|Paul and I looking at MCN. I think I may have been laughing at the lack of gear-driven cams in the new VFR. And the last ones.|
Boarding the ferry after filling up was a simple enough process, I followed the car lines, stopped at the checkpoint and handed over my documents and passport, was given back the passport and 3 tickets (not unlike cinema tickets in their look) and was instructed to follow lane 9. At the top of the lane a guy in a hi-viz instructed me on where to go next but really I was just following the bike in front of me. I thought it was a BMW but actually it turned out to be an MZ Mastiff, the first time I had seen one in real life! I was extremely gentle with the bike along the slippery ferry floor and kept my fingers well away from the front brake but the ramp on to the second floor of the car deck was good fun. My next encounter however saw me struggling with the strapping to tie the bike down. In the online videos it looks so easy, a monkey could do it. And a monkey could. But I am no monkey and I failed! After asking the MZ guy if he could help me out, which he did, I thought I was in business but the strap just kept taking up more and more room on the ratchet without really tightening on the bike. To top it all off my personal sauna was now up to temperature. Sweating underneath the layers of bike clothing and attempting not to breath in the fumes of cars surrounding me, it felt as if I had installed a small furnace of sauna coals inside my suit with each drop of sweat sending steam flying in all directions. To say this was less than comfortable would be quite the understatement. Obviously struggling and, being the only one left, I approached the lady who was helping to load the ferry by standing about in a hi-viz jacket and chattering on a radio (perfectly legitimate work perhaps). She was less than helpful and not terribly enamoured with the feminism which had changed men-women relationships over the last decades. "I am woman, you wait for man to come". "Em, ok, thanks", and off I went to continue my personal sauna session. When a man did finally come along he saw that the strapping I was using was faulty and found me a new one before lashing the bike down in a gentle fashion, asking me along the way if I were happy with the position of the strap and such. He couldn't have been more helpful.
|Not a whole load of room...|
|Local bomb site after my "sauna"|
One tip I should pass on to others here is that, if you are on an overnight ferry, keep a seperate set of overnight gear in a plastic bag in the topbox so you can just grab that gear (jeans, shirt, jumper, shoes, washbag) along with your tankbag (documents, camera, reading material, some munchies). Grabbing that stuff I found my cabin, dumped my stuff and had a post-sauna shower (the shower was remarkably good!)
It was my first time on a ferry so everything was a bit of a novelty for me but looking back on it, it's not a bad way to travel at all. Looking at people carrying whole bed clothes with them from their cars made me think of the lengths we go to conform to airline baggage regulations! This was a whole other kettle of fish. After my shower I rang home to say a proper goodbye having not left on wonderful terms. A lot of it was my own fault, I had wanted to "get in the zone" to begin thinking of the long journey ahead and plan through it one last time in my head but everyone (all 3 of them) was very closely watching, questioning what bike clothing I was wearing when usually not an eyelid would be batted and I felt like I was not being given enough space to get myself ready. There had been a whole morning for the questioning and general curiosity, now was not the time for it. I thought about it on the ride to Rosslare and had decided a phonecall was needed to clear the air and it doubled as the first phonecall from the deck of a ferry as I watched us steam out of the harbour.
|Bye Bye Rosslare!|
Now it was time to go and explore the boat but I also had a few things to do, I had my route to plan over again, dinner to think of, the night sky to see, MCN to read and also some PhD books to read through. All was going well until just before dinner as the water became a little choppy. For most it would've been no issue at all but I was cursing myself for not bringing sea-sickness tablets and also becoming increasingly annoyed with the French schoolkids who thought that they had inherited a ferry and were now free to annoy everyone else. Then there were the small kiddies who were so excited at the prospect of being on a boat that they were running around between everyone and generally acting fearless. As my stomach churned a little and my head became light I felt more as if they were running on me, not around me. Thinking some dinner would fix this I made my way to The Left Bank brasserie, one of about four dining options onboard. Fish and chips for about €14 didn't sound as extortionate as it could have been but it didn't even come with peas. Maybe it was to stop excited kids throwing them at one another, or adults from throwing them at the staff due to having to suffer through a James Blunt album (yep a full album on the speakers in there...). Full, but not in a satisfied way, and not in a healthy way either, I retired to my cabin and lay down to watch a funny movie on the old heavy TV. The cabins are en-suite but the toilets flush like aircraft ones so there were times when a nearby toilet would flush but I thought, the first few times, that these were noises from the car deck. Visions of a VFR crushed up against a Ford Focus flooded into my head before I fiinally realised these were toilet flushes and the car deck was way too far down...I mean it'd have to have been a monster-truck destruction derby to hear it this far up the ferry. Funnily enough I had the best sleep I have had in a long time once the film was finished and I was after working out the source of the noises.
|Reading the VFR review in MCN near the table-service (expensive, very) restaurant on board.|
Another tip, keep your passport in your tankbag as you will need to present it to exit the port facility. The French police woman examined it, looked at me through the helmet (wonder how she could tell it was me?) and then waved me on. I was in. Or at least I thought I was. Having put the sidestand down, when I put the bike in gear it cut out...embarrassing!
Stopping further up the road, following some advice given by the good people at irishbikerforum.com, I pulled in to the roadside and watched the traffic to adjust myself to it. Mr MZ was there as well and we chatted a bit more before my insulation tape came in handy to fix his charger for the GPS he was using. Within the conversation it came up that he had ridden a 125cc bike to Mongolia with a group of friends a couple of years ago and it was being featured in an adventure bike magazine this month. It made my own journey seem all the more small. I took a quick picture and soon we were both on our respective ways.
Once I arrived in La Ferte Bernard I made sure to send my long-suffering girlfriend a text massage to let her know I was just minutes away. On the verrrry empty D3 road that I had taken to get me to LFB I had practicing my standing up and waving routine. Any farmers in the area that I failed to spot must have thought it very strange indeed but at this part of the journey I was both hysterical with excitement, full of amazement that I was actually riding in France, and struggling to keep in mind that most accidents happen near the destination as the mind switches to think of other things. Once the bike was parked and I made my way into the apartment these are the things that were stacked on the table for me...
|A few of my favourite things from the last time I was over|
I had become a real fan of Banania, baguettes and Speculoos the last time I was over, along with the rest of the pictures items. After riding 300 miles from my house to La Ferte Bernard it was a very good welcome present!
If you have read this far, thanks, and I hope you enjoyed it. I know this post had no real coherence to it really but it was a stream of thought/memories more than anything. Stay tuned to see if they improve...