I have pleaded with Howard for cornering tips, and glean some in a wet layby while we break into the cakes and I put on my heated waistcoat. Things go better as we follow the lorries up to the Col du Bonhomme, whizzing past them in a shower of spray whenever the unbroken white line temporarily opens to two lanes. I dip my left shoulder into the left-handers and vice versa, as directed, and feel as if I'm going faster and leaning more even if this isn't actually true.
Spectacular panoramas have been promised, but today the limit of visibility is approximately the end of your nose. Near the top we pull into a viewpoint, to see nothing but a roiling bowl of fog below. Some other time, perhaps.
I don't mind this so much; in really foul weather the gap between comfortable top speed for a fast and slow rider narrows greatly, and my commuting activities give me the edge over bikers whose machines only come out to play on sunny weekends, so I'm struggling much less than yesterday. As we descend the mist burns away, and we emerge into sunshine at the bottom. This is Alsace-Lorraine, a long-disputed territory Germanic in architecture and French in street signs. We keep things neutral by lunching on pizza.
We arrive at the Swiss border, where we need to purchase a vignette for motorway travel. I bought mine in advance over the internet, but it's buried at the bottom of my tank bag so I don't get to feel too smug as the others fumble for wallets and count out Swiss francs.
Minutes later I can't believe I forked over twenty quid for the privilege of riding on this hellish stretch of autobahn. It's belting down with rain and lorries are travelling frighteningly fast and close in the middle lane. We exit as soon as we can, the sun comes out immediately, and the roads become pleasant and pottering again. We spot our first cows with bells.
It is in this pleasant landscape, though, that disaster strikes. I become aware that there's something amiss with the view in my mirror. My topbox has come open! I stop, close it and hurry back to the scene of the mishap. I recover my helmet bag, which luckily missed Roger as it sailed past, but my madeleines have been ground beneath the wheels of Juggernaut (or possibly a hatchback).
We arrive on the outskirts of Lucerne just in time for rush hour and a further helping of rain - eerily similar to yesterday's arrival in St-Dié. John's GPS decides to take us through the city centre...then through it again. The group ably keeps together through queues, mini-roundabouts, underpasses and roadworks. At last we reach our hotel, which overlooks an industrial estate and a large rooftop poster offering NEU! EXOTIK SEX.
In the immediate vicinity there's nothing between a very expensive restaurant and an outdoor hotdog stand, but a little further afield we find a McDonald's and pay for our Big Macs with the unfamiliar currency. It transpires that Roger has never eaten at McD's before.
In Switzerland, even McDonald's coffee is served with a little piece of chocolate!
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