Saturday, April 9
by Andy on Sat 09 Apr 2011 20:27 BST
Well, my hopes in February for an early start to the biking season were not realised. For nearly two months after my last posting, I hardly rode the bike, with week after week of icy weather and road salt. However, as April, and Mother's Day, approached, we wanted to do a ride, and one ride in particular.
Last year on Mother's Day, the charity Afghan Heroes - established by the mothers of fallen troops and providing support to servicemen and women serving in Afghanistan - organised a huge ride through Wootton Bassett in Wiltshire. Wootton Bassett is the village close to RAF Lyneham where families, villagers and others assemble to pay their respects to the fallen troops on repatriation. We couldn't make the trip last year, as we already had commitments that day. But this year we wanted to be there, as part of the 10 000 bikes and their riders paying repects.
After a wet week, the Sunday dawned dry and bright. We made an early start, but nevertheless, by the time we left the motorway close to the assembly point at Hullavington airfield, the roads were full of bikes, all heading in the same direction.
The organisation of the event was excellent. After passing through check-in, we were directed to the second batch of 1000 bikes, and told when to be ready for departure. Sure enough (after taking a few minutes to see and hear the first 1000 bikes move off), on schedule at 9:30 we were flagged off, in columns, from the airfield and onto the road to Wootton Bassett, around 12 miles away.
The roads were closed in our direction, and as far as the eye could see, ahead and in the rear view mirrors, bikes of all shapes and sizes were underway, all heading for the same place, for the same reason. Added to this were the hundreds of bikes streaming along the road towards the airfield. An awesome sight.
The real surprise was the turnout at the roadside. Hundreds - maybe thousands - of local residents waved and cheered the bikes on their way to Wootton Bassett. Janet was ahead of me, and continually we both returned the waves of the well wishers. We rode through the lovely Wiltshire countryside on what was a perfect spring Sunday morning, hardly stopping along the way, with Police closing all road junctions to permit the riders to pass.
After about half an hour, we came to the little village of Wootton Bassett. I had expected nothing like what greeted us. The roadsides were crowded with residents and others - some of them relatives of the fallen troops - who had come to support the event. They clapped, cheered, and they - and we - reached out to touch our hands together, as we passed. The emotional impact is difficult to relate. The sense of coming together.
All too soon we were through the village. The excellent organisation continued, directing us to the motorway, and to head away if we wished. All along the way the road was full of bikes on their way to - and from - the ride. We pulled over at the service station to talk, and all over the car park were groups of bikers, enjoying the spring sunshine and sharing the moment.