Tag Archives: Travel

A place to go

Ever heard of ‘Liberland‘? A small, almost forgotten 7 square kilometre parcel of land on the Croatian and Serbian borders, recently claimed by a bunch of renegade individualists for a grand social experiment. I’ve just realised that it may be not too far off our planned 2017 grand motorcycle tour.

Freedom for Liberland! from MEL Films on Vimeo.

Worth a visit, not worth a visit? Worth going to just to get a stamp on our passports, if they do that sort of thing? I have no idea. But it’s just the kind of goofy, off the beaten track adventure we’re looking for. We’ve got a planned stop around Split in Croatia. Could be worth a day trip.

Wonder if there’s a decent hotel close by?

Grumpiness

At present I have much to be annoyed about, and I’m letting my inner grump have free reign. Why? From people in the UK trying to screw me over for tens of thousands (Good luck with that one – I know what they’re up to and so do my lawyers) and ill relatives, to the happy clappy attitude of some of the locals, who, it turns out, are far more likely to die younger than I. Which is a relief. A man can only take so much ‘nice’ before he considers committing an uncharacteristic act of malice and mayhem. Which tends to upset local law enforcement, and that would never do.

However, there is hope, because a new study has found that being a curmudgeon makes you likely to live longer, be more creative, effective, and generally be more prepared against life’s little vicissitudes. Of which there are a plethora.

The reason for my grumpiness? Hunting for a new apartment. Bills. ‘Hate crime’ laws going back on the books, people you’ve never met acting like you’re their best friend, usual shit. Now Mrs S has just announced she’s had a belly full of ‘nice’ because she’s just asked me what country I’d like to move to because she’s pissed off with the stinking tide of Political Correctness over here in BC. And going back to the UK isn’t going to happen because we like our personal space too much. After a few moments reflection I said “New Zealand. South Island.” For six months, certainly. Okay, I’ll give it a try. This is one of those ‘can hack’ situations where I have to do the hacking. Hey, I got us through the hoops of immigrating to Canada. Five or six months in NZ during 2017-8 by comparison should be a snip.

Just got to work out how to store the car, as the Bike will definitely be coming with us.

New Kit

New riding gearRoad trip planning for Europe 2017 continues apace and a deposit has been put on a shiny new motorcycle for delivery March / April 2017. Also purchased are two new Olympia Dakar touring jackets. We still both have our old heavy leather jackets from other trips, but have decided that the lighter and more weather versatile mesh style will be of greater utility. Yes I know we’ll both look like traffic cops, what with the three stripes on the sleeve (Wotcher Sarge) and everything, but my rough and ready ride-all-day-and-all-night days are long past, and I’m growing soft in my not so frail dotage. Two new HJC IS-Max II helmets have also been bought. Could have gone for Shoei or some other make, but the reviews and safety ratings for HJC are good and the ventilation is comfortable. Which in European Summer heat will be an essential. I know they’re expensive, but I don’t plan on ‘spoiling the ship for a ha’porth o’ tar’. A trip like this can be done on the cheap if you’re young and willing to rough it a bit, but when you are, shall we (Cough) say over the big Five-oh, you get to like your comfort. Hence the upmarket clothing and brand new top of the line motorcycle.

Then there’s languages. My French is adequate. My German mm, Ich spreche nicht Deutsch gut and my Italian sounds more like Spanish. However, I can get by, but want to be able to do more. So language freshen ups are required. Current route plan takes us via ferry from Foggia, Italy to Split in Croatia and via Slovenia to Venice, thence northbound. At the very least we need to be able to read road signs, count to a hundred, say “Yes”, “No”, “Please”, “I don’t understand”, “Thank you”, “How much?” and “You must be joking me old china” in Czech, Slovene, Polish, Dutch, Danish and Swedish rather than expecting everyone to speak much English. I think of it this way; it’s good manners to at least try.

How to eat an Elephant

Vaudeville comic. “I say, I say, I say! Have you seen my Elephant?”
Straight man. “I didn’t know you had one. Why do you have an Elephant? Is it a pet? Or are you just bragging?”
Vaudeville comic. “No, my dear chap, it’s for my lunch.”
Straight man. “Good god man, you must be hungry.”
Vaudeville comic. “I am. I am. Have you seen it?”
Straight man. “No good sir, but you’ve piqued my curiosity. How on Earth do you go about eating an Elephant?”
Vaudeville comic. “One slice at a time!” Ba-Boom!
Catch and eat elephant
Yerss… wellll. I’ve done it again. The realisation has sunk in that I’ve let my wife talk me into another mammoth (Groan. I know, I’ll get me coat) undertaking (Groan again) The Elephant in question is this three month European motorcycle tour for 2017. Mrs S as usual is dropping a good deal of the research in my lap and then when I’m just about to hit ‘Book’ on the accommodation booking site wants to take an entirely different route altogether. Also known as the “Oh Bill.” Manoeuvre. Which always leaves me with the sensation I’m following the Mrs Beaton recipe for Elephant a la Tanganyika (Serves 500), which not only requires half a tonne of star fruit and oranges for the sauce, but begins ‘first catch your elephant’.

Now the maps have arrived I’m reminded of the first round Europe tour we did on two wheels, which was a titch by comparison yet still took up slightly over three thousand miles in three weeks on my old 900ST. This version will be taking us almost three times as far in three months. Which is a much different ball game.

However, today I just saved myself well over three thousand dollars which is a little less Heffalump to scarf down. Let me explain. Touring motorcycles, even big ones like a 1215 Trophy, BMW KL1200T, Honda Gold Wing or ST1300 Pan European have a finite luggage carrying capacity. One of the solutions to improve the carrying capacity is to fit a tow bar and tow a small trailer. But these things, while popular in Germany and over here in North America, are expensive and leave rider and pillion vulnerable to people who are not particularly switched on. Here in North America, where on some roads you can go an hour without seeing another vehicle this isn’t a problem. In crowded old Europe it’s just more bike to be hit.

The saving comes from digging out my old water resistant ripstop nylon thirty inch duffel bag which will bungee and cargo strap neatly onto the rear top box platform of the Trophy whilst giving us at least thirty kilo’s of extra luggage capacity. It also gets us round several logistical concerns, like whether Air Canada will treat such a trailer as a separate vehicle and charge me another three thousand dollars on top of what I’ll already be coughing up for the air fares. Then there’s parking, overnight storage and security in the less secure environments we may find ourselves passing through. Better a single bag I can sling over my shoulder, Mrs S can take the electronics in my old weatherproof Belstaff backpack and I still have a bolt cutter resistant wheel lock and cable. I’ll spend some of the money I’ve saved by purchasing a proper tank bag and cover.

Overall this little epiphany may end up cutting at least five thousand dollars off my original trip budget, possibly even as much as seven. Which is money that can be put to other uses like upscale accommodation, and nicer country restaurants who don’t bat an eyelid at people who amble in from the car park wearing full motorcycle gear. Any of you who were alive and riding in the 1970’s and 80’s will recall the many ‘No Biker’ signs around every pub in the UK. Contrariwise, I have found continental Europe blessedly free of such blind prejudice.

The one dark spot on the horizon is a household disagreement over the current state of US politics. Mrs S thinks Hilary Clinton should be the next president of the USA, mainly because she’s female and a veteran politician. My view is that if I had a vote it would be for anyone but Hilary Clinton, precisely because she is a ‘veteran politician’, and thus part of the problem not the solution. She may have a ‘track record’ but so has a horse that’s run a lot of races and consistently come last. As an observation; during our road trip around the US, and latterly when we spent our last long weekend north of Seattle we saw lots of Bernie Sanders bumper stickers and lawn signs and quite a number for Donald Trump, even a few for Barack Obama, but absolutely no visible support for Hilary Clinton anywhere. From Washington State down through California and across to South Carolina. We saw no bumper stickers, lawn signs, billboards or anything. Well, perhaps her campaign has been pacing itself, or they were hiding off the main Interstates, but I’m not convinced.

Anyway, that’s someone else’s Elephant to eat. Hope they brought plenty of mustard and a bakery load of bread.

Maps and books

We’re busy buying books and maps at present, as our old stuff is way out of date, and when you’ve got a map of Europe blu-tacked to the kitchen wall with some brightly coloured bookmarks tags on, it’s easier to build up a mental picture of the route in your head and get an idea of the physical distances between places. Okay, the satnag might tell you it’s a three hour run down the Autobahn, but what about that interesting road over there leading off to who knows where? Does it loop back towards Magdeburg or Kiel? How far is it, and how fast can we do it without grinding the top off the sidestand or occasioning fits of hysterics from my pillion passenger and collecting speeding tickets? What do those squiggles tell you? Apart from that particular road has a lot of sharp bends.

Anyway, the maps and physical map books arrived arrived today, and are being deployed ready for the next phase, which is deciding precisely what is doable in terms of side trips and what is simply a bit of a slog just to tick off a place name. Google maps is all very well, but doesn’t take to having sticky labels put all over the screen and not getting them mixed up with other people’s stuff. Besides, where’s the adventure in that? As I’ve said before, we’re taking the roads less travelled and finding stuff which may not be on the main tourist trails.

Yay! Phone call from the Motorcycle store over at Esquimalt. Our helmets and jackets have arrived for trial fittings before I go visit the local Triumph dealership and rent one of their big bikes for a two day up-island trip in August. I’m also plugging the gaps in my Terry Pratchett book collection, including copies of his very underrated Johnny Maxwell trilogy. Which were scheduled to arrive today, but they’re coming in from the UK so when they actually turn up is anybody’s guess. The sun is shining and for the moment we’re on top of our work and courses. So far so good. Or as we used to say; “It’s a very nice day. Now watch some complete tit try and ruin it.”

Achtung! Deutschland!

Road trip planning this weekend for May to July 2017. We’ve decided to take a nodal approach this time round, as opposed to the more traditional linear model of road trip. Translation: we’re planning to travel to one place for a week and stay, making mini-excursions for days out as opposed to the logistical nightmare of stopping every day or so on the road, packing and unpacking every other night, dodging from place to place to ‘do’ places like we’re ticking boxes like we recently did on our road trip around the USA.

We’re currently, as the title of this post suggests, planning our route through Germany and I keep reading about the upsurge in violent attacks from the Muslim population over there. Now I happen to feel sorry for the Germans, who on a number of previous visits in the 1980’s and 90’s I’ve found to be generally warm and welcoming people. This generosity of spirit currently seems to be rebounding on them as their chancellor has imported a whole tranche of ingrates who do not have the wit to integrate in their new home. To quote two recent examples; a Suicide bombing in a bar, a pregnant woman hacked to death for refusing the advances of a newcomer to name but two incidents from the last week. Never mind the much more well known attacks like the attack on train passengers. And these are just the ones we hear about. Then there’s the backlash.

It’s easy to dismiss the civilian response to the terror attacks with the ‘neo-nazi right wing racist’ label, but that’s not ‘right wing’ at all. Hint; many of the attackers are identified as Neo-Nazi. But hang on, isn’t that National Socialist? Hmm. Not exactly ‘right wing’ are they? Rightist politics are by definition not pro big government or even remotely socialist, whereas the attackers tend to be of a big government, pro socialist bent (Often with big, gothic letter tattoos). Therefore the correct description for many of these backlash attackers who are described as Neo-Nazi (and therefore Socialist) is actually ‘left wing racist’. Not to mention that the majority of these attacks seem to be happening in Eastern Germany, territory of the old DDR (the Socialist German Democratic Republic). Now tell me, wasn’t that a left wing regime up until 1989? Answers on a postcard. No prizes for getting the correct answer.

Not that I’m overly worried about these attacks impinging upon our trip, except maybe peripherally. I’m more concerned about crazy Italian drivers, caffeine-driven eastern European truckers and diesel spills. Defensive riding will get us past most problems on the road, but it’s the thoughtless dithering of distracted drivers that sends chills down my spine. They’re a far bigger threat to me and mine than any would be terrorist.

Notwithstanding we’re plotting our route through Germany to run from Southern Italy, probably catching a ferry to Split in Croatia before doglegging back to Venice via Trieste and hacking north through western Austria and Bavaria, south east Germany (Which we’re told is very scenic) into the Czech Republic, thence back across the border into Berlin and up into Denmark, possibly via Lubeck or Kiel. Now I’m fairly familiar with south western Germany, the Saarland and Rhine valley, but want to see how the East has fared since reunification during the 1990’s. We’ll also be touring off the Autobahns, as they’re generally filled with crazy people trying to achieve light speed in their Mercedes and BMW’s. Our style is going to be more of the bimbling and pootling variety along minor routes. The road less travelled. Mostly away from the madding crowds.

For those not familiar with the terms; to bimble or pootle means to meander (Walk, ride, drive) in an amiable and casual fashion, without undue haste, allowing plenty of time to stop and sightsee. Although Mrs S has observed that my version of bimbling can involve high speeds when warranted. Around some very twisty roads indeed. Or; as she once vouchsafed after a mildly throttle happy trip. “Sticker, you are a fiend.”

After that, the rough plan is to stop around Copenhagen so we can make forays into southern Sweden. I may even try to visit one of my cousins, who I’m told still lives in Gothenburg. Although she’s often elsewhere in the world. After that we’re discussing staying in Amsterdam and possibly Delft before sliding off to Bruges and back across the channel before getting back on the plane home.

Right. That’s the rough plan. Spirited discussions about where we’re going to stay and for how long have been had over the weekend, and no doubt will continue until I start putting money down, which isn’t going to happen until late August. This kind of trip takes time to organise if you don’t fancy taking your chances on accommodation. Berlin is by necessity going to be a weeks stay on its own. Likewise Copenhagen. The possible fracturing of the EU may well impact on our operational necessities, but being Canadian tourists, I don’t think it’s going to change our plans that much. At least not in the short to medium term.

Achtung Deutshland! Wir kommen. We’re coming. Oh yeah.

Just general stuff

Well that’s the beginning of our next big trip sorted out. Two new touring jackets and helmets, body armour etc. Matching his and hers ordered. Pricey, but I’ve got the money having made a good deal over the weekend, despite being out of the country. After that I pulled my assets out of stocks and shares because I’m concerned the US market may be close to peak, and don’t fancy losing all my gains if there’s a Wall Street Crash event while I’m busy elsewhere. So, a little profit taking has been done, and I’m standing back for a moment to catch my breath and see what’s going on in the background.

One of the people I’ve begun listening to a lot is Mark Blyth (See sample talk below)

He actually seems to have his finger on the pulse, talking clearly and concisely about macroeconomic matters and their consequences. He’s rational, logical, amusing, down to earth and makes an otherwise difficult topic, so often clouded with politically motivated bamboozlement by the doctrinaire, sound so simple. Save, don’t save, export, trade balances, assets, liabilities he covers a great swath of the worlds economic ills and their root causes. One to follow.

crow and half mastSo, we’re back from the northwestern USA, having seen a lot of flags flying at half mast in memory of the five murdered Dallas Police officers. Every Police station, city hall, fire department and quite a few businesses we saw were flying the stars and stripes thus. Which leads me into a puzzlement. How does whipping up others to kill Policemen advance the cause of the BLM activists? That’s a completely counter intuitive strategy, rather like fucking to increase virginity. Add to that the knowledge that a good many of the class warriors stirring things up are northern European in appearance. In short, what we used to call ‘rent-a-mob’. Turning up at any protest to scream and shout mainly because it gives their miserable lives a perverse sort of meaning.

Not that we saw much of their antics. Near the place we spent last weekend, we observed a great many people blundering around peering intently at their dumbphone screens, headphones on, almost oblivious to the outside world. Apparently many are engrossed in an online game called ‘Pokemon Go‘. Even to the point of playing while driving. Which may qualify them for a Darwin award. One man in New York state is known to have wrapped his car around a tree while playing (I’m surprised he’s the only one reported thus). Stories are emerging of players wandering aimlessly into busy traffic and various Police forces have issued safety warnings. There have been no reported fatalities as yet, but it’s early days. The shallow end of the gene pool always gets emptied first.

As for the Nice attack, words fail me. Well, apart from thinking how pointless it was. Like with Paris last year, we’re not changing next years travel plans for it.

Gosh, is that my cynicism? I was wondering where I’d left it.

On the road again

Another day, another hotel room. It’s like being a road warrior again without all the chasing after customers. Shonky, insecure wi-fi, cable TV, identical corridors (where am I today?) and little time to write. I have, on the bright side, sourced a copy of ‘Mencken’ by Alistair Cooke containing a collection of articles by the great H L Mencken. While Mrs S and I are doing different conferences in differing places, it provides a little brain breathing space. Reading through, the thought occurs that very little changes in politics. At least in the USA.

Told you so

Well colour me cynical. Not that I’m a nice person anyway. My days of wide eyed innocence were lost many moons ago. But today’s news of a top level resignation has me sitting here with a smug smile on my face. Back in March 2015 I wrote:

“…anyone taking a new, PC sanitised Top Gear on will have to be really, really, good, or more likely be so blindly ambitious they don’t realise they’re committing career Seppuku…”

Bye, bye Chris Evans. Told you so. When I told Mrs S, she promptly punched the air with a shouted “YES!” She doesn’t like Evans either, he’s “Just loud.”. Me, I think he’s a very noisy one trick pony. Some people find him funny, but then they’d probably have a good giggle at a public execution.

No seriously; the Beeb tried to ‘keep the old format’ and re-create the same kind of car show. Which was a mistake. And like the vast majority of remakes it turned the revamped show into a complete turkey which threatens to fold after only one year. By contrast Clarkson’s version ran for thirteen years.

So, the new revamped Top Gear looks like sinking without trace whilst The Grand Tour, starring Clarkson, May and Hammond comes out sometime this year on Amazon Prime. Which may get shown here on Shomi, as for some reason known only to Canadian Broadcasting, we can’t get Amazon Prime north of the 49th parallel. Not that I watch TV anyway. Well, apart from advert-free streaming on Netflix and Shomi. At least I get to choose which repeats I watch.

Not that we’ll be watching much for the next week or so as we’re going into conference mode. Mrs S and I are heading over to the mainland and then down south of the border for a few days to partake of our respective conferences and shop for a few electronic bits and bobs before heading back home for the rest of the Summer. The only trip I intend making after that for 2016 is to hire a motorcycle and pootle off up island some time in August or early September. Maybe the week after Labour Day, when the weather is still good and the crowds have all gone.

Another day…

…Another few dollars, although not quite as many as I’d hoped. Still, not a bad result for all that. Money is complicated. People must be reimbursed for their services, taxes must be paid, and so the money goes round. The timing could have been better, but I’m not totally unhappy. Next time it will only be me with my finger on the financial trigger, so I’ll only have myself to blame if it all goes arse about face. However, I’ve looked at the options of my chosen course of action, and I’m fairly confident of a stable long term outcome. Short of a cataclysmic meteorite impact or the Earth suddenly opening up and swallowing the piece of rock my money will be accumulating in, or the world having a total civil and cultural meltdown of course. Which is the investment version of touching wood or other action meant to placate the gods of finance.

2017 Europe tripAnyway; with all the whining and bitching about Brexit, this weekend I thought I’d post something a little more uplifting and pro-Europe (Although not pro-EU). Or annoying, depending on how sore a loser you are. The road map for the Bill Sticker European tour of 2017. Ta-daa! (Click to enlarge)

Now as no plan survives contact with the enemy, the above map should only be viewed as a general guideline. All locations are open to change. No definitive bookings have been made, and only a deposit has been put on the machine we are to purchase. Proposed starting date is from the UK in the first week of May 2017, thence heading south and west into France, towards the Rhone Valley and may take us further East and North than illustrated on the return leg, depending upon weather. I’ve done my stint riding in all sorts of shit and slush over the last three decades and have decided it’s not much fun. Especially when even the most impermeable waterproof trousers (Why is it always the trousers?) start to fail and unwanted moisture begins to make its presence felt in all those embarrassing little places.

The only way our proposed tour can go tits up is if all the wronged Brussels bureaucrats have a major snit at anyone speaking English and decides visas and passports from predominantly English speaking countries are invalid. In which case I’ll have just flushed a great deal of money down the great white telephone to no good purpose. But I don’t think that’s going to happen. Article 50 negotiations and changes will take a lot longer than two years because the lawyers will want all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed. Then said negotiations can’t even start until there’s a new Prime Monster in Number Ten Downing Street. Even if Brussels decides a total ban on all things and people British is a jolly super wheeze, we’ll have until at least September 2019 to shoehorn our trip in. Besides, we’re Canadian with certificates to prove it. With an EU fiendish PM no less. So will bluff our way through somehow.

I’m not going to find myself in the position my dear departed old mother found herself in around 11th June 1940. She was touring with a band in Italy at the outbreak of World War II and found herself with a whole train load of British, French and other refugees at the French / Italian border, having been kicked out by Benito Mussolini’s Fascist government. “Suitcases all over the place.” As she often gleefully recounted her temporary predicament. How she got out of Vichy France she never said, but I think she escaped as one of the civilians taken out by Operation Ariel, which is the unsung cousin of the famous Dunkirk evacuation.

Not that anything like that is going to happen to we 21st century travellers. We might get a little unhappiness from border guards, but frankly I think their attitude will be; “We’ve had your money – now piss off.” Which is fine by me.