BSRA #6 Exmouth National Scooter Rally | RALLERY
It’s fair to say that anybody who camped at Exmouth will remember this rally for a very long time. They’ll not remember it for the infestation of earwigs that plagued the site in years gone by, or for the scorching hot sunshine. What they’ll remember it for is the scenes of devastation, a night of turmoil, leaky canvas, tents blown away, women huddled up in the toilet block on Saturday night and broken poles. To say Saturday night was a tad windy would be a huge understatement.
30 years on
Before we worry about the extremes of weather, it dawned on me as I rode the 225 very hot miles down to the rally, that I first visited Exmouth in the summer of 1988. Back then, riding my new red T5 on to the same seafront campsite, a site packed with like-minded youngsters like myself. Those aforementioned earwigs crawling into every orifice during the night, music blasting out from the Groove Records stall from dawn, Paddy selling patches by the shed load, teenagers like me drunk on life, scooters and cheap cider.
30 years later I’m back again, this time riding a Lambretta with older like-minded friends, the campsite still as familiar as it was back then. Although much tidier than it was back in the day. Look back at old rally photos and the sites were a litter strewn mess, today most of us are much more respectable. Although we still like a drink or two.
The ride down had been fairly uneventful, one broken T5 (broken a mile from our meeting point in Notts) and a stricken Lammy in the club back up van near Bristol. The latter overheating whilst racing TS1s on a standard 200, in 34º heat – my missus seems to have discovered the throttle and she knows how to use it.
Arriving at 6pm after nine hours on (and at the side of) the road we were ready to get the tents up and get on it. That’s when I discovered I’d forgotten the flexible porch pole for my tent, much to the amusement of my friends. Luckily my cub scout training came in handy and I lashed the porch up using some driftwood foraged from the beach (ok, a couple of ordinary straight metal poles and spare guy ropes). Then we were off to town.
The town hasn’t changed too much over the years, although the world-renowned Deer Leap has since been turned into The Bath House and a new Premier Inn built beside it. We sampled a few fine cheap lagers from establishments that had agreed to work with the rally organisers 9and offer cheap drinks), rather than trying to compete by doing late night scooter-themed entertainment of their own (although a few pubs had been threatened with a boycott just a few days before). Take heed rally towns, scooterists will stick together and we can quickly ruin your weekend’s takings. Then we took a walk up to The Pavilion, the age-old venue for scooter rally dos in the town.
It was busy enough, with a good atmosphere as the Clash tribute band, London Calling, finished their punk-fuelled set, replaced by the cream of South West’s DJ’s, sparkly Emma Cox and equally glittery Dave Lloyd. Floorfillers ensued and the night was over too soon, followed by a moonlit walk back to our canvas boudoir.
Well blow me
It was a breezy start to Saturday, the heat of the previous few weeks replaced by a stormy warmth and 15 mph gusts. How bad could it be? According to the great prophet, iPhone weather, we were due some serious weather for the next 24 hours. Already a few tents had been flattened overnight and 45mph winds with torrential downpours were predicted later. The scary looking forecast meant lots of people decided to cut the weekend short and head home on Saturday afternoon.
We decided to tough it out in the various pubs, whilst others perused the parts fair and checked out the fine array of sparkling scooters at the outdoor custom show (the show results are in with Col’s photos later).
Our afternoon started out in the usual Wetherspoons, eating pub grub and drinking cheap beer before finding a sophisticated bar where bottles of red wine and tapas were consumed for a few hours. How very civilised, it used to be a KFC washed down with White Lightning and Scrumpy back in the day. As darkness fell the wind began to pick up in ferocity but by that time we’d forgotten we even had a tent and didn’t really care if it was there later or not.
Saturday night’s do was busy once again, we arrived just in time to see the last few songs by The Simmertones, who seemed to be going down well. Late night conversations, drunken ramblings and the world put to rights it was time to see what mother nature had in store for us. It’s fair to say it was wet and windy when we walked back to the campsite. It was a surprise to see just how many people had vacated early though, there were loads of empty patches where tents once stood.
If you’ve ever slept with wet canvas pressed into the side of your head, whilst howling winds are battering the tent so loudly that you can’t even hear your missus moaning then you’ll know what a rough night is. I honestly doubt anybody slept on Saturday night. It was non-stop, harcore wind and rain, the likes of which I’ve never experienced in a tent. Our airbed soon doubled up as a makeshift liferaft as we floated around the bedroom.
It was so awful that it almost seemed funny after a while. People who rode to Newquay during the hurricane of ’87 said it wasn’t as bad as Exmouth 2018. People were leaving throughout the night, scooters going home during darkness. Tents abandoned, girls sheltering in the toilet block after being washed out (see video above). Not that we actually saw any of this, we were busy holding on to the airbed for dear life, canvas billowing in all directions, the deafening sound of severe flappage all around. This was extreme camping. A seemingly never ending torturous night where only the brave survived and the lucky still had somewhere to shelter.
Any porch in a storm
8am and I finally poked a head out of the tent as we began packing up our wet belongings, it was still raining hard and blowing a gale, full waterproofs on to pack up and a lot of sorry looking faces. The campsite had been decimated, I couldn’t even bring myself to get the camera out to record it, it was a sorry state of affairs. One glimmer of hope amongst the refugee camp was that my makeshift porch was still standing proud, whilst all the others around had been battered and flattened. I hardly even managed a smug inward smile.
Strangely though as our bedraggled, tired group rode away from the site, dodging fallen leaves and branches the wind suddenly died down. It was like the campsite on it’s headland location had been given its own tornado. The worry of riding 225 miles north in 45mph winds had thankfully been averted, although others experienced some nasty weather in other directions.
Rallery by Booga
Rallery by Col
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