View Single Post
Old 11-02-2012, 01:51 PM   #5
MikeO OP
Wage slave...
 
MikeO's Avatar
 
Joined: Jul 2002
Location: Scarning, Norfolk, today...
Oddometer: 6,657
2nd November 2012

I planned a route on the MacBook last night and, on downloading it onto my GPS, found that I had not got the latest map set on the unit. I’ve got to say that, having been a GPS user for ten years now, I think Garmin have made the art of downloading maps and planning routes WAY more difficult than it should be. Of course, I have the temerity to own a Mac, so it’s probably my fault…

The obvious thing to do was to download the maps. It warned me this would take a while. It did, and after an hour I went to bed leaving it to do its thing overnight. This morning I get up to a message saying these maps were too big a file.

Couldn’t have told me when I pressed ‘continue’ last night?

Of course not

No matter, I’ll run with the maps I have loaded. Except they’ve disappeared and I’m only left with the base map. I quickly get the thing coupled up again and download the UK, France and Spain – I’ll sort it out when I get home. This takes an hour and a half, which kind of puts a spoke in the plan to be on the road at 0700 to race the weather heading south.

I have a generous breakfast at the all-you-can-eat buffet (note to self – do this literally one day) and load the bike…

I kick my heels watching French TV and being saddened by how much I don’t understand – I used to be fluent in Franglais, but now it’s sometimes a struggle to order a meal.

OK – bad example – I’ve never struggled to order a meal…

At last the maps and route are uploaded and I set off into the cool bright (and – so far – dry) morning at 0915.



I’ve booked a room in St Etienne for this evening. The route I have programmed is almost entirely D (Departmental) roads and Bettie reckons it’ll take me a good eight hours, plus stops.

I have brought several pairs of gloves with me and this morning I am modelling BMW Lightweight Waterproofs. I feel moderately optimistic about the weather as I make my way through a series of roundabouts that form the outer ring road for Reims…



…where the circus is in town. Can’t remember the last time I saw a circus tent in the UK.

Onwards!

My optimism last about twenty minutes, when I crest a rise and I am confronted with this...



I mean, there's no need for that, is there?

I put the shower cap on the tank bag and put the camera away (but not before spotting one of Moet's barns)...



I head into the weather. Hey ho...



Pretty soon I come across one of these - a speed camera, combined with Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR). These are dotted all over the place in France, but they are always marked with warning signs like this...



Recently, though, the government has announced that they are going to remove the warning signs. This has not been taken well by the general public, apparently. In fact, a little while later I found this painted on a tree...



I'm not sure what would happen if I got caught by one of these - whether there is some EC protocol for sending me a fine through the post or something...



I ride on through showers - nothing too heavy, but it means that the road is always wet and - on D-roads - you have to be looking out for crap on the road surface everywhere.



Occasionally it will brighten up sufficiently to tempt the camera out of its waterproof home...



...and the low sun will remind me that at least I'm not at work...

At 1025 I stop at a service area to fill up. The pump is 'card only' - despite the shop being manned. I'm please to see that the keypad gives you a language option...



When I press 'English" it tells me to put my card into the machine. Every instruction from then on is in French...

Someone has spilt some diesel at this pump and they've put some absorbent powder down on it...



...but - critically - failed to sweep it up. This leaves an area of slippery porridge that could easily catch some unwary rider out. I point it out to them and they respond with a very Gallic shrug and say they'll deal with it...

Whilst there I bought a new cable for my phone...



...for an extortionate €9.50 (I think I paid £1.95 for two off eBay - including postage). I think I'll buy a few more when I return and leave them sealed up on the bike - they're pretty fragile and it doesn't cost a lot. I put the phone on charge and - having done my best to wipe the diesel porridge off my boots - set off once more...



Piles of sugar beet are stacked at the roadside awaiting collection - just like home...

It starts raining steadily now - and it looks like it's in for the duration. I pull into a lay-by and put the camera away again...



Only to stop and get it out again in the next village...



What a weird looking building. Stranger still was the fact that the wind turbine wasn't turning, despite it being quite breezy. The house was in a village in a small sheltered valley...

The camera goes away again and it starts to rain in earnest. It's cold and hard, my left leg gets wet very soon and, after an hour or so, my left glove starts to give up the struggle. The roads are twisty and badly surfaced - if the weather was good I'd be really enjoying it. As it is, I'm continually forcing myself to relax on the handlebars and am feeling cold, wet and miserable.



To distract myself (and give myself a rest) I take a short ride up a dirt road into one of the vineyards that occupy every south-facing piece of land here...



Then I get back on the bike and ride on. One positive thing - the strong wind from yesterday is missing...

I see a flash of black and white in my right peripheral vision, as a small bird decides to fly across the road at the wrong time. Damage is limited to a riding lamp that has been turned down.



I need to tighten the mount back up. My Leatherman won't do the job, so...



...it's time for the serious toolkit. I tighten it back up, put the tools away and get back on the road...



A restaurant comes into view and I decide I've earned a rest and a warm up. I have the 'special', comprising salmon pate...



...followed by a steak with a very zingy pepper sauce (I think I can still taste it)...



...and chocolate and pistachio ice cream...



Probably should have taken that last picture a bit earlier.

The family nearby were teaching their son table manners...



I had a feeling it was his first lesson...

Fortified and refreshed, I put my wet kit back on and head south...



It starts pissing down...



... and the camera has to go away again. I'm now getting pretty demoralised. I still have nearly 200 miles to cover and, looking ahead, I can't see any let up in this weather. I plug in some music and start listening in alphabetical order again. I think I must have my Amy Winehouse songs wrongly titled (ie with her name at the start of the title), because I am treated to the entire Amy back catalogue.

Which is no bad thing.

I am going to keep this route and do it again in the summer - it's really good, but today it has become an endurance test.



Don't know where it is - it was interesting enough to make me stop and take a pic...

I stop for fuel and keep pressing on. Bettie says I should arrive around 1800 - that's after dark...

I overtake a group of four cars and, as I am pulling back in, I see a flash in my mirror. I guess I'm going to find out for myself then...

Then the weather breaks - at the same time as the last Amy Winehouse song ends - spooky...



I start making tracks on good dry roads, but there is heavy traffic coming out of St Etienne and overtaking is difficult. The sun sets at 1730 and I'm still 30 mins away.

At last, a very welcome sight appears...



I check in, unpack and spend a LONG time under the shower. After starting to upload pics, I wander over to the Campanile next door and have dinner at their restaurant. I choose the "Starter and Dessert Buffet Special", with a half litre of draft lager to accompany it...



Starters



Desserts

I eat until I hear my skin creaking, then waddle back to my room. It's been a tough day's riding - not helped by having kit which leaks - something I'll have to address when I get home.

I think I'll sleep well tonight.
__________________
All text & original photos © Mike Oughton 2004 - 2014
MikeO is offline   Reply With Quote