Peter and Graham's 2009 Summer Tour
Describes a tour of Europe taking in France, Italy, Malta, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Austria, Leichenstein, Switzerland, Germany and Belgium
Home at last after a huge soaking on the way to the Eurotunnel this morning. My beard is looking in need of a trim and I had a big welcome from my lovely wife Mandy and my sons Robert and Andrew. The bike ran better after I replaced the ATD. Maybe I got the timing better with my home made screw into the spark plug hole device than I did with the timing disc! I had five things go wrong, none of which kept me off the road for long. First was the speedo failed in Italy, it kept showing mileage which was good for refueling but not speed. I had fitted a 5 pound bicycle speedo and calibrated it for kph so that was used for the rest of the trip. Next was the Alton alternator, or at least I thought it was. I now think it was just a loose earth. However I re-packed its gearbox and replaced two of its bearings and used it as an excuse to stay in Malta a few extra days. Then the clutch needed to frequent adjustment (after every big city!) I have not found the cause yet and will take it apart in the next few days but I'm pretty sure it is the actuating arm inside the gearbox cover. To get me home I gave myself a lot more adjustment by putting the clutch centre adjustment locknut on the inside of the cover. A bit messy but it got me home. Then the side stand of which I wrote earlier and lastly the Automatic Timing Device. Anyone interest to see on a map where we went just try clicking on this link Map If you want to contact me send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org Will there be any more PG Trips..... Watch this space. .
Got back to find garden overgrown, but other than tha no crisis. Almost got drowned in the last few miles to Eurotunnel in heavy rain during a time challenged run from Belgium, but no complaints overall. It was the only really bad conditions we had and even then only for half an hour or so. The Vincent not yet available for photos as it isn't clean enough, but it performed well and is across the road. 25 days, 5,576 miles and 14 countries covered. The BMW had just one minor problem: a warning light came on for tyre pressure if we rode for a long time in hot weather. Peter was very entertained when I added a bit of air instead of letting some out!
Long ride through Germany, Luxemburg and Belgium to catch up on time. Ready for the return to England tomorrow.
Two things happened within 24 hours. First the right side stand lost it's spring and luckily I saw the stand waving in the wind just before I entered a right hand corner. I flicked it with my foot and it stayed up long enough to stop. I put a tie wrap on both of them as I never use them except to pick up the front of the bike. The second thing was the Automatic Timing Device failed (again) just as I was passing a Youth Hostel on the bank of the Rein in Switzerland. It was getting on for 8pm so we booked into the Hostel and I got up early and put on my reconditioned spare. The failed ATD had lasted 5000 miles since it was reconditioned. I will take a better look at the driving gear as this is the third ATD it has written off in 12000 miles. The photo was taken where I did the repair.
Stein am Rhein, Swiss/German border
Yeahhh! Got to stay in a youth hostel! This mid-life crisis lark must work. Peter's Vincent decided to blow another advance/retard device as we crossed the Rhine from Switzerland to Germany. Remarkably, we were still (just) in Switerland in an odd enclave North of the Rhine and the bike stopped right outside a youth hostel. We stayed the night and Peter got up early and replaced it with another he had handy!!
Aarlburg Pass, Austria
Just to show the snow has nor entirely melted.
Aarlburg Pass, Austria
Took our lives in our hands and went over the Aarlburg pass from St Anton. Actually, about 500 other bikers dcided to do the same, apparently, but it was very impressive nevertheless.
It's hard to get an interesting picture of Liechtenstein. Most of the interesting bits in any picture are in Austria (in this case) or in Switzerland (if you look the other way). It's not very big but it is another country!
St Gilgen, Austria
Stopped just short of Salzburg in Austria after a fine ride through the mountains. Very hard to find a hotel with vacancies on a Friday night - what happened to the recession?! Had to make do with this view for the night. This was from the table at the restaurant. We got the last room at the B&B next door.
Hungary was prety much flat right the way across. We rode into Austria near Graz and the contrast was somewhat extreme. This was in the afternoon of our first day here.
Near Szekesfehervar, Hungary
We're actually in a hotel in Gardonay, but doesn't Szekesfehervar, the nearest large town sound better. Peter insisted we stop before we got there near this lake. I wanted to go to say I'd stayed there. Got a better impression of Transylvania as we rode to the Romanian border with Hungary. At the border the roads improved as if by magic. Easy run to where we are having made a sneaky run round Budapest without going into the City centre (I'd been, Peter hates cities on the Vincent).
Cluj Napoca, Transylvania, Romania at a very fine hotel recommended by the very charming Michaela in Craiova yesterday. Everyone in Romania seems most friendly and helpful. Not many garages take credit cards; Peter was within a teaspoonfull of running out at one point today and I was fullly resigned to an hour in a hayfield waiting for him to ride the BMW into the nearest town for petrol or local currency, but it was not to be. At the time we stopped (actually 5 miles earlier) the tank looked dry to me, but somehow we made it. Romanian roads get better as you go North!
National park, halfway from Criaova to Transylvania. Stopped for lunch at this exact spot. We were pestered for money by children, but didn't have any. Graham donated half his pepsi cola to keep them happy. Romanian roads improved massively as we went North; the horse and carts, goats, cows and sheep (and geese) were fewer and further between - as were the potholes!
Main Highway - Bulgaria to Romainia
We crossed the from Bulgaria to Romania on the main Eastern highway. To be honest, we were expecting a bridge over the Danube, but it was not to be. This was the ferry coming the other way and 12 euros for the two bikes in our direction was money well spent I say. Just as well they took euros as we has no local currency at all (more on this later).
Outside Sophia, Bulgaria
Yeeeah! Bulgaria - horse-drawn centre of Europe (Romania a close second). Most cobblestones ever experienced in one day (that's on Highway 1 on the way into the capital city). But, on a more positive note, a beautiful country spoilt only by the comunist era housing. Quote of the stay at this hotel was "What you want?" in the morning; our reply of "Breakfast" was greeteed by "You strong men - breakfast down there." This is a picture of "Down there" (they didn't accept Euros or credit cards, so we didn't eat breakfast). Bulgarian tourist bureau please note.
From Delphi we rode over the mountains to Thermopylae. The battlefeld looks completely different today as the sea has retreated back well over a mile from what was a narrow pass between a steep mountain and the sea. Sadly, it now looks neglected. We had a soft drink in the Shell garage built next to the site. Oh well!
We rode from Marathon, through Thebes and on over the mountains to Delphi. This is the view from the top of the site. The roads to and from Delphi are fantastic. Thebes was less overwhelming, but there isn't much of it left.
We went into Sparta down from the pass along the N82, back through Tripoli, then Argus before stopping at Mycenae. Well, Graham stopped, Peter went t get more petrol instead and looked from the road and at the photos.
Above Sparta, Greece
This is the view from the bedroom windows we had. The Spartans abondoned any children who didn't seem fit enough on top of the mountains you can see and then seperated children from their families to be bought up communally. Peter was sufficiently impressed by the history lesson to put some Spartan air in his bike tyres the following morning.
N82, North into Sparta
We went from Tripoli to Sparta the long way round. Through Megalopolis, down to the sea and then up the legendary route over the pass and through the gorge from the South East. Megalopolis didn't really merit the long detour, but the run into Sparta definitely did. We stopped for the night at the top of the pass, though Graham also dropped down to Sparta for some late Saturday petrol in a spare container in case the Vincent didn't quite have enough for the trip down on Sunday.
Took the road from Olympia to Tripoli en route for Sparta across Arcadia. Stunningly beautiful at this time of year with sweeping curves, hairpin bends, sleepy villages, high mountains, fertile valleys. Just about perfect. Hope they don't improve the road and ruin it!
Winding roads of Arcadia
We got off the overnight ferry and rode round the West of the Peleponnese before turning inland to visit the site of the original Olympic Games.
The Beach, Marathon, Greece
The Persians got onto this beach quite easily, but didn't get off quite so well. We hope to find our departure easier in the morning. This is the view from 100 feet in front of the hotel room. It's a tough job, but someone has to do it!
Leaving Italy, Brindisi, May 15th
After an easy day riding up the sole of Italy and over to the Achilles heel we took the overnight ferry from Brindisi to Patras in Greece.
What news from the Lido, Peter?
Peter returns from a ride along the beach to try to find a hotel in Southern Italy. No luck on the beach, but we found a really friendly hotel on the main road along the South coast a few minutes later where we were treated like family - we had to clear up after the meal (okay, the clearing up bit didn't happen).
The Black death arrived in Messina, Sicilly in 1347 and caused devastation thoughout Europe. We left about 13:47 - I remember because we had lunch just after we landed.
We started the ride back not knowing tha internet would not be available for days and at 5 am (to get the ferry back to Sicilly). Got to Archimedes' city of Syracuse fro a bit of early Greek influence on the way to the mainland.
Since I was around twenty I have wanted to ride my bike to my parents house in Malta. Sadly they are not alive to see it and gladly they were not in the house when I pointed the exhaust pipe out of the door and warmed up the engine inside the house yesterday to test my Alternator which is now sporting new bearings. I don't think tey are anything to do with the lack of lights the other day or the whining noise but the lights problem appears to have fixed its self while sorting out the Alternator and I think I have one of those crash helmets which when the visor is open it filters in the high frequencies then amplifies them so you think the bike has the transmittion of a double decker bus. Take off the helmet and they go away. (Or that's what I'm telling myself. Time and miles will tell. Speaking of which we are booked on a ferry from Brindisi in Italy on the evening of the15th for a 15 hour crossing to Patra in Greece. All we need now is another booking to get us off Malta on the morning of the 14th. We will try to book it tomorrow. Tonight we are off out for a meal with Flavia who is Italian but speaks with an Irish accent and her husband Mark who is from the fomed East Germany.
The view from Peter's living room
This is what Peter has to look at from one side of his living room. The other side is even better. Graham went for an 11.75km run round the harbour to the coast and back in 39 degree full sun (mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid day sun) and Peter checked over the bike. Turns out the alternator is a bit dodgy and we may have to stay here for three days while a part arrives. It's a tough life, but we'll manage somehow. I'm sure you are all sympathetic.
Valetta from Vittoriosa, Malta
Arrived in Malta at 11:30. Rode to Peter's house. Peter's lights looked off from where I was riding, but he assures me there was at least 2 candle power's worth of light coming from the main beam. Quick walk round and a fast beer alongside the marina to celebrate almost exactly 2,000 miles of biking to date.
Mount Etna, Sicilly
After driving down the toe of Italy we saw Stromboli from the mainland before taking a ferry to Sicilly. Took the Autostrada to Taomalino and then the coast road down to Catania. Survived the Sicillian drivers and took a picture of Etna from the Malta ferry after stowing the bikes.
Scalea, Southern Italy
Italian road rules (Part 1) White lines: Northern Italy; don't cross line. Middle Italy; only cross line if not doing so would slow you down. Southern Italy;cross line for all pretty girls - or whenever you want, actually. Double white lines in Southern Italy; do not cross line until you have combed your hair and adjusted your sunglasses. If there is a pretty girl in front it is compulsary to cross lines, slow down alongside and try to get a phone number before proceeding.
Like the Allies in the 1940s we made great progress to Cassino and then stopped for a while. In our case to get some food and a room for the night. Fortunately, we could just look at the monastery - rather than bomb it to a heap of smouldering ruins and then take it by assault against fearsome resistance. Good defensive position, it must be said.
May and there is still snow on the mountains. Down on the road it was 30 degrees. To be fair to Italy lovers, the roads from where we stayed last night through Tuscany and Umbria were fantastic; so it was just Lucca to between Fierenze and Sienna that should be avoided.
The main road to Arazzano
In fairness to the roads of Italy they have been mostly not bad at all. Today was a great day, the roads are getting quieter as we head south and the Vincent is comfortable to sit at 70 mph with the mirrors still in focus. The photo shows where we ended up when we found the main road closed and no deviation offered. The sat nav took us from doing 70 for two hours to winding around pot holes and deep puddles for about 20 minutes to get to another road. Actually we both thought it was great fun.
Tuscan Countryside, Near Sienna
Stopped just short of Sienna for the night. This is the view from the hotel. Actually, Lucca to Sienna the way we came was not the greatest of routes. The Autostrada down the Italian Riviera makes up for it though.
We stopped in Lucca after riding through Monaco and round a little bit of the Grand Prix circuit, just to add another country. Convinced Peter to stop and have a look at Lucca as I hadn't been. Short walk as Peter is clearly not a tourist (and because I left my keys in the ignition!).
Peter finds a new toy
Bernie and Peter take a little time out to take Bernie's E-Type along the Moyenne Corniche. Peter showing far too much interest to be healthy.
The peace of Cap Ferrat
Peter adds the finishing touch to Bernie's drive. No home should be without one.
Could the accomodation be better?
We are staying in what must be one of the worlds most exclusive place called St Jean Cap Ferrat in the south of France curtesy of some very nice friends of Graham. To take full advantage of such luxury we are taking a day off. Graham is going for a run to Monaco and I will adjust the cluch cable and a loose tappet on the bike.
Bike Ride 2009 020
Had to take this from a filling station to get the view right. Didn't go down too well with the owner when we didn't buy petrol. Hadn't seen him in his car next to me! Still, he took it well in the end. Must have been the sight of the Vincent.
What's that whiring noise?
A strange whiring noise appeared today, I think it was from the timing side but I can't be sure. I checked the Alton gear and primary tension, both are okay. I cured it by putting in my ear plugs. It was louder after the lunch stop (forgot the ear plugs!) and disappeared when the engine warmed up.
View from balcony
Ah! The prospect of a run all the way round the bay to Cap d'Ail and on to Monte Carlo the other side of the headland. Only problem being it will be in running shoes tomorrow, not on the bikes.
Lunch at Gap
Napoleon had 100 days to get from the South of France with no army to Waterloo, also with no army, in 1815. Caused a lot of trouble in between though. We gave ourselves one day to do it the other way, but didn't recruit an army. Look for the long and winding road in the distance. Apparently it leads to your door.
Our own private garage
Tonight we are at La Grande-Croix just off the motorway at a rather nice hotel called Vulcain. We had a nice meal at a Buffalo steak house. The Vincent is running fine so I treated it to a clean up after adjusting the rear chain which was just a little bit tight. We rode about 280 miles on roads which varied from little more than very bumpy tracks to busy motorways.
Magnifique Vincent pronounced in French "Vanson"
Every day the Vincent is photographed. The person taking this shot got so excited he nearly forgot to pay for his own petrol. The garage is just outside St. Etienne.
Provins - East of Paris
365 miles riding from Suffolk and we arrive in a Medieval, World Heritage Site East and a bit South of Paris. The alternative was to stop when we were tired, but that would have been EuroDisney!!! Some things have stayed remarkably consistent since this town was established - like Peter finding the Hotel too expensive (welcome to the real world again, Peter).
Front Carburettor blows off at 160MPH
And whats more we were under water at the time. I rode the bike onto the train but when I came to start it to get off the front carb was hanging by its cables
We start from Graham's Garden
Perfect weather at 07.20 as we begin our ride to Folkstone.
Ready for the off the night before