Clancy In Trouble

Geoff Hill’s latest update on – THE CS CLANCY CENTENARY RIDE

Supported by Adelaide Insurance Services and BMW Motorrad.

Recreating the first around the world ride 100 years on.

Gary-Geoff-at-the-old-customs-post-smallAt the border crossing between France and Spain at Le Perthus, Clancy ran into trouble.

“A villainous Spaniard, bedecked in the most dressy of uniforms, blocked my entrance into sunny Spain,” he fumed in his diary that night.

This “veritable brigand” then charged him a whopping $55 customs deposit, or almost a month’s wages back home, in import duty, then had the audacity to demand a tip.

Giving him six cents, Clancy set off into Spain, only to be slowed to 15 miles an hour by the dreadful roads.

“To all those who are planning to motorcycle in Spain, let me give one word of advice – don’t!” he wrote grimly.

Then, a broken crankshaft bearing forced him to spend the night in Figueras, where his complete lack of Spanish led to him being led to a hotel with half the town at his heels when he asked for a garage, and the waiter bringing him a bottle of wine in his hotel that night when he asked for the bill.

 Today, Le Perthus is a long, steep street lined with shops, off-licences and tattoo parlours, its pavements hiving with shoppers carting crates of cheap booze back to France, the entire scene watched over by a disturbingly glamorous blonde policewoman.

 “I wonder how I could get myself arrested and strip-searched,” said Gary as we looked in wonder at a scene in which the only thing Clancy would have recognized is the ancient customs post at the bottom of the street.

Leaving the Henderson in Figueras to be repaired, Clancy boarded a “wretched hencoop train” which took seven hours to get to Barcelona, during which he decided that he preferred the Spanish to the French both in looks and temperament and they were “even more gay than the Italians in nature”.

Ah, how the language changes. If we’d told any of the Spaniards we met that they were more gay than the Italians, a riot may well have ensued.

Wandering around Barcelona the next day, Clancy felt refreshed by the constant laughter and play of children, and deeply impressed by the fact that the hard dirt streets were swept and sprinkled with water every night.

Most enchanting of all, though, was the paseo, or evening walk, in which the citizens strolled hand in hand or arm in arm.

Gary-Walker-Geoff-Hill-Adelaide-Insurance-director-Sam-Geddis-at-the-Christopher-Columbus-statue-Barcelona-smallHe would be pleased to know that both the paseo and the sprinkling of streets are customs maintained to this day, and although the children he saw laughing have grown up and old and died, their grandchildren are laughing still.

He went to bed a happy man, then took the train back to Figueras to see how the repairs to his Henderson were coming on, only for an “exasperatingly slow mechanic and his two ornamental assistants” to take three days for the job, leaving him with only 24 hours to ride the 120 miles back to Barcelona port for the boat to Algiers.

He set off at 5.30 on wretched roads which shook him to a pulp, and by the time darkness fell at nine, he had only covered 60 miles.

The fact that he could not even see the holes and rocks in the road added to his misery, and after an hour in which he saw neither a living soul nor a house, he fell twice, the first time smashing his light and the second almost breaking his leg.

He pressed on into the night, pushing the bike across countless fords and rivers, until his nerve was badly shaken when the shadows at the bottom of a steep descent suddenly turned out to be a raging torrent.

“After a while I got so I didn’t care – philosophically reflecting that one must die sometime and to die with one’s boots on is very noble; so I rushed all the fords that came later, and surprised myself each time by reaching the other side alive. My dear old Henderson seemed to enjoy the excitement,” he wrote in his diary.

I wonder what he would made of the eight-lane motorway along which we sped at 80mph to Barcelona, since we had a hot date at the statue of Christopher Columbus in Mirador de Colom with Adelaide director Sam Geddis and his wife Gloria.

It was an appropriate choice, not only because Columbus was an adventurer, but because we were being watched over by the ghost of Clancy, since he’d stayed in a two-room apartment overlooking this very spot.

In the previous Adelaide Adventure around Oz, Sam and Gloria had flown out to ride with us for the first three weeks, and this time around they’d planned to do the same, after Sam had gone to some trouble persuading his fellow directors that Adelaide should sponsor this to a degree which they were reluctant to do in the middle of a recession.

Then, when Triumph, the original providers of bikes, had to pull out because of a black hole in the sponsorship funds which they couldn’t fill, it was Sam’s suggestion to go to Jim Hill at BMW Motorrad Mallusk, a good friend of BMW’s UK head of marketing, Tony Jakeman.

Clancy-pics-market-place-in-Figueras-Spain-smallAlthough work commitments ended up scuppering his original plan of riding with us through Europe, he and Gloria had come out to join us for a day in Barcelona, and there they were at the Columbus statue, Gloria looking immaculate as ever, since on the Oz trip she’d managed, by my reckoning, to fit 4,386 changes of clothing into a single suitcase.

“Geoff, great to see you. Fancy a Magnum?” she said.

That’s right, I’d forgotten: one of the rituals in the baking heat of Oz was the daily stop for a Magnum, possibly the finest ice cream bar on the planet.

“Gloria, are you mad?” I said. “I’ve seen enough ice in the past fortnight to last me a lifetime.”

“Nonsense. It’s a lovely day,” she said, nipping off and returning with Magnums for all.

After all the photos were done, I took Gary on a motorcycling tour of the sights of the city: the Sagrada Familia, Casa Batllo and Parc Guell

That night, we all met up again for a slap-up meal in Los Caracoles, an ancient restaurant in the old quarter, and after the usual argument, Sam ended up picking up the bill, as he does.

And so, fed and watered, we sped south through Italy, heading for Tunisia to see if we could blag our way into Algeria at the border.

Keep up to date and up to speed with the CS Clancy Centenary Ride – the first biker to ride around the world left Dublin 100 years aqo – at

Background information:

Main sponsor, Adelaide Insurance Services are motorcycle insurance specialists operating UK wide and in the Republic of Ireland.

In 2012 they were voted the UK’s number one for value-for-money in the Auto Express Driver Power survey beating all the UK’s best known brands.

This annual poll had responses from 29 000 readers.

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