Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Rochdale to Reims in the rain and then some.......

I woke at 5.00am to the sound of rain hitting the bedroom window and Jeannie quietly putting her walking  gear on in the dark at the side of the bed.

"Say hello to your Mum from me"
"I will, love you"
"Love you too, take it steady"

With that I fell fast asleep only to be woken again an hour and a half later when her ice cold feet touched me.  It's been 8 years since we scattered J's Mum's ashes but J and her brother and sister walk to the other side of the valley every year for 5.30am on the dot to pay their respects.

Well, try as I might there was just no route to Camposol near Mazarron in Spain that I could see to give me 2500KM that did not mean me riding miles out of my way. I fancied doing a Bun Burner Gold 2500KM but just could not be bothered to ride all the way to Monaco to clock up the miles. So I thought stuff it and decided on an Saddle Sore 2000KM instead.  Just as well really as it was going to turn out to be one of the toughest rides I have done in a very long time.

I was booked on the Sunday 4.25pm ferry from Dover to Calais. I have always liked chilling out for an hour and a half on the ferry after the 4 hour ride down to Dover. So at 11.00am I was all set for the off, bike packed, kit on, waiting for "Buggerlugg's" to get back from his sleep over at his mates down the road. Typical, Ben was late which meant I was now 20 minutes behind schedule. Not my best start to a two and half thousand kilometre ride.

Farwell's said, we all kissed and hugged, along with a few wet eyes,  I was off and was going to be gone until the following Monday. The M62 is still a pain with the ever growing average 50mph speed limit which seem to be getting longer every time I ride across to Leeds. Turning off to head down the A1(M) the traffic lightened up and I was doing really well pulling back a few minutes every few miles.

The Gerbing jacket felt really good but kept heating up as I increased my speed  to 70mph. A bit of fiddling with the controller and  I was set for a comfortable if not wet ride down to the Dover ferry. Then it all started to go a little pear shaped and I'd not even got out of the country. The A14 was closed!

I now knew for a fact I would miss the 4.30pm ferry for sure.  The detour took me and at least 5 miles worth of trucks and cars back towards the A1 then across A428 wrapping us round St Neots where I took the decision to fill up. Finally the detour signs fed us back through the outskirts of Cambridge and onto the M11. Riding along the M25 I suddenly noticed it was 4 degrees and my hands were starting to feel it. The heated grips had gone off, no  little red light, shit! .............." this is not happening!"  I just could not believe how quickly my hands lost all feeling. "I'm getting to old for all this malarkey" ....... I thought to myself. I reached down and turned the jacket up to compensate, mmmm nice!
As I rode down the M20 I caught sight of some deranged driver waving at me like someone possessed. As I drew level with the car I recognised the great big grin at the window. It was our very own "Deb's" waving away at me. I smiled to myself for the first time in 4 hours and gave her a return wave. Strange coincidence that, as it was her other half Steve's words that were going around and around in my head.

"You make it sound so easy" Steve had posted in respect to my "Leap of Faith SS1000" the week before.  If only I thought to myself, if only!

I eventually arrived at Dover just in time to see my ferry pulling away from the docks. I hate being late for anything and this put me in a really depressed mood as I knew the "Night Shift" through France would now be starting not only in the pouring rain but in the dark as well. This was not what I wanted in any way shape or form.

Right first things first, get out of this wet clobber. It was then that I found out I had left my top press-stud open since filling up at Cambridge and my t-shirt was a little damp to say the least. I hung my jacket over the back of a seat in the corner next to a young chap working away on his lap-top.  Now as I was planning on riding an SS2000KM I went to the bar, witness  start form in hand............

"Could you witness my ride please?"

"Oh no sorry, can't tell you where I live, no you can't have my mobile, I rent you see and I can't give out my mobile to anyone I don't know!"
"Ok no problem, that's just too complicated for me"
Wet, dejected, hungry, thirsty, I returned to my kit and smiled to myself when I saw the size of the puddle around the bottom of my jacket, whoops!

The young man was now chatting away in French to his female friend. I fell asleep with my head on the table. I woke half an hour later and got something to drink from the bar.

"Could you sign my witness form please?" I asked my French computer user.

"Yes, no problem at all, where are you going to?"

"Spain, thank you I really do appreciate it. Watch the puddle when you move"

We both laughed.

So refreshed from the nap, and watered I was all set with my witness start form signed ready for  the ride ahead, rain or no rain.

Now there is absolutely nothing worse than putting wet gear back on especially when your t-shirt is also damp. So to say I was not really in the mood to ride 2000 kilometers was at best an understatement.

"I'd be looking for the first hotel I could find mate if I were you, it's absolutely foul out there  tonight" the deck hand informed me as I struggled to loosen the tie down over the bike as it was also wet through.  I put my thick ear plugs back in, dry head-over, helmet , Gerbing plugged in, dry gloves number two on.

It  came as no surprise to see rain coming down like stair rods as the doors went down. "I must be bloody mental" I said to myself in my helmet.

It was pitch black, raining and 4 degrees centigrade. "All I need now is a start receipt" I thought aloud looking around at total darkness. A start receipt from where? Easier said than done riding out onto the Calais duel carriageway heading toward Paris in the pitch black rain.

Now not to put too fine a point on it but at that exact moment in time I was so hacked off I could have just sacked logging the ride all together. It was just the fact if I did I would have regretted it in the morning that made me look out for any form of light that indicated life! No chance, not a thing was open.

It was another 25 minutes before I came across a petrol station at 8.25pm I'd been riding for 25 minutes  but at last  I had my start receipt all tucked away in my wallet. Mileage written on the back and I was off.

It was then I spotted mistake number two, as I had planned to do a BBG2500Km I had broken that route down into 5 bite size pieces but as I was now riding straight to Camposol I realised I had not broken the route down. There in front of me was the thing I hate the most 1280 miles to my destination. Damn!

It rained and rained and rained but I will give Dianese one thing their touring suit is bullet proof and with the addition of my ex-military Gortex Socks I was bone dry and warm as toast. As I passed the services at Reims where Ben and I had turned around last year I felt somewhat better and my dark mood started to lift. It was just heading to midnight and the night shift was starting to dig in.

Now one thing I do not tend to talk about when writing my ride reports is the problem I have with my back and the excruciating pain I sometimes have to endure due to sciatica. 6 hours into the European ride I felt it for the first time. It is like having someone stick a screwdriver into the top of your right (in my case) buttock cheek and try and thread the thing through your right thigh. It is agony and with the temperature stuck at a miserable 4 degree centigrade it is no fun at all.

Time for a brew and a rest. It was just after 3.00am when I pulled into the services. I just put the side stand down lay with my head, helmet still on, onto my handlebar bag, feet on the pegs and fell asleep. 15 minutes later the cold got a hold of me and woke me from my nap. Refreshed I went indoors to the loo. Two coffee's, a sandwich and a mars bar I fell asleep again for 10 minutes. This heated kit is great but it really does make you tired.

Back on the bike.  Lyon was just ahead and for the first time since leaving Rochdale it was not raining. To be honest I didn't even notice when it stopped raining as I had been in so much discomfort for the last two hours I just concentrated on riding as comfortable as possible. Then without rhyme nor reason the pain was gone. as quickly as it had arrived it was totally gone.

Montpellier looked amazing as the sun was coming up over the river. I was due to make a detour to visit somewhere but sadly I was still not in a good place mentally and chose to slip through the morning build up of traffic as unhindered as possible.  "There will always be another trip" I thought to myself at the time.

As the sun came up Spain loomed large on the horizon. I pulled into the services just south of Montpellier and swapped my visor out, much to the amazement of a young couple who watched every move I made. Breakfast was a big mug of milky coffee and a croissant!  Within an hour I was starving again. Give me a "Full English" any morning of the week.

Now as the sun rose so did my mood and I made good progress down the Spanish coast, Figueras, Barcelona, Tarragona, then straight through the centre of Valencia. Now why does my damn sat nav do this to me every single time I plot a route around the edge of the city I end up slap bang in the centre of the sprawling city complex.

Still popping out the other side I realised there was only a couple of hundred kilometres to go before I would pass Gandia, Denia, Benidorm and on to Alicante finally an hour and a half later I pulled off of the main motorway and headed across land towards Murcia and on to my final destination by Mazarron.

The trip was testing, painful at times, wet, miserable and very lonely but it was over. I had covered 2087 kilometres, got soaked due to not fastening my top press stud. Had my heated grips pack up then unexpectedly come back on half an hour later. Forgotten to break down the ride so had to watch as over 1200 miles slowly counted down. Also the Gerbing single portable controller gave up the ghost for some un know reason.  My sciatica had given me a hard time for a good few hours and finally  I'd managed to scratch the top of my tank whilst sleeping on it but hey. "What does not kill you makes you stronger".

Spain here I am, time to enjoy a little sunshine, sadly alone it held nothing for me at all until J arrived on Friday afternoon. Still there was always the ride home to look forward to...............

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