Tuesday 4th July 2006
Early start – breakfast at 6:30, bike packed and on the road about 7:15 and onto the N43 towards Bethune, the D937 to Arras, then some difficulty with reading signs and end up a the road to Amiens. Arriving in Amiens I spot a Carrefour, and decide to fill up with cheap petrol, buy some food and flip-flops, as walking around the hotel in the bike boots is not very practical. I checked the oil before leaving in the morning, and I need to find a some engine oil, and there appears to be a Halfords type store next to Carrefour called Norauto, so I buy a litre of oil and some bungees (you never know when you’ll need them), and top the engine oil up. It’s about 10:45 when I get back on the road again. I take the N1 towards Paris through Beauvais, taking it easy on the N1, and arrive in St-Denis.
Now, I don’t know Paris very well, I have been here a couple of times, but never driven in the city. It’s getting to lunchtime, and starting to get quite hot, but I know I want to go pretty much straight out the other side toards Orleans. I’m looking for signs for anywhere that I recognise – nothing…
I spot signs for Gare du Nord, but end up in the wrong lane and end up heading off down the boulevards towards the Arc de Triomphe, but getting nowehere at all fast, as the traffic is pretty much stationary. It’s now getting very hot, as is the bike, and starting to smell a bit oily, so I decide to stop for a while, when I can find somewhere and try to ascertain where I am and let the bike cool off a bit.
I stop in the centre of a Boulevard, just outside Anvers Metro station – it’s about 12:30pm
A couple walk past, and she takes an interest in the bike – doesn’t say anything, just looks a lot, especially at the speedo, and seems impressed by the maximum indication on there, I make polite conversation, but they don’t appear to speak English, and my French is minimal. They wander off, with him swigging from his can of lager. A couple of minutes later he comes back, and starts to talk earnestly in French at me – I understand very little, but he is definately trying to indicate something about his wife, and I start to feel that this is not a conversation that I want to have any part of – I’ve been propositioned by women before, but this is something different again… He eventually gives up for a while, but I get the impression that he may be back soon, so I decide to move on…
Look back at the last photo, and the relative position of the bike and the large hoarding… now consider that I want to go forwards a few feet and then turn left… the panniers are held on by a relatively thin piece of metal when compared to that poster display, and now the left hand one is on the ground. I said eariler that you never know when you’ll need bungees, well I am so glad that I bought them a few hours ago, as I work out how to use the two largest bungees to re-attach the pannier to the sde rails.
I head back off down the boulevards, eventually finding myself outside the back of the Pompidou Centre with the bike again getting very hot, and I’m overheating somewhat as well – I need to stop, so pull the bike onto the pavement outside a patisserie on the Rue du Renard, buy a couple of pastries, and pull a can out of the tank bag.
Time goes by, and the bike cools, it’s now about 3pm and there have been a couple of spots of rain and a few cracks of thunder. the traffic appears to be moving a little quicker now and I have examined the map in some detail – straight down here, a jink to the right, and I should be crossing the Seine, then follow straight down towards Porte d’Orleans, and I’ll deal with getting to Orleans from there I’ve still got a lot of riding today, as I’m booked in Montlucon tonight. I just want to get out of Paris – more slow moving traffic – I attempt some filtering, but forget how wide I am with panniers on, and rub a little against the corner of a car. We stop, no damage, just a rub with my glove removes the deposited dirt, but we’re attracted the attention of a police woman who tells us to get moving.
Thunder and lightning accompany me for the rest of the evening down to Orleans and Bourges on the N20 but it has cleared slightly when I take the A71 and then the N144 to Montlucon. When I arrive in Montlucon, I get to the town centre square, and ask some local teenagers sitting on the steps for directions – they point me in the general direction, and I head off, only to return 2 minutes later, as the roads are all dug up, the way I want to go is completely closed, and the diversion signs are no help at all.
They very kindly offer to escort me in their cars to the hotel, which turns out to be on an industrial estate. One car goes off one way, and the other car goes another – I follow one, who lead me through the diversion back to the main road, so I then head off following the directions they gave me earlier. The directions lead me to an industrial estate, with no indications of a hotel, I keep following my nose, and spot the other car – they beat me here they wave, and I wave back, still a little confused, but round a corner, and there is the big F1 sign. It’s 20:47, 10 minutes before closing, and I’ve been on the road over 12 hours, and the mileage reads 62400 – almost 400 miles and very stressful some of those miles were in Paris – I swear that I will never go through the city again, even if it means a 50 mile diversion. Boy will I sleep well tonight.