Cumbria undulates - peaks as the background,

Through Postman Pat lanes which are dry-stoned and narrow;
From Arneside

To Grange Sands,

Hard shoulder to Ulverstone,
Then cross o'er train lines in sunshine to Barrow.

Free pitch on a campsite on wild Walney Island,
Surrounded by "statics" and "tourers" (that's lingo);

At night there's a party "to which you're invited,
It's 'Play your cards right' and a big game of Bingo."

But Walney's a spit and the winds are ferocious:
Straight in off the sea it comes, gust after gust;

Just setting off, packing up, almighty CRACK!
"Oh no, don't believe it: the tent pole is bust".

Before breakfast time but the hunt's on for welders,
The pole's snapped right through leaving two metal stubs,

To fix it's essential; by sheer tall bike chance,
A muntions firm that builds nuclear subs.

The equipment's hi-tech and not quite geared for tent poles -
More 20-tonne welders for patching up U-boats,

So a tour round the workshop and back to the office;
Some minutes to drink tea and eat up their oats.

Next place has a go but the pole disintegrates,

The Tour without tent is like snail without shell,
At last a camping shop flogs a replacement:
A rescue in Broughton, all's once again well.

Some big river crossings

And stopping to wash,

Isle of Man silhouetted on hazey horizon,
The Old Man of Coniston, Ennerdale, Black Combe
And other fine mountains to feast tired eyes on.

Un-pasteurised milk fuels boys fresh from a farm,
But their gears clog with clay and their brakes are a state,

And well-nearly stranded on samphired marshes,
They happen to stumble on Ravenglass fete.

More morris men marvel and cheer the tall bikers,

And include Princess in a sword dance routine,

While meantime the Manager meets a street jester,

Who gets him involved with his own great machine.

Chains de-greased in car repair shop,
By boy-racers the bikes are venerated,

Sellafield plant

To Workington windmills, piston-legged pedal power is generated.

Treats at house with seven dogs,

Inching closer to the Solway,
Silloth stranger pays for dinner,

Carlisle detour takes the whole day.

Talk of doing World Naked Bike Ride: tabloids blanked but boys got tanned,

Last item on Border TV, tall bikes cross to Bonnie Scotland.

Media interest comes in wee dribs

Thanks to Press Officer (their father),

"Do you have some surplus milk?

An empty barn?"

"Och aye, nay bother!"

Scotland's wild;
The road is long;

Will they make it in one piece?

Ponderous hours in sunny glades,

'neath mighty trees around Dumfries.

Helping shepherds drive their flocks along the lanes outside Kirkcudbright,

Get to Gatehouse - Garden bar -b: there's no place they rather would be.

First time meeting, hosts from Highbury, share a love of conservation,
Chat like chums despite the age gap - meaty midnight conversation.

Is this Provence?

Or even Spain?

Wonder the golden Tall Bike clones,

Salty skin washed in the sea, and bivvies un-rolled on the stones.

Piles of driftwood mark the tide line;
Campfire - aye, marsh mallows - nay,

MOD roads,

Gannets bombing, off the Rhins of Galloway.

Raindrops patter on a barn roof (ample shelter for their sort);

Yet again, more Scottish sun,
From drover's cave

To Prestwick airport.

Tent well stashed behind a bush, (you'd think it quiet, being Sunday),
Air traffic disturbs their sleep, two hundred metres from the runway.

Skim Ardrossan,

Blaze through Irvine, break-neck bikes among the cars flow,

Gourock, Greenock, up the Clyde,

The Erskine bridge

And into Glasgow.

Kelvingrove - a penthouse pad, with mounds of pasta: vultures flock,

Urban life takes re-adjustment; travellers both get culture shock.

No energy to roam the town; at first, they flop and rest indoors,

Then Princess ventures out to check some fellow fixed-gear messengers.

Some time to loaf and sip Earl Grey, then hit the town like un-couth bruisers,

Bikes tuned up and even time for major patch work done on trousers.

A doner farewell - back to rural,

Dumbarton to Gare Loch's brink,

Drizzle starts and clothes once fresh are quickly soiled, and socks soon stink.

A cup of tea in Faslane peace-camp, built to block the Trident warship,

Piles of food shared by campaigners, salvaged freshly from a skip.

From mouth to head of every sea loch, tall bikes make gradual advances,

"Afterall" some love to explain, "Argyll's coast's longer than France's".

Relentless rain is bad enough (not many barns where one can dry),

But damp grass brings worse misery, which really can make grown men cry.

It's midge season, which is NO JOKE: cover your flesh or bear the brunt,

They swarm in walls and make life hell, and are utter horrid c-c-creatures.

There's dubious short-cuts in these parts, and un-marked trails through chin-high bracken,

Which game-keepers advise against,

But tall bikes choose to go bush-whacking.

Besides, it makes for juicy footage, foolish self-inflicted torment,

And Ivo's back, with pro sound-boy, to gather up his next installment.

Lucky for him, impromptu banquet, not something that happens daily,

Minister's kind invitation to tuck in and join a ceilidh.

Strip the willow, chat to grandads,

Wine & burgers keep all powered,

Floor space for the four-man crew, in the spacious church hall - Toward.

More all-terrain and driving rain, adventures that one can't dream up,

A psy-trance party in a hatchback, cider, windows all steamed up.

Round Loch Fyne the wood trucks rumble, bumpers suck and spray from lorries,

Imagining a fast wet death, and gush of driver's desperate sorries:

"If the road were 'wee bit wider, then 'a might 'a seen the rider,
Aye, the rider might 'a been seen, not ended on ma' wind-screen".

When rain soaks through your e-bay mac, "Stay warm, don't stop" 's the abiding rule,

Negotiate some proper shelter, for example - riding school.

Fierce storms next morn come
So they knock off at one,

After Lochgilphead B-roads are barren,

A day and a night in a rickety barn,

Choppy straits separate them from Arran.

Ride the boat's bumpy swell t'ward the peaks of Goat Fell, then go round the island in a loop,

Both increasingly feral, limpits cut off the rocks, added in to give chew to their soup.

Plus mobile phone drenched (so it gets cut off too); to become wildmen they aspire,

Paying homage to frescoes inside hermit's caves, very close to the tip of Kintyre.

The air is dead calm and the sea, still like glass,

No breeze leads to midge-enduced tantrum,

Around Campbeltown and down to Southend, with views across to County Antrim.

On the Isle of Gigha a cool Californian has bought Colonel Horlicks' estate,

The boys get huge beds and organic breakfast, which cause tired eyes to dilate.

Achamore petals and grand snooker room

Substantially halted the pinks,

And who would have guessed such splendorous grounds could be founded on hot malted drinks?

A bleary ride back in the light but wee hours

(An evening with local community,)

Beforehand some farm work: milking of the udders, a direct hands-on opportunity.

Saddles are exchanged,

Sad farewells to Gigha, departure almost brings a tear,

Then back to the mainland - all 21 gears - to estates left for stalking red deer.

A cabin in Crinan

When midges descend,

Which is what they've been waiting for,

The feint Paps of Jura to which Orwell crossed and imagined 1984,

Now Manager's slowing as weak foot relapses, welcomed in Oban by a local drunk,

First night in a hostel, with End-to-End bikers, but Tall Bike Tour Britain bagsies the best bunk.

At dawn's crack from double-decker beds the duo roll,

And troll-faced, catch the Clansman ferry o'er to Coll.

Upon this rocky moonscape isle, a few days relaxation,

With Mills & Boon

And mucking in for annual lamb's castration.

The East End crofter's take on life is calm and never fussed,

Meanwhile the West End's training vols to go on Project Trust.

(A reminisce to gap year days - a time for which they hanker,

Coll was the base that sent them to Honduras and Sri Lanka.)

A mariner wise accompanied to help haul in the creels,

A shot at fishing off the rocks. What's this? Such anguished squeals:

Two dozen silver mackerel each, and yet the outing's cursed,

A silver flash and awful SPLASH! the camera is immersed.

The crabs and dog fish get chucked back to revive in the water,

But sea salt's clogged the Canon's gills, not one month since they bought her.

How Princess wept and made a fuss and dug in heels before the glens,

Though Roonie flipped, the real shame's tall bikes in Highlands WITH NO LENS.

How can it be, cruel wheels of fate? AGAIN - NO CAMERA, moods soon darken,

Thus two big days on Mull missed out, and bubbling shield of Ardnamurchan.

No laundry shots in sunny burns, nor pics of tics feasting on crevice,

Tall creatures small beside great lochs,
And lost reflections of Ben Nevis.........