Here it is........ This is well worth the read....!!!
The Gibraltar "Mission"
Objective: Ride FS1E 2-up from Midlands to Gibraltar via Portugal and Andorra, covering at least 3,000 miles in 10 days.
Participants: Larry "Lasher" Bond 21; Charlie "Pumping Iron" Church (21)
Date: 2/3? weeks Feb/March? 1984
Bike: Stock apart from expansion chamber exhaust
Route: Midlands - Dover - through France (itinerary lost to recall) Bordeaux - Route N10 to Spain - San Sebastian Valladolid Ciudad Rodrigo - Portugal - Caceres - Seville - Gibraltar - Malaga - Valencia - Barcelona - Andorra through France - England
As our budget didnt really cover accommodation and it had dropped down so cold, our first night in Spain we decided to press on and ride through to the day. The rider gave up the one really warm jacket to the pillion so the chill would keep him from nodding off and then rode on and on, always desperately thinking every light on the horizon was the dawn and shouting it out, but getting disappointed time and time again, the backsides of both riders in so much agony after hours of that narrow seat digging in you took it in turns to stand up on the footrests for respite. A really long night. Then finally, nearing Valladolid, it got genuinely light and we pulled into some abandoned houses. Abandoned houses being camped in by these rough gypsy-looking blokes who were just getting up out of their sleeping bags laid out on the ground round the embers of their fires. Seeing that they seemed much more scared of us that vice versa -- must have been the balaclavas -- we tried to reassure them with soft voices and gesture, but they wouldnt be persuaded and hurriedly broke camp. Embarrassing, sure, but we were just so knackered by then all we could do was stoke up those fires and get some sleep in till the sun woke us. Wed ridden 520 miles in 28 hours.
We had one more smooth day before everything started to fall apart. The bike running perfectly, we reached a place called Ciudad Rodrigo (in western Spain) and were heading for the Portuguese border just to cross it to meet one of the trips objectives -- and its probably only on this website that a middle-aged man could admit that that journey on a school-boy moped, bulged up with thermal underwear and jumpers, covered in muck and oil, was some of the best motorcycling he ever did. A totally deserted road through brown hills, the odd castle here and there; the old Fiz humming along; continuous banter; the air just the right temperature.
On the road to Caceres we started noticing a slight weaving, which only got worse. We pulled over in the town; the back wheel was buckled and wed lost a few spokes. Then Im asking Charlie if he can hear the children playing in the playground, and hes telling me not to be ridiculous as its 3 or 4 in the morning -- one of the only times I ever hallucinated through lack of sleep. Next day I remember we were fixing the kink in this long avenue of trees, when all these young squaddies appeared round us. Not a word in common but they were totally keen to help and cheered us off as we drove off.
The wheel held; the dog problem really got going. Thered been a few of them snarling about each time wed laid out but no actual attacks, although judging by the huge number of squashed corpses on the tarmac, we knew there mustve been 1000s of strays about. Anyway, were pulling weakly up one of those inclines that goes on forever, when this little mut dog pops out on the high verge above our heads. Hes going mad. He races along level with us, then jumps down, a good 2 or 3 metres, and starts gnashing up Charlies boot. At first its sport, until Charlies in real pain from the biting and the animal is not dropping back. He was at us for several miles, us flat down on the tank at full throttle, before we lost him downhill.
We got classic Spain one or two nights later. Had we lost the map? I cant remember, but when we come to this avenue of orange trees, one of us reckons were in Seville. And so it turned out (the oranges werent that nice, I think. Cool to be eating one just then though). And so on to the last stretch of the first leg. A ways off the main routes, night time, the expansion chamber whining as we go down the narrow alleys of the villages, stopping to drink from fountains in squares. Then out onto the only plain we went across in the whole country. With the wind ripping across the road, we cop a puncture; that white foam wont fix it so were doing it all by torchlight, hands trembling with the cold. Took hours to get the work done, yet for some reason it seemed really funny at the time. We slept on the verge with our helmets to keep warmer.
Gibraltar itself was a disappointment, even though we knew it probably was going to be as wed been warned the border might be closed to us because of the political situation. They wouldnt let us in. So to freshen up for the start of the return journey we lay down for a rest in this large courtyard place. Mistaking all the curtain-twitching and staring thats starts up for hostility, no sooner have we packed up than a young girl runs out with some washing-up liquid and leads us over to the public fountain while a lady all in black signs us to clean the oil off our faces. Theyd only been curious after all.
We opted for the coast road all the way up to Barcelona. Constant hassle and incident.
Dogs: one leaps baying full onto the headlight out of the dark, nearly having us off but for being ripped away by his leash (we only had one crash: lost in a forest in France, the bike sort of glides sideways off the camber into a ditch, Charlie somehow going over me but being totally ok and not bothered at all).
Two, coppers: the Guardia Civil just wont lay off us. We pull off the remotest side road to sleep, theyre there, not having it -- we let our heads drop in railway waiting rooms, theres a poke in the ribs...
Three, strikers: roadblocking, though they tended to let us through seeing we were foreigners.
And enemy four was fire. It happen because of all the night riding to make up for time lost to repairs: petrol stations were often closed then -- we carried extra in a can -- the tired pillion knocks it off the topbox damaging the nozzle -- we get covered in fuel. The most spectacular moment of the whole trip being when Charlie actually burst into flames after rolling too close to the fire in his sleep.
More and more things started to go wrong with the bike as we made our way up the coast. The clutch cable snapped and we risked not replacing it to save time, which pretty soon showed itself to be a big mistake: the clutch itself went after too many jump starts at traffic lights. Luckily wed got a spare (for tools and spares wed planned well -- but forgotten even to pack a knife and fork) as some of the plates on the original had shattered. More roadside repairs followed when the back wheel twisted again, and we lost all the time wed gained from riding at night. We were also starting to lose a lot of power from a blocked exhaust. Not being able to make the guy in a bike shop understand it didnt unscrew like some European models, we gave up and went for the old loosened ring nut fallback. Only now the noise was something awful, a rattling bellow added to the high-pitched screaming of the expansion chamber.
Andorra was freezing. We got in at dusk, down roads with snow drifts higher that our heads. The exhaustion was starting to tell too. At a petrol station, I noticed the pump attendants staring at me, I wonder whats going on -- then see Im offering him a can of baked beans instead of the lube oil. Against all the tough, roughing-it spirit of the mission, we give in to having to find a hotel. Except no-one wants the filthy dirty bikers. Eventually, though, we get a bit of kindness, and had a great sleep.
Next morning were up refreshed but starving. But now in what attire to break fast down in the dining room -- the B.O. shirts or the petrol-stench leathers and waterproofs? Eventually we brave it out just in Damart thermal underwear (Id always been a fan of this brand ever since testing them out at school and freaking out the history teacher by dripping with sweat all the way through his lesson). We got glances and a few head shakes from the other adult guests, and open admiration from the kids as we gun down more croissants than Cool Hand Luke could have handled.
And so back into France. Where the weather promptly broke and we got poured on most of the day, despite which the FS1E kept overheating. Unpatriotic I know, but we found the Champion plugs would burn out after 50 miles, whereas with the NGKs got you 4 times that. Then that blasted rear wheel virtual folded up; we labour for hours in a garage forecourt stripping both down to share out the remaining spokes. Net result of resultant lost riding time: the evening of the 10th day were 60 miles short of that 3000 miles target.
The rest of the return run was now much more leisurely. We took to barns for shelter nights, very nearly coming fully a cropper on the first one. Were tucked up nice and warm in the straw on the second storey, only realising next morning wed been sleeping inches from a gaping 3-metre hatch opening over a herd of sleeping bulls. A man with an enormous mustache rolled up on a bike as we descended, yet glad were okay and interested in what were up to rather than dishing out the trespassing rollocking we were expecting. Our second barn morning was just comedy.
Having carefully chosen a no-livestock haystack, were woken after 16 hours of slumber by the alarm clock going off somewhere in the straw. Were keen to silence it as from our position were getting glimpses of this French farmer chap digging or something close by. For some reason, though it rang for a good 15 minutes while we feverishly groped around for it, he never heard nothing. Hes totally slack-jawed when we sheepishly stroll out -- staring at us with that Andy Capp-fag-on-lip expression. Yet again though, not a hint of the anti-Anglais thing, the head farmer soon coming out and chatting happily with Charlie in French. (If only Mr Bush and Blair would sleep rough in President Chiracs garden, youd see the whole Legion fighting alongside out lads out in Iraq within days, I tell you.)
Ive tried to bring it back a lot but the remaining time in France is all blank, including the ferry crossing. There was more sport down in Dover though, I remember. Were bedded down in some cardboard the residents of this block of flats have very decently left out for us in what wed assumed was some sort of storage area. Charlies by the door and hes rigged up a very novel scheme with his belt round the handle to stop it blowing ajar. I awake to see him desperate tugging at this belt as someones trying to force the door open. They didnt get their milk delivered that day.
After the back-slapping welcome back, there was a sad ending. The Fizzy got stolen. 36,000 miles odd on her clock, though I wouldnt swear to that. I shelved my plans for a new FS1E run down to Syria -- naturally, using the later models alloy wheels -- taking it a sign that my 50cc days were over. (I myself was laid up for days unable to walk immediately after the trip, with my feet in ice water: the doctor said Id crushed the nerves in my feet by wearing too many socks in my boots.)
Site Trainee Cook and Bottle Washer (YOP) and deluded power crazed individual
Helping the FS1E 6,500 perfect their appetite for a Mid Life Crisis since 2004!
Brighton 05, 06, 07, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12
Brighton 2013 (Bring it ON!)