In the Beginning - Whoops

I rode (with a bit of a wobble initially) down the driveway and out of Cornwall with a fully loaded bike and a pillion rider. Not to be left out, my boyfriend Ian had volunteered to join me for the first 48 hours into Europe.

A quick stop at Sherlocks in North Devon to get the brushes on the alternator replaced as well as the diaphragm on the oil warning switch (Torch will like those details) and onward to the desolate wastes of south eastern England. An extra wobble on Thelma as we approached Surrey gave me some bad news and I used a speed bump to show Ian how it feels to have a knackered shock absorber on a heavy bike. This was not looking good, less than a day and only 300 miles into my trans-continental trip and already I needed a new shock absorber.

This wouldn´t usually be a great drama but it was Friday night, we had tickets (thanks to transport manger Cat) for the ferry out of Dover the next morning and Ian was supposed to be on a flight out of Frankfurt airport in 36 hours time - he could see his short sojourn on the continent slipping away.

We reached the sancturay of my Uncle´s house, where I got straight onto the phone while Ian attempted to get a cup of tea from the kitchen (not very successfully). Thirty minutes later we were on our way, heading towards Central London, the GS Club had come up with a solution and now we just needed to find the house.

Having taken down the address from Steve -Bakerman, a man who has created an art form out of dyslexia (what was I thinking?), we were going in circles in London as it got dark. Finally found our destination and there was Neil waiting for us with a replacement shock absorber in hand, he´s also known as Steptoe and has an aladdin´s cave of GS parts. What a hero, as in the dark on the road outside his house he replaced the shock absorber, and refusing payment, waved us on our way.

Our next stop was Tunbridge Wells, where a warm welcome awaited us- an old friend, Flower of Scotland and his wife Kat had a hot meal, and more importantly a bottle of wine awaiting us. This was quite an achievement as we arrived there at 10.15pm and they had literally only just arrived back from Normandy in Fance that evening after their holiday. They even managed to provide good onversation and as for that comfortable bed – I didn´t even feel my head hit the pillow.

Another early start as we hit the road for Dover, and at the Ferry terminal a nasty realisation as I noticed my feet were flat on the ground as I sat on Thelma – Oh no, the second shock absorber had blown. In the daylight we could see it had some rust on it and so figured it was a second hand or reconditioned one. I was determined to get on the ferry so while we waited at the terminal for deprture I made more calls whilst once more Ian could see his short break slipping away.

Having sent out the distress calls we set sail, checking messages on Ian´s phone. I was regaled by another biker with tales of his proposed trip along the Belgian coastline, I just kept quiet about my own journey. Two hours later we were on French soil and about to pass through four countries in less than 24 hours. The motorways of France and Belguim were a bit monotonous, so we ventured off them with terrible results, getting lost in a series of small towns and doubling back on ourselves a bit, hmmm, not a wise move so we got back on the motorway just as it started to rain.

Dinner in Luxembourg (what can I say about Luxembourg? – good tarmac, fast drivers and everything is very clean), then we sneaked into a campsite that had closed for the evening by riding along the pavement (sidewalk for the Americans reading this). The ground was soggy and it was dark, but what a relief, we had made it this far. We realised we were camped on the banks of the Moselle when the party disco boat went chugging past, with a bright spotlight that they were shining at the river bank, illuminating us whilst trashy euro pop blared out.

A beautiful morning and as the mist cleared we packed up and quietly pushed Thelma out of the campsite – still no sign of anyone to pay. I´d like to point out that we were not sneaking out just anxious not to wke everyone at the crack of dawn with a bike starting up. Some fantastic scenery as we rode - huge fields of rapeseed with yellow flowers and forests that definitely looked as if they were home to wild boar. Hahn airport, which turned out to be nowhere near Frankfurt (good old Ryanair, depending on people´s shaky grasp of German geographic knowledge) was fairly quiet, a final breakfast and then goodbye to Ian as he headed towards the security check struggling to convince them that his bike helmet was allowable as hand luggage.

I have now whizzed across Germany and I´m staying at Tobi´s flat in Nürnberg, whilst searching for another shock absorber, because I seem to be the kiss of death for all shocks.

I arrived here late in the afternoon and after some more phone calls and Internet activity towards replacing my shock, Tobi suggested I try the one off his bike – he has Thelma´s big brother the R100 GS (Paris Dakar version for the anoraks amongst you). What a fantastic offer I thought as we swapped the shocks over, he knew I was keen not to have to hang around and that I wanted to be back on the road as soon as possible, this was the ultimate gesture.

Shocks swapped I excitedly jumped onto Thelma only to find myself once more bouncing up and down – this could only mean one thing, shock absorber number THREE is broken and I am left searching for a fourth one.