A team of six men push a double-decker London bus up a river. Take a closer look and you’ll see the bus is actually a cleverly disguised bed with a woman on it. The men struggle through the water and up a muddy bank. They must hurry. Santa Claus and his six reindeers are in hot pursuit despite nearly capsizing in the water.
The Great Knaresborough Bed Race is exactly what it sounds like, a bed race through the North Yorkshire market town of Knaresborough. Six runners take a bed and make it road worthy. They then put a member of the opposite sex on it and race up steep hills, across a park, and down a river. Beforehand there is a parade of the 80-odd quilted roadsters that come disguised as trains, planes, and automobiles, even the occasional house. The fact that they must travel 30m (98 ft.) up a deep river gives a whole new meaning to parade float. Thousands turn out to see this colorful spectacle with much cheering and jeering as the different teams struggle over the 3km (nearly 2-mile) run. Some take the race very seriously and complete it in less than 13 minutes. Others take as long as they like to complete this four-poster caper.
The race first started in 1965 as a bit of fun between teams from the British Army, Navy, and U.S. Marines. It has since morphed into one of the major annual events that takes place in the beautiful and rugged North Yorkshire region. With 40% of this Northern England county covered in national parks, there is plenty to see and explore, including the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors. However, for one crazy day in June the whole area turns out to watch this town parade and race. Pipe bands and vintage cars roll through the picturesque village while the quaint country pubs do a brisk trade. The race begins at Conyngham Hall and climbs up a hill overlooked by the town’s castle ruins. Then it proceeds down to the River Nidd, where crowds watch as the teams struggle with their customized beds and some disintegrate in the water with cardboard and papier-mâché floating away downriver. Then they scramble up a muddy bank and race for the finishing line.
The event raises thousands of British pounds each year for different charities and is actually oversubscribed with more than 100 bed teams eager to participate. Competitors come from as far as Germany to try their luck in a race that turns out to be pure bedlam.
When to Go: June.
Leeds (29km/18 miles).
$$$ Residence 6, The Old Post Office, 3 Infirmary St., Leeds ( 44/113/285-6250; www.residencesix.com). $$ Roomzzz Central, 2 Burley Rd. ( 44/113/233-0400; www.roomzzz.co.uk).