Vespa World Days/Euro Lambretta – A tour of Hungary and Poland: Part 3 | FEATURE
If you missed the first two parts of this epic trip to Hungary and Poland you can catch up here. In part three Shaun and Wookie get to Euro Lambretta Poland before going their separate ways to blast back to the UK as quickly as possible. Shaun covered 1228 miles in just two days on his Casa SST 265. We’ll bring you a story about Wookie’s return trip on his bog-standard Vespa T5 later.
After the free breakfast on Monday, Wookie on his standard T5 and I set off for a leisurely bimble up to Slovakia. The Hungarian roads, whilst not brilliant were like billiard tables compared to Slovakia! Even in Bratislava, there were holes nearly a foot deep, with pink spray around them to warn you… after it was too late to avoid them. It was dangerous to follow a car too closely as you would have no chance to avoid their versions of the Grand Canyon, never mind Russian roulette, this was the Slovakian equivalent.
Wookie had come up trumps with the accommodation for the next two nights using Air bnb, he’d chosen a very nice apartment with secure underground parking for the scooters, within walking distance of the old town and most importantly the bars.
Dangerous Dave was ready and waiting for us and had stocked the fridge with a few cold ones. We soon decided it would be rude not to explore the local area and sample the local strong beers, especially as the heatwave continued and we needed to stay well hydrated.
The next day I chose to have another check over my SST as I’m a serial tinkerer. Dave didn’t touch the panels on the SST he had loaned from Dean at RLC all through his trip and Wookie’s T5 still has its original spark plug so there was no way he was getting his hands dirty. They did the sensible thing and went sightseeing (found a different bar), whilst I changed the plug and tightened my nuts. I soon tracked them down getting sunburnt at the castle and normal service was resumed in a bar shortly after.
We spent a nice night sampling the culture of the old town (bars) and all too soon it was Wednesday morning and time for us to leave the comfort of our swanky apartment to head north towards Poland. Dave had arranged to meet another group in Ople and so we headed off in slightly different directions dodging the potholes.
The parts of Slovakia that we saw whilst riding weren’t the most picturesque and the bits that were pretty then had a dirty great big industrial estate or modern tower blocks slapped in the middle of it. That said we made good progress and so decided we’d push on to Zakopane and the official Euro Lambretta rally campsite.
After the obligatory stop for photos at the Polish border sign we stopped for fuel in possibly the most picturesque BP garage in Europe. A quick blast on to Zakopane and it became clear that speed limit signs were not relevant to chavved up BMW drivers, as they hurtled past us two in the towns.
Arriving at the official campsite the Polish organisers were just setting up and came over to greet us, shaking their heads in disbelief that we’d ridden from the UK via Hungary. We were the first riders to arrive at the rally. They went out of their way to make sure we were allowed to pitch our tents early and directed us to the nearby bars, etc.
The campsite was set in a lovely location at the foot of a mountain that had a World Championship ski slope stuck on its side. Not a bad backdrop for photos.
Wookie and I had both achieved our own personal challenges by getting to Poland and clocked up just over 1600 miles each, despite travelling different routes to Hungary. I was close to the furthest travelled by Lambretta, which was won by a lad who’d apparently ridden solo from Spain. A trophy wasn’t even in my mind when this challenge was dreamt up so to come close was an honour.
The next morning we managed to blag one of the ski lodges on the campsite for the Friday and Saturday nights meaning we could pack the tents up ready for a quick getaway on Sunday morning.
Thursday saw several more Brits turn up with the main influx due on Friday, as the various groups descended on Poland from a variety of directions. Facebook was actually invented so that we can keep tabs on where everyone is on their journeys and also to show what those left home are missing out on, more showing off…
Amongst the fellow Brits arriving were a couple, Clare and Martin that live local to me who were on their own European tour after the rally. They kindly offered to carry my camping bag and surplus kit back with them to lighten the load on the scooter. This was greatly appreciated as the trip back was to be a real blast.
The bars in Zakopane are used to the ski set and maybe weren’t quite prepared for an influx of scooterists, unsurprisingly it was mainly the Brits that kept the bar staff busy, especially as again most drinks were fairly cheap. Word soon went round that one bar was staying open until 2 am, so that became the focal point, after that it was either the strip clubs or back to the campsite or hotels.
Friday and the LCGB stall and repair tent were becoming increasingly busy. Much respect to Andy Vass, Anthony Tambs and the rest of the team for getting most people back on the road for the rideouts and journey home.
There was a 50km rideout on the Friday that had a reasonable attendance but the main ride out was on Saturday, where there were around 600 Lambrettas in convoy, quite an impressive sight, but to be honest after riding 1600 miles there and with another 1200 to go to get home we were happy to have a break from the saddle. It also meant we had more time to drink the draught Polish cider that the campsite bar had on constant supply. The regular bar visits finally meant that I learnt how to say thank you in Polish.
Long distance American
We ended up drinking with fellow Brits, Austrians and a group over from the USA, as well as American Jennifer Parker who lives in Prague. She had also attended VWD in Hungary then ‘popped’ home after Hungary and jumped on her Lambretta to head to Poland. Unfortunately, Jennifer encountered a breakdown. Czech is not the best place to get Lambretta spares quickly and so she had to pop back home and jump on her Vespa to complete her trip. Fantastic.
Saturday morning came and we sampled the free breakfast, which filled a hole and soaked up a few spots of excess alcohol, then it was time for a wander around the stalls. Credit to Andy Francis who had set up a huge stock of spares, oil, etc. to ensure that he could help anyone in need, or those wishing to treat their pride and joy. It was also good to see the SIP team making it a double after attending VWD the weekend before. It was also great to bump into Stoffi again who had ridden over from Austria after my enforced stay at his shop.
What could possibly go wrong?
Saturday afternoon and evening were spent in the bars in town with the Leeds Central Elite, Blazing Glory, etc. Dangerous Dave and the Blazing Glory usually create special Euro rally T-shirt’s and this year’s was a belter. Dave had been given a translation from a Polish lad at work, resulting in using a line from a Polish folk song that was supposed to be a jokey sentence along the lines of “what could possibly go wrong.” However, Dave suddenly stopped wearing his after the landlady at his hotel had explained it had a different meaning, a lot more offensive than thought, which would explain the odd looks the rest of us wearing them were getting from the locals!
Plenty more merriment (drinking and piss taking) followed before we headed back for the presentation dinner on Saturday night. Next to the campsite was a large sports centre with the car parks hosting the dealer area and a large marquee had been set up adjacent to it which housed the breakfasts and the dinner, the weather was still extremely hot so it was sweltering inside. A local traditional band performed as we made our way to the tables, the Brits had been placed together and it became clear just how many Brits had attended, with row upon row of tables for us, resulting in us receiving the best attended national club award.
The food was ok, however sadly those that had chosen the vegetarian options were left with no food again. After a similar issue at the Friday night buffet apparently (we ate in town so missed that) so several groups had no choice but to get up and walk out of the dinner to find some food elsewhere. In this modern age where we have such varied dietary requirements, I’m sure that next year’s hosts (the Belgians) will have taken note.
The partying continued into the early hours, although many said their goodbyes early to get an early night ahead of the long journey home.
Sunday morning and the scooter was quickly loaded with my reduced kit, now that I was de-bagged. The SST was kicked into life. I was saying goodbye to my riding partner, Wookie at this point as I had to get back sharpish for work. This was when the SST really showed what it can do as I headed out on to the motorways for the journey home. Sitting at 70 – 80 GPS for 60-mile stints (that was enough in the heat) meant the miles were quickly being munched. I lost count of the number of cars that pulled alongside me giving the thumbs up in respect of this 1961 Italian shopping bike flying along. I made excellent time, covering nearly 600 miles that day, including several detours due to roadworks and a couple by choice to visit Czech and then Colditz.
1228 miles in two days
Monday and again the weather was scorching riding across Germany, so more of the same with the SST flying along. Crossing the border into Holland gave me a chance for a visit to the old Venlo rally site for old times sake and from there I was soon in Belgium for the final stretch. I thought I’d get to about 60 miles from the Chunnel to jump in a hotel for the night. I’d found an Ibis online, but when I got there it was like a travellers camp with nowhere to secure the Lambretta, not even a post to chain it to, so I decided to ride on. Next fuel stop was a rest area about 50 miles from Calais. After parking the scooter up I thought I’d sit and grab a bit of shut-eye when a head pops up out of the bush next to me asking for a smoke?! He was then joined by another in the next bush, a pair of migrants looking to blag a fag and a lift to Blighty, they had no chance on my Lambretta and I don’t smoke.
There was no way I’d get any kip there so off I rode again and despite not being booked on the Chunnel until 10 am I was waved straight through and was back on British soil at 3 am.
A leisurely final 150 miles home meant I’d managed to cover 1228 miles from southern Poland to my doorstep in two days. Challenge well and truly achieved thanks to the awesome Casa Performance SST265 engine and its effortless power for touring.
Thoughts on the SST so far
Bearing in mind I’d had no chance to set the engine before I left and it had safe jetting (rich), plus I was running the race exhaust on the touring motor it meant that you were out of the power so not running efficiently. The Italians recommend setting things rich low in the revs so that when you come off of a high throttle you’re not suddenly running it weak, which is fine unless you’re burbling along at running in or T5 speeds and then it’s wasting fuel constantly.
I’m waiting for the new expansion pipe that has been designed specifically for the SST, once that is here then I’ll get it jetted to suit. I’m pretty sure the exhaust working with the new touring ignition should clean things up, running an expansion pipe on these kits and they will drink fuel when you wind on the power. I’ll get it set up at Chalky’s (Replay Scooters) once I’ve got the exhaust fitted.
The new Ducati ignition performed well on the trip and I had no issues with starting from hot or cold and the lighting was improved, so I’m sure it won’t be long before the kit is available on the RLC website.
The overall trip was 2834 miles, visiting 11 countries (if you include England), wearing out a rear tyre on the way. Thankfully my Airhawk seat cushion worked so my arse and my back felt fine. Although I was shattered riding in the energy-sapping heat. The only rain I saw when riding fell whilst I was having lunch in a garage on the way home, so my waterproofs stayed packed away.
The main lessons learnt for me are don’t leave everything to the last minute, give more time to prepare and also don’t trust Dave’s mates’ dodgy Polish translations.
We’re only here once so if you have a personal challenge then get organised and go for it, who knows what is around the corner.
Shaun’s Rallery – Vespa World Days
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