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Ride Tales Post your ride reports for a weekend ride or around the world. Please make the first words of the title WHERE the ride is. Please do NOT just post a link to your site. For a link, see Get a Link.
Photo by Josephine Flohr, Elephant at Camp, Namibia

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


Photo by Josephine Flohr,
Elephant at Camp, Namibia



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  #616  
Old 11 Jul 2015
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Hello

I hear we will finally meet our fellow Canadian bikers! Looking forward to seeing you in Tröllhattan on Tuesday. Sara
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  #617  
Old 12 Jul 2015
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Wow! I've been following your journey for months now, and I just noticed that you are very very close to where I live! Also you were very close to my work too.

How do you like it here so far? There are some really great roads around the Keukenhof, except in tourist season.
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  #618  
Old 15 Jul 2015
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Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/230.html



We're in need of some live entertainment, and instead of catching a show at the theatre or soccer match, our preferred format is motorcycle racing. And it just so happens that there is a World Superbike race in the Netherlands this weekend! In North America, WSBK only comes to California so I've never seen one live, just on TV, so I'm super excited to see all the racers in person!


Rolde, our village where we're staying at

It's only a quick 2 hour ride from The Hague to Assen. We're staying a few kms away from the track at a campsite in a quaint little village called Rolde.


It's been so long since we camped!

Our campsite is filled with seasonal residents who make this their summer home. We made friends with our neighbours and one afternoon, while we were standing around our bikes eating our lunch, the elderly Dutch couple across the way felt sorry for us that we had not packed any camping chairs and lent us a couple of theirs.

We were very thankful, but this ranks up there as one of our most "feel so homeless" moments...

Later on in the evening, we hung around the dining lodge typing away on our laptops and eating soup from the can. At around 8PM, all the residents from the campsite streamed in on their bicycles to join us. They were all senior citizens and this was their game night! Although they seemed to be engrossed in their board games and cards, we caught many of them giving us surreptitious glances, their curiousity being directed at this "homeless" non-Dutch couple who had ridden into their tiny Dutch town on their motorcycles.


Some exotic sportbikes at the local restaurant in Rolde

There are a lot of sportbikes in the Netherlands! We made some observations about the differences in attire though. In North America, the sportbike uniform is normally a leather jacket, jeans and sneakers. In some parts of the Southern US, it's a wifebeater, shorts and flip-flops...

But there is a distinct sportbike "look" in the Netherlands that's very different from what we're used to. I used to read a lot of British Sportbike magazines while in Canada and I marveled at how much protection all the "blokes" riding around the British motorways wore, clad in their full leathers with their fanny packs (or "bum bag" as it's called over there) around their waist. It's the exact same culture here in Holland!


This was our daily ride to and from the Assen TT Circuit through the village of Rolde


Assen TT Circuit parking lot, our GSes stick out amongst all the sportbikes
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  #619  
Old 15 Jul 2015
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The Cathedral of Speed!

Assen is one of those fabled tracks - the MotoGP event here is like the Wimbledon of motorcycle racing. While other circuits have appeared and disappeared from the MotoGP calender throughout the years, there has always been a GP race here at the TT Circuit since the world championship started in 1949.

But why am I talking about MotoGP when this is World Superbikes? Because a normal MotoGP event at Assen typically draws 100,000 fans packed to the gills on the rafters and spilling onto the grass. By comparison, WSBK only draws around 30,000 people which makes it much easier and cheaper to get tickets!


Practice sessions throughout Friday and Saturday

Unlike MotoGP, which is prototype racing, World Superbike is a production series which means you can buy the machines you see zooming around the racetrack at the local motorcycle store. That is, if you have €300,000 to spend on exotic Go-Fast-Parts to actually make it competitive...




There are practice sessions on Friday and Saturday, so we spent those days walking around the outside of the 4.5 km track, taking pictures of the riders as they tuned their bikes for the circuit and the weather and track conditions. Neda doesn't watch WSBK at all, so the pre-race practices gave her a good "crash" course on who the top riders were and how to identify them based on their colours.


I don't have €300,000 lying around, so this is the closest I can come to riding a Superbike around the Assen TT Circuit
Just like in real life, I was very slow around the track and crashed a few times...



I downloaded the race later to see if there were pictures of us on the televised feed. There was!!!

What I like best about the WSBK series is that our tickets were general seating, which meant that we got to sit in the Grandstand - which we are never able to do at MotoGP races because $$$$$. Even walking around the track, there was a more relaxed attitude about access and security. It felt more like a track day than an international sporting event!
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  #620  
Old 15 Jul 2015
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Grandstand seating gave us a good view of all the pre-race activity


Local Dutch rider Michael van der Mark has an indigenous Netherlander umbrella girl

Umbrella girls get a lot of flack from the feminists, but it really is a lot of hard work making sure your rider is shielded from the sun, all the while looking as beautiful as you can for the camera. I know this because:




Frogger


Leon Haslam (UK) is one of my favorite riders on the current grid. His dad Ron, who he's talking to, was a famous GP racer back in the day
Racing is a family affair - Leon's wife Ollie is his umbrella girl
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  #621  
Old 15 Jul 2015
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Pole-sitter Tom Sykes (UK) mentally preparing himself for Turn 1


World Superbikes should really be called World SuperBrits. The top four riders in the championship are from the UK


Intense concentration - seconds till the lights go out (race start)

Watching a motorcycle race live is a bit like watching a one-sided tennis match. Your head snaps from right to left as the racers zoom past you and then you wait a minute and a half for them to come around again. It's lucky we had a huge video screen in front of us to catch the rest of the action.

Still, there is nothing like hearing the roar of these 1,000cc race engines and smelling the race gas wafting through the air. There is a palpable excitement in the minutes leading up to the start of the race, and it was such a treat watching the circus of crew, umbrella girl and media activity on the grid.


Local hero van der Mark is close to the front the entire race. The crowd is ecstatic!

Every time Michael van der Mark's white Honda came round the stadium, the crowd got up on their feet, yelled and threw their hands up in the air to cheer their local hero. It felt exactly like the Misano crowd in Italy last year cheering on Valentino Rossi. This is van der Mark's first year in WSBK so I didn't really follow his career before, but I found out he was last years World Supersport (600cc) champion. So it wasn't a surprise when he followed two Brits to the finish line, ending up in third. The celebrations at Assen were so boisterous, it was as if he had actually won the race!


Jonathan Rea, another Brit, is currently dominating the 2015 season. Here he is crossing the finish line first
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  #622  
Old 15 Jul 2015
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JRay is milking his victory lap around the stadium


Although JRay takes the top step in the podium ceremony...


... the crowd cheers for this 22-year old youngster. He is the first Dutchman to ever stand on the podium
in the history of World Superbike championship. And to do so in Assen...?! Crazy!!



Half-time event: Ducati stuntguy


Such a great time at Assen!
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  #623  
Old 19 Jul 2015
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Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/231.html



We're continuing our travels by cutting south-east across Germany, but we're going about it in an unconventional way by not passing through any major cities at all. We've traveled through and sight-seen a lot of large cities lately, and we're feeling burnt out on buildings, crowds and traffic. Neda is craving some nature and hiking, so she planned a non-urban route across Germany.

Along the way, I picked up some new German words from the signs on the road. "Ausfahrt" has now replaced "Smack-Lick" as my new favorite word to randomly say out loud. Ausfahrt! Am I just being juvenile or is that not the funniest word ever? Neda agrees with me and everytime we see the "Ausfahrt" sign, we snicker together over the intercom like little kids.

Ausfahrt! kikikiki!


Ever since Neda emptied her tankbag of seashells, leaves, puppies and camels
she now has enough space to help me carry groceries.


Our first stop is to the Harz National Park where there's supposed to be some good hiking. Although it's half-way across Germany, this is Europe where the countries are small and the highways are fast. It only takes a couple of hours via the Autobahn to get there. The Autobahn between cities has no speed limit and the left lane is exclusively reserved for passing only. And passing happens at warp speeds! If you're only traveling in the impulse speed lane, you have to constantly check for Teutonic missiles being launched past your left shoulder or you'll get photon torpedoed by a Porsche, Mercedes or Audi.

Rammstein, Mr. Sulu!

We dropped out of the interstellar laneways of the Autobahn to a more sedate cruise around the densely forested Harz National Park. It's part of the Harz mountain range and the roads twist through its valleys passing through very quaint German towns. Most of the trees are still bare up here in the mountains where the temperatures dip to the single digits.


But Spring is in imminent bloom up in the Harz mountain range

The boarding house that we are staying in is in a small town called Sankte Andreasburg and the landlord who greets us is a kind and elderly German man who doesn't speak any English at all. Thankfully Neda took German in high school. Unfortunately high school was a long time ago. Her German is about as bad as my French - just enough to get us booked into the room, but not enough to answer his questions about our BMW motorcycles.

From listening to her speak to the landlord, I did pick up another German phrase that she repeated quite often: "Sehr Gut!" which means "I kinda understand what you're saying to me"...

Neda went out for a hike but returned very shortly after remarking that the trails weren't very good. And I was tinkering around with a new video camera, so no pictures of our ride. Well at least I got some blogging done and the roads in and out of the Harz National Park were great. *And* it wasn't raining for once so we were able to enjoy the riding.


A few Ausfahrts later, we are in south-western Germany

Our next stop is clear across the south-east of Germany, close to the Czech border. Believe it or not, I actually found a hiking trail for Neda. It's called the Malerweg and it's supposed to be one of the most scenic hiking trails in Germany. It's in a region called Saxon Switzerland, so we booked into an apartment in the area in a small town called Porschdorf.

Thankfully the owner here did speak English. Sehr Gut!


Sehr Fud!
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  #624  
Old 19 Jul 2015
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Eine kleine schwein mit Nachtmusik

We've been eating nothing but groceries for a while now, so we decided to treat ourselves to a nice German meal. We ordered a dish down at the local pub called wildschweinbraten. It's German for wild roasted boar and after saying it out loud, for a second I thought about replacing it as my funniest German word. But no, Ausfahrt is still #1 and is also what you get after eating wildschweinbraten. Smack-Lick!

We're told that the boar that we ordered was local to this area, in fact he was just running around the forest outside the other day. Things are done so traditionally here, I'm sure the boar was killed by bow and arrow!


I love that you can order in 1 Liter mugs!

Our love affair with dark European continues. Eibauer is brewed in the town of Eibau, just 50 kms east of here. We are having quite the authentic local cuisine!


Walking around town after a couple of liters of Eubauer


Very quaint buildings in Porschdorf


A very special number...
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  #625  
Old 19 Jul 2015
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More colourful buildings in town


Outside our apartment, a kitten contemplates his fud

It's such a peaceful environment and a huge change of pace from the all the cities we've been visiting. We're starting to feel a bit more relaxed and we feel a lot more rejuvenated for travel.


Tree house amongst all the pretty flowers


Pretty countryside of the Saxon-Switzerland National Park


Saxon-Switzerland is atop some rocky and fissured canyon landscape
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  #626  
Old 19 Jul 2015
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An example of the sandstone formations that dot the countryside


Village of Rathen in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains

The Malerweg hiking trail is 112 kms long, too ambitious even for Neda to complete in a day. It's broken up into 8 daily stages and we're staying at one of the more scenic stages, near the Elbe Sandstone Mountains. The hike takes us through the nearby village of Rathen.


Rathen


We don't stay too long in town, but head straight for the peculiar rock formations


The hike takes us up into the mountains to an overlook with a great view of the Elbe River below

The Malerweg is also called the Painters' Way because in the 18th century, it was a popular pilgrimage for artists to undertake so that they could paint the beautiful landscape.
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  #627  
Old 19 Jul 2015
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Purdy


The Bastei is the most well-known feature of the Malerweg

The Bastei is a rock formation that towers 194 meters above the Elbe River and is the picture that comes up most often if you Google "Malerweg". There was a wooden bridge built across the rocks in 1824, but that was later replaced by an ornate bridge made of the same sandstone that makes up the Bastei. The Bastei bridge is now as famous as the Bastei rock formations and is a popular draw for tourists, even if they are not hikers. That would be people like me...


Neda is super-happy for this nature break in our urban schedule


Sandstone mountains in the light of the setting sun


Beautiful Bastei Bridge
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  #628  
Old 19 Jul 2015
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I spent a few minutes chatting up this bird

I got a chance over the last few days to play around with the action camera that Sena sent us. It's called the Prism and it came standard with just about every mount you could need to attach it to your motorcycle. I only affixed a couple of mounts as a test, but will probably add more when I figure out some good shooting angles.

One feature I really like about the Prism is that it's remotely controlled via the Sena S20 communicator, so you can turn on/off the camera, start/stop videos and cycle through shooting modes all through the communicator, and the voice confirmations inform you when the camera is on and whether the video has started or stopped so you don't have to try to look at any lights on the camera while riding to figure this out. I'll do a more thorough review of the Prism when I've gotten a chance to put it through its paces.

This entire video was shot using the Prism. Thanks Sena!
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  #629  
Old 19 Jul 2015
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Here's the video:

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  #630  
Old 27 Jul 2015
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Just a three-hour ride north of us lies Berlin, which has been on both of our bucket lists for a long time. The city holds a special attraction for Neda and I for different reasons.

I remember watching the Berlin Wall fall on TV in 1989. It happened right about the time that the self-absorption of my youth was also falling away and I was becoming more aware of the world outside of me. Even at that age I understood the significance of that event.

But really, Berlin interested me because that's where U2 recorded their Achtung Baby! album shortly after the wall fell. They were my favorite band at the time and their last album was a critical disaster. They traveled to this German city that was in the midst of reinventing itself to perhaps catch a bit of its zeitgeist. When Achtung Baby! came out I didn't stop playing it for months. It was such a departure from their old sound, I often wondered what they found in post-Wall Berlin that transformed and rejuvenated them.


Riding by Checkpoint C (or Checkpoint Charlie as it's popularly known)

After the wall fell, Berlin also underwent it's own transformation. During the Cold War, Checkpoint Charlie was one of the most well-known border crossings between East and West Germany. Over time, the Eastern side of the checkpoint became more and more heavily secured with barricades and watchtowers. By contrast, the Allies continued to keep the simple shed that still stands to this day as a monument of sorts.

However, as we rode by it, the shed is now engulfed by modern-day Berlin. Busy buildings full of shops and stores and office buildings surround it and the road that once funneled soldiers, spies and defectors across the border is now one of Berlin's busiest intersections.

Very cool riding past it though!


When the wall went up, Potsdamer Platz was divided into two. What used to be a busy intersection became a wasteland, the eastern side full of barb wire and watchtowers overlooking a "kill zone" used to pick off East Berliners trying to escape to the west. This is what it looks like today!

Berlin is so shiny and brand new. It's incongruous with the Berlin I had remembered from my youth: the old-world grey communist society peering enviously at the west through breaks in the wall.

Of course the city had changed, it's been over 25 years since the wall fell. We went searching for the Berlin I remembered. Fortunately the one thing I could count on was that the RideDOT.com rains had followed us and I was able to take some photos of old monuments in the rain that approximated what I remembered of Berlin circa 1989.


Brandenburg Gate


Soviet War Memorial at Tiergarten Park


Berlin cityscape, famous TV broadcast tower on the left. There's a revolving restaurant at the top just like our CN Tower in Toronto


This street was in the U2 video "Stay (Far Away, So Close)"
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