It’s time for the first “Rally” of the year and this year Mark Harling and Daan Zeydner have organised a ride through some of the more scenic parts of Belgium and Luxembourg so I spent a few hours fettling Sanji (fitted Otto’s tank as Sanji’s is leaking again), persuaded Jesal to come along, booked tickets and hotels, and set off for the EuroTunnel at 2:30pm on Friday the 8th March.

Met Jesal at Maidstone Services on the M20 and we headed down to the Tunnel. Parking up to wait for the loading, Jesal’s bike refuses to start and Sanji starts leaking coolant. After centrestanding her it seems that the coolant tank has sprung a leak, again! Ah, sod it, I’m going anyways. Jesal’s bike finally starts and we’re loaded onto the next train and 45 minutes later we’re in a petrol station in Calais, France.

From there it’s a quick one hour boogie up to Oudenburg, near Oostende. To the Groenedijk Motorcycle Loft Hotel where we check in, get dinner, a few beers and bed.

Saturday morning,…. 7am,…… I hate mornings! <groan>

I drag my tired backside out of bed, and at 7:30am we leave the hotel and head to some services for some food (too early for breakfast in the Hotel) and then blast down the E40 - E17 - E313 to Leopoldsburg.

Arriving at 9:30am we are greeted by Marc Kleefstra and Michael Cockram. Shortly Clemens and Brenda Lettinck and Daan Zeydner arrive, soon to be followed by Mark Harling and Valerie Thonet.

Six GTR1000’s ranging from my scruffy old 86 Sanji, to Clemens and Marks 99’s. Not a bad turnout for the GCE’s first ever event.

Meeting at Leopoldsburg, Koningin Astrid plein

At 10:45 we set off with Mark leading for a tour of the wilds of north-eastern Belgium. The route wound through the mostly flat countryside, through villages and towns down towards Bilzen and Tongeren before we made a beeline towards Teuven right up against the Dutch border, south of Maastricht. We did take a couple of detours due in some degree to poor signposting and Marks map reading but everyone seemed to be enjoying it so it didn’t matter and we forgave Mark thanks to his wry smile and out of fear of being beaten by Valerie. :-)

The starting group

In Teuven we stopped for an excellent lunch at “Moeder De Gans” or “The Mother Goose”. I had a “Stoofvlees” or meat stew cooked in a delicious beer and would go there again tomorrow if it weren’t 400 miles from home. Well worth a visit if you’re in the area though it can be difficult to find as Teuven is a tiny village, well off the beaten track.

Having a great lunch at "Moeder de Gans".

From Teuven we headed sort of directly to Blegny (via some very pleasant twisty country lanes) for a tour of the old coalmine there. A fascinating 2 hour tour of the facility and mines led by a colourful French speaking ex-miner pretty much wiped me out and after some discussion we decided to head for the Fomule-1 hotel at Liege. After a somewhat extended fuel stop at Barchon, we finally got to the hotel at about 6pm, to be greeted by Berten and Katelijn Steenwegen (86 SilverDamnit Connie).

At the entrence of Blegny Mines

Marc and Daan calculating the money. Are they Dutch or are they Dutch?

After checking in and dumping our luggage we all headed in to Liege, led by Berten, to a Pizzeria. Had dinner, told stories, laughed and joked, and generally had a good evening in the company of like minded (ie. crazy) GTR1000 owners. Back to the hotel for 10:30pm and I collapse into bed only to find I can’t sleep. I have images of Belgium rolling around in my head and this silly grin won’t go away. Somewhere in the middle of re-running the ride in my head I fall asleep. Apparently (according to Daan who was next door),… I snore,… LOUDLY! <VBG>

They could eat a horse, but pizza is what they get.

8am and I’m up, showered, fed and raring to go. Today we are heading for my favourite part of Belgium, the Ardennes, and then into Luxembourg. More twisty roads than you can shake a stick at, spectacular scenery, and TERRIBLE road surfaces.

Bikes in de morning sun

Boomer's jacket alive!!??

We are joined this morning by Franz Van Dooren making us a group of 9 GTR’s and 11 people. After chatting for a while and posing for a group photo, Berten leads us off through Liege and onto the E25 towards Remouchamps.

Frans van Dooren

Mark talking to the Ninja Turtles


Katelijn and SilverDamnit 86 Concours “Phoenix”

From left to right: George "Boomer" Garrett, Jesal Odedra, Michael Cockram, Marc Kleefstra, Katelijn Steenwegen, Berten Steenwegen (on his knees), Daan Zeydner, Brenda Lettinck, Clemens Lettinck, Frans van Dooren and Mark Harling

From there we split into 2 groups. I’m in a group with Jesal, Michael, Mark and Daan. We set off down N633 towards Trois Ponts, a wonderfully twisty valley road running alongside a river, then on the N68 to Viersalm where we meet up with the other group.

At some point near Trois Ponts, Michael took exception to being overtaken by an R1 and took off in pursuit followed by Mark and they rapidly disappear into the distance. Michael managed to stay on the R1’s heels for quite some time which he said upset the R1’s rider somewhat. <VBG>

After a rest in Viersalm we headed out on N68 again towards Deiffelt, across the border into Luxembourg and on down N7 to Marbourg. Then via CR342 to the N10 at Rodershausen, following the N10 south along the German border to Vianden. This is a glorious road winding back and forth through the valley, criss-crossing the river with spectacular scenery, castles on cliff tops and Swiss chalet style houses.

Stopping for lunch at the “Café du Pont” we have another excellent meal, chat lots, and then mount up and head out down N10 to Bettel, then N17B to Fouhren, N17 to Diekirch, N7 towards Ettelbruck, turning north onto N27. Here we took a small detour due to Boomer (me) not reading the map properly, which just goes to show that you’re not the only one Mark. <VBG>

Stoping for lunch at "Café du Pont" to have an other excelent meal

Back on N27 we ride all the way up through Michelau, Goebelsmuhle, Bockholz and on to Esch-su-Sure. Somewhere on this atrosciously surfaced road I managed to blow both of Sanji’s fork seals. The scenery was great and the road twistier than a snake doing the “Boogaloo” but the road surface was so bad that it severely limited the speeds and made corners something to be tippy-toed through.

At one point Mark went ahead and found a good spot for some action photo’s. Hopefully they will come out and can be included in this writeup. (as soon as theire in the webmasters hands)

Doncols, where we fuelled up and bought tobacco and alcohol before leaving Luxembourg.

From Esch we headed straight up N15 to Doncols where we fuelled up and bought tobacco and alcohol before leaving Luxembourg. Everything is about 2/3 of the price of the same stuff elsewhere with petrol at 0.73 Euro’s per litre (45 pence per litre or $2.43 per US gallon). This is where we bade fond farewells as the group broke up and everyone headed home. Jesal, Mark, Daan, and I headed up the N4 and E411 towards Brussels. Mark peeled off at Wavre, I headed into Brussels to visit my sister, and Daan and Jesal headed back to Breda and London respectively.

On the Monday after spending the Sunday evening with my sister and several of her friends, I went to visit the grave of my best friend who committed suicide a few years ago. Standing there in front of Julians spot in Uccle Cemetary, I felt somehow at peace, and for the first time since he died I left without crying. I guess time does heal. That and finding new friends.

A rapid (100Mph) blast along the E40 to Brugge, some shopping, some Frites with Andalouse sauce, then another rapid blast down the E40 to Calais, the EuroTunnel where I am all but strip searched by British Customs, then back to the UK and home.

In closing I would like to thank Mark & Daan for organising a real fun trip with some interesting side trips, everyone else who came for being there, sharing the fun, and for staring with amazement every time Sanji started up (she really does look a complete heap right now), and to thank Sanji for NOT letting me down yet again (other than the minor irritants of the melted coolant tank and the blown fork seals).

Where are we going next year Mark?
I can’t wait for Tour de Twist 2003. <VBG>

The Participants;
George Garratt & Orinoco - Black (with blue tank) 86 GTR1000 “Sanji”
Jesal Odedra - Wineberry 87 GTR1000 with black fairing bra
Marc Kleefstra - Wineberry 89 GTR1000 “GerTRude”
Michael Cockram - Merlot 94 GTR1000
Clemens and Brenda Lettinck - Barney Purple 99 GTR1000 “Purple Haze”
Daan Zeydner - Green 90 GTR1000 “Lizard”
Mark Harling and Valerie Thonet - Barney Purple 99 GTR1000 “Gas Guzzler”
Berten and Katelijn Steenwegen - SilverDamnit 86 Concours “Phoenix”
Franz Van Dooren - Barney Purple 99 GTR1000

Photography: Berten Steenwegen - & Clemens Lettinck