Riding The Western Front 2018: Epilogue

Epilogue

So this was to be a trip along the Western Front on the 100th Anniversary of the end of The First World War. It wasn’t my first trip abroad by Lambretta, but it was the biggest I’d done. It wasn’t just the long mileage, but planning the stops and stays in the right places en route had to be taken into consideration and trying to plan the visits at important places that were relevant.

Despite taking months of setting up the trip, organising the hotels, the stops and points of interest relating to World War One it ended up being in parts, poorly planned. I didn’t consider for a moment that I hadn’t done enough, but I was wrong. There was a number of stops that I didn’t check. Some days I reached my hotel too early. Some places I didn’t find, despite me thinking I’d logged them down.

I found it tough going at times and most evenings it didn’t take much to get to sleep most nights.  It was pointed out to me that for the trip I wasn’t just riding. Navigator, Mechanic, Tour Guide, Counsellor. So stress was never going to be far away. I wasn’t in the best form, but what punished me the most wasn’t the riding, it was the heat. It didn’t let up and despite heading off earlier in the morning, it didn’t take long for the temperatures to soar. It drained my energy. Carrying bottles of cold water, soon turned into bottles of warm water. 

Sunflowers

I’ve been asked a few times, did travelling alone make things harder? I’d say it didn’t really affect me, but if I had company, well that might have a different story. There are times I don’t like my own company, to have some poor soul along with me wouldn’t be fun for them. It also meant that decisions made were mine and any mistakes were down to me with nobody else to blame. There were times on the trip when I got quite stressed. I wouldn’t have wished my company on anyone in those times. 

I still have not made a proper effort to learn French. I felt bad about this. Nearly all the time French people made a better job at speaking English than I did French and they nearly always tried to help. I really need to change this.

So with what seems like so much negativity, are there any positives?

Absolutely. Firstly, despite everything and all my worries about the engine before I left, the motor ran magnificently. It never let me down. Electrical issues, an exhaust bolt and a spark plug cap was all that troubled me. It was built for this trip and with some added tuning by Chris Sturgess, it wasn’t just good to ride. It was fun to ride (and still is). My paranoia or is it Lambretta riders paranoia? can sometimes get in the way of a good run.

The views and sights on the trip were at times stunning. Very little traffic on the open roads. Wide sweeping fields of Sunflowers, small iron bridges that spanned rivers in picturesque villages, very friendly people (apart from the idiots I encountered in Laon). Great beer and a huge selection to choose from. One point to note: The French are fantastic people, but once they get behind the steering wheel of a car, they change!

The Sat Nav and the Airhawk seat Cushion are still too valuable to be without. They make all the difference for me. I know some friends have said they prefer to not use a Sat Nav, I would too, but I’ve never trusted my instinct and I start panicking at every junction and roundabout. It’s better for me. The Airhawk seat cushion is amazing, I love it and makes the difference on longer runs. I bought mine from ScooterLab UK and their shop Here.

So, would I do it again? Absolutely, but maybe make some changes. I’ll have to go back and visit the places I missed. 

My Favourite Part of The Trip 
Apart from the obvious of being with friends and family. It was being at Verdun and Vauquois, so much so I’m going back. There’s so much to learn and find out about what happened there in World War One. The town of Verdun itself is lovely with plenty of places to stay, eat, drink & see. 

My Worst Part of The Trip
This has to be when I couldn’t get a room the day I arrived back in England and had to sit on the Lambretta all night and wait for daylight.

Total miles covered for the trip was 2,032

Below are some links relating to The First World War.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission
https://.cwgc.org/

Imperial War Museum 
https://www.iwm.org.uk/

firstworldwar.com 
https://www.firstworldwar.com/

The Great War YouTube Channel
https://www.youtube.com/user/TheGreatWar

None of this would be realised without the help of friends and family, especially my brother, who’s vast knowledge has helped steer me forward for the trip. Also, Alan & Jo Terry, Al was a great help with my checking over my Lambretta set up and Jo’s wonderful hospitality and friendliness which goes towards what makes travelling by Lambretta special. Friends made through a mutual passion for scooters.

Sunset over Bourlon Wood

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