Episode 1. Here goes
5am and I’m up, ready to don the riding gear and head for Portsmouth. My bike sits outside covered over and looking like there is a passenger already on the pillion seat. When the cover comes off I realise that with a rucksack on its not going to be easy to throw a leg over. Didn,t I do lots of prep to prevent just this sort of thing? Then there is the shuffling to get it back out through the gate, its heavy, have I packed too much? She starts on the button without issue and my sister takes a snap of me wobbling down the road bound for, well bound for nowhere in particular. Things have changed since my original plans and having adapted to the changes they changed again. I’m not good with agendas so I’m going and will just make it up as I go along. There is a rough plan to get to Portugal and a definite date in Oliana, Spain for a two day navigational event, but apart from that Europe beckons for my first continental adventure.
I made it down to Portsmouth in good time with little or no traffic on the road at that time on a gloomy looking Saturday morning. I notice that the rev counter bulb has blown, it’s no biggy as I am going to be riding in daylight hours only and the hassle of stripping the light cluster for one bulb is not worth the effort. I quickly board the ferry and the bike is lashed down. I make my way up to the passenger area, purchasing a coffee and Pan Au Chocolate, oh yes I’m positively continental.
Let’s talk tech. I have with me a small tablet, my phone and a gopro. I’m not good with any of them but I quickly link to the ferry WiFi. What follows is an hour of updates and uploads whilst trying to get to grips with typing on a tab. Then I see that I don’t have google docs so that is currently downloading as I write this in a memo form, hoping it will copy over to docs and then onto the new blog I have set up. Surely it’s easy, after all its just words right?
Ok it does seem it is that easy. So it’s now 4.30pm and I’m in my hotel. Want to know how it all went? Well I managed to get through passport control and onto the French roads of Cherbourge without issue. Thanks to my handy yellow arrow on the inside of my fly screen, I even managed to stay on the right side of the road. I followed the majority of other English vehicles through the town, not because I don’t have a map but because I fell asleep on the ferry and woke up as we were advised to collect our vehicles. So I had no plan other than to head for Mont Saint Michel. Luckily that was advertised quite soon and I simply picked up the route and followed it. The sky was still grey and every now and then there was a hint of sunshine. I passed San Mere Eglise a place I recall from my school trip aged 13. I now wish I had just ridden through SME. A lesson learnt as I may never visit that area again and a trip down memory lane would have been nice. However I was aware that I needed to get on and make for the hotel which was a heady 250miles away. I always knew France was going to be a big push just to get through but I have already learnt that its not about the miles its about the journey.
Anyway the miles came and went as did the first fuel stop in Saint Etienne En-Cogles. A tiny typical French village just off the main road. It had a beautiful church in the centre and a tiny petrol station attached to a B&B. The lady spoke no English and I spoke very bad French but hey the bike was filled and I was back on the road. The wrong side of the road as it turns out, much to the farmers surprise I’m sure. Where was the handy yellow arrow to remind me? In fairness it was still there and a quick glance showed it was I who was in the wrong, so I stopped berating the poor chap and swerved back onto my side before impact. Back on The main road I noticed The bikers don’t do the English “head nod” in recognition of another biker, oh no, over here its a full arm wave if travelling in The opposite direction or a Valentino Rossi style leg wave as they pass you on the same side of the road. I have the arm wave down but my VR leg shake is not the best, kinda looks like I’m shaking something out of my trouser leg, which I am sure will happen if the quality of the toilets doesn’t improve.
The roads were straight and dull, typical dual carriageway all the way, but the weather was improving and the bike purred along nicely. I was starting to thoroughly enjoy myself, even more so when I noticed several women in different vehicles taking time to wave and nod approvingly, as if to say, good on you, have fun on your trip. Well thanks ladies I will try my best.
The next decision, do I go on the toll road to finish the last 50km? No of course not, a decision made even easier by the clearly signed route. What followed was archetypal French villages and farm land, sweeping roads passing through tiny villages, houses with clay tiled roofs. It was heavenly and getting hotter by the kilometre.
Ok I am officially shattered but slightly more confident with the blog thing. I can’t work out how to add photos yet, nor tell anyone where the blog is, but hold fire friends I will get it sorted out. Having eaten just one Pan Au Chocolate for the day I really need to find some food.