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3rd November 2004

A European Adventure, I

There are moments when it seems appropriate to leave the classic bike at home and take a more modern motorcycle. After all, you wouldn't want to be plagued by disaster on holiday... would you? Meet Mick M: RealClassic Clubman of many mishaps!

This tale started back in February. We were moving home and a new bike was on the horizon. With the help of the RC website and no small input from Vicki (the Mrs), a Ducati ST4S became the chosen machine. The idea was to achieve one of my long time goals. I had this pie in the sky dream of touring Europe, taking in some places that I have wanted to see for a long time.

Now fast forward to April 21 when I picked up the bike from my local Ducati dealer. I settled in with it over the next two months until I was taken out on a roundabout by a blind ice-cream van driver. Fortunately I was not hurt; only a sprained ankle. The bike was not so lucky -- it had a damaged front wheel, bent stand and offside silencer, with the offside front flasher broken, and some surface marks to the bodywork. I had the breakdown truck take it directly to Parkinson's at Marks Tey, and to their and Carole Nash's credit it was ready for the off with two days to go.

So, deadline Thursday July 22nd. School's out! Vicki picked me up at work in the car, off home, change, tea, bike out of the garage. Load up, kit on, check every thing is OK, intercom working - we find the intercom to be a great help with navigation especially in unknown towns and cities -- and we were off...

Hmm.. Nice topbox!

We were going from Portsmouth to Le Havre overnight and the two and a half hour trip passed smoothly. On our arrival in the port the sight and sound of dozens of classic cars off to Le Mans was a wonderful send off. We were amongst a dozen or so bikes on the ferry. Some were off to Barcelona for a drinking weekend!

The ferry arrived at about 7am French time. So off we go to our first stop with an overnight at Rouen -- only some 70 miles or so. We have passed through here many times but this time we planned to have a look around. We had pre-booked a hotel so wasted no time in getting on with the sight-seeing, starting off with breakfast then a good wander around, enjoying our first day. Rouen is a large city with plenty to see and do. As usual Vicki led the way and I was content to follow. After all this is a holiday for two. She picks the destination -- I drive the bike!

Mr and Mrs M hit the cold beer and creamy ice cream.

I was keen to get on with the journey the following morning so we were up early, breakfasted and away by 9am. We were off to Amboise on the Loire, only some 240 miles, so no rush with a nice leisurely pace using a well-known route for us, the RN 138. We arrived at Gace, a small insignificant town known to us as a good picnic spot. As Vicki got off the bike she let out an awful shriek... one which that sounded like; 'WHERE'S THE TOP BOX?'


There was a large space at the rear just where the box should be! The rack had broken. We rode back... back... back, slowly searching. Looking for anything, a shoe, a top, her posh outfit. Surely some debris somewhere? There must be something? The 80 miles we had covered that morning were re-covered. Back in Rouen I went to the hotel and they called the police. They were very good about checking with all the local stations and called the main towns on our route, but nothing was found.

With heavy hearts we retraced out steps back down the RN 138. Again we went slowly, looking for any trace but found nothing. Eventually we arrived in Amboise at the Hotel Belle View. A glum meal was had, both of us still wearing our bike boots, as the shoes were amongst the missing belongings. It was whilst we were asleep that Number Two son phoned to say that someone had driven into the garden wall, knocking it down onto Vicki's car and damaging a front wing. By now we were punch drunk. What more could go wrong?

Hmmm.. Nice tailpack! It's downhill all the way from here.

The following morning we decided to skip the next part of our journey to Limoges, go back into the large town of Toures and replace the shoes for a start. We needed a tail pack of some sort, too. We ended up at a BMW dealers and purchased a tail pack.

Then as I left the dealers I noticed the nail in the Ducati's tyre... yes, it went flat when removed, and I used the can of puncture repair sealant, which worked. Until I saw the other nail.

So back into the dealer and asked for a repair job. Yes certainly, after lunch. Two and a half hours later the wheel was washed and two mushrooms were inserted. When inflated, a third hole appeared - and within 3mm of one of the others so it meant that a new tyre was the order of the day.

Ducatis on

Now I am not superstitious but this was surely three things... wasn't it?

Things can only get better. Can't they? Next episode: Spain, Portugal and plenty of cider...


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