April 1, 2009
SMILE, YOU'RE ON CANDID CAMERA
In 1999 we had a lovely week on the west coast of France at a place called Chatelaillon Plage, just south of La Rochelle. Nick was on his big Virago 1100 and I was on my recently acquired Diversion 600. The camp site was very quiet as it was early June and the weather was lovely. We had toured round and visited the Isle de Re and other beautiful places. A few glances in estate agents' windows indicated that property was a lot more expensive in that area.
On the way home we had a night booked at the Ibis in Le Havre then we were on the early morning ferry home. We arrived at the hotel in evening rush hour, very tired after a long journey and we had been through a huge rainstorm. We had donned our waterproofs mid-afternoon but motorcycling is no fun at all when it's chucking it down. Every manoeuvre is much harder work - in fact I had a small but curious tumble off - something that I very rarely do. We had pulled into a rest area on the motorway in between rain showers in order to be able to take our helmets off and eat a sandwich. As we pulled in, I turned, lined up next to Nick, came to a halt and fell over. How did that happen?
We checked in at the hotel and asked, in our best French, for directions to the hotel car park. The receptionist gave us directions and instructions in her best English. There was a code you had to put into a little key pad by the entrance and a roller door would lift. She showed us exactly how you do it on a TV screen and sure enough, we could see a driver open his (left-hand of course) window, put the numbers in, the door lifted and he disappeared from view down a steep slope. The car park entrance was on CCTV.
We went in search of the entrance, Nick in front. Suddenly he stopped and we were right next to it. I came to a sudden stop, managed to stay upright, but was in the middle of the lane of very busy traffic. He turned, mounted the kerb, positioned himself perpendicular to the roller door but was too far away to reach the buttons. He got off his bike, put the code in and the door lifted. He got back on and was just setting off down the slope when the door came back down. He stopped just in time but ended up with his front wheel up against the roller door on the very steep slope.
Now all motorcyclist will know that not only do we not have the luxury of reverse gear, you cannot get off when you're pointing downhill. If you do, the bike falls over.
Realising that he was trapped, I decided to mount the pavement so I could get off and help him by putting in the code again and opening the door. It suddenly crossed my mind that all this was on display on the TV screen in the hotel reception. Unfortunately I forgot the primary rule of mounting a kerb - you have to take it at 90 degrees or if you go at an angle you're likely to fall off. I got it wrong and as the bike began to tip the image of Nick trapped pointing downhill on his bike and me upside down in the gutter under mine flashed before me. Determined that we were not going to look complete idiots on CCTV, I gave the bike one extra heave up and managed to stay vertical. Quite a feat as it was fully loaded with tent, 3 panniers and a top box all full - travelling light was a thing of the past these days.
I put in the code and opened the door. Nick disappeared down an alarmingly steep slope and had to do a quick left at the bottom to avoid a concrete pillar. Then the door came down. I had to open it again for him to come out onto the pavement so he could do the same for me. What a palaver.
Back home, three days later, my back seized up at work. I crumpled to the floor and had to be removed sitting rigid on a chair by ambulance. This was the price I paid for being determined not to look and idiot on camera. I had a very long and painful episode of rest, tablets and various treatments. I tried physiotherapy, the osteopath, the chiropractor - the only thing guaranteed to shift the pain was champagne.
We were due to go to France on the bikes again at the end of August. I had stayed off the Diversion until then but after a little practice I felt able to manage and off we went. We got half way to Portsmouth when my back seized up again and we had to turn back. Back home, we unloaded the bikes, threw all the luggage, tent, panniers and everything, into the car and set off again.
I never really rode the Diversion again. Every time I tried, my back would give way.So I ended up with the ultimate touring machine, the HARLEY DAVIDSON.
If you had told me when I was a child, teenager or young woman, that I would eventually own a Harley Davidson and a house in France I would have said you were completely mad.
Of course, I only got it because Nick decided he wanted this :-