Sunday, September 10, 2006


Thu Sept 7th – Sun Sept 10th riding home & summary

We started from Hartmut’s hotel at 09:30 on Thursday morning and went to see our cousins at Cologne Zoo. We spent some 2 hours at the zoo and headed North from there. The weather got a bit cooler and we got some rain as well. We had the rain jackets as wind protectors but no rain pants. Our Venting Machine pants give not much rain protection but as we were all the time on the autobahn we did not get all soaked because of the “adequate speed” we could maintain. And after a while the rain stopped and the wind took care of drying our gear.
We decided to stop for overnight in a small German town called Vechta. We had ridden about half of our trip to Travemünde. Luckily the hotel had WLAN connection so I could update my blogs.

On Friday we started quite late from Vechta and covered the remaining 280 km in less than three hours. We were supposed to be at the ferry check-in at 16:00 and but we arrived two hours earlier and spent the time at Travemünde harbor looking around and enjoying the nice weather.
The ferry was a brand new one and as usual the ship suffered some of the “new boat syndromes”. Not all the TV:s worked in the cabins or some sewage pipes seemed to be vented right into the corridors etc. The biggest disappointment was however the slow speed that the ship was using on this journey. The ship is supposed to make the distance between Travemünde and Helsinki in 24 hours but now it spent 36 hours on the journey. Not that it was a big deal but we were both kind of prepared to be back to our families by Saturday evening instead of Sunday morning.
On these combined cargo / passenger ferries the only pastime is eating. The ticket price includes all the meals and they certainly are plenty and often enough.
We arrived to Helsinki harbor at 07:00 Sunday morning and for me it was a 40 minute ride to get home and for Jouko it took about two hours.

Statistics of the trip:
We rode a total of 11190 km (6953 miles) on this journey (from home to home).
My bike used 654 liters (172,8 gal) of gas. Average mileage was 5,8 liters / 100 km (40,2 mpg).
Jouko's bike did about 10 - 12 % better mileage than my bike thanks to the more stock appearance and less farkles to distact the air flow. My bike was especially bad on the free speeds of the German autobahns. My worst mileage was 9,13 liters / 100 km ( 25,7 mpg) with an average speed of 153 km/h (95mph). The best mileage we got cruising around Yellowstone and climbing up to Red Lodge MT: 4,43 l / 100 km (53 mpg).
Moneywise we have not made a summary and I doubt if we ever will. Living costs everywhere and compared to our everyday life the daily motel cost (from 60 to 120 $ per room) would be extra.

We came home safely and the only dangerous situation was on the Interstate South of Denver when the trailer tire blew in front of the car who was ahead of me. Bike dropping (one for me) does not even count...
Big thanks also to my family and especially my dear wife who was understanding enough to let me do this tour.
So, all in all, it was a really fun trip and this has to be tried the second time some day!

Cousin taking it easy at Cologne Zoo.

Semi-legal parking place in Travemünde harbor.

Enjoying the daily ice cream at a nice street cafe in Travemünde.

Our ferry, the brand new M/S Finnmaid seen from the other side of the harbor.

On our way out we passed a famous
four mast bark "Passat" in Travemünde harbor. The ship was built in 1910 and it was saved from a destruction and restored in 1959.
More info (only in German):

Sunset on the Baltic Sea.

There were a total of 10 bikes on "Finnmaid".

Helsinki skyline early on Sunday morning.

Our ship seen from the shore in Helsinki.

Back at home and first greetings from our 7,5 year old miniature dachshund Ippu.

Friday, September 08, 2006


Monday Sept 4th – Wed Sept 6th flying and waiting

Our flight was leaving at 18:10 on Monday evening so we had plenty of time to goof around. I updated my blogs and we left the hotel (Four Points Sheraton at Pearson) just around noon time.
We found a place at the airport close to a power socket so I kept on writing. Same thing on the plane until my laptop battery died…
To my experience flying overseas eastwards has always been more difficult than flying west. However, this time I did not fly all the way to Finland so we flew through only 6 time zones and the flight itself was relatively short, too. Only 6:45 hours. We had booked our Frankfurt hotel at the same Intercity Hotel in Cargo City South where we stayed three weeks earlier. Hotel is within walking distance from Aviapartners cargo terminal.
Anyway, the hotel was not going to give our room before 14:00 Tuesday and we arrived to Frankfurt at 08:00 so we just sat at the airport.
When we finally got to the hotel we took a nap of 1,5 hours and went to bed at normal time in the evening. This was by far my easiest getting over the jetlag.
The bikes were supposed to arrive around 09:00 on Wednesday morning so we figured that if we are at the Cargo center around 11:00 the bikes should be pretty much ready to go.
We left our bags to the hotel, walked the ½ hour distance to Aviapartners Cargo and went to the import department. It turned out that the plane had arrived only some 20 minutes earlier. The official filled out some papers, asked for 12 euros from each of us and advised us to visit the customs office some half kilometer away. Customs visit was smooth, about 15 minutes and we went back, this time straight to the cargo hall.
We were very surprised to see our bikes standing on the floor, all unpacked and practically ready to go! We were prepared to unwrap them ourselves. We saw right away that most of our tie down straps were missing. (Yes, this time the guys at Toronto did use them unlike the Germans three weeks earlier.) We found the straps among dozens of others on the pallets.
We got the bikes ready to go and rode away.
As our ferry to Finland was due only on Friday evening we had plenty of time so we drove to Lindlar to see Tom and Hartmut and to pick up some extra gear that I left there on our way out.
Tom and Hartmut had arrived from their flight some two hours earlier and they had actually seen our bikes being loaded in Toronto – but not on the same Air Transat as they were flying but on a German LTU plane! And now we also got the explanation why we did not need to do the unpacking ourselves…The bikes were not packed at all. They were just strapped on a pallet and that was all.
In any case, we did not see any damage done to the bikes so the guys in Toronto obviously did not drop either one of the bikes…
We stayed overnight at Hartmut’s hotel and tried to keep him awake together with Tom until his normal bed time. We managed until 19:30 but then Hartmut gave up and went to bed.

Air Transat aircrafts in Toronto on Monday. We thought that our bikes will fly on one of these but it later turned out that the flying was subcontracted to German LTU.
Writing the blog in Toronto.

Aviapartners cargo center in Frankfurt Cargo City South
Bikes almost ready to go in the caro hall.

Packing the bikes in front of the Intercity Hotel in Frankfurt.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Sunday Sept 3rd Meadville Pennsylvania – Toronto /Pearson Airport 393 km

Seemed that our good luck with the weather had finally ended. Previous day had already been quite a bit cooler than we were used to. But Sunday morning in Meadville was grey, foggy and rainy. We started at 07:30 and headed for Erie PA and took I-90 towards Buffalo NY.
The border crossing to Canada was piece of cake or actually I would call it a joke. The whole process took 4 minutes. The border control checked our passports, looked at the funny licence plates and made sure that we are really going to leave Canada shortly. That was all.
As we seemed to have plenty of time we decided to take a look at the Nigara Falls. I had seen them back in 1991 but it was high time to refresh my memory. We visited the Skylon tower and luckily the weather improved slowly (or at least the rain had stopped although the clouds still hang low).

We arrived to the Cargo Zone International at 14:30 and we had plenty of time to wash the bikes at a local Shell station. We had accidentally filled too much gas on our way to Toronto so we had to use our siphon to take out some 12 liters total from both tanks. We donated the gas to the gas station manager who put it in his own tank and this is how we paid for the bike wash water.

The Skylon tower.
Horseshoe seen from the Skylon.

The other waterfall (whatchamacallit...).

Jouko taking gas out from the tank. We took it to the level where the yellow alarm light comes on.
However, we could have had any amount of gas in the tank. Cargo Zone guys were not checking the amount. They must have trusted us telling that the tanks are almost empty...
Of course the captain of the aircraft can demand a checkup of the fuel so it makes no sense trying to fool anyone.

"Cargo Zone International" sounds like a big enterprise. In reality it was one of the three dozen other similar small cargo handling companies. The only way to get the bikes to their warehouse was to ride them up a (pretty light looking) aluminum ramp, which the guys dropped down from the loading dock. We could have easily damaged the bikes already there. It was slippery and the angle was way too steep for LT, it got stuck from the belly but enough speed helped...

Bikes already in the warehouse being loaded with our riding gear.
The practise and standards of this company were about 10 years behind the cargo handler in Frankfurt. No security measures, they had no idea how the bikes would be packed, on a pallet or in a container. (And still they said that they do this all the time...)
We taught the foreman how to operate the electric centerstand but we consider it a miracle if one or the other of the bikes has not been dropped.
But all the paperwork was very easy in Canada! No running around or calling different companies. Cargo Zone took care of everything. (Or at least that is our hope!) We will see tomorrow morning!

Blog being updated at Motel 6 in Meadville PA previous night.


Saturday Sept. 2nd Braselton Georgia – Meadville Pennsylvania 1253 km

We had left the “sugar to the bottom” in terms of riding distances as we had to make it to Toronto by Sunday afternoon for the bikes to be dropped off. We made the route plan on Friday afternoon and found that in this case we’d better stay on the interstates and make sure that we are in Toronto in time.
So we started at 05:13 from Chateau Elan and took I-85 to Charlotte NC. From there we continued North on I-77 to Charleston WV and further to Meadville PA where we finally found a motel that had vacancy.
A “typical Ari” incident happened on this leg:
We pulled up to a gas station in Gassaway WV. I parked my bike by pump 11 and Jouko on the other side to some other pump. I used my Amex card to pay for the gas at the pump and then I went to help Jouko as he had some problems with his Visa payment. We also decided to ride to the neighboring Pizza Hut for a lunch. Jouko took off first and I mounted my bike, put my helmet on and rode after him. After the lunch I started looking for my wallet. Could not find it anywhere. I rode back to the gas station and started looking for the wallet by the pump, went inside to ask the cashier if anybody had returned a wallet. No luck. A guy on his pickup was filling his tank and he saw that I had something wrong and he gave me the valuable hint: As there are surveillance cameras hanging from the roof of the pump field, maybe one of them has the story recorded…
I went inside again and asked the ladies if they could run the film back about 30 minutes and the whole story was there: I mounted my bike and at the same time something fell on the ground from under my rain coat. This something (my wallet of course) was lying on the ground when a green Ford pulls up and two guys step out. They pay for the gas with their credit card and while they are filling their tank the other guy spots something on the ground on the other side of the pump. He goes and picks it up, looks inside and puts it in his pocket! There goes my Diners, Amex, 150 in cash, my European ID card, two insurance cards and a prepaid phone card.
The gas station shift manager (who had been called in from her day off for this incident) called the cops and after while a young Braxton county deputy sheriff pulls up with his Jeep.
We went through the whole story, I gave him my contact info and regretted that I have no time to stay longer as we had a plane to catch from Toronto. He promised to nail the guys which should not be too hard as all the evidence is there. The film that shows what happened plus the guy’s credit card transaction info that should give identity to the guy after right persons get involved to the investigation process.
Luckily I had my third credit card in a separate wallet and neither my famous 100 dollar driver’s licence was in this lost wallet. Plus I later realized that I have travel insurance that covers my losses anyway. So this was a good lesson. I have been trying to figure out what actually happened when the wallet fell. I had two jackets on which is a bit exceptional. I always keep my wallet in the left breast pocket inside the riding (mesh) jacket. I must have accidentally slipped the wallet between my rain coat and my mesh jacket instead of putting it in to the mesh jacket breast pocket when I walked to Jouko and helped him with his card payment. So the wallet stayed between my jackets until I mounted the bike and then it fell on the ground.
But I still blame Jouko as he was supposed to ride after me and pick up the stuff I drop behind me…Now why did he have to start before me and ride first to the Pizza Hut?? ;-)
We lost a valuable 1,5 hours with this incident but we still made all the way to Meadville PA, but not voluntarily. We would have stopped some 40 miles earlier at Hope Mills PA, but all the motels were full. The weather was getting worse...

Packing the bikes at Chateau Elan early morning.
Breakfast stop after some two hours.

Entering one of the few tunnels on the Interstate 79.
These truck escape roads were quite thrilling! We saw these already on our way South from Banff and I never had a camera available until now.
I wonder how often these get used by a semi with faded away brakes...
On the interstate near Denver we saw escape road that was built across the opposite lane to the left hand side! (Obviously there was nothing but a very deep ditch on the right side of the road...) Now that would not be nice to encounter a fully loaded brakeless semi rushing on to the escape road across my lane..
As I was sorting out my stupidity and the dishonesty of the other guy Jouko had nothing else to do than take pictures of the sheriff's Jeep...


Tue Aug 29th – Friday Sept 1st at CCR

The famous CCR has been reported and commented already by so many people that we really have not much to add to those stories.
In short: We did no day rides except for one. On Thursday we went to the local race track to see some road racing practicing. Now I have forgotten the name of our nice riding buddy who has been racing those bikes himself too. We were lucky to get a full introduction to a modern racing team as we happened to park our bikes in front of Dick Barbour racing team’s building. We were invited in from the rain and the marketing manager showed and explained us the whole story on how this size of an racing organization works. So on top of the Panoz race car factory tour we had had a handful of racing education for one day.
Later we tried to make a 60 mile ride around the Braselton area but we seemed to hit both rush hour traffic and some heavy rain so we decided to come back to Chateau Elan.

Of course we purchased some essential and important additional farkles for our bikes. I bought the saddlebag trim protector rubber (why on earth would I need them…?), some RAM mounts, a Chicane duffel bag and a set of Motolights plus the brake light flasher. Jouko got a Chicane tank bag, Motolights and brake light flasher. We also found the famous Plexus and wow, that stuff really works on the CeeBailey windshields.
We donated three highway handles and some Ari’s cup holders to the silent auction and all of them seemed to find a buyer. Joe (“messenger 13”) got hold of 3 cup holders so he must be in process of starting a retailing business…
I gave several “tours” on my bike and it’s farkelization as people seemed interested and not least by the “dual exhausts” that Jouko had fabricated.
All in all, we had a really good time at CCR and would surely like to come over some day.

Getting an oil change.
Some fancy paint jobs...

The "German connection". I am an outsider judging from the speed of my hand movement.
Chateau Elan Hotel main entrance.
On Friday we decided to visit the pool, too.
Getting ready for the Thursday SockHop.
Lots of LT:s...some even three-wheelers.
The "European connection". Tom Russel is missing as he had already retired due to the very early Friday start.


Monday Aug 28th Tapoco Tennessee – Braselton Georgia 380 km

So we saved the Dragon for the Monday. We went there first thing in the morning but we were not the first ones. We visited the Deal’s Gap store and bought the obligatory T-shirts and some stickers. (However, later at CCR we realized that we had missed the Dragon figure itself. Luckily there were folks going there from CCR who were kind enough to bring us them afterwards. Thank you all!)
Anyway, the Dragon itself seems to be a well marketed (biker)tourist attraction. Yes, it may be fun but for the weight we were carrying and the slight rain we encountered we firmly decided that our windshields will not end up in the famous Tree of Shame. With half worn Metzelers and wet asphalt we did not feel like scraping pegs or centerstands. But still, it was a nice experience anyhow. I stayed firmly on my side of the road and had the videocam recording all the time. Now I have something to watch in the rocking chair in 30 years…
After the Dragon we took the Foothills road to North and merged to Hwy 321 and later to 441 and from there further to Hwy 74 and 23 towards Braselton. Our EuroNav II worked like a taxi driver, brought us right to the front entrance of Chateau Elan.
So far we had covered about 9000 km (5600 miles) from home. The only incident was my bike drop which actually is considered as “standard procedure” with these bikes. The only technical “problems” were the breakage of my helmet camera connector and the breakage of my helmet microphone cable during the bike drop. Both of these we could fix as we had spare parts and actually I am embarrassed to even mention these as at the same time our buddies from Germany, Tom and Hartmut, suffered from a leaking gas tank gasket and a broken rear drive bearing.
We had also been extremely lucky with the weather. We had gotten a total of max 6 minutes of rain on the American continent. Minimum temperature was 10 C (50 F) in Montana and maximum was 42 (108 F) somewhere in Oklahoma.
Now we were finally at CCR and it was time to get settled at least for five nights in a same room! So no packing and stuffing of things like we had done every morning for the past two and half weeks. Time to meet people in person with whom I have been in touch for over two years…

A hydroelectric power plant in Tapoco.

The famous "tree of Shame

Jouko was looking for a place to hang his CeeBaileys windshield in case the need arises...

Stay on your own lane and beware the trucks...
The official souvenir shop and the other early birds of Monday.

Finally reached the top and admiring the view down to Chilhowee Lake.

No way of taking riding pics on the actual Dragon. This one is taken after it.


Sunday Aug 27th Waynesboro Tennessee – Tapoco Tennessee 610 km

From the riding point of view we were already on the “final lap” on our way to CCR. But there were still the two famous routes to go: Cherohala Skyway and The Dragon.
When doing the route planning previous night we were not sure where the Dragon exactly was located so we could not decide will we do it or not.
We got up in decent time and got going at 07:00 and the humidity must have been 150%. We had looked for some waypoints (on smaller twisty roads) previous night and I gave them to my EuroNav II.
After 50 minutes of riding on various smaller and bigger roads we were passing Paddler’s Motel (the place we stayed overnight). Now, this is a good way to collect miles but not a good way to get somewhere…
So I changed Roy’s Garmin in the cradle and we rode relying on that until the unit ran out of detail maps somewhere near North Carolina.
Anyway, in Turtletown Tennessee when we were taking gas, we met a local Harley rider who advised us on finding the Cherohala Skyway and the Dragon. He recommended that we should leave the Dragon for Monday morning rather than rushing there for Sunday evening.
So we did the Cherohala which was nice. However there was some traffic on it so we waited and let them get further, some of the vehicles we passed…
After the Cherohala we thought that what the heck, let’s do the Dragon as well to get over with it!
Despite the Harley rider’s explanation I still was not sure of it’s location. This time I was again using my EuroNav II but just as a map. We took one right turn instead of taking a left and after a while we realized that let’s turn back. With close to 600 km ridden and a bit annoyed I was sloppy and dropped the bike in the middle of the road while making a U-turn in an slightly uphill road. Now that’s nice! Since the bike fell in downhill direction, my XL J-Peg was extended and all the saddlebags plus rear seat fully loaded the result was that the left mirror touched the ground. The mirror came off, which is completely natural – even in my bike although I have secured the mirror with a 5 mm allen bolt to the bike frame. I have cut most of the material off of the bolt head neck believing that this would be the breaking point in case something is to break. Well, I was wrong…the plastic from the mirror base broke before the bolt neck gave up…
My XL J-Peg bumper worked again. J-Peg folded nicely in and the tip of it hit the steel bumper and that was all. Some scratches on the J-Peg outer corner as well as on the left saddlebag trim. Good luck I did not change it before this trip although it was already scratched. At least some projects for the coming winter…

We put the mirror in the trunk and continued. Now I was positive that we will come to the Dragon. We followed a nice and curvy mountain road until the asphalt ended. Well, I guess this is not the Dragon…I’ve never heard that to be gravel road. Oh s**t! There we were on a very twisty loose gravel road with our superlight 600 kg off-road bikes. We just continued as I could see from the GPS that this is not a dead end. After quite a few miles and lots of curves we finally merged to Hwy 129 just few hundred feet before the Tapoco Lodge came in sight. The time was already 18:30 and we had no idea of a better place to stay overnight so we decided to call the day off.
As we were pulling in to our cottage we were welcomed by Jeff Eagan and his group who were just standing outside their cabin when we were passing by. Nice coincidence!

In the evening I used some epoxy glue that I have along and glued the mirror base and installed it in the morning. Works as new…

Packing the bikes at Paddler's Motel.

I had to give up a bit on the safety...
No gloves and the mesh jacket open.

But Jouko was the brave one. He rode with T-shirt only until he got sunburned.

I was doing 74 mph but I seemed to be too slow for the truck.

Nice rafting and canoeing resort somewhere along Hwy 74 in Tennessee.

Stopped to get gas and a lunch downtown Turtletown TN.

"Gentlemen, start your engines!"

Naw...just kidding. We took it easy.

Wievs from the Chreohala to Smoky Mountains. Sure look different than the Rockies.

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