Mar/April 2017. I had decided I would make sure I booked time off over Summer as I always seemed to have holiday left over towards the end of the year and book time off when the weather isn't so great, I also decided that in some capacity it would be a bike trip.
The process of booking holiday through work was painless and the dates August 25th through to the 3rd of September were etched into my mind. Now was the difficult part of figuring out what I was going to do.
It didn't take long before knowing a trip to Europe, something i have spoken since getting my licence some four and a half years ago was the thing to do. Especially due to the fact the list of countries I have visited so far is as short as the time I tend to leave to planning. Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Belarus making up the places I have been.
Fast-forward a few months, an end to a relationship, a crashed R1 and a myriad of things in-between and I currently stood a month of so before departure. Unsure of whether the R1 would be fixed in time to venture into the unknown or even how much it would cost. I also had serious doubts and a sense of unrest inside me and I knew one way or another that I wouldn't be riding my newly acquired sports bike around the continent. With having totalled up a rough estimate on fuel I quickly realised it would cost over £500 alone in fuel with my intended route.
Then my mind cast to the fact people all over the world are mobilised by small capacity motorbikes, inspired by the likes of Nathan Millward I knew that doing a relatively big trip on a 125cc wasn't out of the question, the bonus being fuel costs for slightly reduced mileage would be around one third of a larger bike! The fact I had bought a CG125 in June for camping trips with friends meant I had the time booked, I had the perfect bike, I had the majority of the kit I needed but most of all, I had the audacity to make it more than talk.
I never have liked doing things because it fits everyone else or makes sense.
2 weeks before leaving - Riding the commute home, the same as I had done thousands of times before. Dropping downhill off a big roundabout and seeing the mighty green expanse of the Blackmore Vale unroll before me it suddenly hit. I had 2 weeks before my intended trip started. I knew I roughly wanted to do the B500 through the Black Forest but I hadn't decided on a ferry or the Eurotunnel. I hadn't decided where else I wanted to go, I didn't have a map of Europe and plenty of other things!
It was time to begin using a degree of sensibility and common sense before stranding myself hundreds of miles from home in a land where the amount of words I knew could be crudely scrawled on the tip of a gnats cock. It was safe to say I had not planned everything, or indeed anything, to minute detail.
Many eBay purchases later and I had a Michelin map of Europe, I had a sheepskin to use as an extra layer to my seat and also double up as a hammock liner and also a go pro, for which the mount kit I ordered only turned up the day I left. The plan of learning some simple pieces of language fell way by the way side , especially when I had been furiously beavering away in my unit adding in a usb charging socket along with fitting new chain and sprockets and giving the CG a much needed oil change.
So that was it, I was nearly ready to go.
2 days before leaving - with growing excitement and an amount of anxiety I got all the packing done ready to strap to the bike once I finished work on the Thursday. On the Saturday prior I had finally decided I would go via Eurotunnel and posted on Pistonheads to ultimately tell people how silly I had been. It was there that a wonderful man named Andy kindly offered his garden to sleep in for the night as my train left Folkestone a little after 7am which meant to clear check-in and passport control, I would need to be there well before.
I had his address, planned the route and scribbled it down in my best nonsensical hand writing style. After all this was done all there was left to do was get super excited about what may lay ahead.
August 24th. Leaving day. Mileage readout 10,818 - I managed to get out of the door from work very early, get home and strap all the necessary items to my bike to begin my journey. My parents waved me off at 4:45pm and I steadily made my way the 170-something miles to Kent. Surprisingly I made good progress, my directions made sense and I even managed to cruise on a couple of dual carriageways at 65mph, which considering how loaded the bike was I was mightily impressed with. All 11 horses being utilised from the overworked piston humming away meant I was even able to overtake a few slower vehicles, and not just lorries!
After a little over 4 hours later around 9pm and promptly had a great chat with Andy and his wife, swapping bike stories and ideas for Europe. I couldn't have been more thankful for his letting me stay on his land, hammock strung between a tractor roll hoop and a tree which then saw me climb into bed to begin the first night of my adventure.
August 25th. 5:30am. Mileage readout 10,989.2 - An early start with a staggering sun rise, a brief packing session still not fully acquainted with the best way to organise my gear followed by a short hop down the M20 and I arrived at Folkestone Eurotunnel at 6:30am.
Getting out of the tunnel and leading into France my first thought was to get away from the larger roads on onto quieter roads to avoid fast moving traffic. Doing so and trying to navigate with my Michelin map saw me get lost and do lots of U-turn within the first few hours.
I stopped for lunch and a fuel stop at 12:44pm with the mileage on 11,094.4. I struggled through with my sub-GSCE level French and headed South East towards Brussels with blue skies all around.
Travelling through France and into Brussels there were plenty of petrol stations stating the temperature which was a not hard to believe 28 -30° Celsius. There were so many roadworks through Brussels that besides saying I have done it, I would not recommend it, much in the same way travelling through London may be the shortest route but it certainly will be more stressful and not necessarily the best!
Finally I decided to give in just past Tienen and cooked on a fire in a small smattering of woods I found just 2 minutes from the N3 which I was travelling down.
After the day I had, the heat after getting my motorcycle gear off and the amount my legs were stung from nettles I wasn't hugely looking forward to another day on the bike and seriously doubted why I had even come on this trip, and especially why I had come alone!
August 26th. 9:20am - I woke up later than planned, I think it was largely down to being so tired having had a little sleep the night before and such a long journey coupled with not taking enough water on board as just before bed I had a monster headache!
I packed up and set my sights on getting into Germany as soon as I could, having learnt the hard way I knew I'd have to have little, yet often breaks to make sure I didn't dehydrate for a second day.
One thing I noted through Belgium is how varied the properties are but not only are no two houses the same, but there are also a huge number being built new! "The economy in Belgium must be significantly stronger than the UK", I thought, as I pottered further from my front door.
Stopping for lunch in the Nationalpark Eifel, I turned off the main B266, headed across a small patch of grass and not 2 minutes after taking my helmet off a German man in a 4x4 arrived. He promptly told me off for being where I shouldn't. Explaining that I only planned to eat a sandwich and enjoy the view on his gravel road before returning to the paved road in my best English with a German accent seemed to appease him and he left me to ponder, "if it's only 12:43pm where should I head?".
Of course looking at my phone and seeing how much time I had and how close I was, the natural answer was the fabled, Nürburgring.
Getting to the 'Ring just after 2pm and I luckily stumbled across an area to park and was able to watch a few cars pushing the limits through one of the corners, it was fabulous to see how hard people were driving coupled with the aural delight of engines being used as they were designed to be.
It was incredibly busy however and my attempts to find a better viewing spot were futile so I decided to adjust the now saggy looking chain and head on further South. Mileage 11,364.3
I stumbled across what seemed to be the wine region of Germany following the river Moselle down Pünderich, which in a word was incredible. Jaw dropping views, beautiful weather and rolling hills coupled with roads that were equally smooth as they were sensational. I had a hard time riding the bike every time I stopped which was often.
I worried for mile after mile as the sky grew darker and the likelihood of finding a good hammock spot seemed more elusive, deciding to bit the bullet, I willingly drove further away from the B420 near Sankt Julian and suddenly stumbled across a suitable congregation of trees and around 8pm set myself up for the night.
I felt on top of the world as the day I had, I simply couldn't understand how anything else on the trip would top it.....