Tuesday, 31 May 2011

2007 It Had to Happen Sometime-Smoke Gets In My Eyes!

Up, breakfasted and packed. All we could do now was wait for our taxi to arrive. We spent a little time with the hotel manager, conversing as best we could. Finally it was time for our departure. Farewells exchanged, we loaded up the taxi with panniers, tank and roll bags, motorcycle clothing and leaving just enough room for ourselves.

With no idea where we were headed all we could do was admire the scenery, making a mental note to hopefully return one day. Our chauffeur pointed out several things of interest, including what the French speed cameras look like. They are now on the increase, with as much resentment for them in France as there is in Blighty.

We arrived in Aix-en-Provence, approximately 30kms north of Marseille. The taxi’s sat-nav directed us to a street with no sign of a motorcycle shop. We were all looking a little confused until Guzzisue noticed a small sign pointing down between two works units. With nothing to lose we proceed down the opening. Lo and behold, there was the bike shop, situated in a large open space.

All of our belongings were removed from the taxi and gathered into a pile whilst we found the Guzzi. She was hiding in a throng of motorcycles, along a wall by the side of the workshop entrance. A mechanic approached us and informed us that

“Everything is OK. No parts needed.”

Ian did enquire if electrics are OK, to which we had the same reply.

“Everything is OK. No parts needed.”

We looked around the vast showroom until the paperwork had been completed and the bill settled. All that was left was to bring the Guzzi to the front of the shop

and load up. We are very close to the southern coast of France on a hot Wednesday afternoon with a ferry to catch on Friday morning. All that we can do is start heading north.

We did not want to travel the same route back and so we headed for the A8 to Salon de-Provence, where we continued north on the A7. It was in this area where we had our first flight on the Guzzi. A car cut across three lanes of traffic to exit on a slip road, hitting our left pannier and Guzzisue in the process! The Guzzi was momentarily airborne, landed, shook her handlebars and carried on! We still have the impact mark on the pannier today.

Stopping the night in Valance, we were making good progress, leaving the city of Lyon until the morning when we all would be fresh, having had chance to soak away any aches and pains.

Next morning we awoke with the sun and were on our way. The timing was good and we defeated the traffic in Lyon, hitting the city after the rush hour. Onwards we travelled, stopping at a service station for fuel and food, briefly talking to a girl motorcyclist who was singing the praises of Central France and its scenery. We make a mental note to consider this for the future. It was after leaving the service area that things went rapidly downhill.

We were over 300kms from Calais when the warning light came on again. Ian had no choice but to carry on. I’m sure that “Everything is OK. No parts needed.” Was going through his head at the time. Guzzi electrics have been a standard joke for many years, so why should ours be any different. Ian was just overtaking a couple of lorries when I first smelt something very close burning. Trying to attract Ian’s attention he finally looked down, just after we had passed a slip road for a service area. Quickly pulling onto the hard shoulder he shouted to Guzzisue to get off.

To make things worse a police car pulled up right behind us. They were not helpful as they refused to get their extinguisher out in case it was needed. One of them helpfully poured some water onto the smoke! Ian’s expression says it all!

Here is the damage.

“Everything is OK. No parts needed.” As Jim Royale would say ‘MyArse’

To their credit the police did message for a recovery wagon, however they would not let us push the Guzzi up the slip road so that we could wait in the shade and get something to eat. Away they went leaving us to stew in the sun.

It was over an hour before the recovery wagon appeared, waiting at the top of the slip road from the services! Ian had to then do what the police would not let him do earlier, push the bike back up the slip road!

I was getting a sense of déjà vu here as onto the back of the wagon we go.

Not knowing where we are, we are dropped off at a Moto Guzzi dealer in an industrial area.

The unit is closed for lunch so to pass time we look next door at the Ducatis. Lunch finished and we stroll into the shop. They have very little in the shape of spares, even less for our old Guzzi. Bottom line is that they cannot help us but they do talk to the wonderful Carole Nash help desk. Eventually things are sorted and we are going to be taken, with the Guzzi to another garage.

Guzzisue books the last room available in the local Campanile Hotel, from which a taxi will pick up Ian and Guzzisue in the morning to a car hire company for them to get home.

Me? I decided to stay and keep the Guzzi company.

What did we learn from this?

Ian got so involved in trying to get an injured motorcycle home that forgot how to relax and let things take their path, also to have more faith in the people sorting out repatriation of the ailing motorcycle. Incidentally this was taken to our friends at Italia in Lincoln where a Ducati rectifier was connected and is still in place today.

Having googled Digne looking for links for the last few posts, we could have seen much more of the area just by catching the local train. A fine example of ignoring our own advice!

Guzzisue, due to the nature of her work, finds things difficult when she does not learn about things first hand. She must learn to take the chill pill sometimes.

And me? After my near death experience with the rectifier going up in smoke so close to me, I was humbled after Ian told me when we were reunited, he was asked by the Carole Nash representative:

‘Is there anything of value on the motorcycle?’

‘Yes, a bear, Biker Ted’

‘A toy teddy bear?’

‘No. Biker Ted. He’s our travelling companion!’

‘Are you serious????’


Monday, 2 May 2011

2007 It Had to Happen Sometime-Marooned

Whilst travelling back to our base in Dignes, Ian glanced down at the warning lights console and noticed that the charging light was illuminated. Still 35 miles away from our base we decided to press on. The Guzzi managed to return us to the hotel, but the warning light stayed lit. Ian was concerned about this, in fact he was that concerned that he phoned Carole Nash Insurance stating that he was certain that there was something wrong with the charging system. It was agreed that the Guzzi would be picked up the next day, Sunday, and taken to the local Moto Guzzi dealer to be checked out on Monday.

Sunday and we had to stay at the hotel after breakfast to await the recovery vehicle. Eventually the transporter arrived and Ian helped with the loading.

Watching the Guzzi disappear around the corner, realisation hit us. We were marooned in Dignes! Throughout the following days Ian received phone calls on the Guzzi’s progress. Monday, Ian was informed that the motorcycle shop that the Guzzi was being taken to was closed. Tuesday, the shop had not got any time to look at our motorcycle. Ian informed the insurance representative that we had a ferry booked for Friday morning and could they pass this information on to the repair shop. Later in the day Ian received another call informing us that the motorcycle would be ready for collection on Wednesday.

The above events meant that we had a prolonged stay in Dignes. The manageress of the hotel took pity on us and we were transferred to a larger room for the same price for a couple of nights. We were leaving, then not. Ian was becoming like a bear with a sore head! Guzzisue was getting irate because she was slightly out of the proverbial loop, having to rely on second hand information from Ian. I had the job of keeper of the peace during this period. The holiday must continue.

Monday, Guzzisue and myself decided to leave Ian alone for a few hours and went for a walk in the surrounding area. Selecting a road that gave us a view over Digne.

Without realising we had discovered Saint Benoit Park. This can best be described as a discovery park. We had already passed a Japanese styled pagoda and several water features.

Along the way we had seen an information sign giving detail of the region. Although neither of us could translate much, one name that stood out was Andy Goldsworthy. By chance we stumbled across a couple of his five cairns at the centre.

We had an enjoyable time at the park just walking round and looking at the fossil collection in the museum before heading back to find Ian.

After Ian had received the call from Carole Nash that the Guzzi would be ready for collection on Wednesday his mood lightened enormously. Guzzisue had discovered that a famous French traveller/explorer had lived in Digne for a long period of their life and that their adobe was open to the public for guided tours, she just had to go, towing Ian and myself along.

Alexandra David-Néel was a strong willed woman with a desire to travel, especially to India and Tibet. This was more extraordinary as her adventures took place from the late 1800’s to the 1940’s! Her last walking trip was concluded in early winter of her 82nd year.

During her latter years, Alexandra wrote several books on her travels and adventures. Reaching her century she had her passport renewed ready for when the urge to take off again became too strong. However this remarkable woman died just short of her 101st birthday. Her ashes were scattered on the waters of the Ganges.

Inside her house there are many artefacts from her journeys. Guzzisue was not permitted to photograph anything inside the building. If you happen to be in Digne at any time I can recommend that an afternoon be spent with a guided tour here. There are headsets available, handed out by the guide, at various places where necessary.

Please do have a look at the link on Alexandra’s name to find out more about this amazing woman.

Walking around Digne one last time, down this narrow street

upon a wall is this plaque.

Our prolonged stay in Digne was a little longer than Napoleon’s and tomorrow we will be reunited with the Guzzi. For now the future is looking brighter.