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Old 06-28-2013, 11:07 AM   #1
MikeO OP
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France. Again.

28th June 2013

I've had leave booked for this trip since some wet day in (insert month of choice) this year. I was originally booked to leave on Thursday 27th, but changed it to today sometime last week.

This is the first trip of any length I'll be doing with the new bike, so I'll be looking out for teething problems as I go. I'm also wearing a BMW Rallye Jacket (non-tactical - fully badged and zipped) and using a Baglux tank cover and bag.

This means I don't have a belt to hang my camera pouch on - and the Baglux bag sits so far back that it projects over the seat, making fitting it there impractical. I decide to try to use the map case as a home for my camera, but last night - whilst trying this out - I inadvertently switched it on (which causes the lens to motor out) whilst trapped in there. It sounds like the cogs are shredded...

Never mind - that's exactly why I have a spare Canon S100 and four spare batteries on the shelf...

My cameras lead a hard life and this one has done well to survive as long as it has.

I decide to use the inside of the tank bag for now, and see how it works out.

These are all minor things I will get used to using as I go.

The major problem I have is that I really don't want to go. On Wednesday evening I was still working on the assumption that I'd be staying in the UK. Things have been difficult in a number of areas of my life for some time now and it's sometimes hard to break out of a pattern of behaviour. I was recently very badly let down by someone I have been involved with for several years. This isn't the first time it has happened and I can remember feeling just as resolute that this would not happen again several times in the past.

Apparently I don't learn from experience.

Ironically, my last trip to Europe, in November last year, was an attempt to get my head straight about the same issue. I'm trying not to see the bike burning out as a sign...

So anyway - yesterday morning I just thought 'Fuck it' - and decided to get the bike packed and go.

As you might appreciate, the day was fairly chaotic, a welcome interlude being a visit from Paul (astrro on UKGSer), who came to relieve me of my other Rallye jacket - and providing some timely travelling money...

By 21:30 the bike was as packed as it was going to get, so I locked the garage door, sorted out my riding kit and hit the sack.

I woke early and decided to get going anyway. I was booked on the 10:50 train (10:20 check-in). It's a dull day as I grab a quick snap before setting off...



...into the cool morning. We had a little rain yesterday, after quite a long dry period, so I'm wary of the road surface.

To be honest, I'm a bit wary anyway. It's November since I last rode a bike any distance and I need to get back into the groove of riding it - it feels unwieldy and heavy to me at the moment, although I'm sure this will improve with a few miles under the front wheel.

The bike itself is in fine fettle, with just about everything serviced since November. I was unable to find my spare poly V belt yesterday - in fact I seem to have lost track of a number of parts I used to routinely carry and think that some of them may have ended their days as a black mark on the road in Guadalajara...

I make good time through Watton and onto the A11 at Thetford. There are roadworks and delays even at this time of the morning going through Thetford Forest, where the work to 'dual' the entire A11 is well underway. It's scheduled to be complete in 2015, I think. Being on two wheels allows me to make good progress and I'm soon on the A11, A14 and ultimately the M11 towards London.

Somewhere near the M11/M25 junction I apparently overtake Paul (who bought the jacket) - how about that for a coincidence?

After some energetic lane-splitting on the approach to the Dartford Tolls (free for bikes ), I head towards Folkestone and make my usual stop at Maidstone services...



Where I fill the bike with Super Unleaded, and myself with...



...a breakfast bap and a large Americano (with skimmed milk, natch)...

Sufficiently restored, I ride out of the services and push on to Folkestone. I took my time over breakfast and I'm now just ahead of schedule. I go through the automated check in and park by the terminal to change some of Paul's Sterling into Euros.

I bought €210 for £205...

This is not going to be a cheap trip.

Hey-ho.

I join the rest of the bikes and wait to be called forward to join our train. Dave, riding this Harley, has a realistic attitude towards keeping his feet dry...



We're called forward and board almost immediately - there are a lot of bikes today (I normally travel on a Thursday, so I don't usually see the weekend traffic)...



The train sets off right on time...



...and I keep myself busy by trying to work out why my left driving light has failed. The connections I can access easily are good - I'll worry about it when I have some down time. I switch Bettie to metric (kph speedo) and reset her clock an hour forward. My computer and phone do this automatically, but I have to do it manually on the GPS - a device that (one would hope) knows where it is...

Soon we're arriving at Calais and there is much blatting of exhausts and revving of engines as the doors open - I set Strasbourg as an aiming point and get on the Autoroute.

I pick up a toll ticket at the first Péage - put it into the map case and then (a mile or so later) notice it's not there any more - poo...

Another bit of kit I'm missing is the extension lead, which connects my in-ear monitors to my iPod (actually, my iPhone - but you know what I mean). I generally use this on longish jaunts on the motorway, as it helps to pass the time, so I'm having to make do today with a heavy coiled version intended for use with a home stereo. The problem is that it's heavy and will catch the wind, which in turn will disconnect it - I pull into a service area (Aire) to sort this out and come across a couple in distress...



This is Kevin and Carmen, a lovely couple (despite having been grievously assaulted by this year's Harley Davidson 'Lifestyle' catalogue ). They have just had a cuppa and have come back to the bike to find they can't switch off the immobiliser. It's flashing random indicators and making various electronic beeps and farts.

I take the key fob apart and give the battery and contacts a good clean - writing down the number of the battery whilst I do so. I click it all back together and it works - hurrah! The picture was taken after this event...

I give them the battery number and suggest they find a chemist/supermarket/camera shop and see if they can buy a couple of spares. A mate of mine gave me the tip to always change your alarm remote battery when you MoT (annual safety inspection) the vehicle - it's a good habit to get into...



Onwards! It's in the low 60s F at the moment, but very humid, so I open the vents, but keep the waterproof liner in...



The weather ahead looks threatening, but I am lucky and never seem to get more than a misty drizzle, which isn't even worth changing gloves for...



Wind turbines are all turning quite slowly...



I keep up a steady 130kph, which wreaks havoc with the Adv's fuel consumption, leading to a stop, just before 15:00, to refuel...



Motorway food the world over is exactly the same, in my experience...

I kit up after a decent stop and almost immediately run into two things - a Péage station (remember I lost my ticket?) and bad weather. Luckily there is an attendant talking to a lorry driver - as soon as I explain what has happened she sorts it out - €13...

I kit back up and decide it's probably best to stop for the night - the weather ahead looks like hell on toast and I've been lucky to stay dry this far...



I choose the wrong route through Reims in the Friday afternoon rush...



...before arriving at the Budget ibis - I've stayed here twice before, when it was an eTap). I am greeted by the lovely Fanny (sorry about the camera shake - she told me her name just as I pressed the shutter), who tells me she has only three rooms left - they are all smoking rooms...


I go and give one a sniff-test (behave) and it's fine. I cart my gear up to the room...



...and stand under the (weirdly lit) shower for a long time.



I book some accommodation for Saturday night, but I'd be lying if I said I was certain of using the booking...
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Old 06-28-2013, 03:05 PM   #2
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Just great to read your r r MikeO no more fires on this trip just good banter please
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Old 06-28-2013, 03:59 PM   #3
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Just great to read your r r MikeO no more fires on this trip just good banter please
lol your right about the fires

Great report OP, keep it up!
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Old 06-28-2013, 04:43 PM   #4
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MikeO,

Some of the best journeys begin with "The major problem I have is that I really don't want to go."

Ride safe and have an awesome trip!


Cheers,
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Old 06-28-2013, 06:34 PM   #5
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Great start MikeO
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Old 06-29-2013, 12:04 AM   #6
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Hi MikeO
Good to see you back on the road again. Always look forward to your RR.
I was in Reims earlier this year and it was bloody cold
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Old 06-29-2013, 09:32 AM   #7
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29th June 2013

I sleep very well and surface at about 08:00 local (07:00 UK time). I slowly pack the contents of the luggage grenade that detonated in my room shortly after I arrived and have a look at the weather forecast.



Well, that's not looking too jolly for anyone motorcycling in France, is it?



A glance out of the window shows the truth - it has been drizzling most of the night...

I had planned to head towards Strasbourg, with a vague idea of running southeast from there on Sunday. Unfortunately Strasbourg seems to be about the wettest part of the forecast and - worse still - is predicting rain on Sunday as well.

It looks like my best plan is to head south east today, aiming for somewhere like Annecy and - assuming I can avoid being murdered by a hit-man in the forest there - wander up into the Alps from the west.

I call up my booking to change it from Strasbourg to Chambery, to find that I'd booked the Strasbourg room for last night.

Bugger.

I email them explaining the error, but have received no response as I type.

Hey-ho.

I book a room at the B&B Chambery and, after a lack-lustre breakfast of coffee, fruit and a croissant, pack the bike.

I set it up in bad weather mode from the start, with the cover over the tank bag and waterproof gloves...



I'm on the road at the crack of 09:45

I'm straight onto the Autoroute, with Bettie telling me I have over 500km to my destination. The rain is light to begin with, but then settles into a steady hard drizzle, kicking up spray from the fairly heavy traffic. I have my music on random shuffle, set the speed at 130kph and watch the road disappear under my front wheel...

At exactly midday, I ride into one of the centres of misery known as Aires, to fill up with Super-unleaded at an eye-watering €1.71 per litre and grab a completely forgettable baguette (chicken, I think - but isn't most stuff meant to taste like that?)...



The Aire is packed and I park where I can. When I return from the restaurant, an ageing Gold Wing has parked alongside me...



Over 100,000 kms on the odometer - looks like he spends some time at rallies...



I'm more concerned about what he might have heard about the weather - those are diver's flippers strapped to the rack...



Yum



I notice I have a stowaway on Bettie - let's see how fast it is before he loses grip, shall we? (17kph - he just wasn't trying)



Getting back on the road, I have put my dry weather gloves on. Although there is clearly some rain left up there, it feels like the major weather front has come through. I set 130kph again and make my way south-southeast...



Despite the weather, I make sure and drink regularly from my CamelBak...



My speed gets dragged down to 90kph by a couple of sets of roadworks, one of which had a police speed team working in it...

The weather starts closing in as we get south of Lyon and the landscape starts to change...



I wave to the occasional waterlogged rider heading the other way...



Quite suddenly, I'm in hill country...



...with tunnels regularly carved between valleys...



Speed limits drop to 110kph in these...



I come to my last tolls of the day (I paid €23.70 just after lunch), where the automated machine charges me €11.00 - which I know is the fare for a car. There's no one to ask and a queue behind me so I pay. Just as I get my receipt an attendant appears and confirms I've paid too much. He shows me the number on the back of the receipt to call for a refund.

I'm left wondering a)how many riders get charged too much and don't know it and b) how many successfully get a refund.

It wouldn't be difficult to have a 'class of vehicle' button on the machine, surely? Perhaps I'm missing something...

Anyway - soon afterwards, Bettie points me down an off-ramp into a very grotty part of town and I find the B&B Hotel. The hotel looks fine...



...but the surroundings less so...



I check in, unpack the bike and walk up to my second floor room...



That will do just fine...
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Old 06-29-2013, 09:32 AM   #8
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Wife is headed to Reims in a few weeks studying Wine Law. (Sucks, right? ) I'll be following this one. France was a great place years ago, Paris not so much.

Have a good trip.

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Old 06-29-2013, 10:05 AM   #9
MikeO OP
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Tolls

From Franco on UKGSer:

Quote:
Originally Posted by franco View Post
Hi Mike, (and others who may get caught), normally when you get to the toll, you'll see the price displayed in the LED or other information panel, along with the class of vehicle. Cars are class 1, whilst bikes are class 5, so if it flashes up C1 when I'm there, I just push the 'assistance' button, and even if you speak in broad Scottish, they look on the camera, see you're a bike, and see the C1 rate and it magically changes to C5 which is way cheaper. Don't worry about holding the feckers up behind you, might make them think about installing free motorbike peages all over the place (some autoroutes already have this in the form of a special lane off to the right).

Cheers.../Rob
Thanks Rob
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Old 06-29-2013, 11:05 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by MikeO View Post
.....
Speed limits drop to 110kph in these...
....
...but the surroundings less so...
The speed limit didn't drop, it was already 110kph because the road was wet

The surroundings of Ibis, Etappe, B&B and the like are often like that....stop visiting those hotel chains and pick some 2 or 3 star hotel in a small village and it will usually be better
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Old 06-29-2013, 11:10 AM   #11
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The speed limit didn't drop, it was already 110kph because the road was wet
I know - but I was ignoring it...
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Old 06-29-2013, 01:35 PM   #12
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I am sorry for your personal issues Mike. Fantastic to get a ride report from you again.
Ever considered Scandinavia for a ride? Allways room for you in Sweden.
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Old 06-30-2013, 01:24 PM   #13
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30th June 2013

I sleep fitfully and awake to a bright sunny day...



Packing the bike, I grab some coffee and a pain au chocolate and set off into a warm and dry morning...



After refuelling at an Intermarché I ride along the shore of the lake, heading towards Annecy. The road is busy with weekenders and holidaymakers - Lake Annecy is a major tourist resort...



It's warm - in the high 70s F already - and I have all the vents in my jacket open.



Giant seagull straight out of a Terminator movie...



I ride slowly alongside the lake, before starting to climb into the surrounding hills...



The shade is already a welcome relief - things will get better as I gain altitude...



The cloud is starting to burn off...



There are cyclists everywhere...



I noticed that the road round Lake Annecy had a cycle-path on the inbound side for the whole length I travelled. Cycling is a real passion amongst the French and I see them throughout the day, climbing the cols and looking thoroughly miserable whilst doing it...

I take a random left turn and ride up a narrow D road, which gets progressively worse in both width and surface. Eventually, just after a nasty rising right turn, I'm confronted by a track that is clearly degrading to nothing. The bike's on a steep slope and I have a very stressful couple of minutes turning it around without dumping it...

Here's the way back down...



...and here's what I decided not to attempt...



I retrace my steps and stop in the shade.

Probably need a plan.

A few minutes later, I've programmed Bettie with a couple of waypoints, which should be the basis of a pretty route to ride...



First, though - time to fill the CamelBak from this village pump. The water is clear, tastes great and is shockingly cold...



Onward!



Road surfacing here doesn't seem to have been a high priority.

For several decades.



The last couple of days of rain have cleared the pollen out of the air and the views are great...



If you have a Jeep and are at a loose end next weekend, this is where to come...



I continue to climb, the air getting cooler, then arrive at the Col de la Croix Fry...



...and the Les Sapins Hotel & Restaurant, where I am served with a coffee and water...



...a beautiful view...



...and a delicious ham, cheese and gherkin(!) baguette...



I have a cursory check of the map whilst eating - surely there must be a way of including the "Fenêtre de Ferret" in my plan?



I pay the bill and get suited up.



The caffeine gets me going and I'm riding briskly along some great roads...



This builder has come up with a novel way of ensuring his trailer isn't pinched over the weekend - hauling it into mid-air...



There's a lot more snow about than when I've visited (during the same week) on previous years. The whole place is a vivid green, as if early in the season, too..



Ski lifts are everywhere...



...showing where the lion's share of the tourist Euro is earned.



Although they're also very fond of their Mountain-bikers...



Although a terrain less suited to bicycling would be hard to fathom...



Miles to go before I sleep...



Although I don't pick any up on the bike or my visor, there are tens of thousands of flies hereabouts. This poor horse had them all over its face - it was continually shaking its head to get rid of them...



Descending the other side of the col, I enter the cool shade of woodland for a couple of kilometres - bliss...



Still a long way to the valley floor...



Entering Beaufort, I notice a couple of bits of roadside furniture. This is Zoë...



...and this is Arthur...



...and they can commonly be found placed near pedestrian crossings (particularly those near schools)...

I carry on up the D925...



...stopping to take the odd snap...



Milk churns awaiting collection at the side of the road used to be a common sight in the UK - can't remember the last time I saw one, though...



I ride over the top of the Cormet de Roselend and descend one of the most scenic roads in the French Alps...









I'm closing in on my target for tonight - Bourg-Saint-Maurice. I set Bettie the relatively simple task of finding an hotel...



The first one she finds - La Petit Auberge - has all the signs of being an open hotel. They have a reception desk, buttons to press for attention and I can hear conversation in another part of the building. I press the buttons several times - try to make my presence felt, then give up and leave.

Second attempt is more successful...



This is the lovely Cindy "Yes - I 'ave un Englesh name!", who tells me she has a room for €60 plus breakfast. After some negotiation, this becomes €50 including breakfast and a space in the garage for the bike.



As I return to get my bags, another rider turns up (German I think). He's riding a Ducati the likes of which I've not seen before - all carbon-fibre and bad attitude...



Unfortunately, the rider seems to have adopted the attitude part, as he storms out of Reception just as I'm coming back in, starts his bike and rides off - Cindy gives me a broad grin as I carry my luggage to my room.

The restaurant isn't open, so I ride into town and buy a kebab, which I can still taste several hours later.

I upload my pictures and reflect on the day. I've been riding my bike through some of the most beautiful parts of Europe on a gorgeous day.

So why is it that - if I could have flicked a switch and been home - I would have done so immediately at any time? There's nothing for me at home (not meant to sound melodramatic - just nothing other than the norm).

This used to be my favourite thing to do...

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Old 06-30-2013, 01:27 PM   #14
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Greetings from Kalifornia! Good report, especially the generous number of pictures. I'll be lurking...
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Old 07-01-2013, 08:31 AM   #15
MikeO OP
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1st July 2013

I wake fairly early - the curtains here are muslin and the sun is shining directly onto the window. I have a shower and then pack up some stuff and stumble down to the garage...



...where I see a few more bikes arrived during the evening - all Germans (and one Swiss) - sorry about the quality of the pic - I only had my 'phone with me.

Right - Breakfast...



There is an excellent spread...



...but the kebab I ate last night means I only need coffee and fruit...

I pack the bike and set off into the crisp sunny day. As I ride through Bourg-Saint-Maurice, it occurs to me that most of the people I'm sharing the road with are probably commuters - on their way to work on just another Monday...



I get held up briefly during rush hour...



...as these ladies make their slow way to today's pasture...



...but soon I am past them and making my way back up Cormet de Roselend...



The roads are deserted...



I keep seeing Marmots at the roadside, but they are far too canny to get photographed this morning...



...so you'll just have to put up with landscapes...



Time to move on...



There's still plenty of snow as I approach the top (1968m if it's important for you to know )...



This must be bleak in the winter - no ski lifts here...



I'm soon descending towards the lake...



...and taking the long, winding road back down to Beaufort...



At 10:00 I stop at the Beaufort Intermarché to refuel and buy some provisions...



I pack the shopping in the top box (I've never had one before and I hate the look of it, but it's proving handy for things like this - it's coming off straight after this trip and will be refitted for long trips ONLY )



It's a beautiful morning...



...as Bettie steers me up a road I find vaguely familiar...



I'm in Montmin - where regular readers may remember I got split up from my riding buddy Peter and spent half an hour chasing down a German GS I thought was him...

I crest the Col de la Forclaz (1157m) and start the long descent to Annecy - getting tantalising glimpses of the lake - impossibly turquoise - thorough the trees on my left



All too soon, it seems, I'm riding along the 'Riviera'...



...a stop/go nightmare that lasts several kilometres...

It's almost a relief to get on the A41. I start heading north and then stop at the first Aire I come across, to have some lunch...



I have a check around the bike and notice that the lady commuters left me a present this morning...



After a meal of ham, lettuce, apricots and nectarines, I pack up again and continue heading north on the A41. Traffic is light and the weather perfect - about 82° F with no wind. I set the speed at 130kph and, drinking regularly from my CamelBak, watch the world go by…



I slow whenever I see a radar camera warning sign (weren't they going to do away with those?), but otherwise keep a good speed up...



The sun's high and I'm glad I've planned an early finish today...



In no time at all, it seems...



...I'm approaching Dijon, where I have booked a room in the B&B for tonight...



I check into my slice of air-conditioned heaven...



...and Jules, the receptionist, gives me a cold 1.5L bottle of Nestea (iced tea) - "They delivered the wrong stuff and - hey - it's a hot day!"

He also insists I park the Adv on the disabled slot, just outside my room. What a nice chap

Good end to the day.

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