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Old 11-01-2012, 08:52 AM   #1
MikeO OP
Wage slave...
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Joined: Jul 2002
Location: Scarning, Norfolk, today...
Oddometer: 7,026
It was a dark & stormy night, and the rain came down in torrents...

1st November 2012

It's been an odd year, both at work and in my private life. I have lots of leave left to take and decided that a solo trip to Europe on the Adv might clear my head a bit. I took three weeks off and booked a two-week return trip on the Eurotunnel, with no real plan in mind.

As the day to depart approached, I had no real enthusiasm for the trip and had to force myself to get organised for it...

So - the plan:

Eurotunnel to Pas de Calais on 1st November. Eurotunnel back to UK on 14th November.

I eventually get the bike completely prepped and packed on Halloween evening - interrupted occasionally by giving the local kids who were trick or treating some sweets I'd bought. Half the ungrateful little sods didn't even say thank you...

I looked at the weather forecast for France. I sort of have in mind heading towards the Mediterranean, on the grounds that it'll probably be a bit warmer there.

It seems the first of November isn't going to be a good day for anyone wanting to stay dry in France. I book a B&B Hotel in Reims - about 250km from Pas de Calais - and decide to get to bed around 21:30 and set off whenever I wake up.

I wake at 02:30. Hmmm...

I look out of the window and am pleasantly surprised to see that it is dry...

I have a shower and make some breakfast and then walk out to the garage to get the bike out. As I do so, the first drops of rain start to fall...

By the time I've finished putting on the tank bag, rain cover etc, and sorted out my iPod, it's 03:40. I start the bike and ride away immediately (trying to keep on as good terms as possible with my neighbours).

There's a problem with my iPod (actually it's the iPod part of my iPhone). I can't seem to find the 'shuffle' function, which allows you to listen to random pieces of music you didn't realise you had. The best I can do is to get it to play all my music in alphabetical order.

Hey-ho. David Bowie starts the journey with Absolute Beginners.

It’s raining steadily as I ride the dark and wet road towards Thetford. I am always a little unsettled when driving this route in the dark – Thetford Forest has a large deer population and I have no wish to make the acquaintance of any members this morning. There is a lot of vegetation on the roads – fallen leaves as well as small twigs, suggesting that there have been some squally showers in this area.

It soon becomes apparent that my left waterproof glove isn’t. Poo. The little and ring fingers get wet, then the wicking effect ensures that the whole glove liner is soaked. I switch on the heated grips to make sure my hand doesn’t get too cold. In fairness, I think I bought these gloves when I bought the bike (in 2002), so they’ve done OK.

After a while I feel the unpleasant sensation of my left leg getting wet. My Daytona boot, faultless and waterproof, is doing a good job of catching the water the trousers are letting in…

I’ve taken the precaution of wearing my Gerbing heated jacket, and the toasty warmth it provides takes my mind off the discomfort I’m feeling elsewhere.

I get through Thetford without any close encounters and join the A11 and ultimately the M11 towards London. Despite the hour, there is lots of traffic and the spray on the motorway is unpleasant. I stop briefly at Birchanger Green Services to sort my gloves out a bit (and to try – unsuccessfully – to change the iPod from alphabetically playing –I’ve just endured Across the Lines by Tracy Chapman – I really don’t need any more depression right now ).

I set back off to Adam Raised a Cain by Bruce and the E Street Band…

Soon I’m on the M25, where the traffic is even heavier, crossing the QE2 Bridge at Dartford and then turning onto the M20 towards Folkestone. It’s still pissing down and I’m feeling quite miserable. Still – I’m not in the office…

I arrive at Maidstone Services and fill up with Super Unleaded. I find that the waterproof pocket I put my wallet in – isn’t. Bugger

This is the first time I’ve been able to take the camera out – exciting pic, eh?

Having filled up I squelch my way back to the bike and set off again. In 25 miles or so I arrive at the Eurotunnel tollbooths. I explain I’m a little early, as I’m actually booked on the 15:50 train this afternoon. Completely unfazed, the lovely Suzanne gets me on the next train (the 08:20) for no extra charge. This type of attitude is why I really like using the tunnel rather than ferries.

I ride straight up to the boarding lines, where they have merged two trains worth of passengers into one for the previous departure.

I wander over and have a cup of tea and a bacon sarnie with Joy and Susan.

Joy is so shocked at how cold my hands are when I pay, she puts a couple of paper towels on the griddle for a few minutes and gives them to me as a hand warmer…

There seems to be some hold-up – or perhaps it’s just a really full train – and the lines next to me seem to be stationary for a long time.

Eventually the blockage clears and, not long afterwards, my line is called forward. I board as the fifth vehicle in one carriage (all the other four being cars) and wait for the train to depart.

And wait.

For the train to depart.

Eventually there’s a Tannoy apologising for a technical fault and we’re moved to the next train over.

All told this puts a further hour’s delay on proceedings. Not a problem to me, as I only have 250km to ride when I get to France anyway…

Ultimately we get going, arriving at Pas de Calais 35 minutes later – just like the advert says.

There is a little light rain as I depart the station complex, but I have all my waterproof gear sorted in preparation. It’s a lot windier here – a nasty gusty wind from the right side to begin with, but then increasing in speed and becoming a steady gale. The bike’s leaned over as I head southeast towards Reims. The wind is having one unusual effect – it’s pressing my helmet into the right side of my head sufficiently that there is a lot of wind noise in the left ear, as a small gap develops there as a result. The only way I seem to be able to overcome this annoying turn of events is by moving my shoulders up – effectively ‘retracting’ my neck slightly. I must look like that chap on Fantasy Island “Ze Plane, ze Plane”…

At last the weather clears and I catch sight of a watery sun breaking through the clouds.

The wind is still very strong and I note that they’ve feathered the blades of the wind turbines...

...which line the AutoRoute here.

I stop for fuel about 100 miles from Reims...

...and have a hot drink (coffee of dubious parentage) , a Panini (well, I am in France ) and some flan…

Cruising at 130kph wreaks havoc with the Adv’s fuel economy – I’m getting just under 40mpg. French AutoRoute speed limits are interesting, in that they vary according to the weather. The normal maximum of 130kph is reduced to 110kph if it is raining. I decide to ignore this, as it will take me longer to get to my hotel otherwise…

Recaffinated and warmed through I set off once more into a bright afternoon.

Unfortunately it was only toying with me and pretty soon I am making an unauthorised ( and almost certainly illegal) stop under a bridge to put the shower cap back on my tank bag.

I come off the AutoRoute at Reims (€12.70 toll) and follow Bettie’s directions for the B&B hotel at the village of Bezannes.

This is apple country - old presses like this are in evidence (presumably as ornaments) in a few places around the village...

The hotel is impossible to find, despite using the map reference supplied with my booking. I wander around, coming across roads which have had earth banks bulldozed onto them to block them, before eventually sighting the hotel across a couple of fields.

I work out how to get to it and find it a completely new build – on a road that doesn’t exist on any GPS mapping.

Lisette at reception said that the map reference was for a point you could see the hotel from…

I check on and park the bike in plain sight of a CCTV camera, then take my stuff up to the room.

It seems my right pannier isn’t wholly waterproof either…

No matter – everything in there was vacuum bagged anyway - I unpack.


…looks like a low budget remake of Indecent Proposal – but I’m just drying my wallet out…

I have a cup of something brown and foul from a vending machine in reception and hang everything up to dry. Time to check the weather forecast for tomorrow and see which way I’ll be heading…
All text & original photos © Mike Oughton 2004 - 2015

MikeO screwed with this post 11-01-2012 at 08:58 AM
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