Devizes - Malta
Thursday 23rd July.
Awake in chambre 308 of ‘The Best Hotel,’ Chambery.
Gawd but it’s hot.
Even after having had the window open all night and the fan going full blast … gawd but it’s hot.
First thing on my Thursday agenda is a nice cool shower, then a nicehotcuppa Best Hotel tea.
Next there’s the hot’n’sweaty hours worth of sorting and repacking the stuff from the previous evenings disarray.
There must be an easier, less time consuming, stuff intensive, way of travelling by motorcycle. But each and every item to be re-packed has, or may come to have, an invaluable use. Except for the old T-shirt and pants that get abandoned in room 308’s bathroom bin. My apologies to the Femme de Chambre, or Personne de chambre.
Insert here the by now usual whinge about carrying heavy Big Black Bag of stuff to 900.
Insert here the by now usual relief and delight to find 900 where it had been left for the night.
The dead centre of Chambery town is where I am, methodically bungee’ing the Big Black Bag super securely onto the 900.
It’s that time of day when fashion conscious young persons are arriving from the suburbs, pausing at those French pavement cafes for an early espresso before diving into a days work in town. Passing looks of disdain from some of ‘em. Maybe I’ve become some sort of pathetic road rat clown.
Ready to go.
The 900 instantly answers ‘Go’ button pressing.
Cruise low-profile past pavement tables stacked with cappuccinos, croissants, mobilephones and their upwardly mobile attitudes.
Open the throttle to blast outta town … well, conservatively accelerate as far as the next petrol station.
Odometer 71497. 3166 road miles from Floriana. 10.12L fuel at €12.50.
Oil level …? Yup, still there.
Navigate north to Aix-les Bains, where the map book shows that a right turn will take me onto the interestingly wiggly looking D911 road through the Parc Massif Des Bauges.
Find the turn off for the D911, glide around the first bend and Whoooah there! … the road is awash with blue uniformed authority figures, shotgun and sub-machine-gun-toting-types dispersed about an armoured car road block … yikes had I been going that fast? … best slow down here and meekly co-operate. But the gun jerked sideways gesture aimed at me means pass on through, so I do, very calmly and carefully … phewww. Y’know, brought up in 1950’s/60’s England, where unarmed Policemen were law and order enough … No matter how many times it happens, I still can’t get used to these armed to the teeth continental police.
The orderly, civil, well-surfaced D911 soon distracts me from thoughts of law and order, as I shamelessly, old enough to know better, slightly exceed …
But, Honest, Your Honour, a Thursday morning, an empty road … besides, I had to keep slowing down and stopping to admire the scenic splendour, so actually, I was going very sensibly slowly. And to prove it, riding slowly enough to notice that hoot, the unmistakable whiff of ripe Camembert wafting up into my nostrils from where it was packed within the Tank Bag … so, er, cheese ripeningly slow.
D911. Go there. Ride it first from West to East, enjoy the scenery, delight in the nature of the mountainous environment that the road leads you through, accelerate out of bends like a mad thing, squeeze the front brake lever hard and savour the anti-dive effect in twisty descent through hairpin bends. Then turn around and try it again from East to West - aaah. You won’t regret it … unless of course you over do it. And of course, there is roadside evidence that some have!
You hold your life in your own hands. Terms and conditions most definitely apply.
Lat; 45°34'57.32"N. Long; 6° 8'38.10"E.
Eastern descent of the D911 towards St Pierre d’Albigny. To me, maybe a tads reminiscent of the Isle of Man … ‘cept this here stretch of empty tarmac is a lot hotter, and had no coppers (Disclaimer; Once through the road block, I saw not a single one).
After such a fabulous experiencing the life-enhancing-joy, freedom of the long and winding road ride. Naturally enough, this greedyfecker was up for much more of the same.
Sensibly stop and take pic, consult map book whilst munching on whiffy camembert, swig some water whilst deciding what road to go and explore next …
Ok. ok. ok. Head back to Albertville. There re-fuel and then find the D925 and more wiggly mountain roads. ‘Yeee-ha!’
Make progress along the valley floor N90 back to Albertville.
Pull into the first petrol station I see, y’know, that one on the Rue Raymond Bertram.
Stop at a pump, dismount, just about heave 900 up onto centre stand. Either I’m rapidly aging and losing it during this jaunt, or there are a number of small stout stowaways hidden within the Big Black Bag.
About to commence fuel replenishment process when I notice petrol pissing out of the side of the fuel tap!
Big Yikes! How long has this been going on?
Will the spillage dripping all over the hot engine suddenly ignite and blow me and the petrol station clear over the top of the nearby mountain!
Mild to middling panic.
Cancel re-fueling and wheel leaking motorcycle away from petrol pumps, 900 gets parked in the shade of a peripheral petrol station building, heaved up onto the centre stand again, phewww, there to commence investigation of pet-cock-pissing …
With the engine running, the Fuel Tap is dramatically squirting petrol out of a wee slot in the rearward facing edge of the fuel tap assembly.
Blimey. How long has this been going on?
Turn the engine off, and the leak stops.
Even my simple mind can’t fail to suspect the obvious culprit … the about nine-year-old Fuel Tap Diaphragm!
Oh dear oh dear oh dear. There’ll be no more making progress with this motorcycle leaking essence sans plumb all over the place.
Fortunately, I happen to have with me … 1x Part No. 43028-1015.
Yes Folks, that’s right. A Fuel Tap Diaphragm Repair Kit.
So. One most inconvenient petrol leak situation, that could have been a cause for days of delay, awaiting in Albertville the arrival of a Priority Purple Package from Devizes, becomes just a matter of dealing with a minor inconvenience … doing a roadside repair.
Thank You God(dess) for prompting me to purchase a Fuel Tap Repair Kit from Mr.WW during the weekend of the 25th Birthday Bash … and Thank You Even More God(dess) for inducing me to carry it south in the Big Black Bag, instead of sticking it in the post!
Whip out the tools and the replacement parts.
So Smug and really pleased I am to have with me these particularly Invaluable Spare Parts and the tools to do The Job.
To do The Job, had to purchase a couple of 5litre cans from the petrol station, into which to drain the 900’s fuel tank.
Once the tank was empty, it was fairly simple to replace the petrol tap interior with the contents of the Fuel Tap Repair Kit that I had recently, Most Fortuitously purchased from Our Blessed Founder, Mr. Gpz Zone Davies.
Tank resting on used T-shirt.
Must add that the Frenchmen of the petrol station (wherein I was obliged to stop and repair the faulty Petrol Tap) were most helpful, impressed and encouraging of my calm undertaking of the task of replacing the dodgy parts with spares carried with me.
Naturally, You can all understand how AbsoBallyBloodyLutelyBloodyDelighted I was to be able to effect a complete and proper repair, on the spot, within the space of one hour.
Repair completed. One of the petrol cans sold back to petrol station.
900 tank, and petrol can retained, both filled to the brim.
Odometer 71562. 3231 road miles from Floriana. 13.4L fuel at €17.00c.
Set off to find the D925.
Take a very wrong turn.
Realise my mistake, but pootle a bit further along the wrong-road Route Departmentale 925 anyway, until on my right I see a house with garden and a Man (un Homme), stop on the cambered tarmac at the side of the road by the edge of the gravel entrance. Man looks at me. I gesture at map and shrug (international sign language for; I’m not entirely certain I am where I want to be. Could you by chance assist in pointing me in the right direction?). Man gestures Ok and approaches. Push the side-stand down with my left foot, carefully lower the 900 onto the side-stand, start to step off to the right, 900 starts to topple over to the right too, I catch it, hold it … for a moment … but 900 is too top heavy with the Big Black Bag of stuff, and with the extra weight and sloshing about momentum imparted by five litres of fuel in the red can … further over goes the 900 onto my left leg, right foot slips on gravel … descending 900 knocks me over, flat on my back. Shin and Big Black Bag softening the inevitable impact of beloved meeting gravel of the entrance way, gravel absorbing, parting to save the indicators and handle bar end from damage.
Full fuel tank starts to leak from the filler cap.
Tipping point - 45°37'45.50"N 6°20'35.28"E
From stopping for directions to flat on my back in seventeen seconds.
Really sooo Embarrassing … I shall never tell anyone!
Irritably fling gloves off the short distance to the ground.
Wriggle my left leg free from out under the bike, stand up, pull the tank bag off. By this time the Man is by me and straight away, together we lift the 900 upright and safely onto the side-stand.
Profuse thanks. A sincere Merci très beaucoup, Monsieur!
Then He affably points me in the right direction.
Red faced, hot and bothered and pride before a fall embarrassed, I retrace my route back into Albertville town and find the right turn to take me where I wanna go.
Gordon Bennett. When did I become such an anally retentive auld fart, standing by a curvaceously fast flowing roadside, taking snaps of myself writing notes of the days doings for you lot when I should be hurtling along like a boy-racer hooligan!
Well, maybe I had been giving it a bit of a restrained go, felt it was time to stop for a breather, some water and a calming tablet or two.
Weather in this valley is hot’n’heavy. To either side and far ahead I can see that the afternoon heat is beginning to form clouds over the mountain-tops. Such clouds must mean rain sometime soon. Until soon is now, I’ll carry on along the fun curve through between the trees towards the vanishing point.
By the town of Beaufort, the intermittent spitting is becoming a pestiferous drizzle, and up ahead looks to be darker and greyer with persistent precipitation approaching.
It is Now. Halt under an umbrella tree, wriggle myself back into the Weise two-piece as the heavens open.
Riding unfamiliar wet roads demands a diminished pace and sensible, crafts-man-like, satisfying-to-achieve attention. Glimpses of steep roadside scenery last distractingly longer when travelling at slower speeds.
Some geographical features demand stopping and a proper goggling at.
D925 starts to climb up and up through twists and turns towards the ominous dark clouds. Flash … Crash-Bang-Big-Deep-Rumble thunder echoing-about the mountains. Roads real wet, but clean and grippy. I’m warm and dry and having great fun cautiously carrying on along a winding road that almost seems to tunnel its way up through the thick forestation growing on the flanks of the mountains. In the bone dry, this road would be so 100% concentration Fun & Games. Fortunately for me it is wet, and so tunnel vision is tempered by flickering glimpses between tree trunks, repeatedly forcing me to stop where roadside trees have fallen, to look and go Oh Wow! at the mighty steep views of precipitous, gravity defying mountainsides disappearing up and away into the clouds. I straddle a stationary Gpz on glistening tarmac. Switch the engine off. Trickling water, dripping water, thunder rumble. Amidst the dark fir trees a whisper of a breeze, time stands still. Distinctive aroma of wet-country-road-splashed-upon-hot-exhaust-pipe rises into my nostrils. Rivulet flows silently across the apex of the hairpin bend ahead of me. Fix the moment in the memory.
Peace, perfect peace, poised in the pause between flowing motorcycle motion.
Straining engine sound from somewhere back and below. In the mirror see the nose of a white camper van emerging from the previous hairpin bend.
Don’t wanna lose the at least five minutes of clear road up ahead of me.
The 900 answers ‘Go’ button pressing with smooth response.
Ok. Lets go see what’s to see up top.
My notes say, “Bloodyamazing D925 then becoming the D902 descending into Bourg St Claude 40’ish miles of fun. Go there!”
Cruise into a town surrounded by massive, brooding mountains, wherein the Hotel Angival welcomes me into its chambre à coucher numéro deux for €65.
900 locked and alarmed in a shady, out of the way nook.
Hotel Manager happy to keep my red-spare-can-full somewhere safe for the night.
Hotel room is pleasant, comfortable and clean and has wi-fi.
Weather is hot and humid. I need a long shower before visiting the bar for a long, cold drink.
Back to the room, windows wide open, weather still hot and humid and thundery while I wi-fi google earth for likely looking minor roads to check out tomorrow … hot’n’humid sounds from another hotel room … ahem, is that the vocal syncopation of a woman enjoying a rhythmic activity with a silent partner … ?
By Jove … I believe it is.
I Say … la joie de vie sur le continent.
That’s the Spirit!
Another long cold shower.
Weather continues hot and humid with just the thunder rumbles.
Root about in The Big Black Bag, dig out Tullamore Dew for company …
… which might explain why subsequent snap of left leg damage image is a little on the blurry side.
Forgive me, though only some 90 or so miles travelled, it had been an eventful day.