My cousin and I had this life long dream of travelling together, after 20 or so years with the dream on the back burner we finally got a road trip together.
The two real stars of the show were Kim and Cerys our BMW F650′s
The original plan was to cross from Dover to Calais, head south via Bergerac, (pop in and visit my mum) down to the French Riviera then into Italy heading as far south as possible before turning around and taking a zig zag route via the Stelvio Pass back to Calais – All in 2 weeks.
We loaded up our trusty steeds the deal was Cousin Tony carries the tent and I would carry the kitchen (a one ring gas burner a kettle,saucepan and a frying pan). His inability to load a bike up and his awkward back box meant that I got lumbered with the tent as well as the kitchen!
We booked a crossing that landed around 14:00 in Calais and the good old British weather followed us all the way, after a full days riding we were soaking wet and not even half as far down France as we wanted to be.
We found a campsite with a bar and set up for the night with every intention of catching up the following day.
Day two of the trip and the grey cloud was still following us, in fact we made even less progress, stopping often and looking up at the skies having another coffee and reluctantly getting back on our bikes and hitting the road in the pouring rain.
It just so happened that this was the anniversary of the death of our uncle John, he was the original biker of the family always had a bike and the person I hold responsible for giving me the bug. When I was around 10 years old he took me on the back of a bike and tried his hardest to scare the living daylights out of my little self, all he actually managed to do was make the smile on my face even wider.
We both agreed uncle John was looking down on us and giving us a quick lesson on being a proper biker!
We rode for as long as we could that day in an effort to get some miles behind us, but still we only managed to get past Le Mans by sunset. Of course we stopped at the Mecca of racing for a quick selfie outside the track entrance.
As the night drew in we found ourselves driving round in circles following a sign to a non existent camp site, still raining we decided to drive for another half hour and if we still had not found a campsite we would pitch up wild in the woods, that was when we passed Chez Virginie and saw a few chaps having a beer. I stopped and waited for Tony to come back and I suggested we stop for a swift half and ask for directions.
Now I know I was about to talk Tony into breaking the 2 golden rules of our trip:
1 – no beer and biking
2 – no asking directions
I was weak, wet and desperate, I pulled up, jumped off and in my best Cockney French I asked
“bonsoirs messuers avvez vous un campsite ici?”
There was some shrugging of shoulders and some questions raised the word “camping” was banded around the table, one of the guys asked me what I think was “are you from Germany?” and when I replied “Me non mesuier je’suis Anglais” there was a rupture of laughs and clearly some banter.
Things like “no beer here for the English” and “no campsites for English” as far as I could understand.
Tony went into the bar and ordered 2 small beers while I pulled out the map and tried to fire up the i-phone to find out where we were.
As we fumbled with our maps and our tech, and with our mis-communication from the boys on the table beside us.
It turned out we had landed on our feet, the owner Virginie, spoke perfect English and explained the campsite we were looking for was not open but her father owned a farm in the area and not only that, but he had a caravan we could stay in.
We made our way to the farm and met Patrick, not only did we have a caravan, but also a farmhouse kitchen at our disposal, we dried off and Patrick insisted we share a bottle of Ricard (A french aniseed drink).
Patrick, his son and granddaughter spoke little English and we spoke little French but that night was a turning point of our trip, we experienced such warm hospitality from complete strangers, in a foreign land with minimal communication, we sat up all night laughing and drinking.
That night a ginormous thunder and lightning storm hit the region and we appreciated the roof above our head and the warm buzz of the Ricard.
Now… the purpose of this post is not to give a blow by blow account of our trip but more an account of a lesson we learnt about what happens on the road.
-You can chose to plan an itinerary and stick to it with military precision but often the things that make you deviate from the path are the best experiences of the trip.
The following morning the sun was shining, the Ricard was still burning a little in our chests and the road was calling, we stopped at Chez Virginie for a quick breakfast and hit the road, with a new fresh attitude, in fact the mantra from then on was;
“you worry too much cuz”
We meandered our way to Bergerac, and actually threw the initial route in the bin (we actually decided to go to Spain in the end).
Our experience at Le Mans changed our total outlook of the trip, we stopped looking at maps and miles and decided instead to stop where we want, when we want and do what we like.
The question is – do you want to complete a journey, or enjoy it? – we found our answer en-route and The Stelvio Pass is still there waiting for us!