Tuesday, 23 November 2010

24th September - The home run and the gearbox that let go..

Alan - (Spain and France)

22nd September

"After sleeping for 2 hours, (7am Spanish time), I was woken by a procession of vehicles obviously going to work the fields. I am sure one of them slowed down but I didn’t even pull my head out from under my sleeping bag, for one, it was to much effort and it was too cold, and I could not be bothered to try and communicate with hand signals at this particular time unless they came over and kicked me, or I could smell coffee, not that I am a coffee drinker but anything warm to drink would have been welcome.

It was another 2 hours before the sun came over the hillside and started to warm things up, and only then that I thought about getting up and starting all over again. 9 am, and I was out my bag with the wrongly named MSR whisper light multi fuel stove preparing for take of. Anybody who has one of these or has been in the next county to one, will know they are not the quietest cookers but by Heavens they are fast. Whilst I had my pot of hot going, I got everything else packed up and ready, again choosing the body armour over the jacket hoping for it to warm up later in the day. I only managed to drink half of my desperately needed cup of tea as my plastic mug had chilled during the night and me adding the hot water cracked it in 2.

I had about 50 miles left in the tank, and was going to use that first hours ride to wake myself up then stop to fuel myself and the bike, whilst doing the regular checks. It wasn’t until I got going that I remembered the problems I was having yesterday with speed or lack of it, but as I was taking it slow to start of with I didn’t put the engine under any strain so found it to be running ok with only a little kangarooing. At the first stop, I pulled in next to 2 police bikers filling up. I wasn’t too concerned until they started to pay me some attention. They could see the number plate was half melted, and hanging on by a couple of zip ties, and I had bits of string holding bits of a pannier onto the back of the seat which in turn had me almost sitting on the tank, it wasn’t until I took my helmet of that they either thought I would cause them to much aggravation, or they could see I was a poor traveller on my big adventure. I paid for fuel a couple of pastries and a litre of oil. I had been using half a litre a day so far. I checked the dip stick no sign of oil so I put a little over half a litre in, after a couple more worried checks and 2 litre’s later I set of on my way again.
My plan was to make it up to the French border during day light hours to make the most of this highly recommended pass. This was to be my worst day’s riding I had ever experienced.

From the moment I left the services, the bike started to kangaroo on any speed above 40. I thought if it was going to do this I might as well see how fast it would go and sit at that speed, (65mph), at least I would be putting more miles behind me in a lesser time, and with the ground I had to cover every little helps. I managed to get 90 miles out of that full tank before going onto reserve. I had been travelling for one and a half hours, and I had to stop again for more fuel, and yes another half litre of oil. It was uncomfortable, and aggravating, to be riding a bike that kept jittering and kangarooing every 3 seconds then to be stopping every hour and a half, I was becoming fully pissed off. I had every thought of how I was going to ceremoniously destroy the thing once I got home, but at least I was still covering ground.

It was after stopping for fuel and oil just before Manzanares that things took a turn for the worse. The kangarooing never stopped but the speed slowed to a maximum of 40 mph, it was getting to the stage where I was keeping track of the road marking and distances just in case I had to call out Mr international AA, which I dreaded. It wasn’t long before I started to see signs for Santander, and was starting to think "sod it", I can't take much more of this, I was meant to be having fun. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the road signs did not match the map I was reading from so I had to do a bit of back tracking and re-navigation. It was at this point, while stopped in the middle of a central reservation, having a hissy fit, and swearing to my self, that I reevaluated the situation.

Fail myself by getting the ferry straight from Spain, or turn this bad time into a good one. I was not held by times or a date to be home, work wasn’t an issue. I was however fully P'd off with straight motorways, and getting passed by every kind of slow moving vehicle invented by man, while kangarooing along the road.
I re-planned my route from Manzanares. I would stay on the main roads until Tomelloso then pick the road going North East, joining the N420 staying on this road heading for Cuenca before getting on the N320. These where all good roads not fast, and very little traffic. I was feeling calmer and better about the whole situation. It wasn’t until I turned off at Vilar De Domingo Garcia, (CM-210), That the road became exceptional and I felt truly relaxed and ready to carry on to France.

The road was well paved, plenty of twists and turns, and a few hairpins, and it took me through a valley that was sheer rock on one side with densely packed woods on the other. There was also a wooden walkway built onto the rock face that followed the contour of the valley where it started and ended I have no idea. I would like to plan in another visit to explore this area a lot more on future trips.
I followed the CM-210 until I joined the A-211 eastward onto the A-23 to take me back north and the border. The rest of the journey was once again motorway, only
broken up by fuel/oil stops.

It started to get dark about an hour after I passed Zaragoza. I thought about stopping for the night and carrying on in the morning. I also knew that the rest of the group had a ferry booked for the 24th this was to be my new goal, to at least make it to the ferry so mind made up I pushed on until I had at least crossed the boarder. I could always do the pass in daylight another time. I finally reached the boarder about midnight it was on the way down the French side that tiredness got the better of me, this time I stopped under an old bridge but set the tent up to ensure I had a good sleep no cup of tea this time though.

September 23rd

I didn’t bother to set an alarm or worry about what time I woke up. 2 days riding even on my bike should be plenty of time to make the ferry. I woke up about 7am feeling ready for another day. An hour later I was on the bike and making ground. My first job was to buy a road map of France find out where I was then plan a route to St Malo. I am not one for planning and tend to do things more of the cuff, that way I never get lost, it is just another route or adventure. Others in the group might have different opinions on the way I work but in a good humoured way. I picked up a map at Pau, had an espresso, and while waiting for the caffeine hit, I updated Shads with my location and that I would hopefully see them at the ferry, not waiting for a reply I headed off.

Thankfully the bike had decided to loose her attitude sickness, and started to act like a bike again no kangarooing, and could keep a speed of 70mph. At one of the still regular fuel stops I checked my phone, Shads had text back that if I could make Nantes before 6.30pm I would be able stay at his brothers with the promise of a few beers and steak. Needless to say I made it, well to the outskirts of the town where his brother lives. After a quick phone call, Shads turned up with his brother to show me the way back. After swapping stores with Shads of the happenings over the last few days, some lovely hospitality and great steak it was an early night, as Shads and myself had to be up at 5am to complete the last 3 hours of a great adventure to our final destination, St Malo.

I was pleased that I had managed to make it to the ferry, where I finally met up with Si and Daz. To sit down and have that cup of tea as a group was a fitting end, and summed up the trip nicely. Thanks to Si, Shads, Daz, and Jason, hope to do it all again soon."

Darren, Myself, the free campsite and the reunion...

We woke at 7am, which was a lay-in of sorts by our standards. The gear was damp, as it had rained through the night, but who cared, it could dry when we reached home that night.
As expected, the site office was closed, and with no-one in sight, we had blended a free spot, and broke camp on a high, heading down to the ferry terminal, where we were soon enough boarded, and making our way up to deck 7 for breakfast.

Reunited with Shad and Alan, we caught up on Alan's last few days, and spent the next six hours recounting our adventure as we headed for Blighty.

Portsmouth again.

Disembarking, our paths were to send us all in different directions, Shad was off to Wales, Alan, Norwich, Darren and Myself off to East Anglia, so aside from Darren and Myself who rode together up to the M25, we all split up and headed off to our respective destinations.

I found myself making a solitary trip counterclockwise around the M25, heading for Dartford and the A12.

Time check 8pm:

Myself and the Grand Wazoo, both dirty from the trail made good headway, however, exiting the Dartford tunnel, I could hear a screeching coming from somewhere, but put it down to wind whistling through the helmet vents, and pushed on at 70mph.
Preoccupied with reaching home, I missed the A12 turnoff, so ended up taking the M11, which was a pain, as I was running low on fuel. Stopping at services at Bishops Stortford, I flipped up the visor to hear all hell breaking loose underneath me. The screeching had become a wail. Something in the gearbox had let go, and it sounded bad, I figured a main bearing was breaking up, but determined that we'd make it back under our own steam, decided to throw caution to the wind, and press on the final 40 miles home.

It was bloody cold, despite all liners in the gear I was freezing, and just as I was about to leave the filling station, I heard a familiar engine sound. Turning around in the saddle I saw the by now familiar Tenere pull up behind me.
Me counterclockwise around the M25, Alan clockwise, and here we both are in Stortford, you had to smile.
I recon he was as pleased to see me as I was to see him, so we had a coffee together before splitting off, this time at a more sedate pace of 60mph, just in case the box locked up. (Not that it would have made much difference anyhow)

With screeching bearings, Me and the Wazoo rolled into the workshop a little after 22:00 zulu, greeted by B, who had the workshop open, lit, and decked out with a "Welcome Home" banner, complete with Eric, who batted me in the face as I rode in, and whom I'd left back home with B, to keep an eye on things while I was away.

The journey was over, a grand total of 4212 miles for me, and so, dear readers, ends a short, but most eventful trip through Europe and over the water to North Africa.
I had been apprehensive about riding in a group, albeit a small one. I came away from the journey having learned, amongst other things, patience, and tolerance.

Thanks to Shad for the rations, and the basha that most definitely saved my skin in the Atlas, to Alan for giving me something to use my tools on, countless times, to Darren for food and good cameraderie on the cold Atlas mountainside, and for generally being a good sport, despite the abuse inflicted on his him and his GSA, to Jason for the late night smokes, tea, and insightfull conversations, and to everyone for a great ride, and for making the trip what it was.

Until the next Adventure......

Si, Shad, Alan, Darren and Jason

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