Riding The Western Front: Day One – Monday 25th June
This was it, today was the day I would embark on a 17 day trip going through England and heading to Belgium and France riding along The Western Front on the 100th Anniversary of the end of World War One. I spent much of the day twiddling my thumbs as I wouldn’t be checking in for the Belfast to Birkenhead ferry until around 8 p.m. I always find the final couple of days before heading for a long run stressful because it’s sometimes too late if certain faults appear with the Lambretta.
There was already an ongoing issue with a temperature spike about half throttle which I couldn’t seem to get rid of. I spent a fair amount of time trying to jet it right and I eventually settled for something I hoped I’d be able to ride with. I was stopping off to see my friends Alan Terry and his wife Jo. As well as Al’s knowledge of 2-Stroke engines, he had a dyno. So I was hoping an answer could be found to the temperature issue.
Around 6.30 p.m. I could wait no longer, so I got ready and loaded the scooter. Ready to leave at 7.00 p.m. I Jumped on the Lambretta and as usual, it fired up first kick, but then it died before I had a chance to move. So, the first issue I had was poor packing skills. I had to take off most of the bags to get to the tools.
I checked the spark plug and it didn’t look great, so I quickly swapped it with a new one. (Correct gap set after it was purchased ). It started up first kick, so I put everything back on the Lambretta and headed off for the docks. It was a short, trouble-free run. On arrival I met a couple from England who were touring the Antrim Coast on their 500cc Triumph Stag Motorbike. It’s always good to meet like minded people along the way, sharing experiences and sometimes advice. One of the best parts of travelling on the Lambretta. (the other is getting there)!
Pretty soon it was time to board the boat and as usual, I headed for my favourite spot, which I use as my device charging, resting point and bed. At one point in the evening, I decided to check I had everything and looked around for my keys. I couldn’t find them. So after a few minutes of blind panic, I was escorted below deck to my Lambretta by a member of the boat crew and there were my keys, in the ignition. (This would be repeated throughout my trip). Panic over. I was back in my spot with my beer. I did have a moment in my mind that I was asking myself “what the hell are you taking on with this trip?” But a few pints later I was out for the count and fast asleep.
Thought for the day: Pack luggage with easier access to tools and spares.
Total miles covered: 7
Riding The Western Front: Day Two – Tuesday 26th June
I woke just after 5.00 a.m. to the sound of boat crew chattering to themselves. The passengers who slept on the seats around me all started to wake, so I grabbed a double Espresso to wake me up.
Knowing my keys were safe I got the Sat Nav out to open my pre-set routes and set the ride to Nuneaton. By 6.30 a.m. we were just about docked and fifteen minutes later I was riding off the boat. Into a bright sunny day.
I headed to Nuneaton without a rush. I didn’t want to interfere to much with Al’s beauty sleep. By 10.40 a.m. I was at Nuneaton. Alan arrived shortly after me and it was good to see him. It was nearly six years I was last in Nuneaton.
First Alan took the Lambretta for a spin to get a feel of the engine to see if he could replicate my heat spike at half throttle, he did. So next was the dyno and after a few runs the jetting was back as it was. This was because it was deemed the jetting wasn’t the problem. The one thing that this gave me, was the confidence that I could ride round the problem knowing it wasn’t bad jetting on my part. Al gave me a couple of ideas and things to try at a later date.
Alan and me then went back to his house where we were greeted by his wonderful wife Jo and one of her lovely dinners. It was good to be back at the Terry household. Alan & Jo have always made me welcome and have been good to me. Soon it was time to head on. I wanted to get to the Oxford area so the journey the next day was shorter. I had the little problem of booking a room for the night. I was using accommodation company Airbnb as their prices seemed the best and after a couple of attempts on the way towards Oxford, I succeeded in booking a room for the night at a lovely Bed and Breakfast in the countryside near Worminghall, Aylesbury.
The ride down from Nuneaton was great with rides through Leamington Spa and Shipston-on-Stour as I headed towards Oxford. The sun setting behind me made riding easy going. But I was still to remove a collection of dead insects from my visor. I did this at the end of each day using Muck Off Visor Cleaner.
When I walked in the Bed and Breakfast, the landlady didn’t seen too bothered to talk, but as soon as she saw the Lambretta, she proceeded to tell me of her scootering days of the 60’s and her ride to Paris on her Vespa. By the time I had all my gear in the room, I was quick getting to sleep. Weather for the day was very, sunny and very hot, but I would take that over rain any time.
Casualty of the day was one of my SIP oil bottles. (I had 2 and left on on the petrol pump at a garage in Shipston-on-Stour).
Total miles covered: 189
Riding The Western Front: Day Three – Wednesday 28th June
My alarm was set for 7.00 a.m. and after a cup of tea I was ready to go. Even though I had all day to get to Dover, I wasn’t keen on hanging around. I’m always wary of breakdowns or lengthy hold-ups that can mean a missed ferry.
It was a misty start, but the forecast was for another hot day and it wasn’t long before the sun was out. Riding through the country towns is always a preference to motorways for me. The monotony of motorways is too much for me, but of course there are times when it’s preferable or essential, like avoiding traffic congestion.
So off I went, through Maidenhead, Bracknell, Guildford, Sevenoaks, Maidstone and finally arriving at Dover at lot earlier than expected. The ride down was trouble free, with the Lambretta running well without any issues. The only stops made were for petrol.
I haven’t been to Dover ferry port before and I wondered how long it was going to take me to find the right terminal, but by luck, I stumbled upon the Eastern Docks. This was where I was to get my boat to Dunkerque. I went through the usual checks and then wanted to see if I was going to be able to get the next boat rather than wait for the one I was due to get. That was no problem, but there was an added charge. I wasn’t too pleased, but lesson learnt. Next Time if there’s s a chance of getting a different sailing than the one booked, pay the extra for flexible bookings.
I was in time for the 4 p.m. ferry and after a short wait, my Lambretta and a number of motorbikes were first on board and soon after we were setting sail for Dunkerque. While on board the boat, I went about booking a room at Dunkerque for the night. This is beginning to look like I was leaving bookings to the last minute, but for the rest of the trip in France, my rooms were all booked. The only booking left to do was my lodgings for the night in England coming back in a fortnight. That can wait. I had France, Belgium and other territories to explore.
After a couple of hours and a dodgy pint on the boat, I was now riding on the other side of the road and ten minutes later I had arrived at my hotel. As soon as I checked in, I unloaded the luggage from the Lambretta and headed round the corner to Carrefour, a Hypermarche for a bit of grub and a couple of bottles of beer. That was it for the day. My Sat Nav did well, as did I reading it.
I was now in France and I felt like I could relax, at least for the evening. Tomorrow was the beginning of the ride along The Western Front.
Lesson of the day: If you’re not 100% sure, book ferries using a Flexible booking option to avoid excessive fees for changing your sailing.
Total miles covered: 344