Alps or Bust Ride Report

Day 6

After a few text exchanges with Jo the night before I had sealed my decision proper - head back in a homeward direction. You can't win them all!
Although I couldn't complete the whole of my planned adventure and done all that I wanted to do, I had managed to achieve more than I felt able and seen more in one place than I could ever have hoped for and wild camped alone, something I have never done before.

I rise at 07:30hrs , a bit more of a lie in than previous days and nobody else on site was awake , or if they were there were certainly no signs of life. I put on a brew and remember I have one last piece of the baguette left - it gets toasted on the burner.
It was very tranquil here , 'cept for the permanent running of a generator in a large building 50 metres or so away, which I guessed was in some way linked to the filtration system for the river. Birds could be heard all around as well as the occasional vehicle on the road some 200 metres from me.

I sipped some more coffee whilst sitting on 'loggy'. Loggy and I had become friends for the short while we were together, if that were at all possible, but we would be parting company very soon - for good! Somebody else would have bragging rights to loggy another day.

Immediately ahead of me , direction Barcelonnette, was rough and rugged land and the river. Behind that , rising hills full with trees, and beyond the trees the mountains. To my right much the same, but with a widening of the river. To my left was the continuation of the camp, the generator, more industrial land and buildings and then the mountains. Behind me and through the sheltering of trees the rising sun with a slight haze partially obscuring the mountains it was steadily climbing over. The land all around was lying beneath yet another beautifully blue sky. It would be another hot one!
Whilst Val d'Isere was only a pencilled possibly it was by no means a definite course of action. No, I wasn't 100% which way I'd head home - I still wanted to ride the Furkhapass in Switzerland after missing it on last years tour. Perhaps I should head for Bardonecchia then decide , Annecy, Val d'Isere or Furkhapass.
I had fond memories of Val d'Isere from 2009 when Jo and I took part in a Land Rover rally through the Alps and Pyrenees.

For certain though I would be heading back along the D902 - Route des Grande Alps through Col de Vars, Guillestre, Arvieux and Cervieres.
Despite the fresh morning there is no dew, the bike is totally dry and it wasn't even 08:00hrs. I walked to the river for my morning freshen up before pitching up and moving out.
I set off at 08:30hrs toward Col de Vars. I remembered seeing a Spar at Vars on my way in from Embrun the day before and so with that in mind I would make my first stop for some provisions.

My route took me back past the small town of Parpaillon so I took a couple more pictures for the memory.

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The D902 to Vars was possibly the worst road surface I had travelled since crossing the channel, in places anyway. It smoothed out after several kilometres up the winding Pass to the Ski resort itself.
The Sat-Nav picked up an alternative route along the D431 , which in fact only detoured off the D902 for a short distance, but I rode this short section anyway.

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On the descent whilst exiting Vars I pulled into a very pleasant looking roadside picnic area with stunning views of the mountain-scape ahead. Once again it was becoming extremely hot and now was as good a time as any for a bite to eat and some hydration fluid.

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What better than cheese in a soft centred crusty baguette?

Courtesy of Spar at Vars.

1 Baguette.
1 pack of 8 slices of cheese.
1 tub of cheapskate brand margarine (yuk) which would prove to be a poor purchase in time!
2 x 1.5ltrs of Eau de Source Naturelle Cristaline Water ( secured on the bike)

All in it made for a very welcoming snack to keep me going until the next food intake.
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I remounted up after a short break and continued the drop down the D902 heading towards Guillestre , through Cervieres and onto Briancon.
An interesting road beneath me caught my eye as I rode the overhead carriageway toward Arvieux. I turned back a kilometre or so and took the lower road.

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Somewhere along my route , I'm afraid I forget the exact location , between Cervieres and Arvieux if I recollect I came across this giant of a man!

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Stoppages were now becoming far and few between in an attempt to clear good ground for my date with Paris and the passport issuing Consulate. I made my way through Briancon without calling in to the town but just a couple of quick snaps on the way out of Briancon.

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Ideally I wanted to reach Susa , or close to , for my next campsite. Not because I knew anything about Susa but because I estimated it to be at a distance that would mean I'd put in a good run for the day and rest would be a wise move by the time I got there.
From Briancon I headed toward Oulx with the intention of peeling off toward Sestriere.

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Once past Briancon en-route toward Oulx along the N94 I passed a couple on a BMW R1200GSA whilst they were queued at temporary lights in a line of traffic. I was filtering on the outside and was able to maintain my momentum as the lights changed , which now made me the lead vehicle along the open road ahead. I concluded that the German rider saw this as some kind of a challenge as he proceeded to pass all the cars and rode in hot pursuit of me.

After several twists and turns along the route I noticed he had closed the gap down. A few more turns and he was in my tracks before powering past me up the hill toward the next set of bends. I returned the compliment and filled his rear view mirrors with R1200GS for several more turns until we both realised that when reaching a fast left hander , but not THAT fast , we had both shaken our respective in flight guardian angels from our sides and they were nowhere to be seen!
The German had got his approach speed totally wrong for this left-hander and as I was the faster travelling of the two bikes at the time, so had I!

The German hauled on his brakes, I did the same , though my closing speed was perhaps 5mph more than his as we hit the bend. By now my heart was firmly in my mouth and it didn't taste good. We both dropped our bikes as low as we dare to negotiate the bend whilst still clutching a handful of front brake. I felt my bike want to tip in low , unsettlingly low , mainly due to the imbalance caused by the offset panniers whereby the left side requires more clearance for the exhaust, thus creating an unequal CofG between left and right sides of the GS.

I felt certain that for a brief moment that my front tyre had let go and then regained its grip just as quickly. We cleared the bend and both rode more sedately for the next few kilometres as if to allow our respective guardian angels to make up the lost ground until they were flying alongside their respective idiots once again!

The GSA rider continued on at the junction with Sestriere toward Oulx but I chose to take the turning for Sestriere as I was in much need of that old British favourite , a cup of tea , but more importantly some winding down time, I think all three of us just had a narrow escape! I pulled into a car park directly opposite an Hotel and sat on the raised terrace for a couple of cups of the finest whilst wondering how much heavier the clouds may become before I had a chance to pitch up.

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After my delightful tea I took a short walkabout and walked over to the lovely little church. This is ski resort area, with many overhead cables for the piste climbing ski lifts. If you're not skiing here then as with most of these smaller ski towns they become a drive-thru with little more to offer than a refreshment and perhaps souvenirs.

Some kilometres later I see the sign for Col de Basset and wondered how much time do I have to take a diversion. The clouds were building and the wind was picking up, so much so that I felt rain was innevitable before dusk.

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I decide to take the track which leads to Col delle Assietta and Col delle Finestre.
If memory serves me the total distance for this track is some 30kms, though I wasn't certain whether or not there would be passage through to Susa or if it were a dead end due to unsuitability for vehicles.

A little further up were more signs and a few other riders , as well as a couple of 4x4 drivers.

The wind was still picking up, the clouds getting heavier and so I decided to turn back. The circumstances were nowhere near as calm and clear as my experience at Col du Parpaillon and so the risk factor outwheighed the comfort zone , considerably.

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I made my way back to the road and continued toward Turin , a place I really didn't want to be. I shouldn't have ridden so far past Sestriere really as this was to become a nightmare for the Sat-Nav as well as sign reading once I reached the spaghetti like road network around the city of Turin.

I eventually found a direction that would see me leave the Autostrada , after refuelling, and get back onto the smaller roads. I picked up the SS25 east toward Dora and as I rode a river crossing bridge in Dora I noticed to my left an area that looked promising for pitching up for the night.

I turned down the lane that lead to a large area of common ground which sat next to the river that divided it from the other side. A small number of people were playing in the river and just the one other vehicle was parked upon this land. I gave a wide birth , 50 metres or so maybe, and rode on past to the other end of this section of land. I dismounted and walked a little further along to where another section of the land forked off to the right but was blocked by deliberately placed boulders. I would suspect the boulders were there to prevent 4x4 vehicles from going any further, though there was enough room for a motorcycle to take this path.
I remounted and negotiated the boulders in search of a good pitch. After some time spent looking for the ideal piece of ground I eventually found what appeared to be the best of what was available. The ground was very hard which meant there was a struggle to sink the guy rope pegs. Other than that, and continually wondering whether many passers by would walk this area or not , it was close to perfect. I needed to find a pitch that gave me quick and easy access to the river so as to not leave camp unattended for too long.
By the time I had made myself comfortable, had a brew and swatted endless amounts of flying biters I took a walk to the riverside with my wash gear.

I really could not have hoped for better than this. The river was mine! There wasn't another soul to be either seen or heard. The short walk to the river took me through some roughage, over a slight bank and onto a firm river side surface. It wasn't sand as we know it, it wasn't mud either, I just can't really put a label to it but it was perfect. I felt like i was on a deserted island somewhere near I don't know where. The river had was very low, exposing much of the bed in places and snaked in an 'S' shape in the area I had located. Two dead branches were angled about 30 -40 degrees perhaps from beneath the surface which only helped the imagination run wild giving the impression of being in the Amazon , or similar.
I made my way back to the road and continued toward Turin , a place I really didn't want to be. I shouldn't have ridden so far past Sestriere really as this was to become a nightmare for the Sat-Nav as well as sign reading once I reached the spaghetti like road network around the city of Turin.

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It was so secluded here I was actually able to strip off fully and walk into the water for a much needed bathing. I probed the water with a leading left foot to test the firmness of the bed and the depth. The water felt very cold and reached my knees by the time I had waded out to the leaning branches. I threw some water to my face which raised immediate goosebumps coupled with a sharp intake of breath. In fact every time water came into contact with my upper body a repeat reaction would occur, goosebumps, sharp intake, it was bloody fantastic! I crouched lower in the river until I was on my knees but as soon as the water reached my under carriage I felt myself slow right down...blimey it was cold!
The overall cooling down effect from the water after such a hot day was nothing short of ecstatic.

Being this close to nature one realises just how infested woodland areas are with all sorts of creatures , but still the most irritating to me were flies. I can handle the bites that take place every so often , the ants, spiders etc ...but flies, dear oh dear , the air turns blue when I'm amongst those bloody things. Immediately there was food on the go they would home in.The thing that got me was that even after my skinny dip and applying deoderant spray they still kept hounding me. I must have smelt like Julian Clary in a Lush shop for heaven sake ...leave me alone!

Since the loss of my charging equipment on day 2, and the now exhausted battery of my Panasonic Lumix camera , I now had just the GoPro and iPhone for stills. The GoPro is not ideal for stills due to not having a view finder and so was very much point and hope for the best. iPhone would have to do.

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This evenings meal would be either beans , again , sardines, again, or the second and last of my Big Soups, this time Steak and Potato...no contest.

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The evening drew to a close as I exchanged late texts with Jo for details of the British consulate, address and hours of business for my Paris visit on the Friday, the day after next.
The temperature was much cooler tonight , helped by the rain no doubt , though this didn't prevent me getting to sleep quite quickly. I felt reassured by the rain falling all evening because it indicated to me that walkers are less likely to be using any of the many previously trodden tracks through this area during my overnight stay.

The cheap little head torch I had borrowed from Jo (without her knowing) was proving to be a great aid when planning routes in the dark and doing whatever else I had to do once inside the tent at night.

I noticed that on several occasions when pitching I had started to talk to myself out aloud. It was almost as if I needed to hear my instructions for actions I would carry out whilst carrying them out! I'm no Robinson Crusoe but I can see how a solitary way of living could eventually take its toll. That said, I had thoroughly enjoyed my adventure and experiences to date.
 
I'm enjoying this:thumb As someone that enjoys my own company, this sounds really appealing:beerjug:
 
I know how you felt when you lost your items bin down that road myself hope it has a happy ending great report,inspireing.
 
Day 7


At 06:09 I am dressed and take a seat upon the now removed camera case-cum-top box whilst a morning brew is seen to. The rain had stopped, though looking overcast and ready to break into rain again at any moment.
The bike is looking quite well travelled with the dirt covering from previous off road tracks and the covering of mud from my arrival at the campsite the previous day.
A fresh invasion of gnats were in the air - no doubt waiting and planning their ambushed assault on me the moment I left the tent.
I could hear the traffic behind me on the Autostrada , some 100 metres from me on the raised roadway that passed over the common land. Other than this the air was filled with the sound of early birds and grasshoppers.

I find it very difficult to start a new day without a tea at home. Here it didn't have to be tea , as long as it was hot. I had brought Coffemate with me for the adventure because carrying milk in this heat would have killed it off very quickly - just like it did with the cheapskate margerine I bought in Vars. It didn't see out the day yesterday before it had leaked from its container and poured like any thin liquid does when it was tipped up. It looked positively vile , and probably was!

I packed up camp , turned on the GoPro for some reminder footage of my departure , as I had done for my arrival too ,and set off. I had been riding for less than a minute before I had my second off of the whole adventure.
The dirt track I arrived along had a small mud patch, perhaps a bit longer than the wheelbase of the GS, which had a water covering on one side and thin mud the other. On arrival I rode the water side of this patch , upon departure I made the mistake of riding the mud side. The mud didn't look particularly problematic upon approach but as soon as it filled the tread of the front Annakee hoop, one full revolution was all that was required before traction had vanished completely.
There was a choice discrepancy of perhaps 12"-18" between taking the puddled route or the mud , but as I say, I got it wrong this time.
Me and the GS were down for the second time , both occasions at very slow pace, only this time there would be consequences.

The GS was resting at an angle and supported mainly by the left hard case, which my foot was beneath! I managed to free my foot and in an instant the pain made its presence felt. Damn this hurts and it hurts a lot! The air would turn blue, very blue in fact. I took three breaths and started to lift the GS ..." up ,up, come on up ya fuckin' bitch"!
As the day wore on the pain would intensify, and the limp more pronounced.

(Apologies that the video/audio sync got lost in translation , some 30 odd seconds between them! Technology eh?)

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I remounted and headed toward Susa to pick up the D1006 toward Lac du Mont Cenis. At Mont Cenis I pulled in to a restaurant parking area overlooking the artificial lake - Lac du Mont Cenis. The temperature had dropped to 9.5 degrees from a dizzy 40 degrees in Italy only the day before. I changed to a heavier pair of gloves and put on another top layer to help maintain a core temperature. Being a sufferer from Raynauds Disease I could already feel the fingers starting to go white and so the heated grips went on for back up.

From here I would pick up the D115 to Val Cenis and take time out for a break. By now my foot was giving me so much grief. Mounts and dismounts were painfully slow and almost unmanageable. I had to choose my ground very carefully to consider the sidestand in so much as any negative camber whatsoever was out of the question. Since the fall at camp every attempt to right the bike after mounting it was a painful struggle. My foot simply couldn't handle the loading required to lift the bike upright.

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I spent about half an hour at Val Cenis for no other reason than a rest and to give my foot a break from the cumbersome slow and painful upshifts of the gearbox.

For occasional relief I would use my heel to upshift, though this too was awkward. However, it was the lesser of the two evils. Downshifts were no problem, my foot could manage downward movements, it just didn't want to be lifted or have left/right directional changes.

Once again I was reminded of the items I lost on day 2 , in this instance my pain killers.

I remounted again and headed on toward the D902 to Col De L'iseran , one of the most photographed places in the Alps for travellers. To be specific, a photograph at the top of the climb and where the directional sign stands.

As I started the gradual climb from Val Cenis a very nice old Moto Guzzi California appeared in my mirrors as we both crawled our way up at little more than 40mph. Eventually , and as the road levelled I waved him passed and reflected back on the days when I too was riding a Moto Guzzi. Splendid bikes they are indeed, so full of character.

The climb to Col De L'iseran was beautifully rugged, almost like being on a different planet. I have never seen such rugged landscape throughout my Alpine travels over the last 3 years.
Sadly, since my early morning fall, taking photographs had become a very time consuming and painful process whilst on the road. I decided I'd just about had enough of stopping unless absolutely necessary, therefore the camera work would dry up almost completely.

I reached the top of Col De L'iseran and left the bike exactly where I'd stopped - on the road , which would require the least amount of effort to lift the bike again after remounting. The wind was howling up here , so much so that I paused before dismounting concerned that the GS would be blown over! The bike was close to upright where I had parked , not ideal by any stretch of the imagination.

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I continued on to Val D'Isere where I managed to locate the local pharmacy as I was in desperate need for some painkillers.

My stride had completely deserted me , even my limp had given up! I was now dragging my left leg around much in the same way as Jack Nicholson did in The Shining.
I noticed a Medic Centre close to where I was parked but gave this a miss on the understanding that a consultation would cost , and I barely had enough funds left to get home.

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I rested here for about an hour, still not knowing whether my foot was broken or not , not that the knowledge would have made any difference.
Gear changes were still getting increasingly difficult and so sight seeing was no longer an interest or necessity either. The fun had gone.

It was time to head for Paris.

My route would now take me toward Chambery, not Switzerland. Downshifts were still fine , the upshifts were still by 'heeling up' with the back of the foot and still a slow painful procedure. I held gears for as long as possible whilst being as kind as possible to the motor but this was no way to enjoy motorcycling.

The Sat-Nav had been programmed to avoid toll routes for the simple reason I could not afford the tolls anymore. This worked against me in some respect as it would have been far more comfortable to have got into top gear and forget about further gear changes for many many miles.

I was heading toward Lyon along a route that would see me driving into Pont D'Ain again , the town on day 2 where I had most of my nightmares come all at once after realising I had lost the most valuable of my valuables.

Could I...?
Should I...?
I had a plan!

I called in at the Hotel , parked in the Hotel garage and dragged my leg along behind me to the reception.

"Hello Laurant"!
"Hello..."!


We exchanged some pleasantries before I fired my best shot! I asked Mr Pouchain if he was still prepared to offer me a room on the provision that I pay him when I get back to England.

"Yes yes , of course, that is no problem".
"Also , would it be possible that you could perhaps put an extra 50 Euros onto my bill and lend me that value in cash"?


Again ..."Yes of course, that is not a problem". Mr Pouchain had now been awarded my prestige Gold Star.

I suggested that as soon as I get back I would forward the costs onto him as soon as the new bank card I would apply for was sent to me. He wasn't so keen on this method but preferred to be sent cash. "Not a problem" I said ...say no more!
Brilliant , I now had a bed for the night, a shower, and a chance to give my foot a well needed rest , not to mention breakfast in the morning.

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To wild camp, or any other camp would have been close to unimaginable as well as unmanageable under the crippling circumstances and so I checked in, the same room, removed whatever I needed from the bike and got changed into cooler clothing for the evening after my shower.

The Sun was back to full strength again as I sat in my familiar seat out front of the Hotel with a cool bottle of beer , or two, and continued blogging notes.

I was still some 300 Euros down with nothing to show for it and had just 100 Euros left from the 355 that Jo had wired me. It was going to be very tight to get back to Dorset on this amount , and the ferry had yet to be booked.
 
c,mon man type faster damn it.:augie the suspense is killing me(and im at work bored):D
 
Excellent, honest reporting of the travails of solo travel... :thumb2 :clap

So much more interesting than the 'We arrived at another 4 star Hotel and sat in the Bar all night' type of bollox...
 
Excellent, honest reporting of the travails of solo travel... :thumb2 :clap

So much more interesting than the 'We arrived at another 4 star Hotel and sat in the Bar all night' type of bollox...

Absolutely. Musings, travails and challenges are always more interesting than a route description.

Well done JayC :clap You come across as the sort of bloke anyone would be happy to have a beer with :beerjug:

I did much of your route last year and one bit I have photos for but couldn't remember the location of you have now filled in the blank :thumb

It isn't to everyone's taste but I have always loved travelling alone. No-one else to piss off or cater for and people will just come up and talk to you or help you (top bloke Laurant) which they wouldn''t do if you weren't travelling alone.
 
It isn't to everyone's taste but I have always loved travelling alone. No-one else to piss off or cater for and people will just come up and talk to you or help you which they wouldn''t do if you weren't travelling alone.

Totally agree with all of that :thumb2

Alone you have the choice of solitude, or to turn outwards to the people around you.

And surely one of the best things about being in another country is getting to know what life, and people, are really like there.

I've met some great people on my solo travels, and had experiences that I'll always remember...
 
I think we should all chip in and send some money so that he can stay out there and finish the trip properly.:beerjug:
 
c,mon man type faster damn it.:augie the suspense is killing me(and im at work bored):D

Nothing wrong with the typing speed , it's the shortage of available time I'm afraid.
I am also typing it out on my free blog for proof reading first before posting it on here. I have made some errors on the postings here and cannot edit them after the 1 hour window has expired and so need to get it right before posting.
The images can be transfered straight from the lappy to the blog whereas for posting here I need to go through all the images again, in the correct order and then put them into photobucket before linking. It all takes considerable time but I'm getting there. :thumb2

Excellent, honest reporting of the travails of solo travel... :thumb2 :clap

So much more interesting than the 'We arrived at another 4 star Hotel and sat in the Bar all night' type of bollox...

Honest indeed, because lying requires too good a memory! :beerjug:

Absolutely. Musings, travails and challenges are always more interesting than a route description.

Well done JayC :clap You come across as the sort of bloke anyone would be happy to have a beer with :beerjug:

I did much of your route last year and one bit I have photos for but couldn't remember the location of you have now filled in the blank :thumb

It isn't to everyone's taste but I have always loved travelling alone. No-one else to piss off or cater for and people will just come up and talk to you or help you (top bloke Laurant) which they wouldn''t do if you weren't travelling alone.

Cheers Dave :beerjug: Glad to have been able to fill in the blank for you.
Nail on the read regarding solo travel. :thumb2

I think we should all chip in and send some money so that he can stay out there and finish the trip properly.:beerjug:

You sound like a nice man , a very very nice man... :thumb :beerjug:

Bollox to that... he'll work it out & it'll be all the better for it :thumb2

Whereas you don't! :augie ;)

Good honest reporting Jay - keep it coming. Harry

Cheers Harry , on it's way this evening. :beerjug:
 
Agreed. Really great stuff. I'm really enjoying this. Thanx for taking the time to put it on.
Likewise I'm quite happy to travel alone. Maybe all of us loners should not arrange a trip together, not have a meeting to discuss the finer details before not meeting up at a pre-detrmined starting point & not heading off together for the adventure of a lifetime.
If it helps I'm happy to not get the ball rolling.
 
Agreed. Really great stuff. I'm really enjoying this. Thanx for taking the time to put it on.
Likewise I'm quite happy to travel alone. Maybe all of us loners should not arrange a trip together, not have a meeting to discuss the finer details before not meeting up at a pre-detrmined starting point & not heading off together for the adventure of a lifetime.
If it helps I'm happy to not get the ball rolling.

Timaloy, the last time I wasn't invited to an event that wouldn't take place Iin Land Rovers) nothing came of it. I haven't bothered with not doing one, or anything similar since. :beerjug:
 
Day 8


Thursday morning.

Shortly after waking and scrubbing up I made my way down for breakfast, sat upon a proper chair and at a proper table - so this is what Hotels are about then - it felt good!
When I'd finished I sat out front to contemplate the day ahead, distance to travel, objectives etc.

I counted my money again , 60,70,80...I had 100 Euros , PLUS the 50 that Laurant had kindly lent me up front. £25.00 of that would be for Dover to home, which would probably leave me about 115 Euros to get to Calais. Calais via Paris worked out at approx 147 miles , Pont D'Ain to Paris would add a further, and near as damn it, 290 miles. 437 miles divided by 45mpg gave me a 10 gallon approximation. I estimated £60 for this mileage , which told me it would actually be more in Euros that I needed to deduct. I gave up calculating but figured I had little to spend on top, perhaps a roadside coffee or similar, but now I had to check out and move on. I had to return good miles today so I could arrive in Paris tomorrow morning, early. I had no idea how long it would take to sort the passport or what difficulties it may entail so getting there late in the day was out of the question. If I missed Paris on the Friday then I would have been stuck until Monday when the British Consulate reopened- I didn't have the funds to be stuck.

I said my goodbyes to Laurant and thanked him for his extreme kindness as I checked out and hobbled to the garage to load the GS up once again. Before reaching Pont D'Ain, and before deciding that I would divert away from Switzerland I had pulled over to a very large layby alongside a wooded area. I needed the rest, some water and I was hopeful at finding something suitable lying about that I could utilise as a walking stick! I found a dead branch, about 2 metres in length and placed one end between a fork in a tree to where I wanted to create the 'snap'. It didn't snap where I had hoped and so saved my energy, rather than to keep trying with one duff leg preventing me from putting my full weight behind the levering action. What I ended up with was a stick about 70cms in length, which I threaded through the tent retaining straps to assist my walking for as long as was necessary when off the bike.

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I wondered how the day would pan out as I mounted the GS and left Pont D'Ain , destination Paris.
I slept well through the night and the gearchanges felt a little easier today , but as before , it wouldn't last.

I set off along the D1075 taking in Bourge-en-Bresse , the D1079 to Macon and then the N79 through Moulins before picking up the N7 North. I filled the tank somewhere along the N79 after Macon. Generally the route was fast but I had to calculate mentally the speed I would travel at as it was no point winding the throttle on to make good time if it was going to burn the fuel too quickly. I would have occasional bursts of perhaps 80 - 90mph before settling back to 60-70mph.

The miles rolled by, the clock did too , some roads were slow with traffic and some were fast and open. I felt the need to check my location and pulled in to a restaurant out of town at Chantenay-St-Imbert. A very nice restaurant, family owned , and a very helpful lady (probably the owner) who was happy to assist me with the map, take a photo and of course, bring me coffees.

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After two coffees I remounted, some time gone midday, and continued my route along the N7 toward and beyond Nevers along the A77. Whilst riding the N7 between my last stop and Magny Cours I hit some two-laned traffic in a built up area. I noticed a white Mercedes Sprinter on my outside, seemingly in a hurry as he came past me and then suddenly cut into my lane just metres across my path. I hand gestured the driver in a kind of the 'what the fuck was that about' manner! I also noticed the GB plate just before checking my mirror and seeing a Gendarme BMW 3 Series , blues and two's on the go and about to pull in the 'white van man'. At the least he would be done for speeding, at worst for reckless driving when he swerved across my path.

I was back out of town clocking the miles again whilst keeping an eye out for a fuel stop. Some miles later the on board computer low fuel warning lamp lit up whilst indicating a range of just 46 miles left. The 'range' display would keep falling as I continually looked out for fuel, but nothing , no fuel stations were seen for many miles.
In France, and on the wrong route one can go many many miles without seeing a fuel station and I was on such a route!

I kept an eye on all the small town/village names, their distance and direction to see which would fall within my route north and not having to travel to far in a different direction - still nothing.
Range '26 miles' ... '14' miles'... At last I found a supermarket station ... alas , card payments only , I had lost my cards on day 2! Apparently at lunchtime even the fuel attendants in France leave their position at the supermarkets and switch the switch to card payments only.
Fuel range '9 miles' , I find another supermarket , it too accepts cards only.

I have now dropped my speed to between 35 and 45mph as I longed for a fuel station to take my cash that I was only too willing to spend.

I arrive at a Pizzeria , which struck me as being predominantly for truckers , with occasional cars here and there, and situated right on the apex of a large roundaboubt. I have to pull in , there is no alternative , the range now read '3 miles'. I pull up next to the brick built barbecue to try to get some knowledge of the nearest fuel stop.

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Throughout my travels in France I had noticed that the further you are from the big towns, tourist areas etc, the less likely the locals are going to speak English. This of course may not be the case but it certainly was in my experience.
I approached a young lad , perhaps early to mid 20's in age but we would have dialect problems. He led me into the Pizzeria but still the language barrier was there with other people.
Few words, but fortunately for me , important words, like fuel/petrol/gas/benzine got the desired reaction. There was minimal understanding between us both but progress was being made nonetheless. He understood I was riding toward Paris when I showed him my map book, and understood when I pointed at my fuel tank, signalling low fuel etc etc.
I held a hand to my chest whilst extending my other hand away from me in an attempt to suggest distance , coupled with an understanding of my low fuel and a garage requirement which resulted in the answer "35kms..."

I slapped my head and grimaced! "But I only have 3 miles left in the bike"!
The young lad seemed to understand me as his face dropped to share my predicament.

I asked him to locate me on the map and he pointed to the roundabout junction just beyond la Bussiere, Junction 19 , where the A77 links with the D940 to Gien.

Gien, a town name I remember seeing on one of the small signs some miles back but was now in the opposite direction of travel. I pointed to Gien on my map and asked if there would be fuel there and if cash would be taken.
The young lad said "Oui , 15kms to Gien , cash, buy in town" . Words to that effect at least ,and I understood what he was telling me.

I told him I cannot reach Gien , my tank is registering as near as damn it 'empty', and was there any way he could possibly access and provide me with any fuel at all , even enough to fill my pannier mounted 1 litre bottles , or are they 800ml bottles? I can't remember, it wasn't important, fuel was!

The young lad was doing all he could to assist me and went back in to the Pizzeria before returning to say "I can give you small petrol".
I asked... "2 litres , both of my bottles"?
"Non, just one litre" the reply.
"Merci ...thank you..." Right now I was a beggar, and I wasn't choosy!
I asked "How much"?
He gestured as to say "nothing..."

He cut the top off a plastic bottle to use as a funnel and then poured some fuel into one of my water bottles. For the first time on my whole adventure I not only threw water away but was happy to do so! I borrowed the emergency funnel and placed it in the GS tank and poured my litre , or 800 millilitres of 'free gold dust juice' into the tank. Not one single drop missed the tank!

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Immediately after pouring the fuel in to the GS a car driving customer approached me and offered me a 5 litre plastic can in the event of me potentially having to take some exercise! I accepted and the bottle was secured beneath the cargo net.

I couldn't thank the young lad enough, he had done himself proud whilst digging me out of what was close to becoming a very deep hole!

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I was back on the road and heading away from Paris but towards my saviour, Gien. I kept the revs low and short-shifted as I counted the kms down whilst keeping a constant eye on the 'range' information. When I left the Pizzeria the range displayed '3 miles'. In very short distance it became '2'. With 6 miles left to Gien the reading was now '- - -'! The computer told me the tank was drier than a dry thing.

I approached a roundabout and deliberately dropped my speed to allow an articulated truck to take the lead and I hoped it would take me right into Gien. I tucked into his slipstream in attempt to reduce as much drag as possible but not so close I couldn't emergency stop if required..

I had finally arrived at Gien, the outskirts at least, and spotted a filling station. When I pulled onto the forecourt my jaw hit the floor as I noticed it was card payment only.
Perhaps the young lad meant go right into town?

I looked to my right and noticed a guy in a Citroen Picasso was looking at me and the bike. He nodded at me and I returned the gesture. I dismounted, approached him and asked "do you speak any English please"? He replied , "Yes, a little."
I explained my predicament and that I had lost my bank cards etc to which he then said "I can help!"
He signalled me to pull next to his car and then asked how much I would like him to put in. He put in 20 Euros before getting fuel for himself and putting it all on his card. I would then hand him the 20 Euros in cash.
Whilst putting the fuel in we had a chat about the GS and he went on to say that he currently owns an R1200R. The chances of stumbling across another motorcycle rider, albeit in his car and at a time like this must have been fairly remote I would have thought. Fantastic...I was on the road again!

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It would be 15:30 before I got back to the junction of the Pizzeria to pick my route up again. I sounded the horn several times as a thank you and farewell, though I have no idea whether I caught the young lads attention or not.
I had no idea what to expect from the GS in the low fuel zone but I was well aware that seeing a range of ' - - - ' was not a good thing to have displayed, let alone to continue for another 6 miles beyond it!

I continued on toward and through Nemours where I picked up the D607 through Foret Domaniale De Fontainebleau. This is a very dense forest that lined both sides of the D607 and looked as good an opportunity as any to start looking for a place to bed down, besides, it looked very much like it was going to rain hard. I had broken the back of the mileage today and was knocking on the door of Paris. I pulled into a wide and long layby on the opposite side of the road after noticing a small clearing on my original side of the road.
In the clearing was parked a Renault Clio , silver in colour with a single occupant at the wheel. On the side of the road I was now on were two articulated trucks. I concluded that this was a regular stop area for many motorists, whilst I crossed the road to check out the clearing. It was gravel track that had a wooden barrier about 20 metres in and preventing unauthorised vehicular access from proceeding any further. In truth, it felt a little to open for pitching the tent and so I took myself back over to the where the GS was parked and removed my map from the pannier to get a bearing on precisely where I was and how much further I had to go.
After 15 minutes of map reading and a couple of smokes the Clio and the woman occupant were still there. I waited , and waited ,and waited some more, but she showed no inclination to get back on the road. It had started to rain so I took my map with me through a narrow opening between the forest roughage and a similar barrier, which presumably was also to prevent motorised access, and then stood against a tree for some temporary shelter.

At least a half hour, maybe more, had passed since my arrival here and still 'Clio Woman' sat behind the wheel, smoking her cigarette whilst doing little else. She wasn't going to move, I felt it in my bones. I had no idea how long she'd be here for but she sure as hell wasn't going anywhere.

Whilst I waited some more, moved to different areas in the forest whilst having a continual view of the road, I started analysing the area I was in. I'd decided I would definitely be pitching here tonight.
I noticed a slug on the floor near my helmet! No ordinary slug this one, it was huge and so I decided that having little else to do right now I would take a photo of said slug with a measuring guide alongside it, and for no other reason really other than because it was there, I was there and that I could, so I did!

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Tick tock ...tick tock... tick tock...

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It had gone 17:30hrs and I was becoming impatient with Clio Woman!

A black BMW 3 Series pulled up in front of the GS and then promptly drove to the other side of the road and behind, but to the right of the Clio - I watched.

Now all was becoming clear, very clear in fact!
Clio Woman was alive and moving , not the car though, just the drivers door. Out stepped the woman, her shoulders held high, almost macho like, and I put the probable cause of this down to her short black skirt chaffing her armpits, and started walking to the black Beemer. The passenger door opened , she got in and 10 minutes later she was back in the Clio.

A short while after an Alfa Romeo pulled up , did the turn, parked, she stepped out and entered the Alfa. 10 minutes would pass and the Alfa drove away, leaving Clio Woman to sit and wait once again behind the wheel. This was going to go on all night, I could feel it. Not being privvy to her clientele database I could only assume she was earning far more in an evening than I do all week in my homeland.

It had started to rain quite heavily by now and so with the words "sod this" leaving my lips, I boarded the GS and rode the gap between the bracken, nettles or whatever it was, and the barrier to enter the forest. I cared no longer about being seen to do this and I cared even less about the life and times of Clio Woman. I dare say she had as much interest in my activities as I did hers by now, even though I knew more about hers!

I pitched up beneath a canopy of trees after clearing a circular path around my camp from sticks, branches and anything else that I considered a potential hazard for my 360 turn-around in the morning. I simply could not afford another fall with my foot in the state it was. The tent was pitched before dark but I was concerned about the visibility of both the Khyam and the GS , both indiscreet in their blue livery!

I walked back to near the road to see what could be seen of my camp and noticed that the Khyam was pretty much obscured by the trees and general roughage , the GS wasn't. Because the walkway continued deep into the forest I was also concerned about all reflective properties on the GS , reg plate, mirrors etc, just in case a stray torchlight from any walkers/cyclists passing through this way should pick up any detail of the bikes presence. I now have to think dirty!

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I had a plan , and set about collecting bracken...

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Whilst the camouflage look had a certain laughability about it that would soon change as darkness fell. It was perfect! I was reassured by the fact that it started to rain even more heavily thus decreasing the likelihood of passers by being in the forest.

I felt i had managed the GS quite well today considring how painful my foot was just the day before. For the most part the upshifts were ok , generally due to the good D roads in France that permit continual movement and few gear changes. The last 30kms or so were perhaps the worst and so the time to stop was about right.

There was little in the way of incident today except the white van man occasion and my first encounter with, as coincidental as things are, another silver Renault Clio, driven by another woman , though I dare say from a totally different line of work! She decided to overtake me from her immediately behind position to right in front of me and just before the continuous white centre line had prevented further overtaking. Why did she do this? She had nowhere to go and forced me to brake! I pulled out to pass her and looked into her window whilst waving my arm in a similar way to that of the white van man incident and with a similar meaning. She said something back in her native tongue but alas , that damn language barrier again.

Tonights supper would be a tin of beans followed by half a container of Cheese and Chives Pringles and a coffee. It was 21:35hrs , still raining heavily and I had no reason whatsoever to set foot outside the tent before morning.

I was hoping to be home for Saturday so it felt good to have got so much mileage behind me this day. I would only be bringing two gifts home to Jo from this adventure , the 'au naturale' heart shaped stone found at the Jausier campsite and a gift tin of Green Tea that I bought in Val D'Isere.

Tonight I would sleep fully dressed - it was much more like the UK climate here and temperatures had dropped in the forest.
 


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