Facebook has a lot to answer for and after being persuaded to re-join by Felix (Magellan Motorcycle Tours) so that I could both help administer and create pages as each tour I am involved in progresses, I find myself addicted to both posting and finding out what people I know have been up to!
I still think that there is a place for my Blog as I can tell you more here than on Facebook however, what you read here is more history rather than current – enough of my rambling
Since we last met, I have finished my garage, been camping in the south, making garden furniture, getting my Bonneville licenced, I visited a motorcycle exhibition in Valence, I have been baking, golfing and exploring the countryside on both the BMW and Bonneville – phew.
Now for some more detail and pictures …
As you can see from the pictures of the apricot trees, they flowered early as we had quite a mild winter and are now bearing fruit. This weekend (Easter) we have had a cold snap but no frost however quite a change from the regular mid 20’s that we have seen of late.
The weather has been very dry with hardly any rain over the whole winter therefore our well is quite low. Our grass is also very slow growing which is good from the point of view that I don’t need to cut it as often as I did last year at this time however, the grass I planted around the new garage is not making any headway.
Water here is metered and more expensive than in the UK therefore I do not run a sprinkler from our mains water supply and with the well being so low, we keep the water for Papa’s vegetables and Martine’s flowers. The grass will grow eventually.
I am quite delighted with the garage, it is nice and roomy with plenty of room for the three bikes and my workshop. I have wired up LED strip lights and they are really good pumping out 4500 lumens for a very low power output. I am getting the hang of French wiring regulations although running up and down ladders yourself to get everything connected properly takes quite a long time for a garage of this size!
With the garage complete I set to work on replacing the broken spring on the kick start on my Bonneville as well as changing all the oil (oil tank, transmission and primary drive). I serviced the carburettors (although I have yet to balance them properly – a job for this afternoon), checked out the stator, regulator and whole ignition system as I replaced this prior to coming here and now have enough power to run the lights during the daytime without draining the battery (which was the case beforehand). I also set about polishing all the casings on the bike and am delighted with the result as the bike looks better than it has ever done before.
Finally with the bike running nicely I visited the Prefecture in Valence to complete the final part of the three stage import process. Given that I had all the correct paperwork with me, the visit went smoothly and around €80 lighter, I left with a temporary registration document (Carte Gris) with the actual document arriving by registered post a few days later.
I now needed to get a registration plate made up but it being a classic bike with the rear light built into the plate, I couldn’t just buy something off the shelf therefore I opted for temporary stickers which should suffice for the summer before I get metal letters made to attach to the plate I have which will be more in keeping with the look of the bike.
Getting insurance is always complicated as I still have a UK driving licence and my proof of no claims is minimal here and explaining that I have a full UK no claims bonus entitlement is complicated however, eventually I managed to insure it for €35 per year!
I have been a few runs on the bike and very happy with how it performs, a few niggles which I should be able to sort out but on the whole it runs pretty smoothly, gets a lot of attention and puts a smile on my face as I drive through rural France catching flies in my teeth due to the open face helmet.
I visited a motorcycle exhibition in Valence (about 40 minutes south from here) which had all the big names showing their new production bikes as well as a lot of exhibitors selling supporting goods such as custom leather saddles, clothing etc. etc. There were stunt shows going on outside for most of the day and the event had quite a carnival atmosphere – it was certainly bigger than anything I had been to before and I spent most of the day there ogling the new machines, chatting with vendors as well as paying particular attention to some of the more classic stands showing older motorcycles and custom motorised bicycles.
At the show, over a coffee, I chatted to some women who were involved in organising motorcycle road racing with a couple of events taking place not too far from here, however, on both dates I will be away myself touring the country. On return I investigated further and found that the first event was held near Montpellier at the end of March so, with my tent firmly attached to the back of my BMW, I drove south to a nice campsite in Lunel which is about two hours AutoRoute driving south of here and about 15 minutes from the Mediterranean.
I arrived at the site and checked in with a pleasant chap who talked French with a strong Italian accent. He showed me to my pitch which was in a sunny spot quite near to the shower block and an electricity point (for my electric heater and light). He then returned with a bottle of beer for me and a table with chairs for me to use – I was his first visitor of the year and this was his welcome gift! The campsite was on the outskirts of the town and not too far from a shopping centre which had a supermarket, some restaurants as well as clothes and shoe shops – the supermarket was ideal for me as it meant that I could buy food prior to cooking therefore saving me the need for a fridge!
Temperatures were in the mid to high 20’s but I soon found out that at night (or to be more precise around 0600) the temperature dropped to below 10 degrees and I was quite cold in my tent with the cold coming through from the ground and cooling down the air in my inflatable mattress. The next day I remedied this by purchasing a cheap thermal mat which I put under my sleeping bag on top of the air bed – what a difference!
I was unsure where to go to see the racing as the event was held over 400km of open and closed roads with the final routes being published the night before the racing however with both a map and my trusty GPS I headed for the start. On arrival, I parked and chatted to some guys who turned out to be race officials and who kindly explained the procedure and pointed me in the direction of the organising centre which was in the local town hall. I had a good look at the maps and went back to the bike to set off then noticed that the guys I had talked to earlier were also set to go so, after again chatting with them, I joined them.
The rally reminded me of the car rallying events I used to follow in Scotland when I was in my 20’s and still go on. Events such as the Granite City and Snowman rallies where there are timed road stages on public highways to get the competitors to closed road stages which are no holds barred all out racing (the Scottish rallies had closed stages in the woods on forestry tracks but this race was on closed ‘B’ roads).
We got to one of the stages and went off to find a suitable viewpoint to watch all the bikes pass through. I sat in the sun with a book until I heard the first engine revving at the start line then watched them race by, one by one, until almost 100 vehicles had been tested to their limits (or the limits of their drivers ability). As I had a view of a long straight followed by a hairpin bend then a climb, I could see quite a difference in how the competitors tackled the challenge with a few approaching the bend too quickly resulting in some back wheel locks and some bottom clenching moments (for them more than me)!
I spent the day there then returned back to the campsite to do the same thing again the next day but at a different location having agreed with the race officials that we would meet at the start. After the prize giving I was invited back to the house of one of the guys for a BBQ with his family and some of the racers which was quite entertaining. I foolishly thought that I would come with a bottle of wine from the local supermarket only to find that it had closed at midday – I still forget that France is different to the UK in terms of opening hours.
I returned home on the Monday but this time taking the local roads to explore the countryside – much more pleasant and I wandered along slowly heading north taking detours when I saw places or what I thought may be viewpoints which looked interesting. The drive home (with quite a few stops) took most of the day but much more pleasant than sitting at 130km/h on the AutoRoute.
Golf has still been featuring highly on my agenda and most weeks I manage to play three rounds with Tuesday and Thursday being a regular four-ball and Saturday being a competition. I really enjoy the golf here and the company and am looking forward to playing a few competitions later in the year however, with me heading to Scotland then doing some motorcycle tours, golf will be taking a bit of a back step!
Last week I got the call from Philippe to help him with his baking. Each year for Easter he bakes pogne for all the extended Family which means about 30 of these – one for each Family unit! This is done in an oven which is over 200 years old and resides in an outhouse behind Philippe’s farm. The oven is heated by burning wood in it to get the stone to temperature prior to being swept clean and the uncooked cakes put in using a flat spade in a similar fashion to a pizza oven. We managed to get 15 in with each bake turning them after about 15 minutes with a cooking time of approximately 40 minutes during which time we managed to consume a bottle of Rosé.
I cannot remember any of the quantities apart from the fact that we used 72 eggs in the process but the final product was delicious – you’ll have to take my word for it!
Off to Scotland in a few weeks for some golf and sailing – I will keep you posted once back and some of you I will see when there however, in France life goes on and is very pleasant..