89 miles/143 km
Today was our last day in France. We took the DFDS ferry from the port of Dieppe to Newhaven. From the hotel to the port looked to be about 2 kilometers straight across town. My satnav took us on a tour of Dieppe and we has to put in at least 10 clicks to get there but we did get petrol along the way.
The one thing about getting a ferry is that you do a lot of waiting. Wait to go through ticket checks and passport control. Wait to get on the ferry. Wait for everyone else to get on the ferry.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in France. I’ve been there before but never with an air of seeing the country. It was always about getting somewhere as I hitchhiked or took Interrail. This was far more relaxed and interesting. The company I had was excellent. It would be great to come back and spend a little more time exploring a small area.
We all said our goodbyes on the car deck of the ship as we suited up and got the bikes started. Heading through border control, I was told that the main route was closed for an accident investigation and to either turn left or right.
I chose left and headed off towards Brighton. I guess I was supposed to take an exit right about Brighton to get the A23 but I missed it but the satnav kept saying go straight ahead for x miles. I had reset it to use miles over KMs. The distance did not seem to be dropping down when finally I realize the satnavs was sending me to a round about to turn round and head back.
I finally got back on the right road and made it back to the Road Trip UK to drop of the bike. If you are looking for a rental, I can highly recommend them. They are a totally professional outfit and with some fantastic bikes. This Multistrada 1260S is one of them. It took me a bit to get physically comfortable. I could do with an inch or two more leg room. Once I had found my space, this was a great bike that goes like stink. Now, I need to go and try the V4 version.
I have not added up the mileage from day to day but apparently the whole trip was 2,175 miles/3,480 km. Mileage out – 16,490 miles. Mileage in – 18,224. Not a bad trip by half.
My good friend Simon Calver generously offered to host me for my last night. I haven’t seen him since 2019 in Japan for the Rugby World Cup. Uber got me from Woking to Chalfont avoiding a train into London and then back out again.
I haven’t seen Monty since he was three or four years old. He is now in his first year of secondary school and full of energy. He showed me his skills on a hover board. I was convinced he was going to crash many times but he had it under control ripping round the house and the garden.
Likewise, I have not seen Nieve in the same about of time. She was just a baby at that time. Now, she is a very thoughtful young lady about to turn 10.
The best part was watching mother hen Simon run around and try to organize the pair of them. They totally have him wrapped around their little fingers.
644 km/403 miles
From the capital of Burgundy to the capital of Champagne. With just one day of riding left and a lot of miles to cover to Dieppe, we chose a two step day. Part 1 of the ride was to put some miles in and cover ground. We may Soisson near Reims our target town and chose to use the toll roads to put some distance in. It was cold today. I started the day with an extra layer but it wasn’t enough. For some reason at our first stop, I didn’t think to put on another layer. Finally, at the second stop I did and life was much more bearable. At both stops we ran in to a couple of English guys who were heading back from the Bol like us riding sports bikes. I could not imagine doing that kind of distance leaning on my wrists and on a thin seat.
Soon after we hit Reims, we stopped off at a supermarket to grab a sandwich for lunch. Nothing pretty but a welcome break from a bunch of riding with just gas stops.
After lunch we set our satnavs to no motorways and no toll roads. Martyn, who took the lead seemed to have an extra setting which said ride through the center of every town rather than go around the bypass. What a fun time. We hit beautiful countryside, wide sweeping bends, and after a while not much traffic. For that while, Martyn buggered off at the front passing everything and disappearing. This in of itself was fine but my and Mark’s satnavs kept saying turn but Martyn was not waiting at the corner.
I had never thought of France being a place where potatoes grew but we went through miles and miles of potato farms. I never thought about potatoes having a smell but passing the fields where the harvest was going the smell was distinctive. Seeing the farms, led to all sorts of thoughts. How do they did the potatoes up on a mass scale? How many potatoes get damaged? Is this where Chopin vodka comes from
We finally pulled into a little town and Martyn was parked outside a little café. Coffees all around. Served at the outdoor tables. When I walked into the café all heads turned. I think we were so far out of the way, bikers arriving is an unusual event. Seeing a black one was even more eye opening.
After coffee, we are on a mission. We have a two hour window to check in at the hotel. Following Martyn’s satnav has me questioning whether we’ll make it if we have the normal town center detours. We are there in plenty of time. However, it is clear that we are the last check in for the night and the madam waiting for us is ready to head home.
The hotel had no parking so we set up on the street outside. Parking was free from 7pm to 9am so we had to pay for an hour. Out came all the padlocks and the steering locks were set with wheels jammed against the curve. Martyn suggested Mark and I both remind him to remove his lock in the morning as he did not want to
After parking the bikes, we head for a beer and find a little café across the street from the Cathedral. The place closed early and we were soon the last customers.
The view of the cathedral was far more impressive from the end with the sun setting on it. However, a visitor amused us as she backed out of a parking space into a bold. No damage to the plastic bumper on her tiny little car.
All the restaurants in Dieppe seem to surround the marina and we strolled over it check them out. In the same manner as St Jean du Gard and Beaune the restaurants all seemed to have the same menu. We picked the second because it had a good vibe.
What better vibe than allowing dogs into the restaurant? This was not a service dog. Just a guy and his dog waiting for the 11pm ferry. That was the ferry we had planned to be on but we changed to the following day so we did not have to get off at 4am and ride after little sleep.
Dinner choices were good. Mark and Martyn started with a seafood platter which was massive. I had the fish soup. They had fish dishes for mains and I had the mussels which were great and sopping the sauce with bread was once again fantastic. We had a bottle of Sancerre to go with the seafood which was delightful. We finished off dinner with a calvados as a nightcap.
After a long hard day of riding, we were all tired. I pinged Lisa to see if she was around to chat. She suggested I call an hour later if I was still up. I didn’t 😄.
510 km/318 miles
Today, the team split up. Rob, Biff, and MacBean were heading west towards Spain and the south west. Martyn, Mark, and I were heading north to get the ferry on Tuesday. Mark looked for a place that was close to the middle of our trip to Dieppe and picked Beaune. The capital of the Burgundy region.
Our plan was to take the toll roads and hammer out the miles. Because of the race and the exodus of bikers, they were removing tolls for motorcyclists from noon until midnight, all the way up to Paris. With our timing, we did manage to save about twenty euros.
We were told that we could check in anytime after 3pm. We arrived about 10 minutes to 4pm to find a note on the door. La madam would return at 4. So we found a spot in the shade to hang out. There were several other visitors waiting also. At 4:15 she came racing into the parking lot apologizing in English. One of the groups ahead of us asked how to turn the heat on in the room – “We do not have heat at this time of the year” came the reply with all the French disdain you can imagine.
We did not get a room in the main house. We were in the barn. Not with the animals and hay bales but a tastefully done room with en suite bathroom. The shower had a little to be desired being one of those handheld jobbies you use sitting down in the tub. Martyn offered to hose Mark off but he did not bite.
Martyn wanted to take a nap before heading off to dinner so Mark and I wandered into town to see the sites and scope things out.
My guess is that this is some sort of triumphal archway. It sat right on the main road into town.
My two years of high-school French has not stood the test of time. I kept seeing big, well appointed buildings in towns and thought it was interesting to see so many town hotels. There was one right next to our hotel in St Jean du Gard. In the back of my mind, I had an inkling there was something special about them. Mark pointed out that they were the town halls. Maybe it will stick this time around. Every time I went for s’il vous plait, por favor came out of my mouth. I did get the hang of merci beaucoup.
Mark fortuitously made a reservation for us at one of the restaurants we passed. All the other places seemed to be turning people away from them we passed. As we wandered back through the main square to the restaurant there were a number of balloons passing over the cathedral.
These snails were loaded with garlic butter and delicious. Scoping up the remaining butter with bread was divine.
I got the prix fixe menu which include snails as a starter and beef bourguignon as a main course. My absolute lack of French knowledge is stunning. I did not know that Bourgogne and Burgundy were the same place. That said, we did not have any burgundy wine with dinner.
Beaune was the first place that I noticed with ghost signs. I saw one on the way into dinner, a number more in the town center, and this one on the way back out.
~40 km/25 miles
Saturday was the start of the 24 hour race. There is a classic or vintage race early in the day. The main event kicked off a three pm. We left at about 10:30 am to get up to the track and were soon in a mass of bikes and traffic heading that way.
It’s a good job we took the bikes. The police had bikes all filtering in and heading down the “English” side of the road into the track. It probably took us about an hour to get up there and park the bikes.
When you go to a motorcycle race in the US, there are usually some bikes and they get to park up close. One estimate I heard said there would be 70,000 bikes at Bol. You have to pay attention to where you park.
That many bikes means that many people. It seemed that whenever I went anywhere, I was going up stream. At one point, I was a the far end of the straight and the lads said they were heading back at 4:30. Going through the crowd, I wasn’t sure whether I was going to make it there.
As with any big race, there is always pomp. The crowd was treated to a couple of flyovers by a French air display team. We saw the shadows fly past but the roof of the stand stopped us seeking the actually fly by.
We had a good spot to see a couple of corners and the run into the pits. To see the race start a run across the track to the bikes, we had to lean forward and crane our necks to see the back of the order.
Like any race, there was lots to see and do. There were a lot of bike clubs displaying various marques of bikes around the entrance. There was even a marketplace where you could buy or bid on various bikes.
All the endurance races have to feature night racing. It goes without saying that will be the case for a 24-hour race. But even the 8-hours of Suzuka has to have some racing after dark.
The crowd was different after dark. Probably 1/3 or 1/2 have of what it had been during the day. By the time when the sun went down, you could not really tell who was who. You could see various brands of bike the headlights of a few were distinctive – especially the BMWs.
As odd as it seems, the bikes do not slowdown after dark, they maintain the same pace they had throughout the day. They were all running in the 1:53-55 range. You can see how far they travel every second from the light trail above.
Martyn and I were the only ones who made it back to the track for the night session. There had been a lot of beer and wine bought for the evening and there were valiant attempts to finish it as we were all leaving in the morning.
When we got back Mark and Biff were still up listening to music at the kitchen table. I think Biff was particularly please to see us be the others were heading to bed. He promptly opened more wine for us and we hung out for another couple of hours until a reasonable bed time. Mark had to suffer because we were in his room.
64 km/40 miles
Breakfast was a collection of croissants and such that we’d picked up at the supermarket the day before. They came in a beaten up marked down box to clear them from the store. Five minutes in the oven and they came out great. There was a surprise in the box. A piece of tuna pizza which smelled lovely after sitting on the counter all night.
Our plans for time at the track were variable and we did consider getting a taxi or an Uber so that beers could be had. Not having tickets, we were unsure as to whether we could get in and whether arriving by cab would be a waste of money. Martyn and I decided to ride out and pick up the tickets if they were available.
Since we were there, we decided to head in and check out the track and the practice that was going on. The track has head the Austin treatment and is all blinged up for F1 racing. Leaving the track was a bit of a challenge. They scan you in and out. The woman who head sold us the tickets had scanned them all in by mistake. The guard on the way out did not want to scan them all out. With a huff and French shrug, he relented and scanned them out.
The lads had gone down to the beach to see the local sites and have a wander around. They dropped us a pin and we headed that way with a couple of detours for missed/impossible turns in one of the local villages. We found them propping up the promenade like good Englishmen should.
Dinner was steak or chicken kebabs and sausages. It was of course washed down with some 51 pastis, the local Bandol rosé and beer