Heather MacGregor and I went to the Epernay FIM rally after the Stella Alpina rally. I had done the Stella on Paul Mullis' old R80/7 and Heather was on her R1150 Rockster. We could have taken the obvious route via the Frejus tunnel and the motorway network but that would not have been in the spirit of the Stella/Safari. We went over the tops to Briancon and took to the N roads. This was during the run-up to the Tour de France and cyclists were everywhere. We had a near miss in one dark tunnel with a couple of cyclists riding two abreast with no lights.
We were not using sat nav and were so pleased to get around Dijon without getting lost that we went off into the countryside not having filled up with petrol. We have all done it, staring into the distance looking for a garage, wasting even more petrol turning off looking into villages, but finding nothing. The R80 has two petrol taps and I did 30 miles on my first reserve. Then on final reserve, after another 8 miles I was going downhill when my engine stopped. Heading down to another one horse village I rounded the corner and there was a petrol pump! Both bikes were filled up by a grumpy looking French gentleman whose siesta we had just disturbed then we had the problem of paying. We had various cards but
Ce'st impossible! We had one large denomination euro note which he couldn't change and didn't like the look of anyway so eventually he gave in and let us pay by card using the old style machine with a carbon copy signed at the bottom.
The FIM rally went as usual; arrive, sign in and get your identity tags and meal tickets, find the British contingent at the campsite, the bar and then check out the facilities. The event was held at a proper campsite so everything was ok but a little busy at peak times and being an FIM, or maybe just being in France, there were no toilet rolls!
In the evening entertainment was provided and, as we were in Champagne country, as well as beer a lot of fizzy wine was available. I seem to remember H getting poisoned by the Finns who had brought samples of Liquorice Vodka - Black Pig - at their stand which was promoting their rally which was to be held the next year. Years later at the FIM in Lithuania she was caught again by the same trick - there seems to be a theme here!
At meal times the queues for food were epic and I seem to remember that the veggies were having trouble explaining that fish and white meat were not part of a vegetarian diet and a Gallic shrug doesn't make it ok. To be a vegetarian or coeliac at an FIM is always a challenge!
The first event was the usual chaos of the Parc Ferme where we ride into the town square and officially register. The bikes are all in an enclosure but we parked near the edge and managed to get off early as the heat was unbearable.
Next day we had a coach trip out to a champagne house and we were shown all the vines and all the intricacies of its production then, best of all - sample time!
Pouvez-vous lire le français? Faites rouler la molette de votre souris pour zoomer.
Können Sie Deutsch lesen? Bewegen Sie das Mausrad, um die Ansicht zu vergrößern.
On the long return journey the air conditioning had stopped working on our coach and after several people felt unwell the driver was persuaded to stop at a park and attempts were made to open some vents on the roof of the coach. This was too successful, as we nearly lost part of the coach roof on the way back!
The FIM events are not like normal rallies but they seem to be as popular as ever with a large international following. They can be used as an excuse to go to a country you would not normally consider visiting and also as something fill in when planning a longer holiday tour. They are usually arranged so that if you have enough holiday time its possible to do the Motocamp, then the Meritum and then the FIM rally proper.
- Ted Trett