I like to prepare for a trip and usually lay my riding gear out the day before to look for any defects. So this was a job for Friday. We were both home as the night before we had been to see Deep Purple at the O2 in London, getting home in the wee small hours.
Claire then had provided the extra hands it takes to adjust the Skidmarx windscreen. Loosening off most of the fittings needs a pair of hands to hold it in the right place, and another to tighten the bolts and Allen bolts. In fact I did the holding as the new position meant my hands were too big to get into place to tighten up the lower mounting points.
Once completed, I was almost ready for the run to Belgium the next day.
I had everything laid out for a 7.30am start but as usual I had forgotten some things. The alarm went and Reggie was up wanting to go out. After a night on the bed he needs his "garden break" before his breakfast.
I double checked the Givi tankbag. All the bike's documents and a spare key were in place. Passport and printed ticket in my jacket breast pocket. What else? Oh, small wallet with Euros! And spare spectacles.
It was about 0725 when I rode off. I filled the tank in Hythe and then headed up to the Channel Tunnel to meet my Meldrews club mate, Cal Price. Luckily it is only about 5 miles from home and traffic was very light. I chose a manned check-in as it is usually quicker. And it was.
Meeting time was 0800 so for one of those rare times I was early and first to arrive.
I was just locking the tank bag and stuff away in the saddlebag when Cal arrived. It was already quite cold and the gold glow of the dawn had already gone. Now it was grey but clear. All the portents of a cold dry day.
We had time for a coffee and then headed off to the border controls. British police and border agency looked at passports. The French office was empty. Maybe this should have been a warning.
It's probably easier to get through now as everyone has to fill in online the Advanced Passenger Information form. It has been a requirement when flying to the US for some years but started this year for the Tunnel.
With five trains an hour instead of the published four our booking didn't really mean the specified train, but we were quickly loaded along with a couple on a 1050 KTM.
I always take a photo on the train or ferry. Ritual I guess.
Once across we set the controls to 70mph, and we were away eastwards along the A16.
The screen adjust has made the ride quieter although there is still some wind noise but less buffeting. It also means that I can maintain a higher average speed!
After the terrorist attack in Paris on 13th November, security has been increased, and that manifests itself with French borders being closed and controlled. The A16 was no exception.
We joined the back of what turned out to be a five mile queue to the last junction before Belgium. We slipped down the side of the traffic until a couple of trucks blocked us off. After a little waiting I cut through the traffic to the hard shoulder (emergency lane) but Cal was blocked by an official van. I waited before the point all the traffic was made to go off for him to catch up.
We couldn't see our way back onto the motorway so we ended up going through a village to the "old" pre-motorway route along the canal. Here the French post was manned by more troops. The Belgian post is about 400 yards away and unmanned.
As this took us past the Adinkerke tobacco shops and we decided to drop in rather than leave it until the way home. I bought 500g of mixed truffles at the attached Leonidus shop.
We rejoined the motorway for the last forty or so miles to Ostend.
On the run along the road into town we discovered a road closure due to a big hole in the road.
At the velodrome we found only a few bikes in the parking area and some hardy souls with their tents alongside the marquee.
My fingers were cold and I was hoping that my spare Belstaff waterproof gloves would be warmer on the way back home.
It was here I discovered I had forgotten a hat. When you have more skin on top than hair, a hat is a definite plus.
In the end my Oxford neck tube doubled up made a hat. Maybe I should get one of those outlaw bandanas that my brother favours?
It was worth a selfie.
My ears seem to have gone too!
The velodrome is no longer in use and part of it has become a skate board park. The graffiti level looks to have increased.
We had a look around the parking and took a few pictures and then we togged up to ride to where Nick comes ashore, and parked up.
This Indian caught my eye, not just because the rider was only about 5ft 6ins tall....
The organisers said it was the square opposite the Aquarium. It was. It was also right by the long length of motorcycle parking in front of some fish market stalls. The fishy run off wasn't too slippery! And it was cold enough for the ice to stay unmelted for a considerable time.....
Along the Fish Quay (Visserkai) are the stalls selling fresh fish and also friteries selling chips and cooked food, like bratwursts and other meat products. I do like a braadwurst. We opted for a restaurant with an indoors!
We retired to Brasserie Maritime for lunch. We both opted for steak. Beautifully cooked and without any fat or gristle! A first for me.
We had almost finished when we saw the the lead bikes and Police arrived.
Unlike the Ring of Red where Essex couldn't provide any escort, Ostend manged six bikes and two cars to act as the escort.
Nik arrived with several Piets. This year lady Piets as well as men.
In England this can't happen as the politically correct would go mental. It is a tradition that goes back to the Reconquest. Google it!!
We needed to be away for our return train and so when Nik was still talking to kids and handing out sweets and it was past 3pm we needed to go.
We set off leaving Ostend behind, choosing the coast ride over the motorway.
As petrol is much cheaper there was no option but to fill up and save a few quid. We will use it anyway!
We rejoined the motorway near Nieuwpoort and the wind that had been chilling us all day was much colder as the sun started to descend. We had a loop around a roundabout at the first junction in France and then back onto the motorway. Once again the police and army waved through lots of trucks and vans.
We arrived about an hour early for our train and opted to take an earlier crossing. We lucked out even more when the guy on duty waved us through and we got an even earlier train. It was so cold by now that we didn't need to be hanging about.
It was good to be home again.
All the photos I took on the day are on Flickr