The Search For The Holy Dragon Badge
Once upon a time twelve Phoenix members and a certain Desboro' rider trekked to furthest Wales in search of a small metal badge inscribed with the legendary words: DRAGON RALLY 1976. One of those rallyists was Dave Cockerton and here is his story. Photo from 1978 by Heather MacGregor.
The Dragon Rally 7th January 1976
The time 08.00 hrs. Mark (350 Yamaha) and myself (750 Honda) set out on a cold wet and foggy day to meet Steve (650 BSA) and Dave (750 Norton) at the Post House Motel. Coming from Countesthorpe was itself a bit hairy as the route was strewn with large wet man hole covers! Anyone who's hit one knows what I mean. I had just bought my Honda a mere couple of weeks previously and handling wasn't all I would have liked in the wet. I still had Jap tyres on. As we pulled into the Post House car park Steve sort of gave a grin and must have felt relieved someone had turned up a he was alone. Dave not up yet? - "Late again" he said, "We'll call in on the way." Half an hour later all was well and all four bikes were on the way to the Dragon.
Feeling better myself I sat back and began to relax in the saddle and concentrate on the job of riding shotgun. Steve led the way as he had the route worked out. We made slow progress as the fog was so thick in places you couldn't see 20 yards ahead. There wasn't a great deal of traffic on the A5 which I thought surprising, not even any lorries to do battle with! Approaching Oakengates there's a tricky island following a fast dual carriageway. Normally there is no problem but if you are in a thick fog and on two wheels it can be a b.....d! Just a few moments before reaching the island three bikers flew past us doing about 50mph. riding a Honda 400, a Honda 250 and a BSA 650. "What's Steve doing?" I thought. "We've been s... on by a Honda 250 with Radio One blasting from a speaker tucked in its fairing." Two seconds later I found out - riding carefully! All three lads were scattered about the island - bits of bike splattered all over the road. I could have cried and laughed at the same time but managed to restrain it. After picking them up a motorist stopped, saw there had been a crash and said he would phone the police and ambulance service. We politely told him to s.. off (go) as there were no injuries, which he did, sparing no horses in his GT1100 rot box!
Once more Steve set the pace heading west along the A5. Another hour and the rain had stopped, the fog had gone leaving slightly damp roads. By now I could sense we were enjoying every minute, changing positions and quickening the pace. We could have carried on but for the thirst of Mark's Yam which he indicated at the next petrol station. Dave (Norton) mentioned food and a cuppa so we pulled into the Little Chef cafe on the border of Wales. As we ate our egg and chips streams of bikers roared past complete with camping gear and female company. Time we got back on the road.
Once again on the road it wasn't long before we reached Lake Bala but this time Steve had to stop. Smoke was pouring out from under his petrol tank. As we looked down at a slightly cooked Beeza Steve gave us his diagnosis - some felt stuffed under the tank was getting a bit hot! "It's OK" he said, "Nothing to worry about." Stink stink. We arrived at the checkpoint caravan to receive the directions to the Dragon site. We must have arrived at the same time as hundreds of others for there was a queue ten yards long. Another half an hour later we set of to cover the remaining 23 miles through beautiful snow topped mountains. The route led us through a village with spectators standing at the roadside waving to us as we rode through in a convoy at a steady pace. "Must be like the TT." I thought. At any rate they looked like spectators waving to their favourite stars at a race meeting. Great stuff!
At last we arrived at the Dragon site. It is situated at Capel Curig along side of the River Lligwy in a valley, hills on all sides. In the summer it must be very hot here but alas this was February and very cold. The marshals took our tickets and pointed the way. Tents already filled the damp soggy ground in one field so we made our way up to the second which was up a stone path. It was quite hazardous to say the least. I clipped the underside of my Honda on a large boulder with an alarming thump, then on to a boggy part where I got stuck and stalled it more times than I should like to say. Thank god for electric starters - and a push which I got from some guys. At last we dropped the side stands and pitched our tents with the rest of the Phoenix club members who had started out at six am and had arrived a few minutes earlier. I wonder how many pubs they visited! Talking of pubs there was a hotel next to the site which would have done just fine had it been open. I was told the landlord had closed it for the weekend as last year some yobs had smashed it up a bit so it wasn't to be repeated this year. The nearest pub was a couple of miles away and the local off licence was there too.
Terry (Honda 450) suggested we go and sample the coffee, chocolate or soup provided by the Conway and District club. Also provided were crisps and bread rolls and a welcome supplied by a gorgeous young female serving drinks and badges which we received gratefully.
Dragon 88. VERY WET one, the same site as they are using now but this one was too bad to stay at. We booked in and went home.
Terry and Dave (750 Suzuki) introduced some friends that they met at previous rallies including an Aussie called Baz who built us a fantastic bonfire on the banks of the river. We repaid him with wisecracks and jokes about Australian sheep farmers.
Walking round the site I was amazed at the number of British bikes that were there, though most bikes were Japanese. There were a few Ducatis, BMWs and one chap had a Harley Davidson police bike with all the warning lights on plus a siren which he used quite a lot. Great fun was had by those who competed in a production trials course which was laid out on the side of a hill. One chap on a 250 Suzuki road bike came down the hill faster backward than he went up, falling in a heap at the bottom. Then there's the welly chucking contest that showed the more energetic among us.
The darkness came and with it the bonfires that silhouetted groups standing around them singing rugby carols! Interesting to say the least. Later that night a large bonfire in the middle of the field was lit and it was time for the drag contest. The drag artists were told to parade round the sweltering fire and cat calls and whistles were the order of the day - we really had a good laugh. When the fire had died down we went back to the tents where we drank the beer we had fetched from the off-licence earlier, sang some more songs then had to retreat under canvas as the rain was just a bit too wet.
Next morning (Sunday) it was still raining so it was a race to get packed and off the site. Getting off the site was no joke as once again I had to be pushed off, this time by Terry (Honda 450) covering him in mud. He had the last laugh though, I had to push him out.
The journey back home was over in no time at all and at 3pm I had my feet up by the fire. This was my first rally and won't be my last, thanks to all the members who attended.