After I left Christopher at the airport I loaded up the bike and rode south, I wanted to ride the West Atlantic Way and rain was not going to stop me. I was recommended to go to the south west but I knew I didn’t have enough time for that so I spent my time enjoying the Connemara peninsula and it was absolutely fantastic. The view was stunning regardless of the rain and the roads were virtually my own. I love riding in the mountains and by the sea and here I could do both. Unfortunately, I have hardly any pictures at all from this lovely day, mainly due to the rain but also my faulty phone (with which I would have been able to take pictures despite the rain). I had a glimpse of sunshine when passing the Irish famine memorial and stopped for photos. However, since the memorial had visitors, I refrained from taking pictures of it. I should say “a” memorial, since they are found in many locations both nationally in places that suffered greatly and abroad where large numbers of Irish immigrants settled. I’ve read literature about this in the literature course last semester and therefore found it interesting to see. I can recommend A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift for a satirical read regarding this tragic event in history.
After this I rode on and on in the rain enjoying myself immensely. If this day would have had a soundtrack it would have been Endless Rain by X Japan – the title seems appropriate and the intensity of the music contrasts the peaceful landscape in the same way the heavy rain did. Usually, when I travel I bring a music player and headphones. Somehow I managed to not do so this time, thinking that I prefer running without music in new places and forgetting that I enjoy music during other moments in life. While reading Graham Field’s book “In Search of Greener Grass” I realise how much I miss being able to tune out and tune in to music. Graham often refers to songs that he is listening to, while loading the bike, chilling by the tent etc. His book is full of these details, which I enjoy reading about. He also shares his practical thinking regarding the bike, worrying about strange noises or parts that are wearing out. I enjoy reading a book about a bike trip where the bike actually is the main focus of the book, this is what motorcycle travelling is for me – me and my bike. Riding comes first, before the people I meet and the things I see. I too, worry about my bike when I’m travelling so I can relate to what he writes about even though my worries are on another level. In Ireland, I worried about the chain being too slack, I thought it would be easy to find a garage that could adjust it but it proved to be very difficult (I made a mental note to make sure my next bike has a central stand so I can do this myself). I also ran out of chain lube at the same time that the weather changed to the wetter kind, or possibly because of the change in weather. In pursuit of finding lube I spent 2 hours riding around Galway in the rain trying to find a place who would sell it. I remembered with fondness the days when one could buy such things in petrol stations. Nowdays, they seem to be supermarkets in disguise, not even a good disguise. However, found a garage, PHD Motorcycles, and the owner was most heplful. He tightened the chain for me and fastened the hugger. Two of the bolts had disappeared at some point, they probably vibrated loose. I could also purchase chain lube, he even gave me a discount because of the rain. A garage I warmly recommend if you’re in this corner of the world.
When I’m put traveling on my bike my needs boil down to the basic. Eat, sleep, ride, run and read is all I do when on my own. I find it very relaxing. However, rain and cold complicates things. I don’t mind if it rains while I sleep, even rain when riding is ok, but pitching or packing the tent in rain is gruesome. Unfortunately, my waterproofs are not waterproof enough to stand a day of rain and even though wollen thermals are still warmish while wet, I caught a cold after riding in wet trousers for two days. On such days a diner that serves large cups (yes cups) of scrambled eggs and huge pots of tea feels like a life saver. I could also charge my faulty phone and when leaving the rain had momentarily stopped.
I was supposed to have 3 leisurely days riding to London after taking the ferry to Wales but since the mileage of the bike was ever increasing I cut that short with one day and made an appointment with Zenith Motorcycles. Then, because I got a cold in Ireland, I lost the inspiration for riding around Wales and decided to race straight to London in one day. I had a good and long day riding beautiful roads and at the end of the day I could surprise my fiance – Beep, beep! Honey I’m home! His reaction was priceless.
So while having 4 days I managed to get less done than I ever would in half that time. I can’t entirely blame Graham’s book but it did, to some extent, take over my life and I spent day after day in the garden reading, instead of organising my things. However, I did wash my riding gear, both trousers and jacket came out in a much lighter shade of grey… and those trousers have been my pillow for 4 weeks… no wonder I slept heavily. So far so good, to relax is also important and it felt very nice to continue riding when the Versys had been properly looked after, the bike’s service booklet now looks like passports in the olden days, full of stamps from different countries/garages. Also, I could continue in style since they even cleaned and waxed the bike for me for no extra cost, I thought I got VIP treatment but they claimed they always do it permitting they have time – imagine that! In addition, to a sparkly and smooth running bike I also got to hear the story about how Karen, the owner of Zenith Motorcycles, got the name Zenith from her grandfather and how both her grandad and grandmother had worked in the motorbike industry. I put a link up again just because I think they are ace!
When continuing from London I was running late already when heading to the ferry, despite getting up earlier – don’t ask me what I do with time: “Time is an illusion” someone wise said, it might have been Douglas Adams, I can only agree. It didn’t help that I couldn’t use the GPS fully and that I got a text saying my ferry was cancelled which led me to believe I needed to go to another port in England. In fact I was still to take a ferry from Dover but to enter France from Dunkirk… It all became clear in the end and I sailed for Europe quite relieved. Unfortunately, the weather was grey and rainy and continued to be so up through Belgium and the Netherlands. I stayed in a super cute mini campsite owned by an elderly couple who had turned their farm into a small campsite. A small vegetable garden and some hens were all that remained of the once large farm. I managed to pitch my tent before the rain and went to bed early, not much to do in my tiny tent besides reading and sleeping. Fortunately, it does withstand rain and wind quite well and I had a good sleep which was very needed after the stressful morning leaving London and the long day of riding I had ahead of me. I was going to a village outside Groningen to stay with a WIMA friend who kindly invited me. She had also suggested that I ride along the coast experiencing the dykes. This was an amazing experience. Christopher and I were heading that way already in June but were held up by road construction and gave up. Now I got to see it all, starting with the Westerscheldetunnel and crossing the penninsula following road 57 over the bridges up towards the cute ferry crossing between Rozenburg and Massluis and onwards via the highway to the dyke itself. From Massluis and onwards I rode mainly on the highway, this due to the distance I had to cover and the improbablility that I would find my way otherwise, bearing in mind I had no navigation system. I did make some detours and I saw a few very pretty places, Middenbeemster, Sneek and Grou. At the end of the day I reached my friend’s house and we had a lovely dinner and chatted about bikes and travels. There is no better way to end a day.
At the conveniently located monument a few kilometers into the Dyke I stopped for photos and met some Swedish bikers. I realised that my Swedish had been inactive for too long and I’m afraid I made a strange impression struggling to find words in my native language and speaking it felt unnatural in pretty much the same way that riding on the right side felt strange when entering Europe after about a month of riding in the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Habit is a strong force. They were on their way to France, I think between us they got the better weather since I continued to sleep with woollen thermals until the end of my journey.
From Groningen I continued up through Germany on smallish roads. I took the ferry under Weser and continued up to take the ferry between Wischhafen and Glückstadt crossing Elbe and onward up to Schelswig and there I took a detour around the peninsula, I wanted to ride some roads that were marked scenic on my map and they were indeed scenic. Now I had plenty of time and could afford to enjoy small roads and the local scenery. I had lunch outside Liedel and while warming myself I draped my tent over the bike to let it dry out fully. An elderly German gentleman stopped and talked at length with me, in German, explaining that he didn’t speak any foreign language and was amazed that I did (I hardly regard myself as speaking German, even though I do understand some 🙂 ) however some occasional phrases and “genau” was enough for him to believe me fluent even though I was suffering because I had more I wanted to say on the topic of female biker travelling alone.
Entering Denmark felt fantastic, like coming home – after all it is Scandinavia. I was delighted that I was greeted by sunshine, especially so since it was in Denmark I gave up camping many years ago during my first motorcycle holiday. Me and my boyfriend at the time were touring Denmark. I was riding pillion, I had insufficient gear and our tent was leaking. It was rainy. Not until we returned to Sweden we managed to dry out completely and I made my decision to never camp again. Luckily I re-assessed this decision in Switzerland a few years ago and since then I’ve been practising to camp. Now, after this summer of camping in the cold and rain I believe my practice days are over and I can consider myself nearly a pro. In Denmark, I continued to ride on small scenic roads, I took the ferry from Fynshavn to Boyden and onwards riding the Storebaeltbroen. It felt like a victory to return to Denmark with a tent after all these years. The day was sunny and warm, the sky was clear and the night was cold. I wore multiple layers and slept like a queen in my tent. I suspect that this was partly due to getting lost while running in the beautiful forest by the camp site and ending up with a much longer run than planned, but never mind.
I entered Sweden by ferry, Helsinör to Helsingborg and that was the 9th ferry this summer. In addition to the ferries I have also used some tunnels, bridges and dykes. As mentioned before water has been a reacurring theme for this summer but not all water comes from the sky, sadly the possibilities for swimming has been shining with their absence and the weather has not exactly been summerlike. Regardless, I’m very happy with my ride which covered approximately 7000km and 9 countries. To end at Swedish WIMA rally was a grand final. Next up to be documented on the blog is the rally itself.