Completing the rounds
Tuesday 14 October 2003
Path > Bonn (Germany) to Magny Cours via Aachen Liege (Belgium) Charleroi Paris (France) Nevers in France
With some more work completed last night, I had only one major task for the day ? getting from Bonn to Magny Cours on the XJ900. Normally not a big deal, I felt some apprehension as I came near to completing one of my challenges for the year.
The XJ had served me pretty well, considering the abuse that I'd put it through. I'd done 30,000km on it in about seven months ? not a bad stat considering the pressure of work that I'd been under in my first year freelancing...
Now, the pressure was on to get it back to England safely and sell it before heading back to Australia. What if something big went wrong now? How much could I expect for it? How much time could I spend fixing, adjusting and polishing it before I left?
These were all big questions for me to mull over as I rode.
Filling up with oil and packing, I felt like I was leaving the office in Bonn for the last time. Maybe I was? I'd spent so much time in this place over the last two years as it was my base in 2002 and my drop in point a few times in 2003. It seemed weird that I might not seen it again.
This was my feeling as I rolled out of Bonn, heading north for Cologne along the 555. I rode passed the station at Robert Kirchhoff Strasse, passed the General Anzeiger building that stands out as the direction of the office. Then passed Lidl, McDonalds and Burger King and on to the big roundabout where I'd hired cars from Europcar and filled up at the Aral before choosing from the 565 across the Rhine to the airport or the 555 straight to Cologne.
Each of these places has so many memories. (Maybe not McDonalds and Burger King, but they stand out as landmarks, bringing on the ?almost home' feeling when returning from a long trip.)
I'd picked up with Alfa Romeo Spider convertible at Europcar for a trip to Munich and Oktoberfest last year. The roundabout was synonymous with a trip out of or into Bonn and reminded me of German traffic.
All of this was felt with a feeling of completion. I'd come to Europe this year as a challenge to myself, to see if I could live purely by the cut and thrust of motorsport photojournalism and by experiencing more of Europe by bike. Here I was, leaving Bonn for the last time ever on the XJ and I was filled with nostalgia and a sense of having almost completed my quest.
I rolled up the motorway to Cologne and the motorway interchange that took me to Aachen, which sits on the borders of Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands, just north of Luxembourg. From there it was more motorway through Liege, passed Namur and Charleroi as I followed the signs for Paris.
The Paris ring road provided the normal excitement, with the standard lane splitting required to get through the traffic. The XJ isn't particularly good at this, with the heavy weight of the bike and all of my luggage combining badly with the handling and ?soft' feel. It is pretty wide as well and got squeezed a few times as the gaps reduced on me.
Surprisingly to me and possibly a few of the car drivers, I got through without contact of any kind ? even though I was sure that I'd picked up a few souvenir mirrors.
There was a drag out of Paris as I fought to keep up with some guys on sport bikes at 80mph. It was great to see one of the riders abuse a car driver that didn't give him much room to pass. As has went through he lifted his left hand off the bars and swept it through the air as if to swat the car out of the way. It looked like a cartoon and I half expected the car to flip out of the way with the power of his ?swat'.
With time marching on, I didn't want to miss the guys who were probably going for dinner around about seven or eight. Making the correct motorway choice this time, I headed down the super smooth toll road heading directly south.
I reached the track at Magny Cours in good time and relaxed with a beer as I caught the teams that had gotten there early before heading into Nevers for a meal with the Yokohama guys.
I'd made it! The task was almost complete. Now I just had to work the weekend and make some cash for the trip back to England...
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