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Tales from a Motorcycle Saddle.

 "On a Wing and a Prayer"

Summary

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An account of a fund raising trip to Norway, as written for the Braintree Baptist Church.

On Sunday July 15th 2001 I left home on my motorcycle, loaded with camping gear, to ride to North Cape in Norway, the most northerly tip of Europe and 700 miles inside the Arctic Circle. This was in aid of Farleigh Hospice in Chelmsford.

Click here to read my sponsor form and find out why I was drawn to North Cape.

I should have arrived home on Monday 30th July but I was safe and warm indoors on Wednesday 25th July. It was like this, you see.

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Ready to go.

After an incredibly smooth crossing of the North Sea, I left Kristiansand in southern Norway in glorious sunshine, actually looking forward to cooler weather – motor cycling gear can be a trifle warm when stationary in the sun. The thermometer read 27oC, (80oF) in the shade.

Hell station

I did a brief detour to visit Hell, a small town north of Trondheim, purely to say I have been there. From then onwards the weather deteriorated. I awoke the next morning north of Lillehammer to a grey day. Drizzle started which turned to rain and stayed with me on and off until the following Monday as I started my return journey. Because of the rain I took a hytte (hut) on a campsite one night, a sort of a bed in a shed really.

Whilst crossing the island of Mageroya to North Cape the weather was as bad as it can be in July with a horrendously strong north wind blowing straight off the Arctic Ocean. At times I slowed my progress to 35 mph as I crossed the plateaux as the road was on an embankment. The wind was powerful enough as it hit the side of my fairing to give me concerns about being blown off the road into the tundra landscape with its rocks and pools. 

The Arctic Circle exhibition centre.

The rain on my windscreen and visor was perfectly horizontal, first from left to right and then right to left as the road snaked along.  The temperature was now 4oC (39oF) but felt like minus–ever-such-a-lot. A 30 mph wind gives a wind chill of –13oC (-7oF) and this wind was far in excess of 30 mph at times. One local did admit to this July being "a bad July".

 

I was aware of a clanking-whirring noise from the engine. Hondas don’t break down, do they? Especially with only 24,000 miles on the clock, surely? In a nutshell, yes they do, especially 17 year old ones, as I was to find out later.

I spent nearly four hours at North Cape in the magnificent building containing a cinema, exhibitions and a 300 seat restaurant (I was one of only twelve customers enjoying the food and warmth.) The weather at the edge of the 1000 foot cliff was abysmal - nothing but cloud, rain and that ghastly wind. Another motorcyclist took my picture and we vowed go to Spain next year.

When I returned to my bike I was horrified to see it on its side. A helpful chap from a nearby motorhome helped me lift it. " It blew over," he said.

I rode back to the warmth(!) and security of my tent on the south east side of the island where I rang our 1117 Youth Group. I would have been enjoying a barbecue with them if I had not been shivering, with damp feet, in my tent. I noticed that mine was the only tent on site. The wind kept whipping the nylon and I wondered if I would wake up much further south, having been airborne during the night.

At last - Nordkapp!

The next day was a day of rest and I visited Pastor Birger Wroldsen of Betania Baptistmenighet, a church who claim to be the most northerly Baptist church in the world. We had an interesting half hour together as he showed me round the multifunctional building. The town of Honningsvag where the church is, is a fishing port and the church has facilities for the fishermen to shower and relax, plus short and long term accommodation. I remember realising once again that we are just one big family in Christ, whoever we are and where ever we are from. As I left we swapped church mugs.

Nordkapp in the sun!

Regarding the engine noise, I prayed fervently that if I broke down it would not be at speed, on a plateau in the wind and rain or in a tunnel, (the one to Mageroya is a sub sea tunnel seven kilometres long and fog collects at the lowest point). My prayers were answered when the engine breathed its last at tickover, stationary in a lay-by, in part sun and three miles from Alta, a town with an airport. Answered prayer or what?

Camp 2, before the rain.
The lay-by near Alta.

The RAC European Breakdown Service came to my aid and took the bike and me to a garage. The following day they rang to say that they cannot find anywhere to repair my bike, (I was still 600 miles inside the Arctic Circle and not so very far from Russia). No one wanted to rebuild an elderly engine with a suspected camchain failure. They flew me home saying my bike would follow.

In answer to the question, how do I feel? I have to say a little bit frustrated that I was not able to complete the journey. I did pray for a safe and successful journey, which in essence it was, as I was able to give £3105 to Farleigh Hospice. A sincere Thank You to all who have given so generously.

Altafjorden at 12.20 am

And for my next trip? Having visited the most northerly and the most westerly points of Europe by motorcycle I guess I should head east or south. My main desire now is to rebuild the engine and head back north, strange for someone who feels the cold but I feel as if I have unfinished business there. What it is, I don’t know, it may be just a desire to visit Hammerfest and spend more time in that area of Norway. Time will tell, meanwhile I give thanks for a safe and successful journey.

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