14/07/99. Set of with Nick at 7am in the morning for the usual boring run from Home to Dover, with fuel stops only. Five and a half hours of bleary-eyed boredom later we meet up with John and Caroline at Dover docks, we are offered an earlier boat but decline this as we are meeting Barry on the other side at a set time, and decide to stick to the plan.....as we arrive in Calais, who is sitting there?.. Barry. Who promptly lets us know that he crossed early, and has been in Calais for hours!

Now that is what you call keen. Anyway, greetings over, route discussed, fuel stops agreed, off we set to Reims, no probs. arrive OK and get rooms in the motel for the night, then food in the restaurant across the car park, it must be noted the standards have slipped, and Barry didn't get his ice cream, what a shame, mine was quite nice.

15/07/99. Getup, breckky, Barry and Nick complain of buzzing in the room all night keeping them awake,(Hmm, yes). John and myself investigate, we find that their room was under the air con system, phew, that was lucky one of us may have got that one. Anyway morning "rituals" done (including Barry trying to drink the coffee machine washing water, under the excuse of not having his glasses), we pack and set off. As we pass through Epernay it looks promising as all the sign posts are up already, then left turn and on to Braunlingen, Germany for the Meritum rally. Not a bad run, john in front, Barry on the wing outfit, then Nick, and then tail end Charlie, me, all was going well until we just cross the border and I'm cut off by four wagons playing tick, as I pass them under full throttle, I see Nick and hear him say over the intercom "turn right, they've gone right". so I peel right very quickly, crossing in front of the wagons I've just blasted into the weeds, only to hear Nick say," oh, its not them!". so we do a U-turn at the junction and hare back to the motorway, upping the speed to catch the others, and re-passing the four wagons (still playing tick!). Then comes Frieberg!!! It has a bigger traffic jam than the M25 on a bad day. So we end up sitting watching the world go by, as we crawl through the town. Then we clear and get a good run to Braunlingen. where we meet up with Keith (Freak) and Tony and Mary (Skerritt). Sort everything out, then off to town for something to eat and drink, last I see of Barry that night, is on the site, rolling in the grass, totally legless, laughing and shouting,"I nearly made it!". Good job every one was asleep, well until then they were.

16/07/99. Wake up nice and early(ish), take anti head-banging pills and strong coffee, dress up as its a bit cool, decide to go down town for Brecky things and a quick look around with Tony/Mary/Keith and Nick, Tony is after some German wurst, Keith is after some loo roll ( I'll take that no further), and we are all after brekky stuff, (Tony and Keith were out of luck), we head back to site and the suns out and its getting hotter (we must have looked good walking back to the site in the hot sun and wearing our warm gear, true Brits. So breckky time then just chill out for the day in the sun/beertent, then later in the day, the usual nightly ritual, forcing beers down our necks.

17/07/99. Wakeup, clear head (thats unusual), buffet breakfast (very nice), then the ride out in the Black Forest, absolutely brilliant, good weather, good roads, sometimes a little slow but still very enjoyable. With a stop in the middle for drinks and cakes. Then back to the site to clean up for the evening meal, and suffice to say, more beer.

18/07/99. Buffet breakfast again, great. Todays visit is to the Lowenbrauerie Braunlingen, the local brewery, sample-tour-sample etc. Suffice to say that the Mayflower group were last to leave, well we do have our reputation to think of. On the way back to site we are forced to call in at a bar for refreshments, sorry, toilets, (well it did start to rain and thunder) and Barry (shock/horror) dropped his glass and spilt his beer, worst of all, it was over me. When the rain stopped we "ambled" (staggered) back for dinner and more beer, tonight's group in the marquee are naff.

19/07/99. Buffet breakfast again, this is so civilised, then pack up and move out early (ish), we leave on the same route we came in on, "No problem once we clear Freiberg". Easy said, not so easy to do, Once clear everything going good until, when on the motorway in France, Barry has a minor front tyre deflation on the outfit, we where only doing about 85mph, but it happened while passing a wagon, he made it under full control, then muttered something about, "undies change time", we then play 'find the valve in the wheel rim', then, how to do rescue phone calls, then the police turn up and shift the rest of us up the road to a safe area, to wait. Barry knows the script now. Anyway recovery arrives, picks him up, sets off and passes us at the side, John takes off and catches up, I take off and try to keep John in site whilst watching for Nick, who I loose sight off, then lose John whilst looking for Nick, I cruise through the rest/service areas with no joy, then come across Nick on the motorway. So I decide that if John has caught up with Barry and Caroline, then they know the way to Epernay. And we don't know were they have been taken to for repairs, so Nick and I carry on to the rally, and let the others know all is well (sort off), and that they'll be along shortly. 3 to 4 hours later they come cruising in. No problem, settle down for the night now we've all arrived.

20/07/99. The day trip to Disneyworld, sun is shining, we can be kids for the day, (can't see any difference really, John, Caroline, Nick, Spider, Radar and me). A Muck-up in the paperwork (or not?) meant Barry didn't have a ticket for Disney, so he stayed at Epernay with Tony and Mary and Keith. This posse rode into town, (on Barry's wing) to purchase a barbie, and some provisions for the nightly barbie ( Note: gas charcoals don't burn well on real barbies, do they Barry)? At Disney we did a few of the "wild?" rides, The runaway train (bet radar hadn't been on this train before, or wished he hadn't afterwards), the photos taken by the ride shows Radar, Nick and Spider tucking in/down and closing their eyes, wimps or what? On the Indiana Jones ride it stalled due to mechanical mishap just as we arrived at the front of the queue, as the cars were released to return to the start position again we found that it had a tight loop in it, excellent, but what was that Caroline said?? Suffice to say she screamed all the way round, with eyes wide shut! But I still think the star wars ride was the best. Even though you don't really move much, it feels very "sort of" real. After we had eaten (Disney tex-mex) we voted diplomatically not to risk another wild ride, for failure meant losing dinner. So we just did the mild/visual bits, including the Disney parade were Caroline appeared to be five again! If anyone goes to Disney, then do it early in the morning, then around teatime, as the afternoon is queue city. Pretty much an uneventful bus trip back to site and the first barbie, we ended up eating so much it was nearly impossible to drink a beer.

21/07/99. The day trip to Paris, bus number 9, boat trip down the Seine to see the sights from the river, Rod nearly missed the boat due to rushing to the loo, just as the ticket were issued. Not a bad trip, but, not as good as I thought it would be, but 'THE' highlight was Ying getting down on one knee, on the boat, in front of the "Eiffel tower", and proposing to Lynne, forever the romantic. Afterwards we jump the coaches to the "Place de la Concorde", and then a long walk up the Champs Elysees to the "Arc de Triomphe", pay some money, climb the phew stairs to the top, gasping for breath from about halfway up, but everyone appears to survive, even poor old Keith, and enjoy the views over Paris, and the museum/displays at the top. (Note: If you need to, go to the loo before you decide to go up, we couldn't find any in there)! Then it was sleepytime on the coach back to the site and barbie again at night with a few beers to put a serene end to the day.

22/07/99. Todays the day the rally really starts, after breakfast and a quick tidy-up we all assemble at an external meeting point for the run in to the parc ferme, were the bikes are left, we gather the "goody bag" with a gargantuan tuna salad sandwich and walk into town to see Epernay, we wander around, get lost, and have a little drinkie here and there, get the presents to take back home and send a couple of postcards, and raid a Bank to change Barrys out of date money. Later recovering the bikes from parc ferme and taking them back to site around 5pm. On site, clean-up, the 3-S's, then in to the evening meal, a bit of queuing, but it is the first night! Then opening speeches etceteras..... Then party on Dudes.

23/07/99. Early start today, breakfast, then the usual morning "doings" (but we wont go into that), then the day trip around the Champagne area, visiting a main producer and a co-operative producer, sampling a couple of glasses of the fizzy stuff at each, and purchasing a case or two, after getting the techno talk as we wander around in the "caves", stopping for lunch on the way, at a nice picnic area, until everyone needed the loo, all that was available is trees, now that was fine for 'Gents', but !... Anyway some of the 'Ladies' found a few rare trees with fencing around them, I'll say no more. Oh I almost forgot we had the usual stop at a Cathedral (Reims), it wouldn't be a FIM rally without a Cathedral, would it? Overall it wasn't a bad day trip. Then it was back to site with the 'swag', and time to realise "where can I pack this?". Before getting ready for the nightly bun fight, called evening meal, again party on.

24/07/99. Today is the free day, parade of nations rideout is done in the morning, it looks impressive when you look back at the snake of bikes, except it appears to be a lot of stop/start riding. After the run we dive into the local supermarche for barbie food, and fill up with fuel ready for tomorrow, then back to site for an afternoon Barbie/beer /sleep/beer/fallover/beer/shower/beer/barbie/beer/etc. An amusing point was John, who dished out the last five loaves to the starving masses, queuing to enter for the evening meal, while the Irish crew played 'music' on their guitars, while we just sat back and drank cool beers as we watched. It was a good job we barbie-ed so much due to the evening meal food being so late on the last night, it arrived about 9.30pm, it should have been there for 7pm, so the last night party atmosphere was lost, it happened, but it wasn't as good. Tonight the rally lost a lot of its credibility it had gained over the week.

25/07/99. Up and about earlyish, morning doings, pack the Champagne (8 bottles), pack the wine ( 3 bottles), then pack the clothes (to protect the bottles of course), finally the tent, and, "au revoir Epernay". Head north for the boats, quick run up the motorways and we arrive just in time to get on the boats that are just loading, getting back on home soil earlier than planned, then all that is left is the mundane trip back north from Dover.

That's All Folks

Bob. McNeil.