A Long Ride

Anybody else accidentally ridden more miles than they planned too?

I decided to head home from Nicks house in Slovenia early on a Sunday morning in July, mainly because they don’t run trucks in Germany on the Sabbath. I planned to stay halfway in an Hotel or camp as I felt like at the time. It was bright but cool as I made my way down the mountainside into Smartno and then riding through the town of Kamnik, I soon wished I had put that fleece on under my bike jacket. It was six o clock when I left, traffic was light. The only way to progress on long rides is to keep riding, not stopping, so I opted to man up against the cold and wait until I needed fuel. The Slovenian border with Austria soon came into view and I took the opportunity to fill the Tenere up with fuel in with cheaper(than Austria) fuel. These bikes will do more than 300 miles between fillups with a small modification to the tank breather and that was my next stop if all goes well. It had warmed up by now so no need for the fleece. I didn’t have a vignette (road tax) which you should have in Slovenia for motorways, as it had run out while I was in the Balkans. I joined the queue over the border, that didn’t look like it had anybody checking the road tax.

I paid the toll for the Karawanken tunnel and plunged into it. I don’t like tunnels much so I stick to the speed limit and try and stay in the middle of the lane. Soon we are on the Austrian motorway, again I should really have road tax but I’m only passing through, so being a Yorkshireman I ignore the signs and ride on.

I became aware of a car keeping pace with me for a few miles. It was the Police. Thinking I was going to get pulled I eased off the throttle a bit and plod cruised on by without even a glance!

I stop for fuel near the German border, I forget where, but must have still been Austria as it was expensive. Forced down a motorway sandwich and chatted to a German biker who was returning home after a trip to Italy, I think. I should point out at this stage that I am wearing a camel back, so can constantly drink water. It is very important to keep hydrated while riding and this is the best way to do it.

Germany was supposed to be easy. There had been an explosion at a concert somewhere near my route. The normally fast and I mean frightenly fast traffic, when your on a little single cylinder 660 that will push a ton if your lucky traffic, was grinding along slowly, if at all. I threaded my way between the lanes of often stationary cars for 20 miles until I came to the road block. The three lanes were diverted into two lanes and EVERY car was being checked. They police waved me through, with a pained look of despair, but I was on my way.

Every man and his dog goes out in their car on a Summers day in Germany or so it would seem. By the time I got to Mannheim I had had quite enough of Germany and its traffic. Generally I use a route further North but had noted a lot of roadworks on my way east three weeks earlier, so had decided try a different route home.

I turned South and headed for France, Metz to be exact. I knew there was a main road running all the way to the coast in the North of France. What a revelation, no traffic. By this time it is middle to late afternoon but the sun is shining and the bike is humming away nicely under me. France has great rest stops on motorways, ‘Aires de Service’ or ‘Aire de repos’ not all with fuel but all have toilets and picnic areas. I stop at one to use the toilet and grab a sandwich. I have a constant dialogue going on in my head on these long rides. It is a great time to think. This one is going something like. ‘When are you going to stop and get a hotel or camp, its getting on you know and you’ve been riding for nearly 12 hours’ ‘Ill tell you what Ill burn off the next tank of fuel and then find somewhere’ So off we go again. Next fuel stop sees me within 150 miles of the Euro-tunnel. ‘I wonder if I could make that? Its still warm and I don’t feel too fatigued’ The Tenere is a comfortable bike and easy to ride. So I booked the Euro-tunnel on my phone. I arrive at Euro-tunnel after a 900 mile or so ride and was facing a two plus hours wait. I grabbed a coffee and a bun and got my head down in the terminal.

I awoke with a start with headlights shining in through the windows and the noise of vehicles moving. It was time to board. I love the convenience of the Euro-tunnel even though the ride is no t as smooth as it was 25 years ago. I was soon thrust out into the cold and damp air of England. ‘Should I find an hotel or ride home?’ It was drizzling but what the heck its only 300 miles ish. I had enough fuel to get to Peterborough services. Now I should mention at this point that I only had a scooter helmet that I had bought in Bosnia, after I had my HJC was stolen at the Mostar bridge. I had broken the visor on this, so the rain was painfully pricking my face as I rode along, this hadn’t been an issue for the last 4000 miles or so. Never mind home was within grasping distance. I made Peterborough as the sun came up and it stopped raining. One last tank of juice and a coffee and I was soon rolling down my drive in York to a very warm welcome. 1205 miles in 25 hours.

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