July 22, 2011
Summer Holiday The Alps, (or at least part of them).
Tyndrum Saturday 11th June 2011.
Left at 9.30.
There had to be something though. Connected myself up to my sat nav for music, darn, no mp3 files to be found. Oh well, packed the cables to sort it out in Milton Keynes. Not a good start, however, onwards…. As it happens, I was being dim. The music was there, the recent update on my Garmin had resulted in showing different settings. Phew.
Steady down the road, stopping for a bum stretch at Hamilton, not even a coffee! Pfft! Back on the road. By this time, my banana & yogurt seemed like a distant memory. By the time we got to Penrith, I could have eaten my front tyre.
Ed wanted to go to the Red Rooster, Andy Brown’s fave spot. A very tired, dirty, run down place which filled up their chips from a really attractive plastic basin. Their sausage beans and chips did taste good though, I will give them that! Glad I went to the loo after I ate. I wouldn’t have bothered had I done the loo visit in advance. I would have bought some ketchup and eaten my tyre!!
Next stop was coffee. Unanimous, two triple espressos. Ed had a sleepless night last night, so was struggling and I just wasn’t used to it. Managed fine though, I even managed to separate hand signals on the motorway – ‘I need a drink’ from ‘Smoggy needs a drink’, Smoggy is of course my bike!
Ed of course has an excessively large tank, and just had to put in a wee bitty when I had a complete fill up. No comments required for this!
Tyndrum to Milton Keynes 400 miles. Ok, actually it was 403…. Why is it that you go all that way, and the knob of the day is awarded to an arse in MK?! On the dual carriageway and pulled into the fast lane to let a guy out, so pulls in front of me. What a tosser, all the way down the boring motorway with nothing to report… I guess there had to be someone!
Milton Keynes was a welcome sight, so was the mug of tea on arrival! Out for Chinese buffet with Sue, Neal, Fiona (my lovely god-daughter) and her pals – hit the spot. Lovely to catch up with the Palk clan. Bed called early!
Up early enough to be on the road by 9 am. Breakfast was fruit and yoghurt – restricted the tea intake on purpose. Still needed a pee!! Why is it that you really concentrate on NOT having too much to drink and you still need to go.
M1, M25, M20 (yawn.)
The most frustrating part was being stuck behind a stupid cow who WOULD NOT pull over. When she did, I could have sworn she was reading as she was driving, in actual fact, I know she was reading. No wonder she couldn’t see 2 bikes in her rear view mirror! Road works all the way, however, at least we weren’t affected by the front facing average speed cameras.
Simple. Stopped for coffee and fuel, Ed called his Dad, seeing as he hadn’t had time before we left! When we got back on the road, I had a WTF moment – where had the time gone?! Signalled to Ed and we hammered down the motorway at an obscene speed. Don’t know why we worried, even if we hadn’t fannied around in the services, I think that we would have struggled to make our train. I nearly got flattened by a 4×4 driver in the car park at the services too….. he was reversing and was not stopping. It was a close run thing!
The Eurotunnel was a good experience, we had missed our original 11.50am slot, however, they put you on the next one. How sociable! Journey over in a jiffy. One bag of crisps, some chocolate and two oranges. Thanks for the oranges Sue, they were needed!
Back on the bike. Given the time, Ed decided to take the motorway then the Piage which is irritating when you are on the bike! Don’t dare lose the ticket! Stop bike, gloves off, collect ticket, put ticket in pocket. Gloves back on, sweating hot. Bugger, didn’t zip pocket. Damn. Gloves off, zip up…. gloves on….. Where’s Ed gone???
Milton Keynes to Reims 300 miles.
Reims I think brought Ed’s frustrated side out. No-one had bothered to tell Garmin that they had changed around the town centre. Pffft! Glad to get to the hotel. Nice too, a Best Western with the comfiest bed I have slept on apart from ours at home!! They had a ‘swimming pool’ – well, 4 people in it was busy,it was just really a big bath, but it was nice after a day on the road. The town was dead and there was very little open, however, we did enjoy steak and frites for our supper, with a very nice bottle of wine. Little did I realise that with my ‘dietary requirements’ I was about to eat the most chips in a holiday that I have ever had in my life!
Breakfast, we winged it and ended up having a coffee before leaving Reims, and stopped for the worlds most expensive omelette in Epernet. Over 30 euros for two of us with some coffee!! It tasted great though, continental omelettes always do. Ed all the biscuits that were served with the coffee. I had better get used to that!
Passed by the street with all the champagne houses, very nice too. no winder the omelette was pricey!!
The feeling of much ‘strangeness’ started in Reims. Where was everyone? Why was it so, so quiet. It was really eerie. It was as if ‘something’ had happened and no-one had told us! The roads were dead, shops shut, no-one out and about. Hmmm. Petrol stations were closed (slight worry) and there were very few places open at all. This spooky feeling continued all day. We found one coffee stop (Ed ate my biscuit). Saw one GB biker… little did we realise that it was going to be one of very few to be spotted.
Reims to Epinal 200 miles
When we got to Epinal, we saw an Ibis, checked in and got showered – needed! Oh yes, not to forget the wee celebratory gin. Typical Ibis. Just the same as the one I use when I go to tradeshows in Birmingham.
We wandered what felt like the whole town looking for somewhere decent to eat – remember, it was still Monday, France was still closed. Chicken and chips hit the spot. I still felt hungry, having only had omelette and no bread – (poo). That’s the thing, the smell of croissants and ‘pain au chocolat’ is divine. I can sniff, but not eat. Strawberries had to do. Oh yes, called Mum to let her know all was well. she confirmed that France was hellish on a Monday!! Too tootin’. Completely closed.
Good sleep. I think I was in bed by about 9.30. Oh; and asleep! During the night it was tricky going to the loo for me. The wall next to my side was a really rough ‘artex’ type of covering. Watch out nipples, that hurt. Next was ‘someone’ had left the toilet seat up. Trying not to bang into the hair dryer was a nightmare too. I managed not to. Ed didn’t. God knows what time it was when I heard the cussing, whirring of the hair dryer, all the lights being switched on to accompany the crashing and banging of Ed trying to connect the damn magnets that stuck the damn hair dryer back in place!
The next morning, breakfast before we left. Coffee & fruit for me again. Ed was considerate enough to eat his fill of pain au chocolate before I got there!!
More traffic today. Heading towards Switzerland, destination Trullikon.
Pfft! After a day of having the roads to ourselves, it felt like a battle in places. The roads were lovely, smooth and really twisty in places. Marvellous. A taste of what was to come.
A long day, which we broke up with a lunch stop in Germany. God, the waitresses were miserable!! Quite glad to get out of there! Ed says the waitresses were ‘dour’ not miserable. Oh. OK then!!
Stopped for some roadside strawberries which were lush! Ate a punnet between us! It was so good, I took my empty punnet back and bought another. Got an free apple as a thank you for recycling the punnet! Not long after, we made it to Marianne’s apartment, perfect! Got to love Fanny, the sat nav.
Epinal to Trullikon 163 miles.
Took a short stroll in the short village, then picked up some food in the really cool village shop. Bought ingredients for a picky tea, cheese, ham, bread (for Ed) and other goodies (no biscuits ). Wine. Local. Lots, and jolly good it was too!
Went off on a wee trip with Marianne with her behind the wheel. We visited a beautiful town of Stein am Rhein – stunning! Coffee in the square, pretty pretty, followed by a trip up to the castle above: Castle Hohenklingen.
After we went to the Rhine falls, the largest falls in Europe: note, these falls belong to Switzerland and NOT Germany!! Went across the river in the boat to have some lunch. Bloody hell what an expensive place it is, OK, it was tourist central, however, even the wee village shop in Trullikon is steep!
Afterwards, we went to ‘Marianne’s lake’ for a much needed swim! It was stunning, little jetties – straight in, nae faffing around for us!! Marianne swims like a fish, and swam 6 ‘lengths’. Ed and I did two – that was plenty, which was ‘half a click’ of swimming!!
Picked up a couple of bits and bobs for tea. Sound asleep for 10.45.
Up at 7.30, packing done last night, so just getting sorted. Breakfast was fruit and yoghurt once again, yum, how incredibly healthy. All sorted, Marianne’s bag in my top box, off we went! The first part of the journey was through lots of traffic. Ed was falling asleep. 2 coffees later!!
My first mountain pass, it was a bit scary. Take the Bealach-na-Ba put it on steroids and multiply by 10.
On the way we saw cows, with bells, ‘on their holidays’, according to Marianne, which I totally understood – the farmers taking the cows up to the high pastures so there was plenty food so they can produce that lovely Milka chocolate. I couldn’t resist asking her, “How do you know which cow is on her holidays? The one with the wee calf.” (boom-cha!). Actually, they were heifers, and cows! Flowers, mountains (no shit, Sherlock) post card Switzerland is real. Chocolate box views. Cable cars, lots of bikers and even a few cars. Amazing views all over the place. I think this is one of my favourite pictures of the holiday, and certainly ‘sums up’ Switzerland for me:
Vertigo , let’s discuss that for a minute. It’s best not to look down. There were points on my downward journey where I felt decidedly odd, looking at the thousands of feet below you. Tip of the day : don’t look too hard, you might steer over the edge. Really…. you might. See a hazard, you will if you look at it long enough, you will drive over it, that could be messy. I had thoughts for my ‘vertigo suffering’ buddy a couple of times, wondering what he would think of some of the views!
I had a great time, going up the mountains was actually harder than going down, I was surprised about that. At long last I have been getting use out my back brakes! As most of you reading this will know, I don’t really ‘use’ my brakes that much…. I wondered what they were for! Even got to try out my ABS, thanks Ed!! There were a couple of STOOOOOOOPPPP! moments where Ed wanted to adjust his Fanny… (the sat nav…) or stop and look at something…. it was generally round a tight corner too!
We came along the beautiful lake Brienzersee. Wow. Jaw hit ground. Bright blue – or was it green?? Stunning. Staying in a guest house above Interlaken, looking down on the lake. When we pulled up on the bikes, we got our poop in a group, checked in. We were in the room for 5 minutes. Bang, crash , goosh. Thunder & lightening – mega. View gone momentarily!
Trullikon to Beatenberg 176 miles.
As it transpired, the guest house we were staying in was a ‘religious retreat’. Hmmm. We managed not to implode / burst into flames during our one night stay. Thank you Marianne for taking us there, it was very comfortable….
The theory is, we should be able to see the Eiger and Jungfraujoch – the ‘Top of Europe’ from our balcony. I think we did when we first arrived, I might even have a picture. Just checked, right now I don’t have a picture, there were thunder clouds in the way – I think I might have noticed the Eiger from the window!!
Headed off up the other side of the lake. Stopped for a picture and headed off by the quick roads to the exciting bits! Little did I know what was in front if me!
I have to say the whole day was amazing with breathtaking scenery. 11,000 vertical meters or there about and 4 passes. Awesome. Twists like I have never seen on any roads and looking down and thinking BLOODY HELL!!!! The passes were cool.
The one thing we didn’t judge very well was water consumption. Before we left Interlakken, I asked Ed to get a bottle of water. To keep it cold, I filled my Contigo mug – it was fizzy water he bought by mistake, and to be honest I didn’t think about it much.. as I say, we didn’t ‘do’ enough water. When I was getting tired, Ed stopped and I got out the mug. What I hadn’t considered was the sheer pressure the mug had been under after 3 mountain passes.– BOOM the damn mug exploded upon opening, slamming against my front crown. Oh boy my teeth hurt. Today’s top tip: always, but always open a vacuum mug away from your face, no matter how thirsty you are.
We managed to get to a stage where I was nearly giving up the will to live. Really tired and could feel my concentration going through sheer exhaustion. We stopped at the top of the last pass, and for the second time this day, I felt sick from altitude / adrenaline. I don’t suppose a strong black coffee helped?!?! I stood up carefully after my coffee, looked at Ed and said, “I need to get out of here NOW!”
I was so relieved to be down off the mountain. The last lot of twisties nearly finished me. Ed had let me go ahead which was really good, it gave me time to read the road on my own and go at my own pace.
What worked in well was Marianne catching her train home. 10/10 for lasting 2 days as pillion AND having a 5 hour train journey back to home. Hats off to you Marianne, an excellent tour guide and superb pillion for Ed!! Do you have my saltire buff Marianne? If not, I hope someone in Switzerland is giving it a good home! Not seen it since St Moritz! One of Marianne’s best quotes of the few days: “I would rather an unpleasant truth than a lie.” You did come out with some belters, Marianne!
Beatenberg to St Moritz 175 miles.
We had a wee tour around St Moritz before we ‘found’ a hotel, The Corvatsch. It looked nice and to be honest by this time I couldn’t care less where we stayed! 75 Swiss Francs for the wine and a tenner for the sparkling water to go along with it. *note to self, just drink the bloody tap water in future*. Naturally, one of the first things we wanted when we got there was alcohol.After all, you need a daily celebration moment. Ed trotted off…. and came back with what was THE most expensive wine I had ever paid for! As it happened the hotel was lovely and the food was pretty darn good too. Enter the worlds largest baked potato, or was it the world’s smallest chicken?!
Cross-eyed, I hit the hay at about 9.30pm. Zzzzonk…. asleep straight away!
Today’s milage may not have been huge, however the vertical meters were: all 11,000 vertical meters of it.
On the bikes the next morning. It was overcast and drizzly… this didn’t bode well for the day ahead. Don’t get me wrong, there was an alternative route to our next destination, it would have taken us about an hour. If we had taken that route, it would have meant missing Italy during our holiday. Why do that?
Worthy of note here were the Italian drivers. Holy crap. What a bunch a aggressive folk. The opposite from nice, orderly Switzerland – a restrained bunch in comparison to the eejits that were in Italy! We did however have a 1.50 euro coffee. Cheapness!! When we were in Switzerland, Italy, or Austria was beyond me. What language to speak was confusing to say the least!!! We had planned to do the Stelvio Pass today.
The weather was the pits, it really was. There was no real way of getting a real photo to show the view and what an achievement it was for me…. I have never had to ride anything like it, that’s for sure, and certainly not in those conditions. All I could do was insist upon Ed buying me a sticker or two and a t-shirt to prove it – oh, and a poster that looked like this:
It would have to be the worst weather day of the holiday to attack the Stelvio Pass, the highest mountain pass in Europe! When we got to the top it was 3 degrees. Next stop was snow, weather wise!! Nutter cyclists (pedal power variety) were piling onto the top of the hill, crikey, brave folk! Or nuts. The thought of heading back down the hill was daunting. The road down was more twisty and scary than on the way up, it didn’t help that it was lashing down. So, picture the scene…. the water’s going down hill, every single bit of road we rode on had a stream flowing over it. Right. On a couple of occasions I had to stop before a hairpin to let traffic come up around the corners. One poor sod stalled his car, I think he was quite relieved that I stopped for him!
There are many types of biker ‘waves’ that you get – the normal one at home is a wave with your left hand – well, after all your right hand is doing something really vital, the ‘go’ bit. There’s the ‘head nod’ when you can’t be bothered taking your hand off the bike, there’s the ‘foot-out’ hello, when your are going passed someone and they might not see your hand, also handy for thanking car drivers for pulling over. My best one though was a personal salute on the way up to the Stelvio from a group of blokes on superbikes. That was for me the best one…. it was as if he was saying, “wow, a woman about to go up the Stelvio… respect!”
We had a coffee stop after the Stelvio, poor woman who had the bar must have had a massive puddle of water to clean up. We left a tip. Where were we? Italy? Austria? Very soon after that we were in Austria, where it POURED with rain. Stupid bint that I am had forgotten to zip together my jacket and trousers upon leaving the top of the Stelvio…. this resulted in having a bit of a damp belly. What a fud of the first order. – whack me!
The rain was torrential. We were miserable. (*read, I was miserable) There was no way we were going to make our next destination, so very sensibly we stopped at the first hotel available. Thank god. Sadly my left leg on my trousers leaked… Oh well, will sort that when I get home, in fairness, it was lashing rain, however, it was THE ultimate test! Gloves good, boots let in a wee bit in my left boot. Ed’s however were worse. Bugger, that’s going to be a pain sending them back!!
St Moritz to Pfunds 120 miles.
It was really lovely, comfy and seemed to be brand new. Their drying room was stuffed full of our things and other guests cycling gear. We had a nice drink, Ed read maps and I read some of my lovely wee Kindle on my iPhone. What a great space-saving device. It meant I didn’t have to take real books, which would only get shredded on my travels. Those who know me, know I would be horrified at getting any ‘dents’ in my books. When we went for dinner, we both agreed that we were once again feeling odd. Really wibbly-wobbly weird. The first mouthfuls of my dinner, I was sure, was going to come straight back up again…. eventually the feeling passed, which was good, the food was really tasty! The did have the oddest chandeliers though, so I just had to take a photo of how they had shortened it. Classy.
Bed couldn’t come fast enough. We were both out like a light.
A new day dawned. Nice.. We set off to get to See, where we were attempting to get to yesterday. The journey was fairly short, about half an hour riding. Just as well, I was still exhausted from the Stelvio experience the day before, so was glad to get there.
Vivaldi Apartments are run by a Dutch couple, Regina & Jan. Very nice too. Nice and airy, with apartments and rooms. Their idea is to offer bikers a central location for touring the Austrian countryside. They have a bar, and breakfast is the usual continental faire, perfect for setting you up for a day on the bikes! Jan and I had been in contact by email, so we had booked in for a couple of nights. I was glad to take the day off, Ed went for a hooligan run around the Hochgurgl pass, Timmelsjoch pass, Passo ti Mt Giovo – and the Brenner Pass, even Ed had to admit that he was undertaken by some locals who obviously knew the roads!!Jan estimated that it would take about 6 hours riding. Imagine his surprise when he came back at 5pm…. he only left at noon! In the meantime, I read a book and had a salad for lunch, whilst I read my book!! It was a much needed day off, I have to confess to falling asleep BEFORE lunch! Ed had a great run and rabbited for ages about it!! OK, I fell asleep after lunch too. There. Confessed.
There is an ace pizza restaurant just next to Vivaldi. Ed said it was one of the best pizzas he had had for a while. I ordered a kebab of meat (no gluten free option on pasta, must remember to pack that the next time!). Ed ate his pizza. My dinner still had not arrived. I was nibbling on a green salad. I asked the waitress where my dinner was…. eek. The next thing, we heard the ‘ding’ of microwaves, as they defrosted my dinner. What was a shame was, they then didn’t cook it all the way through. Yuck. I ate chips and the rest of my green salad. When we paid the bill, they said, “We didn’t charge you for the meat, but we did charge you for the salad and chips.” We paid and scarpered before I lost the rag with them.
The next day, we had another lovely tour, visiting some lovely areas, spectacular scenery and mountain passes, of course. We had taken the boxes off of the bikes, so they were nice and light for the day.Why do cows wear bells? Because their horns don’t work!
We decided on a short / scenic route today. Took in 3 passes, or was it 4? Beautiful scenery. It was a bit cold heading out, however it soon warmed up! Lovely views and not too difficult a day all in all!
Monday, trip at 1690 miles
Went out to the hotel for dinner, really lovely and verging on ‘posh’! Another early night. Even by-passed the bar on our way to the room – how brave was that?!
The next morning after a good breakfast, we headed out, packed up on what promised to be a hot day. Hang on a moment, what’s gone wrong? Fanny, Ed’s faithful sat nav decided to go fizzle-pop. Oh no. We were in a village called Boden at the time, there was no option but to get my (as yet nameless) sat nav tuned in. Bloody hell, 32 degrees made it a bit sweaty in places (!), made it to Lermoos in good time, Hillo let us up to our gorgeous room.A wee diet coke and we were on our way again. Me leading. Oh god. The first problem was, the road to Erwald was closed. Fine, however, when you enter Erwald into the sat nav, it wants to take you there. I got to the round about at Erwald and stopped, ok, I had stopped before that having a ‘hmmm’ moment…. then realised that I had passed our turn-off twice. Yes, twice. That’s the thing, if you want to avoid a town centre, take the damn town centre out of your sat nav. Otherwise you get sooked right in there…. Fine for Ed, he can furtle with his ‘Fanny’ as he drives, I didn’t at that point have the ability to drive my bike and adjust the sat nav…. Things were going quite well until we got to a town with one way street, yet again village officials hadn’t told Garmin that the centre had been changed. I got really hot and bothered, Ed bless, was surprisingly patient having been through the learning curve years ago! Come back Fanny, all is forgiven. The Fern pass is local to Lermoos, it was the ‘worst’ of the lot with hideous amounts of traffic. It seemed such a good idea at the time. Eventually we got to a lovely valley which was the highlight of the day – made it back to Lermoos and I have to say I was pooped!
Tuesday, trip at 1835 miles. However, I did take that reading in a thunder storm in a hurry! This was the view before the thunder arrived:
Ed was planning to go on a mega trip the next day on my bike given that it was the one with sat nav. He spent hours planning it, only to decide that it would be good to have a day off. Sensible boy! The fact that at this point Smoggy had already passed his ‘service interval’ was part of it!
The Sun shone today, walked for a couple of hours, then lounged by the pool reading.The photo looks like it’s a HUGE pool, however, 4 strokes and you bash your head. It’s lovely though, with the pool continuing into the building. Ed has read / broken / torn apart my only book that I took with me – and has decided that it’s too wrecked for me to read and it was pretty lame. Fine, I will stick with my mini Kindle!
Fondue dinner, meat cooked in stock – really ace, will have to give that a try at home. Thunder again with a huge rain storm. The worst rain we have seen on our holidays so far, glad we were inside, I would have been crying if we had been riding at the time!
The next morning, the church bells woke Ed up. Then this woke me up…. what on earth, it was 6am!!!Apparently the band was to ‘remind’ folk that it was the start of the music festival. Dear god. At least I got back to sleep!! I don’t think Ed did! He kept on with his book destruction.
Sat nav set… Fanny has had a wee rest and has sprung back to life. I think both of us realise it might be a short lived revival. Off to sleep, better brace myself for the journey home, it could be stressful if I have to lead the way, I think I might have to! I have loved staying at the Loisach, it was discussed maybe staying another night, oh it was a close run thing! Lovely seeing the family all so well, it is really a home from home, even Josl came down to see us…. their 80 year old olympic downhill gold medallist.I was sad to leave.
Thursday, first day heading home – trip at the day end 1665 miles
Ended up in Stuttgart. Phew, a long day – Lermoos to Stuttgart 233 miles. That was a long day. We got lucky with our accommodation -Ibis was calling again! A well earned drink, shower and then off on a wander around the town. We had 4 routes we could have chosen. We chose the wrong one. Realising that it was a residential area with no eateries in sight, when we got back to the main road to the hotel, we turned right, because the left turn didn’t look like it had places to go. Wrong. Eventually I suggested to Ed that he should use the sat nav to find a restaurant. A mile later,we found a wee Indian restaurant. In my dodgy German, I asked if the waiter spoke English… “A little,” was the answer. Great, thank you. “Are you from England?”, (maintaining a lovely smile) me:, “No, we are from Scotland!” he then shrugged his shoulders and said, “You won’t have a problem with the menu then!” He handed us the menu: there is was, the titles of the dishes in English, well, you know, the typical: chicken korma, tikka masala etc! A curry has never tasted so good. Rice instead of chips! Happy. Walked home, it only took 15 minutes, where as it took us an hour and a half to find the restaurant.
Hearty breakfast again. Got it sussed: big breakfast, water and coffee stop for lunch, and a nice dinner.Sorted….. and wine, don’t forget the wine! Mind you, last night, all I could manage was two glasses at dinner, must have been tired. My bike trousers are looser though, what a bonus!! Oh, forgot to say, it was another Catholic holiday today. I have never, ever been so glad to welcome a ‘religious’ holiday. The roads were quiet again, no rush hour going into Stuttgart. Bonus!
Friday, back into France again. Wow, Ed plugged the country roads into Fanny, and what a blast it was… We had the roads to ourselves and had a real hooligan run, and a couple of real biker stops. Our pack of cola bottle haribos got a good dent, and I remembered not to put fizzy water into my Contigo….. Lovely French countryside, isn’t it strange how the ‘atmosphere’ changes as soon as you cross a border. When we got to the border, there was a queue of traffic, so we white-lined it out of Germany and into France…. getting to the traffic lights as they changed…. THEN Ed told me at night that it’s illegal to white-line in Germany. Oops. Oh well, no traffic tickets have arrived, yet….
Mileage for the day 175 miles.
Hmmm…. now, where did we stay on the Friday night? Erm…. um…. I seem to remember it wasn’t that memorable. It was 175 miles for the day, all on back roads. Ah yes, the Fawlty Towers hotel – hang on, better check with Ed where it was…. Pont-a-Mousson, that’s it! A strange hotel with paper thin walls, so much so we had to turn the telly on to drown out the couple that were ‘hard-at-it’ in the next room! Not needing Ed to get any ideas, we ventured out, walked along to the bridge, all of 400m away, walked back and ate in a ‘real’ French restaurant. Lovely food, and I had something that was possibly ‘neck of veal’. Hmm. It was an experience – Ed had escargot for his starter… and we had wine. Another early night, thank goodness the couple next door had worn each other out!
The next day was a 300 mile job. Our first stop however, was not only unexpected, but also emotional. I came around the corner and Ed had stopped beside what looked like gates to a stately home. It was the St Mihiel American Cemeteryaltogether an amazing memorial, beautifully tended and symmetrical. Perfectly symmetrical.
Quite a long day through the countryside. Mental. Once again, the country roads were dead. So were the flies by the time I had finished with them! Looking for accommodation was quite tricky. Everywhere we went, there were weddings. We had an ‘idea’ where we would like to stay, very much sticking a pin in the map, however, it was all closed! We went onwards to Abbeville and got what was probably the last available room in the town. I thought last night’s hotel was dodgy! The manager however, was a treasure. Offered us beer, however, realising that we needed wine (can’t drink beer any more), he raided his wife’s stock and gave us a lovely chilled wine, all for 10 euros! Very tired, however, made ourselves go for a walk (and another wine) before dinner.– made an excited phone call to Ronnie in Aberdeen, who was in his bath with his rubber duck… I think the pair of us were high as a kite from tiredness!
Our dinner that night, again, was lovely. The toilets however, were a bit erm…. ‘open plan’ to say the least:when Ed went to the loo, he said, “You have to go to the loo, take your camera with you!” How French!!
The bedroom we had was small to say the least. The bed was a double bed. Ed woke up in the middle of the night, stretched and thought, “My, I have a lot of bed to myself..” realising that I was perched on the edge, sound asleep oblivious to the fact I could have fallen out any minute! It didn’t stop me having another 10 hour sleep!
The most challenging breakfast was the last one in France. Puréed apples, banana and some cheese. Ed had his fill of bread. On the road by 9.30. There was a feeling of sadness I think, we were well and truly on our way home. Off up the country roads to the Eurotunnel. It was busy, so we had no choice but take our time. This time we made our train, even though we were gagging for a coffee. That had to wait until we were in England. We stopped at the first services we could find, coffee, crisps (I was starving!) and then on in the steaming heat to Milton Keynes. M20, M25, M1. Lost Ed at the toll, he barged his way into the front of the queue, it must have taken me about 20 minutes to catch up with him. It was about 30 degrees and the traffic was hellish. Then there was the 40 mph average speed area which went on and on and on…. Missed the M1 turn off… damn…. turned around, on the right road. Never been so glad to see the signs for Milton Keynes… as soon as we were off the motorway and only a couple of miles from Sue & Neal’s the jackets got unzipped. Phew. So glad to get to Sue & Neal’s welcomed by Fiona too… cold diet coke, cold shower and a salad hit the spot. Neal’s brother, Kevin and sister in law, Sheila and their daughter, joined the company and we all piled out for dinner…. a lovely evening and a great laugh. A fantastic way to spend the last night of our holidays. We couldn’t have asked for anything better!
Mileage to Milton Keynes from Abbeville: 166 miles.
Now all we had to do was get home. At 7.30 in the morning it was about 25 degrees. No sooner were we out of Sue & Neal’s and just at the main junction I realised something was missing. My glasses. The thing is, it was one of the last things that Neal said to me: “Remember your glasses…!” DOH! Turned around, whilst Ed waited under a tree – wise move. It was steaming hot, and I was not popular! Oh god. Very quickly we had a stop for water and petrol. It was there I nearly lost my glasses again. We were just lining up the bikes to fill them both with petrol and there was a wally (polite version) in his convertible Mercedes. He was gesturing to us to hurry up and move forward…. I gave him a polite, “Can you wait until I get off my bike please!” It was a hard thing not giving him abuse. Parked up the bikes…. hang on, where are my glasses, oh feck, in the middle of the forecourt. Luckily Mr Merc hadn’t moved (what was his hurry for in the first place?) I ran (yes I did) to the pumps to get my glasses before they were run over. Phew. Sat under a tree, drank diet pepsi, before moving on.
It was lovely getting north for the cooler and cleaner air. You really can tell the difference. As soon as we hit the Scottish border, we both let out a woop, woop of pleasure! Then it rained. After our petrol stop, I forgot to close my trouser vents, luckily, Ed realised and stopped in the hard shoulder to let me batten down, then approaching Annan it lashed. Funny, on our way south at Annan it was hail stones! Welcome back to Scotland, aye!
Getting on the road to home I realised just what 3120 miles had done for my riding abilities. Progressing in the corners more, and overtaking more confidently. Stopped in Doune for a break before the last stretch home. Stopped into see Andy & Ellen on the way into the village for a wee celebratory glass of wine and a wee catch up. Home. Cuddled the cat and unpacked my faithful, wonderful chariot. Bed was early again, and boy, was it comfortable!
How can you sum up a holiday like this? I don’t know if I can, other than I can’t wait to do it again. I would happily have the same type of holiday next year. It was, the majority of the time, peaceful, beautiful and I was totally focussed on my riding. No thoughts of home or work whilst you were out on the road. Plenty of times, I wished that my buddies were there with us to enjoy spectacular scenery and magic roads. A truly memorable holiday, one of the best.
Having spent two weeks at home, having a choice of transport (spoiled cow), I have realised just how practical a motorbike is. It’s great, nipping in and out of traffic, parking is free (the best price) and lines of traffic are not an issue. I can’t believe how much my riding has improved in the two week break away. It was one of the most satisfying holidays that I have had in many a year. Every aspect of my road craft has improved, including my car driving. I think everyone has a ‘block’…. a preferable right hand bend to a left hand bend….. go on, admit it, you do….. my weakness was always right handers for some reason. Not now. Even in the car, that side of cornering has improved.
I now understand my bike more. I am ‘getting’ the centrifugal force, the feeling of control going around the bends, realising that if you get into an uncomfortable situation at all, just hit the throttle and ride through it. Ed did say to me on a couple of occasions – “Watch out, on your way home…..” He didn’t really have to finish. I knew what he was saying.
It ‘nearly’ happened. Coming down the hill to Lix Toll garage, came around the corner, there parked on the main road, opposite the garage was a low-loader. Oh crap. Brake…. brake…. It was an accident waiting to happen. Luckily, I was able to stop in time for the on-coming camper van to go passed. Ed commented later that if he had been in the lead, it would have been a different story, maybe even driving into the forecourt of the garage to escape the on-coming collision. Then I had to deal with our own car park….. that was interesting. The pot holes (had it rained?) had increased in size, and driving up the gravel made Smoggy twitch when the back wheel hit the holes. I didn’t panic, I just hit the gas and drove through it. 14 days before that I would have ended up on my ass with my pride and joy in a heap beside me.
I have done a few hundred miles since coming home. The biggest difference is thinking about my trusty steed as a mode of transport instead of the occasional mode of transport. Admittedly, doing a Costco shop is out the question, but in general, I love my ‘wee’ bike. It’s ace. I can now talk to bikers as a ‘real biker’, not just a part time one, but a 3120 mile seasoned Alpine pass biker. Now the roads at home are not only on my doorstep but also a completely different kettle of fish to what they were before.
What’s next? All I want for next summer is to do the same type of thing again. I can’t wait. Bring it on. Anyone want to join us?
3120 miles and 7270 words of a blog…. if you have read all of this, respect. Please leave a comment, I love comments!
Big love to all of you who have bothered to read my diary. I do enjoy it. I love pen and paper too, but it’s not as easy to share it. 7314 words. It’s a record.
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