BTBC Stella trip 2003 (through the eyes of a female)
I'm a bit of a girl. So, I was a bit apprehensive to say the least about travelling to Italy as the only female rider in an all male group. I was expecting a group of hard riding, beer swigging, macho blokes, who would probably take the piss and slate my riding, or even worse be patronizing (pre-trip opinion of course).
Although I have had my licence a few years and had a couple of bikes, I never really got the whole biking thing until I bought my new bmw 650 gs. I loved it from the first minute I took it for a test ride. I then had a moment of madness and decided to join the stella trip as a rider and not a pillion so here's how it went through my eyes.
WED 9th July. I mount my throbbing 650gs and set of fully loaded with make-up, hair dryer, straightners, iron, 5 pairs of shoes and numerous changes of day and evening clothes (well a girl needs here assentials doesn't she).
I arrive in Hull with my husband (Granville aka Gooliearse) and my dad (George) in tow for moral support. I introduced myself to a few of the blokes and found them friendly and chatty, though all looking at each others bikes and discussing where they had got all there extra bits and what difference they made to performance, (so no different to my usual girlie chats really). I was pleased to meet Fiona another female, and even more pleased to find she was a fellow scott.
Clarkey arrived a little late (as I've since discovered this is quite normal) but he does have a LOT to do apparently.
We are all sorted into groups then board the time machine destined for Italy, ok a big boat to sail to Belgium, then a ride through France and in to Italy. Although a time machine would have been preferable. On the boat we all met at the rear to have a drink and get to know each other. I was pleased to hear from Dave that another girl (Sabina) would be joining us in Italy for a few days. All this while Granville gets a bit too friendly with a gay couple!!! Brian and Colin who endeavour to convert him. I start to worry!
Eventually we all gorge ourselves in the eat all you can restaurant. After a few beers, and a few strange moves by some MIGHTY fine dancing police women, people start heading to bed for the long days ride ahead.
BELGIUM. I depart the boat and discover driving on the wrong side isn't as bad as I thought. It's a long slog down to the gay pensioner (9 hours), but well worth it. Sweating and knackered by the immense heat of the day, I cold shower and head down stairs to eat. Next morning we set off bright eyed and bushy tailed to bardo. The first junction we come to I realize right side driving is not as easy as I thought, I can't decide which side of the road to be on, but an artic coming towards me soon reminds me. Its not long until we are on good roads with lots of smooth bends (lovely), but then come the hairpins. Being a hairdresser you'd think I'd be used to them, but oh no, not this type. I think by the end of the trip and at least 2000 hairpins I'll be fine, but in truth, I'm still not used to them, but I think I'm coming to terms with that. By lunch we are all very hot and tired, the scenery so far has been amazing and I think I'm riding slightly better, though I'm still at the back of the pack. As I'm ordering lunch at the 5 sausage/ chip van, Clarkey comments that he's seen my dad go past. Granville trys to catch up with him but doesn't. We decide to split from the group in an attempt to try and find him. On route we find some fantastic roads, stunning views and even meet two fellow BTB.C club members, Blondie and Kim at the top of a pass. We carry on and as the climbs get higher and the hairpins tighter I become slower for the fear of riding off the edge (I'm not so good with heights) wrong trip to pick then really, what with all the HIGH passes. We don't catch up with dad until we discover him safe and well at the hotel. That night we all went out for dinner at Clarkey's fave restaurant and had fantastic pizza and pasta (well when in Italy). After eating we meet Sabina and discover not only had she flown to Milan, but she'd then hired a 650gs and rode up to Bardo to meet Dave, unfortunately he was tooooooooo tired!!!! She then encouraged Granville to start up the Gooliearse at 2am and scare the shit out of Paul and Carl in their rooms directly behind, what a top girl!
I spent Saturday in Bardo chilling, and was pleased I decided to ride down on my own bike.
Sunday 13th (my b-day) Stella day. I decide I wasn't confident enough to ride off road up the Stella, so went pillion with Granville. He enjoyed it immensely and Gooliearse made it all the way to the top, all be it with quite a lot off coughs and splutters not to mention a few near fall off's. I on the other hand felt battered, bruised and had a very sore bum, but the views and the atmosphere made it all worth while. Even though my dad dropped MY BIKE I was so chuffed and proud he'd made it to the top. The whole group sang happy birthday to me at the top and made me feel very special.
I decided to ride back down with the one and only Clarkey. After a long, slow, comfortable ride ( I try to please, PC) with fantastic conversation, we made it safely to the lake and had lunch. I was forced to watch as not 1 but 2 bollock naked men Allen and Mark P stripped and swam in the lake covering there modesty (of course) on exit. I mean we all know what happens to you blokes on entering cold water.
I return to the hotel with memories of a fantastic day, and very bad sun burn. what a great way to start your b-day.
At night Granville, Carl and Clarkey had gone behind my back and planned a surprise. Everyone on the trip was at the restaurant, I even had a birthday cake. We all got fantastically drunk and played on the childrens park outside the hotel. Maureen, one of the gay guys (colin) partners, had flown out to meet him along with Brians wife rabbit (they're not gay anymore) and we played on the shoot and swings, then all took a turn on the bouncy sheep (photos to follow hopefully). Once the hotel owner had complained twice and threatened to call the police we decided to call it a night, an amazing birthday I certainly won't forget. Thanks to all.
Next morning surprisingly I missed breakfast, didn't go riding and spent most of day in bed.
TUESDAY 15TH. We say bye to a few of the guys who are off home today (you should have stayed), we head off down to our next destination near Dronero. The roads are brilliant, my riding is improving and I'm really enjoying the trip. We spend the next two nights in a little place time has forgotten. A quaint little hamlet in the middle of some stunning scenery. Fab roads, amazing food (though at times I'm not quite sure what it was) and a great group of people, what more could you ask for. Except of course the fire flies that lit up the night sky like Christmas lights, a truly magical and very special place.
We vote unanamasly to take the same route back to Bardo we came on. I'm slowly getting the hang of these hairpins and I wouldn't have missed this trip for the world.
We have a quiet night back in bardo as we are up early tomorrow to ride back to the gay pensioner.
I decide next morning I'd rather live than ride the highest cable car in the Alps. the Aguille du Midi is not for me. Ian, Allen,dad, Granville and I decide to take the long scenic route over mount Bernard instead, here, I come over all girlie again and buy a puppie (a stuffed one of course) as does Allen. We meet back with the group at the cable car, which looked a dam sight higher than Paul said it was, and head back as a group through Geneve to the gay pensioner. I seem to have found a new confidence and I feel my riding has improved. I'm no longer at the back of the pack and I'm keeping up with many of the blokes. The ride back was fab, I was really giving it some and grinning all the way. Gay Brian (who is now back in the closet) made a comment on my riding and although only a simple remark it made my day.
The day of doom, the long motorway trip back to the boat. Personally, I didn't find it that bad as we had less stops and made good time. Apart from a miner oil spill from straight Brian, all went well. We arrived back at the boat in good time and parked up before claiming our rooms.
Everyone met at the rear again and having all bonded well over the 10 days, had agood chat about our trip. I did some girlie shopping for perfume etc, had a nice meal and made my way back to the bar where the vodka began to flow.
The singer was pretty dreadfull, but as she took off more and more clothes the atmosphere got better. We ended the night with Paul ( JohnTravolta) and me ( Uma Thurman) dancing to 'never can tell' pulp fiction style. Maureen, Fiona and I did try to break into the children's play area, but as we discovered we were being watched by cctv we decided not to bother. Maureen and Fiona did do some fab head stands and forward/backward rolls in front of the security man though who seemed quite amused.
We docked back in Hull the next morning and here endeth my tale.
I've had an amazing trip, improved my riding immensely and spent 10 days with a great group of people. The chaps weren't patronizing or macho although some beer was consumed, in fact they were very encouraging. The roads were fab and the scenery breathtaking what more could a girl want. The days are long and the nights are full of fun. I'll certainly return for more.
Thanks to Paul Clarke and the rest of the group for an exciting experience not to be missed.
So come on GIRLS & Boys, jump on a bike and join in the fun.
Love Linda x
Stella 2003 by Adrian Molloy
Wow! What a brilliant trip and "it we're reet waarme" as Paul Clarke would say. I thought I'd approach this write-up as a useful guide for first timers. I have been biking for 30 years but this is my first time abroad on a bike and my first trip to the Alps. Last year on holiday I made friends with a guy who has been biking abroad for years. This wet my appetite and by chance I found the BTBC web site when I got back to the UK. The Stella looked great and previous write-ups meant I was hooked. So I sent my deposit off in September 2002 and my name is first on the list after Paul and Karl.
I then had to find a suitable bike as I my then current bike was a 250 GasGas Enduro. I avidly read all the write-ups and after a couple of test rides decided on an Africa Twin. Mainly because at 5'8" it seemed to me more manageable and there are loads of useful tweaks and tips on the web. Then just when I had the money no decent bikes for sale anywhere. After a 5 weeks on the internet I finally found a 1998 XRV750 for sale in Cambridge, a quick test ride one wet November night and the bike was mine.
The BTBC trip truly is excellent value for money but the costs don't just stop with the Ferry ticket and Accommodation. In my case new fuel pump, crash bars, Goodridge brake hoses, brake pads all round, new chain and sprockets, new Metzler Enduro 4's, oil change, plugs, major service, top box and tank bag. Even shopping around and doing the spanner work myself leaves no change from £600.
The best tip of all was Paul advising me to get a Motorcycle Jacket and Trousers with removable waterproof linings and plenty of air vents. On the Stella trip in 2003 the weather was so good that I never needed the linings and the air vents were a godsend in the blazing heat. It was hotter than a very hot thing from the planet boiling. I ended up buying a set of Hein Gericke Tuareg, which kissed goodbye to another £xxx. Still at least I could dispose of my leaky old Jacket bought in a Carnell sale. I wanted a ride out with BTBC before the Stella and managed to get on the Cotswold trip, which was a good introduction, if a little wet.
As I had never undertaken a holiday like this before I made a detailed list of everything I needed. I'm not into lists but in the mad rush to tie up loose ends before leaving work it really helps. In the end my topbox was about half full with clothes. The rest being waterproof inners, waterproof outers, spare gloves, tools, spares, inner tubes, spare fuel pump (Well it's an XRV innit), bungies, bit of rope, first aid, toilet bag. etc. Fortunately during the trip all I needed from this list was a bottle of CO2 to help reflate Brian's tyre.
Tip: Don't forget Passport, Driving Licence, Insurance Certificate with Green Card cover, V5, Medical Insurance (& E111, PC), Vehicle Recovery, Euro's, Credit Card and Camera.
Two weeks before the off I contacted Mark Piercy from the Stella list and arranged to meet him on the way up through Lincoln. Mark is a great bloke, nice house, lovely wife but his Yamaha Superten is erh! humm! how can I put it. If Dell ever buys Rodney a Big Trail Bike to go with the Reliant Van this could be the one. It's 15 years old with one not very careful owner and shed loads of history. But then Mark got to the Alps and back for the umpteenth time and for much less than I spent so maybe I'm a mug.
Mark lead me on a great ride through the Wolds and we sat at a café supping coffee and having a chat while everyone else was baking in the sun in the car park outside the ferry terminal. Suitably refreshed Mark and I finally set off for a trip round the Hull road works, a quick refuel and into the terminal 10 minutes before Paul arrived. Well done Mark, I felt like a pro Stella traveler already. Mark and I later found we also have a very similar taste for bizarre bands from the prog rock era. (BTO - You ain't seen nothing yet). Thanks again.
Imagine my surprise to find two other White/Red/Blue Africa Twins on the same trip. Never seen one before I bought mine. Altogether the bikes were 4 Africa's, 2 Supertens, one Varadero, 4 BMW650GS's, one airhead R1000GS, one R1100GS and the rest were R1150GS's a few being Adventures. (The Adventure Pilots are the one's that keep going on and on and on and on and….. about their huge tanks and their enormous staying power. They obviously like something large and exceptionally wide between their legs. Handy if you want a curved wallpaper table). My favorite bike was Granvilles super-tall Superten in deep blue Gouloise colours. Looked good and the exhaust barked like a rabid desert racer, trouble is it ran like a rabid dog at anything over 1000' in altitude. Sounded great in a tunnel as did Colvin's Varadero with twin Remus Cans. Granvilles bike became affectionately know as the Gouli-arse.
Made a few new friends and passed the time before the Paul, the big man himself, turns up with Karl Blackburn on 2 more R1150GS Adventure type things.
On to the ferry and then lash down the bikes with the rope provided. It was about 45 degrees C in the hold, very cramped and we all had a good sweat on by the time we made the top of the stairs. Karl and I were sharing so we set off to find the cabin. A quick change and then a drink in the bar as Karl had bagsied the shower.
Tip: Make sure what you need to take with you is in your removable luggage. My clean undies and socks were in the Topbox left on the er! bike.
I would guess 2/3's of this group of Stella trippers were first timers with about 1/3 having been before. I used this time at the bar and during the meal to make acquaintances and find out as much as I could about the days ahead. Paul, Karl, Mark and Jim Dobson were all really helpful and great to chat to about all things Bike and Stella. I think everyone in the party went for the £15, eat as much as you like meal. We all made friends and stayed together well as a group throughout. The Ferry gives you a chance to work out what the other Stella trippers were interested in doing. I was looking for some fast road work in the mountains and plenty of off-road. Some wanted Gentle trail riding, some no off road, some just to chill out in the mountain air. Helps work out who you want to be riding out with during free days.
The ferry was fairly full and there was a cabaret and a disco. The main entertainment turned out to be a group of large middle-aged women dressed in wigs and police uniforms who hogged the dance floor. Only fat truck drivers, the very brave or the totally paralytic ventured on as a result.
During the evening Paul whispered to me something about Karl having a delicate snore like a women and not to be put off. Well Karl's snore is definitely on the Bulgarian Weightlifter side of the fairer sex, but only for the first 30 minutes. So I had a reasonable nights sleep and we were up and breakfasted in good time for the off.
Back to the cramped but cooler hold. Unlashed the bikes and then down the ramp and off the ferry to congregate. As Paul and Karl smoke about 100 fags a day there are usually plenty of chances to stop and regroup, which with 20 + riders is no bad thing.
On to the motorway and fairly sedate motoring through the rush hour, over the border into France and on until south on Lillie.
Tip. Karl advised to use a visa card at the Toll booths. Saves time and not all the bills get through to your statement. It worked for me.
Paul's system of the second man dropping off at every junction to be picked up by the last man worked well. During the ride down you get a chance to suss out the other riders, find out who you don't mind following and who you don't want to follow. My worst incident in the week was when the bike in front of me pulled out to overtake a lorry, slowly drew along side and then rolled off the throttle. This completely surprised the driver of a Landcruiser who was bearing down on me. He braked really hard and just about kissed the back of my top-box.
Tip: Buy a Camelback or some other system for drinking on the move. We all drank around 3 litres of water a day. I've had kidney stones and believe me you don't want them so drink loads.
Once on the Peage speed picked up and we spent most of the day between 70 and 85 with fuel stops at 100 miles and fag breaks at every toll booth, cats eye, lamp post….. The 650's did really well to keep up. At times my XRV did really well to keep up. It was hot and the weather got warmer and warmer as we went south. The French Autoroutes are so much better than our clapped out motorways. Virtually no roadworks, super smooth tarmac, clean service stations, cheap fuel and not too much traffic. The day started to drag on a bit, I think we all felt knackered in the early afternoon spell.
Eventually we turned off the Autoroute and on to some wonderful roads up to Les Rousses. The road starts to climb into the Alpine foothills and the bends come thick and fast. Having spent hours on a mind-numbing motorway the senses need a wakeup call. Mine came following Karl past 3 cars into a tightening bend in a narrow rock gorge. I was able to find just how hard a fully loaded Africa can brake round a sharp right-hander on a poor road surface when cranked right over. Just made it. Great fun though. The scenery becomes stunning. As we climb up to over 3,000 ft start seeing ski lifts, even a ski jumping facility and then we pull into the Gay Pensioner hotel. The setting just does not come across in photo's, in reality it looks like something from the Sound of Music. Can't believe we are in France and not Austria.
Karl and I shared again. Nice room, was all wood paneled like a big sauna. I had a quick shower a few drinks and a chat before the free meal. Met Tim from Guernsey on his KTM Adventure and Bob from Barcelona on his GS1000 airhead. Both had made their separate ways to meet up with us.
Friday morning, breakfast and remove the bikes from the locked garage. Off again straight onto great roads. Paul pulls a monster wheelie to get us in the mood. Stop for scenic view of Geneva. Down hill to Geneva Lakeside for photo's. Through city and out to the start of the Col de Columbiere at Bonneville. My first Col. Couldn't wait. I'd already decided to follow Jim Dobson. A great choice, Jim is fast and smooth on his GS1000 Airhead and gave me a great lead out up and then down the far side with a chance to glimpse the odd bit of scenery. Huge vertical rockfaces all the way up made this a spectacular ride for a mountain Col virgin like myself. As good as my first ever circuit of the TT.
Tip: What's a Col? Its like your best ever UK biking road with the addition of a 5,000 foot rise in altitude and 13 extra hairpin bends up to the top and exactly the same in reverse down the other side. All set in stunning scenery.
Then on to Col de Aravis. By which time we were much more split up. Stop for a break at some spectacular setting.
Stopped at Beaufort for lunch, well all except Linda's dad who ended up having to make his way to Bardo solo. I guess someone was lurking in the shade at a turning and the turn was missed. What a spectacularly superb place Beaufort is. A ski resort with quaint Hansel and Gretal type lodges. I am definitely going back to there for a holiday. Had Sausage, chips and mayo at the frittery in the cool 35-degree heat and then back on the bikes up past a Dam and on to our first unmade road.
Climbing high, loads of 180 hairpins. Some of the group were a little phased by our first off road. Not surprising really as big traillies, loaded with 10 days kit, on an unmade mountain pass is a real challenge if you haven't been off road much before . Tim Marquis started to move through the riders on his KTM Adventure and I followed. We thought it was great. Sorry about the dust we made.
Next the Col de Telegraph and Col de la Madeline which is gorgeous. Fantastic stuff. We stopped at the top of Madeline. I saw my first Ducati Multistrada and had a chat with the ride and his wife in pigeon French. Then Friday afternoon went a bit pear shaped. Rider already missing, Brian picked up a puncture, delays, puncture re-appears, group split in two, petrol station out of fuel, Bob playing chicken with a white van. Result was a lot of waiting around and we had to take the shortcut through the long tunnel to Bardonneccia. Paul coped with it really well.
Arrived at our Hotel around 7 pm ish. This time I was sharing with Bob and Tim. Accommodation here was more basic but heck I'm in the Alps with my bike on holiday. We three got on great all week. Beer, meal, beers and bed. Tim and I slept with earplugs for the rest of the week.
Sabina arrived independently on her hired F650GS. On Saturday Alan Mitchell had offered to lead on some trail riding. About 10 of us set off to Sestriere where a 27km trail runs through the Mountains. Unfortunately there was a big motorcycle Trials competition on and the start of the road was blocked so we forced to join half way along. Had a good long ride, more fun without all the luggage. Lunch was at a street café and we had to disperse to park up.
After lunch by the time I'd got my kit on and fought the Spyball Alarm to get the bike going the others had just left. I was further held up at a red light and basically I could not find group on the road. Bummer as I ended up not doing Mt Jafferau. But I still had a great time. Back to Sestriere by road up one side and down the other. Fabulous for serious scratching. Dice with a Maserati coming out of Cesana before we hit traffic and I flew past. Up to Col de la Florete a big wide pass, very scenic. Got zapped by an R1 and an MV F4 on a straight. The MV then bottled on the first tight corner, sat-up and braked hard as a cruised passed on the inside. Good fun.
Floret is wide and fast and goes through several ski resorts. Super smooth bends and has a number of tunnels. As the Blues Brothers would say: I'm doing 70 mph, I've got a full tank of Gas, I'm in a tunnel, it goes sharp left, its suddenly dark-very dark, I'm wearing sunglasses and I think I'm on the wrong side of the road.
Got to foot of Col de Galibier but it was closed for the Tour De France the next day. Had an ice cream and took in the view. Great run back. Warning signs said Danger Overbanding Slippery in High Temperatures. They weren't kidding. I overtook a Renault Megane on the outside and both wheels started sliding wildly on the stuff. Glad I'm used to off road.
I tried to find a short cut back but my map was too big a scale. Ended up going up and up and up a goat track near La Salle. In the end I gently laid the bike down on a very steep 180 switch back, clutch in engine running in true TRF fashion, so technically not an off. A bit silly being up there on my own, won't do it again. Back through Briacon and it started raining heavily for 2 mins, enough to turn the roads into skating rinks and the white lines like butter on top. Only 11 miles from Bardo on GPS but takes about 37 great miles by road.
Tip: Buy your large scale "Military" Maps on Saturday morning before you ride (ask Paul). Dooh!
A yellow Ducati Monster burned past me on a dual carriageway. Quite a shock. Never seen a Monster ridden fast before. I was doing 85. Back home for tea and tiffin. In fact 8 of us went to a pizza place and it took 3 hours to get 1 beer and 1 pizza each. But then were in Italy. Actually compared to France I think the Italian side is a bit shabby. Loads of run down, unpainted buildings but the great mountain scenery is the same.
Sunday is Stella day. For 48 hours hundreds of bikes have been too-ing and fro-ing passed the Hotel. The bikes just keep on coming.
Tip: Wots the Stella then? Well basically turn right out of the Hotel and stop at the top of the hill. In this case Mt Sommeiller. The event is run on the same Sunday each year, it's called the Stella Alpina and has been going for 30+ years.
The Hotel is at 3,000 feet. Out of town the route rises up a very narrow hairpin strewn road. At 4,000 feet the tarmac gives way to a sand and rock covered track. Climb another (yes another) 5,445 feet up this amazing trail and voila you've got to the top. Paul stopped for a re-group near the start of the off road. He led on. I set off a while later. Tim came past and I followed. Mile after mile, hairpin after hairpin up and up and up and up until Paul, Tim and I rode up to the Refuge line astern. The riding is fairly easy, no rock steps, no gates! But real height, massive drops, boulders, big rocks, some deep sand, a little snow and loads of other nutters in the way or coming the other way. Tossers on crossers, quads, a Skoda Favia at 8,000' for godsake! A bit like Sea level to twice the height of Ben Nevis off road in one go. Then there's the truly awesome view. We all made it even the coughing Supertens. A bit disappointing to find all manner of road bikes up there but some take 3 times as long to arrive, paddling all the way. Top marks to everyone who made it. Big respect to the pillions. Girls you must be mad or much braver than me.
Got Badge, Teashirt, can of drink and a sandwich. After a bit of team bonding and a group photo we set off down. I was cautious at first but soon got going. Saw the Monster from the day before doing 1 mph and roosted him. Overtook loadsa bikes. Really exhilarating stuff. The other Mark came passed on his 3 week old Adventure and parked it on its cylinder head at the next hairpin. I think Mark, Tim and I were first down to the lunch stop at the lake. I had intended to watch the Tour De France in the afternoon but it was so very hot. None of us did much other than hang about, chat and paddle in water.
After a couple of hours back off to the Hotel. This time I caught up with Mark picking his Adventure up from it's resting place up against a 4x4. No real harm done thankfully. I started getting brave and was sliding the back into every hairpin bend and then wheel spinning away. My Africa Twin ran like a dream and felt so light sans baggage. Parked at the Hotel and bought 3 beers for Me, Tim and Bob. I think we mostly hung around. I had a quick ride up to see the famous "Jellystone" actually the Col de L'Echelle then back in the cool evening air. Then more beer, food and sleep.
Monday Paul took us all out for a run. Over Jellystone to Sestriere (again for me!, don't get me wrong this road is so good). I had the pleasure of following Paul on all the fast stuff. Paul is so smooth and economical and quick. I was revving the nuts off my XRV in places to keep up. The BMW's have a much bigger midrange. Paul also has big respect for blind corners and takes a wide line to give him best view of the road ahead. Back up the off road track we had done on Saturday but this time a different way and in low cloud. Visors, bikes and kit got really mucky in the wet dust.
In evening we had our very own coach to take us to Briancon for the Bastille celebrations, saw some Marmots on a golf course on the way. Briancon is a beautiful walled town with lots of history which Paul explained. Shame but no fireworks as the land around was tinder dry. Had another good meal as a group and ended up watching a band play mostly Spanish music to celebrate the French Revolution - Weird! A good night out, although I did not like the coach trip back in the dark. With all those Alpine bends, it felt like a slow never ending roller coaster.
Tuesday regrettably I had to leave early and miss out the trip to Mamora. I had arranged to come back with Karl and Colvin. Karl led the way and we did Col de Galibiere (my favorite, boy you need a head for heights for the tarmac to the very top). The Madeline again, still stunning. This time there was loads of slippery overbanding fresh after the Tour de France. I swear I got wheelspin in 3rd at one point. This was the hottest day of all. Karl got slightly lost and we ended up doing a section of the Rhone valley, a superb long stretch of winding road through a deep gorge, like a mini Grand Canyon. The whole day was a superb blast. Karl is also great to follow, fast and smooth and when the mood takes him he will overtake anything anywhere! We found an Ibis Hotel. Nice room with Colvin, good food, my turn to snore, sorry. Up in the morning and a steady 80-90 mph up to Northern France where I waved good-bye and turned off for the Dunkirk ferry. Mostly lorries, just one car and 7 bikes. I met a chap on a new Aprilia Tournado?? We recognized the Stella dust on each others bikes. He happened to be staying in Bardo found out about the Stella and just rode up. Took him over 5 hours up and back. And he thought the guy on the 998 going up as he came down was mad.
Back to Dover and back to reality for me, expensive fuel and the crap concrete section of the M20 in heavy traffic. An hour and a half and I'm home on the edge of the Fens 21' above sea level and not a hill in site let alone a mountain. I've decided I want to move to the French Alps, maybe I will one day. After this holiday the Lake District and the North York Moors will seem so naff.
Overall it was a great trip. I really enjoyed it. My Africa Twin ran perfectly. In fact most of the bikes on the trip ran well except the Supertens at altitude. Altogether between us we had one puncture and one lost chain link. Scott had a big problem when he cracked the sump of his BMW Adventure managing to not jump the rain channels in Jellystone (Big Tank full of fuel?). Bob also had an off in Mamora, but we all got home safe and well in the end. Modern bikes make these long expeditions so much easier.
A great big thanks to Paul Clarke for organising everything so well and to everyone else for making it such fun.
I'll be back.
Hopefully we are all home safe and sound after a stunning trip in fabulous weather.
We've hardly troubled the breakdown services and all the bikes made it home with only a few extra bruises. I see we can't leave you lot to play for two minutes without getting into trouble and hope Harry,Mike,GS and TDM are recovering.
Thanks everyone for your friendship, it's been a great group and a terrific holiday and honestly there was snow last year !!
Big thankyou again Paul.
ps Last week at this time I was swimming in the lake halfway up the Sommeiller.
A Big Hi to all the Stella Crew, Glad to hear that we all made it home OK.
Many thanks to you all for making it such a great trip and in particular PC for his organisation and local knowledge. I've promised to do a write up of sorts and that will follow.
A big THANK YOU to all the great people on this years Stella.
As my first BTBC outing it was truly fantastic. Amazing scenery, great roads, friendly people and a very well organised and run trip - Well done Mr Clarke, but quite how you managed to organise the weather is something of a mystery. . . !
Thanks again to one and all for making me feel part of the group, got the photographs developed, I will get them on the web as soon as I get a chance.
ps - Jim, your a fec**** b*ll***s and varaderos can go off road.
Greetings fellow Stella bikers, A big thank you from me to everyone for a great trip. Superbly organised by Paul Clarke.
This was my first time abroad on a bike. Great Roads, amazing scenery, challenging trails, constant sunshine. A special thanks to room mates Guernsey Tim and Barcelona Bob. Also big thanks to Jim Dobson for sharing his Stella knowledge. I didn't even bend the XRV.
I've sorted my photo's out and I have 55+ digital pictures including some video clips. I'll send a CD to Paul in case he wants to include some on the website. If any of you fellow Stella bikers want a copy email me your home address and I'll be happy to put a CD in the post.
I had to leave a few days early and had a great ride back with Karl and Colvin. A big thanks to Karl for leading us back the er! nearly most direct route. The Rhone valley blast was well worth the detour. Glad to hear that the rest of you had a good time in Mamora.
I've nearly finished a write-up and I will email it to PC. Thanks again PC for the smooth organisation. Good fun and good value for money.
I'd like to go again next year and do the Mamora trip which I realy regret missing.
The Gooliearse has landed! Thanks again to P.C for a fabulous trip. Thanks also to all the people who went and made the trip so good. Linda's birthday will be remembered for a long time. Top roads. Top scenery. Top weather.
Going back to work is a bit of a pain, but need to earn the money for the next trip. Hope everybody got home safe and sound. See you soon.
Hello to all the Stella travellers.
Just wanted to say to Paul and everyone else. Thanks for making it all such a laugh. Made it back to Barcelona with the JB weld holding up nicely, almost without brakes and with a few other bits missing in action. But otherwise tired and happy. Hope everyone else made it back fine and had a great time.
Cheers, B Bob.
Hiya Chatty & all, Yes I made it to the Stella OK on a new (2nd hand) bike and what a trip it was - fabulous.
Will do a write up later just to make you jealous!
Catch you later - I need some sleep,
Home it is then, but I have to say, I could have managed another week or so, no problem (but don't tell the wife!).
What a fantastic trip it turned out to be. Doing this trip with such a quality group of people has brought back to me why I started it all in the first place. All faces, old and new made the Stella 2003. A really nice bunch of people, set on nothing more than enjoying themselves on and off the bikes, fabulous.
Firsts for me this trip included: not having to ride or drive back from Briancon (the coach is definitely the way to go).
Doing a John Revolting impression with Linda on the ferry.
And at last, making it up the Aiguille Du Midi (a must do assent for anyone with a head for heights).
I'd like to thank all who made this such a special Stella for me. Can it be beat!? It won't be easy I'm sure. But rest assured I'll do my best for 2004.
More on the site as I get it.
Thanks again. Paul C.
ps, hope you got the job Colvin ;-)
First of all thanks for making the mad cow from Bavaria feel so welcome after she gatecrashed on her hired F650GS Friday evening in Bardo. [Sorry for waking everyone up at 2 in the morning but you know 'IT'S ALL MY FAULT']
And yes, the weather, the bike, the ride, even the falling off the bike (thanks Jim for being my Guardian Angel), and of course the 2 o'clock in the morning childrens' play area session on Linda's Birthday made this trip more than worthwhile.
Hope to see you all at the Coast to Coast and that you had a safe biker's season so far.
Sabine (still riding an XT600 but seriously thinking about getting an F650 after the Stella)
Rather than write about the whole trip, which of course was excellent , I'll give an account of the first Saturday - a 'rest day' on the itinerary following the two days ride to Bardonecchia.
Having been the year before I was well impressed with the trail from Sestriere to Susa, some 30+miles of easy trail reaching over 8000' with spectacular views, finishing with one of the best series of hairpins in the Alps. So 12 of us set off to Sestriere ( a modern ski resort ) only to find it totally taken over by a major motocross event with all the trails closed. It's bad enough going round in circles being hot and lost but to do it with 11 bikes following you was a bit too much.
Anyway, we regrouped, consulted the map and Dave Jones led the way to Balboutet where we were able to join the trail for the last 10 miles or so down to Susa, including the hairpins. After lunch I mentioned the 'Tunnel' on the way up Mt Jafferau ,again from last year it was not too difficult to get up to the tunnel, go through it and down to Savoulx. Some of the group decided to head back to Bardo' and we managed to leave Adrain in Susa and lose Mark on route. So with Dave leading ,Tim, Colvin, Ian and I headed upwards. However, instead of going down once we had been through the tunnel we continued upwards to Forte Jarreraue on the the top of the mountain ( over 9000').
There was one 'difficult bit' which we all managed to get over, Colvin making the point that a Varadero was not meant to be here and claimed the world record at over 9000' - this only lasted 24 hours as he went up the Sommeiller the next day. Anyway the map showed a track down from the top of the ski lift but on seeing it we sent Tim on to check how difficult it would be and on his advice we decided to go back and find another route down. This meant negotiating the 'difficult bit' again and the Photograph shows the result.
It's hard to put into words the 'fun' we had in getting my bike back on the track, the whole incident being priceless ( well probably about £ 500 off the value of the bike ) and as Paul said, if you are going to come off be lucky !! The photograph doesn't show how high we were and how close the bike was to tumbling down the mountain, It would have been an interesting one for the breakdown insurance. We all know there is a bond between bikers but if you add big trail bikes and mountains into the equation you get something really special.
The eventual route down the mountain was uneventful and we all returned to Bardo for a well earned beer.