France 19 Run to Verdun. Part One

For a few years now, I’ve been riding my Lambretta to the Western Front (the First World War battle front through Belgium & France). This was instigated by my older Brother who’s been researching and studying The First World War and particularly our Grandfather, who fought with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders on The Western Front for s long as I can remember.

Each year I chose a particular subject of The Great War for the trip. The year before last I rode from Accrington to The Somme remembering Harry Bloor and The Accrington Pals. Last year I rode the length of the Western Front from Nieuwpoort on the Belgium Coast to Pfetterhouse on the Swiss Border, stopping at various points of interest along the way. Part of that journey last year passed through a place called Vauquois and Verdun. I was only at Vauquois for a couple of hours I stayed overnight in Verdun, but these places had left their mark on me and I felt In had to return and see more of these historic places.

Day One: Monday 1st July
I’d packed for the trip a good while before I was due to go with the basic gear and tools needed for the trip across to France, but as with each year it’s a couple of weeks after Euro Lambretta and reading the daily reports of shenanigans and breakdowns I always end up adding more tools and spares to the list, making my luggage bigger and heavier. I also loaded my Sisters photography portfolio. The Lambretta is used daily and I’d set up and ran in the GT193 weeks ago with no issues. It was a bit less powered than what I’d been used to, but I was confident in it’s ability to get me the 1,400 miles or so I had calculated for the trip.

Loaded up ready to leave

The weather in Northern Ireland has been a bit hit and miss this Summer and today was the same, cloudy and a few showers in the morning, but by the time the afternoon came the sun decided to come out. I was sailing from Belfast to Liverpool on the usual night sailing and by seven forty five the Lambretta was loaded up and I headed across Belfast for the port eight miles away. I forgot it was the 1st of July and as with every year in East Belfast there’s a band parade and the police close certain roads. There’s always a crowd of people lining the streets. I managed to get through ok, with the usual wise cracks from the ones that are drunk.

As with every year, it seems traditional for me to get lost or take a wrong turn and this year was no exception, with me taking the same wrong turn and going in a circle twice. I blame the stress. Belfast port was very busy and as well as the usual number of motorbikes, there were a large number of vintage cars. I never got to speak to any of the owners, but I did meet the couple from England I had met here in Belfast last year on their Triumph Stag 500. It was really good to catch up with them.

Triumph Stag 500

Before long, I was on the boat with my chargers out supplying the juice to my Sat Nav, GoPro, Sena Headset, camera, Phone & Power banks. The boat was packed and I couldn’t wait for everyone to leave the lounge so I could get my head down for the night.

Mileage for the day: 9

Day Two: Tuesday 2nd July
I slept well and woke at five fifty. In time to get a coffee, and sort myself for departing and heading south from Liverpool port. I was heading to Portsmouth, to get the ferry across the channel to Le Havre, but first I was going to stop at my old home town of Marlborough, Wiltshire to see my Mum and Sister who’d moved over from Northern Ireland earlier in the year to be closer to family.

As with previous trips, I use a Sat Nav and couldn’t do without it. But it does send me up some very dodgy B roads and it can be frustrating at times. I try to avoid Motorways and use A roads. The Motorways may be faster, but they’re far less interesting and can be very boring. The weather was good with a thin cloud layer and the coolness of an early morning.

First stop was Shrewsbury. All going well. I topped up with petrol and headed on. The engine was running warm, but I expected this from the iron cylinder and I wasn’t really concerned. Further south, a steady ride without issues until Worcester, where there was a road closure due to an accident. Not a problem, the Sat Nav has a “Find Alternative Route” feature. This was where things unravelled a bit. I was waiting at traffic lights near Moreton-in-Marsh when a car pulled up beside me and the driver told me “something had fallen off the back of the scooter a couple of hundred yards back”. I went back and saw a bloke walking along with my water bottle in it’s bag. I stopped, turned and waited for him. He handed it over but I had to lean a bit to retrieve it. Leaning the Lambretta I went beyond the point of no return and in unison the Lambretta and I fell in the middle of the road. The bloke looked at me and waiting for me to ask if he could lift the Lambretta so I could get out from underneath it. Once I got out from under it he didn’t wait for me to take it off him and he let it fall! Lifting my Lambretta with all the luggage on wasn’t easy, but as the man didn’t hang around to help, I was left to haul it up on my own.

Back on the Lambretta and onwards. But because of the road closure and the “Find Alternative Route” option with the Sat Nav, I was well and truly touring the country lanes. Going in circles after reaching crossroads , with a road closed again. Villages Broadway, Snowshill, Broad Campden, Blockley and Bourton-on-the-Hill were all treated to the symphonic medley of my Lambretta. Eventually I was back on track as I came across a sign for Swindon. I found the temperatures of the EGT climbing a bit high, by this time, but I would attempt to address this in Marlborough.

When I got to Swindon I thought I was coming in from the East and headed west, I was wrong, I was coming in from the west and was heading east. In trying to avoid the dreaded Magic Roundabout (which I had been through many time, many years ago) I was heading for it. It was a drama over nothing. I went through and round it without any problem and now was Marlborough bound with 10 miles to go. Twenty minutes or so later, I rolled up to my Mum and Sisters house in Marlborough.

Time for feet up and a coffee.

Because of the re routing, I had managed to add nearly 20 miles to the journey.

Mileage for the day: 201

Day Three: Wednesday 3rd July

My ride to Portsmouth for the ferry was only around 70 miles and the departure from Portsmouth to Le Havre wasn’t until 11pm, so I spent most of the day in Marlborough. I did have a look round the old haunts and where I used to live. I also took the Lambretta a spin to alter the jetting and try a couple of plug chops to see if I could manage to drop the temperature a little. I managed to achieve this although mid range had got a little lumpy with richness. Tip: Here’s thing I like to do when jetting a carb. I like to make a little data sheet with a pen and a bit of paper. Not only do I know what set up I have. I’ll know what I’ve used too. This helps when trying to get the right set up or if someone suggests a set up.

DIY Jetting Sheet

The weather was good for the rest of the day and when evening came it was time to leave Marlborough and head to Portsmouth. The ride down was uneventful and trouble free. Although like normal, the Sat Nav took me down a few country lanes.

I arrived at Portsmouth harbour with more than enough time spare, but unlike last year, it was strangely quiet. No bikers and just a few cars. By nine pm a few more cars had arrived and a few BMW GS riders all kitted out in matching gear who chatted amongst themselves.

Thankfully it was bikes first on the ferry. I found the bar and had a pint before getting my head down for the night.

Mileage for the day: 96

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