Camchain and tensioner seen up close in a cutaway bike engine

Home Travel StoriesCochem And The Blue People 2019

Kicking The Saddlebags

Ride Date 10 September 2019

By Ren Withnell

As this is the first night in the tent I've not slept so well. I have learned that it takes me a couple of nights to settle in to the travel routine and the tent routine. I'll be fine and knowing that now makes travelling much easier. The sun is down behind the hedges and trees and the air is cold. The skies are a hazy blue which is promising. I take another stroll around the campsite because it is still too early to disturb her ladyship. 

Sun glistens through the trees at the campsite this morning
Sunshine! The start of a fabulous day huh?

Ours is the only tent. Back home campsites are used by tent campers, touring caravans and camper vans. Here campsites seem to be primarily quasi permanent holiday homes or even residencies. The tent aspect seems secondary, coincidental, an add on. It is not uncommon for site managers to look up (or make up) the price when I ask.

Eventually with the rising of the sun comes the rising of the Sharon. We pack and load up then head out along the long gravel track and onto the main roads and the warming air. It looks like today could be a beautiful sunny day. Today could be a good day.

Right, OK, so where am I? In my mental map I know I am sort of near the Belgium border. We are ultimately heading for Cochem but not until tomorrow. There are options in Belgium, Bastogne for example because I know the campsite and I know it has a good cafe thing opposite. Hmmm, maybe?

We could follow the Belgium-France border? I've starred a few campsites that way and they're in some kind of "Parc Naturel" which I reckon is like our National Parks. The downside there is at the incredibly slow pace we are making this adds a few miles. We only have today and tomorrow to get to Cochem.

I keep on thinking of The Eifel Region. Snod mentioned he was there in an email which galvanised me to find out about the area. Looks nice. If we can get to the Eifel area today then we can have an easy chill-out day tomorrow, that area is only what 50, 60 miles north of Cochem. I'm liking that idea best. I confer with Sharon who agrees because she has no geography but likes the idea of an easy day tomorrow.

Ren's mental map of France, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands and Luxembourg
I am a geographical GENIUS! I know exactly where I am.

So I need to cut across Belgium in a primarily eastern direction. I follow Scat Naff heading east. Then I notice this road looks familiar. I am going around in circles. Again. Dagnammit. 

So I head east. Into towns just like France with 30kmh zones, speed bumps and more traffic. This traffic is actually more aggressive than even the French, tailgating Sharon such that it scares me watching so lord only knows how she's feeling. This is starting to feel like groundhog day. Dagnammit. 

So the sun is up and it is warm. With each town comes confusion and traffic lights, tailgaters and unwary pedestrians. With each delay at another roundabout or queue or junction I'm getting hotter and hotter and frustrated. Dagnammit.

So Google maps tells me we need to cover 250 kilomoters give or take. That's erm, about 150 miles. After an hour's riding we have covered barely 40 kilometers and some of that has been in the wrong direction. For Christ's sake at this pace it will take all day just to get to the centre of Belgium. Dagnammit.

So I need to find those main roads. I need to be in the countryside. I need to goddam navigate properly. Another street, another town, another turn towards the east that then heads north. Another stretch of open road that is soon spoiled by another blasted town! Grrrrr. Dagnammit.

As I head out of another town we appear to hit countryside and the open road once more. Then another village. In the centre is a sign, "Route Fermée", road closed in case you hadn't worked it out. I pull in to the right, put the side stand down, step off then proceed to repeatedly kick one of the saddle bags as hard as I bloody well can.  

Bloody foreigners. 
Driving on the wrong side of the road. 
Their stupid speed limits that they can't be arsed signing then de-signing properly.
Stupid farty traffic lights with no clear stop line and the old ones are so dim how are you supposed to see them when it is sunny? 
What kind of backwards thinking has a zebra crossing every 20 metres? 
Without belisha beacons? 
They don't even have a rule for them because some cars stop if someone is waiting to cross, others don't. 
Why are the "Chemist" signs all LED flashing and animated yet they can't make traffic lights properly? 
Why do they tailgate SO much? 
It's like the more rules and signs they put on the roads the worse the driving gets so they make more rules and put up more signs. 
I'm struggling with the rules and I sense so are the bloody foreigners. 
Most of them don't follow them, I guess those that try to don't know what they are anyway. 
Jeeez I'll never hear a bad word about British drivers again. 
Stupid road closure, just a scruffy sign in the middle of the road. 
Stupid scooters with trailers bigger than the scooters ridden by kids barely out of nappies. 
Stupid main roads that go through every single village and hamlet and town and city, have they never heard of a "bypass"? 
Stupid campsites with no tents and toilets half a mile away, oh that's the UK.    

All these things frustrate me, but deep down I know these aren't the real problem. The problem is I am failing. I had too much faith in my ability to navigate. I thought France and Belgium would be more countryside-y. I am wrong and I don't want to be wrong. I have failed and I don't want to fail. 

I envisioned Sharon and I cruising gracefully through fields and forests. I saw us sipping tea at a pretty roadside cafe in a twee little foreign village. I'd be communicating fluently in French and Sharon would smile in the sun. And here I am kicking the living beejeesus out of my luggage. I guess I've not totally lost the plot... this is the bag with the clothes in.

After I calm down and apologise to a silent Sharon I get out the phone. The motorway is just north of here but to get out of this dead end (literally) town we need to take the diversion. Just when you think it cannot get any worse the diversion turns out to be a gnarly gravel track road. I'm fine with this but Sharon? DAGNAMMIT!!

DAGNAMMIT!! Even finding the motorway sees more U-turns.

God Damn Blast and DAGNAMMIT! Even on the motorway the tailgaters tailgate. The signs are upon the junctions not beforehand so we miss an important one and have to take a 4 mile detour. That's MILES not your bleeding foreign kilometers. The speed limit moves from 90 to 110 to 130 and back again whenever the mood takes them. There are traffic jams and queues. 

Cars, car park, sunshine, petrol station, and sharon keeping her head down
A random motorway services in Belgium. NOT a pretty countryside cafe in sight.

Why? Why am I sat here with a sore ass, a luggage load the size of Wales, on the wrong side of the road on a boring motorway surrounded by heat spewing trucks on a hot day? I could be at home watching a murder mystery on catch-up. It's because I am stupid. I'm stupid because I've come to a stupid country with stupid drivers and stupid rules. 

After what feels like an age junction 44 on the E40 appears. This means we must have crossed the border into Germany. No signs, no fanfare, nothing. 

Off the motorway I make a decision. I have failed. Miserably, totally and utterly. I have proven that I am incapable of navigation using a compass and my wits. I have used a motorway which is something I wanted to avoid. Well sod it. In for a penny in for a pound. I set the phone up as sat nav and programme it to take me to Campingplatz Kohl, a site I'd "starred" before we set off.

Sat nav is not perfect. It is still all too easy to miss a turning because the nav is clear but the turning might not be. Damn. But then the nav just has a few moments thinking time then resets with another route. No nagging, no fiddling, no arguments, not even a "Pfffft!" Bliss, I am enjoying the fruits of my failure.

The ordinary hills are becoming larger and steeper. The towns are less intrusive and the signage, while not perfect, is more logical and sensible. Ahhhh, Germany, sweet Germany, have you come to save me from the bewildering confusion of France and Belgium? What difference a border makes. Hell, even the tailgaters keep a safe distance. 

We are in the hills and in these hills are twisty gnarly bends. I am starting to understand why Snod has been here several times. The Eifel region is (or should be) easy to get to, it is pretty and there's some classic roads from what I've seen so far. 

What I do remember from my previous German experience are the speed limits - again. On each of the splendid corners is a limit, as low as 50kph at times. At the chosen limit for each bend all but the sharpest can be negotiated with ease and without troubling the edges of your tyres. I can therefore only surmise the popularity with "sports" motorcyclists involves ignoring these limits by some significant factor.

While we may be in Germany it seems Campingplatz Kohl also has the same quasi residential feeling to it. The owner knows little English so I use my best, finest high-school German and a lot of sign language. Between us we establish there is a camping field, where that field is and that I should set up first then come and pay his mother. 

The field contains 2 other tent campers, wow! After today's hell it is a merciful bliss to finally be here. We are but 60 miles from Cochem. Tomorrow should be easy. The scenery has improved. The toilets are miles away but at least there's a sink nearby. We are fine. We are alive. We are well. We are on target. And relax.

The 2 motorcycles on a field and a tree lined hill behind
Here. Safe. If a little flustered.

Mother speaks zero English. My German is obviously not up to scratch with her either. I must be saying "Eine Nacht" (one night) wrong as she's just not getting it at all. She is rather curt with me, not rude just short and impatient. It takes a while but eventually I pay and learn the "Wasser ist gut zum Trinken" because "haus", I think it comes from the house.

One of our tented neighbours is a chap from the UK who helps me with some translation because he used to be in the army and stationed in Germany. His present work is fascinating. He creates spares for cars too old to have spares off the shelf. He's an engineer obviously but also a craftsman from what I can glean. 

His travelling companion is a much younger lady filled with life and a passion for being out there in the world. They met at a festival then remained friends and travel together when possible. I'm not sensing they're a couple, maybe, I don't know but it's none of my business anyway. Who cares, it's tea time.

Since we've been here in the distance I can here motorcycles. "Braaaaaarrrrp, braaarap..." and so on and so on. They're sports bikes being ridden hard. Maybe they don't have speed cameras in Germany? 

In full and complete acceptance of my failure I fit a USB cable from under the seat of the 500 to the bars. This allows me to keep my phone on charge while using the nav feature of Google maps. I root around in various bags till I find a suitable bolt and fix the phone pouch on the screen. I am turning into something I've despised for some time. A computer guided idiot who is too thick to learn a route, to grasp geography, to work things out for themself. 

The idea of the computer doing everything for me leaves a bitter taste in my throat. It also leaves me with a sense of calm. So this is how young people turn into old feckless halfwits? It's just easier to stop fighting. The bitter taste is easier to swallow than the hassle.

Let us just see what tomorrow brings.

If you've a tale to tell on two wheel click here.

Prologue And Excuses It's the whys and the wherefores and the excuses for making this trip. You don't need a reason to travel, but it makes it easier to justify the expense and effort.
The Trouble With France Is It's Chunnel Time and Sharon's made a new friend. Finally in France Ren is finding the going frustratingly slow.
Kicking The Saddlebags Ren is having one of THOSE days. He's a very naughty boy and he needs to take a chill pill. It's them bloody foreigners fault.
Calmly Into Cochem After the previous day's temper tantrum and failure it would be fair to say this day is a better day.
Riding With Friends Cities aren't really Ren's things but with a little local knowledge he can cope. It's the countryside that gets him thinking.
A Long Day And Night A long day on the road then a night out in the town? That'll be two tired travellers then.
Trouble, Tired And Transport There's trouble this morning so it's not the best start. Throw in a grumpy Sharon and a scowling local and you have another day on the road.
Familiarity And Food As the end of the trip draws near the surroundings become familiar. But will the Dynamic Muppets survive without sustenance?
UK And The Epilogue After an early start the Muppets return to good old Blighty where they catch up with BAT reader Ross. Poor Ross, he doesn't know what he's gotten himself into.

Reader's Comments

Upt'North said :-
I think I've been on that journey.
Not a care in the world.
All day to get nowhere.
The birds are singing.
The sun is shining.
THEN......the rest of the populous gets involved. You eventually go from anger and frustration to just accepting the world isn't just about you and you might as well put a smile on your face. Although you are normally reminded how stupid you are as soon as you stop for fuel or accommodation. Oh the joy of travel.
Nice write up Ed, I think I've been there, the Eifell region, I know we popped over from Germany into Belgium over there somewhere.
Now here's a question for the readers......"Why does she put up with him". It can't be his good looks.
03/10/2019 09:56:58 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
An excellent question and maybe Sharon will enlighten us?

I still think the basic error was going to that highly populated area.......
03/10/2019 10:17:59 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Highly populated area? They have fields in that part of France and Belgium. We ain't gotten much in the way of fields around here.
03/10/2019 10:25:13 UTC
Pocketpete said :-
It's his pony tail. Women cant resist a man with hair.
03/10/2019 16:55:00 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Pony tail? Looks more like rats tails.
03/10/2019 17:26:47 UTC
Snod said :-
"I can therefore only surmise the popularity with "sports" motorcyclists involves ignoring these limits by some significant factor."

The Euro trips are basically the only reason I own big bikes, I'll leave it at that..
03/10/2019 21:41:13 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
You mean to tell me when that easily 100kph corner is marked at 70kph you did not slow to 70kph and gently wobble around? You do surprise me Snod.
04/10/2019 08:54:00 UTC
Borsuk said :-
Personally I have always believed that the Spanish speed signs actually refer to MPH not KPH. Except for motorways as my little car can`t reach 120.

04/10/2019 11:21:57 UTC
Sharon. said :-
She puts up with him because he puts up with me. We are a pretty good team really after all these years together. Don't spread it around but he is one of my most favourite people to be around. He may be a idiot at times Haa but he's my idiot and I rather like him I do.
I did adore his long hair and ponytail alas this has recently gone. Ahhh well so is my waistline.
04/10/2019 18:46:30 UTC
ROD said :-
I am with Borsuk. Just treat the corner speed limits as mph and this seems to be the correct speed for the corner.
04/10/2019 20:46:39 UTC
Pocketpete said :-
Cant believe the pony tails gone. Maybe he's finally become old like me.
I need to know was it lice, rash, a demon barber omg.
05/10/2019 16:56:16 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
The hair is just a little shorter that is all.

Rod, Borsuk - do you think the local constabulary will accept that logic? Do let me know how you go on with that.
06/10/2019 19:03:57 UTC
Borsuk said :-
The advantage of having 2 passports, meekly hand over one and head for the border with the other. :-)
06/10/2019 23:43:06 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Criminals!! The lotta ya.
07/10/2019 12:54:01 UTC
ROD said :-
I will keep my eyes peeled and take my chances with the local constabulary, there are fewer police than tailgaters, and would rather be fined than shunted!
07/10/2019 18:24:42 UTC

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