My day in France
September 2008 seamed like a good time to visit with Family in France. My sister's place is in the small town of Drap a little north of Nice on the Riviera. There in the garage was a Honda Shadow waiting for an adventure. After checking out this America Classic Edition I was skeptical. Here I had a 125cc 4-stoke that looked heavy, could I get around these mountain roads without having the throttle pinned the whole time. The first bit of good news was that I was not going to have to modify the shifter so with the bike ready it was time to map out a route for the next days' adventure.
When my sister asked what I was looking for on the map I said "twisty mountain roads"
She laughed and said "that's easy, just leave the garage"
Boy was she right. I was at sea level and planned out a loop to take me to Turini Pass at 5,328ft, that was still 1,890ft below the snow line at the time so I was good to go. The first thing to get used to is the French driving style, basically if you thing it will fit...go for it, the markings on the road are just bassic suggestions. Everything is close quartered, fast and fluid. I love it, I'm home. The very thing that would get me locked up in the states is common place in France. The Shadow surprised me, it's peppy, handling is light and cornering clearance...well it's a cruiser but I can work with it. Small towns here are perched on mountain peaks and the roads to them make Deal's Gap look like a training ground for beginners.
On the way to Sainte-Agnès is a sight to see, down below is Nice on the Mediterranean .
Sainte-Agnès is tucked away in the hills with breath taking views all around.
With the sea on one side.
And the mountains on the other.
From Sainte-Agnès I had planned on running over Blanket Pass but somewhere along the way I missed a turn and ended up on an adventure not in the previews. First the pavement turned to gravel, no problem. Then the gravel went away to reveal the dirt, this is a 2-lane road about 10 feet wide and it's climbing fast (here's where the picture was taken).
Then the dirt was mostly washed away leaving large rocks and mud pot holes from the previews night's rain. Then it got narrow, down to about 5 feet wide with a cliff on one side and nothing between me and it. I was on a fire break and what concerned me was that if it got any narrower I would not have room to turn around. I could see the town of Peille off in the Valley to the south, I knew there was a main road just west of me and I would have to cross it eventually so I pressed on.
The going was rough, the sort of place where a dirt bike would have been challenged but the little Honda took it all in stride and made it through, exiting out between 2 bushes I find the main road and head north for Sospel and the road to Turini Pass. As I turn on D2566 I find the vintage car club has come out to play.
The cars took off and I jumped in with them. The road was just tight enough that I could hang with them, I don't normally lean off the seat but without more clearance it was the only way, I would get passed one of the Maseratis on a tight hair pin and dogged the next one but could not get the chance to pass so before I got myself in trouble I stopped to get a picture of where I'd just been.
Then came the staircase climb or "laces" as they're called here.
At the top, the smell of snow was in the air and on the shady side on the mountain it dropped a good 30 degrees but I had plenty to keep me warm pushing the Shadow beyond design specifications. In the midst of a serious bout of canyon carving I come up on a speed limit sign, checking the speedometer I see I'm only 6 mph over, how cool is that.
Coming down from the pass proved much more challenging, some of the right turns were so sharp I had to use both lanes and to look for traffic you had to look over your shoulder and behind you.
I brought the tripod so I figure I might as well use it if nothing else than to prove I'm not making all this up.
Gotta love a good "lacy" descent.
Over the next mountain I ran into some thick fog and didn't dare stop for a picture with 10 feet of visibility, hell I didn't dare blink less I miss the next hairpin like this one I found after dropping below cloud cover.
And if you were to blow the turn, well they say you life would flash before your eyes and here you'd have time to flash the lives of your whole extended family before reaching bottom.
As if this ride wasn't interesting enough I bank around a tight left turn to find the mountain tossing rocks at me.
Getting back closer to home the road goes through small tunnels, here as you approach you blow the horn and the first one that does has the unofficial right away to pass through.
There's just something about the mountains that make me feel at home, I think it's the combination of clean crisp air, the view and memories of growing up here.
My way down off the mountain.
I get back to my sister's place and think if only I could bottle the experience , After 250 km (155 m) I top off the tank, it takes 6.8L (1.8 gl) making it an average of 86 mpg. Too bad the gas there is $8.08 /gl.
Special thanks to my sister and her mate for making this possible. Next time I'm headed to Millau to get pictures of the tallest viaduct in the world, it's about 250 miles one way through the mountains, should make for a kick ass ride.