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Trip Notes by Paul H ---
Friday June 19th.
I arrived at the Hotel Carlton in Folkestone early evening and passed away some time looking at the peeling woodchip paper in my room, Ah the memories.
I soon received a call from Mark W saying that he was outside the hotel and was looking for the car park. He couldnt switch the engine off in case it wouldnt start again as had happened to him on the journey to Folkestone. Signs of things to come !
Food and drink was consumed and we turned in for the night ready for the next days journey.
Saturday 20th June:
We met Richard, Barry and Gary at Dover and boarded the ferry along with the rest of the UK, surely the busiest day of the year so far. We were last on the boat, and consequently last in the queue for breakfast.
The weather was good and got better as the day went on. We avoided Motorways for the most part and arrived at our hotel outside Le Mans (Chartre sur Loire) early evening. It was a superb boutique type hotel, typically French. A good meal followed, washed down by welcome beer and wine.
Sunday 21st June.
Weather still good and in the low 20s. Not too early a start, but 300 miles or so to do. We were warned that a late arrival would mean no food available. How true, by the time we arrived early evening in Vaissac, Mid Pyrenees, they had also shut the bar.
We were directed to a small town about 5k away where we had a Greek meal ( I think) .Chicken stew was not on my most desired food list in hot sunshine, but it was food. Wine was included in the menu but as we were on the bikes we requested that they filled up our 1 litre water bottle with the wine for consumption at the hotel when we got back.
It was then we heard the news of Alains accident, which gave us food for thought.
Monday 22nd June.
Again glorious weather, I even had time for an early morning swim in the Hotel pool before breakfast.
Plan A was to visit the 2 Solar Furnaces in the Pyrenees en route to the hotel. The day got off to a dodgy start when we encountered loose gravel on the roads the Sat Navs took us on. We travelled for miles on this surface, with Barrys Ducati constantly overheating and stalling. We finally caught up with the cause of the gravel, the council were re surfacing the road ( ie chucking gravel everywhere and letting the heat and cars bed it in !) We waited patiently and every so often were directed to go over the gravel to catch up with the gravel spreader !!!!
At last we got free and realised that time would not permit us to see the 2 Furnaces, so we opted to just visit the main one. We arrived at around 5pm and took the tour of the Furnace, which was quite interesting. We were told that the hundreds of mirrors are cleaned naturally by the elements, which seemed strange, as it was now in the 30s with clear skies.
This suddenly changed as we were about to go back to the bikes. The temperature dropped about 15c skies blackened, hailstones and rain arrived, thunder and lightning too. It appears that was a daily occurrence in this season.
At this point we discovered that Marks Futura would not start. We tried bumping the bike and even Marks impressive collection of tools failed to spark life into the bike. Fortunately we were able to shelter under the trees to stay reasonably dry. Many phone calls, and hours later the rescue people arrived and took Mark and the bike to a local hotel for fixing. ( he re joined us on the following Thursday, all fixed ( allegedly !)
We still had another 50 miles or so to go before we reached the hotel. Probably the worst weather we had ridden in for many a year. Not having eaten since breakfast we were happy to come across a roadside Pizza place where we dined like (very wet) Kings.
Finally reached the hotel in Alas, Spain, at gone 11pm where the hosts were obliging in sorting out some beers, which we enjoyed on Richards balcony. Fortunately our bathrooms were very warm, and most of our gear dried out before the morning.
Tuesday 23rd June.
Had quite a few miles to do to join the main party in Irutzun, we arrived early evening, and after a quick meal we joined the locals in some local festival involving bonfires, kids jumping over the bonfires, and the obligatory beers.
It was good to meet up with the rest of the OGs.
Wednesday 24th June.
Again another glorious day, and a day where we didnt have to ride fully laden. We lunched in a recommended restaurant up in the Hills/mountains, where we ordered (per English translation) a prawn salad dish that also contained Guidlines Curiosity overcame us and Cliff & I ordered this dish. It looked like a salad covered in spaghetti, but we found out that the spaghetti was in fact baby EELs !!!! Quite a delicacy in the Basque region it appears, still we are here to tell the tale. All in all a shorter day for us having only ridden 160 miles or so compared to the usual 300 ish.
Thursday 25th June.
Barry needed a new tyre and tracked one down to San Sebastian, a seaside resort on the north coast.
We arrived there, left the bike with a local Ducati dealer and made our way to the beach for a drink. Having forgotten to pack our budgie smugglers, we sat on the beach and had a most welcome cold drink whilst wearing our bike gear, the rest of the population were in swim gear ! On the way back to the bikes we met a guy in a small garage who had an interesting old car at the back. Sensing we were petrolheads, he took us up the road to a small lock up where he showed us a most impressive collection of vintage cars, a couple of motorbikes and model cars etc. It turned out he was the mechanic to a guy who owned this impressive collection of cars.
Time was getting on so we took to the motorway and headed to the next hotel in France where we all enjoyed a lovely outdoor meal in a typical French hotel in Saint Giron. Mark W re joined us having had his bike fixed.
Friday 26th June.
On our way to Millau, extremely hot, but an enjoyable ride, arrived at the hotel early evening as seemed to be the norm. Although we have seen the Millau Bridge on previous trips, we took the opportunity of actually riding over it this time.
Had a good meal with everyone outside.
Saturday 27th June.
On our way to Bourges being our last stop before blighty. Nothing starting there, again arrived late on in the day a quick shower and on to the Buffalo Grill next door. More cold welcome beers !
Sunday 28th June:
Last dash to Calais, where we seemed to miss all the problems going on there and boarded the ferry for the last leg of our journey home.
Speaking for myself, I am glad I did the Long Way Round trip, but I would not do it again, as it meant riding all the time fully loaded apart from one day in Irutzun. It would have been good as with most of the previous trips to have a day off maybe its an age thing J Still it was a great experience, great company (as always) and once again a big thank you to David for such brilliant organisation.
Trip Notes by David Mc ---
Miles travelled: 2670
Before the trip
This trip was going to be big! By September there was already a lot of interest and with it being the Old Gits 18th year, I felt a coming of age celebration was required. Initial planning had a mix of suggested locations, some Old Gits keen to go to Northern Spain and other Old Gits keen to have a multi-location touring trip, so a combination of those ideas was agreed upon.
Not long before the off Patrick was involved in an incident with a cyclist, making his bike very doubtful for the trip but things were sorted (just) in time for him to make it to the Friday ferry.
Saturday 20th June
Another early start as is traditional for Old Gits trips. With the bike packed the night before, the alarm went off at 04:00 and I was on the road to meet Mark R, David Y and Chris A at South Mimms Services at 05:30. A quick coffee and then a blast around the M25 and down the A3 had us at meeting the rest of the Main Group at the port at around 07:30. Some of the group had already tried to check in but because it was a group booking we all had to check in together. (Im not sure how that would have worked if one or more of the group, especially the organiser, needed to pull out at the last minute!)
Checked in and onto the ferry where the bikes were secured with the usual strap over the seat. The bikes were packed in tight with little space between them but there was a good deal more bike space on the deck. Those who had planned ahead simply took their tank bag with them as it contained everything they needed for the boat trip. Mark R unloaded all of his luggage!
The crossing was dead calm, with some pretty dense fog on Saturday night, but the cabins were comfortable, the food was acceptable and a deck of cards kept Mark R, James, David Y and I entertained for most of the afternoon. We each had a 4 berth cabin to ourselves which helped in getting a good nights sleep. The cabins would have coped with 2 people easily, 3 at a squeeze but 4 bikers with helmets, leathers, boots etc. would really struggle in one cabin. If you every plan to use the ferry to get to Spain, and want to keep costs down, dont plan on 4 in a cabin!
Sunday 21st June
Sunday dawned dry and bright. A good omen for the rest of the week. We had breakfast and then watched as the coast of Spain gradually became visible. Eventually, we docked, unstrapped the bikes and rode down the ramp into the sunshine and warmth. Wed made it! We separated into groups with Brian C, Roger, Mark R and me having a little ride around the outskirts of Santander looking for petrol before heading off on the motorway. A few miles on the motorway allowed us to settle into riding on the other side of the road before we turned off and headed for Potes.
A lunch/drink stop at Potes was then followed by a run along the wonderful N-621. This is a great road and exactly the sort of road that makes an Old Gits trip worthwhile. At a stop for some pictures a local biker recommended that we try the N-625 so we headed off towards Riano
Shorly after we turned onto the N-625 we were flashed by an on-coming car so we slowed down and as we came around a bend saw various bikes parked on the side of the road and another, on its side, in the ditch. Obviously there had been an accident. It then dawned on us that the crashed biker being helped was Alain so we stopped to help. Luckily he was up and moving with a few aches and pains but nothing appeared too serious. While we waited for the ambulance and police, Alain was looked after by a very good looking Dutch lady who had been pillion on a passing bike so the rest of us got his bike pout of the ditch and gave it a check over. It was pretty badly scratched but other than a broken indicator, screen and rack, there was nothing fundamentally wrong with it. It started and ran without issue and was not leaking anything.
The ambulance and police turned up and Alain was taken into Raino to see a Doctor. James stayed with Alains bike waiting for the recovery truck while the rest of us were sent to Raino by the police. At Raino Alain was checked out but then sent on to a hospital in Leon (it turned out he had some broken/cracked ribs and needed a couple of stiches in a finger but other than that was nothing more than bruised and sore). The rest of us then made our way to Oviedo where we checked into the hotel and met up with the Advanced Guard. Various groups then formed with some heading off in search of the Old Town and its restaurants while others, me included, stayed and had dinner at the hotel.
Monday 22nd June
The breakfast conversation was the usual what shall we do today with the odd sat. nav conversation thrown in. We had pre-prepared some routes and it was agreed to follow one of these north west to the coast then south down into the mountains. After breakfast we all set off, supposedly in separate groups bit it wasnt long before a good number of us were bunched into one group. A stop for petrol then had James and I heading out of town when a VW Passat raced up behind us and sat right on Jamess tail. We were still in a 90kmh limit and were waiting for some of the other to catch us up and not pushing along so after a very short while we pulled over and let the Passat speed off into the middle distance. The others arrived in view before we lost sight of the Passat and we set off again just as it pulled into a side road and did a U-turn to stop and watch the main road. As we rode past we could see it had two police officers in it! Just as well we didnt rise to the earlier provocation and decide to speed up!
The ride along the N634 was pretty boring to start with but after about half an hour the road started to improve and got better and better. Eventually, after lots of fun we arrived at the town of Navia where we stopped for a coffee. Again, even though we had all started in small groups, within 10 minutes all 14 Old Gits were sitting in the same café chatting and enjoying the lovely weather.
After the coffee we headed down the AS-12. What a great road. This is a must ride road if you are ever in the area. We enjoyed mile after mile of good surface as it snaked through the hills. The pace separated some of the groups and the need to stop for lunch separated others but James, David Y, Roger Mark R and I pushed on stopping only for petrol and an ice cream. After this, we changed road to the LU530. Different to the AS-15, it was like a mini B500, only better. It went on for mile after mile, with wide open 3rd gear bends, climbing up and down the hills and with little traffic.
Arrival at O Cadavo had James and David Y heading off to Leon to visit Alain and Mark R, Roger and heading back up the LU-530 before heading back to Oviedo via the AS-15, another stunning bit of road.
Back at the hotel we all grouped up to go for something to eat. Chris A spoke some Spanish so ordered tapas for 12 which worked out really well as the food just kept coming. Eventually James and David Y returned reporting that Alain was OK if a little (a lot!) bored.
Tuesday 23rd June
The morning was overcast and grey, looking very much like it was going to rain a lot! We checked out and decided that, as it was a long run today, wed use the motorway leaving us fresh for a ride out the next day. Brian M, Roger, Mark R, James, David Y and I headed off along the motorway, with the occasional spot of rain hitting the visor but not enough to stop and put the waterproofs on. We had fun finding a petrol station but by early afternoon, the sun was out and we were heading towards the Pyrenees.
We arrived at Irutzun and checked into the hotel. This was a one horse town and the one horse was our hotel but it was clean and efficient with helpful staff and comfortable beds. At just £28 per night B&B it was excellent value. We wandered into town and found the only other bar which was by the town square. We then enjoyed a beer and some tapas while we watched the locals prepare for a celebration gathering that evening.
The Overland group arrived at the hotel, minus Mark W, who had suffered at the mercy of Italian electrics. All 18 of us had dinner at the hotel although we had to shout to be heard over the Spanish coach party that descended like a plague of locusts into the restaurant.
Wednesday 24th June
Breakfast was another battle with the coach trip locusts but we managed to agree that wed follow the route already loaded into the sat. nav., heading for France then back into Spain. After a scramble to get us all through the patrol station (and waiting for Mark R, a common theme on the trip) we headed out of town in smaller groups and were straight onto good roads. We climbed up into the hills, over into France then back into Spain before deciding to lunch in Bera, as recommended by the man on reception in our hotel before we left. The approach to Bera looked like a great bit of road but as I came around a left hander, the bike had a big moment but I caught it and carried on. I noticed that the two lanes of tarmac, had been laid but at different levels, with a near 2 inch drop as you moved from one to the other. This was just to the side of the white lines and falling off the lip had been what had unsettled the bike. We stopped for lunch with James looking quite shaken. He had found the tarmac step too, as had all the others, but his moment had been more dramatic (or hes just a bigger girl!!!!) and it had shaken him up.
During lunch we were joined by another of the groups, who had also found the challenging bit of tarmac a little way up the hill.
The return to the hotel was uneventful and the again the evening meal was had in the hotel.
Thursday 25th June
After breakfast, we checked out of the hotel and split into groups. Mark R, Roger, Brian M, James, David Y and I decided to do the first 50 miles on the motorway before heading across the Pyrenees and into France. The motorway was boring but efficient and it wasnt too long before we were stopping for a coffee just outside Jacca. As the coffee was being served, the waiter hadnt put the tray safely on the table, and it started to fall. James tried to catch it, spilling hot coffee over his hand and causing his chair to fall off the raised platform it was on, breaking two of its legs. James got hot coffee all over his hand but a rush to the bathroom to run it under the cold tap stopped it scalding.
The afternoon involved a ride across the Pyrenees and into France. The roads were great and I regreat not stopping and photographing the sign warning of bends with 43km underneath. Brian M and I swapped bikes so he could try the K1300S to see if it was that much better than his K1200S meaning I got to ride his K1200S with the Sargent seat fitted. This was a great opportunity as Ive often considered the move to a Sargent seat. The ride on the K1200S was a trip down memory lane, reminding me of the all the things that had been improved on the K1300S. The K1200S is a good bike but the wooden, off-on, brick wall, servo assisted brakes and the off-on throttle make it a hard bike to ride smoothly.
After about an hour, the Sargent seat had moved from being a little harder than the standard seat to being a serious torture device. An hour and a half after that and I was really glad we needed petrol and I could get me K1300S, with its standard seat, back. The Sargent seat most definitely does not fit my bum! The K1300S had, however, so impressed Brian M that he was expecting to be spending some serious money when he returned home!
We arrived at the hotel in St. Girons and checked into our rooms. It appeared to be a lucky dip as some of us were given rooms big enough to be called a large suit while others had small rooms with no air conditioning and lots of noise. Mark W was already at the hotel having sorted (he hoped) the electrical issues with his Aprilia Futura.
We all decided on a group meal at the hotel after the beer had started to flow (and wed seen the waitresses) so ate outside in the hotel garden, enjoying the evening sun.
Friday 26th June
With breakfast sorted, we again broke into groups and headed for Millau, stopping for petrol before we left St. Girons. Brian M, Roger, James, Mark R, David Y and I formed into a group and enjoyed the spectacular roads as the sun climbed higher into the clear blue sky. The temperature increased and so did the smiles on the Old Gits faces. We encountered some of the other Old Gits along the route and rode together as a large group for a few miles but differing petrol stop requirements had our groups stopping while the others pushed on.
Shortly after a lunch stop, with temperatures in the low 30s, we managed to get split up while riding through a town. A phone call or two later and we had an agreed meet up point about 15 miles further on at yet another petrol station. We all managed to avoid getting caught by the police speed trap, having been warned by the bikes coming the other way. The final approach to Millau had us riding on roads undergoing some significant repairs. For that, read no tarmac at all, and potholes almost big enough to hide a bike in! (Well they seemed big when trying to avoid them!).
We arrived at the hotel and met up with a number of other Old Gits, including Patrick M who was looking to unload hi panniers quickly so he could go back and help Gary pick up his luggage from the road side. Apparently Garys tail pack had worked loose and then dropped onto his exhaust, melting it and dropping a trail of clothes. All of this was unobserved by Gary who continued to enjoy a spirited ride along a great road and through some stunning scenery.
Back at the hotel, most of us again opted for a meal in the hotel and a few beers before retiring for the night.
Saturday 27th June
We said our farewells to James, David Y, Tom and Ron as they all made off for extended holidays. Roger, Mark R and I ignored the route plan and plugged in the fastest route avoiding motorways to Bourges. As it happens, most of our route followed the same route as the original plan. We left the mountains after the first 150 miles and were onto long straight roads through the French countryside. These were pretty boring but allowed us to cover the near 300 miles from Millau to Bourges in a little over 5 hours. Very different to the mountain roads of the previous days where 250 miles was at least an 8 hour day.
Arrival at the hotel in Bourges had me arguing with the hotel receptionist about the number of rooms booked. Despite me showing her the booking on the booking.com app on my tablet she still insisted that I had booked two rooms for myself! I backed off at that point, called booking.com direct and, to their credit, they sorted it and phoned me back within 20 minutes.
We all wandered next door to the Buffalo Grill for the evening meal (We couldnt have an Old Gits trip without a visit to a Buffalo Grill!) and a few beers before returning to the hotel for a good nights sleep. The 300 miles to Bourges may not have been as intense as previous days but the long days in the saddle were starting to sap the stamina of the Old Gits a little.
Sunday 28th June
We were all up pretty early, keen to get to Calais and catch an early ferry. Mark W decided to join Mark R, Roger and I on the run up the motorway, keeping his fingers crossed that he had no problems with the electrics on his Aprilia Futura. Sure enough, it started first attempt, which is more than can be said for Barrys Ducati. It needed a jump start from Richards GS but the operation to do this was very slick, obviously having been done a number of times before!
We all opted for the motorway option, riding up to Paris then around the Peripherique. Finally, we arrived at the ferry terminal and got put on to an early ferry. The final meal was eaten on the ferry before the usual run home on the overcrowded, pot hole filled UK roads.
The biggest Old Gits trip ever was finished. 19 people, 8 hotels, one accident, one breakdown and some of the best roads ever had made for a memorable trip. 5 new Old Gits had joined the trip and had fitted straight in. I very much hope they decide to come on future trips. The large numbers had provided a challenge in the planning but had worked remarkably well throughout the trip. There was always someone else to ride with or someone else to talk to. There was lots of friendly banter and some great funny and fascinating stories over the evening meals and beers.
For the first time in a very long time, we ended an Old Gits trip knowing what would be happening next year. The multi-location trip was fun and different to normal Old Gits trips, but we were all reminded how much hard work it is packing and unpacking the bike every day, riding with luggage on fast twisty roads and having to cover a certain number of miles each day. Next year will be a single location (or two at most) trip. We will be heading back to the Picos, to the Hotel Silken in Oviedo to be precise, for a whole week exploring the wonderful roads. I cant wait!