Touring France and Spain on Cub 90's and Innova 125's Summer 2010

Touring France and Spain on Cub 90's and Innova 125's Summer 2010

French / Spanish Trip June 2010 by Bogger - taken with permission from his website.

Well Spain it was then. Which idiot thought up this jaunt? and more to the point why did the rest of us idiots decide it was a good idea? We couldn’t change our mind, it would have been rude, so Spain it was then. 

The following culprits took part. Bogger, JJ, Newt, Diesel Dave, Sir Klipp, Chris, Nige and Jason. Fuzz and Sue departed on the first day for Northern France…Sensible people. 

Mine and JJ’s plan of action, finally that is, was to get down to Sir Klipps abode South of Birmingham on the Thursday night, stay there and then the next day carry on with Klippy to Dover to meet the rest of the crew. We left mine at about 2.30pm and made good progress and got to Klipps at about 5.30pm. That night for me sort of went downhill a bit after that. nothing to do with the company I’ll have you know. Basically what happened was, was that we were chauffer driven, really, to the local pub in a rather grand Mercedes. Whereupon I consumed far too much alcohol on an empty stomach and talked drivel, mainly to the local scooter club which had turned up for a quiet drink. 

Back to Klippy’s (now Sir Clitty and his b###h, little Fanny). It transpires that Sir Clitt is an actual ‘Sir’ no,no really he is, he’s a bona fide Knight of the Realm. He has to change his passport, driving licence, everything to accommodate his new title. Riding with a Knight of the Realm, how cool is that?  

Oh where was I? That’s it. Back to Clitty’s for a curry, JJ, Clitty and His son were fine I was wrecked. I fell asleep at the dinner table, missed the curry, woke up went outside and promptly fell asleep on a door mat on the patio. I had to be man handled inside so I didn’t freeze to death. Good start, not. 

The next day we were up early, bikes loaded said goodbye to Nathan (Clitty’s lad and top bloke) and little Fanny, who had a right sulk on. The ferry crossing was at 3.40pm from vague recollection. We made good progress down the motorways. At the first stop we pulled up right outside the motorway service entrance where Clitty promptly fell over with his fully loaded bike on top of him…oops. Luckily only his pride was hurt. When we left the services Chris Hunt was there having just filled up with fuel. This was just North of London, coincidence or what? Chris said he was nursing the CZ as much as possible so we let him lead. Nursing it my arse. We were doing 60mph about 5mph faster than we had been going. We had a couple of short stops for fuel etc on the way to Dover, but arrived in good time. We went through the customs rigmaroll again. Have you got any, guns, knives, drugs or illegal immigrants on you? Did you pack your own bags? etc. No to all of course, Ahem, and on through to the waiting lanes. We were first there quickly followed by Diesel Dave and Newt, then Nige and Jason with Fuzz and Sue last, but certainly not least. 

The crossing is dead quick, by the time you’ve settled down and caught your breath it’s time to get your stuff together and head for the vehicle decks. Would the mighty CZ start? Kick, kick, kick….No chance. Chris pushed it up the ramp and managed to bump start it down the other side. Phew. It was only a short 12ml hop to the first campsite at Guines. JJ had previously asked Chris what was in the small unopened plastic bag perched on his bike. Chris casually replied that that it was his new, improved, superior 1 man tent. Really?? I’ve seen bigger packed lunches. Well we all started to set up camp in a secluded part of the very quiet and picturesque campsite. 

Yon French campsite, JJ is lecturing Chris on where to pitch his tent, as the first place he pitched it, on top of his bike, JJ deemed unsuitable 

We were all beavering away getting sorted…………..Oh my God the size of Chris’s tent!! Action man would have had trouble getting inside. We remarked that if Chris got a stiffie on whilst inside, first off all the campsite would be able to see and secondly he would not be able to roll over. 

This is Chris's tent correctly erected 

For some reason everyone seemed to dump their crap outside my pitch? There was much mutterings about me lighting my superior camp stove. Sue was actually really impressed and with the camp stove. She said it was like a real one only smaller. Hmm sounds familiar. Some of us made our way to the local supermarket to buy some grub. Me and JJ had proper meat burgers, ‘Hasche’ I think it’s called in France. Really tasty. We flame grilled them on a disposable BBQ. I don’t think we went to bed too late as Nige had promised us he would get us up nice and early. Ooh goody can’t wait. We were indeed woken early by the camp commandant, err I mean Nige. I have no idea what time 6.30am possibly. We all staggered about getting breakfast or drinks etc and started to pack away. I was mostly packed when I noticed that my brand new self inflating mattress had disappeared. No one was owning up? I finally realised that Newt had thrown it in the bin with the rest of the rubbish, he strenuously denied this until at knife point, only joking, he wandered over to the skip and found it. Ahem. He looked sheepish enough. 

First proper day in France here we come. Only 460 km to the next campsite. It all started fairly well apart from me forgetting my sunglasses and having to go back the campsite to find them. We hadn’t gone far then we started to climb. Good grief there was a lot of weight on our bikes. Where the Innova would normally make short work of the terrain it was a struggle. To add to this the wind was at gale force, so when we were on the flat it was murder trying to make any real progress. We had had in our minds before the trip that we would be bowling along for the most part at 55mph. 1hr into the journey this assumption was out of the window. We were struggling for the most part at 40-45mhh on full throttle ALL the time. This was the case for the entire day. It really did wear you out. Also if you got split up there was no way you could catch the people in front as everyone had the throttle pinned. At one point we were in three distinct groups. Nige JJ and Diesel Dave at the front, Jason and Newt in the middle and me, Clitty and Chris at the back. There was about ½ ml between each group. No matter how hard the middle and back group tried we could make no headway against the leading group. None at all. This went on for at least 30 or more miles a stint. Another thing I noticed over the whole trip was that if you were at the back you thrashed your bike far more than if you were at the front. Strange but true. 

Not only was it blowing a gale, head on, of course, but around luch time it started to rain. Oh Joy. At one point we got split up and arrived at the campsite in two separate groups. I think it was me Dave, JJ, Clitty and Newt turned up at the site first, with about a minute to go before they closed the reception. We told them we had a reservation, even though we didn’t, and all of us were booked in. Luckily the rain held off whilst we pitched and got some well earned grub on the cookers. I think I can say to a man we were knackered, frustrated with the progress and knackered again. It had been a tough, tough day. At least the bar was open, where we sought refuge and I was treated to childs portions of beer so I didn’t fall asleep next to the swimming pool.. 

Wakey wakey campers. The harbinger of doom was waking us up again after what seemed about 2hrs sleep. What time is it Nige. It’s late it’s 6.45am. Late my arse. It had been raining during the night but was holding off for the moment. A quick brekkie, ablutions, pack up and were ready for the off. I’ve even got all my camping gear today, none’s in the bin. 

A short days riding today only 450kms. At this point can I say everyone, barr Clitty (iron arse Clitty) was complaining about their backsides being tender. Oh one more thing Chris admitted to his tent, more like an enlarged sock really, being f****** s***e and a waste of money and ‘I never get this f****** camping thing right’. Me and JJ did remind him of the night in the Lake District he nearly died of hypothermia/exposure. Maybe next time it’ll be sorted Chris. Maybe? 

I was actually praying for no headwind this day. If it had been the same as the day before I think my head would have exploded. 

Second day ready for the off. 

Thankfully, from recollection there was very little headwind, but it did piss down all day. 

Some French rain at yet another stop 

Fantastic. The riding was a lot easier today but our average speed was paltry about 28mph or something stupid, due to all the stops. We had a nice stop in a small village where there was a small farmers market on and we all visited the local shops etc to buy some food and provisions. We practiced our French linguistic skills , which were coming on in leaps and bounds. We had stopped shouting and were now at the advanced level of pointing and holding up our fingers for how many items we would like. It was obviously fluent French as we mostly got what we wanted. It was definitely your archetypal French village really nice. One old guy, claiming to be 101yrs old came over and started talking to us. It was great, if only we could have understood a word he said. Bonjour, merci etc. I hope Nige or indeed anyone else can help with our destination for that evening as I have no idea whatsoever. I think it was in the Dordoinne region near a truly fantastic village called Domme. The views from the Village perched up high were awesome. On a sobering note it was on this day that Chris nearly met his maker. It was really scary. I remember us stopping just after a steep, sharp right hand descent. Some of us stopped one side of the road some the other and spaced out a bit. We got our bearings and pointed in the correct direction. Chris set off first towards a blind right hand bend, on the wrong side of the road. It was like slow motion. I blasted my horn but he was too far away to hear. All I can say is how the truck missed him, God only knows. It was a mixture of Chris and the truck driver swerving at the same time. They were literally inches apart. One of the other lads remarked that the driver had a look of sheer panic on his face as he wrestled the truck back onto the road from the grass verge he had mounted. I thought I’d never ever say this, but French truck drivers, ‘We Salute You’. It shook us all up for a while none more than Chris. Luckily this was the only really dicey incident on the whole trip. It was still raining by the way. Of course. 

So far I’ve not painted a very rosy picture but to be honest we were all really enjoying ourselves, we had gotten into a rhythm of riding and the order in which we riding in now suited us. Happy days. Because of the lack of headwind we all felt far more relaxed and were making decent progress when actually riding and not stopping. We were mainly following Daves sat nav which was set to the fastest route but avoiding main roads. The scenery was beautiful and I was getting a real ‘feel’ for rural France. The roads were almost bereft of any vehicles, you could travel twenty miles and see no other traffic on the road, not a single car. We were hustling along one particular country lane along side a herd of about 25 cows. As the first couple of bikes went past they started a slow trot, as the next two went past they speeded up to a run, as the last three of us approached with Chris ring ding dinging along on the CZ it was a full blown stampede, I kid you not. I looked at where they were likely to end up. Hmm that’ll be the end of the field where there’s no gate then. All there was, was a single thin bit of rope slung across the entrance. The first three cows spotted this and anchored up big style the ones behind didn’t, ploughed into those in front and all of them ended up in the lane right in front of us covered in shit, snot and mud. It was like something out of a cartoon. We weaved and dodged past chuckling to ourselves. Round the next bend were a couple of French Farmers. Err umm err umm ‘Cows, err moo moo sur la rue’ or something like that. It must have been proper French as they understood and set off down the lane. The campsite for that night was a ‘Yelloh’ campsite again perched high in the hills. We got there tired and wet. The rain had actually just stopped. As we were booking in Dave had a magnificent brainwave. Ask them if they have any cabins instead of camping. Well done Dave, top marks. We actually had 2 cabins between the eight of us. 

French 'Cabins' Mobile homes really. 

Oh look they're drinking, that's unusual??? 

They all had heaters. Bliss. By the morning we had all dried out, much better. That night from the campsite Nige took three of us, the others were on a resting/drinking/drying out session, on a short scenic tour of the area. Initially I didn’t feel like going. I’m glad I did. The scenery was jaw dropping and very interesting. 

The entrance to the village of Domme. 

And the view. 

See what I mean it was really nice. 

The next day our destination was the start of the Pyranesse. Do you know what I actually think the wind was behind us this day?? What’s that all about?? Again we were following the sat nav with Dave mostly leading. The reason for the sat nav was to avoid unnecessary stops to consult the map. Yea like that was working.. Oh another point. Each day bought about a change of scenery, as the miles rolled by you could see the landscape start to change from vast open plains to rolling hills to, on the third day countryside much like our own in England with smaller fields and walls and hedgerows. I’ll say it again, I really like France. The CZ had by now developed a gearbox oil leak which Chris was convinced was terminal. 

Any gear oil in there Chris? 

I think he bought about half a gallon of gear oil, mainly because it was cheap and topped it up. I think it took about a thimble full. Laugh I nearly wet myself. I think he lugged this oil all the way to Spain and back home again. Better safe than sorry eh Chris. 

When ever we stopped we tried, but mostly failed, to make it coincide with fuel top ups or a supermarket stop to try and save a bit of time. Riding in a big group seems to make the time just ebb away. The only major city the entire trip was Toulouse. It was just like being back in Britain. Traffic everywhere. It took us an eternity to get through and it was boiling hot. Can I just mention, that at this point in the trip JJ was a bit down, he had seen NO French women with hairy armpits. He did keep waving to the ladies as we rode along in the vain hope that one would wave back showing her resplendent hairy armpits. Most just gave a Gallic shrug, a stare and went about there business. I do remember one particular err well endowed lady that JJ waved at as she was pegging out the washing. JJ whizzed by peeping his horn and waving just as she was just raising her arms to peg some fresh clothes on the line, I swear it was like a scene out of the Exorcist as JJ’s head rotated through 180 degrees to get a better look. Alas it was all in vain…clean shaven again. 

The scenery was changing again, we were starting to climb and the Pyrannese loomed large in the distance. The campsite for that night was some 3,500 feet high. The road up to the site was fantastic full of switchback hairpins, ace. About five miles before the site we stopped off at small village. Me and JJ snuck off to find a typical French bar/café and have a drink, as we had been gagging to do this all trip. Deux verre du bierre sil vous plait monsieur. ‘Two glasses of beer’ he replied in perfect English’, bollocks, sort of spoilt it a bit. Jason soon caught us up as we supped away. Oh another observation. Jason, Niges younger brother, never, ever stops eating. I thought I was bad, good grief he never stopped, honest. When we got to the campsite JJ had a talking to from Clitty for undertaking on a hairpin bend, I think Clitty nearly s*** himself. I did try to explain to Clitty that this is what we do on the Northern run outs. I soon shut up as he was not impressed. Oops. 

The campsite for that night could/should have been really good, it was, but some how it wasn’t. 

I remember coming back from trying to clean my breakfast dishes fuming because there was no hot water. Only a small thing but really infuriating. All the other sites had been good. By this time Chris had given up on his tent and had ordered a shed to sleep in. The campsite owner called it a log cabin. But it was more like a glorified shed and it actually had a canvas roof?? Chris complained that the electric wasn’t working. Chris it helps if you actually switch it on mate, tee hee. After Newts bike had been stripped almost to it’s componenet parts (bad missfire) and rebuilt again, badly, we all piled into Chris’s pad that night for a p***s up and we had a right good laugh. Typical blokes night talking crap and laughing till our sides hurt. I honestly don’t remember going to bed 

Guess what the next morning was another early start. Is this starting to sound familiar. It’s funny though how you get yourself into a routine packing and unpacking. I, once again had taken far too much stuff, half of which was never used, will I ever learn, I doubt it. The mighty CZ ploughed on relentless. We all stunk of two stroke by the way, I could even taste it. 

Sorry if I'm boring anyone but here's part 3.

This day it was Spain via Andorra. 

The road to Andorra was sheer magic. It just climbed and climbed. You could see the summit miles in the distance still covered in snow. A lot of the climb was first and second gear stuff, with the front wheel hopping off the ground as you changed down and opened the throttle. It was that steep and it was just miles of bends. We climbed to the border crossing for Andorra, where the police really didn’t give a stuff, they were sitting with their feet up as we whizzed, well chugged athsmatically really, past. Just the other side of the border control we stopped for a breather and to take some photos. We weren’t at the top yet, that was still miles away. Further up the ascent we passed the now deserted skiing lodges and hotels, the landscape was really barren being so high up. Strangley there were petrol stations clinging to the side of the mountains. I remember passing three in about half a mile, where as in France you wouldn’t pass three in half a day? Not long after we were at the top. You could tell as there was a noticeable drop in temperature as well. 

I can’t really describe the views words would not do them justice. Truly unbelievable. The good thing about reaching the top is that it’s now time to go back down the other side, down the twisting turning ribbon of tarmac. You can’t go too fast, other wise you reach a tight hairpin and get one of those ‘Ooh F***’ moments as you realise you aint gonna make it round and there’s a drop of 1000 ft just inches away. Still good fun though. 

There were no houses where we were, too high up for a start and there was no room for them at the side of the road. There was the odd small modern hotel somehow wedged in along the sheer rock faces. The descent seemed to go on for ever, miles and miles of down hill. In fact it only levelled out once you hit Spain. By now we had got split up and our little group of three, me Dave and JJ plodded on through the Town/City/Country of Andorra to the border control of France. The Spanish passport control were much more switched on and stopped and questioned every vehicle including us. Luckily Dave speaks good Spanish and we were through and into SPAIN, Yes! in no time at all. The road opened out into a large smooth A road and the scenery had changed again. After about ten miles we pulled over at a roadside bar, in the middle of nowhere, to wait for the others to arrive. 

CZ in Spain, my God it's made it 

Spanish roadside bar, hic burp 

The weather was glorious and we were still buzzing from the ride up and down into Andorra then Spain. All the others duly turned up apart from Clitty and Newt. Chris promptly told us he had completed his mission on getting the CZ to Spain. We all raised our drinks in a toast to him and the mighty East European pile of err I mean well designed and engineered motorcycle he’d chosen to use for the trip. I will hold my hands up and admit that I did not think it would make it. I was made up it had though. To be fair it had not missed a beat and caused Chris no grief whatsoever. 

Right says Chris, ‘I’m off back now’?? WTF yer wot? ‘I’m off back home. Are you being serious Chris. Deadly, the mission was to get to Spain and I’ve done that, now I’ve got to get home’??????? 

I tried to persuade him to spend at least one night with us in Spain but he was having none of it. 

Chris's leak was getting worse 

We shook his hand and he set off back home. If you know Chris it's the sort of thing he does. 

I’ve never been to mainland Spain before and the lush vegetation took me back a bit. I thought it would be more barren. Shows what I know, jack s**t. Only about 130kms to the campsite. I was beginning to miss the smell of two stroke already. The air was hot and dry and before we knew it we were coming into the outskirts of Plaja D’Jaro on the Costa Brava. The only detour on this last bit of the day was to see a none existent medieval church/castle/village that Nige I think had dreampt about a few nights previous. Or he was hallucinating from lack of sleep and alcohol induced dehydration. He made us ride in circles sweltering trying to find it.. Any way we didn’t find it, because it only existed in his mind and it was ONLY another 20mls added to our journey. 

The campsite in Plaja D’Jaro was completely different to what I had imagined. I thought it would be like any other campsite but the pitches were much more regimented. Not that it wasn’t nice it was just different. Oh there was no grass either? We pitched together on a surface akin to an all weather football pitch amongst some trees, which provided some pleasant and welcome shade. 

The Spanish campsite. 

As we were booking into the site Newt and Clitty turned up. Oh bugger they’ve found us. Err I mean Hurrah. 

Having cooked my own food up till now on the mighty homemade ‘Trangia’ I decided to treat myself that night to a meal out. A fine traditonal Spanish meal of egg, sausage and chips. It was lovely. Heinrich Himmler Nige, the camp commandant left us alone the next morning, with no early morning call. The trouble was, we were so used to getting woken at daft O’clock we were all awake early anyway. The campsite was walking distance from the beach so we took a leisurely stroll down and walked along the rocky shoreline. Newt decided on a swim, which was short due to the temperature of the water, a couple of us were really daring and paddled, with a knotted hanky on our heads of course. All that was missing was a Union Flag T shirt. A young lady very kindly frollicked in the sea near us. None of us took a blind bit of notice, honest M’lud. 

Later on after a quick Supermarket shop we caught a taxi into town via our local interpreter Jason ‘ Err uno err no duio Taxio Townio pleasio. Again the another foreign language mastered as two taxis turned up to take us to town. All Jason needs to learn now is English. I enquired as to how Diesel Dave knew so much Spanish. Hmm…..longish pause, my fist wife was half Spanish half Greek. She had a right temper, none of the crockery in our house matched. At this point Daves eyes glazed over somewhat as he relived some of those, how shall we say, entertaining moments, from a previous existence. Moving swiftly on. Playa D’Jaro is not an unpleasant place at all, quite nice really. We decided a few drinks might be the order of the day, so we ambled from bar to bar sampling the wares. One place on the esplanade bought us miniature sausage rolls with the drinks, very civil and the drinks turned out to be very expensive. Another place served up olives, again very civil, however I hate olives, yuk. We sauntered back to the main drag and settled ourselves down for a few more drinks. 

Clitty and his son, no I mean Dave enjoying a sociable drink. 

C’mon it was hot and we were on holiday. Me and JJ were muttering about buying some pressies. I needed something for Mrs Bogger as it was her birthday when we got back. We sidled off together to go shopping, which we both detest. I think we visted nearly every shop in the place. Looking for bags and or jewellery. We did have one stop at a nice café bar and partook of a coffee and chocolate croissant and whiled away half an hour or so watching the locals and holiday makers go about their business, very cosmopolitan. We did happen across a couple of unbelievable knife shops. I was salivating. How I resisted buying one/twenty I’ll never know, but we were on a mission for presents and neither Mrs JJ or Mrs Bogger are into knives. We finally got ourselves sorted and wandered back to the others, who were still in the same bar and I’m convinced, having the same conversation as when we left some two and a half hours earlier. The woman who had been bringing the drinks out looked proper p***** of. I was convinced there was a start of a trench from our table to the bar, where she’d worn the footpath away. 

It was getting late in the day now and we decided food was needed. We walked all of twenty foot and plonked ourselves down at the next very busy restaurant. The food consumed alfresco was delicious. 

Clitty berates JJ over unlawful undertaking manoevers 

We caught a taxi back to the campsite had a few more drinks and hit the sack waiting for Niges early morning call. God, I was beginning to hate the sound of that voice, it sounded like nails being scraped down a blackboard. Sure enough, just as the cocks were crowing Niges dulcet tones wafted into my tent. ‘Gerrup yer fat English pillock it’s late. He didn’t actually say that, but how tired I felt he might just of well as. We’d all changed our oil on the bikes the previous day. I wanted to put Silkolene in mine, but I had used a litre and a half of the stuff in top ups on the way down, So I’d bought some 10/50 mineral oil from the local garage. It was the only bike specific oil they had. 

It was time to say goodbye to Clitty as he was making his own leisurely way back up through Spain and up to the Bordeaux region of France on roads he had previously cycled along a few years back. With the packing routine down to a fine art we were soon ready for the off, wished Clitty a safe trip back and we were back on the road again. We thought that a days rest may have allowed our arses to get better, no chance it was really painful after about 40 cm or so. We were travelling a different route home as we wanted to take in a crossing over the worlds tallest bridge, the Milau Viaduct. We had to get back over the Pyranesse again. What a playground for bikes. To be honest this day was a bit of a blur for me. I can remember the roads ok and the deserted ski lodges, the film The Shining sprung to mind on more than one occasion. To be honest there were a few people about, but I could imagine them teeming with people when the snow came. For some reason, which totally escapes me now Dave and Newt weren’t with me, JJ, Nige and Jason. I have no idea where we split up or when or indeed why. I think I was hallucinating from lack of sleep. Some of the roads we took, Nige knew from previous visits. I’m running out of expletives, they were mind boggling, bike and vista nirvana. It was this day Niges rear brake caught fire and he nearly launched himself into an oncoming car as his right footpeg dug in and he started to pirouette both him and the bike around, then nearly over the side of a mountain doing the same thing. 

Somehow?? And somewhere?? We met up again with Newt and Diesel gain. It must have been another Spanish/French wormhole or something? We took a couple of wrong and costly turns, managed to find our way again, then got lost and stuck in traffic jams in Beziers. We actually did a full tour of the city and ended up going back down the motorway we had first come along. It only added about an hour and a half to our journey. Deep joy. We stopped, consulted the maps and the sat nav and set off again up the E11 motorway for the Milau bridge and hopefully Clermont Ferrand, home of Michelin Tyres. 

Along with the first day this was the toughest. The motorway basically went through a mountain range with a head wind to rival and probably surpass day one. I forgot how many times I was in second gear for miles because it would not pull third gear…..on a motorway. What’s that all about?? They have wind socks on the viaducts and they were horizontal facing in our direction. After what seemed like an eternity we finally crossed the Milau. From a distance the road looks tiny, high but tiny. When you are on the viaduct it’s massive. 

The Milau, see I said it was tiny 

There’s a rest area just the other side and we took the opportunity to take some more snaps. Dave had his melon Helmet on at this point. No it’s not some sort of perverse fetish Dave’s into…..Hmm I’ll think about that one, as it might just be that, come to think of it. He had his picture taken by a passing English couple in a Ford Transit. Err they were in the Transit, not Dave in the Transit having his picture taken. Oh bollocks you know what I mean. 

We had all filled up before we joined the motorway. Now because we were on full throttle ALL the time fuel was being consumed at a fair rate. In the last 70 mls or so we had passed no fuel stations. I had only two bars left on the main tank, a full auxillary tank holding 3.4ltrs and a spare 1ltr can. As soon as we left the rest area the last bar started flashing. 16mls before it runs out, if I’m lucky. We passed a sign saying something ridiculous like 75kms to the next service station with fuel. Should be ok, I hope. Soon I was on the auxillary tank and slowed to 35-40mph to try and conserve fuel. The others who had more fuel on board cleared off. The miles/kilometres clicked by. In the distance a service station sign loomed. 35kms to the next stop with fuel, but my spirits sank. The sign had a big red cross across it. I knew my auxillary tank was half gone, I slowed some more, I had not seen the others for at least half an hour and knew they would be miles in front. Sure enough the service station was closed, all of it. I did curse and start to sweat a little. Now you’re probably thinking well you’re on a motorway plenty of people about, no real problem. Well it was as it was very nearly deserted the odd car and truck would occasionally come past and it was in the middle of nowhere. I had no idea where the next petrol station was. At the next junction I pulled over and consulted my map. The junction I was at was on the map, but the town/village it went to was not. No way was there going to be a petrol station there. I looked in the tank had about two litres of fuel left total including the one as spare. The next town showing on the map was St Flour about 15 miles away. My plan was to get off there, find fuel, if possible, then I’d be on my own either finding a B & B or local campsite. After a few miles I spotted a knight in shining Cordura, JJ flying up the motorway on the opposite side. He waved at me to pull over. After a short while he’s turned around and caught me up. I stopped sweating. The lads were waiting at the next stop. I pulled explained my predicament and Dave swiftly decanted a couple of ltrs of fuel into my tank. The campsite we were aiming for was too far away so we selected one about another twenty miles or so from where we were. When we finally got there I took off my helmet turned to Nige and said something like ‘Who the f**** thought up this trip in this f****** country with no f******* fuel stations, f****** crap road signs and a f****** permanent gale force f****** headwind. Nige just pissed himself laughing and said No matter how bad he felt he knew I was going through worse and that thought kept him going. Grrr bloody Welsh *&^%^&^**^$£^**. 

The campsite was however brill. Sort of serene somehow and laid back and the owner she was great as well. 

Nice campsite somewhere slap bang in the middle of France 

I think it cost about 14 euros for all of us for the night. We did partake of a massive pizza each and a few cans of beer. We had arrived late, about 8.00pm. After the pizza which strangely had a half raw egg plonked in the middle of it?? It must be a French thing and downing the beers I was literally falling asleep at the table. I was utterly shattered, definitely time for bed. 

The next morning was guess what? You got it, another big day. I asked well more like begged, grovelled and pleaded with Nige to tell me there were no more mountains or headwinds. He patted me on the head in a comforting sort of way and said it was all going to be ok. I dried my eyes and packed away my tent still gibbering. Oh the previous day, was I think, in the order of 410mls pah, dead easy. 

Today we were heading for North East of Paris near Compienne and to a campsite we had visited last year at Berny Rivierre. As Nige had promised the headwind had gone and so mostly had the hills and mountains to be replaced by blisteringly hot sun. Flogged to death one day by the wind and altitude sickness, the next cooked to a frazzle. Ah well. My arse was really hurting now and so was everyone elses. This was the day that Diesel Dave bade us farewell as he was trying to get home in time for the diesel bike rally. What was it Dave about 780mls in a day……Certifiable Lunatic. The original ten had become eight then seven then six and now five of us were left. Just the hard core then, gulp. Is there an airport close by, please? 

Unfortunately.. to be continued 

Thank God for that I hear you cheer. 

Here goes.. 

I was sort of jealous of Diesel Dave as he vanished off the campsite and off up the lane. The I thought of the likely distance I would need to get home and thought better of it, Berny Riviere was going to be far enough. 

JJ's homemade toiletry bag, Ahh. Apparrently the curtains in his camper van sport the same design 

As soon as I sat on my seat I winced, this was going to be painful. Our first port of call was going to be the fuel station as we were all very low. We took the scenic route, to be honest I don’t even know if there was a non scenic route? To the nearest village and filled up. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and already it was getting hot. Thankfully the terrain did start to flatten out a bit and the headwind of yesterday had disappeared to to annoy someone else. The more we rode the hotter it got. 

JJ's sheepskin Err mount 

Again we were following the sat nav with Newt leading this time. Sat nav is good but what we found it was doing was taking us through the centre of towns and villages where sometimes there was a quicker bypass road.. This was not a real problem, it just slowed us down a bit and got us even hotter. If you were doing 40 mph + you could keep coolish, anything under this spead it started to get warm. It was this day we got pulled by the cops. Or to be perfectly honest Newt got pulled by the cops. We were travelling through one of the many towns and we all got flagged over. There were two or three cop cars and a van. Presumably for taking people away in. There was no real panic as I knew we hadn’t been going fast, maybe 30mph. But all the same it’s hassle you can doo without. I did a quick mental check of where all my documents were and waited. Newt produced his and they were thoroughly inspected. Jason was next to me dead calm like. They had a quick chat with Newt said everything was in order, thanked us, how polite, stopped the traffic for us and we were on our way again. It was only at the next stop that Jason admitted that he had left his documentation at home, oops, close call that then. We approached the city of Claremont Ferrand, home of Michelin tyres. Now at one point or another I think all of Mrs Boggers family, including Mrs B herself have worked for Michelin Tyres in Stoke on Trent. I had in my mind that for some reason Clermont Ferrand would be the French equivalent of Stoke. No. Stokes a shithole and Clermont isn’t. Nuff said really. We’d had a couple of quick stops at the side of the road, but it was quite uncomfortable due to the heat. We decided a stop in one of the towns for a bite to eat and a drink would be a good idea. We consulted the map oand picked out a couple of likely places. Trouble was when we got there there was not much going on at all and we elected to keep going. We probably kept going for another hour and a half or so. Luckily just as we were running out of patience a lovely little town came into view. We parked up in the main square and headed for the nearest café bar, which was all of twelve paces away. 

I ordered some childs portions of beer and some food. I think I could have stayed there all day, We chilled out for about an hour and a quarter then knew it was time to get going again as Berny Riviere was stll a good 4 hours hard riding away at least. 

Moi, trying to put a brave face on the fact that my arse was broken. 

Off once more dear friends into the breech. A lot of the villages you ride through seem almost, as in completely deserted. We rode through a handful where we saw no one whatsoever. Weird. One more observation of France. Nowhere is ever open, I know that’s a slight exaggeration but not by much. It really hit home to me after we had entered Spain. In Spain you would drive past a car dealership and you could tell it was open, people milling about etc. The places in France were just deserted. How do they make their money??? This was any business you would like to mention, diy shops, furniture shops etc. 

About 100mls from the campsite we stopped for fuel hopefully for the last time that day. JJ decided that he would make a break for home? Blimey it’s still a long way JJ. Anyway he had set his mind on it so off he shot. The ten were now four. We battled on and finally got to the campsite about seven o clock. The reception was closed. Bugger. The gardener/odd job man called for reinforcements on his radio. Nige then casually mentioned that he knew who was coming to open up and that the guy took great umbrage at people not speaking French. O f***. Nige kindly offered my services for booking in. Great, thanks mate. I racked my brains trying to remember phrases from my French course two years ago. Oh s*** here he comes and he don’t look too happy about opening up again. From somewhere I mustered up enough French to get us booked in without a fist fight. Phew. We were camping on the island again. Tents up double quick fashion. I cooked, for the first time some of the food I hade taken with me. Next time I go I’m taking no food, you just don’t need to. Of course we visited the bar. To help to improve our French, of course. Except the barman was a Geordie. The noise the frogs make at night is incredible. Ooh err, I mean proper frogs, ribbet type ones, not our genial hosts. Phew 

This was Friday night. Over my drink I also decided to make a blast for home the next morning. The next day, the plan had originally been to go to the armistice site and the museum and then onto Guines for the last night. I thought that with a new job start on the Monday I’d better get home on the Saturday to give me a day to recover. Yea right. It took about a week to recover!! 

The next morning I packed away leisurely and gave the Innova a final once over. Everything ok except for the engine oil. Very low again. I put in what I had left. Not enough. Nige can I pinch some oil. Put that in, still not enough. I ended up putting in some of the engine oil Nige had drained off in Spain. That’ll do me bike the power of good then. I set off. After about twelve miles it dawned on me that I was on my own and if I hit any problems, punctures, breakdowns etc there was no one there to help. I worried for about ten miles then really began to enjoy myself. The only real concern was fuel. However I needn’t have worried my full tanks got me all the way to Calais. 

So I was a day early. I wonder if there will be any problem getting on board? At the first checkpoint I explained I was early and the guy said they would sort it out at the next booth. I was with P&O but somehow manage to end up at a Sea France booth. I was told to go to the P&O office??. I could see the office the other side of the booths so I rode through dismounted and went inside. Explained what had happed and they sent me back to the P&O booths? Again I explained. I don’t think we can fit you on as the next ferry is full. I gave her a quizzical stare and said ’Have you seen the size of my bike?’ She peered over. ‘Oh’. She tapped away at the keys. Yes I can fit you on it will be £65.00. £65.00? have you seen the size of it, are you having a laugh?. By this time there was a big queue behind me and I could feel the eyes boring into the back of my head. She tapped away at the keys. Then made a protracted phone call and said £55.00. Robbing b*******. Ok I’ll take it. There was no way I was going to wait for another boat, to have the same conversation. I did learn a valuable lesson here. After you had ‘gone through’ the booths no one else checked your ticket. 

Me on me Billy at the port of Calais 

In hind sight what I could have done is gone to the wrong booth, they tell you to go to the correct one. Ignore this and just drive to the waiting lanes without paying an extra penny. I would never condone this behaviour but if it happens again, watch this space. 

After the short crossing I spent half an hour trying to find a fuel station. French syndrome with being so close to the buggers I reckon? 

I had two further fuel stops on the way home, it p***** it down and I got home at 11.30 Saturday night. Last day was 475mls and it used no oil. 

Thanks to all those who went and made it so memorable and enjoyable and thanks to Honda for making the Innova, Tourer par excellance.