Friday, 10 June 2011

Day 20 /21 - Home

I've missed a blog out somehow but, to avoid confusion this is my final day after 21 days on the road. The ride back to the tunnel and home was with cloudy skies and rain showers. Still I was happy in my helmet reminising about warm weather, beautiful scenery and seeing my family. Rode over the 'Pont du Normany', which for those of you that have ridden it in the wind, can be a bit hairy (eh Gary?). Got to the tunnel and saw a few other bikers. They didn't have sun tans and weren't smiling. I don't think they went far enough South. Anyway, here is Mileetas before mileage: And after mileage: We covered FIVE THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED & FIFTEEN miles (5715 miles) !! Mileeta is a real star and I love her more than ever. A big thank you to those that joined me for parts of the adventure. Thanks to all the blog followers who where with me all the way. Thanks to the people I met on route. Biggest thank you to my wife, Trish for giving me the freedom to ride, love you. Until next time, it's been a pleasure. Jon

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Day 19 - Houlgate, Normandy

I had a lay-in this morning after the marathon ride yesterday. Left the Loire at midday and rode 220 uneventful miles to Houlgate, Normandy. Met up with a fellow Mid Life Rebel, Philip my brother-in-law, his wife Julia and his family at 'Camping de la Vallee'. It was also his daughter Maddy's birthday today, so stopped on route to buy a couple of presents for her and her sister.

Spent another pleasant evening with them. Spag bol for tea and strawberry flan with candles. Then because I didn't want to risk getting camping gear wet, I went and found an F1 Motel at Caen for my last night. I arrived just after 22:00hrs so got a twin room, with free WiFi and secure parking via the ATM type machine for 33 Euro. I've got a midday return crossing on the Euro tunnel tomorrow, so 3hrs to ride to Calais tomorrow morning.

Reflecting on my trip it's been brilliant, lots of great memories, enough photos and movie clips to bore the pants off friends and family and sad that it's coming to an end. Still, one more day to go before, as they say, the fat lady sings.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Day 18 - Genoa to St Aignan

On my own again. Spent last night and today cruising the Mediterranean to get to Genoa for 18:00hrs. Thanks to getting a cabin, I've had a good sleep so I'm going to be riding through the night on the excellent French roads. Plan is to do a bit of detour (c. 550miles), avoid the Alps, this time, leave Italy and skirt round past San Remo, Monaco and Nice.

Then head North for breakfast with Rosemary my Mother-in-law and John my Father-in-law. They are holidaying in Argentat in the Dordogne, France. The mission: I thought it would be a nice surprise to meet up with them on Wednesday and have a G&T with fresh picked Sicilian lemons, in the beautiful Dordogne.

The weather on arrival at Genoa was cloudy and threaten rain. Changed in to my Gortex trousers on the car deck, much to the amusement of the car passengers. My draggin cargo jeans are looking distressed dispite a wash. The dead insects are gone but, the sun has bleach patches on the thighs. They did the job and kept me cool in the hot weather and also worked as casual wear.

It rained from Monaco all the way. I crossed the Millau viaduct at 04:00hrs with only the darkness, wind and rain for company.

I then had to take 'D' roads cross country via Rodez. The rain was joined by a mist. The road was indestinguishable so the only way I could make any progress was to follow a lorry.

I found John & Rosemary at their campsite right beside the Dordogne river.

Had a cup of tea and toast then we headed off to meet again at another campsite further North at Les Cochards to find some better weather. Another 250 miles = 800 miles in a night and day. Mileeta has now exceeded 5,000 miles so far this trip.

Mission accomplished: G&T in France with Sicilian lemon slice, oh and a sneeky bottle of Lemonchello to finish a home cooked meal.

Day 17 - Tranpani & Palermo

No internet tonight (Monday 6 June).

There wasn’t a ferry yesterday (Sunday) evening, which meant I got another day in Sicily (feels like a second home). Time to hone my Italian riding style i.e. ignore all I’ve been taught, take the racing line at your peril, give as good as you get, ride like a UKAdvanced Motorcyclist and your not going to survive.You move to the outside line, they undertake. You move to the inside line they overtake. You leave a gap in front, they fill it etc.

Spent the day getting my clothes washed and seeing the sights that the West of Sicily has to offer around Trapani and Masarla. We passed the air force base and civil airport, both of which had plenty of NATO aircraft of all types. Re-fuelling planes, AWAX and fighters. We saw a few heavily laden euro fighters fly off on their sorties. Probably going to see if Mr. Gaddafi was at home and download their mega bits.

The mountain that dominates Trapani has an ancient town at the top called Erice. For centuries before Catholicism, Erice used to be ruled by a high priestess and hundreds of her priestesses. They worshiped the goddess Venus in a temple and men were slaves to their love. Nothing changes then ;-).

Sergio took me to a local travel agent and I booked a ticket for the 22:00hrs ferry from Palermo to Genoa with a (non-sharing, you have to specify otherwise you might get an adventure you weren’t expecting) cabin. The sailing is 20hrs but means I can be traveling while sleeping and hopefully recoup some lost time. It means skipping the return ride up through Italy but, I think a saw enough priestesses by the side of the road on the way down. I won’t miss the triple high Armco, narrow lanes and dark cold tunnels of the autostrada.

We visited the salt lagoons and picturesque windmills that power the pumps to drain the lagoons to expose the salt.

We rode a little further on and watched the kite surfers at Santa Maria where International competitions are held. This is where the cool people hangout, with their new VW T5 camper vans, sexy chicks and Hawaiian gear flags.

At 20:00hrs I said goodbye to Sergio and hatched a plan (like I’ve ever had one of those) that maybe get the lads (and ladies?) out on a trip to Sardinia or Corsica next year and meet-up (anyone up for that?)

Mileeta loaded with fresh picked lemons, Sergios fathers olive oil and local wine, I rode the 60 miles to Palermo ferry port.

Got my ticket validated at the port office, boarded ‘La Superba’.

I collected my cabin card key and settled in. Then thought I’d go for a wander around the ship, fine, nice ship, very plush for a ferry more like a cruise liner (I imagine). The problem arose when I went to return to my cabin. What was the number? 8323? No clue on the card key. I knew it was deck 8 and an inside cabin on a corner of a block. Left the bloody Tom Tom and maps in the cabin too! Halfway around Europe and I can’t find my cabin! I couldn’t find it, or anyone to ask, for over half an hour, still only 19 and half hours to go.

If I feel up to it, I have a new mission in mind, before returning home to my wife, daughter and son who, although I’ve been corresponding, I do miss x x x

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Day 16 - Trapani

The Englishman, Italian and French woman went to the beach……. it’s no joke, we were truly European today.

Mileeta was carrying full panniers, Iris and myself. We rode along the sea front of Giardini Naxos then on to the picturesque Isola Bella (Beautiful Island). It is actually connected to the mainland by a shingle causeway. We parked the bikes and walked down the steps to the beach. We swam in the crystal clear water and sunbathed. As we lay their soaking up the suns rays, Sergio had a little chuckle to himself. “What?” I asked. He then recounted the story from the book ‘The Alchemist’. A Sheppard decides to go on a journey to discover treasure. He travels far and wide but doesn’t find treasure. When he returns he finds the treasure was actually what he already had. The beach we were lying on was the most beautiful we had experienced all trip and it was on Sergio’s door step.

We return back to Diegos’ and had lunch with the others. Then when the weather got cooler, and they had had their afternoon snooze, at 5 o’clock we pack up, said our goodbyes. A big thanks to all at the farm, I'll be back with friends or family if you'll have me, thanks again, the perfect place to chill.

We headed West to Trapani. The trip was 220 miles in to the sun but, when it began to set, we were rewarded with a sky that would have delighted the Shepard in Sergio’s story. The colour matched the glow from Mileetas dials or, if you prefer, rather than shepards delight more a Turkish delight.

Sergio’s trip was coming to an end, Turkey (the Asian side) now a memory but the 4,500 kms are all his. His riding quickened, only curtailed by the evening traffic around Palermo. He was taking the bends like Valentino Rossi and now even remembering to cancel the indicators. Tenuous link: Trapani is named after the sickle the crescent shaped tool that used to be used for cutting grass. Turkeys flag has a cresent and a star. Sergio, you are a star. Thanks for making this part of Mileetas Adventure what it is. I would never have gone to Albania, drank so much coffee, eaten cake for breakfast or get hooked on Gelato (the best icecream ever!).

We celebrated with pizza, beer and gelato while writing blog.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Day 15 - Etna

Diego's place, where I'm staying is at Santa Venera. Home made breakfast of coffee, fresh bread and orange and clove marmalade. Shorts, 'T' shirt and flip flops on. We decided to take a little narrow gauge train that circumnavigates mount Etna to Randazzo. What Sergio hadn't told me was to get to the nearest station we'd have to walk on the train track to get there! Perhaps flip flops not the right footwear.

On the way back the train missed our stop. No problemo. The driver stopped the train, went to the cab at the other end of the train and reversed the train back up the track to drop us off at the station, before continuing on it's way back down. We walked after the train, again on the tracks when a saw something wriggling by the rail. It was a freshly decapitated snake. Perhaps flip flops not the right footwear!

Mileeta had been parked keeping the donkeys company. A ride to the clandestine farmers market being held in an orchard of (permisson?) trees took her over the 4,000 miles so far.

There was also a Celtic folk group performing. New foods to try including berries from the bushes that silk worms eat, Mulberry I think?

A group of bees had separated from a hived and formed a swam in one of the trees. They where going to encourage the bees in to new hive.

The dogs' name is Curva (Curve as in corner), he was found by the side of the road.

We rode back to base in the dark with the aid of Tom Tom. We had been joined today by Iris from Lyon, France (WWOOF) so nine of us sat down for dinner and conversation.