After riding all the way along Route 66 in 2014, Alan and I felt that it was time for another road trip and so this time we took our own bike to Europe. The Harley Euro Festival in Grimaud, Golfe de St Tropez was our destination, but we thought we would do a bit of a tour as well. So we travelled through 7 countries (9 if you include Scotland and England).
The start of the trip took us to Newcastle where we got the ferry overnight to Amsterdam. On arriving we headed straight to Bastogne in Belgium as we both wanted to see the Bastogne War Museum. We arrived there on a Monday and did not realise the barracks were shut on a Monday and that the Museum had a last entry time, so we never made it to get in. We did however, walk around the town square and saw the statue of Anthony C. McAuliffe as well as the surviving M4A3 Sherman tank which took part in the 1944 WW2 Battle.
After one night in Bastogne, we headed for our next stopover in France, heading through Luxembourg to get there. We stayed at a Eurocamp in Besancon and it was great, out of the way and as it was the start if the season it wasn’t busy. The following night we had a planned stop near Lyon, but the weather was so beautiful, the roads were great and so we decided to keep going. It was at a petrol station north of Lyon in France that we met a group of American’s. Al always speaks to people that we meet along the way, after all HOG is one big family with a love of Harley’s in common.
The guys are stationed in Stuttgart and as well as being HOG members of Chapters in the States, they are also part of a motorcycle enthusiast group called the Stuttgart clan. These guys were also heading to St Tropez and after about a half hour chat we all shook hands and went on our separate ways. We rode 458 miles that day to arrive a day earlier than planned in St Tropez, the hotel had already confirmed they had an extra room we could have that night. The Americans told us they were also going to Thunder in the Glens this year and had not been there before. We said we would see them there.
On the Thursday night the weather was awful and so we got a seat in the Harley Bar and decided to stay put. After an hour or so, our newly made American friends walked in, saw us and came over and joined our table. We learned their names which are Garth, Dallas, Tod, Tilt and Rick. We also learned more about them and where they were from in America, as they were all from different areas. We all had a great night and said that we would look forward to seeing them all again. We swapped numbers that night as they were only at Euro Festival a couple of nights and weren’t sure we would catch up on the Friday. We said we’d keep and meet up at TITG so we could have a beer together. This time some of their wives were coming along too.
On leaving St Tropez, we rode up the coast towards Italy along the French Riviera. Places like Cannes, Monaco & Nice have absolutely beautiful scenery and with the sun beating down, it was gorgeous. Our next stop was in Savona, Italy. The locals were great and advised us where we should go to get the best pizza, they weren’t wrong either. Best Pizza I have tasted for only 5 Euros!
Leaving there we headed for Switzerland and experienced the most amazing views of the trip. Riding through the Alps was something that will always stay with me. We rode over the Simplon Pass, which is a high mountain pass (2,005 metres) between the Pennine Alps and the Lepontine Alps in Switzerland. We stayed at another Eurocamp in Susten for a couple of nights and although there were snow capped mountains around us, the weather was scorching. We had a great rest there over the two days as we were averaging between 200 and 250 miles each day.
The next stop was Germany for 2 nights. Travelling on the German Autobahn road was ‘different’ as parts of it have no speed limit at all. Quite scarey when you think there is nothing behind you for miles and then a car speeds past you!! Our first stop was another Eurocamp in a place called Herbolzheim near the Black Forest. Beautiful little place and we both wished we had spent an extra night there, but we had to move on to Cologne.
On route to Cologne, it started to rain and that was the first bit of bad weather we had to ride in. It passed after around 5 mins though. We did get some photos of the River Rhine when we were there but the weather stopped us from going too far.
Next day was the final leg of our trip back to Holland and Amsterdam, we spent two nights there in a lovely hotel and were able to do a wee bit sightseeing too. We went to the biker bars where we had some drinks and reflected on our trip, talking about things we would do differently the next time and wondering where we will go next year.
Back home I continued to keep in touch with the guys from Stuttgart. I had sent them photo’s of us all that were taken in France and was also sending Garth regular updates on TITG from the Facebook page and sending him links to the entertainment etc.
On the Friday night at Aviemore I got a text message saying they had arrived and would meet us after dinner. We were in the Cairngorm with friends when they all came over and it was great to see them again and meet Garth’s wife, Lisa. There were also other friends with them, Ben, Squirrel and his wife Tracy, and AC/DC. Another great night with lots of laughs and so we left for bed saying we would catch up tomorrow night and said they should come see the RPJ Band on Saturday night.
We met them in the Osprey Arena and listened to Toseland before RPJ Band. Music was fantastic, atmosphere was great and everyone was having the best time. I had asked Garth if he had bought a raffle ticket, which he had. Lisa had said that it took ages writing the address on it. I jokingly said he could have saved £10 as I was going to win it this year. Garth said it would be him that was going to win and when the raffle was drawn it was!!! So happy that the person who won the bike was our American friend who we met on the road a few months earlier in at a petrol station in France.
Every time we travel somewhere, we always make some more friends. Through social media sites it is so much easier to keep in touch long distance. These guys are our friends now and will always have a place to stay should they come back to Scotland, and they have said the same to us if we travel their way. I’m sure we will catch up with them again as we plan to go visit Stuttgart to see them in the future.
That to us is what being in HOG is all about. Making friends all over the world and knowing that you all have this common bond.
Susan Paterson, Dunedin Chapter