5000 miles and five rallies! Squadra member Pat and his Jackal take on Europe!Is there a Guzzista anywhere who doesn't know Patrick? A long time member of MGCGB, the Navigators and a respected and esteemed pal right here on Squadra Guzzista. He is an engaging bloke, intelligent, knowlegeable, with good sense of humour...hell, we've all said on many occasions that when we grow up we want to be like him! This summer he did the sensible thing and got the hell out of Blighty for an epic 5000 mile jaunt on his trusty California Jackal...this is his account!
|A pensioner's ride.|
The Jackal serviced, cleaned, and ready to go!
A week after the Belgian rally was the Norwegian Guzzi club Spring Rally, three weeks after that the Dutch Guzzi rally, 2 days later the MGCGB International Rally in SW France. That would still give me two weeks before I linked up with friends again for the German Party.
Working out time and distances it seemed easily possible to do them all, only the three week gap between Norway and Holland plus only 2 days to do the 600+ miles to SW France past all the Paris traffic presented any possible problems. So that was the plan I adopted. I was confident the Jackal would do the trip. I had made changes to improve reliability and it’s capabilities as a tourer. I had fitted an EV screen, panniers and rack, footboards imported from Harpers in the USA, heated grips and twin fiam horns. The terrible OE seat was reupholstered and an Airhawk cushion was added, I could now stay aboard for a full tank of juice.
I had taken the rear wheel apart and drilled the Cush drive rubbers (mod is shown on the Danish Guzzitech site), so that now worked properly. All the relays had been changed and an extra earth run from the voltage regulator. The brake hose was changed to steel braided, and the fluid changed, so the single disc was working as well as it could. The final improvement was to fit a Tom Tom Rider 2 in April.
Loaded and waiting at Dover docks
Why I can never sleep before a long trip I don’t know, but the night of 21st May was no different, perhaps when I don’t get exited about long bike rides will be time to pack it in. On the morning of the 22nd I loaded the bike and headed for Dover, only 45 minutes away. I was booked on the 12.15 ferry, but the French Fishermen had other ideas. They had been blockading Calais again so I was delayed for a while and didn’t Get a crossing till 1.15pm.
It was a smooth crossing and apart from hundreds of screaming kids and the price of food, pleasant enough.First destination was Lopem in Belgium for the Tententreffen Rally, only about 80 miles from Calais. It is a good rally, normally 4-500 people, every one of them riders from outside Belgium. The rally is for international visitors only, Belgian bikers are not allowed. The result is a cosmopolitan atmosphere, which can be judged by the trophy winners, they came from Denmark, Germany, France, England and Wales. Like most Belgian Clubs MTC Zedlegem, the organisers give a lot of trophies. My own club the Navigators MRC were given a trophy, sounds impressive till you hear it was for 16th placed international club. Basically any club with a decent number of members gets a trophy.
A gaggle of Navigators
There is a big market there but the real attraction and the reason for the bus is the number of bars serving excellent Belgian bottled beers. You often see the English walking around with their noses in a book, no they haven’t suddenly gone all refined, it’s CAMRA’s “Good Beer Guide Belgium”.
After the Lopem Rally I left the rest of the Navigators to head home and went in the opposite direction towards Germany, heading to Norway for their spring Guzzi rally. It was a miserable ride for the first 50 miles with heavy traffic and rain. It eventually got better and the rain stopped but as soon as it did the Jackal decided it wanted to be a single. I was wet, fed up and loudly cursing Carlo and all his works, as I pulled up to find out what was wrong. It was just an intake rubber that had jumped off the right hand pot. It seemed to take ages to put it back in place, but I managed in the end and set of with both pots singing. The sun came out and it all looked much better as I rode along withdrawing all the curses I had heaped on everything Guzzi.
At the next fuel stop I reviewed my options, I had originally planned to camp somewhere near Osnabrook, some 270 miles into the trip to Norway. Three days consuming copious amounts of Belgian beer isn’t the best preperation for a long ride and I had been riding in and out of rain all day.
"The Jackal didn't seem to mind acting as a clothes line"
Bikers Farm is an excellent facility, it is in a beautiful setting with lakes on two sides, the camping is level, the food and beer are good.. After a couple of beers and an good snitzel, I felt much better.
I couldn’t recommend Bikers Farm highly enough, it is in a perfect location for anyone heading for Scandinavia or NE Germany, being about 300 miles from Calais. The breakfasts are superb, fresh bread rolls, cold meats, hot boiled eggs and lashings of real coffee.
From Bikers Farm I had about 750 miles to the Norwegian rally, less than 200 miles a day. There was no point in getting there early, I was on a budget and extra days at Norwegian prices would wreck it. I have never tried to run slowly on a Guzzi before, now I know why, it doesn’t like it, they are built to rev.
I just let the Jackal have it’s head, the result was that by 3pm on Monday I was less than 50 miles from the Germany-Denmark ferry at Putgarden and only a little over 500 miles from the rally site with 3 days to go. I decided on a days break so I could get some washing done, the Jackal didn’t seem to mind acting as a clothes line.
The Norwegian Rally site
The route from Denmark to Sweden is by tunnel and bridge now, last time I was there in 1987 you took a short ferry from Helsingor to Helsingburg, I can remember dozens of drunk Swedes in the bar on the Danish side, understandable as the beer in Sweden is a maximum of 3.5% strength.
The run is quicker now, but I think less interesting, the tolls for the new crossing are high at about £15.
The run through Sweden wasn’t that interesting, I always think that Sweden and Denmark should be mountainous, I felt slightly cheated when it is all very flat, at least close to the coast it is.
I should know better it was my 3rd time in Denmark and my 2nd in Sweden. A stop at a Swedish campsite drinking weak beer didn’t encourage me to stay longer, so I headed for Norway. I rode up the coast past Gothenburg, taking the ferry from Moss to Horten, across the Oslo fjord. This saved me a long ride round Oslo and put me 30 miles from the Rally site in Tjome. I found the town OK, but no signs to the rally and nobody knew about it. Not really surprising there were no signs...it was Thursday...I was a day early. After wandering around for a while, a Norwegian Guy on a Morini 3.5 waved at me to follow him and led me to the camp site.
Drinking beer most of the day led to me having a little sleep early evening, so I missed the arrival of Lagspieler, who I had known from the internet for many years. He is an American who has lived in Norway for years and speaks fluent Norwegian. When I got up he found me and we shared a beer or three. Norwegian rallies seem to consist of drinking beer, talking bikes and listening to music, isn’t that unusual?
Good crowd the Norwegians, pretty laid back and friendly. I did get a warning on Saturday night about having my Belgian beer on the table...seems it broke the terms of the site's licence. I say warning, it was very polite and made clear that under the table would be OK...nothing the least bit offensive, just a case of putting a visitor straight on local customs. Later Lagspieler came up with a bottle of stuff called Aquavite. I thought it tasted a bit like Pocheen, probably because it is made from potatoes too. Tasted good and I think may be a little dangerous; one of them that tastes better with each glass.
I was awarded the long distance trophy at 2000k, most were surprised that I had riden up from Calais, seems that most visitors from the UK get a boat direct. It was a good friendly rally, the only discernable difference between this and an MGCGB rally is that we seem to dance more, at least the rest of you do, at 66 my dancing days are long gone.
The entrance to Toerstop
I didn’t want to wait 7 hours, so I rode back a way and got a ferry to Sweden, road back down to Gothenburg and camped overnight.I was back on the same road I had taken to get to Norway, not what I had planned at all. A little way South of Gothenburg was the Port of Varna with a ferry to Northern Denmark, so I rode there. The next boat was at 5pm, lesson learned, not all ports are like Dover, with a ferry every half hour. In future I will check the timetables.
I decided to head South and get the ferry to Putgarden again. I got the boat about 5pm, intending to camp in the same site as the outward trip. I missed the turn off, so I kept going.
By 8pm after 11 hours on the road in temperatures well over 25C, I was very tired. I saw no signs for a campsite so I decided to stay in a Motel. I found one between Hamburg and Bremen. I thought it would be expensive, but it cost €48.90 including breakfast and it was a good room. How come a similar room on a motorway in the UK would cost £80-90? I got cleaned up and went down for a beer. After 11 hours of riding in high temperatures I needed a large beer, the wait as they poured it in typically unhurried German style seemed forever...it was ordinary German beer, but I couldn’t have enjoyed it more! (Reminds me of the fil Ice cold in Alex! -ed.)
One of the vintage Indians
I decided to head for Toerstop in Holland, it meant spending an extra week there, but there are worse places to waste a bit of time. It would put me 100 miles from Amsterdam and only 20 miles from Boxmeer and the Dutch Guzzi rally.
Since I had left home I had noticed petrol prices climbing and I couldn’t afford long tours anymore. A couple of tanks of juice a day would wreck the budget. From Toerstop I could do some local riding and didn’t have far to ride for my next 2 visits.
The best thing about Toerstop is that it is well known, having been established for 25 years. You never know who will ride in from where or on what bike. Riders from all over Europe stop there. When I arrived there were two guys from Cornwall on old BMW boxers. They bought the old Beemers for the trip at £1700 the pair and apart from a blown relay (not just Guzzi then) they had been reliable. They were on their way to Slovakia. That night a big crowd of vintage Harleys and Indians came in, all 1940’s models. They were stopping overnight on the way to a rally in Belgium.
The Jackal in Amsterdam
Although I had seen Vince in England, it was my first time in Amsterdam for 5 years. The centre where Vince lives is a bit more upmarket than it used to be, it seems to have lost the edge and sparkle it used to have. I still like the place though. Naturally I took the opportunity to replenish the communal stock of seeds...there are some keen gardeners in my club. I stayed the night at Vince’s place, heading back to Toerstop Tuesday morning.
When I got back there it was deserted, just me and one Dutch couple camping. By Thursday it was busier, with a couple of “Fat Bastards” arriving...not an insult, it is the name of their club. T
They have big stickers on the back saying “Fat Bastards on board”. In my experience people with that sort of self depreciating attitude are invariably good company and Tubs and June were no exception. They are prolific tourers too. On the 20th June I left Toerstop and headed towards Boxmeer and the Dutch Guzzi Rally.
Boxmeer is an excellent rally, strongly recommended. It is big with lots of Guzzisti from Holland, Germany and a fair few from the UK. You get a glass of schnaps as you book in, camping is OK, facitlies are adequate. The beer is cheap, plenty of food is available and the breakfast at €3 is excellent. The Dutch are very friendly hosts too. On Friday night I was drinking with a German guy called Klaus and his girlfriend. Aa few other German riders joined us and soon the beers were coming by the tray full. A late night walk back to the German’s tents to drink the inevitable 5ltr kegs of Krombacher didn’t help the vertical hold much, so I retired while I could still walk, almost without a stagger.
Klaus and I
I was up at 6.30am and left Boxmeer just before 8am. I knew I had to get South of Paris that day. A nice ride till I got near Paris, then it was the usual very heavy traffic. I got about 30 miles South of Paris, about 340 miles into a 600 mile run and started looking for a campsite.
I found one, it was the sort of gem that seems common in France, nothing fancy just a good little site, with decent facilities and a lively bar. After a pizza, a few pints of Kronenburg 1664 and a couple of glasses of Pastis, I was suitably fed and watered. I went to bed relaxed, happy and mildly pissed.
I had about 260 miles to do to the MGCGB International rally at Les Gorges du Chambon. It started hot and got hotter the further South I went. I rode through one storm, torrential rain poured down my neck before I could do up the jacket. It was uncomfortable for a while but it soon dried in the hot weather. The last 50-60 miles all back roads was hard riding, bend swinging is OK when you are fresh, but after 200 miles in 30+C , it was a bit of a chore. I got to the campsite about 5pm, the first thing I did was get a large beer to replace some fluid. After booking in, putting up the tent and a shower I felt much better.
The camp site was top class, all numbered pitches, mine was in shade from about 11am, just right for an afternoon nap. Monday night I met up with 4 guys from Scotland, George, Sandy, Mick and James. George was a Guzzi Club member, all of them were also members of the Norton Owners Club. George was riding a Norton Rotary. They were good company and I enjoyed the night.
On Tuesday I needed a break and I had to get some washing done. I cooked myself breakfast, fried bread, ham and eggs, with a pot of real coffee. As I did the washing it occurred to me that after 35 days on the road, this was only the 3rd time I had done washing. Obviously I packed too many clothes, something I will correct next trip. Later, having a beer with the Scotch Guys, they told me of a café in the nearby town of Montcon, it was run by an Irish lady and did full English breakfast. I don’t normally look for English food, but 35 days without some bacon was a bit much, so I agreed to accompany them to the café the next morning. It didn’t go to plan, Tuesday night I made the mistake of drinking a carafe of wine after several beers. Despite somehow winning a drunken game of chess on the giant board, I was feeling the effects when I went to bed.
The entrance to the restaurant at Les Gorges du Chambon
Feeling just a little cheeky, I liberated a plastic chair from an empty frame tent next door and proceeded to fix lunch. One of the campsite staff came by on an electric cart and stopped, he looked at me shook his head and said “non, non” I thought he was complaining about me borrowing the chair, but he drove away without taking it. He was back in a couple of minutes with a plastic table to match the chair. He placed it in front of me with a flourish and said “Voila, les picnic”. That little touch was typical of the staff at “Les Gorges du Chambon”, nothing was too much trouble for them and everything was accomplished with good humour and no little flair. The restaurant was superb, even a humble champignon omelette and fries was perfection, the best I have eaten.. I unhesitatingly recommend Les Gorges du Chambon it is an excellent campsite.
Wednesday night the Scots guys had some how arranged to borrow a car to go into Montcon for a drink, they were heading for an Irish bar that served draught Guinness and invited me along. To prevent my Irish ancestors from disrupting the world as they spun in their massed graves, I was obliged to agree. The little VW coped well with the 5 of us, there must have been about 50 stone in the back (that’s 700lb in American). A couple of glasses of draft Guinness was welcome, but it was a bit quite, so we moved to a bar in the main square.
There were a lot of youngsters there; many playing street football, something you don’t see much of in the UK now. They were causing no problems, just enjoying the game and a few were showing considerable skill. In the UK the same thing would have led to complaints and Police action. Perhaps the kids are OK and it is just the adults that have got grumpier. After a few beers watching the game, we went back to the campsite, not an exciting night but a pleasant one.
The next morning I was up early and had done my shopping before the café opened. For once the breakfast lived up to the billing, Eggs, real back bacon, sausage, black pudding, mushrooms and beans. In the evening after a Cognac tasting organised by Remy Martine, just 10 yards from my tent, the restaurant served a special meal for MGCGB rallyists; fried leg of duck, cheese potatoes and salad, it was excellent, even by their high standards.
Some campsite eh?
Serina presented the awards and I was surprised when I was given one, the long distance trophy in Norway was valued, but it is something special to get recognition from your own club, thank you MGCGB. Friday night I didn’t drink much and I was on then road by 9am Saturday morning. The plan was to ride about 60 miles to a biker hotel called Route 66, I had 13 days before I had to meet up with the Navigators again, so I was in no hurry.
Setting out for Route 66, I used the Tom Tom satnav to plot a route on D class roads. It was a very pleasant ride, rural French roads, very little traffic, all narrow 2 lane roads. Lots of bends and hills and some nice wooded scenery.When I got there I couldn’t get a room, an English Club called the “Boring Old Farts” had booked them all.
I have met them in England in the past, I reckon they owe me a beer for making me ride on. As has happened before on this trip when things don’t go according to plan I tend to ride on much further than I need to. This was no exception, the beautiful countryside and nice roads made it a pleasure. I finished after about 250 miles in Montagis Municipal camp Site about 5pm.
The next day I set off about 10am, the countryside changed completely, from hills and forests to rolling plains and enormous wheat fields. I was still on D roads but now they were wider and arrow straight. I soon remembered it was Sunday when I found all the petrol stations closed. The fuel light had been on for more than ten miles before I finally found one open, it was run by an Arab, who was doing a roaring trade. The next problem was food, café after café had the “ferme” signs out. I was very hungry when as I turned into a small town square, there on the corner was a Kebab shop. Never has a simple kebab and chips tasted so good. In future in France I will stick to motorways on Sundays, at least you can be sure of petrol and food. Once I had eaten I decided to cut the days riding short and find a camp site. Shortly afterwards I came to Chalon En Champagne and booked into the municipal site. It was a decent site so I decided to stay two nights, leaving on Tuesday morning.
I had a meal in the site café, it was eatable, if below normal French Standards, the bottle of Bourdeaux I had with it was mediocre and a bit pricey. Nothing exorbitant, just not up to the standard I had got used to. The Café’s saving grace was that the patron carried out his duties with some charm and flair and the waitress was full of good humour. I ended the day watching the European Cup final. I was one of only 5 people who wanted Germany to win, not for any nationalistic reason but simply because I had a lot more German friends than Spanish.
The next day a bit of shopping and washing clothes again. My lunch was fresh bread with thick wedges of Roquefort cheese, coffee, orange juice and fresh cherries. Dinner that night was a large ham omelette with sausage. Washed down with a bottle of local red wine, some coffee and a cognac bough at the bar. The reason for the detail is the misconception that many have that camping was “roughing it”. My tent was leak proof, my airbed and fleece pillow ensured a good nights sleep, the showers and washing facilities were less than 20yds away. If that is “roughing it” give me a whole lot more.
Not your normal "gastfof"
The temperature started climbing and by midday it was very hot indeed, the ride through Luxemburg City, sitting at lights and in traffic in searing heat was hard.
I soon reached Bitburg however and road down the 257 heading for Daun. The 257 running from Bitburg to the Nurburgring is one of my favourite roads and it was good to be back on it. The hotel/ campsite I was heading for, called Zur altern Schmiede was in Putzborn just before Daun.
It looks like a typical German Gasthof, till you see the MZ 125 on top of the sign.
Inside there are several types of accomodation, dormitories of bunk beds at €22 a night, twin rooms at €46 with one or two people, breakfast is included. There is also free camping if you order a breakfast.
They serve Bitburger beer and the food is good. It is in the middle of the Eifel region, the German side of the Ardennes, terrific riding, lovely countryside and smooth well maintained roads. I have riden in that area every year since 2002.
I spent a few days there, charging the blue tooth and phones and doing a little riding. The problem with the inlet rubber slipping off had got worse, although I could fix it to the throttle body stub so the bike would run well enough, it wouldn’t stay on the air filter side. I didn’t think that breathing a percentage of unfiltered air would be good for the injection system or the cylinders long term, so I decided to head back to Toerstop, from there I could reach Theo Lamers easily and get new rubbers and clips.
I got to Toerstop on Saturday, Monday morning the Tom Tom led me straight to Lamers by the post code. They had the rubber in stock and some proper clips to replace the cheesy OE ones. About 15 minutes and the bike was done and running fine.Back at Toerstop it seemed to be Danish week, apart from myself and two Dutch riders everyone else was from Denmark, that meant everyone spoke English so it was easy for me. I left Thursday morning to ride the 90 miles to Bikers Farm, I took all back roads and got there about 2pm. I was expecting 6 Navigators to meet me there so I was surprised when only one bike and a car turned up. Two had dropped out for lack of money, one for medical reasons. The car was Caroline’s, she had trouble with her knee that prevented riding her normal Harley. I was good to see them, when you have been talking to strangers for weeks, it is good to see old friends again.
Setting up at the lake
We found the lakeside site easily enough, only a couple of people were there but they found some beer for us.
By evening the barbeque was in full production and the fridge was running. It is a very small, invite only event, never more than about 30 people.
There is something very special about it though, a combination of a laid back atmosphere and beautiful surroundings. Saturday is always an organised run out.
This time the usual efficient German organisation was thrown into chaos by rain. They kept apologising because the time table was in shreds. I thought it was very cool to see that they were thrown out by bad weather. It was nice to see that German organisation is just as likely to mess up as ours, perhaps the fabled efficiency is just that a fable.Frank who runs these events had provided a “coffee and cake” stop, it was 3 massive fresh cream cakes, 3 plates of apple cake and limitless coffee. Cream teas? The English version is a poor relation to a German afternoon feast.
Laid back or what!
Frank is one of the most generous people I know, he asked in seemingly idle chat what each of us liked to drink, then before we left we were all given a bottle of our favourite tipple. He is the sort of bloke you don’t tell you like his T/Shirt, he would take it off and insist you had it, one of life’s stars is Frank.
It took us 6 hours to make the 300 miles from Frank's to Toerstop, we spent a gentle night there with meal and a couple of beers. The next day we rode to Calais and caught the 14.05 boat to England.
It was god to be back in my little house for the first time in two months, I had got a little homesick the last few days. So the adventure was over and I had learned a bit.
Preventative maintenance was the key to trouble free trips, I did that and took loads of tools, next time more faith, less tools.The whole trip was too event orientated, next time I will decide on the trip and find events on the way. It was a good trip and I met a lot of good people. The Jackal was brilliant, a superb touring bike.
|Thank you so much, Pat for the truly inspirational and entertaining trip report!|
A long tour around Europe on my Guzzi is the one thing that I look forward to as far as travel is concerned. I have been in many parts of our home continent and the thought of being able to take it all ijn from the saddle rather than from a cramped airliner is so exciting!
Have you been on a trip this summer? Perhaps you are from the southern hemisphere and are about to embark on your own summer adventures...if so, do as pat did and share it with us.
All you have to do is to pack your camera, take a jotter, and then e-mail the whole thing to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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