What is happening over in the French Alps? 

Locally the weather has finally cleared the roads enough to get both of my motorbikes out of their winter slumber.  Of course we still have plenty of snow on the ski slopes, stacked beside the road and indeed fresh snow falls from time to time.  However  with daytime temperatures now generally above freezing, any fresh snow usually does not hang around for long.  

We have our first event of the riding season planned tomorrow – with a group of us heading over into Switzerland to check out all the latest motorbikes and biking gear at the annual Motorbike show near Lausanne.  

Next month we have a group attending the usual massive Spadino Memorial ride  to Courmeyer/Morgex in Italy.  This commemorative ride marks 20 years since the awful Mont Blanc Tunnel fire which saw many lives lost.  

“Spadino” (which means the little one) was a well respected but very small motorbiker who was employed to patrol the tunnel on his BMW motorbike reporting defective lights, potholes or other problems.  On the day of the fire he was responsible for saving virtually all the people who got out alive from the furious fire inside the tunnel.  When the alarms triggered Spadino was on a break, but did not think twice, he just donned some breathing gear and rode his motorbike into the smoke filled tunnel.  The smoke was so thick he could not see anything – only locating trapped vehicles by running into them.  He instructed numerous occupants to abandon their vehicles and crawl on hands and knees back out of the tunnel staying at floor level where special air vents were operated to provide clear air.  He ran into and sent to safety, occupants of numerous vehicles.  

Further into the tunnel he encountered drivers who had already passed out, so took to dragging them from their vehicles and draping them over his pillion seat to ferry them to the exit.  After several return trips to the tunnel exit most people would agree he had done enough, but instead he replaced his depleted breathing gear, and set off on a final rescue trip where he encountered a truck where the huge driver 20 stone+ was already unconscious.  Spadino still managed to drag him from the cab and into a fire resistant refuge where he attempted to revive the truck driver.  Sadly whilst the refuge was designed to be fire resistant for 12 hours, the fire burned for 48 hours and by the time it was out, his motorbike was found melted into the road surface with Spadino and the lorry driver dead inside the refuge.   The annual memorial gathering is a truly moving testament to an amazing biker.

We are now starting to add events to our website calendar, and recently confirmed the date for our AGM.

Also in early May we will be organising another visit to catch up with members in the Vosges Mountains to tie down plans and finalise routes for the September meeting.  Straight after the Vosges meeting I will be heading to the UK and on to the Isle of Man TT and will be one of the crazy fools taking part in the usual Mad Sunday ride around the TT course on my VFR.  

In Mid June we will be hosting a visit by a group from Ulysses-Club Norway to the Alps.  We have planned some stunning rides – so just need good weather. 

We will arrange plenty of other rides before the September meeting in the Vosges, but most of them will be arranged fairly late in the day only confirmed once we know what the weather is likely to do – I guess that is usually less of an issue for you folks in Australia, although just now, it looks like some serious storms are headed for Northern Australia. 

Wherever you ride - Take Care

John  Cooke
Ulysses-Club France
Vice President – International Relations