Friday, May 1, 2015

Luxembourg to Switzerland

An old lady in a Renault 5 parks her car at the supermarket where we just bought some fruit. The engine's doing 3000 revs while the car crawls forward. We're not sure what the plan was but she ended up occupying two parking spots at a 30° angle. As she climbs out of the car, she says something to us about motos and points at the sky. It's beautiful weather so we assumed that's what she meant. I explain that our French is very limited but she decides to start a whole conversation with us anyway! We nod and smile back, which results in more indecipherable French :-) I show her the world map  with our route on the front of Mike's bike, she looks at it and follows the route with her wrinkly old finger... looks at us and says we are very 'courageous'.

It's just a conversation between total strangers, of quite different generations and in very different languages... and yet for us moments like these make it so much more than just a ride around the world. The night before had covered our part of the world in a layer of frost. No wonder I was cold! We had enjoyed the wildlife along the Mosel river, mainly ducks and a swan, and then left for France. Luxembourg proved to be cheap for fuel, so we filled up just before the border and then entered the land of the French stick, Boursin, Champagne and a host of other goodies. Not that we are going to have much of that as we are seriously trying to loose some weight. But at least we had good bread again!

No idea what the food is like, but the name's ok!
The day was uneventful, a sort of connection route. Connecting the Ardennes with the Vosges without hitting the expensive toll roads or Route Péage. The French Route Nationale is never going to be a quick route but we made good progress anyway. At the end of the afternoon I removed the touring screen I had made and of which I was quite proud... it simply didn't work. I should have made it 10cm higher and as a result the buffeting drove me mad. For the third time in a row I ended the day with a headache and I'm sure that's what caused it. Mike decided to take the screen with him just in case but after just 10 minutes I knew I had made the right choice, the only choice if I was to continue another 30,000 km to Australia. 

Finding a camp spot for the first night in France proved somewhat problematic. All the forests we passed were privately owned and there were logging trucks everywhere. The only good spot I saw that day had been around noon. In the end we simply drove up a forest track, bush-bashed the bikes in the trees and made a camping spot. A simple swag would have been so much easier now... We cooked a meal (or rather opened up a tin of soup) and called it a day.

Multi-functional Nomada
pannier lids: also great for
serving breakfast!
The next day we realised the French road system must be high on the list of the most chaotic ones in the world. It seems, at times, they have gone out of their way to make a simple situation quite complex. Three roundabouts in succession on a supermarket parking area for instance. Roundabouts that have no other purpose but to create a complex situation. Of course they signpost the small town, which you won't find on any map, but omit to signpost the big town just after it... And then there are the speed limits... 70 km/hr on main roads, 50 in town and the town centres are usually down to 30. In theory there isn't much wrong with apart from riding French roads means riding through town after town after town after town. What all the signs accomplish is that a once steady stream of traffic now becomes a 30, 50, 70, 50, 30, 50, 70, 30, 50, 70 affair. Whoever is making all those signs must have a good business!

Looking at the sheer volume of traffic, which mostly consisted of single persons in a car, I wondered what France would look like when the French would ride motorbikes and/or scooters instead of cars... Hmmm. Perhaps we could also stop buying all the stuff we don't really need and reduce the number of trucks on the road. Now wouldn't that be an improvement!

Meeting Swiss readers of our blog, what are the chances of that?
The sign for inexpensive camping
in France: Camping Municipal

We noticed quite a few motorcyclists were on the roads, quite a few from Switzerland too. I noticed an odd combination of a V-Strom followed by a DR650 going in the opposite direction, which just minutes later was following us...! They had recognised the Yamaha with the new fairing Mike made and the Triumph Bonneville from the blog. Amazing, one day I'm writing a post about a fairing and just a week later we get recognised because of it :-) It was even more amazing for him though! He saw what Mike had made on the blog and said he would have like to see it for real... and today he did! Looking for a free camp spot we stumbled upon a Camping Municipal, which offers cheap camping throughout France. We decided to take it and wash everything before going into Switzerland tomorrow...