The Sahara and Us Morocco 2011

Saturday, April 30, 2011

We are on the Road

Well we’re on the road. What a great feeling!
After a flight that seemed to go on forever we arrived in Frankfurt only to have Customs shut down while our plane waited to clear, due to a security breach. When it finally re-opened, we picked our bags and Heiko was on the other side waiting for us. After a short visit Sandra and I grabbed a 3 hr. nap to help us recover from the jet lag, then we all went out for supper to the Ratskeller inOberusel , a suburb of Frankfurt.

Heiko is particular when it comes to food, and with me giving him a heads up by skype a few days before he had the Ratskeller picked out, a short walk from his home. Now April thru early June is Spargel season (asparagus) in Germany and France, and in particular the White variety which is covered up before chlorophyll can case the stalks to go green.  Done up with a light whipped Hollandaise sauce, a true Calfs (Veal) snitzel and potatoes this was an exceptional first meal.
On Friday Heiko took us to see Klaus’ new shop which is now out by his place. Very nice motorcycle accessories offered there.
Afterwards we headed for Heidelberg where we would be re-united with our bike. Stefan was in the midst of off loading crates of motorcycles that just came back from Bike week in Daytona, and was laying a brick patio. Our Vstrom was in great tick, and after replacing the hub cushions, plugs and signal reflectors I washed the bike and started it up. What a great sound to hear it running so nice. It was also then that I realized that the bike was in front of Mike and Ruby’s R1200GS’ as they were at Stefan’s at the time. Note the ‘reasonable facsimile ‘ plates that they run on their bikes. This was likely done, after another Calgary rider (Ekke Kok) had his Alberta plate stolen off his bike while overseas. You see the bike does not have to have current registration while over in Europe, it just has to have a registered home title and plate.
Today would be another great day. After meeting Tom, Burt and Tanya at Stefan’s we loaded all our gear up and headed out. About 150 kms later we stopped for a break and Sandra remarked about how smooth the bike was. With the new rear wheel hub cushions installed along with the new chain and lower geared from sprocket the bike was ‘zoned out’ and perfect all day long. The new iridium plugs seemed to have the reported affect of better fuel economy which is welcomed given that we are paying 1.6E/litre right now.

Our day would end when we arrived at the “Le Detour” Castlehouse Pension in tiny Buffard France. If ever there was a small French village this is it. Such a great start to the trip! Ate at the L’Edgar’s bistro in another small village 3 kms away. Such beautiful old buildings in Buffard.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Why we Travel by Motorcycle

A lot of people look at us weird when we tell them we are travelling by motorcycle in Europe. They ask why, then ask Sandra where does she put all her stuff, then shake their heads. But everyone who rides understands.

Sport of Riding
First of all motorcycle riding is a sport, and doing it just for its sake is reason enough. It is great stress relief and the wind seems to blow your cares away. This is coupled in Europe with the fact that motorcycling actually began there, and people have a great respect for motorcycles.  It’s such a difference to here where motorcycling has been marginalized  by the evolution of the 1% crowd and the posers who leave the sport with a different connotation.

What we do is determine our route based on the places we want to see, then consult resources like “BestAlpine Roads’ or Horizons Unlimited (HU) to connect the dots between these places. Rarely will we drive just for the sake of covering ground. And many times HU members will join us on rides because they like to do it just as much as you.

Love to Travel
Secondly we love to travel and being able to couple sport riding and travel together is a real bonus. It wouldn’t be the same if we sat in a plane 30,000 ft above Europe to travel between cities, or even on a high speed train travelling 300 kph. (That’s neat though as an experience) past the Rhine valley countryside.

Manoeuvrability and Visibility
On a motorcycle you have unobstructed vision of things around you. They are not broken up into pieces blocked by a roof,  and front window pillars etc. You have a view limited only by your own peripheral vision.

Without a doubt motorcycling is one of the most manoeuvrable  forms of travel. And in Europe with parking almost non existent the fact that you can park on a sidewalk, and often at a B&B or small hotel they will invite you to park in their lobby, safe and out of the elements, why wouldn’t you take advantage of it.

Not to mention that lane splitting is done by all motorcycles over there. In 2004, as we were heading back to Apeldoorn ND, we were on an autobahn when it ground to a halt. 4 lanes in our direction were stopped as far as the eye could see. We began lane splitting. People could actually be seen moving their cars farther apart to let us get through. After about 15 kms. of splitting we found a side highway that we took and cut cross country to get back to Apeldoorn in time to receive a package we had mailed to ourselves.


Statue of Liberty and Eiffel Tower, Paris
This is what I saw when I pulled up onto a sidewalk in Paris in 2004 to ask directions. In the foreground  you see the original Statue of Liberty and of course the Eiffel tower in the background.

If you are renting a motorcycle in Europe it will be more expensive than a compact car, but when you ship your own motorcycle over for periods great than 5 weeks in duration, then motorcycling on your own bike just got very cost effective.  And of course the storage of it over in Europe is quite inexpensive as well.

Sensory Experience
The most important benefit you get from combining motorcycling and travel is the activation of a complete sensory experience. As we drove through Europe in 2004 and 2006 there were a lot of WOW days. Europe was developed on the feudal system where a village would house several farm yards, and all the needed facilities such as bakery, restaurant, and homes. As we would enter a village you can smell the flowers in the flower box at the window sill right beside the road. The appetizing aromas of the bakery are memorable, and so are the odours of the barn as you pass.

Dobio Toblac Italy
Because your vision isn’t obstructed you can follow an object as it passes completely around you, and of course you can hear everything because your hearing isn’t limited by a sealed car, perhaps playing music as well to keep you entertained. The bike is doing the entertaining for you.

This scene (right) came into view and caused us to change the direction we were travelling.You have to ride a set of mountains that look like that.

Stay tuned for our experiences on this trip!