Yes folks, it’s time to believe your eyes! Here’s the first installment of Mark’s Pyrenean motorbike tour report… In this episode, Mark gets a “naughty” sticker, going round roundabouts the wrong way, and a case of the wrong trousers….
Day 1 (Saturday 22nd June)
The start of my biking trip to Spain with my two mates, Jamie and Brian.
As arranged, Jamie showed up around half nine in the morning to set off to meet up with Brian at the Midway Truckstop near Whitchurch. Brian was coming from his home on the Isle Of Man, so Whitchurch was a good meeting place with him coming off the ferry in Liverpool. We all arrived within a few minutes of each other and celebrated with bacon butties all round.
Our destination for the night was Tiverton in Devon, where we had booked a B+B for the night, within easy reach of Plymouth the next day for our ferry. We set off in good weather, which thankfully held all day. The route was easy: M54, M6, M5 then off at Jct 27 for Tiverton. We stopped for a brew at Gloucester services. My front tyre was rapidly wearing, oh dear, I was hoping it would see the trip out, but at this rate of wear, no way !! Problem was, next day was a sunday, even if I found a bike shop in Plymouth (that was open), chances were that the workshop wouldn’t be . This, sadly, turned out to be the case. I resolved, therefore, to get one in Spain at the earliest opportunity.
We arrived in good time at Tiverton, fillled up with cheap ( non motorway services ) petrol and sought out the digs. Showered and changed, we headed out in search of the two staples we required, namely beer and food. We found a pub around the corner, but food wasn’t available. Fortunately a chippy round the corner had a restaurant attached, with one table for 3 folk still available!! I opted for cod chips and peas, whilst Brian and Jamie went for a 12 oz steak. Jamie, in his excitement, promptly asked the waitress for a 12 inch steak (much to our amusement). This request was somewhat lost on the waitress, as her command of english was not fantastic. Never mind though, the food duly arrived, was very tasty and disappeared in record time. We then adjourned back to the pub, finding a real ale micro pub in the town.
Several pints of Badgers Bum (or some other real ale name) later, it was back to the digs. We were all sharing a room, unfortunately for me: both Brian and Jamie are award winning snorers, Jamie like a knackered out chainsaw and Brian like an asthmatic buffalo. Consequently, I got little kip, and resolved to break out the earplugs in future.
Day 2 (Sunday 23 June)
Breakfast was excellent, local produce, with particularly tasty sausage. We were on our way soon after. The weather was still good and we soon arrived in Plymouth, then it started to rain; fortunately by this time we were at the port and took shelter in a cafe bar for a few hours, seeing how long we could nurse a cup of tea before having to order something else. Eventually, with the place getting busier and busier, we were forced to order food. It was a bit expensive, but very nice, and kept us out of the rain.
Next it was time to board. Having presented tickets and passports it was time to clear security. Jamie was in front of me and was asked if he had any knives, multi tools etc in his luggage. He said he had a swiss army knife, which was duly inspected and deemed safe to have on board. Next was me. I declared my multi tool, which due to the locking feature was declared too dangerous to be allowed on board and was to be forfeit immediately. I wasn’t having this (it would be over £100 to replace) and argued tooth and nail that it was part of my tool kit (so I therefore had good reason to carry it). The jobsworth security supervisor grudgingly accepted this, after I showed her my various other tools I carried, and I was allowed to keep it provided it was locked under my bike seat so I could not go on the rampage whilst aboard the ferry . I had to have a bright red “naughty” sticker on my bike and had to park in front of a camera on the car deck so I could not sneak down to retrieve it whilst at sea.
I asked if my number plate would be recognised by the computer on the return leg in two weeks time, and was informed it would. I was a marked man !!! but as I had been allowed out with it, I should be allowed back in with it. This turned out to be true, except the Spanish security didn’t make a song and dance about it. I still got a naughty sticker though!
We eventually set sail on time, after finding our cabin (hutch), showering and changing. The boat was very busy, lots of bikers like ourselves, seeking good Spanish roads and sunshine. We found food and beer and eventually retired to our hutch to sleep, I had earplugs this time !!
Day 3 (Monday 24 June)
After a smooth overnight sail and a better kip (thanks to earplugs), we awoke to a sunny day and calm seas. Several groups of dolphins were spotted throughout the day and even a whale far in the distance. We found some pizza for lunch, and pretty soon it was time to pack up and disembark.
We arrived in Santander on time, and due to my “naughty ” sticker, giving me a good parking spot, I was one of the first group of bikes to disembark . Once cleared customs etc (by this time the naughty sticker had mysteriously fallen off my bike), I awaited the arrival of Brian and Jamie. Once we had regrouped, we set about the task of getting out of Santander for our ride out to Cangas de Onis, our destination in the Picos Europa mountain range for our first two nights stay.
On leaving Santander, I was pleased to note several motorcycle dealerships, so thought that maybe getting a tyre would not be a major problem. Once out on the Autopista (spanish motorway), it began to rain. We stopped to suit up, but not before we got pretty wet due to a lack of suitable stopping places.
Brian had his first (of a few) moment of wrong side of the road riding, by going the wrong way round a roundabout – thankfully it was very quiet and no harm was done. We arrived at our digs in Cangas de Onis, got checked in, parked the bikes and went off in search of our two staples. A local bar /restaurant was decided upon, mainly because the beer it served was one I have had before ( Mahou ), and the menu was quite easy to translate (very approximately) . Food and beer was consumed and we retired back to the digs; I had a single room this time and hoped for a better kip .
The pics are Brian in the hutch, and Brian and Jamie looking out at Santander on arrival.
Day 4 (Tuesday 25 June)
After a good night’s sleep (for me anyway), we met up in the foyer and went in search of breakfast; a cafe a couple of hundred yards down the street was selected and coffee and toast were enjoyed. The weather was decidedly overcast, so a ride into the mountains was binned in favour of searching out a new front tyre for me. After a bit of internet research, the coastal town of Gijon was decided upon as the best option, due to the presence of a large Suzuki dealership.
On arrival, we found said dealership and pulled up outside the workshops. The guy inside spoke basic english and I soon explained my predicament. He came outside, looked at the tyre size and went off to check his stock. He returned saying that he didn’t have a Bridgestone tyre, would a Dunlop be OK? I said that as long as it was round and had tread it would be fine. Next question was, could he fit it today (in my experience in UK, you normally have to book a slot, maybe next day or even later). He fully understood my predicament and said it would be done by 1pm: it was now about 11.45am — RESULT !!!
We adjourned to a local cafe for food, then went round to the showroom section of the dealership. Brian had (foolishly?) neglected to pack his riding jeans and was sweating in textile trousers (even with all the insulated linings removed). He found a pair of jeans at a good price, tried them on, perfect fit! Result no 2 of the day! Then back round to the workshop – my bike was waiting, parked outside with a lovely new tyre on! Paid the guy 125 euros (good price, about the same as home) and went on our way.
It rained quite heavily on the way back, not too much fun on a new tyre, but better than on a bald tyre !! We arrived back at the digs around 4.30 and went on a food recce for later. Wandering around the town , we came upon a “Flintstones bike” and couldn’t resist jumping on and taking pics.
We also inspected the old Roman bridge that spans the river in the town centre.
The weather had now cleared up and was hot and sunny, with a great forecast for the next few days. Later on, we ended up in a bar for food, the pasta eatery we had chosen earlier being shut. The food was good – I had a local thing with duck and mushrooms and the other two went for a burger and chips. Brian enjoyed his more as Jamie thought his was not cooked to his liking, even though requesting very well done. Maybe Spanish well done is not the same as ours !!! Replenished, it was back to the digs for a kip .
To Be Continued……