This time I was going to have to ride with the really BIG back pack across southern France to my friends place. I decided to take the "autoroute". This was going to my first big trip off the back roads. Smooth as glass and BORING> but I thought I'd had enough back road adventures to last me a while. Did I mention what a PITA it is to not have a chipped credit card? So many tolls, so annoying each time and expensive too. With lots of speed cameras. In all fairness, they actually remind you in a not too obvious way that there is one coming up. I guess the thinking is, if you can't heed the warning and are speeding you deserve the fine. Here's where I'm going After a whole day of rallying I had another 450km. to cover, so I was planning to stop over night somewhere. What ensued was one of my most harrowing M/C experiences to date. Cruising along on the Autoroute I see way off in the distance a huge wall of black clouds. Hmm, that looks, really menacing. Garmin is telling me it's only 12km. to Aix-en Provence. Gotta try and make it...then.....whoa...........who turned out the lights! It's raining so hard I can barely see the cars lights. I'm thinking "wow, this is so, so dangerous. If I can't see them you know they sure as hell can't see me". I've gotta find an underpass but it's raining so hard that I can't see them. I only know I've been under one because the rain lets off momentarily! But I don't want to slow down too much as I'm afraid of getting hit from behind. Finally, I find an underpass, but the rain is coming down sideways so it's still not much better! If you've ever tried to set up a tent in a storm you know what I felt like trying to get into my rain suit! Another toll! Are you kidding, no way I'm going to fiddle around looking for the right change. The camera will never see my muddy license plate tonight. So I wiggle around the toll gate. It's times like this it pays to have a sick sense of humor! After all I went through in the past weeks weather, now this? Finally an exit, now to find a place to stay and eat. Many are closed for the off season or full. I'm starting to get a little desperate. I pull into yet another place and open the door, the proprietor and his wife are standing ankle deep in water. They look at me completely freaked out, like, OK, and now the creature from the black lagoon has arrived too! Oh sorry, I guess this means your closed? Next.... At this point I'm getting tired of pulling off my really BIG pack, soaking wet gloves and helmet off me just to find out the place is full or closed. I walk into a place that's a restaurant and hotel and ask about a room. The ladies at the bar are staring at me with a look of terror. I take off my helmet and one of them realizes I'm not french. "Monsieur, it's not a good idea in France to come into hotels in the night with a helmet on, you've scared us badly. Oh, oops..... well at least I got directions to a place that was open. Well by the time I got to the hotel the only dry clothes I had was a bathing suit and a tee shirt. I'm sitting there eating or rather trying to eat the toughest steak ever and watching the TV announce that what I had just ridden through was a TORNADO!