Andalucian Adventure - European H.O.G. Rally

Dr Caroline Taylor

21st-24th June 2007

Well, I made it to Spain. It surprised me too! My Heritage performed smoothly all the way without a hitch. Not quite the same can be said for my backside.

Even before I set off though there was one near disaster. My Harley handbag had not yet arrived! This neat little necessity was to attach to the inside of my screen making access to my mobile and change for the peage easy. Thankfully a late phone call from Warr’s gave the news I needed, it had arrived and they stayed open late for me to zoom over to collect it. Relief!

After months of planning I was ready for the off and I had managed to pack everything into two panniers and a roll bag. For those that know me this is nothing short of a miracle. Even so I managed to include two pretty dresses, one pair of diamante mules, two of the tiniest bikinis I could find (to keep the weight down!) and lots of sexy underwear amongst the jeans and leathers.

Saturday morning dawned a bit damp and with the threat of rain. Not what I wanted but off I set as quietly as possible at 7.30am heading for the Eurotunnel and the rendezvous with the other riders. Our group was varied to say the least! Me on my tarted up glam Heritage, Best Mate on his Fatboy with a seriously fat rear tyre, Aeron (our esteemed leader) on his Electroglide, Garry on his Dyna, the forever young Peter on his anniversary V-Rod, Dave on a black and yellow Fatboy (that I feel has a slightly menacing air), and Richard on his Heritage.

The group

After a slight muddle with train times and a lot of noise from Best Mate’s bike alarm going off every few seconds, the train pulled into Calais and my bike rolled on to foreign soil for the first time in its life. Right on cue the heavens opened! And that was to be the pattern for the next two days! We made quick progress to our first stop at Bagnoles-de-l’Orne where we stayed at le Beaumont on Boulevard Lemeunier de la Raillere. The journey was mostly via the autoroute through rainstorms. Our leader Aeron ensured no one got lost or forgotten and Richard took up the rear ensuring no one got left behind. Okay, he made sure I did not get left behind.

The next day we took the N162 towards Angers and then on towards Cognac. This time we did a mix of autoroute and N routes but experienced the worst hailstorm I have so far ridden in. Every cloud has a silver lining though and wearing an open face helmet I had the best facial peel yet and it took years off my complexion! It was in Cognac our group divided. The Real Men stayed in a small, but perfectly nice establishment in town but the Posh Bird (me) and Mr Softy (Best Mate) went up the road to the superdooper Cháteau de L’yeuse, 65 Rue de Bellevue Chateaubernard. The meal was magnificent and the view from the room breathtaking, though we looked a bit out of place in our leathers amongst the other guests in their Sunday best.

We’d covered about 270 miles each day so far but knew the next day was to be the killer as it was 400 miles to our next stop in Soria in northern Spain. I had my doubts about making this and was glad to have let the more experienced riders go off by themselves. At this point I would like to thank my best mate for riding with me at a speed I was comfortable with and thus taking the pressure off me. I live by the mantra that I will ride my own ride and was glad to stick to it that day. A searingly hot day riding through the Gironde culminated in an exhilarating ride over the mountains in to Spain via the A63 from Biarritz to San Sebastian. The Pays Basque is stunningly beautiful.

We crossed in to Spain and took the road to Pamplona. It was at this point that the civilised and considerate lorry drivers on the French side turned into homicidal maniacs on the Spanish side. Surely they were the same drivers? Why were they now intent on killing us? After half an hour or so of near death experiences we decided to call it a day and stop in Pamplona overnight. I set the GPS to look for a 5 star hotel in town, only to find it was closed for refurbishment. In the process of looking for another smart place to stay we rode around the tiny cobbled streets of Pamplona, across pedestrian squares (oops!) and down at least one street the wrong way. I will never forget the noise of two Harleys reverberating off the high walls that lined the streets only a few feet wider than our bikes. It was at this point that Best Mate decided that his Fatboy’s pipes really were ridiculously loud and should carry a health warning.

After a gentle stroll through the streets of Pamplona and finding the best tapas I have had in years (the 5 year old Iberica hams hung in their dozens from the ceilings of the bars) we had to look again at our plans for the next 2-3 days. We were now short of our target for the day by about 80 miles. We really needed to make Ciudad Real by the next night and that was 450miles. By this time best mate had a first degree pressure sore on his bum and mine was not far behind.

The next day dawned bright and sunny again with a wonderful clarity in the air. The A12 took us through rolling lush green hills to Burgos. From there we headed south along the A1. This was one of the highlights of the trip. The road was exceptionally quiet with some sweeping curves and fast straight stretches to play on too. The arable fields were so huge you could have thought you were crossing the USA. It really was Harley country. We rode up and over gentle rolling hills and through breathtaking passes. Road signs are a little different in Spain too and warnings of big black cows were not uncommon. We skirted Madrid like experts and popped out the other side without taking a wrong turn and headed on to Toledo. We pondered stopping here but as we were making good time we decided to push on. The N401 south to Ciudad Real from Toledo was the second fantastic discovery of our trip and a road I would recommend for all bikers no matter what the bike or level of experience. At Orgaz we decided to stop for a late lunch and a cooling drink as it was now 30 degs. It was here we found the Café Ponderosa. As we walked in through the swing doors you could feel the stares of the locals- a handful of wizened old men. I don’t think a woman had ever been in there before let alone a biker chick. I peeled off my sweaty leather jacket forgetting I was only wearing a skimpy camisole underneath. The floor of the bar was several inches thick in cigarette butts to add to the atmosphere. By the time our tapas arrived I noticed the bar had begun to fill up with younger men. Some in overalls and several in sharp shiny suits and slicked back hair! Had the word got out that strangers were in town?

Once refreshed we continued along the empty road, pushing hard round the long bends, each one improving my feel of the bike and my trust in it. As my ride buddy pulled away expertly round the bends at speeds I can only dream about, my admiration for his riding grew. You can really learn a lot by following an expert, watching his line on the road and where he brakes (and where he doesn’t) and how he sets up for each corner. After each blast of speed he would slow down and wait patiently for me to catch up. Not once was I made to feel a nuisance and he even complemented me as my riding improved bit by bit. The final total for the day was an amazing 450 miles.


Ciudad Real is an ancient town and a drink in the main square was called for. We booked into the AlphonsusX and were given underground secure parking. By chance we met up with the other 5 riders from the beginning of our trip and downed a few beers together. It was here that a group of scrummy, hunky German Harley riders demonstrated the international symbols of friendship and invited me to ride with them. (well, I think that’s what they were suggesting).

Our final push the next day was to Fuengirola and our chance to go to the European Rally itself. The N420 south to Cordoba was the pinnacle. What a road! The gently curving road climbs up to the pass de Niefia and is followed by 40 kms of bends made just for Harleys. A short stretch of the A4 takes you past Cordoba and then on the A45 to Malaga. We had seen some Harleys before but suddenly we seemed to see group after group-and hardly any looked the same. I love the way each rider puts his stamp on his bike. It certainly is the best accessory I ever bought.

After Malaga and 15 kms beyond Fueringirola we found our apartment just 50m from the beach at Jardin las Golondrinas ( The welcome from Joaquin was wonderful with cool, secure underground parking for the bikes and a huge apartment with more bedrooms than I knew what to do with.

It was time for me to kick off my boots and put on my sandals and chill, whilst Best Mate head off to see friends in Gibraltar. The accommodation was brilliant, spacious with a big pool and excellent restaurant. Gradually the place started to fill up with Chelsea & Fulham riders and the next couple of evenings were spent making new friends, discovering my best mate really can dance, drinking too much and partying at the near by Don Carlos hotel. The Nikki beach club was the venue for our Chapter part, great choice John Warr. I even got to go to the rally. There were plenty of sexy bikes there including mine of course!

Gentlemen of C&F H.O.G.

On the penultimate day we had our chapter ride up into the mountains to Rhonda. 24 bikes, 1 trike and 44 kms of Z bends. Then a swift hand-over of the bikes to the efficient and lovely Arlene of Claridon the next morning to be shipped back home and we headed off to the airport and home.

Our bikes were due to arrive in Tilbury the next week and I knew I would miss mine terribly. I had doubled the total number of miles I had ridden since passing my test, improved my riding immeasurably, found new friends, and had to re-evaluate a relationship. Now I have over 5,000 miles riding experience.

I am proof that even at 47 years of age you can go from being a non-rider to riding a Harley 1,800 miles across France and Spain-and all in less than 18 months, and be a girl!

I am busy planning my next trip in October down Highway 1 from San Francisco with my sister and brother in law (both world class motorcyclists), and my two sons riding pillion. There’s no stopping me now.

In case you did not catch it in last month’s ‘The Road’ magazine my sister is Lisa Thomas, who left the UK 4 years ago with her hunky husband in-tow to ride around the world, hoping to raise money for 3 charities and break 4 world records. You can visit her website and follow her extraordinary adventures on

For a selection of photographs of Chelsea & Fulham’s journey to the European H.O.G. Rally, Fuengirola, Spain visit the Gallery page and click on the Spain ’07 tab.

Dr Caroline Taylor

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