Dover, UK to Cologne, Germany
Wednesday 2nd September 1998
We were rudely awoken by infuriating bleeps from my Swiss army digital watch(!) at 5.30 am but even in our groggy state we remembered the adventure ahead of us, (there’s that word again!) so we almost sprung out of bed in our haste to get going.
The weather was pretty reasonable for September in England, but as it was so early it was quite chilly with an early morning mist. We got fuel and arrived at Dover for 6.45 am. Unfortunately we had just missed a Dover-Calais crossing and had to wait for the next one which was an hour later. We were first in line though, and so decided to go and have a coffee and a rather stale and not very jammy donut in the ferry café. As we were too busy stuffing our faces, we didn’t hear the ferry call, and so when we did emerge and make our way back to the ‘bike, we were faced with a rather irate ferry personage who was not very happy that he had to direct a line of caravan’s and trailers around our heavily laden XJ900. We gave him the benefit of a withering stare usually reserved for traffic police, Volvo drivers and other lower forms of life, before riding off
The crossing was fortunately very calm and so we were able to eat breakfast aboard ship. We stocked up on sandwiches for later on, but on reflection, we’d have done better buying them before boarding the ferry as the selection was poor and very expensive!!
Our crossing arrived in Calais just after 10.00am (frog time). I’d been a bit apprehensive about riding on the wrong side of the road but at least while we were on the (very quiet) motorways it seemed straight forward enough. I’d heard a number of horror stories regarding the Gendarme and on-the-spot speeding tickets so I kept the speed down and we stopped a mere 50 miles later at St Eloi Services (10.50am). After another 120 miles we stopped again (12.15 pm) and got more fuel.
We arrived in Namur (Belgium) at 1.15 pm to see my relatives. Having had a brief but very nice family reunion which included a meal of pizza (getting in practice for Italy!) we left at 3.00 pm.
We stopped for fuel at 4.30 pm near Aachen (after 130 miles). Unfortunately for us we needed lead additive for our politically incorrect ‘bike which drinks gluttonous amounts of 4 star and is completely ozone unfriendly! (According to German standards anyway!) We managed to explain what we needed to the petrol assistant using the only German word I knew (blei, blei!!) and amazingly he understood us and even marked the bottle for us to show how much to put in the ‘bike! What a guy!!
We rode into Koln about an hour later, but had a heck of a time trying to find our hotel, which we’d booked in advance from the UK. It must have been painfully obvious that we were lost, as we were accosted by a very nice Harley rider (complete with obligatory pony-tail, beard and Kaiser helmet) who enquired in perfect English where we wanted to go and then led us to our final destination of the day “Hotel “ at 6.30 pm.
We explained at the Reception that we were leaving early to catch a train and that we didn’t need any breakfast (if we were hoping for a reduction in price… we were sorely disappointed!) They told us that there would be somebody there to check us out at 5.00 am and let us out of the locked garage in which our ‘bike was parked.
After unpacking and getting out of our leathers, we availed ourselves of the rather nice shower and then feeling remotely human, we went out for a meal.
As chance would have it, our hotel was in the Italian district, so we had no other choice than to go and have a pizza! (what a life eh?)