Well Taz & I did our annual Santa stuff on Sunday. The toy run to the Dr Barnados childrens’ home in Wokingham, Berkshire is one of my favourite rides of the year. I’ve been thinking of selling my bike since the Summer, but have been saving it for this one event.
Sunday morning arrived & the weather looked horrible when we woke up -strong winds & pouring rain. We seriously thought about giving it a miss & staying at home. Fortunately though, the winds died down & the sun came out & by mid morning we were busy trying to work out how we were going to carry a pair of Santa suits, two cameras & a big bag of presents on the bike. In the end we decided to wear the suits all the way from home, rather than putting them on when we got there. Tanya strapped a rucksack over hers to carry the cameras, cigarettes, cash etc, (no pockets in our red suits). Feeling like a pair of scarlet Michelin men & with my vision somewhat impaired by my oversized cotton wool beard, we waddled out of the house & somehow managed to cram ourselves & all our goods aboard the Speed Triple.
So off we went. Got some very odd looks as we rode down the A31, but lots of beeping & waves too. Everyone loves a pair of motorised Santas it seems. Less than an hour later we reached the meeting point at Shire Hall in Reading, Berkshire, just off junction 11 of the M4. We re-arranged our windswept Santa costumes & had a wander about with the cameras. Lots of people we knew -I've been doing this event on & off for 20 years now. This year was the 24th one, so big things planned for next year's 25th. At 2.0.clock the order was given over a loud hailer to start our engines & everyone rushed to don their helmets, gloves & beards & find their keys. Police motorcycle outriders & a team of 100 volunteer marshals had ridden off ahead & closed off every road junction along the route so we were able to sail straight through red traffic lights & over roundabouts.
It’s only a short ride to the Barnados home, maybe 15 to 20 minutes, but riding in a huge group of bikes, all with a common purpose is always a real buzz. Knowing we’re on a mission to brighten up the kids’ Christmasses makes it even buzzier. The route was lined with hundreds of onlookers, plus bemused motorists at every junction. Fortunately no-one seemed to mind the inconvenience of having to wait while a couple of thousand festive bikers rumbled past. Some waved, some flashed their lights, some hooted. All grinned like idiots. Arriving en masse at the High Close school we were met by volunteers who took our presents & stacked them in the school's new sports hall. Taz & I took big packs of colouring pens, paints, brushes & colouring books. Free drinks & biscuits were provided by the staff while we listened to speeches from the organisers & Barnados staff.
We eventually left at about 3.30 in the afternoon, still wearing our costumes. After being dry & sunny all day, the rain started as we headed home, so didn't really matter.
We had a fun day & did our little bit to put a smile on a lot of people’s faces.
There were around 2000 bikes & 300 Santas, plus snowmen, elves, reindeers & even our friend Janie, who gift wrapped herself. The furthest travelled rode from Wakefield in Yorkshire for the run & the oldest combined age of bike & rider was 140 years. As well as the mountain of presents donated by the bikers on the day, which are distributed to childrens’ groups all around the region, we were told enough money had been raised from previous toy runs plus the annual Dr B’s bike show, held at the same venue, to equip the new sports hall.
I really enjoy this event. Already looking forward to next year’s.
Videos & more photos on the RCB’s blog page here: http://readingtoyrun.blogspot.com/