We were only a few weeks from setting off and none of us had any idea on where to go. Work matters for Ian and Guzzisue had taken priority over everything. Then at a bike rally down in Essex a chance meeting with a friend, Andrew, accompanied by his fiancée, Elaine, mentioned that they were going to be in a ski apartment during the weekend that we were crossing the Channel. Would we care to join them for the first weekend? Well we didn’t need to be asked again!
With the address details forwarded to us in good time we depart Nottingham on a Friday night for Dover. Arriving at the hotel shortly after 22:00 we had our customary bedroom picnic whilst watching television.
Saturday dawns and Ian and myself take the luggage down to the Guzzi. Keeping our steed company was a smart BMW RT that belonged to the night porter. It turned out that the porter is a member of Dover 69 Motorcycle Club and we have mutual friends from near Gloucester. Small world indeed!
Having proceeded to the ferry terminal without problems, we boarded with three Harleys. Guzzisue took pity on the P&O men that were strapping down the machines as the owners were most concerned about their paintwork. During the crossing we discovered that two of the Harleys were bound for the European Bike Week, a large convention that can have around 50,000 people, as we discovered last year riding back through Austria after visiting the Czech Republic.
With the Guzzi’s wheels once again turning on foreign roads we took our usual route away from Calais, first heading through Reims and then onto Troyes. Having passed Troyes we passed a convoy of ‘movie makers’’ vehicles including dressing rooms, costume wagon and the inevitable portaloo. Many months later we discovered this was part of the ‘on location’ bandwagon for the new Merlin series being produced by the BBC. Riding onwards, we passed Langres, although this time there were no patchwork quilts to be seen. Besancon came and went, followed by the Swiss border. The obligatory stop for the purchase of road tax was made interesting as there was a car being stripped by the border guards.
We were permitted to enter Switzerland without any delay and headed for Lausanne and the motorway around Lake Geneva. Travelling east we stopped at the same service station as our previous visit. Fuel in the Guzzi and a much needed chocolate fix for the three of us, having travelled over 400 miles, disaster strikes. Complete electrical failure. When confronted with a problem the usual British answer is a cup of tea, however, Guzzisue went and got more cups of hot chocolate! Having removed the seat, Ian checked all the fuses and relays before finding the problem – a loose connection on the battery. If only everything was this simple.
It was starting to get dark as we entered Evian, complete with its grand hotels and casino, built on the profits of bottled water (?) It certainly looks like a place to come and have a look around in the future.
Ian is now faced with the daunting task of driving the final 15-20 miles on a road climbing into the mountains with a headlight that could be related to Lucas, Prince of Darkness. On a couple of occasions he nearly went into the mountainside as it was almost the same colour as the road! Ian’s plan was to ride slowly until a car overtook him and then follow the tail lights for as long as possible.
Eventually we reached St Jean d’Alps and remembered Andrew’s instructions, the third block after the ski lift. The sign for the ski lift was seen without a problem, however on leaving the village behind going into total darkness and going into the mountain we thought that we had passed the landmark, so back down we go. On returning to the village a quick phone call to Andre for more directions gets us going back the same way but taking a left turn onto a one way street. This time we end up at the top of the village! Third time lucky, as the saying states, back on the original route we see Andrew standing by the roadside. If only we had travelled an extra half mile the first time…
It was now 22:00 and we had travelled over 500 miles since the morning, food prepared by Elaine and wine were waiting on our arrival and conversation like the wine flowed until the early hours.