We’ve never had a smoother re-entry into motorcycling than this trip; picked up the bike on the docks of Zeebrugge, Belgium with zippo hassles, loaded him up in 45 minutes, and were hauling south before we could say “that was easy.” Fifteen minutes into Day 1’s ride Karen says, “I don”t have my normal first-day-riding nerves.”
This could be good.
In fact, the first week has been smooth as silk and as beautiful. First stop after 18 hours of plane/train/cab rides was Brugge, Belgium, often called the Venice of northern Europe. They weren’t lying as every street is drop dead gorgeous and dripping with charm. Put Brugge on your list, its worth it.
Our route is basically pretty much directly south through Belgium, keeping east of Paris in northern France and riding through the French countryside, which was a brilliant shade of green. We stay at Reims, Dijon, and Avignon along the way. All of the riding is on major highways as we need to haul to Nice by the 21st, about 820 miles south of Zeebrugge. We have skirted the rain covering the rest of France, but its still three-layer cold.
NVII has run like a champ. No ill effects from sitting in various docks and ships for almost two months as he starts to get into stride at 80+mph (which is below the speed limit on the A5:). I think it may be a good sign that many of my tools packed in NVII were stolen somewhere between LA and Zeebrugge. Could this be the first ever no-problem-with-the-bike trip? So far, so good.
The biggest noticeable difference in riding this time is the availability of good GPS maps. Unlike South America, the Garmin is really precise and confidence-boosting. My route planning has consisted of entering the Nice hotel’s address in the GPS and hitting the “Go!” button:) I’m beginning to use it for everything; finding gas stations, hotels, and restaurants are all a search away. Very cool and very easy.
None of this means we were trouble free. Basically, three days preparation for a 30 day motorcycle trip yields missteps. I forgot the half-dozen really expensive maps at home, which were right next to the battery and charger for the new camera left behind. We brought way too much stuff, which we had to leave behind in Zeebrugge. And the aforementioned theft not only got my tools, but some goggles and other good stuff on the bike during transit.
Here’s a short list of our impressions so far:
- Brugge — there couldn’t be a more charming place on earth
- Reims — well, this is pretty damn nice as well
- Dijon — OK, this has to be the cutest town
- Avignon — Wins hands down for tiny tiny winding streets with great, huge churches and sunny plazas
Maybe there’s a reason the French are a touch arrogant? It’s just prettier here:))