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Thread: France Roadtrip on a Harley Davidson: Port Grimaud 2008. Videos added!

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    Rusted ken cool's Avatar
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    Default France Roadtrip on a Harley Davidson: Port Grimaud 2008. Videos added!



    This tour did not take time to take shape. It almost happened overnight. When I was proposed to do this tour on a Harley Davidson I accepted it without a hint of hesitation. I have never got to ride a HD motorcycle in my life and here I was being offered to do ride around for a big G2G of Harley Davidsons on the French Riviera. Could one ask for anything better.

    I will not go into the details and bore readers into the hurricane preparations of applying for a visa, getting it in less than a day through means that I am not allowed to describe and how I managed to get a relatively affordable flight ticket to Europe in the middle of a peak season when the first available ticket was 2 weeks later in which case I would have missed why I was coming to this country in the first place.

    Anyway, to cut a long story short somehow I arrived at Courpière a small village in the region of Auvergne to go to what is called the Euro Festival. Anyhow I somehow found my way to Lyon, was driven down, thankfully, to Courpière in the region of Auvergne and it is time that I introduced my hostess, Mme Brigitte Fayet. She is an amazing woman, who had put the idea in my head of riding down on her bike from her village to the Euro Festival.

    Once in Courpière in Brigitte’s house, she suggested that I took her bike out for a spin to get back the idea of driving on the right side of the road, to rememorize traffic signs, rules of the road (which are to be respected), rights of way at a roundabout, and most importantly to get an idea of riding a bike weighing 250 kilos and one that has a seating position like no other that I have ridden before save for the Boulevard that I rode a couple of times in India. This was the Harley Davidson 1200 Sportster Custom.

    As I maneuvered the 1200 Sportster out of the garden, I could feel the difference in weight, the handling, the handle bars, the seating, I had not slept in two nights, I was smashed with jetlag, to say that it was difficult taking her out riding on the right side of the road in a country that I had not visited in nearly half a decade, I was feeling rusty to say the least. I tried to get a vague feeling of the roads, the feedback from the tyres, the rule book and respect for pedestrians. I took a quick 12 km spin and came back feeling wanting for more and yet full of apprehension. I was going to do it the next day. What I needed then was some good food and a good night’s rest. It was Oussobouko for dinner and a good comfortable bed.

    DAY 1

    22nd May: It was decided that I would be riding initially and then we would see as time and country went by. Brigitte decided to take the car with Maël in it and all our bags in it as well. Even a car can be useful. It reminded me of my days with the team of the Great Indian Roadtrip. Just that here the it was more than just a backup vehicle.

    I did not wear my own mesh jacket. Brigitte gave me hers. It had a double winter lining. She also gave me leather chaps to be worn on top of my jeans. I was sweating in no time. But she said that a cold biker is not a happy biker. It was 12° outside at 0930 hours as we started our journey towards Euro Festival. Within an hour, the temperature had fallen to 8° as I rode along trying to adjust myself to the surroundings, the new country on a bike, the bike, riding on the right side, and getting used to the biting cold in the middle of an Indian summer right in the middle of the French countryside climbing gradually to a height of about 1000 metres. Despite all my layers, I was pretty cold but not chilled to the bone as the protection proved adequate.

    To have an idea of where I began, have a look at this map here Map of France - Physical, political and road maps of France Atlas, France Atlas. I started from the region called Auvergne marked 16 on the map. Clicking on it you will see a small town called Thiers. Near this town is a small village called Courpière where we were staying. We rode down to region numbered marked 21 on the map that I will talk about later.

    To say that the ride all through was exhilarating would be a gross understatement. I crossed many a pretty village taking the small country roads initially. We stopped for a picnic near a medieval bridge. Halfway through the route we decided to take the Autoroute since we still had a good 200 kilometres to cover. The national and regional highways are limited to just 90 on open stretches and just 50 each time we crossed the villages and small towns and had to stop at the pedestrian crossings and red lights. It can be time consuming.











    We took the Autoroute and took our respective tickets and continued. Riding on the Autoroute is a different ball game if you are an outsider. Suddenly I found myself getting into 3X2 highway with humongous trucks whizzing past at 110 and all the vehicles going at 130. I had to adjust quickly on the right most lane. Soon I was cruising at 110. As my system adjusted to the new fast traffic I was moving upwards to the speed limit of 130. At the same time I did not want to concentrate too much on my riding to miss out on the action and the country that was happening around me.

    Every five minutes I was encountering two bikers and as I discovered later, most of whom had either of the two missions in mind; the Euro Festival or the Monaco Grand Prix! While I tanked up getting out of the Autoroute, I met a gentleman riding down from England on a Repsol going to the Monaco Grand Prix. Some of you might not know that this kind of Repsol came in yellow colours.

    Besides that there were amazing choppers with riders and their girlfriends colourfully dressed in the spirit of the choppers riding down the Autoroute cheerily, Ducatis, R1s, BMWs, Vstroms, Goldwings, you name it, they were all to be seen on the road, at the filling stations. But what dominated were the Harley Davidsons.

    Cruising at 130, I was getting used to the faster speeds. I had also been briefed about the speed radars. There was a point where the Autoroute was not far from the TGV track. And I was doing a good clip of 160+ when I get blindingly overtaken by a TGV doing 330+. That was a sight to watch.

    THE EURO FESTIVAL.

    The Euro Festival is an annual affair that takes place in the last weekend of May in the village of Port Grimaud which is in the Midi of France between the really chic and rich town of Saint Tropez (made famous by Brigitte Bardot) and Sainte Maxime. To know where it is held, have a look at this map here Map of Provence-Alpes-Cote D'Azur, France, France Atlas and you will see St. Tropez and St. Maxim to the South-West of Cannes and south of Fréjus.

    One of the principal organizers of this get-together is Harley Davidson. And hence more than 95% of the bikes are Harleys of different models from the 883 Sportsters to the massive Electra Glides, of varying years, from the 1950s to the 2008 V-rods, from the incredible choppers to the modified Night Rods. Other bikes are also present. But they represented a tiny minority.

    As I started approaching Port Grimaud, I started understanding the magnitude of a get-together of this kind. There were MASSIVE bikes EVERYWHERE! To say that the place was SWAMPED with bikes is an understatement. The event is hosted and run by the HOG = Harley Owners Group. The HOG has various chapters as most of you might be aware corresponding to the various regions of different countries. There were bikes that were registered in Germany, Holland, Great Britain, Italy and other countries. And most participants rent their quarters or bungalows or camping place on the massive Camping Park which is called the “Euro Festival”, which gave its name to the G2G!









































    I was booked at a place called Pierre & Vacances just about 300 meters from the entry to the Euro Festival Park. Parked the Sportster and we walked down to the Park. HOG have special entries. I was not HOG. But I was being hosted by a HOG member. Maël and I got HOG bar coded entry bands strapped on to our wrists along with Brigitte ofcourse granting access for all events hosted by the Euro Festival at all venues.

    Before getting on with the details I would like to say that I did not used to be a cruiser friendly person till I saw and rode the Intruder/Boulevard thanks to Shiv Raj. I started appreciating cruisers since then. But I was still not a Harley person. Then I was proposed to do this tour on a Harley Davidson and I could not refuse it. And now I was entering into what I soon began to realize is a very exclusive zone.

    As I entered the park I got overawed and overwhelmed by the magnitude of not just the motorcycles and their size but of the enormity of the event, the situation, the sheer numbers, the dedication of people towards customizing their bikes, the amount of women riding 300+ kilo motorcycles, the incredible aura that surrounds the myth that has created this cult-following of Harley Davidson Motorcycles starting from 1903.

    We walked into the Euro Festival Park. It was already 2130 hours and it was getting darker. And the enthusiasm of the bikers entering the Park was warming up. The sound of the V-twins all around is heartwarming. It was an amazing sight and feeling as innumerable Harleys thumped past leaving a mesmerizing effect. We walked on. After a parking area to the left starts the wooden living quarters and bungalows for the HOG members who booked here. Five hundred metres down the road you come on to the beach as the road runs turns right and parallel to it. This is where the various stands begin. The sun had set and most of the stands had shut save for the restaurants. There were Italian joints, Mexican restaurants, French bakeries, German bread, Seafood restaurants, the whole hog! You are spoilt for choices. This is but natural when you are in the land of gastronomy. I was immersed in the atmosphere of HD Motorcycles, joyful camaraderie all around, the smell of good cuisine, the light spray of the Mediterranean, a rock band at a concert playing good covers from Purple and Led Zeppelin and it was barely 36 hours ago that I had landed on the continent and had done 550 kilometres on a HD motorcycle. What more could one ask for. Actually LOTS more. We will come to that in a little while.

    I had fallen asleep with the incredible thumping sound of the HD V-twins ringing in my head. And I woke up to that sound. With the morning came the sunrise. I was lucky to have quite a bit of sunshine the first couple of days, coz all that was soon to change. After a good sumptuous breakfast a decision was taken to go to St. Tropez.

    Something about Saint Tropez.
    If the bikers are not riding or they are not at the Festival Park, then chances are they are lazing around in the cafés of St. Tropez. St. Tropez was an old port that started attracting international attention from fashion stars in the roaring 20s and finally became a really important town after Brigitte Bardot acted in the film Le Gendarme de St.Tropez. And ever since this town has taken on a different air. It is a town to get “the perfect tan” like Nice and Cannes and such similar cities. A link to St. Tropez Saint Tropez. And as I said earlier St. Tropez smacks of money, fashion and the rich and the famous. Hence I had to be there!

    St. Tropez is a mere 15 kilometres from Port Grimaud. But it took me a good half hour to go there. There were bikes EVERYWHERE. And this was holding up traffic. And I was not complaining. It is a nice feeling to be around so many bikers. They would look at you and you would look back; a little smile and nod would be exchanged before moving on as the light changed. I really appreciated this feeling of camaraderie between bikers. But I daresay that I did feel wee bit small sitting on the 1200 Sportster Custom which I initially thought to be a “big” bike as I saw the other Electra Glides, the V-Rods, the Road Kings etc. I will also talk about my experience with the Road King some time later. But these bikes are HUGE!

    I reached St. Tropez, parked and started taking a leisurely stroll around town, the quaint streets, the narrow alleys, a bit of the beach and ofcourse the harbour where big bikes and the private boats were parked side by side. The morning just flew past without having to do much, just staring, gawking, at the magnificent beauties of the Mediterranean.

    Grimaud Village in the afternoon.
    I had oysters for lunch and wanted to go to Grimaud Village. The programme given to us when we bought our HOG entry bands mentioned a kind of show of Customized bikes in the afternoon at Grimaud Village and I did NOT want to miss that show. What followed when I reached Grimaud Village is something that CANNOT be described in words. There were innumerable bikes on show. And the beauty of these elegant creatures in metal and chrome and colours with amazing graphics is beyond me to describe.

    People have worked months to get these bikes to look like what they look. Professionals, amateurs, enthusiasts, all have put in hard creative work to get this output. Have you seen a child holding six ice-creams of different flavours in his tiny hands? He does not know which one to lick. I was in a similar situation. Overwhelmed not just by the number of bikes but the work that has gone in to produce this prodigious pieces of modern art, I had no idea where to look. I really have no words to describe these works of art. I will let the pictures do the talking of what I saw that memorable afternoon.


    I ended the second evening going back to the Euro Festival Park. We had dinner at a café on the beach. There was a dance floor as well. Felt sorely tempted to go as my Lady Harley hostess is also an exponent in dancing rock and roll. But it was pretty late and Maël needed to go to bed and we headed back to our quarters.

    The Stunts Show

    I had noticed that next morning there was a programme of stunts. These stunts were being performed by professionals working with the CRS Police Nationale of France. At 11 in the morning I had positioned myself carefully at the parking lot converted into a stunting ground.

    What is interesting to note here is that the National Police performs stunts publicly, but in a closed and protected environment. Sufficient measures are taken to make sure that no harm comes to the participating viewers and non-participating passers-by do not get hurt by any means.

    What followed for the next hour was another hour of joy, tension, ecstasy, fun and mouth-gaping-jaw-dropping moves that will remain imprinted in my memory. It is best followed in photographs.































    Once the stunts were over we went back to the Park to have a look at the multitude of stalls and stands displaying a plethora of things. There was Harley Davidson merchandise selling chains, belts, buckles, boots, jackets, watches, string tops, t-shirts, undies, bikinis… it went on endlessly. There was non HD stuff available too. There was even a stall vending electronically controlled noise system with CE approval. With a flick of a switch with your thumb you could increase or reduce the thumping noise of the Vees. This was an amazing piece of accessory.




    Sunday morning was our way back to Auvergne. Bad weather had set in. We started in the rain. I rode all along in the rain. I was the only one who was ill-equipped to deal with this kind of weather and I looked like a wet crow! One of the first things that I bought when I got to Clairmont Ferrand was a full body motorcycling rain suit.

    When I reached home at Courpierre, I had a litre of water in each of my boots. I was cold and fingers and toes had turned blue. As I sunk myself into the much deserved hot bath, I harked back at the amazing days that I spent at the Euro Festival 2008.

    I would like to mention a special word of thanks to my incredible hostess Madame Brigitte Fayet who was entirely responsible for the success of my tour and this once-in-a-lifetime experience of visiting a HOG event where nearly Five Thousand HD motorcycles came together. A few words about her: she went and got herself a high capacity motorcycle driving license at the age of 48 which is a commendable effort where most people believe that the decision to ride a bike is tantamount to suicide. She chose a HD Sportster1200 Custom as her first bike as this was the lowest she could find that she could ride with both feet barely reaching the ground. Very enthusiastic person and rider, she took care of our lodging and reservations at her place and with HOG. Brigitte has also done a cross country tour of the USA and she hopes to come to India some day and ride a motorcycle and do a tour.













































    Edit: Found some videos... adding them on in the edit after a year!

    Videos added!

    Nightrod attraction:





    Mods done on a touring machine... the Road King!



    A lovely Blue Bike:



    Another Blue Bike with colour coded and matched helmet:



    My favourite piece of work at St. Tropez:



    A Rare Gem, a Rare piece of Motorcycle Art:



    The Orange Bike:



    Our Hostess, Mme Brigitte:



    Mme Brigitte Poses with a Harley:

    Last edited by ken cool; 10-22-2009 at 06:27 PM.

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    Rookie pinto_amg's Avatar
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    Good God you are had oogles o' fun

    am really jealous



    ...Pinman...

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    Rusted archistar's Avatar
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    hello Ken da...
    enjoyed it again....

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    good one..keep the kms runnin in ur aco**** ...

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    Had fun reading the thread and looking at the pictures yet again. Thanks for sharing!
    ...in search of that perfect world - My Travel Blog :)

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    good write ken! it was very interesting and fun to read! and the pictures were really nice! some the bikes were gorgeous!

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    Rusted ken cool's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KwokFist View Post
    good write ken! it was very interesting and fun to read! and the pictures were really nice! some the bikes were gorgeous!
    Thanks Kwokfist. There is an amazing atmosphere to such G2Gs, the sounds, the bikes, the sheer number of HD, the glamour of it all, the girls, the beaches, the food... it is worth spending all that money, crossing 7000 kms to another continent and being part of it.
    The Wheel was a great invention; Two Wheels with a Motor in between was even better!


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    Quote Originally Posted by ken cool View Post
    Thanks Kwokfist. There is an amazing atmosphere to such G2Gs, the sounds, the bikes, the sheer number of HD, the glamour of it all, the girls, the beaches, the food... it is worth spending all that money, crossing 7000 kms to another continent and being part of it.
    I could imagine what u mean but, the sights and sounds are best lived through than imagined. These biker fests are pure delight to a biker. But not many have the opportunity to witness these events. But for a few those who do, and impart it to others taking out their precious time deserve sincere appreciation. Im not just implying its you, but many others who do a similar act of benevolence...so to speak.

    To motorcycle enthusiasts reading through the pages of a magazine and countless pages of adventures on a motorcycle online, the mere sights and the sheer size of such events can sometimes be invigorating.

    Mael must've had the time of his life! He's seeing the world at a young age and deriving the best from it. I hope he's still riding his RX.

    Great stuff again ken! As always, its a pleasure going through ur write ups and the pictures complimenting them.

    P.S. felt like speaking out...dont mind the lengthy post :P

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    WOW


    nothin else
    FACEBOOK

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    The fast became faster[RTR] and now is the FASTEST[220] !!

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    Awesome. Ur a lucky chap
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