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Trip Notes by Paul H ---
Spanish Trip 2016
As usual, the time between committing to the trip and it actually starting zoomed by. No sooner talking about it than there we were meeting at the docks in Portsmouth at 07:00 on Saturday the 18th June, ready for the 08:30 departure.
Although the destination was the same as last year, I opted this time to take the ferry both ways. Last year, I rode down with Richard, Barry, Gary and Mark W, an enjoyable experience in itself, but too much riding fully laden, hence my decision.
This year was a bumper year for New OGs, and we all acquainted ourselves with each other prior to boarding the ship. I introduced Steve F to the OGs this year, and from the start he settled in like an Old Git takes to his slippers.
The Ferry crossing was in itself pretty unremarkable (thankfully) and we passed the time doing what OGs do best, eating drinking and putting the world to rights, ably assisted by some of Davids homemade hooch, though God only knows where he carries this stuff in those small Beemer panniers.
Arriving in Santander mid-afternoon the next day, we split into groups for the 100+ miles journey to the first hotel, Hotel Infantado) near to Potes.
Chris of course did not make it to the hotel, and we are indebted to Dave O and Brian for doing what they did, and are continuing to do for Chris and his Family. We can only wish Chris well, and hope it wont be too long before he can accept visitors.
The roads and scenery leading to Potes were brilliant, the sun having decided to put in an appearance and stayed with us until the day we left, on Wednesday.
Time in Potes was spent exploring the area, including a visit to the cable car 10 miles away which was far too scary for me, so I just sat with Jamie M and enjoyed a coffee. I left the Cable car site after an hour or so and went exploring the area. Fantastic roads and views, and time to stop and take photos.
Hotel Infantado had a large terrace on which the OGs gathered early evening to go over the days events, and discuss venues for the evenings meal. A group of 20 + is not easy to seat in any one venue so a split occurred with some going to town and others remaining at the Hotel to eat there. I dont think anyone was disappointed.
Wednesday morning came around all too quick and soon we were loaded up for the journey to Hotel Silken Monumental Naranco in Oviedo, some 100 + miles away. The weather was definitely on the turn!
I must admit that I was a tad disappointed with the hotel as it was a modern City hotel, completely different to the previous one, Mind you Oviedo is a bustling City whereas Potes was a small town/village. However once settled in and a beer under my belt, things looked better.
I was however intrigued by the seemingly many people who were in the hotel sporting eye patches. I deemed it to be either a pirate convention (though older lady pirates) or the hotel played host to people coming to Oviedo for specialist eye treatment, still not sure. The Hotel was the same one frequented by the OGs on the previous years trip, but as an Overlander I missed out.
As said, the weather changed, probably due to the height of Oviedo, cloud and wetness prevailed. I didnt go out on the bike on the Thursday and opted to walk around the City with other like-minded OGs sampling local Tapas and beer.
Friday was a similar day weather-wise, but after hearing from the OGs who did go out the previous day, it appeared that things got better once over the mountains. 4 of us left the hotel and pretty soon, only Richard and I were together having got separated from (Gary & Patrick) None the less a thoroughly enjoyable day was had in glorious sunshine. Coming back over the mountains, we were on a narrow road, low cloud, mist and gravel, and then confronted by a herd of long horned, some pregnant, cattle (more akin to Mammoths) I thought that a blast of my Stebel air horns might precipitate a stampede, and thus our demise, but fortunately Richard managed to persuade them to move out of the way while we coasted past them.
Next day, Saturday we checked out of the hotel, weather had improved somewhat. Richard S, Cliff and myself riding together. We stopped at San Vicente for lunch and received the news that Gary had run out of petrol. Richard was all for riding (back) to assist him, but as it turned out his breakdown cover got him a man with a can who refuelled his bike, but leaving Gary precious little time to reach Santander. Suffice to say without breaking a single speed limit he joined the rest of the group at Santander ready for boarding late afternoon. The crossing was fortunately like the outward journey remarkably calm and uneventful. Again David produced (more) homemade hooch !!!!!!
We said our goodbyes and disembarked early Sunday evening heading for home.
The trip was marred only by Chris incident, and as said we can only wish him a speedy and full recovery and hope he can re-join the OGs at some stage.
Again another brilliant trip, stunning scenery and brilliant roads, great company, and despite the large numbers it all worked!
David, well done and thank you
Trip Notes by David Mc ---
Miles travelled: 1515
Before the trip
I already knew from most of the 19 Old Gits on the 2015 trip that 2016 was going to be the biggest trip yet. We had already decided that it would be back to the Picos in Northern Spain and that wed stay again at the Hotel Silken in Oviedo. By September, Id booked 16 of the 20 places on the Saturday ferry from Portsmouth to Santander so 20 was to be the limit.
During October people expressed a serious interest in joining us and the overall numbers were up to 25. I confirmed the Hotel Silken had 25 rooms and also booked 25 rooms in the Hotel Infantado, just outside Potes, for the first 3 nights. Luckily, timings of arrival and departure from Northern Spain meant we only needed 20 spaces on the Saturday ferry so the total of 25 fitted into my limit of 20 very nicely!!!
In December, 2 more said theyd like to join us so I confirmed the hotels had space but left the 2 to book their own ferries, out from Portsmouth on the Friday and back from Santander on the Sunday. We were now 27!
A couple of months before the off Martin had to pull out due to work commitments but his place was immediately taken by Richard R, keeping the numbers at 27.
I will confess at this point to being very worried that 27 would prove to be just too many. Still there was nothing else to do but get on and do the trip.
Saturday 18th June
I packed the bike the night before. The alarm went off at 03:30 and I was on the road to meet Mark R and Chris A at South Mimms services at 05:10 for the usual coffee. Unusually, Mark R was on time (slightly early actually!!!) so we had a relaxing coffee then headed down to the docks at Portsmouth for 07:00 where we met up with the rest of the group. 20 bikes/bikers take up a lot of space on the docks approach road!
We all checked in and the bikes were ushered into some tight parking spots to be secured with the usual strap over the seat. Roger was shuffling his bike into its slot when a helpful crew member decided to help by pushing Rogerss bike for him. Unfortunately, he pushed sideways, pushing the bike away from Roger! Luckily it didnt go too far and fall over but Roger left the crew member in no doubt that he didnt want that type of help. Theres no way any of us would stop 240kg of bike, plus luggage, falling away from us.
The crossing was again dead calm and the cabins were comfortable. The food was acceptable and a bottle of Sloe Brandy with a half bottle of Sloe Whiskey helped pass the afternoon and evening while new and existing Old Gits chatted with each other.
During the afternoon, a Sat Nag support group was set up to help those whod either not loaded the maps or were finding difficulties with settings etc. By the end of the afternoon a number of Tom Toms and Garmins were a lot happier. As Cliffy has a particularly difficult Garmin this took many hours to fix, but everything was resolved in the end..
Sunday 19th June
Sunday was dry and bright. (A description that could also be given to parts of the cooked breakfast!!!) We waited patiently while the ferry docked then queued to get through passport control and out onto the open road. Wed all split into small groups with Roger, Mark R, Gary and I making one group.
We opted for the indirect route which proved to be a great choice other than when Mark R announced his computer told him he only had about 17 miles left in the tank yet the sat. nav. said the nearest petrol was just over 18 miles away. We did make it to the petrol station with Marks bike still running but I think another few miles may have proved interesting.
When we arrived at the hotel and checked our phones, we discovered that Chris had been in an accident. He had been riding with Dave O and Brian C when hed crashed. Dave and Brian had called the emergency services resulting in Chris being helicoptered to the local hospital. No other news was available although Dave and Brian were on their way to the hospital.
Introductions with the rest of the group already at the hotel were naturally muted. It was agreed that wed all eat as a group at the hotel and Neil M took on the task of finding out what everyone wanted. (I dont think hell volunteer to do that again!)
Alains daughter, Emma, was working in the area so had agreed to come to the hotel to see Alain. I think Alain was being very brave introducing his attractive daughter to a bunch of Old Gits on a lads trip but the conversation (within earshot of Emma at least) remained decent.
Monday 20th June
We were all slightly surprised to find that the breakfast in the hotel didnt start until 08:30 even though wed been told it would be earlier. A late start for many Old Gits although there were a few who appreciated the more relaxed times.
Alain had decided to spend the day with Emma and after he refused our company on his day out, a discussion with Mark R and Roger had us agreeing to ride the figure of eight route to the east of Potes. David Y, James, Andy F, Steve Me and Gary all agreed to join us so we confirmed the departure time as 09:30. In the car park at 09:45 and we were all waiting for David Y when James suggested that Top Gear rules apply, hes late, so lets go! A decision James would be reminded of at every possible opportunity for the rest of the trip.
The route was excellent and the roads were superb. The only minor issue none of us had planned for was the abundance of cow sh*t on the roads where the cows were allowed to wander freely over the road. It not only slowed us down in a few corners but also discouraged those behind from travelling too closely! (Dont lick your lips was the message that came across the intercom on a regular basis, but there are some advantages to being the lead rider!)
Lunch was a stop in a small café. We could speak no Spanish and they could speak no English but we managed to order some food and plate after plate of tapas was delivered to our table along with soft drinks then a coffee to follow. We all ate our fill of what was really nice food and were then pleasantly surprised that the entire bill was 10 Euros each, which included a very significant tip.
Completion of the route was on roads that were just as good as those of the morning. There was a variety of different roads from steep narrow hairpins to wider open sweepers and everything in-between. Surfaces were generally good and what traffic there was, which is very little, was happy to move out of the way if they were caught up by a group of bikes moving faster than them.
Once back at the hotel a number of us then headed for the swimming pool to cool down then, joined again by Alain, walked into Potes for a very nice meal at Assador Llorente, which was excellent, though not the place to take a vegetarian.
Tuesday 21st June
Another bright and sunny morning but another 08:30 start for breakfast. Jamie had left earlier in the morning, having to get home for personal reasons, so Neil agreed to join us for the long route South and West of Potes. Neil had never ridden more than 50 miles in one day so this was going to be a baptism of fire.
There were enough of us to warrant splitting into two groups so Roger, Mark, Andy, Neil and I had breakfast, then headed to the petrol station to fill up. James, Alain and David Y made up the other group but we were quicker at the pumps and got away ahead of them.
Again, the roads were superb and fun was being had by all. James and his group came past us as we were admiring some of the stunning scenery but then we returned the favour as they were making the most of a photo opportunity. The scenery was so spectacular that I was caught out on a right hander near the dam north of Bonar (snigger). A little abrupt (read mild panic!!!) braking lost just about enough speed to kept me on my side of the road and got me around the bend in one piece. What was funny (or really stupid on my part) was that I did exactly the same thing at the same place the next day!
I would say that we all agreed, but only Roger and I had intercoms so only we agreed, that after a big meal the night before and a large breakfast, there was no enthusiasm for lunch. This was partially due to not feeling at all hungry but also due to the roads just getting better and better. We just didnt want to stop!!
The warm weather and the concentration on the stunning roads eventually took its toll and we decided to stop for a drink. It had been 85 miles since the last stop and when Neil took his helmet off he was grinning from ear to ear but looked shattered. Before wed even finished parking the bikes, James, Alain and David Y turned up so we all went in to the bar for a couple of nice cold drinks.
During the drinks it was commented on that a few of the group were running a little short of petrol. Both James and Andy had, according to their bikes range computers, less petrol than the distance to the next petrol station. A check of my sat. nav. showed a closer petrol station on the route back to the hotel. It would still be tight but was, everyone thought, achievable.
I think that was it! was what I heard from Roger as we rode through the village where the petrol station was supposed to be. There may well have been a petrol station there in the past but there was nothing now other than a concrete pad used for parking tractors on. Well, there was nothing I could do to magic a petrol station from nowhere, the roads were stunning and I had enough petrol in my tank to get me to the hotel so game on!
By the time we arrived at the petrol station near the hotel, no one had ran out but James had gone 5 miles past his computer saying totally empty and Andy had done 11 miles past totally empty. Luckily the last 15 miles had been almost all downhill!
Back at the hotel, a splash in the pool was again used to cool down then, after a shower and change we agreed to walk a little way up the road to a restaurant for a meal. Alain was going to dinner with Emma but didnt seem impressed when we suggested that we all join them, so James, Roger, David Y, Mark R and I ended up eating at the Hostería Peña Sagra. Again, reasonable food at a very reasonable price.
Wednesday 22nd June
The last morning at the Hotel Infantado was spent packing, eating breakfast and taking photos of 11 BMW K1300Ss all in one place. Its a real shame that BMW have killed this bike off as it does so much so well and there really is nothing to replace it.
After fitting the luggage, thanking the very nice staff at the Hotel Infantado and fuelling up we were again on our way. The route retraced some of the previous days route but this was no bad thing. The weather was still glorious and, despite the luggage on the bikes, the good roads were proving to be fun.
Arrival at the Hotel Silken on Oviedo had us playing car park bingo. This involved someone arriving at the hotel reception and having the following conversation:
Old Git: Which car park space should I use?
Hotel Staff: Where have you parked?
Old Git: In space X, but I can move.
Hotel Staff: You cant park there!
It took a number of different attempts and the best Aussie charm Mark R could muster to get them to understand that the best solution was that they gave us a list of spaces we could use then wed share this with the rest of the Old Gits. We did finally get all the bikes in spaces they were allowed to use.
Dinner involved 14 of us heading for the tapas bar wed visited the year before and again asking the owner (who remembered us!) for a selection of his choice. Again, lots of good food and a very reasonable bill at the end of the evening.
Thursday 23rd June
Breakfast at the Hotel Silken was eaten at around 08:00 then Alain, Roger, David Y, James, Mark R, Andy and I all agreed to head for the Lu530, the brilliant road wed found last year. The weather was very grey and overcast with a heavy mist but everyone was hopeful that the sun would burn through soon.
After petrol and a few miles in the thickening mist (now fog!) we were stopping to put on waterproofs. There were dry patches when the sun came out but these were few and far between and the fog was turning into rain in some places.
The roads changed from stunning to poorly surfaced single tracks, which added with a thick fog giving visibility of around 5m, made for exciting riding.
Eventually, we turned onto the Lu530, still in the fog, as David Y announced he needed to stop and pee. Once we got moving again we did about a mile in fog and I said to Roger over the intercom that if the fog remained, Id be turning around and heading for home. I didnt want the memory from last year spoiled by having to ride a great road in crap conditions. At almost exactly that point, the fog started to lift, then it quickly became a bright and sunny day! The pace immediately picked up and Roger and I were off chasing the last quarter inch of chicken strip. The Lu530 was every bit as good as I remember it! (A must ride road for any and all heading to North Western Spain.
We arrived at the roundabout in O Cadavo and decided to grab a coffee rather than simply turning around and heading back. It allowed time for the less enthusiastic members of the group to catch us up! At the little bar just beyond the roundabout we ordered a coffee but they then proceeded to deliver plate after plate of tapas. A second coffee was ordered and more tapas was delivered. Eventually, having eaten our fill, we asked for the bill and were shocked to find the total was 3 Euros each.
The return run up the Lu530 was as good as the run down. The fast flowing 2nd and 3rd gear sweepers with superb visibility and an excellent surface had everyone really enjoying themselves. Almost 30 miles of one of the best roads weve ever ridden can make for some very happy Old Gits.
The return to the hotel took us on a slightly different route to start with, avoiding the worst of the roads from the trip down. The weather had improved and everyones spirits were up.
That evening we split into different groups for dinner. I joined a small group that included Phillip, Roger, Mark R, Ron and Tom for a meal at the hotel. (I had the paella which I can recommend!) While the food in Spain lacked a little of the flare normally found with French food, it had all been good, with decent sized portions and incredible value.
Friday 24th June
A late arrival at breakfast by pretty much all the Old Gits was a result of a number of days intensive riding, some late nights enjoying the local town and the fact that it was raining hard. The weather forecast suggested that there was good weather about an hour and a half to the East and a brave few decided to try and find it. For the rest of us, the day was spent walking around the town, enjoying a coffee in a local bar and a general relax after the excitement of the previous days. My bike was not the only one (by a long way) that didnt even get started that day. However, those that went in search of the sun eventually found it and had a great day.
The evening saw a group of us head out to a pizza restaurant where we were served by Anna the waitress. She couldnt speak a word of English and we could only speak a very few words of Spanish but we all had a great laugh and she did a great job in looking after a bunch of Old Gits.
Saturday 25th June
https://www.myrouteapp.com/route/open/112582 (But in reverse order)
The weather was grey and overcast as we all ate breakfast, packed the bikes and then headed off for the run back to Santander. However, it wasnt grey enough to push us onto the direct motorway route and Roger, Mark R, Andy, Patrick, Steve Me and I decided to head for lunch in Potes then asses which route to take from there. To start with, the weather was OK but as we climbed higher things got worse, requiring the use of waterproofs. That said, whenever we descended down, it dried up and things got better.
This pattern was repeated all the way to Potes and while it did make some of the higher passes less fun, the lower level roads were still brilliant.
A late lunch in Potes was interrupted by a call from Gary to Patrick. Gary had run out of petrol on route but once we identified where he was (about an hour and a half from where we were, and wed only just ordered lunch!!!) it was agreed that it would be quicker for him to use his breakdown cover. As the route to get to Gary involved us heading North to the motorway we agreed to eat lunch then head up to the motorway and call Gary before deciding to either head East for Santander or head West to help Gary.
By the time we reached the motorway, Gary had been recovered and was on his way so we headed to Santander for a coffee before we checked in for the ferry.
Once on board we all settled down to a meal and a few beers. Some more of my wifes sloe gin was consumed by a number of Old Gits before retiring for the evening.
Sunday 26th June
The return crossing from Santander to Portsmouth felt like it took twice as long as the trip a week earlier. The fact that it was the end of the trip and thoughts about Chris made for a very long, slow, boring day but we eventually made it to Portsmouth and headed our separate ways. The weather was damp and required waterproofs so the run up the A3, around the M25 and up the A12 was no fun at all but it got me home.
Another trip was over and we were already starting to think about 2017. The large group had worked, the hotels were great and everyone had had a great time. All our thoughts were with Chris and his family. Get well soon!