It was 1992 and I had just spent almost a month travelling through France and northern Spain on my bike. I had travelled down through France with some other friends on bikes and crossed the Pyrenees several times, visiting old Spanish friends and seeing new sights. When my bike buddies had returned to the UK I had meet up with other friends to climb in the Picos de Europa. Now I was heading back alone.
I have always loved the rough honesty of Spain and much prefer it to the pseudo sophisticated pretension of France. So when it came time to head home I stayed in Spain as long as possible and then blasted north. Five hundred miles is a lot in a day on an old bike with no faring and I did two of those, back to back sleeping in a field somewhere in the middle.
By the time I arrived at the ferry in Cherborg I was feeling pretty knackered. My chain was virtually shot and once in the queue I got out my tools to tweek it again, trying to eek the last few hundred miles out of it to get me back to Liverpool.
I overheard some guy say “that blokes had a hard ride”. Less charitable people noticably avoided me. I looked at myself in the wing mirror – and yep I looked like shit. A month of sleeping rough and then two days of solid riding do that to you. I didn’t care it felt good to going home at the end of such a great trip. Just what I had need to clear my head after 9 months of solid Phd writting.
It was dark in Portsmouth as I rode off the ferry and headed north. It was midnight when the chain finally snapped. No damage was done to the bike but I wasn’t going anywhere until I got it replaced and that wasn’t going to be until the next day. I contemplated trying to find a field to doss in when I remembered the good ole RAC. I hadn’t been able to afford Eurocover but I had cover in the UK and they could take me home, for free.
So I called them and said the chain is broken don’t bother sending a patrol man, just send the relay truck. So I waited an hour and the patrolman turned up and it toke him 30 seconds to figure out he couldn’t fix it and I would need to be relayed home. So he left me to wait for another hour.
It was a warm evening and while I was waiting I got the sense something was going on. Lots of battered hippy type cars went by with load dance music booming. A dutch car screeched to a halt and a pretty, short haired girl bounced over and asked me “do you know where the festival was?” Then it all made sense, this was right in the middle of the summer of love, we had been at Castle Morton just before I had left on the trip and now it was pretty much mid-summers eve. It was a whole summer of crusties in knackered old bus convoys and ravers people driving blindly around the countryside looking for “the party”. We chatted and I said that I had been out the country for a month so I had no idea where tonight’s party was in Dorset or anywhere else. A little while later she coyly asked if I wanted to leave the bike and go with her to look for it anyway. It would be fun she promised and I was sure it would. I was tempted but I had to decline since I had a date with an RAC wagon.
She left and 10 minutes later a bike pulled up. The guy asked if I knew where the festival was and I said no. Then the pillion, who was slumped against the rider woke up and said “the Stones; the Stones man; we need to find the Stones man”. I figured it was Stonehenge he was talking about not the Rolling Stones, but I was not able to help. I just laughed at them and they rider laughed at his passenger who slipped back into his substance induced coma and then they sped off. At least I wasn’t getting lonely.
Eventually the relay guy turned up and immediately started ranting about fuckin hippies and ravers. I knew I didn’t like him but at least he was going to take me home. I climbed into the back of his cab and immediately fell into a long deep sleep, waking up on the M62 just outside of Liverpool as the sun was rising. Home!