As I pulled into the over-spill car park at the back of the motorway services I noticed the old grandma sat on the high level paving stone used to enclose truck car parks in Spain. Her feet were barley touching the tarmac.
Top centre I spotted what I was looking for, the loo!
Dismounting the leg strap slapped me for the last time. Looking around “Trackie man” was watching every move I made whilst “Mobile man” started walking around to my left.
The three black Fiat cars parked in a line had strange registration plates, they weren’t Spanish that’s for sure. Without even thinking I took my Leatherman, opened a blade and sliced the offending strap cleanly off. “Trackie man” had moved to the boot of the car still watching my every move.
I was shocked how easily the blade sliced through the 1 inch wide Cordura strap. I walked around Mr T and did te same to the other leg strap in clear view of “Mobile man” wearing a grey hoodie with an oversized leather bomber jacket on top, 19 degrees centigrade. I knew he had seen the blade because he veered away towards where the grandma sat. She was busy watching a group of children playing in the picnic area. He just seemed to vanish.
“Trackie Man” however was still looking over, I put the Leatherman in my pocket . It was no good I needed the loo, removing the key from the ignition, something I forget to do every now and again, I headed to the loo disposing of the severed straps as I passed the bin.
There was something very uneasy about this whole situation but my bladder was full and I didn’t really give a damn, I needed the loo, now!
Quickly finishing my business I walked back outside still zipping up, “Trackie Man” stopped dead in his tracks halfway across the car park heading towards my bike. His black nylon tracksuit bottoms reflected the sun as he turned around. His red and white Slazenger top flapped in the light breeze as he walked back to the group of people at the front of the cars. Three “thugs” standing chatting with what looked like 5 or 6 scantily clad women. Still no “Mobile Man”.
“What the hell is going on here” I thought to myself as I took a swig of diet cola and got my sandwiches out of the top box.
It all became clear as I ate my lunch and watched what was happening just 100 foot away. A truck pulled into the truck car park section of the services on the far side of the parked cars. Two of the women escorted by a “thug” walked over to the cab. Moments later only the “thug” and one of the women returned!
It was 4.15pm on a Saturday afternoon in broad daylight at the back of a Spanish service station not 50 miles from Barcelona. I’d just parked up for lunch in the middle of an open air “Knocking Shop”.
I've never eaten a sandwich and scarpered so quick in my entire life!
Riding down the A1 I feel so at ease, its just gone 10.45 there’s no traffic to speak of and Mr T is running superbly. It felt odd setting of at 9.00am on a Thursday morning, I always set off at midnight. It’s just one of my “quirks” still it put me in Folkestone 15 minutes before I was due to load onto the Channel Tunnel Crossing. I nipped into the A1 Services and bought a KFC ready for my late lunch on the train then rushed over and filled Mr T up for the first time since leaving Rochdale. 300 miles on a tank with fuel to spare, I’m happy with that.
Bye Bye Dover, at last!
Loading turned into a bit of a farce as some chaps old Rolls Royce decided to dump the entire contents of its petrol tank in the carriage as soon as he stopped. The carriage then sealed itself and filled with foam, or so we were all told by the assistant who drove up to chaperone us all onto the next train 50 minutes later. What a great start to a 1200 mile trip through France into Spain.
Having eaten my cold KFC I took 20 minutes to get my head down and try and sleep. Not easy sat on the floor at the side of your bike but it’s a practiced manoeuvre now.
Heading out of Calais I turned onto the A16 towards Abbeville. I soon got into my “steady away” riding mode. Annoyingly Mrs Garmin 660 had other ideas and decided I was to come off at the next junction! It took me cross country for about 55 miles then promptly died! I don’t mean switch off and back on again, ho no that would have been way too simple, I mean “Ping Off”. My stomach churned, I could have cried. Why I have no idea, I wasn't frightened or upset. It was one of those stomach churning moment where everything you rely on just lets you down. I thought of calling Jeannie but what could she have done other than calm me down. I had 1200 miles to ride and here I was a matter of 130 miles out of Calais in the North West corner of France, alone and gutted.
Out came the maps and as luck would have it the N29 heading from Amiens to Rouen was only a matter of miles away. Back on a motorway I felt instantly “safe and at home”. What is that all about?
The N28 took me straight into Rouen centre. “You’re kidding me!” Bollards straight across the entrance of the N138 the main route to Le Mans. No detour, no diversion, no nothing.
“I think France hates me” I began to think to myself as I pulled over and took the Garmin out of the mount and removed both the cover and the battery. Re fitting the battery and cover I tried to switch the unit back on. “Yes, we have lift off” the Garmin 660 sprang back to life. Sadly it chose not to re-route but stubbornly insist I “turn right, then turn right”. Looking around I spotted a sign for Orleans which I knew was South of Paris and just followed my nose. The route ran through Louviers, Dreux, Chartres, Chateaudun and curved back to join the A10 motorway at Tours.
Back on familiar turf I headed due South past Bordeaux and on towards the Spanish border crossing at San Sebastian. 50 miles short of the border I felt the dreaded fatigue kicking in, it was 4.30am. Having already had two fuel stops en route it was blatantly obvious that I needed a nap but it was 1 degree C. I pulled into one of the French Rest stops that appear all the way along their incredible motorway infrastructure. No petrol station but clean toilet and washing facilities and very tidy parking bays.
Pulling into a corner slot, separate to the trucks and among fellow car travellers I dismounted and got my sleeping bag out. Stuffing a liner inside the bag first of all and laying my fleece blanket longside my bike I got in and snuggled up to the warn engine. Within 35 minutes I was on my way again shivering uncontrollably until the heat from my electric jacket took hold, stopping the spasms in my back.
Arriving at the boarder the temperature sat at an unbelievable -2 degrees C. It was colder in Spain than back in England. The crossing is now totally open and within minutes I was climbing up into the mountains towards Bilbao but heading South well before reaching it.
"Bilbao in the Snowa"
I could not believe my eyes as I rode on a clear ribbon of black which cut through a foot and a half of snow! The temperature stubbornly remained -2 degrees C for the next 3 hours.
Next stop Madrid! Filling up at about 9.00am I tried to call Jeannie to say I was going to be 4 hours late due to having had a tough time of things. No reply! I sent a text. Then called Colin, no reply! I was starting to get wound up. There’s only one thing I hate more than being lost and that’s not getting a reply on a mobile number.
Guess where I was heading?
Now up until now the only time I had shown the Garmin any attention was just North of Madrid. The sun came out rendering the screen totally useless but at least the temperature soared to a sweltering 8 degrees C. for about 30 minutes. I planned on following the E5 motorway all the way down to Manzanares then cutting East towards Murcia then on to my destination at San Miguel de Salinas. Mrs Garmin 660 had other ideas and took me East towards Alicante along the E901. Result!
It turns out the E901 is a peach of a road only spoiled by one unbelievable issue. A foot of snow either side making filling up in slush covered forecourts an absolute night mare. 50 miles shy of the Mediterranean coast I pulled over and took my first photo ever of a Spanish Villa set in a winter wonderland.
Not something you see everyday
Arriving at Eagles Nest, an urbanisation on the edge of San Miguel de Salinas, mid-afternoon I pulled up in front of Cheers Bar. After moving a few bits and pieces around on my bike, I went into the bar.
The Eagle as Landed
“Could I have a hot chocolate please” stood there in my winter riding attire, stripping off all three neck tubes as I spoke.
Everyone and I mean everyone, in the bar stopped talking and looked at me as they sat around sipping ice cold beers in the shorts and T-shirts in the sweltering 19 degrees C. Sheer madness!
Well cutting to the chase the night was spent chatting to a very nice couple who were kind enough to offer me a coffee. Evening meal consisted of Rump Steak and Brat Kartoffel in the local German Bar followed by a Brandy night cap back in Cheers Bar.
I have never slept so well in a strange bed in many a year but my word, was it cold.
With my business attended to, I was invited round for coffee and toast by George & Margaret. They had been very kind and allowed me to park Mr T on their gated drive over night which helped me sleep even better. Many thanks to you both for your wonderful hospitality.
A wonderful couple George & Margaret
Getting ready for the ride home Saturday morning felt very strange
as I put everything back on, thermals, extra T shirt, heated jacket and three neck tubes. Which works very well indeed I’ll have you know. It was 20 degree C and George must have thought I had lost the plot but I knew what was coming!
Filling up just outside San Miguel de Salinas meant I was all set up for a two stop boarder ride. The route home is very simple just follow the East. As luck would have it I chose to ignore the now active Mrs Garmin 6600 and chose to follow the CV10 which I presume is the old road, as I didn’t incur any toll charges all the way to Barcelona.
Riding North with the sea to my right and the snow-capped mountains to my left I took everything in, the sun on my back the sea breeze in my face, it was amazing. It was a glorious 18 degrees C. all the way up past Alicante, around Valencia and on Northward towards Barcelona.
Before I knew it I was filling up just 50 miles South of Barcelona. Pulling into the overflow car park for a late lunch due to not setting off until 11.30am, a full 2 hours later than I’d planned. My first fuel & lunch stop was a little rushed for reasons previously described but this just added to the excitement of the journey.
Blue Sky's Straight Ahead
The French boarder came and went without incident, the roads were void of any sign of snow. How very different to the previous day. Riding around Montpellier for a change I was surprised as to how much time it saved me. Lyon was nice a quiet for a Saturday evening, as the motorway takes you straight though the city centre. (Now here is a tip as you go through the city, keep alongside the wall with the river too you right, just as the road climbs get in the left lane as that’s the one that takes you through the tunnel with the least amount of hassle. If you get stuck in the right lane you’ll be forced to go over the bridge and around the city centre round about! Just a tip if ever you find yourself riding through Lyon).
Dijon drifted by as smoothly as the day turned to night. I was in a travellers trance, never missing a thing. However France had one final parting gift up its sleeve for me. By 11.00pm the temperature had plummeted to -2 degrees C. and was further compounded by a freezing fog that just never seemed to clear.
Eighty miles South of Reims as I passed Troyers at 3.45am I pulled in to re-fuel for the last time. I had to scrap a little the ice from my visor. The petrol attendant looked at me and shook his head, who could blame him! I must admit the hot tomato soup drink was just the ticket and just had to be followed by another, just for good measure.
As I sat looking at Mr T through the window I heard an English voice “It’s an British plate Mum, he must be bonkers riding in this, I bet he’s frozen” “Come on get in the car, it’s his choice to ride a bike in this stupid weather!” A truer word has never been spoken. It is my choice to ride a motorbike, no matter what France and Mother Nature had to throw at me and you know what “I Love It!”
Other than the annoying anomaly of trying to guide me off the motorways and back on at the same junction all the way through Spain and France Mrs Garmin 660 remained on course all the way back. I’m still not convinced things are right with it and will have to drop Garmin Uk an email to see what the issues could be.
Seeing the small yellow backed sign in the bush reading “Calais 190KM” released two emotions in me simultaneously. The first being relief! A massive grin crossed my face knowing I was on the home leg. The second being sadness at the thought that in just 8 short hours I would be calling it a day on this little long weekend adventure.
3,000 Miles in 4 Day's
Peace of Cake
I was lucky and arrived just at the right time to be accepted on the new Channel Tunnel Train leaving in 30 minutes loading in 5 minutes. I didn’t even get to call into the shops for a bite to eat. Not to worry I thought as I’d still got had a sandwich left from mid France in my top box.
The loading and crossing went smoothly this time with me being able to snatch 20 minutes shut eye, on the floor as per usual.
I just cannot believe how serenely the ride North from San Miguel De Salinas to Calais had passed. No issues with Mrs Garmin 660, no fatigue what so ever, no aches or pains (well nothing worth mentioning anyway). It was as if the whole journey had been a dream.
As I cleaned the grime from my visor and lights it made me realise just how far I had just “floated” 1200 miles in 18 hours, it was just surreal! I could quite happily have turned around and gone straight back down, or somewhere else to save on repetitiveness! Still I had a nice 300 mile pootle to enjoy now up to Squires Café Bar once I’d filled up at Dover services.
As usual the mad dash from the train terminal took place, it’s supposed to be a 10 mile an hour speed limit but that goes straight out the window. Filling up at the services just off the train made me realise it’s akin to something out of the “Wacky Races” with buses , trucks, cars and the odd bike (me) all speeding off the stat line 4 lanes into 2 in a desperate attempt to get onto the M20. Once on the M20 everyone then then has to sit and watches as the vehicle they have just sped past coasts on by, it is quite funny really.
The ride up the M20, M2 around the M25 and through the Dartford Crossing passed without interest of any kind. Turning off the M25 onto the M11 up past Cambridge where the A14 takes over for 28 miles before depositing me on my all-time favourite stretch of black stuff the A1 North bound. Don’t ask me why it’s my favourite, I guess maybe it’s because I've finished so many “biking adventures” riding home along it. One thing I do know is it’s a great strip of tarmac.
20 miles South of Doncaster I pulled over onto the Services access road to take a mile stone photo of Mr T ‘s tachometer reading 30,000 miles. Not a bad achievement in under 2 years. No were near in the same league as the “Globe Trotting Giants of Motorcycle Touring”. Never the less, when you consider every single one of my miles are true leisure miles, I’ve nothing whatsoever to grumble about. I’m happy with that!
Pulling into the “Bike Mecca of the North” known simply as Squires at 11.35 am I knew there and then I should have filled in the IBA UK BBG2500KM paperwork. Damn!
Why's Mr T the only dirty bike here?
Still sat eating the most delicious Sunday Roast Lunch in Squires Café Bar at 12.00 really helped bring this wonderful little adventure to an end in style. “Now where’s my Rhubarb & Ginger Sponge pudding & Ice cream” Perfick!
Just don’t get me started on the ride home from Squires to Rochdale! It was horrendous, but that’s a story for another day.
Europe is a wonderful place and it is right on our doorstep. Just 35 minute away by Channel Tunnel Crossing (that’s if there are no poorly Rolls Royce’s on board that is).
So What’s Next?
Well as far as not having anything in the diary for February I think I’ve done OK. As for March & April its becoming quite a busy biking calendar.
Saturday 9th Scottish Bike Show Weekend in Edinburgh
Saturday 9th IBA UK RTE takes place at Tan Hill
Tuesday 12th Mr T goes in for his 30,000 mile service at Keith Dixon Motorcycles
Wednesday 13th Ben arrives from Australia to collect his Kawasaki KLR650 and duly ship it all the way back to Australia with him. Now that is one epic amount of traveling for a bike with 72,500 miles on the clock. I can only described Ben’s commitment to the KLR as “Pure Dedication!”.
Saturday 16th Open-day at the Zen Overlanders New workshop in Somerset
Saturday 23rd Manchester Bike Show where we will be showing “Trinity” for the very first time & so as you can imagine I’ve been polishing her to within an inch of her life in readiness for the weekends activities.
Sunday 7th Prescott Bike Festival takes place in Gloucestershire
Sunday 21st Ace Café Overlanders Meeting which Ben & I attended last year
Tuesday 23rd St Georges Day
Saturday 27th IBA UK European RTE takes place at Avignon in France
So as you can see life never get dull on the “The Wandering
Walton’s” Biking calendar.
Here’s wishing you all well and if you’re at the show or just spot us out and about please feel free to say hello.
Until the Next Time