Friday, 1 July 2011

Slow progress to Montargis

After breakfast I gave the bike a thorough pre-ride inspection and then headed north for Montargis, planning to call into Vichy and Nevers on the way. "The best laid plans," as they say . . . 

At the autoroute toll booth a few miles down the road, I discovered my right shoe was soaked in oil. Further inspection revealed that I had failed to replace the oil filler cap properly after the earlier bike check and now oil was spurting freely from the engine. Help!

Fortunately there was a parking area just after the booth so I rode over there and put the bike up on its stand to contemplate my next move. Things didn't look too rosy. I had (sensibly) arranged breakdown cover before leaving; unfortunately my phone was off, so I couldn't use the UK number to contact them to make arrangements to get the bike to a repairer. This looked like it could be an expensive mistake on my part. I explained the situation to a motorist beside me and he took up my case immediately (what a nice man!). He took me to a nearby office staffed by a woman whose job it was to deal with autoroute issues of these kind. Turned out she was a biker too and she did everything she could to help me avoid the cost of an expensive tow. Another good Samaritan.

She put me in touch using (her) phone with a Honda dealer a few miles away. The mechanic suggested blocking up the hole temporarily and riding slowly to the shop. If the oil warning light had not come on already, there was a good chance of making it to the dealership apparently. I thanked my helpers and considered how I might do a little Dutch Boy trick but without using my finger to block the oil hole. In the end I came up with a workable solution. I stuffed a short sock in the hole and used some more of my (magic) insulation tape to hold the sock in place. It worked and I trickled my way along the motorway for a few km and off to the shop. They didn't have the part in stock but recommended me to a motorbike scrapyard out in the wilds. Fortunately, your man at the scrapyard had the part and he filled up my oil too. All for 12 euros. As I left, I glanced over the dozens of bent and mangled bikes; I couldn't help shuddering at the thought of the human cost of biking mistakes.

Put my head down and cracked on quickly - I was half a day behind schedule with a goodish journey ahead of me. The weather was baking hot - a thermometer outside a chemist's in Vichy displayed 38 degrees. I could believe it. Then I met the most enormous traffic jam just outside Moulins on the road to Nevers. However, with the bike I was able to over- (and under-) take - much of this. Despite good progress, it took me an hour to carve my way through it all. Those I left behind must have had an unbearable wait before the jam cleared.
Arrived tired at the hostel around 9.30 pm. Again, it's a gorgeous building -  the Chateau des Seigneurs des Canals. It's a beautifully balanced house set in about an acre of walled garden. I loved it at first sight.
 I was given a room to myself on the ground floor overlooking the front garden. Again, a very pleasant and happy  arrangement.

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