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Old 06-26-2009, 03:14 PM   #46
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Backing up a bit - Some more details from our first couple of days

Excitement and nervous anticipation mounted as we made final adjustments and repacking ready to leave for the ferry. It was only a 25 mile ride to the Plymouth ferry terminal and I was relieved that The Duchess didn't miss a beat with her new ignition coil.

We got in line with a few other bikes at the check-in. Just as I was handing over the passports, my father showed up and gave me the camera battery charger I had left behind, plugged into the wall.



Bikes were all lined up together - there were probably thirty or so alltogether - and after a fairly short wait, we got to board the ferry first and were lined up on one side of the upper car deck.



The mostly French ferry crew had all the tie down gear ready for us. We were directed where to stop in two parallel lines and instructed to leave the bikes on the side-stands. The crew then efficiently worked their way along the line of bikes, throwing a large foam pad across the seat on each bike and putting a heavy ratchet strap across that. It was a little concerning to watch but all bikes survived without damage so I suppose they know what they're doing.



We caught up with Tubastew and his lovely wife who had to board separately in their car, had a wander around the ship for a while, enjoying the view of Plymouth Sound, then turned in to get as much sleep as possible, expecting a long day of riding the following day.
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Old 06-26-2009, 03:56 PM   #47
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tigers are nat. champs again 11to4 final.its good to see pops representing lsu across the pond
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Old 06-27-2009, 02:56 AM   #48
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lilPIMPdaddo
tigers are nat. champs again 11to4 final.its good to see pops representing lsu across the pond
- PROMINENTLY representing LSU...
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Old 06-27-2009, 05:39 AM   #49
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slartidbartfast
...a cute little hotel in Villard de Lans, on the edge of the Vercours Massif. ... Here's a random video clip from part of Le Grand Goulets gorge
Help me out here. Last year I did an overnight in Villard de Lans - left the next morning and rode through the Gorges de la Bourne, a couple of kms south on the D531, and kept left on the D103. When I came to the Hotel Grandes Goulets, there was a steel gate across the road which strongly dicouraged motorized traffic. As a result of which, I didn't ride Les Grandes Goulets (D518) - much to my disappointment.

I assume that the gate was either open or gone when you got there? If you went south from Villard de Lans, what route did you take to get to the Grandes Goulets?

The gate was at the hotel Les Barraques en Vercours.
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Old 06-27-2009, 05:58 AM   #50
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Tuesday:

We were roused by gentle music an hour or so before the boat docked and had eaten breakfast and were packed and waiting when the crew unlocked the car deck for us to get to the bikes.

Early off the boat, we hooked up with Tubastew almost immediately and were loose on French soil before 08:00am


We were off to a good start, which we promptly wasted by milling about within a few miles of Roscoff for two hours, looking for fuel and a cash machine that would actually dispense cash. I encountered the first of several errors and omissions in the TomTom database of France, finding empty fields in the middle of nowhere where a bank with ATM was supposed to be.

After that, we made reasonable progress but definitely not "Iron-Butt" 5-minute pit-stops every tank of fuel. We stopped for groceries, fuel, meals, and to smell to roses, covering miles but also experiencing some of rural France along the way. The decision to stay off toll roads not only saved more than a few Euros but also directed us along the more scenic roads and through many small towns and villages we would otherwise have blasted past.





The cool, overcast morning gave way to blue sky and ever-increasing heat as we made our way Southeast. By early afternoon, we were all getting hot, hungry and thirsty. That's when we passed the little french cafe that brought so much hilarity when Miss Bling asked for Tacos. In the first of several such incidents, we were initially told that lunch was over yet ended up being fed quite well anyway.

In mid afternoon, we reached the Loire and crossed it several times as we continued on our way


At times, we rode alongside some of the canals that roughly follow the river. They are mostly no longer capable of carrying any traffic but mean that so many small towns have wildlife, fishing and picturesque still waters running through their hearts.


As the sun begin to set behind us, we focused on Moulin as our end point for the day.


We finally rolled into town after dark and only had to visit a couple of hotels before we located one at a suitable budget price. In a repeat of our lunch-time luck, the skeleton hotel staff initially told us we were out of luck regarding food but after we had locked up the bikes and were sipping wine on the patio, they produced multiple plates of baked chicken and chips - more than we wanted in fact.
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Old 06-27-2009, 06:07 AM   #51
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelJ
Help me out here. Last year I did an overnight in Villard de Lans - left the next morning and rode through the Gorges de la Bourne, a couple of kms south on the D531, and kept left on the D103. When I came to the Hotel Grandes Goulets, there was a steel gate across the road which strongly dicouraged motorized traffic. As a result of which, I didn't ride Les Grandes Goulets (D518) - much to my disappointment.

I assume that the gate was either open or gone when you got there? If you went south from Villard de Lans, what route did you take to get to the Grandes Goulets?

The gate was at the hotel Les Barraques en Vercours.
There was a red/white barrier at the head of the gorge but it was open and I don't remember seeing any gate. We rode in from the South/West to Villard de Lans, through the gorge but then went back the following morning to take some photos in better light (and of course to ride the best part of the gorge again.) From Villard de lans, you head south and fork left (or don't go right) at the only major intersection you come to. The road was pretty busy and we got stuck behind a small tanker of some sort for a while - I can't imagine why it would be closed except perhaps for roadworks.
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Old 06-27-2009, 06:36 AM   #52
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Thanks - wish that I had taken a picture of it. This was a steel gate that COMPLETELY blocked the entrance - not even pedestrian access.

Maybe I was at the wrong turn.

Damn! I guess that I'll just have to go back and try again
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Old 06-28-2009, 03:13 AM   #53
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French Gorges

I think there might be some confusion here - The most impressive part of Gorges de la Bourne was the bit described to me by a couple of different sources as Les Grands Goulets. However, further down the gorge was a section of (in my opinion, less impressive) cliff-hugging road with several tunnels - and this was the part signposted from Les Barraques En Vercours as Les Grand Goulets. I'm not sure if they are one and the same. Still no idea about the gate however - we never saw one.
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Old 06-29-2009, 08:35 PM   #54
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Getting to and through French Gorges

Wednesday morning:

Leaving our hotel in Moulins, we cut across country toward Saint-Etienne. This proved to be a really pretty route for much of the way. The landscape got quite hilly in places with some nice twisty roads.


Once again, the GPS kept us on back roads, making slower progress than the national autoroutes but passing through some interesting small towns.

The weather was getting decidedly warm when we stopped for a break in the shade of some large trees by the 14th century Château de Montrond les Bains


The Chateau is apparently the site of historical reenactments although it was closed when we were there. The main walls were constructed almost entirely from flints.


We found a cafe in Saint Etienne for lunch and, for a third time, ended up with a meal even though we were initially told that lunch was over. The owner also brought us some of his delicious home-made cheese to sample and shots of a grappa-like strong liquor.
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Old 06-29-2009, 08:45 PM   #55
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French roads

There were a lot of things for us to get used to while driving through France. The huge number of roundabouts for example - although by this time everybody was weaving around them like chicanes.

France is in the throes of a very thorough road safety campaign. A common sight along roads were black silhouettes with broken red hearts or jagged red lines through their heads. They were sometimes grouped and occasionally decorated with flowers and we suppose they represent the sites of traffic fatalities.



We also saw a great number of speed cameras. The warning signs indicate that they are applied to bikes as well as cars although they appeared to be aimed to photograph only a front number plate - We didn't take any chances and got quite good at spotting the boxes.

Other road conditions that should keep speed down include the large number of agricultural vehicles - often located in the middle of blind bends, etc.


The speed limit in towns or villages is not always marked. However it's best to assume 50Km/h. You always know quite clearly when you are both entering and leaving a French village


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Old 06-30-2009, 09:07 AM   #56
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelJ
Thanks - wish that I had taken a picture of it. This was a steel gate that COMPLETELY blocked the entrance - not even pedestrian access.

Maybe I was at the wrong turn.

Damn! I guess that I'll just have to go back and try again
Some hard work on google has shed some light. I believe the Easternmost end of the portion of D518 known as Route des Grands Goulets has fairly recently been bypassed by a 1700m tunnel. We rode through this tunnel blissfully unaware that we were missing probably the narrowest, tightest, twistiest (i.e. best, from a biker's perspective) part of the road. Don't recall seeing any sign of the old route either.

Damn!

Here's a video clip of the tunnel - Not very exciting but you can see the entrance where there might be a side road going off and the exit where there is a new roundabout and no sign of a gorge road:
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Old 06-30-2009, 07:49 PM   #57
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Vercors Massif

During the course of the afternoon, as we rode East, the bulk of the Vercors Massif, a huge limestone plateau, began to loom in front of us. We crossed the Rhone at Sarras/Saint-Vallier where we all pulled off the road by the river and stripped off to cool down for a bit.


Despite its vents, my waterproof jacket, ideal for British weather, was proving unsuitable for southern France. Once I had doused myself with water and steamed for a bit, I took the opportunity to attach the new camera mount, in anticipation of the riding to come. As my planned day of experimentation had been eaten up replacing The Duchess' ignition coil, I had no idea if it would work at all or vibrate itself to bits within a few miles.

Believing that timing is everything, I waited until the ladies had just got themselves relaxed in the shade by the river and had removed all their riding gear in bid to cool off, to announce "Okay, let's get moving."

Moving on, we quickly crossed the Isère at Romans-sur-Isère, all the while seeming to skirt ever closer to the limestone cliffs and steep slopes of the Vercors plateau. Excitement was building - although I had not told the rest of the group why we had been aiming for this particular spot.




At Pont-En-Royans, we finally met the edge of the massif and turned onto the road that would take us into the gorge known as Route des Grands Goulets.


This road, initially passes through several tunnels penetrating a series of narrow ridges on the edge of a limestone gorge, then drops down to run along the bottom of the gorge.


As the video shows, my home-made camera mount seemed to have worked fairly well, although I didn't know it at the time. What I did note, however, was that the tripod-mount screw had vibrated loose and fallen out so although the camera was held in place with vecro, it was free to rattle about on the mount and consequently some of the footage was a bit wobbly.

Stopping a couple of times to turn the camera on and off and let the group get back together, it was obvious that everybody was sporting huge grins under their helmets. Tubastew and Mrs Tubastew, bringing up the rear in their car also seemed to be having a great time. This is what we came for... Whoopee!

At the far end of the gorge, as just discussed, we entered a tunnel about a mile long which I believe bypasses the most extreme part of the route, where the road is incised into a ledge running along a cliff face. Fortunately, the next road along our way, also includes a similar gorge section so we certainly didn't waste the miles to come so far South. In fact it was so unusual and exciting that we came back the following day to ride it again.


Our original intent had been to try and find a hotel in Grenoble but when we rode past Villard de Lans it was getting late and when we saw hotel signs, we decided to go and see what was there. Good choice! After a couple of tries, we came across Les Bruyeres En Vercors, a reasonably priced hotel also offering free breakfast and wireless internet. The deal was clinched when they showed us their lock-up garage for the bikes.

After a very quick freshen up, we went out into the town and found a couple of nice looking Italian restaurants opposite each other. Perusing the menus - Decisions, decisions!


Wine please garçon!


Perhaps the ladies have had enough wine...
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Old 06-30-2009, 07:57 PM   #58
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Route so far

Here's a map of our route for the first two days. I wouldn't swear this is exact but it's pretty close.

A = Port du Roscoff
B = Moulins
c = Villard de Lans
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Old 07-03-2009, 07:48 PM   #59
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Thursday - To the Alps at last!

Good morning! Interesting view of the old buildings and church - Not majestic but beats the heck out of looking out at an interstate or parking lot.


The window's wide open and what's all the racket outside. Someone calling my name?

"Hurry up! We've explored half the town already."

Don't you find those people who have to get up at sparrow fart every day irritating sometimes?


Bleary-eyed... stagger down the old, creaky stairs with my nose leading me to the first coffee of the morning. Enjoy a decent and typical breakfast consisting of things that some of us would soon be tired of (not me!): Breads, croissants, cheeses, various cold-cuts (mostly pork of one sort or another), fruit juices, etc.


Nice hotel. Some unique touches.


The dining area had wifi so Tubastew, Dewnmoon and myself were soon all tapping away while sipping our coffee.

Outside to pack the bikes, we had to make our way past the hotel's ferocious guard dog.






Another coffee is beckoning and I upload a few photos while most of the gang go off to do some shopping.


I do head out to have a quick look for a replacement screw for the camera mount. No luck but I end up bodging something together with a big nut for a spacer and electrical tape would around it to keep it from falling out again.

Well, the morning's half over and Tubastew wants us to go back to the last gorge so he can take some 'action' shots. Like we need an excuse
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Old 07-04-2009, 09:04 AM   #60
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Laugh Gorgeous Gorge, Rollickin' Ravine, Terrific Twisties...

Cameras rolling.....

Action....


We set up at one of the few wide spots where there was a view up and down the gorge and played for the camera...






"Okay y'all... if we're going to cross the Alps into Italy and make it to Andermatt tonight, we need to get moving." That means back up the gorge AGAIN
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