30 September 2015

Bikers Loft - Overview

I can't say that I have ever stayed in biker specific accommodation before.  That's not to say I don't like the idea, it's just that anywhere I have been across Europe for the better part of 40 years, I have only ever been turned away from one place, and that was a restaurant in St Tropez! Generally, Europe is far more biker-friendly that the UK.

That said, the Loft is a good idea for a social event like we had over the weekend.  The place was full with different biker groups staying there.  As a former woollen factory it is on the edge of the village. From the loading doors on the front of the building that now act as windows to the bar area to the parking in the warehouse section, and the rooms on two sides on two floors.

Bikers Loft
In the centre, there is a strange looking adobe building that houses the showers, male and female.

It all works though.

28 September 2015

Bikers Loft 3

The last day.

After leading yesterday's run to Ypres, I decided to take a back seat, or a different place in the line of 8 bikes.

And so after a repeat of the previous day's self cook breakfast we packed the bikes and headed off. Aiming for Nieuwpoort aan Zee as the first stop. The plan to follow a canal all the way there to where it meets the sea at a huge marina.

I was bringing up the rear of the column and saw a sign like this one.

"No Motor vehicles"
After only one short section of the towpath/road.

We tried to alert those ahead but Cal and I were the only two not heading past this sign. We chose to turn left across a lift bridge onto the other bank, where Nieuwpoort was signposted 15kms away.

As we headed along we sounded our horns and waved at the "first wave" to no avail. Some miles further on their side came to an end. By then we were way ahead despite dropping the speed to 40.

We carried onto the first agreed waypoint in Nieuwpoort. Luckily a cyclist extracted them from their dead end and they arrived in three separate groups over a period of about 25 minutes.... Some frayed tempers. 

Once we had all been fed and watered Cal got to lead us to Adinkerke, where there is almost a "village" of cheap tobacco and alcohol stores. We had one small detour due to a road closed and I took the lead as I knew where we were. I led us to the coast road and TomTom agreed.

I really like this part of the Belgian coast. The sand dunes separating the road from the sea. They are so high you are unaware what lurks beyond them. And it is clean. 

In De Panne we had to follow the tram as the road is shared with them for some distance. Too narrow to have cars and trams with their own space unlike the open areas between towns.

At Adinkerke we visited the baccy shops and I bought chocolates for work and home.

Then I had a ride to look at the nearby war graves cemetery, but the approach was very muddy and waterlogged. The road was too narrow to turn Pepe around so I went around a rather long block, had I not, I wouldn't have found this Leopard tank on a small plot in the village.

Leopard Tank in Adinkerke

Leopard Tank in Adinkerke

Two Tanks....
I then returned to the baccy shop via the local gas station, where I had ended up chatting to a couple of Latvians about the bike. They were amazed that it is 2300cc.

From the baccy shop we split up into two groups. From leading I was relegated to fifth place. I had missed the conversation where it was decided what junction to leave the A16. Only as we got to the ferry port turn did I see the leading four had turned off. I led the "second wave" the way I know to the Place d'Armes where we were united again.

Calais - Place d'Armes

There was a minor bit of drama when David couldn't find his ignition key. After searches in the street it was eventually found, after several searches of his jacket and tank bag, in the hand warmer pocket of his jacket!!

Lunch was eaten. And then we set off for our 1715 ferry back to England.

A really superb weekend with a great bunch of "lads". A fine bromance though, it's not.

Thanks to Cal for organising the weekend.

The Meldrews were:

Cal Price 
Neil Dalton
Ian Gardner
David Robinson
Graham Reynolds
Frank Snow
Trevor Rice

And Me.

This is the map of today's ride from the Loft to the port at Calais.

27 September 2015

Bikers Loft 2

We were up reasonably after a latish night and the self cook dinner!

Breakfast is included in the room rate and is also self service as well as self cook. I'm not used to eating breakfast and so opted for the continental style rather than the bacon and eggs style! 

The rooms are pretty basic. I shared with Trevor and we had two single beds. A little re-jigging of the room ensured that there was a man-gap between the beds!

Early suggestions for the Saturday ride out had been to the Wire of Death. An electric fence that was built by the German occupation army in 1915 from the coast at Knokke to the German border, and just inside the Belgian frontier. It was to stop Belgians escaping into neutral Netherlands. 

Over the course of the war it claimed over a 1000 lives.

I can't tell you any more as we didn't go!!

In the end we decided on Ypres, only  30 miles away, instead of the best part of 95 away. We stopped for petrol at the local station. Although 100% automatic, it actually took overseas credit and debit cards.  The biggest deal was 95 Unleaded at €1.249 per litre.  The exchange rate the day before when I had got €100 in cash was €1.3480 to the £.  Making a litre well under £1 a litre when it was about £1.10 at home.

After a stop for tea/coffee we had a walk up to the Menin Gate.

The Menin  Gate

Indian Missing

The Meldrews
And then back to the Market Square and from there we decided to go into the Flanders Fields museum inside the Cloth Hall.

For the €9 entry fee it has to be the best military museum I have been into for many a year. Well laid out and stacked with militaria and history of the three battles on the Ypres Salient. 

The Cloth Hall

The Ghosts of the Menin Gate

A few of us spent so long in there that a few of the group managed to hog their way through a waffle or burgers outside.

The last-out crew went across to Ypres Burger, a not so fast food outlet.

Once all back together we set off for the Loft. Eight became six, then two threes as we split up. Reunited at the Loft.

Dinner has been for the regular attendees at a restaurant in Oudenburg itself. A walk of about 35 minutes. The food was excellent. The service was exceptional. A perfect evening with the group. 

Whilst we are out we missed the live band in the Loft, a three piece group made up of Japanese women. Apparently the weren't bad. 

Bedtime beckoned. 

On the way to the room I snapped these.

Honda CBX1000

Rocket 3 Touring

Harley of some sort!

25 September 2015

Bikers Loft 1

Packing Pepe (or Red Pepe to use his full name)  doesn't take too long. The panniers aren't that big. Enough for the weekend for one person. I might have to invest in a sissy bar pack in future!

The plan was to meet Trevor from the Meldrews at 3pm at th fuel station in Dover. I was a little late as the traffic was horrendous and Pepe is a little too wide to squeeze through. 

After a malfunction on the Sprint owned by Graham, another Meldrew, we were checked in and waiting to board the ferry at 3.30! A little early.

The crossing was smooth and once across in France I led the way with TomTom's assistance to the Loft.

Parked up in the Loft

More about the loft later.

We met up with the other Meldrews, eight in total for dinner and a few beers.

Day 1 ended with us already into Day 2 and bed.

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