Saturday, June 11, 2011

8th /9th /10th June

8th June
Arrived with Philippe late yesterday afternoon, having had quite a struggle with Batty's clutch all afternoon.
As always great to catch up with old pals and great to re acquaint with Mdme Chandless. A welcome whiskey was thrust into my hand and the day's recovery began.
P and I headed off to his local Cous Cous restaurant and gossiped furiously about you lot.

Generosity comes in great waves, as I am finding more and more on this trip. Batty had to be partially stripped to find out what the problem was. Uncle Philippe was called and his garage was made available for the task.
The problem quickly became clear as  one of the engine panels was removed and the pushrod between the clutch lever and the clutch mechanism was clearly knackered. The pushrod wasn't hard enough for the job, no sniggering at the back. For those with a technical interest, this rod has to be hardened at both ends to allow for the ball bearings at each end to push against without wearing it. For some reason this had not been done during production, so Henry has sent a replacement overnight by UPS.
The up shot of this is that the poor Chandlesses have had to put up with this traveler another night. He has has had to endure delicious breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Comfortable bed, great wifi and broad and stimulating company. This is traveling in style and I am so lucky that this problem happened with such friends at hand.
The best part is that Philippe is going to join me for a day and a night on my way to Switzerland. A tent has been bought and once his mighty BMW machine learns the way of Batty's Zen like  pace I am sure they will run sweetly together.


24 hrs after the problem was identified, it was solved. UPS arrived on time, Harry for once did not muck up his mechanics, and Batty rode out of Grenoble with a perfect working clutch.

In the morning,  in a Patisserie getting a little something for Batty's hosts, I was struggling to ask the shopkeeper if she also knew where a florist was 'près d'ici',  she gave me a long very fast answer that whistled over my head. Then she laughed at my doubtless look of hopelessness, said ' Alright love, I am English' much to my delight and frustration. .... she had had me and said she didn't know whether to own up or let me practice my lost cause French. A jolly moment or 2. Still couldn't find the damn florist, even with directions in English. It is a frustration that people don't give you the amount of time or the distance when giving directions. It is probably my poor retention and imagination, but without these dimensions I find it difficult to gauge directions. That said the great thing about getting lost, is the unexpected.
Philippe and I rode off into the Alps on stunning roads. On the way out of Grenoble an egg was thrown from a 3rd storey window at the car in front, a direct hit. Just as this happening was sinking in, I was the target  and another direct hit on poor old Batty. Shocked and bemused I pulled over and ranted at what to do with Philippe. We left it and as I calmed down saw the funny side, and even had to admire the shot. I am sure there are a couple of kids very proud of themselves. Batty needs a wash now. Just between you and me, I think I did the same when young and it was great sport.....all I pray is that those little tikes are at the receiving end of a direct hit later in life.
Looking down on Grenoble

Up at the first Pass

P chatting to  chap at a Cafe, whose son was v keen

I started writing down the roads that blew my mind in terms of the beauty and just amazing for biking, but it was a list that just grew and grew, there are just hundreds of these ear-poppingly heavenly roads.
Philippe had to return to Grenoble at lunchtime and that was a sad farewell. He and Madame had treated me like family for the last couple of days and it was greatly appreciated.

I made my way to Lausanne in Switzerland to see Bella and Humphrey. I am spending a couple of nights with them, before leaving for Italy on the 11th.

It has been a great ride from the UK, both in people, places and experiences. A better warm up I could not have wished for and now this phony war-like part of the trip  is ending. Gone will be the familiarity of  companionship,  delicious home tucker and regular comfy beds that has spoilt me rotten over the last 2 weeks. I am in the right place and pointing in the right direction for some earnest journeying to begin.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


4th June.

Spent 2 happy days with Charlie Haydon, with the great bonus of Pat May arriving for the weekend a couple of hours after me. He had been threatening to come along, and delighted he did. The three of us go back to our late teens, when the world seemed resolve around bikes, girls, parties, booze and the odd other stimuli. The order of importance fluctuated, but in essence that was it. Why it seemed complicated at the time I am not sure, but it was a lot of fun. 30 years on life revolves around, oh, bikes, girls, parties, booze, family for some, business / work, mortgages, pensions and health. More complicated maybe, but somehow less stressful.
Yesterday we went to the coast and enjoyed moule fritte at a seaside shack, which with a bottle of local cider was a fabulous dejeurne. We stopped at a US world war 2 memorial and graveyard site.

There was a very old American chap who looked at least 90. Difficult to imagine his emotions, we assumed he had to be there to see the graves of his fallen brothers. On bidding him good afternoon, I got a rather lost look, a poignant moment. On the way hope we delved into how long that memorial would be there for, prompted by the much stated 'never to be forgotten'  type plaques.

 Leaving Charlie's in the rain

5th June

This morning the plan was to have a look at and clean Batty's injector, before leaving at noon.  I had gone back on to almost pure veg oil and it was a mistake as they had coked up.

A 10 minute job, but typically in Harry's world of maintenance things go a little wrong and I dropped a washer down the injector hole. Luckily with Charlies' kit and steady hand it was recovered. The upshot was leaving an hour late. Pat joined me for the first hour on his Triumph before setting off for the ferry home. It really tipped it down for most of the run and camping was looking challenging. Luckily it cleared up by the time I got to looking for a camp site at 6ish. 

I am writing after my first camp supper on the first night alone, 150 miles down the road. I have about another 350 miles to go before hooking up with Philippe Chandless. I plan to do it over a couple of days.

As ever wanting to plug pals businesses on this blog, Charlie runs a great self catering holiday cottage  setup and for £400 per week a family can come an enjoy the remoteness, beauty and tranquility of Normandy only a couple of hours from the ports.
Pat has a property search business in Devon and after 20 years in west country property has a knowledge and insight that is difficult to match.

6th June

Tipped it down overnight, but my Big Agnes tent lived up to it's promise, however my boxers and socks (they like to be washed daily) did not dry on the line alas.

Beautiful  run to near Vichy.
Spotted that the clutch cable was beginning to fray at the lever end. Thought this could be part of my clutch worries, that I have been adjusting most days a quarter or half turn. Now there is no adjustment left on the main adjustment. Replaced the cable, which took about 30 mins and then vigorously oiled the other cables on the bike, I should have done this more regularly, lesson 105 for the trip.
Henry is sending out a couple of replacements along with some hopefully remedial solutions for the clutch adjustment, which won't involve too much mechanical work, fingers crossed. 

Having rather slated the Garmin satnav earlier, I have to take it back, certainly in part, as it has taken me on some absolutely stunning roads. By selecting the no highway and autoroute option, I have travelled along just fab roads. There have been a few single track roads, but 95% have been 2 and there is hardly any traffic. Just perfect for my 30-50mph speed range and lorry avoiding quest.

The day carried on with a broken speedo cable, and on going clutch problems, so much so that it was easier to stall Batty at lights and then find neutral, before restarting. Henry has sent an instruction on possible things that may be causing the problem.