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French Trip 2018


Would you believe it, another year another International Rally, and after three years of getting soaked through I wasn't sure that I fancied chancing it again.  However after much deliberation I decided to give it one last go in the hope that, this time, it would stay dry (which proved to be the case as god was it hot!).
This time I took the Harley Sportster as it's the only bike I have that actually goes, as the Enfield I took to Germany in 2016 is still in the garage waiting to be fixed after the long ride home in one day, which it didn't like in so many ways, but happily did make it back in one piece.
As usual on Internationals we will be taking the long way there, 6 days, with a shorter return journey, 3 days.
Friday 20th July
After over forty days of unbroken sunshine and today, as it's the first day on the bike, it decided to rain.  Finally left home (Peacehaven) late afternoon, after waiting for the rain to ease, and headed for Molash, to Pete and Anita's house, to join my fellow travellers (Lorraine, Kerry and Justin, Andy and Vera Townsend and Martyn Bratby) for this year's adventure.  Phil Clarke, Jo and Nobby Melrose will be joining us at the Auchen in Dunkirk as they are booked on a later train and Tim Ball and Carole will catch up with us 'en route' as they are not leaving for a couple of days.
After catching up with everyone, and a very nice dinner, had an early night as we are planning to leave at 07:00 tomorrow.
Today's mileage - 61
Saturday 21st
05:00 up early after a good night's sleep in the Hippy Van as we plan to leave around 07:00 to catch the 08:50 train.  We arrived at the Tunnel check-in early enough to be put on an earlier train but, as it turned out, as all the trains were running late even though we were on an earlier train it left at the same time our original train (plus ça change!).
Arrived in France just after 10:00 (local time) and headed for the Auchen at Dunkirk to get provisions for the journey (beer and wine for me) then off to Adinkerke on the tobacco run.  Had lunch in the square outside the Ciggy shop, in the blazing sunshine, while the others went shopping.  Set off for the first campsite, Le Bloemstraete in Renescure, arriving at 15:20 after a careful ride up the long gravel driveway.  Lined the bike up outside the front of the house as the owner wanted to take some photos.
The International Rally tradition of thumbnail painting took place in the evening, always a good talking point for the people we meet on the way, as well as many of the rally goers.  There was some preventative maintenance taking place in the evening!
Today's mileage - 94
Sunday 22nd
Woke at 05:20, not a good sleep as I was cold most of the night and, at some ungodly hour in the morning,  there was a noisy Cockerel somewhere near doing his cock-a-doodle-do thing for what seemed like an eternity, especially as I was tired.  At 06:00 watched a hot air balloon taking off from behind the trees and sail gracefully over the site.
10:25 set off for today's ride but there was a short delay for those of us at the front as we had to wait for the rest of the troop to catch up as there was a small 'incident' just down the road from the campsite, luckily nobody was hurt just shaken a little.
11:15 first stop for fuel, and a smoke for some, and a battery change for Anita as hers had gone flat.
12:25 stopped for lunch in a car park with a 'Friterie' where, obviously everything comes with chips, after going round again as we missed the entrance the first time.  Left after an hour and headed to our next campsite, Camping Municipal Le Village, at Longpre les-Corps-Saints, arriving at 14:20 after a very pleasant warm day riding through small towns/villages and wooded countryside.  After setting up camp some of us had a 'power nap' and Phil and Martyn decided to go for a ride ending up at a village fete somewhere, they didn't know exactly where, but when they came back they insisted they did not have any ice creams!
Today's mileage - 72
Monday 23rd
06:50 up now after a better night as it was not so cold.  Martyn decided to sleep 'Cowboy Style' (under the stars) last night, under the van awning.  All packed up ready to leave at 10:20.
11:35 first stop of the day for fuel and food shopping.  We did have ice creams here, courtesy of Phil and Martyn, and set off again at 12:35.
Took an unexpected turn somewhere along the way and ended up going onto a Péage, for a few miles, but at least I could blow the cobwebs off the Harley.  Had a short break at an Aire, then after a couple more stops at 15:10 ended up outside a café (Auberge Du Saint Graal) in Grisy-Les-Platres which, according to the sign on the wall, closed at 15:00 and were just packing up to leave for the day when we arrived.  However as we all sat down at the outside tables they opened up again and served us lunch, perhaps it had been a slow day but we were very grateful.
17:15 arrived at the next campsite, Camping De La Base De Loisirs at Verneuil-sur-Seine, had a beer, or two, followed by a power nap before putting my tent up.  Some went for a walk to look at the nearby lake and we had a late dinner, 21:00 as we had had a late lunch.
Today's mileage - 89
Tuesday 24th
04:45 up early this morning, I knew I shouldn't have had that last cuppa last night.  Had a cup of tea then took a walk around the lake and saw a small red dear standing in the path, until it saw me then it was off like a shot.  Martyn decided on a second night sleeping 'Cowboy Style' but this time it was not such a good idea as he was eaten alive by Mozzies.
11:25 first fuel stop of the day after someone forgot to turn on their reserve tank and there was a couple of minutes of kicking and a few choice words before setting off again.
12:45 after a couple of bumpy rides along two cobbles streets, stopped at a service station on a duel carriageway on the road to Chartres for fuel and some lunch before setting off for our next campsite, Camping Bords De L'Eure just outside Chartres, 45 minutes later arriving at 14:14.  Sat around for a while in the scorching heat before going shopping with Lorraine and Phil for tonight's dinner.  Met a fellow camper, whose tent we had surrounded when he was away.  He turned out to be an Opera singer on holiday with his new wife, of just over two weeks, who had gone back to Belgium as they had had 'words', and from what he said they seemed to have a 'lively marriage' and he was carrying on with his holiday regardless saying he would talk to her when he got home.  Good luck with that then, you could tell he was new to this marriage lark, not quite got the idea yet, He'll learn!
When we arrived I strung a line up between two trees behind my tent and hung my towel out to dry.  Unfortunately I hadn't noticed that a bird had shat on it from a great height until after I had had a showed and very nearly gave myself a going over with a guano moisturizer.
Today's mileage - 63
Wednesday 25th
Up just after 06:30, some bloody yappy dog, and birds flapping around in the trees, woke me and I couldn't get back to sleep.  Bit cooler after yesterday and not a cloud in the sky, looks like it's going to be another warm one again today.
10:15 set off to find a Pharmacie to get some cream, for those with maddening Mozzie bites, and the Pharmacist prescribed a course of antibiotics for Martyn, who has had a nasty reaction and was feeling decidedly itchy.
11:40 had to stop because Martyn was having problems with his bike which, as it turned out, was caused by a flat battery due to the fact that the Alternator had packed up.  Luckily Phil had a new one in his van and as Martyn changed it Phil held on to the horn button so as Martyn reconnected it the horn went off which made Martyn jump and nearly fell over backwards, which Phil found extremely amusing and couldn't stop laughing, some of us also had a laugh, although I don't think Martyn found it too funny.
12:10 set off to the next campsite, Camping Val De Flux at Beaugency, right next to the Loire River.  After stopping for lunch and shopping arrived at the campsite at 14:10, after a nice cooling spray from an irrigation cannon watering a field on the way here.  Still very hot so had a couple of beers, and a power nap, before putting up my tent.
Tim Ball and Carole turned up after an eventful couple of days due to delayed trains and breakdowns on the way here, but they made it.  Had a bit of a panic when I couldn't find my wallet and keys.  After searching everywhere, with help from the others, I found them where I had put them for safe keeping, in the zip front of my suitcase (I did feel a bit of a Muppet!).
Some of us walked over the bridge to the town after dinner and listened to a Latin American band playing in a marquee alongside the river and had a couple of beers.  There were literally millions of midges flying about on the bridge as we crossed and there was a lot of hand waving going on to try to get rid of them, no chance but, as soon as we reached the other side they went.  Great night, and a late one, didn't get to bed till 01:00.
Today's mileage - 59
Thursday 26th
07:00 got up to what looks like being another good day and this will be the last ride before reaching the rally site this afternoon.
10:10 set off for what turned out to be quite an adventurous day.
11:05 first of several unscheduled stops on the way as Martyn's bike was still playing up, at least the last stop was in some woods in the shade as everywhere else was in the baking sunshine and extremely hot.  After a nice cuppa, and a call of nature, on the road again at 14:05.  After the second breakdown Tim and Carole rode on to the rally site as Tim was still having a few problems with his electric starter didn't want to keep stopping.
15:30 here at last but, as they were not quite ready, we couldn't get in so we sat on the grass outside the gate chatting to some old friends and other waiting rally goers.
Set up camp at the top of one of the fields parking the vans close enough together to string a couple of tarpaulins between to give us some shade from the still very hot sun.  Wayne and Donna Johnson had arrived earlier in the day and already set up camp.
Most of the others went out for a ride to find a shop for tonight's dinner and get something cold to drink.  Martyn finally managed to get his bike running right.  The new condenser he fitted earlier turned out to be faulty and when he fitted another new one the bike run perfectly.  Sat around after dinner chatting and generally chilling.
Today's mileage - 75
Friday 27th
06:45 woke up but didn't get up till 08:00 as there is no riding today and, after all the rides we have had to get here I decided to give it a rest today and sit around veging, eating, drinking bear and generally have a lazy day.  Walked around the Chateau grounds, in the scorching heat, looking at the bikes and stalls and chatting to anyone who wanted to talk.
13:20 all the others, except Carole, went for a ride to get some more shopping and didn't return till 18:00.
After dinner went round to the beer tent where there was an accordion player there giving it his all.  I don't know what he was on but I want a pint of it, he was amazing.  I have no idea where he got his energy from, maybe it was all those drinks people were getting him between songs as the more the night went on the more extreme he got, but he was certainly very entertaining and enjoying himself, as were a number of others as well.  Being a person of a certain age I can't stay up as long as I used to so it was off to bed at 00:15, long past my bed time.
Saturday 28th
06:30 woken up by some eager bikers, trying to get a head start on the rest, revving their big ends off..Nobody else in our group up yet as they all had a late night, more like an early morning.  Early breakfast for me and luckily there was only a short queue but by the time the others got there the queue was outside the door.
10:00 don't think we will make the start of the ride out as no one is back from breakfast yet.  Unfortunately after a week of hot sunny days the weather is looking increasingly nasty with dark cloudy skies.
11:40 set off for the ride out but stopped half an hour or so later as Fred Woodgates and Phil Wright had a problem and were stopped at the side of the road.  After fixing it and riding off Martyn had a problem starting his bike and a few more miles up the road he had to swop batteries with Phil as his had gone flat again.
13:35 arrived at the castle and parked up outside.  As they had misjudged the numbers there were no sandwiches left but a couple of ladies had gone into town to get some more.  Later we walked to a café in the town and had ice cream seated outside, and very nice it was too.
15:00 left for the return journey to the rally site.  Passed one of the more senior members of the Indian Riders Club, on the way, who had run out of fuel, tut tut Fred (there by the grace of God).  He was not the only one to have problems as Andy's distributor 'fell apart' en route.  Managed to fix it then onto a service station to fuel up before arriving back at the site at precisely beer o' clock (16:55), followed by a 'power nap'.
That evening we went to the 'Banquet' but as there was such a long queue, that didn't appear to be moving, we went for a walk around the grounds of the Chateau in the hope that it would be shorter by the time we got back.  At least it was inside the building when we returned so we joined on the end and shuffled up the floor to the food.
21:35 came out of the food hall to a 'Rock a Billy' band playing on the stage.  The atmosphere was not quite the same as last night but good all the same with everyone sitting around chatting, telling tales, some taller than others, and generally having a good time.
My overall impression of the Rally was very good and our French colleagues had done a great job and everyone was friendly and welcoming.  The food was excellent regardless of the long queues, but that couldn't be helped due to the mass of hungry people there.  I think the toilet situation may have be a bit underestimated as in my opinion, and the opinion of several other I spoke to, 3 gents and 3 ladies were not enough for the amount of people at the rally.  I know there were toilets in the food hall but they were not always available as after eating the doors were locked.  I also did see queues outside the showers, on occasion, but there was plenty of hot water even though the cubicles were a bit 'bijou' (small for the non-French speakers).
Today's mileage - 71

Photo Gallery

Sunday 29th
06:50 up to the sound of church bells, calling the faithful to prayer, and off to the showers before the queues.  Lots of the others up now some breaking camp, some have already left.
11:40 all packed up, said our goodbyes, and just waiting to start our homeward journey.
12:55 first stop of the day for fuel and lunch.
13:50 Vera joined that not so exclusive club of Indian Riders who breakdown on an International when her clutch cable parted on the approach to a roundabout.  We stopped at a lay-by at the bottom of the hill then moved to a small park just off the main road while Phil went back up the hill, on the back of Martyn's bike, and rode it back so it could be fixed.  It was interesting to watch as I've never seen 'repair by committee' before but it worked and we were off again at 15:00.
15:45 arrived at our next campsite, Camping du Lac des Varennes, Marcon.  This is a very nice site with a man made beach at the end of the lake.  Andy was not feeling too well when we arrived, and neither was Vera, so they stopped by the office while we set up camp.  They joined us later, their tent was already up, so they could have a rest.
After dinner we took a stroll to the 'Snack Bar' to get ice creams for pud.  After waiting for some time the young lady serving said she would have to see to the people seated at the tables before she could serve us.  So after another long wait Jo asked her how much longer did she think she would be?  After taking several minutes to explain that the tables came first, even if other campers arrived and sat down, they would be served first.  It seemed ironic to me that in the time she took to explain all this she could just have easily served us, but hey what do I know!  Anyhow, four of us decided to sit at an empty table in the hope that we would then be served, how wrong we were.  She gave us such a disgusted look as if to say you can *iss off as well, so we did, with our tail between our legs and no ice cream..  Unfortunately this incident let the otherwise excellent site down (won't be coming here again, well not for ice cream anyway).
Today's mileage - 81
Monday 30th
06:30 woke up to a cloudy sky but, hopefully it will clear before we set off.  Lorraine ordered 3 baguettes for breakfast which I collected from the Snack Bar when it opened at 08:30.  It's getting cloudier now but at least Andy said he feels much better today.
10:10 on the road but had to stop after a few miles up the road as Andy's float got stuck and the petrol was not getting through.  Sorted it out then off to our first fuel stop.
12:10 stopped at an Aldi for lunch and ice creams.  It rained a little on the way here then sunshine then it chucked it down just so we didn't get too hot on the way!  Finally set off for our last campsite, Camping Saint Paul just outside Lyons Le Floret at 15:20
17:10 arrived at last.  That was a long ride with a few round turns on the way as there was a difference of opinion with the various sat navs all telling us to go in different directions.  This site was chosen because it had a swimming pool but unfortunately when we got there the pool was closed, according to the sign in the office, due to technical reasons.  Set up camp for the last time and had a couple of beers, as you do.
Total mileage - 151
Tuesday 31st
09:00 left earlier than usual as we have a longish ride today back to the Tunnel and then home, well Pete and Anita's house anyway.
09:45 stopped for fuel, just as well as my low fuel light came on not long after we left and I was running on fumes.
11:50 second stop for lunch, and fuel, for some, then back on the road again at 12:45.  Very enjoyable ride along open roads with great views, except for the overtaking artic coming towards us who must have been on a suicide mission as he was overtaking coming over the brow of a hill and was a fair way down on our side of the road before being able to pull in.
14:45 parked up in a KFC car park to so Phil could load up his and Nobby's bike, after they had cooled down, ready for the train.
Had a very nice Ice Cream while we waited, after figuring out how to use the ordering screen, couldn't just go to the counter and ask the girl standing there doing nothing, you have to use a touch screen and get a ticket to hand in first, is that progress, I'm not sure.
15:35 headed for the Tunnel, only 5 minutes away, and checked in to find there were delays, nothing out of the ordinary there then!  All thing considered didn't have too long a wait and we were back in good old Blighty at 16:50 (local time) then the short dash up the motorway back to Molash.  As we had had a long day, and I had done enough riding for one day, I decided to stay tonight and head for home tomorrow.
Today's Mileage - 161
And Finally
This was a great trip with friends old and new and I would like to thank all my fellow travellers for a great time, especially Pete and Anita for putting me up (putting up with me more like), at the beginning and end of our trip, and as always a warm welcome from Janet and Bill.
Total mileage door to door, according to my Speedo, 1041miles averaging 52 MPG.

And lastly, just a thought for one of us who was not on this trip, and was greatly missed.

Kim Buick Kim



Indian Motocycles - you can't wear them out                                  Indian Motocycles - built to last  
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