Bridges, Tunnels & Tolls...

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by MikeO, Jul 16, 2008.

  1. MikeO

    MikeO Part-time wage slave...

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2002
    Oddometer:
    7,460
    Location:
    Scarning, today...
    16th July 2008

    I have a disturbed night's sleep, but feel well rested when I get up at 0800. It's a bright and sunny day and the Adv is almost completely packed & ready for the off...

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    My next door neighbour takes a quick snap of me and I'm off - via Tesco to fill up with Super Unleaded and put a little air in both tyres. I am on the road to Peter's place near King's Lynn at about 1000...

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    Peter is just about ready to roll. We're heading for the Channel Tunnel and are booked on a train at about 1850 tonight - we're hoping to get there early and perhaps get an earlier train - we're expecting this to cost extra...

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    We're soon off and heading through a series of minor roads heading for Thetford Forest, where we intend to join the A11 and ultimately the M11.

    At Barton Mills we stop for a cuppa and a bacon roll (for Peter) and a cheeseburger (for me)...

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    Is nothing sacred?

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    We're soon heading down the A11 towards the M11...

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    Peter & I are both Class One motorcyclists and we pass the time by "riding escort"...

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    ...a technique we both used in a previous life. It involves riding in close formation with the other rider, the leader effectively taking decisions for both bikes. It's a technique that allows you to get from A to B very rapidly, but requires a good deal of concentration by both riders - and, of course, absolute trust in each other's ability...

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    We cross the Thames at Dartford...

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    ...where motorcycles avoid paying tolls... :thumb

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    ...and, after a brief stop at Maidstone Services, where we get charged £7 for two coffees and a bottle of water [​IMG], press on at fairly high speed towards Folkestone...

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    ...where we approach the automated check-in...

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    ...and are pleasantly surprised to find that we can catch the next available train (the 1520) at no extra charge... :thumb

    We have a few minutes to wait before our train boards, so I have time to remove the waterproof liners from my jacket & trousers - it is getting quite warm, but more importantly it feels close and muggy - and I immediately feel the benefit of the added ventilation. We follow directions...

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    ...through Customs and Passport Control - we're not stopped, nor asked to show our passports or remove our helmets. I notice that the very nice Eurotunnel people have built a shelter for motorcyclists to wait in in bad weather...

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    We're soon directed onto our train...

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    ...and set off almost immediately. I programme Reims into Bettie and she gives me her first direction...

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    Peter has a very similar GPS to mine - but it is not being altogether cooperative, so we spend a little while giving it an attitude adjustment...

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    ...then we spend 40 minutes or so chatting...

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    ...before the train comes to a halt in Calais...

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    ...and - after an unexpectedly long delay...

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    ...we ride off into France. We stop and fill up at the Total station, then - after a comedy five minutes where neither of us can find the correct road, despite being equipped with a GPS each and having ridden here regularly [​IMG] - we get of the A26 and start putting some miles down. Or rather, some kilometres, as I've changed Bettie's display to metric in order to give me an 'at a glance' kilometre speed reading...

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    It's warm and still humid - but very comfortable with the vents in my suit all open - I drink regularly from my CamelBak...

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    Peter takes the lead for the first section - we're moving at about 135kph and, once again, ride in close formation - it's quite hard work, but keeps the tedium of motorway riding at bay. We stop for a coffee at an 'Aire' - a rest area...

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    ...then I take the lead and we press south east...

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    ...Peter overtakes and we pull into another Aire - this time to fill up with fuel - his warning light has come on at 140 miles or so...

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    ...the speed which we're travelling at wreaks havoc with the GS's consumption - he normally doesn't get a warning light until 170 miles. We pay our 11.20 Euro Peage fee...

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    ...and soon afterwards...

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    ...we're pulling into the Etap hotel at Reims...

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    ...where we've each booked a room. I have a shower, buy 10hrs internet time (to be used in the next 30 days) and upload today's pictures. At 2100 (we're now an hour later, so it's 2000 UK time) we meet up in the foyer and wander over to a local restaurant and have a very decent Spaghetti Carbonara (Peter) and Chicken Risotto (me), washed down with a bottle of Cotes du Rhone.

    We get back to the hotel, agree to meet up at 0730 for breakfast and retire to our respective rooms - I try to get started on this report - but I'm knackered and turn in at 2300.

    I sleep well and write the report up at 0630 - a good day, but today promises to be much more interesting... [​IMG]

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    #1
  2. GSgal

    GSgal Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Oddometer:
    781
    Location:
    NW Montana
    :clap Happy riding, guys! :wave
    #2
  3. Happnin

    Happnin Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2004
    Oddometer:
    169
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    I do so dig the spartan hotel rooms over there.

    Brings back many pleasant memories. Ride on, bro.
    #3
  4. Lil Earle

    Lil Earle Sweatin, not scared

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2004
    Oddometer:
    105
    Location:
    Stockbridge Ga.
    Another epic journey by Mike O. This made my day.
    #4
  5. Sasquatch

    Sasquatch Banned

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2003
    Oddometer:
    4,770
    Location:
    Boise, Idaho
    Mike,
    Ride safe. I'll be here getting greasy going through GSgal's suspension. Ummm, that did not sound right :huh . I will be rebuilding her suspension. There, thats better.

    Jay
    #5
  6. kave

    kave Gravel rules

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2004
    Oddometer:
    627
    Location:
    Sweden
    Nice Mike to see your are on the road again.
    #6
  7. UK Jimbo

    UK Jimbo Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2007
    Oddometer:
    212
    Location:
    London, UK
    Nice pics and ride. I'm off sports touring in France for a long weekend this time next week so it's exciting me. It'll be the fourth year in a row.

    To make the relentless miles of autoroute more interesting me and my riding buddy used the same technique heading back from Burdundy last year. The standard of driving on the autoroutes always seems to be better than on the motorways in the UK (perhaps it's just because there's less of it) but we found that two bikes riding close together must look similar to the French traffic police who always seem to ride in pairs as you see the headlights approaching in your mirrors.

    The hotel you're staying in looks like it does the job but I'd rather find somewhere small and local to get a bit of the French feel. Each to their own of course though.

    *clicks subscribe*

    Ride safe and enjoy the rest of the trip.
    #7
  8. MikeO

    MikeO Part-time wage slave...

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2002
    Oddometer:
    7,460
    Location:
    Scarning, today...
    17th July 2008

    I awake to a bright, but overcast day. It has rained during the night and, as I join Peter for a lacklustre breakfast of cereal, coffee & bread, a light shower of rain falls. To be on the safe side, I put the waterproof liner into my trousers, but decide to leave the liner out of my jacket, as it only takes a minute or so to stop and fit it if the weather turns worse.

    We're soon programming Bettie and Peter's anonymous GPS with a route which will take us towards the Claremont area - our original plan to head for some of the alpine passes on the Swiss border has been put on a weather hold...

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    ...we're soon kitted up and it's time for a bit more escort riding down the Peage...

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    In no time we're at the toll plaza near Troyes...

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    ...paying our 6.10 Euro fee...

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    ...then entering the D Roads that we have been looking forward to riding...

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    When riding through villages & towns we are meticulous about adhering to speed limits...

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    Out of town - less so...

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    It is turning into a beautiful morning...

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    ...with no sign of rain now. I'm pleased with my new riding outfit - even with the goretex liner fitted it's cool & comfortable...

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    After a couple of hours, we decide to stop for some coffee...

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    ...and watch the world cycle by...

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    ...life's pretty tough...

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    We set off again, riding through fields of grain and sunflowers...

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    The harvest is about ready - we meet several combine harvesters being escorted along these little roads...

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    I take the lead for a while...

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    ...and slow to take a turn in a small town. I check my mirror and Peter's not there. I'm not concerned - I last saw him a couple of minutes ago - but as I wait, I begin to wonder what has happened. I retrace my steps to where I saw him last, but cannot find him... [​IMG]


    My mobile phone rings, but by the time I've got it out of my pocket, it has stopped - it has Peter's number on caller ID - I try to call voicemail but it is temporarily unavailable. No matter - I press on towards our lunchtime target...

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    ...the hilltop town of Vezelay...

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    ...and find Peter waiting outside a restaurant. He'd missed which way I'd turned at a T junction, guessed the wrong option and had been trying to catch me up - as we chat I access my voicemail and retrieve his message...

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    We sit on the terrace and enjoy a splendid lunch...

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    We kit up and, with a goodbye wave from our waiter...

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    ...head on south...

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    It's getting very warm now, but so long as we keep moving it's comfortable...

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    We have a very fast run through about fifteen miles of very bendy forest lined road, before stopping for some coffee from Peter's flask...

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    We check the map and come up with the plan to stop for the evening somewhere near Moulins...

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    I take the lead and we head south, eventually stopping in the small village of Fours...

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    ...where we have an ice-cream and I buy a uniquely named bottle of wine...

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    Moulins is an hour or so away and I'm definitely in the mood for a shower and a change of clothes - Peter takes the lead...

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    ...once again, we get a bit of a shuffle on - the windspeed helping to cool me down - the day has turned hot and humid...

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    A couple of miles north of Moulins, Peter suddenly takes a right turn and we join an N Road towards Vichy. It turns out that Peter has seen a signpost to an hotel, but that we've turned the wrong way. We're now committed to riding into Vichy - a reasonably large town, on a hot afternoon during 'le rush heur'. We stop at a village to use the ATM and I snap a beautiful old church...

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    We're soon mired in a nightmare of stop/go traffic - no opportunity to filter and both the Adv and I are feeling the heat. There seems to be a new plan at each stoplight and I am aware I am not dealing with the situation with the best of humour. We pull into a Campanile hotel, to be told their room rate is 75 Euros. Campaniles are not top quality hotels and this rate is, frankly, laughably high.

    So we laugh. And leave.

    The search is on for a hotel before I disappear in a puddle of sweat - we stop at a little place just south east of Vichy - clearly marked "Hotel" - they tell me they're only a restaurant... [​IMG]

    Eventually Peter does a search on the GPS and finds a Logis de France hotel in the centre of Saint Yorre...

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    ...we arrive at about 1830 - two hours after I was hoping to be stopped...

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    I stay in the shower for a long time - drink lots of water, take a headache tablet and after half an hour feel much better. Peter & I meet for dinner...

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    The dishes are small, but perfectly formed...

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    We drink a bottle of Burgundy...

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    ...have some pud - then we repair to the hotel and open the bottle of Beaujolais I bought earlier. Inexplicably, this also disappears, so Peter has the bright idea of buying another bottle.

    We are reviewing today's pictures on my laptop, when, in a fairly casual motion, I manage to spill an entire glass of wine over the keyboard... [​IMG]

    No amount of mopping up, switching it off or disconnecting the battery will help - it's buggered... :cry

    Thank goodness for all risks laptop insurance...[​IMG]

    We both have Jesse panniers - if you have room, you have to fill it, right?

    I am typing this using Peter's laptop... :D

    It's pretty obvious that it's time we turned in - we return to our respective rooms and I fall asleep as my head touches the pillow...

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    #8
  9. KillerPriller

    KillerPriller Long timer

    Joined:
    May 30, 2003
    Oddometer:
    2,235
    Location:
    Paris, France via OC California

    ah yes, i remember that hotel very well. Etap, the bikers choice for cheep euro hotel!

    i noticed you elected to go with the luxury suite that includes the chair with metal legs instead of plastic. very posh!

    this was taken two weeks ago somewhere outside of Nancy.


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    #9
  10. conchscooter

    conchscooter Long timer

    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2007
    Oddometer:
    2,382
    Location:
    Florida Keys
    Great report- almost makes me wish I was in Europe. I'm a liar I do wish I was there! Great photos too and the best description I've read of how to tkae the tunnel train.
    #10
  11. UK Jimbo

    UK Jimbo Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2007
    Oddometer:
    212
    Location:
    London, UK
    Another great day. Thanks. If you get the chance the D944/D27 from Avallon, Lormes, Montigny, Chateau-Chinon-Ville, Luzy is an amazing stretch of road. That said there's no lack of great roads in the Morvan.
    #11
  12. MikeO

    MikeO Part-time wage slave...

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2002
    Oddometer:
    7,460
    Location:
    Scarning, today...
    18th July 2008

    I wake feeling a little thick-headed - I open up my laptop and see if it will boot up - an act of pure optimism - it's toast...

    Never mind - I meet Peter for breakfast and feel much restored after a couple of cups of coffee. We're packed and on the road, leaving the Auberge Bourbonnaise behind by 0830...

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    We have resolved to take it a bit easier on the speed front today...

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    ...so we have a fairly sedate ride through a couple of small hillside villages, which are dotted with buildings from at least 500 years ago...

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    We ride along the top of a ridge and can see distance-blued hills on the horizon...

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    We meander through some very small D Roads, stopping to take pics of a small chateau...

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    ...then get onto a fast section of road full of wide sweeping bends...

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    Our resolve to stay slow falters and then fails completely...

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    The weather is perfect, the road surface good, there is no traffic to speak of - we make rapid progress...

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    After half an hour or so, we stop for a coffee and water...

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    ...I decide against sugar...

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    Peter has just (literally the day we left) picked up a new digital camera - with which several of the next few days' pics are taken...

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    With Leica optics, great resolution, simple controls and a huge viewing screen, I am going to look at it very closely when my S80 comes to the end of its natural life. This event comes a little nearer as I drop my camera off the table... :D

    Refreshed, we head off south...

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    ...and are joined for a while by a Dutch couple on a 1200GT...

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    ...who stay with us for some of the overtakes...

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    ...and eventually pass us when we stop to take some pics...

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    We turn off the main road some while after Chaise du Dieu and start getting back into the twisties...

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    Always time for a pic of an old barn, though...

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    ...or of course, of any aeroplane I see...

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    This is a Fouga Magister - a French trainer - made famous by the French Air Force Aerobatic Team - the Patrouille de France - they fly Alpha Jets these days...

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    It's hot, so we stop for an early lunch...

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    ...which comprises salmon quiche (which I suppose finally answers the question as to whether Peter & I are real men or not) and a ham & cheese baguette - the end of which is so hard it could be used as a weapon...

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    We sit and watch le Monde go by for a bit...

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    ...then suit up & press south...

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    ...towards Mende...

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    ...and the Gorges du Tarn...

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    ...a spectacular route...

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    ...where we pull in at Les Detroits and get a room each for €38...:thumb

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    It's cheap and cheerful - I'm amazed to find that there is high speed internet available...

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    France really seems to have coverage sorted out - we find Wi-Fi and mobile phone coverage just about everywhere - even way out in the sticks...

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    Steak & frîtes, followed by a couple of quiet beers finish the evening...

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    #12
  13. chiba

    chiba FYYFF

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,182
    Location:
    Mechanicsville VA
    Nice report, cool pictures too!

    --chiba
    #13
  14. MikeO

    MikeO Part-time wage slave...

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2002
    Oddometer:
    7,460
    Location:
    Scarning, today...
    19th July 2008

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    A beautiful morning - after a quick breakfast Peter & I continue down the Gorges du Tarn towards Millau...

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    ...the day is already warm, although it's pleasantly cool in the long shadows...

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    It's a spectacular ride...

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    ...I thoroughly recommend you try it...

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    We stop in Millau to do some essential shopping...

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    It's a nice little town - quite busy on this warm Saturday morning...

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    We quickly find what we need , then head out towards what Millau has become famous for...

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    ...the breathtaking viaduct - designed by a Brit... :D :thumb

    Then it's off up some more gorges - this time we're heading towards Veyreau...

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    Progress is slow to begin with -- this road has recently been gravelled and the shadows hide all sorts of nasties...

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    ...but as we start climbing north east, we are on ungravelled (albeit sometimes poorly surfaced) roads which coil up into the hills...

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    Pretty soon it's lunchtime - we stop in Veyreau...

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    ...park right outside the restaurant...

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    ...where the lovely Theresa...

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    ...brings us a Roquefort & walnut salad.:dg

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    Onward.

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    It's warm now, and Peter & I agree that we'll stop earlier today...

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    ...then plan to be on the road early in the morning - before the weekend motorists are about and before the heat of the day...

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    We ride quite quickly...

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    ...keeping cool is possible so long as you either have airflow, or if you are in shade...

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    ...or, of course, if you are bright enough to get off your bike and jump in the river...

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    Our speed drops off as the temperature increases...

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    ...despite the roads improving no end...

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    ...because the tar is starting to melt - and that makes it very slippery.

    We stop for something to drink at a scruffy little Auberge in Concoules and decide to stop for the day.

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    That evening we eat the local delicacy - duck's liver...

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    Good day:thumb

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    #14
  15. Loud Al

    Loud Al .

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2005
    Oddometer:
    3,976
    Location:
    Forest Grove, OR
    Nice pictures, those roads look amazing.
    #15
  16. djbronco

    djbronco Love the curves

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2007
    Oddometer:
    34
    Location:
    The Starting line to every where! Meridian,ID
    That looks awsome! Thanks for sharing that with us! Someday if I'm real good my wife will let me go over and ride those roads! :super
    #16
  17. KevinC

    KevinC Looking for the hoard

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2004
    Oddometer:
    2,071
    Location:
    Land of the East Saxons
    Nice, very nice.

    I'm off to France in just under a month so please save some of that weather for me.
    #17
  18. MikeO

    MikeO Part-time wage slave...

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2002
    Oddometer:
    7,460
    Location:
    Scarning, today...
    20th July 2008

    After a good night's sleep, Peter & I have breakfast with one of the other guests - a 70yr old lady who is on a six week cycling holiday in the area. Neither of us catch her name, but she is remarkably sprightly and full of life.

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    We're on the road by 0830 - heading roughly north...

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    ...on some great roads hacked out of the hillside.

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    ...it's a great morning, but there's a heaviness in the air that suggests we might get wet later - I fitted the Gore-Tex liners in my trousers this morning...

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    Sure enough - the horizon starts darkening and we're soon witnessing regular forks of lightning in the middle distance...

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    After negotiating the only bit of gravel we encounter this trip - about a kilometre of road repair - we decide it would be wise to stop and kit up for bad weather...

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    Peter & I put the cameras away for a while. We come across roads which have clearly been subjected to heavy rain in the recent past, but stay pretty much dry. We are both aware that the road surface is going to be treacherous after a long dry spell - nowhere more so than on a long uphill section, where vehicles are working hard, moving slower and likely to leave more oil & rubber on the road. As we are climbing the hill into Pradelles I have a major front end slide - I still can't work out what I hit - there was certainly no smell or visual clue to indicate diesel. The bike recovers, but we decide to stop for a while at the first cafe we come to. As we ride we get hit by the first raindrops - fat hard and cold - and we're in a heavy rain squall for about ten minutes. After then it clears and, looking north, we can see that we're through the wet patch.

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    We stop and de-kit, then head off into the sunny day which is developing ahead of us...

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    Time for a spot of lunch...

    Just after we set off again, I notice something odd about Peter's right hand fog light - I wave him in and we find that the bracket has broken. I had this apart last night, to try to work out why the lamp only works intermittently and so I'm concerned that the failure may be connected. We cable tie it back together & carry on...

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    We're soon back on the rapid sweeping roads that we rode a couple of days ago...

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    Bettie steers us onto the Péage in the direction of Clermont Ferrand, so we stop just the other side of the tolls and take advantage of a shady picnic area to plot up and work out where we go from here...

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    We decide to stick to Bettie's route for the time being - the unmistakable boob like silhouette of Puy de Dome is on the horizon...

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    We come off the Péage at Moulins and pass through a couple of small towns - there was a lively flea market going on in one of them...

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    There are often reminders of the high mortality rate on French roads (one of Europe's worst) planted at the roadside...

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    We're soon back on small D Roads...

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    ...and stop in the village of Beaulon...

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    ...for a coffee. When putting his bike on the stand, Peter sees that...

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    ...his left fog light has had an identical fatigue failure...:huh

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    After a quick cable tie repair (at least the bike looks symmetrical now :D), we have a coffee and water and cool down in the shade...

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    Onward.

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    We make good progress north - heading towards Vezelay, where we had lunch a couple of days ago...

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    The rain has made the whole landscape come alive and has cleared all the pollen & dust out of the air - you can see forever...

    We're both tired and we've come a fair way today, so we find a Logis de France hotel in Chateau Chinon & stop for the night...

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    We eat at a local bar - the least said the better - I dread to think what the content of the sausage I ate was, but I can still taste it now...:brow

    We then take a stroll around the town - it's a beautiful evening...

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    We tackle the steep climb up to Le Table d'Orientation...

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    ...where there's a enamelled plinth, erected in 1914, showing the name and distance of all the landmarks you can see from up here...

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    The sun sets and the temperature drops immediately - we walk back to the hotel and get a relatively early night - we're heading for the Channel Ports tomorrow...

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    #18
  19. MikeO

    MikeO Part-time wage slave...

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2002
    Oddometer:
    7,460
    Location:
    Scarning, today...
    21st July 2008

    Both Peter and I sleep badly - it seems that the French have their rubbish collected every night - it was our hotel's turn at about 0500...

    We have a vastly overpriced breakfast and then set off into the morning sunshine...

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    ...it's a beautiful day, although a little chilly in the shade.

    Peter used to own a property in France - we stop and look at this one...

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    ...and it's clear that he'd not take much persuading to buy another.

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    Still, we've got a few miles to cover today, so it's time to get moving...

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    ...once again we're on great roads...

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    ...and heading through St Pere, towards Vezelay for morning coffee...

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    ...where I notice the hotel offers tours by Citroen 2CV...

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    Re-caffeinated, we continue north...

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    ...we're trying to stay off the Peage for as long as possible...

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    There's a brisk breeze from the left, blowing dust off the fields across the road...

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    ...which, as it becomes more gusty, makes riding on exposed roads unpleasant.

    We stop for an early lunch at the Croix d'Or...

    [​IMG]

    ...where we order lunch from the four course, €19 menu. We are treated with utter disdain by the middle aged waitress. After the first two courses (which were excellent) we wait 30 minutes looking at our empty plates before telling the manager we were leaving and paying €10 each... [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    We get on the Peage and head north west towards Calais...

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    In no time, it seems, we're arriving at the Eurotunnel and - ignoring the hitch-hiker on the approach to the toll plaza...

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    ...we check in and pay an additional £12 to get on the 1820 train. We'd originally planned to catch a train early tomorrow morning but reckon we can get back tonight OK...

    [​IMG]

    Eurotunnel employee Brian is soon ushering us onto the train and 45 minutes later we pull into Folkestone. Brian tells us that they have 16 minutes to turn a train around... [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    We arrive back on the M20 at 1800 and make our way to Dartford - where we get split up and ride the last 100 miles or so solo - we arrive at our respective homes at about 2100...

    1747 miles - not a bad way to spend a few days...:thumb

    [​IMG]
    #19
  20. shay

    shay reading is hard

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2004
    Oddometer:
    303
    Location:
    Ireland
    thanks for the report Mike. As always, it is excellent:clap .

    Shay.
    #20