The Road Home 2006

When my brother and I left the 2006 Diesel Motorcycle Rally in Hamm, we retraced our path there to a degree and dropped south towards Koln and then Aachen. Before reaching the German border we again dropped south, this time getting off the Autobahn at Duren where we picked our way down to the area surrounding Nigeggen.
This area is one of outstanding natural beauty marked down as the Eifel and we found our first campsite nestling beside a roaring river and a local train line.
There was nobody at what we took to be the reception and threw caution to the wind and set up only to approached some hours later by a rather stern looking lady. I despatched Jeff to charm our way out of this pickle and sure enough, his presence along with a five Euro note help smooth the way for a single 'Nacht's' stay. After setting up and showering we went for a wander around what turned out to be a sleepy little hamlet with no (open) pub. All the time we kept seeing and hearing bikers fly down the main road and finally figured we were not where the action was! But it was too late to do anything about it by that time and we hit the sack after falling back on some lager beer we held in reserve just in case of emergencies. Given to my brother by our good friend Helmut at the rally, this Koln brewed lager was hauled from the river nicely chilled and promptly guzzled down.
The next morning we'd been on the road about five minutes before we ran through the place all those bikers had been coming from and going to the night before. A nice little place full of Cafés and Bars!
From this campsite, our last in Germany, we got on the 265 to Prum where we stopped for a spot of map reading.

We pulled over for a spot of map reading in Prum, a nice little town near Luxembourg.

I have to say we enjoyed the ride down the 265 greatly. It stuck us a great biker road and one we'll try and pick up again if we're in that neck of the woods.
Our general plan was to get to the City of Luxembourg and spend some time walking the streets of the place but to get there had to leave the 265 and get the 410, which lead us to the site of Radio Luxembourg. We'd actually been here the year before trying to find a kind of museum or reception that commemorated the place but we couldn't find bugger all except barbed wire and keep out signs. You know when you hit Luxembourg because many of the roadside trees have hoops painted around them.
It wasn't long before we found ourselves out of the country and well and truly in the city. Picking our way through the traffic we finally managed to find our way to the Hesperange area south of the town where there was a campsite. We rolled up, booked in for two nights at a fairly reasonable cost, and setup. It turned out to be a great site with excellent facilities and a surrounding fence which offered some kind of closure. That along with a receptionist who spoke reasonable English and had a fridge full of the local Regal Simon larger made it, as far as I was concerned, the best campsite so far. A meal of pasta followed and I topped up my diesel motorcycle's engine oil. It only holds one litre and so I have to keep an eye on it. When you're running the bike at its maximum revs for most of the day the oil tends to disappear as mist out from the left sided breather pipe and deposit itself all down my left leg.
We each took a shower and refreshed, again had a few bottles before crashing out. Around us were very few other campers, it being the end of the season.

Using only the available light, a shot of myself leaning against the Diesel Royal Enfield.

The next day we gave the bikes a rest and caught the 192 bus into the city. We spent the early part of the day admiring the gorge that runs through the centre of Luxembourg and headed for the shops in the afternoon. One end of town seemed to house all the up market boutiques whilst the other end had most of the day to day establishments. A detour into the back streets found the most interesting shops including a well-stocked electronics shop that supplied all sorts of gadgets. We had lunch and a few coffees at a city centre café then sought out the town motorcycle shop that turned out to cater for all who preferred two wheels. By that I mean that there seemed to be more in the shop for cyclists than motorcyclists. I must say at this point that the weather was excellent for the walk about town as well as for the whole ride.
On getting back to the site we exchanged pleasantries with another Brit biker who had turned up with his girl on the back and had just come from over the mountains somewhere. After some grub, headed for the local bar, Brasserie Uelzechtdall, where we caught some of the Champions League Footy and communicated as best we could with the bar maid who curiously had a barbed wire tattoo where her ring should have been. She gave me a wave when we left so I must have made a good impression I think.
Come Wednesday morning we got mugged by the local cat who ate half our breakfast before brazenly moving on to the next camper. After clearing and packing up we were ready to resume our journey and set off for the French village of Fermont. I'd persuaded Jeff that we should include this place on our trip as it had been recommended to me by Ralph at the previous Hamm Rally. Fermont is dissected, at least underground, by the Maginot Line, the infamous subterranean French defence structure. Opening time for the tour was about 2.30 p.m. and so we had some time to kill. As it happened just then, as we arrived in the car park, Jeff reported that his gear lever was playing up and sure enough the bolt which pinches the lever onto the splined shaft had stretched. In no time at all we had a spanner on the bolt but to our dismay, it broke!
Never mind, alone in this isolated car-park and with the sun belting down we took turns trying to grip and turn the threaded end of the bolt which was just visible on the other side. About this time a Dutch guy and his wife stopped by and offered help but he had few tools in what looked like a hire car.
After about an hour we had managed to turn the bolt enough to clear the shaft and with much cursing managed to get the bloody lever off. It was then that we saw this problem was a little worse than we feared. The splines inside the lever were worn yes but so were the splines on the shaft! Hmmm, what to do now? In the end we nicked a bolt which held in the side-stand rubber and used that. It was a couple of mm too long but at least it hadn't been stretched. Needless to say the lever did not clamp back on too well but just well enough to be usable. Jeff was under strict instructions not to use the heel of his boot to change gear no matter how stiff the Honda XL600L gearbox became. And those old Honda boxes do get a bit stiff!
We needed a cup of tea and a bite to eat by this time but were short of things like milk and food. We set off to find a local shop but this proved easier said than done. After riding about in vain for a while we finally came across a woman selling essentials from a large van. We pulled over and stocked up with the white stuff and an assortment of cheeses.
By the time we got back to the car park at Fermont a few more cars had turned up. We put the kettle on and sat down for a quick meal. It was then that a Welsh couple turned up on a big tourer and we shared a few jokes about them being just in time for tea before we trekked up the service track on the other side of the main road. We had to leave the bikes fully loaded but luckily no one stole anything.

Despite being over 50 years old, the French Maginot Line is still an imposing sight.

The tour of the Maginot Line was well worth the 6 Euro it cost us each. Although the whole thing took about 3 hours and was all in French, I wouldn't have missed it for the world. Jeff, on the other hand, was not as enthusiastic. Going down 100 metres into the ground we went from being very hot to being very cold and we had left our helmets and jackets at reception!
During the tour we saw just how large this tunnel network was. Able to accommodate hundreds of men at that point alone, the complex was fitted out with a hospital, bar, countless storerooms and many tunnels that seemed to stretch as far as the eye could see.

The tunnels of the Maginot Line are cold, dark and very, very long.

I urge anyone who is interested in this kind of thing to seek the place out because the renovation work carried out by the locals at Fermont is extensive. The twin lifts, generators, lights, train and pop up gun emplacement all worked on que.
After the tour overran by about half and hour we found we had little time to find our next camping site. We decided to head to a place at Montmedy via Longuyon and stopped off on the way for food and wine. The area indicated on the map this turned out to be a nice little campsite on top of a hill and not a stones throw from what looked like a Monastery. Passing what looked like a prison of some kind I ventured to a local bar for a few cold bottles of lager and had some difficulty understanding that the barman wanted me to return his bottles the next day. After sorting this, with the help of the locals, I headed back to the campsite to find Jeff entertaining a small dog, which, like the cat before, seemed very keen to eat all our food.

This dog is smiling because he just ate our breakfast. But could you say no?

We had a spot of rain that night while we slept but awoke the next morning to a pretty pleasant day. We went through the usual routine and set off across France at a pace because Jeff had said he would like to get home a day early if possible. With the weather, still nice, but looking as if it might turn, I agreed.

Somewhere in France. After a long ride it's time for a cuppa tea!

We took the E44 through Charleville over to St-Quentin where we negotiated the diversions through this nice looking town and headed on along the N29 to Amiens. In France we always stick to the 'N' or National roads to avoid the tolls on the newer motorways.
After clearing Amiens we rode a little further and pulled off into Poix-de-Picardie. There was a nice campsite there and we decided it would make the idea stopover because it had a supermarket, fuel station and shops nearby.
Wonder of wonders, the girl at reception says, "you have been 'ere before, no?" We had, two years previous, and she remembered my diesel bike! Not the look of it you understand, but the sound!
This little high was tempered somewhat when we had a drink in the local restaurant and were, we think, overcharged. But maybe it was just restaurant prices? Anyway, it's situated on the corner of the square so if you ever go there don't get caught out.
We'd noticed that there seemed to be little or no toilet paper in all the facilities we'd had cause to use this year and, after buying a huge 'bunch' of paper rolls in the supermarket were a little put out to find this place did actually have some paper on hand. Still, it came in handy the next morning as it rained heavy overnight and we had various things to dry out.
We put our waterproofs on for the first time since the Thursday before when we'd encountered some drizzle outside Hagen and set off for Dieppe. We'd got an early start and jumping off the N29 at Neufchatel-en-Bray rode the D1 into the port town and headed up the hill for the ferry terminal.
Luckily, although we were one day early, they were able to accommodate us and after half an hours wait, we were going through the motions at Customs.
After four (it normally takes four and a quarter) hours on the boat sipping coffee lattes we docked at Newhaven and made it back to Horsham for tea.
All in all the ride back from the Diesel Motorcycle rally was a lot more relaxed than the ride out which consists of a two day dash down the autobahn. That said the last two days were a done at a bit of a push. On getting back I whipped Jeff's gear lever off and, using my mini angle grinder, ran one of its thin metal cutting wheels down between the two mating halves of the lever. I couldn't do much about replacing the missing splines but now the lever could at least clamp better onto the damaged shaft. The borrowed bolt was replaced back from whence it came and a shiny new stainless fixing screw was wound into the underside of the lever.
Jeff had also been troubled by his bike cutting out at awkward times such as at junctions so I gave it the Redex treatment and replaced the plug with something a little more standard. It turned out that he'd been running on one intended for continuous high speed running. Whilst the Honda had certainly had some continuous use over the previous ten days it had most certainly not been running at high speed. Not with a Diesel motorcycle in tow!

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