Thanks to the drying room and the Austrian drying/ozonator device, our gear AND helmets were perfectly dry in the morning. Very well, because it started to drizzle again. After our breakfast we said good-bye to this time capsule of the fifties. We headed north and as predicted, the drizzle stopped. It was a nice winding road between steep mountains. We reached the Sunnylvsfjorden and the fjord lived up to its name – a ray of light burst through the clouds. What a view!
We continued our ride through the mountainous landscape and stopped in Stranda and took the rapid ferry over the Storfjord. When we arrived, it started to rain, as predicted. The landscape was still beautiful, although it was raining quite thoroughly. And there was already the next ferry in Vestnes. And an enormous queue. After waiting for ten minutes, the thing moved and we embarked the large ferry. We had come right on time, because we were one of the last to enter the boat, the rest had to wait for the next in 45 min. On the trip we had THE Norwegian snack: pølser aka hot dogs. After 35 min, disembarking also went very quick. I followed the signs for Atlanterhavsveien, the big highlight of today and the reason to go so north now. It is also known under the English name “Atlantic Road“. The signs guided us through farmland and along the coast.
It was less rainy here on the coast, but with some stiff breeze. A very relaxing ride. We finally approached the section of the 8 km that leads over bridges and small islands….and there we go! The Norwegians are very proud of this construction work, it was elected “construction of the century” and is advertised in almost all tourist publications. And I have to say it is…….very disappointing. I’m sorry to say that, but given all the attention, it is disappointing. The first bridge, the Storseisundet bridge, is quite impressive in its shape and twisted angle, but that is about it. the rest are small, short and low bridges. I have seen much more impressive ones, even in Norway.
But ok, been there, done that. Soon after, we reached our destination for that day, Kristiansund. The city is nicely situated on several islands with typical Nordic style houses in bright colours. We stayed at the Thon Hotel, a modern, but functional building, we even had a view on the harbour.
After some personal hygiene, we decided to try a sushi bar in the centre, after all the fish should be fresh here, shouldn’t it? Although the employees didn’t appear Japanese, actually more Phillippinian, the sushi was quite all right, the fish was really fresh. The combination with mango sauce was interestingly savoury.
On the next day, the harbour was filled with sunshine, in the background big black clouds. We had breakfast with a great view on the harbour, again with a very generous breakfast buffet.
The start was very late today, only at 11 a.m., but the weather was rather mixed and it was only a 260 km ride to Geiranger. The ride was very beautiful, although we had a very “Irish” weather first. Riding along fjord shores with great view on the surrounding mountains, there was even a little pass (500 m)! I did not take a lot of pictures, the weather was unfortunately not the best for great photos. There were occasional showers, but we were dry and warm in our fantastic Stadler gear.
We stopped for a late lunch in Åndalsnes (home of “the Andals and the first men”?) in a funny place. Very familiar, very easy-going, very casual and organic food. The food was good though. Interesting place. From then on, the highlights of the day were lined up. However, the weather got worse and it rained continuously. This might not be unusual for Norway, but I didn’t have bad weather for four consecutive days for I don’t know how long.
The Stadler suit hardly had seen any rain, even at the Iron Butt Rally. But I was glad to have it. The heated grips and seats also improved the wellbeing. Posh riders, LOL! The Trollstigen was next. Not gigantic compared to some roads in the Alps, but quite impressive for Norway. A number of hairpins and the mighty Stigfossen waterfall, quite a sight. I had done it in sunshine, so now it was time for heavy rain. Normally, you would stop to take pictures with a view, but in the driving rain, there’s no point. It was chilly up there, only 7 degrees.
One the way down, we passed the waterfall at the Gudbrandsjuvet, but were too lazy to leave our cozy place on the bike. Down in the valley, we rode on the ferry to Eidsdal. Only a few minutes later, we continued on the last ascent for today. Still in nasty rain. The landscape was nevertheless beautiful, without the abundant clouds it would have been magnificent. Finally we got to the Ørnesvingen viewpoint with a panoramic view on the Geirangerfjord, another UNESCO heritage. The eagle road down to the fjord is one of the most spectacular roads in Norway. Some minute later, we arrived soaked on the outside, but dry on the inside at our hotel for today, the traditional “Utsikten Hotel”, or View Hotel, in other words. I had reserved something special: a rook with a panoramic view on the Geirangerfjord. The hotel might be in need of a refurbishment, the rooms are small, but the view on the fjord is fabulous. If you don’t have a room with a mountain view.
Tomorrow, it will be a “long” ride to the capital Oslo. Very likely in nice weather.
We arrived in Bergen at lunchtime, but had to wait until 2:30 p.m. until we could finally leave the ship. As everything else, this very well organised. We rode the 2 km to the Hotel right next to the main highlight in old Bergen: the Bryggen quarter. It was partly sunny and 23 C warm – but in our motorbike gear, this was definitively too hot. We changed clothes and left for a walk through the harbour and Bryggen. The fish market is still there where I last found it in 1993 – not very big, not impressive – but a nice motive for tourists. It seemed that many of the vendors were Spanish (?). There was even “home-made” paella. Kind of. We entered then the of quarter of Bryggen. I want to quote my old friend Wik I. Pedia:
“Bryggen (the dock), also known as Tyskebryggen (Norwegian: [ˈtyskəˌbryɡːn̩], the German dock), is a series of Hanseatic commercial buildings lining the eastern side of the Vågen harbour in Bergen, Norway. Bryggen has since 1979 been on the UNESCO list for World Cultural Heritage sites.
The city of Bergen was founded around 1070 within the original boundaries of Tyskebryggen. Around 1350 a Kontor of the Hanseatic League was established there, and Tyskebryggen became the centre of the Hanseatic commercial activities in Norway. Today, Bryggen houses museums, shops, restaurants and pubs.”
The area is not very big anymore, but it is quite charming to stroll through the narrow passages between the old wooden buildings. Lots of them have been taken over by other merchants now – dealing with jewellery, stones, hand crafted items…you could even buy seal furs there!
We had a break with a small beer and enjoyed the sunny weather, knowing it would not last. After a return to the hotel, we were prepared for the complimentary dinner at the hotel restaurant. We had some expectations as the hotel was not cheap, but had announced this free dinner. Well, our deception was remarkable. Not only ours. Everybody who entered the room had the same look on the face. “This is it?” A little bit of salad, potatoes, a kind of IKEA-kötbullar-hamburgers with gravy and crumble pie for dessert. The biggest disappointment was written in the faces of the Japanese guests. Well, at least it tasted ok.
You can imagine our surprise when we entered the breakfast room the next morning. What a change! Any kind of warm and cold dishes, fruit, juices etc etc. Very, very good and tasty. After that, we set off for the fjord land. Soon it started to drizzle and MJ’s new Stadler gear could prove it water tightness for the first time. Riding in Norway is deceleration…the normal speed limit is 80 km/h, but there are many zones of only 70 km/h or even 60 km/h…..OOOOMMMmmmmm….on the positive side, the fuel consumption dropped to 4.5 L/100 km (63 mpg )!!! I haven’t seen this consumption since I went with my XBR500…..to Norway? LOL. After two hours, we arrived in Gudvangen. We didn’t follow the E16 where the next 51 km would be riding 43 km in tunnels (!). No, I had (luckily) pre-bøøked the ferry through the scenic Nærøyfjord. It took us for 2.5 hours through a fantastic scenery, starting first with the Nærøyfjord and then crossing the largest fjord of all, the Sognefjord.
This was a pleasant boat trip, even in the rainy weather. Some villages are only accessible by boat. Huge waterfalls were falling down the fjells. It seems obvious where Alan Lee got his inspiration from when he sketched his paintings of Rivendell…
From the ferry port in Kaupanger, we only had half an hour to get to our hotel in Solvorn at the Sognefjord. The Walaker Hotell is the oldest hotel in Norway for nine generations now. It keeps a an atmosphere of the 1900s. The interior and the furniture, decoration and even the bed made you feel like your grand- or grand-grandparents. And the situation and view on the fjord is also very special. MJ stayed in the hotel and I made a trip to one of the side tongues of the largest glacier in Northern Europe, the Nigardsbreen. I first had to ride up the valley to the parking at the lake, then I took a little boat towards the glacier. However, in contrast to 25 years ago, I had to walk much more up. It was more than half an hour of climbing and walking over polished rocks before I reached the mouth of the glacier. I couldn’t get to the very last rock for my boots were no climbing shoes and the rock was very slippery. So I used my zoom to get closer to this deafening thunder of the glacier river that came spurting from underneath the ice cap. An impressive sight. At the same time, it is depressing to see how the length and thickness of the glacier has decreased over the last years. Despite the cool temperatures, I was soaked in my own sweat. Three quarters later, I was back at the parking and I rode back to the hotel.
We had booked the hotel together with the dinner so a delicious four course menu was waiting for us. In good old Belgian tradition, we opted also for the wine package that was accompanying the food very well. We were asked if we wanted to meet the hotel owner at 10 p.m. in the hotel’s gallery and curiously we said yes. It turned out to be a very good decision. The owner presented himself as Ole Hendrik, asked for our and the other guests’ whereabouts and started a conversation that was equally entertaining and funny, explaining the history of the family and the buildings, why he doesn’t fancy rich Russian tourists etc. It cumulated in the hilarious story of a prank robbery of raspberries at night together with some rich CEOs from Oslo. The guys from the capital didn’t know the raspberry farmer was informed so the noise of the shotgun was part of the comical plan to fake a kind of adventure. The way it was told was truly hilarious and we all snorting with laughter. Later Ole showed us around in the gallery and, as nobody else was able to play the piano, played some piano music in the background for us. A memorable finish of a great day.
In the morning, we had another great breakfast buffet before we packed our stuff and took the first ferry right in front of the hotel. It lead us to the other side of the fjord where the oldest wooden church in the world is located, the Urmes stave church. We were happy to escape the rain and listened to the guide in the inside explaining the interesting history of the building. Dating back to 1130, the church is entirely made of local pine wood and has some exterior carvings from the 11th century in a Celtic style that survived the weather for almost 900 years. An impressive building.
We followed the single track road along the fjord until we were on the main road to the highest pass in Northern Europe, the Sognefjellet (1440 m). It was raining more and more and the temperature dropped from 19 to 11 degrees. The weather was too bad to stop and take pictures, only on the top the views of the blue glaciers made me stop twice.
We descended eastwards and metre for metre, the weather improved and the temperature went up. We almost saw some sunshine in Lom where we stopped for a long lunch break. We went north-west and in Grotli, I turned left on the old Strynfjellet Road, the alternative to the modern road. However, after riding 4 km on gravel and dirt, I decided to turn around. I expected the rain to come back and going 23 km downhill on mud with a 600 kg flying fortress did not seem the most clever thing to do.
The modern road was mostly in tunnels and it turned out that I had made a very wise decision, this could have been quite nasty and potentially dangerous. The rain was back so we made no stop until we reached the Visnes hotel in Stryn. Normally, the landscape is one of the best in Norway, but rain and clouds covered our view. At the hotel, we put our gear in the drying room (skiing area!), what a good idea. The hotel is again very rustic, but this time it has a 1950s feeling. Our room looks like from the fifties. Funny.
We had an aperitif on the veranda before we had our dinner in the nostalgic dining hall, very much in a traditional Scandinavian style. This is a bit like time travelling.
Going with a Hurtigruten boat is very relaxing. It is basically constant eating, interrupted by sightseeing, taking pictures, cultural and other lectures and excursions.
On the third day on the boat, we entered the Vesterålen, a large group of islands north of the Lofoten. The boat is going always very close to the coast, passing many small and islands to the left and right. The views can often only be called spectacular – pictures often don’t catch the atmosphere.
In the late morning, we passed the first of the Vesterålen bridges that connect the islands with the main land:
The mountain get quite steep with tops over 1000 m, sometimes there’s snow left or a glacier on the top.
You can spend the whole day on deck or behind the big windows and watch this great landscape. Slartibartfast did really a good job! We were stopping in many little places where the Hurtigruten ship is the most important connection with other ports. In the afternoon, we stopped at the historic centre of the Hurtigruten lines in Stokmarknes. There is also the Hurtigruten museum including the old Finnmarken ship that gives an impression how the journey was in former times.
In the afternoon, we “set sails” for the highlight of the whole cruise: the passage through the Lofoten. We went through the majestic Raftsund, together with many little local boats. Everybody was on deck and people tried to get the best locations to make their shots.
The Midnatsol made a sharp right and a sharp left turn and we entered a very short and narrow side arm: the Trollfjord. Breathtakingly beautiful, but as you go against the sun, it is very difficult to catch this on a picture. Very steep rocks to the left and right and at the end of the short fjord, the small boats are chased away so the big Midnatsol can make one of its impressive 180 degree turns in no time. Truly masterly.
I have taken hundreds of pictures of which almost all are doomed to sink into digital oblivion. But the best scenery will be recorded in our minds anyway. That day we seemed to have many day tourists that just joined for the day and wanted to enjoy this part as well. In the evening we arrived at the capital of the Lofoten, Svolvær. We have booked (or as the tour guide on board would put it: “we have bøked”) only one guided expedition, and this is a special one: a trip with a speedboat! We received some waterproof gear and got on board of the RIB, equipped with two motors and 600 hp in total (!):
Well, this WAS FUN! We zoomed out to visit some iconic places and harbours and even watched sea eagles.
The boat made up to 48 knots (90 km/h) and jumped over the waves. It was cloudy now, but the scenery was nevertheless very spectacular.
After 1.5 hours, this was over and we returned to our ship with a grin on our face. We concluded the day with a local beer on the panorama deck. The Lofoten are really a special place and worth returning. The problem is, it’s quite a long way up here…
The next day was very relaxing and there’s little to report apart from some great views of the shores of middle Norway. At lunch, we passed an iconic part of its coastline: the Seven Sisters (NOT the ones in Sussex).
In the legend, Botnkrona (3,517 feet), Grytfoten (3,497 feet), Skjæringen (4,202 feet), Tvillingene (the Twins) (3,215 feet), Kvasstinden (3,314), and Stortinden (2,986) were all troll daughters of the Suliskongen, who kept them under strict control far up north. One night he fell into such a deep sleep that all seven maidens were able to sneak out.
But Hestmannen, the son of another troll king on the islands who had been eager for a wife, was lying in wait. He chased them. The sisters fled south down the coast, with several trolls chasing them, some of whom were trying to save them and some who were trying to capture them. But none of them thought of the sun, which turns all trolls to stone. When night eventually turned to morning, the troll sisters and their pursuers were petrified and became the mountain range that comprises the Helgeland coastline.
Somewhat later we stopped in Brønnøysund which is the middle of Norway; the southernmost and northernmost points are equidistantly apart. I was quite hot, close to 30 degrees and locals seemed to enjoy the good weather. I walked around a bit before I entered the ship again.Soon after we took off the next iconic view was on the list: Torghattan. Rising 258 metres vertically from the sea at Brønnøysundet betweed Brønnøysund and Rørvik. The mountain, with a distinctive hole right through it, is said to be the Brønnøy King’s hat. Remember the story of the seven troll sisters? The sisters were fleeing from Hestmannen, who was desperate to capture a wife. The King heard them and came to the rescue of the young maidens. However Hestmannen, who was infuriated that he could not catch up, shot an arrow towards the last fleeing girl. The King threw his hat towards the maidens to protect them. Just as the arrow pierced the hat, the sun appeared and its rays turned the trolls, hat and all into stone.
There is another, more scientific explanation for the 30 metre high, 25 metre wide and 160 metre deep hole in Torghatten. The mountain may have been pushed upwards after a period sitting at a lower level, during which the sea had gradually worn a hole through its layers of rock. It’s up to you to believe this version. But it seems much more rational to accept the version of an enormous troll knight that bangs an arrow through a hat mountain.
Later we watched the sunset on deck and went to bed early, this cruising is really exhausting!
The next morning we got up early. The boat was already in the harbour of Trondheim. At 7 a.m. we started our walking tour through the city. It was a Tuesday, but Trondheim’s rush-hour felt like a village on Sundays. People commuting on bicycles, few cars and few people in the streets. We walked through the picturesque Bakklandet quarter and crossed the old bridge with the portals of the 17th century.
We walked around the Nidaros cathedral and as it was not open yet, studied its western front. Although the foundations are from the 11th century, it burnt down several times and was totally reconstructed in a neo-gothic style over a hundred years ago. We strolled back to the ship and concluded that Trondheim must be a nice city to live in.
The rest of the day was a quiet cruise with stops in Kristiansund (we’ll come back here in a few days) Molde, Ålesund and Florø. There also time to wash our dirty laundry on board.
We had fantastic weather the last days, but now our luck seems to change. First clouds are coming in and tonight we will have rainy weather. Tomorrow at our arrival in Bergen the weather with be ok, but the following days on the motorbike will be more mixed. But maybe the end of the heat is very welcome!
I had hoped to see the midnight sun and was already disappointed that despite the good weather, there were a lot of clouds on the horizon. When I arrived 25 years ago at the Nordkapp with my little Honda XBR500 after a long trip, some clouds impaired the unobstructed view of the midnight sun. Nevertheless, I went on deck at a quarter to midnight.
Well, this was not so bad after all. It was a matter of playing around with the camera.
Some people preferred to watch it from the inside on the panoramic deck:
After midnight, the sun started to rise again:
At last, a “I’m the king of the world!” moment before hitting the sack:
This morning, we made a short excursion in Hammerfest. Instead of joining other boat people, we went on our own and walked up to a viewing point, overlooking the bay.
Hammerfest still uses the term “most northern town of the world”, although Honningsvåg has been elevated to a town some years ago.
It also used to be the starting point of many famous polar expeditions. We also did a visit to the Ice Bear Club, but did not become a member.
Back on the boat we had lunch and a relaxing afternoon watching the mountains and glaciers rolling by. Fantastic.
I kind of overslept this morning, but this was not a problem. I had found out that a rain front would pass by so the later I would leave, the less rain I would see. This guess turned out to be correct. I had a spectacular breakfast (no picture) and left only at 9:15. I was prepared and had put on the inner liners. Temperature was 20 degrees as I continued my ride on the E4. One hour later I crossed the border to Finland and got aware that the sat nav switched one hour forward. I though that the people along the border must have a ball on new year’s eve: they welcome the new year in Finland, walk over to Sweden and repeat this one hour later. I took the E75 to the north and rolled through Finnish landscape.
Soon I had to fill up and continued. I reached the city of Rovaniemi that appeared much bigger since the last time I passed by (25 years ago). Then I found the place where Santa resides (at least as claimed by the locals):
Soon after I reached the Arctic Circle. I remembered a memorial there, together with some houses. I think it was also one of the few places on that seven week trip where I afforded a hot meal. I had my first reindeer goulash, how can I forget that. Well, I was a poor student then. You can imagine my surprise when I found no polar circle memorial, but an enormous complex with dozens of shops, restaurants, entertainment, etc…
Horrified, I fled from this place. I continued my ride through rural Finland. Soon after, I had to stop as a big reindeer was quietly walking in the middle of the road. Big antlers! In Sodankylä I wanted to stop for lunch, but the restaurants did not look very appealing and due to the Eastern time it was already quite late. In the end I had a shabby kebab in a shabby restaurant in a shabby petrol station. You could also buy repair sets for car exhausts there. Or fish hooks. Authentic.
I went on and after two hours, I decided to stop for a last petrol fill in Ivalo at the south shore of the Lake Inari. I decided to put on some extra T-shirts for the temperature had dropped to some 14 degrees. Soon after, the best part of the ride began on that day began: the road had bends and suddenly the sun appeared! Instead a dull ride under cloudy skies, this was really impressive now.
The large Inari Lake to the right, the sun to the left and thousands of little lakes or ponds everywhere. This was spectacular.
I still had 200 km to go and when I turned from the E75 to the direction of Kirkenes. I hadn’t seen a policeman the whole trip, so why would there be any on this last stretch to the Norwegian border? I switch the suspension to “Dynamic” and let the horses free. This was fun! Of course, you had to scan the horizon for reindeers.
I arrived at the border and from now on, I slowed down considerably. Norwegian speed controls are notorious. I was riding down to the coast and when I hit the E6, I passed the Neiden waterfalls.
The last 44 km to Kirkenes where bathed in sunlight again and quite beautiful. After a certain point, many boards announced that taking pictures was forbidden for military reasons. Actually, this region used to be the only place apart from Turkey where NATO and the Soviet Union shared a common border.
At 18:30, I met MJ in the hotel in Kirkenes. The 770 km went faster than expected. I looked for an ATM to get some Norwegian money and gave the BMW a good wash. After a quick shower we went to the hotel restaurant and were whacked in the face by reality. You know that Norway is expensive, but when you’re sitting in an ordinary hotel restaurant and looking at the menu, staring, sweating and hyperventilating, you know you have finally arrived there. However we decided that we live only once and that the numbers on the menu are not real. We chatted with the Spanish waiter and enjoyed our dinner, grilled salmon. We had not chosen for the local speciality: king crab. The next time after I have successfully robbed a bank, I will order one.
We chatted with a Bavarian couple at the bike outside for a while and did a little walk through the town. This was very quick as the town is….not so big.
Time for a night rest!
The next morning we left the hotel and rode 1 km to the pier where the MS Midnatsol was already waiting for us. We checked in immediately and after one hour of waiting time, I could finally ride the BMW on board. We investigated the ship for a while. It is the usual postal ship that runs the same route for decades, every day.
It’s also a cruise ship, albeit not a luxury one. Easy going. We soon enjoyed the buffet lunch and had a relaxed afternoon. Soon we visited the first stopover on the boat trip, Vardø, the most Eastern town of Norway. We only had 30 minutes on land which meant we could not visit the witch hunt memorial. It is an impressive memorial for all the women that were burnt as “witches” in the 16th and 17th century. Compared to other places in Norway, the death toll was highest here: Out of 3000 inhabitants by that time, 91 were burnt at the stake. We visited the old fortress instead where two guys dressed as soldiers ripped off tourists by selling them entrance tickets. Funny.
When we returned on the ship, we noticed a sign “upgrade your cabin to a suite” with a big number (representing Norwegian crowns) next to it. They haven’t filled them, so they offered the upgrade for a fraction of the normal price. Naaah, too much money. But MJ had asked already if we could look at them. Yeah, what can I say. When we stood in the room, I knew that the decision was taken. What did we say? You only live once? Absolutely.
So know I’m sitting next to our enormous window in our enormous room watching the coastline drifting by. This is gorgeous.
I had planned to take pictures of the midnight sun, but just like 25 years ago, some clouds on the horizon seem to foil this plan.
This morning I got up early and had the bike ready to go when I went to the breakfast at 7 a.m.
The good selection reconciled me a bit with the dinner experience yesterday. I sat on the terrace and started to sweat already – 25 degrees and high humidity by the shore.
I only had half an hour for I needed to leave for my appointment: after a 20 min ride, I stopped at the BMW dealer in Upplands Väsby, where I had agreed a tyre change for my bike. They had a separate waiting area with a airco device – very much appreciated! I chatted with another customer, asked for advice on regional speeding enforcement habits and studied the current selection of Ducati bikes on sale (it’s also a Duc dealer). Very nice bikes, but the crucial question is: would you take an Italian bike and immediately set off for a round-the-world trip? See?
At 10 a.m. the bike was ready and by wallet was (virtually) a lot lighter. 30 degrees now. But I still had to fill up and what now followed was the most bizarre petrol station workflow ever.
The pump wouldn’t work so I asked inside if I had to do a prepayment. The answer was yes. So I grabbed a bottle of refreshment. However, I had to pay it separate. In cash. Then I had to provide a payment card AND my identity card. These stayed inside while I filled up the bike. Then I was returned the card and the ID and I could make the payment. Very strange.
I entered the E4 again and went north. Little to report there. Occasionally, I passed little lakes with falun red houses, but there was never a possibility to take a shot. That was pretty much the sightseeing of today. I hoped for fresher air, but the temperature climbed up to 32 degrees. While moving, this was bearable, with all openings open at the max.
I stopped in Sundsvall after three hours to fill up again and decided to visit the next-door Pizza Hut. With airco. All you can eat including drinks for only 10 Euros, that’s quite a bargain for Sweden. Don’t expect a pizza a la napolitana though. But fair enough.
I continued my ride, and slowly the temperatures went down a bit. Another three hours later, I had to put petrol again. I had texted a mate from the floorball team in Belgium to meet in Luleå as he was on home leave in the area. However, he told me he had just started to drink Belgian trappist beer and was waiting to meet Thor with his hammer. So this was a non-starter, LOL.
When I arrived in Luleå at 8 p.m., I had barely escaped a thunderstorm on the way. 25 degrees and humidity. Tropical feeling. I had a shower in my windowless room and had a very good dinner in the rooftop restaurant, overlooking the Luleå bay. Enjoying the sunset.
Tomorrow is the last stretch to Kirkenes. I expect a drastic weather change. 15 degrees cooler and occasional rain. The rest of Europe is drenched in sweat.
This morning I got up before the wake-up call and had breakfast with a view. The announcement to go to the vehicles surprised me a bit so I was the last to exit the ship from my deck (everybody else seemed to know). It was before 8 a.m. and 24 degrees with high humidity welcomed me. I started to sweat immediately. I took a while before I had passed the control and I turned north. I know the motorway E4 well from past Scandinavian rallies. Lots of forest. I switched on the radio so the ride got less unexciting. Before Jönköping, I remembered a bonus location I had visited at moonlight: Taberg. As it is close to the motorway, I decided to do a little detour. It is a small mountain overlooking the forest. It is particular as it stands out of the plain for it is a rock that contains a lot of magnetite, together with titanium and vanadium. The high concentrations of the latter lead to its discovery in the ore.
After a few minutes I arrived in Jönköping at the hotel that I had booked. It will be the rally hotel of the European Tour and I had booked a night for today. However, I had to change my plans as I have an appointment for a tyre change the next morning north of Stockholm. The booking is non-refundable, but so be it. At least I can leave some luggage until the rally in two weeks: I dismounted the auxiliary fuel tank and put it in a large bag, together with some other stuff I don’t need until the rally.
It got really hot now and I decided to have some lunch snack inside a petrol station, they had an airco!
I opened all the openings in my gear to get some fresh air while riding. On my way to Stockholm, I had temperatures between 31 and 33 degrees. Along the Vättern Lake, many birch trees had brown leaves. In July! And the heat wave is only starting….
I saw an exit sign to Trosa and I remembered that I had passed by there during my first trip to Scandinavia in 1993. As I lacked the knowledge that I have now, a damaged valve rocker made me cancel my route through the Baltic States to St. Petersburg. I took the ferry from Gdansk to Sweden to have it repaired in Stockholm. Trosa is a cute little town with one channel with many boats. A kind of mini-mini-mini-Amsterdam , so to say.
It was only one more hour to Stockholm. I arrived at the elegant hotel I had booked with a huge reduction….just to find out that my reservation was for the day before (!)….
Well, this set a new record. Three hotel bookings for one night. Well done.
As it was still early, I visited the Gamla Stan (Old Town) and walked around a bit. Horrified by the masses of tourists, I looked for the quiet streets that have much more charm.
I returned to the hotel and finally had a shower, more than needed. I had dinner in the highly acclaimed hotel restaurant with a view on the like lake. Unfortunately, the food’s quality was rather disappointing. Any good quality Belgian restaurant makes this look like amateurs. But you don’t go to Scandinavia only for the food, do you? 😉
Tomorrow morning I have the tyre change and then a long ride to Luleå.
On Friday I went to the Eurotunnel train to meet Gerhard. Together we embarked on the train (without delay) and went northwards towards the Midlands.
On the way to Stoke-on-Trent we made a little detour to pick one of John Young’s Triumph Trident 50-50 Challenge. I took a picture to the Mallory race track entrance. We arrived in a relaxed mood at our hotel in Stoke where we joined other fellow riders for dinner. The next morning, we gathered at Rick the rally master’s house and received final instructions. As usual, the had a last-minute twist for us: the option to bring him back a bottle of selected beers was not optional, but compulsory! Luckily, I had this in my plan. My route was ambitious, but left me with enough options to shortcut in cases of problems. So I set off for Wales, picked some locations there; got furious about the Garmin sat nav that lead me over single track gravel farm roads instead telling me to turn around; got stuck in some massive road closure where I lost 30 min riding single track roads again trying to find a proper detour; and had a nice riding. Usual things, you could say.
After having visited the last location in Wales, it was time for some motorway riding to London, interrupted by a visit to Whitchurch, good for some massive points. I visited the Pinewood film studios west of London and assured my compulsory bonus by buying a bottle of “Death and Glory” ale at the Tring Brewery in….Tring. Just one kilometer away I visited the National History Museum where I had to find the greyhound “Mick the Miller” and take a picture of him. A long walk to the right gallery, but I had asked a guard for the way so this could be done quickly. Now I only had to ride back to the finish. I managed to fit in some extra locations – the Santa Pod race track, a statue in Lichfield…to boost my points. close to the finish, I decided to make a little detour a pick another location. Everything went fine, I even could visit one more last point close to the finish. than I discovered that the bike should have been in the picture, turned around, visited the place again and got the complete picture. In Stoke I visited the Titanic brewery for another 150 points and arrived after 11 hours with three minutes to spare at the finish.
After the scoring (I hadn’t lost any points), I joined the other riders in garden for the usual exchange of anecdotes. After some food and drink, the ceremony was due:
That clear result came a bit as a surprise for I had left out 1-2 planned locations. I received my certificate and a trophy and was a happy bunny. Thanks to rally master Rick and his last seven rallies, this one was also very nice! Great job!
I returned to the hotel and spent the evening with the other lads that stayed there. The next morning I went with Gerhard towards Folkestone, but not without visiting three locations of the 50-50 challenge: the old BSA factory, Triumph’s old development centre in Kitts Green and the National Motorcycle Museum. There I took a picture of “Slippery Sam”, the Triumph racing bike that keeps the record of five consecutive wins at the Isle of Man TT in the seventies.
We took the Eurotunnel train and 2.5 hours I was back home, not without some detour due to all the Belgians returning from the coast. I still had to pack most of my luggage for the big trip, but this was quickly arranged.
I hit the road at 32 degrees which accompanied me the whole day. Luckily I was listening to the radio in my helmet so I was aware that there was a massive road blockage on the planned itinerary on the A1 to Bremen. In the end, the Autobahn was completely closed and the retention mounted up to 20 km! But I had chosen to go via the A2 and apart from smaller traffic jams, I arrived quickly in Travemünde where I embarked on the “Peter Pan” to Sweden.
Tomorrow it will be time for some real, relaxing summer vacations. I think it’ll be some 12.000 km on the BMW and some 3.000 km by boat.
Wait a minute – did you say “boat”???
Yes, it will be relaxing motorbiking and a relaxing boat cruise.
As an appetizer, I will first do the 12 hour Brit Butt Light Rally starting in Stoke-on-Trent in England. I haven’t done it in three years and the BBL2015 was the last rally I haven’t won (in Europe). Sooo, it’s a kind of “unfinished business” although I had won the rally in 2014 on the little XBR500.
As the rally book was handed out one week before the start, I have already prepared my route and printed and laminated my own rally logbook. Sorry, my route is still confidential, but these are all the possible bonus point locations:
After the rally, I will return home for one night and leave for Sweden the next day. Three days later, I’ll arrive in Kirkenes at the Norwegian – Russian border. I’ll meet up with MJ and on the next day, we’ll embark on the postal ship of the Hurtigruten line, carrying the BMW in the ship.
After the arrival in Bergen, we’ll start the bike trip through Western Norway – fjords and fjells. In Oslo, I will continue on my own and ride to Jönköping where this year’s European Tour will start.
After that, it’s a back to the barn ride. Three weeks in total. Sounds like a plan.
You can follow my GPS track here.
Just a quick message before I set off back home. My eighth Brit Butt Rally was tricky. I started it without enough data volume on my phone to send the pictures, but this was resolved after 2 hours, so that’s why you couldn’t see the progress in the spot track in the morning. I had planned an ambitious route through the North-West and North-East of England and the whole of Scotland. There was no room for larger problems or large delays. In the end I sticked to plan within 5 minutes for both days. The K1600 performed marvellously, what a great bike!
In the end I was rewarded with the 1st place, for the fourth consecutive year now. Now back to the Eurotunnel. More info later when I’m back home.
Some last words….if I can’t find a solution, I probably can’t activate the spot track today. I am short of data volume and need to save the data volume for the pictures I have to send. My provider had technical issues and I can’t extend the volume. Great, isn’t it?
So the technical inspection and the odo ride went well. After that I filled up the bike with 40 litres of petrol and returned to rally HQ. I hadn’t checked the tyre pressure! The built-in pressure sensor indicated only 2.6 instead 2.9 bar. The close-by petrol station didn’t have any pump, so I had to look for a different station. I first had to get some coins for the machine. But instead inflating the tyre, it was more and more deflated. Together with the shop clerk I discovered the source of the problem: the nozzle was too short for my modern valve. With only 1.2 bar in the rear tyre, I limped back to the HQ where Bob Clark borrowed me his little 12 V pump. Thanks, now I’m ok!
The rider meeting was quite interesting…A totally different format:
81 locations, divided in 9 regions and 9 thematic categories. Apart from the points value of each point, you get extra points for more locations in the same region or the same category. A difficult nut to crack….I’ve put together a challenging route, but I don’t reveal yet where I’ll be going…just follow my SPOT track.
I’ll start at 6 a.m. in the morning.
It is quite a while since I last published something. It’s not that there was no material, oh no, quite the contrary. It is just that publishing means a lot of work. Writing a report of the Iron Butt Rally 2017, for example. But as the quote says:”when a man says he will do something, he will do it. It’s not necessary to remind him every six months”.
So I showed up yesterday here in the rally HQ in Leicester after a quiet ride up from Belgium. Had dinner and some chats. This morning I had some extended discussion with John Young about our planned trip to Japan next year. As the registration is not open yet, it still gives me some time to write before the busy afternoon begins.
This year’s Brit Butt Rally is somewhat different. First of all, I’ll be on my new bike, the BMW K1600GT.
It does the same thing as the Pan European – a comfy ride, a very balanced bike, heavy but steady, a great tool to cover large distances. With the difference that the BMW is so much more dynamic – if you want it to be. I’m looking forward to riding the British country roads this weekend.
Then there is a new rally format. Instead taking pictures with a digital camera at the bonus point locations and presenting them at the scoring, pictures have to be taken with a smart phone and be sent immediately by e-mail. This change did not go down well with some riders and I wonder if this a reason why there are a relatively low number of participants. Let’s see how this goes. I do prefer the old, traditional style, though.
The weather forecast is quite good and as every year I hope to be able to go up North to enjoy riding in Scotland – great scenic roads and no traffic. By midnight I should know more. Now, I’ll have to register, present the documents, do the technical inspection, do the odometer calibration ride and return to the room. After that, there will be the dinner with the subsequent riders meeting where instructions will be given, the rally books will be handed out and the files with the bonus point locations will be sent. After that, we will be sitting in our rooms, trying to develop that cunning route that gives the maximum points….
After having won the rally three times in a row, I am in a very relaxed mood. I just want to have fun and enjoy this brilliant bike. There is the usual auxiliary tank and the additional LED lights that make night rides fun, but the only thing that is missing is the comfy Russell Day-Long seat that makes 36 hours of riding absolutely painless. As it is still in production, I will have to suffer a little, but this is nothing I could not handle.
This year, I have decided to provide a public track again, you can follow my GPS track from tomorrow morning onwards (6 a.m. British Summer Time)…
So, let’s see if this registration has already opened….more news later!
The ceremony is over…as predicted, it was a very special event with many stories and stunning performances at the bottom, middle and top of the standings.
As already mentioned, I had a lot of issues and did not ride the rally in a competitive, but rather in a “holiday” mood. I had tons of long rest breaks in nice hotels. I finished one day early and had too chose my route based on the temperature forecast. Considering all this, the 32nd place out of 87 finishers and 106 starters is a very good result. Had I not have to stop rallying so early, a finish around place 20 would have been possible. And this without pushing anything. I can be very happy about this result, it even gives me an unexpected, official “silver medal finish”.
The link to the standings is here: http://ibr.wvi.com/ibr/_2017/finalstandings.pdf
Hi everybody, I’m back at the “barn”, i.e. the rally finish. I was there 20 hours too early as the bike gave me some additional problems. I arrived basically with a dying Honda; I had to coast the last 30 miles on three cylinders and had almost no power left when I entered the parking of the hotel. After a rather “short” route of only 9000 miles in about 10 days.
As I was still technically in the rally, the social media curfew still applied to me so I still had to remain quiet. This morning, I went to the scoring and got all my points except some 500 penalty points for a lost emergency contact tag that came off the latch of the hanger I was wearing for 11 days.
I got more that 55000 points for Leg 3 – this was the minimum points value to be a finisher of the WHOLE rally. Adding my points from Leg 1 and 2, I have about 85000 points. Considering the fact that I had a very relaxed rally in a non-competitive mood with lots of long rest breaks, a bike I had to nurse, numerous petrol stops, technical problems and a very close shave to get to the finish – this is a very good result, it should give me a mid-field result and finally the desired three-digit membership number that only IBR finishers can obtain. In about one hour from now, the banquet will start, followed by the ceremony.
Thanks for your support and your comments – I was reading them daily and they were a good read. Yesterday, I added quite some drama to the game…I left at 2 a.m. for the last 1100 km….I filled up every 90 – 100 km, but soon I realised that the stuttering was not due to the fuel pump. As it got worse and worse, it became more clear that the bike was losing one carburetor ( at least that’s how it felt). It got worse and worse and I went the last 30 miles on three cylinders only. The bike was slowly dying and had no power left. Finally, with the last power the bike had, I entered the parking of the finish and had done it! I couldn’t have done another 10 miles….this was a close shave! Maybe the E10 petrol (10% Ethanol) was killing my old carburetors? It’s a possibility…The bike was picked up already and is on the way back to Europe.
Apart from the scoring today, I basically was chatting with other riders, veterans, staff etc…there are so many stories and dramas to exchange…you’ll hear about some in the following official bulletins.
I also want to say a big THANK YOU to (quote) “this fat, balding, middle-aged, accountant from the UK” that did a great job in entertaining you during the last days: John Young. He also helped me to stay focused on the main objective of this rally: to become a finisher. This worked almost all the time except on Wednesday when I nearly ruined the project by changing the plan and turning north into Michigan.
THANKS FOR ALL, MATE!!!
And now off to the banquet where new tales of heroism, boldness, despair and drama will be told….
…… as once he’s scored Robert will be able to post on here again.
Thank you all for reading all of my “stuff” over the past 11 days.
Thank you all of your comments and I hope you have enjoyed my (admittedly) light hearted approach to IBR reporting.
But most of all, thank you to Robert, for asking me (and giving me the privilege of ) keeping his IBR blog for him again.
Thank you my Bavarian friend …….
…….. and it was most definitely a limp across the line but who gives a flying f*ck ?
I of course have given him one last piece of advice ……….
Check, check, check, check, check, check, check, check, check and check one last time all of your paperwork before going in for scoring. (That’ll be in the morning now)
…. and that was 50 minutes ago.
He is still riding because I have just tried to call him, but he must be very close now …..
Stupid, stupid Robert ……
After all of the talking that we did yesterday, he went and ignored it all ……
In his words :
“OK, here it comes:
I WAS WRONG! MEA CULPA! MEA CULPA! MEA MAXIMA CULPA!!!
You told me not to be cocky!
You told me not to do anything stupid!
And you were right!
And was does stupid Robert do?
I thought the Honda overheard our conversation, because “she” ran very nicely afterwards. Really nice. So nice, that I started to make plans….
I could do the detour and go up to Michigan and bag a big bonus at the Lake Superior. Why being 24 h too early at the finish? The Pan was running so fine and I had so much time left …”
And guess what happened ?
He decided to try it, if the bike did not give any problems until the where he needed to turn north at about 3:30 p.m. As he problems occurred daily always between 2 and 3 p.m. he felt that this was a good decision.
The thing is see, that after 10 days on the road, it’s very difficult to make “good decisions”. That’s why it’s quite useful to speak frequently with people who HAVEN’T been on the road 10 days, who ARE getting plenty of rest, who ARE getting plenty of sleep and who ARE therefore capable of offering GOOD & RATIONAL advice. Now if that person has actually ridden the IBR themselves, then they are definitely capable of giving GOOD, RATIONAL & RELEVANT advice ……
So, everything was apparently going well and at 3.30pm he turned north.
Two hours later, the bike started to misfire badly.
This time filling up didn’t help ….. This time a damp shirt over the tank didn’t help ….. This time even a bag of ice on the tank didn’t help ……
He gave up on the idea of “one last big bonus” and headed west – at 55mph flat out with a badly misfiring bike
He reached the town of Durand and luckily, Quality Inn had a room. The idea was to continue after 3 a.m. after the rest break.
As it was still early, he wanted to check plan B – connecting the aux tank directly and let it feed by gravity. He finally did manage to connect it (leaving a big petrol mess on the car park), but a test ride revealed that the height difference is too small so there is too little pressure. This won’t work …….
He connected the tank and the fuel pump again, rode a short distance and it seemed back to normal simply because it had cooled down for about an hour.
Roberts words again ……
“When you’re riding, you think it’s warm, but not THAT hot. But it is still over 30C. When I touch the motor, you feel how many energy is stored in there. It seems that it’s not the daytime, but the operation hours (8 to 9 hours) that triggers the problems. After that time, the tank (where the pump is located, that’s the problem) is heated up so much that the fuel pressure falls below a critical point.”
So, because of his stupidity, he lost 200kms today and whilst the problem would have still occurred, he would have been 2 hours and 200kms closer to the finish.
He has to be back at 8 a.m. at the finish on Friday. Considering the time difference, he still has more than 29 hours to do the 1100 km, and taking the two penalty hours into accounts, he has actually 31 hours before DNF “ing”.
However, he has wasted the last 17 hours to effectively cover 400kms …….
Oh and he left his “toilet bag” at the last hotel – no great drama, but this just goes to demonstrate how muddled your mind gets after 10 hard riding days
Right, for 10 days I have been nice. For 10 days, I have been supportive. For 10 days, I have said nothing offensive towards (or about) Robert – other than in jest.
That now changes …..
Being “Mr Nice Guy” hasn’t worked. It’s time for some hard cold truths …….
Robert, you spent a lot of money in 2013 for nothing more than a failure. Glorious as it may have been and “dress” it up however you want, you still failed ……
You have spent another huge amount of money in 2017 to enter the rally again and at the moment, there are lots and lots of people willing you to succeed. You appear to be doing your very f*cking best to disappoint them !!!!!
GET TO THE FINISH. IF THE BIKE STARTS TO PLAY UP AFTER 6 HOURS, THEN ONLY RIDE FOR 5 HOURS BEFORE LETTING THE BIKE COOL DOWN.
DO NOTHING THAT PUTS THE BIKE UNDER ANY MORE STRESS THAN IT NEEDS TO BE.
YOU HAVE 29 HOURS TO COVER 1100 KMS. THAT IS AN AVERAGE OF LESS THAN 40KPH. IF YOU GET TO THE FINAL CONTROL WITH 1 MINUTE TO SPARE, IT DOES NOT MATTER. JUST GET THERE ……
Okay, one very last piece of “encouragement”.
You see, at the moment, there’s this fat, balding, middle-aged, accountant from the UK who’s typing these reports. He’s already ridden the rally and he’s already got his 3-digit number and at the moment he’s laughing at the stupidity of this German guy he knows.
He’s laughing not because he wants this German guy to fail but because this German guy is riding a Honda and this German guy rode a Honda last time too – and he failed then as well ……
This accountant fella, thinks that Hondas are shite and to prove it, when he rode the rally in 2011 he rode his 50 year old Triumph to a finish ……
Robert – please, please, please, wipe the grin of this guys face and get to the finish ……..
I spoke to Robert at 10.00am (his time) on Day 10.
He has exactly 48 hours to get to the finish control before he is classed as DNF. His Garmin is showing that 1500kms (950 miles) stand between him and his 3-digit IBA membership number.
He tells me that my advice “DO NOT FUCK THIS UP”, is the only thing in his mind.
There will be no more bonus collecting (other than the sleep bonus this evening), there will be no more detours, there will be no more chances taken.
A nice straight forward 1500kms ride over 2 days to glory …….
He is nearly there …..
BUT – he has been on the road for 9 days and he has had constant issues. 950 miles over 48 hours is normally “a walk in the park” for IBA riders and for Robert in particular. This will be the most difficult and fraught 1500kms he has ever ridden.
In 2011, I was 600 miles from the finish. I had 30 hours to do it. I could already “see” the “ticker-tape” parade awaiting me ……
Then I ran into the worst sand storms Arizona had witnessed for 50 years and my world collapsed around me. Fortunately, I managed to get my bike going and limped over the finishing line with around 4 hours to spare ….
And that is what the IBR does to you. Like some beautiful siren, it suckers you in. It lets you believe that you have the measure of it …….
THEN IT KICKS YOU FAIRLY AND SQUARELY IN THE BALLS !!!!!!!!!
So, wish him luck and keep posting those comments (he reads them all)