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.