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

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Back at my starting point

This will be the final post for awhile.  I am back in Hiedelberg, back at the place where I began this summer's trip almost three months ago.

I was camped on the northern tip of the Adriatic Sea, right where Italy meets Slovenia, right at Trieste, Italy. All of Europe is on vacation now, so the campground was very crowded and so are the highways.

I rode up to Trent (Trento) Italy and from there headed up toward Timelsjoch Pass through the Tyrolean Alps. These mountains are so beautiful they almost bring tears to the eyes.

At about 5 pm it started to sprinkle rain. I spotted this beautiful Italian hotel with the German name of Edelweiss. The place was packed with vacationers, but they had room for me and even a place in their garage for Odysseus.

It wasn't particularly expensive, despite this being high season, and the room came with a five course supper and a scrumptious breakfast. The following morning was clear, but the roads were packed with cars and motorcycles.  I had to be on constant alert. As I rode higher and higher into the mountains the clouds started to appear just above my route.

There were a lot of tunnels, some of them very long and impossible to get a picture of.

Not only was it vacation, but it was Sunday. There were scores of motorcycle riders and bicycle riders on the narrow, twisty mountain road leading up to Timmelsjoch Pass.

Odysseus and I climbed higher and higher with one switchback after another. Soon we were above the clouds.

The valley was a long way below us. Once again, the view was incredible. I just love mountain rides.

At the top of the pass, the clouds were so thick that there wasn't a thing to see.

This is the border. We are in Austria again.

As Odysseus and I came down off the Pass, we were below the level of the clouds in just a few hairpin curves. There is still snow up there despite it being mid-August.

There were also a bunch of the ever-present cows. I often wonder how the farmers keep track of their animals.

The scenery didn't end with the Pass. It kept on going for mile after mile.

Around 2 p.m. I entered Germany and (Wham) right at the border the autobahn began. No more creeping along. It is time to go about 75 miles an hour. Still, though, the road was packed with people headed home from their Sunday outing in the Alps. I sure didn't like dealing with all that traffic at autobahn speeds.

By 6:30 on Sunday I was back at Stefan's place in Heidelberg, Germany. I think he was surprised to see me because I had sent him an email earlier saying I wouldn't be there until Monday. It turned out that the extra day gave me just the right amount of time.  For one thing, I changed the oil in Odysseus, did some other maintenance on him, and gave him a much needed bath. The bath alone took hours. Motorcycles are really hard to clean.

There are sure a lot of people here at Stefan's place right now: from America, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa. It has been great fun talking with them and going out to eat together.

Yesterday, I went to the Sinheim museum near Heidelberg. I have wanted to go there for quite some time. The extra day I have gave me the time to go there.

It is a "technology" museum -- No dusty statues and vases at this place.

They have old cars and sport cars and motorcycles and locomotives and military things and just about every sort of motorized vehicle you can think of.

They even had airliners that I allowed to climb around in. What fun.

Speaking of airliners -- I am all packed up and ready for my shuttle to the Frankfurt Airport. It will be here at 4:30 a.m. tomorrow morning (yawn). I am ready to be home. I will miss Odysseus though. He has to stay her at Stefan's along with about 100 other motorcycles until I come back to ride him again.

Bye for now.


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Ferry to Trieste, Italy

Hi again:

Jessica, Renaud and I enjoyed our time together in Athens.

We did all the things a tourist should do.

 We even went to see the Greek Guards who, like their English counterparts, never smile. I went up and had Jessica take my picture with one. They never move, so it was okay I guess. I am 6'2", and all of them are at least that height or taller. I didn't realize until I saw this picture how dorky my socks were, but his are not too cool either.

But all good things must eventually come to an end. Finally, it is time to say goodbye to the Temple of Zeus and other Athens sights.

Time to saddle up, Odysseus old buddy. We have a ferry to catch.

I have to be in Heidelberg in eight days, and that is too far to ride. There is a ferry that goes up the Adriatic Sea from Greece to Trieste, Italy. Odysseus and I have to ride across the Peloponnese part of Greece and be there by this evening. No problem for us.

Aw, Ron, do I have to wait down here with the cars on yet another ferry?

Yes, Odysseus. Sorry. But this will be the last one on this trip. I promise.

It is going to be a long ride on the ferry: two full days and two nights. People are camped everywhere. They have tents set up on the deck and in the hallways.

No tent for me. But I had planned ahead and brought my air mattress. I found the darkest corner I could to sleep in.

Help, I'm trapped in there by another sleeper.

There wasn't much to do on the ferry except eat, sleep, read, and people watch. At least it was sunny on deck and people were out catching a few rays.

It was amazing to me how well the captain and his crew could handle that big ship. Parallel parking at the dock was no problem for those guys.

After sleeping and reading for two days and nights, I had finished all my books and was starting to go stir crazy. I bought a deck of cards and played solitaire. But finally, look, we made it to the northernmost tip of the Adriatic Sea. We are at Trieste. Yeah!

But is is late. First item, once off the boat, is to find a place to stay the night. It is August now, and in August all Europe goes on vacation. The hotels will be booked solid, and prices will be doubled or tripled. I asked my GPS to find me a campground. It found one just 12 kilometers away in Sardinia. Deja Vu. I know this campground. I stayed here when I came down from Austria on my way to Croatia and Greece just a few weeks ago.

I hate European campgrounds. They are all private, for profit, affairs, and they pack as many people into them as they possibly can. I felt fortunate to find a place to stay at all though since it is vacation season. The couple in the van next to me are from the Netherlands. The man spotted my motorcycle right away and wanted to talk about his own motorcycle trips. He was really interesting.

Now it is early in the morning on the 9th of August. I need to be in Heidelberg, Germany, on the 11th (or the 12th at the latest). That shouldn't be a problems, but I had better get going. I have a famous pass over the Alps that I want to do, and that might take a while.

I will probably have one more post to this blog before I fly back home on the 14th. Stefan has already arranged my shuttle to the airport. This summer is about over.

More later,

Monday, August 4, 2014


Hi from Athens, Greece.

I took some great pictures on the overnight ferry that brought me here from Crete, but I lost them. I guess the picture gremlins go into my camera and deleted the entire group. I can't figure out where they went. I am especially disappointed because I wanted to show you a picture of Odysseus, my motorcycle, parked on the steep street just outside the apartment we are renting here.

"You mean you lost the only picture of me you took all day long, Ron?"

"Yeah. Sorry about that Odysseus."

I had my GPS programmed to take me from the ferry to the apartment. It can't always find street addresses, especially not in a foreign language, but it did just great this time. It got me to the apartment without a hitch. And thank goodness for the GPS because the Greeks, for a reason known only to themselves, have a tendency to cover up their street signs with foliage and stickers.

Covered up signs can make navigating pretty difficult, I can tell you.

One of the first things I wanted to do when I got here to Athebs was go to the Acropolis Hill and get myself oriented. The bus and subway systems here are very good and quite easy to use, so I had no trouble getting where I wanted to go..

Jessica and Renaud will not get here until after midnight tonight, so I have all kinds of time to get oriented in this busy, touristy town. I thought about taking a bus tour, but there is something I've wanted to do for ages and that is ride a Segway. This is a great opportunity for doing that. I spotted Marco who was riding around on a Segway and  handing out brochures, and he told me how to get to the Office of Atherns Segway Tours.

This next picture shows Marco who comes from Minnesota of all places, He said I have an "twang" to my accent that made him think at first that I came from Norway or Sweden. Hmmmm. I thought I had no accent at all. I guess you learn something new about yourself sometimes.

To Marco's left is Alex, Gabriela, and Konstantina (Tina). Thanks, Tina, for teaching me how to ride. You were an excellent teacher.

And thanks Gabriela for being such a careful and interesting and fun tour guide. Gabriela may be small, but she sure has that Segway under control. She is a graphic designer in her second life, and she designs logos for companies.

Jessica and Renaud got to the apartment a little after midnight, just as they had thought they would. They came by ferry from the island of Peros where they had been trying their hand at sailboarding. I had learned enough on my Segway tour that I was able to show them around town a little. We took this next picture from the top of Mar's Hill where the Apostle Paul debated with the philosophers of Athens, starting off with with those famous lines from the Bible about the Athenian statue to "The Unknown God".

I think we are going to have fun exploring this city for the next four days.

Hey. Look. Some wildlife. These tortoises are very common around the Acropolis.

Just down from the Acropolis and from Mar's Hill, is the Agora, the ancient marketplace. The Apostle Paul used to preach here every day. It is all ruins now, but there is one temple still standing. It is the most intact example in the world.

I can just imagine Paul standing up there, preaching away to the people of Athens, most of whom thought he was just a little bit nuts.

This building in the market place was a sort of Mall. It had a bunch of stores opening out into the columned porch. You can see the openings for them on the right. People used to come walk in the shade here. Again, I can picture Paul strolling among these columns and talking with his converts.

Time for our evening meal. Thank goodness for picture book menus because reading Greek is quite a challenge. I learned the Greek alphabet in college, but I certainly have trouble converting it over into real words. For example, what do you think this says: Καλημέρα αγαπημένες μου φίλες και φίλοι Google translates it as "Good morning my dearest favorite" but I think that is probably not what it says at all.

Jessica, the attorney, work at night through the internet while her American customers are awake. That suits me just fine. It means we can stay up late, sleep in the next morning, and  explore Athens during the cool part of the evening. Life is good.

I wonder what we will go see this evening.


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Waiting for my ferry to Athens

Hi everybody ---

Crete is interesting. It is making the history I learned back in my college years come alive for me. Now I understand so much better what I only learned on a superficial level back then.

Since this blog is as much a record for me (sort of a journal) as it is a ride report for my readers, I will probably be boring many of you with this post today.  If so, please join me again at a later date.

So, here we go --- it is time to go visit the oldest civilization in Europe, and one of the oldest in the ancient world. I am talking about the Minoans who settled this island many years ago and built their kingdom here.

Sorry, Odysseus. They don't let motorcycles into the castle ruins. You will have to stay here in the hot Cretan sun. At least you have another motorcycle to keep you company. From the looks of the stickers on it, that motorcycle has seen a big part of the world also, so maybe you two can compare notes.

The castle I am visiting today is named Knossos. It is pretty much smack dab in the center of the north Crete coast. This area was first settled 128,000 years ago. That is a lot of thousands. Can you imagine what life must have been like back then. That was the stone age. Civilization, meaning cities and trade with other countries, didn't get started until 2700 years before Christ. I wonder what everyone was doing during those missing 125,000 years. Hmmmm.

That 2700 years ago date -- that is about 500 years before Abraham's story starts in the Bible. There was a strong Egyptian civilization on Africa at that time, and an early Babylonian civilization in Asia (Mesopotamia), but the Minoan civilization that I am visiting today was the first in Europe.

The symbol of the Minoan civilization was the double bladed ax. It is called a labrys

The labrys is scratched on the hallway walls all through the ancient palace of Knossos. Knossos was quite the place back then. This is what anthropologists think it looked like.

The hallways in that place went every which way and often ended at dead-ends. It was a regular maze in there. And remember, I said  there were labrys (or double-headed ax) symbols scratched into the hallway walls, so the place came to called the labyrinth. Got that? Good.

Lets take a break. It is too hot. I have to go buy a hat. Do I look like Indiana Jones it it? Wait, did somebody say I look like Jed Clampett.? I'll get you for that Ha.

The Minoans worshiped goddesses.

Now, I was told by a guide that one of the religious rituals involved boys and girls who, when they turned 12, leaped over a bull in the public areas of the huge palace. You can see them doing that in one of the murals found in the palace.

There were dozens of murals found when this city was uncovered sixty or seventy years ago. They were not all of kids leaping over bulls. In the murals, females are always white and males are always red.

After the city was destroyed by fire, and after it was buried by earthquakes, Homer, the Greek poet, told the myth of a bull-like monster who lived in the labyrinth and ate young girls. Later, in the myth, a hero from Athens, Theseus, killed the monster. The name of the monster was the Minotaur (Do you remember that story from your long-ago college days?). I guess this myth built up over the years from the old practice of bull jumping.

In its day, the palace of Knossos was really advanced.  It had the first paved road in all of Europe.

It had clay pipes that brought fresh water from a distant mountain.

It had flush toilets, and an elaborate drainage system that separated rain water (used for hand and clothes washing) from the brown water coming from the toilets.

The palace was several stories tall and had a marvelous system of ventilation.

I could go on longer, but I doubt that anyone besides me is interested. As I say, this is my journal, so if you are still with me all I can say is "thanks"

I will try to do more motorcycle riding stuff in future posts -- stuff that might be more interesting to the majority of my readers.

Today, I am mostly killing time while I wait for tomorrow's ferry to Athens. I have done a wash (something I very much needed to do), and my clothes are hung up to dry. I went for a long ride to the eastern end of Crete this morning, but it is too hot for that sort of thing (nobody but me rides in boots, jacket and pants around here, and I can see why. Whew!).

I don't know if there will be a lot to post about from Athens. I will be meeting my daughter, Jessica, and my son-in-law, Renaud, there. We have an apartment rented.

I will be in Athens with them about a week, and then I head back toward Germany. My flight home is on the 14th of August. After I leave Athens, I think I will try to go to northern Italy. There is a famous pass over the Alps from there. It goes to Austria. I bet the weather will be a lot cooler up there. (I hope).

More later,