Nordkap 2018: Reindeer & Ramen

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Old-n-slo, Aug 27, 2018.

  1. Old-n-slo

    Old-n-slo Burnin' fossil fuels!

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    Never did a ride report before...never could figure out how to link photos. Most of my bikes have carburettors too. Just an old fart, I guess. So, I have been keeping a journal on HU. Can upload my smartphone photos downsized by their software automatically.

    So, if you want to read about a ride around the Baltics, up through Finland to Nordkap, and then down the Norwegian coast trying to stick to little roads and hopping from island to fjord through the Lofotens to the Trollstigen road, then you'll have to click on the link below.

    I'm trying to catch up with the journaling but it's hard typing on a smartphone when you're old and slow. There was the night I was frying noodles and dried cod on the side of the road at sundown when an adorable 17-year old pulled up on a crotchrocket. I tried to get her to put her fingers on my phone (Hey! It's a start, right?), but she said she had to go home to do her home work. I asked her to come back with her grandmother, but by the time I said goodnight to the midnight sun, neither the dear child, her grandmother, or even her father, had come by to help me out. :-((

    Sometimes a roadtrip is like that.

    Reindeer & Ramen: https://new.horizonsunlimited.com/tstories/old-n-slo/reindeer-and-ramen
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  2. Old-n-slo

    Old-n-slo Burnin' fossil fuels!

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  3. Old-n-slo

    Old-n-slo Burnin' fossil fuels!

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    There are things motorcycle travelers want to know about a journey that I did not sprinkle into this journal. I should have kept better notes but I will try to fill in some details.

    The bike is a 1996 Honda TransAlp 600, registered in the EU (Lithuania). I had access to it through a relative with whom I did a bike exchange (he rode one of my KLRs to Prudhoe Bay a couple of years ago). The only farkles were Honda hard bags, a Givi top box, heated grips, an SAE plug and cigarette lighter for charging stuff, and a really nice aluminum phone holder that worked like a vice and never let me down.

    I found the TransAlp to be an excellent “multi-surface” adventure bike although it is a far cry from an enduro. Perhaps a bit heavy, but nice suspension and enough power for what I was doing. The motor is a flawlessly smooth V-twin with dual carburetors. I have no idea how economical it is to run as the speedo gear went south just as I was leaving Kaunas. The horn is worthless, but in northern Europe I never heard anyone using their horns. The bike has a fairly low seat height, good for old guys, but sufficient ground clearance for travel in most parts of the world. I ran a Mitas tire in the rear and a Dunlop in the front, both about a 70-30 dirt/road tread. I was careful in all the rain I encountered since the tires have no siping. Wear was excellent with probably 50% left on my return. By GoogleMaps, I estimated I covered about 6,000 miles or 9,720 km, which is quite good longevity.

    I used a 20-year old Aerostitch Darien jacket with a Kinetsu heated liner, but I only plugged it in the day I made the run to Nordkap and back. The Darien has a frustrating configuration where you can’t unzip the side pockets without a bizarre contortion. Same with the pit vents. Not sure what Andy Goldfein was thinking when he designed this. It also has two Napoleon pockets that are perfect for stuffing gloves into— and for losing cellphones, wallets, toll tickets and other items that you will end up REALLY needing soon. I wore Roadcrafter armored riding pants over quick-drying lightweight “travel pants.” These don’t have very useful pockets either, but they are the pants I have. Despite the GoreTex lining in these garments, I typically end up with a puddle in my crotch, so I also use a 2-piece rainsuit. This also makes a great windbreaker when I don’t want to dig out warmer layers. I brought along heavy-weight gloves with rain mittens as well as my summer gauntlet leather gloves. However, my go-to almost every day was the only “for this trip” purchase I had made: a pair of Held Goretex waterproof gloves that I found on the web for half-price. Impervious, quick-drying, and the lining doesn’t pull out with your fingers like some other membrane gloves do. Goretex Sidi boots were a previous trip purchase and were, as usual, perfect. Grant Johnson told me dry and warm hands and feet make for a happy rider.

    Having once travelled for a year with just a single change of clothes in my kit, I now take an extra teeshirt to sleep in and three pairs of sox, all thin merino wool. Everything else comes under the heading of “layers.” I have a thin long-sleeve base-layer shirt, a long-john set, and a two balaclavas, one silky and one flannel. I pack a lightweight pair of cargo pants that I try to keep clean for special occasions and a light-weight long-sleeve shirt. I use my motorcycle jacket liner as a fleece. This set-up has worked for me in Latin America, Alaska, northern Canada, and now in Lapland. It seems to cover warm/cold/wet/dry— whatever comes up.

    I took along a backpacking stove that is about the size of a dinner roll but unfortunately it uses gas canisters that take up room. These, however, are readily available all over Europe. My gear included a backpacking cook kit, a very cool Primus-branded plastic plate-strainer-spatula-stirring spoon set-up that was about an inch thick and purchased from Sierra Trading, a discounter. A serrated knife was handy for slicing bread and a small cheese grater completed the equipment. I carried some 35 mm film cans of spices and a few staples like rice, couscous, oatmeal, raisins, a tube of tomato paste, bouillon cubes, and some dried diced vegetable bits to liven things up. Most Scandinavian convenience stores are like small supermarkets and are often stocked with salad-makings, fresh items, and the only bargain in Norway, fresh fish. I had a flask of olive oil and a flask of Jaegermeister for my evening cocktail.

    Shortly before leaving the U.S., I won a Redverz Solo tent at the Ontario Horizons Unlimited meet. This is a pretty extravagant affair with a vestibule wide and tall enough to garage a motorcycle. It is basically a tall version of the European “tunnel tent” design that you don’t see much of in North America but is all over the EU. I found it heavy and at times awkward to erect. I am quite ambivalent about it. At times it seemed to be sooo big, especially when strapped to the bike. At other times, I loved being able to stand up in it to get dressed. It does allow one to hide a motorcycle “indoors” and do maintenance out of the weather, but a 6-foot tall tent is pretty obvious for camping wild. An undeniable benefit, however, is the ability to pitch it and take it down in the rain without removing the rainfly first. Anyone who has camped in Alaska will appreciate this feature as most American backpacking tents appear to have been designed in places where it does not rain in the morning. Should I spend my own money, I think I will look for a tunnel tent of more modest proportions. This would allow plenty of gear storage and a place to cook out of the weather while still suspending the inner tent from the inside of the rainfly.

    I traveled without a hard plan other than a plane ticket to London on August 30th. As it took me several days to ramp up and head north from Lithuania, I had time to go as slow as I wanted and did not mind spending two days at a good camp if I felt like it. I do not use a dedicated GPS but do use downloaded maps on my smartphone for negotiating cities. I had a Michelin map of Scandinavia which covered principal roads but few rural byways. Downloaded maps often did not show the same villages as one another— or the paper map— which sometimes made navigating an adventure in itself. There are thousands of small settlements, villages and outposts. The map identifies one; the sign post at the corner identifies another .

    There are a lot of ferries when you try to follow along the coastal route. They connect peninsulas with islands and cross fjords of various widths. Most do not require more than a couple of hours wait, if you are really unlucky, but they significantly impact how far you may get in a day. There are literally hundreds of bridges and tunnels, some of which have intersections and roundabouts in them. The longest is over 27 km., I’ve been told, but the longest one I traveled was about 5 miles. In the north, these are rough-cut inside and a bit like riding through a damp, cold cave. In the south, they are well-lit and lined with concrete. You’ll find them in cities as well as out in the hinterland, as much of the Norwegian mountain ranges abut the sea. The famous Atlantic Ocean Road and its iconic bridge is a long series of causeways and an arcing bridge which is a major tourist attraction. I was told by Norwegians that it makes a better photo than a ride, and this proved true. However, I do not regret having traveled to see it.

    Many parts of the world have awesome motorcycling roads. Some you can travel for hours, perhaps a few days. The Norwegian coast is like that, only you travel it for weeks! Imagine the Pacific Coast Highway with tunnels and bridges, going on and on, day after day. I never tired of it. It was breathtaking.

    What was my route? Here you go. Mileages appear modest. I either slept late (the midnight sun will fool you into thinking it’s not night time yet), stopped frequently to gaze at the magnificent scenery, or had to wait for ferries— five on one particular day.

    After several day-long excursions around Lithuania, I set off for Talinn, Estonia: 353 mi. (camp)
    Talinn-Helsinki by ferry: 56 mi. (AirBnB)
    Note: There is an “auto-train” from Helsinki to the arctic region that was recommended to me as an alternative to spending the money on gas, food and lodging. During the summer months, it requires several days of advance reservation. Not knowing when I would actually be in Helsinki, I could not avail myself of this option although it could be fun. The ride from Helsinki to Rovaneimi could be done in one day but the “northern Minnesota scenery” can get monotonous and I found Oulu to be delightful.

    Helsinki-Oulu, Finland: 379 mi. (camp)
    Oulu-Rovaneimi (Arctic Circle and home of Santa Claus): 139 mi . (hostel)
    Rovaneimi-Kautokeini, Norway: 247 mi. (camp)
    Kautokeini-Alta: 82 mi. (camp)
    Alta-Nordkap: 147mi. X 2
    Alta-Tromso: 188 mi. (camp)
    Tromso-Nordmela: 181 mi. (camp)
    Nordmela-Kabelvaag: 120 mi. (hostel)
    — Several days exploring the Lofoten Islands —
    Kabelvaag-A (yes, just “A”)— near Moskenes Ferry terminal: 85 mi. (hostel)
    Moskenes-Bodo (ferry) 67 mi.
    Bodo-Reipa: 69 mi. (camp)
    Reipa-Somna: 223 mi. (camp)
    Somna-Viggja: 229 mi. (camp)
    Viggja-Andalsnes via Atlantic Road x 2: 230 mi.
    Andalsnes-Alesund via Trollstigen and Geirangerfjord: 173 mi. (hostel)
    Alesund-Lillehammer: 227 mi. (camp)
    Lillehammer-Oslo: 116 mi. (hostel)
    Oslo-Fredrikshavn, Denmark (ferry): 244 mi.
    Fredrikshavn-Hamburg: 319 (hospitality)
    Hamburg-Berlin: 215 mi. (hospitality)
    Berlin-Neuzelle-Konin, Poland: 256 mi. (hotel)
    Konin-Kaunas, Lithuania: 404 mi. (hospitality)
    Kaunas-Vilnius-Kunas x 2: 256 mi.

    The bike used a half-liter of oil in the first 300 miles and nothing thereafter. It used many many liters of gasoline at about $8.00 per gallon. Campgrounds were about $15-20 for a tent site, perhaps $65 for a “hytte” or hut, a cabin without plumbing, about $40 for a bunk or $70 for a private room in a hostel. Half of the time that I did use a hostel, I was the only one in the bunk room, which typically accommodated 4 to 10 persons, occasionally co-ed.

    Truckstop cafeterias often had very good freshly cooked food from buffet tables and many convenience stores had kitchens that also prepared food on the spot. Restaurant entres ran $30-45 and bar room beers were about $10. A cold bottle of beer from a grocery store was about $3-5, depending on the brand. This was about the cost of a portion of fresh local fish. Plastic containers of organic salad mix seemed readily available and you could buy 4- or 6-packs of eggs and fresh rolls everywhere. The hostels often had “free food” cupboards where travelers left staples behind. Once I learned to check there before shopping, I usually found pasta, rice, spices, soup mixes, etc. to liven-up my dinners. Every hostel and campground I stayed at had a kitchen available for guests. Showers were large and clean. Some places had saunas. Wifi was ubiquitous, sometimes even into your tent.

    I can’t tell you what the trip cost, but I tend to travel fairly economically, sleeping indoors only when I feel like it— which is often determined by the weather. My wife pays the credit card bills, so I should learn about the damage in a month when I get home. AirBnB is good, if you know your whereabouts several days in advance. Couchsurfing was too much trouble. ADVrider’s tent space forum is an invaluable resource but often hosts are not located along one’s preferred route and there are few of them in Norway. My one breakdown was a broken chain outside of Hamburg, Germany and the tent space host I was visiting saved me with garage space and tools for two nights.

    The Norwegian fjords and islands are a unique driving/riding experience that I would do again in a heartbeat. The prices are higher than average but it costs what it costs if you want to play. Do it before the dollar falls. Adios! I’m off to England for the Little British Car Co. tour, the Beaulieu Autojumble, the Goodwood Revival vintage races, a bit of exploring in the Cotswolds, and some London tourism with my all-to-understanding wife who has flown over to meet me. Why work?

    Attached Files:

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  4. Blader54

    Blader54 Long timer

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    Great start to your report!!!
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  5. Old-n-slo

    Old-n-slo Burnin' fossil fuels!

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    I tend to get anxious before trips. Doesn’t much matter where I plan to go— the next state or the next continent— I get increasingly energetic. Some may say “hyperactive.”

    Deciding to get organized early, I discovered it spread the craziness from 24 hours to something like 24 days. My dear wife and in-house logician, tech-support department and chef even decided to drive to New York and babysit our grandson. I am completely on my own with a new wireless “travel keyboard” typing into an iPhone. It’s taken me all day to figure it out. And I still need to pack. Not that the last 24 days were wasted. I did buy a travel alarm clock, enough gigabytes of SD card to record an encyclopedia, and a paper map of Norway and Finland. Several rooms are spread with gear for the trip, very little of it clothing. It’s not good to take too much clothing. One change of everything and a pair of flip-flops should do. I can pack in the morning.

    Writing about it makes me even more anxious. I think it would be good to crack an IPA and watch a Netflix movie. Maybe something about Caribbean cruise vacations or fly fishing.
    #5
  6. Old-n-slo

    Old-n-slo Burnin' fossil fuels!

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    July 24, 2017

    My facility with technology topped out at points-and-condenser ignition, but I may have figured out how to post pictures. A bit late, but bare with me. Soon I'll master reducing the format size. :-)

    Long flight to Lithuania by way of London, Stockholm, and Riga.
    600 TransAlp out of the barn after winter storage. Time for a new rear tire, some servicing, and the addition of a few minor farkles. Almost sorted after a few days. Hope for a shake-down ride tomorrow and then off to Tallinn via Latvia and the seaside the next day. Not sure what’s going on around here but it’s been HOT with occassional tropical rain. Yet in the Arctic they’re having forest fires. Could President Trump be planning sugar plantations for the Sammi to prove the positive benefits of global warming?

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    Lithuania is a country of small farms, rolling hills, a beautiful coastline of Baltic sand beaches, and storks. Storks fly up from Africa and build their nests on any pole sticking high enough out of the ground. Power poles are perfect and the storks are everywhere. It is also a country of unusual farmhouse beers, most made with wild fermentation of yeast strains handed down over generations. Some are barely recognizable as beers, others are a bit more mainstream. Like Davra. What's a shakedown ride without a visit too a microbrewery?

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    [​IMG] [​IMG] Davra Brewery in Pakrojius, Lithuania

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    Wayside crosses are a traditional form of folk art in Lithuania, stand about 20-30 feet tall and are elaborately carved. Often they are in front yards or on the side of the road. I happened to come across this one on the exit of an expressway between Kaunas and Klaipeda. This is only about the top four feet of the cross. These crosses...and storks really symbolize this little country. Unfortunately, I was having a constant-throttle power problem that took days to sort out. When I finally started looking for a mechanic, I discovered that everyone in Lithuania goes on vacation the last week in July. WTF!
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  7. Old-n-slo

    Old-n-slo Burnin' fossil fuels!

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    Lith biker.jpg

    Well...
    One reason I try to not over-plan is that nothing ever goes according to plan.

    A week of sorting things out by riding around the Lithuanian countryside helped me discover a few “issues” with the TransAlp that took days of head-banging and trial and error to sort out. In the end, it turned out to be a “high-speed fuel starvation” problem. Cleaned the carbs, checked for equal float levels, pulled apart the petcocks, emptied the gas tank and sloshed it out with clean fuel. Nada! They tell me it’s not fucking rocket science. I struggled with algebra-trig in high school. The source of the poor-running problem eluded us and all local motorcycle mechanics appeared to be on vacation or away to some idyllic lakeside cottage for the rest of the month of July.

    The brother-in-law of a neighbor’s cousin mentioned a fellow on the far side of the city who fixed bikes for “bikers”-- those guys with illustrated arms, leather vests and bad teeth. Finally found the fellow. His shop was hidden behind several warehouses in an area that looked like an abandoned Soviet-era factory of some sort. Walking in, I noticed two KTM Adventures with their motors disassembled, a Yamaha Tenere also torn down, and a belt-drive Harley with the rear-end apart. A good sign. The average grease monkey can not find his way aound an instrument as fine as a KTM. He also was wearing sandals (all eastern European mechanics wear sandals) and had a spider tatooed on his neck. This had to by MY MAN!

    Two hours later, my cousin delivered me back to the shop. The mechanic said he could find nothing out of order but he did adjust the float bowl levels, an issue we had considered earlier but didn’t know exactly how to do get at them. He took no money saying “I didn’t fix anything.” He suggested going for a fast ride and letting him know if the fuel starvation problem was gone. It was. And the man was paid.

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    The last stronghold of the last pagan country in Europe Vilnius Cathedral

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    Kaunas Basilica, used as a radio factory by the Soviets between 1945 and 1991

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    Remnants of a Catholic monastic tradition...now a nunnery and concert venue

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    Palace of the medieval rulers in Vilnius

    The Lithuanian countryside is most remarkable for two things, in my view. The unexpected roadside crosses and the the stork population. Out in the country, it is not unusual to see a pair of storks with their nest at the top of a power pole. They are everywhere and always remind me of this gentle agrarian land.

    To be honest, I must also admit that visits to small breweries where they make farmhouse country ales of unusual quality in barns, garages and even micro-breweries, increases my interest in Lithuania.

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    Long tradition of seasoning foods...and making beer with cannabis

    Things could be worse than being stuck in Lithuania for awhile. But it's time too head north.

    Attached Files:

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  8. cmcteir

    cmcteir Adventurer

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    :lurk Looking good so far - in!
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  9. Old-n-slo

    Old-n-slo Burnin' fossil fuels!

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    Wealthy summer cottage from a previous age....Latvia

    Sunday July 29, 2018

    Tying all that camping gear to the back of a 600 cc bike was a challenge without my well-used Rokstraps from home. But after a hardy breakfast of scrambled eggs and salami, black Lithuanian bread, lingonberry jam with milky white farm cheese, and some smoked meat that was identified to be “wild bore and some other stuff,” I was off.

    Having visited Latvia in the past, I made up some time by running up the Via Baltica, a well-paved and heavily travelled road connected the Baltic States to the rest of the EU. It’s a good road with a half-lane on each shoulder to be used for bicycles and as a “being passed” lane. Having seen this in some other countries, I took advantage of it to make time. As you approach a car or truck from behind, they move half of themselves into this “mini-lane.” You then have the middle of the road to pass and if you don’t time it quite right and approaching traffic apears, they too pull over into their “mini-lane”. The pass is executed, everyone stays alive, and most folks don’t give it a second thought.

    Latvia has a very long and beautiful coastline along the Baltic and I found a nice secondary road that traveled along the sea past campgrounds, evergreen forests, and rustic summer homes. The smell of balsam, fir and pine filled the air. It was beatifully clear and unseasonable hot. I crossed into Estonia at a small village where the remnants of the pre-EU border outpost still stood as a reminder of those early post-Soviet years when the Baltics fought to re-establish themselves as ethnic and political nationalities.

    Evergreen forests are an important part of Baltic identity. Many years earlier, the Russians clear cut much of the old growth forest in these little countries. Later re-forestation often relied on fir, pine, spruce, larch, aspen and birch to create large open forest areas. They also happen to be the perfect habitat for wild berries and mushrooms. Cars — sometimes as many as 40 or 50– can be found parked along the road, as families wander the woods with their baskets collecting arboreal treats. These are treasured and taken home or sold at the roadside for extra cash. I had left with six hard-boiled eggs, some bread and two cucumbers so a stop for a basket of berries was mandatory. I made an elderly grandmother in a babushka very happy.


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    The Latvian Baltic shore

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    Latvia-Estonia border
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  10. Old-n-slo

    Old-n-slo Burnin' fossil fuels!

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    Talinn to Helsinki: Blondes!

    Tuesday, July 31, 2018

    Estonia has far too many beautiful blondes. And most of them have tattoos. Now that I have that out of the way, let me also tell you that Tallinn is an enchanting medieval city with an old town that exceeds even Vilnius in its breadth and lively activity.

    Nestled into a beautiful park, the old Hanseatic fortress and walls surrounding much of the old town are more than 2 1/2 meters thick in places and date back to the 1300’s. Perhaps because Tallinn has become a Baltic cruise ship stop, the city is full of organized tourist groups, many of them oriental. None were staying at my humble hostel. Fearing another thunderstorm, I elected to spend the same fee that camping demands for a bunk in a clean but crowded accommodation called Freedom 65 Hostel and Caravan. I had a very hot and stuffy small room which I shared with nine other men of various ages, nationalities and body habitus. It was like sleeping in an aromatic sauna. I guess there really wasn’t a whole lot of sleep, really. Mostly aroma.

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    Freedom 65 Hostel...right in the city of Talinn

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    Camping priorities


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    [​IMG] The ferry to Helsinki was a 10-story powerhouse that was only one of the scores of ferries that ply the Baltic between these various northern countries. In less than three hours, I was in Finland and randomly followed a couple of disboarding motorcyclists just to see some of the city. Tiring of that, I followed trolley tracks back into the center and enjoyed a mocha at a cafe overlooking the cool green esplanade park. This turned into my base of operations for Helsinki, as I discovered easy access to the mens room. This is an important piece of early reconnaissaance in any new place. It just makes me feel “at home.”

    Of course, pubs were a part of getting to know the culture but at this point of the journey the price of beer was beginning to reflect the Scandinavian influence....
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    Finland itself was a lesson in history. And gastronomy. The hotdog stands in the market sell cream of salmon soup that is not to be missed. And moose meat pies. And reindeer burgers. The people of the area go back 9,000 years but it seems most of that time someone else was trying to take charge. Over the past 500 years, that’s been the Swedes and the Russians. Finland is one of Europe’s least populated countries with most everyone living in either Helsinki or Tartu. In parts of the north (Lapland) the density is only about one person per square kilometer. The Sami people who inhabit the far north are made up of several indigenous groups that I hope to learn more about as I get closer to their territory.

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    Commonly available....even in the frozen food section


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    Tasty and sold from kiosks on the street and in the market


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    A couple of days in Helsinki with blue skies and hot weather and an AirBnB run by a fellow with a big Ducati in the yard. I had been advised to take the car-train overnight up on to Lapland and save on gas, food and lodging. Unfortunately, I was informed by the english-speaking ticket clerk at the station that the train was booked for the next four days. No brainer. I was riding north and leaving in the morning.

    That evening, I sat across the table at the AirBnB with the only other guests, a Russian couple. They had packed their car with food from home to economize and insisted on sharing. My contribution: hardboiled eggs. Theirs: dumplings, borscht, black bread, tasty sugared cookie-like pastries filled with berry jam and black Russian tea. I pulled out my flask of Jaegermeister. They invited me to stay with them in St. Petersburg, but that will have to wait for another ride.
    #10
  11. rockydog

    rockydog just a guy

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    I've purchased 3 Transalps around that age in ireland, only problem was a voltage regulator needed replacing. Good solid bike....that burns oil...

    enjoying your pics
    #11
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  12. Old-n-slo

    Old-n-slo Burnin' fossil fuels!

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    SANTA AT THE ARCTIC CIRCLE

    FRIDAY, Aug. 8, 2018

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    Helsinki treated me to a wonderful sauna. I stayed in Janne’s AirBnB, which was about the cheapest place in town. Being a bachelor who designed his own remodel of a little suburban house, he had a huge dark-tiled room with a 2-person jacuzzi, side-by-side dual showers, and an “instant on” Finnish sauna. The doors to everything were smoked glass— including the toilet.. Remember, he’s a bachelor. The downside was that nothing in the kitchen made any sense. A typical drawer might have one sauce pan, a spatula, a length of nylon rope, and a video game controller. Another might have a set of wrenches and a life-time supply of oregano, and a small bottle of shampoo. It was clean and comfortable however.

    My ride north was under a hot sun and more of the unseasonably hot weather Europe has been having. I had been advised to take the overnight “car train” to Lapland and get some sleep moving forward but the train was booked many days in advance. Europeans all take their vacations in August.

    My goal was Oulu which may sound like it’s in Samoa, but it’s actually one of the most northerly Baltic Sea ports in Finland. It has also been recognized as the most bicycle-friendly city in Finland. Every road has a walking/cycling trail and the city is 30% park. It is often quicker to commute by bike than to drive because of parkland shortcuts. On the other hand, winters can be -30 degrees Centigrade (about 20 below) and the winter sun is up only a few hours at mid-day. I found a church camp-turned hostel situated in the midst of a city park near a beautiful beach, referred to as the “Finnish Riviera” by the locals because it attracts rich Swedish tourists. Putting up my tent got me access to a nice shower and their on-site beer cooler. My next day’s goal was Rovaniemi and the Arctic Circle, reputedly the home of Santa Claus.

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    Forests and lakes...like days of riding through northeastern Minnesota



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    The road to Rovaniemi was impeccable asphalt (as have been all of the roads so far) and I got there in time to visit the Arktikum Museum, a fascinating look at the life of the indigenous Sami people of Lapland as well as the rigors of early Finnish settler life trading and logging in the north woods.

    Rovaniemi itself was a history lesson. Angered by the Finns going in with their arch-enemies, the Russians half way through World War 2, the retreating Wehrmacht burned the entire town excepting the bus depot. They apparently did this quite routinely in Scandinavia, leaving thousands of people homeless and destitute in a very inhospitable climate. A memorial expressing gratitude for post-war aid lists the Red Cross and Quakers for feeding and caring for these victims.

    After the war, Rovaniemi was planned and rebuilt by noted Finnish architect, Alvar Alto. Whimsically, he laid the city out in the shape of a reindeer’s head and antlers. And more recently, the city put up a new bridge across the Ounas River, which is quite stunning. It’s called Jatkankynttila Bridge— say that quickly three times! It means “Lumberjack’s Candle.”

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    It was now quite a bit cooler than it had been since my leaving Lithuania, and on the next day, I headed to the edge of town to see “Santa’s home” and the Arctic circle. Uncharacteristic for the restrained and tasteful Finns, the Santa thing is quite commercialized— a sort of Wall Drug or Pedro’s South of the Border experience. Well, maybe not THAT bad. It was raining, after all. I got the obligatory photo under the latitude marker, thanks to a couple from Italy riding a Ducati, of course. It rained on and off for the next 23 hours as I headed farther north to the border with Norway at Kaukokeino

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    Believe it or not, the marker is easy to miss in the rain. Hasn't kept thousands of motorcyclists from leaving stickers, though.

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    The Arctic Circle is only half way up Finland but from now on I'm expecting cold and rain.
    #12
    DavidM1 likes this.
  13. Old-n-slo

    Old-n-slo Burnin' fossil fuels!

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2005
    Oddometer:
    191
    Location:
    SE Michigan
    To Nordkapp-- the Top of Europe!

    It's been some time since I sat down to update this ride report and, according to my calculations, I've only covered about 811 km of a 4-week ride. I will try to do better should you choose to read on...and ride on.


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    August 5, 2018

    From Rovaniemi, Finland there are basically two routes north, the eastern that skirts the Russian border and enters Norway near Karasjok and the western road, the E-8, which follows the river marking much of the Swedish border. This is a road originally used by sleds in winter to connect southern Baltic Finland with the Ocean at Tromso, Norway. During the war, Germany constructed an all-season motor road and this is still the backbone of Finish transport. It carries a lot of vacationers pulling trailers or driving motorhomes (caravans) as well as long-distance trucks, but has frequent gas stops with restaurants serving “relatively inexpensive” Scandinavian fare from a buffet table— as long as you remember to eat before 3:00 PM.

    I chose this route on the recommendation of an Estonian motorcyclist and turned off at Palojpensuu to go through Enontekio on a “national” rather than “European Union” road. Generally, motorcyclists in Europe try to avoid any road marked “E”, although I found overtaking trucks and RV’s to be quite easy on the long sweeping curves of the Finnish plateau. Enontekio and the route into Norway via the Kautokeino “old postal road” took me through predominantly Sami country. Here the indigenous people speak their own language and maintain many of their ethnic traditions, including tepee building. Another of these is herding reindeer, which are raised for meat as well as domestic (or perhaps “touristic”) work.

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    Reindeer and European moose (about half the size of North American moose) wander along the side of the road and can be encountered over the rise of a hill or around a curve, much to the chagrin of the touring motorcyclists. Fortunately, they’re not “darty” like deer and tend to just meander and thoughtfully observe the passing scenery. Nevertheless, an encounter could alter one’s travel plans.

    A nice feature of many Scandinavian campgrounds is the availability of huts (hytte). These often have heat but rarely water. A rainy mist of a day had me rent a hut for the night at the Arctic Motel and Camping outside of Kautokeino about 80 km into Norway. The hut was tight but had bunks for two which I used to dry my gear. It also had a hotplate and refrigerator. At that point, it was perfect. It rained hard all night.

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    It is about a 150 km ride to Alta on road 93, and after what seemed like three days of northeastern Minnesota, I was ready for a change. Lakes and pine forests are wonderful, but I was ready for the curves of Norway’s famous coastal region. As one leaves the plateau and descends to the sea, the road passes through a magnificent gorge with waterfalls and steep rock faces. I could see mountains!

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    I was looking forward to visiting the Alta Museum and its ancient petroglyphs. It’s about a 90 minute hike to view all the stone reliefs and rock paintings depicting arctic life 6,000 years ago. The museum itself exhibits Sami culture and the history of the Finnmark region. This was a truly unforgettable experience. But the surprise of Alta was the Cathedral of the Northern Lights. Clad in titanium sheets, it seems to soar skyward and shimmer against the sky much as the aurora borealis does in the night.

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    Alta River Camp sauna

    An early arrival got me a nice grassy spot at the Alta River Camp on the edge of town and the next morning, in the cold mist, I launched for Nordkap, the northern most point in Europe. Although I had passed some arctic areas already where the trees were stunted or absent, I was surprised at the tempering effect of the ocean on the surrounding ecology. Not quite forested, it is not until one gets into the hillier interior of the Porsanger peninsula that there is the feel of really being at the top of the world. The end of the road is a rocky outcropping where the sun never drops below the horizon from mid-May to the end of July. It had been a sacrificial site for the Sami and also of interest to early geophysicists who studied polar magnetism.


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    By the time I reached Nordkap, I was cold and damp from the mist. It was windy and the reindeer were content to watch me ride through the clouds. I didn’t stay long! The four-hour ride back to Alta took me again through a number of tunnels with their rough-hewn rock interiors. I got to thinking of reindeer steak. Sunday night meant the supermarket was closed but a convenience store had a big bag of frozen sliced reindeer “steak.” I was the envy of the campground kitchen sautéing Rudolph with some onions, tomatoes and peppers and creating a reindeer stew over rice. An expensive can of local beer made it all haute cuisine.

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    Reindeer meat sautéing to perfection Reindeer stew with VERY expensive fresh vegetables and beer

    It's about time to start heading south, by far the more interesting part of the ride. Tunnels and bridges and ferries and islands. So far, 2,456 km (1,621 miles) without the occasional side trips. Prudhoe Bay: CHECK! Ushuaia: CHECK! Cape of Good Hope: CHECK! And now Nordkap!
    #13
    yokesman, ibar132, 2004ret and 3 others like this.
  14. 2004ret

    2004ret Adventurer Supporter

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2006
    Oddometer:
    54
    Location:
    Coronado, Ca
    Most interesting ride report so far - looking forward to seeing the rest of the story down the Norwegian coast - ride safe and happy new years - Jim
    #14
    Old-n-slo likes this.
  15. RedDogAlberta

    RedDogAlberta High Plains Drifter

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2009
    Oddometer:
    20,699
    Location:
    Edmonton, Alberta
    Hop On, Hop Off. Don't mind if I do. Thanks.

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    #15
    Old-n-slo likes this.
  16. Blader54

    Blader54 Long timer

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,877
    Great report! Thanks for the time and effort it takes to share your ride
    with us!!
    #16
    Old-n-slo likes this.
  17. moragabiker

    moragabiker Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2006
    Oddometer:
    110
    Location:
    SoCal
    Excellent story and photos! Thank you for sharing your adventure with us!
    #17
  18. Little Bike

    Little Bike Air/Clutz Sue Supporter

    Joined:
    May 13, 2012
    Oddometer:
    7,308
    Location:
    Temecula CA
    Great report! We may have crossed paths this summer, I rode from Oslo north along the coast. I was also on a Transalp, 2001.
    #18
  19. Old-n-slo

    Old-n-slo Burnin' fossil fuels!

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2005
    Oddometer:
    191
    Location:
    SE Michigan
    I wish we had! I did not run into a single American motorcyclist in four weeks of riding around there. I even ran into a couple of Italians I had met in Egypt in 2015 but no gringos.
    #19
  20. Old-n-slo

    Old-n-slo Burnin' fossil fuels!

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2005
    Oddometer:
    191
    Location:
    SE Michigan
    I was asked whether it was cold and "arctic" up there and why there wasn't more snow in the photos. The weather was maritime, meaning dramatically shifting skies, rain a bit most days and a lot some days, and temperatures (once the heat wave broke) around 40-55 degrees Fahrenheit (4.5-12 C.) during the day. You need the right gear but it was not "cold weather motorcycling."

    Alta, Nordkapp and actually about half of Scandinavia are above the Arctic Circle but the effects of the gulf stream temper the climate considerably. Labrador in eastern Canada is actually pretty far south (as the world goes) yet its weather and terrain are deceptively "arctic." It has stunted trees, tundra and winter snow meters deep. I was expecting something more like riding to Prudhoe Bay, however you ride by lakes and forests until you get pretty much to the end of the road. There are not many roads that are challenging to travel. Unless you seek out side trips, the roads are well-paved with none of the cracks, heaves and potholes we see even in "tropical" Michigan. The fact that the primary and secondary roads are so well paved and maintained makes me wonder what happened in Alaska. I guess Americans just love gravel, calcium chloride and mud. Or...maybe we have neglected our infrastructure a bit. ;-)

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    #20
    2004ret and yokesman like this.