Eurothrash 2017 – France, Spain and Andorra (the Pyrenees)

Well Eurothrash was upon us once again and this time it was decided that we – me, Yox and Purge again – would head once more to the Pyrenees. Yox as usual was charged with sorting out routes and he did us proud again:

Eurothrash 2017: the Route

So after work on the Friday, I headed down to Portsmouth to meet up with the two of them for a pint of two at a nearby pub before boarding the overnight ferry to Caen. The weather forecast was a bit dodgy but it didn’t really rain until it was time for boarding.

Once on board, the drinking theme continued, despite our knowing that the forecast was not particularly good:

“Let me explain…”

Les Miserables

After a couple of hours’ kip in our compact and bijou 4-berth cabin, we got up, had coffee and a croissant and ventured out into the light rain; I didn’t bother to put on my waterproof oversuit as I thought I’d leave it to the “waterproof” Triumph Taloc leathers, Alpinestars Gore-Tex boots and Rukka Gore-Tex gloves to sort things out, which they did. At one point during the day it got a little nippy, so at one fuel stop, I grabbed my Keis heated vest and plugged it in as well as turning on the heated grips and was toasty-warm!

After 500 miles or so, we got separated near to our first stop at Lurbe-Saint-Christau and I followed the Garmin to our hotel, the Au Bon Coin which, from the outside and being in the middle of nowhere, didn’t look like much. Inside, however, it was comfortable and our dinner – after a couple of beers – was really tasty.

Time for beer!

After breakfast on Day Two, we set off for Spain and the Hotel Cotori in El Pont de Suert where we’d stayed in 2013.  This really is a fabulous hotel and one I’d stay in again and again.

En route, we stopped off for some coffee as Yox had brought his coffee-making kit with him, so we did some off-roading (!) to ride down to a river – well, excluding Purge who refused to take the ZZR1400 down the gravel embankment – only to find that there was a disaster! Yox’s cafetière had smashed! So we ended up sieving the coffee through a tea towel to allow us to have the elixir of life before finishing our ride.

And here’s some video of Yox and I getting up the slope:

150-ish miles later and we arrived in the main square outside the Hotel Cotori where they were setting up for “La Nit del Foc” or the “Night of Fire” with wooden torches in all shapes and sizes everywhere. We weren’t sure whether it was actually a Wicker Man-style event for us, especially after the 19 beers that were consumed…

Day Three and we were heading to the Hotel Andria in Seo de Urgel, some 180 miles on our planned twisty routes. We stopped off at one point for some photos near Montferrer i Castellbò in Catalonia and saw some eagles – you won’t be able to make them out, I doubt, from my photos.

By the time we reached the hotel after a very warm day in the saddle – 32°C – we were pleased that they let us park the bikes up in their courtyard. A quick shower and a few beers on the verandah and we headed off into town for food, including Yox’s mini-penises…

Day Four was planned to be a biggie: 230-ish miles of bends and twisties from Spain into France and then up into Andorra before our overnight stop at the Hotel President.

And the roads indeed proved epic with lots of hairpins, ascents and descents all day long. And our first brush with the law: after a ‘spirited’ ride up some hairpins, we got pulled over by the police near Naut Aran in Catalonia:

After our stop, we decided to pull over so our Extreme Barista could do his stuff, this time using just the filter from the broken cafetière to filter the coffee.

Once we’d had coffee, we set off again and later found that we could experience a number of different weather conditions within a very short space of time once we were back into the Haute-Garonne of France:

After negotiating the perilous car park ramps at the Hotel President, it was time for beers and their buffet deal in the restaurant. Yox and Purge had adjoining rooms which featured their own shared ante-room with sofas and TV!

Day Five was planned as another 160-ish miles back into Spain, along the N260 and then back into France for our next stop at Thuir, the Domaine de La Fauvelle.

A slightly cooler 31°C but lots of effort on the roads led to us needing beers when we arrived before we’d even changed. They told us the restaurant was usually shut that day but as another older lady was staying, they’d got the chef coming in especially and would we like to dine there? On the basis that we were on the outskirts of Thuir and couldn’t be arsed to walk into town we said yes and were lucky to do so as the food was simply superb. Purge had already claimed he was all cheesed out but still managed some, giving up the chance to try what he mis-translated as “fish sorbet”…

The mileage had begun to take its toll on us, so for Day Six, our planned route of 200 miles back into the twisties before heading to the idiosyncratic Hôtel Renaissance at Castres was only followed by Yox and me, with Purge taking the more direct route to Castres.

The roads were great fun, but as even Yox was taking it easy which was not what I wanted to do, needing a bit more speed to take the weight off my wrists, so I rode past and made my own way on the planned route, with Yox catching me when I stopped for a well-earned break in Couiza.

By the time we got to Castres and had settled into our rooms, Purge had already arrived much earlier and was sitting drinking in one of the bars in the square, where we then met up before finding a restaurant to eat: burgers with goats cheese (and then more cheese). After dinner, we headed back to the hotel for a couple of beers/digestifs and then bed: we had a long day ahead of us planned…

Did I mention the roads were great?

Day Seven and we were starting our return journey, heading for the Domaine de Roiffé, some 320 miles from Castres. Purge had already decided he would take the direct motorway route and blast there whilst Yox and I would take a nicer route, even though we’d ride at our own pace – I’d stopped for petrol the night before, etc.

The weather was a little changeable and on one country road in the rain, I got flashed by a hidden speed camera on a double-bend; we’ll see if the ticket reaches me. Purge reached the hotel 15 minutes or so before me and Yox a little while after as he’d stopped for photos on the way. A quick shower and then off for beers and a lovely meal in our own vaulted roofed booth.

Day Eight and we planned an earlier departure as we were all booked on mid-afternoon Eurotunnel crossings. As I was on a FlexiPlus fare I was more relaxed and we’d all planned our own strategies for the final 340-odd miles: I was planning a two-stop, Yox a one-stop and Purge a “pin it to win it” blast/stop/repeat run.

It was warm and dry, but the rain clouds were ever-present and you dodged the clouds as much as possible, with the odd heavy downpour and then bright, warm sunshine.

As it transpired, we all arrived at the terminal within minutes of each other. After enduring the long wait at UK Border Agency, we boarded separate trains and then I headed home.

2,327 Miles

Once home, it was a cuppa, a shower, a Chinese takeaway and then back out to collect my partner from her flight back from Fuerteventura (landing at 1.10am!) into Gatwick. No rest for the wicked!

A couple of weeks later and my numb index finger (throttle side) is only gradually easing. Maybe that could be avoided in future by my fitting bar risers? One to try…

Movember

Well, November has been an interesting month…

I decided to join in with Movember again this year: fundraising for men’s mental health. A good cause. But yes, I end up looking more ridiculous than usual and hating the annoying slug festering under my nose! At least tomorrow I can shave the bastard off or at least trim it right back!

Tonight, I’m supposed to be going to their Gala Parté at the Roundhouse Camden, but I came down with a heavy cold this week which is on its way out – thankfully – but is on my chest right now, so I can’t really be arsed. And I’m a little bit down at the moment, if I’m honest, but shh! That’s our secret, right?

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself.

The 6th was the Bring Me The Horizon gig at Brixton. A good one, if I’m honest, although the band’s lead singer was a knob trying to look big in front of the predominantly young, female, screaming audience. More noise from them than from the stage.

That Friday it was the PurplePort London Social: it was good to meet up with some photographers and some models, including Sakura Star who’d previously said she was keen to work with me on a somewhat noir bondage and fetish project going forward: she has some excellent work on her portfolio already.

The next day it was off up to Norwich to see Norwich City beat West Ham United and thereby save Chris Hughton from the dole queue for a little longer…

The following week was fun at work: I was put forward for a major commission in Canada without my knowledge so I had a meeting planned with my boss – the owner of the business I work for – which never happened as we’d heard that I was needed in Chicago for a meeting which was then cancelled at short notice as they’d gone with a local company instead of ours. So that’s parked for another day…

I had a couple of days off that week to recharge and the Wednesday was a good opportunity to have one last thrash on the Sprint before winter sets in. I headed off down to Sussex, for a “Bigboy Breakfast” at Wesson’s Cafe, stopping off en route to get a warning for a dodgy numberplate as it’s too small, apparently. Oops! Must order a legal one: the bike never came with one because the vanity plate came later. The that night it was off to the O2 to see Vampire Weekend and Noah and the Whale in concert. GT and I stayed for three songs, it was that rubbish…

At the weekend, GT and I were off to an 80s party in the evening: her goth’d up (more so than usual thanks to crimping her hair) and me with a poodle perm wig, Frankie Say Relax t-shirt, white linen trousers and some horrendous white canvas shoes. A late one at that, DJ-ing from my iPhone with some 80s tracks. And then there was the Sunday…

GT had a race first thing in the morning, so while she was gone I got up, bathed and had a coffee. When she got back I made more coffee and joined her in the bathroom whilst she had a post-race bath. I told her there was something wrong: I felt she wasn’t that in to me any more – we’ve been seeing each other for nearly 3 years now on an irregular, regular basis – and that it’s become more pronounced since she was promoted, working longer hours with shifts, etc. GT agreed that she seemed to have no time to put in to a relationship these days to make one work, so we agreed to split up rather than just going through the motions. We then spent the afternoon shopping in Kingston and had dinner before I left.

The following weekend was all about gigs and bikes: on Saturday it was off to the NEC for Motorcycle Live. A chance for me to buy some new Goretex Alpinestars SMX Plus bike boots in black for next summer’s Austrian Eurothrash. It was also great to bump into Emma Kate Dawson for a chat and a catch-up.

Then on the Saturday night I saw Queens of the Stone Age at the Wembley Arena and as I had a spare ticket – I always buy two out of habit – I invited Sakura Star along as I knew she was at a loose end having just split up from her bloke. She showed me some great photos that another photographer had taken of her in a fab leather and feather dress which are now on her profiles having got clearance from the designers and we had a few drinks before the gig. QOTSA were excellent and SS was good company.

Queens of the Stone Age
Queens of the Stone Ages

Then on the Sunday night it was off to the Hammersmith Apollo with GT to see the Pixies who were also absolutely superb.

The Pixies

 

The Pixies

Last week was busy: London, Birmingham and Manchester with lots of different hotels and lots of travelling. And there’s more to come soon when I pop over to Toronto to speak at a major event.

At least that should keep me busy and my mind off relationships past, present and future. In the meantime, I’ve booked next year’s holidays to Fuerteventura with my ‘kids’ to go with the Austrian Eurothrash.

Hein Gericke – Appalling Lack of Customer Service

Around 18 months ago, I bought a pair of Alpinestars GP Pro gloves from Hein Gericke – these are £130 gloves I’m talking about, so not cheap rubbish.

Sadly with limited use – one trackday, RBLR1000 1,000 miles in 17 hours and some very occasional weekend rides – one strap fasterner had started to come away from the rest of the glove.

So after my trip to the  Gorges de l’Ardeche in France with some mates this summer, I got in contact with Hein Gericke’s Customer Services department and a guy called Ross Marchant. He told me that Hein Gericke would either repair or replace the gloves if I sent them back to Hein Gericke: either option was fine as far as I was concerned.

On 16 September 2011, he e-mailed me over a returns note, saying:

“Please return your goods back to the following HG FREEPOST address for a refund or exchange…”

On 19 September 2011. I e-mailed back saying:

“Dear Mr. Marchant,

Many thanks for this.

Just to let you know, the Alpinestars GP-Plus gloves were posted on Sunday so they’ll be collected at the postbox I used this afternoon and hopefully be with you shortly after that.

Kind regards,

Richard”

A couple of weeks later, having heard nothing in the meantime, I e-mailed Mr Marchant on 7 October 2011:

“Dear Mr Marchant,

Any news on the repair/replacement?

Many thanks,

Richard Morris”

Nothing!

On Christmas Eve, 24 December 2011, I followed it up, coying in Hein Gericke’s Customer Services e-mail address too:

Dear Mr Marchant,

Any news on the repair or replacement gloves?

It’s been months now with no news and no gloves at all!

Richard

Still nothing! Not even an acknowledgment.

Today I’ve followed it up yet again:

“Dear Sirs,

I cannot believe how appallingly bad the lack of customer service is at  Hein Gericke.

Not only am I without any gloves at all – expensive ones at that – but also you never reply to any of my follow up e-mails.

When will I receive my gloves back, a new pair or a refund?

Yours faithfully,

Richard Morris”

This time if I still hear nothing from them it’s off to the Small Claims Court, I think. Hein Gericke? Avoid them like the plague: they’re clearly only interested in taking your money for defective goods and then ignoring your complaints.

New Gear

So faced with wearing old and increasingly ill-fitting blue leathers on a red and black bike, I went to Hein Gericke in Hull today and ended up buying more than a grand’s worth of clothing. Fortunately, they had a £40 off offer if you spent over £160 so I used that a few times and spent around £850 on a black two-piece Arlen Ness 8304/8314 suit (I can’t manage a one-piece as getting in and out of them dislocates my shoulder), a Knox gilet back protector (as my Knox stowaway keep slipping up to strangle me by the end of a track session), some Alpinestars GP Pro gloves (very nice) and some Alpinestars SMX-Plus boots (as comfortable as a pair of slippers).

This is the gear:

knox fastback SMX PLUS BLACK_pt GP PRO GLV BLACK Arlen Ness 8304 8314

I’ll be adding these to my Shark helmet, I reckon.