In 2008 I was given Paul Mullis' old R80/7 BMW by Leeky Steve Billing who had inherited it when Paul died. It had endured a hard life and then been parked up in Steve's garage for a while but once I had removed the mouse nest from the air filter and sorted out various other problems it was put into service as my winter bike.
Paul Mullis at the Col d'Iseran and the Three Crosses
A couple of things about this bike troubled me. Every time I rode it I seemed to be seeing lots of gliders shadowing me. Paul had been a glider pilot. I got used to this but the other thing was that I felt the bike had done more than I had. Since 1972 Paul had been a keen Stella Alpina and Safari fan, initially on his R75/5 and latterly on the R80, but for various reasons, mostly lack of holiday time, I had never done it.
In 2013 I decided the only way to sort this out was a trip to Bardonecchia! By this time I was living with Heather MacGregor who incidentally is also Paul Mullis ex!
The Col d'Iseran
Heather joined me on her R1150 Rockster and we took a mainly N road route across France and then over the Col D'Iseran to get into the Alpine mood. We bumped into a gaggle of MZs and Jawas at the summit. From London, they were also heading for the Stella and will feature later.
Never having been to a Stella I had no idea what to expect or where we would be camping. I asked Heather and she said
We will go to the railway station, park there and see who or what turns up>/q>. Well, we hadn't even got parked up before I saw Del Cooper, an old friend from the Potteries Phoenix days (now a Mayflower), Nigel Green, yet another Mayflower, then Kenny McLennan and Gus McNaughton, two friends from Scotland. Eventually after lots of the usual banter we were about to go off to the campsite Del had recommended when we saw someone showing far too much interest in the leather tank panniers on my bike. Heather said
That's Bert! The Dutchman who had given them to Paul after he found they didn't fit the GS he had bought. It truly is a small world!
When we got to camping Beaulard Heather met up with a couple of WIMA friends she hadn't seen for years. Are we really hundreds of miles from home?
The next morning back down at the railway station cafe we were fortunate enough to meet up with Mario Artusio who invited us that afternoon to the lunch that he used to organise for the safari participants. So that filled the day in nicely.
Heather doesn't do off road if she can help it so on Sunday we were two up for the climb up the Col de Sommellier to collect our badges. It was warm and dry and a bit crowded but dust was the main problem. Badges, buns and stickers collected we continued up as far as was possible in the snow to admire the view.
On the way back down we caught up with the MZ crew again and I picked them off one by one but for the leader who saw me coming and upped the pace. I have to admit I couldn't pass him, at least, not without taking both of us out! We got down in double quick time. We later heard that one of our club members with a 1200 GS had had a slight off and removed his panniers to get up for his badge. But, as he said
They're not really suitable for this sort of thing, are they? What??
Monday was safari time, again two up. I thought I was being brave but then Taffy (Fred Hill) passed me on his immaculate R100RT. There was a good turnout of airhead GS's. We had a day of incredible scenery, the pictures say it all. The final part of the day was down a series of 50 or so hairpin bends back in to the valley. I thought Del was taking strange lines round some of the corners but when I quizzed him about it he said he had electrical problems and had coasted down to save his battery - Wow!
The safari ended at an ice cream parlour on the road back to Bardonecchia, all courtesy of Mario.
We had to move on the next day as we were due in Epernay to try out some champagne at the FIM rally and complain about the lack of toilet paper! Maybe I'll carry on and write that one up too but anyway, that was that with Paul's bike. I felt I had done all I wanted to with it so in 2016 I passed it on again to my stepson Fish and it's still in regular use and still in the family.
- Ted Trett