29th June: riding from Emden to HvH and thoughts on the Stenna ferry to Harwich

Thursday 29th June at just gone 9 pm – because I am on the Stenna ship to Harwich and we have just gone back into British time. I’ve just been up on the deck. When the ship left the dock at the Hook of Holland I watched all the way as it sailed out of the harbour. It was amazing because I think of Hook of Holland as a small place, little more than the ferry terminal and its infrastructure but as the ship sails up towards the spit, I suppose, there is a beach at the end which is rather beautiful and what look like apartments in a small semi-circle facing out to the sea, right on the sand. They must be amazing places to stay in. And there is a spit, a road that goes out further and, after that, a wall made of rocks. I have no idea how they would have built this. The wall goes out for half a kilometre, or a full kilometre maybe. And at the very end of that is a small light house and after that you are in the open sea. All of this with the sun setting though it was freezing cold in the wind. After seeing the ship away from land I went back into my cabin to, again, get my head down early to not be too tired for the morning.

(On my recording, I did neglect to mention my enjoyable ritual of having fish chips and mushy peas and a small bottle of chilled white wine in the restaurant. After a couple of weeks of cooking by my tent, I really appreciate this kind of meal.

Once at Harwich, I have to ride back home to deal with all the domestic things awaiting, needing sorting out. I think it is about two hours to ride home. Who knows? Certainly on the way out from central London to Harwich the traffic was terrible. It’s a bit of a heartsink journey going back into London. Its much nicer leaving London.

Now, earlier today: The crossing from Kristiansand to Emden was calm. I had one coffee and a croissant and then another coffee before packing everything up in my cabin and sitting on deck for the last half hour or so of the sailing. We got off the boat about half past ten in the morning. There was a huge number of motorcyclists that people seemed to stand in crowds to watch (even a German policeman waved at us all). There was a line of maybe 100 or more motorcyclists all taking this turn and then that turn. Eventually once we got on the the autobahn – A31 I think –  this large group dispersed. I rode down that long road for a while and then turned right into Holland. I stopped for a snack, then carried on heading towards Utrecht and Rotterdam, stopped again for petrol and a drink and then headed off. I don’t know whether it is getting worse or I am more nervous but the big ring roads around Utrecht and Rotterdam have so many lanes and most drivers are really wanting to drive as fast as possible. It was really crazy. By the time I got to the A20 and then the A12 and then the smaller roads to the Hook of Holland there is not so much traffic but it is crazy before that. It’s a nasty bit of riding for any journey to Europe that involves landing at Hook of Holland you have to run that gauntlet before you can get very far.

That is the end of my recording of that day and of the whole trip. The ride down into London was not too bad though when I arrived home I found that my bedroom had been flooded because someone staying here (my sister in law) had left the Velux window over my bed open all night (she went off to stay elsewhere) in torrential rain. The water even ran through the floorboards and down into the next floor. My mattress was soaked. Then there was less than a week before I set off on a family holiday to the outer Hebrides so I had little time to reflect on the trip immediately afterwards. But now (in mid-September) is a chance.

First – its such a shame about the Holland Norway line going bust and leaving, I read, 75,000 people out of pocket and another group stranded. It is a useful route, not cheap but not terribly pricey either.

Norway as a m/c destination: its beautiful obviously with a varied terrain and also offers the challenge of a ride all the way to Nordkap. Camping sites are plentiful and many have cabins which are brilliant alternatives to camping or hotelling (expensive). Its not too expensive if you don’t eat out or buy wine or spirits. It’s a long way to go to get there – and now there’s one less ferry route.

GoPro 11 and helmet set up: I captured some good footage but forgot the short adapter cable that joins my helmet mic to the camera so no running commentaries. This has made putting together a series of videos about the trip a bit less interesting – though I have lots of footage.

Mosko Moto luggage. I’m reluctantly getting used to the Revolver luggage and took a much larger Shad roll top bag instead of the standard MM roll top – more than twice the volume I think. Stashing shopping was a pain and I lost my home made cake and bread from the back of the bike on the way to Harwich. 

The Garmin Zumo XT GPS behaved strangely and often stopped charging for no reason. If it breaks down I’m tempted to try something completely different- an Android approach here.

The bike was good. At the ports I could see I was the smallest bike amid loads of big GSs.

More to come on this post plus pics…..

2023 trip planning for the Arctic Circle

Its 180 miles from Hoek Van Holland to Eemshaven where a brand new ferry company has just started a route to Kristiansand on the southern tip of Norway, saving one night in Germany compared with the journey from Kiel to Oslo. And the price is a little cheaper. The cost in time is a rather longer journey in Norway.

From Oslo the route to Mo I Rana is 623 miles; from Kristiansand its 793 miles – 3 hours more riding on day one.

Last day and returning home

I’m sitting in a pleasant rest area by the roadside, shaded by woods. I’m sure I caught a waft of brewing coffee just then. The air is thick with the sound of invisible motorbikes like mosquitos, their riders drawn to the magnet of the Nurburgring race track that just now I rode by – but not on. My first youth hostel was ok-ish. There’s something about being alone but pressed up against crowds that is a bit depressing and makes me prone to feeling more self-conscious than I like to be and rather uptight. I like being alone but the environments so far I have not found relaxing.

Its midday and I’m already half way to the second hostel back in Monschau that I drove through on the way down here. As I ride, too introspective as usual, I ask myself ‘Why is this enjoyable? Is this enjoyable?’ Well, yes, is the answer, when the road is nice and winding with a nice surface (a group of 6 bikes just roared by sounding like a race-track) and the sun is shining and the breeze is cool and there’s nothing behind me. My GPS does its best to stop me riding on the best roads.

Lessons to learn for my next trip: 1. work out how to use the GPS properly to avoid autobahns; 2. proper pacing: neither too little or too much mileage. Two 250 is maybe too much and 100 is definitely too little. Between 150-180 could be ideal. I’m wondering about tomorrow’s journey where I have to press on to reach the ferry terminal by lunchtime. I think I will surrender to the GPS come what may. Another first for this holiday (and for someone who has only recently passed his bike test) will be riding in the dark – from Harwich to home. I’m so pleased I took the trouble to sort out the headlights on the bike before I left – now both lights come on at the same time and I have changed to much brighter xenon bulbs. I remember I had to dismantle the whole front of the bike to fit them – but it was worth it to get to know the bike.

I wish I had a gripping novel with me instead of this introspective analytical book on Houdini. German church bells. Bring back my memories of childhood holidays. I remember on Sunday mornings, lying in bed staying with our relatives, they rang and rang, sometimes, I think, more than one church joining in. It was so good stopping by the Mosel river yesterday and taking my boots off in the sunshine. I started the day tired and a little anxious but the day has turned out well… Now I’ve finally arrived at the last youth hostel at 4.15 only to find that its reception is closed until 6.30 and I was looking forward to a shower and getting changed. I’ve come out to lie on the grass in the shade to escape the screaming children. My good humoured contentment I gathered from successfully ordering and eating Bratwurst and chips with Mayonnaise (on the ferry some bikers warned me never to ask for vinegar on my chips in Germany) has evaporated by arriving here hot and tired to find no one to let me into my room. I’m not sure about the accommodation in the future. I have learnt that I don’t really like youth hostels. There are too many families and children. Maybe next time I will chose nicer hotels or camping. Or travel with a couple of other people.

By the beautiful Mosel

According to the GPS, tomorrow is 176 miles and time is 2 hours 47 minutes: so realistically, with a short stop, 3 1/2 hours including time for a break.

Finally I get into my room at 7pm. These youth hostels seem to specialise in employing unfriendly young men working in them. (Actually it was my days as assistant warden in a YHA hostel in Dorset in the mid 1970s that first introduced me to riding motorbikes – as a pillion of course). I have a six-bedded room to myself – I have the key. The assistant warden gave me a pile of stiff sheets, pillow slip and duvet cover. No towel – so I use my dirty t-shirt. The shower is down the hallway and the toilet even further. After showering and changing into anonymous wear after my biking costume, I walk down 25 minutes into the town, looking (maybe I could say ‘desperate’) for a drink. It is a long but beautiful walk and the town is absolutely beautiful.

Germany seems sympathetic to smokers. Phew. Things are more pleasant than an hour or so ago after a flood of drugs (the booze and fags) into the system and escaping the hostel. After reading, musing, smoking, looking around from my table, I set off back up the hill through the tall woods and characteristic tall German houses. I write this on my bed in the gloom. The scent of a wood fire is coming through my large open window. The sheet is crisp. The shouts of teenagers in the beautiful green grounds are starting to quieten. Its half past 9. Is it too early to get my head down? Shall I set my alarm? There’s probably no need. Breakfast at 8 then I zoom off on a route I’ve been through on the GPS but still can’t make sense of. I’m a bit daunted by tomorrow’s branching motorway drive but I will feel great to get onto the ferry….. I am on the ferry and I do feel great! Now seven hours to amuse myself. The GPS was worth its weight in gold on that ride full of complicated motorway branches, turnings and ring roads. I don’t know how I would have managed without it. I would have got completely lost. But it was such a windy ride. In the end I was sticking to 65 mph, though overtaken by one or two bikers going much faster.

My mileage today was 176.7 miles. A bunch of five ‘Chimera’, riding Lithuania plates on real old customs, brownish leathers, matt black helmets, really noisy bikes pulled onto the ferry ahead of me. The are sitting with their shaved heads and cans of Heineken almost in silence, over on a table near me, just looking around. Are they criminals or just hard? Lithuania is a long ride from Holland. They certainly are cool and forbidding. Then there is a tall German and his shorter rather lovely partner riding a big R1200gs (he told me it weighs 280kg unladen but I don’t think this can be right). They have a huge amount of luggage strapped on the back including a camping table and chairs. In contrast to them is a very down to earth, old school Englishman on an ancient Honda 250, wearing an old hoodie for a jacket, also carrying camping equipment including a tin mug strapped to the back. I wonder how far he has gone.

I saw my unshaven face in the mirror here on the boat and thought for a few seconds about growing a beard, then decided not. Now I feel sad I have to leave this disheveled chin behind and return to normal life. Am I escaping anything? A realisation, a fear that I might not be making nearly enough of my life. I could do with a drink. Back downstairs I am surrounded by families playing noisy board games.

Summaries: total miles 788 Fery: £180 accommodation €85 petrol €85 (that was a cheap trip). Here I am back home after riding through dark Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. H was there cooking for Gam and took this triumphant photograph.

I made it back in one piece – my first ever trip