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Trip Notes by David Mc ---
Miles travelled: 2076
Before the trip
Again planning started in early January with the destination agreed as the Alps area around Chamonix-Mont-Blanc. A survey of the Old Gits identified that it was likely to be another big group so a hotel search was started for 15 rooms. All had agreed that they would rather ride the "there and back" journeys in a day so no intermediate hotels were arranged.
The rooms started to fill with eventually 13 of them allocated, including 2 new people, Brian C and Chris A. A few weeks before departure Roger C sold his house so had to back out so he could go and pack boxes!
A small group had already booked the Premier Inn at Dover but Paul H discovered a good deal at the Grand Burstin In Folkestone (£24 per night) so we formed into "us and them" groups with the "us" group of Paul H, Cliffy, Ron, Mark R, Alan R and me at the Grand Burstin and the "them" group of everyone else at the Premier Inn.
The Grand Burstin was cheap but clean and was full of so may pensioners that it was one of the few places that made us Old Gits feel like the youngest there. Still, there was a bar for a couple of beers before bed time.
Thursday 23rd May
My alarm went off at 05:00 (a lay in for me on an Old Gits trip) and we had the bikes packed and were on the way to Dover by 05:40. The early start meant we were too early for breakfast at the hotel but we all knew the ferry was going to involve a large cooked breakfast.
We met the "them" group at the port and headed off through
passport control. Again customs decided I looked dodgy and pointed me (2 of the others
also followed) into the customs shed. We were asked if we did all our own packing and were
shown a picture of a load of knives and guns and asked if we were carrying any of them (I
did think about asking how much a 9mm automatic was then decide against it as customs
staff have no sense of humour.)
Loading the bikes on the ferry was uneventful and we all headed up to the food court for our cooked breakfast and proper introductions.
At Calais we split into small groups and Brian, Alan R and I headed off down the autoroute. The weather was cold and varied from overcast, through rain to hail, and they were big hail stones! There was a strong tail wind which helped us make good progress.
One bit of excitement was when Alan R indicated that the low fuel light had come on on the Firestorm so we started looking for fuel stations. 35 miles later, we hadn't seen one but knew that the next one was about 3 miles up the road when the Firestorm called it a day! After various attempts to get the Firestorm moving, I left the other two to get to the fuel station, buy a can and get some fuel back. It was a 40 mile round trip (done at an average speed of 125 .... er .... kilometres per hour - honest officer!) By the time I got back Alan R and Brian had managed to convince a couple of French workmen who were strimming the autoroute verge to let them have a couple of litres of 2 stroke, which was enough to get the Firestorm started and up to services. All bikes were refuelled and we were on our way again.
Other than the weather, which continued cold and changeable, the rest of the trip was pretty uneventful. We arrived at the hotel at about 19:00 and were the second group there. The others then arrived by about 20:00 and we took a walk into town for a meal and a couple of beers.
Friday 24th May
I would love to say that the day started sunny and warm, but we awoke to an inch of snow on the bikes and more snow falling. We decided to have a slow leisurely breakfast and waited for the snow to stop. By late morning, the snow had turned to rain and the rain to drizzle. Most of the group decided to split up and head out anyway and we pointed at Annecy via some of the back roads.
A little way out of Chamonix, the weather improved (though still cold) and our group (Cliffy, Paul H, Mark R, Chris A and me) had a good dry run over the D909. We then met the others at a nice cafe on the edge of the lake in town for a coffee.
The groups split again for the return run and we headed back over the D909. I was about 10 miles out of Chamonix when I got a call from Guy telling me there was a speed trap on the road into Chamonix with 'le plod' hiding on a bridge over the dual carriageway with a speed gun. I thanked him for the information and came back up the dual carriageway at the limit of 90kmh. Just as well as, sure enough, I just caught a glimpse of 'le plod' hiding in a bush, on a bridge, pointing his speed gun at us. I did think we were lucky as it would have been all too easy to be going significantly faster.
We arrived at the hotel to find a Gendarmes van parked outside. (Even then I didn't put 2 and 2 together!) When we parked the bikes some of the others let us know that Brian had been nicked by the speed trap. 167kmh in a 90kmh limit! He was just being collected in the van to be taken to the police station where he could be processed. I assumed that meant he would be taken to the top of a flight of stairs where he would mysteriously fall down them! While my imagination wasn't correct, he was relieved of 750 euros and his license, having acquired an instant ban in France. 13kmh more and he would have been saying goodbye to his bike!!!
Even so, Brian joined us for a meal out and a few beers that evening.
Saturday 25th May
dull start to the day (more snow) so another slow breakfast and lots of discussions as to
what we were going to do today. We did all decide that Ron had to cover up his Ogri
T-Shirt that said "You must be mistaken officer, I've only been out 10 minutes, it
can't be 165" before Brian arrived.
A Chinese meal (with some Chinese beer) was had by all that evening.
Sunday 26th May
Brian had decided to head back today so the day started with me riding Brian's Sprint and Brian ridding pillion with James. We headed up the valley to the border with Switzerland, accompanied by a few other Old Gits, to the Swiss border. We dropped Brian, his bike and the other Old Gits at the border and James gave me a pillion ride back to the hotel where I picked my bike up and collected the rest of the Old Gits. It was then back into Switzerland to meet with the others and head for the Grimsel Pass and the Nufenen Pass.
Avoiding the motorway in Switzerland (as most of us had not bought a vignette) was a BIG mistake. The road was flat, straight, with a roundabout at about half mile intervals and a desperately slow speed limit. It didn't take too long before serious boredom set in and we were discussing the alternative of buying a vignette and using the motorway. A couple of us decided to risk the use of the motorways with out a Vignette but most handed over their cash.
About 15 miles from the Grimsel Pass we stopped for lunch. While chatting to the owner of the restaurant, we discovered that none of the big passes were open with only the Simplon Pass to Italy taking traffic. Well, that decided us on where we were heading.
Brian headed up into Germany and the rest of the group then got split up at the start of the climb up the pass but we all headed up. There were roadwork's and a bit of traffic but mostly it was nice tarmac, great views and fun on the gearbox sweeping from one bend to the next. We stopped at the Italian border on the way down the other side of the pass, then turned around and did the return. This time we stopped for photos and to take in the magnificent views.
James had noticed a slight noise from the rear wheel of his K1300S so we all stopped to listen. After a bit of teeth sucking and head scratching we all decided it was nothing immediately serious and we carried on.
At a later coffee stop, James was now looking quite worried and his bike was definitely making a strange noise from around the final drive unit. James decided to call out BMW assist while we drank our coffees. The BMW assist call handler said it was better to get the bike seen to in Switzerland as the Swiss would deal with it quickly and efficiently where the French might take a few days to think about it and sure enough the Swiss breakdown truck was with us in about 20 minutes. The problem was identified as a loose mounting bolt but it was going to require a BMW trained technician to torque it to the correct value! (Perhaps the French would have taken a couple of days to think about it but I'm not sure that they would have insisted that only a BMW trained technician could swing a torque wrench.)
The bike was left at the BMW dealers and James got a pillion ride back to the hotel on my bike. As he'd been very good when giving me a pillion ride earlier I felt it was only fair that I was careful and sensible.
Monday 27th May
Monday morning had a group of us heading back into Switzerland to collect James's bike then head up to try and get across the Grand St. Bernard Pass. On the way out of Martigny I pointed out an interesting optical illusion. The road we were on appeared to be a slight down hill slope yet the stream beside the road appeared to be running up-hill!
We turned off the tunnel road onto the pass road and did all of about half a mile before the road became impassable so, after some superb photo opportunities, we were heading to Italy through the Grand St. Bernard tunnel.
The road down the Italian side was superb taking us down to Aosta for lunch. The price difference between France/Switzerland and Italy was highlighted when the Italian lunch, at 8.50 euros, cost us less than a pint of beer in either France or Switzerland.
We headed out of Aosta and up the Petit St Bernard Pass. Again roadwork's half way up did remove some of the fun but the road in the lower section was utterly superb, The top of the pass was closed so an about turn was followed by a belt back down the pass and then a run up to the Mont Blanc tunnel.
Back at the hotel, the "where shall we eat" discussion resulted in the cultured group going to the local Sushi restaurant while the others went off into town. Mark P joined us at the Sushi restaurant having spent the previous two days riding down from Calais on his Fireblade.
Tuesday 28th May
The morning started with Guy, Alan R, Cliffy and Paul H heading off towards Reims. They had decided to make the return journey a 2 day affair. Alan R had his spare petrol can ready in case of a repeat of the fuel issue on the run down and Paul H had his "additional end can" fitted to avoid any further pannier melting.
A group of us then decided to head north up towards Lake Geneva, using the D902. This proved to be a great choice. Although the weather was not particularly warm it stayed dry for the morning run up before we stopped for a late (and for a change, reasonably priced) lunch on the shores of the lake. Alain and James headed off after lunch to visit a friend of Alains while the rest of us headed back down the D902. It had rained really heavily while we were eating lunch but we got away with only a light drizzle for about half of the run back.
A junction closure onto the motorway at Passy had us riding around town for a little while trying to find the right route out but eventually we made it back to Chamonix, filled the bikes with petrol and returned to the hotel to pack.
Wednesday 29th May
Another snowy start but at exactly 6am, Ron, Mark R, Gary, Chris and I left the hotel and headed for Calais. This left James, Alain and Mark P to head off further south later in the day to extend their trip by another week.
The run North started dry but within a very few miles, it was raining, and raining hard. I had decided to go for a 4 stop strategy although this proved to be slightly sub optimal as we could have successfully achieved the run in 3 stops. The first stop had Mark R cursing in swearing. The rain had gotten into the horn switch of the K1200S and he had spent the last 45 minutes constantly hooting! We tried to disconnect one of the wires from the horn but it would have required the removal of a fairing panel so Mark R was advised to simply ignore it. After filling with fuel we all left the service station with Mark going "beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep"!
The rain had stopped by the next refuel, as had the horn on Mark Rs bike. The sun was now coming out though the weather was not warm as we did mile after mile of French Autoroute. About 40 miles out of Calais, the rain started again and we had some excitement when Chris A used the wrong toll both at one of the stops and ended heading off into the French countryside while the rest of us continued to Calais.
We all met up at the port at 14:30 (not bad for 556 miles) and were put on an earlier than planned ferry where we tucked into our final meal together. We agreed that while many of us were heading in roughly the same direction, if we got split up in the traffic on the M20/M25 we wouldn't wait for each other. Sure enough, we managed to stay roughly together until the Dartford crossing where we were separated. I headed up the A12 and home, 2076 miles after I left a week before.
Another successful Old Gits trip. The weather could have been better, a few more passes open would have helped and food and beer prices at slightly less than extortionate would also have helped, but good roads, a nice hotel and most of all, superb company, made this another trip to remember. I hope that Brian and Chris enjoyed their first trip with the Old Gits, even if Brian's proved to be more eventful than he would have liked, and that they'll both become regulars on future trips. Here's to next year!
Trip Notes by Paul H ---
Before the trip
Yet again the year rolled by and the next Old Gits trip was looming. After hearing that some of the OGs were booking into accommodation near Dover, I too started looking into the possibility of booking a hotel somewhere near Dover to avoid the dreaded 4am start from home. Lo and behold the Grand Hotel Burstin,burst into my Google search and a few clicks later Cliff and I were booked there at the princely cost of £24.00 per person including breakfast . Once arrived there, as David pointed out, we considered ourselves to be at the junior end of the clientele age bracket. We avoided the Bingo and live entertainment and settled for a few beers with Ron, Rover, Mark and David.
We assembled at Dover and met with the other OGs both old and new and we (eventually) found our way onto the Ferry, where the customary 7 or 10 piece breakfast was consumed.
The journey to Chamonix was thankfully uneventful, our group comprising of Cliff, myself, and Chris. The weather could have been kinder as we endured, cool temperatures, rain, and hail, but what the hell, were bikers used to such conditions !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We arrived at the Hotel early evening, and when unpacking the hard panniers in my room found that everything in the nearside pannier was wet, and the carrier bag in which my deck shoes were wrapped had melted all over the leather, and the glue on one heel had melted which left it hanging off. !!!!
Thats odd I thought, shortly before discovering a 3 inch hole
in the base of the pannier, and noticing that the pannier case was distorted as well.
The combined intellect of the OGs was put to solving this dilemma, and the conclusion reached was to extend somehow the end can so the exhaust exited beyond the pannier. Cliff & I visited the local supermarket and 2 Euros later were the proud owners of a large can of Ravioli. The hotel kitchen staff assisted by emptying the can and cleaning it and together with the a jubilee clip purchased from the hardware store the embryo concept became a reality, much to the envy of the other Beemer riders.
It was said that the ravioli tin gave the exhaust a more beefy tone !! suffice to say that it held good for the rest of the trip and all the way back home, so thanks to Cliff for his input and engineering skills to make this possible.
David has documented the days events, so there is nothing more to add, apart from in the pub that night meeting with Alex and his dog Haggis. Alex being a very broad accented Scot who spoke fluent French with a Glaswegian accent. Interesting !!
What a rubbish day weather wise, some OGs decided not to venture out, and indeed that day was taken up with sourcing the aforementioned Ravioli and jubilee clips and gluing my shoes together, now covered in M&S green molten plastic class !
Nothing to add to Davids write up.
After hearing Alain talk about the D902 road to Lake Geneva, Cliff & I decided to head to Thonon Les Bains on the lake. The weather was dry, and the roads superb. We arrived in time for lunch and spent a leisurely couple of hours having lunch at the lakeside basking in glorious sunshine before heading back, where the cooked or not cooked debate took place as to the evenings meal.
Cliff, and I had already booked a hotel in Reims to break the journey back, by doing this it meant that on Wednesday we could have a leisurely breakfast with only 160 ish miles to go to Calais. Rover and Guy decided at the last minute to do the same thing, so we travelled to Reims and had a pleasant last evening in Reims
What a joy it was not to have to get up in the early hours with the prospect of nearly 600 miles to travel to Calais, must be an age thing!
We arrived at Calais 2 hours ahead of our scheduled crossing and managed quite easily to get on an earlier Ferry. Goodbyes were said, followed by an uneventful journey home.
Thanks to all of you Guys who make the trips so enjoyable, and particularly to David who every year, masterminds the whole thing.