It was shaping up to be another dry and sunny Normandy Saturday. The Gold Wing was packed and ready. I finished my cup of coffee, fully knowing that within a half hour, I would need to make my first pee stop. I wish I could avoid the hassle, but skipping my morning coffee is not an option. Today I was driving to Mont St. Michel, one of France’s best known historical attractions. It was 2 degrees outside with frost on the grass. Lots of mist and no wind. I would have to tough it out for the first hour or so.

The first 30 minutes of riding was on a winding two lane road through small french hamlets, still fast asleep. The sun was still low, casting a nice orange glow over the eastern horizon. And it was cold. I was about to turn onto a major highway when I thought it might be better to pull off onto a side road while I still could and take the pressure off of my bladder. I took a left turn onto a small tree lined road which seemed deserted enough. As I parked the bike, there was a vague realisation that the road was quite narrow, but I was more concerned with being inconspicuous and getting the job at hand taken care of. With all my protective layers once again zipped up, I mounted the motorcycle, and now began to realise the trap I was in. The road was simply too narrow to turn a Gold Wing on, and to make matters worse I had to fight an incline. Along the side of the road was a ditch. I knew that if I ended up in there, there was not much chance of getting out clean.

Hindsight is always 20/20 vision. If I had thought this through just a little longer, I would have simply continued down the road to a point where I could make a u-turn. But I didn’t. I simply acted as if I had no choice but to attempt a turn where one was not possible. Before I knew it, I was perched with my front wheel just over the ridge of the ditch, and try as I might, my strength was not equal to the weight of the bike. So there I was, holding onto the front brake so that the Gold Wing wouldn’t roll forward into the ditch, but helpless to back it up. For a moment, I wished Honda had included a reverse gear in these early model Gold Wings, but wishing does not make it so.

I was forced to take my chances navigating the ditch. The manoeuvre was doomed to fail. It was only a question of how far I would get before I lost control. So… I let go of the brake, gave some gas and held my breath while my arms and legs fought to steady the more than 300 kilogram weight of the Honda. After about 3 meters, the back wheel slid out from under me and I had to let the bike fall. There I sat with my Gold Wing in a ditch in the middle of France on a cold Saturday morning with absolutely no way to get myself back on the road. All this for a pee stop?

The most I could manage on my own was to lift the bike to an upright position. I was clearly going to need help, but from where? As I let the bike fall back to the ground and turned my head to the right, I saw that a white van had just pulled up. The man had clearly seen me struggling and now stepped out and started walking my way. He was a local and spoke only French (what other language is there?) but he was also stocky and strong and turned out to be exactly the extra man-power that I needed. Together we managed to fight our way out of the ditch. I manned the handlebars and gunned the engine, while he somehow pushed on the back end where the tire was spinning in the mud. An image passed through my mind of the bike popping out of the ditch and lurching straight into the trees lining the other side of the road, so I played the gas and the brake as sparingly as possible. Our efforts paid off! The Gold Wing was once again standing on its kickstand in the middle of the road. Unfortunately, it was standing in the same direction as when this scene had begun. I still had to turn it around.

It turns out, only 100 meters down the road, I could easily make a u-turn, and within minutes I was once again on my way towards Mont St. Michel, a little shaken but none the worse for wear. A little mud here and there, and a renewed faith in the way that life seems to provide solutions to our problems. Thinking back, it would have been great to have taken a picture of the bike in the ditch, but the solution came so quickly that there wasn’t even time to consider it.

At the right is a gallery of images taken at Mont St. Michel. That will have to do.