The trip beckons...
Here's a quick intro to what we're doing.
We leave tomorrow shortly after lunch, but we've still got to:
- Prep the Scottoilers
- Pack our panniers & top boxes
- Save our documents digitally online
- Inform the banks
- Print the itinerary
- Get our spare bulb & fuse kits
- & send the wife to the beauticians ;-)
We started planning this trip 18 months ago as Jon's 40th birthday adventure, he'll be taking his wife Shaz on the back of his Blackbird. My wife Meg will be taking her newly acquired Kawasaki ER6f with only 1 week of commuting on it prior to the trip & I'll be following behind on my Triumph Sprint ST.
Our route starts from Cheshire to the ferry at Plymouth, sailing to Santander on Sunday. We then proceed through the Pyrenees to the French Riviera then north through the Alps returning via the Black Forest to Zeebrugge.
Camping is the order of the day, there may be a few B&B or hotel nights along the way but we're trying to keep this as an adventure!
We'll try to post every few days with updates on the adventure with photos and maybe video. The full itinerary will be available as Google maps and TomTom itn files when we get home as I've no doubt the route will evolve as we progress.
Day 0 Cheshire to Cwmbran - 185 miles.
We left sunny Cheshire this afternoon & managed to avoid all the rain down to South Wales. Staying with my parents tonight so home made food & a nice bed.
Already we've had a few dramas, Meg's pannier rack came undone at the top bracket. It's a Kappa / Givi PLX rack & I'd advise anyone else to use thread lock on the two bolts that fix the pannier racks to the top box rack. We also noticed on arrival in Cwmbran that the needles of my Scottoiler are missing! The bracket and lines were still in place, but no needles. We'll be visiting South Wales Superbikes in the morning to see if we can get a replacement.
We've spent the last 5 days riding the Pyrenees & struggling to find any wifi access!
Cwmbran to Plymouth - 140 miles
The problem with the scottoiler turned out to be a broken injector, we stopped off to see the very helpful chaps @ South Wales Superbikes before stopping again at Fowlers in Bristol - repairs made we headed for Plymouth & the ferry.
Santander to Bilbau - 70 miles +
We arrived in Santander to glorious sunshine & unbroken blue skies. After leaving the port we saw it again 45min later due to a home sick sat nav, but then we found our way out of the city & up into the mountains. The roads were windy & steep & we stumbled across a lovely cafe for lunch before heading to Bilbau for the night.
Bilbau to Lumbier - 130 miles
No trip to Bilbau would be complete without a trip to the Guggenheim Museum, so off we went to sample modern art...
We then departed Bilbau and headed for the town of Pamplona, a very pretty town that was dead during the siesta. After lunch we headed east to Lumbier - home of the canyons.
Lumbier to Luchon (Fr) - 240 miles!
The road heading east out of Lumbier along the lake is fantastic, very fast & smooth with breath taking scenary. We then had a bit of a sat nav detour up a road that was still being built, then a lot of a detour as the tunnel we were hoping to take through to France was closed & we had to make for the next one to the east. We arrived tired & hungry in Luchon at about 9pm.
Day off – 0 miles.
After our 240 mile marathon we decided to take it easy for a day so spent the day wandering around Luchon then treated ourselves to a relaxing few hours in Luchons thermal spa. We would have liked to go up the gondala to the mountain top, but it was closed until June.
Lourdes – 120 miles
This was a day of fantastic roads, taking in the Col du Pyresnon(sp?), Col d'Aspin (below) & half of the Col du Tormalet – They were resurfacing the Western side, but we got to the top for the views from the eastern side...
We had lunch in La Mongie & spent the afternoon in Lourdes.
Unbenownst to us it was international Millitary Pilgrimage day, so the place was swarming with service personal of all nationalities. Another drama befel us today when Jon's bluetooth headset decided to eat its charging pin resulting in slowly deteriating communication with the sat nav. We'll see if we can get a replacement headset along route, but for now we're relying more on the map Duncan's Dad gave us last week (circa 1980!).
Luchon to Ax les Thermes – 160 miles
A fantastic ride over the mountain we rode under 3 days ago back into Spain. The local bikers are nuts, over taking on blind bends on the wrong side of the road crossing the solid white line while gesturing to their mates & going way faster than us. There was snow on the ground at the top and the ski runs were clearly visible. We then turned east along the Spanish mountains again before bearing north into Andorra. We headed straight through Andorra & took some lovely pix from the top looking down into France...
...before charging down the mountain avoiding some exceedingly dopey tourists doddering along in their big French saloons and arriving at about 6pm in Ax les Thermes.
After another prolonged absence of wifi we hit the French Riviera!
Ax les Thermes to St Romaine de Tarn (Millau) – 160 miles
Now out of the mountains we headed through French farm land north east towards Millau. The roads were very bumpy in places but we went through some beautiful French villages. We also encountered our first rain on the continent, brief but fairly heavy. We turned away from the rain for our final run down into St Romain de Tarn & pitched at a steep campsite on the bank of the river Tarn. A restaurant dinner followed with beer, wine & brandy – all is well.
St Romaine de Tarn to Carry-le-Rouet (Marseille) – 200 miles
First thing in the morning we went out to see the bridge, first riding under it then stopping in Millau for breakfast.
We then set out to ride the bridge itself from north to south admiring the views & the engineering before cruising down to Montpellier. Here we stopped for a look round the city & Jon got a new head set for his sat nav. We left Montpellier taking the smaller roads across the Rhone delta towards Marseille before finaly stopping in Carry-le-Rouet, a resort town that we managed to arrive in after everything had shut for the day. We did manage to find a nice Pateserie that was still open & dined on cake & sweet bread. The camp site we found only had gravel pitches which just about finished off Meg & Duncans tent - we bent many pegs, snapped a pole (mended with gaffer tape) & ruined the ground sheet.
Carry-le-Rouet to St Tropez – 140 miles
We left Carry-le-Rouet with the intention of diving through Marseille and onto the coast road all the way to St Tropez, but within 10 minutes engulfed in the City traffic it became obvious that our first priority would be to simply escape Marseille together – something we completely failed to achieve. Marseille seems to be having a tunnel built under the city, but this is causing all manner of road works & diversions. After following a steady stream of traffic in aproximately the right direction for a good 20 mins we became separated between traffic lights & round about with Meg & Jon ahead of Duncan. Meg & Jon were then cought in a green wave that took them nearly 2 miles from the roundabout. Duncan followed taking the correct route, but after not finding the others turned round too soon. After a txt conversation we all managed to meet up on the front at Cassis to the east of Marseille, 80 miles & 2.5hrs after going into the city! Creps on the front aleiviated some fustration & we then made our way to Toulon (which we navigated with ease) & round a lovely costal road to St Tropez. We ended the day with a swim in the sea & a beer. The tent was still holding together with tape, but is not long for this world.
Day off – 0 miles
A glorious day on the French Riviera! We started off with a swim in the med then a lounge on the beach. We had paninis for lunch & had a wander arround the beach before going for another swim & dinner... with beer. There are motor home parks here on the beach with hook ups & loads of Brits. The 3 wheeled Piaggio scooters seem to be a hit with the senior generation here.
St Tropez to Antibes - 60 miles
Following the coast road through Cannes we arrived in Antibes shortly after lunch time & ventured to the local shops for a bite to eat. Meg & Duncan then took Megs bike on an adventure to the climbing shop & bought a new tent to replace the battle scarred Vango we've had for the last 7 years. The new tent will take a bit of getting used to, but it seemed OK. For the first time in a while we had access to mains power on this camp site so spent the evening charging everything & playing cards. We also did a good check of the bikes systems adjusting chains, filling scottoilers & water reservoirs & cleaning the lights.
Antibes to St Martin-Vesubie - 90 miles
We left Antibes & followed the coast for the last time, riding along the Promonade d'Anglais in Nice before entering Monaco for lunch. Unfortunately there were too many restrictions on where we could go to ride the circuit, but many of the grandstands and kerbs are still in place from the GP. We next headed to Menton before turning north up the Col de la Turini - it's more impressive on the northern stretch after the top of the col as the tarmac is smoother & the views incredible. On the way into St Martin-Vesubie the rain started to fall lightly, by the time we arrived at the camp it was throwing it down & the ground was very sodden. We pitched the tents, left the bike gear to dry in the toilet block then trudged up the road into the village to find a restaurant - a lovely pizzeria with deserts made by the waiters mother. It had stopped raining by the time we returned to the tents & could see the white caps on the alps that were obscured by clouds earlier.
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