The Sahara and Us Morocco 2011

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Me and the DRZ

Me and the DRZ
 A funny thing happened this last year as I re-work to some extent what and where I/we ride.

Oh no fear, we haven't stopped our trips to Europe, no-sir-ree. But I had discovered that in comparison riding the highways of western Canada and the States to be boring and dangerous, too many egos, texting, cell phone use, and inattention by other drivers.

Then there are a few warning signs that really mean something if you are driving. First, I'd love to get the green symbol "N".
It appears that anyone with this symbol on the rear of their vehicle is allowed to drive over the speed limit, avoid stopping at stop signs, and can wave the middle finger (flipping the bird) at anyone they like with impunity.

Then there is the Poppy symbol on licence plates.
While I have always associated the poppy with Remembrance Day, and those who fought for our country, the new licence plate seems to be issued to those who are bent on increasing the 'fallen' by their inattention and lack of driving skill. Now, the Poppy takes on a warning to stay clear for fear of some calamitous action.

But I have digressed from the intent of this post which is to introduce a new motorcycle to love in my stable, the DRZ-400SM. No the SM doesn't stand for S&M, it stands for Super Motard, a niche design that pairs the frame/engine of a motocross bike with the street wheels and tires and accessories of a street bike. Suzuki pulls this off really well with the popular DRZ400, a 40 hp. 300 lb. rocketship.

I purchased this bike in early April and rode this summer on the island on all the back highways and trails with the street slicks that came with the bike. Then in preparation for taking the bike to southern California to ride with friends down there the bike had Kenda Knobbies installed front and rear.  Sandra has commented that every time I come back from a ride on the DRZ I have an ear to ear grin. It's true, I haven't met a bike that makes me smile more.

Combining in this case a mild case of boondocking in Coach-whip Canyon, an area of the Anza Borrego State Park south of Palm Springs and you can't believe you can get this far away from it all 2 hrs east of Los Angeles.

Coach Whip canyon
In this case we have taken our travel rig, an 07 GMC 4X4, coupled with our custom  8'6" camper, and gone off-road into Coach Whip canyon to get away from it all. When we were there the daytime temperatures were around 32-33 C, overnight it would cool into the low 20's, and you could find shade by camping close to the canyon rock walls.

After a ride up both legs of the coach whip I decided I'd get back on asphalt and head for Font's Point, a view point outside Borrego Springs about 4 miles back in through deep sand in the middle of the desert. On my way in I saw an abandoned Toyota Forerunner headed south. In the heat of the day I stopped, shut the bike off and called out in case someone was around and needed help. No answer. So I rode in to the canyon view point took some pictures and then headed back out. When I got near the Forerunner again I noticed it was now parked headed the opposite direction. Then on approaching I saw there was another vehicle hooking up to it, and a guy with an extreme sunburn. I mean extreme!!!!
Fonts Point (Click to enlarge)

His vehicle had blown a rad hose and left him stranded 3 miles into the viewpoint. And I was the only other person he saw all day, and vice versa. He had to walk out to the highway with no sun cover, and get cell phone reception, then get into Borrego Springs where he picked up his tow vehicle to pull the Fore runner back out. 
To Mexico

I had a much better day by comparison.

Sandra thought these were hikers until I used the zoom

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Take 5 Welcome

Take 5 August 2014 Edition 
click on the picture to be taken to Take 5 magazine, 
the article begins on pg. 22

Welcome all Take 5 visitors to our web blog.

If you are here it’s likely because you were reading the article prepared by Take 5 magazine August Edition titled “Adrenalin Rush”. It will be a series that Marina Sacht, an adventurer herself, is hosting. We are just the first of many.
Since space is constricted in Take 5 we have copied the questions and answers below here for your reading. One key piece of information is that we live in Ladysmith, BC, and very proud of the community we live in. The  Transfer Beach amphitheater that the front page photo was taken at is one of the true gems and plays host to many summer activities, just like the 121BC amphitheater  photo featured in the Take 5 article.

If you are here to check out our blog as a result of the article please feel free to surf. The blog is organized based on dates, so the 2011 epic trip will be under the 2011 heading on the right hand column on the page, and so forth. It started in late April through September of that year. In short it was amazing and was once in a lifetime.

Our adventure travel without motorcycles can be navigated to at the top of the right hand column on the home page of the blog.

A 4:20 min. Youtube video featuring some 80 of our favorite pics from our 2011 trip can be accessed here.There are many more favorites now, but I have not created a video encompassing them yet. They are embedded in the blog pages for the different trips.

So please enjoy! If you have any questions please feel free to post them as comments at the bottom of the blog and we will respond as soon as possible to them.

Take 5 Q&A

What do you define as an “adventure?”

I think the textbook definition of adventure is well known asan unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity”. We’d like to be clear though that anything out of the ordinary would fall into that generalized definition. Adventure for us is much more demanding and includes a commitment to learn as much as we can and there is an element of risk that cannot be predicted and completely managed.
For us, adventure travel will take us outside our comfort zone, requires our skills and ability to self direct, and use self reliance to navigate the unknown whether it is our sailboat, motorcycle, bicycle or RV; whether it is in a foreign country, interacting in a foreign culture, understanding the language, or finding accommodation, and discovering the local foods and music. Adventure travel cannot be such if delivered on a tour, since the element of the unknown and uncontrolled factors are being managed by a tour director. That’s just travel!
What is the greatest adventure you have participated in?
Without a doubt our 5 month motorcycle trip to North Africa, Europe, eastern Europe, east of eastern Europe, and Turkey in 2011 is our largest single adventure that took us to 3 continents, 22,500 kms, 150 days, 18 countries, and over 180 World Heritage Sites on our own motorcycle which we shipped to Europe for the sole purpose. Achieving the satisfaction of seeing so many amazing places and being completely self-reliant, providing oil changes and service to our motorcycle on a schedule, coordinating ferry schedules, accommodation, seeking out authentic ethnic food experiences, swimming on the same beaches as the locals, are all part of it. You don’t accomplish that kind of travel or develop those skills and abilities overnight. It’s a building block process that allows you to learn from earlier travel lessons and develop the confidence to stretch yourself more.

Why is adventure important to you?

It allows us to learn and grow. Life is backwards sometimes, the skills and knowledge we have learned from adventure travel now, would have allowed us to advance our knowledge within a formal learning environment when we were in school.  Between Sandra and I we have learned so much in each foreign setting we have travelled in, that we just want to encourage others to travel the world and learn.

What is your favorite adventurous activity to do in the Central Vancouver Island area?

Sailing is something that actually brought us to Ladysmith. We used to haul our sailboat out to the Gulf Islands when our kids were small and gunk hole the islands for 3-4 weeks each year. Not many people from the prairies ever did that.
In 2009 we stretched ourselves by taking our trailerable sailboat up to the Broughton Archipelago and spent a month sailing down through the Discovery islands. We were fortunate enough to anchor off Alert Bay, BC. and be invited into the Longhouse of the 'Namgis peoples, for their Salmon Prince and Princess celebration in June. Experiencing First Nations traditional celebrations is no doubt a cultural adventure that everyone should pursue if you live here on Vancouver Island.  Explore the backcountry here.

Have your adventurous lifestyle been an asset or detriment to your personal/business relationships and how?
Our adventure travel has been extremely beneficial to us. When I was a Corporate security advisor of an Energy company the knowledge that I had from foreign travel allowed me to understand and make sound risk assessments for our business executives who would travel to other countries, and since retiring we have met many people, most much younger than us, that we have become real friends with. The photo of us in the Sahara desert was taken by an Italian husband and wife who were riding their motorcycles along with another couple. A minor motorcycle crash by one of them in the sand at that time allowed us to meet.  Now several years later they have a 1 yr. old son who we have travelled to Venice to see and continue to be part of their lives. It keeps us young by staying active in this fashion.

If someone was looking to add some zest to their lives what would you suggest?

That is such an individual choice. But if you want to learn to research adventure travel whether Two wheels or overland vehicle ( 4WD) then websites like Horizons Unlimited are great places to start. Rick Steves is an excellent resource for what he terms “Backdoor travel”. This is finding unique places that aren’t well known and enjoying them before they are overrun by tourism. Our latest trip in southern Italy allowed us to explore areas that only Europeans were travelling in when we were there. Many people were in disbelief when they saw the Canadian flag on our adventure motorcycle.
What do you future plans include?
Your right we aren’t done yet by any means. A friend, who we met when we “paid it forward” back in 2004, he was travelling to North America from Germany and we made him welcome in our home, has many times over repaid the favor. He would like us to travel to his hometown in northern Germany, and we plan to continue on to Scandinavia, and the Baltic coast and countries.

In addition, we really enjoyed our time in Southeast Asia particularly Cambodia and Hong Kong this past winter, so we have set new goals to see the Great Wall of China, Beijing and the Terracotta warriors. Our children and grandchildren are following in our footsteps of adventure travel/living and we will continue to visit them wherever they move and live around the world. Of course, we will find the adventure component to this travel, like we did in Cambodia by taking a bicycle trip of the Angkor Watt temples, and renting and driving all of Malaysia by ourselves, an experience not for the faint of heart.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Last Days in Europe for 2014

The Back Valley of Levanto from Livaggiorossa
So as we began focusing on packing our belongings back into the panniers after nearly 2 weeks in Levanto we found ourselves feeling a bit sad that our trip for 2014 was ending, while looking forward to seeing family and friends back in Canada. Quite the conundrum!

We’ve been coming to Levanto for as long as we’ve been riding over here and in 2011 we’ve been staying at Chris and Sabrina’s B&B. Now with our 5th stay at their place we feel very much at home, and, appreciative of how great Chris is as a host. This year was no exception, when we arrived he had the ‘nutmeg’ a source of a fun translation exercise a few years ago, already on the table in the apartment, as well as his olive oil for cooking and a ” gift” olive oil to take home. We had to laugh as soon as we saw it!

Tomatoes Peaches Lemons Nectarines 
Our time here saw us mix making a number of favorite meals in our apt. including having access to the Orvieto Classico wines that we first tasted in Orvieto, fresh focaccia (hugely better than I make)and fresh fruits in particular peaches and nectarines as well as tomatoes. Sandra loves the Mortadella meat from the local market, and Wednesday’s the weekly market has a truck that comes in and fire roasts chickens in the square. They are so good especially when Sandra roasts potatoes and carrots in olive oil to go with them. I am able to buy fresh salmon there and we poached salmon a couple of times in olive oil and lemon. Most of the days saw us at our favorite beach cove swimming and snorkelling, (I even dove for and retrieved a natural sponge)
Natural Sea Sponge
and every evening walking back into town to have gelato. Of course we went out for mussels in white wine sauce and pizza several times. Italy loves its food and all its residents know how to eat and prepare food.

Unfortunately with most of the trails closed on the Cinque Terre we got our hiking in by exploring several mountain villages that have small trails leading to them. Lizza
Lizza backstreet high up in the mtns.
and Laviggiorossa are two that we spent an afternoon hiking to. This was done on the only cloudy/rainy day we had while there.

Sandra and I had talked before coming that we wanted to take Chris and Sabrina out for supper to his favorite pizza place that he knows about. After one failed attempt on the Friday evening due to one of his hot water boilers failing and he had to wait for a repairman, we re-scheduled for Tuesday, only to have guests arriving late that he had to wait for, so our invite out ended up they inviting us to their penthouse apartment above the B&B for supper. This little suite has a balcony that overlooks the back Levanto valley and is spectacular. The meal, and wine were simply superb, need I remind myself that Chris has been in the hospitality industry for many years in his family restaurant in Levanto. His father-in-law-to- be makes a white wine that is bottled and sold locally in a boutique wine shop and it is fantastic!
Us with Terese and Chris from Sweden
Then we had the good fortune to meet Chris and Terese from Sweden, a young couple about to be married July 10th in Lucca, Italy. A destination wedding for 30 family and friends. They both spoke excellent English and had ridden motorcycles in Sweden and did a bit of touring. We enjoyed quite a few evenings with them, Chris is a magician as a hobby, and can make a bottle of Havana Club rum disappear before your very eyes. We never did see where the contents went! LOL! On our final night out we all went for supper at our favorite restaurant in Levanto. 
We want to wish them the very best for their upcoming nuptials! We will likely see them next year in Sweden when we go next.

We used up all the good weather in Levanto as our departure was met by cloudy skies and a bit of spitting rain. No worries though, we took the autostrada to Genoa where most of your time is in tunnels so you don’t get wet, and then onto Milan and finally Lake Como where we stayed in Chiavenna again. Yes the same wonderful B&B and same type breakfast as photographed in our last entry last year. This time however we booked an extra day there and rode up to San Moritz Switzerland,
San Moritz
an upscale rich
Ducks at San Moritz
and famous resort town situated high up in the Swiss Alps. The day up there was very beautiful and we stopped and had lunch back near Chiavenna 
 at the base of an amazing waterfall.
Swiss Chalet

Gorgeous Waterfall excellent on hot days
On leaving, we headed back over Splugen pass again and to the canyon at Thusis, Switzerland. This is the kind of riding day that causes you to say WOW a lot.
Thusis Canyon
The Swiss
 Alps are SO scenic to ride in. We took a few more and different pictures at our favorite canyon. outside Thusis. 
See the Hikers in the Canyon?
Now you can with aid of zoom 

Then onto Bregenz where we spent the night. We were both exhausted though from the riding effort required. You see, the climb out of Chiavenna to Splugen has you going on roads that have been upgraded from goat trails, but barely, and switchback roads, some that the switchbacks occur inside the tunnels, which have no lighting. And God forbid you meet a bus coming in one of them. Actually smaller cars had to wait for us to exit before they would enter the tunnel going the other way. My Splugen pass helmet cam video will show this once I get it done.

So after a minor service at Stefan’s shop in the bike is being ‘winterized’, and stored until next season of riding. We are so pleased with the bike, it truly has brought us many Vstrom Adventures.

2006 Suzuki VStrom in Thusis Canyon
Finally, we get to finish off our trip this year celebrating our 42nd anniversary again on the road for the 4th year in a row, Turkey, Italy, and Germany twice. Hope the next 42 will be as good to us as the last have been. If I look under the weather it's because I seem to have been really hit by allergies on this ride back to Frankfurt.
42 yrs today, Where's Heiko? Meeting his landlord!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day

Happy Canada Day from Levanto Italy 2014!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Civita Bagnoregio and Orvieto

Civita Bagnoregio
This a couple of those days where you believe you have died and gone to ‘your’ heaven, that heaven for me is motorcycle heaven where every road has sweeping turns, lots of scenery, warm first thing in the morning so you can ride in only a T shirt, little traffic, smooth handling, and along the way amazing historical sites such as old necropolis’ castles and forts that towns have grown up around them, outright World Heritage sites, and other motorcyclists that are in tune with you and there is karma. We live for these days!

Well Sunday was one of those days. We headed back into the GRA  (Ring Road) in Rome to connect with Highway SS2bis direction Viterbo. The road to Viterbo was 4 lane divided, but with nice sweeping turns and with little traffic on it early for a Sunday. The weather, easily 24-25C first thing, breakfast out on the veranda of our B&B, a quick rinse of the bike to get rid of some sand that had blown in during a light sand storm the day of our arrival in Rome.
About 15 kms before Viterbo the road reduces to a two lane snaky piece of tarmac in amongst the trees and following a stream for a ways. The next things along the stream to the left are some necropolis type excavations in the stone cliffs immediately off the road. Then another turn and we are in a small town with a Basilica and fortified wall structure along side out of the 14th century.
This repeats itself for the next several towns spaced about 6-8 kms apart, though traffic continues to move smoothly as we get to Viterbo. There we select the road to Siena since it takes us on SR2 until we turn off to Bagnoregio. Now the Civita was featured all the All-star edition of Amazing Race that aired this spring. We were stunned by its remoteness 
Civita Entrance
 both at the time of the show and when we arrived. It is also due to the roads in this area that it is a favorite moto route and again we had a lot of thumbs up from other riders who walked by the bike and saw the Canadian plate.
In Bagnoregio we head to the Civita which is separate from the town and only accessible by a small walkway across and valley. To say this place is magnificent is an understatement. It is a super well maintained village that has been kept up and while some of it has been turned over to tourism it still has all of its original charm. After an hour of wandering its small corridor streets we head to Orvieto just 13 kms away.

Civita Walls and Buildings

I turn on the Helmet cam as we near Orvieto and capture the Cliff hung hill town
that it is as we drive in from the south. It’s a Wow reaction right away, and I decide to keep the cam on and drive to the Duomo since we incorrectly believe this is Flower Sunday. It was two weeks ago. Regardless the helmet video illustrates just how narrow the streets are and finally you are met with this huge magnificent Duomo in front of you there that rivals that of Florence. It is pure stunning!
 Orvieto -View from our restaurant
We decide that we want to get settled first and eat, since we’ve been riding on pent-up energy and now are hungry, so we arrive at our Agritourismo Ciocollata, a little ways out of Orvieto with a full sweeping view of the town. Our bedroom window overlooks the town. The owners Angela and Alex are gracious and phone a local high quality restaurant to make sure they will still serve us. Most days including Sunday lunch is served till 2:30 pm and then everything closes until 7:30 or 8:00 pm. Fortunately we head to a place that overlooks the town on another hill and have a great meal. Life just doesn’t get better than a day like today.
After a great meal and a quiet evening  and overnight at the agritourismo we are prepared for seeing Orvieto in detail.
Room View - sorry screen adds some noise to picture

Orvieto Duomo
Tapestry depicting display of Miracle linen
The Duomo built in 1364, the largest building and seen for miles was commissioned by Pope Paul V,  as a direct result of what is called a Eucharistic miracle which occurred in 1263 in nearby Bolseno. The explanation can be read here. . Apparently Pope Urban IV resided in Orvieto at the time, (1263) and that is why the Host, and linens that were spotted in blood now reside in the Duomo after it was investigated and determined to be a miracle. A number of tapestries are hung in the church which depicts certain events, one being the miracle. Each year, 60 days after Easter is a feast day here called Corpus Christi.
Detail of Duomo exterior

The church is one of the finest outside Rome and can be enjoyed much more easily than the Vatican can simply because there is not the crush of people there all the time. The most impressive areas are two side wings, one absolutely magnificent with ceiling mosaics that depict God’s final judgement day. A strict rule of no photos presides over both this and the Corporal chapel where the Host and linens are on display.

Look at the people off in the distance
 to get a sense of size
We were allowed to take a photo of the main altar area which will give you a sense of the enormous dimensions of this Duomo  and of the organ which is elevated above the Corporal Chapel.

Equally impressive is the fa├žade of the church and the ornate detail work that has been done on it. Arcitecture is something both Sandra and I love and this is a place of beauty.The remainder of the old town is beautiful to look around as well, and the artistry in some of the ceramics is stunning. For several thousand dollars we could have a plate and large floor vase for our house. The side streets are nicely decorated and as you will see when our video is prepared we entered Orvieto on flag day, a tradition in the region of Umbria which we are now in.

Pipe Organ Loft

Orvieto is also famous for its white wine  Orvieto Classico and Sandra had a glass at lunch today, and it is very nice indeed. The agritourismo we are at offered last night for us to sample their wine but we had already had a red wine as an apertivi, so tonight we try theirs and will likely purchase a bottle to take with us. This town, only 13 kms from Bagnoregio is affected by the volcanic soil and therefore the grapes/wines benefit from this soil.
Flag Day in Umbria

Saturday, June 21, 2014


Hmmm, where are we now?
We’ve been to Rome a few times now, but Sandra found some new things she wanted to see. One specifically is San Pietro in Chains,

St Peters Chains
a cathedral that has an altar created by Michaelangelo of Moses that is stunning, plus a cabinet under the main altar holds the chains that bound Saint Peter in Jerusalem and Rome after Christ’s death 

Moses by Michaelangelo
and while he was being persecuted by the Romans.

I on the other hand wanted to see the Trevi Fountain,
The Pantheon
lit at sunset, but my hopes were dashed when we learned while travelling that it is under refurbishment.  Actually much of the ancient sites are going through refurb, right now, and some things just aren’t being maintained due to the austerity measures in Italy.
The oculous in the Dome of the Pantheon -open air
The Spanish steps are under refurb as well as the Coliseum.
Spanish Steps
Fabulous street performers
Pantheon Street Performers
at the Pantheon performed a jazz number while we were and another of them previously doing Stairway to Heaven at the Pantheon

And as we walked through Circus Maximus we noticed a huge stage being set-up for June 22, when the Rolling Stones perform in Rome. 

Us with a view of Rome in the Background

Tomb of Unknown Soldier

St. Peters Basilica

Ostia Antica

Famous Embrace from Ostia Antica
The drive off the Amalfi coast is difficult as you come down through Sorrento and it will take you about 1hr. 20 mins to travel 60 kms. Yeah, that’s brutal. Once on the outskirts of Pompeii and Naples you can take the Autostrada and in 172 kms and 1 ½ hrs you are in Rome.
When we planned this trip we didn’t really consider going to Rome again, but it was a good half way stop on our way to Levanto. So what originally was an overnighter turned into 3 nights and a very full two days, because you can’t go by Rome without going in, now can you!

We selected a good B&B in Ostia Antica so that we could access the old World Heritage Site
A mudcaked pillar
by walking, which we did. A word of warning if you go to this site, make sure you wear rugged hiking/walking shoes since the cobblestones are rough and far between. Ostia Antica (OA) is considered by many as a good alternative to Pompeii especially if you don’t want the day’s drive there from Rome. Both have their merits, OA is a more pleasant site to visit if it’s hot since there is shade, and the ruins were covered in mud for centuries leaving them in good ‘sealed’ shape. Pompeii resulted from a 1 time eruption of Mt Vesuvius where everything was frozen in time, including people. Both have great artifacts. Pompeii is the more known and we have been there so OA was a good alternative to see. We really liked OA since it wasn’t as dirty a site.
The Theatre - notice to the top right small stalls for commercial sales

Stalls had tile work that indicated what their business was

A Millstone from the Mill

Cafe - in its day
Public Bath Houses and Latreens seats 20
Regarding the latreen you see here. They had flowing water. There are two water sources, one that flushes the effluent away from under each toilet and another, notice in the picture that had water flowing near the foot of where the person would sit, they would scoop water up by hand or sponge  hence the keyhole opening and clean themselves. There was no such thing as toilet paper.
Lots of Statues