By Rika Nauck Picture Gallery
Vice Chair Andy and I found the announcement for the TOMCC Big Branch Bash on FB, looked at each other, and said: “Naaa, that’s not gonna happen for us!”. We love our rallies and we knew treasurer Mark and wife Sue would be ‘in’, but 10 (!) people? Suffolk branch leaving the county is not done easily. Suffolk branch leaving the county and staying in tents for two nights? No way! And then our membership surprised us big time: Our monthly newsletter flew out and 4 more registrations flew in, and then another, and another. So, the Suffolk branch went rally after all, and what a hoot it was! But first things first: Ian, the organiser of the Big Branch Bash did an awesome job holding it all together, wristbands arrived, FB pages kept us on the straight and narrow, and in good time we knew that our patch would be furthest from the beer and closest to the loo. Whoever camped before knows that this is a good thing!
Excitement rising, WhatsApp group formed, travel plans hatched, the Friday morning eventually arrived: Andy on his beloved Tabitha sidecar packed to the rim, and I on my Himmie, picked up Richard, who was waiting ready to roll in a layby not far. And thus, we hit the A14 at Felixstowe. Waiting to be picked up in yet another layby near Ipswich were Billy and the father & son duo Tim and James, riding two up. The two bikes merging as we three rode past and catching up quickly, we moved on to meet Sue, Mark and Keith at Krazy Horse in Bury St Edmunds for a full English. Needs must! Through Covid and the change to a new HQ, our branch had been a bit shaken, stirred and subsequently renewed, and this was the first proper meet with all of us in one place. We instantly knew: This is going to be a good weekend! After a bit of chatting and checking each other out it became apparent to all:
How could we not have guessed by just by looking at Richards bike, which proudly featured a pop-up tent looking very similar to a very lime green tutu.
It turned out to be the smallest tent on the entire campsite and some revised sleeping arrangements were formed for the second night.
But first we had to get there. 12 PM, we set off again and what an impressive sight we were. Andy’s sidecar combination in the lead followed by 7 bikes; yes, that only makes 9 people, unfortunately our person No. 10 had a family emergency and couldn’t make it. As we rode along, people waved and stopped to look, and the eyes of an elderly lady in a wheelchair lit up when she realised that there were ladies riding as well. And then we hit the Fens. This is an area criss-crossed with ditches to drain the water from the ground to enable settling and farming. The one we enjoyed riding along was a Forty Foot Drain. The surface of the road right next to it had subsided in the heat, mostly length-wise. I have never seen anything like it. Poor James riding pillion held on for dear life and Andy did a sterling job controlling Tabitha, which was hopping around like in a Buster Keaton slapstick movie. Those drains are 15 feet deep, if poor Tabitha would have hopped in there, we would not have ever seen her again, nor our gazebo or tent. Such are the stories of the back-road-bimblers.
Not long after the bum-numbing experience we arrived at the camp site. Tents were built quickly and with Gazebo up, too, we explored our neighbourhood on the way to the bar. The rest of the event is a wonderfully relaxed blur of walking about, chatting to people, sitting in the sunshine, bands playing both nights including a marvellous AC/DC tribute, and going on a ride to the Iron horse diner with great ambience and food.
It was on the way back from the diner, when the blissful blur lifted for a short moment and a sense of mortality hit the group. A massive full-grown deer jumped out of the woods right in front of the side car where James sat in a bit more comfort and better view than the pillion seat he was used to. Well, to his good fortune he was spared the deer on his lap; it decided to turn round and only a lot of dirt, thrown up by the hoofs, flew through the air, hitting the ones riding behind. Well, and then there was a lot of eating and drinking, of course.
The caterer cooked the evening meals and breakfasts for us; and boy, was it good! And at really reasonable price. Good thing we had decided early on to not bother with cooking and only to take a stove and kettle for the very important morning cuppa. And then it was Sunday already, pack up time and so we made our way home. In the end Andy reported on FB a proud 320 miles round trip for his first fully loaded long distance trip on Tabitha. All our rally virgins survived and thoroughly enjoyed the trip, So, Ian, bring it on! We’re in for next year!