A motorcycle parked in front of a tent on a pleasant green campsite

Home Travel StoriesNormandy, France 2011 - By Ren Withnell

Normandy, France 2011 - The Ride South

I wake at 0700, buzzing and wired.  I'm not an easy traveler, I get nervous and I worry worry worry about everything.  I worry about if the oil level in the bike's OK, did I tighten the chain correctly, have I packed everything, do I really not need a ticket for the ferry rather than some silly barcode, have I got the passport, will I need another jumper or not, what if the traffic's really bad, will I have an accident, am I insured correctly, is the picture on my passport and licence correct...?  It all swims around and around my head and the little sleep I had last night was disturbed by dreams of disasters, lost paperwork, missing luggage and broken motorcycles.  So now I'm packing the last of the items like toothbrushes and checking everything's where it should be.  I check the house 3 times, turn off the gas and the water, make sure everything except the fridge is unplugged then worry about whether I should unplug that too and turn off the electric.  

My stomach's churning and I need the loo.  Dammit the water's turned off.  I solve these problems then as I get my jacket on I re-check the water...and the gas and the plugs and the windows.  So as I lock and check, then recheck the door it's already 0800, at least I should be at the gf's on time.  So I start the bike and start to ride.  I listen intently to the engine...is that a new noise I can hear?  It sounds a bit tappety to me, can I hear the brakes binding?  Oh for gods sake, I have a quite word with myself, take a deep breath and carry on.  

Being 0800 on a Saturday morning the roads are nice and quiet, that helps me to feel better.  I hit the motorway and head west to Liverpool to collect the gf.  Still my mind's swimming, it's probably a good job the roads are quiet as my head is up my ass still.  Then I wonder if I packed my bulb pack.  My stomach flips over and I go a little dizzy.  Logic dictates that it's quite unlikely that I'll get pulled by the Gendarme in France, logic dictates it's very unlikely that said Gendarme will want to check my spare bulb collection.  Logic dictates that even in these unlikely events I'm sure there's only a small fine or even just a ticket for such an offence.  In my head though the scene is quite different.  In my head I'm handcuffed in the back of a police van whilst the gf stands at the side of the road next to the bike crying and no chance of rescue.  In my head I get a criminal record and the gf goes broke as she has to spend her last penny trying to get home.  Ahem...I'll see if there's a Halfords in Widnes on the way.

A  little luck means that there's a petrol station next to a Halfords in Widnes, even more luck means that I find them.  I fill up then wait until 0900 for the Halfords to open and I choose a suitable bulb pack and stow it on the bike.  Relieved, but slightly later than I'd hoped I get to the gf's.  It comes as something of a surprise that she's pretty much ready.  She's not standing at the door, helmet on and bags in hand waiting for me, but the bags are all but ready and she's got most of her bike gear on.  I always give the gf a large pair of saddle bags to use.  The rule is "if it goes in there, it can come with us...if not it ain't going".  You'd be amazed what a determined woman can fit into 2 saddle bags.  I don't ask what is in there, I know better than that now, but whatever it is must be made out of lead judging by the weight.  

The missing bulb pack, now replaced from Halfords
The missing bulb pack.  Oh lordy, why do I worry so much?

The gf says her goodbyes to her kids whilst I stuff my face with chocolate hob nobs.  The gf loves her girls and they love her back, but the eldest is of the age now where getting rid of mum for a while means freedom, maybe even parties.  There's that teenage tone of "Yeah mum, just go..." in the eldest's voice whilst mum issues endless instructions about pet care and domestic duties.  Me...I'm sure gonna miss these choccie hob nobs.  The bike is heavy.  The Fazer 600 is up to the job though, it's steady and happy under the load.  If course all I can do is worry about the tyres overheating under the strain, will the chain be overtight with the load and is it going to rain?  We hit the main roads and soon enough we're on the motorways.  After a few miles my mind turns away from the worries of the trip and turns to the worries of numb bum and stiff legs.

I'm not an easy traveler.  Not only do I worry but I'm not a mile muncher.  Some folks can cover 500, 600, 700 miles in a day with nothing more than stretch at the end of it all.  I sure do envy those guys.  I need to stop pretty much every hour, more as the miles increase.  We cover the first 80 or so miles to the outskirts of Birmingham then stop at some services.  The next 60 or so miles take longer due to heavy traffic around Birmingham so we stop again on the M40.  I'm already stiff and my bum is a tad sore, but I'm in good spirits.  Another 70 odd miles sees us close to the M25 when we stop and I'm starting to suffer now.  Another smoke, a quick chat to a female biker on a CBF 1000 and a drink of pop and we're off again.  The M25 crawls painfully and now each stop in the traffic is a relief as I can move my legs and relieve the pressure on my poor ass.  After the M25 we stop at the café near Box Hill for another smoke and stretch.  It's good to be here and my mood improves as I know there's not far to go now.  Those last few miles are always the worst though.  They don't take long but each corner, each traffic light and each roundabout just drags out the suffering.  It's a great relief to get off the bike when we get to my Dads.

We have a pleasant evening at my Dads.  Dad cooks tea which we eat then the gf has the cheek to ask if my Dad can cook so well then why can't I?  Damn that father of mine.  The rest of the evening is spent catching up with my Dad and his wife.  We talk of families, friends, work and holidays.  Later the gf has a long deep bath to ease her weary bones and I jump in after to do the same.  Tomorrow we've got to be up early, the ferry sails at 0930, we need to be there at 0830 at the latest, it's about an hour from my Dads to Newhaven, so that's 0730, and an hour for breakfast and re-packing.  So that'll be an 0630 start then.  To bed early.  The gf's already in bed when I stop talking science and physics with Dad.  I nip out for a smoke and by the time I get back the gf's well out of it.  I consider making advances on her body as I get into bed but by the time I lay down I'm practically asleep myself.

Normandy, France 2011 - Prologue
Normandy, France 2011 - The Ride South
Normandy, France 2011 - The Ferry, French Roads and Honfleur
Normandy, France 2011 - A Good Walk Around Honfleur Ren and Sharon spend the day in and around Honfleur. It's a pretty and characterful town. The day has it's downs, and ups.
Normandy, France 2011 - A Bit of D-Day and Normandy Coast The Normandy beaches and the busy roads of France are on the menu today. There's a little time to relax too.
Normandy, France 2011 - Another Good Walk Around Honfleur
Normandy, France 2011 - The Beauty Of Beuvron-En-Auge
Normandy, France 2011 - Back To The Ferry and England
Normandy, France 2011 - The Trip North and More Images

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Home Travel StoriesNormandy, France 2011 - By Ren Withnell

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