Champers 2016

1st-4th September 2016

Champers 2016

There is not much that will make me get up at 04:30 in the morning. However, meeting a man in a car park in West Wickham at 05:15 with the prospect of 3 days riding ahead is a no brainer. So I met up with Ray Campbell to ride down to Folkestone where we would meet up with the rest of the reprobates to join the 2016 Champers Run. Yes folks, he didn’t get lost!

Most of the party had arrived the night before and stayed over ready for an early start. Unfortunately Steve Graham had arrived with a puncture and, at this point, I must mention Road Captain Fred Woolcott in despatches as he fixed the problem tyre in what seemed to be less than a minute. A few bikes had booked the earlier train but we all managed to get on the same crossing and were on our way with no delay.

By the time that morning prayers and disclaimers were delivered we were already in France and raring to go. We managed some hard yards down the motorway and stopped for lunch at Bohain en Vermandois. The café was closed for food but we improvised at a local kiosk. My heart goes out to the poor souls who braved the Grande American, a sausage in a baguette with about 2 kgs of fries per portion! No names or pack drill, you’ve seen the photo’s. Champers 2016Then it was back on the bikes in blistering heat with nothing but blue skies ahead. A brief stop at Montcornet where coffees and refreshments were downed leaving only a short last leg to the spiritual home of C&F H.O.G.. Reims, the birthplace of Champagne...

We decamped into the Best Western and the Holiday Inn with just enough time for a shower and a change of clothes before meeting in the bar for a little tipple before supper. Reims is a beautiful City by day, but at night it is quite stunning. From the rooftop bar in the Holiday Inn, the view of the illuminated Cathedral was breathtaking. We walked into the main square where we sat outside at the Grand Café and had a lovely meal with plenty of the wonderful local sparkling beverage. The veal sadly proved a poor food choice for some, although this did not become apparent until the following morning!

Due to the tender disposition of the veal eaters, the run was revised on Saturday morning. We rode to the Lighthouse at Verzenay. Being nowhere near the coast, Le Phare is a beautiful folly. A lighthouse in the midst of a sea of vines, and the brainwave of Mr Joseph Goulet to promote his champagne over a century ago. An outstanding view of the whole of the region was quite a wonderful sight. On the return to base we had a brief stop where we visited Hautvilliers and the Abbaye St-Pierre. The Abbey of Dom Perignon.

Back to Reims for the remainder of the afternoon and a little bit of late lunch followed by some tourist action. The weather continued to be exceptional for September and the bright blue skies and warm sun were perfect.

Champers 2016

Re-grouping in the bar early in the evening for supper at the Café de la Paix where Champagne was consumed and patches were distributed. There was talk of wet weather coming in on Sunday and an early start was deferred.

Despite the damp start we were on our way mid-morning and, with the exception of a couple of showers to annoy us, we had a fairly event free return leg. With the exception of Keira majestically catching her toll pass left handed as it dislodged itself from her screen whilst riding on the motorway. Excellent catch Red!

We arrived at Cocquelles in plenty of time to get stuck at the check-in chaos at the terminal and we were subsequently split up and allocated separate crossings. Much stop-starting over a period of an hour negotiating through the peage and customs left me with a completely flat battery just at the point when we were called to board. However, our illustrious leader Nick Deal proved to be my hero of the weekend with his latest acquisition. Jump start was provided by the Ballistic Back Pack (available from Warr’s), a tiny device which had been supplied by parts supremo Les Channing (veteran Champers Run rider) who couldn’t make it on the ride this year as he was in the States.

Champers 2016

This long weekend was a perfect mix of Snakes and Muffins, very stimulating conversation, well prepared routes, inappropriate footwear that kept the photographer happy, Champagne (of course) and great friendships. Most important of all there were miles and miles of great roads just crying out to be ridden.

I have also proved that it is possible for a woman to pick up not just one but two Harley’s. Not at the same time though!

So, the first question is... how early can I book for next year?

Sarah Papas - C&F Member


Photographs by C&F Photographer Steve Graham