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Trip Notes by David Mc ---
Miles travelled: 2670
Before the trip
Planning started in December 2013 with reservations at the main hotel being made in February. 7 people had committed so rooms for the trip down and back were booked as were ferry crossings.
Saturday 14th June
As usual, the bike was already packed when the alarm went off at
04:10 in the morning. Gear on and off I headed down the A12, M25 and M2 towards
I met the rest of the group at
We were all aware of the French plod reputation with regards to speeding so we settled in to a steady 85 90 mph, which was over the limit but, we hoped, not by enough to make us a target. Sure enough Brian did spot a Gendarme in the hedge with his speed gun and a couple of mates on bikes waiting to swoop on the unwary but they took no notice of us.
The splash and dash group did exactly that when it came to petrol stops (about every 150 miles) and we arrived at the hotel in Bourgoin-Jallieu with time to check in, park the bikes in the secure parking, unpack, shower and have 3 beers all before the other group turned up. Some further beers were consumed while they sorted themselves out then we headed into town to a Pizza restaurant recommended by the good looking young lady at reception in the hotel.
Sunday 15th June
A late start to the morning followed by a slow relaxed breakfast meant we werent on the road until after 10:30. It was agreed to go as 2 groups of 4 with Brian, Roger, David Y and me in 1 group. Brian needed petrol so headed off with the other group to the petrol station while the rest of us waited. After filling up Brian missed where we were parked and headed off in the opposite direction. A quick phone call established he was on the AutoRoute and would meet up with us later so we were down to a group of three.
The selected route gave us 250 miles to the hotel in
On the start of the climb up the Col du Telegraphe we were waving to the many bikes (mostly Harleys) coming down when we were suddenly aware that one of the bikes was Brian! There wasnt an opportunity to stop safely so we each carried on in opposite directions.
At the top of the Col de Telegraphe we stopped for lunch. Wed just parked the bikes and ordered a round of drinks when Brian arrived. He started the climb then realised hed need fuel soon so turned around and went back to the petrol station, passing us on the way.
Just after getting our food the other 4 arrived and joined us for
lunch while we sat in the sunshine and watched the endless stream of motorbikes riding up
and down the
After lunch we headed off over another couple of Cols before the rain
started on our climb up the Col de Lombarda. By the time we
Despite the rain we all arrived at the hotel at about 18:00, checked in, unloaded the bikes and showered ready for a few beers and a meal out in town.
Monday 16th June
A late start and relaxed breakfast had us all discussing routes for
the day. No one was keen on a long run so it was agreed to head up towards Crisolo and the road that was used to film scenes from the Italian
Job. While the initial roads out of
Unfortunately, when we got close to the road from the film, we discovered that it was undergoing significant resurfacing and had the entire tarmac removed. Not wanting to try some green-laning we chickened out and turned around. After a coffee stop we then made our way back to the hotel via a slightly less than direct route that had us going up and down a few of the foothills in the area. Great roads with generally good surfaces made for a fun afternoon although some of the hairpins were extremely tight and presented a significant challenge. Roger in particular got very close to some of the scenery.
Back at the hotel and it was shower then head out for another good meal and a few more beers.
Tuesday 17th June
A pretty early start (breakfast at 08:00) had us heading up to the
Col de Tende and through the tunnel. The sun was out and the
sky was blue so the bends were being enjoyed by everyone.
We were in two groups of 4 with Roger, Brian, David Y and me forming one group and
after our ride down the French side of the
After the stop we started heading north and into some pretty dark clouds. Sure enough, the rain started accompanied by some impressive lightning and thunder. The roads we were on were narrow and challenging but we all made it without incident.
The rain kept up and upon the approach to Isola and a fill up with petrol we decided to ignore the part of the planned route that took us over the Col de Bonette and instead went straight up the Col de Lombarda. This was a good decision as the other group ended up having to turn back on the Col de Bonette due to the laying and falling snow. Even on the Col de Lombara, around 1000ft lower, there was falling snow and the temperature was down to 0.
Eventually our group got back to the hotel very wet, but having enjoyed the ride. After showering and changing we headed out across the town square to a café where we discovered that ordering beers resulted in the delivery of the beers and some large plates of hot bread and pizza tapas. These were eagerly consumed and further rounds were ordered.
Wanting to be different we found a Chinese restaurant close to the hotel and headed over for a meal. The other group had just arrived back at the hotel so agreed to join us as soon as they were showered and changed.
Wednesday 18th May
Again the day started wet. Brian had decided he wouldnt be
going on any ride outs has he was concerned he was losing tyre pressure and he needed to
replace the bolts that held the top box mounting plate to the rack. (Theyd worked
loose on the ride down.) We all hung around the hotel for a while and had lunch in town
but, as the rain had stopped, Alain, James, Gary and I then took a run over the Col de Tende and up the D91 south of the town of
The roads had dried as we rode up the Italian side and we started to have some real fun. The tunnel lights were on red so we had the opportunity to filter to the front of the queue ready for the lights to change and the charge through the tunnel and down the other side. Some decent angles of lean were achieved although I was having issues (Im not sure if real or imagined) with my new(ish) Michelin Pilot Road 4s gently moving sideways at the very extreme lean angles. Nothing too worrying but enough to stop me pushing all the way to the limit.
The ride up the D91 resulted in a coffee at the hotel at the top
before the return journey back down then up to the tunnel. While we filtered to the front
of the queue a Romanian in a VW Passat took umbrage to this and took off out of the queue,
before the lights turned green to get a head start up the hill to the tunnel. The hairpins
up to the tunnel gave us the ideal conditions to redress the balance and I
over took the Passat after the first hairpin, James over took after the second, Alain over
took after the third and
After returning to the hotel for a shower and change we all headed across to the café with the beer and tapas to meet the others before heading off for yet another delicious meal.
Thursday 19th June
We had planned an early start with the intention of getting straight on the bikes and heading for the Gorges du Verdon. According to the Sat Nav it was a 280 mile round trip via the direct route so we climbed up the Col du Lombarda (now dry!) to stop at the top for some photos and to admire the view.
Following the sat nav we turned north out of Isola then turned west up a small road but were stopped by some workmen and locals about 5 miles later. Apparently the road stopped being a road a few miles further on and became a goat track! Again, not wanting to try off-roading on 250kg sports tourers, we turned around and headed back down the M2205 then west along the N202. What lovely stretches of road! Good surfaced fast sweeping bends and very little traffic. Yet again as I pushed my tyres I got the feeling that the rear was moving as I approached the limit. At that point I decided discretion was the better part of valour and backed off slightly, keeping away from the last 10% of the tyres.
Lunch was had in a small restaurant in Castellane just after the start of the D955. This is probably my favourite road of all time and it was as good as I remembered even though we turned off to head for the Gorges before we got to the very best bit of the D955 (Comps-sur-Artuby to Draguignan.)
Our arrival at the restaurant at the start of the Gorges du Verdon had us parking to take photos while those who had not seen it before just stared at its beauty. This is where the problems started! We all mounted up and started to head off on the Gorges road only to become quickly aware that Roger wasnt with us. Upon returning to the restaurant car park we found that his bike had refused to start. While the battery was fine the starter was not turning over (not even trying) and the start-up diagnostic check was not being done. An attempt at a bump start confirmed the bike was not firing so recovery was called.
By the time things were sorted and the bike loaded into the recovery van, it was going to be too late to take the bike to the nearest BMW dealer at Frejus so Roger stayed in a local hotel in Comps-sur-Artuby, near to the home of the recovery truck owner, ready to go with him and the bike to Frejus first thing in the morning. The rest of us made our way back towards Menton via the D21 and D2 and the Autoroute. Half way back it started to rain and didnt really stop raining until we got back to the hotel.
At Menton we turned up the Col de Tende road but by now it was dark so the climb up the
Friday 20th June
During the late breakfast we got a text from Roger saying his bike had been fixed. The right hand switch gear had failed, leaving the computer to think that the kill switch was on, even though it wasnt. BMW know about the issue with dodgy switch gear and were providing replacement switchgear for all those that failed so Roger got a nice new free set of both left and right hand switches.
We agreed to meet Roger in Imperia for lunch by the sea so we all
headed off down the scenic route from
Lunch was had with the three choosing the Paella getting a much better deal than all the others who chose the Steak Milanese.
After the meal and filling with petrol, we all headed back to
The meal in the evening was back at the first restaurant with it being noted that the 17 year tradition had been broken and we now had a girlie at and Old Gits meal table. While Jane was very welcome to join us it still didnt feel quite right. Im sure James and I will get our ears bent by the rest of the Old Gits for allowing the sacrilege to occur!
After the meal we all returned to the hotel to pack in preparation for an early start the next day.
Saturday 21st June
The bike was packed and we sat down to breakfast at 07:00. Farewells were said with James, Alain, David and Jane all heading off across the Col de Tende (again!) and Brian heading to see some friends in Cahors, and we all set off at almost exactly 07:45.
On the motorway run up to
After the Mont Blanc tunnel we started the crawl up through
The rest of the run was long and boring but at about 18:00 (and 600
miles after we left
Apparently, despite me booking 5 rooms each for single occupancy, the hotel claimed they only had one room booked for three people. It was quickly established that the hotel was fully booked so there were no alternative rooms! We all agreed that we were not sharing and after some discussion, we got the receptionist to phone another local hotel to establish that it had 5 rooms free. She couldnt (or wouldnt!) understand that we were not leaving one person in the room at her hotel while the 4 others went off elsewhere. It was 5 or none!
Eventually, after we all walked out to head for the other hotel the receptionist suddenly found our booking for all 5 rooms! While cynics might suggest that the French wedding party that were occupying pretty much all of the rest of the hotel had offered some financial incentive for extra rooms thus the receptionist was trying to bully us into accepting fewer rooms and sharing, I, being charitable, think the poor woman was simply confused by the complexity of 5 people (with poor French language skills) wanting the 5 separate rooms theyd booked!
Dinner at the Buffalo Grill had us arguing with the waitress that the steaks we were given were not rare, in fact they were not even medium but were actually pushing well done. Again it took a while but we eventually got new steaks that were rare.
Sunday 22nd June
Roger wanted to catch an earlier ferry so left at 06:20. Ian was worried about his bike overheating so left at about 07:00. David Y, Gary and I had a relaxed breakfast then hit the AutoRoute at about 09:00.
A clear run had us arriving at
By 12:30 (BST now!) we were riding up Jubilee Way in
I say this every year but its totally true! Another great trip with some superb roads but most of all some excellent company. It was great to see Roger, Gary, Alain and James again and great to welcome Brian, Ian and David Y on their first (and hopefully not last) trip. The weather was good in the most part and even the rain and small amount of snow resulted in some memorable rides. Despite Rogers bike switch gear issue, Ians bike cooling issue and a constant not happy grumble from Alains bike, we all had a great time and everyone got on really well with everyone else. Roll on next year.