The ramblings of a DmD virgin -
Thursday 22/6:- I left Derby at 6:45 and headed off down the M1 to meet up with Chris (I’m the white one) Lovatt, arriving a few minutes ahead of him I have time for a comfort break before we depart bang on 8am. The run down M1 was uneventful until we hit the queue of traffic at Toddington to get through to J8 - the start of 12 miles of fast filtering at 35-40mph (following Chris). Interesting is the best description, as I’m used to 25mph under those conditions. Onto the M25 and more filtering round to J27 (M11) then clear off over the Dartford crossing (bikes go free!) and away down M20 to Maidstone services. There Brian Smith (IoM) was waiting for us and Colin Bell (ColinB) who rolled in just as we finished a welcome cuppa. We all filled up with fuel and got down to the chaos that is Euro Tunnel (another first for me). We all bypass the so called duty free shops and head straight for the self service checking in system that is the source of the mayhem. Despite what their web site says you need both the reservation number AND the card you paid for it with AND you have to use un-gloved fingers, not exactly biker friendly.
We queued up for some 20 - 25 minutes, being joined by Des & Pat from near Burton-on-Trent, before being waved through into the boarding lane and onto the train. Bikes are ALWAYS the last on so don’t panic if you are running a few minutes late. You ride on, (best use r/h lane and then, when instructed, turn left and tyre to kerb, park up on side stand and leave it in gear – that’s it. If you want a seat then sit on your bike but more likely, like us, you will be glad of the break and stretch your legs, take on fluid (you did pack some didn’t you?), clean visors, take a few photos, etc… there are loads of recorded safety notices in French & English before you depart with a friendly welcome like that you would get if flying – “this is the first mate… , today your captain is…, no photography, etc., etc., etc…. What surprised me was how slow it went – I’d guess about 50 mph, possibly slower and certainly no faster.
Some 35 – 40 minutes later and it’s out onto the roads of France where we immediately loose Des & Pat. Following the E40 we are into Belgium (worse road surfaces than UK) then Holland. What a difference from the UK. Motorway riding where they don’t always try and run you off the road. As Rear Gunner I experience the occasional tail gater, 2 foot off the rear wheel, but mostly they respect the motorcyclist and leave room, often with a friendly nod or wave. With an estimated 40 miles left to reach Renesse we make a last and precautionary fuel stop. The roads are now much more like our A and B class roads, in good order and wide open views. The wind has picked up but it’s warm, bright and dry.
Into Renesse and we split up to find our lodgings. Brian & ColinB are in a hotel and Chris & I have opted for B&B in Pension Strik. Having booked in, unpacked and freshened up and us two chill out with a meal and a few beers before wandering off to registration at De Zeeuwse Stromen. Then back to Strik via a bar for a final nightcap (more beer). Somehow we managed to keep missing Brian & Colin, both in the town (small as it is) and on the mobiles which are still registering the fact we are no longer in the UK. The end of a long day on mainly boring roads with a few memorable incidents.
Friday - day 2 for most of us. An 8am breakfast set us up nicely for the day. The four of us decided that we'd not join the main ride to Brugge as we'd done 370+ miles the previous day so Chris made up 5th man on a group with 2005 DmDers while Brian, Colin & I did one of the small island tours unguided. Picturesque villages, wide open countryside and easy riding in great weather conditions – nice and relaxing. We get back to Renesse around 2pm and decide to stroll down to the Zeeuwse Stromen (Hotel) to find out when the evening’s BBQ starts. We meet up with Des and Pat, SteveA and Jenny his missus, before we all stroll down to a beachside bar for a bite to eat and a beer. Then back to Hotel and find that Mark (mid-life crisis) from Orkney has arrived on his BMW R1150RT which is covered in dead flies as evidence of his epic trip to everywhere (and back). Eventually we set off on the walk back to our digs and change for evening, meet in a local bar (for a quick beer) then stroll down to Hotel for BBQ (and more beer). During the evening we meet Duncan & Linda from Kings Lynn and I get talking to people from all across Europe and I wish I could speak more languages. Thankfully their English is better than my French, German, Dutch, etc… I must have enjoyed myself from the way my head hurt the next morning (please note that consuming vast quantities of beer is not a pre-requisite to attending DmD, but, is highly recommended).
Saturday - a scorcher, started out hot and got hotter. Thankfully a good breeze prevailed. Chris and I joined one of the guided long tours round the countryside, 7 bikes in total (1 K1200RT from Switzerland & 6 DVs, 2 Dutch 1 Belgian and 3 from the UK (Chris, myself and Norman & Susan from Newcastle who have attended all DmDs to date). Nice easy riding along the coast, over some of the sea barrages and stopping off at a seafront beach bar/café at Neeltje Jans before heading inland and past a nuclear power station and a field of tarmac where they grow Ford cars. Stopped off in Middelburg for a comfort break and leg stretch before heading back to the photo shoot point. For a number of us this was a major disappointment because we got held up at a lock gate that we had to cross only yards from the photo shoot, but they went ahead and did it anyway without us. Some 25 plus bikes missed out despite the fact that we when did cross we were there for the 5 o’clock deadline originally set for the photo taking. Mind you, the ride back looked pretty impressive at the start with some 200 Deauvilles and assorted other machines (mainly BMWs) strung out 2 abreast along the coast road – all departing just as the Rotterdam Police turned up to investigate our gathering.
We filled up the bikes at the BP station 100 metres from the Strik ready for the ride home then freshened up and walked down to the Hotel for the evening party where I finally get to meet Ron (from Leeds) and his good lady. A good buffet spread (hot & cold) is set out for us, loads of grub (and more beer). I get my photos put up on the repeating “slide show” on the end wall, much to the embarrassment of some. Among the announcements was one that Honda had sent 3 senior technicians to the event to get owner feedback on the new NT700 - hopefully Steve Payne (SteveB) will provide an update on that in another post. After multi-lingual ramblings, presentations and a prize draw I turned in early (10:30) as I'd caught the sun but I gather that the die-hard party goers kept it going into the early hours of Sunday.
Sunday – Chris and I are up and ready for 8am breakfast, then off to meet up with Des & Pat for the long ride home. Chris leads with his Street Pilot GPS taking us of down some weird route until we realised it was heading for the foot ferry, at which point we stick Des & Pat out in front with their Quest which has located the tunnel we know we need from the inbound route. After some sat nav induced wanderings somewhere in Belgium we pull in and agree to let Des follow his nose, so he leads, I follow and Chris plays tail-end Charlie and after a short distance the Quest gets the message and gets us to the E40 which it appeared to have been avoiding. We ride into rain, mainly light but constant showery stuff that stays with us until we are virtually at Euro Tunnel, arriving with minutes to spare for our 12:33 departure, except I get a 12:33 and the others get a 13:03 departure. After a brief con-flab I stick my departure card to the screen and lead the others (who don’t display theirs) all the way through the check points and onto the back of the bike queue, then onto the train – much to our collective delight and relief. Once back in the England we head straight into Maidstone services for lunch and fuel. We decide to avoid the filtering of the outbound trip by heading up the M11 & A14. As we are leaving I spot ColinB just in time to shout a friendly farewell (how did he get there when he was supposedly running an hour behind us?). At Brampton Hut services Des pulls in because riding two up he needs a top up to complete the trip. We are all suffering from the heat so follow suit and then have nice cold milk shake from the McDonalds next door, say our farewells before riding off in convoy. Some 40 miles later Chris peels off up the M6. Des leaves the M1 at J22, at which point I open it right up and gas it for the last 25 miles into Derby – home for 5 o’clock and tea time, 935 miles travelled from start to end.
Was it worth the effort & expense? Yes, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world! Four days of riding and talking bikes, joking, eating and drinking with people who were previously unknown or just names/aliases on the forum, making friends with riders from all across Europe. The camaraderie was fantastic, it’s just a shame that the same cannot be said about the organisation on this particular event (everybody I spoke to praised the organisation of previous events). Everybody we've met is super friendly - they all put us to shame being able to speak English when we can't speak their language. But language is not a barrier when you have something in common and want to share it.
Phil's Travel page