As something of a dry run for the US trip, three friends and I planned a week’s holiday to play in the Gorges de l’ArdÃ¨che in France. Sadly, Purge had to cancel a few weeks before the trip for family reasons so that just left Matt, Yox and me.
The trip started early – very early: 5.00am – on Saturday, 25th June with a quick dash to the Eurotunnel terminal off the M20. Cold and wet, so I put my Hein Gericke waterproof overjacket on, not bothering with the Belstaff waterproof overtrousers which had struggled to get over my Alpinestars SMX boots and the kneesliders on my leathers.
But we arrived and filled up with petrol before heading to find our train had been cancelled, setting us back half an hour before we’d even set off. The plan was to be in Joyeuse around 6.00pm if possible…
After the first few “splash and dash” stops to fill the bikes with petrol and us with coffee, it had warmed up and dried off so we could stash the waterproofs.
We soon arrived at the Hotel les CÃ¨dres in Joyeuse despite being a little late – the hotel rang me to see if we were arriving soon when we were 150 miles away but that didn’t take us long… – and we checked in to a warm welcome and were told where the bikes could be parked safely. I’d stay there again.
Sunday 26th and we went off to play in the Gorges de l’ArdÃ¨che: a great ride up and down the twisty roads of the Gorges de l’ArdÃ¨che – max 104mph – then three beers, a very large vodka before more beer. And Dinner… We’d also stopped earlier for a light snack lunch. Matt had managed to cut his arm overnight and Yox managed to get stung by a wasp en route.
Monday 27th and with temperatures still in the high 30s, we decided to do an even longer day: heading up to Le Puy, then Mende, then Villefort and back and all by the twistiest, most scenic routes we could find. And we weren’t disappointed. Neither were we disappointed by the ice creams at Rosiere when we got back.
Tuesday 28th and we decided to go for a few hundred miles again to see the Foster-designed Millau Bridge. Millau Bridge via Ales then Mende, Villefort and back. 39C+ Lots of twisties to enjoy. Cold beer and hot pizza to finish it off!
Wednesday 29th was our rest day. So we spent it whitewater canoeing for 24km down the ArdÃ¨cheÂ itself navigating a few sets of rapids along the way. Fortunately, we were taking our protective clothing seriously…
So yes, we did capsize in one set of rapids and I was hit by another canoe whilst scrabbling over the rocks (still underwater) to steady the canoe for Yox and me to get back in. Fortunately, the sun was out and despite the suntan lotion, my battered shins got sunburnt! Which meant I didn’t need to concentrate on the bruises and cuts or the aching arms
Thursday 30th and we went for a bimble about back in the Gorges de l’ArdÃ¨cheÂ again, stopping more frequently for photos this time. Still managed 80+ miles.
Friday 1st July and we realised we’d enjoyed the twisties in the Massif Central so much we should do them again and there were still a couple of routes we’d not tried before. So off we went for a 160 mile ride…
Saturday 2nd and back to the UK. Leaving a little after 8.15am, we made it back to the Eurotunnel with a couple of hours to spare, so we caught an earlier crossing. According to the TomTom SatNav unit, 688 miles on Saturday, average speed of 75mph, maximum speed of – cough – 122mph. That’s 2,111 miles that week, average speed of 59mph and a maximum declared speed of 135mph. “Declared” because the TomTom doesn’t display maximum speeds over that, so the 155mph and climbing I saw on one section of road – private, obviously, Officer! – didn’t register.