Germany to Morocco, with a brief stop in Spain!
This spring has been the coldest and cloudiest in decades in Germany, so when my wife suggested a week in southern Spain, I agreed, and went looking for my motorcycle boots! Why fly if you can ride? I finally got a short shake-down ride in last Thursday, and headed out today, a week ahead of her, just to make sure I have plenty of time to get there.
Somewhere in the planning I decided that as long as I'm going to be in Sevilla, it would be downright rude not to hop on a ferry and go see my friends living in Morocco. This will be my first multi-continent ride, and I'm pretty excited about that part of it. I've been to Spain and Portugal on this bike two years ago, and enjoyed posting a ride report then, so will do the same now. Here's the 'just about to go' pic:
Bike is an '09 DL650 with 17080 miles. Luggage is by Nonfango of Italy, something I picked up barely used at a BMW shop years ago and adapted to Givi mounts.
I had been debating about leaving on Tuesday morning or on Wednesday, but seeing a 40% chance of snow showers in the forecast for the area of Metz, France got me hurrying to leave on Tuesday. Don't let that sunny photo fool you, it was COLD! 36 degrees F (2 C) when I left right at noon. My new Firstgear Jaunt T2 jacket has a quilted liner, but I left that at home and am using a fleece jacket as a liner, thinking I can wear it as a coat when i'm not on the bike. The quilted liner alone looks dumb, don't wear just that!
Also new this trip are Oxford heated grips, just installed last Saturday and already worth the price! Also a 16 tooth front sprocket to replace the stock 15 tooth, to lower the gearing a bit. I love this change. Really makes more difference than the 7% the math would indicate. I'm also enjoying my HBC Uclear 200 a LOT! No need for an intercom travelling solo, but I also recently got my first iPod (yeah, I know, not exactly a beta tester kind of guy) and with the bluetooth sync'd, this is slicker than.. well, let's just say it's very nice to have. Cruising through sunny fields in France with Carlos Santana or B.B.King keeping time is a fine thing. Next trip I'm going to check out this rumor I heard about phones that can get on the internet! Can it be? My friend Pete keeps me up on all this kind of stuff. Without him I'd still be riding a 1981 KZ750LTD in a jean jacket and sneakers and wearing a 1991 Shoei RF200.
Basic route plan is get south as quickly a possible, heading to skirt around the Pyrenees on the Atlantic side. Going over again would be my preference, a great ride, but not when there is so much snow, as there is sure to be this early in the year. From there I'll head to Rioja to see some wine country, visit a few Roman and medieval sites in Spain and Portugal, jump back and fourth the border and work my way south to Andalusia. I've been told that with a week head start, there better be a bottle of wine ready when the plane arrives! So I've got to work that out, too. Might take a few tries.
So on to some pictures from the first day. Unusual timber frame church in Bailly-le-Franc, along with an information sign in French and English. Good thing, my French is almost non-existant.
Patron saint of timber framers and bikers?
Even angels think V-Strom's are cool! Or is this my guardian angel just checking for trouble?
Looked for Jake and Elwood, but no sign of Le Freres Bleu.
I've seen poplar groves in lots of places, including Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal. I assumed they were grown for lumber, as poplar at least used to be commonly used for trim and furniture, but today I saw LOTS of it being cut up for firewood. Anyone know anything about this?
And a few gratuitous architecture shots from a timber frame church in Longsols, which I learned about from the sign back at the church in Bailley.
Passed through Auxerre and wished I'd had time to stop and check out these churches. What kind of insanity build three of these so close together like this I just don't understand.
Took me until 9pm to get to Bourges, my reserved overnight. Wish I'd cut this first day an hour shorter, not used to this riding stuff again yet. But I'm here. According to what I've read, this cathedral is built on or near the site of the first Christian gathering place in Gaul, from the 3rd century. Certainly a historic place and event, with huge and long-reaching effects.
Wow that red reflective tape is sure all that, isn't it?
I hadn't intended to have only church pictures today, but I guess that's how it goes. If I'd stopped to take all the pictures I wanted to I'd still be out there in the dark. Tomorrow I head for Bordeaux. :1drink I've enjoyed enough of it that I feel I should at least drive through and honk the horn a couple times. :D
Man I wish I was with you! Instead I glanced at my bike when I walked by on the way to work today. It's still tethered to the Battery Tender and waiting for my wife to dig out her crap so I can get it out. Keep the pictures coming. Throw in some interesting cars and bikes, etc... once in a while, too.
Sounds like a such a great ride, thanks for the intro and pics :thumb
Great RR!! :clap:clap Love the way you got all the technical data out of the way early and then you can just focus on the ride. Love the lightheartedness of your comments to the photos! Looking forward to Bordeaux.....
Should have stopped earlier
I came out of the hotel in Bourges this morning to find the out of the way corner I parked my bike in had become part of a sidewalk table service for the bakery next door. Oops!
People park bikes on the sidewalk in Germany all the time, but I guess that's not how it works in Bourges. I did have breakfast there, first cold chocolate croissant I've been served in France. Ugh.
Hit the road about 8:30AM and saw this just half an hour into the day.
Stuff like this all around my route. In fact all over France, one of the things I love about this place. If I'm not careful I'll never get there. But I did stop at a few places.
Including the LeClerc store. My riding pants have ben riding up on me, coming up far enough to expose the tops of my boots to cold blasts or air. I thought if I could find some elastic cord, I could make something like a stirrup to keep them down. Ended up buying a pack of girls hair bands for 2 Euros and tying them into a stretchy string, but it does seem to help.
Even better would be remembering to try the next pair on while sitting on a bike. While standing they're fine, but not the same as riding.
My first waypoint today was the battlefield of the Battle of Tours in 732.
Read all about it elsewhere, but many historians seem to think this was a real pivot point in European history, the stop of the northward attack of the Moors. The hero on the Frankish side became the grandfather of Charlemagne, who united much of western Europe in 800AD. I learned some of what I thought I knew about this battle wasn't completely true (often the way it goes) but have to say the presentation site, while out of the way, is really neat. Cartoons laid out like a chess board.
Then on around Poitiers and headed for Saint Emilion. Which is a Bordeaux wine, in fact most of the Bordeaux I've had comes from here, but it's not where the super famous Chateaus are. That was too far out of the way on the other side of the river, with no bridge and a ferry that only runs once every 90 minutes this time of year.
St. Emilion is a nice little town full of well-dressed tourists and expensive shops. Reminds me of Montalcino, Italy and Chateauneuf-du-Papes over on the Rhone.
And while I can appreciate that, I'm not really into that kind of touring, especially alone. But it was a sunny day, the wine bars were open, and I thought about staying and calling it a day. It was 5pm, so I could have 'knocked off' work by then and not feel lazy. And I could have eaten here!
Saw tulips blooming for the first time today in St. Emilion, too.
This is the lobby of the Maison du Vin. Wow.
But I didn't do it. I should have. I got on the bike and rode around the city of Bordeaux to the Dune du Pilat, the largest sand dune in Europe (I've read). 160 steps up and then climbing the rest of the way on the sand.
At least it stayed out of my boots! This was my first view of the atlantic in quite a while, and I've never been there on a bike on either shore. When I move back to Ohio in September I'll have to take a riding road trip to the East Coast and take a look at the Atlantic from the other side.
An apt description, but also my lovely wife's name. Hi babe!
After that I rode past lots of half-empty hotels and headed south on the motorway. Knowing the forecast is for rain tomorrow, I wanted to get so miles on. Along the way I searched the GPS for hotels, but came up with slim pickings. I got off the highway at a small town that looked promising anyway and found I couldn't get back on. And the two 'Auberge" places were in fact trucker restaurants. Finally found a nice little hotel with a great smelling restaurant. But they were full up. And so was the next one and the next one. I ended up riding in a big "C" shape, and after an hour and a half am now only 30 km from the dune. Some days are like that. At least I found some decent dinner, even if the house wine wasn't Grand Cru from St. Emilion.
Tomorrow to Rioja, if the weather isn't crappy.
Well the weather WAS crappy
You know, one of the things I like about traveling a bit outside my normal comfort zone is those interesting little interactions you have with people. Like this morning, I went into the bar / breakfast area of the hotel, and the nice (and distractingly pretty) woman behind the bar said something to me in French while turning to the coffee machine. There wasn't anyone else around at the moment, so I assumed she was asking what I wanted to drink. So in my best massacre of that language, I said "a large black coffee". She looked at me with something between pity and disdain, and said "I need to know your room number". Oh. 203. See, aren't languages fun?
Not wanting to repeat the hotel search debacle of last night, I jumped on the web and made a reservation at a hotel in Logrono, in the Rioja wine region. At least it looked decent, and cheap.
I left Biscarrosse in a pretty steady rain, all bundled up in my Frogg Toggs. Between them, the supposedly rainproof jacket, the supposedly rainproof pants, and Tourmaster Solution boots, I did stay pretty dry, even on the freeway at 75 miles an hour. It's not fun, but it gets you there, you just need a few coffee breaks.
Somewhere along the way my iPod played "If I Had a Million Dollars" by the Barenaked Ladies. I love that song, and as I sang into my helmet I got to thinking what I would be doing differently that moment if I had a million bucks. I decided that maybe other than riding a Moto Guzzi Norge instead of my V-Strom, and maybe some thicker socks, I wouldn't change much at all. I'd still be right here, riding to Spain in the driving rain. Not a bad place to be in, all things considered.
Eventually the freeway turned into a toll way, so I jumped off and headed up into the hills.
This is Basque country, and many of the signs that were in French and Basque have been edited.
Every single house or building I saw for about 30 km looked like these two, white with green or reddish-brown trim. They must only sell three colors of paint here. But they're pretty.
Well, not EVERY single one. This one appeals with the timber frame aspect, but in a modern-ish way.
You think YOU can stack a stone wall? Look at this. Wow.
It seems even more like spring on the south side of the hills, even have wisteria in bloom.
I stopped in a bar for a quick bite at lunch and got a brief language lesson from the very friendly crowd of older gentleman, some wearing the typical Basque hat that looks like a beret but is not the same as the French wear, I think. Anyway, saying 'thank you' in Basque sounds kind of like you are saying that "Is Carrie at Costco?" It's written 'eskerrik asko'. I screwed that up, too. See, me and languages!
Eventually it was on the way towards Pamplona, where despite the weather the bike was running great, no bull.
"Just why did I think this was such a good idea?"
Past Pamplona I saw a sign for Noain, which i thought I'd heard of before. Oh, right, I was there on my bike ride in 2010, and took a bunch of pics of this.
I was headed for Olite, a little town I nearly went through back in 2010. It has a pretty cool castle.
But by the time I got there, it was REALLY raining, so I didn't feel much like strolling around more than about 20 minutes. No umbrella. :D
At least the weather makes for a dramatic backdrop.
I finally got to my 50 Euro hotel, which has an elevator to the parking garage, a sauna, a hot tub, a fantastic atrium lobby, and a glass of Rioja in the lobby bar that would cost $9 in the US is 1 Euro. Uh.. I might have to stay here another night.
Man, I do LOVE Spain! Now if only the sun would shine.
See? If I was with you it wouldn't have been as insightful.... Instead of The BareNaked Ladies it would have been me all the time... "Hey Jim...", and "Look! Over there!..." or "Jim...? What do you think would have happened if Napoleon had Piper Cubs?"
Glad you're having fun. I glanced at the Triumph tonight on my way back into the garage. Oh! I also wore my winter gloves and those new Castle drawers you bought in Germany at the Cincinnati Reds game last night. I'm gettin' closer to riding!
Great picture of the sheep by the way. Looks like the one in the middle couldn't believe what you just said...
Do you believe?
Yesterday on the way into Pamplona I was sitting at a stop light while some pedestrians crossed, a couple of whom were obviously pilgrims on their way to Santiago. The Camino de Santiago was the first real tourist route for normal (not rich) people, was pretty much the beginning of tourism in Europe, and was the subject of possibly the first guide book ever written for travelers, so in that respect it has had some effect on all of us. Obviously it meant far more to most of the religious pilgrims who walked it than mere tourism, and for many it still does, but like so many other things most of us have taken what was originally something about God (a pilgrimage journey) and remade it into something to please ourselves (vacations).
I looked at this young woman with her rain poncho, her pack covered with a trash bag, her wet hair, and wanted to give her some encouragement. All I could do was give her a thumbs up, which she returned. I think she was looking at that poor guy on the motorcycle and trying to decide who had it worse, her or me. Anyway, I looked up at the sky, rolled my eyes and shrugged. She smiled at this and also shrugged, the light turned green, and I was off.
The next song on my iPod was American Pie by Don McLean.
"Did you write the Book of Love and do you have faith in God, above?
If the Bible tells you so
Now, do you believe in Rock and Roll? Can music save your mortal soul? And... Can you teach me how to dance real slow?
I hope she has a safe and meaningful trip.
Do you need some help?
Another little interaction I forgot to write up, but want to add so I don't forget it. I was walking around in St. Emilion the other day and walked into a wine shop to look around. Obviously not much room on the bike for a case of wine, unfortunately. The proprietor, a nice man in his 60's, came up and asked if he could help me (I think) in French. Since I don't know how to say "I'm just looking" in French, what came out of my mouth was half way between saying that in English with a touch of German, since I know how to say "I'm just looking" in German. He was quick enough to catch both the English and the German, so we continued on in German. He asked if I was military, and I replied that my wife was in the the military, that she was at work and I was on a motorcycle vacation to Spain and Morocco.
He looked at me, smiled, and said in English "You do not need my help."
Great RR so far.
I can't remember a spring as cold as this one.
To escape the cold I'll be heading south to Morocco the 16th, which makes reading your RR extra interesting for me.
I really hope the weather gets warmer in the next 10 days...
As for cutting down poplars.... They aren't too healthy to have in a forest. They are prone to disease, will just fall, and make a mess out of things.... Best to get rid of them. They are used to make pallets in Canada I think.
I am enjoying the read and pics of your RR, keep it coming.
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