Paris to Portugal to Italy to Germany
As the clouds open up to nourish the green rolling hills of southern Germany I sit and wright. Reflecting back on the last two weeks I am overwhelmed by the beauty of the European coutryside and the kindness and generosity of the locals we have met along the way. To date, this trip has been everything we hoped for. After leaving Paris we navigated our way south to Macon, France to meet up with our friend Olivier. Though our conversation was labored due to a substantial language barrier, we felt more then welcome in his home for a night and very much enjoyed each others company. Upon his recommedation, we twisted and turned our way down the backroads of southern France towards Millau. Through rolling hills of patchwork vineyards, along picturesque mountain streams and through ancient villages it was like riding through a postcard, as most of this trip has been. From Millau, we set the relatively unknown country of Andorra on our radar. From what I can tell, the area where Andorra resides was settled by some rather intelligent folk in the most incredible region of the Pyrenees. Knowing full well that they had discovered something amazing, the Andorrans hang on to there country with pride. No reason to become part of Spain or France when you are doing as well as they appear to be.
Spain, a diverse country complete with mountains, endless olive groves, beautiful coast lines and arid desert. Funny thing is, we never really intended on exploring Spain much buyet we ended up covering more ground there then anywhere else to date. In fact, we ended up as far south as one can go in Spain, even crossing into Gibralter (the odd ball British colony just miles from Africa) and spending a night in Faro, Portugal. Getting back to Gibralter real quick, you know those Prudential commercials with the big rock as there logo? Yeah, thats Gibralter. I am embarrassed to say that I had no idea this country existed. Covering 2.5 square miles, the majority of the country is towering rock that has been used for centuries as a british military base. We had the fortunate experience of getting a tour of the rock from our friend Amanda, who lives nearby in Spain with her husband, Tim. We took the cable cars to the top of the rock to mingle with the monkeys (which, by the way, are all registered as british soldiers), capture an amazing view south towards Africa and north towards Spain. Another interesting fact about the rock of Gibralter: There are more then 34 miles of tunnels within the rock that were used by the soldiers, it is still used by the military and if you walk down to the bottom you will experience difficulty walking for upwards of 48 hours. True story.
We said our goodbyes to Amanda and Tim and put Barcelona in our sights. The ride from southern Spain was rather uneventful. A quick stop to visit our friend Robby (a Romanian living in Spain), a stop in Granada and an amazing ride up the coast as we approached the city of Barcelona. That night we opted to find a campground 10 miles from town and take a bus in to town to do our sightseeing. Turns out that is a nice way of going about it. Barcelona truly is a beautiful city with head turning architecture on every corner, fountains in the courtyards and an Arc de Trioumph. Based on the recommendation of our friends Carl and Erika, who have visited Barcelona, we had an excellent meal at Casa Alfonso. HIghly recommended by us as well.
Putting Barcelona in our rearview mirrors we road some of the most incredible roads I have ever seen, on the way to Collieure, France. When I say incredible, I'm not exagerating. PIcture a narrow, tight, twisty road with one side bordering the Ligurian Sea and its rocky, picturesque coastline. The other side of the road lined with vineyards that seemed to be cut into the steep fertile hillside like a green staircase. The road wound its way north, up and over hills and into France where we met with oru friends Jean and Elisabeth. Riding into Collieure we had no idea what a Gem we would be discovering. An absolutely incredible experience in every way. There generosity, hospitality and kindness is of a level we should all be striving for. The town of Collieure is that of a fairytale, everything just felt good in that place and I hope to go back. But for now, it was time to move on.
This is the part of the story where the hardships of motorcycle travel started to reveal itself. But, by now, I've learned that at some point in any trip, something will break. And it did. On the other hand though, I've never not gotten home from a breakdown without my motorcycle, so I wasn't to worried. Kaylas oil pan decided it was time to crack and start dumping oil out the bottom, not surprising as Kayla appears to enjoy riding over things that, well lets just say, are a little to tall for a Harley-Davidson. Though her "stunt bike" riding is entertaining for everybody involved, it's a little rough on the oil pan. Our first attempt to repair the crack led us to a small shop in Montpellier, where we ended up sleeping in the shop van overnight while waiting for the welder to arrive in the morning. Unfortunately, the repair did not go as planned and ultimately began leaking worse then it had been when we got there. Despite this frustration, I can say that mechanics gave it there best effort, work hard on it and helped us in everyway that they could. At the end of the day, the job may have been a bit out of there skill level. Our next attempt led us to MHC Workshop where Roman Vaugnoux worked his magic and made the repair look easy. This, hands down, was one of the most impressive motorcycle shop experiences I have ever had. As of current, no leaks. Thank you Roman. Simultaneously, I sat on the curb and replaced my clutch cable that was literally hanging on by three strands, not a good feeling when you are clutching your way through big cities.
With all repairs successfully completed it was time to make up some time and get to Alba, Italy to meet with our friends Bob, Paulo and Dino at the Mekka of Choppers clubhouse.
For now, I'll leave you with that, my fingers are getting tired.