March 29, 2016

Frank does the Black Forest

Frank, one of Roland's best buddies since childhood days, and a reborn rider, stopped by our place in order to explore the Black Forest before continuing his journey down to Lake Constance and beyond.

His choice of weapon for the trip was the impressive looking, fully dressed Aprilia Caponord, which - true to Italian craftsmanship - developed problems with the electrics: the fuel indicator failed him early into his trip.

Nothing to worry about, I alleviated his concerns: as long as you're accompanied by a bike with a peanut tank, this should be the least of your problems, because the Sporty will have long since run dry before the Aprilia is even half empty (although the Caponord seemed to be quite the thirsty diva).

As Frank was only here for one day, we thought it best to introduce him to what we call 'the ultimate Black Forest tourist package'.

This 160km (roughly 100 mi) round trip would include all the obvious must-do sees and sights in our backyard: cherry-picked twisty secondary roads (still slippery at times, sorry for that), the All Saints abbey and waterfall,

some twisties after, followed by a pit stop at the legendary Mummelsee tourist trap for lunch (or Vesper, as the locals call it),

followed by yet another set of twisties up the Schwarzwaldhochstraße (THE scenic route through the Black Forest),

along the Schwarzenbach reservoir, 

then a coffee break to feast on Black Forest cake, and yes, you guessed it right: the curvy roads continued until the finish line. Five hours of two-wheeled bliss, and it didn't rain for a change (it was a tad bit cold, though).


Wir bekamen gestern Besuch von Frank, einem der besten Freunde Rolands aus Schulzeiten und "wieder geborenem" Moppedfahrer. Unterwegs auf einer beeindruckend aussehenden, voll ausgerüsteten Aprilia Caponord wollte er auf seinem Weg Richtung Bodensee noch den Schwarzwald mitnehmen. Getreu dem Vorurteil einer typisch italienischen Verarbeitung versagte bei der Maschine bereits am Anfang seiner Tour die Benzinanzeige. Ich konnte jedoch Franks Bedenken zerstreuen, dass er mit der Aprilia aufgrund von Treibstoffmangel liegen bleiben würde, denn mit meiner Sportster und ihrem kleinen Tank wäre ich schon lange vor ihm trocken gefahren (obwohl, im Nachhinein haben wir festgestellt, dass das italienische Biest eine ziemlich versoffene Diva ist...).

Da Frank nur einen Tag in der Gegend war, nahmen wir ihn mit auf unsere klassische Rundtour, die wir "das ultimative Schwarzwald Touristen-Paket" getauft hatten. Auf diesen etwa 160km gibt es haufenweise handverlesene Kurven (manche davon noch etwas schlüpfrig... sorry), die Allerheiligen Klosterruine und den Wasserfall, mehr Kurven, dann eine Vesper an der legendären Touristenfalle am Mummelsee, gefolgt von weiteren Kurven, an der Schwarzenbach-Talsperre vorbei, danach die Kaffeepause mit Schwarzwälder Kirsch, nach der es dann, Ihr werdet es Euch bereits gedacht haben, weiter kurvenreich ins Ziel ging. Fünf Stunden purer Motorradspaß, und zur Abwechslung hat es mal nicht geregnet (allerdings war es immer noch recht kühl).

March 26, 2016

Hell's Valley

Spring like weather certainly looks different. Temperatures were in the low single digits (Celsius), and it snow-rained. We were close to calling off our plan for a day's hike but finally we got our butts off the couch, bundled up, and drove South ('going south' has a warm ring to it, yes?).

As we gained elevation we found the area still snow packed. While meandering through the High Black Forest (Hochschwarzwald) pure coincidence lead us through Höllental (Hell's valley), a nine kilometre long gorge between Freiburg and Hinterzarten.

We followed the signs to the Ravenna gorge. The state-of-the-art tourist center looked abandoned today. At the local tourist trap a handful of travellers (for some reasons mostly Eastern Indian, and not appropriately dressed for the weather) sought shelter from the rain, and bought cuckoo clocks, Swiss knifes, glassblowing art and other trinkets out of sheer desperation.

The narrow valley is a dismal spot even in the sunshine, however, with a railway viaduct overshadowing the area, deep hanging clouds, and the interminable rain falling it seemed haunted. We followed the trail along Ravenna creek. White water rushed by in its rugged bed. Moss and fern covered rocks, wet boardwalks and steep uneven stairs made for a slippery ascent. This place has never seen the sun.

Good that we had brought sturdy boots and rain gear because water was pouring down from everywhere, jumping off the cliffs, showering from the trees, and spraying off of several waterfalls. The higher we climbed the more we had to watch out for icy patches, and snow banks.


And out of nowhere an old mill appeared, cowered by the edge of the stream, built at the end of the 19th century it had seen two world wars, and generations of travellers walking by. It looks like a place frozen in time, where shadows have their own life, a place where dark German fairy tales are born, stories including betrayal, crime, sex and violence, incest and cannibalism, the kind where children are left abandoned by their parents in the forest, meet Hannibal Lecter's great grandma, and survived by becoming killers and thieves themselves. Thank you Brothers Grimm for putting that picture into young childrens' minds.

We turned around as it was getting late, and the ever so little light began to fade. No breadcrumbs were needed to find our way back to the parking lot, we simply retraced our steps and followed the river downstream. A right hand turn detour lead the way to an old chapel, built in the twelfth century, and one of the oldest in the area.

St. Oswald Chapel

There is a famous polyptych altar inside. Alas, we found the doors closed. Maybe another time. The dreadful outlook of a boring day had been turned around completely today. One just has to get up and get out into whatever weather is thrown into one's face.

March 24, 2016

Good (Egg) Hunting!

Happy Easter! Frohe Ostern! Bonnes Pâques!

March 21, 2016

From back when women didn't do this kind of Stuff

The early 50's: Women in post-war times were supposed to return to their stoves, and tend to a husband's and a flock of children's needs. But life was different for Peggy Iris Thomas, a young British woman, who ventured out on her BSA Bantam motorcycle instead, accompanied only by her dog, a typewriter and a fistful of dollars in her pocket for a cross-country trip through Canada, the US and Mexico. She rode from Halifax to Vancouver, from Los Angeles to Mexico City, and finished her journey in New York. Through deserts and swamps, down lonely highways and through congested city traffic. She picked up odd jobs along the way, relied on the kindness of strangers, learned how to maintain her motorcycle and pitched her tent and set up camp for the night in the middle of nowhere as well as in city parks, always guarded by her trusty companion, an Airedale terrier named Matelot.

Peggy wrote a book about her adventures, which had gotten out of print a long time ago before it was rediscovered, and is now available as paperback. I went through A Ride in the Sun in one weekend.

And how can you not love and appreciate a book that starts with the most promising words:
It was a beautiful June morning as I wended my way through the busy Vancouver traffic...


Zu einer Zeit, als Frauen so etwas nicht machten
Beginn der 50er Jahre: In der Nachkriegszeit hatten Frauen an den Herd zurück zu kehren und sich  gefälligst um den Mann sowie eine Schar Kinder zu kümmern. Nicht so Peggy Iris Thomas, eine Britin, die auszog, um auf ihrem BSA Bantam Motorrad quer durch Kanada, die USA und Mexiko zu reisen, in Begleitung ihres Hundes, einer Schreibmaschine und einer Handvoll Dollars. Sie startete in Halifax, fuhr nach Vancouver, dann nach Los Angeles, von dort nach Mexico City und landete schließlich in New York. Durch Wüsten und Sümpfe, über einsame Highways und durch dichten Stadtverkehr. Unterwegs besserte sie ihre Reisekasse mit verschieden Hilfsjobs auf, verließ sich auf die Freundlichkeit von Fremden, lernte ihr Motorrad zu warten und stellte ihr Zelt für die Nacht sowohl im Nirgendwo auf, als auch im Stadtpark, bewacht von ihrem treuen Begleiter, einem Airedale Terrier namens Matelot.
Peggy schrieb ein Buch über ihre Abenteuer, welches lange vergriffen war und dann wieder entdeckt und kürzlich - in englischer Fassung als Taschenbuch - neu aufgelegt wurde. Ich bin mit A Ride in the Sun an einem Wochenende durch gewesen. Und wie kann man ein Buch nicht lieben und schätzen lernen, welches mit den viel versprechenden Worten beginnt: Es war ein wunderschöner Juni Morgen, als ich mich im engen Stadtverkehr von Vancouver auf den Heimweg machte...

March 19, 2016

Points for Effort

With the promise of two-digit temperatures we ventured out this morning just to be encountered by a moderate gale. And in order to stay somewhat warm we kept pedalling at higher speed than usual. We still didn't manage to keep it comfortable. The cold crept from the neck downwards and found its way even through our soft-shell attire. There was no escaping it. So we stopped for tea, thawing slowly, hands wrapped around a steaming hot mug, and discussed our options. Meanwhile it was the mid of the day and the temperatures never made it to two-digits. There was no point in getting sick out of misdirected ambition, so we decided to call it quits and turn around. On the plus side the tail wind pushed us home fast, back to another hot cuppa and a warming shower.

Got 1.3 Million Euro to spare? This mansion is for sale.
 A kingdom for a cup of tea
Let's move on... I'm freezing


Es sollte nicht sein
Zweistellige Plusgrade hatte man uns versprochen, also sind wir am Morgen auf die Räder und wurden prompt von einer steifen Brise begrüßt. Um warm zu bleiben traten wir ein wenig mehr in die Pedale als normalerweise, wenn wir auf einer längeren Strecke unterwegs sind. Dennoch wollte es einfach nicht wärmer werden. Die Kälte kroch uns über den Nacken in all unsere Schichten, und trotz Softshell-Klamotten wurde es klamm und ungemütlich. Es gab kein Entkommen. Also machten wir eine Aufwärm-Pause in Gengenbach und beratschlagten, die klammen Finger um eine heiße Tasse Tee gewickelt, wie wir weiter machen wollten. Inzwischen war es nach Mittag und die Temperaturen waren immer noch im einstelligen Bereich. Da wir nicht aus lauter falschem Ehrgeiz krank werden wollten, entschieden wir uns, die Tour aufzugeben und drehten um. Wenigstens hatten wir nun Rückenwind, welcher uns förmlich nach Hause schob, wo eine weitere Tasse Tee und ein heiße Dusche auf uns warten würden.