December 31, 2011

Bob's right!

Almost two years ago I left a well paid assignment in the wintry prairies for a somewhat mediocre and underpaid job on the unreasonably expensive We(s)t coast. Oh well, it's not all about money in life, isn't it?

One of the first things that Bobskoot said to me when I made my decision public was:
"We didn't get any snow this year. Most years you can ride 48-50 weeks a year, except for a few days of frost."

And Bob was right, there was almost no snow to be seen in the almost two years since I moved here. (There was lots of what they call 'liquid sunshine' over here, though.)

2011 wasn't a bad year for motorcycling. Although work and screwed up schedules prevented me from going on major road trips I logged in about 1,600km on Nella, my F650GS, which I sold in July, 1,800km on Rover, my then acquired Sportster, and 5,400km on Paolo, my trusty Vespa Granturismo.

Most of of the scooter mileage was gathered in commuting to work, which I did from April when I got it until Daylight Saving time stole morning and afternoon light of me in November. As I don't like riding in darkness and torrential rains, Paolo was going to be reduced to weekend take outs.

Actually from April onwards weekends became a wonderful treat since my commuting better half (he is still working in Calgary) got in to scooter riding this year, and was often able to join me on Bella, his Vespa GT250. 

Life is good! 

Ride safe, ride often, and see you on the road in 2012. 


December 27, 2011

Virtual Factory Tour

In my line of profession I have had a lot of opportunity (and obligation) to attend factory and facility tours. Actually it has always been the most fun part of my job as I find assembly lines and production logistics strangely intriguing.

Just recently BMW has started in Berlin with the production of the new scooter line. I had expected a fully automatized production facility (something along the line of German efficiency etc.), and was surprised how much manpower is being put into assembling those bikes. They build about 80 of those per day in two shifts with no more than fifteen people per shift. Fascinating.

One different kind of a tour is being presented by Dougie Lampkin, British trial world champion at Renthal. Hmmm, nobody ever offered my to bring my own vehicle...

Dougie Lampkin tours Renthal Ltd from Renthal Ltd on Vimeo.

It is good to see that not everything gets off-shored to cheap labour countries, and some pretty good stuff is still getting manufactured in good ole Europe.

December 19, 2011

'Tis the Season again!

The spousal unit had suggested to spend a weekend in Seattle. Purely by coincidence it was also the weekend of the motorcycle show, this year at the Washington Convention Center, which happened to be five minutes away from our hotel. There wasn't much to get excited about except for this Norton:
And yes, yet again probably for the umphtiest time I drooled all over certain Triumph models.

There were a few pretty vintage bikes such as this Honda CB and a Metisse.

And this BMW C1 scooter certainly won the price of the weirdest two wheeler on display.

Also, a handful of bloggers happened to be around at the same time, and so we had our own little convention going. Here we are at Cyber Dogs having lunch.
There was Bob and Mrs Skoot, Troubadour and Trobairitz, and Orin.
And later on for dinner we got to hook up with Chuck again. We had a great time.

The weather was kind, and it was warm enough to actually spend the day outside.
Even Mt. Rainier was showing off.
The Space Needle is always an eye catcher, and seasonally decorated.
We walked through the night enjoying the sight.
Downtown was dressed up all festive.

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmukkah! Wishing you a wonderful motorcycle season 2012! Ride safe and ride often.

December 16, 2011

Five Local Trips

Moto-Blogeress Dar came up with a great idea to get away from the grey and windy wintertimes at the We(s)t Coast. She wants us to think about five local road trips and dream trips.

Local meaning, it has to be in my country... which I have actually two of: Canada AND Germany (Cheat Alert, he he!) in no particular order:

1. I have been at Canada's Easternmost point at Cape Spear in Newfoundland, and I have been at Mile 0 in Victoria. Time will come to connect the dots: Trans Canada from one end to the other.

2. Doing the Great Lakes (If acceptable, going around even if I would have to touch US soil.)

3. Been there done that a couple of times but never on a scooter: Port Renfrew Loop on Vancouver Island

4. We have traveled Yukon and Alaska on four wheels, but in summer 2004 Dempster Highway was blocked due to wildfires. I am thinking of riding my Harley up to Tuktoyaktuk in the Northwest Territories and getting the spousal unit to follow in an RV.

5. So, coming to speak of my other country... All along the Watchtower(s): Riding a scooter along the borders of Germany. There are probably not many watchtowers left, and if, they are likely up for demolition or turned museums these days.

Those are all pretty epic but Canada simply makes you think BIG, eh! Please stay tuned for more epic dream trips, this time beyond country borders.

December 10, 2011

My Favourite Five of the Year

Kiwi moto-blogger Roger called for a challenge:

Post your five favourite photos of 2011.  Tell us why you like them.  It could just be you like the pic or it could be more personal or of great meaning to you.  The only rule is that you have to have been the one who took them, and there must be at least one of you.

Here are mine:
1. Not motorcycle related. Celebrating New Year in Germany with my bestest ever girlfriends Big & Uli. We travel through thick and thin (German Proverb: Staying together, no matter what!). These ladies have a special place in my heart.
2. Another one not taken by me, but with me in it. This picture was taken on a cold and wintry day in Calgary, the day we became Canadians, eh!
3. A happy day for me! My spousal unit goes two-wheels! Couples that play together, stay together.
4. I have been riding solo most of the time, but never dared to stray far from home. This summer I did the Lillooet Loop, my first >500km solo trip.
5. Vacation time! Mono Lake, California. A weird and quiet place, tingling my passion for geology.

I had to go through almost 5,000 photos. There were heaps of pictures with people and places, memories and vistas, and lots of them memorable, important, stunning or lovely. But above selection means the most to me this year. Thanks, mate for bringing out the best memories of 2011.

One Simple Way to Clear Your Mind

Some meditate, others go for a walk, some talk other people's ears off. I guess there are indeed many methods to untangle the knots in your brain caused by stress at work, unfinished projects at home, or other life's worries.
For me one obvious solution is getting out for a ride, which becomes a little challenging lately. It is that time of the year where daylight becomes scarce, or the weather goes crazy.
Lately we had torrential rains and strong winds going, far from ideal riding conditions. I don't mind the rain, it is the winds I fear, especially on a scooter, because no matter where I am headed, I will have to cross bridges.

I try not to think about the wind. In a still photo you cannot see the trees wavering. Everything looks peaceful, and the mix of sun and clouds makes for some soft and warm (looking) afternoon light.
But I don't let the picturesque scenery fool me, I stay alert and prepared for a countersteer maneuver every time a gust hits me and tries to push me off the track.
The Vespa however unimpressed, purrs along nicely, and by the time I get home I am one with the universe again.

December 08, 2011

I hate when that happens

I hate when I am traveling without seeing anything. I added two new states on my list of visited US states this week (or as I like to put it: states where I have touched ground.), but I have seen zip, zero, nothing.

I had a 'gig' in Atlanta with a stopover in Minneapolis. It snowed in Minnesota. The Airport is pretty, and they have a Harley Davidson store to kill some time.

The Atlanta airport is huge, being the world's busiest airport and all. I was impressed with its efficiency. Unfortunately it was already dark on arrival. I have seen a few illuminated buildings while driving through downtown up to Duluth where I had biscuits and pulled pork on a salad for dinner.
The next day it was warm (17C or 63F) - too warm for my outfit actually - but it rained cats and dogs. The day was filled with supplier meetings and a factory tour, a limousine ride back to airport to catch a plane to Houston (were is was cold, only 3C or 38F), and finally jumping on a plane back to Vancouver. The travel distance covered was over 8,000km (5,000mls), and I have seen nothing. ARGH!

December 03, 2011

Tour de France - Part deux

I found a few more pics of our french voyages moto and scanned them. The story continues after we left the Bretagne.

Let's go South on A62! 800km later, easy-peasy for the GS, we arrived at a winery-turned-two-wheeler hostel in Moux, a small town in the Southwester region of Languedoc-Roussillon. The then-owners Rolf and Rosi, avid riders themselves, had had their own share of unfriendly encounters while looking for accommodation.
And so the couple found it was time to offer a motorcycle and bicycle friendly place where tired riders could find rest either in one of the cozy rooms of their B&B, or on the adjacent campground. Needless to say that there was shelter as well as a workshop provided for the bikes.
They also offered motorcycle rentals (cheap) and guided tours in the area (at no charge). At one time I had rented an F650GS, which was fun to ride. It were those fond memories which made me buy my yellow Beemer Nella last year.
The medieval fortified city of Carcassonne. From here it looked like time stood still.
Enjoying crepes and cafe au lait in some small town restaurant.
Here's "The Dispousal Unit", an excellent and reliable long distance rider, posing in front of a picturesque scenery.

In a place were motorcyclists gather there is a lot of talk around bikes, and one fine day it happened that rides were swapped, which gave us the opportunity to enjoy the vibes of a Harley Davidson for the very first time.

We returned to Maison Las Clauzes many times. Due to its excellent location the B&B became our base camp for travels in and around the area, to Andorra (B) and to Spain (D), to the Pyrenees (I) and the Mediterranean beaches (F).
Good times!

It would not have been the perfect round-trip without the Alps involving a lot of chasing the twisties, collecting mountain passes, and getting rained and snowed on along the way.
If you are in the area you have to ride/drive the Route des Grandes Alpes and get all 17 passes in one tour.
Map found here

Some people make the conscious choice of cycling the route. I certainly prefer the motorized version. 
The Col de l'Iseran at 2,770m (9,088ft) altitude is the highest paved mountain pass in the Alps.  It looks deserted but tourists of the two or four wheeled kind had actually lined up to get their picture.
 At Col de la Cayolle at 2,326m (7,631ft) altitude

Chasing that many twisties is hard work, for all three: rider, pillion and motorcycle. The GS turned out to be an ideal vehicle for this task.

One of my fondest memories of France was our (almost daily) 'milk-run':
a) grab a warm and crisp baguette from the bakery
b) pick up a bottle of regional wine at the grocery store and 
c) visit a local cheese maker to collect some goat cheese or Camembert.
During lunch hour we would find a nice shady place for a picnic, enjoy the food, have a glass of wine (in public...), relax and watch the world go by. Good times!

December 02, 2011

Into each Generation a Rider is born...

As a student my brother was an avid rider living on a tight budget, and keen on saving in vehicle cost, gas, maintenance and insurance. So he got himself a Yamaha XT, which he rode all year round for many years, fixed himself, and didn't spend a dime extra on upgrades.

Then the 'family thing' happened. He got married, breeding ensued, a bigger vehicle and more living space was needed, and so the motorcycle, a Yamaha XT600 was left forgotten in a dark corner of the shed for many years.

The next thing I hear: The kid is finally tall enough. What does he mean by that, for heavens sake, she is six years old? Actually in Germany a little person that is able to reach the passenger pegs can legally ride pillion, and my niece has reached that very threshold.

As a man of action he recruited family members help funding his daughter's first motorcycle gear (I ended up sponsoring the helmet.). He undusted the bike, did some basic maintenance, such as fluid exchange, spark plug, fresh gas, and that awesome XT came to life like it had never been parked.
 Here's my niece is in front of a big pile of gear. 
My brother is particularly careful when he rides with her. The first trip was 40km one way to visit Oma (grandma, my mother). Naturally my mom was not amused. (Actually she was plain shocked!)
The little one liked the adventure, but she says she cannot see enough on the back of the bike. I guess somebody is already planning to get into the front row... soon.