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.