Here’s the written report of my euro trip in early September:
I camped throughout the trip apart from one night where I did B&B. I took 400 euros and it covered everything inc. food, campsite fees and petrol. I spent most of my time in the Black Forest and Eifel regions of Germany with some Lux and Belgium added to the mix. The B500 featured massively. I loved it. It was a wicked week weather-wise (32 degress on one day!), the first drop of rain I saw was when I was returning to the UK. Travelling on your own really is fantastic, you can do your own thing and make the tour your very own. I met some amazing people while camping, emails were exchanged and some new friendships were formed. I’d recommend it if your that way inclined.
Monday 2nd September
After a pretty uneventful ride down and crossing on the eurotunnel, I arrived in Calais at 10:55. My initial thoughts were to head for the Eifel region in Germany so I started the long boring ride there choosing to head through Belgium via E40/E411. I was making good time so had a long lunch at a service station not far from Brussels then filled up with fuel. I hate pre-pay pumps and they were everywhere in Belgium.
I got about 10 kms down the road when the bike started to lose power and cut out. The FI symbol flashed up and stayed on. I pulled over and was able to keep it going by pulling the clutch in and revving. The next junction was in sight so (in a state of mild panic) I decided to head back towards Calais. My thinking was if I could get the bike back there, then at least I could push it onto the train and have it picked up in the UK. I was really disheartened and thought my trip was over.
Riding the bike was a real trial, wanting to cut out every couple of minutes. I got past Brugge and near Oostende when it would hardly stay running without me revving the nads off it so I pulled into a rest spot and conceded that I would have to call for breakdown. I used a company in the UK for my euro cover and they were straight on the case, calling me back to keep me informed about how long the guy would take to reach me and asked if I needed accommodation for the night and a hire car! I told them that if the bike was fixed I would make my own plans. Great service though.
While waiting for the breakdown guy to turn up, I was looking at the space under the petrol tank and thought it wouldn’t do any harm to disconnect the wiring blocks, spray the electrical connectors with WD40 and put them back together. So I did. I pushed the starter, the bike fired up and the FI symbol went out! I rode the bike up and down the rest area and it seemed ok. The recovery guy turned up, who was local and also a biker himself. I showed him what I had done but he wanted to make sure so spent time checking everything over, even getting me to ride the bike up and down the rest area to make sure. When he was satisfied it was ok he wished me well for my trip. A few minutes later the breakdown company in the UK called me to make sure I was happy with the service. To be honest I was just happy to be riding the bike again so I told the operator that I hoped I wouldn’t be calling them again this week. I didn’t. Although the WD40 trick worked, I still feel it was a bit of dirty fuel. I don’t think it matters now.
It was 18:30 and I was aware that I needed to decide very quickly where to camp for the night. The day was written off so I needed to get settled for the night and set off early in the morning and try to salvage something from the week. I had the ASCI app on my iphone and it showed me a campsite in Nieuwpoort called Camping-Amazone. It cost me 16.50 euros for the night which I felt was expensive for a basic site with very basic facilities. The owner was nice enough, allowing me to use his own parking space to put my bike. I pitched my tent right next to it and was asleep by 21:00.
Tuesday 3rd September
I left the campsite at 08:00 and headed back onto the E40 towards Brussels. At my first petrol stop I got talking to a Dutch guy who was packing down his tent in the rest area. He wild camps all over Europe and never pays for campsites. Fair play to him. We had a chat then wished each other well and I carried on along the E40. I managed to get sucked into Brussels on the ring road but managed to get out quickly and back onto the E40 then the E411. The bike was performing brilliantly and I was making great time. Nearing Namur the scenery started to become greener and more interesting to look at but it was getting really hot. I was baking in my textile jacket. I got into Bastogne at 12:00 and stopped in the town square where I ate some frites (smothered in mayonnaise) and drank 1.5 litres of water without drawing breath.
I was very excited now as I knew I was less than an hour from Germany and the Eifel. I headed to Clervaux then to Vianden in Luxembourg.
The roads were becoming more twisty and I was really enjoying myself now. They were just how I remembered them from last year. From Vianden I went to Neuerburg in Germany where I planned to camp for the night. I checked my money situation and had over-estimated my fuel budget so had enough for a B&B. I booked into the Schloss Hotel for 43 euros inc. breakfast where we stayed last year. The old lady was there and was as welcoming(!) as ever.
I unloaded my gear then went for a play on the local roads for an hour before walking into town to buy some grub.
I chilled out in my room with a couple of beers in the evening. Yesterday’s stress over the bike had been forgotten. I slept well.
Wednesday 4th September
Woo-hoo! Black Forest day! I was up by 7am. The usually miserable old lady was charming this morning and I ate a very hearty breakfast of boiled egg, yoghurt, 3 bread rolls with lots of meat and cheese. I couldn’t finish all of it but I didn’t have to eat again until later in the afternoon. I was on the road by 9am.
I had no real plan about getting to the Black Forest, I started to roughly ride south, avoiding motorways as much as I could. At Sinspelt, I took the B50 to Bitburg. What a flipping road! Awesome.
From Bitburg I worked my way down, through Luxembourg for a bit then France.I stopped for a photo in a town called Vescheim near Saverne.
It was already 13:00 and I wanted to get to Baden Baden in good time so that I could enjoy the B500 before heading for my campsite. I used the E25, not realizing it was a toll road (no sat nav just using paper maps at this point) so I got off the autoroute pretty quick.
I got lost trying to head for Baden Baden but eventually saw signs for Haguenau which I knew was in the right direction. I arrived in Baden Baden at 15:30. I filled the bike up at a petrol station in Baden Baden before heading onto the B500 towards Freundenstadt. The anticipation of riding it was the same as when I rode the Nurburgring and the mountain circuit on the Isle of Man in 2012.
The B500 didn’t disappoint at all. Best biking road I’ve ridden (so far!) although it’s hard to keep your eyes on the road as it climbs to Lake Mummelsee. The views are spectacular. It’s breathtaking stuff.
I arrived in Freudenstadt with a huge grin on my face and booked myself into Camping Langenwald. I paid 11.50 euros which is amazing value considering it’s the best campsite I’ve ever stayed on. The shower facilities were immaculate. I treated myself to pork schitznel and chips with a beer in the café for 7.50 euros. I slept very well which I’m sure was down to the clean mountain air and the stream running through the campsite that I could hear as I nodded off.
Thursday 5th September
Up early this morning and I had a dilemma. Go for the Vosges (and the route des cretes) in France and head for Nancy which would leave me with a 350+ mile ride to Calais to contend with on Friday. Alternatively head back to familiar ground (the Eifel) leaving me with a shorter trip. I decided to spend the morning in the Black Forest and head back to Neuerburg. The Vosges can wait until next time.
After leaving Freudenstadt at on the B28 (a great road in itself) I rode the B500 north this time.
I stopped at Mummelsee for a few pics.
I then ventured off the B500 and did a bit of exploring. I really fell in love with the place. I had the obligatory coffee and cake. It was with a heavy heart that I left the Black Forest. I could have stayed there for weeks.
At 13:00 I realised that I needed to head north and this meant autobahns. As boring as they are, I could cruise at +120mph for long periods and make good progress.
I peeled off the A1 at Mehring next to the River Mosel. I stopped to sample some grapes on my way to Trier! I wish I had taken a picture of the river, but I did that in 2012 and I needed to get a wriggle on.
From Trier I headed to Bitburg then again along the B50 (yahoo!) to Sinspelt then Neuerburg.
I rocked up at Camping in Der Enz where it was heaving with motorhomes and caravans. I was shown where I could pitch my tent but it was too populated for my liking so I made my excuses and left. I headed back to Bastogne where I found a campsite called Camping De Renval.
16 euros for the night. It had acres of space and when I arrived there were two lads from Lancashire already there. They were touring round the WW1/WW2 sites in the area. When I was pitching my tent a Danish fella came over and offered me a beer. He said I looked like I needed one! I didn’t refuse. He was touring Europe in his car with his aging Labrador. It was with some sadness he told me about this as the dog was suffering a little from arthritis and he said that this was probably their last trip together.
The campsite had a bar (yay!) so I after I was set up, I joined the guys and had a few beers and a good chat. Turns out one of the British lads is an ex IOM TT racer, who raced 125 and 250’s in the 80’s, mentioning Joey, Hislop, Fogarty etc. I eventually got to sleep at 01:00.
Friday 6th September
After a quick shower and some breakfast, I was on the road by 09:00. Nothing to say really as it was a mundane hack through Belgium back to Calais. My train was booked for 17:50, I got there by 13:00! Managed to get onto the 14:50 train for no extra charge.
It started to rain as I boarded the train and then continued when I got to England. Welcome back!
I only had 5 days but I still managed to have a brilliant time. If day one hadn’t been so troublesome I would have made it to Switzerland as I had planned but sometimes you have to adapt which being on my own was easy to do. I would do it all again tomorrow given the chance.