October 27, 2013

Too Old To Rock'n Roll?!


Roland: The number one musical hero of my youth was Manfred Mann, who somehow appeared to be an old man already at the height of his Earth Band at the end of the Seventies. I remember visiting London in 1980 where a radio station played 'For You' and the voice on the radio explained that "he is quite old now: Forty already!".

Manfred Mann's Earth Band is known in North America pretty much only for their version of Springsteen's 'Blinded By The Light', but in Europe they were a top act in the Seventies and early Eighties filling the biggest arenas. While their albums changed from Rock to Pop over the years their concerts continued to be a tour de force in improvisation: usually the song lengths doubled or tripled in comparison to the album versions, fired by speed changes, solos and moog vs. guitar duels.


Manfred Mann is 73 now and the Earth Band still exists, but nowadays they play smaller cities and venues. When I read that they would give a concert in Appenweier, a mere 30 minutes drive from our home,  I decided to get nostalgic again, being fully aware that this would be a whole 'nother trip than the perfectionist Peter Gabriel concert two weeks ago.


So after surviving a disastrous one hour gig by Barclay James Harvest featuring Les Holroyd (another big act in Europe in the 70s) I was not sure what to expect from my old heroes. When they finally entered the stage it became obvious right away that these guys are NOT to old to Rock'n Roll. The two founding members, Manfred Mann and Mick Rogers, seemed to have as much fun as they always did, the new singer did not have the slightest problems with the catalogue, and the rhythm section was as precise as always. Being the keyboarder of the band Manfred Mann is usually stuck behind his equipment but still he managed to dance over the stage a couple of times, even shaking his booty once! Not bad for a guy in his Seventies!


Unfortunately the set list did not change a lot during the last two decades(!), but the band manages to breathe new life into each and every song whenever I see them. But as much fun it was seeing them again, there is always the sad feeling involved that there won't be many more of these opportunities in the future...

After the Rain is before the Rain.

Last night we got a terrible storm, the rain kept pounding against our windows for hours, and we thought well, that was it, riding season is over now. We woke up early (well, 8am is early for us…), and couldn't believe our eyes, we were presented blue sky and the promise of 20C (68F).
With no plans for today, and all chores taken care of we were free to roam around, and rode southwest towards river Rhine. In Weisweil we stopped at Cafe Zeisset for a second breakfast, on their patio no less. This bistro offers an excellent choice of coffee and tea variations as well as a Sunday buffet with homemade jams and local produce, plus bread and rolls from their own bakery. Needless to say that it was delicious, even close to perfect (alas, no soy milk…)
After the rainfalls the roads were covered with wet leaves which made for a slippery ride at times, but with a combination of skill, luck and adjusted speed we managed to ride safely.
The floodplains on the right bank of the river Rhine were declared a conservation area in 1979, and are now one of the largest nature reserves in our state (Baden-Württemberg)
Ideal territory for hikers, cyclists, boaters, paddlers, surfers, nature lovers and to a certain extend also motorized two-wheelers (well, there was no specific sign saying that scooters weren't allowed…)
The Rhine, although straightened out in the previous two centuries, can flow wild and free in those floodplains. Yes, there will be floods at times, but it also brings new life to the area and feeds the wildlife.
The sky towards France didn't look promising, the dark clouds looked ready to spill their loads, and the strong winds pushed them right into our path.
Yet the scenery was too beautiful to leave just yet. We took the risk of getting wet, and continued to walk around. It was hard to believe that those waters are the Rhine meandering through the meadows.
The fall colours match well with our scooters. So we went for a final photo session in the forests before heading home. We arrived just in time. Literally seconds later heaven's flood gates opened again.

***

Nach dem Regen ist vor dem Regen
Wir wurden vergangene Nach mehrfach durch heftige Regenfälle wach und dachten, jetzt ist es wohl endgültig vorbei mit der Moped-Saison. Aber als wir am Morgen (früh um 8 Uhr) aufstanden und nach draußen schauten, trauten wir unseren Augen nicht. Keine Wolke am Himmel und die Vorhersage versprach noch einmal 20 Grad. Da wir (bzw. Roland) gestern den Haushalt bereits geschmissen hatte, waren wir frei und so drehten wir noch einmal eine Runde. Wir fuhren Richtung Südwesten nach Weisweil. Dort nahmen wir im Café Zeisset ein zweites Frühstück zu uns. Das Café wartet mit Produkten aus eigener Herstellung sowie Gebackenem aus der eigenen Bäckerei und einer eklektischen Auswahl an Tee- und Kaffeevarianten auf. Lecker!
Nach dem gestrigen Sturm waren die Straßen erwartungsgemäß rutschig vom herum liegenden nassen Laub, aber mit Geschick und angepasster Geschwindigkeit war das Fahren kein Problem. 
Das Areal Taubergießen wurde 1979 zum Naturschutzgebiet erklärt. Das Auenland ist eines der größten Naturreservate in Baden-Württemberg. Man kann hier herrlich wandern, Fahrrad fahren, paddeln, segeln, surfen, die Natur beobachten und offensichtlich auch herum rollern. Jedenfalls haben wir kein Verbotsschild für Vespas gesehen…
Richtung Frankreich beobachteten wir, wie sich die dunklen Wolken auf türmten, und der Wind trieb diese auch noch genau auf uns zu. Also machten wir nach einer weiteren kurzen Fotosession, dass wir davon kamen. Das Timing war genau richtig, nur Sekunden (echt!) nach unserer Rückkehr gab es wieder einen Regenguss besonderer Güte.

October 26, 2013

A Summer Day in Autumn

I have the best hubby of all, you know. When I woke up I found myself drawn to the breakfast table by the smell of fresh coffee, warm rolls and croissants. Roland had already checked the weather forecast which predicted sun and temperatures in the high twenties (indeed we hit 26C - 78.8F today) and suggested that I should go play with my Sportster while he would meanwhile take care of the weekend chores which we usually share, now that we are both working... the dishes, the laundry, the vacuuming, all the works. Really? He didn't have to tell me twice, I was geared up and ready for the road at the speed of light.
It was merely 10AM, and the road south towards Emmendingen was almost empty. After yesterday's training session I felt much more confident negotiating the turns today. It always requires some muscle to force the Sportster into the perfect line but this morning I was relaxed, always in the right gear and speed, and Rover was willing to obey.
The light was perfect. Although the Black Forest autumn colours will never reach the brilliance of the northeastern American / Canadian fall foliage, I was very pleased with what I found.
 A stop with a view, looking south from Landeck.
I decided for a rest stop at Landeck castle. Built in the 13th century the fortification had been the property of several dynasties of sovereigns. Due to every single one of them going bankrupt, all there is left today are ruins of a once proud spur castle.
Today a private foundation takes care of the remains. The castle recently underwent some upgrades for safety reasons. However, there is no entrance fee, and you are allowed to roam around the premises at your own responsibility.
I love ruins more than I like intact castles, partly because the broken walls and caved in roofs make for some pretty motives. I snapped some more pics and continued my journey east, before heading north again.
It is that time of the year when the few motorcyclists left start waving again at everybody on two wheels. I was greeted by Beemer riders, by scooterists and even crotch rocket pilots were raising their hand in acknowledgement.
Most license plates I have seen expire by end of the month, so it will be a long time before I might re-encounter those riders. Rover's insurance however will cover for another month. From December to Februrary the Harley will get mothballed to protect the chrome from salt and gravel. But should the weather and road condition allow for a ride, there will still be Alonzo, my orange Vespa GTS300 Supersport.
After this little road trip I had to fill up again. As there are gas stations plastered along all major roads there will never be a shortage of fuel. Hence I have decided to keep the peanut tank, and not upgrade to the bigger version. Besides, the Sportster looks way prettier with the small tank.
When I arrived back home, the household was spick-and-span, and the coffee table was laid. Did I already mention that I have the bestest hubby of all? Life is good!

A 100km round trip:
Tea time!

***

Kaiserwetter - und das Ende Oktober!
Ich habe den weltbesten Ehegatten der Welt, jawohl. Erst einmal wurde ich mit frischen Brötchen und dampfendem Tee an den Frühstückstisch gelockt, und nach dem Frühstück schlug meine bessere Hälfte vor, dass ich mich angesichts der blendenden Wettervorhersage mit meiner Harley vergnügen gehen sollte, während er den Haushalt schmeißen würde. Einfach so, ohne besonderen Anlass... In Windeseile wurde eine Tour zusammen gehauen, die Motorrad-Pelle angelegt und Rover aus der Garage geholt. Es war zehn Uhr morgens und die Landstraßen waren noch leer, als ich gen Süden Richtung Emmendingen fuhr. Nach der gestrigen Trainingseinheit fielen mir heute die Kurven wesentlich leichter. Die Sportster muss zwar immer wieder in die Schräglage "gezwungen" werden, aber der damit verbundene Kraftakt ist mir inzwischen wieder ins Blut übergegangen. Ich drehte am Gasgriff, 80km/h, 100km/h, 110km/h, upps, so schnell wollte ich dann doch nicht... Schließlich pendelte ich mich bei einer Durchschnittsgeschwindigkeit von 90 km/h ein und ließ Rover souverän durch die Kurven blubbern. Es war ein Genuss, bei Temperaturen um 20 Grad im Herbstlicht auf leeren Straßen herum zu tuckern. Keiner drückte einen von hinten, keiner nervte vorne. Nur das ständige Tock-Tock der herunter fallenden Blätter irritierte leicht. An der Ruine Landeck legte ich eine kleine Pause ein und schaute mir diese im 13ten Jahrhundert erbaute Spornburg an. Nach der langen kulturellen Auszeit in Nordamerika können mich solche alten Gemäuer immer wieder auf's Neue begeistern. Danach tuckerte ich weiter Richtung Waldkirch und dann wieder gen Norden nach Hause zurück. Zum Schluss waren es doch tatsächlich 26 Grad, und das Ende Oktober. Ich kehrte zurück in einen aufgeräumten blitzblanken Haushalt und der Gatte wartete bereits mit einer Kaffeetafel auf. Ist das Leben nicht schön?

October 25, 2013

The Beauty and the Beast - Reunited!

When I returned to my desk after another training session today I found our cube farm empty. Everyone else was already gone for the weekend.
This is how I found out that Friday core time officially ends at 2:30PM. I got my work done quickly, and was on my way home an hour later.
In the meantime I had texted Roland that I had a little celebratory road trip in mind, and he also managed to finish work early.
The roads in North America were somehow much wider and the bends rather easy. Hence, in the beginning I felt a bit uneasy maneuvering the Sporty through the tight corners of the farm lanes. On top of it the tracks were dirty and slippery with fallen leaves and log debris.
But my confidence grew while working the curves on the next fifty kilometers. Rover kept chugging along smoothly while I relearned shifting and moving a heavy motorcycle through the twisties. And all went well on our first little outing.
Here they are: Rover and Bella traveling together like in the good ole times. Our two Canadian bikes reunited in Germany.
Rover's first outing:

***

Die Schöne und das Biest wiedervereinigt
Heute fand ich durch Zufall heraus, dass die Kernzeit freitags bereits um 14:30 Uhr endet. Es war nämlich nach meinem Training keiner mehr im Büro. Also machte ich auch, dass ich nach Hause kam. Ich textete Roland, dass ich eine kleine offizielle Jungfernfahrt mit Rover unternehmen wollte. Also sattelten wir unsere Bikes und fuhren auf kleinen Nebenstraßen und Feldwegen, um dem Verkehr zu entgehen. Die Strecke war teilweise rutschig wegen herumliegenden Laubs und Baumrinde, und so war ich am Anfang etwas unsicher. In Nordamerika waren die Straßen irgendwie viel größer und breiter und so hatte ich am Anfang meine Schwierigkeiten mit den engen Kurven. Aber auf den nächsten fünfzig Kilometern stellte sich mein Selbstvertrauen ein und ich gewöhnte mich langsam wieder an Rover, das Schalten und das eigenartige Kurvenverhalten einer Harley. Es war eine großartige erste Ausfahrt.

October 24, 2013

Rover resurrected!

Good things come to those who wait, and better things come to those who are patient. I have waited two months and nine days for this to happen. Finally the exception approval for my 2008 Harley Davidson Sportster 883 has been granted by the the Regional Council of the state (Regierungspräsidium Freiburg). Ursel picked up the papers and plate from the licensing department yesterday, and Dieter got the bike ready for the road.

At the end it came down to swapping the head-light to comply with German road standards. Everything else is still original, even the exhaust with its (nasty) emissions. Meanwhile Dieter had given Rover an overdue service including spark plugs and fluid exchange, plus a good bath and polish. Thanks Hawg Supply! The Uebels were genuinely happy for me when they handed me my baby back. Life is good!

Dieter & Ursel Uebel from Hawg Supply posing with my now street-legal Sporty.
 I can't believe it's happening.
 Filling in the good stuff!
 YES! After almost a year of downtime. Free again!
And the weather is playing along nicely.
 Home at last! The family is complete.

***

Was lange wärt...
Die Warterei hat schon eine Menge Nerven gekostet, aber sie hat sich gelohnt. Nach zwei Monaten und neun Tagen habe ich die Ausnahmegenehmigung für meine 2008 Harley Davidson Sportster 883 vom Regierungspräsidium Freiburg erhalten. Ursel holte die Fahrzeugpapiere und das Nummernschild für mich bei der Zulassungstelle ab und Dieter machte das Mopped fit für die Straße.
Zuguterletzt musste nur der Frontscheinwerfer ausgetauscht werden, alles andere bleibt original - auch der Auspuff - und ist Teil der Ausnahmegenehmigung. Ich ließ Dieter noch eine Inspektion machen und bekam das Fahrzeug gewaschen und blank poliert zurück. Man merkte den Uebels an, dass sie sich wirklich für mich freuten, dass die Zulassung geklappt hat. Danke Hawg Supply! Ich kann es noch gar nicht richtig fassen, der letzte Teil unserer Wiedereinwanderung ist somit abgeschlossen, und die Zweirad-Familie ist wieder komplett.

October 20, 2013

Living a Little (as per Billy Connolly)

Billy Connolly said once: There's no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing, so get yourself a sexy raincoat and live a little.
After yesterday's gorgeous weather we got a terrible thunderstorm last night that kept us awake for hours. We woke up to continued heavy rainfalls, and were somewhat content spending our Sunday playing inside. There was a household to maintain, and laundry to do. But by early afternoon the weather showed a slight improvement, and so we decided to go out for a little hike. We reckoned that the nearby All Saints Waterfalls must carry lots of water after last night's torrential rainfalls.
A short drive on a twisty road would lead us to an empty parking lot. It looked like people had shied away due to the adverse weather conditions. We donned our BC proof wet weather gear, and hiked up the trail (and climbed more than 230 steps).
As expected the falls roared with water. One could barely understand one's own word. There were big and small photo ops along the path, and we often stopped to snap a picture.
After climbing up the gorge for a bit more than a kilometer we ended up in a valley. It was the very same valley that we had visited a few times before but from another angle.
We had arrived on the premises of the monastery ruin of All Saints.
The gloomy light would make for an interesting atmosphere inside the broken walls, and we had a hard time parting with the ever changing motive whenever one was changing the perspective. This must truly be a photographer's heaven.
Eventually we moved on, and visited a little shop nearby that sold local produce such as jams, honey, local handcraft and schnapps in all varieties.
We were curious to taste the regional spirits, and were offered a sip of a pear schnapps and a peach liquor. The alcohol tickled our taste buds. The stuff was very fruity, and - to be honest - it was quite tasty.
Our final loop would lead us to a war memorial built in the mid twenties of the last century. Curiously it was surrounded by deer which didn't shy away upon our arrival. They must be used to visitors.
After recurring rainfalls finally the sun came out at the end of the day. It warmed up to an unbelievable 15C (59F) at five o'clock in the afternoon, and the light was simply beautiful.
We knew just the place to be, and drove up the nearby mountain (almost 1,000m - 3,300ft high). We expected to get to get a spectacular view from here.
And again, we were not disappointed.
Breathtaking vistas!
Sunday started out a bit dull due to the rain, and a certain lack of motivation. But once we had gotten out of our shelter the weather couldn't keep us apart from having a great day. Indeed we lived a little today  ;-)