Malta and Devizes
Tuesday 7th July.
Awake at 6:00am on a misty summer morning, that's almost like being back in Ireland.
Go back to sleep ‘til 8:00am, a far more civilised open curtains time.
Look about and out to see where daylight shows me to be.
Hmmmn, not bad.
Almost blinded by the bright blast of daylight, involuntary-eyes-shaded-step-backwards, stumble over Tank-Bag and Big Black Bag laying on the floor on way to shower where I need to go to do and so on and so forth.
Do the refreshing do in the shower and emerge cleansed and ready to resume the Great Northern Jaunt ... but there's the tedious re-packing of the Big Black Bag of I-really-realise-I’ve-brought-way-too-much-stuff and then lug it down the stairs and out through reception to the compound. Where, to my delight, the Guard Dogs have obviously done their nocturnal duty, as the 900 remains safe and unpissed-upon, looking very well and ready to roll, with nary a disturbing drip of lubricant or coolant to be seen.
Hot sun shines down while I re-attach and bungee the Big Black Bag in place. Sweaty work indeed, need another shower. Or, at the very least, some cold water.
Odometer reads 68874. Starting mileage of 68331 from 68874 = 543, that's 543 road miles from the Floriana front door to here, wherever I am in Italy. Now, I left Pozzallo at 8.30am and rode steadily all day yesterday, arrived here last night at 11.00pm'ish, knock off a couple of hours for the ferry and assorted stops ... that leaves about 12 and a half hours of actual travelling time. 543 miles divided by 12.5 = an average of 43.44 mph ! ? Can that be right ...? Ok. I know I'm a 55-and-a-half-year-old-auld-fart, but I'm sure that at times I was consistently going somewhat faster than 43.44 mph ... Or maybe it's the heat of the morning sun dementing my mental arithmetic?
Right. No messing about. Today's goal is to get to that Holiday Inn that’s in the top end of the Aosta Valley aways before the Mt. Blanc tunnel. Let's see how long in actual travelling time it takes to cover the distance to get there.
11am. With friendly waves and "arrivederci’s!" from the Hoteliers, I set off towards the toll-gates of the autostrada, collect my ticket from the machine, the barrier rises and I am allowed to rejoin the northerly flow of the A1-E45.
Gradually increase velocity to the heady regions of 130kp/h ... Wooo-woot, as I believe those of a younger persuasion are wont to exclaim at moments of excited elation. But oh oh oh. 130kp/h ... the voices of cautionary propriety are getting louder, advising me not to stress the lubrication system, run the risk of wrecking the engine, y’know, what with my recent DiY repair to the oil-cooler an'all to consider ...
(Is it just me … or do the voices speak to you lot as well? Especially so when one is riding along and everything is particularly fine and dandy … suddenly that little whisper of doubt is in one’s inner ear, niggling about an unfamiliar mechanical something or other sound emanating from the engine? A clear calm questioning voice abruptly piping up, usually around about the time that man and machine are rapidly approaching higher mph’s, enquiring whether or not you truthfully, actually can remember having correctly tightened all of those front wheel retaining nuts and bolts? Or is it just me who hears … them ?)
Carry on, carry on, carry on - happily trundling along at a reasonable rate, until fuel gauge needle signals to me - it’s Time To Find More Fuel. Ok. In goes15.3L, €23 worth, at odometer reading 68919. Now 588 miles from Floriana.
Leave the motorcycle standing upright upon its centre-stand on a level bit of the Agip forecourt, while I go off for the necessary refreshments.
On return, clean visor of splatted bugs. Then check oil level … hmmmn, level seems to have dropped a wee bit. So, out of the tank bag comes the 1 litre can of the expensive engine oil (still very well wrapped in cling-film), laboriously peel away the cling-film from around the cap and then ever so carefully pour a wee bit down the filler hole into the engine to bring the oil level back up to the top of the sight glass. Clean up overspill (c’mon, bet you’ve had to too).
Start the engine.
Re-seal the can, place it back in the tank-bag, zip up the tank-bag, take Raybans off, rest them on the Tank-bag, put helmet on head, secure helmet strap, stuff Raybans in through helmet slot, adjust the fit of the Raybans, pull on gloves, execute graceful right-leg-high-over-bulging-pillionated-luggage-high-kick to enable me to sit astride my machine, rock the 900 forward off of the centre-stand.
Ready to go.
Oh bugger, no. Forgot the ear-plugs.
Side-stand down, rest weight of motorcycle on it.
Gloves off, stuff ‘em into the space between the blade and the clocks.
Undo helmet strap, remove Raybans, let Raybans rest in my lap, remove helmet, let helmet balance on the Tank-bag, put Raybans back on so that I can see what I’m doing, open side pocket zip of Tank-bag and fumble around innit for the plastic container of brightly coloured ear-plugs, find it, open it, pop an ear-plug in each ear, close container and replace it in Tank-bag side pocket, do up Tank-bag side pocket zip, give each inserted ear-plug a good poke to ensure a nice tight noise excluding fit, aaah. Take Raybans off, let Raybans rest in my lap, put helmet on head, secure helmet strap, stuff Raybans in through helmet slot, adjust the fit of the Raybans, pull on gloves, start engine, lever motorcycle upright, side-stand backward-flick-of-the-left-foot-up. Engage first gear, rear observation … oooh, a dragonfly … let clutch lever aht and off we go again, heading north’ish on the A1-E45.
Another fuel stop, €18 for 13.5L. Odometer at 69059. 728 miles from Floriana.
Clean visor of splatted bugs, then carry on, carry on, carry on - happily trundling along at a reasonable rate, hour after hour along the A1 autostrada-da-daa-da.
Whilst attempting a twist-of-the-right-wrist-coughcough-mph-pass (on a line of cars which in their turn were attempting to file past an up-hill slow convoy of trucks), that hot-plastic-under-the-tank-bag-blocking-fuel-tank-cap-breather-brief-fuel-starvation-splutter causes another moment of heart flutter. A quick grappling with the left-hand lifting of the bag and … wooosh, normal service resumes again. But now, the voices have me suspecting that the combination of a decreasing fuel level and tank-bag under plastic sealed fuel-cap vent might mean that the breather hose from the back of the fuel tank is bunged up. auuugh. Will these Condition Of The 900 worries ever ease?
I suspect the answer may very well be Never.
Odometer reaches 69213 miles. 882 road miles from Floriana. 16.5L of fuel, costing €22.
Visor very well cleaned of splatted bugs, while I hang about in the service area, waiting for a big bad looking thunderstorm, that is clearly visible in its entirety up ahead, to drift eastwards and away from where I’m about to go. It moves off to the east and I can carry on along the A1, soon passing those long white screens that prevent passers by from catching a glimpse of what’s secretly going on within the Scuderia Ferrari area near Modena.
Odometer now at 69308 miles. 977 road miles from Floriana, on the A1 approaching Milano, a €39.50c toll-fee. Worth every cent.
Odometer at 69320 miles. 989 road miles from Floriana. 10.75L of fuel for €14. This stop wasn’t really necessary, but the autostrada out of Milano was absolutely chock-a-bloc-grid-lock and so I thought, Why not stop, let the last of the rush hour go by, I can stretch the legs, refresh myself with some water and down another Red Bull. Gibber. Manic fuel that Red Bull.
Carry on, carry on, carry on - happily trundling along at a reasonable rate, hour after hour along the A4 autostrada-da-daa-da. Over to my right the fertile northern plains of Piedmont, and there beyond, the Alps, white peaks bathed in sunshine above the massive mountain glory. There must be lots of fun roads to explore over there. I look to the left, across the fertile southern plains of Piedmont, and see the Apennines of Liguria snaking away to the south. There must be lots of fun roads to explore over there too - but right now, I’m in the three lane company of lots of cars and vans and trucks, all heading west with me ta-dada-dee-dee … oooh look, there go some now, filtering off towards Genova. JennnOoover over overa - carry on, carry on, carry on - oooh ah now, what’s this up ahead, some excitement, the drama of a painfully-slow-lane-little-Fiat-500 being passed by a just-about-a-couple-of-miles-an-hour-faster hulking great heavily laden beast of burden 42 footer. A Forty-two Footer. Whazzzat in metres ? I know what a pint looks like, as in a nice straight pint glass full of cool, dark Murphys … mmmn, Murphys … but a litre of bierre, woah there, what does one of them look like it’s bigger, innit certainly not smaller? I wonder how many litres of petrol I’ve pumped into the tank so far? I’ll have to total it all up later and use a calculator to turn the result into Gallons, now, there’s a quantity I can relate to. Ah yes indeed.
Shameful. 55 and I’m ignorant of the system of weights and measures of those whom I am travelling amongst.
I know. I really should try to make an effort and learn to do the mental conversion of Imperial to continental. I mean to say, if I, as an aging Englishman, whom has never ever had to bother before with any foreign lingo, can learn to just about be an amusement when speaking Maltese, Italian and French … then I should be able to get to grips with converting the Imperial to the metric - d’oh, do I really have to?
I’m just happily trundling along at a reasonable rate to be trundling along at, making/waiting for the signs to appear for the A5 turn off to Aosta and the Mt.Blanc tunnel. Carry on, carry on, carry on tedium-mer on an autostrada-da-daa-da-daa with just another few vaguely quantified kilometers or far more familiar miles to go, hey-ho.
A voice says “Hold on a mo’ … what’s that sound?”
Yeah. What is that sound?
Is that the familiar’ish accompaniment to 900 acceleration … carb-induction-sucking-whistling turbine whine like noise? Hmmmn.
It ain’t normally that noticeable, especially not noticeable when cruising along at a steady six to seven thou, like now.
It does sound a very familiar sound though, like, er, um, the … oooh what was it that once made that alarming whining, shrieking noi…se, oh SHEEE-IT-IT’S-THE-BALANCE-SHAFT !
All powers of deductive reasoning blown away at the first realisation of potentially destructive mechanical mayhem happening Right NOW within the engine. Clutch-In-Kill-Switch-flick-down-into-neutral-coast-towards-fast-approaching-road-side-refuge … bring the 900 to a halt close to the Armco … Oh Please, Please, Please, don’t let the EngineBeFucked!
A pair of passing artic pressure waves combine to buffet me.
Heave 900 up onto the centre-stand.
For how long hadn’t I noticed the engine had been making the unadjusted balance-shaft thingie noise?
Oh my poor Baby … what has my dumbarse lack of paying proper attention done to you?
Squeeze in-between right side of motorcycle and the galvanized grey Armco to get a good look at that bit within the lower fairing where the balancer adjuster gubbins can be seen … oh dear.
Hmmmn. What to do?
Well … how about use a fairing bolt to replace what’s gone missing from the balancer clamp bar?
Yus. Good idea. Loctite it in place as well.
Make it so.
With fingers crossed and a silent supplication to the Deity of DiY roadside repairs, switch on the ignition and press the starter button … engine fires up and sounds to me just as sweet and ready to go as ever can be … HALLELUJAH !
And, right on cue, sun beams burst through the gloomy skies to bathe me in golden illumination.
Carry on, carry on, carry on even more happily trundling along at a reasonable rate, on the A5 autostrada-zippety-doo-daa.
Odometer at 69391 miles. 1060 road miles from Floriana. 7.7L of fuel for €10. After a days worth of carrying on, happily trundling along wearing light weight jacket and trousers, this early evening top-up stop is prompted by my desire to don the draught excluding two-piece Weiss, after noticing a chill in the air and a few spots of rain as I started to get closer to the rapidly getting-gloomier-cloudier-sun-setting-behind-‘em-forebodingly-high Italian Alps either side of the deep darkening Aosta valley I was about to be in.
Carry on, carry on, carry on - happily trundling along at a reasonable rate, taking my time, taking in the views to either side, finding it really hard to press on totally regardless of the approaching mountain scenery.
Though other motorcyclists are blasting past in a rush to get wherever they are going.
Off the autostrada in the gathering gloom, pay €20 toll-fee.
Miss-read the sign for the turn off to the Holiday Inn, so have to carry on to the next exit and the wend my confused ‘B’ road way back again.
Unload 900, which then gets alarmed, chained and tethered to solid street furniture in the parking area.
Check-in to Holiday Inn, Aosta, about 9.30pm’ish.
Odometer at 69458 miles. 1127 road miles from Floriana. 584 miles done today. um, so, it’s taken ten and a half hours to get here, knock off an hour and a half for fuel stops and that bad weather, um, 584 divided by 9 equals an average velocity of 64.88 mph. Humpf. Still doesn’t seem to be as rapid as it felt. At times I thought we were really flying it. On the spot analysis two days of self-imposed exile on the roads, insulated by ear-plugs, away from close contact with the rest of humanity … and already I’m delusional.
Better seek a theraputic litre of some birra Moretti.
And indeed I do.
And it’s all alright, alright being in the same room, at the same price, in the same hotel that I was in a year ago, ‘cept that then, of course, I was going the other way.
Whatever. Half-Italienne would still love the shower facilities here, and, if she could see it, the view too.
Must remember to capture a snap of it … yawn, domani … zzz