Looking across to the snow capped alpine mountains seen from the back seat of a motorcycle

Home Travel StoriesCochem And The Blue People 2019

UK And The Epilogue

Ride Date 16th September 2019

By Ren Withnell

Poor Sharon. Knowing she has to be up BEFORE the crack of dawn means she's not slept well as it churns over in her mind. By the time we are rising at 0600 she is moving but internally she's a broken woman. She is making great pains not to be snappy but I sense the effort she requires to do this. Maybe she'll just go "pop!" and I'll be found with a plastic camping knife in my eye and a tent rammed up my backside. 

It is only just getting light by the time we are ready to depart. That must have been a monumental effort from Sharon.

We are but 15 miles from the Chunnel. Our train is set for 1050. We have to be there at least 45 minute early so we need to be there for 1000. So why are we on the road just before 0800? Because I do not know what rush hour traffic will be like getting into Calais on a Monday morning.

So what is the traffic like going to Calais on this Monday morning? Light, very light. I am almost tempted to take the long route so I can pretend to Sharon this is why we got up so painfully early. She's going to kill me, I am sure of it as we roll up to the barriers at 0900. Ahem.

She must be trying really extra super hard to be nice to me because she understands that the traffic might have been bad and that she understands why I do worry so much. She's going to wait until we're back in the UK and kill me then isn't she.

We can catch a train one hour earlier, which is nice. Even so we still have time to visit the toilets and sit down for a short break. Then we're off again into multiple lanes, 2 passport checks, a cursory look over by customs and then finally onto the train. 35 minutes later I'm repeating to myself "...ride on the left ...ride on the left ...ride on the left".

We have an appointment to keep. A BAT reader by the name of Ross noted our forthcoming trip and via countless emails, much shenanigans and general mishap we've agreed to meet at The Airport Cafe just off the M20. The thing is we'd agreed to meet at 1045. Of course I've left a lot of leeway in the timings so we're here now at 0945. Ahem, errrr... "Tea Sharon?"

Sharon and I note something about the cafe, the prices. They are very much the same if not slightly cheaper than we'd expect to pay back in Manchester or Liverpool. We know the shandy-drinkers get paid more and their houses cost more - but this raises a question. Either (A) - cafes up north are making a fortune and we're being ripped off or (B) - cafes down south barely make any money. Go figure.

Ross duly arrives. He has a CB500X much the same as mine save for it being almost 3 years younger and many many many times cleaner. As he takes a long hard look at my dirty, overladen and unkempt CB500X I sense the disgust growing within him. He appreciates Sharon's shiny smart Z250SL much more positively. 

Ross and Sharon stand behind Ross's shiny CB500X motorcycle giving us the thumbs up
Shiny smiles on shiny people with shiny motorcycles. Pffffft.

We sit and dine and chat. I feel calm and comfortable just sitting here with food in my belly and the safety of a language I understand. Ross is easy to talk with and the conversation rolls around between motorcycles, jobs, travel, family, Ross, Sharon and myself. I could stay for several hours more but Sharon and I must be away to my father's near Brighton.

Ross suggests we travel across country rather than via the motorway and sat nav permits this. Leafy villages, manageable towns and quite a large swathe of farmland pass us by. As we stop in another cafe to replenish my teastream Sharon seems surprised at how rural it is around here. She thought Kent would be an extension of London I think.

Although the skies are grey we look down a road to fields, distant hills and clumps of trees in Kent
They have countryside daaaaan saaaaaaf Sharon - LOOK!

It's good to be my Dad's. There's a garage for the bikes, real chairs to sit upon and a bed, albeit a fold-up guest bed but a bed none-the-less. It's not all blissful calmness, behind the comfort lurks the knowledge that the real world comes crashing back in the day after tomorrow. I guess that's it, this is the end of our trip.

So with the benefit of hindsight, what do I think?

We needed more time, or we need to rethink how we do *THIS* kind of trip. When we don't have to be anywhere specifically save for returning to work or to catch prebooked ferries we have learnt to travel at our own pace. We might cover far in excess of 200 miles one day but then we might not do any miles at all the next. Having the freedom to be flexible and permitting ourselves to be flexible has been one of the greatest improvements in the pleasure of our adventures.

That is not to say we ought to avoid trips like the one we've just completed, it was a joy to spend time with Laura and Stephan. We obviously can't say to them "we'll be there sometime in September" though, we need to fix dates and fixed dates means fixed distances to be covered. 

We see Sharon and Laura's backs as they walk and talk around the shops in Trier
Sharon and Laura casually chatting, priceless.

My first and biggest mistake was to believe we could cross foreign countries via minor routes easily, particularly without sat-nav. 100 miles a day is well within our capabilities here in North West England where I know where I'm going, I know the road systems and I'm at ease with my surroundings. 100 miles a day when I am lost and in a different country with strange road systems is another thing entirely.

I ought to have used the motorways more, gotten the bulk of the distance done and then we would have time to enjoy our usual gentle pace. We might have missed some things here and there but we might have had time to find other things once we'd pushed on through the miles.

I am now prepared to use sat-nav. I still wish to keep practising my non-sat-nav navigational skills as they are useful, and erm, well some of the best places we've been to were when I'm totally lost. Sat-nav is a tool, like a screwdriver is no good for bolts but great for screws, sat-nav is useful but only in the right circumstances.

So save for the simple delight of spending time with Laura and Stephan this hasn't been one of our best trips. Not to worry, we have survived, we have learned and we achieved what we set out to do. So, erm, what's next?


If you'd like to advertise here contact ren@bikesandtravels.com

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

Ross said :-
Ooo, look! That's me, that is.rubbing shoulders with glamorous and famous internet stars & social media influencers! Note how I've positioned my bike slightly away from Ren's to ensure the grime and grubbiness doesn't somehow jump across to infect my one.well, it was only 5 days old when that pic' was taken! There's still some nice parts of Kent that haven't been concreted over yet (it is called 'The Garden of England' don't you know?) but they are getting harder to find, and if you come back it'd be great to have another brew and a chat and if you've got time I could show you some of my preferred places.

Ps more expensive watering holes are available to keep the trendy hipster types happy!

Pps thanks for another interesting trip report!

12/11/2019 1:50:55 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I will no doubt be returning to my father's place in the not too distant future Ross, we shall meet again... muuuhahhahhahhaaa! I might arrive on the CBF125 which makes the CB500X look positively shiny and new.

In fact to you and all the other readers, take a closer look at Ross's CB500X. There is a good reason but I'm not at liberty to discuss such things just yet. It's a bugger is the official secrets act doncha know.
12/11/2019 2:43:26 PM UTC
Upt'North said :-
You're getting quite good at this writing lark Ed.
Just one thing though, don't make Sharon stand in a hole when you take a picture of er.
And yes, autoroutes, motorways, autobahns, they do have their place and can sometimes improve a ride, when you've got yet another 500 miles of French flatness to cover it's sometimes feels good to get it done and dusted.
I've looked at his bike, give us a clue.
Ross your bike is splendidly lovely and I wouldn't have parked mine in same county as Ed's. Good on ya.
Upt'North.
12/11/2019 5:41:17 PM UTC
Upt'North said :-
Ed and Ross, you're both obviously (well at least one of ya) persons of the upmost integrity and breeding who must have influence in high places. Please speak to Honda on my lowly behalf, I want a CB500X with a longer seat, lower pillion foot pegs, maybe 10 b.h.p more, standard tall screen and three piece luggage of about 110 L capacity for around £6000.00. Oh and a uprated rear shock.
But seriously (just for a moment), why the bleeding hell don't they sell one?
Rant over, nuff said.
Upt'North.

12/11/2019 5:55:34 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
OK let me see.

Longer seat? Are you too tall (or lardy) to fit in the regular seat?
Lower pillion footpegs? Sharon would agree, she finds the X to be not that comfy on the back.
10 BHP more? The engine at 471cc could easily be tuned to output 60 maybe 65BHP. Thing is it'd use more fuel and step out of the 47 BHP A2 class.
Taller Screen? Agreed.
Uprated rear shock? I find it fine, I presume you're looking at luggage and 2-up riding.
£6k? It's already 6k in standard trim.

Have you tried the NC750 (S, X)? It's only a few more ponies power wise but the grunt is more and that low low revving motor is a dream.
12/11/2019 7:15:16 PM UTC
Borsuk said :-
I need a clue as well.

I have read that it is against the official secrets act to tell anyone you have signed the official secrets act.

I would tell you where I read it but I`m not allowed to.
13/11/2019 1:17:19 AM UTC
Upt'North said :-
My point Ed was that manufacturers make motorcycles with twin seats and pillion pegs, I would think about 99% are thus. So why make the pillion seat too small for two adults to sit in comfort, the seat out of something resembles concrete after an hour (I'm eating lard as you suggested), the pillion pegs positioned for someone with an 18" inseam and a rear shock that is probably not up to the job of two up riding. Would it really cost that much more to address these things at the point of design and manufacture. I think not. Then the screen, its only purpose seems to be to keep aftermarket suppliers in business.
The CB500 range or the 750's has you pointed out are probably capable of propelling two people around Europe for the next ten years or more but not with the present comfort levels.
God forbid they could make peg positions actually adjustable.
For the record, in old money I'm 6'4" and about 17 stone, Er'Indoors is probably your average female build and height.
We sat on a, or tried to, BMW 800 GT recently, after the Pan it felt like a Gilera 50 Trials.
Nuff said, rant over.
Upt'North.
13/11/2019 9:24:41 AM UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Ah right you're onto a pet peeve of mine. Form before function rather than function before form.

The seats are hard because skinny little seats reflect MotoGP bikes. Entirely useless pillion configurations because again MotoGP bikes or other racing bikes, including off road. Small screens because fashion.

You need something that was actually built to transport 2 people in relative comfort for long distances. BMW K1600GT, R1250RT Etc. Or perhaps a Goldwing? Maybe, right, possibly you could get one of them old Pan Euro thingies but I don't know if the Euro bit will work if we Brexit.

Most motorcycles are built to look pretty. Pretty is defined by fashion. At present there is no fashion for functional real world motorcycles. This is enhanced by the fact motorcycling is usually a leisure pursuit so the vehicles are built to look pretty which sells and not specifically to go 2-up around Europe.

And breathe...
13/11/2019 1:31:03 PM UTC
Upt'North said :-
I know there's an exception to every rule. But IF pretty sells then how in gods name did the 1250 GS happen. I'm guessing it was some christian forsaken meeting in a bierkeller in Munich where all participants were bratwurst and bier laden until they agreed it looked PRETTY. And talking of Pretty, have you seen the gopping HD Pan America thingymabob for 2020. There's got to be more to it than pretty. Perhaps ugly might be the new pretty, in which case I'm whipping out the demob suit and going to discotheque to show them my best moves.
I think the Chinese might surprise us sometime soon, they have mastered the small bike, just maybe they'll start making sensible, affordable (daft term), sizeable bikes sometime soon. Although I've never seen a Chinese person taller than 4' so I'm not sure they'll fit me.
I apologise in advance to any tall Chinese persons tuning in.
Upt'North.
14/11/2019 9:54:04 AM UTC
Ross said :-
A cryptic Ren said: " take a closer look at Ross's CB500X. There is a good reason but I'm not at liberty to discuss such things just yet."

You're not about to prise your wallet open and buy a new bike are ya?! :-o

Upt', I could see how a 500X is a bit small for your needs, but for me at around 5'8" and usually solo, it fits well and I don't seem to have many problems with the screen height that 'everybody' seems to complain about...the only time I've noticed any buffeting so far (and I've still only covered a handful of miles, and the new bike probably wont be out until next spring now when the roads are clear of salt!)is when following Transit type vans, there seems to be a lot of turbulence coming off of them that buffets me about! As Ren suggested, a Honda NC750 sounds like a better proposition.

Oh, and as regards Chinese people, I was in Hong Kong a few years ago and the younger generation were mainly way taller than me!
14/11/2019 10:52:17 AM UTC
Upt'North said :-
Is a "Cryptic Ren" a bit like a "Mystic Meg"?
Upt'North.
14/11/2019 6:53:22 PM UTC
ROD said :-
It looks like that CB500X has been weight saving, by removing the number plate!
Upt'North, I think the big BMW GS sales are not down to being "PRETTY", but being fashionable after two actors took two GS BMW's around the world (long way round).
16/11/2019 8:14:14 PM UTC
ROD said :-
It has just been pointed out, that I need to wear my reading glasses before making comments about missing number plates!!!!
16/11/2019 8:32:12 PM UTC
Upt'North said :-
Rod,
Now you've got me worried, the same two thespians are currently riding HD Livewire's on an "Adventure" through the America's. On that basis we'll all be electrified some time soon. Ooooohhh Goody.
For anyone who's interested an "Adventure" can now be accurately described as flying business class to a foreign land together with a large support team and a couple of chefs and doctors to ride motorcycles that you haven't paid for and to be paid for doing so.
I'm looking forward to my next "Adventure".
Upt'North.
16/11/2019 9:33:34 PM UTC
ROD said :-
Its even worse than that if you believe social media Upt!
I have read reports that they have taken 2 bikes each as the range is so poor, so while they are riding one bike the other is on charge in the support van.
17/11/2019 12:16:45 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
It will be interesting to see how much of the "luxury" is hidden from the cameras and how much of any motorcycle problems are covered up too. Television and films, even the quasi documentaries and reality TV, are seldom close to the reality most of us live in.

That said, along with billions of pounds in sales for BMW it would be fair to say the "long way..." series have inspired a lot of people to travel. Admittedly they have found it a lot harder to get across borders without a famous face and camera crew... but still.

As for your next adventure Upt', I thought you always travelled with a batman, concierge, personal secretary and coiffure as part of your entourage?


18/11/2019 9:28:43 AM UTC
Upt'North said :-
Sadly Ed, I had to let my coiffure artiste go, he was caught in a compromising position whilst clipping a border terrier. We kept it out of the news for the poor chap, but one has standards doesn't one.
My private secretary may also be about to join him, she has just informed me, and I quote, "you can get up off your fat arris and get your own cup of tea".
Staff? They're more trouble than they're worth, now where's my shooting stick.
Upt'North.
18/11/2019 9:50:21 AM UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Oh what a terrible predicament you are in Upt', I feel so terrible sorry for you.

Speaking of disobedience. Sharon's daughter has "Alexa" in her room and can be oft heard saying "Alexa, light off" and the like. Sharon was in her daughter's room and said "Alexa, light off" and it sounded all to distinctly familiar... "Ren, make me a brew", "Ren, lead me to where I want to go", "Ren, service my motorcycle" and so on. It seems I am nothing more than a voice activated machine.

I know my place.
18/11/2019 12:52:00 PM UTC

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