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This is not going to be the typical trip report as I have nothing to offer in the way of extended trips to foreign countries. This story is about using what rescources and time I have on hand and making the best out of it.
Besides that, I strive to entertain, so you guys might find my contributions a bit heavy on the text side. Please bear with me.
As I haven´t yet developped my style of bike travel I am really looking forward to your comments ... the questions keep popping up as I am doing things.
Last, I hope to get some of you guys travelling somewhat slower in Germany. There is so much so see besides racing down the Autobahn to destinations more exotic.
I learnt about the average speed mentioned above at the HUBB. From personal experience I can attest that this is true. My daily driver is a Ford Turbodiesel. I clocked about 48000 km in the last 19 months on the odometer, about 10000 km of real long distance trips … and yet, the average speed is only 52 kmph. With no speed limit on many parts of our Autobahn system here in Germany, this is food for thought.
For several reasons, my only two wheeled ride is a Honda scooter, a 125ccm, 15 hp PGM-FI Pantheon. I bought it used with a very low mileage after a friend pulled me over to the dark side … scooters … and got me sold on these immensely practical rides. Never did I plan to ride it overland. This is what real bikes are for after all …
I love my Honda and even though some people might consider it unmanly, it is a great rig, with a comfortable seat, runs at a top speed of 105 kmph according to the odometer and it handles almost like a bike. For the most part I like the twist-and-go feature of the automatic tranny even though I wish I could shift gears on steep inclines.
The tank capacity of almost 10 liters is not bad at all. At 2.7 liters per 100 km this means I can travel about 300 km which is sufficient. The underseat storage is ample yet I like to keep it empty for helmet, gloves and some knick-knacks according to my mood, like a rusty machete, roebuck antlers or a half full bottle of pear schnapps.
In 2011 I found myself with the deep desire to do motorcycle trips. The bad thing is, I can´t afford a real motorcycle (and no, I am NOT going to trade my scoot for a MC!). The good thing ist that I am old enough to know that my part of the world has been ridden even with 49 ccm Mofas at 25 kmph. Strap a plastic crate to the rack, use enough bungee cords, don´t forget your red plastic jerrycan and you are good to go!
Last fall, after a stressful day, I ran my scooter on a one hour round trip through our hillside and found it immensely relaxing. At 80 kmph I was able to see and feel so much more from what the country had to offer and the handling of my scoot was good.
Following advice from the HUBB, I sold my 2-stroke 125 ccm Hercules messenger bike which had been resting in the depths of my container and bought full riding gear, saddle bags and a roll bag for the money I got out of the deal. All I needed was now an opportunity to ride, nothing easy when you are working six days a week.
Finally the opportunity arose an a sunny saturday and I had a blast. Due to my then medical constitiution I was not sure about how long I could ride before my energy ran out, so I packed some camping gear, a change of clothes and water in my yellow roll bag and strapped it to my trustyHonda. I made my way over the Northern Black Forest to Baden-Baden, which was pure scooter heaven already, and worked my way up to the scenic Schwarzwald-Hochstrasse. It was a beautiful early summer day and I was early so that I had the road mostly for myself.
After running the Hochstrasse at full length, I travelled the valley down to Alpirsbach, where I had a and a nice lunch at the brewery garden before crossing the beautiful Swabian Alp into the upper Danube valley. Point of return was Sigmaringen and I flogged my scooter back via Stuttgart on the B27.
When I arrived at home this evening I had ridden 470 kilometers with my 125ccm. My butt was screaming in pain, I had a bad case of helmet hair and I wanted more!
Lessons learnt so far:
- I can trust my Pantheon.
- ROK-Straps rock!
- Travelling at speeds over 90 kmph is not my thing.
- Riding scenic country roads is pure fun.
- There are more than enough gardens, cafes and guesthouses to cater to my culinary needs.
- No biker will greet a scooterist.
- My country is very beautiful.
After my stellar first day trip I found myself REALLY keen on an overnighter. It took some time until the opportunity arose. So one sweat drenched friday night I packed my gear to hit the road as early as possible.
When I woke up on Saturday morning I was greeted with the pleasant sounds of heavy rainfall. I stayed in bed, listened to the rain and dozed off again. Finally I got up and joined my wife for breakfast. It was about half past ten when I went out in the drizzle to mount my luggage. It took a bit of persuasion and a hank of paracord to attach everything well. My wife took about a bazillion pictures of the intrepid rider on his faithful steed before I headed off. Maybe she wanted something to remember me …
Only one kilometer from the house an old gent did not recognise me driving around the roundabout and nearly ran me down with his old Mercedes. This should become a reoccuring theme for the weekend. Old guys with cars can definately change your day.
One mission of the weekend was to find out wether the National Road system in Germany (Bundesstrassen) was suitable to travel long distance. Riding the Autobahn with my 125 ccm is not an option for me. There are less graphic ways to commit suicide.
The Bundesstrasse was well travelled, which was OK for me. It brought the average speed down to about 80 kmph, which is pretty much the sweet spot for my scooter. Traversing Stuttgart was a bit exiting with all the traffic, but it went smoothly. I took the B10 passing the industrial areas along the river Neckar. The traffic got lighter and I travelled at a speed of about 90 kmph. I did about 60 km per hour.
One thing about travelling on Bundesstrassen is that many times, they will cross a town. This means lowering speed but also gives the opportunity to fuel up or grab a bite. Following the B10 I passed Göppingen and Geislingen an der Steige before gaining height in one steep climb to the Swabian Alps.
Crossing the Swabian Alps went smooth and soon I found myself in the city of Ulm. Now I don´t operate a GPS on my scooter. My only means of orientation was a sheet of paper, just half of a map showing the Autobahn and Bundesstrassen system in southern Germany. I had ripped it out of the road atlas prior to my departure and it gave me a sketchy, yet sufficient feeling of orientation.
Such, only depending on my sense of direction, following the B10 through Ulm was a little adventure for itself. I had to backtrack one time and almost got myself hit by a car because I did not pay enough attention to the traffic. Then I was back on track and continued on my merry way, basically following the river Danube downstream.
It was late noon and I was aching for a and some decent chow. Not far from the Autobahn A8 offramp Leipheim I noticed the sign „Durchgehend warme Küche“ (we serve hot food continously) in front of the Gasthaus Sankt Martin in Unterfahlheim. Perfect.
After parking my ride on the gravel parking lot, I followed the handpainted signs „Biergarten“ (garden) to the back of the house. Mmmm, garden … this was exactly what the doctor me ordered. It was a simple and clean place, part of it being shaded by huge umbrellas and part of it being covered by a translucent roof. The patrons consisted of a team of contractors in work clothes, a couple in its fourties, nicely dressed up to match the fancy HD closeby and the odd regular at the massive „Stammtisch“.
Now I haven´t seen this anywhere else in the world, the Stammtisch is the regular´s table. It is easy to spot as there is a sign on the table, saying, well, „Stammtisch“. If you are not a regular, you are supposed to choose a table elsewhere at the Gasthaus. Yet, if there is a shortage of seats you definately can take a seat at the Stammtisch. It is just the decent thing to ask the regulars and I have never been denied a seat.
Anyhow, I said hello to the old geezer at the Stammtisch – we South German small town boys greet people! – and chose the long table opposite of him. I noticed a sign telling that you were supposed to make your first order at the bar – to let the staff know that you are there. So off I went and ordered me a fine Hefeweizen, a fruity tasting consumed from the typical tall and slender glass.
A young couple with a small kid had arrived with me and the guy asked me if they could sit at the same table, which I had no objections to at all. From the „Tageskarte“ (daily menu) I ordered myself roast in aspic with fried potatoes. It was good but then I love aspic … unlike my wife, who flat out refuses to cook it.
The young couple seemed to be annoyed and I soon picked up why. Seems like a friend had invited them for his wedding but expected them to buy their own lunch. That was a novel idea to me, usually you walk away from a wedding with a belly full of food and a head full of drinks in these parts.
An espresso later I left the establishment after paying the extraordinary sum of € 10.40 for food, and coffee.
The area I know pretty well, we have been camping several times on a farm closeby: http://www.schwarzfelder-hof.com/
Close to the A8 offramp Leipheim, it is a popular rest place for vacationers and I highly recommend it for families.
Anyhow, I followed the B10 through Leipheim and Günzburg (Günzburg being a nice place to eat out in the old town center). As my intention was to follow the Danube, I took the B16 from Günzburg via Donauwörth and Ingolstadt to Kehlheim. Now I was fleeing from the dark bad weather clouds which came after me.
Thus I dipped into the scenic Altmühltal valley and rode upstream following the Main-Donau waterway, leaving the bad weather behind me. This is a beautiful valley with plenty of rocks, pretty villages, castles and prehistoric sites. Guys, if you want a pleasure ride but no sex, simply travel this valley!
As much as I enjoyed the scenery it was time to find a place to camp. I could have found a campground pretty easily but I wanted to camp wild. A small parking spot at the country road would have been great access for tent camping but I wanted to crash in my hammock. So on I went and drifted over the country roads, finding it more and more difficult to stop.
Finally, not far from Neumarkt / Oberpfalz I noticed a farm track crossing a small meadow into the woods. The farm track entered a stand of firs and I decided to have a look. It was perfect. Not to be seen from the road, sheltered by the fir trees and a corn field. I parked my scooter on a large game trail and looked for a good spot. Two solid fir trees stood at the right distance (4.5 meters) and this was where I made camp.
After clearing the browse from the (uneven) ground I strung my Ticket To The Moon hammock nice and level. Then I ran a ridge line over the hammock and attached my Nordisk 3x3 meter silnylon tarp. Using a hammock in Central Europe you need insulation on the bottom all the time so I tied a cheapo OD fleece blanket to the ridgeline and the hammock. It was the first time I had been using this system so I took my time and enjoyed every second of it. Being able to tie a Prusik knot sure came in handy. All in all I used about six meters of Paracord for various loops and lines.
For food I kept it simple. I could have used my homemade Nimblewill Nomad wood stove an internet buddy made me but I was lazy. So I snacked a piece of cake my wife had given me and drank some water. Everything was good in my world. More drinking water was used to do a small cleaning ritual. Note to myself: next time bring some baby wipes. I packed my gear tidy under my tarp and crawled into my sleeping bag as the sun went down. The last thing I remember was that I thought I could never sleep in a swinging hammock. Then I dozed off.
The night went about like that:
A bunch of animals is milling the browse besides me … uh, oh … sounds like hogs …. maybe it was a stupid idea to park on their trail … uh, oh, maybe it was a stupid idea to camp besides their trail … nothing I can do and I am really snug and cozy … so I fall asleep.
Rain is drumming on my tarp … ah, I like that … falling asleep again.
Some critter is sniffing at my tarp, very audible. Damn it, let it sniff, I am snug and cozy … falling asleep.
I wake up from my own snoring. Almost awake, I snore again, with a weird echo. Fully awake now I snore once again, on purpose. From behind my tarp something answers with an almost polite grunt. In my minds eye I imagine a wise old hog trying to strike up an intelligent conversation with this man-smelling, levitating bundle of things. Hoping that I did not talk utter B.S. I fall asleep once again.
Several critters hastily rumble down the game trail into the woods. Now they do not seem to care about my ride anymore.
As daylight was up, everything was peaceful and quiet. At about 6:00 a.m. I got up and pulled the hammock lines tight. Feeling perfect I called my wife over my cell phone at 8:00 a.m. to let her know that I was doing very well. Then I called a buddy at 8:30 a.m. and told him how good I was doing. Finally I had spent almost 11 hours in my hammock and my back was just fine. I could not do this in my own bed, my back would have been killing me.
Finally I forced myself out of my cozy cocoon and went on the business of breaking camp. Everything went in perfect harmony, it was almost like meditation. When it came to SSS (well, without the shower part) I used my Gerber Gorge folding shovel to scoop a cathole. Somewhat too heavy to take it backpacking it is IMO perfect for occasions where weight does not matter … besides that, it would make an awesome improvised weapon ... just saying.
For breakfast I had another piece of cake and some water, good enough. Finally, after a last look around I left my campsite with a deep feeling of regret. I had to backtrack somewhat and took the route via Eichstätt to Weißenburg. Eichstätt is deeply Roman Catholic, with a Bishops castle on towering over the city and a RC university. A detour forced me off my way and it was challenging to navigate with my bare bones map but I must say the detours were the best parts of todays´ trip.
Later the day I crossed the flat of the Nördlinger Ries, one of the largest impact craters on earth, now a quiet rural area. Almost round and about 400 square km wide it has been a prime area to farm throughout the ages.
The weather got ugly and it started raining hard. Two bikers took cover from the pouring rain while I passed them, well protected by fairing and legshields … one of the advantages of my scooter! Another detour took me on a small country road behind the Ipf mountain at Bopfingen, not far from the A7 offramp Westhausen. This mountain has been an Celtic oppidum in the old times and it still shows. The vibe remains strong and the place is powerful throughout the year.
The bad weather over noon had put an end on my plans to feast in a garden along my way so I simply gave my business to the local MD at Aalen. With deaf ears I probably placed my order too loud … but then maybe my helmet hair scared the kid behind the counter. Fed I travelled the Rems valley down on the B29 towards Stuttgart. My scooter literally purred at 90 kmph, don´t know why it is running somewhat rough at the same speed on other occasions.
The rest of the trip was uneventful and I arrived at home at 4:00 p.m., just right for a cup of coffee and a bite of cake.
After trip thoughts.
- I thought I was a decent enough rider with my scooter. Yet I made two critical riders´ errors due to being on unknown terrain. Need to go more careful.
- On four occasions I encountered critical situations with cars. All car drivers had grey or white hair. I don´t know what it was, my friend says it is my defensive way of riding – I ride on the center of the road on unclear parts and tend to go towards the shoulder on clear parts to let the faster vehicles overtake me. But then I think some drivers did not even notice me.
- Hammock camping was a hoot but is probably not suited for fast trips where a dome tent would be a better choice. However for what I was doing it was awesome.
- Flipflops are great for wild camping.
- My saddle bags are 20 litres each. They were definately an improvement but I wished they were larger, 30 or even 40 litres each.
- The Bundesstrassen system in Germany is a decent enough substitute for travelling autoroutes when riding my scooter.
- I am yet undecided on wether running a relatively slow scooter on German roads is a good thing or not. For myself I definately enjoy travelling at about 80 to 90 kmph. It´s the fast cars … maybe I need something to keep up with them?
- The four dangerous situations I spoke of are food for thought. What do I make out of it?
A great thread, an excellent trip report and marvellous writing; both the content, the substance and your use of the English language = 9.5/10 and all credit!
As for your questions in your last post; I believe you have no issues there - you will continue to experiment (as you did with riding while standing up on your scooter) and you will work it out. Just stay out of the way of those car drivers - I too have suffered at the hands of those wrapped up in their own little world within their daily routine on 4 wheels.
Good riding that proves one does not have to go RTW; adventures are just around every corner.
Not sure yet, Bruce. I feel like I need another shakedown trip, maybe touring the Odenwald area (where the German HUBB meetings happen) and following the river Main upstream. Always liked the Franken region (Würzburg, Nuremberg etc.).
Sooner or later I need to connect myself to the Eurasian steppe for a first contact, the closest area would be Hungary or Poland.
I've not been very active on the forum this summer because of my own traveling around but just saw your thread. I've only read the beginning now, will read the rest later. I'm recognizing a lot of the things you mention.
Honda scooters are very reliable
Above 90 isn't my thing, I do mostly 70 on the small roads, you see a lot more
Motorcyclist don't greet, that's OK because they don't always greet each other, Racebikes don't greet choppers, BMW bikers don't greet anybody, 1000cc don't great 125cc and so on. It's a complicated world when it comes to motorbikes greetings! When I rode a 'normal' bike I also didn't get greeted by all the other bikers. I rather have no one greeting than 75% of them so I'm better of on a scooter.
You have a nice scooter. I had a Pantheon 150 for 6 years, then I ran it into a Vito. Otherwise I still would have that scooter. But it looked quite different than your scooter. Then I had a Foresight 250 and now a PCX150 which I rode for almost 12000km in 2,5 months. The Pantheon/Foresight were more luxe than the PCX, more expensive too.
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