4 Years Ago Today

4 Years ago today I took delievery of a 1997 Intruder VS800. I still have that bike and have had 4 others in that time. It was the best decision I ever made. Because of that – and some interesting luck along the way, I have found myself riding all over 2 continents and have seem so many incredible things.Yep, May 30th was when it all began. That first day I rode about 100 miles effectively blowing away my previous day record of 5 at the MSF course 3 weeks earlier. Yep, it was my first time to ride a bike on a road, off a road, anything. That next week I took my first road trip – a full 750 miles up to Arkansas to seen Sharon. I haven’t stopped yet. 😀

Thanks to that decision I have met many wonderful people. I have had the opportunity to go to rallies and stay with many people from IA to see their favorite roads; and a personal favorite – to hear them speak. It is funny how things change when you can read a post with someone’s voice in your head. You really feel a proximity even though we can only talk via internet.

England, France, Belguim, Luxomburg, Germany to date

Man what a day; what a trip. We left Stuttgart on Saturday and had the first few hours of beautiful weather. 550 miles later we arrived Beauvais, France wet and tired. The dinner was good and we slept till late.

Yesterday was rain all day and only broken French; my phrase book is somewhat useful. We stopped at Omaha Beach in Normandy for the Memorial Day weekend. Unfortunately we arrived a little late; and the cemetery had closed. Pictures to come soon. We found a ferry last night that was to arrive at 7AM in Portsmouth, England.

This morning we woke up, started the bike, and rode on the wrong side of the road. At the first light I was confused where to go and asked the ‘gentleman’ next to us which way he was going. He said to the gas station; that would be great – just to learn a little. Let me tell you something – it is strange. First you have to get used to all the roundabouts in Europe; and just when you begin to quit hating them then you have to learn all over going the wrong way. I was a little confused to say the least.

On the way to the gas station I noticed a sign saying “Charles Dicken’s Birthplace”. I got some £’s from the cash machine paid the clerk; who was a wonderful women and gave Tania some warm gloves. Hers were fine but not made for rainy motorcycle riding. She was cold. That woman was a lifesaver. It was raining something ferocious; the wind was about 40mph, it was nearly 45 degrees, and all the stores were closed because of the national holiday. :bow;

After seeing Dicken’s home from the outside we headed onto the highway. That’s when I had the biggest shock. I’m on the left; a huge truck is coming at me from the right – all around a curve. I almost ran the bike off the road trying to dodge a truck that wasn’t going to hit me!
We stopped to find a map; eat some McDonalds (only thing open); and warm up. That stop was good because we hadn’t eaten much all day yesterday and nothing yet this morning.

Next stop was Stonehenge. Well we thought. Remember the 40mph wind? The nearly freezing rain? We stopped frequently today. Tania learned the worst parts of riding a motorcycle. We were cold. We did make it to Stonehenge; a fantastically wonderful place; tool lots of pictures (coming in a few days) and headed out again.

Next stop was Bath. Bath is a wonderful place and the only natural thermal bath in England. We, being so cold, stopped in for a few hours. Funny story; I asked the woman if these were nude baths like in Germany. She said, “of course – they are state of the art only built last year.” Uh, NUDE not NEW. OH MY GOD NO said the woman. We don’t do that here! :lolfall;

Good anyway; I didn’t want to embarrass anyone. The baths were wonderful. I finally got to clean myself and warm up. The heat was great, plus the saunas and hot tubs. I was so relaxed – didn’t want to get back on the bike. At least I was warm.

We rode on. The rain finally stopped; the clouds went away; and it got cold, even colder than before. We arrived about 1 hour before Sunset to a beautiful place called Mumbles… Yep – supposedly the French named it. This is where I met KitKat. Man is it great to meet her. She and Andy introduced me to their riding partners and a lot of other people. Tomorrow we have a ride planned for when it warms up. Tania and I followed them back to their place where we parked the bikes and now a wonderful stew is warming up. It was a great, trying, wonderful day. I’m looking forward to tomorrow too.

We’re about to leave

Well, not yet.  Tomorrow very early.   Tomorrow night we will be at Normandy Beach and maybe have time to swim in the Atlantic.  It will be a long day – we’re taking the long road through the back country to avoid the €50 in tolls.  Plus we will be able to see more of France’s charm away from the highway.

Sunday the plan is to cross the English Channel by ferry then see Stonehenge.  Monday we plan to meet up with KitKat near Bristol which will be great.  I am really looking forward to meeting her.  And maybe I can see some of those great roads of which she is always posting pictures. 😀

It will be a short visit however.  I need to be back on the mainland before Thursday and we plan to meet Paul Thisse in Holland.  That will be very cool too.  Thursday I am back in Stuttgart and fly to Poland.  I’ve been planning that for a long time and look forward to seeing my friend again.

Bike is Running Again

Good news is I got it running and rode a little today.

I took off the offending part and took it to the dealer. He looked me in the eye and asked if I had tried jump starting the bike. I said no, but I charged the battery over night…

“That means nothing” he says. I won’t sell you a new 105€ starter relay until you at least try to jump start it. I spent the whole day looking for jumper cables (I guess Germans don’t ever break down :bonk; ) Finally a friend’s girlfriend had some, and we jump started the bike. This means the relay at least works on occasion, and the battery needs charging (and a little water – only one cell was below the min line, but with mc batteries you never know)

So we jump started it (after a few minutes waiting), and now it starts alone. Seems the charging system is perfectly fine. I only rode to the gas station to buy distilled water to fill the 1 cell and top off another. The battery is sitting right now on my floor, but tomorrow when I have more time (and less beer drunken) will I install it and ride it to the pool.

Dinner Tonight

Tonight I invited over some guys from the Physics Department. My lab partner and 2 other fellas came over after laboratory today. Wasim is from Palestine, Aditya from India, and Zaohlu from China. They are really cool guys. Wasim and Aditya don’t eat meat; Aditya strictly and Wasim eats specific meats that are hard to find in Germany. Zaohlu I think eats most things and even brought over a bottle of wine. We didn’t drink though because the other two do not drink.

I made a vegetarian meal of Mashed potatoes with cheese, butter, sour cream, and garlic… my favorite. Also a salad with lots of peppers and such, and then a fruit salad. I made too much, but now I have left overs for the next couple meals.

Our conversations strayed from typical foods to manners. I was interested in how people from other cultures eat and socialize. It turns out in some ways we are very alike but in many we are very different. Surprisingly I had more in common with Zaohlu than the others concerning food and eating, and with Wasim for most other things. Aditya and I were often surprised about what the other said. Of course we all have a grandmother that wants to feed us more than our stomachs will allow. 😀

I had a good time, and we ate pretty good. It is hard preparing for so many different cultures. I think Zaohlu would have preferred a heartier meal while Aditya was very pleased. I think Wasim is not used to eating potatoes (nor the other guys) and wasn’t sure if he liked them or not. He did invite me over sometime to show me typical Palestinian food, which I hear is not typically spicy compared to the other two. And then he showed us some card tricks which I found entertaining.

I think next time I will invite a Russian girl and a guy from Ethiopia. I really like everyone in my Lab class and would like to get to know them all better before the end of the semester. This is a great opportunity for me to meet people outside of Europe. Almost sounds selfish doesn’t it? I’m just lucky to have met them.

I’m here to write

What should I talk about? I’ve gotten a few stories behind, maybe a year or two worth. I’m pretty sure it should pertain to Germany or time here. I could do a couple recent ones, probably should, but then there is about a 2 month gap when I was travelling a lot and didn’t post anything about it.

I’ve still need to finish Poland, Belgium, Amsterdam, all of Spain and Portugal, the many things recently here in Germany, plus the many years of riding my bikes around the US. So I’ll start with the last week, but I’m taking requests. Pick a state or country, and I’ll work from there. I will get to those requests in order. It may be a while though. Thursday I’m heading to Normandy to see the D-Day Memorials and then to Stonehenge and to see some people in England, then back to Belgium and Holland. I find out tomorrow if I can get the time off for all of that. Riding my bike to England will be fun.

Ok, what have I done the last week and a half? A lot really.  When I get back in a little while I will write about it.

Rainy Day

Today was rainy, and I did not get much done.  But yesterday was really nice.  We ride through France and the Swabish Alb (yep Alb) range.  Plus a big shock.

More tomorrow.

Fantastic and long Day

The day started out like any normal Thursday. Wake early and prepare a little for my Chinese class. It is an interesting class, and I’m one of two American (read non native German speakers). I sit on the front row trying to understand as much as possible. The class is 3 hours long and I do get a little sleepy during. Thankfully we have a break in the middle. During that break I saw Kasia and Margaret whom I know well. Kasia is from Poland as we may already know, and Margaret was born in Poland but grew up in Hamilton, Ontario.

So, I talked to them a little, and Kasia reminded me that later in the evening would be a bbq to celebrate a little belatedly Gosia’s birthday, her best friend. Seeing her also reminded me that I had promised to help a friend of her with a Native English speaker project she was working on. But more about that later.

So I finished Chinese and had to run. Wednesday I met a guy from Columbia named Antonio. He is studying to take the British English fluency exam similar to our TOEFL so he can work in England or Australia some day. Often here where there is such international diversity people do Tandems which are language learning groups. A native English speaker wanting to learn Spanish finds someone that speaks Spanish natively who is interested in learning more English, and the two talk usually over lunch or something. I met him in front of the bank on campus near the cafeteria, but before we could go to eat I saw Juliana. Now Juliana is one of the most beautiful girls you’ll ever meet. She has quite a story, well kinda. She is from Brazil and speaks Portuguese. When I first met her she spoke no English, no German, and no Spanish. We communicated through a series of grunts and hand signals. Uh, not really, but my ear wasn’t tuned yet for Portuguese (which I believe now I can understand about 40% listening and more reading). So our conversations were limited. She still doesn’t speak English, but her German is about the same level as mine (we won’t starve to death in a restaurant 😉 ) and her Spanish has come a long way. So of course Antonio and I wanted to eat with her. Here is a photo of Juliana. And Here

Juliana had another idea of where to eat, a cafeteria normally reserved for employees of the school, but we followed her. If you met Juliana you would know why it is so nice to follow her. We arrived and found she was planning to meet a friend of hers named Heidi. Now Heidi is quite a pretty girl herself. I always look forward to going to the International Zentrum because she works there, and my day seems better afterward. A German girl with red hair and more than a great smile, she’s very friendly and sociable. So, we sit down to lunch and our conversation revolves between English, Spanish, German, and a little Portuguese. Since our original intention was to do a Tandem Antonio and I talked about life in Germany and things of interest including the two very attractive girls with whom we were eating lunch. Pretty soon two more people joined out group: Gabriella another very nice girl from Brazil and a French friend of hers. I’m sorry but I don’t know him very well or his name. Anyway, Between the six of us it was quite a group of nations represented.

Time came to put up the trays and get back to our busy lives. As I mentioned earlier a friend of Kasia, Jagoda, is helping a project to teach Germans English. Being as nice of a day as it was, and I only had about 20 minutes to get there I decided to take the bike into town. It wasn’t a long ride, but enjoyable. The bus and train may have taken me 45 minutes or more if I caught the just right. As it was I arrived before she was finished setting up. It was good to be on the bike again. I hadn’t ridden much this week because of the rain.

So the project is that they are recording native English speakers to help train Germans accents and pronunciation, plus they asked me to do a few more tests with a computer and memorization. I read into a microphone selected stories in German and English and then repeated phrases they played in my headphones. It was interesting, and I can see how it would help people learning how to speak English. Now to brag on myself a little (even though it amounts to very little really) Part of the memory exercises was to store numbers in your head that the proctor read to you. Jagoda started with 2 then 3 numbers and worked up until I couldn’t repeat them in my head anymore. Well, she ran out of numbers. The test only went up to 11 numbers at a time, and when I was successful at repeating 11 numbers back to her she put the pad down and told me that out of the 74 previous subjects, I was the 75th, no one had ever gotten that far. I’m glad that she didn’t have any more numbers to give me, it was getting difficult. But then it got trickier. She gave me the numbers again, but I had to repeat them backwards. It was much harder and I think I only got to 7 numbers before I messed up. Enough about that. We finished the testing about 3:30.

I had planned to go back to Fruehlingsfest and so took the bike there. Traffic was bad, but I eventually mad it. For those that don’t know, Fruehling is the German word for Spring, and the Fest is the spring equivalent of Oktoberfest only not quite as large and in Stuttgart instead of Munich. What it is basically is a county fair with lots of beer. Picture your normal fair with Ferris wheel, roller coasters, cotton candy, caramel apples, games (where you throw balls at can pyramids or shoot water guns) and the likes. That is Fruhlingsfest (and all the other beer fests for that matter), but there are also many tents set up to hold thousands of people that want to drink 1 liter of beer at a time. It is quite enjoyable actually, and I went four times although I only had 2 of those ginormous beers. It’s still going, but I’ll be leaving town in a couple hours and will miss the last 3 days. Each time I went though I indulged myself with cotton candy; which by the way is white here. It looks like cotton and tastes like sugar. I think the Germans don’t care for artificial color or flavor very much. I found it better than cherry or whatever other flavor you can think of. Here are some pictures of Fruhlingsfest. I do have to admit though that I was missing a couple things like Corn Dogs and turkey legs. Bratwursts were a substitute, but nothing beats a turkey leg.

Anyway, I headed over to Fruhlingsfest alone. It wasn’t my first time to do so, and I actually enjoy it.  I like to watch the people and rides.  One my favorites to watch is this one.   It’s one that people get on smiling but get off holding their stomachs.  While I was there I bought myself a ring that I had been looking for for a long time. It is steel and has crosses on it similar to the cross bikers often wear as tattoos or patches. I’m happy because I started looking for a ring like this over a year ago. The woman would not negotiate with me, but it was a fair price anyway. Haha, a fair price (I know, not very punny).  One thing really was great about this part. I was alone and walking very slowly when I realized there was a motorcycle ‘show’ about to go on. I didn’t understand what the announcer was saying, but motorcycle were involved, and it only cost 2 Euros. I couldn’t pass it up. It was quite a sight, but more about that later. After eating my obligatory cotton candy and also a garlic buttered corn on the cob I decided to head out. My friend had not arrived yet and wasn’t answering my phone calls. So I headed out.  I got lost as I’m not used to that part of town.  I found myself at a motorcycle shop not too far away I had seen before and entered to buy a replacement headlight bulb. It passed inspection a couple weeks ago but is just isn’t bright enough.  While there Tania called me (had left her phone at home) and said she was now going to the fest.  It was a little after 5 and traffic was getting real bad. I was tired but decided to go back as I said I would meet her there earlier.

The trip was an adventure.  I really got myself lost.  There were no landmarks that I could see except for the World Famous Stuttgart TV Tower.  The tower was only visible on occasion, but it at least guided me in a direction I could see.  Along the way I passed a grocery store and stopped to pick up food for the bbq later in the evening. After that I still didn’t know where I was but wasn’t giving up.  I did pass a police officer while driving too fast, but since it is not their job to stop speeders it wasn’t a big deal.  eventually I found my way back to the Fair, and Tania met me at the Ferris wheel to take me to where her coworkers were. They finished their beers they were drinking in “France” (the part of the fair with French food and a miniature Eiffel Tower), and I told them about this fantastic motorcycle ‘show’ I had seen earlier that was worth way more than they were charging. So on the hour we walked over there to see what would happen.

First the stunt guy started up an old Indian, very old: one with a left foot clutch and right hand shift down by his foot. I’m not sure how people rode those things, but it looked really cool. He had it on a wheeled platform much like a Dyno test. He brought the bike up to speed all the while standing still. From that position he could take his hands off the bars, turn around, stand on the seat, and the bike never moved. It was probably going about 30 miles per hour if I estimate right, but of course only the wheels were moving – not him or the bike. But this was only the beginning. Then they walked us up to an observing deck that surrounded what I can only describe as an upright barrel. This thing was made of wood and about 20 feet tall and maybe the same in diameter. Mr. Daredevil himself mounted a pocket rocket bike (the kind where your knees are in your face, and you look like a monkey trying to ride a football). He started this thing up and drove it fast enough to go up the sides of the walls. His head being in the middle and wheels outward towards the audience. It was cool to watch – but only the beginning. Next he started up the old Indian again with the right hand shift and proceeded to drive it around also. Now this bike was cool, it looked like one of these, except with the bars really low and over the front wheel. This bike had floorboards, and we soon found out why. While driving around this barrel the man took his hands off, put his feet over the bars, laid down, stood up, got off the bike except for one foot on the floor boards, blind folded himself, and nearly kicked my face! It was amazing! I was so excited as you figured that I had to take my friends back with me to see it, and that’s where we are now. After that stunt, 2 more guys joined him on dual purpose Hondas and they did a few stunts with three riding side by side and the likes – also impressive but not like what he did on that Indian. His last stunt was to drive a car around that barrel, and play Dixie on the horn. It was cool too, a car driving sideways.

Well, I showed the 3 of them around a little afterward, but it was time to go to the bbq. So I headed back to campus and said goodbye. Tania might come by later. So I headed back, packed my things for grilling and went over. Only there was no body there. Gosia had to work later than she planned on her architecture project, and no one came. Oh well, I’d cook hamburgers back at the house. Tania came by but wasn’t hungry. We made plans for today to drive to her house in Saarbruken on the French Border. So today I’ll be driving to France on my motorcycle 😉 .

She left after dinner to prepare to teach today, and I checked my email. Wasim, my Palestinian lab partner, invited me to his apartment to hang out an smoke flavored tobacco from his Hooka, or Shisha as he calls it. I was very tired but he had already invited me once before and I couldn’t go, so this time I went. Besides the day was going so well I didn’t want it to end. So I headed over. Some of his friends from Jordan and Lebanon were supposed to be there, but they were busy so it was just us. I had never really spent time with Wasim other than in class or an occasional lunch break from our labwork. He is a really cool guy. I asked him a lot about Palestine, and he showed me some interesting videos of Lebanon television. He knew how to load a hooka too. That thing lasted for ever. The tobacco was very good and didn’t make me cough like I predicted. He said it has no tar and the water filters out most of the bad stuff. It was quite an experience hanging out with him. While I was there Wasim asked me about a religion with Joseph Smith. He said earlier 2 guys in black ties came by and told him about the 3 levels of Heaven. He wanted to know what I knew about those people. I kinda laughed and told him what I know – including stories about my dad’s half sister who converted to Mormonism and moved to Salt Lake City. He was happy to hear it although I’m pretty sure he’s not going to change his kingdom do get into that Heaven. As I said Wasim is really cool, and I look forward to hanging out more.

It was midnight by then, so technically the day was over, but I didn’t yet go to bed. I was really tired and told Wasim that I was ready to do home, but I didn’t. Gosia had called me earlier to say she was sorry about not making the bbq, and told me to come over to Carlos’ place just a short walk from mine. I arrived, and it was those two with Victor. Victor and Carlos are both from Valencia, Spain, and really cool guys. We help each other learn Spanish and English and hang out quite a bit. I had only brought one beer, and was supposed to go after that beer, but I was so tired that it took a long time. We talked about doing another bbq and maybe since the pool would open on Sunday going there do to so. During that Kasia invited us to her kitchen where a lot of other people were hanging out and supposedly smoking something other than tobacco. I wasn’t interested in smoking with them, but the company would be good and I still hadn’t finished even half of my beer. We walked to Kasia’s place and found Miguel from Portugal, Helen from England, and Maxim plus his brother from France. With those people, plus the 2 Spanish guys and 2 Polish Girls we had almost all of Europe covered 🙂

I am truly a luck guy. The friends I have are really fantastic wonderful people. I’m been lucky to meet people from most nations of the world – even some I’d never heard of. I’m learning words, both good and bad, in Polish and Chinese; while refining both Spanish and German; I hang out with people from Palestine and Iraq that are genuinely honest and great to be around – they treat me like I’m something special even; I’ve been invited visit people on every continent where people can live without wearing parkas year-round, including one Subcontinent; I have philosophical conversations about Hindu and Islam. There is so much going on right now I cannot even accept all the invitation offered me. Of course I return the favor when possible.  Living in Germany and meeting so many people has been a real eye opener.  My perspective on the world has changed so much.  Life really is wonderful.  I can’t imagine a better decision than to have come here.  I’m only 26, but this has to be the best year of my life.