Road Test

So the guys at Bahnstormer stepped up and lent us a 2021 BMW R1250RT LE for a few days.  To get it close to a specification we would be buying they were going to fit an RT top case but didn’t have one when we turned up to collect, so Keith grabbed one off a K1600.  This is slightly different to the R1250RT one in that the K version has a more rounded backrest with a headrest bit and according to Alison was superbly comfortable, so that’s the option we would go for. 234 miles later…

We picked it up on Tuesday and headed up to No. 131 at Cheltenham – a “cool hotel” – which is run by a friend of ours, Ricardo.  This was the first time I’d ridden a motorbike since my little ‘off’ in July 2019… So why not start with a small 96 mile ride on mixed roads?

First thing, though, was to connect up the iPhone to the RT.  I’d already downloaded the BMW Motorrad Connected app and downloaded the maps for it.  So we then had to get the app to connect which was a little more difficult.  Retry and it worked. Next up was the connection of the RT to my Cardo PACKTALK Bold – the RT can connect to a phone and two headsets, so that’s a positive for two-up touring – which went effortlessly.  The iPhone then sits in a ventilated box with wireless charging.  That seemed to work intermittently, as I kept hearing it starting charging through the Cardo and watched it start to run down occasionally too.  I have no idea why BMW don’t simply move over to Apple CarPlay like they do with their cars. That way I could use Waze with the benefit of its warnings…  On our last day, a mile or two from our destination, the BMW Connected app … wasn’t.  It just dropped out and I had to reconnect.

Round to the Abarth where we packed our Triumph pannier liner bags into the RT’s panniers and my Givi 30L stuffer back into the top case – which has a high level brake light and an internal courtesy light – and put our waterproofs and spare gloves around it.  And then off.

Anyway, back to Cheltenham. We arrived after a great 96 mile ride and parked up … in the hotel’s restaurant which is now outside since COVID-19.

Restaurant Parking

A couple of gins later – they have hundreds! – we showered in our fabulous room and headed down for a delicious meal.

The next morning, we headed down to breakfast and our purchasing dilemma given our ‘unique’ living arrangements (spreading ourselves between London and Corralejo), registration dates and delivery periods, etc.

We then rode another brief 25 mile ride down to the Bay Tree at Burford, where we got married three years earlier. We sat out in the garden for drinks and then headed over to our friend Jules’ place at Kingston Bagpuize, another 30 miles in total.  This was on the apps “windy” setting, with the selection in the middle.  It took us down some ‘interesting’ B-roads to say the least.

We had tried Dynamic and Road modes and realised that Road mode is a bit bouncy but very plush over dodgy road surfaces, but Dynamic firms it all up and the information from the app shows some good lean angles and G-forces.

A romantic meal with a  bottle of champagne and off to bed.  We headed out after breakfast and made our way back to Alton, stopping only for fuel.  A very windy day but behind the fairing it was calm and despite its size, the RT wasn’t particularly affected by crosswinds.  Colder than the previous days, Alison was using the heated seat which is separate from the rider’s to keep her core warm.  Another 83 miles.

Superbly comfortable and capable. I don’t think the optional Akrapovic is needed as the standard is growly enough and the Akra isn’t any smaller or neater.

Our only issue is we shouldn’t get one before May 2022 because of our travel, the March registration change and winter weather to go with delivery periods.

And as for me riding a motorbike again? It’s good to be back in the saddle after two years.

Grant Shapps and the Travel Green List

So we all know that the UK’s Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is out of his depth in a bird bath. He did, after all, go on holiday knowing that his department were about to bring in quarantine last July, and that he’d have to fly back early. What a tosser!

And his incompetence and lack of joined-up thinking continue unabated.

India have only just been added to the Red List of countries where you need to isolate in a designated hotel at £1,750 a time because the Tories were trying to negotiate a trade deal. The Indian delegation then came to the UK and reported a number had come down with COVID-19.

At the same time, UK nationals coming back from India were simply taking a 10 day holiday in Istanbul at a fraction of the quarantine cost and then flying in, so adding Turkey to the red list was inevitable.

Last week, a UK representative told the Spanish that the much-heralded Green List would be driven by the science and the Greek and Spanish islands would be reviewed and treated separately. Then yesterday Shapps revealed a truly bizarre list and noted that Spain (on the amber list) included the Balearics and the Canaries, despite the FCDO website still saying this:

“The FCDO advises against all but essential travel to Spain, including the Balearic Islands but excluding the Canary Islands, based on the current assessment of COVID-19 risks.”

Now, the Canaries – and Fuerteventura specifically – have really low infection rates at the moment, yet to return to London with its much, much higher rates will require quarantine.

That Green List?

  • Portugal
  • Israel
  • Singapore
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Brunei
  • Iceland
  • Gibraltar
  • Falkland Islands
  • Faroe Islands
  • South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands
  • St Helena, Tristan de Cunha and Ascension Island

So most of those do not allow travel from the UK in the first place. Ah.

Portugal and Gibraltar? A pretty open border with Spain, isn’t there?

South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands? You can only travel there by sea and there is no visitor accommodation.

The Falkland Islands? You can only fly there … via Chile (Red List) with commercial airlines or with the MoD via a refuelling stop in Cape Verde (Red List).

You couldn’t make this stuff up!

Switzerland 2016

So the plan was for us to take the Triumph Sprint GT for a two-up trip to the Alps with a couple of our friends this summer. But for various work-related reasons, that all fell through which just left Alison and me going alone. I found a lovely-looking hotel in Gstaad that looked the part, booked it and asked them to reserve a place for the bike in their garage.

And then Alison said, “Why don’t we take the MX-5? We could then even chat whilst we’re driving!” And so we changed plans and booked a Eurotunnel fare that was “Flexiplus” coming back for the MX-5. We’d have packed the Sprint’s top box and panniers relatively lightly, but the MX-5’s boot space gave us a little more space to play with; this is our luggage for a week away, comprising two holdalls, one wheeled bag and two running rucksacks with our running gear in:

Gstaad Luggage

Gstaad Luggage

London to Gstaad is quite a schlep so I found somewhere near Dijon to stay on the way down and the way back and booked those too and on the appointed day off we went with the roof up as it was an ‘oh-dark-hundred’ start.  Once we got to Folkestone, the roof came down and for the rest of the day’s drive it stayed down until we got to Gevrey-Chambertain and the Hotel Arts et Terroirs.  The hotel was quaint and comfortable but didn’t serve Dinner on a Sunday, so we walked into the town centre for a lovely meal at Chez Guy.

Monday morning after a lovely breakfast, we packed and set off towards Gstaad, making full use of the Sanef Tolling “Liber-t” tag e’d ordered in the UK and which allowed us to approach some péage toll booths at up to 30kph (the rest having to slow right down) and just drive through with no need to collect tickets or fumble for cards or cash.  Use this link to receive €5 off yours!

On arrival at the Hotel Gstaaderhof we drove into their underground car park and made our way to our lovely room with a hell of a view!

Hotel Gstaaderhof Balcony View

Hotel Gstaaderhof Balcony View

Tuesday saw us heading up the other side of the valley for a BBQ lunch laid on for us by the hotel which was a lovely gesture, followed by a rest day wandering around Gstaad. The plan was to go for a run in the late afternoon – I’d plotted out a couple of routes before we left – but a thunderstorm put paid to that.

Wednesday’s afternoon weather forecast was looking a little dodgy so after breakfast we borrowed a couple of mountain bikes from the hotel – at no charge! – and headed off for a shortish 20km ride:

Great fun!

Thursday was to be our drive up into the Alps with a plan to drive for a couple of hours to Innertkirchen and then start a figure of eight drive through the Five Passes. We hadn’t really left enough time for this and by the time we’d been stuck in some roadworks leading towards one of them, we decided that time wasn’t on our side, so we made do with just the Susken Pass, Furka Pass and Grimsel Pass.  Great fun, although the smell from the MX-5’s brakes showed we’d been pushing it quite hard…

Wave!

Wave!

Beautiful!

Beautiful!

Twisties

Twisties

Friday was another rest day. Well … if you count riding 42½km on mountain bikes as rest! But the day started with an invitation up to the top of the Höhi Wispily for breakfast cooked by our hotel’s owners. Fabulous views and a lovely breakfast.

Cheese!

Cheese!

Berghaus Wispile

Berghaus Wispile

After breakfast, we walked back to the hotel, changed and then hired mountain bikes from the hotel. We ended up doing some laps of Gstaad and out towards Saanen, stopping on each lap for a drink and a rest at one of the town’s restaurants. Sadly my Garmin fenix 3 has a habit of resetting itself when it’s paused for longer than 25 minutes (originally 5 minutes) and that’s just about as long as it takes to lock up a bike, find a table, order and drink a coke, a water and an espresso and then get the bill. So this ride got logged as four separate rides:

Saturday and we headed away from Gstaad. We’d decided to change our plans and rather than returning via Gevrey-Chambertain as originally booked, we’d earlier cancelled the booking and instead decided to go home via Strasbourg and the rather nice Château de l’Ile & Spa which had a pool. Very useful as temperatures had hit 33°C on the autobahns in Germany (where the MX-5 had hit 125mph and rising (with the roof down) before traffic built up and slowed us down).

 

First Beer of the Day

First Beer of the Day

After breakfast on the Sunday, we headed off for Calais and the Eurotunnel, still with the roof down. We almost managed a full continental trip with the roof down until an hour or so off our destination there was a torrential downpour. In the MX-5 we can keep above 80mph in rain and only get flicked with drops off the side window, but this rain was so heavy we couldn’t see far enough ahead to keep speed up and once we’d backed off sufficiently to be safe, we were getting very wet! Still, after half an hour or so, the sky lightened up and we dropped the roof for our return into Calais.

Having paid extra for Flexiplus, we were relatively quick through Border Agency and onto the next train, so well worth the extra money.

So, how did we fair? The MX-5 was lovely but – even with our 2.0 litre engine – it could have down with a little more oomph and possibly more fanfare? Ours puts out 160hp but that’s less than my RX-8 R3 at 230hp. The RX-8 has roughly the same power to  weight ratio as the new 170hp Abarth 124 Spider which is based on the Fiat 124 Spider which is in turn based on the Mazda MX-5…

So that got me thinking: I’d loved the open-top motoring of the MX-5 but wanted more pace and noise and we’d managed quite well with the limited luggage space in the MX-5, so as my RX-8 R3 is getting long in the tooth – 87,000 miles and 6½ years old – maybe it’s time to make the switch? So I’ve placed an order for one subject to a test drive on Sunday at Silverstone race circuit. Maybe next year, we’ll take the Abarth to the Pyrenees?

Happy Holidays!

Well I’m counting down to our Eurothrash 2014 – a week in Austria on the Sprint GT with Ali and a couple of mates – and I’m definitely in the holiday mood.

This year around Easter I went to Fuerteventura yet again, this time taking my kids and their partners and Ali, which meant the villa was packed and I had to hire two cars for us all thanks to all our gear (and the fact we were six!).  Ali and I are heading back there again at the end of the summer, so much more shooty fun is envisaged!

And I’ve also just booked the first of our holidays for 2015: Hong Kong, Vietnam and Thailand next spring to start us off in a bunch of 5-star hotels. The second week at Ko Samui in particular should be spectacular with a villa to ourselves with its own private pool, outdoor sofas and rain shower and a beach:

Garden Pool Villa
Garden Pool Villa
Beach View
Beach View

It’d be rude not to take my camera gear and do some shooting whilst we’re here!

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.

Berlin Marathon Weekend

I was supposed to have been running the 40th Berlin Marathon: having been with GT for the London, Paris and Venice Marathons, I’d decided if she was running Berlin and I’d be there anyway, maybe I should run it. How hard could it be? {cough}

So after a few false starts with pulled calf muscles, I started training a little more seriously back in the summer, running a couple of 5ks a week and upping it slightly to a 10k with no apparent problem … apart from a shooting pain in my right knee the moment I started off. Ah…

I’d tried to overcome this in the wrong way: taking Ibuprofen orally and directly to the knee, but I knew that was the wrong thing to do long-term so I got referred privately to a renowned expert on knee surgery/conditions who confirmed patellofemoral dysfunction and early arthropathy (which explained the confirmed crepitus I’d noticed in the knee as well). After several weeks physiotherapy and taking up cycling – 20 miles a week currently on Saturdays when I’m home – it’s improving but I can’t start training properly until the New Year.

Despite being sidelined, I took a long weekend with GT, booking a €400-a-night room at the excellent Hotel Adlon Kempinski right next to the Brandenburg Gate. Or, as I found out the week we were going, two rooms. Oops! Luckily, they were kind enough to cancel the room without charge after a couple of phone calls. Phew!

We flew out to Berlin and settled right in to the truly luxurious hotel, with a quick wander about around the Brandenburger Tor and an hour’s ride around Berlin in a horse-drawn carriage which was quite romantic (and extensively photographed), then back to an epic Thai meal in one of the many restaurants at the hotel: fabulous food but horrendously expensive!

Saturday and after the most opulent five course breakfast with champagne, it was off by underground to a disused airport to get running chips and numbers – very badly organised compared to Paris and particularly London – before wandering around to find a lovely restaurant where we ate oysters, mains and cheese with lots of wine before heading back for an early-ish night.

Up at 5.45am on the Sunday as the hotel had laid on a special breakfast just for the marathon guests, then back up for final prep before joining a group of other runners in the lobby and the short walk to the start. GT had previously got so close to breaking the four hour barrier she was hitting that everyone was saying this could be the one due to PBs on all her recent runs, but she was getting fed up with the pressure from friends and was just going to go for the run rather than the time. Saying she didn’t really like marathons, this would be her 11th and last, she said.

After GT started off I walked off to find the underground as I was heading off to the Spreepark to taken some urbex shots of the deserted theme park during the four hours I’d have to myself. Despite the 6km walk to and around the park, I couldn’t find any easy way in that didn’t have too many onlookers nearby. Ah well. I was joined by a little old biddy who followed me around chatting away in German. I speak very little German… Then back onto the train to get back for the finish. The official marathon app was only suggesting she’d started but on the train I logged into the full website and found that GT was on for a sub-four time so it was a rush to get back to the finish line in time. I managed – just – as she’d not just beaten 4:00:00 – she’d smashed it! 3:49:06!

So it turns out this means a GFA: “good for age” which means an automatic entry into the London Marathon in 2015. Oh and as I still intend to run Berlin next year, GT said it would be rude not to run that. Oh and she’s planning a girl’s weekend in New York with her mates so they can all run the New York Marathon. And on Tuesday after we’d got back and the post-marathon blues kicked in, she’s booked Edinburgh (as have I just for a practice…).

Back to the hotel for a bath and then off to get wine, walking past other finishers who all looked at GT relaxed, cleaned up and wearing her finishers’ medal just as they’d only just finished the event! A bit of a crap Italian meal before bed.

Monday saw us walking around down to the Topography of Terror, the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie before getting a taxi back to the airport and home.

Abstract Heads
Abstract Heads
Rose-Tinted Spectating
Rose-Tinted Spectating
Brandenburg Gate
Brandenburg Gate with our Hotel Adlon
Spreepark
Spreepark
Haunted House at Spreepark
Haunted House at Spreepark
Berlin Wall
Berlin Wall
3:49:06
3:49:06
2013 Berlin Marathon Medal
2013 Berlin Marathon Medal
Topography of Terror
Topography of Terror
Holocaust Memorial
Holocaust Memorial
Horse-Drawn Carriage Ride
Horse-Drawn Carriage Ride
Brandenburger Tor
Brandenburger Tor

Special Delivery

Had a phone call this morning – as promised – from Metropolis letting me know there was some good news and some bad news…

The good news is that delivery of the Sprint GT is on for this Saturday! I just need to arrange my insurance now.

The bad news is that for some complicated reason, they haven’t been able to assign my vanity plate to the bike, so I’ll have to do that just as soon as the registration document arrives.

The other good news is that the weather for the weekend is looking good for some rides out with the other GT :)

And even more good news is that planning is underway for Eurotour 2014 and possibly something else this year…

Ear-Popping Pyrenees

Eurothrash…

So it was holiday time again and despite working until late on the Friday and hence only doing last minute packing, I found myself heading off at Oh Dark Hundred on Saturday, 1st June to the Eurotunnel to meet up with Yox and Purge.

Yox had organised the crossing tickets as well as working out a route that linked up a number of great biking roads in and around the Pyrenees, so we were heading off there with a view to getting all the way down to the Pyrenees by nightfall. The benefit of travelling off-peak as far as the French are concerned should have been that we wouldn’t need to book any hotels in advance and hence we wouldn’t have any pressure to be at a pre-determined destination on any day.

They both took the mick out of the lack of tread on my sporty tyres which I’d though would be fine for the trip … without realising I’d done the 2,100 mile Ardèche trip on the same tyres before… And so we turned out onto the motorways and headed South. As it transpired, the motorways were a leeeetle bit abrasive and by the time we’d lost and found Purge around Paris and made our way down to Clermont-Ferrand, the tyres were well and truly shagged and wouldn’t make it home. Ah!

Purge and I were both using Tom-Tom Rider satnavs – mine a more recent model after my other one was stolen by my psycho ex-girlfriend – and both had been updated to the latest maps … which showed the hotel we selected as being halfway up a hill in a residential area. It wasn’t there, of course, but we went back to where Yox’s Co-Pilot Android software (the same I use on my iPhone) had guided him. I then went in and negotiated a decent room rate for the three of us with use of their own garage for the first overnight stay. Then shower, change, beers and a huge evening meal before bed.

Day Two and we were heading off via Millau towards Perpignan. The twisting roads of the Haute-Pyrenees were fabulous but tiring so as we rode into Quillan, we found a traditional-looking hotel, the Hotel La Chaumiere, to check into. As it was Yox’s birthday, the beers, the wine and the food were on Purge and I.

The view from my balcony

The view from my balcony

The meal also included the heaviest wine bottle I’ve ever seen: truly bizarre (but tasty)!

The heaviest wine bottle ever

The heaviest wine bottle ever

After dinner, it was up to our rooms … and I discovered that my carefully-arranged base layers had flown off the balcony and were laying in front of the restaurant. Ah!

Day Three and it was time to sort out my racing slicks. We delayed breakfast and I then spent the next half an hour ringing around all the motorcycle dealers and tyre depots to see if I could get sorted. They were all shut, despite it being a Monday, as they’d been open on the Saturday. Oh to be French! So I decided to press on into Andorra alone – our planned destination – to try to find tyres and let Yox and Purge head off into Spain to play on the roads. This included my first real view of some of the passes and cols and snow-capped peaks.

Note racing slicks...

Note racing slicks…

Instagram version!

Instagram version!

Some epic twisty roads towards Andorra then saw me going through the 2.8km long Túnel d’Envalira which was like going through a refrigerator!

Emerged from the Túnel d'Envalira

Emerged from the Túnel d’Envalira

Then it was down into Andorra. As I came close to Andorra la Vella, I passed by a KTM dealer and popped inside to see if they could sort me out with tyres using my best Spanglish. They were really helpful and directed me to a car/bike dealer nearby that happened to be a Kawasaki franchise. So in I went, agreed a deal to get new tyres fitted that afternoon and then went off to find us a hotel, the Novotel. While the tyres were being fitted – a process that took the entire afternoon… – I went out scouting for dinner and found an excellent tapas restaurant.

Out with the old...

Out with the old…

...in with the new

…in with the new

When Purge and Yox arrived after enjoying what they said were some of the best roads they’d seen, it was off to eat.

Allow me to explain through the medium of interpretive dance

Allow me to explain through the medium of interpretive dance

Day Four and we were heading off to Bagnères-de-Luchon via the twisties. Epic roads out of Andorra – back the way I’d come – and this time, I’d set up my helmet camera to capture some of the footage:

It was warm and sunny … and snowy at the top of the Pyrenees which meant the scenery was spectacular.

Once we were into the Haute-Pyrenees again, we went up a few of the Cols that feature in the Tour de France as well as a few others:

Col du Port

Col du Port

On one descent, I was able to coast for over 3 miles, overtaking cars and lorries with the engine off! Yox also did the reveal on his luxury item: he’d brought some fine coffee and a little fold-up stove to brew it on, so we had coffee at the Col du Port … and he set fire to a picnic table by mistake.

Finally we made it into Bagnères-de-Luchon where we pulled up in the square next to the Hôtel Panoramic where I did the usual and we checked in.

Bagnères-de-Luchon

Bagnères-de-Luchon

Bagnères-de-Luchon

Bagnères-de-Luchon

Bagnères-de-Luchon

Bagnères-de-Luchon

Day Five and we were headed off to Spain via a few more peaks which were covered in snow … which we duly played in. Obviously.

IMG_3331

I'm snow angel

I’m snow angel

2013-06-05 11.12.12

Eejit dance

Eejit dance

Talking of playing, Yox had rigged up his camera and followed me off down one of the descents:

After a day’s bend-swinging (including a visit to our spiritual home, a village called Perves), we were tired and decided to cut our intended journey short, so we checked in to the fabulous Hotel Cotori in El Pont de Suert.

Hotel Cotori

Hotel Cotori

That’s a pedestrian square… We were recommended a decent tapas restaurant where, despite the protestations of the owner, I went ahead and ordered us a whole selection of dishes that just kept on coming. Delicious! And all finished off by us.

Day Six and it was breakfast with two grumpy buggers. Something about a blue ZRX’s alarm going off at 3.15am. I was unaware of this, given I was sound asleep at the back of the hotel…

So the plan for the day was to head back into France, but we hadn’t reckoned on the nature of the route being so twisty and covering a large vertical variance: up and down like a whore’s drawers! This wasn’t helped by finding out when we were there that the famous Col du Tormalet was shut due to there being 6-9m of snow on the road at the summit!

More epic roads and scenery though. Tired and getting late, we diverted into Lourdes to find a hotel for the night … and we found one: a €29 a night one that we christened “Hotel Paradiso” that probably charged the rooms out by the hour too… What a dive! Lourdes in general – and our hotel in particular – was full of gangs of schoolkids with various coloured beanie hats and scarves being led around by Catholic priests. What a strange place!

I woke up quite hot at around 3am and my body heat had ‘refreshed’ the mattress such that there was a smell of urine from the depths of the mattress (itself on a plastic-covered bed base). I couldn’t wait to get a shower in the morning! Purge had the evening before found a dead insect in his sheets!

Day Seven. Keen to get a move on and put the Hotel Paradiso behind us, we headed back into Spain via a whole load more passes, peaks and valleys.

979944_10200275674348681_1449750426_o

Photo!

Photo!

IMG_3381 IMG_3371 IMG_3350

We got as far as Jaca in Aragon and after filling up we headed to the Hotel & Spa Real Jaca which did us a great deal for the rooms and underground parking with breakfast. The only downside was the Saga louts that checked in later: a whole coachload of OAPs that swooped on the restaurant to scoff the food.

Day Eight and I woke up to the “shh” of car tyres on wet roads. Looking out of the window, I could see it was absolutely tipping down: not good considering we were hoping to get to Le Mans by the evening. So we had breakfast, checked out and headed out into torrential rain at around 9.00am, up and up into the Pyrenees towards France. My vented race boots started leaking after 16 miles but fortunately the rest of my riding gear was keeping me dry. Stupidly, I’d not worn a base layer under my T-shirt and hadn’t zipped-in the liner to my riding gear either, so the combination of rain storms and altitude meant I was getting really cold. By the time of our first fuel stop into France, I was grateful to be able to put on some more clothes before we headed off back into the worst riding conditions any of us had ever seen (in my case, in 35 years of riding).

The autoroute around Bordeaux was more like a canal and at one point it felt like I was sitting on a chair while someone directed a fire hose at me, the rain was so heavy.

Towards Paris it stopped raining and near Tours at another fuel stop, we decided to pin it and win it: we wouldn’t bother stopping for the night near Le Mans; we’d just keep going for the other 300 miles to the Eurotunnel station and see if we could get on a day early, ratther than getting changed out of our wet gear and potentially facing another day’s wet riding on the Sunday.

We arrived at around 10.15pm, some 780 miles later and were pleased to be put onto the 11.45pm crossing, so we finally had something to eat and drink and on we went.

Homeward bound

Homeward bound

Back onto English soil at around 11.45pm UK time, we went our separate ways and I blasted back towards London and my apartment, which I reached at around 12.30am.

Roughly 2,100 miles again. Another epic Euroblast.

So yes, I’d ummed and ahhed about getting a new bike for the trip before I left and more or less settled on a new Triumph Sprint GT 1050 but knew I’d not be able to get it run in and sorted before the off. Blue Rex was epic in the twisties and looks the bollocks too, but on the motorways above 90mph for mile after mile and hour after hour it’s a bit of an effort plus some fixed luggage makes sense. So I’m test riding a Sprint next weekend and will probably place an order there and then so I can have it properly sorted before next year’s planned Eurothrash two-up with GT to the Alps.

Or maybe a late summer long weekend sortie across the Channel just to get a feel for it… ;)