As usual, I put together a presentation for the Salford Knights for their annual overseas rally. After the success of last year’s Dutch Lions, this was chosen again, but there was a caveat that there was a possibility of joining Borderland Breakdown in Aachen the weekend after. The trip was born.
1000 miles into Europe
The trip would exceed 1000 miles, but nowhere near what the legends who completed the Vespa trip to Hungary or the Lambretta trip to Poland achieved. A small group comprising of P range and Squire sidecar, P150 (Aussie), a tuned Vespa Sprint, a tuned P200, a brace of GPs, a series 1, an Li150, series 3, my Winter model (twos up) and “Harry Handsome” on his GTS work horse, who did a couple of hundred extra miles sharing tools up and down the motorways of Europe.
The rally always has drop outs, but the Knights filled the places with guys from Nottingham and the Chopper Owners Club. 42 of us set off to Hull on all types of scooters and MP3s, meeting at Hartshead Moor services on the M62. The first breakdown was Eric, whose Lambretta based Kalvinator, gave up hope just short of the services. With Eric due to go on the extended rally, we all shared his gear around the scooters and Mike took him on his P200 without battering an eyelid. Our 12 scooters just got reduced to 11.
As a group of 30 plus scooters set off for the Sportsman in Hull, I was riding at the back of the group when tragedy struck and Abbott on his “This is England” themed Vespa chop, had a front wheel blow out. His scooter strewn all over the hard shoulder, settling at just 12” away from the start of the barrier. We thought the worst as he was not moving. Thanks to the motorists that called the emergency services, a paramedic arrived, ambulance, then a brace of police cars and finally the traffic officers.
We got his scooter fixed, test rode it and the ambulance staff had him on ECGs and all sorts before they released him. We rode on about an hour later, Abbott very bruised, especially his ego.
The buffet is open
Hull’s infamous dockside watering hole, The Sportsman Inn was heaving to say the least. The Knights took the initiative to spend their extra money to arrange a buffet for the group of riders – that went down a storm. There was even some left when our regular annual ride was joined by the contingent from Sleaford All-Knighters and Lincoln Knights, who have travelled with us for the last three or four years.
The ferry was filled to the brim to Rotterdam with at least 100 Scooterists on the boat, drinking, bantering, dancing and having a great time. As usual, when you arrive at Europort in Rotterdam, the rain starts and 35+ scooters set off on wet A roads. Five minutes from the campsite, the first Lambretta breaks down in the pouring rain and not one of the group of six of us at the back had the holy grail of a 3.5mm allen key (why don’t we all just use Jaime’s “straight jacket” trunnions?). Then the incredible happened. Two lads from Yorkshire rocked up who were lost, we had the sat nav and they had the allen key, a match made in heaven. We helped Copo with his cables but left him do the last 10 minutes by himself, as we were only five minutes from the site and torrential rain was pouring.
We arrived at the site, emptied Dave’s sidecar, got the tents up, all positioned around the lads from the Chopper Club, then went off into the beautiful marina town of Hellevotsluis. A lot of the rally-goers stayed on-site in cabins or nearby sites. It’s a great venue if you are not camping. Not my personal bag for a rally, but it works for others.
Friday night was a debauched night in town, then back to the site and the ability to set some things straight, with face to face truths, which was needed, and I am sure we mended many bridges. Isn’t it funny how much you can dance when you are inebriated, not just me, but many others…. and we all still believe that we looked like we did in 1980 (as we certainly acted like that).
The site was set up for the custom show. I loved the D and sidecar, but people soon started going into town again. The square was opening with a couple of pubs with live music and drinking in the sunshine. A couple of us had the obligatory tattoos, shame that Daz’s tattoo looks like Victor, instead of his wife’s name Victoria – or maybe we got it wrong?
Cut down in his prime
We then found a Lambretta Chopper Owner’s Club aficionado, Jake absolutely collapsed, so Mike and I carried him back to site with us. The afternoon was filled on-site with classic 80s games and the custom show with some worthy winners. All the awards were given out in the evening with Salford Knights receiving Best Turned Out Club and Jake winning the Best Drunk. Drinks on site were as reasonable as in the town and the breakfast was a massive hot and cold buffet which was great value for money.
A bridge too far
Sunday we were up and gone, we left the other rally goers to work out what they would do all day, but we had a ride to Arnhem, planning to take in museum and memorial. Well, that never happened.
We took two lads from Leigh SC with us for the night to Arnhem. Stoney came on his unready P range, which the autolube gave up on, so he was stranded 10 miles from site. As they were only going for one night, we took old man John with us to Arnhem for the night. He had the adventure of a lifetime, trouble-free on a GP he built from a box of bits.
Suited and booted
The next issue happened, as we were hammering down the motorway, we lost Aussie. Some may think this was a good thing, but he brought two suits, four pairs of shoes, a wigwam tent and all the gear… but no tools. He was let down and his sidecar was not ready, but neither was his P150 really. Rear-wheel gone flat. Exactly the same as at Wrexham SC the fortnight before. His hub was shot and needed two 13mm sockets where he had a bolt in his hub. He called the RAC in the UK instead of us waiting for him. Anyway, Harry Handsome went back with the tools, but the Dutch Wombles moved him off the motorway. I then bellowed at him down the phone as all he needed to do was ask the womble for a socket. Anyway, it was all changed by the time Harry Handsome arrived – we are on our way.
We lost Dave in the sidecar, Mike and Harry Handsome. Dave’s clutch had gone. Mike very capably changed the clutch on the roadside, fitted new plates only to realise afterwards it may have just been the selector pin. Great win for Dave. At the same time, Martin’s selector rod on his TS1 became displaced, I had spare circlips, but they were in the sidecar. Harry Handsome turned up with my tools and we were all ready to go ahead. It had now become apparent that we would spend two hours in a petrol station every day waiting for breakdowns.
We rolled into Arnhem to a great hostel, shower, beer and town. There was a free festival in town with three stages, live music, a Chinese and a rake of beers, the night was over. Monday morning, new inner tube in Aussie’s spare, as you’ll never know when you’ll need this?
Lest we forget
The first point of call was the Allied Cemetery, the mood was sombre and silent, “Lest we forget”. We then took in Arnhem Bridge, the museum and the route of the six bridges of our forefathers, the route was amazing and a big thanks to Mike, for sorting the itineraries of the historic places, memorials and museums that we visited. We sent John on his way back to Rotterdam, he picked up Stoney who got his seized P range working and they returned to Rotterdam. Now the 120 miles from Arnhem to Maastricht, mainly A roads and then motorway for the last stretch. This was the one day that we had no mechanical issues, just checking our bikes over every night.
Maastricht, the place of the Maastricht Treaty, end of WWI. Hitler wanted it to be the first Dutch City he captured in WWII, the hidden sites and memorials are too much to mention. On arrival, the hostel said it was not good to leave the scooters outside, as he rode a themed “Stayokay” Vespa. We put all our scooters in a locked conference room for the night. Pizza for 13 and loads of beer, it was nice to stay in a city steeped in hospitality and history.
Breakfast and we were off to Bastogne, site of the Battle of the Bulge. We set off gently, then hammered it again, it was just a mere 80 miles, so we had time on our hands and were able to visit Foy, site of the 101st Allied Airborne, living in Foxholes. This went tits up, along with Martin’s AF Cassette clutch. We spotted two unassuming workmen, eating their lunch with a trailer and caterpillar digger, next thing, Martin’s Lambretta was on board and we were off at speed to our residence for the night.
Words and photos: Doug Turner
To be continued as the Salford Knights move forwards to Aachen…
Dutch Lions and Arnhem Rallery
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