John and Gerry travel through France

IRELAND        FRANCE         ITALY



Sunday 8th September saw us deposited at an overcast and dull Cherbourg. For me rolling off a ferry into France on a motorbike is a sacred experience and yet our sheer tiredness once again conspired to rob us of any sense of euphoria about the journey we were undertaking. To compound this feeling, no sooner had we reached the outskirts of Cherbourg then it began to rain, this in a country where I never experienced anything but sunshine and right then nothing seemed too uplifting about the trip. In the week leading up to leaving we both acknowledged how tired we were and somehow I was banking on France to replenish on batteries.



France is, in my experience, the best motor biking country in the world and I have always advocated September as the best time of all to be there, with its less congested roads and that perfect temperature that is neither too hot nor too cold but mellow like Keats described. Yet here we were on the outskirts of Cherbourg donning our rain suits which incidentally Allen's of Portadown had kindly given us and we had hardly set foot in France. Every cloud has a silver lining, however, and these oversuits have since assumed a sort of magical quality because no sooner had we put them on and then the rain stopped. From then on France unfolded itself in the best possible way as with every passing mile the temperature warmed up as we made our way south in glorious autumn weather through classically sleepy villages to our first overnight stop in Tours.



When we awoke for breakfast in the morning, it had rained overnight but donning the oversuits once again seemed to ward off the rain as we had sunshine all the way to our next hotel in Le Puy. The roads were uncrowded and it was a pleasure making progress along them even on our head shaking steeds since we had rectified the problem to a degree by jacking the suspension and preload up to the maximum. Descending into Le Puy at dusk with its volcanic plugs set against the evening sky was magical and was everything that is so special about touring on a bike in France. Heading down towards Aix the next evening we could see tremendous black rain clouds to the east of us and on arriving in the hotel that night saw that there had been torrential flooding that had killed some 12 people and yet we had experience glorious weather. I tried ringing Gary's mobile but couldn't get through and wondered how he was fairing. Indeed it was surreal the next day as we headed to meet the Mediterranean at Frejus to see fire brigades pumping out houses while we rode along dry roads in blistering heat.



In Cannes that day we ran into our only mechanical problem to date and it proved very fortunate where and when it happened. Having brought only one set of keys with me I wanted to visit the BMW shop to get a key cut. While negotiating rush hour traffic in Cannes in our search for dealers it was very hot, the temperature being 37C. When eventually we did find the dealership, he did not have a key as he was more of a general dealership than a solus concern. As we left the shop John's generator light started glowing and on returning to the shop we discovered that the regulator had burnt out. We had fitted our bikes with special 400w alternators before leaving in order to take the heavier load of heated jackets, grips etc but unlike the version of it sold in the States with compatible 400w regulator, we were advised that the standard 200w regulator would suffice. Obviously not but we were lucky that if it happened where it did as their Spanish mechanic Piero soon had us on our way.


Heading along the coast in the late evening a fellow BM rider we met at the dealership stopped alongside us and offered to lead us towards a hotel only to abandon us in gathering dusk in Nice with the result that we ended up tired and desperate enough to pay silly money for the first grotty hotel of our trip.


IRELAND        FRANCE         ITALY

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