Solar Eclipse Rally

7th - 15th August 1999
Cornwall MAG, Pirates MCC and Just Us BC

Click on any of the following photo's for a bigger version.

Tickets for the event were ordered late 1998, quite a long wait but well worth it. If I could only have gone to one rally so far this year then this would have been the one. It wasn't just the fact that a major astronomical event was on hand, not even the lovely coves and villages in the area or the fact that it lasted over a week. It was just the whole thing - well organised, well attended (one of the few places that was packed out that week) and pretty good weather. There was two bands on every night, I think they tried to please everyone by providing a variety of bands so most people ended up hating some of the bands and loving the others. That's it really but here's the boring detail! Most of it won't mean much unless you know the people involved but if you went to the rally then I hope it reminds you of your visit and brings back a few memories as you will have had similar experiences.

If you're from Windsor and District MAG and you feel that I've missed something or that you want a picture in that isn't here then please give me any pictures or words that you want in here - I'd love some help doing these things. It's just an account of what I experienced, most people did their own things so it's not an account of what we did as a group.

The Rally grounds.

There was a beer tent, rave tent (only used for raving in for 1 night due to lack of demand or a blown up turntable - not sure which), about 3 food stalls and around eight or so other stalls (could have done with a few more). The stage was pretty impressive for a bike show - more like the kind of thing you find at an outdoor music festival. There were some home made showers which worked very well (except when the water pressure dropped too low for about 1 day). The programme mentioned that they had been quoted 9000 pounds to hire some showers! So they made their own. Seems like they had a few problems with people hiking up the prices for things once they realised what week the rally was occurring in. The loos were fine on the occasions that I used them due to the hard work of a very brave lady I spoke to briefly who's job it was to clean them in the mornings. There were some mens urinals where you could see outside while you were having a slash - felt really strange like people must be able to see your todger but they couldn't (I hope!).

There was a first aid tent ran by the Thames Valley regional rep and Windsor & District MAG member, Clive. I didn't realise he was a member of our club until this rally but ours is the nearest so there you go.

Click here for the front page of the programme or here for the "What's on" list.

Saturday 7th August

My Journey down

Most people went on Friday but I decided to travel on this day, which turned out to be a brilliant bit of luck. It pissed it down most of the morning but I set off anyway. Originally planned to avoid motorways completely but thought I could do a bit of motorway and then go to A roads. Took the M4 to the M25 and was pleased that my friend Jo had decided not to come with me as there was a lot of filtering to be done that I'm not sure she would have been happy with. So there I was, not able to see much, concentrating on the road and cars to make sure I didn't get knocked off as I slipped through the queues, concentrating so much on the road that I missed the M3 junction! This wouldn't have been so bad if I knew the M25 and noticed that I'd missed it. By Junction 8 (about 5 junctions past), I realised I was going to be in Brighton soon, so I turned off and found my self in Reigate! Now I was wishing Jo had come because at least I wouldn't have gone about 1 hour out of my way in the rain. Anyway, the rain stopped and I had a nice ride to Cornwall. Saw loads of bikes in the area - seems like they were not scared off by the reports of expected traffic in the region at that time.

onway.jpg - 33 Kb Nice and sunny for me on the way down.

Arrived at the site to find that camping was being strictly organised due to lack of space and some sort of fire regulations - the camping areas were marked out with gaps between to allow access. Managed to squeeze in with most of the Windsor & District MAG people who had arrived on Friday. They'd had less luck with the weather and had got soaked (other than Jo & Mat Baker who had been in the car - and did the journey in the fastest time out of all of us).

UKRM - Captain Alehouse

After a quick look around, I made it to the bar and before I'd even had chance to say hello to my friends who were a bit further up the bar, a chap comes up to me and says "Are you Peter Smithson?", I said "Yes" and tried hard to figure out what lost friend this was. "It's Stan..." (blank look from me) "... Captain Alehouse." Then I knew who it was. On the internet there are a group of people who read a news group which occasionally turns to the subject of motorcycles ( or UKRM for short - home page ). This was one of the people who I'd arranged to meet and his 'handle' (bit like those CB handles, "Rubber Duck we've got a convoy" etc.) is "Captain Alehouse" which is how I know him. He'd recognised me from a picture I'd e-mailed him. We had a chat and he introduced me to Chris who taught me the fine sport of making fun of Stan's Divy 600 (sensible retro tourer type thing). He doesn't help out much by mentioning his surprisingly brief race with an R1 (cutting edge sports bike).

Read his review by clicking here.

UKRM - Lucretia Borgia -

Tried to ring Sam (Lucretia Borgia on UKRM) to see how she was doing. I wasn't sure that she was going to make it as she'd rang the night before and left a message about her GT550 being a bit ill. Couldn't get through to her so I tried out the food tent with Stan Chris and some bloke they didn't introduce me to. Ordered a nice vegetable curry but was given a lamb curry which I didn't notice until I was half way through it - good job I'm not a veggie. Missed Sam ringing me back because I was eating but the message said they were in the Lizard looking for the rally. Finally met up with her in the camping area as I was ringing her - I looked up to see someone else with a phone and realised who it was. Captured Stan and brought him over too. Had a look at the famous GT, had a quick chat and left her and Muz to put the tent up.

Read Lucretias review by clicking here.

I'll have to get myself a handle for this news group thing. My other half has suggested something but it's not repeatable.

Come back to my place?

Jo was so proud of her nice new (to her) tent and offered to return the invitation she's had from me on a regular basis for several years and let me share her tent. This sounded like a good idea because she had a huge double air bed, real pillows and a duvet in there. So I settled in for a good nights sleep but was woken up by the incredibly bad rain that came that night and got soaked by Jo's less than waterproof tent. I chose the hard ground of my tent for the next night!

drying.jpg - 19 Kb Jo drying her clothes the next day.

Sunday 8th

Bumped into Captain Alehouse who had apparently lived up to his name on the previous night so didn't fancy joining us on a ride - I think he sobered up briefly on Tuesday afternoon but it's only a rumour.

Had a ride around with Tony Neil and Mat Baker where I found out what it was like to have a 20 stone bloke on the back of a 600 Bandit - slow. Found St Michael's mount and checked the tide times for a proper visit later in the week. Jo, Sarah, Ken and a few others went to the beach for a sun bathe. Jo wondered why we didn't come along and pointed out that we'd missed out on all that exposed female flesh. I pointed out that this may have been why we went 15 miles in the opposite direction. She'll forgive me one day.

beached whale.jpg - 39 Kb Some of the flesh that I missed - such a shame. (Sarah's camera)

neil jo.jpg - 77 Kb Where's this female flesh then Jo? (Sarah's camera)

A group of us had a drink at the pub in Lizard village for a bit and headed back. Sarah managed to do a little shopping.

Sarah's brother arrived with Chris, took the piss out Sarah's Honda "Dumville", called her "Twinkle" and continued to entertain us by embarrassing Sarah for the rest of the week. She said it wouldn't have been so bad if we hadn't all joined in. I'm surprised she saved camping space for him!

Not sure but I think we all hung around drinking for the evening.

Monday 9th

About 6 or 7 of us headed off for Newquay but settled for Falmouth instead when it started to rain. Tony took us on a scenic route up and down the sea coast until he decided we'd had enough and located a nice Cafe for us. Then we hit the town centre where I bought by own air bed and Sarah managed to do a little shopping.

neil onfloor.jpg - 36 Kb Need a hand with those water-proofs Neil?

Siôn and Gina arrived soaking wet! They'd hit really bad rain all the way down and stopped on the way in a B&B to get dried up and because Gina was about to kill Siôn.

sion wet.jpg - 49 Kb

This was the night we hung around the bar and had a few drinks.

Tuesday 10th

Eleven of us went to St Michael's mount. Saw that the BBC were there ready for some sort of event on Wednesday. Wandered across to the island which was accessible on foot because the sea was out and had a look around the castle. Sarah did her tour guide bit by reading out from the guide the description for each room in a loud voice to anyone who happened to be in the room.

tour guide.jpg - 19 Kb See that guide she's clutching?

mat.jpg - 23 Kb Look how we showed Mat a really interesting time.

jo.jpg - 28 Kb

water walk.jpg - 13 Kb Some people took a paddle back - we took the boat.

stm mount.jpg - 12 Kb There's the view from the boat. Also see pics from the one in France here.

Went to Penzance for a Cornish Pasty and Sarah amazed us all by not doing any shopping.

This was probably the day that we had a quick drink at the Lizard and I didn't fancy going back to the campsite with the others so I dropped Mat Baker off at the campsite and went for a ride. Found a nice place called Mullions Cove, fairly secluded and scenic. I was just finding a place to sit down when I saw Auntie Fran and Tony! They had fancied a ride out too. We went on a little ride which ended with some really good ice creams at a place we were to visit on a regular basis for the remaining few days.

mullions.jpg - 32 Kb Mullions cove.

Where's our flag?

On our return we found that our Windsor & District MAG flag had been taken and replaced with a flyer for North Herts Gremlin Bike Show on the 5th of September. I'd met the perpetrator of this evil deed a few days earlier when I'd gone over to tell Clive that Windsor & District MAG had got a good mention in the Lion Rally review because we'd spent time with Dave the reporter. As soon as I'd said this I was attacked by a gentleman called "Scouse" who basically said "You didn't make much of a showing at the Magna Carta Freedom run that we organised even though it was in your area!" Fair point really but as I was the only one to go on the run I was saved from a real telling off. So it looks like we are going to have to go to the bike show on the 5th to retrieve our flag. Let's hope enough of us sober up after our bike show on the 4th or we won't be seeing our flag for a while!

At least we didn't have the same problem that Reading MAG had. They had their flag stolen by... er ... Reading MAG. To cut a long story short, the person carrying the flag put it up next to his tent even though most of Reading were in another part of the field and refused to move it. Someone at Reading MAG decided that wasn't right and took it away, the flag was passed from group to group until it eventually made an appearance on the stage during a performance by that nights band!

reading flag.jpg - 54 Kb There's that nice Reading MAG flag on stage. Wednesday night.

Worst journey.

Ian and Cathy arrived today, they didn't camp next to us because they could not see any tents with the Windsor & District MAG flag on them! No sign of Kev (Cathy's other half) or his friend - I think the rain may have put them off but they had some feeble excuse about bad backs and a limp wrist or something. Cathy and Ian had a pretty bad ride down, Cathy's faithfull old XS650 started playing up at Reading which leaves about 250 miles of "limping" to go. Also, it was pissing it down and they stopped at every service station and eventually stopped over for B&B and did the rest of the journey the next day.

Mat Baker got covered in some disgusting gunk as part of the "Rally virgin" thing. I think it's the first time we've done this so wasn't he lucky!

For a change, we hit the bar and listened to the bands with the rest of Windsor & District MAG.

parents.jpg - 23 Kb Jacky just before she killed the kids.

kev jen.jpg - 23 Kb Keith & Jenny.

Wednesday 11th

Little Dave had turned up at about 5am after riding through the night and he brought news that Grasscutter and Cath did not make the journey because of the weather.

Finally dragged myself out of bed to find that most people had buggered off to the Lizard to watch the Eclipse on foot. There had been talk of traffic heading down there all through the night so the traffic was supposed to be really bad down there but I reckoned that no traffic was coming back the other way so it couldn't be that bad. Headed off with Siôn and Gina and found the streets deserted - less traffic there than there had been on previous days. I think most people had got there and got parked up in the fields that had been opened up for the event. Found a few people shivering in the queue for the cafe and lent Sarah my jumper as she was suffering the most. It was pretty windy down on the coast that day partly due to the complete cloud cover which was just there to mess up our viewing of the eclipse.

The Eclipse.

The moment finally arrived after minutes of saying "Well it should be happening now, it's 10 to eleven and totality is at about 10 past." We couldn't see anything because of the clouds but eventually a break appeared and there was a cheer from the surrounding people. The cloud did not clear completely so we saw the sun with a huge chuck missing through the clouds without the aid of glasses. The clouds came again but just as totality occurred, the clouds cleared again and we could see the sun completely obscured in the middle of the day - really strange. The light level was not pitch black but it was pretty dim which felt weird. The seagulls started making a hell of a noise and stopped flying, I heard later that a few bats were seen flying across the rally grounds. Then someone shouted "Look - a star!" but we suddenly realised what we were seeing was the diamond ring effect in a now bright blue patch of sky. NOW was finally time for those notorious eclipse glasses! We agreed that the week had been excellent fun and the fact that we not only saw the eclipse but really experienced it made the holiday even better.

sarah.jpg - 17 Kb Sarah was so cold that she amputed her legs in attempt to cut down the surface area exposed to the cold.

eclipse.jpg - 4 Kb One of the many cloudy moments when you could look at the sun directly.

eclipse watching.jpg - 22 Kb Eclipse watching.

eclipse watching 2.jpg - 78 Kb I couldn't see a thing with those eclipse glasses on! (Sarah's camera, photo by Ian)

It was strange seeing comments in the paper the next say along the lines of "Was that it?" from people who stuck their heads out of the office window at the time in Scotland or North England - what do the expect 500+ miles from totality with no atmosphere or sense of occasion? You had to be there and if you weren't, you've got a long wait for the next one!

The view back home in Slough was not too bad. They had good weather and I'm told that some of the colours seen when viewing the reflection in the canal were a sight to be seen.

Not sure what we did for the rest of the day, I've probably got one of the outings mixed up and put it on another day!

tent debbie.jpg - 17 Kb Someone got revenge on Debbie for her leaving the tape stuff all over their tent the night before.

tent rob.jpg - 22 Kb Rob trying to hang himself with Dino.

I think we ended the night with a few drinks. Jim only had one drink all day which was a bit odd, but it was an 8 pint bottle of strong cider!

debbie jim.jpg - 34 Kb Debbie took one look at Jim and reckoned he needed some help with the cider.

tyre seats.jpg - 12 Kb Comphy seats!

twiglets.jpg - 19 Kb What's Simon doing with those Twiglets?

victory.jpg - 6 Kb OK I can see now. Victory to you too mate!

twig fight.jpg - 21 Kb Found a use for the Twiglets that were handed out - chuck them at each other! I don't know where Neil chucked that packet but Guy seems to be looking for something.

Thursday 12th

A few of us went the Seal Sanctuary to look at loads of crap seals that were too blind or injured to be returned to the wild. It was really hypnotic to watch them swimming around in the pools. I watched for a while because I was interested in the big blind seal that managed to follow its mate around without any trouble. Sarah said she was going to the loo and then sneaked into a shop to buy a few things - I tried rescuing her from her addiction but she fought too hard.

Had some more ice cream and the group split up to do their own thing.

pan.jpg - 65 Kb Devils Frying pan - very un-pan like.

portleven.jpg - 47 Kb Portleven.

Settled down to a few beers in the evening.

sarah asleep.jpg - 42 Kb Sarah carring on Grasscutters tradition of crashing out after a few beers.

frankie jim.jpg - 32 Kb Frankie was amazed that Jim finished the night with a hot chocolate - a first. Jim was more amazed that he was still upright.

Cathy's comments - the XS650 made it all the way home with no probs - it must have just been water in the petrol/electrics. What a marvellous bike!!

She was on her way to Cropredy Folk Festival near Banbury as was Captain Alehouse - I found out later.

Friday 13th

Most of us headed back this day. Traffic really bad but no problem on a bike.

Felt a little guilty about deserting the place when there was entertainment laid on Friday and Saturday night and about half of the people had already left but I had to get back really and most of Windsor MAG were going back that day too.

Sorry to hear that Sarah was hit on the side of her bike by a car that braked too hard in traffic and slid sideways into her pannier. She got the bike under control and was fine other than feeling a little shaken.

What else happened?

Mad plans for the next Eclipse were talked about somewhere in Africa in 18 months time.

Mention of another week long rally by Cornwall MAG next year.

Ken bumped into Windsor MAG regulars John and Helen in their camper van somewhere in Cornwall.

Sarah did a little shopping.

My ignition light and neutral light stopped working. When I put the bike in neutral the rev counter stops working. Seems to be working OK otherwise so I'll ignore it. Maybe it'll dry out and fix itself!

Sarah had some delusions of grandeur and demoted me from "Joint rep" to "Assistant"!

Some sort of illegal rave in Newquay resulted in a few injured police men and a young child going to hospital after the police tried to take away the sound systems so the villagers could get some sleep. Eventually the police had to leave to avoid further conflict. They got away with 2 speakers and a generator leaving the rave with 8 sound systems!

I think some alchohol was consumed at some point.

Most events were badly attended partly because of the following -

1) Nobody wanted to face the terrible traffic which in the end didn't really happen.
2) Everything was made too expensive.
3) The government issued a warning saying it'd be safer to stay at home than watch the Eclipse.

Quite frankly, the last point is outrageous. I don't know where to start on that one so I won't!

The "Lizard festival" was a huge music festival where they were planning to sell 20,000 tickets. They only sold about 8000 - 10000 so they tried to cancel the event but the police would not let them because there would be so many people wandering around Cornwall with no place to stay!

Clive discovered that he's alergic to curry flavour twiglets. He suddenly found that he could not say long words which really worried him when he realised he could not order a Guiness! The hospital said the alergy was like a form of migrane which must have given the language bit of his brain a hard time.


Gradually we became aware of a couple that spent a lot of time together, even to the extent of setting off to the loo together. An unlikely couple but just goes to show that true love can be found in the strangest of places. They could not be separated during rides out - even riding 2 abreast around corners in an attempt to be near each other if another bike had the cheek to go in-between and ruin the correct order. Going to the communal shower together was too much of a clue for Auntie Fran and she sussed out that Tony and Neil must be a couple. I think this sort of relationship is a first for Windsor & District so congratulations lads and I hope it lasts!

tony neil.jpg - 13 Kb


First of all, a big thank you to all the people involved in organising the rally. All the hard work paid off in the end.

Thanks to Ken and Debbie for letting us use their table and chairs and thanks to Jo for carrying it down in the car and for taking some stuff back on the Friday. Tony for doing most of the navigation on the group outings. Damian provided a very powerfull light for the rave tent a few times which made it more sociable. Thanks to Bethan for having a most excellent laugh that became famous all over the site!

Who was there that I know? (or got to know)

In rough order of arrival -

Clive, Jo, Mat, Ken, Debbie, Richard, Frankie, Jim, Tony, Rob, Sarah, Damian, Guy, Bethan, Keith, Jenny, Neil, Peter, Jacky (+ kids), Auntie Fran, Simon, Chris, Siôn, Gina, Ian, Cathy and Little Dave.

And all the people I sort of know well enough to say hello to from other MAG groups or clubs.

Also see for some more Eclipse rally pictures.

For downloadable videos and pictures of the Eclipse itself have a look at Stu's site. Looks like he had a very similar view to us but had some better pictures.

For more eclipse links go to

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