Hello from sunny England! Yes, since I last wrote from Freising I had another change of mind. The south of France will have to wait for another day. At about 7.30am on Saturday 1st August, I waived goodbye to Gernot and Marlies before phoning my wife and discussing what to do next.
I had planned to head south into France and ride through the Pyranees on the way home. I knew hoever that it would be a long hot ride, and the holiday traffic was becoming intense. Moreover I was very tired and still weak from my recent illness, so decided instead to go straight across the top of France to Calais.
I set off along the paryially unrestricted autobahn (some have a 130kmh limit now) and tried out the Ductai a bit, seeing 230kmh on the dial a couple of times - legally!
My first stop was Stuttgart. I was surprised to find I liked the city, with its large central square and relaxed feel. I had filled up the memory card on the camera again, so bought another card and remembered to call my little brother and wish him happy birthday on the 1st August.
I relaxed for a couple of hours, then back on the bike and into France. Lunch was in an Allsatian village after the first couple of French villages proved to have no shops open at all.
On entering France I was immediately offended by the price of their tolls. i must have spent 25 Euros at least, to go about 600km. At each toll point I complained profusely, all to no avail, of course.
As the day wore on i thought about going to Paris, again deciding not to due to tiredness and a desire to be back on home territory.
The sun was in my eyes, late in the day, as I pulled in to a truck stop for fuel and a bite to eat. Lifting the bike onto the centrestand I noticed a 'clunk' from the front end and upon closer inspection was alarmed to see the amount of slop in the front wheel bearings. I filled up with fuel, deciding the bearings would limp home to UK - there would be no more 230kmh runs though!
In the cafeteria an English truck driver by the name of John heard me arguing with the French waiter and came over to ask if I was the Ducati rider. We got talking, sharing yarns about trucks and bikes (he rides a 2008 R1) until it went dark. I had nowhere to pitch the tent - John suggested I camp on the grass near the servo but it looked pretty exposed and dangerous to me - then I had an idea: John's truck had a refrigerated pantec on and was empty. I crawled in the back, spread out my bed on the floor and, leaving the back door ajar, spent my last night in Europe sleeping in the back of a truck! I thought that a very fitting end to the European leg of my adventure.
It rained that night and I was warm and dry in the truck. It was still wet in the morning when I bade John farewell and rode out toward england, albeit carefully - on that bearing.
I wanted to get to Calais by early afternoon so I could meet my friends alex & Carole at the ferry - they had kindly offered to let me stay in their house again as they were off to Europe themselves for a few days.
I arrived at the ferry on time and was again accosted by the British border guard ladies. This time I had had enough. They let everyone else from the European union (their former enemies) in without question, but when an Australian turns up we get the third degree.
Well I told her i was not impressed, reminding her that thousands of Australian young men lay in French graves nearby because we came to the aid of mother England when she called, and this was no way to treat a friend. Moreover I told her not to call us next time they are in a fight - they are on their own!
She let me past regardless and I was on the phone relating the incident to my ever patient wife, when another motocyclist nearby recognised my accent and I made two more friends.
Rob & Susan were on their way back from Italy on their BMW and told me of their plans to move to China. We swapped stories for the whole of the ferry crossing and parted with the promise that i'll visit them in China!
As I rolled off the ferry it was great to alex standing there to meet me. We hadn't caught up since I first left Horley to see the UK and Europe, on the bike he worked hard to help me purchase. Carole told me there was food in the fridge, alex gave me the door key and they were off.
I took a short detour to see the white cliffs properly and then rode back to Horley (about an hour and a half). I can only begin to tell you how good it felt to be back in an English speaking country and to effectively have my own house! I slept well that night.
Yesterday I relaxed most of the day, finally getting off my backside to clean the bike late in the day.
This morning my friends at the local Ducati shop dropped all their other work to fit my wheel bearings (and listen patiently to some of my stories) - the bike now rolling smoothly again.
My current task is to work out whether to sell the Ducati or ship it back to Oz, so I have been riding around getting quotes etc. Not sure which path I'll take yet, I'll keep you posted.