Tag Archive: bikers


Despite the disappointment of having our trip curtailed, we had at least managed to time things so that we could go home via a bike rally, “Ye Gert Busturds”, run by the Moonrakers MCC in deepest darkest Wiltshire. For those of you that haven’t heard of bike rallies, they are nothing at all to do with racing. They are basically biker parties, held in pubs, halls and marquees across the land. Mostly people camp, and there is often live music, the imbibing of the odd alcoholic beverage, and usually a lot of laughing and silliness. Oh and hugs, lots of hugs – bikers might look like a scary bunch en masse, but really they’re mostly a bunch of teddy bears who hardly ever bite the heads off chickens any more 😉

We’d arrived in Portsmouth on a Thursday and the rally wasn’t starting until Friday, so we’d arranged to stay with a friend who lived 30 miles away. Lucky it wasn’t too far to ride, given how green around the gills I was feeling! Navigating by the skin of our teeth and the occasional aid of Google maps on my iPhone, as our SatNav (Mip) was still completely dead, we headed off down some lovely country lanes in search of somewhere to stop for a late brunch.

The road we had taken off the M27 was devoid of any habitation other than the odd farm dotted here and there, so eventually we took a single-lane road to the left, as a pub was signposted to be within hailing distance. What felt like 10 miles later but was probably a lot less we finally found the place, only to find they’d stopped serving food about 20 minutes before. D’oh! Luckily we had lots of directions from the locals, who came out in force to gawp at these two pasty looking strangers on loaded up motorbikes, and eventually we found the village they’d mentioned. We pulled into the car park of the White Horse Inn, attracted by the sign outside that said “Food available all day” – huzzah!

The pub was indeed serving food all day, and had a choice of a full Indian menu or a more traditional English pub grub menu. As someone who would happily eat curry for breakfast, lunch and tea Tony was in his element. I was still feeling rather delicate, so went for the more classic gammon and chips. It was just what the doctor ordered, and after washing the meal and a couple of paracetamol down with lashings of orange juice and lemonade, we went on our way feeling much refreshed.

That evening we had a good catch up with our friend whilst watching him sort through his belongings, as he was moving out the following weekend. I wimped out early and left the two boys talking late into the night, so was feeling considerably better the next day. Well fed and watered we left for the rally, after promising to return the following weekend to help with the move.

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Back to Blighty

Our last day in Spain dawned fine and bright. We packed the bikes up for the ferry back to Portsmouth, and headed off to a local supermarket to buy supplies for the trip. After stocking up with as much wine as we could carry (not  a lot!) and some food to sustain us, we took our last Continental ride of the trip.

The ferry was easy to see as the dock is right in the middle of town, but getting to it was a little more tricky. Luckily it only took us two attempts to find the right entry, and then lo and behold, we were stopped and asked for our passports for the first time since leaving home! How ironic that it should be as we attempted to return. Checked through security, we were directed to join the rest of the motorcycle riders by the ferry offices, and proceeded to check each other’s bikes out whilst having a good old natter.

The weather Gods were with us once again, as sun was now hidden behind clouds but the rain held off until just as we started boarding, phew. After the nice chaps from Brittany Ferries had strapped the bikes down securely we grabbed our overnight bags and victuals, and headed off to find our cabin. We settled ourselves in before heading off for a look around the boat, and surprise surprise, ended up in the bar! It was only because we had such a lovely view through the big picture window of Santander receding behind us, honest guv. That and the fact that they sold draught Strongbow, so we enjoyed our first pints since leaving England 🙂

It’s a 24 hour crossing from Santander to Portsmouth, so we had to find our entertainment where we could. Having checked out the film schedule to find nothing that interested us, and munched our way through some supplies in the cabin, we returned to our seats-with-a-view in the piano bar.

Of all the bars in all the world...

There was a full-sized grand piano, complete with suited chap tickling the ivories to give us some old classics, which we thought terribly civilised. In keeping with the mood we switched to cocktails, which had nothing to do with the realisation that we could sup generous Long Island Iced Teas for only 10 pence more than a pint of cider. These things always seem such a good idea at the time…

Later there was a quiz, by which time we’d acquired an extra team member in the form of one of the other bikers we’d been chatting to at the ferry port. Now neither of us are usually great at quizzes, but somehow we managed to win this one – perhaps it was the extra help that did it!

Later that same night, I went to the bar to buy a round of drinks, only to be accosted by a couple of gentlemen who were propping the bar up and getting happily pickled. They insisted on buying me a drink, despite my protestations that my husband was waiting for me. After a little while he came down to see what was holding me up, and they insisted on buying one for him, too. You can see where this is going, can’t you…? Eventually the bar closed on the handful of us left still standing, and we staggered off back to our cabin, somewhat the worse for wear.

Luckily the rolling of our gait was cancelled out by the rolling of the ship. I think that’s what I remember, anyway.

Of course these things never seem quite like such a good idea the next day. I’m lucky enough not to get hangovers very often, but this one was a humdinger. Tony managed to get some breakfast down, but I completely wimped out and just did my best to re-hydrate a little. We struggled out of the cabin once the call came to vacate, and headed down to the bikes. Before we knew it, we’d docked and were off and away, back on to British soil.

Still very fuzzy around the edges, after two months on the Continent our mantra was, “Ride on the left, ride on the left!”.

The lazy way to ride home

We awoke to a dry day with the sun gamely trying to burn off the mist that was rolling down off the mountains. A quick check of the weather forecast revealed that we were due some rain today, no, having read the forecast properly, lets make that lots of rain, and strong winds moving across the country later on in the day…

When we set off my father hadn’t been very well. He had insisted that we still make this trip as, in his words, “It’s bad enough that I’m not well, but I don’t want it on my conscience that I prevented you from making a trip of a lifetime”. Something for which I am very grateful. Thanks Dad.

Because of this, we knew that at some point we would have to come back home to see him, hence our decision to have a shakedown trip through Europe first before going to the Americas. That way we could be close to home in case we were needed. I’d had a telephone call from the consultant, and it was apparent that that time needed to be soon.

We had booked a ferry from Santander to Portsmouth in three days time so, with the bad weather looming, we decided that we were going to make a push and try to get as far as possible before it set in. This gave us the added benefit of being able to ride the last of the twisty N260 in the dry, particularly as much of the road sported ‘Slippery When Wet’ signs, and the regular cliff faces and drops didn’t give us much room for error on some of the bends!

Well I’m glad to say that the N260 lived up to it’s reputation, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves yet again.

At one small town the road was temporarily blocked by a procession of Morris Men dancing with their sticks, followed by a band.

We parked up to enjoy the spectacle and have a quick look around before setting off again, finding an artisan baker who had an interesting sign, and an ancient AMC two stroke motorcycle fitted with the biggest crash bars in the world!

Further on, we couldn’t resist stopping for refreshment at a beautiful bar restaurant in the curiously named town of Gavin.

Next stop was for petrol, and whilst filling up, we noticed some interesting cars across the road in a restaurant car park. We went to take a look and discovered it was a French sports car club, obviously out for a Sunday drive in the last of the sunshine. After a nosy at the cars, we  thought to have a bite to eat at the restaurant, but the owner was a miserable sod who refused to serve us. I think that he just didn’t like bikers as he was happy to serve a family that had arrived after us in a car. This was the only time that anything like this had happened since we had left the UK and I was pretty angry, however we left quietly and denied him our business.

A few kilometers further on we came across the La Trobada restaurant which was very friendly and cheaper to boot, bonus!

As we rode on westwards the scenery changed quite dramatically, with the ground being very barren and appearing to be made up of large pale grey rocks and scree.

Imagining it without the patchy vegetation, it looked as though it could have been a moonscape, or even a stage set from a Science Fiction movie.

Nearby was a lake with very low water levels, and I think that there must have been some hot springs somewhere as we occasionally got wafts of a strong sulphurous smell, and neither of us had been eating eggs (S: the odd sign for thermal spas was a bit of a clue, as well!).

It was late afternoon when we joined a motorway, and as we rode along, the skies were getting darker and darker. We were doing the old “Shall we, shan’t we, stop and put our waterproofs on” thing, when the first few large, heavy rain drops hit us, so it was straight onto the hard shoulder. Unfortunately not quite quickly enough – by the time that we had waterproofed up, it was lashing it down and we were both rather damp. We should have stopped earlier, but then hindsight is always 20/20.

The winds were picking up but that wasn’t too bad, it was the sudden gusts that actually pushed the bikes across the road which made riding a bit fraught and tiring.

It was getting late and we decided that the best thing was to find somewhere to stop for the night. It was a good call as I’d had enough wind induced moments for the day, having had a particularly close call on a bridge when the wind nearly gusted me into the armco barrier. I don’t mind admitting that it scared me, which caused me to tense up, which of course just made things worse.

Without Mip to help us with the finer detail we took a wrong turn in the confusion of a multi-motorway junction just outside Pamplona, and ended up on a scenic tour of an industrial estate whilst trying to work out how to go back on ourselves. Eventually we made it back en route, and started looking for a promising place to pull off and find somewhere to stay for the night. Pamplona is the city famed for it’s annual spectacle of the Running of the Bulls, which meant there should be a lot of hotels around the town and it’s surrounds, but deciding on the best exit from the motorway to find them wasn’t proving to be the easiest of things, what with the rain, traffic and our general tiredness. Eventually we just picked an exit, left the motorway, and started looking for somewhere to stay, but with no luck, everywhere seemed to be closed.

In Iza on the outskirts of Pamplona, we saw a small sign for a hostal pointing up a side road. After a bit of a trek and a few wrong turns, we eventually came across a converted barn and farmhouse which looked lovely. The owner heard the bikes and came out. They had no guests, so we were welcome to stay and park our bikes in their garage. Excellent.

The Hostal Rural Huartearena was built into the hillside and their garage was basically most of the ground floor. It was massive and just the sort of thing that I dream of having one day, being immaculate, painted, heated and lit. I was feeling bad about us and the bikes dripping water all over the floor, but they weren’t bothered and let us hang up our gear to dry.

Our hosts were very friendly, the accomodation superb, and the home cooked evening meal wonderful, so when we retired to bed, we were both very happy, warm, dry bikers 🙂

We decided to take mostly minor roads on our journey from Vals-Les-Bains to Le Camping Moto near Crest for a couple of reasons. We wanted to enjoy the twisty less travelled roads and to see more of countryside that we were travelling through. Well it worked. The ride was great and we thoroughly enjoyed the road and the views.

Panorama visible from the road

Taking a break en-route

We kept on seeing bikers coming the other way who were either going for it or just grinning from ear to ear. The region is well known amongst European bikers as having fantastic roads, and they are right.

The weather kept fine and we pulled up at Le Moto Camping at about 5pm. We were given a warm welcome and a couple of cold drinks on arrival. It is run on very similar lines to Moto Camping Dordogne, not surprising I suppose given as both of the owners are Dutch! We bought drinks cards which get sections cancelled with each drink that you buy. A similar system to that run at our bike club’s rally, the Ridgeway MCC’s George to the Dragon Rally, as it saves messing about with change at the bar and speeds up service.

Interesting ornaments by the bar

The large bar opens out onto the pool area, where we relaxed on the sun loungers relaxing and enjoyed the evening sun. As we were planning on getting a reasonably prompt start the next day we opted to stay in one of their wooden chalets rather than put up the tent. Obviously it is much quicker and easier, and only cost 12 euros more than camping.

All of the other guests were Dutch but they were friendly and welcoming. The owner has an 850 T3 Moto Guzzi, although he is more into trials bike riding now, and our neighbour had a MkV Le Mans Moto Guzzi, but had chosen to come on his 900 Ducati in order to play on the region’s roads. He was complaining that he had nearly worn out his rear tyre and that it wouldn’t get him back to Holland, not surprising as he’d put it in on his previous visit to Le Moto Camping a year before!

We ate food that we had bought at a supermarket en-route, and enjoyed watching the bats swooping around having their meal at dusk.

After planning the route towards Switzerland and the Moto Guzzi Rally, we had an early night as we wanted to get moving reasonably early as we had some distance to cover over small and twisty roads.