To Greece We Go! Oops, detour.

Leaving Horizon’s Unlimited we decided to ride around Tuscany and then head to Greece. We had already had enough of the big cities and thought we can do Rome and the Amalfi coast another time. Some friends that we would see in a couple days were there and hating all the tourists.

The riding toward San Marino was fantastic as the roads leaving HU were perfect motorbike roads. Perfect tarmac with endless curves and elevation changes always led to a pass. As it was Sunday, at the pass there was always a large group of motorcycles with riders in full gear. Parked at the top of the pass at a small cafe, they grouped around the bikes, sipping Espressos and Cappuccinos. and watching as other bikes zoomed around the corners at the top. It’s so great being a motorcycle rider.


We stopped in San Marino briefly, camped, and got out the next morning. Nothing excited me, even the campground and the rude people there. BYE.

The next day we rode toward the coast where we would be catching up with Australian friends. We stopped at a place we had seen on their FB page called La Casdade Saturnia in southern Tuscany. This is a series of thermal pools cascading down the hills into other pools. It was a fun thing to see and do but the popularity led to way too many tourists all with the same idea. Saturnia is a spa town in Tuscany in north-central Italy that has been inhabited since ancient times. Near the village, 800 L/s of sulphurous water at 37 °C gushes over a waterfall and down into a cascade of natural pools formed by the deposition of calcareous rock from evaporation of the water. It was a cool place but the popularity of this FREE attraction made it overcrowded with tourists.


After a quick dip and a change behind the bike, it’s Italy, we headed to the coast to meet up with Paul Knibbs and Maryna Matthew, a couple on a RTW trip from Australia. They have been on the road for about 18 months. We arrived at Australia/USA Glamp and had a fantastic evening. We cooked up a fitting meal together, drank too much beer and wine (hangover), and told brilliant lies about friends and time on the road. All too quickly, as it is on the road, our time together was up. We will meet again somewhere in the world. Ride safe, our friends.

After leaving in the morning we headed to the ferry port in Bari, two days away. We chose to ride through back roads along the edge of a couple National Forests on the east side of the country, across from Rome. The riding was fantastic and we were surprised by several places that we came across.

Riding through the national parks there was very little traffic and great roads. As we rounded a corner there was this beautiful lake, Lago del Salto. Above the lake and terraced into the mountain was the village of Borgo San Pietro. It was breathtaking! We stopped at a local cafe overlooking the lake and, of course, ordered a cappuccino. Such is the way of wandering on a motorcycle, great surprises when least expected.

That night we came across a McDonalds and stopped in. It was raining and we needed a place to get internet. After ordering a beer off the menu (yep!) with my cheeseburger we found a place to stay at the base of a ski resort. We got an second floor suite with wood beamed ceilings. There was an inner courtyard so I was able to pull our bike in and lock it at the base of our stairs, covered and secure.


The next day we hightailed it to Bari, Italy to catch the ferry to Igoumenitsa, Greece. We found out we had some more friends from OZ that we could catch up with in Macedonia.

First we had to go to Albania again. We missed a sight the last time through that we were very near now. A friend of ours, Carla King, had told us not to miss it this time. This is the triangle fortress of Butrint. This area has been inhabited for over 50,000 years up to the 19th century. Riding to the complex you first see the triangular fortress standing guard over the narrow water passage. Not very impressive, one is almost tempted to turn around and go back, but an interesting wooden platform ferry ride, drawn by cables, beckons.

Once across, the entrance to Butrint is hidden, just across the river. From 800 BC until the Romans it was influenced by Greek culture. For almost 2000 years it has been controlled by several distinct cultures, all adding to the different styles of construction. The most interesting ancient Greek monument is the theatre which is well preserved.

After exploring we decided to head just a bit further into Albania and find a nice place on the beach to relax. We were exhausted after the overnight ferry ride with not much sleep. We found a great place overlooking the crystal clear waters of the Aegean Sea and Monastery Beach. Not exceeding our budget we had access to the beach, a nice restaurant on the cliff and great hosts. The young host had many questions about travel, motorcycles and the world. After talking for an hour the original glint in his eye was fully engulfed in flames. The stories we pass and the lives we influence. The journey is not always about you as a traveler, but of the people you meet.IMG_20180920_134347871

The next morning we headed to Macedonia. But first we would detour back into Greece. We wanted to see the Vikos Gorge.

“The Vikos Gorge is a gorge in the Pindis Mountains of northern Greece. It lies on the southern slopes of Mount Tymfi , with a length of about 20 km, depth ranging from 120 to 490 m, and a width ranging from 400 m to only a few meters at its narrowest part.

Vikos is listed as the deepest gorge in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records.” Wikipedia  


It was an incredible sight. We rode down to the bottom of the gorge where people were white water rafting. Back at the top of the gorge, we sat at an old structure/coffee shop and enjoyed the views. An old man saw our bike from the USA and kept yelling out the different cities he had visited during his long life. “New York” he would yell from across the street, “New Orleans”, “Philadelphia”, and on and on. A father and his two children from Israel were seated next to us and the kids were very curious about our travels and what were in the dry bags on the motorcycle. Dad spoke great English and the kids were just learning in school, so they practiced with questions. In the end, both wanted to sit on the bike and get a picture taken.

The young boy had that gleam…



Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel, 2WANDRRs, adventure travel, Europe, Greece, Horizons Unlimited, Italy, VStrom | Leave a comment

Headed to HU Italia

A quick flight from Iceland to Frankfurt and we were at Stefan’s to pick up our bike.

What do you say, Stefan? NO CLUTCH!!!!

No worries. A leak in the slave cylinder resulted in the fluid draining out and no pressure. A quick replacement and brake line flush, followed by an oil change, and we were ready to go.

A few other riders were also getting their own bikes ready to ride. That night we all went out to eat and to drink a few beers while telling traveler stories.

A couple German riders, Frank and Klaus, that we had met on the road were home and came over to say hi. We have met them on two and three continents, respectively. It was great seeing them and getting to spend some time with them in Heidelberg.


We left the following morning and headed to France, bypassing the expense of riding through Switzerland. In the mountains it was cold but we found great campsites and fantastic roads to ride.

The next day we stopped for the night at an AirBNB. They were travelers that are still in the midst of their RTW trip in a custom-built fire truck and are home recharging and saving again. We had a fun night talking about where we have been and where we all wanted to go. They even had a yurt in their backyard for guests to stay in that had come back with them from Mongolia, even the door.

Based on their recommendations we detoured to a site that was amazing, Postman Cheval’s Ideal Palace. This man spent 30 years of his life building this amazingly hideous palace. One day in 1879 while out walking, he tripped on a stone that had an inspiring shape to it. While out on his daily 20 mile route through very rough terrain he would empty his wheelbarrow of mail and fill it on the return trip with rocks. Quite a labour of love, or just crazy?

That night we stopped in to see Ted Simon. He rode a motorcycle around the world in 1973 he rode his 500cc Triumph Tiger 100 , “Jupiter”, RTW over four years and returned to write “Jupiter’s Travels”.  He has written many books including another about his second RTW trip 25 years later, “Return to Jupiter”. Many adventure seeking motorcycle travelers, including myself, throughout the world look up to him and consider him their inspiration for adventure motorcycling and international travel. img_20180907_202223832408845126.jpg

He has now moved from California to the south of France and has his home there. It is also a writer retreat and backed by the Friends of Aspiran. We feel very fortunate to be able to call Ted a friend and enjoyed our night out on the town at his favorite restaurant in the village, just around the corner. His journalistic nature and questions always have a way of making you look just a little deeper for your answer.


From Ted’s we cut across southern France and into Italy and stopped for an espresso in the port city of Genoa.  We also wanted to see Florence while we riding around Tuscany. We found a great AirBNB with a super great couple on the bus route about an hour outside of the city. The next day we rode the bus and train into the city and did the Hop-on/hop-off bus tour and it was great. Those tours are always an inexpensive way to see big cities.  We next hit Pisa and did the leaning tower thing then headed to HU Italia.

Camping along the Mediterranean




We finally made it to the HU Travellers meeting Italy, held in the Tuscany region. The meeting was held in a fantastic area with the roads all around some of the best we have ever ridden, ALL directions. The facilities were once the home of a monastery and was now a beautiful equestrian center. The meeting was very well run and the hosts did a great job for their first meeting.

We met many fellow travelers and made some bonds with people who I hope will last many years and through many meetings on the road.

On to Greece…



Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel, 2WANDRRs, adventure travel, Europe, France, Horizons Unlimited, Italy, Ted Simon, VStrom | Leave a comment



Today we were up at sunrise and viewed a fantastic dawning of a new day from our campsite perched high above the Atlantic Ocean. Making a cup of coffee while chatting with our neighbors and breaking camp we were excited to be on our way as we were now headed toward the north coast of France.

As we skirted by the north side of San Sebastian it gave us time to reflect on our trip and the wonderful people we had met along the way. Everybody with a kind word, a wave and at times, a beverage as we took the time to talk with people of so many cultures and ethnic backgrounds.

As I write this Paris has just come under attack from a terrorist group. My positive thoughts go out to the people of France, Europe and the entire world, for peace, understanding and tolerance. In this time of government scare tactics and the press reporting for headline grabbing stories and jockeying for ratings and sales, I would urge all people to strive for the truth and not just follow slanted reporting. The people of the world are still the same. We just have to be as vigilant out of this country as in LA. Be aware of your surroundings and talk to people everywhere, and continue to travel.

Done, and on with the trip.


Crossing into France we kept to the small roads staying near the ocean finding interesting , small villages as we rode north toward the Bordeaux region of France and the vineyards of the Rothschild estates near Pauillac. The areas and towns west of Bordeaux were touristy so the quaint little villages we were hoping to find were all built up. Arriving at the vineyard to have a look around was disappointing as we were told we needed reservations, in advance, and other than that, we had to leave. That’s one way to get rid of a couple of motorcycle riding Americans. Oh well. Onwards and north to a fun, smooth ferry crossing at Le Ver-sur-Mer to Royan.

 As we rode north, turning randomly at forks and intersections, following whatever road looked the most interesting, we passed an ancient looking, deserted church. Our interest peaked as we turned around and slowly approached this beautiful structure, stone spires and a bell tower thrusting skyward.  We stopped the bike across the street in a lot with one other vehicle parked in a small, dirt parking lot. Getting off the bike we spotted a man 5-6 meters from us, sitting in a clearing in front of his car. He was dressed in long robes with long, brown shaggy hair and a long beard. You guessed it. Melanie and I looked at each other and whispered into our helmet mikes, ‘Jesus??’. He was just sitting and looking at the church, de L’egice Saint Pierre. A small sign told of the church and the Celtic inspired design. IMG_20150619_154843021_HDR

Walking through the tombstones of the ancient cemetery gave us a strange feeling. The stones in the yard directly in front of the church were weathered and had a crusty, stone to greenish growth covering the grave markers. The front of the unkept church, which was open, displayed an upside-down cross, carved stone statues of saints and a large red, arched entryway in which two doors were built into. Pushing through one of the doors led us into a simple interior, just stone walls and a simple barren altar with signs of the templars carved into the supporting columns.

Returning to the bike, ‘Jesus’ is still sitting peacefully, quietly watching the church, all alone. As we ride toward town our thoughts and comments turn toward the Christian bible stories and how a simple carpenter was taken to be their savior and how in these days, the same simple man with similar ideas would be tossed into the nearest jail. Interesting.

I have tried to follow our route to determine where this town was, without success. There were several other structure with interesting histories, including a circular pigeon coupe with holes in the interior that would house over 1000 birds.Greenwich

As it was getting late in the day we started to look for a campsite, finding the Camping du Bois de St Hilaire, in Chalandray. Pulling through the welcoming gate of the campground to the voice of a wonderful woman proprietor, speaking proper English, was a nice surprise. Monica told us that we were the first Americans that has ever stayed in her campground, much less on a motorbike. We talked about how they had become the owners of this wonderful place. Being seasoned caravanners around France for 30 years they decided they just wanted to be right where they were now. Great people. After setting up our camp in a wonderful wooded area we set off for town finding a fantastic little bakery on a corner with a couple of tables for 2 in the front. The smell of fresh-baked bread and pizza wafted out of the open front door, inviting a passerby passed the entrance and to the glass enclosed display case and the welcoming smile and ‘Bonjour’. The pizza had been recommended to us by Monica and our slices of meat pizza on fresh-baked crust were completely amazing.IMG_20150620_114703502

The next morning we rode north to the Loire River and Valley wanting to check out and possibly tour a couple of chateaus. The one we wanted to see was Château d’Ussé, or the castle of Sleeping Beauty.

The grounds consisted of a chateau, a beautiful gardens with views of the valley and a private family chapel. All the structures were well maintained with period furniture and tapestries on the walls in the chateau, with guards watching your every step. I really dislike the tourist areas and much prefer finding things off the beaten path in small  towns with their wonderful, interesting people. Even with a language barrier, stories can be told.

We continued on our way along the river seeing several beautiful chateaus but most were busy with tour buses and we continued on, just looking.

Tomorrow, the north coast of France, and the WW2 memorials we are so interested in exploring.

Cheers, 2WANDRRs

Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel, 2WANDRRs, adventure travel, Europe, France, Horizons Unlimited, Loire Valley, motocamping, motorcycle travel, Triumph, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Douro Valley, Portugal, and the Northern Coast of Spain

Rio Douro in the morning

Rio Douro in the early morning

The morning is clear and cool with a fog hanging out in the valleys between the green, grapevine terraced hillsides making a brilliant contrast to the bright blue sky above the layer of fog. We will ride to the northern coast of Spain today spending a couple hours riding the N-222 in the Douro valley, ranked one of the top driving roads in the world, ( ). The road was a perfect blend of curves and straight sections, elevation changes and perfect scenery that had us in slow-mode riding style as this was perhaps the most beautiful scenery we had encountered. The terraced hillsides of grapevines set in a patchwork quilt style. some rows facing this way, others at 90 degree angles to it’s perfect neighbor and then other just there. All of this was broken with occasional chalets and towns with the layered fog burning off slowly to reveal the beauty of the Rio Douro, cutting a ribbons path of flowing blue through the valley to the town of Pinhao.

Douro Valley, Portugal

Douro Valley, Portugal


As we were coming to the village of Pinhao we pulled over on the side of road, got of the bike and sat on the moss covered stone wall bordering the Rio Douro looking toward town and, just looked. We sat at that spot in the shade of a couple large, green leafy trees not talking while we munched on an apple, just taking in one of the most beautiful sights we had seen. Villagers would pass us, walking or biking, and smile and wave on their way toward town, stopping at the bakery and market to buy fresh baked breads and fresh fish to prepare for the evening meal and visiting with friends all doing the same. The life here is simple, relaxed and refreshing. If I happen to just up and disappear some random day, look here for me first, as we will be riding, relaxing and drinking Spanish wine and Portuguese port.

Little did we know that the ride from this point north to the coast of Spain would be just as brilliant.

Rio Douro and Pinhão

Rio Douro and Pinhão


Pinhao, Portugal

Pinhao, Portugal


OK, time to go and we cross the bridge into town, riding slowly down the main street enjoying the village ambiance. We rode north out of town headed to the Spain border and jumped on the A-52, like an interstate highway, to make up some time. It was a beautiful ride twisting at fast speeds in and out of curves with not much traffic and we stayed on these roads for about 200 Kms. We finally got to slow back down and get on small two-lane road as we headed up toward a1400 meters pass. Almost to the top we crossed an arm of an alpine lake/ski resort and another unexpected pass following the Rio Vejo as it fought its way down through yet another canyon. The road weaved back and forth, gaining elevation with rock walls jutting out forming one side of the road, while on the other side a small river wove its way among pocket of grassy areas and old homesteads. As we came to the top of the pass we met several bikers on holiday from the Netherlands. We exchanged routes as we were both headed in different directions of things that shouldn’t be missed ahead.


The Vojo valley below


Top of the pass

DSCF1676 The road in front of us beckoned us as the curves were tight, unpredictable and unprotected. We pressed on, not so fast as to miss the beauty in front of us but not so slow as to miss some of the thrill associated with this kind of riding. We rode into the town of Potes and were treated with a beautiful village, cafes on the water near a bridge crossing a small river and horses with riders making their way through town.DSCF1679We headed back out of town while looking for a place to camp, finding one about 2 kms down the road. Pulling in to the camp we found a few Dutch sitting around having happy hour, drinking wine and sharing camp space. We set up camp, washed out our riding gear and headed down to the small restaurant on the stream, for Paella, just as dusk was starting to cast its long shadows across the campground. IMG_20150617_074014385

A fantastic blue skied morning greeted us as we packed up camp in anticipation of a ride to the northern coast of Spain. The road toward the coast remained fantastic all the way to the beach. We rode through a tight canyon following a stream that had cut through the rock for eons while my GPS was showing about 5 minutes to the Atlantic Ocean. We came down to the beach through the community of Lekeitio. This beautiful town surrounded a tidal bay filled with boats stuck in the sand as the tide was low with only pockets of water surrounding islands of soft muck. As we were riding across the bridge we pulled over just to take in the views and smells of the ocean, watching the people riding bike and jogging along the waterfront. I’ll say it again, the past two days have shown some of the most inspiring scenery of the ride. DSCF1684We continued on the the beach, stopping to enjoy the view and weather along the Atlantic coast on the northern coast of Spain. Yep, we said to each other, we are really here. How about a selfie.IMG_20150617_132631765 IMG_20150617_112312582_HDRWe continued our coastal drive which reminded us of the Pacific Coast Highway on the western coast of California, looking for a perfect campground to drink some wine, have dinner and watch a sunset. Along the way we passed through a town that had a suspended ferry croosing across the river. Very cool.DSCF1695 IMG_20150617_174247121_HDR

Coming around a corner we found the Camp Itxaspe. It was absolutely perfect, high on a terraced bluff overlooking the ocean. While we were eating dinner and chatting the sun started to set and I realized that from that point, high on the bluff, I would be able to watch the sun set and again rise in the morning over the Atlantic Ocean from the same spot.IMG_20150617_193902816_HDR IMG_20150617_215317598 IMG_20150617_140629474_HDR

Back at the camp after sunset our neighbor invited me over for a cigar and a drink of very rare scotch. Some people just know how to travel.

Cheers, from 2WANDRRs…

Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel, 2WANDRRs, BMW, Dolomites, Douro Valley, Europe, France, Horizons Unlimited, motocamping, motorcycle travel, Portugal, Pyrenees, Spain, Triumph, Trophy | Leave a comment

Spanish Cathedrals and on to Portugal



Our gear is finally dry so we headed into Montblanc, an area that has been inhabited for thousands of years. After the invasion of the Moors in 711 AD, the 10th and 11th centuries led to a period of peaceful coexistence of Muslims, Christians and Jews. This productive period continued  until the Roman Catholic Church initiated an era of expulsions, which forced the Moors, the Jews and many of the interbred mixed race peoples to leave the Iberian peninsula. We were able to ride through the gates of this walled city and wander freely along the cobblestone streets stopping to snap a few photos of the ancient buildings and churches, waving at the many people that smiled and waved at us as we passed.



Leaving Montblanc we rode a short distance to the Poblet Monastery from 1151 AD. Poblet was the royal pantheon of the kings of the Crown of Aragon. In 1318, under solemn oath, it was made a condition that all the Aragonese kings be buried there. Some of the most important royal sepulchres have alabaster statues that lie over the tomb. The kings have lion sculptures at their feet, while the queens have dogs. Poblet Monastery has been a UNESCO heritage site since 1991. Our tour included access into the monks chambers and also their private areas. This place was amazing.


Stopping for lunch at a gas station offered a touch of life along the river in a small village in Spain. The gas station had a small cooking area offering fresh-water delicacies found in the river in the area, including snails. The wonderful ladies working in the kitchen offered me a taste of the various delicacies and I decided on a bowl of snails cooked in a thin, clear garlic broth. One of the ladies was from England so we had a brilliant time kidding with each other and us learning about why she had ended up here. Melanie ended up eating a couple local sausages and both lunches were excellent.

At a table near us a group of men were playing games and discussing local events. They didn’t speak much English but we had a good time with everybody using our limited Spanish and hand gestures. IMG_20150613_154232601_HDR

The day remained cloudy with occasional rain which turned into rain followed by small pea sized hail. After having enough of the weather we decided to find a hotel for the night in Utrillas, the Hotel de Utrillas.

Riding to Cuenca

Riding to Cuenca

The morning brought blue skies and the promise of a great day. Our ride followed the side of a ridge of mountains and curved in and out on deserted roads, except for motorcycles, on the way to Cuenca, and the Cuenca Cathedral, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Maggiore. Work began in the year 1196 and was completed in 1257. The interior is in the Latin cross configuration with a central altar, a choir area with pipe organ and many individual chapels around the perimeter. The cost to tour this brilliant place was only 3,80 Euros.

Riding into town

Riding into town

DSCF1629 IMG_20150614_134907045

Old clock

Old clock

We had lunch and a beer at one of the many cafes in the street  outside of the cathedral. Several couples were enjoying the views of the old town in the shadow of the impressive Cuenca Cathedral just 30 meters away.

We left and rode into Toledo, into the walled portion and up to the top of the hill looking for a place to stay. The roads were tight and cobblestone with some busy traffic and most of the places were full, so we continued on. It was starting to cloud up again threatening rain and we found a little cabin at a campground on the river on the outskirts of town, the Camping El Greco. I laid all our gear out to dry and walked to the restaurant for a bite to eat. Just after ordering the skies opened up, which had me sprinting up the dirt roads while avoiding the large mud puddle forming from the downpour. I gathered our gear and had to wait for several minutes for the rain to let up before heading back to the restaurant. So much for dry gear but tonight, after a good meal and another inexpensive bottle of red wine, I will sleep like a baby.

Toll Road, Portugal

Toll Road, Portugal

The next morning was overcast and we decided that our southern route through Spain would have to wait for another time,We were just running out of time and to go that far south, I wanted to spend at least a week in Morocco, wasn’t going to happen without sacrificing the northern coast of France. Next time. The west coast of Portugal would have to wait also, but the northern coast of Spain and northeastern area of Portugal would get fair treatment in the next few days.

As we crossed into Portugal a toll road sign was posted which had me making the first turn off the road as I could. Toll roads, in my experience, means more traffic, less small towns and less friendly people. We came across a road marked as N-222 which headed the direction we were going. A side note; this road popped up on FB later that night as one of the top driving roads in the world by a car rental company. Better to be lucky than good. Anyway, this road was brilliant as it passed through several small towns. Since it was getting on in the day and we wanted to stop and enjoy some sights and people in a small town we saw a sign for lodging. Pulling into a small village on a cobblestone street the road got very narrow and steep. The room for rent had long since been abandoned and their was no way to go but forward. After a few close calls on the steep, uneven and off canter streets we came to a section that was at about a 45 degree angle up around a crazy off-canter right turn and disappeared out of sight, still going up. Melanie wanted off, so, under protest, I let her get off. Smart lady. I gunned it heading up to discover as I near the turn I didn’t have enough room to turn. Jamming on the brakes and laying on the tank I grabbed the front brake as I needed both feet on the crazy angle and I didn’t want to flip over backwards. After sliding backwards several feet I finally stopped. I knew I couldn’t slide all the way back down the hill and up was the only way out. I let off the brake slightly, moved an inch and slid three. Finally I got positioned for the turn and laying on the tank took off determined not to stop till I got to the top of whatever lay ahead. I finally made it and shook until Melanie walked to the top. Lesson learned, when Melanie wants off, no discussion, let her off.

We rode to the next town and found a top notch hotel and the kind lady at the desk gave me a two room suite, with breakfast, for only $35 US. Walking into town we came across a street vendor who must have been a Portuguese comedian. We order a couple of his specialties, sausages, and had a fun time joking with him and his customers as they came to the stand. It was a fun night.

Cheers, 2WANDRRs

Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel, 2WANDRRs, adventure travel, Cuenca, Europe, Horizons Unlimited, motocamping, motorcycle travel, Spain, Trophy | Leave a comment

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