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Old September 11th, 2013   #11
DickPeake
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Default Re: New to Europe 2013

Saturday 7th September 2013 continued.

Lunch over and it is another 160 miles to the hotel in Troyes. I know Peter can only do 140 miles per tank. I also know that we will fill up in another 10 miles or so but then there are no petrol stations along our route until we get to Troyes. Therefore, Peter will run out of fuel, but he doesn’t know that, and I’m not going to worry him. As we fill up, I set my trip so that I know how many miles Peter has actually done and thus how much fuel he has left. I ask him to let me know, by pulling alongside and tapping his fuel tank, if he ever has to switch onto reserve.

Just a thought, but you guys who knock out 250 miles in just a few hours need to understand that 260 miles cross country through France really does take all day. OK, I can do it on the ST, on my own, in one hit, with a reasonably high average speed, and I am match fit. The guys with me are not match fit and cannot keep up the concentration levels for more than 90 minutes at a time so, for safety’s sake, I keep an eye on the way they are riding and plan in regular stops for leg stretches and rest.

From Cambrai, we are heading down to Saint Quentin, Soissons, Château-Thierry, Montmirail, Sézanne, then into Troyes for the night. The roads are a mixture of main roads, back roads, and some swoopy roads taking us through lots of small sleepy villages and several towns. It is on the first stint of this leg that Peter really starts to have problems.

After the fuel stop we set off again with Ian, Steve and Mark alternating their positions and taking turns to ride behind me, I think that they are observing how I ride and are trying to learn about road positioning and traffic management. Peter stayed at the back in front of Mark. I stick to all speed limits but as the speed limits rise after towns and villages I accelerate reasonably briskly up to the relevant speed. It soon becomes obvious in my mirrors that Peter doesn’t do this. It seems to catch him by surprise every single time. We stop at traffic lights. By looking across at other lights, it is easy to anticipate your lights changing to green and be ready to select gear and go. Again Peter doesn’t do this and gets caught by surprise each time. As a result, he loses a lot of time and progress and we have to back off to let him catch up, really hurting our already modest average speed. It seems that he does not actually think about his riding and appears to have zero anticipation of what is likely to happen next. This is not good. Anyway, I press on as best we can and I put in the occasional overtake as we catch up slower moving cars and trucks. Most of the group overtake promptly and safely but again, I observe Peter taking an age to make the overtaking decision even though the road ahead is empty. Mark just has to watch and usher him along. After an hour or so, it is clear that Peter’s riding is now too erratic and at a convenient set of red traffic lights I motion him alongside. He tells me that he needs to stop as he is very tired. I can see from his face that this is true and he actually seems a little stressed. As soon as the lights change I pull through them and turn into a shady car parking area and everybody dismounts, rehydrates and stretches legs.

So far today, we have managed all of 120 miles, in 4 hours, with a long coffee stop, a couple of leg stretch stops and a lunch stop! I leave Peter to calm down while I have a private chat with Mark. He confirms that Peter’s riding is erratic, speed varying noticeably for no reason and so on. Then he tells me that Peter very nearly had a major accident a few miles back and that is why Peter is now a little stressed. Us front runners had overtaken a short line of slower cars along a very straight and very empty stretch of road. We remained within the speed limits while doing so. Peter did not overtake but Mark behind him could see no reason why - he just slowed down and stayed behind the cars for a while. Then he decided to overtake after all and began to move out. Mark was horrified because he could clearly see a car coming the other way and could not understand why Peter kept moving out onto the other side of the road. The car driver must have also been very surprised to see a motorcycle, headlight on, coming straight at him. Mark tells me that the driver began flashing his headlights and moved as far as he could to the edge of the road and it was only at that point that Peter seemed to become aware of the very imminent full frontal collision but, as he was now alongside the cars he was overtaking, there was nowhere for him to go. Mark had already braked and put a lot of distance between him and the forthcoming crash. In the event, it was the car driver who managed to get out of the way and disaster was averted. Peter completed his badly executed overtake and it was shortly after this, although I did not know about the near miss, that I pulled him over for a compulsory rest stop. Mark and I decide that Peter needs to ride immediately behind me so that I am fully aware of his condition at all times. Mark briefs all 4 newbies on which position in the chain they are to ride from now on and off we set again. I have asked Peter to make sure that at all times he is positioned so that I can see him in my right mirror.

This seems to do the trick and Peter glues himself into position. However he still fails to see or anticipate speed limits both when they start and when they end. At junctions and roundabouts, as I’m coming up to them I am always looking to see if I can continue on through without significant speed change. Many of these obstacles have a really wide and clear approach to them and the presence or absence of other traffic is really easy to determine. Time and time again, I just sweep through the junction or roundabout because there is zero traffic around but Peter? No, he stops every single time, often even though he has the right of way. Everybody else than has to stop behind him and wait for him to decide that it is OK to continue, all of them puzzled by this. Up to this point, the other newbies had been in front of Peter so they weren’t aware of his erratic style. I explain that Peter is not feeling well and is very tired and that, come what may we, as a group, must support and protect him and, no matter how long it takes, get him safely to the hotel in Troyes.

And that’s how it went, with frequent stops and Peter plodding along behind me, seemingly much more settled. There is a particular rest spot that Mark and I know in a very pleasant area after a long series of swoopy bends on excellent road surface (see picture 1). We pull in there and the guys talk excitedly about the ride, reliving the heroics of their bend swinging, achieved by hanging back from me and Peter to give them a go at some higher speeds - although I gather from Mark following them that their knees and elbows got nowhere near the road! They all take photos and we discover that Neil has got a box of homemade flapjack which proves to be delicious and just what the doctor ordered. Also, a man has gotta do what a man has gotta do (see picture 2)!

Now I have Peter’s upcoming fuel problem to deal with. We set off on the final leg with Peter being much more settled in his now customary position in my right mirror. At 25 miles to go, it’s 7.00 pm, getting a little dark and I get the ‘tap on the tank’ signal. I smile at him, put the thumbs up reassuringly, and carry on. I tick off 10 miles and then, reckoning he must be running on fumes by now, I pull the group into a small parking area. I get Peter to park next to me and tell him that I have over half a tank left and that therefore I have plenty of fuel so would he like some of it? The relief on his face was priceless. He really thought that he would be left at the roadside at some point, perhaps with one of the group, while the rest of us rode off to find a can of petrol and bring it back to him! Of course, I have a length of petrol tube and a couple of bottles as Peter is not the first person on my tours to run out of fuel! He isn’t too clear on the principle of siphoning and is completely unable to get it going! After a lot of coughing and spluttering, he gives up. With the assistance of Steve, I start the siphon with only the merest hint of fumes coming into my mouth. I put 1.5 litres into Peter’s tank which is more than enough to get him to the petrol station on the outskirts of Troyes.

The rest of the journey is uneventful, on wide main roads. We refuel and make our way to the hotel which is right in the centre of Troyes, a beautiful medieval city. The bikes are rapidly secured into the enclosed rear car park and I get them all into the hotel, rooms allocated but it is now 8.30 pm. This is the latest I have ever arrived in Troyes so I tell them that they have 15 minutes to be back down in Reception, ready to walk! There are no grumbles and all assemble very promptly. Amazing how quickly a hungry man can unpack and get changed!

Next episode: Food, beer and fun!

Picture 1, left to right: Steve, Neil, Ian, me and Peter.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg 2013-09-07 18.25.23.jpg (141.1 KB, 60 views)
File Type: jpg OMC France 3.jpg (132.0 KB, 59 views)
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Last edited by DickPeake; September 16th, 2013 at 08:09 AM.
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Old September 12th, 2013   #12
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Default Re: New to Europe 2013

Food beer and fun - the Troyes experience:
We walk out of the hotel, cross the Boulevard du 14 Juillet, nip down Rue Louis Ulbach (which has several bars in it - see later) and in less than10 minutes are in the old town. The newbies have never seen anything like this. There are restaurants everywhere and the buildings are fantastic. I’ll just post a load of photos of Troyes by day and night at the end of this episode.

Mark needs to get some Euro’s so heads off to find a cash point. He shouts across that he’ll come and find us. I know that this is code for “I know where you’ll be, I’ll see you there shortly.”

The newbies ask where we are eating. I say “Wherever you like – pick a restaurant that you like the look of.” They ask if I can recommend one. I say “I’ve eaten in virtually all of them and they are all good, just pick one.”
Apparently this isn’t helping them, so we wander on up the medieval streets with them peering at menus on the outside and peering through the windows at the customers inside. Eventually we arrive outside a particular restaurant which is constructed from oak beams everywhere, with tables outside under parasols and plenty of customers inside as well.
“This looks like a nice one” I say innocently. Within seconds they have decided that this is therefore the one for them! In double quick time they have joined 3 tables together outside to give a table for 6 and sat down.

Now, I have eaten in this restaurant many times and, unlike my newbies, I know that one of the waiters and the lady owner both speak excellent English. I also know that it is courteous and prudent to start the conversation in French or at least, to say hello in French. If one makes this effort, the owner and this waiter will quickly swop into English to help out.
In fact, by coincidence, it is the English speaking waiter who comes outside to see us. I greet him in my best French, ask after his well-being, tell him we will be eating, check what beers he has and then order 2 large glasses each of Leffe, Pelforth and Stella Artois.
He knows I am English from my accent but we conduct the entire conversation in French. I’ve done my bit now but the guys don’t really know what was going on. I tell them the beer and menu’s are on their way.
He duly comes with the beer and a basket of French bread to tide us over. He hands us a menu each. The newbies peer at their menus for a moment or two before realising they are in English. I know the menus have been correctly translated and the descriptions therein can be relied upon.
However, I caution them against selecting the Andouillette de Troyes as Mark and I will have to leave the table if they do. This is a sausage and a local delicacy. However, this is what it is:
The traditional Troyes andouillette is made out from pork large intestines and stomachs - carefully selected. The original recipe dates back to the Middle Ages according to the Champagne legends. The distinctive taste of the andouillette results from cutting the chitterlings lengthwise first, and seasoning these thin stripes with onions, herbs, salt and black pepper. The next step is to wrap the mixture with pork bowels and slowly cook these typical French sausages in a court-bouillon stock for 5 hours.

I’ve seen them, and they are absolutely disgusting. I would rather chew off my own arm than eat pig guts! Judging from the looks on everyone else’s face I judge that I am safe from the dreaded andouillette!

The owner arrives and “Bonsoirs” everyone. I reply correctly but hear muttered Hi’s and Hello’s from around the table. I think it was Neil who managed Bonsoir back again. It’s enough, honour upheld, and Madame switches to near perfect English. Again, palpable relief sweeps around the table! A selection of starters and main courses are ordered and another round of drinks.

We have a great time – the food is excellent and the location superb and historic. Peter seems much more relaxed and happy but, around 10.00 pm, again takes his early leave of us to go back to the hotel. I walk a few steps with him and ask if he knows the way back to the hotel. Although he says yes, I ask him to tell me the way. He recites his route correctly and I bid him goodnight. He is clearly very tired.

The golden rule about riding in a group is that everyone reports to Tail End Charlie if they have a problem or want to stop or temporarily leave the group for some reason or other. About 15 minutes later Mark receives a text message and just bursts out laughing. It is a plaintive little message from Peter to say that he has made it back to the hotel and is now safely in bed and he thought he ought to let Tail End Charlie know!

We can’t help ourselves – we laugh until we are crying and our stomachs hurt! I think it is just the tension and relief coming out at the end of a long and demanding day when everyone has arrived safely after coping with their first experience of motorcycling in Johnny Foreignerland.

We leave the restaurant around 10.30 pm and start a slow wander back towards the hotel. However, we have to navigate the Rue Louis Ulbach and its bars first. We fail, and Neil walks into one of them. The group follows him. Having already had a couple of large French beers, apparently they have learned to speak French so they order another round of large beers. They think they are speaking French. I hear Franglais, and see sign language but it works and the beers arrive. I sip mine and wait for the rest of them to absorb the fact that the lights in this bar are pink and the clientele are a certain kind of man. The condom machine on the bar wall is a clue. I have been in this bar a number of times before under similar circumstances so it is just a matter of time. The eventual reaction of my companions is always interesting to watch. I am actually chatting to one of the customers who is practicing his English on me when I see, over his shoulder, the first glimmerings of comprehension. This could go either way, to coin a phrase. They all looked round the room, checking the décor and the clientele, then burst out laughing. They did not hurry their pints down and run out so they got full marks!

After an appropriate and courteous period of chatting to the locals, nearly all of whom spoke at least a little English, and finishing off our drinks we said our au revoirs and moved along the street to another bar.

This one was much more macho, with Lynyrd Skynyrd and ACDC blasting out. The guys are now completely fluent in the ordering of French beer, if nothing else, so the beer flowed freely until midnight and a little voice in our heads said it was probably best to get our inebriated carcasses back to our beds.

As soon as we were all tucked up in our various rooms, a series of text messages started, as we all reported to Mark, a la Peter, that we were safely in bed! Neil reported that he had got lost in the elevator but had found a small cupboard where he was rocking himself to sleep in a dark corner.

Anyone out in the corridor would have heard howls of laughter coming from 5 rooms! A disgraceful way for 5 grown, mature men to behave. I must have a severe word with myself in the morning!
Bonne nuit.
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Old September 12th, 2013   #13
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Default Re: New to Europe 2013

Bonjour mon Amis, j"spere que tous va bien ?

I just want to compliment you on a wonderful ride report not only the pictures but you bring the characters to life and that's what makes it so interesting, well done and continue to feed the details.
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Old September 12th, 2013   #14
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Default Re: New to Europe 2013

Excellent report
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Old September 12th, 2013   #15
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Default Re: New to Europe 2013

Fantastique report Dick, we also had our own Peter in my old riding gang, always a blast to remember his occurences.

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Old September 13th, 2013   #16
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Default Re: New to Europe 2013

Sunday 8th September 2013
Homeward bound

Everyone turned up for breakfast at 8.15 am, bright eyed and bushy tailed, against expectations. Peter reported that he’d had an excellent and long nights sleep and was very chipper. Ian had been up much earlier and walked into the town to take photographs in the daylight.

I had said the previous evening that I wanted wheels rolling at 9.00 am sharp as we had the return 260 miles back up to the Eurotunnel in Calais to catch the 17:35 Chunnel. Privately, based on yesterday’s performance, I was pessimistic of making it. However, Eurotunnel accept that journeys can go awry and so long as you arrive no later than 2 hours after your scheduled time, they will put you on the next available train with no extra charge.

To a certain extent, I intend to change the route back a little to take in the medieval hill top town of Laon, always worth a visit if at all possible. It all depends upon our average speed for the day. We are off promptly at 9 am. Peter is still concerned about getting fuel later because he has been told that French fuel stations are closed on Sundays. He is right, they mostly are. However, in previous years, we would pull up at a 24/7 unattended petrol station which, at that time, would only recognise certain French payment cards and wait for a French driver to turn up. Then we would ask the driver to fill our various bikes up and pay him in cash. It always worked and still does if needed. Now, more and more petrol stations take foreign bank cards so the problem is receding fast and I know where those stations are, so Peter need not worry.
It is dry and and Peter is a different rider today. We are making much better progress, so I divert to Laon. This is a fascinating town, stuck up on a hill in the middle of a big plain, and clearly visible from a long way off. There is a very nice restaurant/café in the cobbled square in the ‘centre ville’. I have been there when they have had car and motorcycle racing/rallying going through with the cars and bikes racing around the cobbled streets checking in at various waypoints. Last year there was a classic car rally in the square.

This year there is a market with food and craft stalls and nowhere obvious for us to park. Of course, I know just where we can sneak our bikes into a little area just round the corner and walk back to the café and market. I have done it before, many times.

The coffee is excellent, properly French. A couple of the guys order a second cup, needing the caffeine! Some of them wander off for a while taking photographs and absorbing the atmosphere. However, we can only afford 45 minutes so I call them all together and we set off again.

We make excellent progress although I can see we cannot make our scheduled train. However, it seems likely that we will only be perhaps an hour late so it is not a problem. Our route takes us from Laon, up to Saint Quentin again, thence to Péronne, Baupaume, Arras, Ardres and finally Calais. Of course, back in England we have another 130 miles of motorway to get home so this is actually a 400 mile day.

We get to the Chunnel just 30 minutes late. It is very congested though, as there is a large volume of traffic heading back to the UK at the end of the schools summer holiday period. It takes a good 30 minutes to progress through check-in and passport control but then we are directed straight onto the waiting train.

Once back in England, we arranged to ride together as far as Maidstone Service Area on the M20 again where we will have coffee, a bite to eat then say our goodbye’s. Neil, Ian and Steve elect to ride back up the motorways with me. Peter elects to travel alone as he has to take a slightly different route to us. Mark ditto. I am happy for the guys to follow me but, having delivered them all safely back to England, I am no longer acting as the group leader, and I will therefore be, ahem … making progress on the way home. Devil take the hindmost!

We set off and I am round the roundabout, using quite a lot of the cornering ability of the Pan for once, down the slip road to the M20 and away rapidly. I check my mirrors and the only rider to survive my progress is Neil on his BMW GS1200. He positions himself in my left mirror (we are back on the left side of the road now) and we zip home pretty fast. I never see Ian again although I discovered that he lives in the next village to me. Steve lives near Neil about 20 miles away from me and, in the last 10 miles or so, he catches up with us. I wave at them and pull off the motorway and am home about 15 minutes later.
And so ends another Euro trip. Over the years I have had to deal with one accident and one breakdown. That’s a pretty good track record considering the number of miles and riders that I have been responsible for.

That’s probably it until next year. I’ll keep doing this whilst I still can!
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2003 Honda ST1300ABS - sold
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2014 Honda CTX1300 TCS/ABS

Last edited by DickPeake; September 16th, 2013 at 08:12 AM.
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Old September 13th, 2013   #17
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Default Re: New to Europe 2013

Dick, that was just excellent. I appreciate you taking the time to type that all out and share with us. I applaud you for your patience with Peter. It shows a remarkable ability to deal with the different personalities involved in such a ride.

The number of miles you cover in a day is not a number that should matter to a seasoned motorcyclist all the time. If you are not doing an IBA ride, or actually trying to reach a personal mileage milestone, then the number is not important. When I am on vacation and sightseeing, I never cover a lot of miles in a day. I cannot see the sights and enjoy the scenery while setting mileage records.

I applaud you for using enough discipline to maintain safety and harmony but not so much that you take all the fun out of the ride. That is a delicate balance.

You can admit the truth. We all know it in our own hearts. If there had not been any witnesses you would have stayed in the bar with the pink lights for a few more rounds.
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Old September 13th, 2013   #18
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Default Re: New to Europe 2013

Thanks for the report. I'm still trying to figure out a way to get back over there, with a reliable bike. You never know...
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Old September 16th, 2013   #19
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Default Re: New to Europe 2013

Dick,

Would love to come over for one of your rides some day. I can just see what you are doing from your description.

We had some friends do a led ride in Austria & Germany a couple years ago. They said the leader just blasted down the roads, lane splitting, passing aggresively etc. Then when they got to the restaurants he was rude. They felt bad thinking it was reflecting bad on cyclists and Americans.
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Old September 17th, 2013   #20
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Default Re: New to Europe 2013

Quote:
Originally Posted by Iamike View Post
Dick,

Would love to come over for one of your rides some day. I can just see what you are doing from your description.

We had some friends do a led ride in Austria & Germany a couple years ago. They said the leader just blasted down the roads, lane splitting, passing aggresively etc. Then when they got to the restaurants he was rude. They felt bad thinking it was reflecting bad on cyclists and Americans.
That's not a good way to behave, even more so when you are a visitor to someone else's country! Yes, when I am with an experienced group, mostly friends, in Europe, there are times and places for a bit of a blast and continental drivers are almost always very bike aware and do their utmost to move out of your way and let you past safely. And, unless you want spit in your food, it is very unwise to be rude to restaurant staff no matter which country you are in!

Here is a lovely little song that sums it up (I have the CD):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aw6SWaa1x5c

My main Euro trip next year is pencilled in for Friday 13th June to Monday 23rd June. I will definitely be visiting friends in Switzerland on 19th - 20th but the route to and from there will gradually come together over the next few months as we decide what the mix of familiar roads and places and new ones will be.

There are bike rental companies in the UK:

http://www.superbikerental.co.uk

http://www.openroadrentals.co.uk

http://www.motorcyclehireuk.com/Hire...-European.html
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