A week in the south of France

There are times when being cheerful and funny is not funny or appropriate.  One such time was 2 weeks ago, when the ambulance I called at 4:15am for Anthony arrived.  Anthony calmy woke me up saying “I need you to get up”.  Did I miss the 5:30am alarm clock for our day trip to Calais with my mum? No, it was much earlier and Anthony is writhing in agony.  Not his heart this time I hasten to add.  But what?  He tries to vomit when he never ever vomits.  His body is trying to expel something.  The pain on his side is relentless.  So once again, as he likes to joke, I call the ambulance.  By the time the ambulance arrives, the pain has subsided somewhat, he is dressed, can walk and I am ready to accompany him.  The paramedics are surprised to see him walk.  So Anthony jokes that whenever I call 000 or 999, the operator says they recognise me as a regular caller, do I want ambulance or helicopter?  Shut up Anthony I tell him, annoyed, then immediately feeling guilty as I know how much pain he is in really but he is putting a brave snd cheerful face.  Many basic tests and prodding later, and the pain now bearable, the ambulance leaves us behind having told us they suspected kidney stones and if the pain came back, to drive to the hospital emergency department and wait to be seen.  Over the next few days, the pain came and went, gradually in lesser intensity and I can happily report that he has had no pain whatsoever for about 10 days.

So we spend a week holed up at my sister’s home, waiting and dreading for the pain to return then both nursing a bad cold and cough at the same time.  We recover in time for our week in the south of France.  But this was not about touring in Provence but something completely different.  A retreat if you will.

A number of our kind followers and friends have often asked us when we were going to write a book.  We never thought our sedate travels would be of interest to the wider public but after so many questions and much encouragement, we have thought well, maybe. Maybe we could inspire others.   I recently read that a very well known writer and motorcycle traveller, Ted Simon, was opening up his home to aspiring writers and artists.  Ted is very well known amongst overland travellers and especially motorcycle travellers, mostly through his first book, Jupiter’s Travels which narrates Ted’s four-year journey through 126,000 km across 45 countries on a Triumph Tiger 100 500 cc motorcycle from 1973 to 1977. His book was first published in English in 1979 and I first heard about him and his book from fellow travellers in our hotel in Karthoum in 1982. An opportunity to get feedback from a successful writer who has inspired thousands of travellers over 49 years?! Inespéré!! 

We had met Ted in the US a few years ago and had had a few discussions with him.   I had read many travel books including his of course, read a book on how to write a book, spent quite some time thinking about our potential book and knew the blog would be useful for reference but that was it.  After about 18 months, I finally worked out a structure, and the first chapter.  Time to get some honest and early feedback.

We organised to visit Ted and stay in his 5 bedroom home in Aspiran, a tiny village in the south of France.   It was great to see him again, exchange stories and experiences – such a generous and kind man.

Well, I wanted brutally honest feedback and it was brutal!! The book structure and concept was sound he told me but I had better learn to write because how I wrote was bad!  Brutal but exactly what I needed.  Ted explained what was wrong and it all made sense. I went back to my first chapter and proceeded to work on it.  What Ted said was correct of course, I could see it clearly now.  I gave him examples of what I changed and it seems I have understood.  It doesn’t mean I will manage to achieve what is required, but I have been given some invaluable pointers.  I have always believed Anthony writes better than me anyway so we’ll see what happens now…  

Anne with Ted Simon in Aspiran

Aspiran, France

Walking outside Aspiran, France

While in the Provence area, we could not resist visiting a few historical and beauty spots on the way from and to Marseilles. It is amazing how much one can see, how much history and stunning places one can see when one travels slowly.  Medieval villages, roman bridges and viaducts, 12th century abbeys.  3 Unesco sites in one day!!   We could spend months in that region alone!

Camargue horses

Arles Coliseum

Arles obelisque and town hall

Frank Gehry’s aluminium Luma tower, Arles

Parc des Atelier with Frank Gehry’s aluminium Luma tower, Arles

Roman necropolis Alyscamps, Arles, France

Roman Pont du Diable outside St-Guilhelm-le-Désert

View from Pont du Diable

The back of Gellone Abbey, St-Guilhelm-le-Désert

Medieval St-Guilhelm-Le-Desert, France

Benedictine Gellone Abbey, St-Guilhelm-Le-Désert, France

Medieval St-Guilhelm-Le-Désert, France

A thistle, the shepherd’s barometer in the south of France

1st century Roman Pont du Gard, France

Pont du Gard, France

View from the Pont du Gard towards Nîmes

Gordes, Provence

12th century Cictercian Sénanque abbey, France

Sénanque abbey, France

Village des Bories, 18th century shepherds’s stone huts, Gordes

Borie stone hut, Gordes

On the way to Ted’s, we stopped in Arles and met up with one of my brother’s ex-girlfriends.  We had been in correspondence ever since his death so it was special to finally meet in person.  She and her husband even decided to stay at the hotel we were staying so that we could spend more time together.  Very special… Alan would be so happy…

Finally meeting Eve

-Anne

Heading to Flagstaff

After an unplanned and fantastic week in Santa Fe, it is time to move on but the weather forecast is abysmal. Massive storm cells, high winds and snow is forecast. A check of the weather radar decides our route and departure time this morning: it has to be an early start and no time to take scenic roads unfortunately. South then west is the way today. We get to Gallup, New Mexico, 320kms away, having dealt with strong winds, managed to squeeze between storms, and pretty much avoided the rain all day. Five minutes after arriving at our motel, it sleeted – the wind so strong it covered our bedroom window. So lucky.

Avoided this storm

Clear skies outside Albuquerque

Avoided this storm too

Sleet covered hotel window

Streak and Storm feeling cold

That evening, through Facebook, I find out about “OE”, an event starting in 2 days’ time just south of Flagstaff. Overland Expo is a massive expo for travellers and seems too good to miss, with an extensive and varied schedule over 3 days. Not surprisingly, just 2 days out, the event is all booked out except for motorcyclists camping: that’s us!!! And the timing is perfect as we are 2 days away.

Weather radar check in the morning: we have a few more storms to dodge in the morning then we should be fine so we’ll be able to revisit the Petrified Forest National park and take small scenic roads the rest of the day. Once again we turn off the main road to rejoin the old Route 66 but for the third time, we have to turn back as it ends abruptly. What a pity as it means having to join the interstate and it is now bucketing. It is an absolutely freezing morning, 5 degrees when we left and decide to have breakfast at the National Park visitor centre. In the space of 30′, it seems the storm has advanced much faster than predicted and in addition to cold, we now have wind and driving rain. Too bad for those twisties, it will be for another time. Sense prevails and we take a different route: skip the park, head west, eventually leave the storm behind us then south at Holbrook on I80 until we turn west again and take small roads through quiet villages such as Snowflake. It is a lovely ride through the countryside, dodging a few storm clouds before checking into a motel in Payson, Arizona.

Cold, wind and speeding trucks

Part of Route 66

Fabulous storm clouds heading to Payson, Arizona

It feels so good to wake up to a clear blue sky!!!! Finally!!! And we have a magnificient day ahead of us. We had heard Sedona was beautiful but hadn’t expected this breathtaking scenery. What a joy today’s ride is. We feel rejuvenated. There is no better way to describe the area than with a few photos:

 

Heading out of Payson, Arizona

South of Sedona

Sedona

Sedona

We get to Fort Tuthill County Park just south of Flagstaff for Overland Expo by mid afternoon. We find a great spot in the Motorcycle Camping area, without too many pine cones, to pitch our tent for the first time on this trip. This area is beautiful and it doesn’t take long to get chatting with our neighbours and passing fellow motorcyclists. This expo is massive. We have been to a couple of Horizons Unlimited gatherings (dedicated to mostly motorcyclists) in Australia and South Africa and expected something similar, but this is on a much bigger scale. The venue is cleverly designed to keep motorcyclists, camper vans, camper trailers and massive Recreation Vehicles with their respective vendor stalls together.

The atmosphere is fantastic. There is a palpable air of excitement in anticipation of the upcoming week end. I feel this is a place where dreams are made and experiences shared. Friendships are made and renewed. I meet friends I know through social media which is great. I meet Egle who published my first article a couple of weeks ago – https://womenadvriders.com/?s=Borders. We make new friends with our tent neighbours and people walking around, a couple sitting next to us at the bar in the evening. And then… after they leave, someone takes up the seat next to us… Ted Simon! THE motorcycle legend. Every motorcyclist has at least heard of him even if they haven’t read one or more of his books. I only have 10 books on my iPad and that includes one of his.

A bit of background on Ted: born in 1931, he abandonned a career in chemical engineering to move to Paris and take up journalism. Then in 1973, at the age of 42, he set of on a solo journey around the world for the next 4 years covering 64,000 miles. Wanting to see how the world had changed over the last 28 years, he set off again on a second journey, at 70 years of age, covering 59,000 miles through 47 countries over 3 years. His most well know book, Jupiter’s Travels was written in 1979. I remember distinctly backpakers talking about that book they were reading when we were in Khartoum in 1982!!

What a privilege to get to meet Ted! How can I describe our meeting? Luckily, Anthony had heard of his name but not much more. So the conversation was just like with any other traveller there for the Expo, both Ted and Anthony exchanging jokes with their dry British humour. After half an hour, he is called away to prepare for his film show tomorrow but he asks for us to wait for his return. An hour later, we continue our chat. Such an inspiring, open, genuine man. We bumped into each other several times over the next couple of days for more chats which was wonderful.

We saw a movie of the first part of his adventure which recounted his travels, and experiences through Africa in 1973.  It brought back such strong memories for both of us when we saw the photos from Egypt and Sudan, nudging each other discretely several times: we travelled that route, not on a motorcycle but by public transport and hitch hiking, 9 years after Ted, in 1982.  We must dig out our slides, or ‘transparencies’ as they were called from the days when film not memory cards filled our camera, from that journey when we get home… At a round table later, Ted raised the question of what ‘Adventure Travel’ is, given the proliferation of the use of the term today, often in the commercial arena. Ted thought that to be an ‘adventure’, there needs to be an element of change for the participant. My first thought when he asked the question was that it has to challenge the participant.

We have spent 2.5 days here, going to talks, presentations, talking to vendors, meeting various travellers, we could stay another night, join a number of them for a big party tomorrow afternoon, but we both feel it is time for us to move on – and get a shower after 3 nights’ camping!!…

Meeting Mary McGee, Sam Manicom, Ted Simon, Tiffany Coates and so many more, making new friends, chatting to all sorts of inspirational travellers and characters make this an unforgettable week end of friendship and laughter.

Our campsite at Overland Expo West 2017

Overland Expo West 2017

Overland Expo West 2017

Overland Expo West 2017

Gene

Chaco in his (Gene’s) Ural

Karen and Mike

With Tiffany and Ted

With Mary and Mark

With Eric

Just one last thing: I have a new love….

My new love…

I want one…

Anne