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Diary of an International Rally - Italy 2014 Part 1

For me this trip started the day after the winter pub meet at The Bull, Henfield, a full 6 month before the Rally.  A motorbike holiday was something that was on my ‘Bucket List’ so this was an ideal opportunity.  Although not an ‘Indian Rider’ in the true sense of the word, as my bike (an Enfield Bullet) was built in India I thought that was close enough.

As I had not ridden the bike since May 2013, and before setting out on such a long journey, the bike was going to need some TLC.  After buying new throw over bags, a tank bag and a load of spares (just in case), and spending several wet and windy Sundays getting the bike up to scratch it was finally ready for the big adventure.

The thought of 2 weeks riding, not to mention 2 weeks camping, something I had not done since I was a much younger man, was a bit daunting so the Spring Meet at Etchingham seemed like an ideal trial run to see how I got on.

In anticipation of the good weather I was expecting in Italy in July I bought a new lightweight jacket (how wrong can you be).

As the old mind’s not what it was, I took along with me a note book and pen to use as a diary to record events and happenings along the way in the hope that it would help me to relive the trip well after the event, much to the entertainment and amusement of my fellow travellers.

One thing you may noticed while reading this is the lack of direction (road numbers, towns passed through etc, not moral) which is due to the fact that the routes were all worked out by Anita, ably assisted by Lorraine on occasion, before we set off each day and all I had to do was follow the bike in front and enjoy the ride and scenery that, for me, was one of the delights of this trip.  So just for info the outward journey from the Eurotunnel terminal at Coquelles up the French coast to Belgium then in a general south-easterly direction going through Belgium, Germany, a short sojourn back into France, back into Germany, Austria, then on to San Leo in Italy.  The return trip was mostly north-westerly up through northern Italy to the Mont Blanc Tunnel through central France into Belgium and finally back to the train at Coquelles.

The following is an edited version of that diary, with some additions, as some of the original contents may not be suitable for reading in mixed company.  The mileage may not be totally accurate, but it’s near enough.

Friday 18th July
13:10.   Bike fuelled, loaded and ready to go, set of for Molash to Pete and Anita’s house to meet up with the rest of the intrepid adventurers (Martyn Bratby and Bill & Loraine Herbert).
15:20.   Greeted with a cold beer on arrival.  After another couple of cold ones had a BBQ in the evening and watched an amazing storm pass overhead followed by a right royal downpour all night.  Not, I hope, a portent of the next two weeks!
22:30.   Early start tomorrow, went to bed in the Hippy Van (very comfy).
Mileage 5897 – 5965 = 68

Saturday 19th July                                               Day 1
05:00: Woke up, Fairly good nights sleep even allowing for the rain hammering on the roof for most of the night, the noise reminded me of living in my Campervan.  Bill came over with a cup of tea.  Toast for breakfast then loaded Pete’s bike into the van.  Wet weather gear on as still raining (not hard).
06:25.   Set off for the Tunnel.  Drove though a number of floods and had to dodged various debris, broken branches and the like that the previous nights storm had deposited along the way.  Only a short queue for the train, not long to wait to board.
08:10    Train left 20 minutes late.  First time using the Tunnel for me, as an ex Sealink worker only ever been by Ferry before.
09:50.   (French time) arrived the other side.  Took a chance and removed wet weather gear, on the train, in anticipation of fine weather.
10:25.   Short dash up the motorway to our first stop, the Auchan supermarket at Dunkerque, to get essential supplies i.e. beer and wine.
11:45.   Onto Adinkerke just over the Belgium border, for fuel and tobacco (for some).
12:00.   Set off for the first campsite, now our journey really begins.
14:10.   Stop for fuel and a sandwich, and a smoke break.
15:50.   Comfort break.  Just as well as my seat is fairly uncomfortable and my backside feel like it’s been pummelled all the way here.  Maybe I’ll get hardened to the more we ride.
17:15.   Another fuel stop.  Martyn changed his battery as the old one expired on the way here.
19:20.   After a couple more fuel stops, a comfort break and the odd breakdown (Martyn had to change his battery and tighten the carburettor screws) we arrived at our first campsite Parc La Clusure at Tellin Belgium.  There was some sort of show going on and, as we drove up to the entrance, almost the entire audience looked round to see what all the noise was about, upsetting the entertainers a bit I dare say.  Emptied the van and set up camp while Bill got the dinner ready, something he would do for most of the trip, with Lorraine’s help of course.
21:00.   Fred and Tim and the two Sues arrived, set up camp next to us.  Trains running next to the campsite, hope they don’t run through the night!

Got wet and dried out several times as it was raining on and off all day.
Mileage 5965 – 6213 = 248

Sunday 20th July                                                 Day 2
06:00.   Woke up, didn’t hear any trains last night.  Sun shining, could be an OK day today.
09:00.   All up, breakfasted, breaking camp getting ready for the off.
10:05.   Started today’s journey heading for Frank Nuber’s house at Windenreure, Germany.
11:10.   Stopped in a motorway lay-by as Bill’s bike is playing up coughing and banging.  Pete found a nail in his rear tyre.  Pulled it out and couldn’t believe, because of the length, it hadn’t punctured the tube.
12:20.   Drove into Luxembourg and stopped at the first service station on the motorway, quite a queue to get to the pumps, fuel cheaper here.  Just as well we stopped, went onto reserve about 8 miles ago.
13:50.   I can now say that I truly feel that I have been inducted as a fully paid up member of the Indian Rider Club as I had my first breakdown on the way to a rally, my clutch cable broke.  Luckily I had a spare which I fitted by the side of the road while some of the others looked on and took photos.  14:15.set off again.
16:30.   Fuel and fags stop (coffee & biscuits).  Somewhere along the way Pete’s waterproofs and plastic sidestand disc flew off the back of his bike.
19:15.   Another fuel stop, not long to go now.  Shan’t be sorry to get off this seat!
20:05.   Arrived at Frank’s house, at last, soaking wet as it started chucking it down about half an hour ago.  He was waiting for us with his son Adam, his neighbour and friend Tomas and his daughter.  Tomas had a couple of bottles of his ‘home brew’ a very welcome and warming spirit one made from Damsons (can’t remember what the other one was) but it was very good as well.  Sat around in the garage drinking for a while then Frank lit a barbecue (outside in the rain) and cooked us some very tasty marinated pork steaks which we had with potatoes, salad, and more beer.  After dinner the others chatted for a while about ‘the good old days’ then had a guided tour of the house.  It’s a modern Eco friendly house designed by Frank and Lucy (his wife) who, unfortunately was away at a ‘diddly diddly’ festival in France (she plays in a folk band).  Magic workshop in the basement.
00:00.   Sleeping arrangements sorted, Pete and Anita in the basement en-suite, Bill and Lorraine upstairs, Martyn in the office and me on the front room floor.  Knackered after a busy day.
Mileage 6213 – 6500 = 287

Monday 21st July                                                 Day 3
05:00.   Woke up and wrote dairy.  Hope today’s weather will be a bit kinder to us.
06:40.   Frank came downstairs with Ella, his 2 year old daughter who, understandably, was shy at first but got quite chatty after a while.  Rolls and jam, cake and coffee for breakfast.  Had a shower, feel much better now.  Still raining outside, doesn’t look too good for today’s ride!
09:00.   Van loaded, jumper and wet gear on, ready for the off.
09:10.   Said our goodbyes and set off for our next campsite at Wertach near the Austrian border.
Frank was a fantastic host and an all round great bloke.
10:45.   First fuel and fag stop of the day (30 mins).
12:10.   Stopped in a town in front of a small hotel, just passed a set of traffic lights where Lorraine spotted a leak on the road, Pete’s petrol pipe had come off the carburettor.  Bit of luck for us as it was opposite a nice cake shop, where Lorraine brought us a cake each (very agreeable).
14:45.   Fuel, fag and coffee stop.  Sat in the café part of the petrol station drinking coffee waiting for the rain to stop.  Brought some eats in the supermarket next door.  On the way here we were supposed to be stopping at Lake Constance trouble was, what with all the road works, diversions and closed roads we managed to miss it completely, although we did get to see some of it as we rode past, better luck next time perhaps!
16:00.   Set off again, rain getting steadily worse the further we went the harder it rained.
17:30.   Arrived at campsite, water running out of places it shouldn’t have been in in the first place!
Borrowed a tent from Anita and Pete as my little two man tent was too small to put all my wet gear in without me getting soaked, theirs has a bigger space in the front.  Emptied the van and Bill got the dinner ready.  Bill’s headlight packed up earlier so we did a bit of preventative maintenance after dinner.  A wire was off the switch and there was a cheap and nasty plug on the back of the sealed beam unit which was u/s, sorted it between us.  Sat in the van and, joy of joys, it’s absolutely hissing down!
Mileage 6500 – 6673 = 173

Tuesday 22nd July                                               Day 4
06:15.   Woke up and it’s still raining, been slinging it down all night, slowed up to a downpour now!  Everything in the tent is soaked from the rain and/or condensation, not sure.  Cooked breakfast today, sat in the van to eat in the dry.  Getting ready was a shear delight as putting on wet jeans and, Oh what bliss, to put on soaking wet boots.
10:10.   Set off for the next campsite, Camping Vahmer See near Vahrn, Italy.  Bike wouldn’t start, had to bump it (water in everything I think) including me.  As we set off it sounded like a bag of nails, bit worried there was something seriously wrong.  Took it steady for a while and it seemed OK, so carried on.
10:50.   First fuel and fag(2) stop of the day.  It’s actually stopped raining for the moment and drying up a bit.  By this time the lengths of our stops were being classified by the number of fags that were smoked.  A fuel only stop is a one fag break, a fuel and a quick coffee and/or biscuit a two fag break, a fuel coffee and something more substantial to eat, and the occasionally minor breakdown, a three fag break.  A four or more fag break was a more serious problem or we just needed a rest.
12:10.   Shopping stop at a SPAR in Franhausen, coffee and biscuits while we waited.  On the way here went through a number of fairly long tunnels and there are pine trees everywhere.  Went into the church next to the car park, what a fantastic painted ceiling.  Set off again 12:50.
14:25.   Fuel & fag(2) stop, we have now passed into Italy (a couple of toll roads later) via the Benner Pass what an amazing ride very picturesque, amazing scenery, plenty of pine trees here.
16:00.   Arrived at campsite (sloping field with slightly primitive toilet facilities).  Tents up to dry them out as everything was packed wet this morning.  The site is close to the motorway but unfortunately it’s closer to a railway line with freight trains loaded with artics and trailers running with annoying regularity and very noisy.  Fred and Co. were going to stay here as well but couldn’t get the Campervan through the small tunnel under the railway line so had to find another campsite (unluckily still within earshot of the railway).  We had a little visitor come to sit with us, a small black and white dog, belongs to the site I think.  He came back a couple of times especially when we fed him broken biscuits.
22:30.   Bed time, hope those trains don’t keep us awake!
Mileage 6673 – 6814 = 141

Wednesday 23rd July                                           Day 5
05:50.   Woken by a train going by, read for a while.  Sat in front of the van with Bill watching the sun coming up over the mountain, looking good for today.  Martyn, getting out of his tent in the mornings, reminded us of a Giant Tortoise poking his head out of it’s shell.
07:00.   Breakfasted and sitting in the sun, shirt off lovely!
09:30.   Nearly ready to go.  Had a problem starting the Enfield, clutch slipping when kicking over, slacken the cable, OK now.
09:50.   Set off for our next campsite on the outskirts of Verona.  Stopped after 5 minutes for some minor adjustments, Bill had a problem starting his bike, Pete kicked it into life and off we go again.
11:50.   Stopped by a lake (not Constance, unless we did a big about turn somewhere), weather great now sun shining and very warm,  Spent a very pleasant hour here watching people enjoying themselves on the lake, eating ice creams and having drinks (non alcoholic of course).  Had a great ride through the valleys and passed acres and acres of vineyards along the way.
14:15.   Last fuel and fag(2) stop of the day.  Anita’s bike was playing up a bit on the way here hopefully it’ll get to the site OK.  Fred and Co. drove past just as we pulled in.  Passed a sign that read 32ºc getting warm at last.
15:50.   Arrived at campsite, great ride through the mountain today.  Soaked again as it started raining on the way here.  Had to buy tokens for the showers!  Unloaded the van and set up camp while Lorraine rode off to do some shopping at a local supermarket.  There was a Gazebo on site which we all sat under to shelter from the rain, not that good at keeping water out as there were big splits in the roof.  Bill’s still having problems with his bike so after dinner Martyn gave a masterclass in Chief distributors and Linkert carbs. (interesting, especially the bit about the ball bearing).
Linda rang to say they (Ki, Eva and family and her) had arrived at the rally site and things were not too good.  It was a muddy sloping field and, because of the rain, some, including them couldn’t get on the field.  Some, allegedly, had turned round and gone home, others moved to campsites elsewhere (they went to a campsite some miles away) and others had sought refuge in the hotels and B&B’s in the town.  We will carry on tomorrow and see for ourselves what the situation is like.
22:00.   It’s just started raining again, left Martyn and Bill fixing the carburettor and went to bed.
Mileage 6814 – 6947 = 133

Thursday 24th July                                              Day 6
05:10.   Up early again, bladder not what it was, and some bloody cockerel crowing.  Music playing during the night, I think there was some sort of rave going on up the road.  Would have had a shower but it was dark and couldn’t find the light switch (should have looked outside the door). 
06:30.   Showered, (light switch on the outside of the cubicle; obviously!).
08:00.   Chucking it down again, sat under the shelter had breakfast and chatted for a while before breaking camp.  Martyn made some final adjustments to Bill’s bike, should be OK now.
10:10.   Set off to the rally site at San Leo (nearly there now)
13:00.   Fuel & fag (3) stop.  Not a nice ride raining all the way here, plenty of farming and some pleasant rural scenery though, including the young lady behind the bar in the service station where we had coffee’s and pizza, very tasty.
15:10.   Fuel, fag (1) and LIDL shopping stop.  On the way here Martyn and me had a bit of luck when we rode passed a farmer fertilising his field, we both got a light spray of slurry, smells great!
18:30.   Somehow we lost Pete on the outskirts of Rimini (bit of a blip in the second man drop off system).  He turned up an hour later (got direction from a very helpful man at a Honda Dealership).
21:00.   Arrived at rally site after some misdirection from either well meaning locals or someone in the pay of the local restaurateurs sending us into the town instead of the rally site which, for me, was a bit of a disappointment.  Phil and Jo Clarke were already there as well as Fred, Tim and the two Sues.  After a fair bit of in-depth discussion, with several interested parties, it was decided that we would stay.  The rest, as they say, is a whole new story.
Mileage 6947 – 7124 = 177

To be continued.


Kim Buick

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