Random Photos from Isle of Man

June 9, 2016

Thursday was a day off from racing, and I took a ride around the TT course as well as a stop in Douglas to walk through the paddock area, and a visit to a few other places.

Before heading out, Brett and his dad and friend stopped by to repay me with a new inner tube for the one I put in his CRF the day before. I insisted he keep the new tube as a backup. During the fix-a-flat the day before, Brett had commented on my portable air compressor I was carrying with me, and I had mentioned that I didn’t have a backup plan if the compressor failed (originally I had packed a few CO2 cartridges in my fender bag with a spare tube and tire levers, but I had lost the bag on the Paso Roballos crossing in between Chile and Argentina). Unbelievably, Brett handed me a new bicycle hand pump as thanks for helping him out. Totally unexpected. Continuing my interaction with great people along my trip.

Totally unexpected gift from Brett after fixing his flat the day before.


“2RideTheGlobe” is now riding along on the Isle of Man trails as well.

After fixing his tire, they had headed back up the mountain and while riding the trails, met up with David Knight’s brother (for those unaware, David is a former World Enduro Champion and all-around expert racer). They had a great afternoon riding some challenging trail, but eventually got separated and had a bit of an extra challenge getting themselves out of a precarious situation they had ridden into. As usual, these make for great stories after you’re finally back home safe.

There are at least four motorcycle museums on the Isle of Man, but perhaps the most interesting one, in an odd, eccentric kind of way, is Murray’s.

Nice collection of racers at Murray’s.





Organization? This IS organized…


Racks of antique fuel tanks.


After Murray’s, I headed a half mile down the road to the Fairy Bridge. This place has always been a place to pay tribute to the “little people”, but it has become a series of memorial tributes to people (mostly riders) lost in the past year.


The Fairy Bridge


Next I headed to the paddock area. Even though it was a day off, the paddock was mostly open and it was interesting to see a very similar setup to US roadracing, with the large transporters and pit area.

Factory Norton race effort.


The Mugen TT Zero electric bike of John McGuinness.


Nice tribute to Michael Czysz on the Mugen electric bike.


I hadn’t seen one of these before: passenger handhold. Odd, but I suppose it makes sense if you’re going to ride like a total idiot on the street with a passenger.


Beautiful vintage Honda CB750 sitting in the parking area.


A matched set of Yamaha RD350LC two-strokes. Lots of two-strokes on the street here.


Yes, I am a geek: I find these little Hondas cool. Nicely modified version.


As I walked back to my bike, these guys were parked near me and preparing to leave: two on 250 two-stroke dirt bikes (but street legal here), and their riding buddy on an off-road version of a BMW K-bike. I know which one I’d pick…


Later in the day, my friend Alfred from Georgia showed up. This is his third trip to the IoM TT races, and it was great to see him and talk about future TT plans.

Alfred: retired American Honda technical guru and all-around great guy.


Alfred took me to dinner at the Sulby Glen Hotel and Pub, where they pour draught beer from a Honda 4-cylinder engine. Very cool.


Goodbye IoM

June 12, 2016

I’m standing near the 31-mile marker on the 37.7 mile TT course, on the mountain, near the Joey Dunlop memorial. The TT races have been over for two days, but the mountain is still one-way traffic only, and there are still lots of motorcycles going by, nearly all in excess of 100 mph; many in excess of 140 mph.

Looking toward the 31-mile marker on the mountain course.

I turn to the policeman standing next to me and ask, “So, is it pretty much just a free-for-all up here?”

He replies, “We prefer not to call it a free-for-all, but there is no speed limit.”

When was the last time a cop told you that? He continues: “We’re not here for enforcement. We’re just here to close the road when the accidents happen. Which is several times a day.” He explains that during the Manx GP in August, the mountain road is open both ways, because apparently there aren’t nearly as many idiots that show up for that.

The Joey Dunlop memorial is quite impressive, and includes stones engraved with each of his 26 TT wins.

A moment with the King of the Mountain.


The building behind Joey’s memorial… 2RideTheGlobe sticker in the bottom right.


The Snaefell Mountain Railway crosses the TT course on its’ way to the top of Snaefell Mountain. Hopefully not during the races…


Friday’s Sidecar race and Senior TT were great viewing, especially with William Dunlop setting a new lap record.




“Hutchy” on the BMW approaching Ballaugh Bridge during the Senior TT.


This morning I went for a ride up the mountain behind the campground, and onto some of the trails (“Green Lanes”).

Nice two-track…


First time in a long, long time that I’ve ridden the little 250 without the panniers and tank bag. It was definitely more fun without the added weight.


Looking out toward Ballaugh and the campground from the hill above.


This is 10 o’clock in the morning. Very thick forest makes it suddenly very dark. And this photo doesn’t show how steep this downhill section is. Lots of braking going on.

I was reminded of several things as I descended the rutted, root-strewn, loamy, dark, steep downhill:

  1. As Sandy and Alfred mentioned earlier, the ISDE has been run on the Isle of Man in the past, and for good reason. Nice trails!
  2. I’m alone.
  3. I have no idea if there’s a way out at the bottom of this hill.
  4. I’m on a very underpowered motorcycle.

Keeping all of that in mind, I eventually managed to get turned around and back up the way I came down. It was another reminder of why I need to come back here, and spend at least a week between the TT races and the off-road riding.

I’m on the very late ferry back to Liverpool, then a few more days roaming England and Wales.


So This Is English Weather

June 17, 2016

I was incredibly fortunate. I spent a week riding through Scotland and another 5 days at the Isle of Man, and it didn’t rain once. Until ten minutes after the last race. 

That was a week ago today. And it hasn’t stopped raining for more than about 30 minutes at a time since then. 

When I arrived at Baskerville Hall in Wales, I was already fairly wet. It had been pouring while I sat in a traffic jam in Hereford, the water literally running off my elbows and onto my pants like two waterfalls. Even my Gore-Tex couldn’t put up with the amount of rain I received and eventually I started feeling the wetness. 

The sun came out almost long enough to get the tent pitched. I tossed the rest of my stuff, and my yellow Ortlieb dry bag under the vestibule of the tent and walked into Baskerville Hall to attend a seminar. When I came out, it was a deluge. I walked back to the tent in ankle-deep water (and mud) to find that my tent was basically an island in the middle of a large puddle. The next thing I learned was that there was a hole in the bottom of my “dry” bag, which was now holding about two inches of water. My bluetooth speakers were somewhere in the bottom of the bag; everything else was just camp gear that would dry out. 

The sun came out, I mopped out the tent, the dry bag, and most of my belongings, and hung things on the bike to dry. Then I walked back to the hall for another seminar. 

While in that seminar, it poured rain again. Of course everything I had laid on the bike in the sun was now in the rain. I came back to things even more wet than before. 

It rained overnight so I put everything in the dry bag and propped it up so the hole was out of the water. In the morning, I hung everything on the bike again. And of course, it rained again. 

More sun. More rain. More sun. More rain. A seemingly endless cycle of one extreme to the other every hour or so. By this time it had become a real slog to get from the tent to the hall, and my only pair of shoes and two pair of socks were soaking wet, so I went back to wearing the boots. 

I guess I can’t complain too much, considering how great the weather was in Scotland and Isle of Man. And Africa. And most of South America. Come to think of it, I’ve been very fortunate nearly the entire trip. So a little rain now really is nothing to complain about. It’s just typical English weather.


April 21, 1944

June 16, 2016

During World War II, the United States operated bombing missions out of airfields across England. RAF fields were used to carry bombs to Germany, the planes often returning with little or no fuel.

Weather was almost always a factor, and made “assembly” — the act of getting into formation — harrowing. The low clouds and fog that settles over England frequently caused mission delays and cancellations. It was not uncommon for a group to depart, climb to altitude in the clouds in order to assemble, but cancel the mission due to bad weather and return to the field. With dozens, sometimes even hundreds, of planes flying blind in the clouds prior to formation, it was a very dangerous situation. Accidents happened frequently as one plane suddenly appeared above or below another.

On April 21, 1944, at 1:30pm, twenty eight planes from the 392nd Bomber Group took off from Wendling Airfield in the rural farmlands of Norfolk, near the east coast of England. Their target that day was to be an aircraft repair facility in Zwickau, Germany. Among the planes was a B24J, the latest model of Liberator, flown by 2nd Lieutenant Louis F Bass, and co-pilot 2nd Lieutenant Kenneth Gahm. Their plane, #42-99979, had flown just eight missions prior to this day, although just the act of returning to base eight times is more than many planes and crews completed. In addition to the pilot and co-pilot, they carried a crew of eight, including 2nd Lieutenant Wayne Steel, navigator; 2nd Lieutenant Arthur Stover Jr., bombardier; Technical Sergeant James Thomas, aerial gunner; Sergeant Walter Reeves, waist gunner; Sergeant John Brzostowski, waist gunner; Sergeant Warren Burnett, ball turret gunner; Staff Sergeant Robert Norrell, tail gunner, and Staff Sergeant Gerald Knettel, engineer.

Whether it was due to contact with another aircraft, or some other reason, 979 suffered a catastrophic wing separation while assembling for the mission. There was a tremendous noise as a portion of the left wing broke off. The plane rolled and yawed violently, and Knettel and Brzostowski were thrown from the fuselage. Their parachutes deployed, and they managed to survive, although Knettel suffered severe injuries. The rest of the crew died that day in a field near North Tuddenham.

The pilot, Louis Bass, was 27 years old at the time of the crash. His younger brother, at just 21, was Lloyd Bass, my former father-in-law. At the time, Lloyd was in the V-12 Navy College Training Program, completing his officer training.

B24 Pilot 2nd Lt. Louis F Bass

Around 2010, the small village of North Tuddenham constructed and placed a memorial to the crew of the B24 that crashed in a field near their town on April 21, 1944.

Lloyd died in 2005, before this memorial to his brother and the crew of B24 #979 was erected.

Lloyd, I hope you enjoyed your brief visit to North Tuddenham this week.

This is as close as I can come to getting Lloyd and Louis together again.


June 18, 2016

I attended  my first Horizons Unlimited meet in British Columbia in 2014. Since I was already planning this trip, it was a worthwhile experience. While most of the attendees are motorcyclists who only dream of a trip like this, many have already done it, and the presenters at the various seminars offered a wealth of information about things like what to pack, border crossing etiquette, things to see in different countries, etc. 

Campground at 2016 Horizons Unlimited UK meet.

Two years later, I am attending my second HUBB meeting, this time in Wales. The clientele is much the same, although obviously most are British. The seminars are the same, but I see them in a different light now; they tend to sound more like “what I did on my summer vacation”. There seems to be less good information and more braggadocio, but I’m sure a lot of that is just my perspective having just come from South America and Africa and no longer feeling like a “newbie”. 

Europe and North Africa are fairly easily accessed from here, so there are more people who have traveled through many countries. For the Brits, Morocco seems to be the equivalent of a trip to Mexico for those from the States: exotic but close enough to home to be done on a normal vacation schedule.

Out of curiosity, I attended a seminar on South America, presented by a gentleman who was there just six months ago (the same time I was). Mostly I wanted to see if I could gain any insights on what I might have missed, so I could add it to my notes for “Lap 2”. 

The presenter and his friend had shipped their bikes from London to Buenos Aires, with the intent of “following the Dakar route”. One of the first slides that came up was on bike choice. The slide read “BMW 1200GS. What else?”

The rest of the hour was mostly a slideshow of BMWs lying on their side, and a discussion of “we thought the road was going to be paved, but it turned out to be dirt. It was hard!”, and “then we got to a steep hill, and fell over” and “This was much more difficult than we thought.” 

My first thought in looking at the photos was that this was obviously not where the Dakar race goes. It was mostly highway, or well groomed dirt and gravel roads, and towns. My second and more obvious thought was “why did you take a 1200 to do this? None of this is difficult terrain on a smaller bike. There is no reason to fall over here, except that you are carrying too much weight.”

It didn’t help that they had spare tires strapped to the bikes in addition to a huge amount of gear. I wanted to scream “Why??!?” 

It seemed clear to me that at no time did the thought ever cross their minds that they might not have fallen over so much on a smaller motorcycle, and it might not have been difficult at all. For what it cost them to ship the 1200s to South America and back, they could have bought two Honda XR250s, ridden them for six weeks, sold them again, and had money left over.  

On the other hand, I will again say that everyone’s trip is different, and as Sjaak Lucassen (who rode an R1 around the world, through some really nasty terrain) says, “It’s most important that your heart is in what you ride.” There really is no reason you can’t ride a 1200 anywhere, if that is what you want to do. I suppose I’m just getting old enough that I don’t enjoy the thought of picking up an 800 pound motorcycle multiple times a day, or having to bring someone else along to help me pick it up.

In the past year I have become more of an advocate for small bikes than I was when I left on this trip. Certainly spending the last year on a 250 has changed my outlook considerably. I still believe there is a place for the 1200, but that place is becoming a smaller niche all the time. 

And I believe the overall attendance at these shows is proving that point as well. As I walked around the campground, I saw many 125, 225, 250 and 400cc bikes. The vendors mostly had 500 and 700cc bikes in their booths. 

I had many people approach me and ask about my travels on the 250. Many of them said “I had a 1200, but it was too heavy. I sold it and bought an 800, but it’s still too big.” It seems like, at least at an event like this, when people finally shift their thinking from highway-only to real utilitarian on and off-road use, the light comes on, and they realize that bigger is definitely not better.

In the past year I’ve been asked many times what my “ideal bike” would be for this trip. Since the beginning, my response has been the same: it depends on what trip you’re going to take. A two-up trip on mostly paved highways may call for a different bike than solo on backroads and trails. For the type of trip of I’m taking, my ideal bike has always been and still is a 450cc dual-sport bike. But I’ve argued that nobody makes my ideal bike. Most 450cc-range bikes are tailored to off-road trail and competition use, like the WR450 and the KTMs, and thus tend to be designed more for ultimate power output and less for long-range durability or hours of riding at 50mph day in and day out. Or else they are older, overweight models that are more street-oriented, like the DR-Z400.

But things are changing, if slowly. At the HUBB UK meet, I saw a dozen CCM 450 Adventure models. This bike has true possibilities. 

CCM GP450 Adventure bike. I was told that it weighs only 2 pounds more than my stock XT250.

Keith, the guy camped next to me, had Metal Mule aluminum panniers on his CCM, and I’m pretty sure I would have ridden off on it towards Russia today. 

I met Darren Soothill of CCM at the meet, and he was kind enough to let me take a ride on his 450. Darren is a former Isle of Man TT competitor, road racer and off-road racer. And a genuinely nice guy. I enjoyed chatting with him, and riding his bike.

Darren loved that I was doing my trip on a 250. I think he “gets” the small bike concept.

For now, the CCM GP450 is not being sold in the US, but they recently shipped their first batch to Canada, so it’s getting closer.

The HUBB UK meet was three days of jam-packed events,  and there were seminars on border crossing etiquette, trip planning, tire changing, bike setup, etc. All of the things a person planning a trip like this might want to hear. There was even an off-road riding school, featuring multi-time World Enduro Champion David Knight himself. And if nothing else, just walking the campground and looking at how and what others pack is a great learning experience. Would I attend another Horizons Unlimited meet? Absolutely. Especially the UK meet. It’s a great experience. 

Rally Raid’s Honda CB500 Adventure bike


Husqvarna 701 dual sport model with pannier racks.


One of Sjaak Lucassen’s R1 projects. It looks like something built with Legos, with the huge tires. He actually pulled a large aluminum trailer on skids filled with 300 liters of fuel, in order to cross the polar ice in very northern Canada. He’s now working on a new bike with a plan to ride to the North Pole on an R1.


One of my favorite long-distance tourers. This C90 is obviously built for English touring: the all-important umbrella carrier mounted as standard equipment.

Major Mechanical Failure #2

June 19, 2016

Last night, as I was opening my bottle of Orgasmic Cider…

Yep, it’s real…made right up the road from here.


my Shiner bottle opener that I have mounted on my left pannier broke.


The center of my Shiner bottle opener broke out.


I’m hoping Shiner sees the problem with a failure like this on a long road-trip and offers to replace my bottle opener under warranty. I’d hate to have to replace it with a Lone Star brand opener…

On a good note, at least the cap came off the bottle of cider before the opener failed.  🙂


Spending Time With The Bard of Avon

June 19, 2016

I left Baskerville Hall this morning and headed towards Worcester, where I met up with Pat McCullagh of the Shakespeare Bikers. Pat was waiting for me outside Worcester on his immaculate Kawasaki ZZR14. I’m sure we looked like an extremely odd pair as we road toward Stratford-upon-Avon, my little VW Beetle to McCullagh’s Ferrari.

Pat was kind enough to take time to show me around William Shakespeare’s home town, including his birthplace, and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

Pat McCullagh of the Shakespeare Bikers outside the Royal Shakespeare Company Theatre.


Birthplace of William Shakespeare



Stratford is a beautiful town and full of real history. On the right, with the large American flag, is Harvard House, built in 1596 by the grandfather of the benefactor of Harvard University. Next door, to the left in this photo, is Garrick Inn, the oldest pub in Stratford. Also built in the late 1500s, it has been operating as an inn since 1718.


This small feeder off of the River Avon was full of longboats. They make the journey from Stratford to London down the Avon.



There is no such thing in the UK as “personalized” or “vanity” license plates. But it is possible to buy an official plate that has a combination of numbers and letters that might mean something. McCullagh spent a long time “stalking” the authorities until this plate became available, and then quickly snatched it up.


Cool logo. I have a feeling they could sell a few of these outside of Stratford.

The generosity and friendliness of people I meet on this trip continues to impress me. It was great to spend a day with Pat McCullagh and see some of his town. There is definitely a lot more to see and experience in Stratford, and I plan to return on Lap 2.


Oui! Ja! Tak! Moving through Europe

June 21, 2016

For the first time in several months, I am driving on the right side of the road. Not the “correct side”, just the right side. I find myself having the same problems now as I had in Cape Town, South Africa when I switched to the left side: intersections require thought. Left turns now are the wide turns. I have to constantly remind myself of that as I approach. I know it will all come back quickly, but I still fear pulling out onto the street into oncoming traffic. Driving on the left had finally become “the norm” and required less thought. 

Along with the switch in driving comes the switch in language. I spent the past month in the only English-as-a-first-language country I’ve been to in the last year. Although much of it was as hard for me to understand as Swahili. Yesterday was French. Today Belgian. Tomorrow German. Saturday Polish. Suddenly seven months of Spanish seems relaxing. 

The rain stopped yesterday and I was able to navigate my way out of London, slowly.

“Ton-up”? Not on the little XT, I’m afraid.

London is the second largest city I’ve been through since leaving home; Buenos Aires being the largest by far. Aside from those two, I pride myself on the fact that I’ve avoided nearly every population center on the last several continents. Los Angeles has nothing on London when it comes to traffic. On a motorcycle, you can “filter” (split lanes) and use the bus lane on city streets, but with my wide panniers I am somewhat limited. I understand why there are so many scooters in London. It took me nearly two hours to go twelve miles this morning. 

The Channel Tunnel from England to France was a bit of a disappointment. I don’t know what I was expecting, but for £48, I guess I was expecting more than standing next to my bike in a subway car with no windows for 30 minutes. Luckily there were three Belgians returning from Ireland on two BMWs onboard on the train with me, so we had something to talk about. One of them was headed to Assen for the MotoGP race this weekend. If I didn’t have plans already, I would have followed. 

Lining up to load onto the Channel Tunnel train to Calais.


Looks like a subway car with the seat removed and bikes in their place. After loading, an attendant came through and told us that they had loaded us onto the wrong car. This one did not have the “suspension”, so we were to not leave our bikes for fear they would fall over. I’m not sure where I would have gone if I had left my bike; it’s just a long garage.

The best thing about Europe, at least most of it, is crossing borders. No two hours of dragging through immigration and aduana (customs) to exit one country and again to enter the next 100 yards later. No hassles at every border paying fees, buying separate insurance, visas, etc etc. If it weren’t for the language difference, I never would have known when I crossed from France to Belgium. I never even saw a sign. Crossing countries in Europe is like crossing state lines in the US, although I’m uncertain which country contains the rednecks at this point.

I’ve been through much of this part of Europe before. I don’t have a lot of things on my “must see” list for this area right now, so I’m moving across fairly quickly. Europe is expensive compared to Latin America, so I have to be more cautious, and perhaps more creative, about how I spend my time here.

I stopped to use the free wifi at a McDonalds in the Netherlands and met these two guys from England on their way to a Lambretta rally in Germany. They’re riding 50 year old scooters, and running faster than I am.

Without a doubt, the UK has been the most expensive place I’ve been on this trip. Gasoline is £1.28 per liter, which is about US$7.12 per US gallon. Campsites are typically US$20 a night, and the Travelodge budget hotel is US$84 a night. At the same time, Scotland and other parts of the UK have been incredibly scenic. So wild camping in Scotland (free), and buying groceries and cooking meals can keep the daily expenses down to about US$25 a day or less. 

I knew when I planned this trip that I needed to be cautious in Europe, Australia and the United States, as those would be the most expensive places. With my knowledge and ability to live more simply and still be comfortable, I feel like I’ve eliminated some of the need to avoid these places, and can spend a bit more time practicing “sleeping cheap”.

After all, practice makes perfect. 

Autobahn on a 250

June 23, 2016

As I ride along through eastern Germany’s wind farms, I am feeling pangs of guilt. Interesting sights beckon from all around me: a castle on a hill, a church steeple in a small village, a narrow road through the trees alongside a river. I am trying hard to ignore them, but I’m not liking it.

I am not where I want to be. I am on the autobahn, and neither me nor the XT are particularly happy about it. But at times it is necessary to make up some time and distance. I tell myself that there will be time later to return and explore here. I hope I am right. I feel like the people I met in Latin America. The ones who ride the Pan American Highway day in and day out, with a singularly focus of getting to Ushuaia. They never see the amazing sights I saw: Semuc Champey, Cañon de Somoto, the beaches and jungles of Central America, Huascaran National Park in Peru. Only highway. It seemed a shame to me then, and it seems a shame now.

The last time I was in Germany, I was driving a rental car. The motorway or “Autobahn” experience is a bit different on a large motorcycle or a powerful car when compared to my XT250.

For those of you who haven’t had the experience, here’s a brief explanation:

Most of the motorways outside of the cities are two lanes in each direction. The right lane is typically signposted somewhere between 100 and 130kph (62 and 80 mph). The reality is that the right lane is full of “lorries” (big trucks) and their typical speed is between 80 and 90 kph (48 and 55 mph). The left lane is for passing only. (I am tempted to spin off here into a separate rant about Americans and their inability to grasp this concept, insisting on driving in the left lane, but I won’t. Yet.) The left lane is typically occupied by cars moving between 80 and 130 mph. As with most things German, it is a very structured and adhered-to system, and it works very, very well.

Moving into the left lane on the XT to pass a truck is like playing Frogger. It’s the equivalent of pulling out of your driveway directly into 60mph traffic. At 55mph, I have very little acceleration. It takes a while to get past the truck, and by the time I reach the front of the truck, I’m usually up to about 66mph, and it has taken about 15 to 20 seconds. In that same time, the Mercedes behind me doing 130mph has covered a little more than 3/4 of a mile.

Here’s what it takes to make a pass on a German motorway:

  1. Look in the rear view mirror.
  2. Look up.
  3. Look in the rear view mirror again, as far away as you can see. Is there even a dot in the left lane or a glimmer that could be headlights a mile behind you? Because if there is, by the time you pull out and get even with the back bumper of the truck you are passing, there will be a guided missile with flashing headlights closing behind you and approaching so fast it will punt you down the freeway. 
  4. When you think it is clear, downshift if you are doing less than 50mph, turn the throttle to the stop, pull out, and stay in the right edge of the left lane, because the car you didn’t see will pass you at 130mph whether you are in the lane or not, so give them enough room to do it safely and they will give you the courtesy of not blowing you into the truck in return. 
  5. As soon as your rear wheel clears the front bumper of the truck pull back into the right lane, and hope the truck doesn’t suck you backwards (the truck won’t hit you, but it won’t be happy about having to slow down either). By this time, there will likely be a line of five or six cars behind you in the left lane, all trying to accelerate back to the 100+ mph they were doing before you wandered into their path like a deer in the headlights. 


It’s not always this bad, but there are a lot of trucks heading east with license plates from Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, and more. And they are all going just slightly slower than I would like to go. 

As crazy as all of this may sound, it still feels much safer than the buses and trucks in Latin America.

I mentioned before that the only downside I have found to riding the 250 around the world is passing a line of trucks going up a mountain. Still true. And if you’re patient, and pass one or two trucks at a time, it’s really no big deal. 

It’s actually a bit funny, and ironic. Before I left Texas, I was apprehensive and hesitant to ride the XT on Interstate 10 between Houston and Austin, or Interstate 35 through Austin, often looking for alternative routes, not because I was looking for interesting scenery, but simply because I feared the lack of acceleration and speed limitations. Now, fifty thousand kilometers later, I wouldn’t think twice.

Just the same, droning along on the autobahn is not my idea of riding. It’s another reminder to get off the motorways and see the country. Unfortunately, I have to make up some ground this week to get to Poland, so I’m spending much more time than I care to on freeways. 

The countryside has turned to rolling forested hills in eastern Germany, and I’ve found a nice campsite on the edge of a lake for the night. The sun is out, not a cloud in the sky, and the temperature is up to 32 degrees C (a bit over 90F I think). 

Kelbra Lake.

I’m headed for Poland tomorrow. I must be close: the campground hands out a complimentary bottle of Schnapps with each campsite. 

Okay, one more:

I stopped at McDonald’s again today to use the free wifi, and yes, I actually ate lunch there. So, to paraphrase John Travolta from one of my favorite movies: “What do they call a Quarter Pounder in Germany?”

Moto Jary

June 25, 2016

Bear with me a minute to give a little background…

A little more than two years ago, an Australian couple, Glenn and Leanne, came through Texas on their Triumph Tiger XC. They were touring North America, and I offered them a place to stay for a week or so while Glenn did some maintenance on the Triumph. 

While waiting for some parts to arrive, they decided to go camping in the Texas Hill Country west of Austin, and invited me to come along. So I loaded up my Super Tenere and met them at a public campsite near Llano, Texas. 

During the night, I heard two other motorcycles pull in and set up camp next to us. In the morning, I walked over and introduced myself. The two bikers were Michal and Lukasz, and they were from Poland. They were on one leg of their journey they called “MotoAmeryka”. Each year they worked for eleven months, then took one month vacation and flew to wherever they had left the bikes the year before. They would ride for a month, leave the bikes again, and fly home, returning to work until the next trip. 

When I met them, they were headed from California to Florida on the “Easy Rider” leg of their trip, where they planned to leave the bikes until the next leg of their journey in 2015. I gave them my card and told them if they were in the Austin area and needed anything to call me. 

Fast forward to September 2015. I’ve sold my house, my car, and most of my possessions, and placed what remains into storage. I am now on my XT250 in Central America, when I receive an email from Michal. He and LukDob are headed back to Texas and looking for a place to store their bikes until 2016 (or later) when they plan to ride into Mexico. I offer some space in my storage, and they accept. We’ve met for a total of about ten minutes in a park in Texas, and they’re leaving their bikes with me. Well, technically not even with me, since I’m in a different country. 

So now their bikes are in Texas, and I’m on my XT headed to Jary, their hometown in Poland. So, back to the present trip.

As I was headed across Germany, I received an email from Daniel & Joey offering a place to stay in Daniel’s hometown of Dresden. They had been in Dresden for two months — the first time home in two years — but left a week or so before for South Africa to begin their ride north. I told them thanks, but I was going to head on to Poland. They then offered to connect me with a friend of theirs in Poland, near the border with Czech Republic, who had a farm there and would put me up.

Soon after, I received an email from Mathias, Daniel’s friend, who offered to let me stay with him on the way through.

It was a short detour through nice countryside to Mathias’ farm in Wolimierz. He has a large place (it looked like about 25 acres) with a farm house on either end. Mathias has been living in Mexico part time, and Poland part time. We shared stories about Mexico, and he gave me some suggestions on routes through Czech Republic and Poland.

Mathias is a BMW guy, with a K1300RS and a 1200GS, but doesn’t have a problem with a smaller bike for the right application either.

In the morning I headed toward Jary. I had GPS coordinates, and it was only about 90 miles away.

About half way there, I rode off the map.

It turns out I had been a bit stingy when downloading my last map to my GPS, and left out part of Poland. So I was without a map. As usual, I was able to find a McDonald’s with free wifi, and proceeded to download a new map.

“Time remaining: one hour”.  Nope, not going to sit here for an hour. I decided I would download the map for Poland on my Maps.Me app on my phone and use that instead.

My phone then said “Time remaining: one hour”. Ugh. Okay, never mind. I pulled up Google Maps on my laptop and studied the route, packed up and headed out.

I was able to find Jary fairly easily, but as I approached the small village, I began to wonder how I would find the right house. Then I remembered Michal had emailed me a photo of the house. I pulled it up on my phone, and easily rode right to it. No gps necessary.

I was able to find the house from this photo Michal emailed.

Michal, his wife Patricia, and LukDob were waiting for me. We had a great lunch, and I settled in.

Patricia, Lukasz, and Michal

In the evening, they had planned a party with a lot of local friends and several other motorcyclists.

Great backyard BBQ with lots of new friends.


Hanging out in the garage with the bikes, like guys do. The guy on the far left is Leon, who rode his beautiful R100GSPD with “basket” (sidecar to us) to the party. Leon is also a huge punk rock fan, and introduced me to some Polish punk bands.


Lukasz in the back. Front, left to right: Michau, Michau, Michau, and Me. (Three Michaels. A bunch of really cool guys. The Michael on the far left plays guitar and sings in a rock band called Trzynasta w Samo Poludnie (a mouthful for a non-Polish speaker — Google them…lots of YouTube videos). The Michael on the right and Lukasz play in a band called Jary (after the town, obviously). the Michael in the middle isn’t in a band, as far as I know, but he’s a great BBQ cook!


They even made nachos, salsa, and guacamole for me! Wow.

Tomorrow we head to Wroclaw to visit some of the local sights.