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Photo by George Guille, It's going to be a long 300km... Bolivian Amazon

I haven't been everywhere...
but it's on my list!


Photo by George Guille
It's going to be a long 300km...
Bolivian Amazon



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  #331  
Old 19 Sep 2014
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The bikes are in Zagreb! And only a month later than we expected...

We had heard horror stories about shipping out of Peru, and we were prepared for the worst. Right now, the biggest headache was trying to convince the customs people to release our bikes to us. There was a lot of finger-pointing and ball-dropping between the Croatian Customs and the local shipping agent. We found out that the bikes have actually been in storage for the last three weeks with nobody looking at the paperwork!

In the end, we got the bikes released by going through the official Croatian channel - namely by knowing someone. Neda's cousin, Iva, works for an insurance company and she made a few phone calls and got our bikes out of Bureaucracy-Jail! Hallelujah i hvala Iva!

While we were visiting her, she told us that all the administration in Croatia is in a bit of a frazzle because of their recent entry into the European Union. All the paperwork surrounding insurance and importation has all changed and has to conform to EU standards. But she said this will be nothing compared to when the country adopts the Euro as their official currency!


Leaving Rijeka and... rain. Great. Yes, that clock reads 5:21AM, we've been on the road for 45 minutes already

Confession time: The shipping people and customs are not the only guilty parties in this fiasco of a blog entry. Two and a half months ago, there was a small conversation in Peru:

Neda: Did you remember to disconnect the batteries before the shippers crated our bikes?
Gene: No.
Neda: ... <eyes narrowed, lips pursed>

Our batteries will be dead. No doubt about it. We came prepared for this by buying one of those portable jump-start lithium batteries. We also gave ourselves lots of time, taking the 4:45AM bus from Pula to Zagreb. After 3 1/2 hours of bleary-eyed, rainy roads, we arrived at the shipping warehouse bright and early for the grand unwrapping.


Our breaths held, we opened the crates. Looks good so far - nothing missing! *phew*

With a crowd of intensely curious warehouse guys all gathered around our bikes, I turned the key on my bike and... nothing. No lights on the dash, no clicking of the starter solenoid. The battery was completely flat as expected. Our audience shook their heads like doctors coming out of an unsuccessful operation.

I then pulled out the portable jumpstarter and connected the clips to the battery under the seat. Multiple sets of eyebrows went up in Spock-like anticipation. Turning the key prompted the engine to roar to life with vigour. Lots of head nodding all around. They were duly impressed with my magical jumpstart box. (So was I!) But before the judges put up the score-cards, the engine died when I twisted the throttle. Uh-oh. The second jumpstart worked but the engine died less than a minute after starting. Murmurs once again from the crowd...

I was starting to get a bit annoyed with our audience. Didn't they have jobs to do? Neda said this was the Croatian way: one guy doing all the work and five other guys standing around watching. Truthfully, I was pissed that my jumpstart didn't work. The warehouse guys were actually very friendly.

I knew what the problem was. The battery wouldn't hold a charge. The electrolyte had completely boiled away on the journey over. No amount of jumpstarting would fix this, only a refill or a new battery would do the trick. We had the same problem coming back to Guatemala last year, and now dumbass that I am, I do the same thing again. I was very angry with myself.


The battery guy filling up our new batteries with electrolyte. How long will these last?

We called around trying to find a place that carried the gel batteries that our bikes used. Thankfully we found one right around the corner from the warehouse. But the place only had one Yuasa left, the kind the factory installs on the bike. They also carried a cheaper Italian brand that was compatible, but we heard that those don't last very long. So we bought one anyway and put it in Neda's bike. This should make an interesting future blog entry.


Installing our new batteries. The Croatian Way...

With everything hooked up, I fire up both bikes successfully. That elicited a huge cheer from the warehouse guys. We pulled out of the parking lot like superheroes, despite the cats and dogs that were falling from the sky on our helmets. We didn't care! After a two and a half months off two wheels, we were finally riding our motorcycles. And in Europe! Third continent this trip! WAHOOOOO! It was actually kind of fitting that the raincloud that had been following us since September 2013 in Guatemala joined us here in Croatia. It's like that acquaintance that you can't stand but always hangs out with your group of friends. You just kinda get used to him.


Hanging out with our constant companion - the rain.

We didn't spend too much time in Zagreb. Neda's sister and her family were only in Pula for this week and Neda wanted to spend as much time with them before they returned to Italy. So we hopped on the highway and headed back to Pula in the afternoon. As we got off the toll road, I looked at the bill we racked up... as expensive as the Cuota highways in Mexico. Muy caro! Good thing we're planning to avoid highways in Europe. Looking forward to having a much different trip than our all-Autostrada experience the last time we were here.


Back in our neck of the woods

As we neared Pula, Neda told me over the communicator that it was such a strange feeling being in her hometown on motorcycles. When she left Croatia, she didn't even have a driver's license.


Tea was whooping with joy the entire ride. I think we've created a future motorcycle rider.

We dropped by one day to visit Goga and her family, and with her parent's permission, I gave Tea a ride around the block and back. At first she was a bit cautious, hanging on to me with eight limbs like an octopus as we set off, but by the time we got back, she had both arms in the air like she was flying. It reminded me of the first time I ever rode a motorcycle, and how free that feeling was. Exactly why we are doing this trip the way we are.


"Please mama, can I have another ride? PLEASE?!?!"

We're in Europe and we have motorcycles. Time to put the Ride back in RideDOT.com!
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  #332  
Old 19 Sep 2014
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...and they're baaaaack!
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  #333  
Old 22 Sep 2014
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welcome back to two wheels guys
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  #334  
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It's raining. That must mean that it's time to ride!

We're leaving Croatia, heading out to explore The Boot across the Adriatic, the home of pizza, Ferrari and crazy Italian drivers!


Saying farewell to Arena and the old neighbourhood


Neda pulls up to the RideDOT.com support vehicle

I have a confession to make. The reason why there are never pictures of me riding my bike is because most of the time I'm relaxing comfortably in the support vehicle. We hired a guy named Claudio to take all the pictures and videos of us.

He's also writing this blog...


Our way to The Boot takes us through Slovenia

When we landed in Europe, we came in on our Canadian passports, but Canucks are only allowed to stay in the EuroZone (called the Schengen Area) for only six months. Luckily, I was born in the UK and Croatia just joined the European Union, so we both got our EU passports shipped to us and seeing how we travel so slow, we can take as much time as want to see Europe. Yay!


Pretty Slovenian roadside scenery


Battling a stream of traffic, most of it Germans heading back from summer vacations

We rode across the top of Italy, rounding Venice towards Bologna, staying mainly on the highways. We were on a bit of a timetable because we had an appointment to make this weekend. One thing that immediately struck me about Italy was how bloody expensive everything was! Especially gas! There was a huge line-up at the gas station on the Croatian/Slovenian border. Good thing we filled up because at our next gas stop, we found out the prices in Italy were almost 1.5 times higher!


Guess what Neda is cooking for dinner in Bologna? Spaghetti Bolognese!

We booked into a very basic room through AirBnB in the northern end of Bologna and we were still surprised at the cost. As we set out on our hunt for a grocery store nearby, we had to ask a couple of Bolognonians (Bolognese?) for directions. I noticed when Neda spoke Italian to them, they stared at her with a very confused look on their faces. I asked Neda later, "Don't you speak the language?", she replied, "I used to, but I forgot it all after learning Spanish!" Hmmm... Insufficient RAM...

When we were first started out in Latin America, Neda cheated by speaking Italian with a Spanish accent. Now she told me that she's speaking Spanish with an Italian accent! It seems the two languages are close enough that you'll get your point across. The Italians were probably confused because Neda wasn't moving her hands enough...

Q: What do you call an Italian with his hands in his pocket?
A: Mute.

Oh yeah, one thing that is really cheap here is wine. Red wine from Tuscany is less expensive than a bottle of Coca-Cola! It may not have been the good stuff, but it was good enough to put the gigglies into us on the tiny 2nd floor balcony overlooking the urban Bologna neighbourhood we were staying in, while slurping up our spaghetti.


It's open this time!!!

The last time we came to Italy, we stopped into the Ducati factory during Ferragosto, that zany month-long vacation that shuts down the whole country. We only saw the outside of the factory through the fence, but this time we know better.


Ducati museum. The centre is shaped like a helmet.

Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take pictures of the factory floor. I was especially intrigued by the race department which was tantalizingly closed off but for a small port window where you could peer through and imagine what sort of wizardry they were cooking up to compete with the big boys.

Our tour leader kept quizzing us on our Ducati knowledge to keep us engaged while we walked around. I tried not to be that annoying know-it-all that always raises their hand in class, but since no one else was participating... "The answer is desmodromic, ma'am". Ducati Nerd.


To most Ducatista, this might be their dream garage...


... but for me, this is mine. Super!

Interestingly, Valentino Rossi's #46 Desmosedeci is missing from the GP collection. The company sold all of them because collectors offered so much money for it. It really shows how small Ducati is, and how willing they are to let a piece of history go to further fund their R&D. I bet Honda still has at least one of Rossi's RC211Vs.

Another interesting tibit, the GPs have recently changed color from a deep, rich red, to a more orangey red. The reason why is that the new high-definition cameras that MotoGP uses makes the original red look pink, so the orange-red compensates for that. Now viewers at home see the original Ducati Red on their TV screens. Wonder what colour they should paint the bikes to make them appear to win races?


Portico di San Luca

Bologna is home to covered walkways called porticos. They're used to shelter people from the sun, rain and snow as they walk around the city. There are about 40kms of porticos in the city.

We wanted to stretch our legs a bit after yesterday's ride, so we hiked up the Portico di San Luca, the world's longest covered arcade. It covers a 3.8km walk uphill to the sanctuary of the Virgin of San Luca and is beautifully decorated with 666 arches that make for an amazing study of Escher-like geometry as it winds up and around the forested hill, Monte della Guardia.


We saw lots of joggers and people in exercise clothing do this route. We did it in our motorcycle boots and gear...


Sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin of San Luca. I need to work on my panorama skills...


Taking a well-deserved rest from the uphill hike


At least on the way down, the sun came out


We had the rest of the day free, so we rode into downtown Bologna

There's all sorts of wonderful medieval buildings right in downtown Bologna. All the buildings there are in that dark, rich reddish-brown that brings up drawbridges and castle sieges, squires and knights that say "Ni!"


Italy is ScooterNation! They far outnumber motorcycles. We like that all two-wheeled parking is free
and they seem to let you park just about anywhere without fear of tickets



Everybody knows the leaning tower of Pizza, hut did you know Bologna also has a leaning tower? Actually, it has two of them right downtown!

At one time in 12th century, Bologna was actually full of towers like these, they conjecture about 180 of them, like pins in a cushion sticking up in the sky. They say they were used for defense. I think with the way Italians architect their towers, with that built-in lean, they were actually meant to fall down on any invaders (and citizens for that matter). Today only 20 towers exist in the city centre.

The Two Towers above are both leaning. The smaller one, Garisenda, has a menacing 10+ foot lean over the heads of passerbys. The taller Asinelli only has a 3 foot lean, but as you can see, construction is underway to increase its lean angle so it can better defend Bologna against invading tourists.


Getting ready to hit the road! Where to next? Hint: it’s in one of the pictures above...
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  #335  
Old 23 Sep 2014
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lightcycle View Post

Neda pulls up to the RideDOT.com support vehicle

I have a confession to make. The reason why there are never pictures of me riding my bike is because most of the time I'm relaxing comfortably in the support vehicle. We hired a guy named Claudio to take all the pictures and videos of us.

He's also writing this blog...

This little tale you weave lost all credibility when I noticed the bicycles...

But Claudio did make me burst out laughing.
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  #336  
Old 24 Sep 2014
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Spoiler warning: Results of the 2014 MotoGP Race at Misano discussed in this post!

We're so excited to be attending the San Marino MotoGP!

There are a couple of RV parks about 5 kms away from the Misano racetrack in the sea-side town of Riccione. We've set up our tent in one of them for a few nights to use as a home base to ride to the races and then explore the area. Just a couple of kms over is the neighbouring town of Cattolica, where Marco Simoncelli grew up. There's a lot of pedigree that's originated from this region, as if the pasta they eat here was imbued with extra-special Go-Fast-Lean-Hard vitamins and minerals.


Unfortunately for the riders, we brought the RideDOT.com rains with us

We rode through a light drizzle in the late Friday morning to try to catch the free practices. We really made an effort to get an early start to the day to be able to watch all the classes go out, but our camping skills were a bit rusty - we hadn't set up our tent in over a year, ever since leaving North America. We were so disorganized and spent so much time fussing around the campsite in the morning that we ended up circling around looking for parking as the deep bass thunder of the Moto3 bikes erupted inside the stadium. These were expensive tickets and I was a bit angry at missing some of the action.

After much confusion, we finally found the correct entrance after being denied entry through several VIP/all-access gates. For the Friday, we had general admission tickets which gave us access to grandstand seating, positioned just after the Carro Hairpin. They were nice and close, but best of all, they gave us shelter from the pouring rain! We finally took our seats half-way through the MotoGP FP1.


I can't believe the amount of money the VR46 merch brings in. There were always people lined up with Euros in their hands.
Whereas the MM93 traffic was sparse, I think crickets had made their home inside the JL99 tent.


Our seats gave us a great vantage point of the bikes as they made their way through the hairpin. Unfortunately the proximity was negated by the rains, so I didn't get a lot of good pictures. We found out that the beginning of FP1 that we missed was quite a crash-fest!


Hometown hero being squeezed out at the hairpin

The weather forecast was clear for Qualifying tomorrow and Race Day, so FP1 and FP2 were not that useful to the teams for setup or gathering data. It really seemed that the riders were out there just to give the fans a show, enthusiastically waving to the crowds on the last lap of practice. Every single lap that Rossi passed by, the stadium erupted in cheers and waving. I am not the biggest Rossi fan, but it was not hard to be swept up in the Yellow Fever that burned hot even in such damp conditions.


Cal tiptoes through the puddles


Italian Dovi on an Italian Ducati should have been a crowd favorite, but was heavily overshadowed by The Doctor


Scusi, signore! You are not allowed to park there...


JLo puts in such consistent laps even in the wet. I'm a huge fan of his riding, but he's not that audience-friendly,
barely acknowledging the crowd after practice. Jerk. Just kidding, Jorge, please sign my hat?



Very much unlike Valentino, who slows down to wave to the crowd after each session.
Universally loved, I'm sure he does this at every single track on the MotoGP circuit, not just Misano.


The next day at Qualifying, we were shunted to our real seats in the nosebleed section - far, far above the action. I took a few pictures but my zoom len's Kung-Fu was weak so I'm not going to embarrass myself by posting any shots. We were so high, I had to use my zoom to figure out who some of the riders were as they passed by. Marquez and Pedrosa look identical from our vantage point with only a slight difference in helmet colour. Then I figured out that whenever the camera-helicopter passed by above us, it was Marquez that it was following. Poor Dani, always the bridesmaid...

They really corral the fans into their respective seating areas so you can't roam the entire stadium like at Indianapolis. So a tip to the budget photographers: take all your shots on Friday when they open up the grandstand to the plebes. A few people in the stands had 500mm lenses and they were getting great shots. I had a bit of lens envy.

Thankfully, I have a SIM chip (from TIM - Telecom Italia Mobile) that we picked up in Bologna, so we could refresh the results on my iPhone to find out qualifying laptimes in real-time. However, everyone else was doing the same thing, and the TIM cell tower at the stadium lagged terribly, so "real-time" turned out to be "Italian-time", or in other words, "Late".

Our perches in the rafters gave us a great perspective on relative speeds as the racers screamed down the back straight. Throughout qualifying, I remarked to Neda that Vale seemed to have amazing pace. This was confirmed later on when TIM decided to work: Rossi was third on the grid for Sunday!


Guess where we went after qualifying?

To celebrate Rossi's front row qualifying, we rode to Tavullia - his hometown! Literally 12.8 kms away from the racetrack according to Google Maps, we first filtered our way out of the stadium past the lineup of stopped cars (I LOVE BEING ON A BIKE! It was like there was no traffic at all) and then wound our way through the forested, twisty country roads of the Rimini region until we encountered an unusual speed zone sign as we entered Yellow Nation: the town's speed limit had been officially changed to 46 km/h! LOL!

Thousands of yellow flags and #46 signs greeted us on every street as we rode into town. As expected, everyone else had exactly the same idea and the place was packed to the gills with motorcycles and fans! They kept streaming in every hour, and the tiny area in front of the Rossi Fan Club looked like a salvage yard with sportbikes and touring motorcycles strewn all over in every single nook and cranny.


We managed to score parking right in front of Rossi's pizzeria!


The Yellow Militia patrols the neighbourhood looking for JLo fans to lynch


Breaking our no-restaurant rule, just this once...

In order to save on costs, we are trying to stick to a strict no-restaurant rule while we're traveling through Italy. In this country, the restaurants tack on a charge on the bill called a "coperta" if you want to sit down to eat. This is in lieu of a tip, but the "coperta" differs from restaurant-to-restaurant and you have to ask beforehand to find out what it'll cost you to use their seat, knife and fork. We ate some pasta at a restaurant across the street from our campgrounds and the coperta was 30% of the bill. Nuh-uh. Not again, signore.

We made an exception for Valentino's restaurant, called Pizzeria da Rossi. We were all set to have a yummy pizza dinner, but unfortunately, there were so many people visiting that day that they closed down the kitchen and the only things they were serving were burgers and fries at the patio grill. So disappointing, but we still ate his overpriced food since he is a struggling athlete and all...


The view from Pizzeria da Rossi's patio. Tavullia is smack-dab in the middle of some really lovely countryside scenery!


Bet you didn't know that there's an Abbey Road in Tavullia


Where did Rossi's famous #46 come from? Answer below.

Around the corner from the restaurant and fan club was a display with some special motorcycles. In one area, they had three motorcycles that Valentino's dad used to race back in the day. Rossi's father ran the #46 plate when he won his first GP race (in Yugoslavia, Neda!), and that's where the junior Rossi got his famous numberplate from.


Rossi fans wander around his hometown, looking to soak up some of the vibe
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We woke up extra early on Race Day because I didn't want to miss any of the action again. There's a grassy section set aside for motorcycle parking in Tribuna D where our cheap seats are, so any bikers with seats in that area got free parking! We walked around and did some plate-spotting in the lot; bikers had rode in from all over the continent, but we were the only non-Euro motos there! Represent!


Motorcyclists file in for race day. The bearded guy reminds me of someone,
I think a cartoon character (in Tintin, maybe?), I can't put my finger on it...



Our nosebleed seats at turn 13, just before they hit the Carro hairpin
It's a good thing we still have those altitude sickness pills that we never got to use in Peru.



The excitement mounts as 2PM approaches

One tidbit about the Yellow Nation in Misano - I think there's an official Rossi fan seating area that you're morally (if not legally) obligated to wear a yellow shirt and hat so it looks good for the cameras as it pans across the stadium. However, there are a lot more Rossi fans than meets the camera eye because for every yellow shirt walking around, there are equally as many black Rossi t-shirts and white Rossi t-shirts that make up quite a sizable contingent. If I were to guess, I'd estimate more than a quarter, maybe a third of the crowd was wearing some kind of VR46 merch on their backs or heads.


Ever wonder who lets off the yellow smoke bombs on the warm-up lap? It's these guys.
Every lap, the camera-copter approaches us above like a herald angel, announcing the arrival of the race leaders


The Moto3 and Moto2 races were exciting, but we didn't realize just how quiet and sedate the crowd was until the MotoGP riders entered the track to line up at at the grid. The decibel level (which I know is logarithmic to begin with) went up exponentially! It's as if people were asleep before 2PM! As Rossi rode past us on his way to the start line, everyone stood up and screamed and yelled at the top of their lungs. It was as if 54,543 of his immediate family members, neighbours and closest personal friends all came to the stadium today. You could only see flashes of his signature yellow leathers through a forest of raised arms and pumped fists! It was totally awesome! What? I SAID, IT WAS TOTALLY AWESOME!!!

Now sit the F down, you yellow-backed mofos so I can see the frickin' race...


We thought the crowd was boisterous, but a few corners after this picture was taken, it got so loud,
it was like the Italian fans were trying to get all of Spain's attention to thumb their noses at the entire nation!


As soon as the lights went out, JLo took the early lead, but the hometown hero was right on his tail and the crowd lapped it up. Qualifying was not a fluke and our man was in contention. We all watched the action on the screen in front of us with excitement when Rossi and Marquez traded positions during the first few laps. Every new development redefined the scale of audience frenzy: Rossi retakes second place again? The crowd reaction goes up to 10! Rossi passes to take the lead? Okay that previous audience reaction was really an 8, *NOW* it's a 10! Marquez falls off his bike? OMG! The last reaction was really a 6, *NOW* this one's a 10...!

How can it get any more exciting than this?!?!


Savouring the sweetest victory lap ever! If Rossi went any slower around the track on this lap, he'd be moving backwards


Two differing points of view on the matter


Misano is one of the few places where fans can run out onto the track after the race. So we did!

It's a long-standing tradition at Misano that after every MotoGP race, the fans stream out onto the track and storm the podium to celebrate with the victors. For a long time and for many years running, it had always been Valentino on the top step, which made it extra-special for the local fans. But after a long, protracted absence here he was again atop the highest box and 54,543 of his friends, family and neighbours were not about to pass up the opportunity of paying homage to their hero on his pedestal in person.


"Hurry, hurry! I can hear them playing the Italian national anthem!"

Our seats were soooooo far away that even with us rushing to get to the podium (some of the more enthusiastic fans started sprinting through the gates on the final lap), we were met with a solid wall of people between us and the podium. Ugh, I suffered pangs of zoom lens envy again as we squinted into the sun to see our victor greet his friends, Rimminians and countrymen.


We arrived just in time to see them pop the champagne and spray the crowd (and the umbrella girls, of course...)


Marquez Who? Vale, Jorge and Dani on the top steps, just like back in 2009.
All that was missing was Casey Stoner puking his guts out behind the podium...



Victorious Vale in front of his hometown fans. It just doesn't get any sweeter than this.


Yellow wigged fans in reference to a younger Rossi when he sported a bush full of curly, blond hair


Getting a souvenir of a very special day: not only Valentino Rossi winning on his home track
against the unstoppable Marquez but also actually being allowed onto the track after a MotoGP race



Knee-down at the Misano track!

What an awesome, awesome experience! It was so much more than we had hoped for: watching Valentino Rossi win at his home track after such a long time away from the podium, and to do so against such a formidable foe like Marquez in his prime. It was like an Italian fairytale come true!

Arrivederci Misano e grazie!
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Makes me really want to go to another MotoGP race!

I always had the idea that the trip reports were a fair way back from where you actually were in the world, but I see now that they're not far back at all!
As always, looking forward to the next installment
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Keep it going

Really enjoyed the story sat at my desk whilst planning my point to point trip of southern Europe to the top of Europe nest summer.
Love the pace of your journey and the way it is written
steve
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We are going to be to staying at our campsite in Riccione for another day to ride around the Appenines, the central chain of mountains that runs down the centre of Italy.


Staying another day? Then let's stock up on more cheap, Italian red wine!


Mount Titano rises up in the distance, and we can see the three towers of San Marino at the top

Our first stop of the day is San Marino, a city-state, totally surrounded by Italy, yet recognized as an independent country. We climb switchback after switchback to reach the capital town, San Marino City, which is situated on top of Mount Titano.


San Marino City's coat of arms is three towers with three plumes of smoke

San Marino has a long history of fierce independence, staying neutral in both World Wars and offering political sanctuary during the Italian unification in the 19th century. The motto and the coat of arms of the country is "Libertas", freedom from political oppression. Did you know Abraham Lincoln was a citizen of San Marino? He was given that honorary status to recognize his fight to end slavery.


Mount Titano is triple-peaked, with a castle at each peak.
We're in the first tower, Guaita, looking over at the second tower.



Did I mention my feet tingle when I look down? My toes have a spider-sense...


San Marino only covers about 60 square kms: beautiful sprawling countryside


Even the classiest places can have a little bit of kitsch. €8 for entry: Scary prices


Scenic, but expensive place to have lunch


I keep telling Neda, "It won't fit in the sidecase!"
Did you know Nutella is made in Italy? The factory is just an hour and half outside of Milan!



Basilica of San Marino


Must have been an Audi staff meeting here, lots of people in expensive suits with briefcases milling around

There's supposed to be a changing of the guard ceremony here every hour on the half-hour. We waited over an hour to see that, but they never came out. Is it still Ferragosto here?


Taking a break from all the walking around

After a picnic lunch on the city walls, we head back on the bikes in the afternoon to ride around the countyside. Our goal in Europe is to stay off the Autostrada as much as possible, to see as much of the country and save a bit of money as well.


We found a great winding, country lane that ran along the ridge of a hill, scenery on either side of us


Farms all around us, with the odd villa dotting the landscape



Our loop around the area takes us down to Urbino where we stop again in the late afternoon. You can't throw a tortellini without hitting a twisty road, and our favorites were the ones around Urbania and Urbino. I remarked to Neda that it's been so long since we just rode twisty roads for the enjoyment of it. Much of our Latin American trek was destination oriented, instead of focusing on the road itself.


Riding through the Piazza Rinascmento, past the Duomo di Urbino

Urbino has a real renaissance feel to it, as if there's a Leonardo da Vinci behind every door sketching fantastical inventions. We had a really good time, wandering (and riding) around the narrow cobblestone streets of town, taking in it's picturesque beauty.


Not sure if we were allowed to ride through the Piazza, still a bit of the residual Latin American mentality...


Piazza della Repubblica


He made us an offer we couldn't refuse


Marveling at the roofs of the porticos in Urbino


There was a kite festival in the town recently,
and there were decorations above all the streets



So pretty!


Leonarda in training, sketching the Ducal Palace of Urbino


More kites and palaces


Outta my way! Neda zooming through the narrow streets of Urbino!

Feels so good to be wandering around on two wheels again!
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  #341  
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Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/175.html



My parents visited Perugia a few years ago and they really enjoyed it, so we decided to take a couple of days to explore the area. We're doing a pretty good job staying off the Autostrada, but I think we might have to hit a couple of highways if we want to see the rest of Italy before the next Ferragosto arrives!


More scenic rolling countryside roads


We stop in Urbania for an ice cream and poke around the deserted city streets

Italians observe a strict schedule when it comes to working, or I should say, NOT working. We always seem to do our traveling and wandering around during their early afternoon siesta, and we're always surprised when all the grocery stores and gas stations are closed until the early evening. Nobody is on the streets. It's like we're the last people on Earth.


Early morning view from a Perugia farmhouse

We found a place to set up our tent for a couple of nights in a farmhouse just outside of Perugia. It's a beautiful place with great views of the sunrise over the mountains in the distance, and I am up uncharacteristically before dawn to try to get some pictures.


For once, I am up before Neda!


Like we're on a movie set that calls for a stereotypical Italian farmhouse!


No Neda, we can't take him with us...


I *LOVE* being on two wheels in Italy!

There seems to be a vehicular food chain in Italy. Unlike many countries where scooters and motorcycles are at the bottom (just above bicycles), two-wheelers are actually on the top of the pyramid in Italy (with scooters actually at the pinnacle and motorcycles just below). We ride pretty much wherever we want with impunity, and I feel like Moses when traffic politely parts at the centreline like the Red Sea to let us through. There is designated two-wheeled parking everywhere (which is a bit of a force fit with our wide panniers) and unlike four-wheels, it's free everywhere in Italy. With gas prices so high here, it really is the best way to tour around this country!


Some of the Etruscan town walls surrounding Perugia still stand

The walls around Perugia reflect it's pre-Roman Empire history. The Romans called the people that lived here the Tusci or Etrusci, and that's where the name Tuscany comes from.


Beautiful medieval buildings - Palazzo dei Priori

There were a lot of young people walking around Perugia. On the steps of the Palazzo, a class of art students sat down to draw the Fontana (fountain) Maggiori. We found out later that there are a couple of major universities and a few art and music colleges in town.


Italians are all about the fashion. Check out the official police handbags!


Unfortunately, their engineering sense is not as developed as their fashion sense.
The walls of these buildings are all crooked! All it needs is a leaning tower to complete the picture!



All over the region, we kept seeing artists sketching the architecture


We plan to stroll around the pretty city streets


But first we rob a convenience store...


Off the main touristic stretches, we discover hidden alleyways with more wonderful, personal architecture


Cat with cauliflower ear - one too many street brawls


Waiting outside the hospital


Perugia is situated on a hill with the plains of the Umbra and Tiber valley below


Hanging out atop the city walls




Finally! Someone I can ask what name of the rose actually was.
Read the damn book three times and still couldn't find it..



Speaking of which...


"How did you like Perugia, Neda?"
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  #342  
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Updated from Sep 22 2014: Rome, If You want To



All roads lead to Rome! So I guess we'll just have to go.

We take a mixture of back roads and highways to get to the Seat of the Holy Roman Empire. I'm very surprised at how well-mannered the traffic is on the highway. Sure, some of the drivers may pass a little close for comfort, barely making it into the passing lane as they tease out the smallest possible closing distance between my left pannier and their right front bumper. But the left-lane-passing-only discipline here is strict and is something that I personally hold sacred, and it's extremely satisfying to see everyone here practicing it. If only North Americans would follow the same etiquette!


Riding through Rome!

From our campsite just north of the city, we planned out our daily excursions. Rome wasn't built in a day, so we're certainly not going to trying touring it in a day either. From all accounts, the traffic in the city is supposed to be horrendous and for a brief moment we considered taking the metro into the downtown, but in the end we decided to brave the metropolis traffic, just to get a taste of the gladiatorial theatre being played out on the roads. But first, we don our armour - taking off our panniers so we could better blend in with the ruling class (scooters) and slip more easily between traffic.

Let the games begin!


My slim R1200GS parking in a scooter spot

So having ridden to and around Rome on different days at different times: weekday morning rush hour, mid-day traffic, and weekend afternoons - we rate the traffic as being very tame. I think our experience in Latin America on their congested roads really put things in perspective. There's a "road space rationing" system in effect here that only allows half the vehicles into the city limits on alternating days during business hours, depending on whether your license plate ends in an even number or odd. Just like in Mexico City, Quito, San Jose (Costa Rica) and Bogota, but this rationing system was actually invented by Julius Caesar, right here in Roma!

There are still a lot of cars on the road, but we used to live in Toronto - fourth-largest city in North America! So we know about sharing the road with a million other vehicles. What really made the Roman traffic bearable for us was how lane-splitting was such an intrinsic part of two-wheeled transit. With our newly-slim profiles, we just followed the line of scooters, like ants marching through the concrete jungle, as they discovered and zoomed through cracks and crevices in the traffic that would have made our previously fat-bottomed GSes think twice.

When in Rome, do as the scooters do!


Other kinds of two-wheeled transit in front of the Vatican

We're also visiting a new country today! The Vatican City State is an independent nation, totally surrounded by but walled off from Rome. We've now visited two countries (San Marino as well) without ever leaving the borders of Italy! We stood in line for two hours trying to get into the Vatican Museum.


They even made these sisters wait in line, which is total nun-sense.

I was really excited to visit the Vatican, but didn't know a lot about it before this visit. The main reason why I was interested was because I loved the book, Angels and Demons, and Ob-E-Wan McGregor was in the movie as well! He plays the role of the Camerlengo, which in Italian means, "One who drops their bike repeatedly". It's also a word I love saying, because I'm infantile that way. Camerlengo.


Rome is where the art is

The Vatican Museum is packed to the gills with countless statues, paintings and tourists. More tourists than art: wall-to-wall (fresco-to-fresco?) visitors from all over the world move from room to room in the museum. The most annoying are the guided tours, because the tour operators carry these long sticks with different scarves or flags at the top so the group can find their leader, but also do a great job blocking all the paintings on the wall. Good thing there's a lot of artwork on the ceilings...


Funky spiral staircase in the Vatican Museum


Neda blends in with the pretty girls in the painting

One thing that went through my mind while visiting the Vatican was how far the religion's sphere of influence extended. We spent a year and a half roaming around Latin America, visiting churches and seeing all the religious iconography in their culture, and now, here, in the seat of Roman Catholicism you really get a sense of the power that conquered the lands and minds of people half a world away.


"Excuse me, signore. I need to see the Camerlengo now because of an Illuminati plot to destroy the Vatican"


Panorama camera works sideways too!

We got to see the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo's painting on the ceiling: The Creation of Adam - you know, the one with the Monty Python finger of God reaching out to Naked Adam. We weren't allowed to take pictures because the chapel is a holy place of worship, but what really struck me was how large the ceiling was and how small the Creation of Adam is in relation to it. There were lots of other paintings surrounding it and on the walls. I don't mean to sound heretical, but the Creation of Adam kind of underwhelmed me. Maybe because it's so widely published, it's gained a larger-than-life status. Personally, I liked some of the other paintings in the Sistine Chapel more. But I'm not an Art Historian, so what do I know...


Wonder what's in the case? Anti-matter perhaps?

When they made the film Angels and Demons they had to digitally recreate the Vatican because they didn't have permission to film there after the church got angry over the plot of The Da Vinci Code. It's a good thing they did because there's always construction and seats and stages set up for special events held at St. Peter's Square and the Basilica. On a typical day, it's not that photogenic at street-level.


Baroque palaces of the Piazza Navona


Egyptian writing on the Obelisk in the Piazza Navona. Come on! If that's not an Illuminati clue, I don't know what is!


Expensive phone call - because of the Roamin' Charges.


Wandering around the streets of Rome


All ready for picnic at the Pantheon

The Pantheon, right in the heart of Rome, was magnificent. Just the size of it was gargantuan and the material that it was made of was so polished and ancient that it seemed almost fake, as if it were created for a movie. Out of all the buildings in this city, this one impressed me the most, so I took a picture of a car in front of it. Fiats are everywhere in Italy, and I'd totally get an old 500L to tool around in if I was living here.


Vittorio Emanuele II Monument


Ruins near the Roman Forum


The Colosseum - largest amphitheatre in the world!

When I was a kid, I had a book filled with cartoons of places all over the world. I don't remember any of the other pages except for the one with the Colosseum in Rome, for some reason it really grabbed my imagination. So seeing this up close brought back that one childhood memory. In fact, this trip has really made my inner-five-year-old ecstatic! I don't think I'd ever have imagined back then that I'd be standing in front of and walking around all the things I saw on TV documentaries and books that I've read.

As we approached the Colosseum, Neda asked me, "Which do you like better, the Roman Colosseum or Pula's Arena?" She said it in exactly the same way that your girlfriend would ask, "Do you think that girl is prettier than me?" I hesitated. Big mistake... My legs still hurt from all the back-pedaling I had to do.

Tip for all you guys out there: your girlfriend or wife's home-town amphitheatre is always prettier than the Roman Colosseum. ALWAYS.


Arch of Titus, near the Colosseum

So many tourists, everywhere! And everything's under construction or fenced off, so not as pretty as in the postcards...


My panoroma camera managed to capture the world's thinnest woman!


Riding the Appian Way! My favorite part of Rome was leaving it! Literally.

The Appian Way is a on old military road that connected Rome to the south-eastern most reaches of the country. You know the expression, "All roads lead to Rome"? It was in reference to this road, where hundreds of thousands of Roman Legionnaires' sandaled feet polished the cobblestones on this well-worn path to and from the capital.


Capo di Bove, Appian Way

There are so many beautiful old buildings and ruins in Rome that I'm glad we spent a bit of time just being tourists, but sharing it with so many thousands of other people really bummed me out. The very large and rough cobblestones on the Appian Way meant that there wasn't a lot of vehicular traffic through here. There are 4x4 Jeep tours (a bit of an overkill) that you can hire to take you along the Appian Way, but the road is mainly sprinkled with the odd hiker stopping along the way to see an old building or ruins along the path. Nice and quiet, just the way we like it!

The suspension on our GSes really got a workout as this was the first dual-sportish road since arriving in Europe! The cobblestone rocks are so polished that I can't imagine how slippery it must be when it rains.


Stopping to admire the scenery

The Appian Way has numerous stories to tell. Spartacus, the renegade gladiator, was defeated along this road by a trap laid by the Romans. Even as late as WWII, the Allies fell on this same road at the Battle of Anzio that lasted four months. Lots of history here.


Smoke is from a BBQ from one of the many swanky estates that can afford an Appian Way address


Villa dei Quintili, along the Appian Way
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  #343  
Old 9 Oct 2014
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I've noticed that your sense of humour has been getting back to normal in the last few posts, and this last post made me laugh right the way through!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lightcycle
Ob-E-Wan McGregor was in the movie as well! He plays the role of the Camerlengo, which in Italian means, "One who drops their bike repeatedly"


Keep enjoying your trip!
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  #344  
Old 16 Oct 2014
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Updated from Sep 24 2014: The Ruins of Pompeii



From Rome, we tried to hug the western coastline as we ventured further south. We stopped for the evening just outside of Naples at a campsite we found on the Internet, but it turned out to be The Most Expensive Campsite In The World, because it was situated on the grounds of a dormant volcano. We didn't know this beforehand, but since it was starting to rain, we decided to set up our tent instead of trying to look for another place.

There was no 3G signal on the campsite, so we had to hike out of the campsite to the main road so we could log onto AirBnB to find someplace warm and dry for the next couple of nights. We've done some pretty vagabond-ish stuff on this trip, like camping out in a Walmart McDonald for hours stealing their free wi-fi. But nothing will top sitting on a bus stop bench in the pouring rain while taking chugs from a tetra pak of red wine. We looked like a couple of miserable, wet hobos, but after the tetra-pak was done, we turned into a couple of happy, wet hobos. Red, red wine, make me feel so fine...


Campground Cat is laughing at how much we paid last night

In the morning, before leaving, I told Neda, "We should probably go see their stupid volcano to make it worth our money". It wasn't very large, you could probably walk around the rim of the crater in 15 minutes.


Inside the crater of Vulcano Solfata there was all sorts of fissures sending up steams of smelly gas


Crocs were probably a bad idea for this hike


We met Petr and his friend, two R1200GS riders from the Czech Republic, who also stayed at the campsite last night

We continued south on the coastline trying to find the closest road to the sea, and we were rewarded with a scenic cobblestone ride into Naples. For once, the sun was out and we peered over the edge of the road as it twisted around the steep cliffs overlooking the blue Tyrrhenian Sea. A very nice ride!


Our cobblestone ride takes us into Naples


Neda staring at Mount Vesuvius in the distance


Don't f*** with the Scooter Mafia! This car parked in scooter parking and paid the price.

We just can't get used to the Italian siesta, called the riposo, which closes down all shops and stores from... basically whenever the sun is in the sky. We always seem to be perpetually off-sync, knocking on shuttered doors hoping to get gas or food while we're on the road.

We're also out of sync with Italians mealtimes as well. The restaurants only seem to be open on a very rigid schedule: a couple of hours for lunch and then only after 7PM for dinner. Because we had an early breakfast, we were starving by 11AM. With our bellies complaining loudly, I knocked on the door of one establishment where there seemed to be people inside preparing for the lunch hour. One of the employees peeked his head out and told us it would be another hour before they opened. My stomach and I grumbled in unison. I think it must have been a bakery because from inside, when his co-worker asked about us, I distinctly heard him mention "mangia" and then "cake"...


Ever seen a cake eat a pizza?

Did you know pizza was invented in Naples? They take their pie-making very seriously in the city. There's even an Associazone Verace Pizza Napoletana, which certifies pizzerias around the world to the Neopolitan standard according to an 11-page document that outlines stringent regulations like the acidity of the yeast, thickness of the pie, and the ingredients like the fresh tomatoes and buffalo cheese, which all have to come from the area surrounding Naples. This pretty much guarantees that the only certified Pizza Napoletana can only come from Naples.

After eating one of these certified pies, I feel a bit more Italian so from now on, I'm going to start using the Italian names of the places we're visiting. For the Mangiacakes out there, here's a quick reference: Napoli = Naples, Roma = Rome, Bologna = Baloney!
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Staying at a typical Italian neighbourhood, those are our clothes drying on the line!

Because of the costs of accommodations in Italy, we're finding that we need to be more diligent in researching and booking places in advance, instead of rolling into town and knocking on doors like we did in Latin America. We're refining this process and we're pleasantly surprised at how many private homes are opening their doors to travelers via AirBnB. Very good value for the money. HostelWorld remains a distant second because of the relative low value for what you pay for, and there seem to be plenty of RV campsites all over Italy, which is our cheap and easy fallback plan. The trick is finding one that doesn't have a volcano or spa attached to it that hikes up the price.

We opted to stay outside of Napoli, just a couple of kms away from Pompeii, which we visited the next day.


The ruins of Pompeii

There are places that we stumble upon as we're traveling that just pop up on our radar as we're planning our next day's ride. Pompeii was one of them. I had no idea it was this close to Napoli. We had planned to stop in the area to try some authentic pizza Napoletana and ended up visiting the ruins that had captivated my imagination when I was a kid.


Mount Vesuvius in the background


Walking through the streets of Pompeii, some sections were boarded off because excavation work is still underway

One of my favorite TV programs growing up was a sci-fi-documentary series called In Search Of... I remember being transfixed for a whole half-hour every week as Mr. Spock himself spun tales of pseudo-science explaining how the Mayans worshiped Ancient Astronauts and how Mount Vesuvius erupted blanketing Pompeii in a layer of thick hot ash, instantly preserving everything it covered. I remember vividly the plaster casts of the bodies caught in their last moment of anguish and how that both haunted and fascinated me at the same time.


Over 1,000 bodies were found preserved in the ashes of Pompeii

The biggest mystery was why Pompeii was the only city that had human bodies preserved in such detail that even the folds of their clothes can be seen in the plaster casts made from the hollows of the ashes. Other cities near Vesuvius showed no such preservation, only bones and teeth remained of their citizens as the pyroclastic surges of hot toxic gases and ash incinerated their bodies.

A recent documentary I watched explained that Pompeii was exactly the right distance away from Vesuvius that the surge of hot gases was just the right temperature to kill a person - boiling their brains in their skull - but not hot enough to destroy their flesh and clothing.


Some of the dead were little children, which was very sad

I spent a good long time staring at these bodies with both sadness and wonder. Like many other moments on this trip, this was a visit that brought back childhood memories and at times, it felt like I was 10 years old again with a Leonard Nimoy voiceover in my head. Pure Energy...


Greek-looking columns in Pompeii

I did some research and the columns here are more Greek-inspired than Roman. Pompeii is regarded as the crossroads between the Roman architecture of the north and the Greek influence of the southern Italy. I know nothing about architecture, but I love the names of the types of Greek columns: Doric, Ionic, Mixolydian, Pentatonic...


Water break amongst the ruins


"No Neda, this amphitheatre is not as pretty as Pula's..."

After this visit to the ruins of Pompeii, I have a new mission for our trip. I'm going to download all those old episodes of In Search Of... and then we're going to ride to every place covered in each episode. Next stop: The Lost City of Atlantis!
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