The day will come when I will die. So the only matter of consequence before me is what I will do with my allotted time. I can remain on shore, paralyzed with fear, or I can raise my sails and dip and soar in the breeze.--Richard Bode

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Horizons Unlimited Meeting near Derby, England

Hi Everyone.

The last time I posted to this blog I was at a beautiful campground in Luxemburg. They have a strange idea of camping here: they pack tents next to tents so tightly you can hear the person in the next tent turn over. The more people, the more money they can collect, I guess.

But the campground in Luxemburg was not like that at all. Each tent "pitch" was surrounded by a privet hedge, and there were nice showers and very few people. I suppose that is the joy of traveling when no one else is on vacation.
It was a good night's sleep -- dry for a change. About 5:30 the local rooster woke up and decided everyone in the neighborhood should be up too.  He must have been a French rooster, because he couldn't say "cock - a - doodle - doo". It was more "cluck - coo - cluck - coo". Very loud, he was. And he kept it up until 7:30 when I got up myself. And, the instant I got up, he quit. I guess he felt like he had done his morning chore and could go back to bed.
Europe is super clean these days. They have passed very strict anti-littering laws, and you never see a scrap of paper blowing around. One thing that helps them on this is that there are hardly any fast food places. As a side benefit, there are tons of inns and restaurants. Also, because Walmart has not put all the mom and pop stores out of business here, there are lots and lots of shops.
To show you how serious they are on keeping things clean, have a look at this guy vacuuming a parking lot.

From Calais, France, I had to decide how to get to England. I could go by ferry (four hours) or by tunnel train (The "Chunnel"). I chose the train. It was interesting. I followed the car in front of me; we pulled in through doors in the side of the rear of the train; and drove through the train until we finally caught up with the cars in front of us.  A nice young lady showed me how to park, and asked me to stand by my bike during the trip.  Zip -- Zap, and I was in Jolly Ole England.
Driving on the left is exciting at first, especially in the rain. Each time a car comes around a curve toward you, it is a startling experience. Kept my heart beating, I can tell you. 
I drove into Canterbury, the same one as in Chaucer's Tales, and found a campground. Very expensive place.
These Guinea "chickens" were all over the cathedral grounds. They were quite well behaved, and didn't seem to mind the constant, drizzly rain.
You know you are England when you see houses built like this one. Do you know why they built it this way? To save on taxes. They are taxed on the size of the ground floor, but they built each additional floor larger and larger.
I trusted my GPS to get me up to my Horizon Unlimited meeting in Darby. I knew it was going to be a challenge getting by London. So what did my stupid GPS do? Took me right through the heart of London.  It was hours of stop and go traffic: big lories, and double decker buses, and motorcycles zipping by everywhere. Nerve wracking!!!!
It rained all day long. I was riding on the M1, a major highway, and doing about 65 miles an hour in the rain, and I started thinking about how cold I was and how much I did not want to set my tent up and sleep cold all night. I spotted this place, The Old Palace Lodge, and pulled in to check it out. I thought it would be too expensive for my budget (I am a tight wad -- just ask my wife if you don't believe me), and I was just starting to leave when I met another motorcycle rider, a man from the Yorkshire Dales. We got to talking, and he suggested he knew the owner and could get me a good price. Sure enough, the price was about half normal. Thanks Alan.
And here he is, along with his friend Alan, in the dining room where I got a good Shepherd's Pie.
Young Alan, on the right, is a music major and has his own band. They play Scottish/Celtic music along with other things, and they have invited me to come up to the Lake District when my Horizon's Unlimited meeting is over and enjoy their band when they do a gig in the Lake District. There is even the possibility, if things work out, of doing some fly fishing. I might just take them up on that offer.


I was buzzing along a country lane this morning when I spotted this houseboat going through a set of locks on a canal. I just had to turn around, go back, and check it out.
When the water was at the right level, these kids pushed on those big beams to open the doors. It took a lot of kids to do that; some on each side of the lock.

I got to the Horizon's Unlimited meeting about 1:30 in the afternoon, just after the drizzle stopped. There are something like 700 people here. It is much bigger than the one I went to in North Carolina.
The people are very interesting. As I type this, I am talking with a couple from Sweden who are just starting on their two bikes to ride around the world. And another couple, she is from California and he is from Ireland, are headed out to Cape Town, South Africa.
Speaking of Africa, what do you think of these Masai dancers?  Why are they here? I don't have a clue, but they sure could sing and dance.
I've only been to one presentation so far. It was interesting. It was a man from the UK who has been to Iran several times and was telling us about getting visas and about traveling there. He had some good pictures.
There is another presentation starting in a few minutes. I think I will catch it, and then head for bed. I am tired, the rain has stopped, and there will be tons more presentations tomorrow.
More later,


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Somewhere in Belgium

I had been camping along the Mosel River in Western Germany, and the rain kept coming down. The road on west was closed because it was Saturday and there was a big biking event on that road, but I just couldn't stand lying around all day in my little tent with nothing to do but read.

I got all packed up and sat around wondering what to do. The highway was not going to open until 6 pm. A long time away. The owner of the campground said I could take a little trail, just big enough for my motorcycle, and in a little while I would come to a road up and over the hills and around the closed highway. Sounds good to me.

I could see last nights campground way below me along the river. I was on beautiful little lanes, but I was totally lost.  Thank goodness for GPS. It seemed to know what it was doing.

The lanes were twisty as a snake, and just a lot of fun to ride on a motorcycle.  A couple of years ago I rode a famous road called the "Tail of the Dragon". It was twisty too, but it had nothing at all over these roads in Western Germany.
I came out on top, finally, onto a huge, rolling plateau. I guess this is part of the big, North European Plains. This has been a wet spring, but I guess the farmers have been able to work their ground a little. The farms are huge, and the hedge rows I remember from my last visit here have all disappeared, just like back home in Illinois. Hedges get in the way of the big farm equipment.

There were huge fields of grass crops (I never knew what kind -- wheat? Rye? Barley?) none of them growing heads yet. A fields with long hills where potato plants were just peeking up.  Lots of cattle too, with some of the biggest bulls I've ever seen.
The road kept dipping into forests. Lots of those. Every time it did, the curves and twists would start again. I was completely lost, but I trusted my GPS to get me sorted out. My map was totally useless.

Before long, I got it figured out that I was in Luxemburg. Since Europe became a common union, border crossings and passport checks are a thing of the past, so I never knew when I passed into Luxemburg, I just knew that I had.
I figured out that I was in the Ardennes. This part of Europe is heavily forested and hilly, a lot like Appalachia back in the U.S. It was beautiful riding, I can tell you.  And it was sunny, too, which made for a fine day indeed.
There were some big battles in the Ardennes during WWII, and the people here still think pretty highly of the sacrifices made by the GIs.

And then, I was in Belgium.  What a fast ride through Luxemburg. It sure is a small country.
And what do you think of these canals. They are everywhere through Europe. Some people think it is a grand thing to do if they rent a houseboat and travel the European canals.

I guess you could catch fish for supper if you were vacationing on the European canals. At least, this guy is trying to do exactly that. I couldn't tell that he was having a lot of luck, but at least he had a relaxing hobby.
This handsome young man was hanging out close to the fisherman. I guess maybe he wanted some fish, too. He looks a little like a Mallard, but I think he is called a "Crested Duck".

This thing was so unexpected that I just had to stop and take its picture. To get canal boats up to a higher canal, they hook onto them and pull them up. Sort of like going up a huge escalator. Wow.
So, now I am in Southern Belgium. The signs are all in French now, so I can kind of read them (I couldn't read the German signs at all. I sure can't say anything in French, though. When I try, people look at me as though I was speaking Navaho.
 I have been going though town after town, and I never can find ay of them on a map. I happened to see this McDonald's I'm sitting in (kind of a rare sight so far, but all McDonald's have free WiFi), so I stopped to get a lunch and to type out this blog update. I know that I am getting close to Calais, and I will either take a ferry or the "Chunnel" from there to the UK. It is raining again. Guess I had best get on the road.
More later,

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Mosel Valley

My luggage finally arrived, and I got Odysseus loaded up and ready to go. First thing was to get gas because I had to have the gas tank almost dry to ship the bike across the Atlantic.  I was running on fumes when I got to a gas station, and it cost me almost $35.00 to fill the tank. It is a good thing I get about 75 miles per gallon when I ride.

Then, an immediate problem. My GPS wouldn't charge. So it was back to Stefan's workshop, take off the seat, and find the problem: I had not hooked a relay up correctly. That solved, I was ready to go off exploring.  I had planned to ride into the Alps, but it was snowing up there today, so I decided to head for the United Kingdom instead.  I have to be in England on the 30th for a Horizons Unlimited meeting, so I thought I would just take my time and head toward England now.

I had planned to stay off the Autobahn, but my route put me on it immediately. It wasn't too bad, as long as I was careful getting into the left lane, because it is really true that they drive very fast in that lane.

I am riding along the Mosel River. It is absolutely gorgeous: castles, and narrow roads (perfect for motorcycles, which I saw hundreds of), and thousands of grape orchids.
This is my first camp. It is cold (40 degrees F) but I can handle it as long as it is not raining.
What do you think of this handsome guy? He was there to keep me company as I set up my tent.  He is a male Mandarin duck. I've only seen them in pictures before, so I was honored that this guy wanted to spend a little time with me.
Do you like this castle? There are hundreds like it along the Mosel. This one was well worth the half mile walk I took up to see it. Can you believe it is still owned by a single family?


Here it is again. This is the way wagons and horses came in. Pretty impressive, huh?
Here it is from the courtyard. I couldn't take pictures from the inside, but it was really something to see.
I wanted to show you one of the barges that go up and down this river. They are very small by American standards. I get the impression that each one is owned by a family that live aboard.
As I type this, I am surrounded by Germans who are watching a soccer game on TV. They are really passionate about it: laughing and clamping and making comments.  I wish I could enjoy it, but I can hardly hold my head up, so I am going to head for my tiny zelt (tent).
If I am not up early tomorrow, I will have to wait because they are closing the highway for a big bicycle race.
More later,

Friday, May 24, 2013

Heidelberg, Germany

Hi from Heidelberg, Germany

I am sitting at Stefan Knopf's place wishing the sun would come out (it is 45degrees F; 9 degrees C) and there is a cold, cold rain (Br.r.r.r.). But bad as it is for me, it is even worse for Stefan because he is trying to put a new roof on his house. Rain is terrible for roofing.

I got here yesterday, but my luggage has yet to arrive. I know that it is at the Frankfurt airport, and so is my nice, warm jacket and my sweater. The airline called here and talked with Stefan this afternoon while I was out exploring, and they told him they would deliver my luggge tomorrow. He says he got strict with them and told them it has to be today, but we will see about that. It is 8 pm now, and still no luggage.

I left the Evansville airport, close to where I live, two days ago. It was a short flight to Dallas, Texas, where I was to pick up my direct flight to Frankfurt, Germany.  But we had to circle for an hour while the Dallas airport waited for the thunderstorms to clear off the airport, and then the plane I was on had to land at another airport to get more fuel.  So, by the time I got to Dallas, my flight to Frankfurt was gone.

They did get me on a flight for London, England where I picked up a connecting flight to Frankfurt. I made those connections okay, but my luggage didn't.

I was excited to see Odysseus, my motorcycle, when I got here to Stefan's house. Odysseus was sitting in a big warehouse along with a lot of other motorcycles. This is just one of two or three warehouse where Stefan stores bikes for people from around the world.

Here is one of the bike riders.  This is Dean Tanji. He rides a Vstrom like mine. I didn't get pictures of any of the other people here because they left early this morning to go off exploring on their bikes. I took this picture of Dean while we were eating breakfast at Stefan's guest kitchen.

Here is a picture of Stefan's workshop.  I rolled Odysseus in there today and got his battery hooked back up and did some other odd jobs on him and changed his oil.
 He is all ready and eager to get rolling, Can you tell? (He is the handsome dude on the right.)

I went out to explore Heidelberg a little today. I had to do it by train and tram because my warm motorcycle clothing is in my lost luggage.

I went to see Heidelberg's famous castle up high over the town. I apologize for the poor quality of these pictures of Heidelberg I took from the walls of the castle. I had to use my IPhone camera. I do have my better camera with me, but its battery is (guess where ---).  Right.... in my luggage.

Here is a picture of the town of Heidelberg. Pretty, isn't it?

Heidelberg is just right for bicycles. There are separate bike paths everywhere that keep them away from cars and buses.  I love riding my own bicycle back home,  and would do it all the time if we had bike paths in Illinois like they do here. Everyone seems to ride here, from old people to the very young. They put their bikes right on the train to get to town, and then head off to do their shopping. Perfect.

I hope I will be able to start off exploring tomorrow. I will have to make at least one change in my plans. I had wanted to go ride some of the passes in the Alps, but I hear they are snowed in.  I think I will head for England instead. I have to be there for a Horizons Unlimited meeting in a week anyway, so I guess going that way now will work Okay.

Its going to be cold camping. Maybe I won't be able to do that. I think maybe I will try staying in youth hostels instead. I have done it before. They are clean and inexpensive and, most important right now, warm.

(A quick update: I ran out of battery on my laptop before I could post this blog, so now it is Friday morning and I am eating breakfast. And guess what--- my luggage is here! Stefan told me a few minutes ago that it arrived just after midnight. Now I am all set --- I have my warm clothing, my charging cords, my spare batteries. Now it can be cold (but not rainy please)

More later,

Friday, May 17, 2013


There was an early morning meeting scheduled last week. I was surprised when I got there, because it turned out to be a surprise retirement breakfast for me and for our marvelous math teacher, Debbie. What a shock! But I should have expected it because the people I work(ed) with are some of the finest on earth.

After the breakfast, they showed a video. Each staff member and all the upper grade students were on it. They all had the nicest things to say about Debbie and me, and there were lots of tears in the audience. Sob -- I'm gonna miss you guys!!

This is Debbie and me with our cake and with some of the students.  Cute huh? (Them, I mean, not me.)
Someone shouted "Group Hug" (I think it was I) and this is what happened. The picture is out of focus, but the reaction of the kids is too precious to throw the picture away.
Later on, the sixth graders, who were not in the last picture, decorated a classroom and threw a party of their own for Debbie and me. They were hiding when we walked into the room so that they could bounce out and yell "surprise"!  Too cute for words.

They wanted a picture of us with the cake they baked for us. Only too happy to oblige kids. Thank you so much for thinking of us.
Here is close-up picture of their cake. I think they did a good job decorating it. It was tasty, too.  Plus, they had thought of ice cream and drinks.  You kids are party animals. (smile)
I wish I had more pictures. There were special gifts from the School Board, and special recognition at church (complete with a standing ovation) and much more.  This week gave me plenty of special memories, I can tell you.
And, the week was special in other ways too.  My wife, Patrice, who teaches English at the High School, retired also. And she got her share of accolades too.  Everyone at her school says that they arereally going to miss her. And I believe it, because I think she is pretty special myself.
And, to top the week off, my youngest, Victoria, graduates from High School tonight. She is a Valedictorian of her graduating class; she has a very good scholarship to the University of Illinois; and -- ta da (drum roll please), she found out last week that she  will be going to Washington, D.C. in October to accept a National Award for an essay she wrote on Columbus.  Way to go Victoria!  We are all proud of you!
There is going to be a big party here at home Sunday, and then Tuesday I am off to Germany.  Got to find some time to spend with Patrice before I leave though,  because I will be traveling when our 30th wedding anniversary rolls around on June 9. I wish she was going to go to Europe with me, but she hates riding motorcycles. Besides, she wants to take a well earned rest here at home. She has had an especially stressful year at school, so I can understand that she wants to kick back and relax. Still, I am going to miss her while I am gone. I am also going to miss my family and friends. Be happy and healthy while I am gone everyone. I feel so blessed by each of you.
I love my life.
Next posting will be from Germany.
Bye for now---



Monday, May 13, 2013

My VStrom is a-waiting me in Germany

Hi Again:

School started in August, not long after Odysseus and I got back from Alaska (Odysseus, as you probably know, is my faithful friend and traveling companion -- better known as my trusty VStrom 650).

This is my final year of teaching school, and it flew by I can tell you. Never have I had better classes or a better time. My students have been wonderful, and everyone on the staff has been marvelous. The projects and school programs and activities we did were tons of fun for us all, and the students were interested and eager and fun to teach. They soak up learning like little sponges.

Was I that bright eyed and smart when I was their age? I don't think so.

I wake up each morning eager to get to school.  Truly, I have been blessed in my choice of careers, and especially in my good fortune in finishing my 48 years of teaching at St. Mary's School.  My heartfelt thanks goes out to everyone who made this year so special!!!

In early May, I took a couple of days off work to make a quick trip from Illinois to Florida to meet up with Stefan Knopf. Adventure motorcycle riders know about Stefan -- He lives in Heidelberg, Germany, where he stores motorcycles for guys like me who want to have their motorcycles over there ready for fun and adventure.

Stefan was shipping 45 motorcycles from Orlando to Heidelberg this Spring, and Odysseus was going to be one of them. This is Stefan in the picture above, helping me unload Odysseus from my trailer early in the morning. I had just arrived after a furious drive South from Illinois.

Battery unhooked, windshield off, almost all the gas out of the tank -- Odysseus is all ready to go meet his fellow motorcycle traveling companions. I hope he is excited.  Stefan, himself,  just got back to Orlando after riding his own motorcycle to Key West. He said it was a great trip.
And there goes Odysseus, up onto his palate. The man in this picture is Stefan's friend from Heidelberg. Unfortunately, I didn't get his name. Do you see the bikes in the background. I don't know if Odysseus is going to get a bunkmate like they have or not, but it looks like he gets to sleep on the bottom bunk if he does. 
There were tons of paperwork, mostly dealing with the legalities of import customs into Europe. I was surely thankful that Stefan knew how to get all that done correctly.

Paperwork finished, the next step for Odysseus will be to get into a truck, go to the ship, then take that long sea voyage to Holland. I hope he doesn't get seasick. From Holland, he goes overland to Heidelberg.
Meanwhile, I have to hurry back to school. There is a lot to do:
Such as take the upper grade students to the ballgame. These are some of my sixth graders. Try to ignore Gary back there. He is being Darth Vader (Smile).  Can you tell these kids are St. Louis Cardinal fans?
We did a lot of field trips this year -- I won't bore you by listing them all, but I can tell you that they were fun for students and teachers alike.
Only a week more, and I will officially retire and join the ranks of the jobless. Then I am off to Europe. I hope Odysseus is staying healthy and is eagerly awaiting my arrival. Lots of things to do here first though. Better get at it.........
I will post again this weekend.