Sunday morning, 7.00am, we dress and head downstairs for breakfast. Looking out of the window the streets are wet. Our host tells us the meteo shows rain, perhaps Marc made the right decision to stay at home?
Fed and watered, we packed, and then took the 5 minute walk to collect the bikes from the secure parking garage.
Cobbled streets looked slippery and uninviting , as did the uphill camber we would have to ride the bikes up! Back at the hotel and after returning the garage key, the rain started! The pinlock visor insert was reinserted before we set off into the now decidedly damp morning, but just as quickly as the rain had started, it stopped again.
The route towards Privas is pretty boring, the only interesting thing about it being the river that snakes alongside the road for miles. Crossing the autoroute below Valance we continued onto Privas, where I found that a very nice, but featureless bypass took us off the old road I had been expecting to ride. Things soon looked up though as the road started to bend and climb up a nice little pass, the Col de Escrimel, before open roads led us to Aubenas.
Those of you with Zumos will know the phenomenon of being guided into city centres when really you only wanted a waypoint, well, here we suffered Zumo meltdown. I knew Aubenas, as Sue and I had stopped here several times, but the signposting and Zumo didnít match, and Andy and I were getting differing instructions from our respective Zumos, and kept passing each other going in opposite directions! Eventually after circumnavigating the town and losing radio contact due to the distance we were apart, we finally rejoined on the correct road heading for Joyeuse.
Once back on track the road gets smaller and climbs ever upwards and gives you this magnificent view.
Onwards and upwards and thin mist/cloud had kept the road damp, so we took great care as we negotiated the hundreds of small, tight bends. This derelict house took my eye so I stopped for this picture.
Hereís Andy a little further up this climb.
We passed an adventure climbing ground, nearby this sign of the road to come.
Unfortunately there were some rock falls which had landed in the road ahead. I saw the rocks filling at least 1/3rd of my lane and would have rounded them easily if I hadnít hit another rock which deflected my bike directly at the fallen rubble. A massive counter steering effort and I was round, but a little shaken, my pace certainly dropped for a while as I recovered my composure.
At Villefort Andy had suggested we head for Ales and here we entered another world of bends. On and on for miles, until we arrived at Portes and the chateau (below) where there was an oldtimers car rally going on.
A change from winding small roads to large A roads off towards Florac. No traffic, open roads, bends as far as the eye could see, fantastic. Unfortunately time had marched on and we were getting hungry, but couldnít find any restaurants.
Stopping by this picturesque view we were advised that there was a restaurant a few kms up the road.
What they didnít tell us was that at 13.30pm on a Sunday afternoon, the restaurant wasnít going to let a couple of bikers into its clearly upper crust establishment, and sent us packing without even an offer of a sandwich, which we would have been prepared to eat outside! Even the dog here didnít like us. Donít know how he got on the roof but we left thinking it was as unfriendly as its owners!
Next town same story. 13.40pm and an hotel with 3 seated guests only, and wouldnít serve us! By now deciding this was the most unfriendly and uncommercial part of France, really strange as its so close to the Gorges du Tarn, a hugely touristic region, we moved on to the hotel guys suggestion, of the local bar.
Finally we found somewhere to eat and drink, and just to make sure that people donít get out of hand, its conveniently placed next to the police station!
We tentatively thought about heading down to the Gorges du Tarn and the bridge at Millau, but decided to continue on to Mende and then for Le Puy en Velay. This stretch is all main A roads, fast and open, and with major open vistas, very different from the lush forest scenery and roads we had been riding before, but very picturesque. The Zumo was working overtime warning of fixed or mobile speed cameras, and although nowhere near as challenging as the previous mornings riding, enjoyable nonetheless.
At Le Puy en Velay we decided that we would strike for home, rather than stop another night away, especially as we were now only 3 hours or so from home.
Roads got less interesting towards Firminy, slower and traffic ridden. We stopped for a final petrol stop, food and drink, and wiped the headlights clear after the mornings rain and mud. It was here that we discovered Andy had an indicator lens cover missing, presumably smashed by rocks as the screws were still in situ! The remaining route was all motorway, so the fun was all but over. I elected to leave the pinlock visor in again, as I didnít want to risk the visor fogging up on the motorway if it rained. The building rain clouds finally burst near Lyon, but this was the first real rain of the day, despite meteo warnings of rain all over France. Heavy showers fell along with accompanying spray off the vehicles ahead, but luckily once past Lyon the traffic volume, and rain decreased. My problem however came later as dusk fell, and once a certain amount of daylight had gone, it was like someone had switched all the lights out, and I had to rely on following the car ahead to see where I was going at one stage! I hadnít thought the trade off in visibility vs not having a misted visor would be so big!
Nearing Nantua, I warned Andy of the dangers of the slippery expansion joints on the overhead section of motorway we were on. Rain and expansion joints donít mix well, and I had only just been thinking how well my new PR2ís were handling these conditions, when a combination of joints and tar overbanding proceeded to create some sphincter tightening moments! Close to Bellegarde I started bemoaning the fact you canít see the heated seat and grips buttons in the dark, and wondered why BMW hadnít thought to have them illuminated? Hitting what I thought was the seat button saw me switching off the engine!!!!!!!!!The engine started to slow before the realisation of what had happened sunk in, and I quickly hit the button again and restored power, but wow, donít want to do that again on a damp and dark night!!
Finally back home at around 20.30, the bike was in a disgusting state, ie. it needed a damn good clean. Fuel consumption for the trip averaged around 5.7l/100, and it has used around 250ml of oil in the 1675kms since I last topped it up. The trip stats for the day had seen another marathon, with 713kms and 9hours 05 in the saddle!
Totals for the 2 Ĺ days were: 1556kms and 21hours 48 riding time!!
I entitled this report ďFortune favours the braveĒ, because we made the decision to ride, even though the weather forecast didnít look that great. What we were rewarded with were two fantastic days, on close to empty roads. It was as if France had closed for the weekend, and allowed a couple of us brave enough to face potentially inclement weather, to go out and have an absolute blast. I doubt it could have been better, as the sun would have brought out more traffic. What we had was mega fun, lots of photos, and lots of great memories, what a shame Marc didnít get to share them too!