Arundel to the ferry, to Spain. Spain; North to South.
Apologies for delay folks – now i’m home, i’ll try to get this blog sorted! edits may appear as i go.
Sunday Feb. 27th.
How to get a quart into a pint pot. Well it’s like this; there’s this many people (does fisherman impression of the one that got away– hands apart) and this much space (finger and thumb – an inch apart). so, we load some scoots on the trailer – a challenge in itself as there’s no ramp. It’s a case of bodily lift them up and lash them on and ride two to the ferry. I get the luck (bad / good?) to ride Dennis’s one to the ferry port – Portsmouth. It’s my first run on a gapper since me and Linda shared one some years ago. I still have fond, perhaps deluded memories of the C100 pushrod engined Honda 50 I had as a fresh faced youth – so I think it’s good luck to get a go before the main event.
Of course we leave late and are now under pressure to get to the ferry to meet with the other half of the group that stayed in Toads place.
Toad is a Tosser. that’s not a term of abuse – for them that don’t know a Tosser is a BMW GS rider. “Scoots Central” – the base of operations for the trip is his home and gods bless him he and Cal, his wife have been very hospitable to the Scootisti. Many’s the meeting has been held there.
I digress, (now there’s a surprise). Anyhow, we get to the ferry, a little frayed but in good form. Finding the others is no problem at the port entrance – there aren’t many lunatics with a bunch of Honda 90s lingering there. Now the fun begins again as we re-arrange the trailer we’re taking. Pack some scoots on it and get ready to embark with the others – the Bikes that are being being ridden on – two up along with the car and trailer. we resemble a circus troop of clowns and not for the last time either! One of the guys, Callum is 6′ 7” tall and when he gets on and off the Bike it’s like watching a deckchair unfold. I’m not helping improve our image as I have bungee strapped Earl to the handlebars and thump him every now and again to make him squawk. dignity – what dignity? we don’t have no steenking dignity!
The group has now got on the boat. The boat has now departed. The cabins are now home to a motley bunch that don’t know each other well, but soon will. Oh yes, we now get to the male bonding bit.
There’s 9 of us between two 4 berth cabins. I don’t know what the other cabin looks like but, in ours, if you’ve ever seen the scene in the Marx Brothers film where they pile as many people as possible into the cabin – yep, that’s us. A bunch of irregular (how polite of me) shaped men in a confined space with far too much crap between us to fit it all in, in comfort.
Cabins get sorted, as far as that’s possible anyhow. Now there’s a palpable sense of “let me off – I wanna get on a bike and ride!” going on now. But we sit in the restaurant lounge, we eat and drink, we chat. The strangers becoming less strange, getting to know one another and starting to learn how this bunch of individuals will become a group.
Rather uneventful boat trip after that really. I like Brittany Ferries, so I relaxed and just enjoyed it. Though all of us plainly had our minds on what was to happen next, not where we were now. You could almost read the thoughts passing through peoples minds. So after dinner and for some a drink or… two, we calm down, settle down and eventually went to bed. Apart from Callum, who as previously mentioned is 6’7” and never going to get comfy in a bunk. He swopped with one of the guys who had not been allocated a bunk and had only a reclining seat to look forward to. He was grateful and Callum who is not a great sleeper simply wandered around the boat. All night long! Rather you than me Callum. He looked suprisingly fine in the morning I have to say.
Monday 28th Feb.
The next morning we arose and twiddled our collective thumbs til it was time to dock. Heading for the car decks – the traditional getting-lost-in-finding-the bikes farce took place of course. Myself and one of the Jims, although lost, still found the bikes sooner than the others. The bikes were as usual, with the trucks and trailers, Tom took a unique route – he went under a truck to join us with the bikes. Fair play Tom – that’s not a route I would take!
Eventually we left the boat. Our fellow Biker travellers looking at us like we were mad when we explained the journey we were embarking on. They were of course correct. We were mad.
The daze spent in Spain.
Now off the boat – nearly last, as we were literally bottom of the pile, lowest deck. We assembled our odd group having satisfied the bemused Spanish Police and Customs that we were no threat / just mad. The trailer had to be repacked. Set up for camping and as much of our personal cra.. er, essentials off the trailer and either on our own bike or if no other option into the car.
Dennis (coordinator and loosely speaking our leader) more than once uttered the line “I said no more than 70 litres!” referring to our baggage ‘allowance’. To no avail of course – most of us had not followed guidelines, but to be fair I think we all tried to. ANYhow, we finally set off on our maiden voyage, Scooters In The Sahara III or for me Gambia On A Gapper mark 1.
Traffic was a bit nuts heading out of town, following Dennis’s urine yellow Roof Boxer helmet and trying to keep up. He had a gps and between his head bobbing down to look at it and to the rear to find us – he more resembled a funky chicken than my plastic chicken Earl. This was to be remembered by me at least as a relatively calm journey later, but not at the time. At the time, it seemed frantic. But I had a new definition of frantic later in this odyssey. Out of town and onward, we hit major roads and then motorway.
Yes, motorway. On a gapper. Top speed of 55ish mph, if you pushed on and waited for road speed to match engine effort. At that pace it vibrated like crazy, reaching a resonance pitch that could loosen fillings not to mention the component parts of the bike. This was like riding a Kango hammer on square wheels over a tin roof.
I don’t want to really recall much more of Spain. Really, I don’t. 3 days of mostly motorway, many stops for fuel and some for the inevitable breakdowns. Some almost nervous ones. Suffice to say that was an adventure and not in a good way. In hindsight I for one wish I had insisted that we stayed off motorways completely. This was not a good start and was needless stress on Bikes and riders. I hoped to see a bit more of Spain than I did on previous trips there. (I’d been before, but only as a means of getting to the French side of the Pyrenees). This was not to be – full attention was required for the road, the trucks overtaking us and the car drivers that misread our speed or just gawped in (I think) sheer disbelief at the entourage.
Best to remind you the reader now, this is only one persons opinion and one persons outlook and attitude we’re talking about here. And it’s written as we go and without the calm rationale (I mean sensitive editing) of ‘mature reflection’.
Bottom line is it’s my blog so tough titties if ya don’t like it or you took part in the trip and don’t agree with it!
EDIT: I’m revising and editing this now – 12 days after returning. But my mood is still emotive, my arse still saddle sore and my weight still down (I lost a fair bit on the trip) – so just sod off now if you are expecting the polished ‘literature’ of say a Charlie Boorman (ghost) written epic.
I’ll give some highlights so you get a flavour. Not all flavours taste nice. With that in mind here we go.
This first day sees us head upwards, in altitude I mean.
I’m sure someone said we’re over 2000 feet up! So that explains why my fingers and toes are freezing, there’s snow blowing across the road and it’s banked at the roadsides and thick on the hills. There’s a lot of hills, mountains even. I’m not sure – I didn’t have time to look in detail. It rains a little, not much but enough to sap any remaining heat out of you. To my surprise the cold does not mean ice, it’s a dry cold not like at home where the variations in temperature make for an icy surface. So, not as hazardous as you could assume. But no time for complacency either.
The days spent in Spain blur into one another, but here’s a thing that recurs throughout the trip – I measured progress not with the speedo, not by mileage and not by time but by the fuel gauge. It’s the only measure worth noting and any other ‘yardstick’ would only upset me
There’s an unhappy compromise to riding a bike you know has to get you many miles in a limited amount of time. On the one hand you’ve to ride it hard to get there in the time allotted and on the other you’ve to nurse it for it to be of any use when you get it there. I am not happy on motorways on any bike. I just don’t like them. On a gapper, it’s unpleasant at best and being the slowest most vulnerable and smallest vehicle there – a hazardous nightmare at worst. There I’ve said it and I don’t care if you call ‘wuss’ from behind your screen. If you can do it better, fine – go ahead and do it. Just don’t forget to tell us all about it when you return!
We have this for 3 days, we have our moments of high tension and harsh words between us. But we do it, we reach Algerciras and were still a group at the end.
In the course of the days there are a few breakdowns as I said. My bike vibes the exhaust loose at the head – common on a gapper and not serious normally, but it would be if left unattended. Easy fix – apart from mine losing the stud to bolt it back up. But minor and overcomeable (I do not care if that’s not a real word – it’s a surreal trip, I’m allowed the abuse of English). More of a brown trouser moment was when the float bowl on the carb came loose. I thought the bike was about to seize so reached for a non existent clutch lever, came to a halt on the hard shoulder with Ian our back up car driver on my tail like a guardian angel. Again an easy fix. Thankfully.
Then there was the matter of navigating through Sevilla. A tangled mess of dual carriageway and motorway with more turn offs and lane changes, fast straights (this is only the case on any other vehicle than a gapper – on a gapper it’s challenging. (My, how I can understate!). How we stayed together and didn’t lose at least one rider I do not know. We managed it with expressions at the end varying from manic grins to white faced horror.
I experienced a rear tyre puncture. A pet hate for me as that is exactly how I ‘remodelled’ my nose – a rear tyre blow-out on a motorway, on a small Bike. Thankfully, this puncture was not as dramatic and we just left the motorway, fixed it and continued on. The only casualty this time was my stomach churning and a minor ‘laundry problem’.
We finally got off motorway for about the last 50 miles of Spain, a delightful twisty back road that had us giggling into the bends and hooring out of them. A blessed relief and a chance to let off steam and release the pent up adrenaline. One slight moment when Callums footrest came off as he cranked it hard into a righthander – nearly catching his foot under the bike. Luckily it didn’t hit me (I was right behind him) I only found out later what it was – ignorance of this was truly bliss – had it hit me, say on the knee, it would have felt like a brick.
Arriving in Algerciras the car now had a problem.
The radiator was toast.
We ended up spending an extra day there while Ian and Andy our designated mechanic finally found one – in Malaga, a 160 mile (?) round trip in the car with the problem! The hotel we waited in (and recovered) was amusing. Our rooms were portacabins. Perfectly serviceable, basic and clean but Freezing cold with laughable air con units bolted through a hole in the wall. You could see light through the sides – probably a godsend in summer but an insult in march. Each room had it’s name emblazoned on the wardrobe. Ours was, I think ‘Rosario’. So it looked like the wardrobes were named. Odd, the whole thing was just odd. Reminding me of a job I had years ago as security guard on an industrial estate – my hut was so similar to this hotel ‘room’. The food was o.k. though and the lads liked the bar. Mind you, any bar with beer looked good to them!
We repacked the trailer again as camping was now on the horizon, considered cutting the support legs off the back so they wouldn’t get caught on rough ground, but abandoned the idea. Well, how was one problem apart from any other. We would cope. Throughout this trip we discovered we would cope with many things that back in The Real World we’d bitch about.
Got the bikes fettle again. Some are using oil, some need bits tightened up, one has broken it’s rack away from the frame. Callums is ill. The further we go, the less confidence he has in it. Only time will tell how this works out.
The route and the miles;
Monday 28th: Santander to Dounes: 130 miles. to a bland but comfy hotel.
Tuesday 1st: Dounes to Merida (south of Parmencia): 270 miles. hotel as above.
Wednesday 2nd: Merida to Algerciras (just outside it): 246 miles. the portacabin hotel
Morning arrives and we head for the port to get to Morocco.