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Published: July 18th 2009
Thursday 16th - Somerset -> Portsmouth -> Caen (France)
It had been an inauspicious start. Actually forget that it had been utter pants.
Yesterday I dropped the bike. The old “forgot the disc lock was on” chestnut. Helpfully the lock was at its furthest travel from the brake caliper and with big ole 21” rims by the time it clanked into the calipers I was unable to control the thing and down she went. Right in the surgery car park. What a numpty!
That was closely followed by some ridiculous last minute self adjustment of my glasses which saw me shear the arms off my spectacles. So I am without glasses for the trip. Don't ask me why I chose today to experiment with my optometrist skills, having successfully avoided doing so the last 20 years or so.
Finally there was the journey to Portsmouth. It had rained most of the day in Somerset but as it looked to be clearing further West I duly set off East to catch up with some truly torrential rain storms. You know the type, all the motorway slows down to 40 mph and it rebounds as if it were hail, which it wasn't. I didn't expect to be drafting a wet weather gear test report so early in my blog, but having ridden through flooded roads with my new Sidi boots completely submerged several times now seems as good a time as any.
The A36, which runs from Frome all the way to the M27 at Southampton had not been friendly. Firstly a large chunk of it was shut and realistically it is the only road from the Chapel to Portsmouth. Worse, the route back to the start of the un-signposted diversion would have taken so long I would have been in danger of missing the ferry - it was miles back. It was 8.30 pm and I reckoned the road would only just be closing so I chanced it, ignored all the Road Closed ahead signs and ploughed on. I figured either it wasn't yet closed, it maybe part closed and I could squeeze through on the bike or worst case it really was fully shut and I'd have to scoot through some village. Unsurprisingly worst case it was - yep it was completely blocked some 15 miles and numerous road blocked ahead signs later. Still it had been the best option and only cost me about 10 minutes. Once back on the A36, around Wylie, the road had some serious flooding - cars had conked out on hitting the floods, and the floods went over the tops of my boots riding on the crest of the road.
Anyway so to the gear. I am sporting new Sidi Gore Tex boots - think they're called Canon or something similarly ridiculous. My old Alpinestar SMX3 Gore Texs had proven their inability to repel water convincingly on my last trip. More of a concern though was the gash in the boot sustained from my off in the Alps. Unbeknown to me at the time, my talus was broken by the side stand penetrating the boot - not me being thrown over the top as I had assumed. Cr&p stand design - the end resembles an arrow head. When I subsequently married the entry gash up to the stand end and realised what had happened I had been disappointed the boots hadn't protected me better. Anyway the Sidis are superb - thoroughly recommend them. Dry as a hungover throat. Only bought them at the of the week and they're already comfortable just from wearing in around the house. And crucially there isn't a really soft unprotected area aka the Alpinestars. If I wanted slipper like comfort and thus protection then I would wear f*cking slippers - this in fact was my retort to the chap at Fowlers when he explained that the Alpinestars were soft there for comfort.
I have left the Tuareg suit worn on the last trip at home - I would melt in southern Europe let alone North Africa (if I make it that far.) Instead I am wearing Hein Gericke Air trousers (although they're currently doing a better impression of Water trousers) and a really light (but armoured) top from Richa. Weather protection is afforded by Poor Tex - i.e. a set of overalls. Unfortunately these are well past their best and I may replace them in Europe - I've had them since 2002.
Nothing is worse than soaking hands that you cannot get back into the glove 'cos the lining has popped out when you extracted your digits. Still I concede I have probably gone overboard in bringing three pairs. A new summer pair of BMW Rallye gloves, my old Alpinestar Drystars (yeah right) and a really old pair of strange looking Hein Gericke gloves with only two fingers allowing you to perfectly resemble Penguin in the Batman movie. I don't like the latter gloves as I tend to use my index finger to control the throttle and my other three on the brake lever, but they did keep you dry. Less seams I guess - either that or Mr Gericke has deformed hands.
So what is new this time? Well I have travel insurance that covers me for one thing. Wily Fox do a policy specifically for bikers and excellent it is too (well it seems so, hopefully I won't have to test it.) There was a slight hitch when the girl asked if I had spent any nights in hospital. Fortunately only over the last 12 months - else we'd still be talking now... That'll just be the two stints then, Innsbruck following the crash and then a MRSA superbug that attacked my arm over New Year - and I wasn't even walking on a beach for that one! (Jellyfish sting hospitalised me in Sydney when I wasn't even swimming for those that didn't know.)
I have a Green card for travel to Morocco and in general I feel better prepared - despite less time. Major scoop on the travel guides - Lonely Planet now allow you to buy chapters of their books as PDFs. So I now have a load of electronic guides I can refer to on my trusty eeePC. If you need to travel light and/or are visiting multiple countries they are a must. No doubt I will end up panning their content, as per my first part of the trip, but at least they now took up no weight or space.
With regard to the route though that is significantly vaguer than my last outing. Tomorrow (technically today) I will ride down to the Dordogne area, south of Limoges, to stay with my friends and ex-landlords the McKeivors. After that I will head towards the Pyrenees and on into Spain. I may cross the water to north Morocco but the Sahara further south will elude me this trip sadly. It is just too far and in mid-July too inhospitable. I just don't fancy breaking down there. However I may even abandon Morocco altogether and head up through Portugal. I have no return ferry booked, but I am likely to get a ferry home from Northern Spain.
Anyway it is becoming increasingly difficult to use the eeePC. Contact lens wearers will understand, my eyes are drying out with each blink so I think I will turn in. That is the curse of not having glasses with me - I can't believe I am solely dependant on sticking bits of plastic into my eyes for the next couple of weeks. What an idiot. No cabin sadly, so I will crash on a chair.
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