Sunday, April 15, 2012

Shock Horror; Chrissie Comes off Bike on first Outing!

The Mother of the Bride!
Today was Chrissie's first ride since she was ten years old and, according to her father, she was a lousy pillion as she always tried to sit upright around bends! So, it was with some trepidation that we embarked upon this inaugural trip. I had though given Chrissie some homework weeks in advance to read up on hits and tips of how to be a good pillion.
Esso Lewes
The weather was cool (7-8C) but thankfully dry. We donned our gear and I encouraged Chrissie to wear a silk balaclava as this would a) keep her hair out fo the way and b) keep her face warm. The photo here had us both rolling about ! Don't forget this is the mother of the bride !
We took a route that I have travelled many times and it was great. Chrissie was immediately recognised as an excellent pillion; why? Because I could not tell that she was there; until that is she tried to dismount. We re-fuelled in Lewes and Chrissie tried a different way to get on again; it was OK but we agreed that we needed to work on this. However when we got to Robertsbridge - where we would stop for lunch, the dismounting efforts suddenly resulted in Chrissie actually falling off the bike and landing flat on her back in the car park! We were in fits of laughter which turned to slight embarrassment as we entered the pub to find that they had witnessed this spectacle and had found it most amusing!
Never mind, we had a great lunch and, but for the gathering clouds, a few spots of rain and what appeared to be an even cooler temperature, we would have continued the ride. As it was, we decided to return home as we had had a great time and no gain was to be had by getting cold and possibly wet too!

Once home I downloaded the route from my SatNav and we had done over 90 miles; and what fun it was too! We are now planning our next trip!

Post script : My GT has an Autocomm system fitted to allow me to hear my SatNav ("Emily") and also to allow me to have bike to bile communications. However, will a pillion passenger, it allowed Chrissie and I to chat away as we went. This was particularly useful in the first hour as I was able to confirm that all was well and also praise Chrissie for being a super pillion!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Spring 2012 - SW France - Day 6

I must be mad! I have said this a number of times, but each time I yield to the madness. I left Dave and Janet's at 5:30am and road solidly to Calais. I was pretty cold for the first 4 hours and what started out as a mild 10C soon dropped to 4-6C the further I sped from the mild temperature of the coastal area.
The first problem occurred as I was topping up at the Le Clerc filling station; my Garmin Sat Nav simple crashed and stopped working. I was forced to remove it from ts holder; remove the back panel and the battery and effectively do a "hard reboot". Luckily that worked and we were all OK after that.
The autoroute towards Nior and then Poitiers was dull and cool and, by the time I stopped for breakfast at 9am, I was pretty cold. However a large café creme and 2 croissants, soon started the internal heat generators. I was soon back on the GT; this time heading for Tours followed by Le Mans; which was followed by Alençon and Rouen. It was around 11:15 that I reached Rouen with the SatNav guiding me through and around a very busy city as I once again linked up with the A28 and then, finally, the A16, the final part before reaching Calais.
I headed for the nearest Carrefour and bought some cheese and ham; all tasty stuff that cannot be bought in UK. I then saw a string of fresh garlic and I thought, Yes !
I then went to Eurotunnel and just missed a shuttle so had to wait 45 minutes until the 14:50.
As usual, the journey is fast, efficient and uneventful. I only wish they had fold down chairs as the only option is to sit on the floor! Never mind, it's only 35 minutes.
Back in UK; a fill up of cheaper (!) fuel and I was home in under an hour! A great mini-holiday and I am already looking forward to the next trip! However I will not do these 575-600 miles in one day; it's simply exhausting and not nice at all. The GT takes all this in her stride and she arrived home purring as it is precisely this type of touring that the GT was made for.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Spring 2012 - SW France - Day 5

Today was a trip that everyone says is a "must"; however, having done it we can understand why it's little more than a "tick in the box". The plan; and indeed the route, was to follow the coast road south to Bordeaux and then up into the Medoc.
The classic Medoc village of Margaux

So we set off at around 9:30 and Dave mentioned that "this is not a GT road".  So, with that in mind, I set the damping setting to comfort (my bum is still a little sore!) and off we went.Well it was true to say that the road was, in places, a little like a trampoline; definitely not a GT road; however all was well and we roled into Blaye; looked for a supermarket (to buy a picnic lunch) and then continued to Bourg. There we stopped at the local Carrefour supermarket where Janet and I went in and bought a large bread; some goats cheeses; salami; cucumber and tomatoes; not forgetting Bayonne ham! Now that we were stocked up for a picnic we continued and hit the (ghastly) Bordeaux "Rocade" (ring road). We had to stay on this road for perhaps ten minutes; but it was horrible; a huge volume of ricks and cars; all travelling at 65-75 mph, but bumper to bumper. We exited as soon as the Sat Nav "spoke" and I looked forward to the trip through the "fairy tale" Medoc villages where some of the most coveted wines of the world are born.
Unfortunately my fairy tale was soon shattered by dense traffic; multiple roundabouts and commercial buildings. However, we did finally emerge from this and signs showed the infamous village of Margaux ahead. around us was a sea of vines; but they were seemingly totally devoid of life and grey in colour. This gave a somewhat macabre feeling to the place; almost lifeless. We tried to find Château Margaux but failed miserably; ending up at the plush golf course instead!
Our plans for a picnic were not as we had thought or hoped; but 1pm we were coming through St Estèphe  and Janet a couple of benches by the church. So that's where we stopped; outside the church. The picnic was great and very tasty. From here we routed directly to Lesparre-Medoc and from there directly to Le Verdon sur Mer. Here we took the ferry across to Royan; the bikes travelled as "horses" for around €10 and the passengers we just over €3. Twenty minutes later and we were in Royan; a plush and fancy seaside town; famous for the Cockleshell Heroes in WWII.
We had a drink at a local café; ripped off paying over €3 for a coke or a coffee; but hey, this is Royan even though it's off season!
We then took the coast road back to St Fort sur Gironde; arriving at around 4:45pm. Just enough time for Dave and Janet to relax in the garden in the sun; nice.
Tomorrow I will ride back to UK. I have had a fabulous time and, as ever, I am grateful to Dave and Janet for their kindness and hospitality. We had a great time and already we are discussing when we can do some more?!!!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Spring 2012 - SW France - Day 4

Sunday 25th. The clocks went forward 1hr last night but we were away by around 8:50. We headed SW on delightful roads following the Dordogne. However due to a SatNav error Emily then tried to route us via the autoroute. So Dave set a route to Sarlat which took us through very small tracks / C roads. Eventually we hit the D60 and we arrived in Sarlat. It's still lovely; clearly very touristy but, apart from a group of Honda Pan riders, it was fairly clear. We walked into the centre, had a coffee and I visited the cathedral where Sunday Mass was taking place. The road from Sarlat to Les Eyzies and then towards Perigeux was fantastic. Not fantastic for sports riders but for the GT it was perfect; 60-80 mph with great sweepers with closer curves to keep you on your toes; and all around great scenery. Lunch in Brantôme was very welcome and really delicious; the Ceasar salad was one of the best I've had. From Brantôme it was directly back to Dave and Janet's (just under 2 hours) with a stop for petrol in Jonzac. I was impressed that, again I was averaging just over 50 mpg. Back in St Fort sur Gironde at 4:30 and all is well. Fabulous weather!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Spring 2012 - SW France - Day 3

I was up early this morning; the traders in the market were setting up their stalls at around 5:45 and there was much activity. I decided to work on today's route which was fairly complex following the Dordogne gorges. Dave had originally decided that we'd leave at 9am but called to suggest 8:30 instead. I was ready!
We headed east along an excellent D road towards Argentat and once again we were smiling as this was a terrific biking road; smooth; quick and with lovely long sweeping bends. Definitely GT terrain. At Argentat we re-fuelled and then set of for the gorges; initially heading north and then zig-zagging as the roads snaked its way up into the hills. The views started to open out and there were some spectacular bridges and dams. It was now more GS than GT terrain and we were rarely out of 3rd gear with quite variable road surfaces. By 11am, Dave was becoming a little agitated; why? Because he had declined breakfast and was now seriously hungry. My bum was getting sore so we stopped; had a stretch and decided that we would stop at the next town. Little did we know than a few hundred metres up the road was the village of Chalvignac where there was a delightful "Bar-Tabac". We parked up and went inside. Did they have any food? Well not really but would some cheese in a baguette do ? It was Cantal cheese (of the region) and this served as lunch ! It was an extraordinary place with local workers having a drop of wine and the owners dogs and cat wandering around the customers. From here we continued our route and now started to head south; this time on better, faster and more "GT" style roads towards Mauriac. Dave had mentioned that he was concerned that his bike was making a rumbling sound; so we swapped bikes to test this out. This also had the benefit of my Dave and Janet being able to try out the pillion intercom capabilities of my set up. This will be important when Chrissie comes because we will be able to communicate. I will need to buy the kit to for her helmet though (post script; already purchased !)
The road from Mauriac back to Argentat was fantastic; beautiful rolling countryside with fast (60+) sweepers that bring a smile to your face each time you swing from right to left as you negotiate the road.
Our hotel, the Sablier du Temps was again booked up last night using and it's great. I am sitting outside in the garden; it's 22C, clear blue sky and free wi-fi; what more can a man ask for ?! Dave and Janet have gone off into town to see "what's what".
Tomorrow? Well; we're really not sure. One thing's for sure; I am rather hungry !

Friday, March 23, 2012

Spring 2012 - SW France - Day 2

The sun was shining and the day looked promising as we headed off from St Fort sur Gironde. We had checked our radios and were able to communicate between the bikes. Dave took the lead and we headed for Brantôme - a beautiful town on the banks of the river Dronne. 

Here we stopped and enjoyed a walk through the market where the site of beautiful vegetables; wonderful cheeses and fish, meat and poultry were simply a feat for the eyes!

The riding was lovely; some roads not as memorable as others but, by and large our GTs were in their element. We had filled up with petrol first thing and, in stark contrast to yesterday's 33mpg I was now achieving just over 50 mpg; that's not hanging about but it is keeping under 80 mph.
After Brantôme, we headed for Jumilhac le Grand where we stopped at 1pm and had a decent "menu du jour" of steak and chips + starter and desert for €12.

We continued as far as Brive and a decent hotel (Le Chapon Fin) in the centre of the town. However, at 6pm we started to look for somewhere to eat. We walked and we walked and we walked; retracing our steps as we sought to explore each of the roads which radiated off from the centre. We eventually stopped and thought that we would eat here "whatever". We ordered a caraf of rosé and the meal was quite decent.
My room was on the second floor and I was told that it was market day tomorrow, Saturday, so people would arrive early in the square.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spring 2012 - SW France - Day 1

04:30. Left the house. Dry and 5C. The white beam of the GT easily lighting up the dark road before the A26. The run to Folkestone was easy and I arrived at 5:25; just in time to be offered the 05:50 instead of the 06:20; nice; just how I like it. Waiting for the off now and then I'll have my breakfast; sandwiches. Next stop is Rouen (2 hrs from Calais).

Arrived in Rouen after just 1 Hr 45 mins; GT running well and did not want to travel at 130kph; so I left her off the leash :-)

By 11:40am I was in Tours; still bright warm and sunny; and by 1pm I was just north of Poitiers. The GT had been cruising at around 170-180 kph very comfortably and, by 2:30pm I rolled up at Dave and Janet's house in St Fort sur Gironde.
Here is the route; average 70 mph from Calais (but that includes all stops!! ;-) )