Well, after much debate and deliberation about having bought panniers and deciding not to use them, yesterday that decision really paid off. More on that later, but first just to set the scene. A very straightforward trip down to Canterbury the previous evening – well behaved traffic and even a flowing M25 – left me with only one key learning point and that is as follows:
- rucksack on back + dry bag on the pillion seat = uncomfortable riding position. Very aware of the bag and actually quite a bit too far forward on the seat. You might think ‘you should have used the panniers then’ – no, coming to that later. Decided to take Tim’s approach to attach it to the top of the dry bag so both are on the pillion position. Much better (and cooler)
After the lovely cathedral city stay and a very lovely, incident free trip to Folkestone a straight-forward check in, managing to load the bike on the train sans dropping it (I was the only girl) and getting it off again in a similar fashion, enter Calais stage right. It’s strange when you see international news played out in front of your very eyes but that’s just what happened as we left the train and tried to leave the port area. 20 miles of queuing traffic and a burning blockade by port workers in protest against threatened loss of jobs just resulted in absolute chaos. Cars, caravans, lorries, vans, you name it, they were there and you were there for hours….unless, of course you are on a motorbike. Now, there’s lots of reasons why I am so very grateful for finding biking – even if a bit later than I might have liked – but the ability to weave in and out of stationary traffic (safely) is EPIC. And so, back to the panniers/no panniers issue. One doesn’t like to say ‘I told you so’ but I could hear it from Tim even without the headsets on – and he was so right. We literally picked our way through the miles of queues – with some less than impressed on-lookers it has to be said – and squeezed our way past the now smouldering tyres like Will Smith’s missus in Independence Day. Once out the other side – freedom (and empty roads) was waiting. Good grief. After that, though, the open (and incredibly) flat vistas of Belgium and Holland beckoned and so did a very large beer at the end of the day – we felt we deserved it.
Meeting a very lovely lady and her daughter at the services in Belgium. They had just completed a 2-week trip on a very lovely Honda (sorry not good enough to recognise the model at distance yet) and such is my transformed nature these days that we talked about having the same jacket, how heavy the bikes are to move around etc etc and completely forgot to ask her name! Note to self, remember to introduce yourself not just the bike – like me, she quickly fell in love with Tom and will definitely be getting one I reckon.