5 September 2004

Kent Charity Pet Food Run - September 5th 2004

We arrived at the Oakdene a fraction after 10am to find a good group waiting for us and some even pointing the their watches!

It seemed that all others were BMF members and members of the Invicta Sports Bike club. I led away and they rest stuck to the "drop off" system. Although I have led runs for many years, the SOC (not just me!) have a great tradition in losing groups and individuals. I said I was sticking to the speed limits in towns and villages but would "make progress" on open roads.

I had planned a decent off motorway run from Wrotham to Plucks Gutter but on reflection it seemed a long way round. In the end I bowed to suggestions and opted for the simple; M20 to Leeds, A20 to Charing, A252/A28 to Canterbury and then out to Wingham and then up through Preston.

With my pre-knowledge of leading a large group, I didn't want to lose anyone so when we met a 4WD towing a horse box on the A20 at Harrietsham I followed it at 50mph.. to my annoyance it also turned off towards Chilham at the Charing roundabout... grrrr...

Off the leash we made good progress to Canterbury and around the inner ring road. Apart from the traffic we do have a treasure in Kent with Canterbury.

We arrived at Marsh Farm and I led in to find a Boxer Cup Replika there already. As I turned the front wheel turned quickly on the deep gravel and I lost balance. Embarrassingly, I couldn't hold the weight of 6kgs of goat mix, 4kgs of rabbit mix and Claire and me, and the bike gracefully came to a stop and then slowly leant over coming to rest on the right hand cylinder guard. Luckily there is no visible damage to the engine or the right pannier. Just a red face for me.

We had tea and the party (all BMF by now) had a variety of snacks. The BMF were going to donate £100 to the centre from their funds. The place really is an eccentrics dream with lots of small touches for children as well as the main job of looking after the animals. Rabbits and chickens seemed the most populace with a supporting cast of a pony (rescued after someone broke his front teeth!), two pot belly pigs, a pygmy goat plus the smaller furry animals and even some reptiles. Buster the Dog (not for sale) despite fierce looks and bark is a softy and a Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

Afterwards everyone went their own ways. We were nearly the last to leave an set off back home via a look at some of the local sights. After a spot of shopping for lunch in Aldi we were back in time to see the 2nd Superbike Race from Assen...

If the BMF want to organise this run again next year I think I might just have a go again. Although, I have been thinking about doing one for the local section of the RSPCA in Maidstone. My aunt "fosters" dogs for them since her own dog died and they are always in need of assistance. Given the turnout yesterday I have my doubts that it would be worthwhile.

2 September 2004

Jausiers and the Alps - August 2004

The tale that goes with this run is on my old website and rather than transfer it, it can be read from here, it should open in a new window.


Sadly - this link is fucked as prohosting has gone tits up.

28 August 2004

In Nice

pd_nice, originally uploaded by pauldevall.

It was 40° and we were in Nice in full bike gear. How clever is that?

There was an element of sanity in it though. We had ridden down over the Bonette with the intentions of an afternoon on the beach, with our bike gear either locked in the bike or in the left luggage in the railway station.

As we were on the motorail from Nice to Paris that evening it all seemed pretty clear. Wrong.

Firstly the left luggage was closed due to the threat of terrorism. Secondly, there was too much to lock on the bike given the jackets, helmets and leather jeans! F*%£!

30 June 2004

Raid into Czech - May 2004 - Part 2

After a disjointed trip across Europe to get to the Czech SOC “Invader Rally”, finally everything is coming together, or is it?
Saturday 29th May

Our day is going to be very different. Our ride alongside Brno Lake reveals a few changes to landmarks I have been to and wanted to share with Claire. The castle at Veveri is now open to the public, and the nearby bridge destroyed by the Germans to halt the Russian advance in 1944 has been replaced with a new pedestrian suspension bridge. But the lake hasn’t changed and in the sunshine it looks very inviting. This weekend there is a huge festival on in Brno to celebrate the CR joining the EU and also Brno’s place at the centre of Europe, and the city end of the lake has roads closed and we have to divert all over the place to get into the city centre itself. Amazingly it all comes back to me and I can remember where I am.

I have arranged to meet an old teaching colleague at her flat about 2pm and that gives us the morning to do a bit of tourism in Brno City Centre. Amazingly Saturday is quite quiet in the centre. We park up outside on of the new banks that have sprung up close to Svobody Namesti right in the centre of the city.

I’ve not been in the centre for a few years and the changes are apparent, but at least old landmarks like McDonalds are still there and in the same building. Joke. The incredible down market Sputnik Self Service restaurant where you could eat until you burst for less than 50p has gone to be replaced by another designer cr*pwear shop. We walk down past the Jednota Building, famous for it’s bullet holes in the façade, testament to the 1968 invasion by East Germans under the auspices of the Soviets. It’s undergoing some restoration work, hopefully not into a Benetton shop!

We make our way to the post office by the main railway station. This used to be open 24/7 as our American cousins might say, and it still is but doesn’t look to have seen a paintbrush since 1935. It starts to rain as we come out and we head for lunch in the Cabbage Market Square. This turns out to be excellent, but a flaw in my planning for the day! I forget the Czech custom of feeding and watering visitors!

Restaurace Špalicek - Brno

After lunch we idle back to the bike and Claire takes some pics of St Peters & St Paul’s Cathedral and of the old town hall.

It’s too dark to get one of the “dragon” that hangs from ceiling of the gatehouse. Of course it’s not a dragon, but an Amazon crocodile and they have had it nigh on 350 years, so who knew any better back then?

We go back towards the lake and meet the road closures but arrive okay at Lilka’s flat. Parking outside. We’re a little late and I blame it on the traffic controls! Almost before we can get our gear off she has produced plates of open sandwiches and coffee. Jarek her husband is there as well as Tomas her son. We chat about family things and look at Jarek’s photos of Tomas playing ice hockey, more popular in fact than football in this area with ice rinks available all year round for practice and training for the boys.

Then Lilka asks what we are going to do next. Whenever I have visited she always has a few things up her sleeve and it seems rude to say we don’t want to do them, and so I tend go along with the flow… Firstly she suggests we go to Veveri where her daughter has a summer job as a guide before going to University this autumn. Then there is a huge firework display with music over the lake in the evening. We say that we need to change out of bike gear and into “civvies”. So we follow Jarek’s Peugeot at high speed back the way we came along the lake to Chudcice and the rally-inn so we can change. The ride-out hasn’t returned en-masse, but there are a few stragglers that have come back early for a beer or ten. Then it’s off to the castle.

We have to wait a bit until it officially closes and the Suzie and her friend give us a private viewing tour. Her English is quite good and we are the only English visitors they have had since they opened to the public at Easter. The castle is another tribute to the lack of care that the Communist state attached to their past. It was used for many years by apprentice builders (!) as a home and work place. Some of the concrete work needs to be seen to be believed, especially as it covers the original walls and painted plasterwork, (Trompe-l'oeil?). No wallpaper needed, simply paint on the walls!

Hrad Veveří, Moravia

As a result many original and unique aspects have been ruined, some forever, but due to the shoddy workmanship, some has been removed and the original features re-discovered. If you are in the area, it is well worth a look. I can’t tell you how much it is to get in though. I made a donation the collection box instead.

Then it was off for a BBQ at Jarek’s mother’s house in Rozdrojovice, just to the north of the lake. Although she doesn’t speak English I have always managed to get on with her using sign language and my minimal Czech. In fact I have stayed there a number of times over the years. The BBQ is more modern now and instead of cooking sausages skewered on a stick over the fire they have a proper BBQ! But the selection of sausages remains the same, some spicy, some like skins packed with lumps of meat rather than mince and some tiny frankfurter types loved by kids…. And not one packed out with cereal! Take note Mr Walls et al.

As it began to get dark, in this region there seems to be a very quick change from day to night with a very short twilight, we set off for the hills on the side of the lake to see the fireworks. There are thousands of people all with torches in the dark trying to get a good view. Many have radios with them tuned into the local station that is broadcasting the music. Everyone waits with excitement and then the first missile flies high into the sky and bursts with a huge red flash and a deafening crash.

Then follows twenty minutes of fireworks and music from Strauss to Elgar… did they know we were there?

Jarek ran us back to the rally-inn afterwards and we said our goodbyes. Sunday we’d be up early and Austria bound.

Sunday 30th May

Up early and have ham and eggs for breakfast. And then pay for the room, two nights costs me 800kc or about £18.

Then we are off, across country, through Zastávka where I used to live in 1992/93 And then over the hills towards Ivancice and south to Austria. I make one mistake and fail to notice the left turn I should have taken and so we do two sides of a triangle to get back to the Vienna road. The roads have changed quite a bit with main roads being more prominent than before. The incredible upsurge in the number of cars on the road since the Velvet Revolution means that roads that were suitable for the occasional car and a few trucks and buses are now too small to cope. We pass through Moravsky Krumlov, where the castle is an art gallery and shows the works of Alfons Mucha, best known for his art-deco style of painting and sadly used as chocolate and biscuit tin artwork! We have no time to stop; tonight’s stop is Zell am Zee to the west of Salzburg.

This part of the trip was hastily cobbled together so that Claire could have a “taster” of Austria. In hindsight, my usually high level of preparation went awry and the distances were too great to be able to see very much and so it was definitely a case of “If it’s Sunday it must be Austria….”. Hummingbird tourism. But at least she got a “taster” of Austria for a future visit.

I filled the tank just outside Mikulov with my last fill of cheap Czech petrol expecting Austria to be like Germany and about the same us UK. I was wrong. Austrian unleaded and I used a bit, was about 62p a litre. I bought a motorway vignette for ten days at the first petrol station in Austria. Once again, hindsight comes in useful. I should have asked for the receipt. Although the vignette says it’s a ten-day jobbie, it doesn’t give a start date. The receipt does, and could avoid some hassles should the coppers choose to stop you. The seller is supposed to have clipped the start day and month from the vignette before handing it over. If you go, check it is done.

Of course, navigating in big cities can be a nightmare, even on a Sunday. My plan was to fly along the A1 as far as Salzburg, then go off piste to Zell. All went swimmingly until I took a wrong turn on the Ring and then was in two minds whether to change the plan when I saw the signs for A1 again.

At Melk we took a coffee break. Sitting in the sun, taking coffee with the huge monastery towering over your heads on its hilltop is one of those “bliss” moments of any holiday. Once back on the A1 we continued towards Salzburg and another route decision… right through Germany or straight on past Salzburg and then right to Zell. In the end I needed petrol and took the Germany route through Bad Reichenhall and back into Austria towards Lofer.

Once off motorway, and the S311 southwards, the scenery was so much more pleasant and the snow topped mountains appearing and disappearing as we wound down towards Zell. I stopped a few times to take some pics on the digital camera. In Zell we had a problem finding the Youth Hostel. After three circumnavigations of the town, Claire asked in the police station. Zell is in two parts as the lake cuts it in two and the YH was in the other part! Once again I had booked in advance, and had reserved a double room with facilities. What we got was a small room with ample luggage space and lockers, a bunk bed (!) and a nice bathroom with loo and shower, but best of all, was the scenic view of the lake from the window. We stood looking at the view for a few minutes before going down and securing the bike and looking again from the lakeside terrace. Once washed and brushed up we had a walk around the lake to the main part of the town for dinner. Zell is really a nice little town, and it was here that we heard our first English voices (apart from our own rally group) since leaving Prague the Thursday before.

Monday 31st May

Today’s a short day run across the Tirol to Vaduz in dear old Lichtenstein. From Zell we take the lakeside route towards the Grossglockner. Once again we have several options for the trip west. Option one is over the Grossglockner and then to Lienz and a short step into Italy (or former Austria!) and then up to Innsbruck, or option two; over the Gerlos Pass taking in the Krimml Waterfall and that way to Innsbruck. In the end we took option two, but first we went to the foot of the Grossglockner for a look and some pics. I last went over on my GT750 (Kettle) in 1999 with a mate, Steve Hazlehurst, who was on his Bandit 1200. It was impressive.

No less impressive is the Gerlos, to be honest. Quite wide so it can accommodate coaches (more’s the pity) but plenty of sweeping bends and tight hairpins take you up to about 1600 metres above sea level. The views over the Krimml Waterfall are spectacular. Time passes quite quickly when you stop every few miles to gawp at the scenery. Even this late in the year, the run off from the melting snow leaves rivers running with water and all the waterfalls impressive. Lunch was at Zell am Ziller at the Hotel Englhof . Good stodgy Schwabian food to fill the belly and warm us up. Despite the sun, it’s cold up here in the mountains.

From Zell we carried on up the Ziller valley to the motorway and then needed to catch up some time so it was full throttle westwards, stopping only at the services for a fuel stop and a shelter from the rain as it poured down for a while. At the Arlberg we had the choice of the tunnel or the pass. I chose the pass. Even though it was drizzling it had to be better than a tunnel! As we climbed up to the summit at 1793 metres it was clear, in St Anton it was clear but ahead as you could see the road curve over the crest it was misty… The “Arlberg Pass 1793m” sign was obscured and it was dangerous to stop for the obligatory pic. As we continued down the other side it gradually cleared.

We then upped the pace to get to Vaduz before it got dark so we could find the YH. This one was situated in a new building in Schaan, about three miles (we walked them there and back) from the city centre. In this hostel we had a double room, but the loos and showers were in nearby washrooms but the room was spacious and had proper beds.

After dinner in the hostel, we walked into the city centre. I had expected to find a quaint little city like the town in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”, but all we found was a place overrun with modern banks the size of football fields with hardly any old buildings worth a second glance. Even the Duke’s castle was scaffolded. Very disappointing after a long walk!

Tuesday 1st June

Northwards off motorway towards Bregenz and then westwards again along the southern shore of Lake Konstanz. Well that was the plan. For some reason the Austrians seemed to only have signposts with St Gallen on them. Admittedly, it is in Switzerland but not where we wanted to go. In hindsight, we should have gone that way to save all the circles we went in! What could have been simpler? Lake on right…

The weather wasn’t actually the best but it was dry until we approached the border near Kreuzlingen and Konstanz, when it was waterproofs on again. We stopped for a coffee in the Scottish restaurant again to blow the last of our few Swiss francs we had got out in Vaduz. Whilst there, an Italian R1150GS arrived, making two in the parking lot. The guy and his girlfriend looked equally tee’d off with the weather.

Into Germany I had chosen a diagonal route along the BS33 across the Black Forest, somewhere neither of us had been. In fact between Zell am Zee and Strasbourg was uncharted territory for both of us. The road is quite chocked with trucks and there are pretty villages, plus opportunities to visit cuckoo clock shops. One we stopped at but didn’t go in (thank god!) actually has a house sized model alongside and a coin slot to see it working. Nice? Awful? Up to you to decide.

At Strasbourg we tanked up on expensive French petrol and had a coffee then navigated the final leg of the day’s journey to Nancy and the ETAP hotel we were booked into. These are cheap and cheerful and one step above Formule 1’s, at least you have your own loo and bath for €27 a night. Dinner was in the Courte Paille next door.

Pulling into the hotel's car park I felt the bike handling a little strangely; falling into the 90° left turn rather than my usual smoothness! Checking the tyre showed that it had become seriously squared off although there was still plenty of tread across the width of the tyre.

Wednesday 2nd June

The last day of the holiday. A long run along the N4 missing the turn off that I wanted and we end up at the A26 well to the south of Reims where I was expecting to arrive! Still, travelling without a map invites this sort of error. The plod north on the most boring motorway in existence (okay that might be a little strong) to Calais and the train home is almost too mind numbing and tiring. Today I am suffering a little and feel tired all the time and stop at every service station for a rest, a coffee and/or petrol. Glad to be home in time for Corrie!

The final picture of the entire trip was as the bike cooled down in the garage at home. It showed 16492. All in all we covered 2388 miles from home and back. If we hadn’t wanted to “bag” a few different countries it could have been much shorter and more relaxed at some stages. But, after all, we are motorcycle tourers and that’s why we joined the BMW Club or the GS Club UK isn’t it?

Our next trip is a relatively short one to the French Alps in August 2004; our lesson learned on the Czech trip means that we will take far less with us…
We get up quite late, or later than 50% of the other rallyists staying in the rally-inn “Pod Horkou” and in time to have breakfast. The other British members are still recovering from their 4am finish.

After breakfast I have to work out how to let my good friend Ivan (the organiser) know that we will be out most of the day and that we won’t be on the organised ride-out to wherever. Ivan, as a former racing champion in his younger days, likes to include an old road circuit into his runs. Some of these are frightening enough on your own but with 50 Czech lunatics all “going for it” well worth taking a back seat for, especially with 1000 mile ride home afterwards!

14 June 2004

Raid into Czech - May 2004 - Part 1

There’s a saying about the best-laid plans of mice and men… I have no idea from the mouse’s perspective, but planning this trip seems to have taken longer than my usual time, and from the human angle! It turned out to be more than poring over maps, both paper and electronic (MS Autoroute and www.viamichelin.co.uk).

Firstly, it was to be a weekend dash to join the 20th Anniversary of the founding of the Czech Suzuki Owners Club, with friends and fellow club members. Then it became a long weekend to accommodate my wife, Claire, on the trip and then a full blown week and the trip grew and grew. A week before the off, she found she had a business meeting with her company’s partners in Paris. The meeting date? The same day we were to begin our holiday! Plans changed again. Another days holiday booked for me and a change to the Shuttle booking. Luckily the fare was flexible and I was able to change without charge.

And so…

Tuesday 25th May

My plan was to be away early and to meander down to Paris where I was to meet Claire and her work colleagues after they had bombed down in her boss' Audi A6.

I had ordered Czech currency online from Travelex for collection at their desk at the Eurotunnel terminal, I like to have a few quid in local currency in my pocket when I arrive in a new country. I called to check if it had arrived and they said Securicor had been delayed and they would call when it did. It was gone noon when they called and after 1pm by the time I picked it up and then made my way round to a train.

Traffic was very light and they were only operating 2 trains an hour. I ended up in the second compartment on my train behind a 4WD and four other cars.

It was here I took the first picture of the trip, of my speedo and odometer to work out my mileage to Chudcice for the Rally. This showed 14104 and didn't include the 6 or 7 miles from home to the train, but this is hardly going to be a problem as I am unlikely to win the SOC's Attendance Trophy and wouldn’t need those extra few miles to swing it for me in a tiebreak or penalty shoot-out.

My idea was to stop for some marginally cheaper French petrol at the French terminal and then to stop off for lunch, as I hadn't yet eaten, at my favourite services in France; the "Aire Baie de la Somme" by Abbeville. In the end the terminal’s ELF station was closed for a restock and I took to the A16 southwards and I was soon on the outskirts of Boulogne, where I saved a few shekels at the hypermarket. Fuel was slightly cheaper than in the UK at the time, although we were just going through almost daily increases to line the pockets of speculators on the petrol markets across the globe.

I was aware that due to the hold-up that Claire was probably only about an hour or so behind. In fact it was nearer two hours as they had been delayed as well. As per plan I stopped for lunch at the Somme services, where I had a chat with a Dutch couple on an antique unfaired GL1000 Wing, over a coffee and a cake.

The only modifications to my BMW R1150GS for the trip was the fitting of an Alaska Sheepskin Butt Pad each, to try and ease the strains and pains on the buttocks on long journeys. The bike was in the first few miles since a service and the tyres had plenty of life. With luggage for two for eight days and a few heavy locks it probably meant we were almost at the service limits for a GS! As usual that know-all fellow, Mr H Sight revealed that we had a few t-shirts etc more than we were ever going to wear!

Once back on the autoroute I ploughed south at approx 130kph as it was an easy pace to keep to, and followed the MS Autoroute instructions right to the Campanile at Gennevilliers in the north western suburbs of Paris. By the time I had booked in, unloaded the bike and had a relaxing shower, Claire and her colleagues had arrived and were booking in. No chance to stand bollock naked in the shower to cool off.

I had planned a quiet evening in the restaurant with the newspaper and the latest Motorcycle Voyager and then possibly watching the TV in the hotel room, but in the end I was invited by the boss at the French end to join the assembled group of English and French colleagues for dinner at an Italian restaurant in Neuilly sur Seine. Ten of us squeezed into two cars to make the return journey.

We wined and dined at the company’s expense and it was almost 1am when we crashed out. At least we only had 400 miles or so to ride the next day after Claire’s meeting had finished. The day’s mileage was a relaxed 179 miles.

Wednesday 26th May

Claire was up early for breakfast and then off for her meeting a few miles away at the Port de Gennevilliers. I had a lie in before a leisurely check out and missed breakfast in the process. As it was still only 1030 I packed the bike up and thought I'd have a run into Paris to get a few photos with scenic "sights".

I took a quick photograph of the bike outside the Campanile before setting off for the Porte de Clichy and the northwest entrance to the city. All went to plan until I hit an unfamiliar boulevard that seemed to be ring-roading the north of the city, but inside the Périphique. I knew the city centre was to the right and so I took the first available right turn onto Porte de Poissonieres. A bit seedy looking but after a while I saw signs to Bastille and followed them. Although this bit had a lot of traffic, the centre of the city was remarkably light. I was amazed. The usual sounds of Paris; the constant police sirens and the hooting of horns the instant a light went green punctuated the trip. From Bastille I made for the river and managed to miss a sign and started heading eastwards, with the river on my right. I turned over a bridge and was then on a one-way bank along the Seine heading for Austerlitz. This time westwards, river still on right, naturally. 

At Pont Neuf I decided the first “scenic photo” could be “bike and Notre Dame”. 

Outside Notre Dame

Easier said than done on a hot day with 10000 tourists and their buses packed into the small space out front of the edifice. Eventually I did a 360° lap of the Cathedral and got a photo or two from the front, before the long-arm of the law told me to move. I then decided to take the Rue Rivoli to Concord and up the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe. Although I might have been able to stop to take photos, the increased security meant that there were armed coppers and army all over the place, so I decided to keep going and just gawp when possible. Outside the HD dealership someone was taking a photo or photos of a scantily clad woman on a Harley of some type. Of course, this is the only place I didn’t get a chance to stop and gawp; not that I would have….of course.

I checked the bike’s clock and saw it was getting late, later than I had expected, so I abandoned the quest for photos and decided that I get back to the Port to meet Claire as she finished her meeting. She had her bike gear with her, but we needed to be away as soon as possible to get to Germany for the planned overnight stop. I got a chance to see the spectacular buildings of “La Defense”, the French “docklands” style development but spent more time in the dimly lit tunnels underneath it!

As it was, I found my way quite easily to the Port but took ages to find the building she was in. The lack of signposts and local workmen that didn't know their a*ses from the elbows didn't help either. In the end we left later than expected. I calculated that we wouldn't make the ETAP in Mannheim, where we were to meet the rest of the party, and so I cancelled the room and looked for an alternative.

On the A86 we made good progress round this outer ring, passing the Stade de France as we looped around the northeast of the City. We were soon on the A4 eastwards having missed the N3 exit and as we cleared the city edges and the Disney turn offs, the traffic got lighter. We stopped for a coffee and a snack as neither of us had had lunch. I checked the youth hostel book and called a few. Full. Well perhaps not full, but they didn't have our preferred accommodation - double or twin rooms, preferably with own loo. Mrs Devall doesn’t do camping or dorms. In the end I booked us into the hostel at Heilbronn. This turned out to be where things were going to go wrong the next day as Heilbronn was further east, i.e. further on the planned route, than Mannheim! In the end with no maps of France or Germany with us (I had two Michelin maps, Czech Republic and Austria, with me!) it was all guess work.

We made very good time and arrived about 1930 and started to look for the signs. The instructions in the handbook are not that good. In the end we saw a familiar sign and followed it, up through where they are building a new tramline. A bit of off road on the sandy base for the new line is about the only time the GS was off tarmac on the entire trip. The hostel was almost empty and the room was okay. We booked in and changed into civvies and went down the road to the nearest restaurant for a beer and some Schwabian cooking. The day’s mileage was about 385 miles.

Thursday 27th May

I checked the map on the wall of the YH to see we were about 40 miles further east than Mannheim, so I then sent an sms to the Team-SOC leader, Tony, simply to say we would leave about 9am and head along the motorway. We actually left about 9.15am and wound our way through the morning rush hour (such as it is!) back to the A6.

As we approached Nurnburg I decided to go the way I know using the road to Amberg and then S14 to the border. I sms'd again as it seemed that we might be have been ahead of the rest so a break would be okay. We ventured into the centre of Nordberg to have breakfast, and then back out on to the A6 and along towards Amberg. Another sms session revealed that the others had taken the all-motorway route rather than the way we have been before; across country from Amberg to Waidhaus.

By Amberg I needed petrol as the yellow light was on constantly so I pulled into to a small station, bought some water as well as a tank full. I was hoping to have made it across the border where a tank full of 95 unleaded is 57.6p against Germany's 75.8 (at the exchange rate at the time) but I had failed miserably. I sms'd again and then we set off along S14. The road was clogged with trucks and we had to nip in and out of the line to over take them, one here, another there when the opportunity arose.

The border formalities were very swift and the border guard just smiled when I asked for a stamp in my passport. I have one already from my last visit and another might have filled up the blank pink space! A quick stop to adjust ourselves, plus a photo of the CZ speed limits sign to show we were there and then we set off along the new dalnice towards Plzen. 
Czech Border
Rozvadov border crossing
I stopped again for coffee and a snack and filled up the bike again, its first taste of Czech unleaded! Another text to the others to say we were at the first services after the border got a reply to say that they had waited for us on the A6 as they guessed we would have to stop where they were! Oops. I felt a bit guilty, but we had kept them posted where we were. They then replied to say they were at the border. I estimated them to be about 60 miles adrift of us and the best part of an hour off. We set off again up the motorway and after no more than 300 yards it had finished! I had thought that as the tarmac and the services were new that they had finally finished the loop to the south of Plzen but was wrong. It was nearly finished... or at least more of it was finished and usable than the year before according to Tony. 

I stopped again at the last services before Prague, near Beroun, to let them catch up a bit. We filled the tank again to ensure that the next day we didn't have to scrabble about for fuel on the cross-country section.

Beroun Services

By a large fluke we arrived in Prague on a road I had never seen before, then came onto one I recognised and then arrived at the river but not where I had expected! 

Then without any further ado we were by the National Museum and a simple and legal u-turn meant we were at the top of Wenceslas Square. The apartment was on the other side, at no. 48, and we turned at the bottom and headed back up the square towards Vaclav himself. We had booked in and showered by the time we heard the rumble of bikes in the courtyard. We were about to leave a note to say we had gone for a sightseeing session, as this was Claire's first trip to Prague. In the end we didn't need to and we had a chat and the others wanted to get off for a drink and to unpack. Tony's group were, himself on a Bandit 1200, Dave 1 on a GSX1400, Dave 2 on a GSX1400 with stepson Aaron and Dave 3 on a Bandit 1200.

Parked in Prague

Claire and I had a walk down the square, failed to get served in a hotel bar, as the waiter was more interested talking on his mobile phone and flirting with the young waitress to serve us. Eventually, well after two minutes, we left and walked down towards the Old Town. We had a drink in the Opera bar by the Powder Tower and then took a few photos of it in the sun. Along to the Old Town Square where we had missed the clock do its thing. Then we found ourselves on the Charles Bridge with all the other tourists. I expended another few KB's of memory on some photos of the bridge and river and even a spot of silent video. We then headed back to miss the next display from the clock. An sms telling me I had left my light on the bike had me scampering back to the apartment to find it off and turned off correctly. Now we were back this far we looked for a place to have dinner. We chose the "Cerny Baron" at no. 52. We both had beer and goulash with dumplings (knedliky) and the waitress seemed sceptical that I wanted "zeli" as well. I know what I want and what I like! In the end I got it. 

I would wait another day before having the traditional Czech meal of pork, cabbage and dumplings. I’d waited this long, six years in fact, since my last visit, so another day wouldn’t matter. Even in a restaurant on Wenceslas Square, food and drink was still cheap when you compare it to the UK. And not too much more than rural Czech. Mileage today, about 280.

Friday 28th May

Are we there yet? Not quite. As the groups Czech “expert” having lived and taught in a school near Brno for a year over ten years ago, I decided to work out an off-motorway route to the rally site at Chudčice, taking in a few places of interest. 

Leaving Prague after breakfast saw us on the motorway for a few miles before we hooked left on the S4 towards Ceske Budejovice. At Benesov we then turned off onto S112 towards Vlasim. The idea was to go cross country to Pacov, where the FIM is reputed to have been formed 100 years ago this year (it was but they prefer to celebrate with celebrities in Geneva!!), then to Kámen Castle nearby to look over the State Automobile Museum, then down to Telc, a world heritage site.

Things went pretty well as the Czech road signs are usually very good, although we did seem on occasions to go round two sides of a triangle to get from place to place! 

Pacov was okay and it started to drizzle a little and the day was cold. The opposite of the previous week. The Castle was shut as well for some work so we flew past enjoying the S19 to Pelhrimov and then down the Telc. We did make a wrong turning and end up going slightly north of the intended route, but a map check in time saved nine and a correction meant we got back on track very easily.

We had a late lunch in Telc after parking in the tourist car park by the bus station and new petrol station. To our disgust there were some lazy so and so’s that had ridden their bikes into the square… but how?

It was mid-afternoon, when I led the troupe back to the bikes and we set off along S23 for points east. The road is quite well paved and in places the villages slow you up. In Trebic, one of the shoe capitals of Moravia, there’s a new road that might have been intended as a bypass, but it’s only half the length it needs to be but no doubt it works and will be finished one day. As we got nearer Brno we arrived at Zastávka, where I used to live. On the side of the main road they have built some new flats but this time someone copied the original pre-communist designs rather than use the grey concrete monstrosity plans that the commies piled up in practically every town and village. The approach to Brno is testament to the mass housing of the people during the 40 plus years of communist rule.  

The last few miles from the motorway junction at Ostrovačice to Chudčice were once again on small country lanes. 

We arrived at the rally-inn, called Pod Horkou, about 4.30pm. I can’t describe the looks I got turning a BMW into the packed parking lot of a Suzuki rally… until the ones that knew me recognised me as I took my helmet off! Someone joked I should have stuck an owners club sticker over the roundels!

At Czech Centre SOC Rally in Chudcice - May 2004
BMW interloper in a field of Suzukis

For the SOC's annual mileage competition, known as the "Attendance Trophy" I took another pic of the clocks, purely to show the mileage I had done to get there! Honest Governor. The calc showed a total of 1113 from home to the rally, so that's what I booked in with! And in the spirit of the thing, I only booked Claire in for the mileage from Paris....

The opening dinner that night was from 7.30pm, so we had plenty of time to change into civvies and get ready and even have a kip before a few beers and a meal. Claire and I retired reasonably early, about midnight, as our day on Saturday was going to be a little different to that of the other rallyists.

19 April 2004

Entente Cordiale - April 18th 2004

A group of French BMW owners from Europ' Touring in Arras came to England for a day trip and Claire and I offered to meet them and act as tour leaders on a trip around Kent and East Sussex.

I planned quite a long route that would take in some scenic roads, a trip on the Kent & East Sussex Railway and then lunch.

After a very warm and sunny spring week, Sunday dawned to almost torrential rain! The short run to Dover was against gale force winds and it rained mostly all day. First hassle was an accident on the exit to the Dover Docks that had traffic held back through Customs to Immigration. Then when they finally arrived half an hour later we wouldn't have made the Tenterden section in time for the train.

We adjourned to the Little Chef at Seabrook to re-group and decide what to do. It was still raining quite hard and so after a short break we togged up and set off.
We met Lol at Tenterden but had missed the train we had hoped to get and the next one was a diesel and didn't go all the way to Bodiam.

As we couldn't go on the train we decided to have a scenic ride to the White Dog at Ewhurst, where Claire had booked us the dining room. As we had slightly more people than originally planned we had to overspill into the main restaurant. Lol kindly sat with a group of the French participants out there and Claire and I hosted the dining room "experience". Everyone was pleased with the meal (Egon Ronay was right!) and an amazingly large number chose roast lamb.

It was still raing when we left the pub for the short ride to Bodiam. As we didn't want to pay to park the bikes we parked up outside the pub across the road and walked in. If we had been there any time, a quid wasn't too bad, but we had about 20 minutes to walk around the moat and take a photo or two and then set off to Rye and back to Dover.

As it was I led them all to Rye where we had a walk round and then back up the Brenzett bypass to Ashord and there I put them on the M20 southwards!

Many thanks to Lol (650GS Dakar) from the GS Club/UKGSer for coming along and making the English side of the Entente to three!

10 April 2004

Arras - Easter 2004

The original plan for Easter was to spend the day in Belgium with the GS Club UK at the GS weekend at Kasterlee. As it was only a week after coming back from the US, I had to cancel those plans.

But the bike needed a 20000km service before the Czech Trip... and so I decided to see about a service in France and use the ferry ticket for that instead. I searched on the BMW France site for a dealership in the north of France. Purely to see if it was cheaper than in the UK.

In the end I booked in to Europ' Touring in Arras. In France both 6000 miles and 12000 miles services are about 40% cheaper than the UK. Even with the cost of a cheap crossing over or under the channel it would be cheaper. And as I was less than happy at the standard of the service done at SPC at 6000 miles, plus the place was in the middle of nowhere and had no loan bike on offer (to me least!) despite buying the GS from them! So, a dealership in a town had to be better.

Patrice, the owner, lent us a Scarver 650 to get about. In the end the weather wasn't very good so we only rode into the city centre, met Mark and Julie from the SOC who were there for a hotel weekend, for coffee and as they had done most of the sights we wanted to see the day before we signed in for the A/T, had a chat, and then had lunch.

After lunch, with the weather still looking a bit naff, we wobbled on the Scarver up to Vimy Ridge. On this trip the monument was open (a later visit wasn't so lucky!) and we had a long walk around taking some pictures, however, we didn't have time to go in the museum.

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