Yesterday was an amazing day. I had been upset with the GPS, which kept suggesting big roads and even highways despite using the “avoid highways” setting. Therefore, I took control and aimed for Trier and the Mosel valley. I’ve been there many times in the early years of my motorbike travelling but never in such perfect weather. I was thinking that things really could not get better when I saw a sign for Polo to the left and Louis to the right. Lucky coincidence again, my two favourite shops in Germany. I always try to pass at least one of them to see if there is something I need – most of my gear is actually bought in Germany. For this trip I had tried to find the addresses for Louis shops in particular, since I wanted to exchange my boots that have been leaking since I got them. Unfortunately, their website wasn’t working so I couldn’t obtain the addresses and their customer service said that I couldn’t exchange the boots, only send them in to them – they would then send them to the manufacturer for analysis and repair. Since they are my only boots, that couldn’t happen unless I bought a new pair.
So, I started shopping. In Polo, I found a first aid kit and new rain trousers. Onwards to Louis, I provided myself with free coffee and started trying on boots, unfortunately I made a mess and spilled the coffee all over the floor and a bit in my helmet but no one was angry and everyone was very nice and helpful. I explained that I needed to buy a new pair of boots so I could send the old ones in since they were leaking. No problem, they could help with that. Now, I don’t know if it was something that got lost in translation but they did an exchange for my old boots against my new boots and even refunded the excess cost for which I could buy luggage straps. And yes, would I like some coffee while they sorted out the payment.
Now I would like to mention that I am an extremely honest person, but I believe that I had the right to get new boots since the old one had been malfunctioning from the start. Also, I would like to mention, as an example of my honesty, that when the Ducati garage in Spain forgot to charge me for a tyre that they changed together with the service I went back and notified them and paid the 150 euros they forgot to charge. With the boots sorted I rode Mosel feeling incredibly lucky. I even decided to celebrate with a proper meal, the first after two days with raw food and beans. I had a yummy scrummy falafel in bread and a beer (alkoholfrei of course) and then I rode on. At this point I analysed my new boots, how they felt, stiff for sure, a bit tight and did they let the vibrations through more than the old ones? I am super sensitive for vibrations after some nerve damage a few years ago and I feel everything with my feet. Maybe the new boots were punishing me and my luck was running out– now, of course, I had to remind myself that I don’t believe in bad omens.
That evening I found a campsite by Mosel and life felt perfect. However, it was mighty difficult to tighten the chain, the tension was uneven and when I thought that I had got it right and screwed back the bolt, it caused the chain to go super tight. After a lot of work, I thought I had managed and went for shower and beer enjoying my book until the sun set.
This morning started of wonderfully with coffee in the sun and some twisty roads through the mountains. My left foot, which is my most sensitive one was really suffering from the vibrations. I had to hang it off the bike regularly to not go numb. When I started to think back on when it last was this bad (usually this is not happening in speeds lower than 90k/h) I got a flash back to the Grand Tour when my Ducati had a chain catastrophe and my leg got totally numb from the vibrations. Well, I had to stop hand check the chain. Despite having tightened it just the night before it was slack… and tight, and slack again… One spot was so slack that I thought the chain could jump off. It was not like this yesterday. I unloaded the luggage and tried to get it sorted but it was impossible. I was pretty much pulling my hair out when a man on a scooter showed up. After concluding that we couldn’t sort it out he decided to guide me 3 kilometres to a good garage he knew.
The chain could not be salvaged and to make a long story short I have now a new chain on the bike and the new sprockets in my pannier. Amazingly enough, they went off to collect a kit for me but had only time to replace the chain since they were very busy. I am forever grateful that they spent a couple of hours helping me on a Friday afternoon. I’ll try and ride carefully to Hungary and hopefully I can replace the sprockets there.
Now this all sound easy peasy in retrospect but it was a very stressful day for me. With everything that has happened lately (ie. Brexit) and the uncertainty in life that is the effect of it (about Christopher losing his status as a European Union citizen and what that will lead to for us) I really needed a peaceful holiday. I was barely coping with the GPS messing about and finding places to charge my phone, let alone major breakdowns.
In the end all was good. I went for a run, then a beer and salad. Now I can wait to get into my sleeping bag. I’m glad I didn’t know this when I sipped my morning coffee looking out over Mosel. I hope tomorrow is less eventful and more full of countryside roads than anything else.
At this point, when writing the above, I was just going to collect my phone which was left to charge in the women’s changing room. However, someone had taken it away to keep it safe in the restaurant – which was closed until next evening. Again, long story short – I had a very long morning drinking coffee with a Romanian seasonal worker while the right people were located and things got sorted out. He even gave me his old sat nav. This would simplify my continued travels, at least while I stayed in the four countries covered in the maps.
Delayed again I continued and had a very good ride. In the evening I struggled to find a campsite and ended up being invited to camp with a canine agility club. Amazing, friendly people who invited me for dinner and beer and I even got to pose with their dogs. It was great to spend this time with them and get a glimpse of their hobby. Happy, I continued – little did I know what this day would present.
Using the GPS I rode on beautiful roads through Bavaria and into Austria following the Danube and the Romantische strasse and I had a fabulous day until I entered Hungary. First thing I saw was the police gathering evidence after a traffic accident. Later the sun set and it got dark. There were lots of insects out and about and I collected a fair bit of them, on the bike and myself. I had to stop frequently to wipe the visor, quite unpleasant. Then my phone died, in Hungary I had to use my phone as a GPS since the GPS gifted to me by the Romanian guy didn’t have a map of Hungary. So when my phone/GPS died I was in trouble. I had to get myself a map, which I did, and try and read it in the dark. Under these circumstances I decided that the easiest way to get to Eszergom was from the Slovakian side. If I would have known that the road was narrow, without road markings or light I probably would have thought differently. I rode for 50 kilometres in darkness, being cold but too afraid of the dark to stop and put more layers on, feeling stressed about being alone and of being followed… In general I was just trying not to panic and I was extremely tired after over 12 hours riding. When I finally reach the bridge to Esztergom it was closed because of a bomb threat. The only other way was to go back where I came from. No way! In Swedish we have a saying, that one needs to break down to go on. This was such a moment, I sat down and had a little cry, then I pulled myself together and considered my options. Having done so, I realised that the best alternative, considering how tired I was, simply was to sit down, eat some sweets and wait for the bridge to open. At least I was safe, after all there were lots of police, and while I was waiting the phone slowly charged up to 2%, (which is the limit when I can send text messages) and I could report that I was safe. After a shade over an hour, the bridge was open and I could continue. My friends were waiting for me and after an evening snack I rolled out my sleeping mat in the back of their van. Zooink! What a ride – I’m in no hurry to do that again.