Pinguïnos, January 2010 in Valladolid Spain,

Rendez vous at 9am at my place near Beziers, France. Marcel was on time. My bike was out front... ready. 2 strokes on the kick and we were off, direction Pinguinos 2010 in Valladolid Spain, close on 700 miles, avoiding motorways as much as we could. A few degrees below 0° C, but nonetheless dry.

Before Perpignan, it began to drizzle, a few miles later it turned to rain, and then some snowflakes joined the party, the way winter rallies are supposed to be. We had our weatherproofs over our double jackets and anything else we could wear for protection against the icy wind.
My '74 shovel was going well, other than dropping the odd spark due to all the water flying around. A can of WD40 from a gas station had it sorted out in no time.


Marcels '66 early shovel wasn't doing bad either, especially having the sidecar on. Other than when climbing, for which it needed full throttle in 3rd gear. This emptied his carb bowl, leaving his poor shovel staggering, at times almost at a standstill.

We were hoping for better weather across the border but in Spain the rain was still keeping us company, if anything it was getting worse. Getting under the collar to begin, water started to leak in, then slowly working its way down until our balls were bathing in it. Our feet were no better off, despite the nourishing coat of grease the boots received the day before, our feet were squelching like wet sponges every time we stopped.
However not being easily discouraged we pushed on. Fuel tanks full, my marvel came to life on the first kick. A glance over at Marcel, checking all was ok........ what was he looking down at...? his kick had broke off! No sweat, it'll push just start fine, and it did. So another 300/400 miles further on being pissed off with the rain and generally foul weather, going against our principles with a broken kick pedal we found a small roadside hotel 40 miles from Saragosse to get some sleep and especially to try and dry out our kit. Great, the only hitch was we were the only customer, that's why the heating had been turned off in the rooms. So much for drying stuff out. The next morning Marcel was up first and out to load his bike. Coming back to the room he said « you're not gonna believe it, it's stopped raining, and it's actually quite mild » ?!

For sure, under the shelter where the bikes were it was about 3° C, but once outside the wind was something else, and the temperature was too, minus 4° C. The road was dry though, so away we went affronting day two in our wet clothes, on to Saragosse. On an industrial estate we came across a metalwork, lucky for us there was a French bloke who had worked there for years and out of sympathy agreed to weld the kick back together. Which was kind of him because the rest of them were rather cold and had no intention of helping out, protesting they had nothing to weld it with etc... A quarter of an hour later we were on our way again.

On the plateau, crossing the sierra Navarra, we encountered an icy side wind that i'd never before experienced on a bike. Riding at a 45° angle to my right, now and then a gust or a break in it would almost take us off the road. The wind was getting under my visor & in to my helmet, the following 4 hours we continued regardless, our faces as red as tomatoes, but at least it wasn't raining. Now and again though we were gratified with a few hailstones or the odd snowflake, things blew across the road. Even tumbleweed, like an old cowboy movie!

The real danger at this point however came from above, sheets of ice dropping off trailers that had spent the night in their depot, and were now dropping all over the place landing some 20 yards behind the trucks, and there was plenty of them, hundreds of 'em.

We started to meet other bikes, a sure sign we closing in on our destination.
That afternoon about 7 miles before reaching Valladolid Marcels shovel started seriously pissing out great amounts of oil. After verification, behind an articulated lorry on a car park (it was the only shelter from the violent wind we could find) we noticed the oil return line had broken clean off on his S&S pump. We were fortunate enough to find a bike shop no more than 300 yards away, and luckily they had something to make repairs.
A couple of transformations, a short length of rubber hose and we were saved. At least for the next 15 miles.
Surprise, on reaching Valladolid town centre, Marcels shovel stopped dead. Looks like the ignition... we pushed the bike on to the pavement, so not to get squashed by the cars, and found that his plugs were giving very weak sparks. Being prepared for any eventuality he fished out an old spare capacitor. Crank it up and away again, especially as we are now only a few miles from the party! 500 yards further on, it started again, Marcel now looking for that axe in the sidecar to cut his early in half, managed to control himself.
This time I donated my own « sog-stock » capacitor, it worked brilliant, the engine now running like a yearling, it was the sidecars turn to test our nerves, splitting it's « nose ». A few boards and sandow tensioners and we made it to the Pinguinos rallye last. We'll get it welded in the morning.....

We pitched our tent in the dark, with only weak lighting coming from the projectors far off. As soon as our villa of fortune was ready, we approached the stands looking for food & drinks... let the party begin.
There were people everywhere, impressing to see so many folk out on their bikes in such cold weather. There was 4 marquees, each roughly 200m² and each with their own sound too, thousands of watts, in such a small area, Organized Chaos, it was bedlam. A fun fair X10. At about 3am I was knackered from my days travelling and decided to hit the sack. Minus 10°C in the tent, music blaring out, not forgetting the prats revving up their jappys to 16000 rpm all night, now and again cutting the ignition, and bang, the poor exhaust pipes must have blown clean off.
Around 7:30 all went quiet at last,.... except for the great whore in the tent next to ours screaming her head off « siiii siiii siiii » (spanish bitch for sure). Like old hinges needing oil; siii siii siii, building up si si si si si si si Someone must be lubricating her. The cow was getting shagged to death.

Day 3

Early afternoon we set out to find a welder, but the Spanish go back to work at 4pm. So we were too early, so why not wait at a local bar. We found a great pub, and they sold white beer... great, 1,2,3,4,5... after I lost count, and after all, the welding could wait couldn't it? Then before you know it, it went dark, night was falling quickly, the temperature was too. We decided to head back the Rallye, One kick and our rides were ready, a quick burn, out front and away we went. At the site, not far from the tent, there was a mud pool, it had been there a few days and everyone cautiously worked their way around it.
Not me though, no need to was there, cause it had frozen over hadn't it? Full of all the bravery I downed in the pub I went headlong.... well the first 15 feet or so. The bike came to halt, buried up to the cradle in mud, no need for side stands it was well and truly stuck. Some kind bike folk helped me out, pushing & pulling, that's when I looked round to see Marcel had followed in my tracks so's to speak and was bogged in, only a few yards behind me.
Not one for doing things by half, the sludge got round his pullies and ripped his belt in half, not to mention all the shit and water that had got between his clutch plates. The party in full swing was more apealing than trying to fix a bike in the dark by minus 10°, and it could wait 'till tomorrow, so we parked up the bikes next to our tent for the night. Later we met some bikers that had made the journey from Toulon, and tasted some local specialties, a great atmosphere. Then to my surprise it got better. Around midnight there was a strip-tease on the podium, she didn't hang around long though, being naked in freezing temperatures probably had something to do with it.

Day 4

We woke in our frozen tent, and went to contemplate the effects last night's mud bath had had on our pride & joys, our machines looked more like dirt bikes than anything else. I had a spare drive belt and an enormous socket wrench so we were able to take off the front pulley and fit the new belt without having to touch the gearbox. 10 minutes and it was done, the only problem now was Marcels clutch full of mud and everything had frozen into a solid block of shitty gunge. Hmmm... Marcel then had a brainwave, strode off and came back carrying a flaming log off someone's fire, he shoved it under the clutch and we watched and waited. Very effective this solution proved to be, within minutes diarrhea was oozing out from between the discs. With the engine now running it took only instants for the clutch mechanism to return to freedom. An hour later we had finished folding the tent packing and loading our frozen kit on the bikes, ready for the return trip. At the sites exit the organizers had lined up for a warm salute, wishing us on, as we set off home.

A good hundred miles before reaching Soria, Marcel was making signs telling me to pull over. A funny noise he said coming from a cylinder. We thought it was a exhaust gasket, therefore nothing to worry about. Less than 10 minutes later we'd stopped again, it was now clear that the rear cylinder head gasket that had blown. We were gutted; this was the end of our frostbiting adventure, a mere 400 miles away from home. We decided to push our luck and try to reach Soria, a fair sized town where we could easily find accommodation, food and more important a means by which to get everything back to France. Finally after a few disappointments and some missed calls, we reached David from Perpignan. Without hesitating he left work, rented a van and set out to fetch us, the only hitch was that the van seated three passengers, and he'd bought a mate along, so now we were 4!

Day 5

We loaded everything in to the van, leaving a little space between the bikes/sidecar, so that we could take in turns going for a kip (only having three seats up front, it seemed a good idea). It didn't really appeal to anyone of us at first, so I volunteered. True, there was little room in the back, it was cold, stank of petrol and there was no windows, but there was no choice either was there?.
At the last gas station in Spain we pulled in to fill up, David by now was feeling tired and took my place in the back. On approaching the border the furthest thing from our minds was a customs inspection, but they were there waiting for us, signaling us to stop in the side lane, we pulled over. We started getting a bit nervous having David « the illegal passenger » in the back, when the officer approached we rolled down the window. « Pinguinos? » he said, to which we all answered « Si, si, si Pinguinos ». His only reply was « open up ». Shit!
We nervously whispered to Bruno . open the back doors., if he'd have opened the side door the customs bloke would have found himself face to face with David who was doing his best to hide under all our mess in the back. We waited expecting complications, but with a glance he said ok, on your way. Oufff, sigh of relief, he hadn't seen David between/under the bikes covered in blankets, a good job too, being as he'd set out in top gear (bless him) and forgot to take his wallet with him, no ID card, passport or paperwork of any form. We dropped Bruno off at Perpignan, and David carried on with us back to my place near Beziers. By the time we'd unloaded everything it wasn't far off 4 a.m. and he'd promised to have the van back by 9am.

A Big thank you to David & Bruno, it's sometimes reassuring knowing you're not alone « in the middle of nowhere ».

As for the adventure and experience, it was really worth the trip, probably not be doing it again too soon though.....
Makes me wonder if we don't have suicidal tendencies though, out on a bike in that weather!

Ride safe!

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