Following last years successful trip to the French Alps the E.M.H.O.C planned a 10 day ride to the Black Forest, 7 riders with 3 pillions meet at the Premier Inn Folkestone for an evening meal and overnight stay.
Mon 18th Sept. A short run to Le Shuttle for an early train to France. However, an early lesson learned was to stay together as a group. The majority of us were subject to Customs Officialdom while Dan (Billy No Mates) swanned off to Calais. No harm done as when the main group filtered onto a Motorway South of Calais our lost Rider & Pillion were miraculously in our midst, as if it had been planned; with much laughter over the intercoms. After an interesting ride through France at a fast pace and a good 250 miles in the saddle, with essential comfort stops, we bedded down in Verdun. This is a small town and famous for its First World War Battlefield and many Memorials bear witness to the pain of the past. The evening was spent in a joyous mood and many pictures were enjoyed – or was that Pitchers!.
Tues 19th. We set off early for our 2nd day in France with Germany in our sights. After a while we are going through a small town where Primary School children are walking with their teachers, we are clearly a distraction and there was much waving and pipping.
We arrive in Vittel for lunch where amusingly on the Dessert menu was “Crazy Frog”. Clear Blue skies saw us all the way to our base in Freiburg. The City is known for its temperate climate and reconstructed medieval centre. During the Second World War Freiburg was bombed on two occasions; once by the Luftwaffe in 1940 (a navigational error) and then by the RAF in 1944. Although the town was destroyed the Medieval Minster remained intact
Our group leader, Gary (Rospa tutor and all-round good bloke) had chosen a variety of ride outs for the following 7 days. Two additional riders joined the group, Chris and Andrew, Andrews valued contribution was the ability to speak fluent German, although his command of numeracy fell a little short and resulted in us leaving an over generous tip for the waitress who very quickly was planning her next holiday. That said it was a very good night in Martins Brau Restaurant eating and drinking traditional German fare and enjoying each others company.
Wed 20th. Today Gary lead us on a round trip through the Schwarzwald National Park stopping at Freudenstadt for lunch. An interesting journey with long sweeping bends, beautiful view points and many hairpins. Taking us through picture postcard villages on immaculate tarmac which puts to shame the third world roads we are subject to back in the
UK. During breaks from the saddle the local cakes were more than sampled including the famous Swartzwalder Kutchen or Black Forest Gateau. The ladies had a day away from the bikes and did a little shopping, doing a reported 16,000 steps very commendable.
Thur 21st. Kevin and Liz are our ride leaders today on a trip to Felberg a beautiful round trip of 160 miles. This trip again has many hairpin bends and on one of them two of our riders encounter a car going up in our direction stop on the apex searching for first gear. A heart stopping moment for all concerned. Good job we are also Rospa trained with our slow riding control skills put to the test. We stop for coffee and cakes by the beautiful Lake Schlucksee an enjoyable days riding.
Fri 22nd. Today Glenys and I had a champagne breakfast with my brother Andrew who lives and works in Nurnberg. A chance to catch up on family matters etc. whilst the rest of the group enjoyed even more wonderful riding in glorious weather.
Sat 23rd. Todays ride was a 194 mile return trip to Grand Ballon and the Voges. This, the highest mountain in the French Voges and well known for hiking and skiing and situated between the valleys of the Thur and Lauch in Alsace. Again the same enjoyment of fantastic scenery, sweeping bends and challenging twisties with the adrenaline pumping moments of cobble stoned hairpin bends. During this ride Gary’s sat nav decided to take us down a double rutted green lane between corn fields. Gary had forgot to look at the street view when planning.
Even with the vast motorcycling experience of the group, there is no doubt we all learned something new and improved upon our riding abilities. Taking corners at speed while travelling from bright sunlight into dark shade of the forest and visa versa required the maximum of concentration, but each rider was up to the challenge that the Swartzfelder (Black Forest) had to offer.
Sun 24th. This was the final ride out of the tour and was to Leichtenstein Castle which is a privately owned Gothic Revival Castle located in the Swabian Jura of Southern Germany. The name Leichtenstein means shining stone, the castle overlooks the Echaz Valley near Honau. This was more of a gentle ride out compared to the previous days Moto GP like fun rides just to add to the Gary Furnival mix. In the evening we enjoyed Guinness in an Irish bar and watched Wales beat Australia in the Rugby World Cup.
Mon 25th. Today was reserved as a non riding day in preparation for the long ride home. Most of the group chose to further explore the delights of Freiburg which included visiting The Schlossberg (Castle Hill) via a funicular railway and further onto the Schlossberg Tower with its 360 deg panoramic views. The tower being suitable for those with relatively modest physical fitness (Rob missed this one) and favoured an immunity to acute vertigo. The Medieval Freiburg Munster was a popular attraction, climbing the spiral staircase of some 265 steps you get a good view of the town, but if you then pay 5 euro and another 56 steps you get to the bell tower where you are rewarded with the ear splitting ring of the bells. A further 36 steps takes you above the bells and a beautiful view up through the spire. Our evening meal was in an Hotel close to our B & B and an early night to prepare for our early start in the morning.
Tues 26th. We set off on our 240 mile ride to Chalons-en-Champagne twinned with Ilkeston in Derbyshire, this takes us through the Champagne region of Southern France, again blessed with great weather. We stop for lunch in the town of Toul sitting at a roadside cafe with a magnificent traffic island complete with fountain. It was a pleasant ride to our B & B accommodation which was a quirky Hotel but served a delicious glass of cold Leffe Blond by an overworked receptionist. Pete arrived in Chalons ahead of the main group and had booked us all a table at a nearby restaurant where the evening was spent in a very relaxed atmosphere with lots of eating, drinking and even more banter.
Wed 27th. A 9.15 start this morning for the penultimate leg of our return ride of 173 miles to Bruay-la-Buissifre. Leaving us a 90 minute ride to Le Shuttle the following day. Like the previous day the land was flat as far as the eye could see. Another interesting detour by our illustrious leader Gary found us on a by-way through a farmers weighbridge with the attendant looking slightly bemused by it all. There were lots more lorries on the road now although on dual carriageways they tend to stay in the inside lane which is a bonus when trying to make progress to the next bar. On arrival at the B & B it didn’t take long to get showered and changed and head off for an evening spent together in great company which is what group riding is all about.
In summary the ride outs in the Black Forest covered approximately l,000 miles and the journey there and back a similar distance. All riders arrived home safely without leaving any plastic behind on the wonderful French and German roads.
As for the participants on this memorable trip it was Kev that won the award for having the most useless gadgets of Chinese origin, which included a foldaway plastic coat hanger, a plastic pop up kettle and a plastic battery operated fan to ensure he always looks cool.
John was considered to be the rider with the patience of a saint. This personal quality shone through when he was shaved by a German imposter riding a GS1250 in attack mode and John didn’t even bat an eyelid, bless him.
Rob was credited with making his mighty ST1300 Pan European look like a step through’
Mick was praised for his outstanding athletic ability when encountering a “WTF” moment at a dodgy cross roads in France with a female motorist who had tourette’s in her right leg.
Dan was regarded as a free spirit on account of his unorthodox riding decisions (a euphemism for taking a short cut or two) and for his colourful language when being cut up by German motorists.
Chris was up for the top safety award for showcasing his dazzling Luminescence.
Gary who expertly led the group was presented with a mini stein to compliment his mini stature. Hopefully he will be raising his seat height to see over hedge rows.
In all it was a memorable trip that was thoroughly enjoyed by the riders and their 3 pillions; Linda, Glenys and Elizabeth. Linda will be remembered for her actions against rider faffing (AARF) apparently we riders took a lot of launching, Glenys for her tolerance of some colourful language and Elizabeth for her strength to carry so much luggage and tat.
Missed on the trip were Kevin and Cathy due to a family illness, but Kevin escorted some of the group to Folkestone, stayed overnight and returned home the next day.
written by Mick Bethell and Dan Evans