European Motorcycle Road Trip Highlights part 1

There is so much to talk about. Jessica and I covered a lot of ground in Europe. Or original plan was changed after only 3 days. We got really cold (in early August nonetheless) just riding to Denmark, and the rest of Scandanavia scared us both. There were no more clothes to put on, and we weren’t getting any warmer.

Just so there are no wrong impressions, Jessica and I are only friends. We’d travelled a lot together even before this trip, and we trusted each other enough to go for a month on a road trip that wasn’t even very well planned out. Mostly she trusted me to take care of her and not get us hurt. I’m happy to say I kept that trust.

We started out from Stuttgart of course. Our first day was planned to get up to Hamburg which turned out to be quite a drive – the longest day of our trip by far. We stopped in Frankfurt to get her a new helmet, it turnes out the one I had wouldn’t work for her on the highway.

Here is a photo of Jessica and the bike fully loaded before we left (no she’s not fully loaded)

((as always, with all of these photos you can click on them and make them larger))

Neither of us knew what we were getting into. Of course I’d travelled plenty by motorcycle, but it was always in the states. Europe is a different animal. First of all, we don’t speak most of the languages in Europe. German helped us and Spanish too, but there are always communications problems when you’re not speaking in your first language. Another thing is that gas prices aren’t exactly cheap. For me to buy a gallon of gas the average price was over 5 dollars, in France and some parts of Germany it was closer to $7. If you think $2.65 is expensive please reconsider.

The truth is I had never really travelled with someone before. Sure, Trev and I had done a week trip to Florida back in 2003, and I had done a couple days with Strider1 once, and there were the weekend trips with Sharon, but this was different. Not only was there someone else with whom to concern myself, but she was on my bike! With all that gear and a second person the bike wasn’t the same as unloaded. It wasn’t as peppy or agile, but I adjusted quickly, and we made it through safely and for the most part dry. There were only a couple days we actually needed the rain gear for rain (usually it was to block the cold).

I see I’m already getting long winded, and this was just supposed to be a highlight post, so I’ll get on with that and save the full stories for individual posts later on.
We arrived in northern Denmark and stayed with Jessica’s cousin and her Danish husband. They were wonderful people and quite good hosts. We had a great time meeting his family and seeing the countryside.
This is Bent and Laura and Jessica at the North sea just 20 minutes from their house, plus one of Jessica and I loaded up on the bike

From there we rode to Copenhagen, which is one of my favorite European cities. It is really beautiful there and full of channels and great architecture.

I should probably also mention the last gas stop before Copenhagen. Well, it was a little more than a stop – something like a push. We had a pretty bad headwind, and the gas stations were just a little too far apart. Thankfully I ran out in sight of the exit (the first in 40 miles) with a gas station. There was another mishap on the way to G’dansk, Poland. One of the hard saddle bags fell off. I wouldn’t have known except for the pain in my side from Jessica’s rather strong pinch. It turned out to be her bag… Of course this gave her another opportunity to take a photo of me walking along the highway. Thankfully those were our only two unplanned walking moments.

Our next stop was Poland (rather than Sweden) and we took a ferry from Copenhagen to a small port town on the Polish-German border. Thankfully the people there spoke German, the older people did anyway, the younger ones couldn’t do English or German. Here is one of me soaking in the sun on a mildly warm day while crossing the Baltic Sea. This one is to make Trev (Who I hope to see very soon) jealous just a little.

We stayed in G’Dansk with Kuba, my good friend from the first semester. It wouldn’t be the last time we saw Kuba on this trip.

After G’dansk we headed south and east to Olszytin to visit a mutual friend of ours, Gosia. Gosia is quite a spirit and was quite happy to have friends visit her. Olszytin is not a big town but she showed us around, and we really enjoyed the peacefulness of it all.

Here is a photos of the three of us and her parents who were great hosts even though we couldn’t speak to each other.

Her mom is a fantastic cook, and we learned some culinary delight when we spent a night at their lake house and in the morning picked fresh mushrooms from the forest. These are some I picked

We threw them all into a pan and made eggs for breakfast. 😀

From there it was to Warsaw, a place I had been but was excited to go back because Kuba was there. I specifically requested we eat with his grandmother who I think would try to marry me if she weren’t already taken. Babcia is what we call her, and Dzacik is the name for grandfather. He speaks German from the times after the war so we could speak with him. It is a shame that I never really got to converse with Babcia, she is a really wonderful woman.

That night Kuba invited us to a party with his friends out in the country side. We accepted and probably partied a little more than we should have. I ended up in a pond while chasing a frisbee playing in the dark. They laughed, and when I got mad they told me I should have asked if there was a pond over there. Of course I should have asked if there were a pond before chasing a frisbee in the pitch black DOH!

This is us before I got all wet, and another one of Kuba giving Jessica and me a tour of Warsaw.

Jessica had one wish while we were in Poland, and that was to see Krakow (or Cracow in English). She being an architect was told that this was the best city in Europe to visit. I was more than happy to go back even though I didn’t agree on that point. While there I stopped to snap a couple photos of the castle.

From Krakow it was back to Germany. I have a friend that lives in Dresden, formerly in East Germany, that went to school with me in St. Louis. We had met up a couple times in Stuttgart, but this was the first time in over 6 months that I saw him. It was a good meeting, and he already had other guests, so it became quite a fun visit. Not to mention that Dresden is a very beautiful city with lots to do and see.

On the left here is the Dresden Theatre, and on the right is the Church of Our Lady. Both of which are very famous and important buildings. In front of the church you can see a statue of Martin Luther. He was an important figure in our world’s history and that of Germany.

From Dresden we rode back to Stuttgart. It was 2 weeks after leaving and the first half of our trip was done. We had ridden a good 5 thousand kilometers and seen so much. I was glad to have seen my friends again and seen Denmark which I had been wanting to do for quite some time. Right now I have to end this post, but the second part will be up very soon with photos of France, Spain, and Ireland. Some of the biggest highlights are still to come!

I’m home!!!!

I made it safely. Man, after one year in Germany and Europe it sure is a good feeling to be in Texas again. This day seemed so far away and yet is is already here. I flew from Stuttgart on Wednesday and landed in Houston Wednesday evening or what would have been 3AM my time. I was really tired believe it or not.

My friend Forrest picked me up from the airport. It was very nice of him and kind of fitting since he was the one that dropped me off exactly 1 year ago. My luggage had been left in Paris so we made it to his house with little more than my computer and some books that were too heavy to be checked. Of course I made him take me by taco bell on the way home. It is very odd the things you miss when away from your home country.

I noticed first off the heat. It was nice. Houston wasn’t too hot Wednesday evening, rainy and very muggy, but not like I had figured it to be. Maybe it was 85. But that was a welcome 85 since I’d been wearing sweaters and jackets for the last year. There may have been only a handful of days the entire year in Germany when I truly felt warm. There were some in Spain however that I got to sweat a little.

I’ve gone though a lot of emotions lately: firstly the excitement of going home; the sadness of leaving my friends and Germany behind me, lots of anxiety from travelling, wonder at what is next, and of course jet-lag. Not sure if that is an emotion or not, but it affects them. The excitement of going home is obvious, I haven’t seen my family or friends in a year. My mom, Andrew a friend from highschool and his wife are the only people I saw in all that time that I knew from home. Of course that’s what you expect when you are an ocean away. Sadness is something to be expected when leaving somewhere you’ve been so long. I made lots of friends in Stuttgart and became accustomed to the way of life there. The people I will miss the most; I’ve never made friends so fast or so many in such a short time. One year ago we were all in the same boat, new and foreign to a place. Because of that commonality we grew together fast. I think it takes an extraordinary person to leave everything they know, and I met a lot of extraordinary people. I’m just thankful to have had the opportunity. Germany of course I will miss but for different reasons. I learned a lot there, that America is very isolated and sees a very narrow view of the world, that there are wonderful people anywhere you go, that stereotypes may have some basis in fact, but wherever you go there are probably more exceptions than followers of that rule, and more things that I can even name right now. I also wonder what is next. I have September basically planned out, but most important I need to find work, first any source of income, but then a real job where I get to use my education. I have to start paying back debts. Where I will be after September I don’t know – I do hope for Texas though.

– warning, the next paragraph may be boring because it describes air port problems that most people have already dealt with at some point –

Travelling is always a lot of work, and the trip from Germany to Texas was very stressful. I arrived with what I thought would be plenty of time; and it was – if nothing went wrong. Things went wrong however, and plenty of them. First my reservations were good, but the computers didn’t like that I hadn’t paid. Of course my ticket was an open ended return so I didn’t have to pay. I knew that and the representatives of Air France knew that, but the computer wasn’t having any of it. I waited patiently for what seemed like hours but was probably only 20 to 30 minutes while they called every person in the office to try every trick to get my ticket accepted, but nothing worked. Finally they started from scratch and just printed me new tickets with 0 cost. Take that computer! Then it was check in time. Well time was already running shorter than I wanted, but this proved to be some more trouble. Last year they had permitted me to bring two bags of 32 kilograms each to check. This year it was 23 kilos. Well, that’s a big difference – exactly 40 pounds I was over, more than that to be honest. One bag was at 36 kilos, yes I brought home more than I left with. Most of the weight was books though. The Union that represents air port workers doesn’t allow them to pick up anything over 32 kilos, so I had to find a way to reduce one bag by 4 and in a hurry. I was already carrying a backpack that weighed way over the limit and was full, so the lady gave me a hand bag, and I filled it with cables from the computer and other electronic devices – you wouldn’t believe how much a bunch of cables weigh – about 9 pounds, and that put me at exactly 31.8 and 32. I could board – but I had to pay. That meant going back to the other office and paying, then returning to the check in place with the receipt. That worked, and the security check didn’t take too long, so I actually made it at the time the plane was supposed to start boarding. PHEW… well…. Of course the plane was late, and we left Stuttgart late, so we arrived late in Paris – and that meant more running through one of the biggest air ports in the world. There were more setbacks in Paris, one was that I was randomly searched, plus having to go through passport control. In the end I made it to the gate as they called “final boarding call”. That’s it, I was going to make it to Houston!!! Of course my luggage didn’t, but that’s been taken care of.  the good news is that jet-lag isn’t as bad going this way as the other, and I’m only waking up a few hours earlier than I should
– ok, I promise no more air port talk –

I have so much to tell and lots of photos too.  I’ve already uploaded some of the highlight photos from the motorcycle trip in Europe, but that’ll wait till the next post in a day or two.  I’ve also many many more photos from all the places I’ve been which in their own time will be uploaded and talked about in this blog.  I like telling the stories, and I’ve already gone back and read some and am glad to have written them.  So, even though my travelling will be limited to Texas and some in St. Louis, I will continuously post stories here, and now that there is more time photos will be included too.  So, if you are interested keep an eye out.

Ok, this turned out longer than I planned.  I’m home, and that’s the important thing.  Saturday I fly to Dallas to celebrate my grandmother’s birthday.  Then early next week Mom takes me home to Austin where I can start getting my life back in order.  I have a lot of people to see, and a lot of phone calls to make.  Talk to you soon!

Man, this is a weird feeling

Today I fly home.  It has been one year exactly (well, tomorrow would be one year exactly).  I’ve done many things and seen many places.  Best was all the wonderful people I me.

I am really excited about going home.  I miss many things a couple of which are my famliy and Texas.  Europe is great, but it’s not my home.  These last 2 days have been very strange.  Yesterday I actually relived my first day here but backwards.  Everything I did the first day I had to undo.  It was weird going to those same places and seeing them again but with a different perspective.  I remember the first day: full of confusion and totally being lost.  I wouldn’t have gotten anything done except for the help of my friend Johannes.  This time I was confident and knew where things were.  I also speak German now (well enough) so I can do things on my own.  I walked past the photo store that took my photos for the visa, then the visa office, then the health insurance place, then the backery where I bought my first pretzel.  I remember all of that day even though it was so long ago and I was already so tired from travelling.

Last night I drank my last been in Germany.  I’ll miss that too.  Also I went to the castle in the middle of town and took pictures of the fountain just like I did on my first day.  There was a going away party for a Japanese friend.  Only the Spanish people are left, and me, so we ate Sushi and said the last good byes.  This morning I bought my last pretzel, this time to eat while flying home when I get hungry.  I also said good bye to Carlos.  He has helped me out a lot recently and has been a great friend.  I’ll miss him too.

Now I’m doing the last couple things before leaving for the airport.  I have to make sure my grades get sent to the right place.  Hopefully everything will work out so I can graduate – that’s important.  And tonight I sleep in Houston.  Man, this is a weird feeling.  I like it though.  Next time I write I will be back home!

Back in Stuttgart

It’s been a great trip.  I really enjoyed riding my motorcycle around Europe and then visiting Emmet in Ireland.  We had a blast.

Last night I said good bye to Jessica – we had seen each other and travelled together  every day for over a month.  This morning Emmet and I woke up really early so he could get me to the air port in Dublin (we were at his mom’s house in central Ireland).  I made the flight and then got back home.  I’m tired and have things to do tomorrow.  It’s time to sleep.

But first, I will be back in Texas in 2 days!  I’m really looking forward to being home.  I can’t wait to see my family again and listen to country music on the radio.  There are a lot of things I have planned already.  More on that later.   Gotta sleep – it’s late over here.

Ireland is great

We’ve having a great time here.  Ireland is a nice place.  After about 10 miles of walking around art museums and historical libraries we made our way over to the Guinness Brewery and had a tour.  The tour wasn’t free, but the fantastic beer at the end was.  Great stuff.

We’re staying with a friend here, and tonight is a going away party for a friend.  Tomorrow starts the Irish Folk Music Festival in central Ireland.  We’ll probably head over to Tullamore and might sample some famous wiskey.  Thankfully we had great weather today. When we left the hostel it was black sky, but shortly after the sun came out, and we were quite happy.

I’ll be back in Stuttgart on Monday – my last two days of of Europe will be there packing and getting all my grades in order.

Moving on.

Today Jessica and I are travelling a lot.  We are about to head to the bus station, selling the helmets on the way.  I sold the bike last night – well actually, I left the bike at a used bike dealership.  A friend of mine will go with the papers on Monday or so and pick up the money.  It didn´t work out as I would have liked, but in the end everything will.

The bus will take us to Madrid where we will catch a plane to Dublin.  We are both very excited about that.  There will be a music festival there this weekend (actually in the country), and I get a day to see Dublin and learn some history.  Should be a nice time.  After that Stuttgart to un register myself from Germany and then home.  I´ll arrive on August 29th, which is less than a week away.  My grandma will sure be happy to see me; her birthday is on September 2nd, and I´ll be in Dallas for that.

 

Lots of travelling in the near future, but it´s almost over. I´ve had a great time doing it. !

Things are coming to a close

I found a buyer for the motorcycle.  That is great news.  I have been worrying over it lately; so even though it isn´t the price I really wanted I´m relieved.  Tomorrow I´ll take it over there on my last ride.  It was a good bike.

Thursday we´re moving from the Mediterranian to Madrid, but actually only for a few hours because we are flying directly to Dublin.  I hear there is going to be some partying going on there, but you know how those Irish are 😉

We really like Valencia. It is probably my favorite town in Spain.  The people are friendly, and the weather is perfect nearly all year round.  Plus the mountains are near and the beach is nice.  I might just have to get a little more sun tomorrow before we leave.

That´s it for now.  Things are great, and the photos will be plentiful when I finally get to upload them.

Spain is great

We´re really enjoying ourselves on the beach here.  It´s quite nice, yesterday I even got a slight sunburn (remarkable since it rained every day in Germany since April.

 

We´re moving from the beach to Valencia today.  Tomorrow I need to start selling the motorcycle.  Wish me luck, I hope to get a decent price for the bike – that is of course important since most of my money is tied up in it.

 

See you soon.

France and Spain

After Germany we rode down to Southern France.  Let me tell you, they have a reason to be such proud people.  France is beautiful; I had been all across the north and thought that was something, but then I saw some amazing things.  I finally got to see the Milau viaduct, the tallest bridge in the world.  I wish I could upload the photos, but next week maybe.  It was amazing.  Wednesday was really an amazing day.

 

Wednesday night we crossed into Spain, and I was happy about that.  First off I speak the language, but even more that meant we were close to the beach.  We arrived late yesterday afternoon at my friend´s beach house just north of Valencia, and we got some quality beach time in.  It was great. 🙂  Today we´re going to the mountains that are just above the beach to get some better views, then more beach.  I´m really loving Spain right now.  It is definitly warmer than up north, but still I haven´t felt a real summer day yet.  Maybe when I get back to Texas I´ll finally feel warm.

 

Our plans are to stay on the beach a few more days then move inland to Madrid.  We´ll take a plane from there to Dublin to visit Emmet our Irish friend.  Then lastly back to Stuttgart to pack and fly home.  My year in Europe is almost done.

 

I´ll post more soon, but if I don´t it´s because I´m swimming on the Mediterranian coast.

Back in Germany

After 7 nights in Poland and 4 in Denmark we are back in Germany.  Jessica and I plan to stay in Stuttgart tonight to repack and get our beach clothes, then it’s off to Spain!  I can’t wait. 🙂

 

We are moving a little slower than originally planned, but we are also making time to see everything we want.  Today is the 13th, so we have 10 days to get down to Valencia, enjoy ourselves, sell the motorcycle, and fly to Dublin.  Yep, there is one last stop before I come home.  I really wanted to see it, and a friend invited us to an Irish musical festival – so we’re going!

 

These will be a busy couple of weeks.

 

I wanted to thank Kuba and Gosia for hosting us and showing us around.  They are really great friends, and I cannot wait to see them again.  They live in a beautiful country; I really like Poland.