2008 brings a new challenge. london to palmero, sicily, and back. at present, we are in the early stages of planning, and the trip duration and route is still being finalised, but with a vague idea that it will take about 33 hours each way, and the knowledge that a trip can be ruined by feeling the constant need to press on and not enjoy your surroundings, we're taking this seriously. the rough route can be seen below, and will take in the delights of calais, before moving through reims, and parts of switzerland, before hitting florence, rome, naples, and finally palmero, sicily

 


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this time round, the trip is being undertaken on a 2006 buell Ulysses xb12x 1200cc. the bike has been purchased recently, so it'll be its first outing and its first real test. so far it has only been taken on short trips. compared to its predecessor, the suzuki bandit gsf600, it is a much higher ride, with a higher centre of gravity to boot, despite buells mass centralisation efforts. the fuel sits in the frame, the oil in the rear swing arm, and a low slung exhaust under the belly. this works well, but given the bikes height, this is probably the only bike in buells range where it can feel a little top heavy. belt driven, with its 1200cc harley derived engine boots out a lot of torque right through the rev range, and wheelies are frequent, whether planned or not (apologies to my first pillion on that one). it is complete with a 4.4gallon fuel tank, a short windscreen, and metal mule panniers. it has a unique triple tail affair which doubles as a pillion back rest / luggage rack. this, along with some recent purchases – REI quarter dome t2 tent, sleeping bag, stove etc will give this trip a different feel. no hotels, motels, or b&b's camping is the word of the day. well, that’s the plan anyway. dates and route to be confirmed….

UPDATE – 16/7/8

after an attempted theft of the Buell, it is safely stashed in a garage at an undisclosed location. it's due for its 5000mile service this weekend. all being well, it'll be back in time, but we're cutting it fine! acquisition of all the necessaries is well under way, and the usual travel insurance / motorcycle insurance / breakdown cover / ferries have been organised. we're now down to the final stages of planning and packing, and organising the last few things needed. the plan, contrary to the above, is to make it to a hotel in reims on Saturday, at least for the 1st night, and then try to find campsites for the rest of the trip. although some research has show booking a site for a single night, in france at least, can be problematic. the route too has been amended a little, with the journey to sicily remaining the same, but the return trip taking in parts of austria, germany, and belguim, and perhaps Switzerland and the czech republic, depending on timings. more soon…

UPDATE – 12/8/8

ok, so I have returned, slightly browner, very tired, and with a very numb arse! the trip was somewhat longer than planned, taking in the original route south through Reims, and the Mont Blanc Tunnel to Italy, camping just inside France for the first night, then onto Tuscany camping again, then south through Rome and Naples and neighboring Pompei to take in the ruined city. Italian drivers – wow, if there isn't a lane, make one! and the heat, wow, 40degrees, surely in the sun. it’s a choice in the morning as to whether the protection offered by the jacket is worth the risk of heat exhaustion if you do wear it! then south again down as far a Cosenza, finally taking a break in the holiday inn down there! the next day, back on north along the Adriatic coast, camping on the beach along the way as far as Milan, for a wander around the walled fortress in the city centre, and some lunch, then on north to lake Como where I took another day off, taking a slow ride amongst the other 50,000 bikers around the lake on a Sunday afternoon, some 100miles of narrow, winding roads! then finally striking out through Switzerland, Austria, and Germany (the Swiss roads being beautiful long winding roads through mountain and lake filled views). Germany was a stop in a god awful "hotel" outside Nurnberg, whilst the city was quite pretty on a visit for the evening for dinner, the pit I was staying in in the middle of a derelict factory site was not! then on north east to Prague to take another half day off, and take in the sights of the Charles bridge, the old cathedral, and the old town, as well as a good few jars of Czech beer! then on north to Poland. here the gps had no coverage, and that coupled with the fact that polish motorways are single carriages rutted from truck use made 80miles, a 3 hours affair. so with several hundred miles to cover, it made for a long day, getting lost, stuck behind trucks, and turning into some weird video game, at dusk, guessing how many trucks you can over take in one go before you run out of road and lose the battle with the truck coming the other way! finally arriving in Poznan, it was the end of a long riding day, and time for a beer, until 3am! then out for a relaxing day taking in lunch, and ambling around town doing not very much, just trying not to die in the heat! then finally time to head west, and by now it was just about getting home. with 3 days to go before my ferry, I made it out of Poland on the "motorway", then into Germany to face rain, all day! covering some 600miles in the misery of the cold, damp clothes I was wearing, with a gps that isn’t waterproof makes things interesting. a lock up in heavy traffic with 20meters visibility was enough to make me start looking for a hotel. I found that in Duisburg near Düsseldorf. a reluctant hotelier let me in but insisted my bike remained on the street and not in the car park!? after a short nights sleep, and getting up at 6am, I was on the road for 7am, and aiming for Boulogne-Sur-Mer. I knew I would be early for my ferry, and that when I had checked for an earlier one, they were all booked, but left anyway. the Netherlands and Belgium came up quick, and finally I was in France again. at least it wasn’t raining today. as expected, no ferries, so back to Calais, and after handing over a fortune for a single with p&o (book in advance – my advice), I was on the boat home. on arriving in the uk, predictably it started to rain, and rain, and rain. drenched still from the night before, it didn’t matter. I took it easy and rode the last 61 miles home.

things that I'll remember from the trip – the family asking me to join them for breakfast on an Italian campsite, Alex, the Italian who loved England and helped be book into another campsite, the ride around lake Como, the need for a full faced helmet in the stinging rain, the need to a waterproof gps on long trips, the sore arse after days of riding in 37degrees heat, the concern about the engine warning light on the first day, and the relief of fixing it myself on the second, the Swiss roads, the reception of strangers, my breaks, the heat at 8am in a tent in Italy, and rain, the wind at 80mph on the motorway like a hot hairdryer, trying to by fuel from a man selling gas by hand pump in Poland with a uk credit card, and the concern and support of my friends and family, the realisation of covering 4130miles in 2 weeks, and just looking at the odometer in the rain outside my house when I got home, and my bike :) and what it feels like to be back home in your bed, how weird it is to speak to people in English for more than a few sentences, and to go back to work….

 

 

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