What? A speed camera at the track?
I’ve just come back from a fall motorcycle tour to the Pyrenees mountains and to the Circuit de Catalunya Grand Prix racetrack in Spain and I’d like to give a photo album – like kind of travel report.
It was, to borrow a phrase… legendary!
Not far from home, crossing the former inner german border near Meiningen. Good thing these fortifications are now part of an open-air museum.
Later that first day in the parking lot of a McDonalds. Like will to like.
That was not the culinary high point of the day. This was!
Karlsruhe was my first overnight stop, but I got near it in the afternoon. So I decided to take a detour over the Schwarzwald-Höhenstrasse. Well worth for the curves and switchbacks, but marred by the nutters out in force showing off or wheelieing past others while overtaking.
The next leg of my journey was to Evry, a suburb southwest of Paris. The road went straight for more than is shown on the display of my navigation app. Napoleon must have penned it in with the aid of a straight ruler!
And if I say straight I mean straight!
The next hop went from Evry to Limoges, and the Loire with it’s castles lay on the route.
I went to visit Chambord again, I’ve been there before with the family.
I love the architecture there, especially on the roof!
Crowned with… well, a crown!
Leaving Limoges the next morning after a classical french dinner in a bistro and a good night’s sleep in an old-fashioned hotel.
Now the weather got warmer and avenues of plane trees announced more southerly vegetation.
Street signs showed me getting nearer to Spain, too!
But Spain wasn’t yet my destination for the day, a hotel in Lons near the Pyrenees was. Got there in the afternoon, rode right past it and went up the Col d’Aubisque of Tour de France legend.
Had a nice “Café American” (what they call a double espresso in these parts) at a hotel a bit below the summit. Taking Tour de France mountain stages as my guidance should continue the next two days as I explored the Pyrenees’ cols and valleys. It came naturally to me, as I have a personal history in bicycle racing.
The next day’s access to the mountains was Lourdes. Oh my, is that ever a town of commercial religiosity! Whole streets of saintly knick-a-knack! To sweep out the merchants from this temple, Jesus would need a bulldozer…
Col du Tramassell
Col du Soulor
The French have elevated road engineering to an art form. Just look at how this mountain road is blasted into the side of the mountain, following the contour, comprising arches and short tunnels. Blast to ride, too!
The very top of the Col d’Aubisque, came at it from the other side. Complete with motorbike, cyclist in flesh and blood, Tour de France bicycle sculpture and a horse with a cowbell round it’s neck!
Coming down that col, I had lunch in an almost deserted ski station. Summer season was over, though it was still above 20° C warm.
Col de Marie Blanque. No white Mary there, but lots of cows. Their patties were one of the driving hazards of the day.
The road up the next col was no more than a tarred-over forest road.
Consequently, a piece of machinery blocked the way. Two workers used it by remote operation to draw felled trees from the forest. As soon as possible, they opened the road.
Another high point, another deserted ski station. Here, parts of that strange field of granite boulders were blasted away to make room for an enlargement.
On the next morning, sunrise view out of the Lons hotel window. Western parts of the Pyrenees were on the day’s menu.
Col du Tourmalet (are we getting sick of it, already?).
Tourists photographing cows at the …
… well, you can read the col yourself!
The last col of the day led over to Spain already, so I went there, worried a bit about my cellphone bill, went back to France and to the Lons hotel.
By the way, I spared you many more col photos! 😉
The next day was my transit stage to Montmelo near Barcelona. Bad weather on the french side, then a tunnel into Spain. Came out of it to this filling station, their petrol didn’t make me into Marc Marquez, though!
Little MotoGP joke here!
The weather and the landscape got drier. I drove through a high valley that had many deserted villages like this one in a bend of the river.
Later that day, long sweepers of curves that the Ducati likes. The warmth and the length of the stage (543 km) wore on me and I was glad to finally arrive at the Montmelo Ibis hotel in the evening.
The next day was a rest day off the damn bike! On a morning hike, I found the Circuit de Catalunya racetrack right behind the hotel! A monster of a main viewing stand. I had booked tours on this circuit for a trackday on 12-th of October.
Two days until then and the first continued touristy. I went to Barcelona centre by bus to see the Sagrada Familia.
Kitschy from both sides, in my opinion!
This took a bit of courage: a black Paella! Tasty, though.
Around the church, soap bubbles were produced to great acclaim by the children.
Anyway, the next day I did a short limbering-up lap on the bike to this strange mountain range near Barcelona. Looked like the border mountains to Mordor in Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” to me! But there was no way getting nearer to them, all roads leading there were unpaved. You do not simply ride into Mordor!
The big day had arrived. As is a bad habit of mine, I was the first Motorcyclist to arrive at the paddock. Got my credentials and stickers for the bike early this way.
As I waited, a middle-aged man in official clothing of the Circuit approached me and struck up a conversation. Themes went wide, it was about the Spanish Civil War and the deleterious effects it had had on his family, about the photographer Robert Capa, my Ducati, riding bikes and bike riders and so on. A bit later, he invited me to a coffee, and we went up the control tower to have it. What a row of video monitors! You could as well start a Space Shuttle from this control room!
Slowly, it dawned on me that I had been talking to the Race Director all the time! We talked on, about Ecclestone’s Formula One and DORNA’s MotoGP, the dominance of spanish riders, his work conditions. Very interesting! In the end, he was so kind as to take these photos of me in the control room and I had to split for my first round. That was a special beginning to that track day, a look behind the curtain that gave me confidence, too.
Interesting it did stay while on the track. Here’s video of what happened on my first turn. I’m the rider on the red, growly-sounding machine. In the 320° hairpin turn, a spanish rider went in too hot, we clipped handlebars and he went straight into the gravel pit millimeters in front of my bike’s nose. I stayed on the track and continued, a bit shaken.
You’re supposed to concentrate and ride on after such an event, and that I did. This was the most tilted over I got, sorry to say, no knee down. This is overvalued, though, those who were getting theis knees down weren’t going through the corners faster than me.
Anyway, all of the tire used!
The front one is more telling.
The next day, I left Spain with the destination being a rural hotel near Avignon. It got seriously mediterranean with canals ….
… and the Mediterranean itself!
This was the navigation app’s screen when I got to the hotel. A well speed-controlled region!
The hotel was charming.
And the pool was a godsend after a warm day’s riding.
The next hop brought me to Karlsruhe and back into Germany. But first, the Gorges de l’Ardeche were on the menu.
I’ve ridden these before on the Harley-Davidson, but on the Panigale, they were much more engaging and fun! Again, witness the french road engineers genius!
Later that day, foggy stretch along the Doubs river. There is a Département de Doubs as well, which always reminds me of Monty Python’s Department of Silly Walks…
In the end, I got home well. See you later!