June 25, 2021

Chapter 6 – casting my mind back and thinking about the why´s of travel

I´ve been musing about a few experiences in the past before I started writing this blog and how they influenced me. I shall try to piece the story and the thoughts together.

We had a few glorious days last week with temperatures just above 22°C and I had been planning to do a few day trips with the kids on the bike but plans have changed because of a significant “arctic blast” which is arriving today and is predicted to be dominant for the next two weeks.

5th April 2021

A screenshot from the marvellous windy.com page showing the blast of cold arctic air coming down from the north which will drop temperatures by about 15C° and may give us a few days of snow this week and generally be wet ´n ´orrible.

Thus, with the chances of making a few new videos on the bike reduced to near zero, I dug up a few of my older films from 2016 and 2017 which I had archived but never really looked at and that got me thinking about my recent trips and why some were good and some less so.

After a tremendous tour in 2012 to Colorado, New Mexico and Utah I caught the adventure bike bug and discovered the world of dirt-based travel.

My off-roading beforehand was limited to getting on and off camping sites but here we did a couple of days on loose surfaced roads and, obviously, the KTM 990 Adventure was a very good weapon of choice. The experience itself was marvellous. I never ceased to be amazed by the range of geographical zones in this area, prairie, semi-desert, hills, the rockies, passes which were higher than our highest peaks with a totally new vegetation zone on the other side. And, of course, America itself which is such a different way of doing the same thing.

Anyway, by 2015 I had managed to procure an older Triumph Tiger with 885cc with various useful extras like a luggage rack and heated grips. I´ve added a few things which are summarised here for those who are interested and a new rear YSS shock since then. Having managed to get a week off work and off family I set off to do the Routes des Grandes Alpes in France sometime in July with my camping stuff on the back. I used my Sony phone for navigation with it clamped to the bars using the ram-mount system with a adjustable clamp. One aim for a trip was to perhaps do a few overnights in the south of France in a monastery, to take some time out to think about things and to do my first longer trip alone.

After two slightly stressful days at the start, mainly due to extreme heat up to 43°C, I got into the route, my head started to sort itself out and the next few days were like a dream. My simple daily routine worked wonderfully. Eventually I came off the planned route and dropped down to Castellane and spent two days near the gorge de Verdon camping by the river. It was a wonderful time and I discovered some of the joys and challenges of travelling alone.

Download file: 2015 Grande Alpes_11.gpx

In 2016 I managed to get another week off and decided to do a serious tour of the Cevennes in central France which I had found via a motorcycle touring magazine. I had downloaded the gpx routes and had also acquired a Garmin Zumo 590 and had this mounted up high behind the screen. I only had 5-6 days and decided to compress the 10-day tour from the magazine into what was eventually 4 and a half days with a day to get to and from the start-point.

Here is a video which I took on that tour (with music)

If the Youtube link doesn´t work then please use this one.

The tour itself had stunning roads, the weather was good and no larger mishaps. I left more or less straight out of work because of time constraints, paced down to Lyon and got started. By the fourth day I was absolutely shattered. Riding all day, not eating much but getting by on a lot of water, isotonic drinks and energy bars. I remember sitting somewhere near the farthest point feeling massively frustrated with myself, irritated that I wasn´t seeing much if any of the places I was passing, feeling weakened, also irritated that I didn´t seem to be enjoying the amazing roads and scenery and wondering what the point of it all was. It was annoying that, although I was doing pretty much what I´d done the year before, it wasn´t working out. When I was looking through the film footage whilst writing this I thought I could feel an immense pressure, the lines weren´t smooth, just looking at the film I could remember the driving urge to get somewhere and that I didn´t know why. In German there is a phrase “Flucht nach vorne (antreten)” which doesn´t translate very easily but approximates, in this case, to “attack is the best form of defence” or “fleeing/flight forwards”. What made things worse was that due to the extremely long days I never got round to exchanging more than a few words with anyone.

I got home exhausted and the daily grind continued unabated.

Download file: 2016 Cevennen Motorradonline Spezial_11.gpx

In 2017, I also managed to carve out a long weekend from the usual responsibilities. This time I decided to go to France again but to do a self-made route which was made up of a collection of extremely high, bendy, narrow or generally tricky roads near and around the Grenoble region. This time the weather played up and after a few very long and tiring days I was caught out by a biblical thunderstorm and deluge which confined me to bed for two days in a dismal hotel near Oyannax. I made it back home after that feeling low with a nagging feeling that things weren´t going in the right direction.

Download file: 2016 3 Motorrad Abenteuer 2016 Frankreich extrem_11.gpx

In 2018, I was busy and couldn´t find time to get away on my own. My father-in-law had died suddenly and it was a family priority year.

The next part of the story is, I suppose, the start of this blog so maybe have a look here if you like:

So what are my observations and conclusions from the above?

  • I think that it is important to have some idea why you are making a trip, what do you hope to see/find or even lose?
  • Try to find enough time for the trip. Try to make time before you leave and for when you come back.
  • With the time you have available en route make a realistic plan for the trip. If you want to see places or meet people then this needs to have its own sufficient time space in order for it to happen. I found in 2019 that stopping at the latest in early afternoon and taking every third/fourth day off was a good rhythm for me.
  • Could you be happy travelling or touring alone or would you rather be a in a larger or smaller group? I find that I need two to three days until I´m so fed up with myself that I can then move on into the “contented equilibrium” zone.
  • Take less than you think you need.

I recently found this article by Tom´s bike trip which is actually about seriously long-distance tours on bicycles but I found that it touches on a number of points which were relevant to my trips and is certainly worth a read:

If you´re thinking about a longer motorcycle trip then this site might also be worth perusing:

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