Devizes - Malta

Wednesday 22nd July.


Gradually regaining consciousness in a darkened room, on a comfortable bed, listening to soothing morning sounds from without that are wafting in through the open window and blown past the curtains on the cool morning breeze to my ears … hold on, is that a hissing? … sounds more like an irregular sorta swwwiiissshhhing.

Properly awake to that oh-no it’s the unmistakable hissing swishing of cars rolling over wet tarmac, which means there’ll be no dry roads to ride on, disappointment.

Sleepy logic insist that … D’oh. It must have been raining outside.

Mighty Bright flash of electric light from high in the sky illuminates the curtains … one, two, CRACK! rolling thunder rumbles and booms and crashes and bashes and bangs above my hotel room.

Hissing becomes a noisy splashing and gurgling of running water as the heavens open, casting down torrential rain upon the French town of Dole. 

Rainy day, dream away, let the sun take a holiday.


Get up, shuffle to the window, peek around curtain edge for a view outside of the weather and whether the 900 is still where I left it … ? Yus. It is. Almost all under the porch, arse in against the wall, nose out in the yard, only partially exposed to the rain.

Well, I can see a bunch of wet creatures, Tour de France followers and their racing bicycles are squeezed in sheltering under the porch, right up next to where the 900 is parked, alarmed and locked. They look in absolutely no hurry whatsoever to ride off in the rain.

I don’t blame ‘em.

Nasty damp business charging about in the rain …

Watch out now! Here comes a once-upon-a-time-recollection … Y’know Chums, despite being bone dry within a new over-suit, I once almost succumbed to hypothermia during a 100%-wet-all-the way-with-a-fierce-wind-chill-factor-coast-to-coast-journey-aboard-the-900-during-an-Irish-winter. (Hmmmn. Twenty hyphens, could be a personal best.)

 Beep-Beep! goes the motion sensing alarm on the 900 … it pauses, then lets rip with a frenetic five seconds worth of ear-piercing BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP!

Look out of the window to see the sheltering from the storm Three Tour de France followers looking a tads perplexed at the BEEP’ing 900.

 Dangling about me in the open window in the breeze, last night’s washed socks, T-shirt and undergarment. Which, despite their dangling mere centimeters away from the continuing deluge, are now fresh and dry.

Weird hot’n’wet midsummer weather in eastern France.

Now would be the sensible time to get the Nikwax waterproofing potions out, and spend the next hour diligently re-applying ‘em to DM’s, Northern & Southern European gloves, leather jacket and trousers, Tank Bag, Big Black Bag, digital camera bag.

 Beep-Beep! pause, another frenetic five seconds worth of ear-piercing BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP!

Once more unto the window to see the still sheltering from the storm Three Tour de France followers looking more than a tads annoyed at the BEEP’ing 900.

That Oxford Boss alarm certainly works well. But the alarm’s an over-sensitive pain when it’s just annoyingly going off in response to an unintentional tremor. And I’m not at all decently dressed for any rushing down to deal with, switch off the nuisance. The atmosphere in my chambre in Dole is still so heavy, hot and humid, muggy, that, to keep cool, I’m, er, not dressed at all.

 More lightning flashing and thunder rumbling and more rain. Heavy weather indeed.

Thinks: I really don’t want to spend the day pussyfooting along in the wet through great motorcycling country. Should I stay, lay back and groove on a rainy day, or should I go?


8.32am. Message sent to The Half-Italienne. -

“Now really pissing it down.

Time to apply waterproofing.

Will you look at the satellite image and forecast what weather I can expect here?

G xxx”

 Beep-Beep! goes the motion sensing alarm on the 900 … it pauses, then lets rip with a frenetic five seconds worth of ear-piercing BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP!

Look out of the window to see the Three Tour de France followers still sheltering from the storm, they are looking thoroughly fed up with the wet weather and completely pissed off with the BEEP’ing 900 they are sharing their shelter with.

9.10am. Receive reply from Ms.B. -

“Looking at Eumetsat of Central Europe, large patch of cloud moving from W across SE France then thinning out. Switzerland rainy. Waterproofs necessary.


 Hmmmn, ‘ … then thinning out.’

Ok. Rather than stay in Dole for another day and night, I’ll chance the wet weather now in the hope that it’ll clear from the west as I and the day progress.

 Beep-Beep! goes the motion sensing alarm on the 900 … ear-piercing-BEEP-BEEP-etcetera-etcetera.

Paranoia dictates I take another peek out of the window. The Three Tour de France followers are still sheltering from the continuing storm, and looking even more thoroughly fed up with the wet weather and completely and utterly pissed off with the BEEP’ing 900 they are sharing their shelter with.

Suspect that every now and then one of Three Tour de France followers might just be accidentally nudging the 900, setting its motion sensing alarm off … grrr

 Repack Big Black Bag and Tank Bag, that’s now rigged for wet weather, enclosed in one of those clear plastic, elasticated covers. Lumber down stairs with luggage to the back door porch. Tour de France followers squash closer together to allow me passage past to the 900. Alarm off, un-lock and pack shackles and disc lock. Attach luggage. Back up to the room to gather remainder of me gear, helmet, gloves, Weise waterproofs.

To reception to hand key back to Monsieur Hotel owner just before 10am check-out time.

Return to the 900. Rain still bucketing down. Commence the careful, balanced on one leg putting on of the Weise water-proofs pants. Three Tour de France followers look at me as though my preparing to ride off in this particularly wet weather is a sure fire indication I am Mad.

They might have a point.

Wriggle my arms into sleeves of Weise water-proof jacket. Secure all zips, poppers and Velcro. Finally, put helmet on head. Take helmet off again because I’ve forgotten to put the ear-plugs in. Pull clear plastic, elasticated cover off of Tank Bag, root around in side pocket for ear-plugs, find’em, pop one in … which is when one of the Three Tour de France followers decides to speak to me in perfect English, asking what state is the ‘M’ on the 900’s EU number plate?

“It’s Malta, an island to the south of Sicily, Italy … sud Sicilia.”

“Aaah – Isola di Malta!

The Tour de France follower explains they are from Poland and on holiday, following the daily stage progress of the Tour de France. We haltingly chit chat about this and that and of course one of the Poles used to have an Eastern Bloc motorcycle back in the old behind the Iron Curtain days etc., etc,.

The rain suddenly ceases. The Three Tour de France following Poles look happily at each other, wave goodbye at me and cycle away rapidly.

 Put the clear plastic, elasticated cover back over the Tank Bag. Put second ear-plug in place, put helmet on.

Remember to check oil-level window … Looks Ok. Start engine. Though muffled through helmet and ear-plugs, it clearly sounds Ok.

Northern Europe, wet weather gloves on.

Hitch up wet-suit pants and swing leg high over luggage to sit astride 900.

Odometer 71247. 2916 road miles from Floriana.

Push 900 forward off of the centre stand.

Madame Hotel owner returns from her shopping, glances up at the grey sky, then at the 900 and I, smiles, shrugs and wishes us “Bonne Chance!

 Engage first gear and slowly move off and out onto the main street to find my way back out of town to continue south.

Fine drizzle starts to mistily speckle and obscure the view through my visor. Hurrrah for rubber wiper blade attached to left index finger of glove.

Ride past a boulangerie, from which the most temptingly fresh baked aromas seep temptingly out onto the street … auuugggh. But it’s starting to really rain again, and I’m all sealed up and underway.

It ain't no use in gettin' up-tight, just let it groove its own way … boulangerie, another time, maybe.

Carefully through the steamed-up traffic, negotiate my way out of Dole.

The carnival traffic noise, it sinks into the splashy hum.

Stop at a junction at the edge of town. It’s pissing down.

Search for the road sign-posted to Poligny.

Through the falling rain, a view of the western horizon, where appear signs of brightness and approaching clear blue sky.

Let it drain your worries away. Lay back and groove on a rainy day.

Much encouraged, carry on, splashing south through the rain.

 Gentle Reader, please remember, that after just one full time year of surviving riding around on the slipperiest and bumpiest road surfaces that Malta has to offer, the smooth tarmac of continental roads feel like some overindulgent Heaven!

The N5 road I’m travelling along is spot on for the 900, with an open, engaging mixture of well-surfaced straights and clean curves, the confidence inspiring grippyness of which positively encourages vitesse, even in the wet! Though fortunately for me, 25 miles or so of tentatively exploring the limits of wet grip was curtailed by the abrupt end of the rain, with Hallelujah! shafts of sunshine bursting through the dark clouds, the heat of the midday sun rapidly evaporating residual moisture from the tarmac into slowly swirling steamy wisps, suddenly split stretched and shredded in the wake of a passing 900.

A few miles later, arrive in Poligny, the clouds have all blown by, the sky is clear blue as far as the eye can see. Apart from where the surface is shaded by trees, the road is now almost bone dry. Inside the Weise over-suit it’s really getting somewhat hot and sweaty. So. Time to stop, disrobe, drink water, top-up petrol tank.

Odometer at 71275. 2944 road miles from Floriana. 8.07L of fuel. €10.01c.

Ok. Ready?

“No. Check the oil level.”

It’s Ok. Now can we go?


Helmet on, engine on.

Helmet off, ear-plugs in, helmet on again.



 Right, this time … accelerate off the petrol station forecourt … D’oh, but just too late … stuck behind an artic that soon halts behind a couple of cars stopped at road works red lights.

Twiddle thumbs whilst watching temperature gauge rise. To press, or not to press, the override?

Artic belches and lurches forwards and there’s just enough of a gap revealed for a 900 to whiz through to the head of the queue and the just-going-green-light and away we go, free from restraint, maintaining a respectable pace through old Poligny town and then up out of the quaintness climbing on the other side the wide, twisty, fun N5.

Experience Old Enough to Know Better moment No.4,242, hurtling past slow moving convoys struggling uphill.

The N5 continues to be fun between and through Champagnole, St Laurent, St Claude and Gex.

Some bits were especially enjoyable enough to warrant going back along them to turn around and have a second go (see below),

… and never mind that I almost got caught out by a sudden, localized storm that leapt out at me from behind a high hill-top … just managed to come to a controlled halt, side-stand down,

 Weise over-suit wriggled into and on just before receiving a hailstone pelting followed by a heavy duty showering.

Then happily carry on along the drying N5 that eventually led this traveller down towards Geneva.

My notes read, ‘N5 - All Jolly Good, twisty smooth road fun. Recommended!’

 Experience Hot and Bothered confusion at the southern end of the fun end of the N5, to the north-west of Geneva, suddenly getting into traffic, stop to remove the hot and bothersome over-suit, then try to find the right route around Geneva to put me on the road to Annecy, where the map shows potentially interesting wiggly roads passing by lakes and other such scenic stuff on the N508 to Albertville. Destination Albertville being chosen as my goal for accommodation tonight, for no other reason than I like the name, Albertville. And Albertville looks to be in the midst of the sort of terrain that will reveal lots more of the wiggly roads of the less travelled variety.

N5 was such a pleasant and fairly free of other traffic road to ride that now, stuck on the N508 road in the bottom of a valley that leads to Annecy, the N508 feels almost claustrophobically crowded with cars and trucks and camper-vans and totally regulated and restrained and no fun at all.

Odometer 71400. 13.21L of fuel, €16.50c at Frangy.

Through traffic jammed Annecy. Out onto the N508 where it runs alongside the south-western shore of Lake d’Annecy, and to me is a revelation of how these continentals do holidays. It’s all nose to tail traffic, any spaces on the verges of either side of the fairly regular, but mighty busy road are jam packed with parked camper-vans and cars. The only motorists making any real progress are Us Motorcyclists, filtering along the white line.

 The Sign of The Right Foot. Cautious me, sensibly not going as fast as the filtering locals. Using the 900’s excellent mirrors to keep an eye on what’s closing in quickly along the white line behind me. So that, when a speeding local looms large in the mirrors, I considerately pull over to give the he (or she) room to speed on by. In passing, the speeding local invariably, briefly extends their right leg curb-ward a couple of feet …! Funny Old World eh? - and Travel Broadens The Mind.

One presumes this foot waving gesture is a polite expression of gratitude for comradely consideration given.

But waving with a foot … surely, the someone who invented that gesticulation must have been taking the piss?

Ok. We’re all in the EU now. But you’ll no be catching me a foot waving.

The subtle nod, or, in extremis, the barely raised finger are the restrained extent of stiff-upper-lipped gesture for me.


Arrive in Albertville keen to find a room for the night.

Spend the next couple of hours completely unsuccessfully … No room at any Inn, everywhere is fully booked!

Finally, the last place I stop and try gives me a clue as to why.

 “Soiree Monsieur, is all fool-oop-toonita-wida-le Tour de France …”

For too long I have been living in a world of my own. I really should pay more attention to whatever the rest of humanity is getting up to … especially those hanging about where I intend to be too.

Ok. Ok. Ok. Appealing Albertville is full up with Tour de France followers and the like.

No room at any Inn whatsoever.

It’s time for ‘Plan ‘B.’

Check map … “Now then, what likely looking nearby town is near enough for me on a 900 – but rather too far off for those of the pedal powered persuasion …Hmmmn?”

Your authors travel weary finger slides at an authentically scaled down speed along the red road lines shown upon page 38 of the Michelin 1cm = 10km Petit et complet …

Ah ha … Chambery!

Engage first gear and accelerate south-west’ish-outtahere.

€2.50 autoroute toll later, roll into post sunset, now it’s twilight, Chambery. Cruise about the town looking for likely looking accommodations for the night. Nothing available to me … Zen kicks in and prompts me, with my woefully inadequate French, to stop and enquire of a stationary nightlife Harley rider and his ice-cream wafer consuming girlfriend, if they can guide a fellow motorcyclist to a comfortable bed for the night? Harley rider takes one look at the road weary me and intuitively appreciates my plight, nods in the assent. We politely wait for Mammioselle Pillion to finish licking her wafer, then off we go, he and her leading me through smaller and smaller streets to stop outside ‘The Best Hotel.’ And there’s no denying that it is … because the price is right, at €46 per night, and there is a vacancy available for me.

900 gets locked and alarmed almost on ‘The Best Hotel’ doorstep, well within the sight of ‘The Best Hotel’ night-man.

I get room Blah blah right up at the top in what must have once been an attic, but is now a nifty en-suite room with a view … and jolly hot too, phewww!

Luggage dumped in a heap on the floor, boots, socks and smelly clothes removed from the sweaty bod, which I then immerse in a cold shower – bliss.

Composure recovered, parts dried satisfactorily, the days undergarments are given a thorough sluicing in ‘The Best Hotel’ room bath, then wrung out and hung up to drip dry over night.

Fresh togs on and I’m off in search of a late snack, find nowt appealing and settle instead for a meal in a jar, a very cold, very expensive pint of Guinness. Mmmmn.

Back to room Blah of ‘The Best Hotel,’ Chambery.

Consume some of the French bread and ripening Camembert I’d bought earlier.

Toothbrushing, then another refreshing shower, drying.

Invite Tullamore Dew to join me for a nightcap.