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

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Back in sunny Denmark

Finally, after weeks and weeks of rain, the weather broke and warmth and sunshine showed up.

But first, let me tell you about Goteborg, Sweden. I needed to get there to catch the ferry back to Denmark. The weather was still a little rainy two days ago when I got there after my ride south through the Norwegian Mountains, but it was starting to clear up. This gave me a chance to camp again after weeks of hotel rooms. Now, I have gotten spoiled by those hotel rooms, and would much rather have a warm, dry bed than to sleep in a tent, but camping allows me to do two things I can't do at hotel rooms, at least not easily: work on the bike and wash it; and wash my clothes at the campground laundry room.

The campground at Goteborg was quite a place. It was clean and very up-to-date. Just look at this playground area for the kids.

I took these pictures early in the morning, but from mid-morning until late at night it was filled with kids running around and playing.

There were artificial trees to climb, and climbing walls, and climbing nets, and high beams to walk along, and hills to play King of the Mountain on, and I don't know what all. I do know the kids were loving it. There were kids as young as 4 years old, and kids as old as 12 or 13, and there was not an adult in sight. It was just kids having a swell time being kids. I think the older kids were off playing miniature golf or riding horses.

And what do you think of this toy auto attached to a make believe camper? What fun!.

There was a real shuttle also, but I don't know where it went.

This is where the super clean toilets and showers were. You couldn't get in there unless you had a camper key card with you.

Of course, my main concern, after washing my clothes, was to do some maintenance on the bike. I thought about trying to take a picture about halfway through the job, but by that point my hands were too oily to pick up a camera. Besides washing the bike, the primary thing I had to do was to clean the seaks on the front fork, one on each side, because they were both leaking oil all over my front brake pads.. I had to get on the internet and get some advice on how to do that job. It turns out that the easiest way is to cut some plastic and run down between the seals and the forks to remove any sand or other impurities that get into them. Repair by Coca Cola. Who would have thought it.

With the bike cleaned up, I bought a public transport pass to go into the town center. It is a big town, and it was misty rain again so I did not want to ride the bike in.  I wanted to go see the ships at the Maritime Museum. They let me climb around pretty much anywhere I wanted in those ships. Try doing that in litigious USA. Here is a destroyer I explored.

You are a true history buff if you know what this next boat is.

Here is another picture of it. It isn't very photogenic.

Need a hint? Okay, here ya go -- One just like this fought the Merrimack at Hampton Roads during the Civil War in the first battle of the iron-sides.

Yep--You got it This  boat is a "Monitor". Did you know that countries all over Europe rushed to make ironclads after that battle at Hampton Roads? I didn't know that. I went down into the boat. It was pretty roomy inside, but I bet it was noisy and stinky during a battle.

There were lots of other ships and boats to explore at the Maritime Museum. I especially liked playing around in the submarine. Couldn't get any good pictures in there though.

Here is another view of the seaport area in Goteborg.

I don't know if I have shown you these rental bikes before or not. You see them in cities all across Europe. I think they are even showing up in some American cites also. You just put your money in, take the bike, and return it to another stand like this one somewhere else. I think it is a cool idea.

I had some extra time,so I decided to go to the Science Museum. My wife would have loved taking our kids to this place when they were younger. They could have ridden on an animatronic Saber Toothed Tiger in the Life in the Ice Age exhibit.

The monkeys and birds were just running (or flying) free in the Rain Forest area.

Up in the Space Exploration section of the museum, there were lots of things for kids (and adults) to do. This girl had on a velcro suit which let her stick to the wall.

One last shot from the Ice Age area. Hmmm. I guess the animatronic mammoth is a good thing to show you. That guy sure was huge.

I woke up this morning to absolutely beautiful, sunny, warm weather. I could hardly believe it was finally Summer in Scandinavia. I sure don't miss that rain -- but I kind of like the cooler weather that I have been having.

After a good breakfast, I packed up and headed off to the ferry to Denmark. Once again, my stupid GPS took me miles and miles out of my way. I wound up exactly where I was yesterday, down by the Maritime Museum after a bus ride of 20 minutes. I thought from the git-go this morning that my GPS was taking me in the wrong direction, but I didn't know for sure where the ferry was. I am glad I had left myself plenty of time.

The picture is an "On Board the Ferry" shot for you. Doesn't look like much, does it?  Anyway, here I am back in Denmark.

Now, I have to decide what I want to see and do as I slowly make my way south. toward Germany.


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Goodbye to Norway

Yesterday was another long day in the rain. It never seems to stop here in Scandinavia this summer.

I could tell that I was riding through some magnificent scenery, but I just couldn't see it very well, especially when I got up high in the mountains between Norway and Sweden. It was not only cloudy and foggy up there, but it was also cold (around 6 degrees Celsius -- about 50 degrees Fahrenheit).

I really like Norway, but I hate their prices. It is such an expensive country. But, if you shop around, deals can be had. Just last night, cold and wet, I tried to check into a hotel in Storen, Norway. There was one hotel, a rather seedy looking place,and they wanted $160.00 for a room for the night. There was no way I was going to pay that. Twenty minutes later on down the road, I saw a sign for inexpensive rooms in a place called Savalen. I wasn't expecting much, but I thought I would give it a try, even though it was 11 kilometers off my intended path. It turned out to be a first class hotel in a beautiful ski resort up in the mountains.They charged me $85.00 for a very nice room. This was about half what the first place wanted, and it included a gourmet breakfast with cereals, yogurts, several types of fruit and cheeses, eggs cooked in at least four different ways, a variety of breads ..... It was marvelous, And since, for some reason, Europeans think sliced cheeses and lunch meat make for a tasty breakfast, I was able to take some of those breakfast item and make myself a couple of sandwiches to eat on the road later.

I took some pictures of the hotel and of the beautiful views there, but for some reason my camera must have decided it did not want to save them. Stupid camera.

Anyway, today turned off sunny and warm. I couldn't believe it. This was one of the very few sunny, warm days here in Scandinavia this summer. For the first time, I could really see the scenery. I think every part of Norway must be absolutely beautiful, but today's ride in the warm sunshine made it picture-postcard perfect.

There are picnic stops all through Scandinavia. I guess it is something a country can have when that country has the highest taxes on Earth.

Doesn't that sandwich from the breakfast buffet look great. I certainly enjoyed it.

I kept looking around as I was riding, and thinking to myself that this scenery looks familiar. A short time later I came to the town of Roros. I knew where I was then. Jessica and I spent a long time looking around Roros just a couple of weeks ago. At that time we were going North. Now I am going South and seeing it all in reverse. I am headed to Sweden. Time to spend the last of my Norwegian Koronas.

Just before the border between Norway and Sweden, I came to a Norwegian town where there was a gigantic fair going on.

There were booths and people everywhere. I just had to get off my bike and investigate.

As it turned out, stopping was a big mistake, because all of a sudden there was a huge traffic jam. It was caused by hundreds of old American cars. They were all built, it looked to me, between 1955 to 1965. Look at some of these beauties.

They just kept coming and coming. I wound up in the middle of that mess. It took me forever to negotiate the streets and the traffic jams and to get back on the road again. But I managed, and before long I was finally in Sweden. I am about three and a half hours away from the ferry that will take me back to Denmark. I guess I will be back in Denmark tomorrow.

Toward the end of my trip today it clouded over and started to wet down the pavement again (will it never stop?). It wasn't too bad, but I decided I need a hotel room again tonight. I was asking the nice desk clerk at the hotel I chose about all the American cars I kept seeing here. He says it is just something that is very popular in this area. He himself has two of them: a GTO and a Transam.

Anyway, I guess I will be taking the ferry to Denmark tomorrow, so it is goodbye to Norway, Sweden and Finland. I have had a great time here. I really like these three countries.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

South of the Arctic Circle again

I have been trying to learn more about the Sami people who settled the Lapland area right after the Ice Ages. They are the famous reindeer herders of the Scandinavian forests. Once upon a time they lived in tepees and were nomadic, sort of like the Plains Indians of America. Here is a picture I got off the internet.

 They may have lived kind of like the Native Americans, but they sure look a whole lot different from American Indians. Here is an example -- This young Sami man talked with me for the longest time and told me a lot about their culture. As you can see, he looks quite European.

My young Sami friend said that nobody is sure where the Sami came from, but most people think they came from the Steppes of  Russia right after the ice ages.

I went to a marvelous Sami museum to learn more.

 Out in front of the museum were some Sami houses that had been moved from their original site. This one was used by a Sami family until just a few years ago.

Here is another shot of it. Notice the smoke coming from the wood stove inside.

It was warm and comfortable inside.

The woman and man in the picture were from Belgium. They were just passing through, like me, and had stopped for a visit. The Sami family who lived here slept on reindeer skins laid over sticks. Sounds kind of uncomfortable, but I think it really wasn't bad at all.

Here is another type of building, but it was more of a work building or a storage building than a dwelling.

After visiting the museum, Odysseus and I headed on south through Sweden. It wasn't long before we came to the Arctic Circle. There was a sign there, but it  did not make for an impressive picture.

This part of Sweden south of the Arctic Circle is beautiful. It is full of mile after mile of trees.

Not long after I took that last picture, I was buzzing along at about 60 miles per hour when a reindeer ran out in front of me. I slammed on the brakes, and missed him by about 10 feet (3 meters). I don't know who was more scared, him or me. I will never forget the startled eyes on that critter. I wish I could have taken a picture. Reindeer, by the way, are cousins to the Caribou of North America, but there are some differences.

I have been gradually working my way toward the mountains that separate Norway and Sweden. I want to get back into Norway again and work my way down toward Oslo. I think that will be the best path for me, and also the most interesting.

Sweden is pretty flat, and it has a lot of lakes. The mountains tend to be in Norway.

I decided to stop for the night while still in Sweden because hotel rooms are about one third as expensive as in Norway. I am only a few miles from the Norwegian border.

As you can see from this last picture, the sky has kind of cleared up.  I hope it stays that way because now that I am south of the Arctic Circle there should be a little bit of dark night. There won't be more than an hour or so of true darkness, but solar flares are predicted for the next few days, so maybe I will be able to see the Northern Lights. That would be worth getting out of bed for.

This map will give you a general idea of where I am. Look for the red dot.

I hope the weather is clear for my Norwegian mountain riding tomorrow.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Nordkapp (North Cape) Norway

I was up and at it early, leaving my Bed and Breakfast in Finland and riding up toward the North Cape. I knew it was going to be a long ride. Everywhere along the route there were reindeer:

This part of Finland is called Lapland. It is the home of the Sami people who herd reindeer. There is a lot of them to herd. They eat them and make clothes from them and use them to pull sleighs in the Winter. This area has a lot of lakes, although not as many as in southern Finland. After about three hours of riding I came to the Barents Sea. Had to stop to take a picture:

I was just getting ready to get back on my motorcycle when Peter and Esther pulled in behind me. They were out exploring and were going the other way, and they just happened to see me parked there. Small world. I had not seen them in days.

They were on their way to Alta, Norway. It turns out that is my destination tonight too. But first, I want to get up to the North Cape (Nordkapp in Norwegian). Peter and Esther had already been there, but I had a long way to go before I was there. Time to get back on the road. And a bleak road it is. I am in the great Northern Tundra now.

It seemed like I had been riding for hours when I saw the sign for the North Cape.

There are very few gas stations up here, but the road is nice, much nicer than the road from the Arctic Circle to the Arctic Ocean in Alaska.

Nordkapp must be very popular because there were a lot of motorcycles, cars and tour buses there. The big visitors center has some movies to watch about changing seasons, and some displays about World War II activities, but the big thing to do is get your picture taken at the globe of the world.

I was at the North Cape for a couple of hours. When it was time to leave the sky was turning dark and I could tell I was going to be riding in the rain soon. I have two hours to go before I will be at the hotel in Alta, Norway. I didn't much like the idea of riding in the rain. Thank goodness for the Midnight Sun. I could see okay, but I was worried about the herds of reindeer that seem to be everywhere up here. Maybe the rain will keep them off the roads.

I was absolutely exhausted when I got to my hotel. It turned out to be deep in the Norwegian woods; much farther from the town of Alta than I had thought it would be. You never know what you are going to get when you book on-line. It was a nice place, though, and I was glad to have a warm and dry room.

A nice meal of Reindeer stew and a shower, and I was ready for bed. Tomorrow I plan to ride south along the mountain chain that splits Norway and Sweden -- that is if the weather is nice.


Saturday, June 20, 2015

At the Arctic Circle

I am at the Arctic Circle in Lapland, a "state" in Finland. This is my second time to cross the Arctic Circle. The first was in Alaska several years ago. I was on the same motorcycle then as well.

It has rained all but two days out of the last thirty days here in Scandinavia.  The people here say that they have never seen such bad weather. They tell me, and I have no reason to doubt them, that it was very warm here this time last year. Can you tell from this last picture that it has just been raining just before the picture was taken, and it is getting all set to rain again?

I rode up to the Arctic Circle with my traveling companions, Peter and Esther, to wish them goodbye. They are heading on north to the North Cape, but I want to stay behind to see the Summer Solstice celebrations in the town where we have been staying.  Have fun Peter and Esther, and ride safely.

The rains were over and the sun was peeking through by the time I got back to the campground.

I had a good time watching the "Midnight Sun" go around the sky. It does not happen up here the way the text books say. Instead, it is like being at the bottom of a very flat bowl looking up at the sky and seeing the sun go around and around the rim of the bowl each day, never going down very low and never going up very high.  It starts in the Northeast in the morning, slowly goes southwest, then north  again by midnight, then back to the East the next morning. Here, for example, is the sun at midnight, almost exactly North.

I tried to take a picture with my cell phone's compass in it, but it was hard to stay away from reflections. I took this picture about an hour before midnight. As you know, 360 degrees is due north, but also, as you know, the true North Pole and the magnetic North Pole do not line up. So, my compass is not actually going to point due north.  Got it?

This year, the date of June 20 was the big Summer Solstice festival. All over Finland (and I guess all over Scandinavia) they throw a big party at midnight. Part of the party includes eating a good meal. I decided to try reindeer stew.

Here is a picture of the reindeer strew. Does it look like stew to you? It is not what I call "stew".

Reindeer meat doesn't have any particular taste. It is just meat. But it goes down really well with some beer. This Summer Solstice party night is an excuse for the Finns to get drunk, I think.

After the eating, there was a lot of dancing and singing. I didn't participate in that activity, but some young kids did. Here the kids are doing some sort of special dance. It doesn't mean a thing to me, but everyone seemed to like it.

Can't tell much from that last picture, can you? Meanwhile, down on the riverfront, people are starting to gather for the special bonfire. It is all set up just waiting to be lit.

People are gathering around, just waiting with baited breaths (I never could figure out how a breath could be "baited"..... Oh well. (Actually, I think it is supposed to be "bated".... Probably from Shakespeare or somebody else famous who could get by making up things like this to say).

Look, the Midnight Sun is coming right out of the North and illuminating the bonfire (which is waiting with bated breath I think).

Time for a few more songs, then we can get on with the show. The "band" is ready.

The official fire lighters are ready too. They are just waiting for the stroke of midnight.

And there she goes. Hooray! (Personally, I think it would be more effective if it were dark, but who am I to try to change a tradition). I talked with a Finnish man who had traveled several miles, along with his family, to see this spectacle. I asked him why the Finns do it. He said he had no idea. He didn't know the history of it nor the why of it. It is just something they do.

After the fire lighting ceremony, people sort of shrugged (at least the non-drinkers did) and headed off to their beds. I headed to my bed, too. I saw what I came to see, so it is back to my tent for me. Once there, I took one last picture, again looking North. This is sunset (because the sun is as low in the sky as it will get this day).

As you can tell, the sky is very clear. There is no roof on it, so it will be a cold night. When I crawled into my tent my thermometer said 5 degrees (45 degrees). It was a good night for sleeping, but there was a heavy dew when I got up in the morning. I dried off the tent, packed Odysseus, and headed north toward the North Cape. I will be there in two days.

The road north of the Arctic Circle in Finland is not like the road north of the Arctic Circle in Alaska. Here, it is smooth and paved, but in Alaska is is very difficult. I was just cruising along when I spotted some reindeer grazing in a field.

If I could have figured out how to do it I might have eaten those reindeer because, and nobody had warned me about this, all of Finland shuts down for the First Day of Summer holiday. Not a store nor restaurant was open. I was very hungry by the time I got to my Bed and Breakfast where I planned to stop for the night.

Here are the owners of that B & B. They are Eeva-Liisa and Jouko Vainioranta. They were barbecuing some pork, and they had a nice salad set up out on the front lawn, and they very graciously asked me to join them. Wow! A dream come true. I was picturing a night of hunger since there were no stores open. Thanks so much Eeva and Jouko.

Jouko is a sailor. He and Eeva have owned a sailboat and have sailed it all over the Mediterranean Sea. That sure sounds like fun.

Well- that's all for now. Talk with you later.