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

Saturday, May 31, 2014


Greetings from the land of confusing signs, Poland. When I first got to Poland after riding across Germany, I spotted a welcome sign. There was no place to park there, so I parked at a gas station down the road, walked back, darted across a stream of traffic, and took a "selfie".  Can you read the sign? I can't either, but it certainly sounds impressive.

I like the traffic signs in Poland. Look at this one of the little traffic crossing girl at a school zone. Cute.

If this cow sign was in the United States it would be shot full of holes. I have yet to see a cow on the highway.

I've not seen any deer either, but I am glad to know they are around. There has been a lot of opportunities for them to jump out onto the highway if they wanted to, because I have been going through a lot of forests. There does not seem to be nearly as many people in Poland as in the rest of Europe I've traveled in. They claim to have some wildlife left in Western Europe, but there are so many people there that wildlife doesn't stand much of a chance (except maybe in the bars at night -- that's a joke if you can't tell)

I have been seeing rabbits and squirrels and magpies and other things, including this great big bird and his (or her) enormous nest. Can you tell what kind of a bird it is?

It's a stork. Raise your hand if you knew that. And look where it chose to build its nest.

At first I couldn't figure out how a bird could build a nest that big on the top of a skinny light pole, but later I saw that people put big platforms on the poles to encourage the bird to build there. Apparently they bring good luck (or maybe babies -- which could be considered good luck too).  These birds are all over the place. I've been seeing oodles of them (look out people -- a baby boom is headed your way)

Maybe the reason it does not seem so crowded in Poland is because there is such a high unemployment rate that a lot of the people have to ride bikes everywhere. I guess that is why there are bike paths running alongside all the roads.

Where there are no forests, there are huge farms instead. The one on the right is full of wheat. I'm not positive, but I am pretty sure the one on the left is asparagus. But notice something strange? No fences. I have almost never seen one here.

Can't be looking around at storks and asparagus. Gotta keep my eyes on the road. Otherwise, look what can happen.

I am going to have to ask somebody what wypadki and Koniec mean. I can't find them on the internet. They are on a lot of signs.

Speaking of signs, I was ready to find this one after a long day of riding.

I had hoped to stay at a hotel or hostel tonight, but it is Saturday and I am in Warsaw, so everything is booked up.  I like this campsite though.  It is very clean, the showers are nice and hot, and everyone is very friendly.

I have directions for the tram into town tomorrow, so I am look to a good day of exploring the city.It is after 11:30 now, so I had better toddle off to bed.

More later,
Roning forward

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Berlin and Potsdam

I have Odysseus, my Vstorm, parked out in the cold, drizzly rain (hope he doesn't mind), while I am cozy warm in my room in the Hostel.

Each day, I wake up thinking I will head off toward Poland, and each day I look out the window, see the rain, and say: "Nah. Poland can wait. I'm not riding in this weather." Instead, I have been exploring the heck out of Berlin. Mostly, I have been taking tours led by young university students from the United Kingdom. They are here working on on a PhD in history (or some other subject). The tours have been excellent.  Meeting place for them is at the Brandenburg Gate.

The first tour I took told us all about the Hitler years. We stood on top of the bunker where he committed suicide. Now a parking lot is built over the bunker. Germans wanted to erase all memory of him and of those terrible years. After he was dead, his body was burned so that nobody could come see it.

Just down the street is all that is left of the infamous Berlin Wall. What a brutal time in history that thing represents.

Around the corner and down the street is Checkpoint Charlie. It was the only crossing between East and West Berlin. There is nothing there these days except souvenir stands. I didn't even take a picture. I did take a picture of this guy, though. There are hundreds of these pedal cabs running around, taking tourists here and there. There are also lots of people zipping around on bicycles. I guess with 27% unemployment, a lot of Berliners can't afford a car.

Today, I took the train to Potsdam. Here is a picture of the palace where Stalin, Churchill and Truman met to divide up Germany and Berlin at the end of the War. See the red star? Stalin had that planted just to show the other two guys they were on his territory.

The "Wall" ran right through Potsdam. The orange pole shows where it once was. The grassy strip between my camera and the wall was a "No Man's Land". Try to escape through there and you got shot. Maybe you can see the machine gun "tower" just to the right in the picture. It is just to the left of the blue sign.

Here is the "Bridge of Spies" across which the Soviets and Americans would swap spies back in the day. There is a marker right in the middle which shows the demarcation between Soviet and American territories. This bridge was opened to the public the day after the Berlin Wall fell, and it has been open ever since.

Potsdam is a very interesting place. It was the home of the German Kaisers, and it has some beautiful buildings and palaces. The Soviets let the place fall apart, but now it has been renewed (tax money hard at work). Probably the most beautiful of all the palaces there is Sans Souci. It was built by Fredereck the Great who, among his many accomplishments, introduced Europe to the potato. Here is his grave. Can you guess what people put on it? You got it: potatoes

This internet connection has slowed to a crawl, so I am going to shut down this post. It probably is not all that interesting to most people anyway. I plan to get back on the road tomorrow, so maybe I will have more motorcycle tales to tell in my next post.

Bye for now,

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

On the road to Berlin

It is time to leave Stefan's house in Heidelberg. Everybody is finished working on their motorcycles and finished with their packing (All but Ruth and Terrick from Quebec -- they are doing a major overhaul on their two bikes, getting them ready to ship by plane to Vancouver, and then to ride them down through Utah toward home).

We all left about the same time.  First Kelly headed off toward Spain by way of Italy.

Followed later by David who left for the Frankfurt Airport to catch his long flight back home to Australia.

And then Vinnie and Noel left, all loaded down, to ride toward Prague.

And then me. I plan to motor north and east toward Berlin.  Thanks for taking my picture, Mary.

I like taking the back roads. Even the most narrow lanes are paved in Germany. A lot of my trip will be through the "Walds" or "forests" northeast of Frankfurt and up toward Berlin.

I like camping -- I have not found any public campgrounds in Europe, but there are scads of private camping sites. All you have to do is look for a camping sign (or key camping in as a search into your GPS) and, once there, pull up to reception and sign in.

I had a very, very nice campsite for my first night on the road. There were only four of us there: a lady in a tiny tent who is hiking through Europe; a young man from Oregon who is bicycling through Europe; and a retired couple in an enormous camper (I don't know how they can afford the European gas prices for that big rig).

This campground was right outside Buchenwald, the infamous German concentration camp. Do you remember that "Wald" means "forest"? Well, Buchenwald means "Beech Forest". It was a very popular place in the woods back in the day, and the people who lived in the neighborhood had absolutely no idea what was going on there during the War.  Thousands of prisoners were starved or hanged or tortured to death in Buchenwald, and when they died, their gold teeth were removed and they were cremated in these ovens.

After the American Army liberated Buchenwald, the people from the surrounding communities were rounded up and made to tour the facilities.  They saw piles of dead bodies, the crematoriums, and the places were weird operations and experiments were done on the prisoners. They also saw the camp commandant's mansion built by slave labor, and the private zoo for his children paid for by money extorted from the prisoners. I bet there were very few dry eyes among the general populace on that tour.

Back on the road, I headed for Berlin. Unfortunately, the fog rolled in and so did the rain. The narrow lanes were too dangerous for this old man, and so I rode the autobahn. I didn't much like zipping along at 70 mph in the center lane while passing slow trucks in the right lane and being passed by cars going twice my speed in the left lane.

So, I'm in Berlin. I knew that with the rain there was no camping for me tonight --- but where is a man going to stay in a big, strange city. I stopped at a rest area, texted my wife back home in Illinois on my cell phone, and had her find a place for me on the internet (modern life is amazing). She texted back an address of a place that looked good to her, I put the address into my GPS, and now here I am at the "Backpacker's Hostel".  The place is beautiful. Thanks Patrice. You did good.

At 55 Euros, it is 5.5 times the price of camping, but I have a nice dry room, a hot shower, and a comfortable bed. Life is good.

So I'm off to bed (snore). Gotta get up early tomorrow. There is a lot of exploring to do here in this big, historical city.

More later,

Saturday, May 24, 2014

A new summer is here and I am ready to ride. I just got back to Heidelberg last night after a long, long flight, and Odysseus, my motorcycle, was there waiting for me.  Do we look happy to see each other in this picture?

There are a lot of other riders here as well. We are all staying at Stefan Knopf's house. He is the guy who ships our motorcycles for us and stores them until we come back to ride.  Stefan had a room ready for me, and he had my motorcycle parked in front of my room -- battery charged, oil changed, a new chain. Everything is set to go.

Stefan took five of us on a tour of the area around Heidelberg today. We went up to the castle, and then rode along the Necker River. It was kind of a long ride. We got back about 5:00. Then we fired up the grill for a picnic.  This picture is David, from Australia, on the left, and Stefan manning the grill. Back in the back is a couple from Oregon who arrived here just a half hour before I did last night. The lady mixing the Margaritas is Stefan's wife. She never told me her name.

Steak and German potato salad. Life is good.  The girl on the left is Noel. She is riding double with Vinnie, the guy on the right. They are both from Oregon. They hope to head toward Vienna and Prague tomorrow. In the middle is Kelly who is from Ontario.  Kelly hopes to ride south and east toward some passes that go over the Alps from Austria down toward Italy tomorrow. I think he is going to find them closed because of snow.


The two on the left are Mary and Terrick (or Terric --- I'm not sure of the spelling). They are both PE teachers in Quebec. but now they are on sabbatical and doing a world tour on their motorcycles. They just arrived today from Africa.  The kids on the right are some of Stefan's children and their friends.

These are Terrick's and Mary's motorcycles. Mary's is the one on the right. Terrick and Mary have their tent set up in the back yard. Looks pretty cozy to me.

After supper, it is time for a fire. Stefan likes them big. He says he only builds two fires a year. 

Its late and I am jet lagged, so time for bed for this world traveler. I plan to spend the day getting the bike ready to go tomorrow, and maybe I will buy a couple of items I forgot to bring (pillow and pad).  Then I will be all ready to head out Monday. I think I will head east toward Austria. I need to meet my daughter, Jessica, in the Czech Republic in a couple of weeks, so east is the best direction for me to go.

More later,