Friday 27/5

I wake up at 0530. Bugger. Bored, I decide to repack my luggage and in one of those so-called-brainwaves that with hindsight you know you really ought to have ignored, I decide I'll take the panniers as well as the top box and tank bag so that I can be a bit less rigorous about what I'm taking.

Jerry arrives at 0930 and after a chat and a bacon sarnie he uses the bench drill in the garage to make holes in his clear visor and fit the pinlock inner-visor I picked up for him yesterday. I sort out the house, garage and bike and we're ready for the off. First, of course, is the trip into town for my currency. At least I know I'll have my passport with me this time!

On the way into town the bike is all over the place because of the extra weight at the back and I take over-exaggerated care because of the increased width of the bike. We park opposite the Post Office, Jerry waits with the bikes and I nip straight in to the currency desk. I explain the situation and the lady behind the counter says "its not here" before I can finish. Excellent. After I've done a bit of pleading, she goes off and checks and comes back to confirm the non-arrival. I must look very crest-fallen because she goes and checks again and this time comes back with my money! Apparently the bag they sent it in was so large compared to its contents that she was convinced it couldn't have my foreign dosh in it. In other words, she'd not looked. Still, never mind, its here now and after extreme slowness in processing things, she does at least put on a decent turn of speed when Jerry nips in to warn of a traffic warden. At 11:10, I'm walking back out and going to the bike.

And then we're off. Just like that. We ride back out of Reading along the A4 and won't be stopping until we get to Dover - or so we think. Our off-motorway route goes along the A340 to Basingstoke and then the A339 to Alton where we pick up the much-praised A272. Along here until we hit the M20 and thence to Dover. What a mistake!

The A340 & A339 are as pleasant as could be expected and I figure out that upping the pre-load on the Capo's shock sorts out the pannier-induced weave. The A272, however, is awful. The weather's turned well hot, which is nice in principle but the road's full of idiots who think 45 mph is a good average and so drive at that speed in all limits, including 20s and 30s where a steady 45 is completely unsafe, as well as on the 50 & 60 limit parts of the road, of which there are few. There are also a lot of lorries and horse-boxes and the road's just twisty enough to get shed-loads of double white lines. To cap all this the A272 essentially stitches together a lot of small towns and villages. Given that each one has a sad case of creeping-limits, the A272 actually turns out to be dull and slow. We rapidly fall behind time.

Somewhere around Buxted, whilst fuming behind yet another lorry, I become momentarily aware of a flapping noise to the left hand side of my helmet. A few seconds later my visor's not attached on that side and is waving around in the wind. I stop pretty damn quick on the side of the road and whip my helmet off to see what's going on. The little black disc that holds my visor on has abandoned ship. Arse! A patrol up and down the road doesn't reveal it anywhere I can see so Jerry uses insulting tape to anchor it on. The only problem here is that I now can't open my visor or the front-opening mechanism as the tape has to be attached to the side of the main shell as well as the front section. Design flaw there, Schuberth.

Inside my visor behind the still very slow traffic on this very hot day, I begin to broil. Sweat quickly runs off my forehead and into my eyes. The flip-up high screen on the Capo coupled with the low seat mean that I'm sat in a bubble of still (and very hot) air. Curses.

We finally make the M20 and belt down to Dover. We are now horribly late and actually arrive at the Hoverspeed terminal at 1458 for the 1500 sea-cat. Fortunately, its still there and still has its loading bay open and cars are still loading. The chap in the booth at the gate says "you've missed this one". We talk through our options and discover that all the sailings that day are full and he doubts we'll get on them. He then asks us to move away from the gate so he can process more cars while we think what to do. We do this and discuss our options. Whilst we're doing this, I notice that despite it now being 1510, all the cars that turn up are being let through and onto the 1500 boat. We go back and query this with the chap in the booth. He point blank denies this. I point to the car just processed by his colleague that is driving on to the boat and say "look at that one there" and again he denies the car has just been let through. We're just considering getting heated about this when his female colleague leans over and says "look, I don't care what you want, will you just go away!"

It has been a long, long time since I have been treated like dirt just because I'm on a motorcycle and it is most definitely not a welcome experience.

I get icy and demand stand-by papers for the 1730 boat and go through the barrier and ride along lane 12 as instructed. We get to the front just as the chap pulls the chain across and we've missed it. More curses.

It's swelteringly hot out on the concrete apron so we pull the bikes into the shade by the terminal building to decide what to do next. Jerry goes for a piddle while I ring Euro Tunnel. As I make the call, an officious so-and-so comes over and tells me we can't put our bikes in the shade. Apparently shade is for First Class passengers only and we have to go back out to lane 12. I tell him we're making a call or two and then will go to the lane or another service. He gets shirty and starts to try to insist and I end up putting on my Firm Voice and telling him to go away and that we'll move when we're ready. He pushes off.

Euro Tunnels best offer is 1400 tomorrow so I call P&O. “1800 alright for you?” says the cheery lady. Too right – bugger Hoverspeed. We book and then realise we have enough time to address the issue of my visor. I phone our mate Nick and he looks on that interweb for the nearest Schuberth dealer, which turns out to be Kent Motorcycles. They are based half way between Dover and Canterbury and not far from Lydden Hill circuit. I give them a call and they turn out to be very nice chaps who are prepared to take a fixing off a new lid and sell it to me so that I can continue with my holiday. We motor out to their shop where they actually sell me a pair so that I've got a spare. Top people. We return to Dover and the P&O terminal feeling much happier with life.

We feel even happier when P&O put us on an earlier boat. I've already decided not to use Hoverspeed again and now feel even more positive towards the ferries. We wander off for something to eat and before we know it we're being called and get onto the ferry. Turns out they want the bikes on first. This means we get to sit near the shop and watch as every child aged between 9 and 15 currently resident in Northern France arrives on board. Not so much a school trip as a regional trip. The entire boat is crowded with jostling French school children. It's a bit noisy and Jerry gets a headache but at least we're moving!

We get off the boat at 2015 French time and head up to Dunkirk and begin the hunt for a cheap hotel. A few moments of consideration and Jerry remembers something. He stops and presses the button on the GPS marked “Find”. 30 seconds later and the pointer is, er, pointing at the nearest Formula Un hotel. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it GPS Unbelievers! Pity the hotel's full. Still, we just repeat the process & select the next one. That's also full but the exceptionally cheap “Best Hotel” right next door has room. And a slight case of fleas, I think. Still, breakfast was really nice & at €38 for the pair of us, that'll do nicely :)

Image of route

Mapsource .gdb file of track

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