Having been up at 5am (UK time), by 2.30pm on Tuesday it had already been a long day for us riders, but we still had a long ride ahead. We needed to stop far enough north to be able to reach Moscow, Ayrshire, by about 4pm on Wednesday. Manchester seemed about half way and an overnight stop in the area would mean that JP could visit his father in Altrincham in the morning … there might even be a bacon butty in it for us. We needed no extra incentive!
Jim was unable to accompany us to Scotland on doctors’ orders. The idea had been that Robin would drive up with us and trailer Jim’s bike back but, now, with no need of the car, he asked if he might ride pillion with John, so as to be there at the finish. So with a quick switch around of luggage, Robin handed over our car keys to Jim’s son-in-law, and climbed aboard.
Our destination for Tuesday night was Macclesfield. Before our 12th June Moscow departure, when we were fresh and raring to go, we had ridden 350 miles from Waltham St. Lawrence to Abington, Larkarkshire. 5 weeks and nearly 6,500 miles later, there was no disguising the fact that we were pretty much exhausted and even 150 miles seemed a tall order. We found ourselves stopping for coffee every 30 miles or so, with JP eventually admitting that he needed to rest a while before riding on …
After a night in what was, possibly, the most chaotically-run Travelodge in the UK, JP took us to meet his folks in the green and pleasant market town of Altrincham. John’s father had studied chemistry at the University of Moscow during the 60’s, and had been following our ride with interest. Over bacon butties and coffee, he pulled out a box of black and white photos and shared some fascinating memories from his days behind the Iron Curtain.
All too soon, it was time to leave again. We took the M6 north to Gretna, then the M74 as far as Junction 9, Kirkmuirhill. We had kept our stops to a minimum but, even so, it was getting late. We rang Lillian Meikle in Moscow to let her know we were going to be later than anticipated. Unfortunately, this meant that the journalist and photographer would not be available to record the moment, and we would be too late to attend the council offices.
We got to Lillian’s place around 5pm. All was quiet. For a moment we wondered if they had given up on us completely. Not at all. It was a sunny evening, and everyone was out in the garden at the back. We took a few photos in front of the house, then settled down on the patio while Lillian put the kettle on. Needless to say, with the tracking equipment installed on our bikes, our arrival hadn’t gone unnoticed back in Waltham St. Lawrence at Mission Control. My phone rang. It was Poppa Guttmann Trust Trustee, Philip Lewis, calling to congratulate us. Then Lillian put in a call to our absent “Mission Controller”, Jim Humphreys, who was even more delighted by the news.
Eventually, several cups of tea and platefuls of home-made biscuits later, we took our bikes back out to the village sign to record our return …
If this all sounds a bit of a low-key welcome for three intrepid bikers, just returned from a 6,500-mile round trip, worry not. The great and the good of East Ayrshire had, in fact, planned a small civic reception. Hearing that we were likely to be arriving late on 13th July, they had generously rescheduled their function for the following morning.
At 10am on Thursday, 14th July, we arrived at the Council Offices in Kilmarnock, to be greeted by the Deputy Provost and quite a sizeable welcoming committee. It had been all been well coordinated. There was a reporter from the Kilmarnock Standard and a photographer, as well as a couple of local bikers to lend their support and several representatives from Moscow and from East Ayrshire Council.
Deputy Provost, John Campbell, made us a wonderfully appropriate presentation of a silver “Quaich” or Friendship Cup. This uniquely Scottish drinking vessel is traditionally used to offer a guest a welcome (or farewell) dram of whisky. Though, in this particular case, the size of the cup would have been sufficient to welcome the population of a small village! We received it gracefully, declaring that the rightful recipient should be the chief instigator of the ride, Jim Humphreys.
Photos were taken and then we all went inside for tea and cakes. It had been a most fitting end to an epic trip, but the Council Officers had one more surprise for us. We were on the point of leaving when the Provost’s assistant, Margaret, realising that the riders themselves would have no memento of their achievement, reappeared with three small silver quaiches in the same design as the larger presentation version!
Finally, it really was time to go. We said our goodbyes and set out on our southbound return journeys: JP heading for Wales, JR and myself back to London, delivering Robin back to his parents’ home in Crocketford (west of Dumfries), on the way.
And that was that. Our ride was at an end. Along the way we have encountered many characters, made friends, seen parts of Europe that we never imagined visiting, and had many unique experiences. In doing so, we raised a substantial sum for The Poppa Guttmann Trust. As yet, we have still to collect the last of the sponsorship pledges, but we hope that, when all is said and done, we will have achieved close to our target of £15,000. Importantly, in the run up to the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics, we have increased awareness of Poppa Guttmann’s work in setting up the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville, and his legacy in terms of the Paralympic Games.
The list of people involved in making our Moscow to Moscow ride the success that it was is long, and it would be impossible to thank them all for their part without accidentally omitting someone. So, on behalf of myself, my husband, John, and John Plumb, I’ll just say one thank you … to Jim Humphreys, for his vision, his stubbornness and his enthusiasm, without which none of this would have been possible.
Thank you, Jim, you daft auld bugger.