The Galibier

Yesterday, my good blogging friend AGMA published a post about her love of the Tour de France cycle race. Please pop over to her blog by clicking here and check it out.

Regular blogonaughts may remember that Hogrider Dookes is also rather partial to the “Le Tour” and it is certainly one of my guilty pleasures to sit inside on a bright summer day watching the action on television. My excuse is that live Tour action simply did not exist when Dookes was a lad!

Chris Froome attacks in the mountains.

Today the weather outside is OK, but not great, so not too much guilt is involved…but today is a very special day for “Le Tour,” today the race crosses the iconic Col du Galibier!

Col du Galibier

This was a mountain that I always dreamed of climbing. The domain of Merckx, Zoetemelk, Coppi and Jiméez, it stands at 2645metres, 8678ft, above sea level and has featured in the tour since 1911.

This year “Le Tour” is crossing Galibier from the North side, 18km of climbing at an average gradient of 6.9%….that’s bloody tough! Oh yes, I nearly forgot, they also had to climb Col du Télégraph first, 11.8km at 7.3%!

Galibier is to me the home of “Le Tour” in the high Alps and also for me a place of great spiritual significance. The first time I rode up her glorious majestic slopes I had serious tears running down my cheeks and to be honest it’s not changed much since! I love the place.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go watch a cycle race!

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Troubled

I am troubled by our World.

News of the latest atrocity to hit France was just beginning to break as I went to bed last night. This morning I awoke to the awful news that a madman had deliberately driven a truck into crowds of celebrating families in Nice, France. Over eighty innocent revellers, most of them children and young people, had been murdered before the perpetrator had also been killed.

The horror that has been afflicting my beloved France and her people in recent times fills me with great sadness.

Looking around though, it’s not just La France where this all-consuming hatred manifests into violence, intolerance and hatred.

Should we be surprised in this “modern age” when Police Officers are murdered on the streets of Dallas; pilgrims blown up in Saudi Arabia, car bombs tear through crowds in Turkey…?

The sad truth is that intolerance surrounds us in our selfish times.

There is a young lady in her early twenties who lives near Dookes H.Q., sadly she is more likely to greet people with a torrent of abuse than a smile. Is she a grim representative of the future, where isolation, lack of respect and offence are the norm, rather than attempts at understanding and the reaching out of a hand? Or is she a product of the world that past generations have created for the future? A sad indication that the social freedoms and lack of responsibility in the latter half of the twentieth century have failed?

It certainly seems to me that there are many more angry and destructive people around today. Why are there so many disenfranchised?

Or is it me? Am I demonstrating a function of getting older and possibly loosing touch with popular society?

I don’t think it is.

This week I came across a school group of fourteen year olds, they were visiting Cornwall on an “enrichment week.”

Were they helping out in a local hospital?
Assisting in a retirement home?
Doing a shift in an inner-city help shelter?

No.

They had been taken out of school for a week of surfing!

Now, I love surfing, but please….how will this in any way enrich the future lives of these young people?

The world is truly doomed when we teach that “enrichment” does not equal caring for, or about others before oneself.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe we should just extract as much enjoyment from life as we can in the desperately brief time that we have and stuff everything else.

It’s a little difficult to know at the moment.

Je suis Nice.
Je suis Français.

Dookes

A candle for Nice. A candle for peace in the world.

A candle for Nice.
A candle for peace in the world. Chapel of Notre-Dame du Haut.

Back to Brittany

I’ve just been playing with the Via Michelin App to see what it made of the trip from Como to Brittany, where we are this evening. Interestingly, it nearly came up with the same route that I had, but mine was a bit more interesting and therefore longer!

Today we passed the 2000 mile mark on this little jaunt. Not bad when you consider that three days were spent in Como and on the day we rode Stelvio and Gavia it really wasn’t any mileage at all.

The journey today has been nice and relaxing, if you can ever say that about nearly three hundred miles on a motorbike! We kicked off with a nice little trundle of around twenty miles to warm up before we hit the Autoroute and then followed a spirited 130 miles dash to Angers. That blew the morning cobwebs away!

Baby was certainly on song cruising the Autoroute westwards and to add to my pleasure there was hardly any traffic at all. We stopped briefly for fuel in Bougueil; the town is rightly famous for delightful wines that are flavoursome yet light. Well, we had to grab a bottle whilst we were passing through, it was only polite!

I always look on Angers as a defining point on any journey through this part of France, heading West you enter the wide, wide, valley of the River Loire and coming East it’s the gateway to Brittany. I can almost spot exactly where the wide open wheat fields and vineyards end and the smaller Breton pastures bounded by hedges and old oak trees begin, it’s quite magical!

In France, Brittany is often referred to as “Little Britain,” such is the similarity to the Western parts of the U.K. No wonder I always feel so at home here. You can tell it’s a region influenced by the weather of the North Atlantic, slate roofs steeply sloped to throw off the sometimes copious rain!

I have Mrs Dookes to thank for introducing me to Brittany, as before we met I’d never been to this lovely part of “L’Hexagone.” Merci beaucoup mon amour, je t’aime!

Tonight I’m staying with my friends Denis and Anne, at their delightful Château which nestles on the edge of an ancient wood, deep in the centre of the region. Baby is safely ensconced in the garage, Anne’s Mercedes was evicted to make room! Denis is his usual loud energetic self, laughing at the Euro 2016 football tournament and especially the English losing to Iceland – we both agree on that! He’s threatening to cook me “Carre de porcelet,” which I suppose translates as piglet chops….! Knowing him this is going to be good! Anne meanwhile rolls her eyes at the two of us, she’s seen the floor show before.

I’ll report on the food later.

Now back to the ride….

From Angers we went cross-country, first to the delightful town of Chateaubriant then I just headed West.

Le château, Châteaubriant.

Le château, Châteaubriant.

I know it sounds corny, but I do have an innate sense of direction and so I turned the SatNav off and just followed my internal compass. I find it quite relaxing as well, heading where the mood takes. It must’ve worked, we got here!

So here comes that familiar “end of trip” hollow feeling. It’s sort of a mix of elation that the plan came together and also the realisation that it’s nearly all over, until next time.

I usually fight it off by starting to think about “The Next One.” Therein lies a problem, as Mrs Dookes and I have a shedload of work to do over the coming months. . .
“The Next One” may lay some way off in the future.

Actually, to tell the truth, I have an idea.

Why don’t we go to……….

“Freedom is a dusty road heading to a highway.”

Catch you later.

Dookes

24 Heurs du Le Mans

When I put this trip together I was aware that the Euro 2016 football championship was taking place in France, but a quick check of venues showed that I shouldn’t be bothered by any disruption; actually what is a bit strange is that although France are the hosts there aren’t any of today’s three games on television here!

What I forgot to check was the date of the famous Le Mans 24 hour motor race I had routed myself right through the city of Le Mans and today the race started! The sad thing is that I love the city, especially the old quarter, Vieux Mans and I had hoped to enjoy a coffee there on my way through. So you’ll have to be content with a couple of photos from a previous visit!

Vieux Mans

Vieux Mans


Le Mans trams in the Cité Plantagenet.

Le Mans trams in the Cité Plantagenêt.

I also adore the magic that is the famous race, where cars and crews are pushed to the limit; massive sports cars power along the Mulsannne Straight in the darkness and their headlights light the trees in the forest of the Sarthe at midnight. I haven’t yet been to the race in person; I keep promising myself to go to one year….only not this one! A couple of years ago I spent a very enjoyable morning in the 24 Hour museum, which is located on one of the permanent parts of the circuit, half of it is public roads for the rest of the year. It’s well worth a visit, even Mrs Dookes enjoyed it!

Le Mans Bentley Speed 8, Winner Le Mans 2003

Le Mans Bentley Speed 8,
Winner Le Mans 2003

So there we were happily trudging along the A81 heading East, getting near to Le Mans and the traffic just went stupid, from 110kph to 10kph in about 300metres! Time to bale out and find another way; which is just what we did, cutting South across the beautiful countryside of the Sarthe towards Angers.

Now here’s a strange thing, every time I go anywhere near Angers there’s always roadworks and not just a bit of resurfacing! Oh no, we are talking “let’s dig it all up and rebuild it” stuff! Diversions, temporary surfaces and just as we got on the brand-spank-me new stuff, it promptly welcomed us by having a thunderstorm and turning the new oily asphalt into black ice! Twice, as I accelerated off roundabouts, the rear wheel lost traction…now that’s quite a peculiar feeling to have the rear wheel spinning when you are going in a straight line! Bear in mind as well, fully loaded and with me on board, Baby weighs in at just over half a metric tonne….and we lost straight-line grip – twice!!!!!

Thankfully, the rest of the mile munching day wasn’t quite as “interesting,”

Dookes

Je Suis Triste, I am Sad.

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Last night as I was watching a football International between Wales and The Netherlands, news began to break about the horrific events unfolding in the French capital, Paris. Sport suddenly became inconsequential.
La nuit dernière, alors que je regardais le foot international entre pays de Galles et les Pays-Bas, les nouvelles ont commencé à annoncer sur les événements horribles qui se déroulent dans la capitale française, Paris. Sport soudainement devenu sans conséquence.

This morning we woke to hear that over 125 people lost their lives, seemingly the victims of organised fanatical terrorists. Some died in restaurants, many at a rock concert, all innocently enjoying a Friday night out at the end of a working week.
Ce matin, nous nous sommes réveillés d’apprendre que plus de 125 personnes ont perdu la vie, apparemment victimes de terroristes fanatiques organisés. Certains sont morts dans les restaurants, un grand nombre à un concert de rock, tout innocemment bénéficiant d’un vendredi soir à la fin d’une semaine de travail.

How brave it must have been to stand with an automatic weapon and spray bullets into a crowd of unarmed people and how evil?
Quel courage il doit avoir été de se tenir avec une arme automatique et tirer des balles dans une foule de personnes non armées et comment le mal?

This week, around the world, ordinary people have been pausing to remember those who have died in conflict.
Cette semaine, dans le monde entier, les gens ordinaires ont pausé pour se souvenir de ceux qui sont morts dans les conflits.

It seems we now need to remember even more.
Il semble que nous devons maintenant me souviens même plus.

My heart weeps for Paris and France. I love that country and it’s people. I have many friends there.
Mon coeur pleure pour Paris et la France. Je adore ce pays et ses habitants. Je ai beaucoup d’amis là-bas.

La France, my friends, I stand with you.
La France, mes amis, je me tiens avec toi.

Vive La France!

Dookes

Faire Une Promenade

Today dawned misty and still in the heart of Brittany.

Petit déjeuner was a leisurely affair, as it should be on a Sunday morning, my pal Denis produced one of his legendary omelettes. With that, plus croissants, bread, jam, fruit compote, pain au chocolat, yogurt and cheese it was substantial enough to keep me going most of the day! Even more reasons to love this wonderful country.

Anyway, once the sun got to work burning off the mist, we decided to take a gentle drive to Vannes, a pleasant old sea port on the Morbihan coast. These days the place is popular amongst the yachting set as its harbour extends right into the centre of town and countless bars and cafés nestle almost alongside the moored boats. In my younger days I was quite partial to a bit of sailing , but these days I prefer to get my kicks on dry land!

We parked up just outside the medieval city walls and took a gentle walk, or as the French say, “Faire une Promenade,” through the formal gardens down to the harbour.P1040888P1040896As you can see, the weather clerk has been very kind to us.
At the end of the harbour’s inner arm were a couple of old gaff rigged traditional Breton fishing boats. Brittany is justifiably proud of its maritime tradition and to see old timers such as this is not at all uncommon. I guess it’s no surprised to say that I love ’em!P1040897
The modern plastic tubs all seem so “ordinary” in comparison, I wonder if any will be preserved in 100 years time?P1040900
Leaving the harbour we strolled around the medieval quarter and enjoyed its narrow streets and wonky buildings.P1040910
We ended up at the wonderfully ostentatious Hôtel de Ville which makes quite a statement of the past glories of this historic sea port!P1040916
All that remained was a leisurely return to the Château for an afternoon dip in the pool, which was bathed in sunshine before I took this photo!.P1040917
Then, another “promenade” around the Château grounds in glorious evening light in company of our friends and their two terriers. This really is a lovely place.P1040918P1040926P1040931. . . and now dear reader, as Denis says, “Il est temps pour un petit verre.” – It’s time for a little glass/drink. . . .  Salut!

“When the rhythm’s really fine, rare and sweet as vintage wine”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

PS I’m feeling a bit guilty enjoying myself so much, as my mate Greg has just spent all weekend back in hospital on an antibiotic drip, having picked up an infection after his chemo session last week. Fortunately the Welsh rugby team cheered him up with a good victory over Uruguay in Cardiff today. Thinking of you mate, hwyl fawr!

Reflections

I’ve been beefing about the lack of two-wheel action of late.

Yeah, I know I did get out for a few hours a couple of weekends ago, but… well it’s just a bit frustrating! My two-wheeled brothers and sisters will understand the feeling of wanting to get out there on the open road and for those of you who don’t ride, imaging sitting in a stuffy room wanting to open the window for some fresh air, but the window won’t open, that’s what it feels like!
Time therefore, for a bit of reflection.DSCF1176

I have a lot to be grateful for and loads of happy memories from rides gone by, as a dip into the blog archives will reveal. So let’s try something new. Here are some photos from previous posts, if you dear reader would like to click on the title, you will find yourself magically transported to the blog page in the archives, I hope! Please give it a go!

On Col de la Bonnette.

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Heavenly Hairpins. 20120618-234730.jpg

Simplon Pass. 20130624-232419.jpg

D-Day Airfield. DSCF3394

The Great Pretender! 20130623-220022.jpg

Well there you are, a little glimpse into the archives. You can explore more by using the Archive Selector in the Right Margin on a PC, or at the bottom of the page on a mobile device. I hope you have a bit of fun dipping around in my blog’s past!

“Looking back, over my shoulder…”

Catch ya soon!
Dookes

Oh yes, go here for a self-portrait!