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Old 08-22-2012, 06:05 PM   #46
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Location: Melbourne, AU
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Originally Posted by jetjackson View Post
Heh heh, Cheers Nicola.
Mr Jet! That was the most wonderfully informative post, thank you so much. It has really cleared a lot of things up. People have such different perspectives on things like accommodation/camping/couchsurfing/volunteering. It can get so complicated and over thought, and I am prone to over thinking at the best of times. Definitely just trying to just suss out the best travelling system for me and then just going with the flow....

Your videos are fantastic and a really good and useful way to keep you occupied on rainy days as well as a new and interesting way to re-live and experience your travels. I am a photographer and when I travel I want to use it as an opportunity to really practise and make something useful of the skill - selling the images for a charity or something.

We are hanging out for the next video!! And come and visit Melbourne sometime when you return --- I'll buy you a beer or three.
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Old 08-24-2012, 04:28 PM   #47
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Log 21 - Dolce far niente, the Italian art of delicious idleness

Here is the latest one... let me know what you think.

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Old 08-24-2012, 04:51 PM   #48
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Loved it!

Well worth the wait.

Thanks for the time and effort you put into these videos.

It is the highlight of my day.

All the best to you both on your travels.


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Old 08-24-2012, 09:30 PM   #49
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thanks for the update Jackson.
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Old 08-26-2012, 06:55 AM   #50
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What a fantastic video diary, I love it.
BMW GS, Adventure touring since 1939
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Old 08-27-2012, 11:59 AM   #51
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That was Great!!

It was a long wait but you came through with a winner.


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Old 08-27-2012, 02:33 PM   #52
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Hey Jackson, your last video blog was sensational. Italy is so beautiful!!
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Old 08-28-2012, 06:57 AM   #53
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Cheers guys, just writing up the next written report.

BMW tweeted the latest video blog on their Twitter profile today. Kind of stoked. I sent them stuff ages ago and they kind of brushed it off, mostly I think because they stick to a high level of quality on their Facebook and Twitter profiles, so to me this is kind of a bit of approval of it reaching a better level of quality, which is all I hope to do.

At the moment, this is what I use to produce the videos...

And this is the camera I use, which I had to take that photo with.

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Old 08-28-2012, 09:51 PM   #54
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Jackson, random question, one of your vids made me think of it - you have lockable panniers but still stuff strapped to the top of them - what do you do with the loose/unlocked stuff when you leave the bike? Usually in smaller places it wouldn't matter so much but you are spending a fair bit of time in touristy cities... ?
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Old 08-29-2012, 12:05 AM   #55
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Wonderful atmosphere of Italy. Magic
Keep it going and enjoy
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Old 08-29-2012, 02:11 PM   #56
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Originally Posted by nicola_a View Post
Jackson, random question, one of your vids made me think of it - you have lockable panniers but still stuff strapped to the top of them - what do you do with the loose/unlocked stuff when you leave the bike? Usually in smaller places it wouldn't matter so much but you are spending a fair bit of time in touristy cities... ?
Hi Nicola,

We have the packsafes and if we are somewhere really dodgy we will packsafe the large black duffel bag that you see on the back of the bike and lock it to the bike. We can also loop our helmets through there and that keeps them safe too.

The panniers lock and so the only real loose stuff we have is one of those packs which has our sleeping bags in and the tent and matresses.... actually probably $1000 worth of gear but most people probably would'nt know that.

I was never expecting to have Nicole on the bike for very long, so there was always going to be enough space for my gear without packing on the outside. However that changed... in retrospect it would have been great to have been able to just have 3 boxes, two sides and a top case, all lockable, then you can just lock up and walk away when you get to seeing sights.

We have spent a bit of time in touristy cities... much to my chagrin, but what can you do :)
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Old 08-31-2012, 02:42 PM   #57
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Awesome ride report! Thanks!
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Old 09-01-2012, 05:35 AM   #58
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March 11-20 Rome - San Marino - Bologna - Avignon - Sant Jaume de Llierca

March 11-20 Rome - San Marino - Bologna - Avignon - Sant Jaume de Llierca

A kiss good bye, a full tank and I am on the road to San Marino. My plan is to spend a few days making it slowly back up to Avignon where I will stay for a week or so before heading down to Spain to start volunteering at the horse ranch. The place is called 'Can Jou' and they are going to feed me and house me for a few months in exhange for about 5 or so hours work per day.

Getting ahead of myself though. It's time to enjoy the moment. Leaving Rome I take a familiar road back through perugia and cross over a path I have been on before. Sunshine, and the warmth of the Italian coloured countryside brings a slow smile to my face. I feel alone, dwelling in the lonliness of an open highway, it is not a bad feeling, not a good feeling, it just is. Accellerating I pass cars and trucks, a fleet of Harleys only to realise that I have to sustain a high speed to keep ahead. My competitive streak finds it hard to go on holiday. Stopping to put on the banana suit I let the Harleys pass me.
I relax into the road and just past Perugia I start to gain elevation. In what is now a familiar process the temperature starts to drop. Stopping the bike I add another layer. Sunday riders flicker past, seemingly warm enough in their one layer of leathers.

Snow still lines the roads and it briefly gets down to 3 degrees. Annoyingly, I still can't shake the paranoia of the cold. Before I can overthink the situation I am decending again, through a beautiful part of Italy.

San Marino really is a case of just going to see what is there. I am intrigued by these small sovereign states and San Marino is the oldest surviving sovereign state in the world, dating back to the 4th centuy AD. It's independence has probably only survived because it has the backing of the pope and the Italians tend to listen to the Vatican.

San Marino sits atop a mountain, overlooking its subjects, surrounded by snow capped peaks. The city itself seems very touristy - my litmus test for this has become the 'torture museum', if you see one of these in the city you are visiting, leave quickly, they are up there with the living statues, Madame Tussauds and portrait artists for useless tourist traps that only take away from the culture of a place.

The entry to San Marino translated means - Welcome to the ancient land of the free.

Next stop Bologna. I roll in with a couple of hours sunshine up my sleeve. The only hostel is booked out so I have to camp, fully aware that it will get down below 0 during the night. I check the opening times of the Ducati museum, my reason for being in Bologna. Gutted. It is closed on Mondays. Churning the possibilities in my mind I know that I don't want to wait it out until Tuesday. This is an area I will definitely come back to and so I reluctantly put the museum back on the shelf for now.

It is at that point that I start flirting with the idea of getting back to Avignon in one day. 720k's away and 11 hours without using toll roads. If I only use toll roads for about 200 k's I can do it in 9 hours, theoretically. I text Nicole, "Going to have a crack at getting back to Avignon tomorrow, Ducati closed Mondays, xo", "Don't push yourself, take it easy, stop in Genoa for the night if you need to, text me as you go, xo". Resolved to reach Avignon the next day I stock up on food at the supermarket. Once I set my mind on getting somewhere, it takes a lot to stop me.

Two girls who are hiking are camped next to me in a Vango Helium, the same tent I have back home, a common link, a conversation starter. Scottish girls, used to the cold, they only have a couple of layers each and are planning to hike over the same mountains I came through to reach San Marino.

The reason the hostel was booked out becomes apparent at about 9pm when heavy metal music starts to pound away. Switching on the bike I check the temperature, 5 degrees and dropping. All my layers go on after a hot shower and I head to bed inside 2 sleeping bags. Earplugs are no match for the heavy metal bass and I struggle to sleep sometime after 12 only to wake up a few hours later, sweating in all my layers. 7am I am up, it's just over 2 degrees. Hard-boiled eggs and porridge will keep me going through the cold. Tent packed, on the road at 8am, temperature hovering at 4.5 degrees, just above my comfort threshold.

A few k's down the road it gets down to 1.5 degrees. It is my constant battle. I know it will be over 10 degrees by lunchtime but if I stop to wait I wont make it to Avignon today. Another hour and the temperature should be up to a bearable point. I bite my lip and push on, it's grim, my thoughts run in circles, slowed by the cold and constantly thinking about it. My purple elephant.

3 degrees flirts with 3.5, flickering back and forth, becoming 3.5 flirting with 4 every new number on the dial triggers a release of seratonin. Somehow my endorphin system has become tied to the thermometer. How did I let it get like this. In the words of Ewan McGregor - I thought I was made of tougher stuff than this.

I know, you get it, it's cold, I don't like, lets move on. I just feel the need to talk about how it affects me and affects the ride. For all the winter months and even some of spring it dominated my planning.

Cold fades into warmth and reaching the start of the apennines I opt to take the scenic route. Snow starts to thicken on the sides of the road but I am twisting the throttle through the curves following snow melt rivers.

I stop for a bit of a dance for an upcoming video blog and to eat a banana in the banana suit. The road is flowing with ease and I descend into Genoa kept up for a solid half an hour to wait for a cycling race to pass on the road I am riding.

Waiting for the cyclists to pass... Already looking a bit tired.

At least it is now warming up and that gives me enough time to get the banana suit off.

At Genoa I turn off the avoid tolls function on the GPS and start attacking the auto-route. I get a solid 200 k's out of the way bringing me into France. Now I just have to cross the haute-alps to get back to Avignon.

I am running low on fuel and headed into the mountains out of Nice. The fuel light is on and the computer tells me I have about 18 miles left. I punch in the next fuel stop on the GPS. Down to 10 miles to go I reach an abandoned fuel stop with only the rusted remnants of fuel pumps reaching to the sky from a pile of concrete. I punch in the next fuel stop in the GPS, a little less confident of what I will find. Without a fuel stop behind me for 30 odd k's there is only going forward. I reach the next fuel stop with 2 miles to go only to find a 24 hour pump that only accepts credit cards.

So I should mention at this point that I loathe credit cards and as such, don't have one, opting to use a visa debit card for online transactions and only taking cash out on a debit card. The next fuel stop in the GPS is 20 k's away and I doubt I will make it. A smart move would be to wait for a while until someone turns up, hand them the cash and get them to put it on their credit card. Instead I cross my fingers, roll the dice, and hope that there is a fuel stop in the next town about 8 k's away. As I ride I am being ever so gentle on the revs to get as much distance out of the tank as possible. The computer hits zero and now I have no indication of how much further I can get. It feels like I am riding on borrowed time. Little do I know how miniscule this problem will be in comparison to the problems that await in the months to come.
Rolling into the town I see a fuel station, it's open, you ripper! Fuel for the bike, gatorade for me.


The attendant gives me a funny look.

Ah, France, "Bonjour!"

She gets an over enthusiastic "Merci!" I am just glad to have fuel.

I promise myself that I won't let the fuel get that low again, a promise I have made before. Lesson learnt that the fuel stops on the GPS map are by far out of date.

It's the homeward stretch to Avignon now, about 250k's of twisties and country roads. It's about 4 in the afternoon and I have been on the road for 8 hour with little more than a couple of 5 minute breaks.

When we came through this area weeks before everything was covered in snow. Now it has melted and the landscape is entirely unrecognisable to me. I hate to say, without the snow, it has lost a bit of the magic. I focus on pushing into the turns. Without Nicole on the bike I can really carve my way through the mountains. Pushing the bike, twisting the throttle, punching the brakes. Of course I am not the only thing on the road and often get stuck behind cars, slowing me down. I have a resolve to reach a destination and an adrenalin gland that might as well be hard wired to the throttle.

We slow into a town, 50kph and I see my opportunity to overtake. Dialling up a good 80k's I cross double lines to overtake the car. In only 3 weeks I have already started to ignore the rules, as the saying goes 'When in Rome...' but I wasn't in Rome anymore and the Gendarmerie are standing at the end of the road. They motion to me to pull over.

Shit. The adrenalin injectors in my stomach fire and my heart rate kicks into a higher gear. This is the first time that I have been pulled over by an official on my entire trip. I have only heard bad things about the "Gendarmerie". My insurance paperwork, my license - everything is going to be put to the test. The French cop asks for my papers. I get them out. He looks them over. Looks over at me and smiles.

"Slow down on the turns."

Hands me back my paperwork.

Poker face. You can't look happy in this situation. I pack the bike up while he pulls over the Kawasaki I passed minutes earlier.

Steadily I make my way back to avignon, passing the same scenery from three weeks prior like watching a video cassette rewind. Fighting through the weariness I join a cavelcade of local French riders headed home from their Sunday ride. None of them seem to take much notice of the GB plates as I join their ranks and let them set the pace. Riders peel off the main road, leaving the group to their respective destinations as the sun dips behind the horizon in front of us. Slowly the group thins out until it is just me again.

I pull the bike into a it's secure spot below Nicoles apartment. Exhausted and red-eyed I kill the engine but my body still hums with the vibration of 11 hours on the road. Nicole smells of shampoo. Her eyes are fresh from sleep. I hold her and squeeze her tight. She has dinner cooked and Chevre waiting for me in the fridge, the French goats cheese I didn't realise was my favourite until now. Eating quickly I collapse into bed where I stay until the next morning.

Rue Paul Sain - Nicoles street.

You have to have your name on the door here in France or they won't deliver your mail.

One week is all I had to soak up a bit more of Avignon and spend some time with Nicole. It was her Birthday on the Friday and so I of course had to stay until then. Her sister and her boyfriend were also travelling through France and so they stopped by for Nicoles birthday. Cashflow was a bit of an issue for me at the time and to be honest I am not a very good present giver. I didn't want to buy some half-assed present for the sake of 'buying a present' so I painted her a card and just doted on her all day by making breakfast and dinner, cleaning the house and trying to make her day flow as best as possible.

The week went quickly. I spent the days editing blogs and trying to come up with a solution to not having a camera. My mother in England had an insurance policy on the camera I was filming on. I don't know if I mentioned it yet but I had swapped her for her camera with the one I had been using earlier. Theirs filmed HD in much better colour and mine was better suited to what she wanted to do, take photos. So I sent it back to them in the post to try and get a new one on warranty. Fingers crossed.

Unfortunately this means there is a huge gap in footage, I only have the gopro, and so I will share a few photos here that Nicole took around Avignon to give you a bit of an idea of the feel of the place.

In the Centre of Avignon

The Pont Du Gard, a bridge that goes to nowhere.

Relaxing at a picnic in the park with the locals.

So it's only a few days until I leave and it's about time to have the 'conversation'. Up until now my plan has been to spend about 6 months in Spain working and volunteering followed by a whirlwind tour of Europe before shipping the bike to South America. Nicole was due to finish her English teaching placement at the end of April and was free to travel after that. After long discussion we agreed that Nicole would come and meet me in Spain at the end of April and volunteer or work wherever I am at the end of April. We will then hang around in Spain until after June at some point and then ride around Spain/France/Belgium and up to the Netherlands. Three of our friends are coming over from Australia and are going to meet us in the Netherlands, hire a car and come with us around Germany/Czech/Austria. At that point we will then head to Eastern Europe for a couple of months before shipping the bike to South America. That will give us a few outs in case we get sick of each other.

The day to leave came up very quickly and being a work day, Nicole had to leave early in the morning.

So Nicole went to teach at the school while I packed the bike and got ready to ride to Can Jou. It is a 5 or so hour journey if you don't take the Autoroute and I get on the road some time after 10, stopping in at Nicoles school to say good bye one last time. At this stage we don't expect to see eachother until the end of April, 6 weeks away.

The sun is shining. It's the sun of early spring the casts a slightly yellow tinge on the landscape.

Back home in my office cubicle I had one particular fantasy. I am in the desert, alone, somewhere in the US, Arizona maybe, on a deserted highway, on a bike, the type of which is unimportant. The sun is shining through my visor. It's not too hot, just warm like a friendly hug. I feel excited and I feel free. I have the means to go wherever I want but I am in that one place, not because I have to be, but because I choose to be. I don't know where I am going in the fantasy but I am in transit. Between destinations. The important part in the fantasy is not where I am going but that I am going.

It is a rare and fleeting state, but in that ride to Can Jou in the North of Spain, with the sun shining on me I feel like I am living the fantasy. My transit takes me through the rustic parts of France to the border with Spain. Two years of Spanish classes under my belt and I am keen to put it to use. That being said I have made the decision to volunteer in Catalunya so I can be closer to Nicole and well, I like the idea of riding and working with horses in the mountains.

I head up the Pyrennees and cross the border into Spain. I start recognising a lot of the words on the signs. They may be in Catalan but with my basic Spanish I can still catch the jist of what they say. I will later find out that due to the laws in France this place just past the border is a hot spot for prostitution. Women in short, short shorts line the roads, texting on their phones, waiting for someone to pull over.

Mountains loom in the distance where I will spend the next three months.

Rolling into Sant Jaume de Llierca, the small town at the foot of the mountain on which Can Jou sits. I follow the winding road for about 10 k's up and up. Finally I reach a sign 'Can Jou' A massive rural inn sits on top of the hill with small cottages peppered around it. The Inn looks out to the South and behind it the view takes in the snow capped Pyrennees. Horses are standing around in fields cut out on the mountain side. Crisp, fresh air. The place seems deserted. I can hear a radio in the distance. Following the sound down to a set of stables I find a girl working on the horses. One lone dread lock hanging down the side of her face and a dew piercings... typical Catalan looking. She introduces her in a thick French accent, "You must be Jackson, the new volunteer, I am Cammie.. welcome to Can Jou." I get the traditional 'Besos', kisses on each cheek. Cammie shows me my room in a small wooden prefab house and explains the daily routine to me.

I take the afternoon to settle in before I start my first day working in the stables.

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Old 09-08-2012, 01:48 PM   #59
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Great to see that you chose a good bike for the ride and didn't get sucked in to a heavier beast, looking fwd to following the rest of your ride when you hit the road again, hopefully with a puncture repair kit though.
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Old 09-09-2012, 07:45 PM   #60
Joined: Aug 2012
Location: Melbourne, AU
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Hi Jackson,
Hope you and Nicole are happy and healthy and we are all looking forward to your next instalment.
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