Day 0 Sheffield to Portsmouth, 250 miles.

The ferry was due to depart Portsmouth at 8pm, so there was no desperate rush. We had previously arranged to meet at Jeremy Sagar's house in Didcot to ride to the port together. As Marvin and Jeff would be riding past Sheffield on the way we had arranged to meet at Glossop station at 11am. (There being little to be gained from passing through Sheffield.
I set off bright and early so as not to keep them waiting, along the Snake Pass (a nice ride in itself) trying to keep the speed down because, for once, I really did need to get there in one piece. I filled up in Glossop (the first of many tanks full) and went to the station to wait. Except, of course, Marvin and Jeff too had been keen to set off and had arrived 20 minutes early. I was amazed how much more heavily laden their bikes appeared than mine. Whilst it turned out that Marvin's top box was entirely empty as part of a long term plan to bring back a hwuge(tm marvin) amount of cheap fags, Jeff seemed to have brought the kitchen sink. A good portion of the bulk was his Khyam tent, very quick to erect, but a bit bulky folded.
Allowing Marvin to finish his cigarette we departed south. Or west, actually; the route planned was the scenic one, down the A515 through Ashbourne, thence through Burton and the A444 through Twycross and Sheepy Magna to Didcot. I led as I knew the way. Sort of. All went swimmingly as far as Coventry (Though I was amused when, on a whim, I overtook a right-lane hogging car through a lay-by and the others followed), where once again I failed to find the right way out and got sent down the A45 to the M40. I have never yet managed to do that right, largely because the roadsigns are specifically designed to make it difficult. The Banbury road is what is needed, but it simply isn't signposted, in an attempt to funnel traffic on to the motorway. Noticing my oft-repeated error I instigated the first U-turn of the holiday, and set out cross country towards the required road. It wasn't many seconds before I found myself alone, So I performed the second U turn of the holiday and set off back to see what was up. I came upon the scene of Jeff, Marvin and a passing cyclist raising the stricken GSX. Jeff had dropped his bike during the U turn, but no real damage was done so we set off again and in good time arrived at Didcot. Marvin took over the lead as he had directions to Jeremy's house, and after 3 more U turns on the road outside (the house being in a hard to spot corner site) we arrived. Marvin had disguised one of the U turns as a fuel stop, which was cunning.
We were the first to arrive, except for Jeremy, obviously, who had been there for years. We were plied with food and drink by Jeremy's rather more attractive other half, and in dribs and drabs the others arrived. Ian arrived to find that his brake calliper was not actually attached to the bike, but some suitable fasteners were soon found and the bike returned to serviceable condition. The bikes and riders were.

Two others were due to join us later in the trip, Kevin Cordina (VFR750) and Liam Drew, ZX6R, part time Simona handler.

Jeremy led off our happy band towards Portsmouth, down twisty country lanes. One thing soon became evident, Jeremy likes to ride fast. Eventually we arrived at Portsmouth, passing a peculiar multi-car police roadblock in the opposite carriageway, good job it wasn't ours. We joined the queue for the ferry and noticed that at some point we had lost Jeff. Eventually we found him again, he hadn't bothered with the queue and gone to the front. After a bit of sweltering and very slow queuing interspaced with some waiting, and a bit more waiting, we boarded the ferry. One of our number had checked with P&O that proper tie-downs were available for bikes, as the Bay of Biscay has a reputation for being rough. We were assured that they were, and so they were, if you count bits of thick string and cushions as proper tiedowns. I lashed the FJ to a convenient railing and called that enough. Others were more careful, and Jim had arranged a lackey to do the job for him. It wouldn't do for a Triumph owner to lash their own bike, would it? Except Jeremy of course, but he isn't one of the gentry. I ended up in the 'smoking' cabin with the smokers, which turned out to be OK as the cabins were non-smoking. Our cabin had curtains and a window, but unfortunately the window was made of steel plate, and even I couldn't see through it.

Soon the ship cast off, we really were going.

After a shower and a sort out we repaired to the bar, and determined a system of beer nomenclature for rounds based solely on country of origin of the brew, "2 Irish, a Dutch, a German and 4 English please" After a while food was made available, When the choice came of self service buffet or restaurant we decided to push the boat out (so to speak) and go for the sit-down restaurant. Which turned out to be a 'carvery', which is just like a buffet but more expensive. A lesson learned. After a few more beers the less hardy souls retired to bed, with only myself, marvin and Ian staying up to sample the delights of late night shipboard entertainment. This largely consisted of more beer, with a soupcon of leching at underage girls on the dance floor on Marvin's part. It turned out that the ferry was largely full of people on mini-cruises; to Bilbao and back. Many of those were there for dolphin watching purposes, more of which anon. Eventually even such delights paled in comparison to bed, and we called it a night.

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