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Motoeuro 2009 - Spanish Pyrenees and beyond!


Motoeuro 2009 - French sunshine, Napoleon Route and yet more fires.

Oh, and a knackered KTM Adventure....

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The pull of Antibes is too much so we push on to get there tonight, by 10pm arrival time, I want to chew my legs off. Steve and Mark are of course, absolutely fine on their adventure bikes. Welcome to the French Riviera, what could possibly go wrong ?....

On arrival in Antibes, Mark tries to get us in an old hotel he used to stay at when he worked here, (hotel Modern) it’s full. He wanders off in search of accom while I rest on a bench for leg-relief.  GS smug-Steve chuckles at my agony. 20 mins later, we’re in a hotel room with no loo, but we do get a tiny shower, at 60 Euros, we can’t moan. Mark shows us old haunts and the old town of Antibes, we soak-up ice old beer at a favourite bar but gasp at the price, 6 Euros for a pint! It's busy here, but the atmosphere is fantastic. We are running late as usual for food, so we grab a table and enjoy marvellous Chinese grub before bed. Oh, and the hotel owner wants our bikes in the hotel for our security, you want our bikes parked along the bar? Very odd.

We escape the busy old town and ride to Cap d’Antibes and the Hotel Miramar from 2008 the following day, we have no choice but to get 2 rooms this  time and blow the budget out the water, but we get air-con which will later prove to be worth every penny. Still love that honesty bar. Towels, shorts, camera, fags, cash, we’re off to the beach.

We enjoy our lunch and Sangria outside in the shade, rent 3 sun loungers and relax in the baking sun. Steve is off for a swim, Mark and I doze. I’m melting after an hour and join Steve who’s found an octopus moving  around in the rocks, I swim over and we spot tiger fish too, it’s like a Sealife Centre here. A passing swimmer reminds us to watch for sea urchins, I’m off; no-one is weeing on my feet. We round off the day with ice-cold drinks and wander back to the hotel to grab a cheeky one before heading off for tonight's grub and beer.
 
We’re all sore, me and Steve especially, but we brave a taxi back to the lively old town and get some beers in with food, by 11pm, we’re showing signs of sunstroke! We opt for an early retreat, my legs are glowing, the air-con saves my life, but in Steve’s room, it’s not working properly. We take brecky in the shade the following morning, I can hardly bend my legs, Steve’s shoulders are on fire and even bomb-proof Mark is a tad sore. Bloody English abroad!
 
I wrap-up my bright pink shins in old T-shirts and we ride to Grasse for start of the N-85 Napoleon Route. In the baking sun and my bike is running at 106 degrees, dumping the heat on my shins. Arse. I know all too soon we will be back in the crappy English weather, with yet more rain despite the false promises of Michael Fish, soak it up while we can.

Just outside of Grasse, Le ‘Snack Napoleon’ welcomes us with cold drinks before the classic ride to Gap on the superb Route Napoleon. We get on our bikes ready for the classic ride but Mark's KTM 990 Adventure tries to throw him over a hill. What the hell...

The hydraulic clutch slave cylinder has broken. Arse, arse, arse. Mark calls AA bike recovery who are totally unhelpful so he gives up with them and it's iPhone and Google Maps to the rescue; there's KTM dealer 6 kms away, (phew), we free-wheel and push the big Adventure to the dealer. The slave unit is not a stock item. The tight dealer won’t take it off a new bike for us, so Steve and I need to ride to a dealer in Nice (27 miles away) as they have the part in stock at a reasonable 240 Euros. Reasonable?
 
Baking heat, a heavy downpour and stupid, mad traffic means it’s around 3 hours before we’re back, just in time for the 5 minute, 10 Euro fix and we’re off at 7pm. Another  heavy shower hits us as we touch the first turn on the N85, fortunately it gets dryer the further we ride and the ever impressive N-85 is still feels special regardless of damp roads. We're on dry bits as we arrive in Castellane and the views over the French coast have disappeared, we're rewarded with the impressive Verdon Gorge chapel at the top of a huge rock. The summit of this rock was originally the site of the Roman fortified town of Petra Castellana, but gradually, over the years, the people descended and settled at the base of the crag. By the 13th century the exodus was complete. The present town of Castellane in the Verdon Gorge, Provence sits at the junction of the Upper Verdon Road and Route Napoleon.

Castellane is a lovely town, with black clouds looming we grab a room in Hotel du Roc, food at an outside restaurant overlooking the town square and experience another ‘Night of Fire’. This time, we join in after a few beers jumping over bonfires with the locals. Well, it would be rude not to. Hic.

The following day, the N85 seems narrower than I remember and at times is littered with fallen stones, oh well, no big deal. 24 kms later, I’ve taken the gang the wrong way. Arsey, arse. I've taken the D952 instead of the D4085 (N85). Nice road mind. We ride the rest of the Napoleon route to around Gap in the brilliant sunshine with dry roads, we’re back to  loving our bikes and these roads again, rain is forgotten. The N-85 Route Napoleon is just amazing and will always be a very exciting road for all bikes; take it easy on a Harley, razz-it on a sporty missile or do a bit of both on your big trailie, every bike you see will offer an excitable nod or wave, timing is important so give yourself a whole day to fully experience these 200-ish miles of biking paradise and there are plenty of small towns to enjoy a coffee break, lunch or top-up on fuel.
 
We are massively behind now, little chance of getting to Lake Geneva or have a tasting session in the Champagne region. We pick-up a busy, if not twisty, road past Greoble, then on to the motorway heading for Troyes. We've missed the top part of the Napoleon route as we've got the ferry booked and gawp at the mega-miles still needed. It's head down time. I hate sport bikes again. We manage a wrong turn and go cross-country on the N77 to Troyes, we’re very late arriving but the sight of the sun going down over the countryside and Chablis vineyards was worth it. A real sense of calm and adventure is felt by us - good things can happen when you take a wrong turn.

Good fortune offers the Hotel Arlequin with a massive room and delicious Italian food in the picturesque old town. Magic.

Motorway today heading for Calais which we remarkably make for 2pm. Steve heads for the Chunnel while Mark and I spend an hour in the old town of Calais hunting for smokes. We take our last French Expresso's in the sun and make an effort to ride the last miles along the coast to Zeebrugge.

Just when we thought we have missed the turn off, a small sign takes us off these busy roads to the P&O ferry port. We’re first there, we’ve done it. 10 minutes later, it’s a MotoGP grid, as soon as the gates open it’s every man for himself on to the ferry - by Christ, the others are keen. Secure the bikes, hit the bar.
 
We’re looking forward to tonight's band as we're on the same boat from Motoeuro 2007, but we’re offered ‘Jedi’  – a odd shaped bloke for Portugal with a drum kit and guitar, oh, deary dear. The ferry is quiet and we’re the last ones to head off for bed after ending the trip with silly quantities of drink. Hung-over, knackered and confused where the A19 has gone, we get back to Tyneside mid-afternoon.
 
It’s been eventful yet great fun, my personal highlight was those magic Spanish roads and mad evenings, but just being with your mates and riding everyday is a laugh, you should do it. Like Steve said “It  wouldn’t be Motoeuro if it wasn’t  a challenge!” In the back of my mind, I know the Daytona is too focussed for touring with my long and spider-like legs, but she's great where it counts. The adventure-bike-boys never suffered much with distance and still enjoyed those great roads.

We had our problems on this trip that cost us time, dearly. But sometimes things just don't go your way, we still managed 2,300 miles, still found fantastic roads and still had a great laugh. Every Motoeuro is different and we'll still be smirking come the winter, get yourself away and enjoy it. Oh, and take  a spare fuse.
 
'Till next time then, adios amigos!
 

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Motoeuro 2009 - relaxing in Antibes

Antibes - Steve is out there somewhere.

Motoeuro 2009 - Napoleon Route

The Napoleon Route from Grasse.

Motoeuro 2009 - Napoleon Route

Old Castellane, Verdon Gorge chapel.

Motoeuro 2009 - Night of fire

Motoeuro getting in to local cultures.

Motoeuro 2009 - Napoleon Route

Continuing on the Napoleon Route.

Motoeuro 2009 - Cafes in the villages

Small town centres make good coffee stops.

Motoeuro 2009 - Napoleon Route

Looking back to Castellane from the N85.

Motoeuro 2009 - Spanish Pyrenees and beyond!

You'll not get much better - The Pyrenees.