TRF:Hi Derek. It sounds like you guys had quite a trip away. What was the original plan?
Derek:The plan was that James Higgs, Pete Anstey, Mark Hobbs, Fraser Drake and myself would be meeting up at the monthly meeting of the Wiltshire TRF to set off on a 8 day trip taking in some of France's byways on our way to the Stella Alpina Rally in Bardoneccia in Italy
TRF:And so things didn't quite get off to a smooth start?
Derek:After weeks of planning and bike prep I felt everything was ready and set of to meet up with the others at our regular monthly venue in Devizes, a short run from home of about 16 miles.
TRF:Disaster. You must have figured it was game over.
Derek:It seemed like my trip was over and I started thinking about returning home, however the rest of the group and Wiltshire TRF had not given up just yet with several offers of loan bikes. James Higgs CRF250L - no luggage and would be a long way for the little bike Nick Robinson KTM 990 - too expensive and too big for my lack of experience with big bike trail riding And then James made a call to Carla McKenzie who offered me her CCM 450 which I thought would be the perfect bike for the trip. All I had to do was collect the bike and repack my luggage. A lift from helpful Wiltshire TRF members Marcus Frankham and Nick Robinson and the bike was collected and ridden back to the Fox & Hounds. Many hands made light work of repacking the luggage and Fraser and I made haste to the ferry in Portsmouth with about 20 mins to spare.
TRF:And so after all that you actually still made it, only 1 day late?
Derek:After a short ride on the Wednesday night and a good sleep in a budget hotel I rode on the motorways and toll roads on Thursday morning to meet up with the guys in Artenay, just north of Orleans. It was a great feeling to be there after so many set-backs, it felt like I had run the gauntlet to get here. This had been a trip I had desperately wanted to do for a number of years and had always struggled to make it work around my wife's work commitments so I was determined to make it as it was either now or never!
TRF:And the rest of the trip. Was it worth it?
Derek:The rest of the trip went well with only a few minor issues. The French byways were stunning and in very good condition. The temperature was in the high 20s, we enjoyed good food and great company. The mountain itself was impressive with spectacular scenery. We had to stop 200 metres from the summit because of last winter's remaining snow. The roads around lake Anncey were equally beautiful with miles of switch back corners leading up to stunning views, then back down into sweltering heat only to stumble across a great restaurant next to a swimming lake. It is a trip that I will never forget, more so because of the obstacles that I had to overcome and the tremendous efforts of all my friends. I would like to thank Carla McKenzie, Jim Cairnduff, Marcus Frankham, Nick Robinson, Joe for waiting with flashing lights, Fraser Drake for recovering my bike from the pub, Hagon Shocks for outstanding customer service, James Higgs for putting together the route, my travel companions Pete, Mark, Fraser and James, My wife for putting up with and encouraging me, and last but not least the TRF who brings all these people together, this is the true meaning of 'fellowship'.