Day 10: Wednesday 10th July
This was my last day in France, riding the road back to Le Havre. I didn’t mind. It was a lovely road with great scenery. That is if you plan the right road. I did notice that on the way down when I took the road to Albert last week, it wasn’t the road I’d took a couple of years ago. So before I left Amiens I got the Sat Nav out while I had my morning coffee. I realised the route was different and it was a less interesting road back. Unsure of correcting the route, I decided to stick with what I had and left Amiens for Le Havre. It was only 100 miles or so. No rush. If I get bored I could possibly reroute myself.
The weather was wonderful once again and apart from a couple of days, the temperatures had been a bit lower than the previous years here. It made everything more bearable and it didn’t tire me out or make me grumpy. The wrong road back to Le Havre was almost none descriptive. I made a few wrong turns. One had me go around a roundabout 3 times before taking the right turn off, but I never did reroute myself.
Riding into Le Havre was a bit troubling as the roads in were fast, multiple lane carriageways. One wrong turn and god knows where I’d end up. I stopped at a garage for my last French fuel fill up and assess my position and route to the ferry terminal that would take me to Portsmouth.
I didn’t have far to ride and I was soon at the ferry port and in plenty of time. I got chatting to a German who arrived behind me in his car with his family. He chatted to me a few times as we waiting to go through passport control. Once through, it was another wait in line for the boarding. By now some bikers had arrived. BMW’s mostly. Some had gone the whole way and dressed in BMW riding gear. One particular chap wasn’t on a BMW but a motorbike from an eastern continent. He was attired in double leather with added leather waistcoat adorned with patches. (A Comedy Biker perhaps)?
Once on the boat, I got my spot near the bar and had a couple of pints for the four hour trip back to Portsmouth. It was very busy on the boat and this was reflected with the departure at Portsmouth. It took ages. When I finally got off the boat light was fading fast and I still had 70 miles or so to get to Marlborough, where I’d be staying at My Mum and Sisters again for a few days.
The ride to Marlborough was a nightmare. I was constantly directed up single country lanes. I wouldn’t have minded, but in the pitch black it’s a hindrance and when I was finally on the dual carriageway to Andover I thought I was finally sorted. Wrong. There was a road closure and the Sat Nav was sending me round in circles. Eventually I found the roundabout at the top of Andover, but even this had changed since I last saw it. I went down the wrong road, but I was so flustered, I turned around one the slip road and went back up the wrong way.
Taking the next exit, I knew where I was. I used to live round here, that was 30 years ago. Not much had changed, a few bypasses had been built. I finally approached Savernake Forest and it wasn’t many miles to Marlborough. As I thrashed the Lambretta through the forest I remembered and old friend who used to ride through this road to work. One day he hit a deer on his Vespa, which wrecked the scooter and put him hospital. But there was no slowing down. A very short time later I was pulling up at my Mum and Sisters house, adding ten miles and half an hour to the ride from Portsmouth. It was 11.40 pm.
Mileage for the day: 203
Day 11 & 12: Thursday 11th – Friday 12th July
After a good sleep, I woke to a cup of morning coffee. The weather was great and I was back in Marlborough. I spent the next couple of days relaxing with various family members and friends. A couple of pints with old friends Lucy Twisk and Steve Cripps and Co. went down well. Steve brought a relatives old Death Penny from the Great War. (A large penny or plaque. This was issued by the King to the next of kin of those who died in service). I did miss the chance to catch up with other friends, but that’s for next time I’m in Marlborough.
Mileage for the days: 7
Day 13: Saturday 13th
I was up early today. I was leaving for Liverpool to get the night boat back to Belfast. The sailing wasn’t until the evening, so I took my time packing. There was a welcome interruption from my Niece Lucy and her boyfriend Tom with their newborn Daughter Skye. They had called down from Hay-on-Wye.
Lunchtime came and it was time to leave. The ride back to Birkenhead was an uneventful one. I only took one wrong turn with not much else happening. I arrived at the ferry port with plenty of time to spare. There was only one other motorbike waiting. A short chat with the rider was interrupted by the call to board the boat. I soon found myself sat with a pint and my feet up. As usual for the end of each day, I wrote my diary notes before getting a few hours sleep.
Mileage for the day: 182
Day 14: Sunday 14th July
The boat arrived in Belfast just after six thirty am. Before too long, I was riding through a very sunny and very quiet Belfast. Arriving at my friends in Newtownards half an hour later. That was it, I was back in Northern Ireland.
Mileage for the day: 14
Total Mileage 1,452
This was a fantastic trip. I had a great education on the First World War in Verdun and the surrounding area. I made new friends and I really enjoyed my stay in Verdun. I was able to see some of the family back in Marlborough and sneak in a couple of pints with friends. But best of all, the Lambretta did over 1,400 miles without a hitch. This trip will hold great memories.
I found out the issue with my GoPro. It was when I was charging the device while recording that it would sometimes froze or even failed to start recording.
I did manage to get lost a number of times, but that’s par for the course for me. I always end up pointing in the right direction in the end.
I’ve a few findings about the journey.
Every trip I learn something new or pick up ideas. Some from friends.
When I stop for fuel, I want to fill the tank to the very brim. So how do I work out how much petrol I need without putting too much or not enough oil? Easy. You make a dipstick with marks on for each litre in the tank. I got this one from my friend Shane Hunsdale. This also helps when the garage has a pay before you fill policy.
Another way of monitoring your fuel is by way of an app. I use Fuelio. I use a fuel app that logs my mileage and fuel usage. You just input the data on each fill up. This will give you details of miles per litre/gallon and fuel cost. This is available on the Google Play Store, but as far as I’m aware, it’s not on the IOS Store, but there are other fuel monitoring apps out there.
Keep a diary. You’ll forget things. You can keep a list of your mileage this way too.
Try to arrange fuel stops. Not all garages on the Sat Nav are there! So seek out more ahead of the trip. If you can find one with a hypermarche at hand, all the better, but be aware that they sometimes close for lunch. Many French shops and tourist spots close for lunch. So check in advance.
With planning trips and routes, I’m definitely not qualified to state my claim to the fountain of knowledge for the road going Scooterist, but I would say, unless you’re in a mad rush, try to avoid motorways. You’ll see much more and it will break the monotony. If you’re using a Sat Nav, use it as a guide, not the sole direction finder. They’re not perfect. Always try to look around you and assess your route. It makes it more interesting.
Concentrate. especially at junctions and in towns. I had a near miss in Verdun at a mini roundabout. I was also on the wrong side of the road a couple of times.
My knowledge of French is ridiculously bad. I try each year to get a grasp of the basics, but always fail. So for the past few years, I’ve made a few “translation cards” in my jacket pocket. They have a number of what I would call important or emergency comments and questions in French, with the English translation underneath.
I have a number of comments and questions. Here’s a few.
I am lost.
How do I get to…?
I need a doctor
I have run out of petrol
I have broken down
Call the police
Call a doctor
If you’re planning a trip to any war related place. Try and read up on it. It means you’ve an idea what went on and a better sense of understanding. Sometimes there’s just a stone memorial and you can feel underwhelmed. But having a bit of knowledge will give you a far better sense of the surroundings and can sometimes touch you emotionally. When I went to the Somme in 2016 my Brother took me up a track to a small cemetery in a field of fields with a road and a wood to one side. I felt nothing, but when my Brother told me that our Grandfather had fought here and not only that, the places here he was and what he did. At this moment I cried. You really get it better with a bit of knowledge,
Verdun is a great place and although for obvious reasons it’s heavily themed on World War One, there’s a lot of different things to see and do. Sightseeing can be done through tour groups. Handy if you’re not aware of everything. This usually applies to sightseeing in other places too. There’s a good tourist office/shop in Verdun. Definitely worth going to. They have English speaking staff.
Here are a a few of links Verdun Vauquois & Eparges in World War One. There’s loads more info out there, but have a look around and see what suits your interests.
Here are links to the Oily Blog Facebook Page and YouTube Channel. They won’t set the world on fire, but I hope they are of some use to somebody.