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Thread: Deaux idiots en France

  1. #1
    Join Date
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    Default Deaux idiots en France

    This is a story of two pals, two Ducati Pantahs and one adventure trip to France.
    It all started as an idea formulated in the pub, where all the best ideas come from, and the original plan was to ride to Italy and visit the Ducati factory in Bologna, stopping off at a music festival in southern France where friends of us were heading. Sam had the 600, and mine was the 500 version of what in essence was the forerunner to the 851 and the classic 916 belt driven demodromic camshaft v twin which is now drooled over.
    The Pantah is a lightweight nimble and very quick motorcycle, which handles superbly, amazing brembo brakes and nippon denso electrics which were a huge improvement over the old unreliable Italian version. They are not known for their touring capabilities but having clocked up plenty of miles on numerous trips up north, i thought it was perfect over distance. Decent power, comfy riding position and decent mpg with a four gallon tank meant well over 200 miles between fill ups.
    The plan was to do the trip over the 2 week Edinburgh trades holiday, travel light with minimum gear. Basically, tent, sleeping bags, a few items of clothing and some tools. What could possibly go wrong?
    Mistake number one was failure to take waterproofs with us. I mean, France and Italy, no problem, sun will be splitting the sky but the flaw in our theory that they were an unnecessary extra was that we were nearly 500 miles from France and Britain was a damp place at the best of times. True enough, it pished down on the way through the lake district and both of us had full racing leathers which rapidly soaked through and ran the dye on our T shirts. We were wringing.
    Anyway, we're buzzing down the M6, middle lane, getting near Birmingham. We'd agreed beforehand to go to the Dunlop factory and get a deal on new tyres, so that was our plan, but then it went tits up. Suddenly, Sam slowed then veered into the hard shoulder and pulled up. I asked him what the problem was and he was laughing cos he realized he'd hit the kill switch by mistake, the erse. Carrying on, with me behind him we'd only got a few miles when my bike started weaving and i had to pull in to the hard shoulder this time. Shit, i had a punctured rear. Sam was oblivious, and disappeared into the distance, me with the camping gear, him with the tools. Double shit.
    Couldn't have happened at a worse place too, pretty much bang on Spaghetti Junction, with exit roads and turn offs all over the shop. Sam didn't notice i was missing for a good few miles and wouldn't have a clue where i was so he kept going to our rendezvous at the Dunlop factory in Birmingham. No mobile phones back then so it was shit street without a paddle. I just waited at the side of the road hoping that Sam would get back somehow. Before too long this guy in a Jaguar stopped and asked what the problem was. Turned out he was also a biker and offered to take the wheel off and fix the puncture at his house. By this time i reckoned Sam wasn't coming back, so took up the offer and sort it so i could get back on the road and hopefully meet up with Sam at the tyre factory. The guy was brilliant and i was so grateful for his help. Eventually i got to the Dunlop place but all that was left of Sam was a note in the reception, saying he'd left and headed for friends that stayed in Leicestershire. Sounded like a strange plan seeing as we were on the other side of the country and a couple of hours ride away. Also i didn't know exactly where Dave and Shelley stayed, other than it was a farm near Ratcliffe. I had a map and both tyres full of air i rode on in search of the missing mate. It was late in the day by now, early evening, and after making good time and quite near Leicester i approached one of many roundabouts and pulled up waiting for a space to pull out. Next thing i knew i was rammed from behind by a car who clearly was looking right and never even braked, and i was catapulted into the middle of the roundabout. I stayed on but took a fair impact and hurt my back, but just parked it on the stand where i stopped and confronted the guy in the car, who was extremely sheepish and full of apologies. Thinking on my feet, i checked for damage and the only visible dent was the back mudguard so rather than fuck about with insurance i took 50 quid as compensation. I just saw it as a means of getting more spending money for the trip and wasn't too bothered cos i just wanted to keep going.
    About half an hour later i found the Ratcliffe area and by this time the sun was setting and i was dry so i made my mind up to stop at the next pub could find, get my bearings and get a pint and something to eat. Along this wee country road there was a big old English inn with ivy all over. That'll do for me, so pulling into the car park who the fuck do you think was arriving from the opposite end, Sam. You couldn't make it up.
    We ended up staying the night in Dave and Shelley's farmhouse after consuming a few beers, and next day continued on our journey. We made good time to Dover and once over the channel and into France it was decided we'd try to get a good few miles (kilometers) under our belt before stopping. This meant using the Piagge toll motorway which was excellent and we averaged decent speeds finding ourselves in mid France as evening approached. Unfortunately it @@@@ed with rain for the last couple of hours, so once again our decision to leave our waterproofs behind proved to be a daft one. We found a hotel in the town of |Orleans and were kindly allowed to dry our leathers, boots and gloves in the boiler room. Sitting in the bar later the TV was on and it looked like it was a disaster movie. Not being French speakers we didn't realize that it was in fact the news channel, and we were watching footage of the Piper Alpha oil rig explosion. Absolutely surreal.
    Next week morning was a turning point on our journey. The turning part being turning back. The decision was made when Sam's Ducati, which had been sounding sick, wouldn't start on the button and took a bump start to get it going. Ambitiously we had reckoned to make it to Bologna and get the Ducati factory service department to sort out the engine problem but we finally had to admit it was unlikely to make it that far. What we decided was to ride north and stay overnight in Paris, do the tourist thing, paint the town red and bumble back to Dave and Shelley's again. Paris was an eye opener for two Scottish tcheuters. It's an incredible city and the night life is amazing. Cafe's and bars everywhere, and the French ladies are certainly a class above Musselburgh high street. In the first bar we entered i went to the bar and ordered two lagers. I tried to pay and the barman waved me away. Strange, but when the second round was ordered he did the same again. Fuck me, we thought they were taking the auld alliance seriously and giving us free drink. After finishing our drink we moved on and in the next bar it all became clear. In France you square up the bar bill when you leave. I plead ignorance m'lord. Next day our ignorance again reared it's head in another bar when we decided on a bar meal before leaving Paris. The menu was in French obviously, and the only thing that was remotely recognizable to our simple minds was steak tartare with frittes. That'll do nicely we thought, steak and chips with tartare sauce. Erseholes, it was raw minced meat with onions and a kind of worcestershire sauce with tiny chips. Sam refused point blank to eat the mince and just had the chips, i tried it and got through about half of it, more probably to show how gallus i was than actual enjoyment. Learned another new thing.
    Anyway, onwards and northwards. After several wrong turns and double backing we finally left Paris behind and got on to the Calais Piagge. I was tail-end charlie and we were cruising nicely around 70mph, probably 50 miles from the port when a serious amount of oil suddenly appeared on my visor. Disaster, the sick Pantah finally spewed it's guts and ground to a halt. The game was a bogie. What now you may ask? Ingenuity that's what. I left Sam and his broken bike at the side of the motorway looking for the nearest town and hopefully a garage. My thought was to buy a rope and tow him to Calais. After that, well we'd play it by ear. What we'd been doing since leaving Scotland. It was pretty rural and the nearest town was a village. Again my lack of French was a problem. I tried a garage, but nothing. I'm sure the guy hadn't a clue what i was trying to say. Next place i tried they actually seemed to understand what i wanted, but didn't have rope. They did, importantly, write me a note in French, to take to a nearby French style motor factor. This conversation was conducted by a mixture of broken English, broken French, and mime. With note in hand, i found the said motor factor and handed over my note to the assistant chap, like a daft school laddie. It certainly did the trick as he showed me a shelf where this proper towrope sat all packaged up. This was the top of the range, deluxe model, wire rope coated with red plastic, stainless end clips swaged on, and the pièce de résistance, an anti jolt coiled spring bang in the middle. Back of the net.

    The plan in place, i hitched up Sam's bike and off we went, boingy boingy rope working a treat. We cruised up the road for a good few miles and then i needed petrol, so pulled into services to fill up. It made sense to empty Sam's tank into mine first, so we were decanting the fuel in the car park when this guy parked next to us in a transit and started jibbering away in french, pointing at the broken Ducati then the back of his van. Well any rocket scientist would tell you he was offering to transport the bike up the road. Turns out he was from Calais, and that's where we were heading. Decision made, bike in van, me fuelled up, we drove in convoy to Calais and stopped at a pub on the edge of town for a well earned refreshment.
    I wish i could remember his name, i'm sure i still have his business card stashed away somewhere, but he really was some character. None of us knew each others languages but somehow we had this conversation, story telling and cracking away good style. Checking out his business card it was apparent he owned a charcuterie, a delicatessen shop, which was near the port, so he invited us back for a meal. The shop was closed but we had to go through it to get to his apartment at the back, and right away we were made to feel welcome, feeding us drink, and we started to snack from this mixed platter he produced. Suddenly the atmosphere changed when, what we had to assume was his wife or girlfriend, arrived and she was an explosion of anger, and the two of them kicked off a slanging match in french (obviously) which started to make us feel very unwanted all of a sudden. Hastily we said our brief cheerios, thanking him for everything (in mime), and slipped outside kind of shocked and stunned by the whole thing.
    It was by now getting late, so all we could really do was press on in tow, and get the next ferry to Dover. Luckily it was a frequent crossing so it wasn't a long wait, a tricky embarkation though, towing a bike up the slippy ramp but there were no more dramas and we tied up and headed up on deck to the lounges. What was the plan now? It was maybe ten at night, the crossing took an hour and a half. Dover was a shit hole so we had to just carry on up the road and find somewhere to camp the night. As it happens, the decision to stop was made for us when Sam's battery went flat and it started to get dangerous, especially with no tail light. We were on the edge of some town in Kent and found an industrial estate. There was plenty of grass around to pitch a tent, and to be honest we were so knackered we just needed to sleep, so we camped up there.
    It must have been a week day, cos in the morning as we awoke from our slumber it was beginning to get quite noisy outside. Daylight revealed that our tent was pitched pretty much on the doorstep of a factory or office block and the staff we arriving for work. To be honest, we didn't really give a fuck what people thought but it must have been a strange sight to behold, two Scottish biker tinks using an industrial estate as a campsite. I'll tell you this much, the campsite facilities were shite.
    Lo and behold, to compound our "difficulties" the morning brought more rain, stotting doon it was. We'd been soaked through that many times my skin was the colour of a Maori tribesman. All the same we were still hardy Scotsmen and used to the pishing rain, only difference was it was warm rain. We hatched a cunning plan though, riding through a Kentish town we spotted an RAC shop and decided to attempt a blag. If we joined now would they help us get home in a breakdown van. The charm was fully turned on and for a brief minute i actually thought the wifie was going to give in to our sob story, but her common sense prevailed and we left the shop empty handed. Black balled.
    Onwards and upwards, the next big hurdle was London. Another downside to our plight was we couldn't tow on a motorway, so right through the centre of London it was. Blackford Tunnel was a @@@@@@@, the heat and fumes made it a challenge and the exit was long and steep. It was a fair old strain on my clutch but i couldn't fault my bike, it never let me down. Must have turned a few heads riding through the city, or maybe not, Londoners never seem to bother about anything beyond the end of their nose.
    The rest of the journey back up to Dave and Shelley's (we decided that was the sensible place to head) was fairly uneventful and later that day we pitched back up at their Leicestershire farm.
    We still had a week left of the holiday and devised a plan to get Sam's bike back to Scotland. A mate of ours, Chic Flockhart, raced a Triton in classic racing and was due to race at Donington Park in the coming weekend. It was only an hour away so after agreeing with Chic for him to take the bike home with him we could relax and enjoy a week at the farm. The weather was absolutely scorching and it was harvest time so we pitched in and helped out with the bailing. Hard work, but each evening we wound down at the local pub and got to meet lots of Dave's biker pals. Great crack.
    Another significant moment which defined our stay was the discovery in one of the barns of an old Triumph sidecar scrambler. It was covered in stoor and hadn't been run for years but with Dave's blessing we stripped the carb, did a bit of fettling, and managed to get it fired up. We proceeded to have a blast raking about the farm and in a roundabout way it sewed the seed for our future sidecar road racing career.
    Maybe that's another story ?
    Last edited by Dove; 04.01.2020 at 02:57 PM.

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  3. #2
    Join Date
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    Well remembered Dove, who ever said class A dulls the brain !!?
    I'll fish oot a pic o the 6T grass tracker but think it was taken when I first met Dave n Shelly as I think I have a broken arm in the pic. This was when I set off with Jamie ( another daft idea as the pub was closing decision) heading for Assen the year and summer of the first Live aid. His Norton ran a small end, we were then lifted off the motorway by a rescue truck and dropped at a bike shop. Dave ( whom we had not met by this time) was in getting spares for his Triumph and after hearing the story he offered his place to strip the bike and rebuild the motor. One of the con rods was knackered but friends of ours in Camberley had a con rod as a Darts trophy at their local pub so we headed down there to swap the damaged rod for the good un. That hitching trip to Camberley ended up in us being lifted off the motorway and receiving a fine for doing so. Character building !
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  4. #3
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    I don't know about class A drugs dulling the brain, but on that same trip we bought a litre of blue label vodka which, when we stayed at Dave and Shelley's for a week we brought out each night after a night in the local pub and every time we woke up next day with absolutely no memory of anything after the voddy.

  5. #4
    Join Date
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    Found the sidecar pic but not as clear as I remember, also found a pic of Team Rag arse racing. Windle TZ and your Sound of the Singles Hejira Rotax ex Steve Spray bike,and a pic when you were supple and able to bend !
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    Last edited by sam; 05.01.2020 at 09:56 AM.
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  6. #5
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    Ha. I remember that photo of us at the reverse direction Knockhill meeting.
    The hairpin was an "interesting" first corner. Mullen used to go mental over that photo because i leaned out that far. Fucking had to or we would have flipped. Loved it anti clockwise and would have won easily if you hadn't been so gung ho lapping that pair at the dip.

  7. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dove View Post
    Ha. I remember that photo of us at the reverse direction Knockhill meeting.
    The hairpin was an "interesting" first corner. Mullen used to go mental over that photo because i leaned out that far. Fucking had to or we would have flipped. Loved it anti clockwise and would have won easily if you hadn't been so gung ho lapping that pair at the dip.
    That was for the benefit for the guy taking the photos, would have looked great a wheel in the air over the other outfit. In fact it was the guy that we bought our first outfit from the Norton but sold it after we purchased the new Hopper with the Armstrong CM36 motor. Made up for it the next year with the TZ though by smashing the reverse direction lap record by 7.5 seconds.
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