as I was working with a new camera, but I did get the one seconds before that which shows quite well the look of fear and horror in his eyes! I know he won't mind me posting it here for all to admire. Adrenaline is a wonderful thing and we were fuelled up on a high for the rest of the morning. Coming down from the high we realised it was lunch time and headed to the golf club for food. Surprisingly they let us in and although they had to go and grow the vegetables, the food was good.
Over a couple of celebratory soft drinks, we crowned ourselves "Scottish European World Ariel Trials-ish Sidecar Downhill Vintage Champs", or similar for out attempts at getting down the hill to the car park, and then a new title was added, that of World-Champs-at-having-the-nerve-to-jump-on-other-peoples-bikes-and-having-one-heck-of-a-time-riding-around-trials-sections-in-the-woods-when-we-haven't-even-bothered-to-walk-the-section-or-ridden-a-trial-since-I-don't-know-when! Wow, it was good, and thanks for lunch Pilot.
The PLUS1 came next in the series. But I've got to go and make ready the spare room for a guest, so I'll have to come back to this later. Ho hum, always something else to do!