2017 The Sahara

A bit of rain.

I knew it was going to be overcast with a few showers. I mean I packed the tent between showers and the Amsterdam swing was in the rain. However by the time I left the A’dam building it was pouring down. Full waterproofs and winter gloves required. I kept saying it will clear up but it didn’t and I found myself looking at the shades of dark sky and hoping my route would steer me towards the lighter coloured grey. My plan was to head north and ride the Afsluitdijk (pronounced Af-Slough-deck) a part of the huge dam holding back the Sea

This is how it looks from the viewing tower, or it would if, a) It were open, and b) it wasn’t next to zero visibility in the rain

With that box ticked I set sail for Bremen. There was no way I would make Hamburg in this rain, now accompanied by massive side winds. The journey got no better, it was more terrifying than any swing over the side of a building. Visibility was terrible and I nearly got taken out by a high speed black car. I was behind a lorry and indicated to pull out, checked the mirror, nothing, a quick shoulder check and this car just appeared out of the spray, no lights on and easilly doing 40mph more than me. I barely saw it as it went past and disappeared into the spray in front.

The last fuel stop of the day and Bookings.com for my hotel.

I found a cheap hotel right near Central Station in Bremen. The ride to it was interesting as Breman has an extensive tram network and all those trams share the road with traffic in certain areas. Of course tram lines and rain are a perfect mix for biking disaster but somehow I made it to the hotel. The Novem Hotel Bremer Haus looked to be in a run down area but it had secure parking in an underground car park. Once in my room I put all my wet gear in the bathroom, took the temperature limiter off the towel rail and wound it up to full. I put everything I could on charge and went out to get supper. Seven Eleven supplied pot noodle type thing, drinking yoghurt and water. On return I was informed all in breakfast would be at 7.

I will try and add more pictures but the tablet isn’t talking to the phone

Amsterdam my second home

I lived in Amsterdam for a while back in the 80’s and back then I decided it would be my second home if I were rich. The squares, the entertainers, the people, food, culture were everything a 27yr old me wanted. As a result I have returned here many times.

But it’s changing, or maybe I’m changing. It all seems a bit messy with roadworks everywhere and full off litter. I mean the history is still there and my camp site was great, just North of the canal behind Central Station there were free ferries running 24/7 to access the city.

On my first crossing I saw this building, then on closer inspection I saw the swings on top of the other one, hmmmmm!!

A quick look and I could see that the A’dam building had once been the site of Amsterdams gallows and a real treat for the whole family, back in the day aparently! Now it’s a business centre with a revolving cafe and coffee bar.

I spent the whole day walking the city visiting squares I used to go to, it was sunny and the colours at the pride weekend gathering where spectacular. I ate lots of junk food and watched people from the comfort of outdoor cafes. It was exactly what I needed after the start of the trip. It had been 3 testing days but now I was on track. It was 11pm when I got back to my tent and sleep came very easy.

I was up showered and packed early. It had rained but in a brief gap I quickly packed the tent whilst it wasn’t too wet. I went to get a coffee and the heavens opened. It was time to get going. Full waterproofs, but before I leave just one more thing…….

100m high swing ride

Breakfast in Brugge

Having completed my last blog entry I curled up on the floor of the ferry and fell asleep. An hour or so later, rudely awakened by the ships Captain telling us to go to our vehicles. Within 20 minutes the bow doors opened and we all left the harbour in convoy. Well up until the first roundabout as I had decided no motorway today. So I looped through a few villages and industrial estates up to Dunkirk beach. The sun was coming up and warming me nicely. I took a short walk on the sandy beach watching runners and cyclist whisking past.

Colourful beach huts at Dunkirk

It was just a short break as I didnt know where I wanted to end up later. Amsterdam was about 4 hours away and I love it there, since I worked there back in the 80’s I have always tried to get back for the odd weekend. I love the architecture, culture, various squares and street entertainers. So I ditched the back street route and hit the motorway. I knew I’d be tired later. As the Honda purred along as all Hondas do I noticed a sign for Brugge. I’ve never been there, so I’d have breakfast in the old town.

The day was warming up and I firstly walked around and then oted for a canal boat tour.

I was captivated by this part of Brugge but I had to move on and find a campsite. Amsterdam was 3 hours away and there is a campsite just north of the city centre. That was my destination. Obviously the Honda ate up the miles and before I knew it I was there, setting up camp in a busy site.

I have 2 nights booked so I went to the onside BBQ and live music night. I was really tired and after a great chat with a couple from New Zealand I hit the sack.

Another day.

My day started in a low mood. I’m supposed to be in Germany not at home. I so wanted a great off road adventure on the Husqvarna and to that extent I went out to it and did all the checks again but unsurprisingly it hadn’t healed itself. I rang some dealers and specialists but to no avail, no one has the parts I need.

So it was time to enact plan B, whatever plan B is. I could only imagine it would be a road trip as the big Honda Africa Twin is a beast to handle off road. I’ve done it a few times but she’s very heavy and loaded with luggage I’m not sure I’d cope alone on trails. But no point in crying over spilt milk it was time to start swapping bits over. The phone holder was easy and then the luggage. That was a different matter as I have no luggage racks on the Honda and my bags are not only flexible but they touch the mightily hot exhaust.

100kg more than the Husky, the Honda will be a handful

Much packing and repacking went on but the bags would not sit off the exhaust. Time was running out as I had already done a few other things and managed to book a ferry for 6.30am. So a quick fix was the answer for now

Two metal pan scourers tie wrapped round the exhaust made a soft insulation between bag and exhaust

I already mentioned a ferry, so I tried to book the Eurotunnel but its fully booked for the next 3 days. Then I tried ferries and found a 6.30am sailing from Dover for me and the bike at £35 with Irish Ferries. I was ok with that until the next email said due to delays at passport control I would need to arrive at 3.30am. With the bike done I had a bite to eat, a shower and then off to bed for 3 hours. I left home at 1.15am in a scene from Groundhog Day, almost. The journey to Dover was boring, after all I had done it a few times now. This was slightly different in that it was chilly and I had to layer up twice on the way.

Arriving at 4am I was quickly through all the checks and ushered onto the 4.30 ferry.

I’m running on caffeine now. By the way, Irish Ferries, really good.

I shouldn’t be an adventure motorcyclist…..

With hope in my heart, a full breakfast sat in my belly and a bike that sounded so good, I set off from Antwerp Harbour Hotel

I was confident today would be my day. It was 100km (60 miles) to the guys at Carmo Electronics in Helmand, nr Eindhoven. I got there in great time and was greeted by the staff with coffee and biscuits. They said to take the *rectifier off and they would test it. I did that and waited with baited breath. 20 minutes later the news was that it was fine and the issue would be the stator. They came out to the bike and tested it. Sure enough it was the **stator.

Literally taking the bike apart outside their shop

What followed was kindness beyond all reasonable need. They literally did everything to try and help. They rang every outlet, dealer and race team they knew who may have a stator but pretty much everyone said “that never happens why would we stock that part?”.

Currently my bike is in their workshop having the battery charged in the hope it can get me home, yes that’s right my trip is over after just 2 days of a potential 3 months. I’m gutted and even more gutted that the Hook of Holland ferry is fully booked for 5 days so I cant cut the corner and will have to ride back to Calais. Whilst the bike was charging I checked the wiring harness from the stator to the rectifier, just in case there was some damage causing the issue, but it seemed not. I took out the fuse to the lights, so they wouldn’t drain the battery or put more strain on the ailing stator. Eventually everything that could be done was and the guys were sad to say there was nothing more they could do. There was no payment required for the two to three hours they spent trying to help, the calls made and the electricity to charge the battery. I shook hands with them and set sail. The volt meter confirmed a full battery and somewhat weirdly it showed as charging fully. I set the sat nav for Calais and headed off. I stopped as little as possible because starting the bike is a huge drain on the battery and I needed all the power it could muster to keep the bike running until I got home. At a fuel stop I booked a place on the Eurostar and contemplated whipping the seat off to test the stator one more time as the bike had been performing so well since leaving Eindhoven. But we had tested it, experts had tested it and it was defective. The journey was long, straight and boring with just stops for fuel. My mind was going through what to do next. The easiest option is to swap out the Husky for the Africa Twin and head back to get the job done, but the nature of the ride would change because riding the Africa Twin off road alone is very challenging and probably a little beyond me. I’ve picked that bike up once and I know its a big old lump. So it would become a road trip. Another trip with no off roading (See The Sahara and ***Vietnam for similar events).

Anyway at 7.45pm I arrived back in Hampshire, unloaded the bike, covered it and locked it up. Tomorrow is a new day……..

  • * Rectifier, A small black box that turns the electric produced by the engine into electric the battery likes.
  • ** Stator, This is a device that creates electric to charge the battery and supply power to the engine to make all the electrical gubbins work.
  • ***OK you cant see Vietnam because I didn’t do a blog, but having made it clear that I wanted a Honda CRF250L and off road riding for 10 days, I got a 20 year old Honda XR250 and 2 days off road with a guide who fell off 12 times to my 0.

Day one…..here we go again

Well I set the alarm for 5am and luckily I woke at 5am as had set the day for Friday. Anyway it was all good, a coffee with my sister and on the road by 6am. Two miles of trouble free biking before I felt the need for my hands to be a little warmer. On went the heated grips, now just sit back and enjoy 2 and a half hours to the chunnel. About a mile later, that’s 3miles into a potential 3 month ride, I noticed a lack of heat in the grips. On checking the controller was flashing that they were in battery saving mode. That is a safety feature to stop them running the battery flat. However they shouldn’t run the battery flat while riding. A quick check on the volt meter showed 11.9. Long story short it looked like I had electrical gremlins.

Breakfast coffee

Anyway it was a mild morning with little traffic so plod on and see if it heals itself! After 20 miles I checked the luggage and it was all still attached. I carried on and my first proper stop was Clacket Lane Services on the M25. I had a great chat with a guy there before setting off again. Suddenly it was grey and looked like rain, it was rain, well misty rain but within two minutes I was soaked and looking for somewhere to stop. Into my full wet gear and on to Folkstone. I was plenty early and that gave me time to check the electrics. Waterproofs off and out into the sun. Saddle off and battery checked for charge, it really was low and I was concerned the journey was over before it even started. It was either the rectifier or stator. That’s either a new part to bolt on or and engine open job. By now I had lots of tools and testers and parts on the floor, at which point it chucked it down with rain. I was ready to quit. I had been keeping my mate Mike (Ferol Moto) up to speed and he was saying just carry on. He was busy searching websites for replacement parts. I had now moved past passport control and was officially in France. Mike called to say there was a 2 week delay on the rectifier if I needed a new one. Its too late I’m getting on the train but I just had time to say I had read there was a company producing aftermarket rectifiers. He was on it and by the time I was actually in France we had found a supplier in Holland.

So with a limping bike I had made it to France.

Whilst on the train I had again removed my waterproofs and was expecting glorious sunshine, not the case we all rode off into rain.

What followed was a few hours of heavy rain but ultimately I managed to find a supplier for the part I need and will collect it tomorrow. I made it to the hotel in Antwerp. I then did some checks on the bike before heading into the local town for food. I’m shattered and looking forward to a good sleep.

433km or 269 miles. On the road for 12 hours, all rounded of with some great food

I’m off again

Its July 4th and I have declared my independence. Today I gave 9 days notice to leave my job. My travel taste buds have been fired up by the removal, mostly, of travel restrictions and a few little inspirations. Firstly I have a new adventure bike, the Husqvarna 701, then there was a long weekend riding the South West TET and then a long weekend in Germany. But finally at the Adventure Bike Festival I met, chatted to and listened to a presentation by enduro racer Joey Evans. If you don’t know Joey or his story, look him up. The man shouldn’t be alive, shouldn’t be out of his wheelchair, shouldn’t be on a motorcycle and should never have entered and completed the Dakar Rally.

So onto my trip. For a while I have harboured a thought of riding to Nordkapp, the furthest point north in Norway. I could do that on a road trip and it would be incredible but as always I wanted a tiny challenge, so I am hoping to ride the TET (Trans European Trail) the length of Sweden. Its about 2000 miles of mostly off road trails. Then when that ends I will continue up to the top of Norway and 600 miles inside the artic circle. After that I will ride back down the coast road of Norway and hopefully see some amazing places.

However, before all that I need to finish work, finish a few private jobs, move all my stuff and 5 motorbikes back home and put it all in storage. I’ll not bother you again until I hit the road.

11. The end bit

So the journey home from our hotel in Labastide Murat in the Bordeaux region would involve another long day in the saddle to get to Pre-en-Pail, in Normandy some 400 miles, where we had an appointment with Shirley, Ravens step mum. She has some land with a cottage and two gite. Both Colin and Raven were due to go there on their travels. I will spare you the journey as it was fairly uneventful and long, mostly on motorways with nothing much of interest. When we did stop and even when we were packing to set off in the morning I could tell that for the fourth consecutive day Colin had a huge amount on his mind. He had slept little and worried lots. What did happen towards the end of the day was me getting a tad of road rage. I am by nature a pretty placid sort of person and not usually overly annoyed at other road users errors. However I suspect this day was a culmination of having lost a friend, had another in hospital and seeing the pain Colin was continually suffering both mentally and physically, with his back. The driver had almost hit Colin and ignored all the signs and road markings, it ended with me pulling up next to the driver when he stopped at a layby, his window was down. We had an exchange of pleasantries, well no. I had an exchange of unpleasantries in the universal language understandable to all. At this point I noticed Colin was disappearing round the next corner and I had no idea where we were or where we were going. I caught up and had words with myself. Colin didn’t need me being an idiot he needed support of a friend. We went up the long driveway that leads to Shirley’s beautiful home. On arriving we parked up the bikes and were greeted by four barking dogs. None of them any great size and one, just the cutest looking dog.

I tried to encourage them to come close and be petted but they weren’t having any of it. In due course Shirley came out to greet us and we all entered the cottage. Shirley is a wonderful lady who along with her late husband Tony had completely refurbished the cottage and gites. Between them they had made a fantastic job of turning the goat barn into a holiday let, along with the second that I didn’t see. Tony, Raven’s dad, had met Shirley just seven years prior to his death last year and Shirley was still coming to terms with that terrible loss. She knows she needs to rent the holiday homes out to maintain an income but as of yet has not managed to do so. Obviously Shirley had questions as to what had happened and what would happen next. Colin struggled through being as honest and open as only he can be. Shirley was accepting of the events, not without being upset but this lady took some comfort in the fact that her late husband had not had to deal with his daughter’s untimely death. Tony had been a motorcyclist and like so many parents was concerned as to Raven’s use of a motorcycle.
Shirley explained that she had got some pizza for us and hoped we liked it, what a star. By this time the dogs had become more trusting and I had fallen for Betty the mischievous little fluffy one. Yeah, that’s it my knowledge of dogs runs only to fluffy or not! I was shattered and took a shower before hitting the sack, I had managed to book a ticket on the same ferry as Colin and we were to head off first thing in the morning. It was 5.30am and Shirley had woken to see us off. We rode out onto the motorway in the crisp fresh air and started the journey to Calais. It was fairly uneventful apart from my choke cable sticking, needing a quick roadside repair, and me nearly running out of fuel again, after my silly decision to ride to the next station rather than wait the five minutes until the previous one had opened. We arrived at the ferry in good time. I rode up to passport control and the guy asked “Good trip?” I paused and thought, does he really want to hear this, no of course he doesn’t. “Yes thanks very nice” I replied and we rode onto the boat. The crossing was pleasant and the ride home equally so. We stopped at a petrol station where we would go our separate ways. I shook Colin’s hand and with nothing prepared to say I smiled and said “In the words of Vinnie Jones, It’s been emotional”. We both laughed and set off for our respective homes. I had completed over 3000 miles. Thats an eighth of the way round the world hmmmmmmm!!!!

It’s now two weeks later. I have returned to work and also, with Colin’s help, organised a charity ride out in Ravens memory. We are piggybacking an Air Ambulance event and supporting them. A whole load of her friends have signed up and we hope to end it all with a picnic for anyone, biker or not who wants to join us in remembering a dear friend.

What did I learn? Preparation is everything. Remember the rev counter light I would never need or the choke cable I purchased and never fitted. All these things have taught me that I need to prepare before any bigger adventures. This was a shake down trip, bigger than last years UK version. I used it to test my bike, my gear, my resolve and riding ability. I learnt to be flexible and adapt to changes along the way. So for me it was a good trip, marred with sadness but overall a great experience where I met lots of people and enjoyed their company.

Some have asked if i will continue to ride a bike after the terrible events on this trip. Here’s my answer. Motorcycling and travel are my thing, my drug if you like. It’s addictive and exciting, and yes dangerous, but so is crossing the road on foot. On my bike I am free to go where I want, meet new and exciting people. I saw several people look at me from their cars and in some I saw a little envy. I’m not rich, I don’t have a top of the range bike and most my gear is second hand. But what I get from riding and travel is worth all the saving and hard work to make it happen. So yes I will continue to ride and explore my boundaries. I have no doubt Raven would have wanted that.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this and I do hope some will leave feedback. Maybe next year it will be bigger and better.

Raven x

10. Millau Viaduct

We were up and on the road by 6am. We rode out of Caspe on the same road and past the accident site both of us with our own thoughts. The Sun was starting to rise and we were treated to a hazy start to the day.

The roads were wonderful, flowing curves complimented by awesome scenery. Before I knew it Colin was signalling to get fuel, surely we hadn’t gone that far yet, but we had and the roads had been a joy to settle into the day. Fuelled, we set off again headed for Andorra. I led the way with my slower machine, although we had been travelling at the same speed when Colin led, his bike being more frugal with the fuel at the lower speeds. I was in two minds as to which bike I wanted more, the faster smoother four cylinder road bike with its fairing and wide saddle or my single cylinder thumper with the hard thin saddle, no wind protection but the ability to go off road. I considered other options such as the big BMW GS or even the smaller 850. The cost of these was the issue. In the end I realised me and Molli are an item, we work well together. She stops me speeding past wonderful sights and prevents speeding tickets. I get to ride off road and that has always been important to me. We picked up the A2 and then the C13 following signs for Andorra. We stopped at the village of Pantos for a coffee, well, two in my case. Again a picturesque little town on market day, although we were ahead of market start time. I went to get my second coffee and there was a schematic map on the wall indicating the various roads out of town and significant towns along the way. Oliana was there, oh my god Oliana, the town I should be heading for today to start the event I had entered. I had totally forgotten it with the past few days events.
I first heard about the Twinshock challenge at the bike show in London. I had only gone because I had nothing else to do and there was an adventure bike area and the possibility of seeing the new Honda RC13, a road legal Moto GP bike. Anyway that bike wasn’t there, but Austin Vince was. He is a hero of mine since watching Mondo Enduro and reading books by Lois Pryce. I spoke to Austin and he explained he was doing a navigational event for two days in the Pyrenees, it’s all off road and great fun. I needed team mates as the rules state you must be a team of two or more. He didn’t seem to mind that I was a shock short of a twinshock bike. In the following months I was introduced to Mark and Kevin, both good off road riders and we formed a team. On our first meeting Kevin had fallen badly twice from his beautiful TT500 Yamaha. He went home injured. Subsequently he counted himself out of the event. Mark and I trained for the rest of that weekend and again a few weeks later, we seemed to ride well together. Our team needed a name so we had Kevin in mind when we called ourselves “OMG you killed Kevin”. We were sent maps which needed endless hours of copying and expanding and route marking. It took me weeks to get all the waypoints marked and do pace notes to get between them. I only did half of them and Mark the rest. Then my hopes of competing faded when Mark fell from his bike on the way down breaking 5 ribs. Austin had said come along anyway we will do some riding together. However all that had gone from my mind with the most recent of events. Now in Pontos it came back. We mounted up and headed north passing through Oliana and right past the hotel with all the competition bikes outside. We carried on and I was surprised to see that my route I had planned to take to the first waypoint was correct. Soon that was behind us and we continued towards Andorra, swiftly passing through customs and stopping at a big supermarket type shop. Weirdly the staff required us to leave crash helmets at the entrance. Once in the shop we found the motorcycle section where you could pick up a crash helmet, very strange. It was time for me to make amends and get a camera. I knew the one I wanted and it was purchased slightly cheaper than in the UK. I got a memory card and was set. Outside I took the camera and inserted the memory card, I was ready. We rode off with me following. Andorra is beautiful, clean and modern. We rode through the town centre, then again and a third time. In my mind I was happy that Colin was looking for a nice cafe for us to stop at. Eventually we went back towards Spain before stopping. He was furious at not having any signal on his sat nav. I checked mine and it also had no signal. We rode back just following the signs for France. The road was utter bliss. The views amazing and we rode well together. I was filming it and Colin may have been as he had a new bike cam and had attached it to his helmet.
I can get pizza delivered anywhere We stopped at the top of a pass and I raided the pizza box on top of Colins bike, we had a photo session before cruising down the sweeping curves to the pass. Andorra must make most of its income from skiing in the winter months but the views and roads make for a great summer trip too. All too soon it was over and France was upon us.

We stopped again for some cold drinks before riding off towards Millau. This was not going to be an easy visit. I had planned to visit the bridge and was aware that Raven had it as a goal during her journey. We had again ridden a long way to complete this part of the trip. We stopped to fuel up just before the viaduct. We had a bite to eat but time was getting on, so quickly we mounted up and headed off to complete the last few kilometres to the bridge. As we closed in on the final few kilometres I could feel myself wishing Raven was with us and I wanted to share this with her. In the last kilometre I metaphorically held her hand as if she were on the back of my bike. Gripped the left bar tighter and as the viaduct came into view I shuddered at its wonder.

A huge bridge spanning a 2.5kilometre gorge over the river Tarn, some 270m (890ft) high. It was such an amazing engineering feat. The tallest bridge in the world by virtue of its highest mast being 343m (1125ft) above the gorge. Designed by British architect Norman Foster it was an incredible sight. My usual over enthusiastic wonder at engineering was to the fore, but also the tears streamed down my face at not being a group of three. I also knew this was the end of the sad times for me. I had made it and I had shared it with the memory of my friend Raven. She had come into my life like a ball of lightening, illuminating everything and making every minute of knowing her an absolute joy, we had huge amounts in common and what’s not to like about a lovely girl with three bikes? Five days is all we had and I will treasure every one of those days for the rest of mine. I have nothing but wonderful memories of Raven. I stopped at the far side with my head in my hands I felt exhausted. Colin pulled up next to me and was equally upset, I knew however that his pain would continue for a long time yet. We went to the car park and walked to the viewing platform. I got the new camera out and switched it on ‘memory card fault’, brilliant! I had left my phone on the bike and now only had the tablet in my rucksack. But that takes  pictures doesnt it?  I have to say it took some great pictures. ( as I am writing this I have mastered adding pictures and suspect you will see just how good this pictures is). Back at the bikes my bum was still aching and I really didn’t want to ride much further, but this wasn’t about me, not this time. Colin suggested another three hours to his mates house. I pointed out that he had earlier told me I have a tail light out. I was kind of hoping that would be my get out clause but what actually happened was roadside repairs. A quick fix and the tail light was as good as new. We rode on and on and on. Eventually Colin stopped, at the entrance to a set of shops, to say he was exhausted. I was off the bike and straight into the wheelie bins, looking for bubble wrap to make a cushion. Hey presto at no cost a cushion to ease the pain. shop, wheelie bin, new cushion
 But really we were exhausted, so after a failed attempt to book I a biker hostel we found a hotel. The Hotel Bastide, named after the person who invented the pricing list. It was a lovely hotel with a great shower and amazing restaurant. Colin was paying and little did he know we were in the expensive bit. We had a salad starter followed by beuf bourguignon. The starter was crazy good and the main I’m sure equally good but I’m no great meat eater so I picked at it. Colin didn’t want dessert, but I did and he had paid for the set menu so I had double Creme Brulee. Before we knew it the clock was well past 11pm and we hit the beds. Tomorrow would be a day of long miles and another challenging encounter.

9. A day off

I guessed by the look on Colins face that sleep didn’t come easy, if at all, that night and I was in no better condition after just 5 hours sleep. But I was up and ready to help in any way I could. This wasn’t going to be easy for either of us. We went down to the car park to get our luggage. I remember on arrival the lift was a tiny affair with what I thought were two doors on adjacent walls. It seemed odd, that’s all. I told Colin I had no intention of riding anywhere today and we both needed a day off. Both to recover from the shock of events and my arse was killing. He agreed and went about negotiating the continued use of the rooms he had booked. We unloaded the bikes in relative silence and made our way back to the lift. The doors closed and we both looked at each other sighing as we knew this wouldn’t be a good day. “I need to get flowers mate to put at the scene”. I on the other hand needed to see where this had happened. The previous night on my journey up I had been haunted by maybe coming across the scene in the dark and having some kind of mishap myself. I don’t do flowers at the roadside, I always think that I would have other options like a favourite place that we had in common where I could remember them better. But I didn’t have one for Raven. I had only known her for 5 days and the only place we had in common was 717 miles away.   Colin leant back against the side of the lift, only it wasn’t the wall and the doors had opened. Stood outside was the staff member who had placed a heavy crate at the door entrance. Colin went back in almost slow motion. He stepped back to stop the fall but his foot struck the crate and he went down on his back. His bad back that had plagued him for the past few days. Still holding his luggage he could do nothing to stop the fall. He lay there momentarily, not nearly long enough to assess any damage, instead out of shock or embarrassment, he got straight up. I helped lift his baggage. The staff members was so apologetic and I think all three of us just wanted the whole thing to end. We went to the restaurant for breakfast and were shortly joined by the owner’s husband, a nice guy who had been supportive the previous day. Between us we could sign and pigeon English a conversation. He was glad that the Police had been good with Colin and that all the services had done what they could for Raven. We walked into Caspe town centre and I found a hardware store, using Google translate the manager understood that I wanted flowers and he drew a map for us. Again we walked in relative silence on the approach to the shop Colin stopped to take a phone call from Ravens husband. Colin had broken the news the previous day and I realised this would be the one of many difficult calls for him, nothing for me to do but carry on to the shop. I was there for him if he needed me. Again Google translate came to the fore helping explain what I wanted. A selection of flowers were shown to me and I chose a simple pink rose and two lilies with some flora to back them. I asked for ribbon and the lady produced tiny thin ribbon. I made the gesture for bigger and she produced a quite wide ribbon, well enormous really but it was clear that was the option. She asked if I wanted words. I chose to write a few on a till roll for her to copy. It’s not easy choosing words for remembrance, especially after such a short time of knowing the person. There was no doubt Raven was an amazing person and she had lit up my life for those few days. We had immediately become good friends with similar sense of humour and being of similar age we appreciated many of the same things. Plus she was a girl with three bikes, what wasn’t to like about the woman. She went to the back of the shop and I waited, I waited for quite some time. I called to her in my best Spanish and explained I needed to go for a few minutes but I would be back with Colin who also wanted flowers. I found Colin still sat where he had answered the call, he was still talking, his shoulders slumped and a pained expression. I could only be there for him I couldn’t deal with his pain or Ravens family, unless they expressly asked. The call ended and we spoke briefly, it was nothing more than we had already said but reinforcing support and friendship for a guy struggling with the horrific events of yesterday and its impact on today and the future. We went to the florist and Colin ordered a similar bouquet. He wrote the words he wanted and we waited and waited and waited. The flowers were on the counter, what could possibly have taken so long. When the assistant reappeared it was obvious what had taken the time. The large ribbon had equally large gold lettering on it with our messages on them. Each letter was a sticker lovingly placed and spaced by the assistant who spoke no English. It must have been a very difficult thing to do, bearing in mind any error would mean the whole thing would go in the bin and she would have to start again. We paid our money and with thanks for their help made our way back to the hotel. There was no point in taking the flowers out in the baking heat so we decided to get some sleep and go out at about 5pm. I slept a little but was up at 3pm sipping water in the shaded front of the hotel when Colin text. We met up and sat under the cover trying to make conversation without getting upset. I told the story of my ride the night before and realised I would need fuel as soon as we could. We went back to our rooms. I showered and put on a fresh shirt and trousers. We met I the car park. I opened the tank and shook the bike there was no fuel in there. I suspect what little remained had been evaporated as the engine cooled the previous night. We siphoned two litres from Colins and went to fill up. Then we rode the few miles from Caspe to the scene of the accident. Molli was play in up, now you and I both know that the fuel had run out and whatever crud lay at the bottom of the tank had now been sucked into the carb making her run rough, but it just seemed that Molli didn’t want to go to where Erik (Ravens BMW) had probably ended his motorcycling days. We approached down the hill to the simple right hand curve in the road and it was obvious what had happened. Just prior to the corner the road had a nasty dip at the point where motorcyclist start to turn in. Hidden from view it catches you out. I had been prepared and we had slowed ready to stop but I could see how this would unsettle a bike. Straight ahead I could see where Erik had impacted the barrier. We placed the flowers and in silence thought our own thoughts, said our own prayers. Colin told me more and I listened intently. We rode back to the hotel and sat at the bar our glasses touched but nothing was said, we knew what we meant. Then out of nowhere I began to laugh, laugh to the point tears ran down my face. I had sent a tweet about Colins fall in the lift and tagged it as comedy gold. Colin looked bemused, “you know who would have laughed at your fall in the lift?” We both laughed and the silence was broken. We were going to leave early the next day and it wasn’t going to be an easy day either so we packed up and before I knew it it was 9.30pm. My call was for pizza and there was a restaurant just across from the hotel. I scoffed a large pepperoni in next to no time and Colin struggled with his Hawaiian. He clearly doesn’t know me as the pizza monster I am and he really doesn’t know that cold pizza the following day is my absolute favourite. I made him box up the rest so we could have it the next day. Caspe was a lovely town and makes its money from the fishing. Apparently the lake homes some of the biggest fish anywhere in Europe. The town itself is a picturesque hilltop affair which looks stunning against the setting sun. I liked Caspe despite having been there under awful circumstances. Tomorrow we would ride through Andorra and on to the Millau Viaduct in France.

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