I had my arm twisted for going there, and to be honest, the only excuse for not going, was the fact that I was tired. Our daughter, Beverly, lives in Bedford so I could easily drive up there with Chopper on the rack and stay with her and Pete. Billing is less than 20 miles up the road to Northampton, so a quick couple of hours up the A428 would be a doddle. I had no real excuse.
Besides, after my mammoth JOGLE, I felt a little bereft of a proper end to the story. Yes, I'd ridden the length of the country, but that was it! Finished. Done. By going to Billing 2010, I was getting a closure to my expedition. I was turning a page and ending the story gently.
So off I went on Friday morning for the 5 or 6 hour drive. I took my time and the journey went quickly and easily. A30/M5/M4/A34 to Bicester, then A421 and A422 to Bedford via Milton Keynes. Chopper survived the journey strapped on the back, and after parking the car, I hopped on and rode the mile or two to the Bedford Arms where Beverly is bar manager!
Any road up, Saturday morning came, and after a good breakfast, I hitched Trailer up and cycled off to Billing. The road was undulating with no particular hills, just rolling countryside and pretty villages - Turvey is gorgeous.
At about 11am, I turned into the Aquadrome and slowly surveyed the place. It was teeming with people. It seems there were a few gatherings there, not least of which was the Street Hotrod meeting, so there were hundreds of beefed-up cars and classics to see. I was overtaken more than a time or two by these cars on the road there, and as I arrived there was a queue of them at the barriers on their way in.
I went round and round, and saw no Raleigh Choppers anywhere and was about to make my way back to the main gate to ask where they were when I spied a couple as their riders were just getting off. I rode over and asked where all the Choppers were! They pointed out the general direction and said they were in a field beyond all the cars, so off I went in search.
Within a few minutes I found them!
There were literally hundreds of Choppers. I wouldn't have believed that there were so many left. Some were immaculate, some modified - even some with engines! - and some Choppers in a worse condition than mine.
People of all ages were riding them around the park, and I felt immediately at home! I had been more than a little worried that I would find a load of boring "anoraks" and "spotters" there with them all being serious and earnest. Not on your nellie! A more friendly and relaxed bunch of people, you couldn't find anywhere.
Within seconds of my arrival, Lampost Dave had met me and proffered a beer to me. He shook my hand and congratulated me and we chatted a while, and I surveyed the place. I was introduced to Querty500 and to Catfood Rob, and dozens of others and I'm sorry not to have remembered their names. Whilst I was there, people would read the side of Trailer and chat to me and study the modifications. I've no idea how many times I repeated myself over the hours.
There was a packed programme of events that day, and before I knew it, we were all assembling for a "Cruise" around the park. Such fun! All those Choppers and modified bikes and Low Riders, all pedalling gently round, in an out of the lanes sounding all manner of bells, whistles and horns. I especially liked the Police Chopper - a Copper! - in black and white check with a siren!
There were parents and children, and parents and little kids in trailers, older kids, big Choppers, Chippers, Grifters, RSW 11's and 14's, Raleigh 20's, Moultons, Cruisers, Low riders, motorised bikes, and a Chopper Tandem too!
I took a film or two, but I'd forgotten to re-format the storage disk. Sorry! So I couldn't get too much footage. What I should have done, was to re-format, then re-take the footage I'd already got. Instead, I just switched off and put it away. In hindsight, I was wrong to have done it like that. Catfood Rob wore his Starwars Trooper outfit and rode his Starwars Chopper about, there was a Impossible-to-Ride Chopper with reverse-steering, and folk sat about in the sunshine next to their collections of bikes. Everywhere I looked, people were relaxing and having fun.
Mid afternoon, the judging took place of the Show Bikes. The Mk1 that won was a absolutely beautiful. Ruby red in such depth it took your breath away. The chrome-work was perfect and it shone in the sunshine looking FAR better that it did when it was new! A well deserved win.
The other categories, if I remember correctly, were Mk2, Muscle Bikes and Low Riders. There may have been another category - I'm sure someone will fill the gaps for me! Also, a fully chromed Low Rider was being raffled off for a £1 a ticket.
Then came the awards ceremony.
I was given a Top Man Award! I was speechless, more than a little tearful, and very humbled by it. Thank you everybody!
At 4pm, there was another cruise, so off we all went again! I said my good-byes and would peel off for Bedford as we went out to the main roundabout. As I left, I shouted a cheery good-bye and was off back to Bedford. A roar went up as I left!
Thank you all, for reading this blog. It's been an absolute pleasure to have composed it, and I'm going to miss the regular musings and typing.
(Perhaps I need another project!)
Thanks and regards