Wheels, Tapas and Juntas (not FF)

FFers, Graham and Colin forsook the Ffaith and rode GS, and Duke to southern Spain, along with Mike (Tiger) , Steve(Crossrunner) and Tom (Varadero)

Still Here?
So – another year and we are still (just) on the EU membership list (see Last Hoorah 2018). But for how long - now the lunatics really have taken over the asylum.
For the moment, Spain is still welcoming, and we are getting fonder of it at each visit. Previous trips had shown much promise, and this one proved it was not all a fluke.
In order to lessen the impact of getting there, Tom (for it was his trip) elected to start with the Plymouth-Santander route and end with Ouistram-Portsmouth. Disaster almost struck early as the Pont Aven ferry was 3 months out of service after an engine room fire in April. The first long trip back in service was ours, so any delays would have impacted severely. No worries however; although slightly down on speed, she was ready for us; and to add to the pleasure, the dreaded Bay of Biscay was a flat calm; and the dolphins displayed for us, as we approached Santander. Perhaps speaking for the Spanish trawlermen, the routine must have been so long and thanks for all the Fish

The numbers of UK bikes aboard is significant, as a whole deck is allocated. We noted that most riders were of a certain age, although all sorts of wheels filled the deck. The oldies generally have higher disposable income for this costly hobby. Being on the lowest deck however meant disembarkation was delayed until the cars on the upper decks had moved. The late docking then meant we had to re-route to get to the hotel in reasonable time. This autoroute run was uneventful, and still in the flush of excitement of new land.

We never really got the right ordering mechanism for Tapas. More often than not, each person ordered separately, and huge platefuls of the individual choices would emerge in series. Sequential stuffing was therefore the order of the day. We don’t think it is supposed to be like that.

I have now worked out the road naming convention for the smaller Spanish roads (some would say about time too) The starting letters define the council, or Junta responsible for maintenance (CA=Cantabria; AV=Avila etc). Thus, road names can change if you cross a Junta line. (a bit like the D-roads in France, although there only the numbers change)

Motorcycling Heaven
Once we left the major routes behind and followed Tom’s backroads; the joys of Spain were very evident. Immaculate, deserted surfaces almost everywhere; High Sierras, with such a variety of curves flowing endlessly beneath the tyres. Perhaps interrupted every 40km by a pretty town or a properly manned filling station. You can keep your UK’s greatest roads. Believe me, we have nothing to touch these Spanish roads for motorcycling enjoyment.

Golden Slumbers
First night was a Parador – always a treat, especially if you can get the ‘Golden Years’ discount. They also pass on discounts if you link the Paradors together, but for the second night we had a deserted ex-monastery, which proved a good contrast (and no chants to wake us)
We have experienced magnificent walled Moorish towns in the past. Avila (second day coffee stop) and Ronda (our 3-day recuperation stop) - did not disappoint. See pictures under Touring.
Ronda is a good base for days out towards Gibraltar and Tarifa (most southerly point of Spain). Morocco only seems a stone’s throw across the straits, although we had much earlier decided not to cross, given plenty of choice on the Spanish side; not to mention the then and still uncertainly of the Brexit fiasco. It was however an inspiring view of the African continent.
If you come down to the coast, expect the perfect and deserted curves to change into hot motorway traffic or worse. This is therefore only really worth it, if you want to tick specific boxes We had put Gibraltar on our list, but it was not a pleasurable ride in the town. The routes there and back however made sure the day was memorable.

Total recall
To make these trips, we have to rely on our partners to issue a free pass to allow our escape. Occasionally things go wrong at home and a recall is necessary. So it was for me after Ronda and I did not make it across to Granada and up through France. (I left the bike in storage and Easy-jetted from Malaga); but it is a sign of an integrated Europe that such instant recalls are possible. To be fair, the first week had so many magnificent roads that I did not feel I had missed out. However, I have to hand over to others to finish the Moto19 story…….it got hotter !

The Organiser’s tale (Tom)

Best laid plans
The sightseeing day in Granada was, on reflection, a wasted day. We taxied to the Alhambra palace to find no tickets available; wandered back across town to the hotel. To think we could have been up the Sierra Nevada. Next day, escaped the city 8 am through the hills and forests. Stopped to confer about missing out the next town centre, then a small but very cambered new roundabout caught Mike out; resulting in the annual clutch lever shearing. Melting in the sun Steve and I returned to a quad bike garage we passed 10 mins earlier, but apart from suggesting the Triumph dealer 2 hrs back in Granada we couldn't get the guy to sell us any alternative fix. Back at the scene of the demise, Colin googled a Yamaha dealer 700 m away and after a bit of communication I brought him to the bike and he rode it to his workshop, where a fix was done. Photos on his wall told us he had been a works fitter for the MotoGP Yamaha team and a perfectionist. 2.5 hrs later we were gratefully on our way but confused by the town’s one-way system before watering down at a filling station and then enjoying traffic-free miles to Albacete. Here, our Parador is an oasis in an ocean of cereal crops, Steve made use of the pool before the usual late evening eats.
Next day saw us again on the byways enjoying a mini Grand Canyon with miles of harpins and superb blacktop. Forest and Embalse next. Heat again led to shortcuts off the planned route, before we were forced onto the main road north to a hot Huesca. Smart hotel with a busy small-city nightlife and street eateries to suit all tastes.

Hot Waters
Relentless heat now, going north over the Pyrenees via Eaux Chaud (!) , Pau ring-road to Cadillac before the Gironde vineyards and Libourne. Even I got in the pool this time!

Longest Day
D-roads dominated a varied route to Cognac, but resurfacing work around the bridge and traffic delayed lunch and pushed us north to Parthanay. When we did stop, it took forever, as the heat built and we drank our ice cream; before the afternoon shift of D roads bogged us down again around the Loire area. A missed junction In Sable-en-Sarthe rerouted us to the very useful D24 and an evening 3 hour run via Mayenne and Flers to the coast, for the usual pre-ferry-feed and late departure.

Some very big and testing days. Challenging varied routes, maybe too much for most days with the heat but always enjoyable touring. Hardly any traffic away from the main towns in Spain. Refuellers invariably welcoming, hoteliers the same. France more traffic and busier but still some great riding. Colin was struggling with the long-distance pace but made good use of a maybe not quite 100% suitable bike. The KTM seems great fun, the cracking performance and handling put us to shame till he tired of sprinting, then the long legs of the tourer endured. 10/12 hrs riding in a day wasn't what KTM had in mind, despite the 4-option dial-in styles.!
Spain is undoubtedly fantastic for touring. Maybe the Fly and ride option has a lot going for it. More time needed, or accept that, like France, you will be swallowed up by its scale. yes, you could short- circuit the tour by using the autoroutes or return on the same ferry, but it's the real riding that counts not the sitting down. So many views and vistas to drink in and with different roads there and back; it did not disappoint, I loved it ... even the rerouting but then I'm biased

The Newcomer’s tale (Colin)

A warm way down and a bloody hot way back, is what I will remember about Moto 19. An unforgettable 3000+mile trip with 4 similarly minded guys on an eclectic range of machinery, all of which gave a very good account of themselves. The journey did stretch me to and beyond my limits as a newcomer to long distance touring. With temperatures in the high 30's I was suffering badly with the heat. Mike thankfully pulled me in after I started to display some bizarre riding habits (more so than normal) I was going slowly and weaving badly. I struggled to get off the bike and was confused, this apparently was nothing to do with the cheeky red we had imbibed the previous evening! A rehydration and head bottle shower cured this catatonic state in short order.

Rock or Hard Place
All in all, there were relatively few incidents, but many, many Wow moments with face aching grins being the order of the day. These were mostly experienced during our brisk canyon carving on those magnificent Spanish roads. Tom’s amazing route had taken us to the heart of motorcycling Heaven, although we also found Hell on this same tour. It's called Gibraltar. Having last been there as a serviceman in the early 1980's, I had fond memories of a fairly idyllic lifestyle there, with ice cold G&T's being served on the veranda of the Sgts Mess, overlooking a peaceful garden and only the sound of the odd Monarch Airways Britannia spoiling the tranquillity. How it has changed. It is now a boiling concrete and asphalt cauldron with few endearing features. The traffic is nose-to-tail everywhere and the queues at the border are painful to experience as temperatures and tempers rise. Sadly, it felt good to see the Rock in the rear-view mirror.

Horses for courses
A brilliant trip with some genuinely good guys, some amazing roads and stunning views. It was a shame we lost, Graham who had to return home unexpectedly. The hotels we stayed in were very good and we met some lovely friendly people. My thanks to Tom, Mike, Steve and Graham, thanks for taking me on your tour as a guest. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Would I do it again? Maybe with a more appropriate bike. The KTM 790 Duke was brilliant on the twisties, but it was not so good on the long hauls. It also became more vibey the hotter it got. I would do it again but please can it be 10 degrees cooler?