The ride to Dover was straight forward. Last thing I need for the trip was a ‘GB’ sticker from the service station. I was an hour and a half early than planned. When boarding on the ferry, I didn’t know how to secure my bike with the strap, luckily a fellow biker helped me out. He offered me a seat next to him when we went up to the deck. I planned to use this time to rest and recoup some energy as there were still a long way to travel until stop for the first day. It’d be hard to turn down the offer since someone just helped you out.
Ste turned out to be working and traveling from North Wales. We talked from bike to almost anything. Both enjoyed the conversation well and we decided that we would ride the first part of the motorway together. That was a great assurance for me as I never rode by myself over the Channel.
When we docked and rode off the ferry, first thing Ste reminded me was: riding on the right side of the road. Good call! After the first fuel stop and swapping phone numbers, it was time that we parted and continued our own journey. When Ste waved bye-bye at me that was a moment that I realised I was completely on my own. This was the beginning of my adventure.
The plan of first two days is very simple. Ride as far as I can and stop anywhere past Reims. Travel to Bologna in Italy in second day should be straight forward. In this case I would have a good sleep before joining the tour at the cathedral of Italian motorcycle racing – Ducati.
I was also told that finding a hotel in this time of the year would be no problem. Second mistake: if you travel without making a hotel booking ahead; make sure you bring your camping tent or at least a sleeping bag!
I started looking out for F1 and Accor hotels from 7 p.m. By 8p.m. I followed the GPS and tried all the listed hotels, no vacancies. Another 30 miles, fuel ran low and I was in a danger of nowhere to fill up petrol as time went by. Still there was no sign of any vacancy. I even called home for help, the nearest one was another 40 miles ahead and I wasn’t sure if I had enough fuel to reach there. It’s time for a realisation: I have to sleep on the street tonight. I just felt sick at that moment, partly because I didn’t eat for last 18 hours and partly due to the uncertainty ahead of me.
I decided to find a place near a residential area rather than a rural area. Although I didn’t speak French, worst came to worst, I could knock on someone’s door and screamed for help. I ended up parking my bike in a closed petrol station and found a corner at the side of the office to lie down. I was very tired and scared. This experience pushed my limit to a completely new level. About a couple hours later, I heard more and more people went into the building. If this wasn’t bad enough, it turned out that the building that I lie next to was not an office: it was indeed someone’s home! I found myself resting underneath their living room window!
It’s time to sneak out before someone called the police. After wonder around the nearby area and searched for another place to sleep without any success, together with the low temperature at night, I suddenly had an idea. If the petrol station had a 24 hours fuel pump that accepted my credit card, I could connect my heated jacket to the bike and started riding to Italy. This would be much better than being a sitting duck here. What’s more, I booked a hotel in Bologna and I knew that I would eventually have a place to rest.
Words cannot describe my emotion when I finally filled the bike up and rode to the darkness of the French motorway. The overnight journey on the road was one of the moments that I just wished this whole ordeal would be over soon. I was cold, hungry and tired. When dawn came, it also brought a moment of relief. I reminded myself: stay awake, keep the bike upright and get across to the Swiss border.
Just before the crossing while I was going through the woods, I nearly T-bone a deer. When I stopped, she also stopped on the other side of the road and looked at me yards away from me. It was kind of magical moment that I was so close to a wild deer.
When I finally crossed the Swiss border early in the morning, I knew that I was safe and I would not have problem of filling up petrol. I could also have a hot drink! Ok, maybe two. Comparing to the early part of the trip, riding through Switzerland to Italy was very easy. I eventually arrived at the hotel in Bologna at 3:30 p.m.
Unpack, undress and shower. Although the hotel claimed to have free Wifi, it was only available at the lobby. After the first day experience, I couldn’t care less. I also decided that I would stay one more day in Bologna before making my way to Stelvio Pass, I needed time to chill out. A Skype call, a box of strawberry and two bottle of premium (cheap) beer as dinner, it’s time to sleep. It’s the end of day two.