Day 1: Vordingborg (Denmark) – Maconge (France) – 1275 km.
I left home early in the morning the 14th of April. The destination was Portugal – the only country on mainland Europe that I hadn’t previously visited on two wheels.Besides visiting Portugal the main objective for this trip was to do some serious riding, to make up for a long winter where the bike had been hibernating.
1 hours riding and a 45 min. ferry crossing after I left home I hit the German Autobahn.
The weather was nice, the traffic light and cruise control set at 150 km/h. The 800 km through Germany was covered in no time. I reached France mid-afternoon, left the highway and continued on smaller country roads.
9 pm (15 hours after leaving home) I arrived at a B&B in the small town of Maconge. I spend some time chatting with the owner - a nice guy who made room for my bike in his garage. After a bit of route planning for the next day I was off to bed.
Day 2: Maconge – St. Cricq (France) – 699 km.
The bells of the church next door woke me up at 7 am. The chiming was accompanied by the sound of rain against the window. By the time I was ready to hit the road the rain had been replaced by a light drizzle.
I spend the first part of the day riding through Massif Central on nice roads. As I travelled south the weather cleared up. During the afternoon the temperature reached 27°C.
Late in the afternoon I arrived at Guillaume’s charming house near Toulouse. We had been in contact prior to the trip because of his offer in the Tent Space Thread on Advrider. He had agreed to host me on my way south.
His girlfriend Tiffany welcomed me when I arrived. Their garage was full (both Tiffany and Guillaume have several bikes) so the S10 was parked in the adjoining workshop. Shortly after, Guillaume got back from work and it was time for BBQ, beer and sharing tales.
After a nice evening in good company I was offered the guest room for the night.
Day 3: St. Cricq – Ricobayo (Spain) – 873 km.
I woke up well rested to a clear blue sky. Perfect as I had a mountain range to cross and interesting roads to ride that day. I had time to make a rough route for the day while I waited for my hosts to come alive. After a cup of coffee and a nice breakfast it was time to thank Guillaume and Tiffany for being such great hosts and say "au revoir".
Soon after, I got my first view of the Pyrenees. For the rest of the morning they dominated the southern horizon. It took me 2 hours to reach the foothills. Then I started climbing on small twisty roads. At almost 2000 meters altitude I passed through a tunnel that took me to Spain. The great roads continued.
At one point I made a left turn - and got waved down by two cops. I had ignored a Full Stop sign when I made the turn. One of the cops (a female) was determined to give me a fine. Her male colleague was more jovial. I got off with a warning and a "buen viaje".
During the afternoon I left the Pyrenees behind and the weather started to change. The wind picked up and heavy clouds moved in from the west. At one point I stopped to refuel. It was now very windy so I left my helmet on the ground next to the bike instead of on the seat as I went inside to pay. When I got back out, my helmet was nowhere in sight. Damn! At first I thought someone had nicked it but then I spotted it on the ground 30 meters away. The wind was the culprit. As I left the gas station the first spots of rain hit my visor. Within the next hour the temperature dropped from 27°C to 11°C as I was passing through a torrential downpour. After that the weather got better with a mix of showers and sunshine.
9.45 pm I pulled up in front of the only hotel in Ricobayo - a small town not far from the border to Portugal. The proprietor gave me a warm welcome. Besides the key to a nice room he gave me a key to the garage. I've had nothing to eat since breakfast and was starving. He recommended a restaurant just down the street. The restaurant normally closed at 10.30 pm but he told me not to worry about it. When I got to the restaurant I was greeted by the same guy. It turned out that he owned both the hotel, the restaurant and a bar in town. The meal was washed down with a cold beer. Just what I needed. With a full belly and after a long warm shower I was off to bed.
Day 4: Ricobayo – Braga (Portugal) – 321 km.
The day started with a simple but good breakfast at the restaurant. When I checked out, the proprietor gave me a bottle of the local red to take with me. A nice start to the day.
Soon after leaving Ricobayo I entered Portugal. I follow a northern route through the mountains as I worked my way towards Braga where I was to meet up with fellow Adv-inmate "fulviapaulo". We got in contact prior to the trip, when he responded to this thread. Besides giving route advice he invited me to stop by when I reached Portugal.
The riding was good on small twisty roads. Shortly after noon I arrived in Braga at an address provided by Paulo. It was his parents’ house. I was greeted by Paulo, his wife and kids, his parents and grandmother. I got invited inside for lunch. The food was delicious and accompanied by wine, cake, coffee and Good Company.
After lunch we headed off to Paulo's place nearby. Before the bike was parked in the garage, Paulo took it for a spin. He didn’t admit it, but I think the beastly S10 scared the shit out of him. I believe the new girly African Twin is more to his liking. When he had changed underwear Paulo and his wife showed me around Braga which is a very nice town.
Late in the afternoon we returned to the house to pick up Ramiro and the Herminio - Paulo's close friends and fellow Adv-inmates who had also helped me in my route planning for Portugal. We all went out to dinner together. I got introduced to several local dishes and "green wine". Both wine and talk flowed freely. I truly enjoyed the company and had a great time. It was late before we returned to Paulo's place. The nice guy that he is, Ramiro then escorted the elderly Herminio home. I was accommodated in one of the kids’ bedrooms.
Day 5: Braga – Vivar del Cid (Spain) – 599 km.
I started the day with a good breakfast based on homemade bread, milkshake and coffee. It was still early when I bade my hosts farewell and continued my journey. Because of the people I met and the great hospitality offered by Paulo and his family, my time in Braga had been something special. It’s only a matter of time before I return.
When I left Braga I headed south to the Douro River following a route recommended by Paulo. After crossing the river I turned east on road N222. I spend several hours on great roads surrounded by beautiful scenery. During the afternoon I crossed back in to Spain. The roads got bigger and the riding less interesting.
I stopped for the day at a B&B in a small village just north of Burgos. The place was very nice. I was the only guest. I had to walk 1½ km to get to a restaurant. The hostess, a sweet old lady, made a fuss because she was worried I would get hit by a car as it was getting dark. She waited up for me to make sure I made it back safely.
Day 6: Vivar del Cid – La Souterraine (France) – 793 km.
In the morning I let the main roads take me towards the northeast. The last bit of highway in Spain was a blast – curvy and constantly going up or down. At around 130 km/h it was like riding a rollercoaster.
Near the town La Souterraine the GPS guided me through a forest on a dirt trail to reach Chateau Lezat where I had booked a room for the night.
Chateau Lezat is a charming place with an interesting history. The 18th century castle had been abandoned for 70 years and was very dilapidated when Sara and Serge bought it 3 years ago. It took Serge 2 years to restore it. He did all the work himself. Besides being their home it now also functions as a small hotel.
One of Serge’s passions is cooking. Shortly after I arrived a delicious 3 course dinner was served in the dining room.
During the evening I spend a lot of time conversing with Serge. He was a charming and very talkative host. He enjoyed having a biker staying as motorcycles was another of his passions. He had a weakness for classic bikes.
All evening I had this feeling that I knew Serge from somewhere. Suddenly the coin dropped. The way he looked and especially how he talked and gestured was the spitting image of Al Pacino.
Day 7: La Souterraine – Vielsalm (Belgium) – 703 km.
In the morning I was treated with a breakfast to rival the amazing dinner the night before. After breakfast Serge took me to his garage to show me some of his bikes. It was an extraordinary collection.
Well fed and an experience richer I hit the road and continued north through France.
Late in the afternoon I passed through Luxembourg. Soon after, I arrived at the “motorlodge” Baton Rouge in southern Belgium. My friends Ben and Hetty who owns the place greeted me with cold beers on the porch. It was a weekday and early in the season so I was the only guest. We spend a nice evening together. Hetty treated us with a good meal (as usual). Ben kept us supplied with beverage from the bar.
Day 8: Vielsalm – Vordingborg (Denmark) – 828 km.
There was no sign of my hosts when I got up in the morning. They had seized the opportunity to sleep late. When they finally decided to greet the day we enjoyed breakfast together. Then it was time for me to get going. I started out on small scenic roads in the Ardennes but soon I reached Germany and hit the Autobahn. I gave the S10 free rein. Later the GPS’ trip log showed several sections with an average speed around 200 km/h. Mid-afternoon I reached the port in Puttgarden.
When I pulled up in my driveway 2 hours later, I was greeted by my girlfriend with a kiss and a cold beer.
It had been a great ride but it was good to be home.
This was the first time I had the opportunity to thoroughly test the touring potential of the S10 I acquired in August last year.
The bike felt at much at home on the German Autobahn cruising at +150 km/h as on a dirt road through a forest in France trudging along in low gears. It tackled hair pin roads in the Pyrenees with ease. In all conditions and at all speeds I found the bike well balanced and a joy to ride.
I found the bike to be very comfortable even during the longest day stages. With 30mm handlebar risers the riding position is spot on for me - both sitting and standing (on long hauls I like to stand up and stretch the legs from time to time).
Another thing I appreciated was the electronic cruise control. When covering long distances it's very nice to be able to rest the right hand ones in a while - and it also help minimize the risk for speeding tickets, especially on main roads and inside city limits.
I also have to mention the shaft drive. I've been riding bikes with chains for many years and was fine with that, but on a trip like this a shaft drive is a bliss. No more lubing (especially nice in wet and dirty conditions), no fling off, no adjusting (or even checking) - just ride, ride, ride.
I covered 6091 kilometers and used 316 liters of fuel during the trip. This gives an average consumption of 19.3 km/l (45 US MPG). The fast sections in Germany lowered the average considerably. Most often I did between 400 and 500 km between fuel stops. Only when going fast on the Autobahn was the fuel range less than 400 km.
The bike didn't consume any oil during the trip.