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  1. #1

    Utah Beach/ The Bulge

    The school calender worked out that my kids had consecutive weeks in May where they had 4 days off of school. We decided that each son would get to go on a moto tour to where ever they wanted. It was no surprise to me that my 13 year old picked Normandy as his trip. Ever since my kids were toddlers, I've taken them to every Veterans Day parade, Pearl Harbor events, etc. I'm proud that they have shook the hands of a Navy vet that survived a sinking by a Japanese sub, which in turn rescued him. The sub was later sank by a torpedo bomber. He survived that sinking and was eventually picked up by a Japanese freighter and taken to Japan where he served the remainder of the war as a POW. My kids have also shook hands with a Utah Beach D-Day veteran. I tell my kids, " you want to know what a hero looks like? It's that old man over there with hearing aids and a cane, that's a real hero." So, to all the veterans, past, present, and future, my family appreciates your service.

    This is the day before we left. I"m "living my sig line".

    I had been tracking the weather for a week and it went from rain, to partial rain. The day before we decided that it would be good enough to take the moto.

    We headed up over the Jura mountains behind our house and took small roads towards Dijon. First stop.

    This guy was fishing off the bridge.

    We stopped in at this school to take some pictures of the incredible tiled roof!!

    Around 10 am it was obvious we were going to get wet, so we geared up BEFORE the rain started

    We went through a small mid evil village, Vezelay, and decided to check it out.

    We're walking around and my son goes, "Hey Dad, they have a Picasso exhibit in here". I look, and sure enough, this very old house has been converted into a museum and they are showing a Picasso exhibit. I'm always keen to hone my sword of ignorance with the culture stone, so off we went. Here's one you may have seen before, I believe it's called, " La tet de roi" or "the head of the king"

    another Picasso

    something by Victor Brauner

    a Ferdnand Leger

    Don't remember who painted this but I like it.

    We left Vezelay and headed to Treigny, to check on Guedelon Castle.

  2. #2
    Rally Rat PAULBACH's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Ballston Spa, NY; South of the Adirondacks, North of the Catskills and West of The Berkshires and Green Mountains

    More, please.

    Any shots of the Utah Beach area? Your son looks like he is having a great time. Good job on growing the next generation.

  3. #3

    Utah Beach/ The Bulge

    I visited Guedelon Castle in Sept 06 and filed this report

    I was surprised at how much progress had been made in 18 months! I also had time to take some more pictures of the artisans at work.

    A mid evil house

    the rope maker

    combing out the wool

    basket weaver

    Jim Beam

    potter's kiln

    cutting the clay

    pressing the clay into tile molds

    making shake shingles

    never did figure out what this Dapper Dan did??

    the blacksmith at work. Check out the size of the bellows to the left.

    stone cutter's tools

    Here is a guy in the hamster wheel lifting a stone up to the second floor.

    close up of hamster wheel construction.

    the quarry site

    Last edited by franze; 05-15-2008 at 01:54 PM.

  4. #4
    wow, this is fantastic! thanks for posting it. the roof of that school is amazing.

  5. #5

    Utah Beach/ The Bulge

    We stayed off the auto route and then saw one of those " What the???"

    a little blurry, but you get the idea, yes, we are in France.

    We spent the first night in Le Mans. No, didn't get to see the track, or " le circuit" as the lady at the desk referred to it. I guess Dad got his "snore on" as my son found refuge on the bathroom floor.

    Finally, we reached Normandy. I had been there before, but never to the American Cemetery. We made it our first stop. It is estimated that 3,000 American deaths on June 6, 1944. Both my son and I have seen the HBO series "Band of Brothers" many times. We have both read Ambrose's book, Capt. Winter's book, and Private Webster's "Parachute Infantry". We are well aware of why it's called " The Geatest Generation". We pull into the moto parking spot and first thing I see is this "well used" GS. It has Iowa plates, a Swiss auto route vignette from 2007, and stickers on the side cases indication some touring in Africa. Wished I would have met "Viva" and shook his, or her , hand!!!

    This is NOT a page from Bill Walsh's original West Coast Offense play book.

    I've got the Red one, the green one is another one of those elusive R850RT's and then, there's Viva!!!

    We paid our respects and then made our way to Pt. Du Hoc

    We stopped at a museum along the way.

    German 88's made the landing hell. These are the type of guns that Easy Co. took out at Brecourt Manor.

    How about jumping out of an airplane with one of these!

    Pt. Du Hoc had some big artillery that could rain hell on all the landing zones. Miraculously, the guns were still functioning despite bombardment from the Navy and Army Air Corps. A group of Army Rangers had been trained to climb the cliffs to take out the guns. This is depicted in the great D-Day movie, The Longest Day. This is truly, the most amazing act of courage I am aware of. Of the 220 Rangers that attacked Pt. Du Hoc, I believe only 60 were still alive D-Day +2. Here is one of the bomb craters.

    Nick in one of the tunnels beneath the batteries

    I believe when the Americans finally took the Point, they found out that the REAL guns were disguised in a nearby field. They still blew up what was left. This gives you an idea of how the German's fortified these bunkers. Nick is standing on the bunker cieling, the roof (exterior) is what is on the ground. In the middle of the cement/rebar you can see a small red item. Those are my motorcycle keys to give you an idea of how thick that bunker roof was. Now imagine that this chunk was blown about 20 meters away and then landed upside down. That must of been one helluva big bang!

    Here's a tasty little treat

    We were keen to get to Utah beach. I found a dirt road and took it to the end of the line.

    My son went out to the beach to look for souvenirs and I re-arranged the gear.

    Last edited by franze; 05-15-2008 at 02:00 PM.

  6. #6

    Utah Beach/ The Bulge

    I liked what he found!!

    So, we now realized that the woodwork in the bay were oyster beds, and there were oysters in the tide pools. We went to work!

    We also found some mussels and ate them too. Soon the oyster farmers started showing up....... I guess the two hour lunch was over.

    Ok, the area we were in was part of an extensive man-made harbor in the weeks after D-Day, until the allies captured a real port. Hundreds of thousands of tons of equipment were taken ashore, it is really incredible how this all came together. Well, as we were walking around looking for oysters, I noticed how "soft" the rock around the tidepools was. Upon closer examination, it looked like it wasn't rock, but emulsified clumps of oil. This would make a lot of sense, I have seen oil globs like this in southern Cal, but the point of this is, that the oil was part of the tidepools and life was thriving. Geez, what an inconvenient truth that would be...

    The oysters just whet our appetite, so we went off to find a dozen.

    Got a laugh out of this sign.

    A few of the diners that were eating inside came out for a smoke. I noticed this guys sweatshirt and started talking to him. Well, he is from Belgium and is a paratroop re-enactor. He jumps with WWII period gear all around Europe and has jumped in the States as well. Very cool!

    Next stop, St. Mer Eglise, the first town liberated by the allies. This is the town church. During the night of the invasion, a paratrooper landed and became stuck on the steeple. He played dead and eventually the Germans figured out what was going on and took him prisoner. As it became apparent that the town was being overun, his captor handed him the pistol and asked to be taken prisoner. This paratrooper is up on the steeple, year round.

    Stain glass windows are pretty hard to photograph and I did get a good one of this but........"I can't find it" Anyway, if you look closely at the St. Mer Eglise church window, you can see it depicts paratroopers, descending from heaven.

    Nick on the roof of a fortified postition, Utah Beach.

    Following the path of Easy Co. we left the French coast and headed inland, through Carentan and then St. Lo where we stopped to climb up to the top of this fortified postion from another time in history.

    We left St. Lo and headed towards the area where Hitler made a daring winter offensive to turn the tide of war, Bastogne Belgium, where the Allies were surrounded in what was to become known as The Battle of the Bulge.

  7. #7
    Registered User dancogan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    SE Michigan
    Tremendous report. Keep 'em coming!

    I remember that mid evil town from an earlier post that must have been yours. Yes, they've made a lot of progress.

  8. #8

    Utah Beach/ The Bulge

    My top two rules of touring is "stay off the auto route" and " stay out of big cities". Well, sometimes things don't work out that way. Somehow, on our way to Bastogne, we ended up in Rhiems ( I think??) Imagine turning the corner and seeing this!

    Whenever you're on a moto, and especially if you're carrying a passenger, and if that passenger is your eldest son.......well, it's always good to go "get your prayer on" and what better place than a thousand year old church.

    And then, a real treat. Near the Belgium border, we were riding through a small town, and out of the corner of my eye I saw a line of very old, WWII motorcycles. Check out the baseball bat in the rifle scabbord.

    It was a club of Belgium bikers, all with restored/rebuilt Harleys from the war.

    They were on a "run" and the leader, with the map........was lost. Eventually they came by and they all took off. I took a video of them leaving, not for the image, but for the sound of all those old hogs coming to life and taking off. I haven't been able to figure out how to post a video, but when I do, I'll put it up. I don't care what some folks say, Harley's sound cool!

    We got to Bastogne around 5 pm and checked into the Collin Hotel, right in the town square. This would be my 3rd time visiting Bastogne and my 3rd time staying at the Collin. I guess you can say I'm a satisfied customer.

    We changed clothes and went for a walk around town. I stopped in a pub for a Guiness and thought this was quite a collection of Ablsolute!!! Good thing my son was with me

    Who can't resist climbing on a Sherman tank!

    We had dinner at

    after reviewing the menu

    I settled on the "Escargot de Bourgogne de Riesling" . 5 words to describe it.

    UN BUH LEE VAH BULL !!!!!!!!! Bastogne is about an 8 hour ride from my home but I would seriously consider riding up there just for a bowl of this. There's bacon bits on the bottom.

    Last edited by franze; 05-15-2008 at 09:12 PM.

  9. #9

    Utah Beach/ The Bulge

    The next morning we went into the Ardennes forest, where the Allied forces were dug in during one of the coldest winters ever recorded. Poorly clothes, poorly armed, and completely surrounded. When the German General asked the Commanding Allied Gerneral to surrender, McAuliffe's one word reply was, " Nuts". It took the Germans a few days to figure that one out. By the way, Nick held on to his Ardennes walking stick all the way to Switzerland.

    Here is the area where Easy Co. 506th P.I.R. held the flank

    Finally, it was time to head home. This picture was taken a few hours later, about an hour before we got home. All in all, we went over 2200km in four days, his first time on a ride longer than half an hour.

    He's tired, but not too tired to give Dad a big smile. By the way, he picked up that German jacket at a surplus shop in St. Mer Eglise. Has been wearing it ever since.

    Here's some pictures from videos he took on the way home.

    The mid evil fortresses in Pontarlier

    If you look closely, you can see parts of the eastern fortress on the opposite cliff of the larger one

    Home sweet home.

    Last edited by franze; 05-15-2008 at 02:06 PM.

  10. #10
    Republic of Texas
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    League City (Houston), Texas
    Quote Originally Posted by franze View Post
    My kids have also shook hands with a Utah Beach D-Day veteran. I tell my kids, " you want to know what a hero looks like? It's that old man over there with hearing aids and a cane, that's a real hero."
    In these days when we are far too quick to "throw a hero up the pop chart", and bestow "hero" status on people who are actually just "victims", we have to be careful not to forget what a "real hero" looks like. A very good lesson for your son . . . and thanks for reminding the rest of us.

    Quote Originally Posted by franze View Post
    So, to all the veterans, past, present, and future, my family appreciates your service.
    Mike White
    MOA Life Time Member #57882
    '13 K1300S "30 Years", '95 R1100RS, '88 K75S, '97 Ducati 916, '95 Ducati 900SS CR. Gone, but not forgotten, '75 R90S

  11. #11
    Rally Rat RGVILLA's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Rural Valley, PA


    What a great trip report! One of my dreams is to visit this area. My youngest sister's father in law was in the third landing wave at Omaha beach, when things were still a mess. My father was a tail gunner on a B-17 and took part in the useless bombing that was supposed to destroy the german gun emplacements on both beaches, because of fear of hitting the incoming infantry they dropped tons of bombs too far inland to do any good. It does my heart good to see that the people of the area are aware of the price paid for their liberation. I also have the HBO series "Band of Brothers" and have watched it several times, as well as having read the book and Dick Winters subsequent biography. These men are and have always been my heroes. Thank you for taking me there.

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