Where is and, what’s going on WorldRider? (bonus video)

I admit that I’ve been remiss in keeping the WorldRider blog updated. To be sure, I keep writing blogs and posting photos from my four-month Scandanavian and Eastern Europe journey from last year—so delve backwards and check out some of that journey.

My 2016 summer adventure had me race from Iceland to Greece while navigating 14 countries. Often battling rain, cold, and tourist traffic in Norway, I finally settled the end of that trip by relaxing on the wonderful and soothing Greek Islands.

Yet my nearly 5,000 mile (8,500km) journey in four months may seem like a ‘long’ journey with plenty of time, I found myself scrambling to make the time to write and post the photos and stories. That’s why many of the stories and photos are getting posted nearly a year later. But that’s okay. You still can get the vibe.

In the meantime, you’ll find more on my Instagram feed (and Twitter)—yet don’t worry, you’ll get updates here, but join me on the other social media networks and get immersed! This blog is priority. And that’s why I’m committed to keeping this blog updated more regularly. Are you subscribed?

So, last year after my journey I decided to leave my motorcycle in Athens. Yes, as I type this post now (June 2017) Doc (my bike) is in Athens.

I’m working on plans to get back to Athens in July and then spend another 3-4 months exploring eastern Europe while working on my new book. I hope to visit the following countries:

  • Italy
  • Albania
  • Macedonia
  • Montenegro
  • Bosnia Herzogovina
  • Serbia
  • Croatia
  • Kosovo
  • Slovenia
  • Romania
  • Bulgaria
  • Moldova
  • Ukraine
  • Georgia
  • Armenia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Turkey

This would top last year’s adventure by two countries—however, I’ve already visited Albania, Macedonia, Turkey and Italy. So as my quest to visit (ride) every country in the world continues, this exploration will chock only 13 more countries. But I remain positive!

I’m still working on the new TV show, so stay tuned for more on that. Meanwhile, I hope to see and find you exploring your own adventures somewhere, someplace and somehow!

Drop me a note. Where are you now?

Bonus!

Here’s a fun video shot while shooting an episode of the new television show:

Living On Jesse Luggage!

 

Al Jesse leans on one of the bags that made him famous and a legend in the adventure motorcycle community. His hi-tech CNC and cutting machines behind him.

Jesse Luggage SystemsWhile planning for adventures this summer and fall, and still working on the upcoming television show, I continue to connect with old friends and new.

This week I had the pleasure of reconnecting with Al Jesse, the principal of Jesse Luggage Systems, makers of the best aluminum/hard luggage on the planet. Trust me, it may sound like hyperbole or overstatement, but I assure you it’s not.

For some twenty years Al and his crew have manufactured 100% made in America products out of a facility near Phoenix, Arizona. While the basic concept of the luggage has remained the same, and most of the tens of thousands of Jesse panniers they have sold that don adventure motorcycles from every major brand are still in use today, I learned that Al has changed the design elements of the luggage more than 100 times.

Al just can’t sit still and leave enough alone. He has to make continual improvements. I know. I’ve been using “Jesse Bags” for more than ten years. Even though there is nothing wrong with any iteration of the bags, I get a chance every so often to update my bags and take adventage of these improvements.

Al Jesse with me in front of the FORKS Van which sports the cover image of my book—a beautiful advertisement for the design and durability of his products.

I could go on about the improvements such as the dynamic mounting system that allows for the repositioning of the bags, or the lid hinges that stay put and don’t fall on your fingers. But I’ll hold back. And I won’t tell you about new products and advancements like thin solar panels affixed to the luggage that will charge devices, or the reinforcement panels designed to strengthen the tail and mounting components of the new Africa Twin. But I won’t.

What I will tell you is that I love spending a morning with one of the legends in the adventure motorcycle community.

You can find Jesse Luggage at your local motorcycle dealer, or directly from the Jesse Luggage Systems website.

My Jesse Bags have been through hell and back over the years. Here they are on my bike fully loaded in Paros, Greece, one of the most beautiful Greek Islands while Giorgakis of Giorgakis Motos takes a welder to my forever receding a problematic kickstand.

 

Podcast #28 Duncan Marks, Traveling The World & Making Wine

Wow! Listen to this Podcast with Duncan—a 26-year-old winemaker who is traveling the world making wine, doing good, and following his dream. Seriously.

After riding through Scandinavia and Eastern Europe I found myself between Greek Islands and exploring Greek history and Athens I happened to wander into a wine bar and found a kindred spirit—Duncan Marks, a 26-year old wine maker from my hometown of San Diego—he’d just finished harvesting wine from a Greek Estate.

img_4810I learned Greece was just one of almost a dozen countries he’d traveled while supporting his wanderlust working vineyards and cellars of wineries all over the world. Fast-forward to four months later and we connect in my home in north San Diego. Listen to an inspiring interview of not only why it’s important to pursue your passion, but to find out what’s important in life and those things we all have in common when it comes to connecting and enjoying the company of family, friends and strangers.

You will learn how I met Duncan in a wine bar in Greece. What you won’t learn is how we ended up sharing a great meal and tasting wines in the late evening glow of a Grecian night in the shadows of the Acropolis. A classic case of culture, cuisine, connection — and let’s throw some history along!

Duncan just finished a stint helping a small Greek winery harvest and before heading to Germany for Octoberfest and then to Austria for another harvest, he found himself in the Greek capitol and sitting next to me at Vintages Wine Bar. This is only the beginning of the story. So be sure to listen and see where this goes…

You can also listen and subscribe to WORLDRIDER PODCASTS on iTunes—ALSO, **Please leave a review** there—it truly helps!

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This Podcast is longer than usual, but well worth the listen!

 

Mentioned In This Podcast

You can find Duncan on Instagram here and by searching his name on Facebook.

Duncan’s favorite travel movie is V for Vendetta

Duncan’s favorite book, which relates to the country he’d live if he couldn’t live in the United States is A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson; and he also recommends by the same author In a Sunburned Country. Allan mention’s Bill’s book I’m A Stranger Here Myself.

Here are links to the wineries he worked at:

Babcock Winery – Santa Barbara area
Flying Fish Cove – Australia
Latour Melas – Greece
Loibnerhof – Austria
Schwane – Germany

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Trouble In Copenhagen and On The Road In Sweden

Denmark and Copenhagen truly captured my spirit, curiosity and especially my palate—the food is so good.

Yet this morning we had to bid farewell to Copenhagen and Denmark. Though we had quite the drama leaving Copenhagen. Like most cities the parking can be difficult, expensive, and questionable secure. Neither of the hotels we stayed out in downtown offered parking, but all pointed us to various lots in the blocks surrounding the hotel.

The lot we chose to park our bikes took up nearly a whole city block. The building is massive. The upper floors were shared by a hotel and offices. Yet unlike so many parking operations in the USA, there are no attendants. Everything is automated. When John and I returned to the parking garage after three days, we found ourselves locked out. We could not enter the garage. The tickets we had wouldn’t open the doors. And we tried all of them. We banged on the doors, called the two phone numbers listed, and even tried waiting for someone to emerge, or go in.

I felt like my bike Doc, was being held hostage. This was deja vu, too. We had the same issue trying to get out of the parking garage—on foot. We managed to trigger the car entrance door manually and escape. But there was none of that getting inside.

We were losing time, too. We needed to check out of the hotel by 11am, but more importantly we had a long ride heading to Stockholm.

With the aid of hotel personnel, we were finally inside. Yet, we couldn’t get the gate to open as the automated system didn’t recognize that there was a vehicle ready to pay. Through a little creative maneuvering we were able to get the garage door open, but the gate wouldn’t budge. With no other option, we just rode past the gate—we wanted to, but we were unable to pay.

As we navigate our way out of the city to the Øresund Bridge, the temperature begins to soar. Spanning some five miles across the Øresund strait between Denmark and Sweden, the massive bridge also takes railroad across the straits. It’s the longest road and rail bridge in Europe. The bridge was officially opened in 2000, and passes through an artificial island, Peberholm. I try to stop on the island to grab a few photos, but signage is very clear—keep moving.

We skirt the Sweden’s third-largest city, Malmo and stick to the main road to make time, hoping we can make it to Stockholm by nightfall. As I’m navigating a ring road, get lost on a rural road, and seem to pass over the main road twice before I can figure out how to get back on, my temperature light flashes on—and holds.

Shit.

After a few minutes of riding, I have to pull over. There is no shoulder, and John has no idea what’s going on. I explain I’ve got to wait. Let the engine cool. My plan is to get off the busy road, find a gas station where I can look at the cooling system and see what’s going on. I fear the fan might have failed. That happened to me in China on Wong Doc (the surrogate bike I used in China, while the right Doc sat in the port of Ningbo).

At the gas station outside of Ästorp, I check the fluids, they seem good. The fan, I’m not sure. I figure if I can keep up to speed, there will be enough air passing through the radiator, I would be okay. I just have to watch it when in traffic, or slow moving roads.

My theory and plan fails. The bike heats up at speed. Something else is wrong. Maybe the thermostat? I can ride the bike for about 5 minutes before it heats up and I have to pull over and wait about 20 for it to cool down.  I need to find help.

Thankfully T-Mobile is offering LTE speed, unlimited and FREE throughout Europe this summer, so I’m able to find a BMW about twenty miles away in Ängelholm in Skåne. It’s already late, and there’s no way I can ride the bike for twenty miles.

The gas station attendant guides us to a motel, just 4 miles down the road. I can do that—barely.

When we get to downtown Astorp, a small settlement with just 3 hotels—all of them are booked. Not a room. After much talking and negotiating with our new friend Ossama at the Hotel Milano, Ossama lets us pitch our tents on the fine manicured lawn outside the cute cottages that make up the Hotel Milano. One catch though: there is no bathroom. The only food is a pizza restaurant that is set to close in an hour.

I’m more worried about the twenty mile trek to the BMW dealer. If I try to push the bike and the engine is under siege of constant heat, I could damage it. That would bring this trip to a quick end.

At the restaurant, we befriend a group of locals who continue to lubricate themselves with beer. One of them is such a huge fan of John Deere, he keeps yelling at me with the little English he knows—John Deere, fuggin the best. I joke with him a bit and ask him about Massey Ferguson. “That’s shit,” he screams, “John Deere, fuggin’ the best.” We are in Swedish agricultural country.

I explain my dilemma to the English speaker of the group and ask if anyone would be willing to truck or trailer my bike to the BMW dealer. After several phone calls and talk about money, one of the group agrees that he and a friend will meet me at the hotel at 8am the next morning.

When they show up, I’m taken back. The trailer is tiny. There’s no way my bike will fit. Yet, it does, as they decide not to close the back gate, so my bike barely squeezes on, diagonally.

At the BMW dealer in Ängelholm, they’re busy. No guarantee that they can get to the bike today, but they’ll try. Just the sight of our two bikes brings out the curious locals. We meet an adventure riding couple, Mats and Ana. Before we leave to grab lunch, Mats has found a copy of my book in Sweden and shows me the order that it will be shipped in two days. Amazing.

John and I walk the small pedestrian mall and try to pick up some of the language—and some local food.

Later at the dealer, my bike is still sitting in the same spot. I worry that we will be spending the night in Ängelholm. Soon enough other locals pick up their bikes, and mine rolls into the service bay.

After about 30 minutes I wander inside. “Look,” the technician points to the hose that feeds from the water pump to the radiator. It’s crimped behind a spaghetti wad of electrical cables, all held together with a couple zip ties.

Could this be the problem? What about the fan?

These cables provide power to my PIAA lights and the GPS unit. It seems that between the two recent services—one in California and the other in Metuchen New Jersey, when the bike was put together this wad of cables was pushed in and forced on top of the hose.

I haven’t touched the cables or hoses since the bike arrived in Iceland about a month ago. And I certainly had no issues with overheating in Iceland. Then again, it was so damn cold.

We check the fan, it’s working. All good. Now here, with rising temperatures the failure point is a simple human error. I didn’t even notice when I pulled the side panels off at the gas station—looking for a bigger problem, this simple fail missed me.

It could have been worse, and costed so much more. In the end, this little debacle cost us a day, but along the way we made many friends, new connections and more ideas of what to do along the journey ahead.

 

Copenhagen & Christiana

I arrived in Copenhagen slightly sweaty and eyes wide open to understand and explore this Scandinavian city that has become a culinary capital beyond belief.

Summer is tourist season. As such, many of the higher-end restaurants decide to take off—holiday on some of the local islands or elsewhere in Europe.

To take advantage of this very bicycle friendly city, I decide to park Doc, my bike, and don a bicycle-an electric bicycle with pedal assist—to explore the city. The electric bikes are available for pick-up and drop-off all over the city.

Realizing that just two days is not enough to truly get a sense of the city, I try to extend a night at my hotel. Sadly, there’s no availability. I scramble and find a place in the neighborhood that will accommodate me and my bike—but it’s going to cost me. Oh well. This is Scandanavia—I knew it wouldn’t be cheap.

Perhaps the most fascinating part of this grand city is Christiania—perhaps the San Francisco of northern Europe. In the 70’s a group of adventurous squatters and hippies crashed age-old military barracks here. The buildings were vacant and equipped with (free) electricity so the originals created a ‘freetown’ with a very hippy and laid-back way of life. And yes, plenty of weed to go around. Today, Christiania represents alternative thinking and, like San Francisco’s hey-day, a bit of a hippie culture and thriving movement. Don’t take pictures here, I was told. Outside the gates, I did get a few shots and met a wonderful lady who tends to many of the gardens. She showed me around.

There is plenty of “street art” graffiti and cozy  cafés, and certainly open-minded people and an abundance of nature and openness.

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.

G! Fest — Rockin’ The Faroe Islands

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IMG_0379Now in its 13th year, the G! Fest music experience, referred to the the Woodstock of the North Atlantic, is a three day music festival set in on the beach in the village of Syðrugöta, which has a population of just 400, on the island of Eysturoy. Two of the three stages are built on the beach against the backdrop of the Faroes’ jaw-dropping fjords‚ a landscape dominated by grass-carpeted mountains. According to the G! promoters, the festival is “caught between the peaks and the ocean, in a break between the cliffs skirting the coastline, Syðrugøta is set in an unrivalled natural amphitheater.”

It was here in the 11th century where the legendary Viking Tróndur í Götu confronted the Norwegians who were focused on Christianization of the Faroe Islands. Tróndur pronounced a curse against Christianity, beheading those who got in his way.

Things have changed in Syðrugøta. Now peace-lying and sustainable practices by green-thinking and acting citizens dominate the landscape among an eclectic mix of local and global musicians.

There is even a special beer made for the G! Festival and a unique carrier to take a 5-pack back to your group!

There is even a special beer made for the G! Festival and a unique carrier to take a 5-pack back to your group!

 

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An amazing venue for the Woodstock of the Faroe Islands.

Syðrugøta on Eysturoy and with a population of barely 100 people, hosts the annual G! Festival in the Faroe Islands— An amazing venue for what they call the Woodstock of the Faroes.

IMG_0296-1Sponsors of the festival include local taxi companies who usher festival goers between Tórshavn and other towns and Gull, a local brewery that from the many vendors pouring fresh beer, I was amazed to see the optional 5-pack carriers allowing the ease of transporting multiple beers from tap to stage. Certainly in the USA vendors will demand IDs from anyone attempting to buy more than two beers. Yet here in the Faroes, a five-pack carrier is common and convenient.

IMG_0297As the hot pots are the rage in Iceland and the north Atlantic, festival goers also have the opportunity to enjoy a steaming hot pot and a cold plunge into the arctic sea. Yeah!

Johnny A and I decided to take the local bus to the G! Fest. Later in the evening, after the bus service stopped, we shared a cab with a couple Brits and enjoyed the conversation discussing Brexit and the impending election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Life is interesting, the music fun and interesting. Nothing like landing on a remote island and enjoying the music from the latest music festival in the Faroe Islands. We got to hear several locals and international acts including Lucy Rose, Sakaris, and Faroe Islands favorite Annika Hoydal.

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Lucy Rose from the U.K. plays Faroe Islands G! Fest July 2016

 

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Sakaris plays Faroe Islands G! Fest July 2016

 

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Folk singer Annika Hoydal plays Faroe Islands G! Fest July 2016

Watch Sakaris live with some legendary Johnny A dancing thrown in — an Allan Cam capture from the Faroe Islands July 2016 at the G! Fest.