From the South of France to Spain, then to Portugal and further South to Andalusia
13th August 2010 – Carcassonne – France
Today's Friday the 13th. Bad luck for Templars and we're more or less in their city. That's also today that we're supposed to get our Transalp back. Something tells me she won't be ready. Abby and I wake up late and have a “petit dejeuner” at the camping's restaurant: a large “cafe au lait” with loads of “tartines” (slices of bread covered with butter and jam) and then we hang around the city to end up at the local McDonald which offers free WiFi access. At the city campsite, 15mn costs 1 euro, what a rip off ! This campsite is the most expensive one we've ever been since we started camping in France and yet, they keep charging extravagant amounts of money for everything, like 2,40 euro for a small coffee or a can of Coke. We start to get fed up with it. The showers are cold, the toilets are dirty and some “entertainers” keep on turning their crappy sound system to the maximum even though there's only a handful of people one meter away from their microphone.
McDonald's full. We try a local Big Mac only to discover they're as bad as in Hong Kong. Do they have a patent on low quality or what ? The price, however, is double sized. Then we walk to Planel Honda, only to be told that the bike should only be ready tomorrow, 4pm. It better be, they close on Sunday and they're on holiday next week. We don't wanna be stuck here another week ! Damn Fridays the 13th and King St-Louis who helped the pope get rid of Templars and Cathars ! We wanna ride !
We walk back to the campsite, cursing popes, kings and Honda mechanics and try to kill time instead of poorly skilled entertainers. At six o'clock, we decide to call Michel and Lise, his girlfriend. We wanna invite them to have dinner at the restaurant. Lise picks up the phone. No way she says, Michel's gonna pick you up and we'll all have dinner here, at the workshop, do you like “magrets de canards” (sort of delicious duck breast, speciality of the region), we'll get some on the barbie. How could we refuse such a nice offer ? So we get a few liters of local wine mixed with grapefruit juice (I know, sounds weird but it's real er... refreshing) and jump on Michel's beat-up car. Back to the workshop. We meet Lise again and Nicolas who's a driving teacher too and Laure, one of Lise's friend who's babysitting Mathilde, a lovely little girl, that evening. While the “magrets” slowly cook on the barbie, Michel asks Abby if she wants to ride a bit ? Of course she does ! Then Lise offers me to follow Abby with her 500cc ! Why not indeed !? Thanks guys ! That's gonna be the first time Abby and I hit the road together. Michel takes a few pictures of us riding together in the sunset. Cool. The road next to their place forms like a circuit almost totally clear of trafic. It's perfect.
We spend a super evening together, the “magrets de canards” were delicious and we all had such a good time together, it was as if Friday the 13th was all just a big joke. Lise and Laure told us all about their trip to Tibet while we were listening to a CD they took back from Beijing. Michel showed us the bus he is working on for their upcoming trip to Morocco and Nicolas showed off his minibus he's living in at the moment. These four definitely weren't your ordinary sort of people, a bit like us, one foot on the road all the time. We didn't need much to feel at ease together. I hope we'll have the opportunity to hook up together again one day and build up a tribe or something. We love you guys, you rule !
Lise drove us back to the campsite because she was the only one still in measure to do so and we crashed in our tent with no further thoughts, just a big happy grin on our faces.
Saturday 14th August 2010
First thought of the day: Is the bike going to be finally ready today !? At noon, we have a final lunch in our favorite restaurant in a cool pedestrian street of Carcassonne. We start knowing the town so well, we take shortcuts and never get lost. Stephane works at the restaurant. He's Laure's brother in law. Carcassonne looks like a big city but is in fact a big village where everyone knows everybody. Then at four, we pop up at the Honda workshop. First look at the Transalp reassures us. There's a new front brake disk and a new tire on the back. Looks like the job has finally been done. The mechanic say he tried it and finds nothing special to complain about. The frame feels a tiny bit weird he said but nothing bad, the CDI unit has been installed (big deal, that takes about 5 seconds) and the bike is running great. The oil has been changed although it was still clean after 3500km and the chain has been greased.
He has one good bit of advise though: add some rubbers on the front suspensions, that will prevent dust and sand to fuck up the seal. Makes sense. I buy two blue ones along with a tire repair kit which, I pray, will never have to be used. The bill is tough, sounds like the Carcassonne campsite overpricing habit has sprayed to the Honda workshop as well. Well, at least we're good to go. Back to road rage !
We decide to try our new tire and brake on the little roads of the Cathars country to a small remote location which reputation has been intriguing us for a while. It's just a slope. But not your usual kind of slope. It's a slope where you have to stop your vehicle (even a skateboard will do), put in neutral (if your skateboard has an engine) and release the brake. Instead of sliding down the slope, your vehicle starts to reverse. Outrageous ! The place's called “La curiosite de L'Auriole”, the L'Auriole Curiosity. Well the ride was cool but the curiosity was a little disappointing. It's just a vison trick really. The road looks likes it going up, but in fact it's slightly going down, it lasts 15 meters and that's it. Abby and I are thinking of building one next time we stop somewhere and attract tourists that way. Surely there's a fortune to be made in slopes that reverse, isn't it ?
Anyhow, the bike is handling smooth. That good working front brake is a real relief after so many kilometers with an edgy one. The back tire has a much better grip on the tarmac already even though it's still new. We're happy travelers.
Back to the camping and watching the traffic jams on the news, we decide to stay another day rather than joining the madness on the national roads and highways. We'll leave Monday instead and visit more of the Cathars country tomorrow.
Sunday 15th August 2010
I know, I know, we're a bit late on schedule. We were supposed to be in Portugal today but hey, we gave up schedules when we left so we forgive ourselves quite easily as we head on to the castle of Quaribus, the last of the Cathars castle to resist during the Albigeois crusade. And we quickly understand why. Imagine a medieval castle perched at the very summit of unclimbable rock. We can't even begin to imagine how it had been built. Had King Kong been helping or something ? The way there was incredibly beautiful as we passed from valleys covered with wine yards to stiff little roads along rocky mountains. The petrol was getting low in the tank and being France and being Sunday, we became a bit worried that we might have to spend the night in that medieval castle full of Cathars ghosts but we met a bunch of local bikers up there who led us to a little village with an open gas station. We zoomed back to the campsite in time for dinner, a last “cassoulet” in a lovely little restaurant we had found on our first day in Carcassonne. The lady, hearing that we were leaving on the following day, offered us a glass of “digestif”, a local speciality called “Carthagene” made of early grapes. Absolutely delicious ! We flew back to our tent, suddenly all lightened up !
Monday 16th August 2010
We have a long trip to do today. We have to get to the Spanish border. It's about 450km away. Not impossible but we got to wake up and pack early. We're not sad to leave the camping after so many days. We pay an outrageously expensive bill for a campsite, have a last breakfast and fire up the engine. The GPS gets us in the right direction with not too much hesitations but I'm a little surprised. Why does it take us on such small roads ? We cross almost nonexistent villages, even riding on gravels from time to time ! What's going on ? I suddenly realize that it's set up to “shortest distance” instead of “shortest time”. That should explain. By the time I understood where was the bug, it was noon already and we only had traveled 100km from Carcassonne. The speedometer had also mysteriously stopped functionning as well as the kilometers and trip counters. That stinks ! Probably the cable snapped or something. I could still rely on the GPS to avoid speeding too much but still, this bike is getting old. It's not a “mother-ship”, it's a “grand-mother-ship” ! Damn ! On the other hand, once reset properly, the GPS took us pretty quickly to St-Jean-de-Luz where we had planned to camp. We cruised around the campsites areas. It was absolutely packed with a crowd of noisy tourists complete with loud music and horns. And not a single spot vacant to plant our tent ! It took us ten minutes to become tired of it already and back onto our Transalp on the way to Irun, at the Spanish border. There, we quickly found an Ibis hotel, booked a room, had dinner and a decent warm shower and while Abby crashed in her sweet dreams, I got busy recharging our diverse batteries and checking my e-mail. Sleeping in a proper bedsheets was a nice experience after so many days under our tent. Outside, everything had changed for Spanish, a language I have never learned. However I found that adding A's and O's at the end of French words were doing the trick well enough and I didn't worry much about it. Prices seemed to be on the way down as well, beginning with gas as we had found out in the first petrol station we'd been to after the non-existent border. We had stayed too long in France, it's about time we start saving up a little.
Tuesday 17th August – Irun to Santiago-de-Compostela – Spain
The weather is so damn shitty this morning ! It's been raining during the night, good thing we cover our bike ! The ride is going to be outrageously long today as we decided to make it all the way to Santiago-de-Compostela in the North-West of Spain. That meant riding about 650km in one go. I've never done that before. I've never even driven anything on Spanish roads. Neither did the bike as far as I knew. Let's try anyway. The GPS took us faultlessly out of Irun and onto the highways. The speed limit drops by 10km/h here compared to French highways. But then again, the curves are a bit sharper and the wind, along the Atlantic coastline is slightly stronger too. Spanish drivers are very civilized, no tricks, no sticking in the back, the signs are good, the tarmac is smooth. We avoided a couple of traffic jams by using the emergency lane without anyone complaining about it, smooth ride. We're not waiting for reaching the reserve to refill the tank, we do it every 160km or so. That way, no surprise. We have a quick lunch along the highway. My Spanish improves at sight !
We had left Irun at 10am and we arrived in Santiago at 8:30pm, zooming between the blue coastline on our right and the mountains on our left. The trip had been fast and very beautiful but now my fingers were aching from grabbing the handlebars so long ! I never quite felt that before, am I getting too old !?
We found a lovely typical little hotel on a small square near the cathedral, all furnished with classic spanish furnitures. The hotel manager made a point of showing us our room before we booked it. The walls were made of old stones and we had a balcony looking upon the square where we could see our bike. He even went to the neighboring police station to instruct the cops to keep an eye on it ! What a lovely move !
We took a quick shower, changed clothes and, feeling refreshed and happy to have made it so well, we walked our way to the cathedral to discover its facade all lightened up with the sunset orange colour. What a sight ! Pilgrimers were laying on the floor with their stick and bags in front of the cathedral, looking as satisfied with their walking achievement as we were with our riding accomplishment. We let the sunset go, the facade of the cathedral became dark and we set of to find a restaurant. The streets were packed with tourists and pilgrimers but we found a little kebab place where we refilled our starving stomachs before returning to our hotel for a well deserved night of sleep. We had wanted to stay one more night in that lovely place but the hotel manager sadly announced that he had made a mistake and our room was already booked the next night. We'd have to find another place. Oh well, not to worry, we felt blessed with the beauty of the city. Luck would be on our side for sure.
Wednesday 18th August – Santiago-de-Compostela – Spain
Today, we have an holy mission to accomplish. Neither Abby nor I are particular fans of the Catholic faith but Santiago-de-Compostela is not just any cathedral city, it's the end destination of so many travelers coming from all over Europe, it doesn't matter what faith they belong to, to us, they're travelers first. And so are we. So we had decided a long time ago that we'd go to the cathedral and burn a candle there for good luck before heading to Africa. We woke up early, had breakfast which was included with our room and we went to the hotel next door to inquire for a new room. Being so early, there was one. The manager spoke French and insisted to show us the room first. No balcony this time but we still had the same view and could check on our bike downstairs time to time. Perfect. It had free WiFi as well. Told you luck was upon us !
We showed up at the cathedral before the huge crowd of tourists that visits it all day and there was a mass inside. We nearly forgot to take off our hats being the pagans we are and I was scolded for taking pictures with the flash on while some monk was summoning the crowd to stay silent. Damn, I hoped our candle would still be accepted even if I didn't know how to do a proper cross sign on my chest. People were queuing in order to confess, everyone seemed so serious and concerned. I saw two women crying from an excess of religious emotionality, but I felt happy and free and still in the right place. We searched for candles but there were none of that surprisingly. Instead there were some sort of vitrine with tiny red light bulbs in it and you had to drop ten cents to light up one. That looked pretty much like some pinball machine or something. Somehow it lacked the spirituality I was hoping for. After all, what happens if a fuse blows ? So blows your wish too ? Oh well, lets get on with it, we dropped ten cents in two different red lights vending machines, one for Abby and one for me and we left the place to visit the old city around the cathedral.
There was a queue of tourists outside each entries of the cathedral and we congratulated ourselves for having been early birds. The streets were packed with tourists too but we made our way to quieter areas. I wanted to send a postcard to my parents. Postcards are easy things to buy but when I asked the pierced lady for a stamp, she looked down at me and muttered I had to go and get it at the tobacco shop. Now, I'm a smoker but post offices that pimp tobacco shops was a new thing to me. Anyway, all the tobacco shops we found were closed. Siesta time ! They would only reopen at 4:30pm. So I asked local people for the “Servisso Postal”. I wasn't far, it's called in fact “Officina Postal”. My Spanish rules ! Once we found it, I requested a “timbras por Francia” and was given one immediately. Who needs schools and language teachers huh ?
Reading the menus at the restaurant where we had lunch proved a little more difficult but “ensaladas mixta” where indeed “mixed salads” and “filetto con batatas” were, for sure, “filet with fries”. A little jar of “vino tinto” with that and, in no time, I was the happiest pilgrim biker in town !
Abby and I watched a couple of street jugglers after lunch so as to avoid swinging like drunks too obviously and we actually had a great time watching them as they were really funny, or was it the “vino tinto” ?
Hanging around drunk in old Spanish towns proves to be quite an appetite opener so we found a paella restaurant at night fall and stuffed ourselves again while indulging with only a couple of glasses of beer this time. So we managed to pass in front of our hotel reception in a quite decent manner. Our mission had been accomplished, we could now leave this holy town feeling blessed. The speedometer, however, didn't recover as we disappointingly found out the next morning. Oh well, miracles occur in Lourdes, not in Santiago, and we had not been able to find any Honda workshop anywhere. It was now time to go South and join Pedro in Portugal, 250km away.
Thursday 19th August 2010 – Amarante – Portugal
Pedro is an old biker friend of mine whom I've never met before except online. He contacted me once, about two years ago, after watching a video I had edited of my old Yamaha Virago. He was having one as well and liked the clip on YouTube. We had kept posting to each others since. I knew he fancied my old goggles which I had put on my old style helmet during my Virago years so I had promised him I would take them along with me and give them to him which I had done. The ride to Amarante was pretty event less apart from the fact that it was a new country for both Abby and me. But when we arrived near the city, some deviation turned our GPS mad and we ended up pretty lost in the villages nearby. Now the roads were very small, sometimes very steep and paved instead of the tarmac I'm used to ride on. The sun as hot but we made it eventually except that a new feeling of unknown had now kicked in. We really felt in foreign land now. It looked all dust and sundries. The grass was yellow instead of green. People didn't seem to smile much although they were very helpful and kind when we asked them direction. Strange feeling.
We found our campsite. There again, the lady at the reception, who could speak French very well, as most of the people we had talked to so far did, was very nice but the campsite looked weird with not a single spot of grass to plant our tent. It was all just dust. Other campers watched us trying to find a spot with that serious look on their faces that we had difficulty translating, were they friendly or hostile ?
After having a serious hassle handling our overloaded Transalp on the steep trashy ways of the camping, we settled near the river, on a pile of dust since nothing else was available. My mood was rather bad as I was exhausted with all that riding in difficult conditions but I cooled down at the camping bar with Abby. There again, noone smiled, noone even looked at us directly in the eyes. The one eyed barman seemed moody, we didn't even know if he spoke French or English but he served us our drink nonetheless. We sent Pedro an SMS but it probably never reached him.
We had arranged to meet at the camping the next morning however so we rode the bike to town to see if things were a little more friendly there. It didn't look like it. There was that absence of smiles, of cheering up which had delighted us in Santiago for instance. It seemed weird in a hot southern country. We ate some half burned chicken with oily fries, drinking some syrupy stuff and went back to our campsite after purchasing some ham and bread from a little grocery store. The lady at the grocery, again, could speak French fluently. I asked her why and she said that she had worked in France for 30 years. She worked in Fresnes which is a jail city and in La Hague which is a huge nuclear factory. Damn, maybe that's why they all don't cheer up ! If they all went to work in the shitiest parts of France, I understand their depressed looks ! We ate dinner near the river, trying to keep the dust from getting in our food. Can't wait for Pedro to show up !
Friday 20th August 2010 – Amarante – Portugal
We woke up early (8:00, isn't that early ?) and waited half an hour before calling Pedro. Abby's phone is working everywhere so far, what a cool thing !
Hello Pedro ! Is that you ? I asked a bit shy.
Hey Mate, you have arrived already ?
We're at the campsite Mate, what time do you think you'll make it there ?
About ten, is that ok ?
Sure Man, we can't wait to see you !
At ten, as we're having coffee at the camping bar, a guard calls me and tells me my friend is waiting at the entrance. Damn, they didn't even allow him in ! Alright, at the entrance we shall meet then.
After greeting each others warmly, we led him to our tent so that he could see our bike and get his goggles. Pedro was as nice in real as he is on the Net. It was his day off. He works apparently very hard at some supermarket and is up every morning real early as his work is far from Amarante but he loves his city and wouldn't move for an empire. He was very kind to show us around his town that sunny morning and all of a sudden, everything looked charming and lovely as he showed us spots on the river where he used to play as a kid and little paved streets and the church where he had got married. Thanks Pedro, we really needed you to get to the right feeling of your region. We had a great coffee at the terrace of his usual coffee shop and everything seemed different than the previous day thanks to his cheering mood. His wife Vera wasn't feeling very good today, he said, so he'll have to leave us this afternoon but he would return with his bike the next day at 10:00 and take us for a ride around his region. Take your camera along, he said.
We spent the afternoon chilling in the shadow of our campsite and took care of various domestic duties like writing this blog for example, and we had an early dinner of more chicken at the camping restaurant served by a very gentle French speaking grandmother who looked Abby's age. Go figure.
Saturday 21st August 2010 – Amarante and around – Portugal
As promised Pedro was there, waiting at the gate of our campsite at 10 o'clock. He was sporting a cool shiny blue Suzuki Intruder 800cc, which he was going to ride for the 5th time only with us today he said. He had changed his old Virago for it not long ago and appreciated the difference in power. Abby jumped in my back and off we went, me fearing that perhaps I would have to race after his 800 all day but no, Pedro is an excellent rider and he loves cruising around at speed that lets you see things rather than zooming around fixing the tarmac. We enjoyed the ride immensely as he took us around valleys of vineyards on small curvy roads and through lovely little villages complete with medieval castles that we would never have found without his guidance. He made sure we would stop regularly to refill both the bikes and ourselves as the temperature was rather high and we rode nearly 350km together for about 10 hours, loving every single minute of it. Pedro, you're adorable Mate ! Thanks again for that ride from the bottom of Abby and mine's heart ! The views were magnificent, diverse, interesting, astonishing sometimes, you name it. We just could not have seen Portugal this way without Pedro, you gotta be a native to know those paths. Pedro has been delivering newspapers in remote spots for years and that's why he could lead us so well. The GoPro cam went out of juice after a while but I hope I can edit some of the spots we went through, it should look cool, specially with Pedro cruising in front of it. Not a single time did we go too fast, he led us like a pro. If anyone wanna go to Amarante for a ride, make sure you get in touch with this guy as he's the best ambassador to Portugal you could ever dream to meet !
We were back at the campsite at about 8:30 and he went to have dinner with his family. We would meet again the next evening as he had to work next morning but didn't want to let us miss the yearly Devil's night that was going to be celebrated this Sunday in Amarante !
Sunday 22nd August – Devil's Night – Amarante – Portugal
We took a rest today as the ride had been pretty long the previous day. The roads were very curvy and my fingers were aching a bit, again. First we went to the city centre were a classic cars exhibition was going on. Some very nice models indeed including some old French Citroen cars which I'm very found of. Some antique bikes too. When the sun became too hot, we went to have a good lunch in a crowded restaurant which served us plenty but rather oily food. Then later that evening we met Pedro and Vera at his favorite coffee shop where he could copy the video clips I'd shot the previous day. He brought us two patches to saw on our jackets, one from Portugal and the other from Amarante. He also gave us a bottle of red wine of his region which I am actually drinking as we speak and a USB recharger which is going to be very handy when my cams run out of juice.
Copying the HD videos took ages but we manage to make it in time to watch the Devil's Night being performed at the very front of Amarante church. I ask if the Pope agreed with it but he doesn't know about it apparently. The whole show attrats a huge crowd and it was hard to get close to the main scene. The music sounded rather gothic. Pedro and Vera had to leave us soon after as they had to wake up early to go to work the next day. We were sad to say good bye as they were the loveliest people you can get to meet. We lucky so far, after the Giles family in Wilton, Michel, Lise, Nicolas and Laure in Carcassonne, we had the good fortune of meeting Pedro and Vera in Amarante. Santiago must be on our side, definitely.
Monday 23rd August – On the way to Lisbon – Portugal.
We wake up early but not too much. Lisbon isn't that far actually, merely 350km away, we should make it a cruising trip.
Despite Pedro's advice to take the national road that would provide a much better panorama, we decide to make it fast and take the highway. It's really expensive by the way, compared to other European countries. Dunno why. And there's lots of payment gates too. What's the point of speeding a little if one is going to waste time at so many gates ? Petrol is far more expensive than in Spain as well, go figure. Pedro had mentioned a certain high degree of corruption among the Portuguese govt. members, maybe that's why.
As we approached Lisbon, the weather turned weird. First the wind began to blow hard and then rain showed up. The GPS took us faultlessly to Lisbon Ibis hotel as we had to scrap all that dust off our chest but it was full. We tried other hotels but they were all full. The cheapest one we found was 140 euros ! Forget that. Then we tried to find the camping. We ended up in some sort of refugee camp area that felt totally unsafe with strange people yelling at us as we passed by. Finally, thinking it was the entrance of the camping, we ended up in some sort of Police headquarters. That's when the rain started pouring again, big time ! The floor turned amazingly slippery all of a sudden and I nearly fell down with the weigh of Transalp and the gear and Abby as my foot couldn't get a good grab of the ground. Fuming with rage and frustration I decided that we had seen enough of Lisbon, let's go to Beja instead. That was only 150km away anyway and I needed to get out of that wicked rain.
As we rode some more, the sky turned blue again and the wind stopped blowing. Sometimes you just have to go along with your fate. Ours was to miss Lisbon, we don't even have any regrets.
As we approached Beja, we spot a huge hotel in the middle of nowhere. All the windows are shut. It looks closed but we try anyway as it starts to get late and we don't wanna hang around at night. Fortunately an old man called Jose greets us in French and even in English and assures us that he has a room for us and even a safe garage for the bike. We take a suspicious look at the room only to be rewarded by an amazing sight. That hotel must date back from the time there was no highway in the country and I bet it wasn't cheap then. That room is luxuriously decorated, the bathroom comes complete with a bathtub and brass decorations, it's lovely. How much is it ? 40 euros. Great ! Can we have dinner ? Yes, sure, Jose replies ! Fate huh !? Thank you Santiago !
We have a delightful and quite huge dinner and I indulge in a whole bottle of local red wine while old Jose instructs us about Portuguese history. One common thing we noticed, is that every single Portuguese person we met is very proud of his country and never miss a chance to assure us about it. You don't get that in other countries where most people are happy simply complaining about what's wrong in theirs. Makes a nice change.
We have a good rest in our deluxe cheap bedroom and wake up late next morning having very little to travel.
Tuesday 24th August 2010 – Sevilla - Andalucia - Spain
Forget the highway today, we have time, Sevilla, our next destination is only 250km away. We decide to listen to Pedro and take the national road to exit Portugal. Thank you again Pedro. You were so right. Is it you talking about our favorite cult movie “Easy Rider”, I felt as if I was riding in it thanks to you. The sights were amazing, crossing fields of olive trees and vineyards, passing through small villages with colorful houses, watching little churches that looked as if we were in Mexico, horses in the fields, bulls that looked ready to fight in a “corrida”. I slowed down to a cruising speed, enjoying a sense of freedom I had not yet felt for the entire journey. We were almost alone on that road, I began swinging the bike from left to right. Abby sitting in my back was feeling the same emotion. She yelled “I love you!” all of a sudden and I yelled back a “me too !” that was too short for what I was feeling:
Pure bliss !
It took that long to reach that precious feeling we were seeking but there it was at last. We really were on the road, on our own, like Peter Fonda and Dennis Hooper when they reach that community in that dry land up the mountains. I finally had made my dream come true. I was 16 when I first saw “Easy Rider” and I was so stunned by it that I watched it three times in a row that day, knowing that this stuff was something for me, something I needed to do one day, even if I had to die at the end. Today, my dream came true, I'm a happy man... and I didn't die.
Instead, I arrived in Sevilla. We found an hotel very quickly and it had a safe parking for our Transalp. The city looked very nice, a bit big but very cool. Ancient Andalusian buildings everywhere, a different feel from what we had been through so far. People were smiling again. We'll stay a while. The Transalp needs to be fixed anyway. That speedometer and kilometers counter are quite useful, I need to protect the front suspensions tubes and the clutch cable starts feeling like it's gonna break anytime now. Our next destination will be Algeciras in order to take the ferry for Ceuta and off we'll be in Africa. Somehow, we feel like we need to catch our breath, fix the bike, upload our pictures, update our blog and then we'll be good to go. We had plan to wait for the end of the “Ramadan” to cross to Morocco anyway, we're a bit early. Let's take our time and visit that great looking city. The hotel is cheap enough, there's no rush.
We start looking for a decent mechanic but the Honda dealer is on holiday until the 30th. I guess that's a good sign that we have to stay. We walk around Sevilla but it's the afternoon and everything is closed. It's 4:00 pm and not a shop is open ! It's “siesta” time. It's too hot as we soon find out. Everyone is taking a rest in the shadow and so should we if we don't wanna burn or melt. The air feels as if we had just opened a gigantic oven. We find a small coffee shop opened and indulge in a huge icecream and a fountain of fresh water. Then we crawl back to the hotel, feeling exhausted. We didn't risk ourselves out of our room until dark, preferring our bathtub instead, but when we did, we were rewarded with an amazing view of the city enlightened and we walked along the river, spotting the cathedral and other monuments in the background. What a day it had been ! And now, the night, a full moon night in Andalusia. I was falling in love with that city. As we walked by, we spotted a young man with a telescope. He invited us to look in it. It was directed at the moon and neither Abby nor me had ever seen the moon that close. We shared his enthusiasm for it. No dark side to it today, definitely !
Wednesday 25th August – Sevilla – Spain
The guy who's guarding the parking in our hotel speaks French fluently. He indicates a Honda garage about 10 km away where we might be able to fix our Transalp. Since it is quite difficult to find someone who can speak either French or English around here, we ask him to call the place for us and inquire if they're open first and if they're able to find spare parts for an antique Transalp. In the morning, we had been hanging around the city, finding most repair shop on vacation but one that was opened had a very kind mechanic in it who's diagnostic was that our speedometer cable was fine, it was that part at the end of it that needed attention. Of course.
Once we were reassured that we wouldn't make that long ten kilometers ride by 45 degrees in vain, we set off to the place and again, we were glad to have a GPS to take us there for we had only arrived in that city the day before. We arrived at ten to two and were informed that, should the entire part have to be replaced, it would cost us 100 euros and be ready by Friday. But the ultimate diagnostic would have to be made later on that day because they closed the shop for “siesta” at two and would only reopen at five. So we drove back to our hotel. By that time, my face was glowing red, I had trouble focusing on my riding and jumped several red lights, not even aware of them. I was gently getting a heat stroke. By the time it was five, I drove back to the Honda workshop with a blistering headache and a look of exhaustion that made people over there bring me to an air conditioned office and give me loads of fresh water while the Transalp was being analyzed. Yep, the whole part was out, the clutch cable needed indeed a replacement, nope there was nothing they could do about the side-stand security no longer working and yes they would fix these suspension protections. Orders were made, all we needed to do is return on Friday at 10:00. I'm not too sure how I made it back to the hotel but after a cold shower, I just crashed on my bed and only remember Abby bringing me a sandwich later that evening.
And we're not even in Africa yet !!!
Thursday 26th August 2010 – Sevilla – Spain
I'm feeling much better today. We're off to visit that city. The reception of the hotel is pissed off with me because I smoked in their bloody holy bedroom, not even, I actually smoked in the bathroom, with the window opened and the door to the bedroom shut ! But that's not good enough ! They sprayed an horrible product in the room that's supposed to refresh the air and I don't want my headache to come back because of that shit. What the hell is happening to people all the around the world these days with smoking ! I am being bloody careful and respectful of others but I don't feel the reverse is true. I am as entitled to smoke as they are not to ! Grr, I'm pissed off ! Now I'm gonna have to go down in that hellishly hot street to smoke my fags because of these morons ! Faschistas !
Well anyway, Abby and I went for a walk in town before it was getting too hot. Remaining in the shadow and drinking lots of water helps by that sort of temperature. We went to see the cathedral, very nice indeed, and we loved all the small streets around it. Very Andalusian not surprisingly enough, we took lots of pictures and now I have to upload them. Why is it taking so long and hanging so often I wonder. Maybe too many people smoking on the Net, it blurs the bandwith, they should ban smoking on the Net too !!!
At the moment, we're waiting for the temperature outside to cool down and we'll go and have dinner at one of those lovely little restaurant that serve seafood near the river. And they better have an ashtray for me or I'll throw the waiter into the flood ! With the ambient temperature, he'll be cooked in no time, I'm sure !
Posted by Pascal Leclerc at 08:00 PM
On the road for REAL !!!
May, June 2010 - Hong Kong - Final preparation
Well, an update of the situation is slightly overdue but time has been flying since my last blog.
The next step after purchasing all our equipment was a little less pleasant to be frank. We had to deal with so many arrangements and admin and vaccinations and visits to the dentist... We had to empty two flats and find a storage to store all the stuff we wanted to keep. We found one and rented a space for the next two years. Pretty good, decent prices, good air conditioning to keep the collections of DVD, music sheets and books, our many leather jackets and bags, some clothes for when we return, a few furniture, the flat screen TV, PS3, players etc... But what to do with Abby's Bechstein grand-piano and with my dear Kawasaki W650 ? We got lucky, the piano is stored along with other masterpieces at Abby's friends and piano connoisseurs and collectors. She couldn't have found a better place for it as it now lays on its feet next to another antique. As for my W, Geoff, once again, suggested the best solution. It's now safely stored in his workshop, I couldn't have dreamed of a better place for it. The masterpiece rests next to its creator !
Having sorted out what to do with our belonging, and our flats being nearly empty, we could feel the rush of our departure coming by. Still, we had tons of other stuff to take care. We received nine injections over a period of one month. Vaccinations in Hong Kong are good quality, we went to the medical department where a doctor lectured us about the risks of diseases in Africa, we learned things like not bathing in the Malawi lake as little insect lay their eggs under your skin and then you get eaten by the larva traveling through your flesh. Cute ! We had to try out two different sorts of pills against malaria. There's one sort that needs you to take one pill every week, strong stuff, and another sort that has to be taken everyday, milder stuff. Well the strong stuff was just fine. It just opened our appetite.
I feared the dentist much more but Abby had a good one to send me to. I didn't feel a thing even though he ended up placing four crowns in my mouth. It costed me a fortune but at least I feel safe and good to go.
Then we had to give up our jobs, gets certificates of good behavior from our employers, give notice to our landlords, make arrangements so that we could do e-banking on the road and then I received a notice from the post office that a letter had to be picked up.
I have two daughters. Being divorced, I have raised them up since they were 7 and 6 years old. Helene, the eldest one, went away from home more than two years ago and lives with her boyfriend since. Sarah, the youngest one is now 19 years old. Sarah, who's been slightly lazy at school, doubled class twice and still has Form 7 to go through before she can pass her baccalaureate. Helene passed hers with no difficulty. Thanks to the generosity, or should I say intelligence of the French Government, they could receive their education at one of Hong Kong's best primary and secondary school: The French International school. So now they can speak fluently three languages: French, English and Cantonese. Being half French half Chinese, they are both superb and they regularly find indecently well paid jobs as models. I am very proud of them. It wasn't very easy to take care of them. Their mother had pretty much abandoned them to me one day when they were little and had disappeared for three months. That's when I claimed for divorce. The judge then attributed me with very little money and if it hadn't been for the French scholarship, I don't know how I would have done. As soon as both the kids reached the age of 18 years old, my ex-wife immediately stopped sending her monthly contribution. During all these years she didn't do a very good job at being a mother, rarely taking them with her during week-ends and even when she did, they had to sleep on her sofa. She would refuse to help out when paying medical or dentist bills placed me in financial difficulties. She hardly ever took care of them during summer holidays but I managed to send them to France, the Mauritius, or take them with me to Bali or Thailand. I never complained, quite happy to have as little interaction with my ex-wife as possible.
A year ago, when I announced my traveling plans to Sarah, I let her choose where she'd like to stay during her final school year. Would she prefer to live with her sister or with her mom ? Would she like to rent a studio apartment ? She said that her mom and her new boyfriend had moved to a new house in Hong Kong New Territories and that there was a room there she could occupy. I asked her if her mom had agreed, she said yes. Then I said I would provide her with some money during that year and asked her to ask her mom if she would do the same as my ex-wife had called me, for once, declaring that since Sarah was now 18 years old, she would stop paying her monthly alimony but thanking me nonetheless for having raised my daughters so well. Sarah returned soon later, declaring that her mother would indeed help her out. So I carried on with my traveling plans without worry.
Sorry about that long display of my personal family situation but I guess it was needed in order to understand what's coming up.
So there I am, on the 24th of May, a bit more than a month away from my departure from Hong Kong, when I go to the post office to pick up what I thought was a parcel containing either our new GoPro camera for the trip, or perhaps a new DVD from Horizons Unlimited. Was I wrong ! It was a registered letter from the Legal Dpt. summoning me to court. It appears my ex-wife had filled a complaint about me leaving my youngest daughter without resources. She was claiming to be unable to face the costs of her education (even though the French Govt. has always provided for it) and basically demanded money even though Sarah is now an adult and she, herself, had stopped helping since one year. Some people have got some guts ! We had not communicate with each others since her last phone call. Both my daughters were quite surprised by that sudden move and I was of course rather pissed off as one can imagine... so for a week I had to take care of that nonsense instead of further preparing the trip, writing down statements in legal form, taking legal advices and finally going to court where the judge, of course, found my arrangements with Sarah to be rather fair and nothing changed. Just unnecessary nuisance from an unemployed spoiled divorced woman with nothing better to do but being annoying. Sarah told me that she asked her to handle her the money I was going to provide her during my trip and of course she won't. How disgusting can some people be !? But we weren't very surprised however, that woman was even taking the Chinese New Year red pockets from my daughters when they were still little !
Anyway, that being sorted out, I rushed to the French Consulate in order to formally declare my divorce, made twelve years ago, which I had never bothered doing. I know that anything can be expected !
After all that mess, I still had to finish my job. June saw me teaching intensive courses in Hong Kong university. I'm not very proud of my last effort at work, it wasn't my best, the mood was totally gone and I just taught, nothing more, nothing fancy. My apology to this last batch of students, I hope they can understand that teaching the same stuff for 27 years eventually had me getting even more bored than what they must have felt in my ultimate class. To be forgiven, I was particularly generous in marking that final exam and everybody left for summer holiday with a big grin on their faces.
I finished my job on the 8th of July at 22pm and Abby and me left Hong Kong with Geoff on the 9th at 3pm ! We just couldn't wait ! The evening before our departure was spent saying good bye to our good friends in Hong Kong. It was sad to leave Denis, Cathy and Canna behind but we would keep in touch via Internet.
My good mate Robin came along to greet us farewell at the airport. Geoff was there with very little luggage since Abby and me nearly piled up 60kg of stuff for our trip ! We flew to Kuala Lumpur first where we had to wait five hours for our flight to London. We ate and fortunately found a smoking room in the airport, a luxury I couldn't expect in Paris airport on my last journey...
10th July 2010 – Wilton - England
The flight was uncomfortable and tedious as it always is in economy class. We reached London in the early morning of the 10th. Geoff was at home. He helped us hiring a car to his place in Wilton near Salisbury. On our way, we had a look at Stonehenge which is a place I'd always wanted to see. Wilton is a old capital built by Richard Lion heart. Lots of houses have a very stylish look, lots of churches and chapels look indeed as if they had been built during the middle-ages. Cute town !
We arrived at Geoff's parents house and we were incredibly well welcomed. We met Dave, Geoff's dad and Jain, Geoff's mom as well as Alan, Geoff's brother who had helped us purchasing our Transalp last Christmas. Everybody was so cheerful and friendly. Everybody rides bike too. Dave and Jain both ride cruisers and Alan rides a Triumph. Finally we were near our mother ship, a 1988 Honda Transalp that looked like it had done the Paris-Dakar but with only 45000km on the counter. Dave and Alan had already had it pass the MOT and it looked in very good condition. I tried it for a few kilometers even though it wasn't yet taxed. Abby and me had already purchased a European green card insurance for it from Hong Kong from Knopf Tour but when it came to tax it, the British post office was reluctant because the papers were in German. Well, it had an English translation but go figure... Alan fortunately accepted to insure it again in his name so that we could tax it. Much hassle for not much as no-one ever asked us anything about either insurance or tax ! Oh well, better safe than sorry.
Dave and Jain had received our Garmin Zumo GPS from Amazon.com. Thanks to them for that ! However I had never even seen one before and it took me ages to register it online. Once t was done, I was quite happy with the included European maps but disappointed by the lack of African maps. I purchased the Morocco one for an outrageously expensive price but that's all I could get. I wonder how we'll do when it comes to finding a consulate in Dakar or Abuja. Oh well, no use to worry about it now. We're good until Senegal next Christmas. We'll learn what to do then.
We spend the first afternoon in Wilton at the pub for a well deserved pint of beer. I'm not used to drinking so the mood became very jolly very quickly. Dave and Jain are adorable people, simple, straight forward, with an incredible sense of humour and we soon forgot the tiredness of our long trip. We had several games of billiard, played some loud music from the 70's and had a very good time and dinner there. The Greyhound pub, it's called, I recommend it. Good food, great fun, cool people.
The next day saw all of us lazying around in Geoff's parents garden, trying out some air powered guns and having beer. Alan came to join us and eventually had to spend the night sleeping at his parents place because the case of Bud had been a little too big. Good laugh ! Abby and I crashed long time before everybody, the jet lag and the beer had its little effect !
Then it was time to seriously get busy with that Transalp. MOT is good but we still needed to build the mounts for the panniers, change the tires, the clutch, the brakes, mount the GPS support, new horns and other little things. We first went to the local motorcycle equipment dealer visiting Salisbury on our way. That cathedral was quite something. I also found a old clock on a wall that was like a sign. It said: “Time goes faster and faster until there's nothing left. Enjoy it while you still can.” That's exactly what we were doing !
At the bike shop, we purchased the parts we needed as well as some soft panniers. Two side bags and a top box. It looked a bit small for our 60kg but hey, we'll see what we could do later on. The main thing was to get the side bags so that we could build the mounts.
Build the mounts, yes, but out of what ? Dave had some spare tubes but they didn't look too resistant. The solution soon came up in the shape of two camping armchairs. If they were good enough to support 80kg of campers, they should do the trick with only 15kg of luggage which we roughly calculated as being the maximum we could load on each rear side of the Transalp. Dave has all the tools necessary in his little workshop at the end of his garden. So while Jain rushed to work, she's an IT consultant, Dave and Geoff got busy, welding and cutting, building the panniers in their professional ways. They laughed and cursed each others during the whole process and I was amazed at their way of being family. I loved it ! My family is much more uptight and it was great to see how Geoff's one was having so much fun with each others and formed such a great team as well. While they were hard at work, Jain was cooking for everybody and made sure everybody had enough tea and sandwiches between the meals. Abby and her went shopping for food while I was being useless as usual, merely filming and photographing the process of shaping up the Transalp for our journey.
We had a bit of a worry about one of the Transalp CDI unit. It seemed to be moody, sometimes working, sometimes resting. We had ordered a new one from the bike shop but it wasn't there yet. The front brake they had sold us wasn't fit for the Transalp either, Jain had to drive back to the shop to change it while lasagna were in the oven. The GPS unit and the horns were promptly mounted as well as a support for the GoPro cam at the front of the fairing, right above the headlight. Looking cool too !
Changing the tires wasn't that easy. It took lots of pumping to get them adjusted to the rims but Dave is an expert and soon we had two new rubbers that made the Transalp look like it was fit to ride in any desert Africa would throw at it.
All in all, it took six days of hard work for Dave and Geoff to finish the job. The mounts for the panniers looked like they had just come out of the factory, strong and reliable, fit for anything. Our sheep skin unfortunately was too thick to fit under the sit. The CDI unit still wasn't showing. Everything else was ready.
We went to celebrate at the Greyhound and when we came out of there, the rain was pouring and it was really cold. Typical English summer, I understand. Still, customers at the pub were wearing short sleeves. Abby and I were freezing !
The next day, we had to pack. Ah, that was the hard bit. We had weighed all our stuff and with Abby's weigh and mine, we piled up to 200kg. On a 180kg bike through the African pistes. Nobody thought so ! We had to get rid of some. Yeah, easily said, but what to get rid of ? Despite of the bulky bags of wires and plugs, the electronics, computer and cameras had to stay. The camping equipment as well so we got rid of the raining jackets and pants, the towels, the portable shower, the lamp for the tent and other small parts. We decided that since we were going to visit my parents for my mom's eighty years old birthday, we might as well send her the presents we had prepared along with a pile of documents we wanted my parents to keep for us. That took some weigh off the panniers but still, the three of them were quickly filled up and the bike already looked as if it had some suspension problem in the back. However, it was time to leave. After many hugs and good wishes, we sadly left Dave and Jain with Geoff on Jain's cruiser.
We didn't go far. The handling of the Transalp was horrible, the front wheel seemed impossible to control and we just stopped. Abby jumped on the back of Geoff's bike and we slowly cruised towards the bike shop and purchased a big tank bag. Then we transferred about ten kilos of stuff from the back and instantly the handling became easier. We rode up to Southampton to Alan's house. Pretty good first ride. I loved it. After turning around Hong Kong territory for so many years with no hope of ever getting into China, it felt as if I had been freed all of a sudden. European speed limits are also more decent than in speed shy Hong Kong, the air was fresh, the tarmac was smooth and the Transalp showed me what power it had. I was very pleased with it. We arrived safely at Alan's address thanks to the GPS and I must admit I immediately fell in love with it as it drove me to Alan's garage faultlessly. No hanging around, no hesitation, no asking for directions, yeah, that's what I needed.
Still, we had too much weigh. We left some more gear at Alan's and went to his garden for a last night of celebration drinking beer and eating sausages from the barbie. Andy, a old mate of Geoff and Alan soon joined us and Abby and me just sat there listening to their younger years stories. We learned that Geoff and Alan were nicknamed “The Dangerous Brothers” and some of the stories convinced us that they had been indeed ! The English motorcycle club culture wouldn't be what it is without a few fights and wild games. After all, Dave himself had proudly shown me his Hell's Angels (Windsor) colours when we had arrived. I felt very proud to be their friend and protégée and to have been adopted so cheerfully by the very bikers that had enchanted my teenager's dreams. I had always admired the British motorcycle scene and there I was, surrounded by their proud representatives. I just wished I had a little more tattoos to show and I didn't dare flashing the little tiny butterfly that decorate my chest from the times I had a porn star girlfriend... OK, I'm French, but no doubt they would still have found it pretty gay-ish ! The sheep skin attempt was bad enough.
With Alan's help, we booked our tickets for the ferry to Cherbourg on the following day and a room at the Formule 1 hotel.
Many beers after, we went to bed for our last night in UK.
The next morning, Alan popped his head through our door to wish us farewell before heading to work. We thanked him for the great welcome he had granted us. The family Giles has definitely been so cool with us.
After a quick coffee in the kitchen with Geoff and Abby, Geoff led us towards the direction of Portsmouth. We were very sad to leave him behind on that road after a last biker handshake. After all, we had planned our trip all the way from the start with him, he had even taught Abby how to ride in the dirt and we owed him and his family so much. Our trip wouldn't have been possible without his help. We really wanted him to ride along with us all the way to Cape Town but he had to return to Hong Kong, his two young sons needing him more than we did. We just hope he'll have the opportunity to join us with his eldest son Thomas somewhere in Africa, even if only to show him some wild animals in Botswana for instance. We'll be waiting for them there. He's like a brother to me. I admire his talent and his creativity with bikes. We'll be missing him a lot.
16th July – Portsmouth to France
A little ride further on the highway and thanks to the GPS, we made it safe to a embankment area in Portsmouth where we waited for our ferry, taking a few pictures of ourselves next to our dear overloaded mother ship. A couple of hours later, we drove it into the ship and began sailing towards a new country: France.
Thanks to our Garmin Zumo 660 GPS, we found our Formule 1 hotel with no hassle. It was located in a cute little village near Cherbourg and we soon found ourselves in a comfy room packed with flat screen TV and a WiFi connection. Ok, it was a no smoking room, fair enough, I smoked at the window and, being France, no-one bothered. The bike was parked right out of the window so it made it very easy to unpack it and keep it in sight. We slept very well and the next morning, we had a healthy buffet breakfast. French food at last ! Must be in my DNA, I'm totally addicted to it, I can't stop eating once I can get my teeth onto it ! So, stuffed with baguette, croissants and a mega dose of coffee, we repacked the bike as well as we could and set off on our way. Having lived in Hong Kong for 27 years however, my memory of French geography had failed me. I thought we were near Le Havre and had totally mixed up Cherbourg with Honfleur. I had set up the GPS to take us to Giverny as Abby wanted to see Monet's garden. That meant a long long trip, much longer than I first thought. We left Cherbourg at about 11am. The day was bright, no very warm but at least it didn't rain. After a few kilometres however, the CDI unit began failing on us. We stopped the bike on the side of the road and got busy dismounting the side panels and the seat so as to fiddle with the wires that connect to the unit. Geoff had shown us how to do it so it wasn't a big problem. I remounted all the parts, placed the tools back in their compartment and we carried on with our journey. A few kilometres away, the unit started failing again. Damn ! This time, I just stood up on my foot pegs and let myself fall back on the seat. It worked for a few meters and failed again. I gave the handlebars a good shake and it worked again. For a few meters. I did that for a while, every time the CDI came back to life and then it carried on working fine. It didn't make us feel very safe and I decided to try and change it as soon as I would come across a Honda outlet. To this day, we still looking for one but the CDI unit never gave us any more trouble. I guess the Transalp had been sitting idle for too long since we purchased it last Christmas and was just as eager as us to get moving.
Since I had not particularly set up our GPS, it took us for the fastest road to Giverny and therefore to the highway. Well, no to worry, the Transalp had plenty of power and it was zooming at 150km/h. I wasn't too worried about speed limits. Hey, I'm a French rider, riding a UK registered bike, holding a Hong Kong driving licence, insured in Germany and we do not have any fixed address anymore. Perfect situation for not caring about speed radars isn't it. I wasn't going to waste my chance to finally ride as fast as I fancied. Freedom at last ! The bike was doing fine, the engine roared regularly and offered plenty of acceleration when needed.
We soon discovered that our Hong Kong credit cards weren't working at the highway tolls. We also discovered that petrol stations offered too many choices. I remembered that “ordinaire” was for older vehicles and “super” for fancier ones while “gasoil” was for diesel engines. All I knew is that putting “gasoil” in a normal vehicle led to troubles. In Hong Kong, I feed my 2003 W650 with VPower.
Now I was facing a list of options. SB98, SB98 Super, SB95, SB95 Super, E10-95, E10-98, Gasoil. Damn ! What am I suppose to feed our Transalp with ? Geoff had only said to put 95 petrol in it. He said, don't put Super, the bike is too old for that. Alright then, SB95 should be ok. Fortunately it was. Unfortunately, it isn't available in every petrol station anymore. Worst, some stations work only with cards and they refuse our credit cards just like the highway tolls. Even worst, except on highways, French petrol stations close down during lunch hours and lunch hours are totally undetermined. We had to queue up until some would open at 2:30pm, in some villages, it could be closed until 3pm or even 4pm ! What a drag ! Riding too fast with all our luggage and two persons on it, the Transalp needs a refill every 200km. Quite a little nightmare. We resorted to begging other commuters to refill our tank with their cards against cash. Fortunately the French seem to be aware of the problem and have always accepted to help us out. Good lads !
17th July – Giverny - France
It's only about 350km from Cherbourg to Giverny but it seemed to take a long time. We were not used to riding for hours without stopping. Hong Kong habits are bad ones to take. Our backsides needed a rest. But we arrived safely to our new Formule 1 hotel in Giverny at about 4pm. We unpacked and rushed to Monet's house. Damn, too late, it shuts down at 6:30. Alright, back to the hotel then. The speaker I had in my helmet made very painful if not almost impossible to take it off with ear surgery. We had to fix that. Well, all I managed to do is to break the wires and that speaker was declared dead. I cut it off and only had one remaining inside. That made it a bit easier to take off my helmet as only one ear was now threatening to detach.
And we definitely needed to get better organized with our luggage. It seemed we were always looking for our stuff in the wrong place. And we were forgetting crucial stuff like passport or the bike papers behind. We wouldn't get very far if we carried on that way. Already, we had forgotten our camera charger and batteries in England as well as our mobile phones. Not to worry though as I could contact Jain in Wilton thanks to the hotel WiFi and asked her to place all these items in the parcel she was going to send to my parents in their countryside house. We would eventually be reunited with our dear electronics and all we had to do is to save a bit on photos and videos. The GoPro cam was having all its peripherals anyway, it should be enough for a while.
The next morning, we got up early and presented us at the Monet's house at opening time: 9:30am. We were surprised to see a queue stretching non-stop behind us as we waited for our entry tickets in the morning sunlight. The English weather was now definitely a memory. Somehow, the guy at the entry recognised us and asked if we had found a place to stay. Very nice, yes, thank you ! Damn, are we that obvious ? Entry tickets prices to museums and stuff have horribly increased since my last visit. What happened to France cultural politics ? I remembered that Andre Malraux, when he was the culture minister, had insisted to make entries to cultural places available to everyone. Obviously things have changed for the worst. Damn, do I hate Sarkozy and his yuppie govt !!!
Monet obviously wasn't in the same financial mess as other impressionists like Van Gogh for instance. He had a huge house with lots of rooms which walls were covered with an exaggerated amount of Japanese paintings, so many it felt like he had an incurable obsession for them ! His kitchen must have accommodated an army of maids and cooks and his garden probably necessitated a battalion of gardeners. There was one actually, already hard at work, maintaining the rows of bushes, flower beds and trees and everything was blooming and spreading clouds of pollen which I am allergic to. We took a few pictures of the Nympheas pond which actually look better than Monet's paintings thanks to Canon technology. It was a much faster job too ! Who needs brushes these days !?
We didn't stay too long as we had another big road trip to take that day but as soon as we left, my nose started bleeding. I guess Monet's spirit didn't appreciate my little Canon trick and took revenge by inflicting me with a massive pollen overdose. Not to worry, we're out of here anyway.
18th July – St-Malo - France
Back to the hotel for a tidier and better organized repacking and off we went, back towards the North of France, to St-Malo in Bretagne. That meant another 350km ride but when one has been frustrated for years with childish speed limits, snail drivers and a very limited amount of roads, that felt like a relief ! We arrived in that famous port on the North of Bretagne, having passed by the Mont St-Michel. The coast line of Bretagne is very beautiful but the temperature started dropping again. However, we decided it was time to get accustomed with our camping equipment. We found a little village near St-Malo and checked in at the municipal campsite. It wasn't very busy, the staff was very gentle and we soon began fiddling with our tent layers and picks. Modern tents are a breeze to mount. Despite not having mounted one for about 30 years, it was up and running within ten minutes. We were very proud of our achievement. Abby had never camped before. We parked the bike at a decent distance from the tent as we didn't want it to fall on us during the night. However, we found a little piece of wood to place underneath the side-stand and prevent it from sinking into the soft earth.
Then we went to investigate on that little “Le Chardonnais” village. Er... it was quickly over. One bar that closed down at 7pm along with the only bakery that no longer had any bread for sale by 6pm and a tiny little supermarket. That was it. We asked if we could find a decent restaurant nearby and were pointed to a Pizza restaurant 6km away. We decided to walk there. We hardly met a soul on our way and as one could have bet, the restaurant was closed when we arrived. I wonder how the French make their money if they close down their business during peak season. Oh well, never mind, let's walk back to the village and buy ourselves a pizza from the mobile trailer parked on the main square. We kind of rushed this time, worried that it too would have closed down at 7pm. Fortunately it wasn't and we walked back to our tent, holding carefully a 10 euros pizza “campagnarde” that even had potatoes in it.
Our first campsite picnic ! Unfortunately no wine to go with it, but we were cheerful enough as one always feels when everything is new. Bretagne's weather hasn't got a very good reputation except with locals. The sun having disappeared, we felt really cold. Time to test our sleeping bags. They were good enough without excess. We zipped up our tent and went to sleep. Our three persons tent was large enough to accommodate us as well as our tankbag, our riding jackets and pants, our helmets and a few other utensils. Our MX boots were below the outer layer of the tent, covered with plastic bags, safe from any possible rain. We felt great. Nothing too fancy but just right enough for two innocent campers.
We woke up the next morning, feeling fresh but not too bad. My Zippo lighter was out of petrol. Better that than the bike though but damn, am I addicted to that first cigarette ! Fortunately the French still smoke a lot and ashtrays are still available at the terraces of restaurants and bars. One doesn't get fined for dropping cigarette butts in the streets either. Sweet civilization ! I exchanged a cigarette against a match with a lady in her trailer and remembered to get some petrol for my lighter as soon as the tiny little supermarket would open, at 9:30am that is.
We zipped up the tent and rode back to the city of St-Malo where we parked, for free, near the city hall. As we walked through the city, we made a double of our ignition key, just in case. We were delighted to find that the cash machines were accepting our credit cards and began searching for the port where, we were certain of it, we would find a restaurant serving mussels with white wine and fries. Sure enough we found one, right next to the many sailing boats floating in the port. It was delicious. We called for extra bread as we wanted to soak it in the remaining sauce and finished our meal with some homemade ice-cream that would put Haggen-Daz to shame. We then resumed our visit of St-Malo and on our way back to the camp-site, we came across a motorcycle shop in which we found a much better communication system with Bluetooth facility that would be much better than my half broken wired speaker. The shop owner was very nice to explain it functionality to us and actually ended up mounting it on our helmets and testing it for us. Ah ! Care granted to customers ! I had forgotten how sweet it feels ! Again, I couldn't help but silently cursing Hong Kong salespeople who only care about cashing one's hard-won money as quickly as possible. Sorry, but I do like a bit of respect when I part from my cash !
Abby and I rode back to our campsite, joyfully chatting via our new communication gear. Very cool. We can even listen to music as the GPS has enough memory for a few hundred MP3 but I definitely prefer the sound of the engine. We made it “home” early enough this time to grab some food before the supermarket would close down and the bakery miraculously still had some unsold baguettes. Heaven !
We had a very nice picnic, eating on our sarong, outside of our tent. It felt luxury !
20th July – Perros-Guirec - France
We went to bed quite early as the temperature dropped quickly and woke up the next morning discovering that it had rained during the night. The tent proved waterproof enough, nothing was wet and we took advantage of a short gap between some patches of rain to pack up everything and leave St-Malo towards Perros-Guirec, a little port further ahead towards the West of Bretagne, which I remembered from my childhood years. By then, the sun was shining again and we arrived in the mid-afternoon in the center of the city where we found a neat little hotel. I have already checked several hotels along the port so I don't bother taking off my helmet as I enter the hall. The lady behind the counter asks me, tongue in cheeks, if I'm here for a robbery. I force myself to smile and ask for the prices. Decent enough. That's a deal. Our room was so cute, looking upon a typical French courtyard surrounded by old house make of stones in which we safely parked our Transalp. After a well deserved warm shower, we headed for a walk to the port. The wind was rather cold and we soon found ourselves in a “creperie” a pancake restaurant. Every region or even city of France has its local typical food specialities and Bretagne is famous for pancakes and apple cider as well as for seafood. Our entire dinner was made of pancakes. For starters, we were served warm goat cheese in a black wheat pancake followed by mussels pancakes and for dessert we had a sweet honey pancake with almonds. Pretty cool meal ! Abby had a first go at apple cider but didn't like it that much so I finished it for her. No worries at all, I'm not riding tonight ! We took lots of pictures of the old fisherman houses and the superb coastline panoramas. The battery is getting low...
Next morning, a delicious breakfast awaits for us in the hotel dining room. We stuff ourselves with food again and then start packing up. These frequent packing and unpacking start being a bit annoying. There's too much of it and since the panniers are totally filled up with our stuff, it's a bit of a pain putting everything back exactly the way it was the day before. Gotta fit. Sometimes it takes a few trials to get there. It takes about half an hour each time. The sun is making us sweat. Alright, we made it once more, time to leave.
21st of July – Arzon - France
We're riding towards the South of Bretagne now, hopefully the temperature should be warmer there. I have set the GPS to take us to a little place in the gulf of Morbihan called Arzon, near Port Navalo. This time the GPS can't take us to highways, there's none of it. So the ride is quite different now, small roads, thick forests, very little traffic and lots of curves. My speed decreases too. Abby likes it better that way, me too actually, it's quite fun. But then the rain starts pouring. I have a sigh at the thought of the rain gear we left behind in UK. Not to worry though, our riding gear has a waterproof linen inside. Time to test its efficiency. Japanese stuff are always of a good quality and we remain dry. Not a drop in the boots, not a drop anywhere except one in my helmet as I forgot to shut down the ventilation spots. That's not too bad. Soon the sun shines again.
Is it the rain or the excess of coffee this morning, I suddenly feel an urgent need to go to pee. We stop in a village. There's not a soul to be seen in the streets. Everything looks closed. It's 13:15 so that's not a surprise anymore. The French take two hours for lunch so that they can go back home and eat there. Nice for them, bad for the traveler. I ride the bike towards the church as this is where I get most chances of at least finding some bar open. I really need to go ! I should have stopped in the countryside rather. Too late for that. Yes, there's a bar-restaurant: Le Cafe des Sports. I shut down the GPS, turn off the headlights, turn the engine off and we get in the bar room. A few customers are having a drink around a table. The bar tender wipes off some glasses.
“Can we have lunch here” I ask jumping from one leg to the other.
“Yes you can.” he replies with a smile.
“And where are the toilets please ?”
He points at a sign on the wall.
The restaurant is behind the bar room. We find lots of countryside customers there. I suddenly remember my cult movie “Easy Rider” as everyone stops talking to look at us. The cheeks and noses are pinkish, the eyes are not very friendly. Well, we ain't looking too long at them and choose a table at the back. The waitress comes to ask if we want some soup. Hmm, I guess we better have some, yes please. She returns with a whole pot of it. I don't think we'll be able to finish that much but hey, let's get some anyway, perhaps we aren't supposed to empty the pot, perhaps we should make it turn.
But then, we get the starters: a huge pot of mussels with white cream. Oh yes ! We love that. Then we have a big piece of burgundy beef with a delicious sauce, and then we get cheese, lots of them and finally we're offered a huge choice of dessert but we wouldn't know where to put more than a yoghurt and a coffee. Nice lunch indeed but what about the bill ? 10 Euros each ! That's a real bargain. Perhaps we should stay a little more and gain some weigh but the bike is loaded enough like that. The rest of the journey is cool, we're digesting while riding on little curvy roads, crossing more typically Celtic villages with Christian stone crosses everywhere.
In Arzon we find a cool camp-site near the sea. The seagulls are laughing their way above our heads. We set up our tent near some German tourists who come to greet us in German. Alright, time to remember my school years. I used to visit Germany every year to practice the language but I guess I got old since and it's a real pain to remember anything. No worries though, a mixture of both English and German see us through the presentations. Time to head for the port and see if it looks different from the North. We're disappointed, Arzon is totally made of new buildings, the boring tourist type and is indeed full of them. The prices of restaurants is outrageous and there's even a brand new casino in the middle. We won't stay long, that's for sure. We shop at the supermarket and return to our camp-site for a picnic. The site has WiFi which is good. Jain has tried to send our parcel but her carrier requires a phone number. Damn, that's a problem. My parents don't have any phone in their remote countryside house. Doesn't matter how many mobile phones I give them, they just don't want any. They just lay idle in a drawer. Alright then, I ask Jain to send it to their house in Le Mans, give her the phone number and mention that the post office will probably forward it to the countryside house.
24th July – Nantes - France
We leave Arzon the next day, heading towards Nantes where we're supposed to meet up at my best friend's girlfriend's house. They're expecting us at noon since they're going to cook some nice lunch for us. I know David and his taste for good food. We better arrive on time or things might be burned. Time to speed up. The speed limit is 110 on that double lane road to Nantes. That's not fast enough. We woke up at nine and we need to make up for it.
About twenty kilometres away from our destination, I spot a blue guy on a blue motorcycle coming from nowhere on my right hand-side and I know straight away trouble is riding fast on my back. I slow down but in vain. The cop points at me in his typical administrative way and I have to follow him to a quiet spot where he can rip me off. 146km/h instead of 110 with an overloaded bike and two persons on board, he says, I guess you can't complain... er, he's kind of having a point there, I can't say much. I try to pretend I was unable to see the counters because of my tank-bag but let's face it, I'm guilty as hell. Oh well, I have a thought at all the automatic speed radars I arrogantly neglected and ask the cop how much I owe him. 90 Euros. Hmm, any chance for a discount Sir, I ask. Nope, sorry, he replies, the time for sales is over. What if we haven't got that much cash with us, Abby asks. I'll have to take you to the nearest machine he says. No use to bother. Here's your money.
We arrived 15 minutes late because of that mishap but nothing was burned. David and his girlfriend Yvette welcomed us like royalties. We were shown to our room and then sat in the garden to enjoy some appetizers while sharing the latest news. And some appetizers that was ! Pizza and warm goat cheese on baguette with some Picon-beer followed by home-made foie gras. Then we had a roast, then we had cheese and dessert. Everything was home-made and delicious. David kept opening bottles of great wine and we kept emptying them. What a feast ! We had to visit the city in order to digest fast enough before dinner time. I had never seen Nantes and they first took Abby and me to the old naval factories. Nantes no longer build boats but kept the installations. Instead they build weird machinery. Like a huge mechanical elephant that takes tourists around while splashing everybody on the ground with water from its wooden trump. Quite strange really. We then visited the old fortress and walked through the many pedestrian streets that offer all sorts of incredibly attractive food, treats and delicatessen. Very nice city indeed. Must be cool to live there.
25th July – Azay-le-Rideau - France
After another excellent dinner prepared by our hosts, we went to bed early as we had a little plan together for the next day. Yvette had never seen any Loire castle so I encouraged David to persuade her to take a little trip with us to Azay-le-Rideau and Chenonceau. Yvette had a very fancy convertible Audi in her garage. David and her jumped in their car with Abby sitting in the back with half of our luggage and I rode the Transalp quite comfortably behind. Abby took a few pictures of me riding. We had a picnic in Azay-le-Rideau before visiting the castle. The place was as beautiful as I remembered it from the time my parents had taken me there when I was only six. The good part was that this time, I could see more than only the legs of other visitors. However, the admittance fee was rather more costly...
Then we all drove towards Tours where we had booked another Formule 1 hotel. We had dinner in a nearby Leon de Bruxelles for some delicious mussels and as it was Sunday, we could have as many mussels as we wanted. I stayed about three hours there !
26th July – Chenonceau - France
The next day, we drove to Chenonceau, one of the nicest Loire castle. Again, the admittance fee was even higher than the previous day. The castle was packed with visitors nevertheless. I wonder how much money tourism generates each year in France, it must be outrageous !
Then it was time to say goodbye to David and Yvette. We had a last lunch together and off they went, back to Nantes. We spent another night at our hotel and woke up early the next morning to ride towards my parents countryside place in La Creuse region. Quite a beautiful ride. The GPS took us safely there and my parents welcomed us warmly. Horizons Unlimited last DVD, about changing tires, had arrived but unfortunately our parcel from Wilton was still missing. That obviously meant that it was probably waiting for us in Le Mans instead. My mother's birthday was up two days later and our presents were in that parcel so as some important documents I really couldn't afford to ignore. So basically, we had to drive North again, back to Le Mans.
That's what we did the next day, on the 28th. My parents passed me the keys of their house and we rode four hours to reach it only to realize that we had forgotten the electricity box key. That meant no light, no phone, no fridge. Damned !
We found a cyber cafe, contacted DHL and arranged for delivery of our parcel on the following day. That allowed us to get back on the road at 1:00 on the 29th and we were reunited with my parents in La Creuse at about 6:00. Good enough, my mom's 80 years old birthday was still on for a few hours. We gave her our presents, some friends of her popped up to celebrate as well and that's when my dad began feeling ill. We went to bed early, quite knacked but Dad wasn't feeling much better when we woke up. He had fever and felt exhausted. Medicine helped a bit and we were able to enjoy our stay, stuffing ourselves with all the fresh products from my Dad's garden and visiting a few spots in the region.
3rd August – Florac - France
Abby and I left about a week later for another big trip towards the Cevennes region, further South. That region offers incredible curvy roads along the Tarn river. We kept seeing other bikers, obviously those roads are so cool, they attract lots of them. We felt a bit out of trend with our 22 years old Transalp as everyone seemed to be riding brand new powerful bikes of the greatest brands. Nevertheless, every biker was waving at us as we passed by. That's a rather awkward but friendly habit bikers have in my country. Perhaps not the safest one in some circumstances but it makes you feel like you're part of something. Lots of bikers who took us over were extending their right leg instead. Being riding on the other side of the road, that's how British bikers greet each other. Our plate number made us look British so that's how French riders greeted us as well.
Quite overwhelmed by the sights, we reached Florac where we camped. The temperature was still rather chilly and the wind didn't help but people were very friendly and the food was delicious. We just had to enjoy more of these curvy roads and incredible sights so we spent the next day cruising around in the region, visiting a fancy cave filled with a forest of stalactites and stalagmites called Aven. Looking at the map that night, we found that we weren't that far from Avignon where I knew, there was a famous bridge built ages ago by the Romans above the Gard river. That's the origin of the famous children song: “Sur le pont d'Avignon, on y danse, on y danse...”. We went there the next day but we didn't dance on it. The wind on that trip was simple frightening. In some spot I had to bend the bike as if I was taking a stiff curve too fast, but the road was straight ! Of course some spots were windy, then not, then again, in front, on the side, left, right, my God, that was scary ! I think that bike is going to make me look more masculine as my forearm muscles are building up fast ! Not so bad, a bit late now but no regrets.
We left on the following day and since we had just seen one of the oldest bridge in history, we thought we might as well see the newest one, the huge Millau suspended bridge. We arrived in Millau, the gate of the Mediterranean region, in time for lunch. Finally the temperature felt almost decent for a summer month. We rode below the bridge. Not too impressed, coming from Hong Kong. Looks pretty much the same to me except it's just one long piece of bridge instead of several segments. I wonder if tourists will be going to see it in 2000 years. Better keep the Roman one in Avignon in good shape just in case.
7th August – Carcassonne - France
The ride after Millau proved quite exhausting. But we went through Albi and Castres in one big ride and reach the magic city of Carcassonne in the late afternoon. Now we were in the Cathare region. Despite a sign showing the campsite was full, we were allowed in. The site of the middle-ages old walled city of Carcassonne was enough to have us want to stay a little. The protection walls only are 3km long and there are about 52 towers around it. Abby said it looked like some Disney film. I replied that it probably inspired Disney instead as there were no cinema invented yet when the Sarrazins built it.
We slept quite well that night, not so much because of the long ride but rather due to the Cassoulet dinner we had in an excellent restaurant near the Cite. Cassoulet is a regional speciality made with pork, duck, sausage and beans. Add a healthy sauce and a few glasses of local wine to it and you get two very sleepy bikers.
We spent the next day visiting the walled city. I felt like getting myself some middle-ages riding gear but decided that the Transalp was heavily loaded enough so I just got myself a Templar cross necklace instead. I become quite reasonable with age...
The cigarettes I had purchased in Kuala Lumpur duty free store on the way to London were now finished. Not to worry, Carcassonne is only about 150km away from another duty free place: Andorra.
So we went there on Sunday. The GPS can be set up to show the fastest itinerary or the shortest one. So far, it was set to the fastest one. I changed it to the shortest one and we found ourselves on incredibly small roads, the sort you can't even take anything over. I took ages to reach Andorra and petrol being also rather cheaper there, I refused refilling the tank. On top of that, Andorra is located 2000m high in the Pyrenean mountains. I had my first feel of the bike getting out of breath. There must not have been more than a Zippo left of petrol in the tank when we finally stopped at an Andorra petrol station but we had made it. I got some chain lubricant too as it looked rather dry now after riding about 3500km since Wilton. The back tire looked like we had used about two third of it but the prices of tires in Andorra were about the same as France. Let's wait some more. Cigarettes were much cheaper indeed and we were allowed 20 packs per person. Compared to the ridiculous 3 packs in Hong Kong, that was quite a treat. So I bought 40 packs, we ate our first Paella and set off back to Carcassonne.
I wasn't totally hundred per cent happy however for when we began the trip that morning, the CDI unit of our Transalp had acted badly again. I thought the problem was over since it hadn't occurred again since the start of our trip in the North of France. But that time, it was bad. I had shaken it as Geoff had told be but in vain. It took about 5 minutes for the second cylinder to get into action, which it did all of a sudden of course, making us jump. Not exactly safe. That made me lose confidence in our bike. There was just no way we would ride to Cape Town in such condition. I was pretty convinced we would lose one cylinder far before we even reached Africa.
But fate was on our side. As we went for dinner in La Cite that night, we saw exactly the same Transalp parked on the side of a restaurant. I asked around if people knew where the owner was and eventually met the boss of a T-Shirt store. His Transalp is also a 1988 model and he told me where he had it fixed. There was a Honda retailer and workshop in Carcassonne ! Hurray ! He gave us a map and pointed the way to it. Unfortunately, the next day was Monday and the French stores don't open on Mondays. Moreover, it's August and half of the French are on vacation in August. He gave us an alternative address which we checked out but found closed for three weeks. So we went to the Honda place. It was closed on Mondays of course but would reopen on Tuesday. Oh well.
The next morning we were at the gate at 9 o'clock sharp. We met the mechanic who wasn't surprised at all when I told him what the problem was. CDI units are the weakest parts of the Transalp the same way the fuel pump is the weak point of the Africa Twin. He had a look and told me that unfortunately they had sold the last unit 15 days before which they had taken out from a wrecked Transalp parked in the dump. It would take 72 hours to order a new one. Abby and I decided that we might as well replace both units, throw away the defective one and keep the old working one as a spare just in case. We also decided to replace the back tire for something slightly more road friendly but still a bit designed for trail. This time it should at least take us to South Morocco. We asked for an oil change, a good carburettor cleaning as the bike seems to suck lots of petrol and discovered that the front mudguard was broken. So I took a quick look at the dumped Transalp in the corner and found that its grey mudguard was in perfect condition. I also found that it had a center stand as well ! Haha, that could come handy in case of puncture. The mechanic said that he couldn't promise anything since the other mechanic was on holiday and that the shop closed for holiday the next week but that he'd try to do all the work for us. The bill will be quite high but hey, I need to regain confidence in our mother ship. On the way out, we found that the shop was selling another Transalp in perfect condition with only 60000km on the counter. I asked which year it was. 1999. Cool. How much is it ? 2000 euros. Damned ! That's the price we ended paying for our 1988 model ! Damned !
As we walked our way back to the camp site, I kept thinking of that 1999 Transalp. The seat was lower that ours. Still too high for Abby to ride it but wouldn't it be great to get it even if that meant fixing a lower seat for her. However, Abby can't ride yet. She's got her licence but she has no idea how to ride in European traffic. She still hasn't understood how to play with gears when taking a corner and I can feel her tensing up in my back when I approach a bend a bit too fast. She needs additional training. Typical Hong Kong isn't it. They teach you useless stuff like doing a 8 in a slope but let future rider rely on brakes only. Dumb ! So we decided that since we were stuck in Carcassonne for a few days, she might as well take a few training lessons and we registered for a two hours one the next day. She didn't ride since about a month and half anyway and that's no good. I'll be there to translate what her instructor will be saying but hopefully she'll be able to handle gears better. We hope the bike will be ready tomorrow. It's been nearly a week since we arrived in Carcassonne and the camp site is the most expensive we've been so far. Food is great but not cheap either. I really wanna get out of here and heading to our last destination in France: St-Jean-de-Luz. We can't wait to reach Morocco ! We even went to a totally touristy show yesterday in La Cite, watching would be knights on horses fighting with each others on well trained horses in some sort of made up tournament. It's really time we leave isn't it ?
12th August 2010 – Still in Carcassonne – France
Now this was truly a useful day ! At one o'clock, Abby and I were in front of the “Auto-Ecole Labrid- Mazet” waiting for Abby's instructor. He drove us to some quiet training track and began teaching Abby how to slide the clutch, when to gear up and down, how to use the front brake and push the handlebars instead of pulling it. I was translating. Michel, the instructor, was a gem of patience and professionalism. After two hours, Abby was already riding better than ever but Michel wasn't quite satisfied yet so he decided to pick us up from the campsite that evening after his job and drive us to his workshop in a deserted zone of Carcassonne. There, the road was empty and safe for faster riding so Abby could pass all the gears up and down. She rode another two hours with Michel sitting behind her, riding his Bandit next to her. After two hours, I was proud of my baby and she was having a huge grin on her face as she could now handle all the basics with no fear but seemed to enjoy herself immensely instead. What an instructor ! He did it out of biker spirit he said and I couldn't help comparing with the Hong Kong instructors spirit... Abby had about 50 hours of riding in Hong Kong, spent 12 hours riding on the road with an “instructor” after getting her licence, had several hours at the MX Club being “instructed” how to ride in the dirt, yet, she couldn't ride. In just 4 hours, Michel took her to what she was supposed to be able to do and she's now hooked. She can't wait to get her own bike and practice some more. I even jumped on the back seat as she was riding and felt safe doing it. In Hong Kong, you're not even allowed to carry a passenger for a year after passing your licence, why ? We saw the exercises demanded in France in order to get the licence, it is of course incredibly harder that in Hong Kong and doesn't include that dumb 8 in a slope thing but it puts bikers on the road, not dangerous unprepared amateurs ! Thank you Michel ! Biker spirit rules !!!
Posted by Pascal Leclerc at 08:00 PM