Walter takes in the View
Home Blog Forum FAQ Glossary / Dictionary Submissions About this Site

You CAN Ride a Bike
10 Ways to Be Safe
Latest Pictures

Pictures of the Week

Most Popular:
Learn to Ride
10 Ways to Be Safe
Salvage Yards
Pics of the Week
Women on Bikes
Latest Pictures
Picture Galleries
User Reviews
Road Tests
7 Things Bikers Know
10 Motorcycle Myths

Wild Motorcycle Tales

Here's a great story from Jorge Picabea. Got your own story? Send it to me.

Drifting in France

I got married on 29 October 2004, in Macon, GA. This date was hastily chosen because it was the last good week-end to profit from the wonderful colors of the autumn leaves. My french bride, a newcomer to the motorcycling world, was excited about the idea of going on our honeymoon on a motorcycle.

After a simple wedding ceremony in company of good friends, we took off on our pristine Virago 1100 for a wonderful week drifting on the Appalachian mountains. After that happy adventure, we vowed to always go on a motorcycle ride for our anniversary.

Since we arrived in France, four years ago, we only managed one day token rides on this date, we did have fun riding the lower Alps, exploring the northern coast of Brittany and last year, hunting castles in the Loire valley, where we now live, but this time we were going to try to repeat our first ride.

We had a little over a week off and my wife wanted to see a region of her country called the Black Perigord. This area is located about 100 miles east of Bordeaux. It forms part of a group of Perigords, the green, the white, the purple and the black.

The black area is a popular tourist destination because of the nice little medieval villages that lay along the river Dordogne, each one with her medieval castle. There are also some prehistoric troglodyte settlements so I was sure to ??feel at home?? there.

I had just sold my Triumph Trophy and bought a Virago 1100 of the same year as the one we rode when we got married. I insisted on "drifting." You just take off and "go that way" without worrying about schedules, places to be or things to do. The only thing we had to consider was the weather, as it's been a dreadful year in that department.

No worries about packing either. I announced that we would put everything into my green US Army duffel bag and strap it to the sissy bar with bungee chords, just like hippie bikers of the '60s used to do.

The week-end comes but we can't leave, at least not on a motorcycle. It's raining, in fact it has been raining for two weeks. I convince my wife to wait till Monday morning as the weather gurus promise an improvement.

Sunday afternoon I decide to pack the bike to see how that goes. I put most of our stuff into the duffel bag and strap it to the sissy bar. Then I realize this idea is not going to work. The bag sags and covers the tail light ... besides, it does not look as cool as in the biker movies of the '60s. I'm starting to panic.

I don't have saddle bags, and if I don't find a way to pack all this, we'll be going by car, an idea that my wife started to consider more and more as the weekend passed. But providence steps in and saves the day.

I spy a piece of luggage in the corner of the garage, one of those carry-on bags with wheels and an extensible handle, the ones everyone is dragging around at the airport. It just so happens that it has a sleeve that would fit perfectly over the sissy bar, if I remove the handle and wheels, thereby ruining it.

Luckily, my wife is gone to take "El Gato," the fat lazy old cat, to the cat sitter. Out comes the drill and in no time the frame is off, the bag easily slides over the sissy bar and the trip still on.

That evening, kneeling on the living room carpet, my wife and I pack the bag with the excitement of two kids going on summer camp. That same night, I mount the bag. I add a small rolled towel to keep it from rubbing on the fender, cover the whole thing with a trash bag and strap it with two bungee chords. The system is neat and water proof, and I can hold my gloves and scarf on the bungees. The only problem is we have been downgraded from hippie bikers to plain riff-raff.

Monday morning we get up without hurry, unlike other rides where I stress before leaving, this time I don't care, we're drifting, so what if we leave at eleven in the morning, no worries.

Despite the gloomy weather, I'm up beat, I decide the GPS and the maps will stay home. All I need to know is that I'm going to Bordeaux, then turn left on the A-89 and wait for the sign to Sarlat la Caneda.

I open the garage door and push the bike out. The farmland is covered by a thick, wet fog. I can't see very far. I observe the scenery as the bike warms up. It feels like a biplane is preparing to take off on a gloomy morning during the first world war.

The wife shows up. She's smiling under the helmet. We mount and we're off. This is the part I don't understand. What makes a couple pushing 50, get on a motorcycle on a day like this? It's cold, miserable, foggy, there's mud on the road from the tractors and it's so humid that it's almost like rain, yet we're happy to be on the road on a motorcycle.

I think it is the perspective. Yes, traveling by car is like riding in a submarine, protected by fathomless obscurity of comfort. One relaxes in the boredom of the sealed perspective, where surface woes can hardly bother the mind, entertained by distant voices coming from the antenna and quick looks through the tinted glass of the periscope, now and then "surfacing" at a gas station or rest area for a whiff of clean air and a quick look at the scenery.

As we, "surface skimmers," at the mercy of the weather, sit behind our handlebars grinning under blue skies or clenching our teeth in determination, when the heavy rainstorms hit us square in the face, and only under untenable circumstances, we seek refuge on the leeward side of the motel's parking lot.

In exchange, we get to be at one with nature, making the arrival to our destination, an almost spiritual experience. That's why you will find us, port side, in a cozy corner of our favorite hang out, exchanging stories of past voyages, eventually, putting some on paper in an attempt to share them with our distant brothers.

Yes, I think it is all about perspective.

I steer carefully around the runabouts. It's slippery, and I can't see much. Slowly we leave behind the familiar farmland and enter the highway. I love highways, trouble free traveling, good gas stations, efficient cruising speeds and here in France, immaculate road surfaces. But it comes at a cost.

You have to pay tolls on almost every highway. Another big difference from the US is that there's no advertising on the road. The only thing you see are road signs and signs telling you how far the coming gas stations are, and how much the fuel costs. I like it. You can watch the scenery and relax without being bombarded by advertising. The only problem is that you have no idea where the next hotel is, unless you did your homework before leaving or you know the area.

After paying the toll at the exit of the Nantes bypass, we're heading south on A-83, trying to settle in for the long trip. We travel in a halo of 400 yards. You can't see anything beyond that. It's so humid, my helmet visor is wet like in the rain. I can feel the humidity penetrating my leathers, as I stubbornly refused to wear the rain suit, after all it's going to get better no?

Read Part 2 of the story

More Wild Motorcycle Tales

More about motorcycles

Walter's Books:
Click Picture for Walter F. Kern's
Kindle, Paperback, and Audible Books

Walter's Audiobooks:
© 2014 Walter F. Kern. All rights reserved.