My son Mat had a week’s holiday free in mid-June and suggested that we a take bike trip. We’d ridden together previously in the UK and Spain but Mat fancied a trip that would take in the beloved biker road, the B500 in the Black Forest. A bit of research and Magellan came back with a trip that fitted the bill perfectly.
Checking on the forecast, as you do, warned us that the weather wasn’t going to be too good but we thought ‘hey it’s June, it’s summer, we’re heading South into Europe and the forecast isn’t always right is it?’
The trip had begun the previous day with the ride down to Hythe for an overnight stop. We refuelled and rode the couple of miles to the Tunnel terminal.
Once on board the train, the crossing to Calais was quick, as was setting off southwards on the motorway. Within 40 minutes we exited the motorway and started along the French back roads to our first waypoint and the recommended cafe for a much-needed coffee – and a delicious baguette. The trip had started.
Feeling refreshed we blasted our way across relatively quiet minor roads managing to avoid the looming storm clouds. Our destination was Reims, the capital of the Champagne region, and home to some incredible Art Deco architecture.
Our hotel, the Hotel Crystal, was bang in the centre of the city, which was buzzing with bars and restaurants. To add to that it was a warm balmy evening – perfect for relaxing with an ice cold beer!
The following morning we took a stroll round the city to take in some of the gothic architecture – including the Notre Dame Cathedral.
Our next destination was Baden-Baden, on the border of the Black Forest mountain range – this took us along a 240-mile journey south east. The day’s ride took us, initially, through the Grand Cru villages and then on a variety of faster roads through small villages and towns.
Fortunately, we were lucky enough to outrun the weather front and the storm that was clearly building behind us. We crossed the Rhine into Germany via the ferry at Drusenheim leaving a short run in to Baden-Baden.
Our hotel for the next three nights was perfectly located at the start of the B500, the Black Forest High Road, which winds all the way down to Switzerland – no roundabouts, no villages, just bend after glorious bend – no wonder it’s loved by bikers across the world.
The low pressure and associated weather that was blighting most of Northern Europe had now finally found us – but that didn’t stop us. We explored the local villages and towns and enjoyed navigating some brilliant roads – sometimes through rain, hail, and cloud and on rare occasions the sun graced us with its presence and gave us glimpses of the spectacular Black Forest scenery.
It’s fair to say that we were in and out of our wet weather gear so often that we became as efficient as an F1 pit stop team. We also mastered the art of finding somewhere to eat or have a coffee whenever there was a downpour. And slowly began to realise that our leathers were getting tighter – maybe they were beginning to shrink?
Day five saw a final blast down the B500 and then cross country back towards Northern France. A mixture of fast, well-surfaced roads and a few twisties that were so good we even had to turn around and do them again.
Our lunch stop was the picturesque town of Turckheim.
As we left Turckheim, and rode up in to the Vosges Forest, we were surprised by the improving weather – and yes a first on the ride … blue sky! Our accommodation for the next two nights was a ski station in the heart of the mountains.
The next day, and yes you guessed it, the rain had returned, as we climbed higher the low cloud managed to mask what should have been remarkable views of Grand Ballon – never mind! The roads were quiet, well-surfaced, with enough twists and turns to keep us happy.
Next morning the weather had worsened; torrential rain and wind, roads were flooding – a ‘rain of terror’ for most but we had now become battle hardened! We took the decision to stick to the main roads. With nowhere to shelter we pressed on riding through mud and stones that had poured across the road. After a couple of hours thankfully the monsoon-type weather changed to just rain, and finally to a light showers.
A quiche (well we were in the Lorraine area) and a strong coffee set us up for the afternoon run along fast country roads. Despite running late we made a quick stop to take in the war memorial at Verdun, a very humbling experience for us both – before we pressed on into Belgium.
The overnight destination, and our last night, was the quaint and picturesque town of Bouillon.
Our final day consisted of a 200-mile run North East to Calais.
We rode through the Ardennes Forest and, despite the drizzle, really enjoyed the route to our lunch stop at Saint Olle where we indulged ourselves at the recommended Hippopotamus Restaurant – while we tried to dry out as the thunder and lightning danced overhead.
We could see brighter weather on the horizon towards Calais so decided to ride the motorway for the last hour or so. Home was beckoning and as we approached Calais and prepared to leave Europe – we hoped that there really would be some light at the end of the Chunnel so we could finally dry out!
Well, the weather forecast was right but in spite of the rain – the recommended routes, stops, and hotels didn’t disappoint. Magellan did us proud. We have some great memories, became experts in riding in the wet, and because of the rain-dodging food and coffee breaks we brought home a few more pounds too!