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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by eightup, May 25, 2013.
Thanks, PM sent.
Location: Saint Petersburg
I had one goal for the day and that was to get the bike fixed. Considering I had about 8,000 km left to travel before reaching my next friend it was kinda important. The friend I met the previous day had given me directions to a motorcycle shop so hopefully this would be a quick process. I walked through the door to find a showroom full of shiny KTMs and not a repair bay in sight. After explaining my problem by making the universal breaking motion (i think) I was informed they couldn't help me and didn't know a place that could.
Walking out the door with my head hung a little low I was stopped by a patron who had over heard my problem. He made a phone call to an enduro buddy of his and then to a 4x4 shop who also worked on ATVs and Motorcycles. Things were starting to look up after all. A few minutes later I had a shop name, street address, and word that they could fix my problem. I thanked him multiple times and set off to find this new shop.
This shop was more my type, I pulled into a yard to find 4x4s of all sorts and a multitude of shop bays. A few minutes after explaining the issue, I was pulling off the rack and the welder was getting fired up. They all took a genuine interest in my bike and my trip which I was more than happy to talk about. An hour later I had everything fixed, an oil change completed, and a bunch of new stickers to decorate my bike with. And to even make things better when I inquired about parking a bike in the city they offered a spot in their shop. With the bike safe I was now free to explore.
St Petersburg is truly a beautiful city.
Nice write up subscribed
Guess I should finish this eh?
Day 29: St. Petersburg
With the bike fixed and stashed I was now worry free. Looks like Russia would not be keeping my motorcycle after all The hostel was located close to the center of town so off I went on foot to enjoy the sights and eat more food I couldn't pronounce.
First would be to the main square and winter palace:
The inside of the Winter Palace was even more impressive. I could have easily spent a week or so but there was a lot to see. I happened to overhear an English speaking couple while I was there:
In reference to a gold and jewel covered bible cover
Man: *elbows his wife/girlfriend* Hey look at this
Woman: Yea it's pretty
Man: It looks like a 4 year old glued on the jewels.
Michelangelo's Crouching Boy sculpture.
After my stay at the hostel was up I found a couple on couchsurfing that was able to provide a room. Their life seemed pretty typical of a young American couple. They showed me some of the outlaying areas around St. Petersburg that I might have otherwise missed. We were also lucky enough to meet with another couchsurfer who was travelling from China. We picked her up for the sightseeing expedition and were off.
On top of the list was Catherine Park. The landscaping was breath-taking as we strolled through fountains, gardens, monuments, all right on the Gulf of Finland.
Look its me! There's a palace or something there too.
My couchsurfing host on the right. The Chinese couchsurfer on the left.
We only had to hide from the rain a couple times that day.
After heading back into the city, I stumbled upon this. Which just so happens to complete my time in Russia
Yup a bear. Just chilling on a sidewalk in the middle of St. Petersburg.
Day 30ish... On the road again
I set off from St. Petersburg with crossing the border on my mind. It was only about 200 or so kilometers away which would allow ample time to cross the border. What I didn't know was that I was setting off into a cold front and driving rain.
As luck would have it, I learned of the bad weather shortly after leaving St. Petersburg and it followed me all the way to Finland. A last parting gift I suppose.
The border crossing went much smoother than when I was entering the country. Maybe the 3 weeks of crash course Russian helped. Maybe I was just getting better at crossing borders. Either way, after sitting in the rain waiting for my turn it took all the strength I had to put on my best smile and act happy.
Things seemed a bit easier after crossing into Finland. People spoke English again (although I was back to a completely new language), I got laughed at when I asked to hide my motorcycle behind the cheap hotel (she was kind enough to remind me that this was not Russia), but most of all I was away from the big cities for a while. Nothing but Scandinavian wilderness ahead of me.
The drive through Finland was pretty straight forward. I say this because the roads were pretty much straight. For the record, a dirt road in Finland is better than most of the roads in Russia.
The wilderness stretched on for what seemed forever. I quickly realized up here that if something were to happen I would be on my own. With a more conservative mindset I slowed my speed down on the gravel roads to a steady 100km/h
Here the lakes seemed to stretch on endlessly and I would be lying if I said I didn't nap by half of them
As I got farther north other drivers became less of a concern until they were bumped from the top spot by Reindeer. They are like the cattle of the north. They wonder as they please and I met one on the road on more than an occasion or two.
I planned on taking full advantage of the free camping thing here and this was day one with no shower
I crossed through Finland pretty quickly. I found one gas station where I washed my face and hair before saddling up again and heading north. The plan was to reach Nordkapp, Norway. The northernmost point in Norway. Using nothing but paper maps, I wasn't sure what exactly was up there. I just knew that if I filled up at the last point there would be just enough fuel to get me back... hopefully.
But as I battled my way through terrain like this, it would be OK if I didn't make it back for a while:
There was only one route to Nordkapp and it became apparent that I was not alone in wanting to go north. I passed plenty of motorcycles and even more caravans as I pushed my little 400cc bike along the coastal road. With mountains on one side and the ocean on the other which was protected by what can only be described as a ramp. A foot tall concrete guard rail that just happened to be angled. I was certain it was designed to give me enough air to clear the jagged rocks below.
As I was reaching the point of no return, I reach the one town Honningsvag. There I grabbed the much needed fuel, bit of food for the road, some warmth, and I was back on the road. It should be noted that even in late June the Arctic circle was still chilly.
Nordkapp Arctic circle marker
Monument and plague. Sorry for the bad lighting. The weather wouldn't cooperate that far north.
Hey look it's me again. A little bit more bundled up.
I spent an hour or so at the visitor center they have set up there and read up on the history. Then it was time to trudge back south. The ride back was a bit slower.
I stopped for a break at this beach where everyone made rock towers. Knowing what my inner child wanted to do, I ditched the riding gear and scoured the beach for the biggest rocks I could find. That is a little known perk of being a grown up. You can finally carry all the big rocks you wanted to use as a kid.
A few other people wrote stuff on rocks so I did the same. Perhaps one of you guys can find it
I spent the night in a rest area right by the side of the road. While normally I would look for a place a bit more secluded, I figured pitching my tent next to 2 other tents and a couple caravans would be safe enough.
It was light out, a lot. Which made it a hell of a lot easier to set up a tent at "night". From Nordkapp I worked my way down the eastern coastline. The rain was kind enough to follow me and I was often rewarded with an early morning sprinkle. It was always just enough to soak through the boots.
I really wish it would have cleared up at some point but the clouds were always low and always there.
This bench was comfortable and may have been used for sleeping purposes
I spent plenty of time on ferries and it usually gave me time to talk to other motorcyclists who were either on their way up to Nordkapp or returning.
As I was waiting for a ferry to show up. Sitting on the curb minding my own business. I notice these two boys, probably around the ages 3-5. They were eyeballing the bike hard. So I wave them over and of course I am pretty sure they don't understand me but that didn't deter them. After they look it over a bit I make the motion for them to sit on it. I make sure it's in neutral and show him where the key, starter, and throttle is. One quick twist of the throttle (which definitely shocked him) his eyes get big and the smile almost doesn't fit on his face. He quickly jumps down and runs over to his mother to tell the story while I help the other boy on the bike. We spent the next 30 minutes letting them try on motorcycle gear and comparing our sunglasses. When the boat showed up their mother thanked me and explained their passion for anything mechanical.
I don't think they minded the smell. I was a solid 3 or 4 days with out a shower at this point.
Riding the coast of Norway was a time consuming process. Not that I didn't love every minute of it. But there would be times where I could see a town across the fjord but there would still be another 50km of driving to reach it. So many twisties and I was flying. Only slowing down long enough to find a safe spot to pass caravans, cars, and other motorcycles.
First glacier I've seen.
So many fjords
The Arctic circle marker as I was heading south on a ferry. I'm sure a couple of you have taken the same ride before
After that ferry I decided it was time to cut inland a bit and hit up Sweden.
This photo was taken at about 2am
Travelling south through Sweden it became apparent that my rear tire was quickly losing its tread and wouldn't make it much further. I pulled up the tent space thread and sent out a PM to Don T (hopefully you don't mind me mentioning you). He pointed me towards the Vordingborg Motorcycle Center and offered a place for me to sleep. The guys at the shop were more than helpful. With a new tire, new fluids, and knowing that my valves were in spec I went out for a little ride.
Rolling through a round-a-bout at 25mph. My bike decided she wanted to slide out from under me. After the fact, I realized my new tire was not broken in and the cause of the crash. While it was happening though, all I could think about was freeing my left hand from the handlebars as I could feel the pressure increase on it. Finally I broke away from the bike and finished out the round-a-bout on my ass. Not the recommended way mind you. A trucker and another motorist stopped and made sure I was ok and helped move the bike to the side of the road. After a thorough check of the bike and myself and due to some rapidly changing plans. I sent Don T an email saying I wouldn't be able to make it by and high tailed it to my friend's house in Rockenhausen, Germany.
A few rips and tears on the gear. Better it than me though.
This trip was about to get more interesting.
Before I left on this trip I went out and met a girl. I had known her for a couple days when I mentioned that I was leaving in a couple days to go travel Europe and stuff. We kept in touch via facebook and skype, and things progressed like they always do. So plans were made for her to come travel with me (I don't think she understood how small a DRZ400 actually was). Plans were made and plane tickets were bought. Now after wrecking my bike in Denmark it was time to log some miles and unload all the extra stuff I had been carrying. I had a few days of down time to re-organize the bike and do some laundry before heading off to London where I would be meeting this girl I had only spent 6 days with before leaving.
Side note: The short term parking at the London-Heathrow airport doesn't have any signs saying "Hey motorcycles should park over here on the bottom floor" but don't be confused. If you park elsewhere you will get a ticket. Hopefully it doesn't follow me back to the states.
So now there are two of us on a very small bike. She did a good job on packing light but there was still way to much stuff. We shoved it all on there the best we could and headed off to the countryside. We stayed at Hotel De Vere Venues Latimer Place, Chesire. Which I would definitely recommend if you are looking for a nice place to stay.
From there we caught the train into London
After a couple days in London doing the typical tourist stuff. We set off towards the English countryside and Stonehenge. I skipped a few mods to the bike before leaving, one of them being an aftermarket seat. After a month or so of riding on the stock seat I was use to it. She was not and boy let me tell you she was unhappy with it. So after a lot more stops than I was use to, we finally made it to Stonehenge.
At a first glance, Stonehenge is not that impressive. Couple large rocks in a circle in the middle of a field. Not to mention the 13 pound ticket prices. But once you stop to think about how massive these stones are and how far away you are from everything it starts to sink in. Being able to move them and set them up without any sort of modern technology is impressive in its self.
There is also a nice campsite about 5-10 minutes away from Stonehenge. Wait for it... called the Stonehenge Campsite. Decently cheap for the proximity to the site.
From Stonehenge we got an early start and headed south towards the English channel. We had our sights set on exploring a castle or two before crossing the channel. It seems like the entire countryside is manicured to perfection. Hopefully the woman grabbed some pictures to put up. I think she will be adding her two cents to the story soon. Which may or may not be angry ramblings about the seat.
On the coast we found a Gun Fort. Definitely not a castle. We learned the difference that day lol
We took the audio tour of the gun fort and walked around the harbor a bit before heading off to make camp in the rain. Thanks England.
We booked a ferry crossing from England to Jersey then to St Malo, France. Of course it showed we would be arriving at 11pm. Exactly what we wanted to avoid. But at least the ride was interesting.
Halfway through the crossing the captain makes a call to see if any doctors are on board. Shortly after we are informed the Coasties are inbound. A gentleman passed out and wouldn't regain consciousness so the call was made to med-evac him back to England. We watched as the helicopter approached, dropped off two men, and hovered off the port side until they were ready for pickup.
Once in France we found a cheap hotel and boarded up for the night. Out came the maps and a course was plotted for Omaha Beach.
It wasn't what I expected. When I think of Omaha Beach I think of war, violence, and the death associated with it. What I found was a neat little beach with people playing in the water. We climbed through the bunkers and explored the hill side.
1st Infantry Division Monument inscribed with the names of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice
5th Engineer Special Brigade
Inside a bunker
The view from inside:
See the carnage those shells can do? The inside of every bunker was littered with holes of all different sizes.
Looking up from the beach:
It all seemed unreal. That so much death could occur at such a beautiful place. Then I walked from the beach to the American graveyard there. It was staggering. The crosses seemed to stretch on endlessly.
I said good bye to the men who never would return home again and headed off to think.
Thanks for posting.. if you have more, post them!
While the RR's from the veterans are certainly great, it's refreshing to read one from a first-timer. Well done!
Thanks guys. Should be finishing up this RR in a couple days.