Bol D’Or – Day 7 – St. Jean du Gard to Bandol

249 km/156 miles

St. Jean du Gard to Bandol

Today was a sight seeing day as we mosied on down from St Jean du Gard to Bandol. Bandol is about twenty minutes south of the Paul Ricard race track. On the way we stopped at the Pont du Gard an ancient Roman aqueduct. It was built to supply the city of Nimes with water.

Pont du Gard

Just to prove I am on the trip, here’s an over the shoulder selfie. The beard’s getting a bit straggly. I need to dig my razor out and clean up a bit.

I was there too

We were talking about a side trip to Avignon to see the famous bridge – “Sur le pont d’Avignon…” but we did not as time was getting on. We headed on to our meeting point at the Carrefour in Bandol. Biff was there when we arrive and Rob showed up about twenty minutes later. The full gang was assembled.

The villa for the race weekend

Martyn could not have found a more beautiful out of the way place for us to stay. We only ended up here because the hotel he booked cancelled our reservation. They probably got a better offer serving the boat show that is in town.

Mac and Biff by the pool

Although in the sun all day long, the pool is not that warm. Refreshing is probably the best way to describe it.

Tea time

Dinner was fresh pasta with a red sauce and sausages out on the patio. It was accompanied by pastis as an aperitif and a nice rosé wine. This region is apparently well known for its rosé wines

We sat out all evening and watched the sun set over the far side of the bay.

Mediterranean sunset

Martyn was quite proud of himself. He was the last man standing after everyone started to toddle, in some cases literally, off to bed.

Martyn finishing up his brandy after folks went off to bed

Bol D’Or – Day 6 – Riom to St. Jean du Gard

333 km/208 miles

What a day!

Riom to St Jean du Gard

Today was not a big day of riding but it was awesome. The highway riding we did was beautiful. Full of fantastic sweeper and magnificent views. We went through some beautiful towns and countryside. We hit French wine country. What domain, I’m not sure. I think it might have been just vin de país.

We did pass one village where the “crush” to borrow a California term was in full swing. It was amazing to smell the juice on the air as we rode past.

The run down into Le Pompidou was pretty. A lot of mountain passes. Martyn was inkling to get off and hammer them. He finally took off and passed us all. Two hundred yards later we ran into the fog and his blast was off.

Coffee in Le Pompidou

I asked the lady who was running the coffee shop if I could take a picture inside and she said no. So I waited until she went outside and took one without her. I figured she didn’t want me taking a picture of her.

Out of Pompidou Mark and I pulled out into a lay by and looked down in to the Valley Francois. Mac and Martyn had taken off. It was amazing looking down the valley. If the sky’s had been clear it would have been even better.

Valley Francois

Running down from the tops into the valley was brilliant. Sweepers, hairpins, straights and grippy road. At the bottom we stopped by the river.

You’re not English if you don’t make a cup of tea.

Martyn was itching for another run up and down to Le Pompidou. He and I took off to do the run again. Mac and Mark went into St Jean to get the hotel sorted. What a run. I think Martyn had time for a couple of cigarettes by the time I made it up.

When we go to down and checked in, we went for beers. It was a good job that we got done early.

Waiting for the rain to stop

Most of the restaurants in town did not open for dinner until 7:30 pm so we had some time to fill and menus to review with a wander around town. The buildings were as you would imagine them to be in a typical French town.

Wandering the streets

We did find another little place to stop into. With some interesting snack choices.

A locals bar
Corn nuts

We finally settled on eating in the hotel’s restaurant. It was a good choice. Everyone had a different main and they were all excellent. We did have an interesting discussion about pork when Martyn was asked how he wanted it cooked. That was an anathema. It should be cooked.

Lamb three ways

I made the wrong choice for the dessert course. Everyone else picked the cheese plate. I chose the fruit tart. It was excellent but the cheese choices were magnificent.

Cheese choices (pic credit Martyn Howorth)

Bol D’Or – Day 5 – Dieppe to Riom

554 km/346 miles

Dieppe to Riom

Today was one of our longer days to ride getting from Dieppe to Riom. Lots of highways and dual carriage ways. For as boring as that sounds, it was some pretty good roads to ride on. Mark did a fantastic job route planning. And, as foreign as it seems to us in the UK and US, when there was construction there were people hustling to get things done.

First stop of the day was a little town south of Louviers. I guess this Louviers is the counterpart to our Louviers in Douglas County, Colorado. My guess is that it does not have an old dynamite factory nor is an old company town. I was a little worried as we drove in to town as Mark seemed to be heading to McDonalds. Fortunately, it was closed and we ended up at a little cafe/bar with a boulangerie across the street. Cafe lattes, raisin croissants, and chocolate croissants all around please.

From then on it was a rapid run south, with a couple of stops for petrol/gas/water/coffee on the way. It was fascinating to see the sights. From miles away, you could see cathedrals with the spires standing up from the country side. There were cornfields, wheat fields, onion fields galore. There were also lots of radar speed zones. Passing one, Mark pointed to the side of the road and I wondered what he was pointing at. As we passed, there was a big flash. I wonder if there will be a prize waiting for me in Woking when I get back.

Arrived
First stop, drinks at the Hotel du Square

Getting dinner became a bit of a challenge. A lot of the restaurants did not open until 7 or 7:30 and the boys were a bit hungry. We tried the Brasserie du Commerce but they were not serving food.

Out of luck at this place

We finally ended up at a fast casual burger place. Nothing to write home about but I had a pretty good burger with an excellent local blue cheese topping. The big drawback was no wine or beer. We sorted that soon though.

Cognac

I have not had a cognac since I started to appreciate good wine and liquor/spirits. This was fantastic. Full of plums, raisins, and for want of a better description prunes. I don’t think you could get a better night cap.

Bol D’Or – Day 4 – Burnley to Newhaven

308 miles/492 km

Day 2 of riding

Today, Martyn was supposed to meet me at 8am at my mum’s house. The plan being to ride to Sandbach services and meet Mark and Macbean. At 6:30 last night he called me to say that his bike needed an MOT.

He’d come up with a brilliant scheme. As you are allowed to ride directly to a testing station, he’d come up with a brilliant plan. He’d booked his bike in for the test at the Newhaven testing station 228 miles away, as the crow flies. “Yes officer, this is the most direct route from Hebden Bridge to Newhaven. He’d only called me so that no one else would take the piss

So, at 8:05 this morning, I left a teary eyed Mum to ride solo to Sandbach. As soon as I left, the satnav/gps added an hour and fifteen minutes to the planned trip time of 90 minutes suggesting my arrival would be 10:50. A missed turn getting out of Burnley added another couple of minutes.

I said I wasn’t going to say this again, but guess what it was raining. Twenty minutes in to the trip, the problem became obvious. The traffic came to a standstill outside Blackburn. Thank heavens for lane filtering. Off I went down the white line using my mirrors as feelers. Most people were nice and moved over. At a point, the two lanes became three and I moved over to that side. I do worry when I pass a cop in the middle lane. No lights. No siren. No problem. A mile further down the road a car was stopped holding all the traffic in that lane. I scooted around and took off down the lane wondering what was wrong. Apparently nothing other than the guy being a jackass. I had clear road for two miles until the lane merged back end. Everyone in the other two lanes was going nowhere. Finally, another two miles down the road after more lane splitting, the traffic cleared. A three car wreck was all moved to the hard shoulder.

Time update 9:45 arrival. More rain, more filtering, arrival 9:46 where Mark and Mac are waiting. I’m so disappointed that they already no Martyn’s plight. They are not surprised to see me alone. Is planned the fake look over my shoulder to question where he’d gone. I’d promised I’d give the the f’u all from him when they laughed as I told them the tale.

Needless to say, his plans had changed. He’d already completed his MOT and was “20 miles” down the road. Did I need the toilet? No. Did I need petrol? Yes but I could do 20 miles. Forty miles later with my reserve light on, Mark led us into a service station for gas. It seemed Mac had missed the service station where Martyn was.

Filled up and back in the road we did another 20 miles to meet up with Martyn. Thank goodness because I was starving. I’d been promised a bacon butty at our planned stop and it had been on my mind since I left Burnley.

The next 100 miles was easy. The weather had cleared up and I took off a couple of layers at our next stop. More motorway, M5, M40/42, M25, M23. Easy going but I still don’t have the hang of these variable and average speed limits. The variable is very go / slow. The average seems to work much better.

As we ahead down the M23 Mac, running lead pulls off the motorway but my nav is saying carry on. At the roundabout I ask him of this is the right way and according to his nav it is but it is arriving 30 minutes later than mine. We pull back on the motorway and two minutes later he throws his hands up because the nav is playing up. I take the lead and head off to Newhaven.

As we enter town, we stop for gas and Mac checks his system. It is set for the “shortest” route. I kid that it’s because he’s a pensioner and needs to save petrol money.

Martyn, Mark, and Mac

A few miles later, with Mac in the lead again, we made it to the ferry. Check-in and pre-board could not have been easier. It could have been quicker because the lady in front of us could not find her passport. Boarding was easy. Bikes on first, ride to the back, front wheel into a chock, padding, strap down, done.

Newhaven marina
Newhaven harbor

Not the most impressive of selfies…

 

via Instagram https://instagr.am/p/CiTVG6CMMAC/

…but got to have a lovely brunch with @harrietgreenfield today in Peterborough. Made it all the way there without a drop of rain. Wasn’t so lucky after lunch when following directions to The NORTH. Bucketing down would be the polite way to say it. I have to stop talking about the rain. In my mind, this trip was all sunny skies and warm temps. Positive thoughts. #thesunhasgotitshaton☀️

Bol D’Or – Day 1 – Woking to Burnley

Day 1

258 miles/412 km

Day 1 was supposed to be a quick trip up to Burnley but I did get side tracked. I went via Peterborough to call in on a friend of mine from University. She happened to be taking her car there for a recall and was happy to have a distraction rather than twiddling her thumbs waiting for the car to be ready.

The weather coming out of Woking was better than I expected. It had been forecast to rain but on my trip around London to Peterborough on the M40, M1, M25 and A1, the weather held. Grey skies only. I made it to our meeting and lunch spot a few minutes late but dry. It was great catching up with Harriet who I have not seen in about 9 years since a significant birthday for her. After lunch we wandered over to the cathedral to satisfy my tourist craving. For some reason there were dinosaurs on the grounds and in the cathedral.

Peterborough Cathedral

The dry weather did not last. I as I got back on the A1 north of Peterborough, the skies opened up and it pelted down. Fortunately, it was sporadic and I went in and out of cloud bursts all the way to Burnley. It made me quite nostalgic to ride along the M62 in the rain as I did many times on the way to university at Hull.

After getting off the M62, I had a couple of be careful of following the satnav, especially in the rain incidents. The first was at Elland where I missed a turn and the re-route took me down some dodgy streets to get back on track. The second was in Hebden Bridge. I should have known better and followed the main road to Burnley. Instead, it took me off the main road over towards Blackshaw Head. A winding, steep, one-lane wet road was not the place to be. It was quite fun after I made it to the top of the hill and I could open the bike up over the tops.

Coal Clough Wind Farm

The clouds over the top the Long Causeway were magnificent. I did not do them justice with this photograph. At the wind farm here, which you are allowed to walk around, there are warning signs to beware of ice forming on the blades and being flung off. It also suggests not entering when there is lightning about. There’s no way in the USA that you’d be allowed anywhere near these things. These things are massive and both ends of the road are single, winding lanes. I did hear of the travails of the village of Mereclough having to deal with them brought in when the turbines were erected.

Anyway, made it to mum’s without incident or further rain as she’s about 10 minutes down the road. Overall, it took about 6 hours to make it to Burnley from Woking. The 2 hours 13 minutes on the map was the first leg. The rain and traffic really slowed things down.