Friday, July 25, 2008

Headed South and Crossing Europe....

Ok….it’s been a while. I’ve been off the radar and on the road sans internet. It’s been nice but hasn’t been conducive to any updates. Here goes my attempt at summing up the weeks since then….

-Hung around Czech Republic for a few more days before heading towards Barcelona
-Found myself in a killer rainstorm two-up on the bike with Kendra…blah
-Rode to Regensberg, Germany to stay at Anna Luisa’s again and actually see some of the town
-Rode through Germany in the rain and thunder…..scary few days
-Hit Switzerland and stayed with another couchsurfer (Melissa) for two nights
-Rode through some of the most amazing roads and mountains I’ve ever seen in Switzerland
-Hit Lyon, France and another Couchsurfer’s flat for a night and day in Lyon
-Rode for two days to Barcelona….boring
-Spent the night on the beach in my tent…..amazing
-Picked up Margot from the airport on the 17th and put the bike to the test with two people AND two people’s gear!
-Two nights in Barcelona and we headed for the south of France for beach time
-Two nights in Nice, France transformed my trip and my attitude
-Another day of riding and we were deep into Italy
-Spent a night in Genova, Italy
-Camped in Tuscany outside of Florence
-NOW in Florence for two nights in a hostel……
-Hitting the road for either Venice or Roma in the next few days!

So….that’s the bullet points….now on to the boring details.

It seems like months since my last update. So MUCH has happened since July 4th! As summed up above, I found myself stalling in the Czech Republic. Kendra made such a welcoming host that it was tough to leave. I used the weather as my excuse one day, but finally rode out the next come hell or high water….and yeah I found high water.

While at Kendra’s place I did manage to use a Fonda San Miguel recipe to make enchiladas for my Czech hosts. (thanks again Lauren) They were really tasty, but a bit spicier than most of us would have liked. I WILL make them again……awesome. My cooking has gotten better and I really enjoyed putting something together that none of them had experienced before.

I got on the bike and prepared to cross my path north by heading back south again to meet up with Margot in Spain. I ended up in the house of Anna Luisa and the company of her and Mark again. I had a great experience there and was SO glad that I returned….even if it did seem ridiculous to cross my own path. One morning I just sat at a sidewalk café drinking coffee thinking that yet again I was experiencing another trip high. Every day just seems to bring new simple pleasures and outlook. It was amazing to just be there an in the moment. I truly hope to return to Regensberg again someday.

I rode out of Regensberg into a hellacious thunderstorm, but rode late into the night and ended up staying the night at Melanie’s house in Oberdischingen, Germany again. She wasn’t home, but her neighbors let me in and I enjoyed a nice long sleep and shower the next morning before getting back on the road. Thanks Melanie!

From Ober I headed to Switzerland to soak up the riding and mountains. I arrived at a fellow couchsurfer’s house near Zurich and a party awaited. Melissa (my host) had a party going with Sangria and food and I enjoyed getting to hang with her crew of international travelers.

The next day Melissa took me around her town and we hit a photography museum and basically just hung out with no real agenda….pretty much like most of my trip. She was amazingly gracious and didn’t mind sharing her one room pad with me while I snored away and kept her awake. She even took me to her favorite Yoga studio in Zurich and insisted on paying for my session (it was damn expensive) and man was it great. It was exactly what my sore body needed. Amazing….yet again.

I sadly left Zurich and headed into the mountains of Switzerland. It was the most incredible day of motorcycling I’ve ever had. EPIC. The roads, the mountains, the tunnels, the views…..just epic. I took a few photos, but really not much as my hands were full with twisties and fun. Another day I will go back there and take more pics to share!

I ended the day in Lyon and another friendly couchsurfer greeted me with a floor to crash on. Marilyn (my host) is French, but spent time in Austin and dreams of moving there… you can imagine, we got along great. I spent the night talking to her about her time there and in Texas and the next morning she showed me some of Lyon. It was beautiful and somehow I forgot to take my camera. It was fairytale France really…..the stuff you see in the movies. I bought some postcards and maybe I’ll actually mail them someday.

I packed up from Lyon and headed to Montpellier. Boring….just slept in a crappy motel and tried to work out the cramps from riding for so long. I hit Barcelona on the 16th and found a spot on the beach to call my own. It was a relaxing day and night on the beach, but I was full of stress about getting Margot AND two people’s gear on the bike for a few thousand miles!

The next morning I found the airport and picked up a smiling face from back home. It was more than welcome to see Margot and instantly begin the “work” of traveling by motorbike. We packed up the bike and determined that stuff needed to go home. (a box is headed to Austin right now with my winter clothes) We hit Barcelona and instantly found a hostel with a sweet room for a good price. We unloaded…..threw on flip flops and walked the city. Barcelona is one cool town. Great architecture…..great sights and smells…nice beaches.

Unfortunately some thugs took a shine to our helmets that were cabled to my bike at the beach one day. GONE….poof….$900 worth of helmets. I had no idea a cable that thick could be cut so easily! I was beyond pissed, but Margot helped to calm me down and we walked all over town looking for the moto shop that didn’t seem to exist. We found it and plunked down the cash for something we owned just a few hours before. We decided to get over it and not discuss it again as it just got me mad all over again. Needless to say….we’re carrying our helmets everywhere now!

I have MUCH to say about how cool Barcelona was, but I’ll just let the pics tell a bit of the story. We stayed a few days and headed towards the south of France for more beach time and amazing views. Riding the bike with two people is a bit challenging to say the least. It is made to take two people, but NOT comfortably. My extra cushy seat is good, but mainly for one person. We also tried to avoid the motorways headed back through Spain and France, but found the back roads to be more than a bit confusing and simply uncomfortable. Motorways are expensive, but sometimes the only way to get miles under my belt.

In two days we managed to ride from Barcelona to Nice, France with more than a few stops in between. We rode along the coast in Marseille and were overwhelmed by the cliffs and water. Truly breathtaking. That day and into the night we avoided the motorways along the coast and near Cannes we hit the coolest 30 mile stretch of road I’ve ever ridden. (yes Switzerland was beautiful, but France’s twisties took the prize for fun). I have NEVER had to concentrate so intensely for so long as I did on that short stretch of road. It was switchback after switchback and I couldn’t believe I was on it!

We did think ahead and booked a room in a fabulous 1 star hotel and rolled into Nice amazed by the sights. What a great town. The coastline of this town is covered with beautiful people and more to look at than we could handle. We chose Nice mainly because it had a KTM dealer and I needed a starter for the bike, but we were really glad we ended up there regardless. I did ride over to the KTM dealer, but they couldn’t be bothered with helping me to diagnose the problem unless I was paying them to do all the work……a total waste of time. I made the decision to kickstart the thing until it annoys me so much that I take it apart to replace whatever is stripped. At this point with the idle upped it seems to have no issue starting on the first or second kick. Bueno.

We took in some great food, beach time and energy in Nice and chose to move on to Monaco and into Italy. Monaco was insane….posh, expensive and confusing. Margot took a ton of pics as we rode around just taking it all in. We chose to move onto Italy and were glad we did. The roads along the coast are almost repetitive in their beauty. Serious mental pictures that I will take home with me.

I believe that I will leave most of the descriptions of the beauty to the photos….even though they fail miserably to capture how overwhelming it all is.

Details…..we ended up in Genova, Italy and without a place to stay. We rode around for almost 3 hours before finding a place that was sufficiently shitty enough (read CHEAP) and we couldn’t get off the bike and unloaded fast enough. My ass is NOT happy about the long rides! Margot seems to mainly have issues with her knees. Genova had pretty spots, but mainly seemed a bit dirty and overpriced. Late that night we walked all over looking for edible food and then right behind the hotel we stumbled upon a tiny alleyway-café where we got a more than enjoyable Italian man who said that Texans were his favorite kinds of Americans and that he’d spent time there 40 YEARS ago! We thoroughly enjoyed just sitting in that dirty alley until after midnight listening to the partying Italians around us on a random Wednesday night….good stuff.

The next day we got online to find campsite near Florence. Internet access has been almost nil since I left Germany so being prepared for the next city has been tough and annoyingly time consuming….but spending 3 hours driving around Genova convinced us that finding a place to point to the day before often makes more sense than randomly hunting upon arrival. The campsite was north of Florence in the mountains and a perfect break from the cities. We unloaded there…set up camp and went hunting for a nice Tuscan meal. We ended up doubling back to a restaurant called “Enoteca”! As some of you know, this is my favorite spot in Austin….so it was too good to pass up. Here we were in this fancy restaurant in the middle of a beautiful mountain valley in Tuscany?!? How did we get so damn lucky!? The food was AMAZING and the whole experience was almost loaded with guilt for just how good it was.

We crashed hard that night as the campsite was quiet…cold and cozy. We woke up late the next day and hit the showers…and the POOL! THIS is the way to CAMP! Everything was really just perfect.

So…that’s yet another impossibly long update. Sorry for the length, but I really haven’t even scratched the surface of what I’ve seen since the Czech Republic. We’re now in a Florence hostel and about to set out to see more sights here. One more night in Florence and we’re either heading for Venice or Rome. We’re thinking of taking a ferry from Southern Italy to Spain again….so it’s all up in the air. Update more when I can. For now just check out the pics as Margot has clicked off quite a few. I’ll add comments as I have time. Also....if you're viewing pics I suggest viewing from the set icons on the right hand side of the main Flickr page. So....view "Headed South" folder today. This will give you the pics in the order they occurred versus the somewhat random way Flickr "streams" them.

Over and out, A


texcanadian said...

So,... I go to your pics hoping to see a pic of Margot in a bikini on some euro beach and what do I get? plate of enchiladas!? Nice.

Sux about the helmets. Reinforces my thoughts on customizing your hat with lots of profane stickers. Those were nice shiny helmets of desirable fanciness. Bummer though eh, jeeze.

T said...

ONLY YOU would have the skill to sniff out another Enoteca Too and have it be as good if not better than the first. I'm sure all that riding made it taste bestest.

What's up with the prix at Francais KTM? Didn't they get the "riding all over Europe" picture? Pathetique!