The Creosote Run

4th-6th October 2013

Grand Place of Arras

In a break with tradition, the intrepid Creosoters meet in Arras on Thursday evening, rather than a cold dawn start at the Tunnel on Friday. A lovely town with a grand gabled square, conveniently called the ‘Grand Place of Arras’, where the group chill and enjoy a delicious fish supper prior to Friday’s exertions. 68 miles today from Calais.

It’s Friday morning, bright eyed and bushy tailed!?, we gather outside the Mercure for the usual pre-ride brief and details of the route to Nancy in the Lorraine region, via Laon. Friday’s forecast is not great, it’s October after all, and wets are de-rigueur for the 16 participants - Oliver & Joanna Achkar, Karen Cadogan, Terry & Manuela Ferguson, Peter Havey, Mick & Nicky Newstead, Sarah Papas, Ken & Priscilla Poczekaj, Alex & Debbie Tomes, Fred Woolcott and ride leaders Andrew Papas & Colin Houliston.

Out of Arras, we briefly join the A26 to get us to Cambrai, then onto the fantastic motorcycling roads of France, in this instance the D960. It soon becomes apparent however, that some had enjoyed the delights of Arras rather too much the evening before, and an early coffee stop is needed to revive the weary. Pulling up on a convenient corner in Bohain-en-Vermardois, we sit outside ‘Bar le Penalty’ (how apposite for those with a sore head). Coincidentally, this is the same spot where the Champagne Celebrators had stopped only a few weeks before. A rethink about the route is required, as trying to fit the picturesque hill top town of Laon into our day is going to be a little ambitious. A detour is devised.

Once the coffees & croissants have been consumed we carry on down the D960, through Guise, and onto the D946. A road of long straights along the brow of rolling hills with the odd twisty to keep the enthusiast happy. The cross wind on occasion proves a little challenging. After a brief diversion into a Carrefour for fuel on the outskirts of Rethel we stop for sustenance. Parking outside the town’s Marie we disappear into the Au Sanglier des Ardennes for a relaxed lunch.

Sated, it’s back on the iron staying on the D946 and heading South though some beautiful countryside past Vouziers and Grandpré. The road, with long sweeping bends and the occasional sharp corner to keep you focussed, eventually arrives in Bar-le-Duc, where we stop for rehydration. The Sun is out & hot and we’re still in full waterproofs. Yes, it’s boil in a bag motorcycling! Refreshed and de-robed we ride South again to join the N4 into Nancy. Needless to say, having carefully packed our wets away, the rain arrives and descends with some vigour. Pulling up on the hard shoulder next to a fellow Harley owner (Fat Boy - the bike, not him) to do what he’s doing - putting on appropriate protective gear with some dispatch. Then it’s into the centre of Nancy and our accommodation for the next two nights - the Mercure Stanislas. The hotel is right in the centre of town, with secure parking and a good room rate organised by Sarah. Huzzah!

The evening’s an opportunity for all to explore the towns many bars and restaurants. The Place Stanislas, a grand square in every sense of the word with its World Heritage buildings, is a big hit with the group, as is the nearby Rue des Maréchaux which contains nothing but restaurants! 245 miles today. Click for our Route.

Auberge Lorraine

Saturday morning, and the group’s off to Colmar for the day. Not entirely true. There is sufficient moisture in the air to deter all but the hardiest of riders. So, breakfasted, Peter, Mick, Sarah, Ken, Andrew, Karen & Colin head toward the beautiful Vosges Mountains. After a dreary ride in the drizzle, down a couple of ‘N’ roads we pass Saint-Dié-des-Vosges and join the D415 into the hills.

In Plainfang, it’s right onto the D23 and the sun appears! The road’s twisty with great scenery - can you think of a better motorcycling combination - and in Le Valtin it has the chicest coffee stop - Auberge Lorraine. Left onto the D417, which on the map looks like someones intestines, over Col de la Schlucht the road sweeps us downhill with the occasional hairpin. As we descend there are a lot of parked cars on the verge and people in stout boots walking up the hill. Our arrival in the small town of Soultzeren coincides with a stage of the Rallye de France. Fortunately, the four wheel enthusiasts have little impact on our journey and we meander through Munster, past the vineyards and on, into the centre of Colmar. The Jupiler Café, Place de la Cathédrale, is our chosen venue for lunch where we enjoy either tarte flambée or rösti in the sunshine, before a gentle constitutional around this beautiful medieval town and ‘la Petite Venise’.

Brasserie Excelsior

Culturally uplifted we head out of town on the D415 through Kayserberg and, oh dear, here comes the rain. Up & up, back into the Vosges Mountains with intermittent drizzle. At Col du Bonhomme, a misnomer as it turns out, we turn left onto D148, part of the ‘Route des Crêtes’ - usually a really good motorcycling road. On this occasion, not so much! The cloud comes down and the drizzle turns into something more persistent and dense. 14 miles of twisties and hairpins, including a very sharp right on to the D61 in zero visibility. Such fun!! At the junction with the D417 it’s right, back down the hills, with a brief stop in Gérardmer for fuel. Right again at Le Tholy, past Epinal in driving rain and back to Nancy, arriving just in time for the group dinner.

The evening venue, the Brasserie Excelsior, is as fabulous as the rest of Nancy, a stunning Art Nouveau emporium opposite the train station. Our table is fortunately right next to the bar and the service efficient and the food good. We’re all able to relax and exchange tales of derring-do, past & present, which, as the evening progresses become ever more outlandish! With event patches distributed and l’addition sorted it's back to the hotel or an Irish bar for a night cap(s). You know who you are! For some, 205 miles today. Click for our Route.

Creosote Patch

Sunday morning, and it is back to Blighty. What can one say, the night cap has taken its toll! ‘Most’ of the group set off for what is going to be a long journey home. Slight drizzle as we leave, but the day becomes increasingly warm and sunny as we head North. Up the A31 to Pont-a-Mousson, across the Moselle River, then taking the D3 / D904 / D24, dead straight roads with the occasional challenging section. Passing through the tiny hamlet of Eix, we head west towards Verdun for coffee, but not before a detour to visit the Ossuaire de Douaumant to remember those that fought and died for the freedom we enjoy today. Into the centre of Verdun we somehow end up at a Café, on the Quai de Londres, next to La Meuse, despite the best efforts of town planning, a closed bridge and a incomprehensible one way system! The remainder of the journey, a straight forward 80mph blatt up the A4 and A26 to Calais. 312 miles today. Click for our Route.

Both Andrew & Colin would like to thank all who participated in the Creosote Run and made it such a special event. Particular salutations to those that travelled to Colmar and of course Mick & Sarah for performing heroic last person duties.

Andrew Papas & Colin Houliston - C&F Road Captains


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