Taking in the sights of the Normandy coast on classic café-racer V-twin hot rods.
On August 9, 1944, the British Columbia regiment was tasked with taking up position near the town of Falaise, in the famed “Falaise pocket” located near the Laizon and Laize valleys. The armored vehicles of the 28th Infantry Division advanced with difficulty through the mist that engulfed route N158, the Caen-Falaise road, in search of German units. American 18-cylinder P-47 Thunderbolts and British V-12 Spitfires roared overhead. The Battle of Normandy was raging on.
Seventy-five years later, in August 2019 (which is when I took my trip), route N158 and its surroundings were much more peaceful. In the sky, only a few sparrowhawks and buzzards soared by, the cows grazing peacefully in the meadows, hardly anything to disturb the tranquility of the Normandy countryside. Nothing but the sound coming from our big V-twins; and what a sound it was!
A Plan Put into Action
But before I get to that, I have to go back a bit. In August 2019, just before flying out of Vancouver to visit friends and family in my native Normandy, I received an e-mail from my long-time friend and gifted motorcycle builder Jean Louis. “Take your motorcycle gear, we are going on a two-day ride,” he wrote. “You pick the itinerary; you have nine hours on the plane to think about it.” That year marked the 75th anniversary of D-Day, and a plan for a journey on which the history of Canada and Normandy would intertwine was taking shape.
And so, on a beautiful late summer’s day in the early morning, we left Rouen, the capital of Normandy, to make the most of the morning cool, riding a Harley-Davidson XRTT Replica powered by an XR1000 engine, and an Egli-Vincent by Godet, mainly following the network of secondary roads, which is ideal for these types of bikes.
We rode due south on the D840 via Le Neubourg. The crossing of the magnificent forest of Conches, with its arch of greenery, offered an idyllic setting with the road like a black ribbon unravelling under our wheels.
We turned west on the outskirts of Conches en Ouche, leaving the department of Eure for Orne and the Pays d’Auge region. Enchanting countryside renowned for its pretty, half-timbered houses and thatched roofs so symbolic of medieval architecture, and magnificent apple orchards that are typical of the Normandy countryside, full of red and yellow fruit, on either side of the road. In a few weeks, it would be brewing season, time to produce the region’s famous cider with these…