Beta Alp 4.0

A collection of information as it arises. There's not a lot out there!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Stella Alpina Day 1 - Home to Cambrai

After a lot of worry and debate I'd decided on a packing system with soft bags, putting the bulk of the weight on the pillion area. I estimated a total load of about 15kg total.

Off on a sunny morning, of course being a weekday it was slow going getting out of town, and that was to be the guide of the day. As usual the run through Sherwood to Ollerton was lovely and the following A46 slow and busy. As I left the A1 and headed to Melton Mowbray the sky was darkening and it was obvious it was going to rain heavily. Just entering the town there was a little drizzle and for a moment I thought "is this it?" No, in a few minutes a was getting wet and pulled into a side road by the railway to wrestle my overtrousers and waterproof socks out of their bag as the rain continued to drip down my back.
Once on the way again the rain persisted and with only a T-shirt under my jacket I could feel the pressure of the heavy drops on my arms and chest. Visibility was poor, even white vans were going slowly. Fortunately I could head south on "The Old North Road" which is a pleasant route not yet spoilt by excessive road furniture and roundabouts.
Somewhere near Bishop's Stortford I missed my turning for the A120 towards the M11 and ended up following the A10 onto the M25. As well as not being such a direct route the M25 junction eastbound was closed and so I had to detour to the west and back again through standing traffic. This must have added 20 miles or so extra.
Then just across the Dartford crossing the rain started again. At least the Toll was free so no messing about to find coppers; soon I was on the M20 and the final leg to Folkstone was fairly dry. On the motorway I'd been going at an indicated 70mph, this felt plenty fast enought, any more and a rather alarming head shake sometime set in. Not nice.
All day I'd been concerned about being in time for my crossing on the tunnel but timing was fine - 6.5 hours from home. Checking-in to my internet-booked slot was easy but by the time I was near the facility block it was time to get ready for boarding. This was a bit chaotic and could have been tedious in the wet, but it was dry! All of the motorcycles boarded a carriage after the last of the cars and had to park in echelon on sidestands; no special area nowadays. The train was very smooth and I just kept a hand on the Alp whilst the train brtaked to ensure it didn't topple.
Naturally I headed the wrong way out of the railport, partly because the roads seem to have been renumbered since my map was made, but this did give me a picturesque route to the south of Calais. The evening's ride was along a presumeably Roman road - dead straight.
Sometimes it was lined with trees, sometimes with Commonwealth war cemetries. No navigational problems except that on 2 occasions my preplanned distance was less than that on the road signs. The destination was getting further away...
In Cambrai I saw a HI sign but not one ofr the railway as I'd been advised and fearing that I was becoming lost I consulted a tourist map - on a traffic island of all places. That showed I was just a few corners away and in no time I was shown to my room and had the bike parked up.
After a quick shower I headed into town - it was starting to rain again. I ate in a pleasant Pizzeria and listened to chears from local bars as France beat Portugal in the World Cup semi-finals.

583km today


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