The “Love Route“ ! – September 2015

Wednesday, September 23rd, – Regensburg, Germany to Prague, Czech Republic

The following morning, the rain was just as unrelenting as it had been the night before.

It was not heavy, but it was the continuous, soaking rain that is good for the garden, but deadly if you are on a motorcycle. The kind that makes the roads greasy and fogs your visor and, no matter how good your waterproofs are, it will, at some point, find its way inside them.

Depressed yet ? I was.

Regensburg, although a city of some size, still had an old town that retained that air of quaintness more usually associated with a far smaller places. I am sure it would have been nice to take a walk around – but that was not going to happen.

I was a bit undecided as to what to do.

On my own, I would simply have climbed on the Harley and ridden home. I would have got wet, but it would not have killed me. Let us face it, anyone who has ridden as many miles as I have has been wet a time or two.

My concern was mainly for Lucie.

Now, do not mistake me for any kind of chauvinist. I stand if a lady enters the room, I will give up my seat for them, I hold doors open for them, that is true. There is no suggestion, from my side at least, that this renders a woman somehow “less“ than me, but it is merely a demonstration of respect and good manners and is how I was brought up.

Lucie is also no “shrinking“ violet“. She skis, very well indeed, (I cannot ski a metre), we hike and have spent nights sleeping in the woods without a tent and in a downpour and she will jump into a cold lake without a second’s hesitation.

In short, while she probably would not choose to sit for hours on the back of a motorcycle in a rainstorm and I did have slight concerns about the effect it might have on our longer-term touring future, that was not what was worrying me.

What did concern me most was that she would almost certainly be obliged to wear the dreaded “condom“ !

Confused, you should be !

Up to that point, our joint motorcycling adventures had been a little bit limited. As I mentioned at the start, Lucie had found our previous Harley, a Street Bob, uncomfortable. As a consequence, our riding had been limited to short trips, on sunny days, in the immediate environs of Prague. We had never (deliberately) been out together in the wet.

In preparation for the trip we were then on, I had more or less insisted on some form of waterproofs, however rudimentary. After some fairly vigorous debate and a lot of searching, we had found some lightweight waterproofs which fitted – but which were an “acid-house“ shade of yellow ! I was keen on these as they were definitely “high-viz“. In the conditions where they were likely to be called into use, anything that tips off approaching traffic as to your presence is a bonus – but Lucie hated them.

In the end, we bought them, but it was clearly indicated to me that nothing short of underwater riding was ever likely to bring them into actual use. Because the mittens had only three fingers, Lucie had christened the outfit “E.T.“ !

We ate a leisurely breakfast at the nice cafe Rinaldi which, as I have said, was right next door to our hotel – but the weather refused to improve and our options ran out.

Lucie issued a strict “no photographs“ instruction (which I ignored) and she donned a garment that would have been visible, with the naked eye, from the International Space Station. We trudged through the puddles to the Harley and set off !

A return to Abensberg was, obviously, out of the question so we just headed north. Once we were on the move, it was not really too bad. Airflow took a lot of the light rain away and my big fat body kept most of the rest off of Lucie. Spray is always the biggest problem though and my boots were soon soaked through.

Regensburg had no trams with their slippery tracks, although an S-Bahn was mooted and the roads were in an overall state of good repair so we made it to the autobahn 93 without trauma. We headed north and, in truth, far ahead, it did look a bit brighter.

We proceeded up the 93 and, as ever, a choice was soon presented to us.

Just east of Nuremberg there is a motorway junction where it is possible to head east for Plzen and south Bohemia or to proceed north up the west side of the Czech Republic and to cross over a little way north of the border town of Cheb.

Although the route to Plzen is arguably easier, it is solid motorway and anyway, in that direction the skies were very dark. To the north, there was still a lightening of the sky and it was a lot brighter. We stayed on the 93.

Of course, we soon came to endless roadworks, but at the leisurely pace of all the traffic, this scarcely slowed us down at all. I have said it before and I will, no doubt say it again, but Germans really are exemplary drivers. It was never going to be a pleasant ride, but if you have to ride on a motorway in adverse conditions, a German one is where to do it.

Eventually, in improving conditions, we came to road 303, just east of Bayreuth and headed towards the Czech town of Cheb. A secondary road it may have been, but it was in far better condition than most motorways in the Czech Republic and with less traffic and less spray, things began to look up.

We crossed the border and almost as if someone had thrown a switch (or maybe turned off a tap) the rain ceased. This improvement was tempered to a degree by a deterioration in the road surface (although it is designated the E48) and the deplorable Czech driving standards which manifested themselves almost immediately. An ageing Skoda screamed up behind us, overtook on a blind and still damp bend and then, having got to where he needed to turn right at far a too high speed, had to slam on his brakes and fishtail to a stop about 20 metres in front of us. I missed him, but it was our hairiest moment of the whole 1,600 km trip.

At least the sun came out because, although now dry, it was, all of a sudden, quite unseasonably cold.

We rode east. The countryside was pleasant and quite Autumnal, all browns and golds. Some of the fields had already been ploughed after harvest. To our right, we passed the ancient town of Loket. For information, the market square in Loket masquerades as somewhere in Montenegro in James Bond’s “Casino Royale“.

We soon came to (and neatly bypassed) the spa town of Karlovy Vary and kept on heading east. Only 140 kilometres to go now. We often travel to Loket for concerts, there is a superb, natural amphitheatre there and on a warm evening the ride in each direction is quite pleasant. On that day, although it was sunny, it was cold, possibly exacerbated by residual dampness, but cold nonetheless. Luckily, we could get coffee at petrol stations – and we did so twice in what should have been a little over an hour’s ride.

The road is very long and straight, which probably hints at its historical heritage. At one point, it runs along the base of the Džban plateau upon which sit the “Stone Rows“ of Kounov. This is a neolithic monument which, although not as impressive as Stonehenge, nonetheless demonstrates a lot of work by our Celtic forebears. It also shows a knowledge, by them, of the exact location of magnetic North a long while before we ever had compasses.

Also on top of the escarpment is the town of Žatec, a major centre of the hop trade. We were passing hundreds of the, now denuded, frames in which these are grown on both sides of the road.

Long stretches of the way are not motorway and, as we wound through the woods after passing through the town of Krušovice with its aromatic brewery, we were regularly frightened half to death by the homicidal driving that passes for normal. To hesitate until you can actually see ahead is no doubt considered effeminate in those parts. A Renault wrapped around a tree at one point demonstrated that, even on straight stretches, those idiots STILL cannot get it right.

It was almost a relief to finally come to Prague, wind our way through it and park outside our house.

Home safe !

Our first big trip, as a couple, was over.