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SUNDAY 15th JULY 2007

Friday 29th June | Sunday 1st July | Tuesday 3rd July | Thursday 5th July | Sunday 8th July | Tuesday 10th July | Friday 13th July | Sunday 15th July

In the morning, we were up and away. If the luggage fell apart now, I could afford to ditch it. Next stop home! As we got back onto the A1, within 5 miles we passed services with no less than 3 cheapo lodges! Isn't it always the way?

We decided that a serious breakfast was called for and pulled in to the services. The coffee bar was open but we wanted something a little more substantial than that. We waited for a minute or two, on our own, at le grille. Eventually, a little French girl came out, took our order and cooked up three French versions of a Full English. The till in the grill area was closed so we went to pay at the coffee bar with our trays of food. We were waved away with lots of Gallic shrugs and jabbering.

I don't know what it is, but food always tastes better when it's free!
We were soon past Lille and on the way to Calais. My bike decided to run out of fuel in the main tank so I switched to reserve. I could manage 20 miles on reserve and the services were 25 miles away! When I ran out, we had to use Henry's primus stove to transfer fuel from his and Bill's tank to mine.

Another few miles and we were in Calais and we managed to find a truck stop garage that was open. We were a little early for the Tunnel but, apparently, that isn't necessarily a problem. We checked in and managed to get assigned to an earlier crossing. Through various checkpoints and controls, into the train and up through it to the front with several other bikes.

CHECKPOINT CHARLIE

IN THE TRAIN


After what seemed like only a few minutes, we were back out in English Daylight. I looked out of a window and saw the blackest clouds you could imagine! We made our way out of the train and made our way (on the correct side of the road) towards the M20 and homeward bound. We stopped at the services and got a bacon sarnie. The clouds that I had seen had become bigger and more menacing. But what did we care? No more camping!

As we got towards Heathrow it started. At first a few spots, then more and then a full on deluge. The traffic on the M4 was at walking pace. Within seconds we were soaked to the skin. Henry had his waterproofs on but I think that even he had sprung a leak here and there. We pulled in to Reading Services to take stock and decided that, if the bikes would do it, so would we. It wasn't cold, after all; just very wet.
Bill and Henry took junction 15 - Swindon East to head up to Cheltenham past the Air Balloon pub. I carried on alone and as I approached Leigh Delamare Services just past the Chippenham junction. I was trying to work out if I had enough fuel to make it the last 30 miles. I decided that I might as well fill up. As my back wheel crossed the line from the carriageway onto the slip road, the bike spluttered and I had to switch to reserve. My bike was a sentient being, I'm now convinced. A last tank of gas and onwards.

Within the hour I was stood in a hot shower still buzzing from the adrenalin.

A trip like this, as long as there are no disasters, is something to behold. But to be back home, dried out, showered and with the one you love, really takes some beating.


GAME OVER MAN!


STATSISTICS - DAY 17:

342 miles Roye - Home
4066 miles in total
Average 240 miles per day

TOTAL STATISTICS;

Distance travelled - 4066 miles
Petrol used - 262.73litres (57.80 Gallons)
Miles per gallon - 70.34
Total saddle time - 96.15 hours
Average speed - 43.60 m.p.h.

Bike drops

Bill -5
Henry -3
Me - 3
Feeling of accomplishment - PRICELESS!

The trip, for me, was the realisation of a dream that I had harboured for many years. Back in the 70's, I worked for what is now known as B.T. Andy McCormack, a friend of mine was planning an epic trip. He was to fly to San Francisco with his then girlfriend, now wife, Jean. He had taken his four week leave entitlement for the year, carried two weeks over from the previous year and was allowed to anticipate one week from the following year making 7 weeks in total. His request to be allowed to anticipate a couple of days 'sick' was not allowed.

He bought a Harley in San Fransisco and rode it back to New York. They flew back home and awaited the bike which followed by sea. I was green with envy. It was the late 70's and I had a young family and commitments that made such thoughts pipe-dreams. I don't care too much for Harleys but I feel that this trip has given me the same stupid grin that Mac had when he got home.

Leslie, Henry's wife voiced concern, over dinner in Ayomonte, over how Henry and I had got on considering, as she put it that you are two Alpha Males (pass the bananas, please Henry).

Well, I have to say that we never argued once. We may have disagreed about which route to take and Bill and I did make a sport out of suggesting one thing and waiting for Henry to go for the exact opposite, as is his wont; but that was all good fun. Personally, I class it as some sort of achievement. I can't remember the last time I didn't have at least one argument on holiday!

People umm and ahh about whether they should fit crash bars onto their Enfields. Let me tell you, regardless of the amount of protection they offer when you slip off, the crash bars make getting the bike upright again a much more practical proposition. I personally have had two friends who lost a leg in bike accidents. I don't know that crash bars would have prevented their loss but I can't see that they would have made it any worse.

Would I do it all again? You bet. With one or two provisos:

1. I wouldn't look to cover as many miles in as many days. It's OK doing 2 300 miles in a day but you should then enjoy the local environment for a day, or two.

2. I took enough changes of clothes for a clean change every day without having to wash anything until I got back. Big mistake. When your luggage space is restricted, you can plan to need no more than 3 changes of clothing for however long you go; washing as required.

3. Get a GOOD camp site book or even two. France has a good network of Municipal sites that are as cheap as chips.

4. Keep the numbers down. The more people you have, the less progress you will make each day.

5. Have a plan B. Always take out some good holiday insurance with repatriation. Mine, with the A.A. cost me £97. In the event of breakdowns that couldn't be fixed, they would ship the bike back, give me a hire car to carry on and provide £45 per night for the remaining holiday as additional expenses. It would almost have been worth breaking down.

 

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