It's not all blood running and fund raising you know! Just occasionally, we're able to get together on a purely social basis and do something together, in daylight and not directly beneficial to the chosen cause. Just such an event took place this Bank Holiday weekend just gone.
At six o’clock this morning, nine riders converged on the Folkestone Eurotunnel terminal, meeting for coffee and bacon naturally. We were booked on the 07:20 train to Calais and, for some of us, this was our first time motorcycle touring, much less on the continent.
Our ride leader had prepared us well, circulating a suggested packing list, sharing contact details for all participants including breakdown, accident, insurance and Next Of Kin details – all the appropriate precautions – as well as the itinerary for the four days away.
08:55, local time of course, saw us arriving in Calais and everyone stopping for a mandatory fuel stop before the planned 250 miles for the day.
As we attempted to leave Calais to hit the coast road, Les Gendármes were closing the road and we were diverted onto the back streets of Calais, and we saw rather more of the town that was on the itinerary or than any of us ever wanted!
After this detour, saved by the magic of satellite navigation, we were reunited with the coast road and prepared to make up some of the lost time, not that we were working to a rigid timetable.
The first coffee stop was at a family-run café in Fillièvres called Au Relais Fleuri and thanks are due to the young lady who was having lunch there in helping the elderly proprietors understand our rusty French and need for refreshment!
The first morning’s ride was relatively easy, with good roads and not too many deviations from the obvious route, designed to gently break in those who hadn’t toured on the wrong side of the road recently or at all.
Sadly, just as we stopped for lunch in Frévent, one of the bikes developed a fault. To cut a long story short and include information later found out, the stator failed and that was the end of his trip, just 80 miles in. After seeing him safely recovered to the local dealer, and consuming a baguette lunch assembled at the local supermarket, we carried on one man down.
The afternoon ride had to be somewhat shortened to recover the three hour lunch stop but the roads skirted the Ardennes forest and were therefore beautifully scenic as well as a delight to ride.
There was of course also the obligatory refreshment stop in Solesme, terrorising locals with our attempts at parking and French.
The final stretch wasn’t quite so lovely though, necessitating a squirt along the Péages in order to get us to our overnight stop.
On arrival at The Hotel Le Cleves in Charleville-Mezieres, we enjoyed the security of underground parking and the delights of a cold beer in the lounge before hitting the town for food, the obligatory steak avec frites!
The following gallery contains a selection of photographs taken by members of the group on the first day.
On to Day 2 …