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Old 07-06-2013, 03:58 AM   #1
Travelbugblues OP
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Part I of Babes on Bikes- European Motorcycle Madness



Hehe, tricked you into clicking on my story by that catchy title. We're not really "Babes on Bikes", more like babies on bikes, at that point. But don't be fooled, we're about as adventurous as they come. Open to suggestions for my next big ride! Leaving Australia in February for...? Suggestions for around Australia? Don't miss places in New Zealand or Asia?

This trip was European Motorcycle Madness for 7 glorious weeks- Two girls, one bike for the first 800 miles, and all alone for the remaining couple thousand miles of beautiful European countryside.

Tons of photos at: http://travelbugblues.wordpress.com/...cycle-madness/

Damn, we look good thanks to Photoshop!



On April 26th, 2012, I was fortunate enough to hear Austin Vince give a presentation in Seattle about various awesome motorcycle adventurers you’ve never heard of. My good friend and recent travel buddy Ashley thought I’d be interested in going, but couldn’t make it there herself.



Having already purchased airlines tickets to Europe for the whole summer, with no real plan of what I’d be doing except hiking my third section of The Way of St. James, I decided I wanted to be one of those motorcyclists you’ve never heard of, too! Within 15 minutes of the talk I texted Ashley with the following news:

“You ready for this?? I’m about to blow your mind. WE ARE GOING TO BUY A MOTORCYCLE IN EUROPE TO RIDE AROUND ON! I’ll take you back to Paris after, and will continue on my trip. Then, I’ll sell the bike. We can get one for cheap and I met the speaker tonight who said he’d help!”

Ashley:

“I should have known that sending you to that thing would end this way. Makes sense to me!!! Way better than riding the train!”

Me: “Woowoot!!”

And so it began…

We were both just baby motorcyclists at that point (and maybe still are), having received our licenses and motorcycles the summer of 2011 after a flash of brilliance and irrationality while tromping around the volcanoes of Hawaii together.

I had spent a full year riding around Washington state and beautiful British Columbia on my Honda Shadow VT750 (clocked around 7,000 solo miles my first year of riding), including a one-day 400 mile trek around the Olympic Peninsula in the winter, at night, freezing my ass off through snow.

Feeling only a little sheepish, I wrote to Austin who had generously offered to help me buy (and then sell) a motorcycle in the UK. A couple of months and $2,205 later, I was the proud owner of a 2004 Kawasaki KLE 500.

On June 20th, 2012, Ashley and I arrived in Heathfield, England to claim our prize, weighed down with motorcycle gear, tools, a good deal of hiking gear, and all the cute things required by two girls when heading to gay paree. Oh, and a few clunky ol’ textbooks. Did I mention I was undertaking this adventure while completing the final quarter of my master’s degree? Minor detail…

The KLE was pretty stock, had no luggage boxes, an excessively and illegally loud exhaust, but looked like it’d get us down the road, sort of...

If only we could figure out how to fit two girls, two backpacks and all our other stuff on one little bike…


Hour 1: Ride motorcycle around. Very different from my only other bike, a big Honda Shadow VT750 cruiser. Do figure 8′s in parking lot. Get on real road. Try to stay on left. Note to self: Stay on left. NO DAMNIT, LEFT! LEEEEEFT!

Hour 1.5: Try riding with passenger. Note to Ashley: Remind me to stay on left.

Hour 2 and 3: Figure out how to get crap on bike. This thought had kept us both awake for several nights in a slight state of panic. Panniers? Pshaa. Who wants to spend money on those anyway?

Hour 4: Keep trying to get crap on bike. Don’t let mechanics’ heckling get to you.

Hour 5: Try to get both of us onto that tiny spot between gear. Hmmm… How long will we be on this bike together?? Ride to Brighton, a short 24 miles away.

Hour 6: Lose balance and shout “FEET, FEET, FEET!!!” to Ashley, whose feet couldn’t even reach the ground from back there. Drop motorcycle at intersection due to my short legs. I have lots of other excuses for why that happened… Laugh hysterically on pavement, while guys come out of the woodworks to our rescue.

On June 22nd, I wrote this email to my parents, detailing some of the adventures of those first couple of days:

Bonjour!

Writing on my iPhone from a little cafe in some small French town I can’t pronounce.

Haven’t had Internet for a bit. Brighton was nice. Gorgeous ride around the countryside, and our couchsurfing host was wonderful. A 31 year old professor of philosophy. Wonderful new friend, great eve with him and his friend Emma, who cooked us a delicious baba ganoosh, potato and veggie dinner.

I did drop the bike at a stop, while shouting “Feet! Feet! Feet!” at ashley…. It’s quite tall, and the ground was sloping down to the left, and the bike was extremely top heavy. We rolled to the pavement and there we lay, laughing uncontrollably through our helmets. Out of nowhere people came to help get the bike up, and we were off again without a scratch (to ourselves!). We have since found a far superior way to carry all our gear and have perfected the art of moto packing.

Next day found us on ferry to Dieppe, after viewing the white cliffs near Dover. The four hours from Newhaven on a huge ship was very relaxing and nice, beginning with a 10am English style breakfast. Bike was strapped to ferry deck. We decided to just wear our own backpacks for the remainder of the trip. Worked surprisingly well, as long as we kept Ash from flying off the back.

Rode about thirty miles into Normandy amongst lightning, thunder and torrential downpour. Stayed relatively dry minus my soaked feet, and the bike handled beautifully in those conditions.

But, bike died on the side of busy highway as soon as the sun came out! Was able to start it again, and ride to the next exit, where another motorcyclist was already waiting for us, chaperoning us to safety until the bike died again at an offramp. He spoke no English, but took me to a nearby town with a motorcycle shop, after Ashley and I pushed the bike up uphill offramp to a safer spot, several blocks away and over a bridge!

Moto shop people took me via car and trailer to get Ashley and motorcycle. Ashley had to sit behind motorcycle, hiding from traffic, because so many motorcyclists were stopping to help! Can’t complain there.

Owners of the shop in Elbeuf, close to Rouen, were extremely nice and helpful, and the wife, who was the only one to speak even a little English, drove us to a nearby hotel, at only 55 euros for cute little room, private bath, free desserts(!!) and breakfast. We had a wonderful evening, listened to live music as it was national music day, and picked up the bike the next morning. Just a kink and clog in a fuel line, which they had fixed the eve before. We left the bike with them though, so they’d have time to check spark plugs and air filter.

Total cost of getting towed, unclogging fuel line, changing spark plugs, labor, and kindness?? Less than €60!! Couldn’t believe it. They warned that the clutch wasn’t great and was affecting 1st and 2nd gear, but said it would probably be fine for a few thousand miles.

Now en route to Le Puy en Valey, but will probably sleep somewhere near Orleans this eve.

Having a great time.

My dear mother’s response:

“OH my….!!! That is too much for a Moooother! Falling on the pavement? Driving in the rain? Honey, why don’t you sell that machine at the nearest market? How far are you planning to go? Cuidate muchísimo. Love, mama”

June 23rd, to parents:

Hi mom! In a small town, gonna try and deal with what we think is a problem with a clogged fuel line. The bike runs, but after 100km starts running poorly until we put another half tank of gas in, even though it still has plenty of fuel. Might just be dirt in the tank that got stirred up when I dropped it…

June 25th, to parents:

All is well in France. We’ve changed plans significantly due to motorcycle problems. Also, I think the weight of both of us, plus gear, is too much for this bike. Not as powerful as my Seattle bike. I think when I’m alone it’ll run better! Motorcycle shifter thing fell off yesterday in Loire Valley while touring around castles. Twice, actually. What do you do when your shifter-lever thing falls off?


We were able to get off the highway the second time, after jamming it back on, and asked for help at a house. The families who helped us were great!! Husbands weren’t home, but the wives came out, husbands’ toolboxes and kids in tow, and eventually their one armed mechanic neighbor came and fixed it.

With help from two local families and a one armed mechanic, we were on our way again.

Also saw two castles/chateaux. Stayed at amazing little ‘gite’, like a b&b, for two nights. Found it only after hours and hours of riding, lost in the countryside, at midnight, exhausted, with the motorcycle making horrible CLUNKING sounds, and way too low on engine oil. A nice man guided us from his village across many miles of fields to the gite. Only $60 for two people a night with amazing breakfast and great hosts! Beautiful old country farm house.

Nothing like being lost in the dark for hours and then finding this sweet pad.

We are just now leaving the gorgeous Loire valley. On way from Orleans now to Dijon, where we’ll stay with my old friend, Olivier. Will see if we can get there in one day!!
------

We did NOT make it to Dijon in just one day. It took about 4, as the regulator on our bike, hereon referred to lovingly as “Ghettobike”, blew out and could have fried the whole machine. We waited in the quaint old town of Auxerre for several days until the new part arrived.

Shortly after, we found ourselves in the splendid company of old friends in Dijon, where we relaxed and recouped our energy (and I worked on my master's degree homework!). And by ‘relaxed and recouped’, I mean we went on a 45 km hike on one of the Camino de Santiago routes through France, got totally lost, and had to hitchhike back after a couple of days. Good times.

It was with great sadness that I took Ashley to the nearby train station in Chalon-sur-Saone shortly after, where she was to head back to Paris and catch her flight home to Seattle. After all we had experienced together, it was a difficult goodbye. 10 glorious days of motorcycling through the gorgeous French countryside, over 800 meandering miles, having her company for each and ever breakdown, I wondered how I was going to spend the next 6 weeks riding solo around countries I had never been to, with no real plan or extensive motorcycle maintenance knowledge…

As Austin Vince said when I voiced my concerns of having NO mechanical experience whatsoever, "You'll learn on the road..."

Ok, if you've made it this far, just click on the link below to read part II and III, Alps, Mont-Blanc, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Germany, Belgium, etc.

Travelbugblues screwed with this post 10-05-2013 at 04:12 AM
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Old 07-06-2013, 09:34 AM   #2
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Lots of great photos on that linked site, looks like you fit quite a bit of fun into the Euro trip. Very nice.
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Old 07-06-2013, 09:35 AM   #3
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Nice report! You certainly had a lot of adventures, especially if counting the breakdowns! Did you have a contact in the UK register the bike for you? I've heard insurance there is do-able for non-EU citizens if you can show a UK residential address....straw address I guess....or did you go the Green Card route? Or just fly under the radar?
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Old 07-06-2013, 09:47 AM   #4
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Very unique....

This is very unique indeed. Some of the photos tend to grab your attention too! Thanks for a good one.......


Gary "Oldone"

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Old 07-06-2013, 09:12 PM   #5
Travelbugblues OP
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Austin Vince helped me with the address and registering the bike. As for insurance, well... didn't have any! Risky, I know, but I didn't have much choice. I searched for insurance from Seattle for a month before buying a bike there. Everyone said the same thing: "Oh, your from WA state but the bike is registered in the UK? No sorry, we can't insure you". Some of the companies seemed to be likely to help, until they found out I was from WA. It seemed like it would have been fine had I been from another state.

On a side note, I was test riding some bikes here in Australia and the motorcycle shop said they don't let people from certain US states test ride their bikes. They're pretty specific about which motorcycle licenses they'll accept. In this case, my WA license was fine.

Back to Europe trip: I finally found a company that said it wouldn't be a problem, and to call them again and fax over the info when I had the bike. Phew!

When I got to London, with motorcycle keys IN HAND, paid, done deal, ready to set off, just flew over thousands of miles, the insurance company said the same thing. "Oh you're from WA state- no, we can't insure you". Even though I had very specifically included that information in my previous emails to them.

In the end, I just flew under the radar and all went well. I didn't like it, but didn't have much choice. In hindsight, I could probably have just given them the address to a hostel or friend's house. Lesson learned.

The girl who came with me for the first 10 days, one of my closest friends, just emailed this morning with the intention of coming with me for a New Zealand motorcycle trip in a few months!
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Old 07-06-2013, 10:12 PM   #6
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Sounds like Austin did what wheatwhacker is doing over in Ireland. According to his post
http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=868979
you can get insurance from a European company if the bike is titled in your name and registered in Europe (I'd think that would work for you since Austin had it registered at his address)....the green card....that might work the next time you're riding abroad. Not sure about the EU in the US it tends to be criminal not to have insurance. Walter Colebatch just warned a rider in Russia whose insurance was about to run out while he was still in-country to pick up a short term policy. Beats the hassle of being arrested in Russia I guess.

Enjoyed your ride report and your website. Wishing you well on your next adventure! Let's see...did you ask for recommendations for a 250? I seem to recall you did, but excuse me if I'm mistaken. Based on a trip reported here, a Kawasaaki Ninja 250 might work. The inmate in question took his girlfriend from Texas to Argentina on one and they mostly camped out. If memory serves, when they sold the bike in BA she was very sad...she loved that bike...which must be some kind of testament to the comfort level riding on the back of one all that way. Many would say that it does not have enough power, but find the report and I don't think you'll see many complaints at all about that bike. And again, IIRC, it did not break down at all. Just a thought....

Oh, I think the inmate was "jordan325i"
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Old 07-07-2013, 01:56 AM   #7
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Pure crazy. How awesome. Enjoy NZ, the South Island is stunning (although a little cold this time of year)...
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Old 10-01-2013, 10:14 PM   #8
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New bike

Thanks for the messages-

I did end up buying a 250. A Super Sherpa, which I'm loving! Just did a recent trip around Australia's South Coast, which was excellent. My only complaints about the bike are the small fuel tank and getting blown around by the wind. The first I'm solving by carrying extra fuel (too complicated for me to get a new tank and retrofit it, since they don't make one specific to this bike), and the wind... well, I'll get used to it! Definitely different than my KLR650 and KLE500, that's for sure!

Planning another trip now to the Horizons Unlimited event in Cavendish, Victoria (Australia), and then a big 30th birthday trip in February. Hoping to make it... to Seattle!
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Old 10-01-2013, 11:16 PM   #9
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Thats awesome! Well done! So jealous of you riding all those k's and having a blast..

I think i need to save up and quit my job for a while.. hehe
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Old 10-01-2013, 11:25 PM   #10
Edmond Dantès
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Rubbing shoulders with Austin Vince? Respect! He is UK adventure riding royalty!
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Old 10-02-2013, 05:54 AM   #11
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Old 10-05-2013, 04:09 AM   #12
Travelbugblues OP
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Haha :)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Edmond Dantès View Post
Rubbing shoulders with Austin Vince? Respect! He is UK adventure riding royalty!
Yeah, you can see I was pretty stoked to see him and Lois after the trip ended!

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Old 10-05-2013, 04:10 AM   #13
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Too damn big!

How do you make pictures smaller on here??
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Old 10-05-2013, 10:50 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Travelbugblues View Post
How do you make pictures smaller on here??
Usually just a little sprinkle of Magic Picture Dust will do it.

Seriously that one you posted is just fine in size, if that's what you're referencing.
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Old 10-05-2013, 09:05 PM   #15
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Ha- I'll keep that in mind :)
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