November 29, 2011

Tour de France

Those were the days... when we had six weeks vacation. For the determined gourmet and rider France, as Germany's next door neighbour was the way to go, and this time it was two up on our R1100GS, called Duckbill.
In the years from 1995 to1997 the "Dispousal Unit" (copyright: Nikos) and I visited France quite regularly. We drove across, around, from coast to coast and back many times. One of our sojourns was to explore the Atlantic coast.
We were impressed with Mont St Michel in the Normandy, a town and monastery built on a tidal island, and at times surrounded by water. We had stormy weather at Cap Frehel, and lots of rain like we had in England.
Compared to Southern England we found that despite being in a different country, with different culture and language, the ancient architecture was quite similar.
The major difference we noted however was the reservation towards two-wheeled travelers. While we felt welcome amongst the Brits we felt somewhat rejected by the people of the Bretagne, although we spoke French quite well. We were offered the shabbiest accommodations, and got no shelter for the bikes. Once we had a hard time getting a room because of the way we looked (?). OK, we were in gear, wet and a bit muddy from doing too much of this:
The weather didn't play along well, and so we said au revoir to Northern France and traveled down South to the Mediterranean See, and also visited the French Riviera a.k.a. Côte d'Azur, where the weather was nice, and the people were even nicer.

November 28, 2011

It's Sunday Again!

I know it's Sunday again, when the four of us have time to go out for a ride.
The rain has stopped for a while, and we play hide and seek with the dark clouds.
It is quite nippy, so we stop for a warming beverage in Fort Langley.
Although the scooters haven't been used much lately they don't complain and are happy to play outside. It is the last week of November, and we are still riding. Life is good!

November 27, 2011

Je me souviens - I remember... France

1995: Two Germans on two Japanese bikes in the mood for France, and touching ground in Switzerland, Italy, Luxembourg, Belgium and Holland along the way (Just not necessarily in that particular order.).
Somewhere in France. Not lost, but letting the bikes find their own path. We avoided the highways all together and took two weeks off for a 2,500 km round trip.
The famous Verdon Canyon
There was an abundance of picturesque little places and towns.
We traveled the French Alps several times. The ex-partner's Transalp was made for the twisty terrain, hence the name. But I still marvel at the stuff that I could carry around on my little thumper (a Honda XBR500), and it never seemed to fail me.
I remember I went down in at slow speed in a particularly sharp turn shortly before below photo was taken. I was going too slow, taking the turn too tight, and then the luggage shifted a bit throwing me off balance. Obviously (and luckily) it left me and the bike unscathed. The only thing left damaged was my pride.
I was a bit anxious afterwards, but the road kept me busy, and after I had mastered all these turns without further incident, I knew was ready for more.
C'etait les bons temps, par beau temps.
(It was the good times in good weather.)

November 26, 2011

There is a first time for everything

Oh my, we got ugly weather. I almost miss the cold but sunny days in the Prairies, and today in there is even riding weather in Calgary, with balmy 7C (45F).

Vehicle insurance in BC (a.k.a. 'Bring Cash') is expensive. While the bill for all year round full coverage insurance in Alberta was about 400$, the same service will cost you 1,600$ here on the West Coast, for the simple reason that this matter is under provincial jurisdiction. And with the government being the only provider of this specific commodity, prices naturally skyrocket like in any other monopolist environment.

So, for the first time ever in my two-wheeled life I cancelled a motorcycle insurance policy. I put the Sportster into storage mode, and got credited with over a thousand bucks. The friendly insurance agent told me that if I should feel the spontaneous desire to ride, I can get a day or weekend permit for 30 or 40 bucks. I guess I leave that as an option.

I don't like doing it but it is a simple matter of economics. On the plus side... I still have Paolo, my trusty Vespa to zip around. And I plan to keep that one insured.

November 21, 2011

Got mugged

The other day at a popular coffee chain the spousal unit picked up cups featuring a Lambretta silhouette. On the receipt it states however: Vespa Mug. Ah well, close enough.

November 19, 2011

My First Time

Come the cold dark time of the year, I naturally spend a lot more time indoors. I swap summer with winter wardrobe, re-arrange my shelves, file paperwork, and sift through old stuff. Sounds boring, eh? And it was until I came across my box of old pictures (and instantly forgot about the stuff that I had planned to do).

I got my motorcycle endorsement in 1992 but my first time on a multi-day road trip (what else were you thinking?) wasn't until summer (if you could call it that) 1994 through Southern England, logging in roughly 2,500km.

We left Germany and took the fast lane (Autobahn) to Calais. It was the year of the Euro-Tunnel opening but I didn't feel comfortable traveling almost 40km under water, enclosed by walls, with no escape route. Besides, I love ferry rides. It turned out to be a very stormy one though, but professionally tied up by the ferry personnel no bikes were harmed during transport.

Riding on the left (wrong!) side of the road was so much easier than driving a car on the left. We rode into London, to do the typical tourist stuff (The Tower, Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle etc.), and little did we know about British traffic rules, roundabouts a.k.a. traffic circles, and lane splitting.

In the midst of a traffic jam, a motorcycle officer stopped right beside us, and we were thinking: oh oh! As a matter of fact he explained to us that bikes don't have to wait in traffic (not sure if that rule is still valid). He asked us where we wanted to go, and showed us the way through the pile of cages in downtown London. It was so cool!

It was supposed to be a low budget vacation but the plans to camp were going literally down the drain. It was raining day in day out except for maybe five minutes which we used to dry up and shoot a picture as proof.

Basically it was like: Look an old castle in the rain, oh there another church in the rain. From Brighton to Stonehenge to Lands End and back. Dripping, dropping, we were seeped through, drenched, plain wet most of the time. The wet stuff got everywhere, down the neck, into the boots. I had to wear plastic bags as an additional boot liner.

The motorcycles however did great. My Yamaha SR500 got a lot of attention because of its retro look resembling some 60's Triumph. I liked when people watched me kick-starting the bike on first kick (Oh, how much sweat and bruises it had cost me to look like a pro). I still miss that reliable hotpot.

The Ex rode a Suzuki Intruder, and he was obsessed with the repeat desire to wash the bike, an OCD that seem to come with riding a cruiser. Said bike didn't mind the weather or the regular wash and was doing its job.

Wild animal encounter in Cornwall
Vintage GPS in the tankbag a.k.a. map

Staying in Bed & Breakfasts or little Motels although bad for the budget didn't turn out too bad actually, as people were very helpful, and some of their owners were motorcycle enthusiasts themselves. And folks that speak motorcycle always get along well.

One guy really had us in awe. We arrived at a mansion turned B&B looking like drowned cats leaving a trail of dirt and water pooling on the ground. There was a storm coming in, we were almost blown off our bikes when riding above the white cliffs of Dover and we needed shelter, stat. We didn't care how much the room would cost. Not only did we get the room at a very decent price, he also offered that we could park the motorcycles overnight in the lobby as his garage was already full with vintage vehicles. Needless to say... he was a rider.

The pictures are long lost but the memories last a lifetime.

What actually triggered sharing my first time publicly was this find in Portland, OR:
A Quadrophenia style Lambretta in the Downtown Dr Martens boots store

During this first epic motorcycle trip my used German army boots procured in a shady surplus store were ruined due to constant exposure to British weather. Hence, I took the opportunity and purchased a wonderful pair of Dr Martens boots in a tiny store in St. Ives, Northern Cornwall. I had them a for long time and they were serving me well.

Those high quality boots were made in England back then. If only... but today the product is made in China. Otherwise, I swear I would have purchased a pair of the iconic British shoe ware.

November 16, 2011

Façades of Portland

A Collection of Staircases

Structures and Facades



Don't mind the weather. Portland is well worth a visit at any given time. Do it like the Portlanders do, leave your car at home, and don't take an umbrella with you.

November 15, 2011

A weird City... or not?

Portland: Drove into the city, parked the car and forgot about it. Everything can be done by the 4T: Trail, Tram, Trolley or Train. And it works actually quite well... weird!

One of the greenest North American cities I have ever been to. You actually see people walking, biking (the pedal thingy), commuting by public transit, or driving funny electric cars. Double plus weird.
 Portlanders are weird and proud of it.
 This zebra car is fueling up... electricity.

Another memorable attribute of Portland is: WET. Capital letters! It's raining all the time, but the only people using umbrellas are the tourists. Did I mention that Portlanders are weird? Let them prosper and multiply!

Walking along the Willamette River.
 Walking around downtown.
 Lovely fall colours everywhere,
 A sea of leaves,
 Everthing looks so...
 Trees on fire.

Taking the Areal Tram (amazing public transit) to the university (OHSU)
 How much more impressive the view must be...
... on a clear day.