ugh … awake too early. But might as well make the most of it and get up and get sorted.
Your MtMtM correspondent up and at’em surprisingly early, to find the well secured Transalp still there in the morning, parked out back of the hotel, but now with a couple of other two-wheel travellers for company.
Get Ok hotel coffee (why is it that the French coffee is always just ‘meh,’ whereas the Italian coffee is invariably top notch ?) and good French croissants (always better than the Italian ones) for breakfast, then munch on a warm crusty baguette with cream cheese spread innit … mmm, mmmn !
Hotel bill paid, top box and panniers reattached to TA.
I’m putting on the helmet, looking up to see that the sky is a touch too grey, whilst damp signs of a recent light shower persists upon the ground … Elderly motorcyclist’s traditional deductive powers, plus years long experience and knowledge of The Signs, plus assorted rain forecasting aches and pains in joints and limbs (and, at the tap of a button, the iPhone’s local weather forecast) indicate that wet weather riding gear could well be called upon before too long.
Yes, along with today’s picnic baguette and ripe camembert, I’m purchasing an extra pack of this Cora supermarket cutlery for The Girlfriend’s cutlery drawer.
€18.00 fuel top-up at 4,334 miles from the first ‘M’ in the MtMtM sequence.
Just a few spots of rain … nothing yet to get wet-weather-togged-up-about.
Off and away through a proper looking avenue of French roadside trees, in search of a proper French village, with a proper French tobacconist innit, so that I might be able to purchase a big tub of that Gauloises Blond hand-rolling tobacco for The Profs … and the nimble-nimble music segues us back in time to the ManxGP, August 2007, The Verandah, Isle of Man mountain course …
That’d be way back when ‘The Profs’ granted me first go around the TT course on his newly restored Vincent Comet.
But, I digress …
Back on the autoroute after having been somewhere across country off of the beaten track … re-fueling with another €18’s worth of the essence sans plomb. My search for a proper French village, with a proper French tobacconist innit for the purchasing in thereof of a big tub of that Gauloises Blond hand-rolling tobacco having drawn a blank (coz the villages all seemed to be closed for a very long French lunch). Local culture, eh !
Passing another load of abattoir bound creatures … I mean, I like eating meat, but sometimes, the mind’s eye can’t help but see the parallel with other truck loads of innocents being carted off to the slaughter.
Meanwhile, the light precipitation has gradually been increasing to the point of allowing the on-screen-Bugshplats to be getting washed off by the French rain as TA and I trundle on relentlessly ever northward (Thinks: If I were on something speedier, those Bugshplats would be washed away a whole lot faster).
Crossing the great flat agricultural Frenchland, wet-wind blowing harder from the west, rain-fall increasing … Head turning from side to side to enable the droplets of rain to be blown away off of my visor (Thinks: If I were on something speedier, those droplets would hardly have time to settle before my eyes before being blasted into the past …).
Eventually I succumb.
Prudently seeking shelter under a bridge from the worst of an east bound, especially heavy passing deluge.
Cars and trucks hiss and splooosh by, plumes of spray being blown sideways as the rain continues to fall like stair-rods.
In my own little bubble of weather-proof helmet, gloves and over-suit, I ponder the nature of time, my current seeking of shelter here under a bridge on this wet today, rather than that seeking of under-bridge shade from the hot sun that Girlfriend and I had done on our way south through Italy …
See what looks to me to be a relatively wet free gap about to pass over the road ahead … decide to re-mount the TA and go raise some spritely tyre spray whizzing along the autoroute beneath/through it.
Approaching deluge to the left, receding downpour to the right, TA and me beetling along the A26 autoroute in-between the two at 48°13'36.12"N 4°11'42.23”E’ish, heading towards the dry white light … though shortly after this point the A26 curved around to the right, taking me straight towards the heart of darkness of another slow moving deluge.
At the 24 Hour Robot Petrol Pump installed along the A26 at 48°24'38.82"N 4° 8'33.75”E.
Another €18 fuel top-up, this one in a bit of a hurry to get completed before more rain bearing clouds catch up with the TA and me.
See me, all wet weathered up, getting all hot and bothered within my waterproof two piece suit and over-booties.
‘Long-distance’ riding in the rain is Ok by me, as long as I can stay relatively warm and dry whilst doing it.
Two hours later …
Off of the A26 autoroute at the Laon toll booth. Look, at last there’s sunshine shadows and bits of blue sky !
Arrive for a courtesy call at Honda ADL Moto, Laon, where Christophe and his mechanic insist on giving the TA they once cared for in 2014 The Once Over now, before I continue on to the hotel St.Vincent in Laon for nosh and a bed for the night.
The TA gets secured for the night, chained and alarmed, in plain sight of the hotel night porter.
Here (for the culinary delight of TheTimKirby) some of the hotel restaurant nosh that got secured in me … washed down with a delightfully intoxicating local brew.
(Note to G/f: see this hotel cutlery !)
Post prandial, I’m all of a sudden very sleepy … wend weary way to hotel room, bed … zzz, dreaming of finally putting and end to, finishing off this MtMtM’ness.
Get myself washed and dressed and presentable and ready for petit déjeuner (which at the Hotel St.Vincent involves a great boiled eggs for breakfast machine, a reasonably good coffee making machine, plentiful supplies of proper croissants, along with a good selection of breakfast meats and cheeses, bread, jams, fruit, yoghurts … urp ! … and so, I suppose, I’d recommend the Hotel St.Vincent, Laon, France, to other Transalp travellers).
Stomach full of French breakfast, I turn my attention to the wider world beyond the window, where the weather looks to be clearing up quite nicely for the coming run north to Calais and the ferry to Blighty.
Back in my hotel room, re-pack panniers and top-box, then, with the weight of them panniers stretching my arms, stagger along hotel corridor towards the reception area and the Transalp parked outside.
Moist … still there in the morning … and ready to get loaded.
Trusty Transalp starts first-press-of-the-button.
Some mechanical simpatico engine warming, then off we go to find fuel.
At the €19.00c tank top-up, your MtMtM correspondent attempting to look socially responsible and law-abiding.
Ride into Laon town centre, find a cash machine, then start searching for a tabac selling shop for to purchase a 200gm tub of The Profs favourite Gauloises Blond hand-rolling tobacco.
Find an open bar selling just those little 50gm packets of the hand rolling smoke, but none of them 200gm tubs.
Ride further into town, try at another likely looking retail outlet … “Non, Monsieur.”
Decide to leave Laon and get going north. The Profs favourite Gauloises Blond hand-rolling tobacco buying will have to wait until I arrive in one of those big supermarkets in Calais.
Trundle outta town and back onto the A26.
TA trundles onwards reliably, albeit at a steadily stately, unimpressive, velocity.
French roadside countryside passes by, rural features appearing and receding at a relaxed enough pace for me to take in little details, glimpse agricultural life going on beyond the confines of the autoroute fencing.
Transalp trundle, trundles stoically on and on … (thinks: One Short Life … should I get a vavavoom Varadero … or a Super-duper-shaft-driven-Ténéré ?).
Arrive in Calais, start looking for retail tobacco outlets … try a few, but none seem to have those big, bulk-buy cheap 200gm tubs … eventually, a helpful Frenchwoman breaks with the No Talking English taboo, and explains to me in clear english that the tobacco tubs I seek are not available in France (!), that I’ll have to go across the border into Belgium if I want to get cheap, bulk-purchase French tobacco … Consult my map-app … with a ferry to Blighty to catch, that’ll be a couple of hours worth of an about eighty-mile round trip to Adinkerke in Belgium (where there’s a congregation of Belgian low tax tobacco shops serving the French smoker unwilling to pay high French tobacco taxes). So, sorry Profs, no time for that now, next time. Now though, it is time for me to pootle off to a Calais supermarket and therein purchase for the delight of The Girlfriend some tubs of celeri remoulade and a selection of French cheeses.
Shopping completed, Tranlapate to the ferry terminal, purchase ticket, get through passport and security checks a get into the 14:20 sailing queue.
Awaiting the 14:20 sailing of the P&O ferry The Pride of Canterbury.
Doing the walk-around Transalp check … Tyres. Isn’t it nice, when after a good days riding, you check out your tyres and see that there’s a satisfying degree of wear having occurred out towards the edge of the tread … but, after a days worth of upright auto-routing, looking and seeing only more tread centre wear … Owel.
Aboard-the-ferry-free-for-all for a spot to park and get ratcheting securely.
TA and fellow travellers get secured for the voyage.
With a distant view of sunlit White Cliffs of Dover …
TheTimKirby and I say “Hurrrah for P&O Haddock&Chips !”
Getting sleepy whilst watching the slow-motion docking and the DFDS ferry following … tannoy calls us to the car deck …
16:19 … ?
Clock adjusted whilst queuing, awaiting disembarkation onto the shores of the mother-land.
More queuing for more security checking to exit the port and be allowed let loose in The United Kingdom.
Aaah, back in Blighty, land of the free … a brief pause to appreciate those iconic White Cliffs of Dover, then, Off We Go !
A20 - M20 … TA and I trundle along at a law abiding 70mph … apart from the going even slower trucks, most all of the other traffic goes whizzzing past us at a variety of speed camera ignoring velocities … ! ?
Trundling northward, back in the land of the phand, a couple of sterling fuel-tank top-ups.
M11 - A1 - A52 … TA and I continue trundling along at the varied law abiding pace … and again, apart from the trucks, most all of the other traffic goes whizzzing past us at a variety of speed camera ignoring velocities … ! … Anyone care to offer an explanation of that ?
Turn left off of the A1 at Nickoffland.
Arrive back in a suburb of Nottingham …
4,670 miles MtMtM door-to-door total round trip mileage.
A warm welcome from Herself.
In the kitchen, an enticing aroma and I lay eyes upon the stew’n’mash supper G/f has prepared for me.
The Cat (and TheTimKirby) keeping an eye on me supper too.
Right then, that’s your lot, the 2015 Midlands to Malta to Midlands is finally done and dusted.
Now that I'm back in the Uk again, my Black 2007 650 Transalp can be offered for sale again.
Original toolkit. Centre-stand. MRA tinted vario screen. Conti Attak front and back. Givi E36 top-box and panniers. Scottoiler fitted. Tool-tube fitted. Frame mileage now 16,532 Replacement engine mileage approx 20,500’ish. Goes like a good Transalp should. Black TA is currently at rest within a secure storage facility in the UK's East Midlands. MoT expired May 2016 ... SORN'd and will be offered up on e-bay/MCN/etcetera. Please pm me if yer interested.
The TA is viewable at Nottingham Autocraft.
My agent, Ash at Nottingham Autocraft, holds the VC5, and will MoT the motorcycle for the new owner. If you’d like to go take a look at the Transalp, you can contact Ash, 9-5, Monday to Saturday, on: 0115 982 6999 [email protected] Nottingham Autocraft. Radcliffe Road, Nottingham, NG12 2LF.
Just in case you lot are thinking "The Auld Fart has totally flounced off on that Jezebellian Africa Queen … "
Here’s a recent, October 23rd 2016 image of my Maltese Translap in use, translapating yours truly along the Valletta/Floriana waterfront.
After signing on the dotted line, Nottingham Vertu Honda let use loose on their new red and white Africa Twin demonstrator, the manual version (I’ll nooo be doing with no DCT automatic nonsense) … responsible riding away from the showroom, then, give it a bit of a go … wooohooo ! … we travel some miles north, first through the urban cycle, then some major road out of the conurbation before entering twisty, country lane territory … hmmmn … CRF1000 feels surprisingly light and agile, thin between the thighs (almost, but not quite, like my DRZ400 !). The engine propels the three of us along at a satisfyingly enthusiastic rate. I like it. All feels as it should … apart from the irritation of discovering Honda have swapped the positions of hooter and indicator switches from the corresponding ergonomic locations of all other motorcycles …
We stop in a lay-by ... “Well, Gorgeous Girlfriend, what do you think ?”
Girlfriend and I come to the conclusion that, Yes, after this brief test ride, we could comfortably, companionably travel distances together on this motorcycle.
Note: Pillioning G/f feeling at comfortable ease enough to do the do with the over the shoulder snap shooting as we head south back to the Vertu Honda showroom.
Return new Africa Twin demonstrator to the Vertu Honda showroom … place order for a new Africa Twin … the black one, of course.
Moving on, the lil'Blue TA in Malta is now in the hands of an Adventurous Young Maltese Fella that right about now will be fettling the 650 for a trip into Tunisia.
So, from now on, I'll carry on on just the black one.
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