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Old 05-30-2013, 02:51 AM   #31
Angelos
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Oh boy,why would you plan a resting day in Brindisi???
I suggest you take your bike down to Otranto and take a proper taste of south Italy.But if you still want to be around the harbour get yourself a nice room or pitch your tent in one of the villages 20-30km south from Brindisi (Torre san Gennaro,Torre Rinalda etc).

PS.Plan some resting days in Greece as well.I can quarantee you are not gonna be able to get your sorry ass on that Transalp the next day after all the ouzo,tsipouro and beers down here...
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Old 05-31-2013, 06:41 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by Angelos View Post
Oh boy,why would you plan a resting day in Brindisi???
I suggest you take your bike down to Otranto and take a proper taste of south Italy.But if you still want to be around the harbour get yourself a nice room or pitch your tent in one of the villages 20-30km south from Brindisi (Torre san Gennaro,Torre Rinalda etc).

PS.Plan some resting days in Greece as well.I can quarantee you are not gonna be able to get your sorry ass on that Transalp the next day after all the ouzo,tsipouro and beers down here...
I've got a room at a nice hotel, for the night of the 27th and the 28th. I'm thinking of just taking the kit off the bike for the 28th, and doing a ride shooting tantalizing imagery

As far's Greece goes, there's space for a rest day there as well. I don't need to be out of the country by the 8th - I just like maintaining a rhythm could very well be I decide to stay somewhere a day longer.
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Old 07-01-2013, 06:13 AM   #33
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With the final few weeks until departure under way I thought it to be a good idea to put the cause behind the project into the spotlights again. So here goes!

Prep-wise it's going good - the Alp's now had the majority of the preflight maintenance. Just the oil + oilfilter to go, and then it's just running around panicking for the final week until July 19th
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Old 07-08-2013, 08:28 AM   #34
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Getting closer and closer

One of my colleagues came with the original idea of a 'picture send-off' - you can tag yourself in this Facebook picture, and using your profile pic she will draw you into the picture of which the original will be auctioned off in September as well. The more people get involved, the more awesome it will be, so please pitch in!
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Old 07-18-2013, 10:28 PM   #35
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Well, this is it. The moment I've looked forward to for 3 years is finally here. Sometimes I thought to myself just how big a nutcase I am for doing this. Hell, there have been times I wanted to just throw it aside and do stuff regular people do... but I knew that wouldn't make a particularly exciting story to read, right ;)

The beast has now got fresh rubber, wheelbearings, oil and oilfilter as well, finally getting it at full strength for the 4500 mile ordeal that lays ahead.

And me? Well the coming month, I'm just going to take it as it comes. As is usual with whenever I go abroad, I never watch any video or photo material from other people that have visited the countries in question - this way, I have no expectations. It's like going out to see a movie without having seen the trailer... I already know I want to go, and that's all the motivation I need.

If circumstances permit, I will post small updates on the project Facebook page when I'm on the road. Rest assured though that after the trip, I will post an extensive ride report here, along with all the photo and video material.

If you haven't done so already, have a glance at the auction goodies that will go under the digital hammer in September. Or tag yourself in the send-off drawing. It's all for a good cause, right ;)

Basic itinerary for the road down is as follows:

19th of July - Belgium
20th of July -Luxembourg - France - Germany
21st of July - Switzerland
22nd-29th of July -Italy
30th of July-7th of August - Greece
(31st: Patras, 1st: Kalamata, 2nd: Cape Tenaron, 3rd: Athens, 4th: Lamia, 5th: Thessaloniki/Veria, 6th: Ioannina area)

Everything after that is up in the air. I plan to be home around the 18th of August, but it could be earlier or later depending on how things go.

Take care, and maybe see you on the way!
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Old 08-22-2013, 01:20 AM   #36
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Back home, it's time for the ride report to get going! First, a prologue:

Quote:
GR2013 Prologue

It's kind of strange how quickly things can go. Two years ago, I didn't even have a driving license or motorcycle of my own, but now, I was to embark on the largest and longest journey of my life, going further than I'd ever gone, all alone on two wheels. The time for prep and training was over, time to get to the meat of things.

To me, it didn't feel particularly special. I guess it's the same effect if you climb a mountain on a flight of stairs - at first you look up, and you think you're never going to pull it off.
Then you just take it step by step, slowly going another step higher, and you still feel you're not really doing anything monumental. Until you look back after some time has passed, and see from where you've come.

I was reminded of this the day before departure, when a radio station called me to inform whether I was available for an interview, either at the studio or by phone (if you can understand Dutch, you can listen to it here). I guess the project had slowly begun to grow bigger than I originally anticipated.

I didn't really expect anything from the trip, myself. I feel it's best to go in with an open mind, and let things just surprise you. Greece had already gained an insane reputation - for 5 of the 7 scheduled nights, people from various Greek motorcycle forums kindly offered a place to stay or volunteered to be a guide. I guess they don't have their reputation for hospitality for nothing.

Most apprehensive and yet curious I was about Albania - a country most people I spoke with seemed a little dubious about. "Albania, are you sure?" was an often heard question. But the people that had gone down the same route were adamant - I had to go back through the Balkans, I wouldn't regret it.

And the way I saw it: on a trip like this there has to be a part that's slightly outside your comfort zone... as that's the only way you're ever going to push yourself to the limit. Besides, if I went back through the Balkans, there would be no time limit in Greece or the route back up. I could take as long as I wanted.



In any case, my route eventually turned out to be even better than I previously anticipated. The bike surprised me in a number of ways, alot of countries surprised me in a number of ways, and I almost had a fatal accident... but you'll read more about that (and alot of other stuff, like the story behind the above picture!) in the coming weeks.

Tomorrow: the first two days!
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Old 08-22-2013, 08:02 AM   #37
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Looking forward to the report! Just finished from page 1 and must say that you have "the right stuff"!
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Old 08-22-2013, 04:26 PM   #38
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Time for the report to begin!

Ride Report Greece 2013 - Day 1 & 2: Bastogne & Schwarzwald

Quote:
So here we go. Day-of. Zero hour.

I slept surprisingly well the night before. No nerves, no nothing. It just felt like it was another one of those days, strangely enough. I was just going for a ride, taking a detour through Greece. No biggy.

Before loading the Beast up, I decided to have a quick run down the petrol station to get the tires up to pressure... but predictably, the digital pump refused to cooperate normally, leaving me unsure of the correct pressure in the rear tire. Too late to realize I really should've bought one of them pressure gauges...

Riding buddy Heiko Spaans came by to shoot some 3rd person imagery, and followed by my parents we set off from Project-HQ to the formal start line, at Gate 13 of the Feijenoord Stadium in Rotterdam. A few snapshots here and there, and I was on my way.

It all went well up until Eindhoven, where I got my first test with the fully-laden Beast. A traffic jam. Normally these are a piece of cake, but with the panniers (and subsequently, the extra weight) it's always a different matter. Still, I managed to zig-zag my way through, and lots of people kindly made way as they saw me approaching. No sweat.



The first (and only) stop of the day was the War Cemetery in Margraten, near Maastricht right in the southern tip of the Netherlands. I had always thought of going to a cemetery like that someday, as I feel you can only really grasp the devastation of war when you see just how many lives it takes. And that's exactly what such a sea of crosses does to you. Awe-inspiring.

Mind you, the Beast seemed to have a similar effect on some passerby, as they gawkingly turned their heads at the sight of the multimiling behemoth... something which would happen alot more in the weeks to come.



Using some B-roads I worked myself around the terrible traffic around Maastricht, and continued down the motorway to Bastogne. Just when I took a break right before the border though, I spoke with a family on a motorcycle trip as well... and subsequently, they were the first to sign the helmet. One of them rode with a huge backpack (he's the guy up front) - my back hurt just by looking at it!



I found my way to Bastogne pretty quickly - around Liege, I got into a single-lane (thus unfilterable, shucks) traffic jam, but thanks to a bus full of schoolchildren all was well. It never bores to see kids go mental whenever they see a biker.



The campsite was pretty good too - I had all the space in the world, the ground was soft enough for the tent pegs but hard enough for the bike (something I would sorely miss later down the trip), and I even got to camp under a tree. And ofcourse, trees are awesome!



The panniers got their first fresh sticker addition (just testing my counting qualities here), and after cooking dinner I talked with another biker who had just arrived from the UK. Another helmet signing!



The one thing I could've done without was that there were 2 people on a golfcart riding around the site, announcing something in incomprehensive French through megaphones pretty much the entire evening. I knew I would miss my rocketlauncher at some point - didn't figure it'd be this early...

Anyhow, time to hit the sack, because tomorrow 3 bordercrossings awaited! If you just look at the maps I used, it all tells the story by itself really.



Now, whenever you camp in Summer, you pretty much tend to go to sleep whenever the sun sets (around 21.30), and wake as soon as the sun rises (around 6.30am). So you start pretty early, which from my point of view is quite nice - the temperatures aren't as high, and the roads aren't as crowded. Onwaaaaards!

The next day was a case in point. Early rise, get some grub and get on going. Sometimes I left so quickly, I forgot to activate the GPS and/or the camera. Because of this, the first picture of the Drift's timelapse for Day 2 was this:



Not good, at first glance. However, the more eagle-eyed viewer will see that the bike in the picture is not the Beast.

I was gunning down the motorway toward Luxembourg, when I saw a pack of Belgian bikers on the emergency lane. I pulled over, and asked what was wrong.



As it is, the bike was a chopper. Now, before you start: No, the bike was fine - it was Honda Shadow. After close inspection we learned the problem was of a more embarrassing nature - the guy had simply run out of petrol. I asked whether they had any with them, after which we shook hands and I went on my way again.



This was one of these days that proved to be pretty demanding - not only did I cross 3 borders, but in the process I racked up over 400 kilometres.



And when you are riding that much, there comes a point where you need to fill up. Oblivious as I am to the international fuel prices, I pulled into the next petrol station... which was in Luxembourg. And boy, was I in for a shock.



Because petrol is 50 cents cheaper per litre in Luxembourg than elsewhere, what awaited me was carnage. Cars, caravans, campervans, everything was waiting in line in the searing heat to save money. Oh dear.

Instead, I opted to have a sandwich on the carpark. Oh dear.



On to France then, where before long I came across yet another traffic jam. And unlike the Netherlands, filtering is illegal. Ou derrière.



But no, I chose to abuse my status as an ignorant tourist. Mais non, cordon blue de la baguette!



By this point I also was on the look out for country stickers. I missed Luxembourg as I didn't feel like weeding through the maelstrom of people at that petrol station, but now, I wanted one for France too. And I also needed petrol, still. Time for un check de map de Michelin, sacre blue de bourgeoisie!



As usually most towns have got a petrol pump of their own I headed down the road you see here. I also looked for a France sticker here, and not even the local Tourist Office had any. I had expected more from them patriottic French! Chansoniere de la Mayonaise!

During a break I met a German on a KLR, who was on his way back home from (I think it was) Spain. Another helmet signing! As I am a sucker for the KLRs ruggid reputation I asked whether I could feel its weight... and goodness, the Beast felt like a GS in comparison! Quelle un miracle extraordinaire!



Before long though, I was out in the open again, with the next hurdle being the French tollroads... and with it, the nervous drivers behind me that don't seem to grasp it takes a bit longer to pay toll on a motorcycle. Merde la vache qui'rit!



And still, I was without a France sticker. This became a mission of unprecedented importance, but neither the petrolstations nor Haguenau had anything on offer. Avez-vous un sticker de France? Non?

No, strangely enough my struggle lasted all the way to the border. The point where I wanted to cross was near the German town of Achern, and the border is a river, crossed by a bridge. Just before the bridge there was a French tourist office. Would it...? Could it...? S'il vous plait de croissant boulangerie...?

No. 'But,' so said the receptionist behind the desk 'maybe the petrol station on the German side of the border has some'. So I crossed the border, parked the motorbike... but in my sticker-craze I didn't fully extend the sidestand. This is where the Beast had it first lie down... you can still see where it spilled its drink!



Thankfully, the petrol station I pulled up for offered solace. Vast, obscene, unadulterated amounts of hardcore X-rated solace. Stickers!



France, Luxembourg and Germany in one fell swoop. Das war einfach supahtoll!



Even one of my tent poles snapping didn't get me off my good mood. My randomly selected camping spot (I only saw the number after unpacking) backed me up in my moment of fabelhaftiges Awesomekeit!



After the Russians beside me had put their loved ones on the helmet, it was time to hit the sack again. Tomorrow, Switzerland awaited!
Here's a small video. I'll make one for each report, using random outtakes from the two days in question. These mostly include random encounters, signings of the helmet, cool scenes and/or me behaving like an idiot. Today I've included Margraten war cemetery, Bastogne city centre and the Luxembourg carnage. Enjoy!



Tomorrow we go into Switzerland & Italy!
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Old 08-24-2013, 01:01 AM   #39
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Day 3 & 4: Switzerland & Northern Italy

Quote:


Day 3 set the record for speed, I think. After getting my gear packed up, it was that early that the gate of the camp site hadn't even opened when I piped up, eager to eat up the miles towards the country of cuckoo-clocks and bank accounts. I was up and about at...



And I suppose, when most of the Autobahn ahead of you is still the meaty, unlimited kind with extra gravy, then progress can be pretty quick.



But don't let my manly talk of unlimited speed fool you, I hardly went above 120kph.



I guess I have soft side somewh... oh look, Switzerland!



That was quick.



Pretty quick indeed!



My stay for the night was a B&B somewhere in Rudolfstetten. I originally thought that was quite near Zürich, but as it turned out (this is Switzerland, after all) there was a mountain inbetween.

This presented me with a problem. As everything in the Netherlands is flat, you're used to city plans working the same way: a left-right kind of thing. But in Switzerland, there's a third dimension too as they build everything on mountainsides. Heck, I must've gone past my street 5 times before I realised only pedestrians could enter it, and I had to approach it from the other side.

But after doing 5 million hill starts, a reverse on a 30% incline, ignoring two No Entry signs and a lie-down (turning too slowly on a hill), I'd made it! The Beast chose to enter Transformer-mode. I'll leave it to you whether it's the Citroen or Porsche.



The owners, frightened by the Beast's sorcery, gave it its own room with some wood to bite down on.



After all, they had a beautiful place...



...and they didn't want it get torn apart by the Beast due to the loud, unsedated surgery going on on its vulnerable left side. Yes, thanks to the lie-downs I thought it to be good to use my tooltube to remove the rack, and see whether I could get it to a garage to get it bent back.



But then I realised it was Sunday. Ack, time for bed then. It's funny how you lose track of what day it is on trips like this.



The next day, it was from Rudolfstetten to Chur, and then into Italy. It was this morning that not only did my extra sunguard on the visor (the sticker with the URL on it) prove its worth, but also the time the Endurance Demon reared its head.



Because the hardest part of an endurance tour is always the first couple of days. You have to get used to the rhythm, the strain, eating and sleeping enough, and the first days you tend to underestimate this.. so subsequently, the Demon will come to sink its teeth into your flesh, planting ideas in your brain that you've bitten off more than you can chew and you're never going to pull it off.



Last year in Britain, this happened at the end of the first day. Now, it had happened at the end of the third and start of the fourth. I felt exhausted, and morale sank. Outside Chur, I pulled over at a petrol station, and just let it go.



I gathered my thoughts, snatched a Switzerland sticker from the petrol station in question (score!) and pushed on - the only way I knew how to come out on top. And the views I got in return were nothing short of spectacular.



But boy, was I in for a terrorizing piece of road-design up next. Just take a look at what the sign below says.



8% downward incline, for 18 km. On a road with an 80km/h speedlimit and oncoming traffic and hairpins. And you know you can't use the brakes too much, because of the risk of overheating.

So it pretty much went like this for 18km:



"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.....



.........AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA....



.......AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA....



....AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA...



ooh nice gallery!



....AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.....



...AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA...

(I could smell the brakes by this point, even though I barely touched them and used low gearing instead)



...AAAH! Is it over?"



Yes, salvation at last!



Looking back to where I'd come from, there's this insane sense that I just descended 1000s of feet in a slightly too unsettling manner.



The Beast needed some rest, and so did I. I'll leave it up to you to guess what brand the stricken Austrian motorcycle in the background is.

I'll give a hint: it was a 2 year old machine, and the battery wouldn't hold a charge anymore. A disgrace in my opinion - you don't pay top dollar to be at the side of a foreign motorway.



Ack, modern humbug. 14 year old Bestiality ONELUV <3



See, it's already brought me to Italy! Me arriving in full gear and putting on the cooling vest got some strange looks, but by this time, I'd gotten used to it already.



Cruising by Lake Como...



Sorry I seem to have lost my train of thought.



Ah, there it is!



Lago d'Iseo, the next stop of the day!



Second sign of the day to pay careful attention to. Note how it says: "Campeggio Cantiere del Lago d'Iseo" with some nice international flags flying beside of it.

I guess it must be on the lakeside, like all of the others on this road, and it must be a real international camping!



But no. This was to become the hardest camping so far - insane heat, no wind, ground so tough there was no way you'd get the pegs in and, most depressing of all, if you walked toward the lake to cool down you'd be stopped by a fence.

The only option for refreshment was a pool, which you could only enter if you were on a different part of the campsite.

Oh, and the staff only spoke Italian. Una notta, si. I would learn that campings like these only shelter two types of people: old locals who have been coming there for years, and ignorant fools like me.

Also, the night had a surprise in store as well... but more about that tomorrow!
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Old 08-24-2013, 02:20 PM   #40
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blader54 View Post
Looking forward to the report! Just finished from page 1 and must say that you have "the right stuff"!
Glad to hear that, cheers lots more is to follow the coming days!
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Old 08-25-2013, 04:31 AM   #41
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Day 5 & 6: Florence & Montefiascone

The night at Lago d'Iseo proved to be a challenging one. Because of the stony ground my outside tent hadn't been fastened down (there was no wind, so I figured it didn't need to), but during the night Murphy brought his old friend Thor the thundergod out to play. A lightshow ensued, and after the gazillionth gust of wind blew off my outside tent for the gazillionth time I just put it on the ground and crossed my fingers for a rainless night.

And thankfully, it stayed that way... but I was in for another surprise when dawn came. Waking up, the first thing is ofcourse to go about the business of toiletries. And I was greeted by this:



You might notice there's no toilet papier to be seen anywhere. That's because in this camp site, they used something else.



Can you guess where this is heading?



WASSER BLITZKRIEG JAWOHL!

Ofcourse, yet again I was ready to leave before the gate would open, and what awaited me was my first taste of Italian tollroads.

You see, the system works easy. When you enter the Autostrada, you get a ticket. On the ticket is the name of the place where you've entered, and when you exit the Autostrada, you hand over your ticket and you pay the appropriate amount.



But ofcourse me being the ignorant tourist, I didn't know any of that yet. So when my entrance to the Autostrada had a gate which offered me a nice gap to slip through, I did, so no ticket. In Italy for 1 day, and I was breaking the law already... this was going well! At the next exit, the penny dropped, but with some chisel-jawed charm (most of the toll attendees are in fact women, so lucky me!) I passed through without problems.

The Autostrada itself though was mind-bogglingly boring. If you ever ride from Milano to Bologna, just stay away, because it's just an endless straight. Just outside of Bologna I pulled over for a break and a fill-up, and that's when everything changed. Because I met Elvis.



Elvis and Monika to be exact. On their TDM they were heading toward Florence as well, and soon enough we agreed to ride together. And that's when the roads started to look different.



Because pretty soon after we'd set off, I saw a strange sight on the horizon. Wait... are those... hills?All shook up, we plowed on. And things got even better!



Look, a bend! But a little less conversation, a little more kneedown. Time for twisties!



BROOOOWAAAAPPPP



Needless to say, this made for some spectacular riding, zooming through traffic, and nicely hanging into each corner. Time flew by.



And soon enough, we were at the outskirts of Florence. I asked Elvis whether he couldn't stick around for the rest of the trip, as ever since I met him, the roads were awesome! But sadly, he couldn't. Time for a map check, a few pictures together, and go on on our merry way!



My way went deep into the city. The centre of the city, that is.

Now, ofcourse I'd heard alot of people warning me about Italian driving, but as I got deeper and deeper into Florence, I started encountering more and more scooters. And soon enough, you're riding like one as well!



You can easily undertake people, go to the front of a queue... people don't really care. I learned that Italians adhere to the credo of 'Screw the rules, respect eachother' - most of the signs and road marks are just there for decoration, but they will always see you coming.



From the map I'd seen I had to follow the river, and then I'd run into my camp site soon enough. And this proved to be far less difficult than originally anticipated. So before long, I'd arrived!



The campsite was beautiful - it was right on a side of a hill overlooking the city. Nice breeze, good facilities... I even had two Turkish riders as neighbours. It was perfect! The night was spent exchanging stories and drinking deliciously cold beer.

The next day was full of surprises. And not the "there's a big cake in the living room I wonder what's in it"-surprise, but slightly more worrying than that. The first jumped on me right away: one of my Turkish peers had a pressure gauge with him, so I decided to do a check-up... and the outlook was grim, to say the least. Ever since the Netherlands I hadn't checked my pressure, so when I checked it I probably got what was coming to me: 1.35 bars, where 2.4 is the minimum. Damn.

Got the tires pumped up at the next station, and then onwards! I then proceeded on the fun roads to and from Siena, towards the little town of Montefiascone. I enjoyed myself that much that I taped most of it, other than running the timelapse as usual. So here's a clip of the road leading from Siena to the next town, Isola d'Arbia!



Eventually though, I enjoyed myself a little too much on them Tuscany roads. Stopping for gas, I got my second surprise of the day. Can you see what's wrong with this picture?



As it turned out, the bumps in the road had managed to unscrew the locking pins of the right pannier, and it was now hanging by the binders used to keep the tent in place. In other words, if I hadn't brought the tent, the pannier would've fallen off. Let's have a hurray for camping!



I fastened down the locking pins as tightly as I could, and went on my way. This day felt really short, which was not only due to the distance traveled (a mere 204 km) but probably also thanks to the roads being so much fun. Time passed really quickly, and before long, I was in Montefiascone!



Now you have to imagine, this town (as its name suggests) has been built right on top of a hill. And because of this, pretty much all of the roads and streets are on an incline. It was like Switzerland, but with worse tarmac and less cows.

The city centre though is pretty spectacular because of this. There's a (very echoey) cathedral at the very top, and lots of topsy-turvy streets which are more like stairways.

Here's an example of a walkway in Montefiascone, coming right from the very top near the Cathedral:



Let's head down, shall we?



There we go.



Nice and cool, here in the shade.



Ah, a junction. Wait, this is a street? (there was an actual car parked further down this side street below)



Anyway, onward. Almost there!



Quite a view.



And remember, where I was standing was an actual street, like, for cars and stuff. You can see the tire marks.



I'd like the next episode of Discovery Channel's 'How do they do it?' to feature this town. Because this is just mental. Just like the entry street to the B&B.



I really didn't think the Beast would be able to climb this, but it was no problem at all.



Taking a rest in the sun!



And me too. Sort of.

I was a bit dubious on my plans for the next day. Sulmona (the birthplace of Ovid) was the next destination, but would I go to Rome as well? Because of all the stories of its mental traffic I was a bit apprehensive.

But I decided to go - I mean, you can't be this close to Rome and then not visit it. Tomorrow you'll see what happened!
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Jarvis screwed with this post 08-26-2013 at 11:13 AM
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Old 08-26-2013, 12:25 PM   #42
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Day 7 & 8: Sulmona & Manfredonia

Quote:
Waking up in Montefiascone, I just didn't know where I was for the first couple of seconds. Quite weird, as if my mind was still trying to grasp to concept of the trip somehow. "Wait, where am I? Huh? Oh, right."

Today, Rome beckoned. This proved a pretty worth-while effort, but more about that later.



First, onwaaaards! Also, note another amazed onlooker on this pic below:



It was time to descend the mountain, and move on. Montefiascone is one of those little cities which makes you appreciate a country for exactly what it is, as opposed to the big tourist leviathans like Rome or Florence. It's been a pleasure - I'm sure I'll return someday!



Time to get mah lean on, awwww yeeeeeah!!11



BROOWAAAAPBRAAAAAAP



Just look at that perfectly banked tarmac. No wonder so many racing cars originate from this country...



Mind you, you can also tell by the way people drive... and soon enough, I was riding exactly like the Romans did. The Beast seemed to enjoy itself as well!



"POWEEEEEER"



You just wait until you see a nice gap...



...and go for it! "What, there's a stripe in the middle of the road? How nice!"



Excuse me, coming through!



Ofcourse, this seems alot more dangerous than it really is. Italians are always on the lookout for other motorists, and if you do too, nothing will happen. Screw the rules, respect each other, it's amazing how well that works on the road.



Even la Polizia didn't seem to mind - as Jeremy Clarkson once said: it's impossible to commit a motoring offense in Italy. I would notice later just how far this went.



That's the whole thing - if you keep your eyes on the road, you're fine. If you go and text or do something else dumb-witted, you get an accident.



Now it was just a matter of enjoying the scenery...



...as well as the nice swooping bends...



...until I found myself on the GRA - or Grande Raccordo Anulare - the big ring road around Rome. I expected terror, but this wasn't too bad!



Ack, spoken too soon. Ofcourse.



Time for some fully-laden filtering, YET AGAIN. Some made way for The Beast, but others stayed put... blocking my way.

Thankfully though, I looked to my right, and saw the answer.



You see, because half of all Italians ride a scooter (and also do this on the highway), they just occupy the emergency lane in case of a traffic jam, following a fire truck if they have to.

Well that does it. I've got two wheels as well, so there!



No fire truck? No emergency lane? No problem in Italy. I love this country.



But one exit before the one I wanted to take, things got too hairy, even for me. Time to get off the highway and into Rome... the place I had heard of many times was a flaming cauldron of automotive Hell.



I recorded my entire ride into Rome towards the spot I shot the pic below (some of that footage is in today's randomness vid). It was quite nice to almost dance my way through traffic, riding like a scooter.

I heard that days after I visited, this very street was closed down to all traffic except for buses and taxis. Timing, it's a wonderful thing.



After the Colosseum and Forum Romanum, it was time to flee the city, and go to Sulmona! Right outside the city, I reactivated the timelapse, and headed on in an easterly disposition!



Bye Rome, it was great fun riding your streets.



The road East was nothing other than spectacular. The scenery, the mountains...



...both left and right!



Heck, it proved so much fun that I noticed I'd missed my turnoff about a 100 kilometres too late. Let's have a cheer for 200 kilometer detours! Hurray!



Now, taking the long way round makes a person hungry. So I stopped for a bite to eat. The Beast immediately became the center of attention, so I went to get some grub. Which... proved impossible, really.

You see, I wanted a slice of pizza (clichés, I hear they taste just like chicken), but instead of paying over the counter I had to go to a cashier to get a ticket (wut?) to get my pizza. And if none of the people speak English, you've got 3 Italians rolling their eyes behind you, you're hungry and tired after riding a few hundred extra kilometres... then you tend to get annoyed when a cashier doesn't understand you.



So, after The Beast had kissed its groupies farewell, I left. Pizzaless.



Still, the scenery of my detour well made up for it.



Hmmm yes.



Toll for motorcycles, it should be outlawed. This is how it usually went:

Stop.
Go to Neutral.
Honk #1 from cager behind you
Open up motorcycle coat.
Honk #2 from cager behind you
Try and get wallet out. Realize this goes better with gloves off.
Honk #3 from cager behind you
Think of punching said cager in face. Realize this goes better with gloves on.
Read amount from screen. Try and find the right coins.
Honk #4 from cager behind you
Settle for a banknote instead. Get 5 million coins in change.
Barrier immediately opens when money is paid, so cager becomes even more stressed.
Try and get change from machine in wallet whilst balancing motorbike.
Lose half of the coins on the way to wallet.
Honk #5 from cager behind you
Miraculously close wallet with the extra 4 kilos in metal. Try and fit wallet back in motorcycle coat.
As soon as it fits even remotely, try to close motorcycle coat.
Set off.



Eventually, I made it to Sulmona - like Montefiascone, another beautiful little gem of a city hidden away in the countryside. I checked in the B&B and spent the rest of the day being the annoying tourist.

At long last, I even got my pizza too!

The next day, I thought about going a different from than I originally planned. First, I wanted to go to Pompeii, but as I was already in East Italy and I would be there anyway the day after tomorrow, I thought it to be better to stick to the eastern coast.

Not the best decision of the trip, If I'm brutally honest... but I'll get to that in a minute.



Because first, I wanted to check tire pressure and fill the Beast up. This was when I got my first real taste of what I eventually was to call 'Greek tarmac'

Because the tires were still cold, grip was already limited. Most of the time this isn't a big deal... but on Greek tarmac, a road surface which rides like you're on a dance floor, things were different.
Pulling out of the petrol station I made a U-turn, and as I'd grown accustomed to let The Beast growl a bit on the way out of turns I gave it a little twist of the wrist.

That's when the Beast wagged its tail for the first time. The rear wheel lost grip, broke out but I wrestled it back, immediately regaining composure. That'll wake you up in the morning!

Time to find out the route...



...and get cracking!



And let me tell you, the road from Sulmona to Isernia was mindstaggeringly amazing, in any respect.



Sure, you have the occasional jobbo that passes you where it's prohibited, but remember: this is Italy - screw the rules, respect each other, expect the unexpected. That's how they roll....



...so that's how you roll too! Just take a look at this pic. People overtaking the people overtaking, on a place where you're not allowed to overtake. What a beautiful country this is.



Beautiful in more ways than one, I might add. Eventually, the views became that spectacular I just had to let the cam roll for a bit.

So here you go - a piece of uncut footage from this very road!





Them Italians... they can even make an endless straight beautiful!



And after some nice right turns...



...and some wrong ones...



...Isernia beckoned.



And even though there were still some nice Windows desktop alternatives...



...the real amazing roads were done for.



Meh. Time for a break.



At this petrol station, the guy pumping gas (you can just see his legs to the left) saw where I was from. Wanna guess what the first question he asked me was about?

Yes. Drugs. He even asked whether I had any marijuana with me.



No, riding is my high! Onwards, to Foggia!



Now, the road leading East towards Foggia from Campobasso is pretty fun for the first half. Lots of twisties in the mountainside, splendid views. Alot of fun, both left and right.



(Can you hear the big, voluptuous BUT heralding its approach in the distance?)



But then I got to the second half of this road. Just look at the road surface, for starters.



It was like riding into Mad Max. Endless straight, nothing as far as the eye could see, a blistering heat with a strong crosswind trying to steer you off course whilst you're trying to navigate through the immense minefield of potholes, cracks and tears at 100 km/h. The suspension was doing overtime. God, it was as exhausting as it was terrifying.



Foggia itself was also Mad Max-like, in the sense that it had the atmosphere of a town where anything stationary for too long would either get stolen or burned.



So let's skip ahead towards the Adriatic!



It's kind of strange to find yourself at the edge of a sea you know you're going to be riding at the other side of 10 days later. Myself, I felt a strange excitement being this close to Brindisi - the final stop to Greece.

Even the enormous death squadron of mosquitos in the camping's toilet couldn't bring me off my good mood. I just cued the Mortal Kombat music, and swatted away!

Tomorrow, it was time for the final leg till Greece.
Enjoy today's randomness vid!

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Old 08-27-2013, 07:22 AM   #43
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Day 9 & 10: Brindisi & Igoumenitsa

Quote:
I took a stroll down the beach in the morning. Quite refreshing to be on a sunny beach when nobody's there - I gave my thoughts from yesterday some further consideration, whilst walking barefeet in the water.

Just one more day of riding, and then I'd be awaiting the boat the would bring me to the other side of the sea I was now walking in. The other side, where also the country of my dreams happened to be.



But yet again, I was ready too early. That early in fact, that the proprietor hadn't risen yet. So I had to wait. For 20 minutes. Oh well.



When the owner finally saw the light of day at 7.10am, it was time to proceed. And the road was quite... depressing. Endless straight wasteland territory. Burnt fields, that had a stench draped over it making you wonder what the hell was on there in the first place.



And it also smelled of cheese for some reason.



But cheese grows on cows, right?



Over here you can see some more Greek tarmac, glistening in the sun. I always proceeded with extra caution whenever a city road looked like this.



Or like this.



The highway to Brindisi was quite fun, actually. I mean, there hardly were any corners, but left and right I got people giving me the thumbs up from their cars. It's quite fitting how much better such a little gesture made me feel after riding through pretty much the worst landscape so far.

And after some divine intervention...



... I was in Brindisi, at 10am. My hotel was on a quite remote part of town (and when I say remote I mean: there's-only-industry-in-a-2-mile-radius remote), but I had everything I could wish for. One of the hosts asked where I came from, when I walked towards the reception. 'Ollanda? A moto? Ahhh bella!!'



When I'd put all the gear in the room, I just sat on the edge of my bed... and shed a few manly tears. After 3 years and thousands of miles, I was now so close to Greece I could almost smell it (despite the earlier stench, that is).

That evening I met a group of Dutch guys on a trip through Italy. Now, I can't tell you how nice it was to hear a familiar language after days of struggling with Italians (who don't speak English 9 times out of 10). I'd come to feel like a Martian because of that, but now I could revert back to being human.

I took a rest day to collect the data from the cam, make a start on the editing the compilation (which is done by the way - I'll post it at the very end of the ride report) and think about the ferry that awaited me. I knew the Beast was as ready as ever... but was I?



I just decided to run with it. The 29th, the hotel kicked me out without any prior notice because guests 'could arrive'. I had to wait until 4pm, but 11am I was already out and about. The hotel was cleaning their restaurant, so basically, I had nowhere to go but the ferry terminal. Customer service, it's an underrated concept.

As a result I had to wait there, at the terminal, for hours in searing heat, waiting for the gates to the ferry to open. And ofcourse, I got bored.

So... how you like my impersonation of Ed from the Lion King?



Eventually though, I got aboard. The two kilos worth of ratchetstraps I'd brought almost 3000 kilometres weren't needed - I put The Beast on its centre stand, it was strapped down by deckhands...



...I took a few pictures...



...and after I was told not to do that (they whistled at me and walked over to probably tell me to remove the images, but then they saw my numberplate and all was well), I went to the living deck leaving the Beast behind. Almost there now, buddy.

As the sun set, the boat left the harbour. Thank you Italy, it was great fun.



Now, the ferry was an experience on its own. It doesn't work like the ferries that sail the North Sea for example. On the Adriatic, they cram as many people as they possibly can on the ship, and sail to the other side. There were people sleeping in every nook and cranny you can imagine. The lobby, the restaurant, the hallways, even the outside deck where I took the above picture.



I felt guilty about having a cabin all to myself. It was quite the culture shock.

I used the main part of the 8 hour sail to get some sleep, as I probably needed it on the days to come. I didn't expect to get any though, but despite this, I was awakened hours later by a heavy Italian accent through the ship's intercom telling everyone we were entering the Greek harbor of Igoumenitsa.

The moment I'd thought about for years was now finally upon me.



I moved to the deck where the Beast was eagerly awaiting me. Apparently, I was not the only biker on board, as the Beast had been bricked in by other fully luggaged motorbikes (and scooters, because there were Italians on board too).

The problem was ofcourse: getting out. I had to leave the ferry through the same door as I'd entered, so I needed to turn around. But in order to do that, there were at least 3 other motorcyclists which needed to leave first.



And predictably the last one that needed to leave didn't come. So there I was, 50 metres away from Greece, everyone else had left but I couldn't go anywhere because, apparently, an Italian and his girlfriend had overslept themselves.

So I had to wait, in scorching heat and deafening noise that eventually forced me to put my earplugs in. Murphy... don't you love his practical jokes?

But eventually, mercifully, the Italians arrived. And after making a 460-point turn, I lined the Beast up to disembark.

And there's nothing like it, riding onto shore, and suddenly finding yourself outside customs and inside the country you've dreamt of seeing for as long as you can remember. I just couldn't believe it, it was so surreal.

I pulled over, and woke up the locals in celebration.



(complete footage of the disembarkment will be in the trip compilation, by the way)

I would be staying the night with Angelos, whom I'd got into contact with through ADVrider. He'd texted me earlier saying I should call him as soon as I'd arrived, so he could pick me up.
And so he did - we made a stop at a bakery so I could eat something, after which he kindly offered me his own bed to sleep in while he slept on the couch.

Welcome to Greece.
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Old 08-28-2013, 08:00 AM   #44
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Day 11 & 12: Patras & Kalamata
Quote:
I didn't really sleep during the remainder of the night. I'd arrived at Angelos's place at half past 5 anyhow, so I just stayed awake to watch the sun rise. I hardly ever take time to watch a sunrise... so this was as good a time as any.

The 30th would be another resting day, basically. Arriving that early/late in the night I felt any endurance riding today would not be a good idea, and I'd probably enjoy it more to spend a day immersing myself in Greece.

And Angelos was more than happy to help with that. After breakfast we agreed to take our bikes (his dad owned a Yamaha dealership) out for a spin, and go for a sandwich and a swim. And so we did. Heck, I hadn't swum in the sea for over 10 years... so what would be a better occasion to do it again?

After a dive in the sea and getting sunburnt in the weirdest way possible, Angelos cooked dinner and honestly, by this time a little rest sounded good... but Angelos had other plans. "We have to go in a minute" - "Where are we going?" - "To have a drink!"

To cut a long story short, I went to bed at 3:30am. What a night... and I'd not even been in Greece for 24 hours.



Despite this though, Angelos helped me getting the bent rack back into shape the next day.



Then, it was time to get riding again! I said goodbye to Angelos...



...and after observing the local riding wildlife...



...I was on my way out of Igoumenitsa.



The day before I'd ridden these roads with Angelos, and I'd noticed how slippery they were. I could feel the back wheel searching for grip.



But, as Angelos said, the back was nothing to worry about. Not going too quick into a corner so you might lose the front wheel, that was far more important.



And I guess he was right. Still, I didn't like what the tarmac did to my riding confidence.

Instead of leaning in fully, you go into a corner like you just got your license.



Oh well. Time to have a drink...



...and get on cracking. The tarmac was not everywhere as bad as it was on some roads.



Onwards to Preveza! A city name that kept reminding me of beer of some reason.

Un preveza por favor?



Oh look, here's me breaking the law again!

As it turned out, the credo of 'Screw the rules, respect eachother" applied as much to Greece as it did to Italy.



Soon I'd noticed I had followed the Preveza signs a little too maticulous, ending up in the city itself. So after a mapcheck...



...and asking the Hellenic rozzers...



...I found myself in one of the few underwater tunnels in Greece.



And because it's one of the few, you have to pay toll. But not until I'd removed the insect that had flown up inside my right sleeve... this would happen two more times during the trip.



Angelos had briefed me on the route to take toward Patras. You know, where to turn left/right exactly, that sort of thing.



...and because of this, most of mapchecks were just to make sure I was heading the right way. I stuck to my compass if I wasn't sure.

Satnavs, who needs'em right?



And before long...



...I was greeted by the coast again.



Angelos had recommended me this road, and I could see why.



Because well... look at it!



Corner upon corner of sea-sided awesomeness.



And the roads weren't as baaaaaaaah-d as I was told. No worse than in Italy, at least.

Getting nearer to Mesologgi though, I came to know exactly what most of my Greek compadres meant when they said that the signs weren't that good. Up until now, I was always able to see which road lead to which city.

This was about to change.



Just take a look at this sign up ahead for example. I just guessed this was the right direction.



Or what about this one.

There was not a single sign that didn't have graffiti on it - on some occasions it'd gotten so bad, someone had sprayed the name of the destination city in graffiti on it.



Most of that graffiti was in the name of Panathinaikos' hooligan firm, which is coincidentally called 'Gate 13'.

Coincidences, what a wonderful thing. But I would rather have my coincidences spraypainted somewhere else next time.



Soon enough though, I was greeted by this awesome sight. The road leading from Mesologgi to Patras is etched into the side of a bayside mountain, giving you full view of the bay, the city of Patras and the huge suspension bridge that leads towards it.



Quite a sight. Then, it doesn't matter you're stuck behind a truck.

In Patras, I'd be spending the night at Akis's place, whom I'd come into contact with through moto.gr. As usual, I drove to the centre of town near a landmark, so I could describe where I was and before long, he picked me up.



I'd got into contact with a local Vstrom club, and they'd invited me to join their weekly coffee meeting that evening. A friend of Akis's knew where it was, and I had a lovely evening talking about the route, where to stop and how to ride.



With dusk falling, it was time to head on back, and go to bed. After Akis amazingly surrendered his own bed for me to sleep in as well, it was lights out at 11pm.

Because the next day, Kalamata awaited!



Riding towards the sun I thought about the advices I was given the night before...



...chief amongst which was to look out on these Greek highways.



Because the emergency lane basically is a normal lane as well, and is used in that way whenever someone needs to overtake with oncoming traffic.



Not that there were roadmarks all of the way, but that's another matter.



See? Not that bad at all.



Just like in Italy there's signs warning you your speed's checked by radar... but also just like in Italy, I never saw any actual radartraps.

My guess is that, in true Mediterranean spirit, the things enforcing the speed limit are merely the signs saying the limit's enforced.



In the next town of Kapyrissia, I thought it was time for a refreshing drink.



Most towns have got squares like this, overgrown with trees where you can sit in the shade and just relax. Do you see how the Beast just blends in?

This is also where I found out that in Greece, all drinks are served together with a glass of ice water. How nice!



Oh, and if you liked me Ed impression from yesterday's report, here's another one. A Muppet impression.

Which particular Muppet it is, I'll leave to you to decide.



But anyway, after seeing some more S#$P signs...



...a sanitary stop in an olive orchard...



...riding through some really nice little towns...



...getting confused by signs from which the letters had disappeared...



(allow me to interrupt my stupidly long enumeration for a drink)



...and being amazed at people walking in 40 degrees in full black apparel...



...I was in Kalamata! I was tired to a point where riding to any other towns would've become dangerous, so about time too.

I'd arranged to meet with Fotis, from the Greek Transalp club. He'd had his first child in June but amazingly, he went even further in his hospitality. He allowed me to stay at the studio he normally rented out for the grandparents, who'd come to help with the newborn and now stayed for a night at Fotis's place. Greek hospitality (or filoxenia as they say) is truly in a class of its own.

After getting my stuff inside and having a nap, I was woken up by the pitter-patter of raindrops on the sunscreen. Underway for nearly 2 weeks, and this was the first rain I'd come across. And I was already inside.

During dinner, Fotis gave me a map of the Peloponnesos and suggested a route to Tenaron (which led to a nice adventure by itself, but more about that tomorrow). We exchanged a multitude of stories, after which he dropped me off at the apartment.

Tomorrow I'd go as far South as I could on this trip. Cape Tenaron!
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Old 08-28-2013, 08:39 AM   #45
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Looking good! Nice advice about the roads in Greece and especially the situation with the road signs. Cool that you are NOT using GPS -- I think stopping to talk with people for directions can lead to a deeper experience of the journey, but that's just my opinion. Looking forward to the next chapter.
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