Thursday, June 19, 2008

Deutschland "Graphic" Design...

The Greenblat:

-ended up stalling in Paris as well....the hosts were just too good!
-changed plans from Italy or Spain to Germany/Prague and East because of a friend scheduled to visit me in Spain in July
-finally got out of Luc's house in Paris and hit the road last Tuesday
-found roads in Eastern France to be pretty damn fun
-hit Belgium, Luxembourg, France AGAIN and finally Germany that evening and crashed in a small hotel near the French/German border
-the autobahns SUCK when you're on a bike that isn't comfy past 80 mph!
-arrived in Oberdischingen, Germany at Melanie's house
-touring, relaxing and working?!

Greenblat can just navigate away from this page now as this update is LONG and random and full of my 'feelings' and all that stuff. If you want details of the trip itself then skip to the part that says "rant over" nothing all that crazy to report. I uploaded new pics to the flickr page days ago and I'm just now getting around to talking about them.

I'm on week ten out of the comfort zone and things are going well. While in Paris it occurred to me that my trip has already been a total success. I made it this far....I've come to amazing realizations about my existence, my yearning for adventure, the world, my relationships, my habits (good and bad), my failures and really just life in general. Maybe there shouldn't have been that much for me to realize, but it's how I'm feeling about it now. Just time to remove myself from all that I've known has given serious perspective.

Ultimately I think the thing I'm happiest with is that I've met some of the coolest people on the planet. yeah yeah yeah....all this sounds like almost totally expected and generic talk of 'finding myself' or whatever, but I mean it. I have a feeling that the real benefits of this trip will hit me when I'm home, but so far I already feel a real sense of accomplishment and like it was worth the effort, risk and simple craziness to get here.

I could go home tomorrow and call this worth the effort ten does it get better? It's funny, but I have a suspicion that it will continue to get better as I move on. I really feel like I'm just starting to get into the rhythm of solo-traveling and enjoying the ride. Of course most that know me likely know that I'm goal-oriented and can sometimes forget what comes after the initial goal is reached......and this trip was about the goal of getting here.....once here the goal seemed lost. It's the whole "be careful what you wish for" scenario. Every day I try to think of a goal for the day....and now my goal in the morning is to NOT have a real goal. No hurry....just wander. It's ridiculously difficult for me and has shown me just how ineffective I've been in life. I've taken on battles and NOT finished the war over and over. Is this what everyone does or is it just me?

All that being said, I'm feeling ridiculously motivated and fit to create new challenges for myself. BIG ONES. I've begun 2 business plans for projects when I return to Austin. I previously thought I just might not come back home for a while if things fell in my lap here, but nothing has made me appreciate Austin more than being totally removed from it.....oh yeah, and the people back home are also part of the equation. ;)

It also occurred to me that maybe this blog is mainly just good for me and not benefiting those of you that are taking the time to read it. Maybe it is annoying to hear me ramble on about how great it is....and not acknowledge that many parts and stages of this European excursion are rather difficult and filled with stress!? it's not that bad, but of it are hard for me to deal with. Yeah....I've NEVER been alone this long in my whole life. Of course sometimes it seems that there are constantly people around me, but to be without all my old friends and support system is tough to do. I miss the faces big time. Many days have been spent without speaking to anyone that speaks english....rather isolating, but always makes me smile when I realize that. I also obviously find it hard to move on from place to place mainly because I don't know where I'm going to sleep that night....or where I'm going to shower or eat or any of that. How ridiculous is that? Isn't that the main point of the entire trip? duh.'s still hard to do. I stay in comfy houses with people I get along with and it's hard to move on. In fact...the places that I've stayed in the longest are still emailing me telling me to come back!?! Every day I sleep at someone's house I wake up and think that I am imposing and that I am a burden to have around. Amazingly all of my hosts have told me that they benefited from having me around and wish that I'd stayed longer! That feels amazing, but it isn't conducive to me accomplishing much in the way of riding time, camping and/or the 'work' of the trip.

There's also the financial aspect...I'm broke. Yeah....I'm here, but I have financial responsibilities back home that are still there and amassing. I'm investing this money/time in something bigger, but I had no idea how much the stress of money would stay with me along the way. I like to present myself as a guy who doesn't really care about money or being 'ahead', whatever the hell that means, but not knowing if my cash will get me across another border is a heavy weight on my head. I'm not as laid back about it as I try to let on. The cash being spent here is could help me start a business, it could buy a house, it could buy ALL my friends a nice dinner!, but will it get me home in good health? Will it be worth spending this time away? I've been told that some might think that what I'm doing here and writing about here might be for the wrong reasons. It's been said that maybe I'm doing this to prove something to show that I can do my own thing. Maybe I am trying to prove it , but if I am, it's to prove it to myself.....I don't think I really have anything to prove with my friends. They know I'm nuts, but they also know I'm worth the effort and can follow-through when it counts. Yes? No? Feel free to email me if I'm off base here. I actually NEED blunt feedback and criticism from my friends sometimes.

Ok...rant over. On to the details of my trip.

I left Paris sad to say goodbye to Luc and his welcoming home, but it was time and I had no more excuses to stay other than NOT getting to visit the Catacombs after 3 tries! Anyway...I rolled out later than expected and found myself in the beautiful French countryside in no time. The sights truly were breathtaking. I need to get that camera hooked up to my helmet somehow. I wish I could share more of it. By dusk I was freezing my ass off on the bike and looking for a camping spot. Nothing seemed decent and the further I pushed on the colder I got and the more convinced I was that what I needed most was a hot shower.

I rolled through the Belgium border feeling like I was getting away with something (ghost town border huts are weird) and almost immediately into Luxembourg and then somehow back into France. I think I hit the wrong button on the GPS and it was sending me directly south again. So...once I found gas, (I was running out and WAY into reserve) I pushed on into Germany and my first stretch of Autobahn. It began empty and tunnel ridden. I had a huge smile and realized that 95 mph on a dirtbike isn't the best idea. I slowed down and started searching for a motel. I found one in a tiny town and took whatever they could give me. Surprisingly I knew how to ask in German for a single room and knew how to ask how much it would cost. The hotel owner was nice enough to store my moto in his personal garage and bought me drinks in the hotel bar while we watched Germany beat Austria in the Euro cup soccer game. It was a great time to hang out with this local gang who thought I was crazy to have come all that way to have a beer with them! :)

The next day it was a long ride through Autobahns and my first real rain. The rain suit worked perfectly except that I felt like a dufus with huge boot covers on.....I bought some made for a giant apparently. Michelle will be happy to know that they STILL smell like a plastic factory and MUST be double bagged in plastic when not in use or everything smells of them!

I managed to get through the rain and crazies on the Autobahn that blew by me in the rain like I was sitting still and I finally got off the highways and onto the coolest twisty back roads I've ever ridden. WAY off into the hills of Germany it starts to feel like someone prepared the picture perfect roads just for me. I'm determined to stay OFF the autobahns and huge motorways for the rest of this trip. We'll see if my patience for stop lights and tiny villages can remain.

I made it to Oberdischingen that day, albeit late to a great dinner prepared by Melanie. (I'm still there right now) Melanie is a new friend that I met in a hostel in London. She kept bragging about how good her flat was here in this tiny village, so I decided to take her up on the offer of crashing with her. Her place has been great....I've had plenty of space and time to take a vacation from my vacation and get some work started. Melanie is a teacher and works most days. While here, I've been trying to plan out how my return to normal life will always interferes doesn't it? Anyway....Ober has been great. Melanie's mother has cooked up some amazing has Melanie and I need to get out of here before I start getting fat again. You'll notice in my pics on flickr that I've shown a bit of what I've seen. Great quiet towns...farms..rolling hills....good beer....german music...the whole deal. What I'm constantly amazed by is how much the people, even in a tiny village like this one, want to learn english and practice it with me. At least I got that English thing going for me.

Saturday afternoon we drove to Stuttgart, at my urging, to see the Porsche museum. I can say that this was by far the BIGGEST disappointment and humorous part of my trip. We drove over an hour for ONE SMALL room of cars. Maybe 15? A few engine cutaways and a few 20. What the hell? They are building a new HUGE museum across the street, but the website doesn't let on that the old one is a total joke. Anyway...skip Porsche if you're ever out this way. We headed directly over to the Mercedes Benz museum and it was just as amazing as the Porsche museum was underwhelming. I had no idea they'd build SO many types of cars. The technical stories will ensue for the motorheads when I return....and I'll post a few MB pics later.

I've met some new friends using and will be heading off to Regensberg, Germany tomorrow and on to Prague the next day. A new friend has graciously invited me on a hiking/camping trip to the highest point in the Czech Republic, so I'll be joining a group of people for some nature this weekend. We leave on a bus out of Prague early Saturday morning. The bike will have to stay alone! I'm hoping it's there when I return. I'm told Prague is NOT Germany and you can't leave your keys in it running outside like I could do in Ober.

On another note....apparently I CAN cook. I once worked in a kitchen in a nice restaurant in Canada, but it's been MANY years since I took on the task of preparing an entire meal for a group of more than two. Tonight I was asked to cook a mexican feast for my hosts while we watched Germany play Turkey in the EuroCup Semi-Final match...Melanie, Bernhadt, Corrina and Michael were all keen to try some TexMex. The hard part was really trying to figure out what ingredients were at the supermarket. Ever try to make Tacos al pastor without cilantro...ahem...I mean corriander? Uh yeah...not so simple. Anyway...I made a mexican baked rice casserole using german sausage because I couldn't find Chorizo (go figure) and it was SO much better than I expected! The al pastor tacos were pretty damn good...if not really weird, but the germans didn't know better and ate them all up quick. I literally had to show them how to roll up a tortilla. I've actually been cooking quite a lot on this trip. Perhaps this is the real reason why I've lost 7 lbs? No queso equals nothing to eat in my book. :) I hope to continue this trend back home.

Oh...some might ask why I've changed my route from Italy/Spain to Germany/Czech Republic....? Well...after extending the invite to everyone to join me for a leg of this trip it looks like I finally have a taker. My friend Margot from Austin has been looking for a way to put her Spanish studies to use and has decided to fly out to Spain to meet up with me in July. I also hope to see some of Italy with her. FUN.....anyone else want to join?? Anyone that wants to rent a moto and ride along?? Jeff? Mark? Chris? Kenneth? instead of having to see Spain twice or double back north from Italy to Germany and the like, I've decided to just head east until it suits me and then give myself a few weeks to get back through Bavaria, maybe Austria and certainly Switzerland as I'm told the riding there is intensely amazing.

Ok...gotta run..getting up early tomorrow! Updates to follow...sorry about the enormous length and rambling nature of this one. I've been quite lax about updating this and things start to add up.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Zen and the art of motorcycling Paris...

I hit Paris with a loose chain and a bit of a loose head. More on that in a minute.......I'm going to give a wrap-up list for Greenblat because apparently he can't be bothered with my long ramblings: (from now on this is referred to as the "Greenblat")

-Found places to stay with Kevin's friends
-couch surfing here is pretty damn good
-replaced chain and sprocket on bike on Friday - met really cool guy (Christophe) with moto shop
-saw sights via motorbike
-riding a motorbike in Paris is INSANE AND FUN!
-met cool friends out Friday night....went to bed at 7:30am the next day
-ate good French food
-drank lots of scotch and wine
-Parisians don't sleep....kept me up all night Saturday too
-Visited Cliches (for Mark) Louvre, Eiffel, Jim Morrison's grave, Notre Dame, Arch, pretty stuff, parks, Catacombs, various museums...more to follow....
-replaced back tire on Motorbike
-new Parisian friends had a party for me under the Eiffel Tower...FUN
-Likely headed to Italy or Spain in the next few days....yeah, it's that undecided.
-I'm allergic to Paris...worst allergies in ages
-I like Parisian food better than London's food (sorry Frankie)
-still alive...maybe more so than normal

I rode into Paris almost a week ago and was amazed by how beautiful the French countryside is. It kept a smile on face almost the entire 3 hour ride from the coast to the center of Paris. I was able to crash with Yann and Emily...friends of Greenblat. They rocked and helped me through a stressful Friday as I tried to get a new chain and money to fix my bike. It was a crazy day of finding my way, but it worked out.

I met Christophe and Florian of just up the road from Yann's house. Christophe spoke great English and helped me figure out what I needed, offered his shop space and tools, his help and PLENTY of hospitality. Christophe really went out of his way to help me with the sprockets and chain and then again (today) with a new rear tire mounted and balanced. What a difference it's made to have someone's help and place to work. I can't say enough about his generosity! Again....more cool people no matter where I go.

Yann promptly took me out Friday night and got me drunk at a party and then an all night club. It was drunken hilarity for sure. The good part was that we stayed out until 7:30 am and were able to sober up enough to ride across town with empty roads on Saturday morning. Yann led me on his scooter down the river along all the picturesque sights and even through my crazy exhaustion I felt wide awake just taking it all in.....amazing. Thanks Yann!

After a few hours of sleep on Saturday I met up with some friends from the night before for some Paris museum roaming. (Mai, Albane, Sophie and Antoine) The experience was unique for sure. In Paris modern art can mean a nitrogen-powered-beer-bottle-canon, a HUGE pile of trash and even a man staring at a wall. Thought provoking and I'm considering taking up the practice of art now. ;) The day ended in horrible allergies, but I kept going.....

I ended up meeting Yann at a party at Luc's house. Luc is another friend of Greenblat and Slutsky's. Luc has an amazing house and in the course of the night offered to let me crash with him for a few nights. (I'm still there) Luc's hospitality has been amazing as well. He took me to Pere-LaChaise (huge famous cemetery) near his house. We sat and soaked it up....absolutely beautiful place and a great walk for both of us. Luc goes there often and said that it's his favorite place in Paris. I also took the stroll to see Jim Morrison....he says "hey" to the fans back home.

Last night Sophie, Mai and Albane all through a little surprise going away party for me near the tower and it was a blast.....these people know how to party and make one feel welcome. Paris and I will rendezvous again!

Today I worked in Christophe's shop all day on the bike and internet to update this. I'm trying to figure out if I'm going to Spain or Italy in the next few days.....more fun to follow.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The draw of comfort and friends....

It's confirmed. Tomorrow I finally leave for Paris! I bought a eurotunnel ticket and at 12:20 my time, I'll take the chunnel train under the English channel headed for France. My hold-ups were numerous, but the main ones were crappy weather, delays for my euro moto-insurance and entirely too accommodating hosts.

Jay and Catherine Rad have been GREAT hosts here in London. Jay is a filmmaker and convinced me to hang out a bit longer to work on/act in a short film he was putting together for a contest. I decided to take him up on the offer and stay until Monday and then head to Cornwall to see Sam (from a few weeks ago) this past Sunday. Unfortunately Sam headed to France on holiday early with his family, so I was forced to forgo my ride out to visit him. I stayed with the Rads while I sorted out my insurance for the border crossings ahead.

I was unable to find moto insurance here in the UK, so I've ended up paying $350 for 9 weeks worth of US euro-only insurance. Crap. least I'm covered for now and I'll be headed out on the road legally!

Filming with Jay was great fun and I learned a bit. It was an impressive professional setup and has definitely made me want to do some filming of my own. More on that soon...

Beyond the hold-ups, I got to hang out with Frankie and friends a bit more, drink pints with Nick and friends, check out random pubs with Jay and somehow ate a $15 burger and fries (chips).
I've got clean laundry, a motorcycle and at least enough dough to get me Paris.

I managed to contact some friends of Kevin Greenblat (Yann and Emily) and look forward to meeting and hanging with them tomorrow night. I'm a bit intimidated since French is the language I'm most confused by, but I'm going for it regardless. I hope to update this soon.

I can't believe I stayed in London so NYC so long....and now it's been almost 7 weeks since I left home. Other than moving away, this is definitely the longest I've ever been away. Time is flying and yet I feel like my trip is just getting started...

more to come.....