Invasion? Well, of a sort anyway. Clandestine meetings held in the dark days of late autumn managed to evolve a CAM ride out with a difference. Following on from the successes we had achieved during 2006 the Scotts, the Gates and me put together a long weekend which would involve a visit to the Mosel valley in Germany.
The time? Mid June we thought would potentially give us a good weather prospect – warm but not the mid 30’s August often brings. Wet? Maybe the odd day, but little did we know. Price? Keeping away from the school holidays would keep the price down. Where to embark? We decided on the DFDS sailing from North Shields to Ijmuiden close to Amsterdam. The hotel? The Scotts knew of a biker friendly hotel in Klotten, 3 km from the well known biker very friendly centre of Cochem. So the trip was born, and in the words of one CAM member, a holiday is not where you go, it is who you go with. And so it proved.
We were booked on the 6pm sailing on Wednesday 20th June. A pleasant afternoon’s potter up the A19 saw all of us safely ensconced on the Princess of Norway for the overnight sailing. It was full, and we were too late to book a meal at a decent time in the popular buffet. We ended up in the Wild West restaurant instead where the staff had to work in casual gear which, in the warmth of the June evening we thought was probably uncomfortable. The meal was washed down with various quantities and varieties of alcoholic beverage, and so to bed, hoping that the day’s sunshine would be repeated.
It was not to be. The sky had clouded up overnight as we left the harbour area eventually at about 11.30am. Part of the delay was due to one bike having to be bump started due to a flattened battery – I hoped the battery would charge up on the run across Holland. The Dutch motorway system is good but busy as we negotiated our way around Amsterdam and past Schipol airport and Utrecht to our first stop around 45 miles from the terminal for a quick stop for fuel. Shortly after, I foolishly went onto ‘autopilot’ for a while, regaining my usual concentration level as we cruised past my planned turn for Nijmegen at about 70mph. Rats! Ah well, stay on the A2 towards Maastricht would do instead. We also had an unscheduled stop to don waterproofs for those not wearing waterproof suits, and then continued on our way.
Venlo was a possible area for another navigational faux pas, and as we cruised along the A67 an exit appeared but due to a truck being in the way I did not get a good enough look at the sign. It was not repeated, but I am certain we should have been off there to pick up the A61 south almost as far as Koblenz. An unusual bit of intelligent thinking on my part saw me reasoning that if we took the next exit there ought to be signs for Monchengladbach, or even the motorway. Fortunately I was right, and we joined A61 after a short ride along some normal roads for a while which we all agreed was a pleasant break from the monotony of the motorway. The lunch stop was not far away, and we had a lengthy stop to refuel the bikes as well as ourselves at one of the excellently equipped German ‘rast station.’ We had a bit of a problem because the loos had a turnstile system which necessitated the spending of 50 cents. You did get a voucher to spend in the shop to the value of the 50 cents however. Big deal!
Well over half way there, we had just one more stop scheduled to re-group before leaving the motorway. This stretch was difficult for me in the lead because due to spray I could not see more than one bike of the 6 that were behind me. Fortunately I had borrowed a CAM radio, and was in contact with our radio equipped ‘Tail End Charlie’ which proved to be an enormous help. So we eventually left the motorways to ride on normal roads for the final stretch to Klotten. We arrived at Klotten rather later than hoped due to a combination of bits and pieces, but we did arrive, and then were faced with the problem – where is the b…y hotel! After an unsuccessful circumnavigation of the village I was about to ask at another hotel when lo and behold, there was Ian Scott waving frantically at us – problem solved. Ian had decided to cheat by putting his and Janet’s bike on his trailer and travelled to Klotten in the car. His excuse was the trailer would act as a recovery vehicle in the event of an unforeseen mishap. Fortunately it proved to be a needless precaution.
The hotel benefited from a large underground room which was used as a bike garage – we counted over 20 bikes in there each evening – and it was locked overnight. We had to place metal plates under the stand to avoid damaging the rather splendid wooden floor, but appreciated the garage and the adjacent drying room as well. We were all amused by the English translation wording on the sign which suggested that we had to lie under the plate!
As well as having this excellent facility Klaus and Bettina Behrens, the hoteliers, provided excellent meals and service everyday, and were very welcoming and friendly. The only difficulty was the proximity of the nearby very busy railway line which was in use 24 hours a day. During the night there were periods when there was a train approximately every 15 minutes, or so it seemed. We –Bert and I – left our windows open for a couple of nights due to the humidity, but decided to leave them shut in the interests of trying to get some sleep after two nights disturbance.
To entertain us during the next four days Ian, with advice from Klaus, had planned different rides, all with a theme. Day One was the History Tour with a visit to the site of the famous bridge over the Rhine at Remagen, followed by a visit to the castle at Koblenz which overlooks the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel rivers. We attempted lunch here but the kitchen was closed so our lunch was a piece of fruit pie and a drink each. He had planned to take us to Bad Ems as well, but with one thing and another we ran out of time so we had to forgo this bit. Day Two was a sight-seeing tour, taking us to the North Eifel Mountains and their lakes before returning via the Nurburgring and a cafe in the rain once more. We were all thrilled by the large mileage of twisty roads plus light traffic. Day Three took us south of the Mosel into the Hunsruck mountains and lunch at Herrstein, an interesting little village with lots of half and full timbered houses – very picturesque. Several of us chose dumpling, and John and Kevin didn’t realise that they had ordered a double helping. They both struggled manfully through most of their meal, but neither could quite finish them off. We finished the day off after a super ice cream by the Mosel at Traven Trabbach with an exploration of some very thin roads high above the valley floor. The fourth day’s ride was themed the Alcohol run – and due to go to the Piesporter area, but Klaus offered to do a guided tour for us instead on the evening before which we accepted. Instead, he took us onto some very interesting little roads, including a narrow little track in a village with grass growing in the middle and several tight, right angled turns. I thought there was only me who did that! He also introduced us to what he described as the Stelvio Pass of the Mosel as we descended to the valley floor.
Overall, we had several riders with us who had had no previous continental riding experience. I was pleased though not surprised to learn that they had all thoroughly enjoyed the ride outs due to a combination of good road surfaces (for the most part), light traffic, and an abundance of superb bends linking the pretty, sleepy villages which characterise much of Germany and other areas of the continent. In the evenings the meals were excellent, and much alcohol was consumed, though not so much that the following day’s ride was spoiled. True to form, the meals were punctuated by large dollops of laughter of course.
The ride back across Germany and Holland was incident free, except for the strengthening wind and rain squalls which made bike handling awkward the closer we got to Ijmuiden. It also meant we were in for a rough crossing to North Shields. In fact, after over 10 years of continual continental touring experience behind me, I would go so far as to say it was probably the worst crossing I have experienced so far. I am reminded of it as I sit at my PC, and find the chair is swaying as the ship did the previous evening. The highlight of the voyage was the caption competition with prizes won by Joan Scott, Bert Reid and Kevin and Yvonne Collins. We returned to England about 40 minutes late, and I arrived home at about 12 noon UK time with a filthy bike due to the amount of rain we had endured during the 1154 recorded miles. It is in the garage still waiting cleaning as I type. Will it be fine enough to clean tomorrow I wonder?