The Hot Ride to Copenhagen

Everything Is Old

Our bikes were nestled in a small courtyard below our room at the Hotel Dagmar, built in 1582 and the oldest hotel in Denmark. I make a point to cover my bike with the amazing compact and lightweight Aerostich bike cover. It blinds the temptation of wandering eyes, though we weren’t worried so much about the kitchen staff who use a side door in the courtyard.

The sun blazed and burned hot, so much that my bike cover was hot to touch. When I pulled it off, the thermometer on my dash revealed the hot truth. It was 112 degrees Fahrenheit (nearly 45 degrees Celcius).

Sweeping grasslands lead us to the Øresund Bridge to Copenhagen

 

To The Oldest Town in Denmark

More riding through pastoral farms as we headed southwest into Jutland, a small peninsula where we hoped to delve into Denmark’s medieval past. More grazing land and long fields and bogs of peat added to the aromatic wonderland swirling inside my helmet—pungent.

Motorcycle riders get it, the full sensual experience of being open. To all the elements, temperature, precipitation, panoramic views, a true sense of speed as the ground moves so close below. And then there’s the smell.

When I first moved to California in the 80’s I rode a small Suzuki 450cc bike between West LA and Orange County. In the morning I’d pass through Torrance on the 405 freeway where the intoxicating smell of sweet bread wafted across the freeway from King’s Hawaiian Bakery. I never stopped, but the smell of that bread that so many other commuters trapped in traffic simply miss inside their cars, windows rolled up.

Nothing sweet about the smells of the ride to Ribe, Denmark’s oldest city settled in the 8th century as the Roman empire fell and gave rise to Celtic and Germanic kingdoms.

Like many of Europe’s old towns, the historic part of Ribe is closed to vehicular traffic. With a useless GPS and complete lack of direction, we soon found ourselves riding where we shouldn’t. We came across a small gathering of people led by a man cloaked in a long black double breasted peacoat with a large gold medallion dangling from a chain around his neck and carrying a torch and what looked like a medieval weapon, a barbed iron ball atop a pole, his walking stick.

John and I joined the group on the following night as we wandered and winded our way through the old towns cobblestoned streets and dark alleys. While this tourist walk enlightened us to the cast of characters that walked the streets and created the town from yesteryear, I was more fascinated by the young and sweet bartender at our hotel. No, and not in that way.

She spoke very good English and was currently studying at the local university. As our conversation turned to pop culture then politics, she asked me why there were so many school shootings in the United States. She knew about so many. She revealed that in Denmark’s equivalent of high school, called gymnasium, academic study and not sports, every student must take a class in school shootings. That’s right, in Denmark they study school shootings in high school.

She told me that she doesn’t know anybody who owns a gun in Denmark. Yes, they sell guns in Denmark, but like a car one must get a license to own and use one. These guns, she admits, are for solely for hunting, and that she is unaware of shooting ranges or other non-hunting recreational use of firearms in Denmark.

 

If you somehow miss seeing it, you will certainly hear the bells. The Ribe Cathedral “The Church of Our Lady” is the oldest cathedral in Denmark. It is a mix of architectural styles as the structure has undergone many revisions since it was built by King Valdemar in the 13th century, including the addition of the Maria Tower, which rises some 150 feet above the plaza and shops circling it below.

Hello Denmark! Hello Europe!

Nearly two days passed before I spotted land. The European continent. Scandinavia. The group of about 15 bikers slowly congregated on the vehicle deck. Tie downs were tossed away and everyone started donning riding gear. It took me some time.

Even in motorcycle heavy Scandinavia, Doc attracts curious passersby with the odd assortment of flag and other global stickers.

My bike sits quite high. The BMW Dakar was never meant to have a center stand, though I fitted Doc with one from Touratech. It’s not new, I have always been aware of the problem, and frankly always apprehensive about it. Because of the height of the bike, the angle of the center stand when dropped doesn’t provide enough leverage. One almost must lift the 500+ pounds of the bike to get it on the stand. This usually means two people. In Sudan aboard the ferry from Wadi Halfa to Aswan Egypt, it took three people.

Getting off the center stand is equally amusing. I usually just ask someone to push me as a rock the bike back and forth. A fellow rider from Germany pushed me.

I’m in Europe, again. This time far away from where I landed last time—in Istanbul.

The ride to the Northern most point of Denmark and the point where the turbulent waters of the North Sea and the Kattegat (Baltic) Sea meet, on a sandbar peninsula a few miles north of Skagen. The ride here passes through farmland and tiny villages, often the pungent “fresh” air of methane infused fertilizer violates me inside my helmet.

Of course I had to wander to the end of the sandbar and straddle the two great northern European seas. Marching through nearly a mile of sand in motorcycle boots isn’t so fun. But the feeling of water swirling around my feet was nearly heaven.

While the temperature was very comfortable, if not hot, I noticed blankets, usually branded with a beer logo such as Carlsberg, draped over the backs or sitting in a pile outside cafés all over town. Nice touch, if the evening chill is a bit nippy, grab a blanket—certainly more cozy and sustainable than those heaters we typically find on restaurant patios in the USA.

After a “light” lunch of traditional Danish Smørrebrød at a small outdoor cafe where Johnny A and I chowed and watched the people wander the pedestrian streets of Skagen shopping, eating, and watching street performers. I encountered these guys performing a spectacular illusion. I broadcast my amazement on Facebook Live. You can watch it here.

Rockin’ The Smyril Line Ferry to Denmark

After bidding farewell to the Faroe Islands, I joined Johnny A and a half-dozen other motorcyclists who decided to stopover in the Faroes, to board the Norröna and tie down our bikes in the middle vehicle bay. The ride to the Faroe Islands was smooth and this time of year the ride to Denmark was just as easy.

On our last night aboard and after another wonderful meal at the Simmer Dim Steakhouse aboard the ship, Johnny A convinced Rani Nolsøe, the Faroese folk singer who had been entertaining passengers in the Naust Lounge during our trip, to take a break and let me bang out a couple tunes for the nearly full house crowd enjoying late night cocktails and entertainment.

I’m typically a bit shy and less confident in my musical abilities—but always happy to get in front of a crowd and speak. That night aboard the Norröna I was a bit nervous and forget words to my own songs. I do think the crowd got a kick out of my performance and enjoyed the rap. Thanks to Rani for letting me indulge a few originals on his stage.

Check out the video below—not the greatest sound, but you’ll get the idea and see WorldRider in action with a guitar, instead of a motorcycle. Thanks and kudos to Johnny A for setting up and recording the performance.

As I mentioned in my earlier post about the Smyril Line service to and from Iceland and Hirtshals, Denmark via the Faroe Islands, if you’re thinking of spending time in Iceland and want to explore Norway, Denmark, and the Faroe Islands, take a close look at the service offered by Smyril Line. I think there’s no better way to make an Iceland, North Atlantic and Scandinavian adventure.