It has taken a while to get around to writing this communication but I hope to give you some of the flavour of my best ever bike trip.
In the summer of 1999 Daryl, John, Chris and I headed off for a week long tour of France. Our aim was to get to the Mediterranean and stay at a place Daryl had visited on his previous trip. I was riding a Honda NTV 650 v-twin called Libby. I had a top box, tank bag and pannier set. The top box had a tool kit and emergency stuff. The tank bag and panniers held clothes and camping equipment. This is a picture of us in Old Harlow just before we set off for the ferry.
Just after this photo was taken we travelled about a mile to rev up the engines outside my mum’s workplace and waved to her. Then we set off for Dover. After a smooth channel crossing we headed to Boulogne where Daryl and I camped the Friday night.
The first day was a journey to Nevers in the centre of France. We headed south, had coffee and lunch in Paris, negotiated the Champs-Elysees and the enjoyment of the traffic around the Arc De Triomphe. The open road beckoned and we stayed in a Formula1 hotel on the edge of Nevers for the Saturday night.
Sunday and we headed south. Coffee and cigarettes at Clermont Ferrand, Le Puy (curiously twinned with the borough in which I now live) and then Daryl and I bombed down to the coast. We reached the Mediterranean late that night but I was exhilarated. To have travelled on a motorbike all the way to the south coast of France seemed fantastic. All the pain and ache had been worth it. We found a campsite and set up for a few days.
We stayed at Cavaliere for four nights. Spending time visiting the local area, St Tropez and generally lazing around. Daryl and I had an afternoon on a nudist beach which was a curious experience. Eventually our final night, Wednesday came along and we started to get ready for the journey home.
On the Thursday we worked our way to the Alps. We stopped off in Turin and saw the weir featured in the film The Italian Job and then wound our way into the mountains. Daryl and I stayed in a wonderful campsite near Lanslebourg. The views were fantastic. The next section of the journey was to get to Geneva or as far north of there as possible. We traversed the Col De L’Iseran which at roughly 7500ft is far taller than any mountain in the UK. The motorbikes weren’t happy with the low air pressure hear but they did keep working.
Daryl and I tried to run but found that we needed more oxygen, a few paces was really all we could muster although we did manage a snowball fight.
A few more miles of gorgeous alpine roads and we were stopping for lunch, coffee and a cigarette at Lake Annecy. The three lads on the trip had a swim. It was noticeably less buoyant water than the sea as it was freshwater.
From Annecy we found Geneva and there was a rock festival at the lake’s edge. We paid for an expensive McDonald’s from a trailer at the festival and then wandered out to the fountain.
At one point there was an odd wind that blew from the lake and we looked at each other. Time to see how far we could get before the storm arrived. Daryl and I made it to nearly the top of a mountain pass in the dark, wind and rain but when the lightning is below you and there are trees falling into the road you have to make a decision. We turned back down the pass and blagged ourselves a hotel room. Once inside we tried to wring out our bike clothes and sleep. The next day all was calm and we could see that we were probably only half a mile from the hotels at the top of the pass when we turned around. It was still the correct decision though.
Saturday was upon us and we headed for Calais. This was a very long day motoring along A roads until we decided that motorways would get us home quicker. That night we spent in tents on the beach at Calais. A ferry home and then two hours more biking and we had competed our journey. It was such a remarkable thing to do and great fun. The pain was worth it. If you aren’t sure what pain there could be then try spending 15 hours on a motorbike while attempting to map read, put glasses on, smoke and get caffeine into your system.
There are highlighted maps in the next communication. Up to you if you want to see them!
- Buying ham and cheese at a shop in Cavaliere.
- Driving on the wrong side of the road one early morning.
- Riding without a helmet on some alpine passes.
- Attempting to smoke a cigarette while riding with a helmet on.
- Cigarettes that only cost 20F per packet (about £2 then).
- The woman in the blue swim suit.
- Wearing my panama hat whenever I didn’t have my helmet on – I was paranoid about getting burnt.
- Bombing along a French country road at 105mph just because it was straight.
- Paris being crazy but great.
- Le Puy looking beautiful as we approached.
- Daryl being freaked out by a pretty big insect in the tent.
- Daryl and me having radios to chat to each other while riding.
- Gunning the throttle at a set of lights in Nice and Daryl zooming off as he thought the lights had changed.
- Seeing Mont Blanc.
- The alpine tunnels.
- Ordering stamps in Monaco
- Bombing through the tunnel at Monaco
- Coffee in Monaco (and a cigarette)
By the way, this was first drafted on December 16 2011. It’s taken me three years to get around to completing this communication!