The SIP Scootershop annual road trip for 2019 was to France’s Champagne region - Christian Seidl is your guide to this year’s installment…
“Ever been to Champagne before? It's lovely there. You can drink champagne until you drop and see how the frothy sparkling wine is made and stored. Details on the exact production process, the second fermentation in the bottle and the “riddling”, are best skipped at this point, because we actually want to talk about something else. It is much more about the journey, which, as everyone knows, is the destination. Everyone can make their own way to and from the north-eastern province of France as they wish. Our merry band of travellers decided, despite mixed weather forecasts, for a journey by Vespa. Mind you, without a broom wagon, as is tradition with us.
We started out on a Thursday morning. Our highly motivated group, consisting of SIP Scootershop employees, our friend “Alu” from Taiwan (ZELIONI) and our long-standing customer Park from Seoul (Vespa Garage) made their way towards Lake Constance. The first milestone was Überlingen. Tim Große-Braukmann from Vollgas Motoroller welcomed us with a first-class antipasti buffet and refreshing cold drinks on a charming hill that overlooks the peacefully still lake down below. Grazie Tim, we had a great time! From there, local Thomas from Vespassione guided us in the direction of Freiburg. We meandered through small villages and breathed in the delicate scent of country air mixed with a touch of that classic smell you only get from a Vespa. Together with Nico von Schall and Rauch we strolled through the centre of Freiburg and met there with our friends from the Scooter Club de Sud Est. Grand Plaisir. The night was short, but it was time for us to move on.
The southern Vosges were waiting, and our group, which had meanwhile grown to seventeen, took the winding Route des Crêtes easily to Nancy. It was not all that easy, though. Towards the end it was cold, wet and everyone was happy when we finally reached the warm parking garage in the centre of the city. We dined royally and slept like princes on the pea at the Grand Hotel De La Reine directly on Place Stanislas.
From Nancy, our route took us to Verdun the next day. Already on the way there, we saw countless memorial sites and military cemeteries. The sinking feeling in our stomachs continued to grow. The horror of what occurred here in the 10 months of the First World War between Germany and France is almost impossible to understand and put into words. The average life expectancy of a soldier deployed in the Battle of Verdun at the beginning of May 1916 was only 14 days. Our visit had an uncannily strong symbolic significance and effect on all participants. How well we live today.
Then we rode like Don Quixote and Sancho Panza tilting at windmills. Never-ending straights and strong headwinds made riding difficult, tortured our necks with our engines struggling to keep up. We managed to survive this test without any breakdowns and rolled smoothly over the former race track circuit Reims-Gueux. As a reward, we got a very informative champagne tour and tasting in the small winery Roger Coulon.
Morning came with a loss of teeth. One of our gearboxes gave up the ghost on a sightseeing tour directly in front of Notre Dame de Reims Cathedral. The weakened but still running vehicle was unceremoniously tied with a rope to a sycamore tree (lifting platform replacement) and professionally operated on. 2nd and 3rd gear and the auxiliary shaft were broken beyond repair. Sunday a Facebook message produced the appropriate parts from the local Vespa Club de Champagne and, a short time later, Alex's 180SS was back on the road. Bon Anniversaire! As a reward, there was again a tour, this time in one of the largest champagne wineries ever. Sometimes it just has to be MUMM... We ate in the centre of Reims.
Unfortunately, we had to say farewell to our French friends early in the morning. But not without giving great thanks to Jacques for the sensational organisation and the usual kisses. After all, nothing gets done in France without kisses. If a greeting or goodbye is not marked by them, then something is up, someone is offended or generally ill. Since none of these circumstances were the case, there were kisses for all before hitting the highway in the direction of Metz. We seemed to push the rainclouds ahead of us like snowploughs. Whenever we felt a few drops, we stopped for a coffee break and let the bad weather get a bit ahead. That was when the piston on Luca's Quattrini M244 ceased to work. We worked on cylinders and pistons with emery paper and file until the engine ran again and bore her rider safely to Strasbourg in the evening. It is actually incredible how you can restore a ruined piston back to shape on the roadside. Top dinner and subsequent pub crawl in beautiful Strasbourg, short night.
We froze our butts off going through the Black Forest. We had on all of the clothes that our sparse laundry bags could provide, including rain suits, and still it was as cold as in the champagne cooler. Even warm thoughts didn’t help. The excellent lunch in Sulz gave us a short revitalisation. From Memmingen, it bucketed down with rain. Drenched and yet still inspired by the many memorable adventures that we were able to experience together, all the protagonists were happy to be back home among their loved ones.
Is it brave to dash through France with only a handful of spare parts (which were sometimes even forgotten at home), without broom wagon, on over 50-year-old vehicles, covering just under 1800 kilometres in 5 days? No!
Vespa riding brings people together. Regardless of religion, nationality, history or age. Obviously a little luck had something to do with it, yet it was easy to acquire the necessary spare parts and it is always lovely to meet kindred spirits.
Summary: A crazy bunch that couldn’t have been more colourful. Two punctures, a bolted gearbox, a piston seizure, tons of vino & champagne, countless stories and happy children's eyes.
2020 will see things heating up again. We are heading south. Hard Corsica Vol.2”
Christian from SIP Scootershop.
Thanks very much to the guys at SIP for sharing, you can check out their full HardChampagne photo album - here plus video of the trip below..