Sunday, August 31, 2014

3000 mile Motorcycle Ride: Seeing an old friend and Riding through a Tornado.

Todays 400 mile ride is about an old friend and in the end riding through a tornado.  I guess on a 3000 mile motorcycle ride you have to learn to expect the unexpected.  On this day I will get caught in the rain a couple of times.  Waiting one storm out in a road maintenance shed.  It's all part of the adventure.

Early morning I set off from Merrill in Northern Wisconsin and ride to Fairmont Minnesota.  A small little town near the Iowa border in southern Minnesota.   I stop to visit the grave of a childhood friend who died many years ago.  Passing away in tragic circumstances, due to no fault of his own.   Separated by many years I look back on it and rationalize that some people are just too good for this world.   Someone that I spent a few summers with so long ago has come to mean a lot to me, for reasons I really can't understand.   I was good to see his grave and celebrate his short life.  I feel that we may all have an angel watching over us, he might just be mine.

This was the first day into a 3 day ride to Denver Colorado.  I had promised the fantasy football league that I'm in, that I would come to Colorado for the draft party.  It was the excuse that I made to ride my motorcycle for a week and a half.

After visiting my friends grave I set off from Fairmont with the skies growing dark.  I start to run into some rain.  In the distance I can see the sheets of water coming down.   I turn around and plod my way around the storm using the GPS and my Hi-Def Radar App on my smart phone.  Riding around country roads through rain and wind I finally make it into Iowa.

With the storms behind me I stop to fuel up.  A lady comes up to me and ask which way are you going.  She points to the storms that I just rode through saying, "dont go east the radio just said there are tornados on the ground over there".

 After thanking her I laugh and think to myself its good to be alive and on the other side of that storm.   It's funny in life how we spend a lot our lives navigating around storms of one sort or another.  It's another 30 miles to Spirit Lake where I stop for the night.  Only 700 miles left for Denver.

Monday, August 18, 2014

3000 Mile Motorcycle Ride: Day 3 Merrill Wisconsin

Well after riding 750 miles it was good to rest in my personal hometown for a day or tow .  When ever I'm here we spend the time visiting family and getting caught up on haw everyone is doing.  All my aunts, uncles, and my mothers friends are such wonderful people.

On this trip it was all of the gardens of the people we visited they were incredibly beautiful.   While riding the side of the roads were covered in wild flowers.  It is like Wisconsin is stuck in a perpetual spring.  Until the first snow fall anyway.  

Saturday, August 16, 2014

3000 mile Motorcycle Ride: Day 2 Northern Wisconsin

Perpetual Spring
Well leaving Lake Geneva Wisconsin was smooth as silk riding through the Wisconsin Farm Country side was absolutely a religious experience.   The fields and woods highlighted by Barns and Farm houses.  It has a unique contribution to the agricultural landscape.

It's a short ride to portage where I stopped to get gas.   An older gentleman with a farm hat walks by saying good morning, and commented, "Nice bike", I replied with thanks.  As he walked into the store, I really didn't think much of it.  When he return in a friendly sort of way he went on, "You know that every morning at 4:30 am someone down my street rides his Motorcycle with loud pipes and wakes me up every morning, I don't know who it is."   Well I replied, " I'm just passing through, but I hope you can find that evil  biker that keeps waking you up."  After a good laugh we parted ways.   Yes, so much for us bad old bikers waking the nation up.

Wausau HD
In Portage I jump on Interstate 39, it is a short 80 miles to Wausau where I stop to get my usual Harley Davidson T-shirt.  Then its another 15 miles up to Merrill.  The flowers along the interstate make me think that this place seems to be in a perpetual spring.  The ride has been awesome and it is all about the ride isn't it.
Lunch with Mom

I get to Mom's for lunch it is good to be home.   It's Friday night and 12 of us head to Fish Fry, a Friday Northern Wisconsin Tradition.  All the small bars/restaurants have there own version of the fish fry and everyone goes to there favorite place.

Merrill Wisconsin although I have never lived here I consider it my personal Hometown.  Both my parents are from here and all my extended family lives here.  It is good to have a personal home town whats yours?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

3000 mile motorcycle ride: I made it to Paris!!!

Paris Courthouse
Day 1 into a 3000 mile ride   Never thought I'd ride to Paris!!!! Paris Illinois that is.   Great road Illinois route #1.  It feels good to be on roads that I have never traveled .

My Intersection of America
Well I made it to  Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.   Another 245 miles and I'll be in Merrill in Northern Wisconsin.  It was a fun long ride today, I pushed it and rode around 500 miles from Clarksville.   I'm normally a 350 to 400 miles a day kinda guy, but I've been wanting to ride this route for a long time now.  Evansville to Vincennes Indiana; crossing over to Illinois there.   Then Route #1 all the way up to Chicago, moving west to route #47 to skirt the outskirts of the city ending up here in Lake Geneva.  My goal was to make it to Wisconsin, mission accomplished.

Sex Toys Anyone
I stopped at the intersection of America or what I like to call it.  Turn right on highway 36 go to Denver, turn left go to Indianapolis, or go straight to Chicago.  Going straight today thank you very much.

At a Gas station that I stopped at the house next store had a sign giving away free cucumbers.  You have to love that mid west people are so friendly.  Now if it was me my sign would have read free sex toys.  The things that a a person can think up.  Just kidding trying to check if people are actually reading anything that I actually write.

Was a great ride even the lady the cut me off in Chicago was a lot of fun.  We both got to practice our verbal hand gestures.  Because of traffic I was stuck behind her for about 30 miles at each stop light we would smile and wave.  The hand gestures would get friendlier as the miles went by.  When she finally turned off, it was nothing more than a friendly wave.  I have to admit though she was still an ass.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Start of a 3000 mile Motorcycle Adventure

I've been getting an itch lately.  A itch to Ride.   6 months ago my Fantasy Football League decided that we'd have our draft on 22 August.  Last year I picked my team over the phone and paid for that mistake.   So this year Tennessee White Lightning my team is going to be in the house in Denver.   Screw it lets ride!!!!!!

First a 700 mile side trip to see my mother in Northern Wisconsin.   A trip I have made many a time from Clarksville Tennessee. This will be the first on the Electra Glide Classic.  After a couple of days in Merrill Wisconsin, its off to Denver.  Where Tennessee White Lightning will rule the day.

First lets see how much trouble I can get into on the way there.  Well there will probably be no trouble at all, but its fun to imagine.  After of all I have 6 days to get there after leaving Wisconsin.  I'll take my time and hopefully have an adventure or two along the way.

Its the start of a 3000 mile motorcycle adventure.  Please feel free to sign up for regular email updates and stay tuned for the solo ride of the decade, we'll maybe just this years anyway.  I promise I won't spam you, but if you love to ride I might make you Jealous.

Age is creeping up on me, but I'd like to think these 52 year old bones have plenty of long trips left in it.  So tag along for the adventure, you might get some ideas for your own.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Trip to Germany: 4 Day Visit to Berlin

After our overnight stop in Villingen Schwenningen, we make it to Frankfurt to unload some family members and get them checked in at the Hilton at the Airport.   I get the van turned in, say our goodbyes, and walk downstairs to the Airport Train Station.  We buy our train tickets and jump on the Train to Berlin.  The Hilton Hotel at the Frankfurt Flughafen doubles as the train station for the Airport.  It is an architectural marvel and a destination in its own right.

At the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof, we get on our ICE InterCity Express train.   We do not spend the extra 18 euros to get assigned seats and end up standing for the first 4  stops before seats open.  It is a quick trip.  We arrive at the new Berlin Hauptbahnhof, which is 3 story marvel with trains coming and going in every direction.   We had pent-up energy and walked the mile from the train station to the hotel.  Walking along the River Spree, we passed the German Bundestag, the German Capital building, and the famous Brandenburg Gate.  A good start to our four-day adventure.

Covered in sweat from the walk, we check into our hotel, the ARCOTEL John F Berlin, named after John F. Kennedy.   Whom Berliners are still fond of because he supported Berlin during the cold war.  It was a nice hotel amid the workings of the German Government.  It was very central to all of the sites in central Berlin.   During check-in, we discovered a concert in Gendarmenmarkt Platz, a short 3-block walk from the hotel.

Already late in the evening, we walked over for a late dinner and to listen to the opera by candlelight.  It was quite a surreal experience.   Berlin is a diverse international city that is open late in the evening.  Most restaurants stay open until 11 pm or midnight.  Quite unusual from the rest of Germany.  The food was great, along with dessert, and after a long day of travel, it was good to sit and enjoy the music and the food.   It was the first still moment of the day and one I will remember for the rest of my life.

The next day we get up and walk to Alexanderplatz.   The first thing you realize is that Berlin is a city under construction.  There are construction cranes, and buildings boarded up everywhere.  During the divided years of the cold war, the Russians controlled most of the old inner city.   A lot of the rebuilding replaces the stark construction of the communist era.    Alexanderplatz is a good example of this type of utilitarian construction.   I sat in a Beer garden and had a glass of soda while watching the people walk by as Terri shopped at one of the department stores on the Platz.   It was a great day to be in Berlin.                        

From Alexanderplatz, we walk down to the DDR museum, which depicts life under Communist East Germany from 1945 to 1989.   From what I can tell, it was no picnic, a mild version of North Korea.   After the DDR museum, we spent the rest of the morning at the German Historical Museum.  A short walk past the Berlin Cathedral, one of the only buildings in central Berlin that weren't completely destroyed by bombing during World War 2.   The German Historical Museum was awesome.  It illustrated Germany throughout the ages pulling no punches regarding their actions against the Jews in World War 2 with a complete accounting of their attempt to exterminate the Jews.   There was also a special exhibit on World War I, Wield Krieg, which was outstanding.

Finishing the day, we walked past and toured the Neue Wacke, or the Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Victims of War and Tyranny.  This was one of my favorite sites in Berlin because we walked up to it by chance and did not realize it existed.  It was a very somber experience.  In the evening, we walked back to the Brandenburg gate and into Tiergarten, a large park in western Berlin.   We stopped at the Soviet War Memorial in the garden, another unexpected place.  After another late dinner, it was time to return to the hotel and rest for our final full day in Berlin.

We get up early, then head to the nearest train station.  We buy a day pass for the city transportation system, the U-Bahn.  Our destination is Schloss Charlottenburg, one of the only remaining Palaces from the German Monarchy that ended in 1918 at the end of World War I.   After a city train change, we took the tour of the Schloss.  It was a great tour, with the Schloss being a summer palace at the time, outside Berlin.
Although Schloss Charlottenburg was not as impressive as the Palace of Versailles, it was historically significant in its own right.  The gardens were also splendid; I only wish I had more time to explore them.

 Our last day and time to ride the U-Bahn to see Checkpoint Charlie, a unique place in recent Modern History that goes back to when the city was divided after World War II between West and East Berlin.   It is the entry and exit point between the Communist and Non-Communist parts of the city.   Berliners have a great appreciation for America's role in the reunification of Berlin and Germany.   Checkpoint Charlie signifies the casting off of that communist yoke.  It was very emotional for a cold war soldier like myself.   We spend the rest of the evening riding the U-Bahn around the city, observing Berliners conducting their everyday lives.   We reflect on this trip through Germany and discuss our readiness to return home.  After 3 weeks in Germany, we are ready to get home.

In the morning we will take the Taxi to the Train Station.   After missing our Train, we are rerouted through Leipzig, where we change trains and catch our Train to Frankfurt Airport.  We get off the Train, walk upstairs to the Hilton Hotel, and are there for the evening.  Terri is on a different flight than me; once here, she is reunited with her hiking partner from the beginning of the trip.  They check in on Air Canada, and I go back to the Hotel to Check out and catch my United Flight back to Nashville.   Terri's flight is delayed in Montreal, and she gets home about 6 hours after me.  It was another successful adventure, a little long but great nonetheless.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Trip to Germany: Hinterstein with Trips to Fussen, Konigs Schloss Neuschwanstein, and Lindau on the Bodensee

After leaving Garmisch, we head to the heart of the German Alps.  A small town outside of Sonthofen, a German Resort town where we rented two Apartments in Hinterstein.   It looks and feels like it was out of a German fairy tale.  The town was the last stop before the road ended in the Alps; it was Idyllic.    This ended up being the highlight week of the trip.

Gabi, the person that rented us the apartments, was a treasure of information.  A retired school teacher from Munich knew that we Americans needed a lot of help; she was a pleasure to talk to and provide plenty of tips for visiting the area.  We discussed her life in the German Post-War years.   Meeting her and discussing different issues in German and American Society was an experience like no other.   To me, this is what traveling is about.  Seeing how people live their lives in all parts of the world.  In the house where the 2 apartments were, she and her husband lived on the ground floor.   Like most German houses, they are big enough to accommodate 3 or 4 families, all with separate living spaces.

After traveling and sightseeing for almost a week, the weather turned on us, but just in time, we all need a break.  So the first day in Hinterstein was a rest day and a day to settle into the apartments.  Terri and I went to Sonthofen shopping for Groceries, and she needed some shoes.   Mission accomplished.   That evening and made my famous Chicken Cacciatore and easy dinner to make for 7 people.

The next day we take a trip to drop Terri's Sisters Family off at the Neuschwanstein Castles. We had been to Neuschwanstein Castle a couple of times and found no reason to go again.  While they toured King Ludwig's construction accomplishments, we toured the last German city on the Romantic Road.  Fussen a pre-medieval city established by the Romans to guard the road from Roman to Augsburg, which is named after the Roman Emperor Augustus.   We toured the old city and the Roman Fort on top of the hill.  Like most western European countries, you can't talk about their history without the Roman influence. Western Europe is a product of the Roman empire in so many ways.

Again it was a long day, and we head back and for a German meal on the way home.  It was another long great day.  The next day was another rainy day, time for cards, and reading.   Terri and I did take a hike to the Carriage Museum across the river from Hinterstein.  It is an eclectic place, which is very interesting in an abstract sort of way.

The next day, it was a trip to Lindau, a city on the Bodensee, or as the Swiss call it, Lake Constance.  Where the ladies got to shop with my highlight climbing the lighthouse tower.  The drive from Hinterstein was on the Alpen Strasse, a road through the Alps descending into the Bodensee, which is the largest freshwater lake in Europe.  The Bodensee creates a border with 3 countries; Switzerland, Austria, and German.  Lindau, an Island, was a unique place with a harbor and lots of boat traffic and outstanding views of the Alps and different countries.

On our final day in Hinterstein, my brother in law took the tram up the mountain near Hinterstein.  We had lunch at the top of the mountain and then hiked back down to Hinterstein, taking in the view along the way.  It was the perfect ending to our glorious stay in the German Alps.

Tomorrow it is off to Frankfurt, where the Denver Crew will stay the night and fly out the next day.   Terri and I will then be off to Berlin for our final 4 days in Germany.    It's about time to wrap this adventure up, but first Berlin while Germany is in the world cup.   It will be wild, to say the least.