Iberia, France and Germany june 2003.

Friday may 30, Zuid Scharwoude-Arras.

Cousin Hans and I left my place at 09.00 sharp. Our goal was to reach Arras in France, a pretty simple trip for the 1st day. The weather was perfect when we started our trip. We used the motorways to get out of Holland and Belgium quick; as soon as we reached Tourcoing we left them and selected small roads to our destination. Some of them were real small and unpaved: I thought it was fun but Hans was having a hard time on his heavy GTR1000 behind his large windscreen. The sun was having no mercy and Hans suffered. A stop to refill our fluids was necessary, and even though the rest of the ride to the youth-hostel in Arras was easy, it took Hans 1.5 hours to feel human again.

As the hostel didn't open until 18.00 we took a short walk to the nearest seats which happened to be in front of a pub. We had some refreshments, watched a queue of classic cars go by and waited for Darrell to arrive. When he finally did, the hostel opened as well, so we were able to arrange our stuff for the night. After a nice Italian dinner Hans decided to call it a day, he expressed his doubts as to continue the trip as he was afraid of yet hotter weather in Spain. Darrell and I took a walk, listened to some crazy Belgian musicians and then joined Hans.

Poitiers
The youth hostel at Poitiers.
Saturday may 31, Arras-Poitiers.

We hadn't slept to well: first there was a lot of noise coming from the square outside, and then a lot of noise coming from Darrell inside... Anyway, we woke up early and went downstairs to have breakfast. Hans confirmed his return home, we were sorry for him and for ourselves. After waving Hans goodbye D. and I packed the bikes and left for Poitiers. It took us some time to leave the city, but once on our way D.'s Garmin showed the right roads. The roads around Paris were 'fun' as usual, and as it was very hot again we stopped for fuel and drinks once we had found the N20. Orleans, Blois, Tours following the Loire, and then Poitiers. D. had programmed his GPS to find the hostel so we didn't have to stop again and again to ask for directions. Steve and Tim had arrived shortly before we did, so all we had to do was wait until the hostel opened its doors.

After preparing our room we headed for the garden where Tim advised us to have some desperado's: beer with tequila. It was ehh... different! We ordered a taxi to get us to the town centre, had a beer on the town square and looked for a suitable restaurant. After a long search we ended up in a Chinese one.

We had some more drinks and then tried to get a taxi to bring us back to the hostel. Now this was a real problem: it wasn't until 2.30 that we finally got one of the two cabs that were active in Poitiers.

Sunday june 1, Futuroscope.

On our way to Poitiers we had already spotted Futuroscope, fortunately it wasn't far. So after breakfast we took the short ride to the park. Somehow I got the feeling that I was the only one really interested in the visit, a feeling that was enhanced during the day. We parked the bikes in the bike spot and got our tickets, which were not cheap.

All shows had their own timetable, so it took us a while to figure out in which order to visit what. It is obvious that Futuroscope no longer has anything to do with 'future' but I enjoyed most of the shows anyway. 3D rides, a flight thru the universe, travelling with the butterfies: I found it amusing.

Strange buildings
From right to left: Darrell and me.

Strange people
From left to right me, Tim, Darrell, Steve.
The best thing to happen was the picture taken from the 4 of us while waiting for a fantastic computer animated show, as you can see we were all 'in the mood'. The picture was for sale, but Steve found a much cheaper way to document this day: he took a photograph of the TV screen where the picture was displayed.

To finish this great day (G) we used the simulators to compete for best driver and best rider of the group. Tim was a bit slow, especially when it came to starting the race...

Monday june 2, Poitiers-Santander.

I don't seem to recall much of todays ride. It was all motorway to the Spanish border, the scenery was rather dull in France. Once in Spain the speeds ran a bit higher, Steve was making good progress through the sweepers of the A63! When we stopped we enjoyed feeling the very hot and sticky tyres.

When we entered Santander Steve noticed a screw had punctured my rear tyre. We stopped at a very helpful Suzuki dealer who managed to point us to a Honda dealer where the job could be done better than at his place: from the inside out. D. and I rode to this dealer whilst Tim and Steve looked for a hotel. (After our experiences with the French hostels we had decided it was wiser to use hotels). The Honda dealer asked us to wait for half an hour, so D. and me had coffees and a beer in a nearby pool hall.

There we phoned home and received a phonecall telling us a hotel was booked. After picking up the bike (it was cheap, but done from the outside as I later discovered) we rode to the hotel, had a shower, went out for drinks and food (chinese again!) and walked the streets of Santander. Some drops of rain had fallen..

Bikes still in good shape.
Watch the CBR600: still looking brandnew. (France)

Aiaiai
Making the CBR ridable again
Tuesday june 3, Santander-Leon.

For today we had selected numerous small roads that would enable us to enjoy the views Spain had in store for us. But first: breakfast. To get that we rode a couple of miles to Torrelavega, a small town SW of Santander. It was a bit hard to find a parking spot for the bikes, but soon we were having rolls and coffee in a busy little coffeeshop. Onward to the 'green' roads with views on the Picos de Europa. Once there I noticed the bike moving it's tail from time to time, so we stopped for a smoke and to check the tyre pressure. Pressure seemed to be fine, so we took a look at the roads. Grey turmac with grey rockdust on top of it: almost as smooth as graphite.

We continued the trip in slowish fashion, which litterally did not amuse Steve: he got bored. Coming out of a tight lefthander he opened up the throttle real hard, much to my amazement. His rear wheel skidded from left to right as he went uphill. Shifting to 2nd gear his speed must have been close to 120kmh when the next righthander appeared. No way he was going to make that! In a split second Steve made the decision to ride straight on, which got him in a field of rocks, where he lost control over the bike and crashed.

Fortunately Steve didn't injure himself much, a bruised finger and some stiffness later on was all he suffered. Even the bike seemed to be rather OK: inspection showed that no vital parts were damaged. Tim, Darrell and Steve worked hard to get the CBR ridable, me giving moral support, and 2 hours later we were on our way again, the Honda held together with tieraps. Steve had no trouble at all keeping up with us in the faster bits: his confidence didn't seem shook up.

We arrived safely in Leon, a town of which I don't remember much. (writing this three weeks later). Just that we had some trouble finding a parking spot. The underground parking lot people wanted to charge each of us 12 euro for the night. One carspot would have been quite enough for us. Tim found an excellent parking area near an embassy, where a Spanish text told us it was for embassy personal only. Fortunately we didn't master enough Spanish... The hotel was perfect as well, as was the evening. And the day.

stopping in the rain
A break to find my rain trousers.
Wednesday june 4, Leon-Braganca.

As said before, Steve was a little stiff today. The sky was dark but it didn't start to rain until we were on the little road between Astorga and Ponferrada. The road was a bit slippery again, so we took our time. Tim proved to be a very able rain rider, he didn't seem bothered at all by the weather. Apparently this road was used intensively by hadji's on their way to Santiago de Compostella; lots of them around. At a stop we chatted with a French guy who was doing the pilgrimage accompanied by his donkey, a multi-year project.

The views were great, but as the day progressed the rain got worse so we had to concentrate harder on the roads. Funny enough as we got used to the wet roads, our speeds went up and Steve didn't need to get bored again...

The N1037 led us over the border to Portugal, a nice twisty road in almost dry condition. We saw the first people riding donkeys, a rare sight these days in Europe. Portugal is definitely poorer than Spain. Entering Braganca it rained again, so we selected the first hotel we ran in to, the Ibis hotel just out of the town centre. We had a shower and looked for places to let our wet stuff dry. Then a walk into town where we had dinner in a posh restaurant on the second floor of an ancient building. Excellent food, but the staff was a bit weary at first. Bikers.

Thursday june 5, Braganca-Burgos.

Much to my amazement all my gear was dry again this morning. After a nice breakfast we headed for the N216, a beautiful winding road in a beautiful landscape. We followed the river Duero south (never seeing it until we reached Barca de Alva) on sometimes very rough roads. Steve and I rode at 80kmh which was quite fast enough. After a while the road improved somewhat which gave Steve and me the opportunity to have some fun. We stopped at Barca de Alva to take pictures and have a drink. It was very hot now, I walked to some shops nearby and almost melted. Shops were closed as well...

We had had a discussion as to the destination of this day. Originally we had planned to go to Madrid, but Darrell and I changed our minds and decided to skip Madrid in favour of some nice rides later in the Pyrenees. Steve was a bit reluctant but in the end we decided to reach Salamanca, Valladolid or Burgos today. We crossed the border again and took the C525 to Zamora. A big dam has been contructed here in the Rio Tormes, quite impressive. Then the E82 and N620 north which were boring by comparison.

Sunshine again
Stop at Barca de Alva.

dam
The dam in Rio Tormes.
On the bright side: we could cool down somewhat at the higher speeds this road enabled us to ride. Burgos turned out to be the town that had us for the night. We had some trouble locating a hotel this time, but one of Tim's devices showed us the way: Hotel Villa Jimena it was to be with safe parking for the bikes as well. An old place really, worn down a bit and with (French) youth hostel like showers. After showering Darrell and I chatted away for a while, in the meantime Steve and Tim got bored and went looking for a pub. We followed their trail and enjoyed some beers and a bull fight on TV. We walked deeper into the town center, I got myself some money and we entered a restaurant where we ordered 'one of everything' (when it came to ordering drinks). Nice staff (the girl got Steve his paella even though it wasn't on the menu), good food and a great dessert!

Friday june 6, Burgos-Cahors.

Yet some more riding today... the E80 was waiting for us. Tim and Steve would ride with us up to Jaca, then they'd continue east to get to St.Gaudens whilst Darrell and me would go north at that point, crossing the Pyrenees and get a bit further north. But first the E80. Vitoria-Gasteiz, then east to Pamplona. Darrell and I had figured out that it was best to pick up the N240 before Pamplona, that way we could follow the signs that would lead us through the city. That turned out wrong: we got totally lost in the outskirts of Pamplona. The time we gained using the motorway was lost here, but in the end we were on the N240 east of Pamplona. The last part of the road, from Yesa to Jaca, was real twisty, so once more we amused ourselves. At one point the road was blocked because a huge chunk of mountain had fallen on it very shortly before, luckily not on our heads.

In Jaca we finally split up, and we took the N330 thru the mountains. A brandnew(?) tunnel led us thru part of it, we had it all to ourselves. I was tempted to revv it up but decided we had had enough fun for the day. Nevertheless our picture was taken some miles into the tunnel and we were stopped by a French gendarme when we left it. He went away to check how fast we'd ridden, but as it wasn't too bad (92kmh instead of 80) we could leave with just a warning.

From Pau to Cahors on the motorway was an easy job for the remainder of the day. Cahors was a pretty busy town, but a short search led us to a hotel where two double bedrooms were still available. (We needed two as I didn't want to share a bed with Darrell, sorry). I used the bathroom facilities to wash some clothes before joining Darrell to dinner. We enjoyed a bottle of Chateau d'Eugenie and were entertained by guys who battled on the river.

Saturday june 7, Cahors-Daun(D).

My last day of practising english had arrived. We set out to do a nice morning ride and we certainly did. From Cahors to the D662 which was following the river Lot. Simply stunning. Figeac, Aurillac, Massiac and then another brilliant piece of road from there. A short stop for drinks before we took the peage to Clermont-Ferrand. Near Riom we stopped for fuel, had a last chat and said our goodbyes. I wanted to carry on to Dijon on routes nationales, so Moulins, Autun, mmm, I didn't want to stop in Dijon after all. N74, D74, D974... I gave up. It was sooo hot, my bum was hurting and I was feeling tired. At a gas station I filled up again, bought some drinks and food and rested a while. After this rest I felt up to it again, but gave up the little roads in favour of the peage. I had calculated that I needed to refuel at Luxembourg, but shortly before reaching that I foolishly followed the signs to Trier. This led me on the N153, in Germany the 419, a nice 2-lane road but not relaxing when fuel is running out, it's getting (pitch)dark and the visor is covered in bugs. Slowing down more and more to save fuel, at last I discovered the one station left open in Germany. Coffee, fuel and a clean visor can make life easier sometimes. Bitburg, getting lost, being showed the right way to Daun by a gentle gentleman, another great piece of road, especially in the dark and then Daun. Following the directions my hombofriends had given me, I finally found the 'Zur Alten Schmiede' (00.30!), a motorriders pub with camping facilities. The place was crowded but I was lucky and found my mates. They were pretty tired (or pissed?), so after a little chat and a beer they went off to sleep. Except for Bart, who joined me to the pub for another beer. Bart had also brought his big tent, so I had a place to sleep tonight. Well deserved after 1Kkm.

Sunday june 8, Eiffel tour.

A relaxed ride with Anna, Rian, Bart and Huyb in the area. Huyb led us on a guided tour. Could have used a cruiser here. Stops for drinks and money; hot weather; simple but good food in the evening; beers, chats with other riders (some nice old Honda's around) and long conversations with my friends at night: life can be so much fun.

Monday june 9, Daun-Zuid Scharwoude.

Doomsday. Sort of. First part of the ride was scenic and relaxed, Bart led us on ever smaller and bumpier roads. An extremely bumpy road crossing the 'Hoge Venen' in Belgium, a stop for drinks and then the motorways up to Utrecht. We kissed and said goodbye, Bart joining me for the last stretch north.

What a great week this had been!

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