DmD 2011 - Riegel, Germany.The event was scheduled to run from 23rd - 25th June but right from the outset I had decided to make it more of an adventure. Okay, so I'd ridden to Holland in 2006, but almost the whole trip was done in company, group riding, and I wanted to do some solo miles this time, and to spend some time riding with my friend Jonathan who has lived and worked in France since circa 1973 and is therfore a fluent french speaker. We had been busy plotting routes and exchanging emails until the plan was formed. I would leave Derby on Saturday 18th June, ride to Folkestone, use the Channel tunnel rail link to get to Calais and then "wander" down the French coast to Le Croytoy, turn inland and overnight on the outskirts of Amiens. Then Sunday, ride down to Chateau Thierry then head east to meet up with Jonathan at Challons en Chanpagne. From there the route was Verdun, Saint Die, Neuf-Brisach, Riegel - arriving there late afternoon Tuesday. Wednesday would be a "free" day with nothing specific planned before doing the organised ride-outs on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. For me Sunday would be one long day in the saddle doing the whole trip back to Derby in the one day, but I'd have Steve P from Lincolnshire for company to Dartford (where he was staying overnight with family).
So that was the plan, how did it work out? Well not do badly really. The ride to Folkestone was uneventful and dry until I arrived at the Tesco service station for a planned refuel, 204 miles done and just 6 or 7 to go - and the heavens opened. I got to the terminus and sheltered because I'd turned up 1.5 hours ahead of plan and had to wait for the next train (still 1 hour early, but no surcharge). No problem until we got moved out towards the train and had to wait on the slope looking at the train below. It was at this point my riding gear gave up and I got drenched. After 10 - 15 minutes out there in the open, getting wetter by the minute, we were onto the train and I did the best I could to dry out the gear.
With the next pre-loaded route on the sat-nav activated I left the terminal and headed off down the French coast as planned. It wasn't raining but the winds were strong and even riding some 300 metres inland from the shore I was getting sea spray on the visor. After stopping at a cemetery of WW2 war graves for American soldiers, a 1939 museum, and seeing some of the WW2 fortifications built by the Germans I eventually decided to forget about Le Croytoy and Abbeville and head direct to Amiens on the Peage toll road from Berck, a decision re-enforced by the heavy clouds approaching from the south west. And it nearly worked, except for the last 10 miles (15 km) into Amiens when again the skies dumped their contents on me, so I arrived at the Premiere Classe "hotel" well and truely wet through. After checking into my cubicle, I was delighted to find it had air-conditioning and by ramping up the temperature I managed to dry the gear out enough to get back on the bike later that evening when the rain stopped - the idea being to visit the Cathedral in the city centre. That idea was thwarted by police roadblocks because of a demonstration so after getting diverted away from the centre I gave up and headed back to the hotel and a bit of grub and an early night.
Sunday morning dawned wet and windy (much as expected). I delayed my departure as long as possible but knew that I had to be on the road by 08:30 if I was to make my rendevous with Jonathan in Challons en Champagne. After braving the rain to load the bike, I set off, riding out of the rain just a couple of miles down the road. After yesterday's deviation from plan I was intent on sticking to the planned route now in front of me on the sat nav, and so it worked out. Faboulous roads across the rolling French countryside and no traffic, out in the open I often had a view of the road ahead that stretched for miles and needless to say I took the opportunity to (slightly) exceed the speed limit. What amazed me was how it changed from open roads through fields of grain, then to thick wood land, then back again, with the occasional village thrown in to vary the speed and add some interest. My route was virtually directly south east and I rode into Chateau Thierry where I stopped by the river to have breakfast (still from food I'd packed for the trip). After a 20 minute break I mounted up and headed east into the Champagne region, vineyards lining the route, sun shining, very little traffic straight to our meeting point in Challons en Champagne, except it wasn't. We'd agreed to meet at the cathedral but there are two and I'd picked the wrong one, but a quick mobile to mobile call and we were united and rode into the centre to park up and do lunch, my first taste of French cooking - Salmon served with boiled rice (the French don't do fish and chips, unless you ask and I didn't know to ask). With no need to rush we took our time and washed it down with a couple of shandies.
The route to Verdun was straightforward but threw up the only poor quality road of the trip, the D115 between Vraincourt and Dombasle-en-Aragonne, to describe it as a washboard doesn't do justice to how bumpy it was but as it was only a few kilometers long so it was endured... We arrived in Verdun looking for the route to the Oussairy and the Trench of Bayonets, but Sunday is the day the cyclists take over and roads get shut until all riders have passed through, so we had to divert. After visiting both the Oussairy (which I found very disturbing but a fitting tribute to the slaughter of mankind that was WW1) and the Trench of Bayonets we went to the BnB we'd booked at Charney-sur-Meuse. Run by Valerie, this was a chaming place to spend a night (or two) but as it was Sunday there was no cooking for guests so we both climbed onto my bike and we went to a recommended resturant on the south side of Verdun for a very pleasant pizza based meal which was cooked right there in the open oven in the centre of the resturant - brings a new meaning to "central heating" though, it was warm in there but so engrossed were Jonathan and I in swapping stories it wasn't until we left that we realised just how warm. We returned to the BnB and sat outside until light faded and we retired to our seperate rooms.
We awoke Monday morning to find it raining, so we breakfasted and it was still raining. We loaded the gear on the bikes and it was still raining. We compared the 2 routes we'd loaded into our sat navs - Jonathan's was mostly motorway and mine was too westerly so they both got scrapped and with the help of Jonathan's laptop and Google maps we plotted a fresh route into my sat nav and it was agreed that I'd lead, and at 10:40, even though it was still raining we set off for Saint Die en des Vosges. We took it steady and kept our speed down as the rain got harder and approaching mid-day it time for a stop and we pulled into a cafe. In the UK this place would be classified as a Tea Room with bar, but there in France it was a trucker's cafe, and just 10 minutes after we walked in the truckers started to arrive and it wasn't long before the place was filled. After a nice warming cuppa we decided that the rain wasn't going to let up for a while yet so we resumed our journey. Around 2pm we arrived at Vezelise and decided we needed a proper lunch break. Parking the bikes under cover in the medieval market hall allowed us to leave our wet gear on the bikes to dry from the heat of the engines while we ate in the adjacent village cafe. After some amusing exchanges we ordered a lasagne each, mine with fries and Jonathan's with salad. Well, when it arrived... two massive portions that would have made Americans feel at home, but all very nice and washed down with a couple of beers. And there was better news when we left - it had stopped raining so as well as (mostly) dried out gear we were now riding in sunshine which lasted all the way to the outskirts of Saint Die, where it again decided that it was time to drench us. However, this time we just pulled to the side of the road and took shelter under a shop awning. It was brief, didn't last and we decided we were close to our pre-booked hotel which appeared to be on a one way system, so I stayed with the bikes while Jonathan went off on foot to explore.
Our place to stop had been well chosen as it meant we were just 200 metres from the hotel's garage parking instead of having to go all the way round the one way system. The parking was behind nice big secure doors and the hotel staff were very friendly and we spent quite a while chatting with them during registration. With Jonathan's command of French and the owners wife's command of English (about as good as my French) we said where we'd come from, where we were going (and why) and chatted about the history of Saint Die and the places they recommended us to visit, all very nice and typical of the French if you make the effort to speak their language. After a rest, shower and change of clothes we walked the main "high street" Rue Thiers (our hotel was at #57) towards the railway station and then back again on the other side checking out the eateries and bars on the way. We sat in the evening sunshine outside a bar for a couple of beers before walking back to the other end of the road to a resturant we'd decided on for our evening meal before crashing out for the night.
Tuesday morning was unblieveably bright, hot and sunny. First stop was a boulangerie recommended by the hotelier where we got some provisions for the day, the plan being to stick to minor rural roads through the Vosges and picnic on route to Neuf-Brisach. Just like I'd wanted to visit Verdun, Jonathan wanted to visit a great uncle's war grave at Neuf-Brisach and the Tourist Office there where a member of staff had helped Jonathan's mother track down this grave. And so is was to be that we found a fabulous country road barely wide enough for two cars to pass, with immaculate and smooth black tarmac and no traffic as in 35km we only saw half a dozen cars and a dozen motorbikes - and it is very easy to tell which are being ridden by locals by the rate they are riding at. It was along this stretch that we stopped for our picnic lunch in a pull-in with a view out through the trees across the valley. Superb, and peaceful until a his'n'hers Harley duo with obligatory slashed pipes swept by. Our leisurely lunch finished we continued on this glorious road to Neuf-Brisach with the sat nav taking us straight to the cemetery Jonathan had be pointed at, and sure enough, there was his great uncles grave in the back row with others who died alongside him in the POW camp - a simple but nicely kept memorial. After paying our respects and the taking of photographs we rode into the centre and parked up on the edge of the town square near the Tourist Office. The young lady that had helped his mother to locate the grave was overwhelmed (at first) that we'd come to visit both the grave and then her, but a long and friendly chat ensued before we left for a walk round the square, a bef at a cafe bar, and a visit to the post office so Jonathan could post some cards family.
We left Neuf-Brisach heading for Riegel, where I was booked into the Riegler Hof for the next five nights, but Jonathan wasn't, he was stopping at a small hotel a few kilometres to the south west, so we rode through and I stopped while he checked to make sure he was booked in and to check out the room alocated to him before finishing my day with a few solo kilometres. On arrival I instantly recognised Mark's BMW RT motorcycle and parked my Deauville next to it only for the man himself to appear, and while we were chatting Steve P rode in and joined us having ridden the whole Lincolnshire to Riegel trip that day. Mark had arrived early so was already set to wander into town, while Steve and I had yet to unload, so we decided to catch up with Mark later. At check-in we found that we had adjacent rooms (over the garage, which was fortunately used as a store room and bicycle park) with adjacent balconies which were later to prove ideal for drying out our wet gear. Having transferred our gear from the bikes to the rooms Steve & I set off to walk into the town centre, following rough directions given by Mark we found the main street and after a quick mobile call, easily located Mark and a group of riders and pillions sat outside a bar eating, drinking and story swapping - that was us set for the night. As the group grew introductions were made, Jonathan appeared and joined us, food and drinks were ordered and consumed, and rough plans made for the following day which was event registration day (and which I'd set aside as a rest day).
Wednesday morning dawned bright and sunny. Going down to breakfast I find Mark and Steve already at a table on the terrace and join them (this became the daily routine). Breakfast was buffet style and sumptuous with a choice of 8 fresh fruits, various breads, cereals, pate and a huge range of meats and cheeses plus 3 fruit juices, tea and coffee. Only the tea didn't live up to expectations, but the continentals just don't seem to understand that the water needs to be boiling hot, not just warm. After setting ourselves up for the day Steve and I decided to give the bikes a clean and check over but Mark had made other plans and soon disappeared into town. We later caught up with him at the registration venue where we loitered with intent, again making introductions and meeting folks. Jonathan rolled up with Sophie on pillion having collected her from Colmar train station, and gradually the number of Brits in attendance grew. Then the rain returned so we all sheltered under the beer garden parasols and ordered lunch. After a couple of hours of steady rain it stopped and dried out so we decided on an impromptu ride-out to Marckolsheim to see a bunker in the Maginot line. Our local guide had a circular route planned covering some 60-65km, stopping off for photo opportunities of the vinyards, river, villages and the bunker. We'd just pulled into the bunker parking area when it started to rain, and then some. Refuge was saught in the bunker itself, and because of the size of the group we got a discount. The bunker and it's contents were a tribute to the farce of war and I wouldn't have wanted to have been there during conflict, but as a shelter from the rain it was more than adequate. Eventually we had to leave as they were shutting up to go home, so with it still raining steadily we rode directly back to Riegel. Steve and I peeled off from the group at our hotel (the Reigler Hof) just as the sun came out. Gear was hung out to dry and we walked back to join the rest in town for an evening not dissimilar to the previous one.
Thursday was the first of the 3 planned ride-out days. Steve and I had booked ourselves into Walter's group for all the rides, and today it was a trip into the Vosges. Some of the roads I recognised from Tuesday's ride into the area and the previous day's ride to Marckolsheim, but today it was dry and warm with breaking clouds. The roads were excellent (why can't roads in the UK be this good?) and the pace not quite quick enough - this turned out to be down to the 2nd rider in the group, a Belgian, who didn't like to ride "too fast". However, it was the first day and we weren't there to rush about, and besides, it afforded us more time to take in the scenery. There were stops for photos, food & drink and places of interest including a monastry and a WWII POW camp. Returning to Riegel the main event of the evening was a "Meet & Greet" by the local mayor in the civic centre, then guided trips round the town in small groups. Part way round the giuded tour (on foot) in started to rain heavily so Steve and I first found shelter at a bus stop, and then legged it into town to the bar for a meal and drinks - it should have been a BBQ but because of the rain it moved indoors, where we were quickly joined by those who had completed the tour (but agreed we'd probably taken the best course of action). It was a rietous evening that (for some) lasted into the next morning, but Steve & I quit just before midnight.
Friday was forecast sunny with showers, and that's how it turned out. We were fortunate in that the day's ride through the central Black Forest seemed to pick it's way around the worst of the rain and we only got a little light rain. Again the roads were fabulous, and the riding improved after we made it known that the pace wasn't quite quick enough and our Belgian friend was assigned a personal tour guide and we went on ahead while he rode along at his more sedate pace. I should add that on this ride we were joined by the Burgermeister of Riegel on his Harley Davidson (all black and chrome) and a "reporter" which resulted in our event getting serious column inches in to next morning edition of the local paper - all good I'm pleased to report. It turns out that the mayor and local officials had been advertising our event, asking the populace to be friendly and welcoming as they had calculated that in the few days we were there we would be injecting some 60,000 - 100,000 euros into the local economy when accomodation, food, drink, fuel and other living costs were all taken into account. Anyway, we had come for the riding, and that's what we got. Words cannot do justice to the rolling roads, wooded areas, picturesque homes, farms and fields. Back in Riegel the evening followed the now familiar pattern.
Saturday promised the best weather yet, and so it proved with a completely dry day which started off warm and just got hotter and hotter, so that by the end of the day we were riding with jackets half open in an effort to keep cool. Both the Mayor (on his Suzuki V-Strom 650) and the Burgermeister of Riegel joined us on this ride which was to be the longest day's riding at over 180km and the ride itself started with a blast south as it was to be a tour of the southern Black Forest. Off the main road and up into the hills we went from roughly 200 metres above sea level to 1165 metres above in just a few miles and ended up at a view point where we could see for miles across the valley and out towards the Vosges. Narrow winding roads with hairpin bends, up and down, through woods and fields. Bonding as a group and now knowing the abilities of our fellow riders the pace was now quicker that on the previous days. Not silly quick, but suitablly quick. Short straights meant hard on the throttle, the tight bends meant hard on the brakes, not a race (nobody overtook as we rode in convoy) but acceptably fast. Exillerating riding on fabulous roads in good company with like minded people on a glorious day simply for the pleasure that only comes from riding a motorbike. Walter guided us back to a location that had been selected for group photographs. Over 200 bikes with riders and pillions from all over Europe. We made a noise, we took photographs, we stood around chatting then did it all again. then the group photo was followed by a mass exedous as we all rode in convoy down narrow country roads back into and through Riegel.
That evening the Civic Centre was again to be our venue for the evening, but this time it was for the "Last Supper" - our last chance to all be together and eat, drink and have a few words from the mayor and our event organisers. We had all pre-paid for this event to cover the cost of the hall and food and the only extra was our drinks. A last chance to chat with friends made during this and at previous events before the announcement that 2012 will be hosted by the French in the Ardeche. Some stayed to party, Mark, Steve and I left around 10pm knowing that the following day was going to be one long hard and fast ride. Mark was heading for a ferry at Ijmuiden while Steve & I were riding together back to Calais and the Channel Tunnel but while Steve was stopping with relatives in Dartford I was heading for home.
An early start means an early breakfast, load the bikes and ride. We had a plan which would see us break the journey into sections of roughly 150 miles (240km) between fuel stops. These would be 10 minutes in duration, so no need to rush the refuelling and allow us to walk about and get circulation back if it had gone away (not usually a problem on the Deauville). There would be one more stop somewhere before Calais for a picnic lunch (made up at breakfast) of half an hour. And that is how it panned out. We'd allowed for periods of rain (which reduces speed on the auto-routes) and a section of road works Steve had encountered on the way down, but everything went smoothly, the weather was the hotest we'd had all week and we missed any rain that was obviously about from the look of the grey skies we saw. This meant that virtually the whole trip from Riegel to Calais was done at a nice steady 130-135kmph and the best description of the whole return trip was that it was uneventful, and having left Riegel at 07:15 I arrived home at 17:45 having covered 695 miles (1100km).
So that was my DmD 2011 trip. With petrol prices at between 1.52 - 1.65 Euros per litre I was glad that I managed to average 62mpg. Other costs were largely anticipated as I'd pre-booked my accomodation and researched food and drink prices before leaving. Europe is not a cheap destination any more, but it is well worth the effort and the expense. I thoroughly enjoyed my solo riding, then my time riding with Jonathan and then the DmD even. It isn't often that I get the opportunity to spend days just riding and talking bikes, joking, eating and drinking with like minded people. People who were previously unknown or just names/aliases on the forum, and making friends with motorcycle riders from all across Europe. DmD used to be about meeting other Deauville owners, and in some ways it still is, but larger numbers are attending on other machines. There were 10 bikes from Italy, only 2 were Deauvilles (the rest were BMWs) but the camaraderie was fantastic. Everybody we've met at these events is super friendly and while there is sometimes a language problem we all end up communicating, somehow. As I've said before, language is not a barrier when you have something in common and want to share it.
My photo slideshow
Photos from Janus & Anna
Phil's Travel page