The Nicaraguan border is complex, to say the least.  As we near the border we see the “helpers” milling about watching our arrival, then circling in for the kill.  It all starts off innocent enough.  They start helping you figure where to stop first.  We are trying to politely tell them “no gracias”, but they just continue to help, even if it’s not necessary.  This border between Honduras and Nicaragua is the most unorganized crossing I have ever been through.  Nothing is marked or in any kind of order.  One of the policeman needed for Gypsy’s paperwork was sitting in a chair in the parking lot.  The helpers work quickly trying to help you through the maze of places to visit and deal with each step, and helping you to part with your money.  Having a trailer being pulled by a motorcycle without a tag or registration, it’s homemade and has never been tagged or registered, threw a wrench into the system, something you don’t want to do at this crossing.  The day was clear with blue skies overhead and a gentle breeze moving the 40°C air and diesel exhaust fumes throughout the area and the buildings.  We had arrived by 8am and we finally left the area after 4 ½ hours of this running from building to building, handing over fistfuls of money for the “business”.  At one point as we were discussing Gypsy I said it the officials, “Just f%@k it, I’m going back to Honduras”.  Melanie calmed me down and kept me focused, as she has ulterior motives, which will be in the next chapter.

Our Nico stamp was for 30 days but we zipped through the country.  We stayed a night in Leon then headed for Parque Nacional Volcán Masaya, an active volcano southwest of Managua.  We rode to the top of the crater on our motorcycle and were told to back into the parking space to enable us to make a hasty escape if the need arose.  Hummm, OK.

The smell of sulfur filled the air as we neared the edge of the crater. Looking over the edge you could see smoke billowing out as the fiery molten lava below bubbled and crackled noisily below us.  The clouds of steam cleared occasionally giving us views of the lava which was quite the site.  To the left of us was a trial that would go to the upper observation area, but it was closed due to the increased activity of the volcano.

The next day we headed toward the island of Ometepe, in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. We wanted to spend a couple days there as the views are dominated by two large volcanoes. The island is the combination of two volcanoes, one on each of two connected land masses.  The winds are quite strong when we arrive forcing the ferries to stop running with a full schedule for a couple days.  We find a hostel near the water for the night and head to the Nicaragua/Costa Rica border the next day.  Same confusion and frustration at this border also but not as expensive. All total it cost me almost US$400 to get through Nicaragua with my motorcycle, pulling a trailer and with our dog, and 7 hours of my life. Not worth it, but had to get through it.



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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

Carcassonne and on to Spain

Today we are just enjoying the ride thru the French countryside heading toward the ancient city of Carcassonne in southern France, north of the border of Spain. We will camp tonight in the town of Trebes on the banks of the L’Aude River at Camping à l’Ombre des Micocouliers, a wonderful little campground. We are just east of Carcassonne so we can get an early start to our day tomorrow exploring this ancient city. After setting up camp and doing laundry and having a couple of drinks we walking across the arched bridge into town and found a couple cafe on the waterfront with long, narrow boats tethered to the retaining walls. We asked our British camping neighbor to join us as he was there eating also.
IMG_20150609_210258454The walled fortress city of Carcassonne is one of the most well-preserved in Europe. The first signs of settlement in this region have been dated to about 3500 BC with trade route established in the 6th century B.C. The Romans identified the strategic military importance of the hilltop area around 100 B.C. and built the first fortified structure around 450. There were several firsts of fortified fortress construction including a double wall and moat and the use of hoardings, or overhanging ramparts, from which to drop projectiles on invading armies.DSCF1578 IMG_20150610_105659124_HDR

 The Cité de Carcassonne, a medieval fortress restored by the theorist and architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in 1853 and added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1997. Although the main industry is now tourism, a walking tour revealed to us the beauty of the long-standing architecture of this amazing place. The cathedral was built-in starting in 1067 and, in 1096, the foundation stones were blessed by Pope Urban II. IMG_20150610_134034422While we were in the cathedral a quartet of men from the Russian Catholic Church in St Petersburg were there and treated us to a concert sung in Russian and Latin in this acoustically perfect area in front of the altar. We were mesmerized while these four men sang in such perfect harmony. We posted a short video on our FB page is you would like to hear it.



Interesting sign at the church

While we were roaming the streets trying to imagine life here 1000 years ago we came across a small eatery serving cafe and strawberry/chocolate crepes . I bet this wasn’t on the menu in the day. We sort of split one but Melanie really enjoyed one of her favorite treats.

In the courtyard was an archeological excavation going on. Under one of the floors they had discovered tiles set during the time of Muslim occupation over 1200 years ago. The original colors in the tiles were visible and most of the floor and room were still intact. It was in an area inaccessible to tourists and I had to work to gain enough access to snap this picture, without the flash, of course.


We rode out headed to Andorra, excited for the climb into the Pyrenees which was a great, twisty, cold ride in the rain and hail. Pulling into town soaking wet we discovered that this was their off-season, so almost every hotel or lodging was closed without a campground in sight. It was getting dark so we stopped at one of the only open restaurants with a place where I could keep the bike in sight, McDonalds, FREE WiFi. We pulled up google maps and found an inexpensive hotel right next door. The only parking was on the street so we waited until a spot opened up, grabbed it and were in for the night.



The Balearic Sea

The next morning we buggered out and headed for a campground on the Mediterranean, Camping Pola, Giverola on Cala Pola. The ride down to the coast out of the Pyrenees  was great this morning, it was dry. We were able to zip down through the twisties from elevations of 1500 meters down to the coast which reminded me of the Pacific Coast Highway along the California coast with forested elevations looking down on beautiful, wild beaches and the blue waters of the Balearic Sea off the coast of Spain.

Our campsite

Our campsite

We found space to camp right on the water in a small cove called Cala Pola. The water was a little chilly and got a little rough so we stayed out. The grabbed a liter bottle of Spanish Red wine and a bottle of Sangria for $0.99, can you believe it’s less expensive than water. We drank the wine with some peanuts and then headed to the restaurant for a great, very inexpensive meal and spent the rest of the night down by the beach enjoying the quiet, interrupted by the occasional wave lapping the shore.

In the morning I noticed the rear brakes were in need of changing so we rode into Barcelona looking for a bike shop. We found a small family shop who got the brakes for us but couldn’t put them on for us because it was lunch time and they were closing for three hours. Ugh! Later that day we found a car shop with a motorbike shop upstairs to help. The shop was filed with old dusty bikes from the 60’s and 70’s, some covered, but I got a chance to look them over. They had an Ossa, Hodaka, Bultaco and one small bike with a big, water-cooled V-8 engine.DSCF1595

 With fresh brakes we headed toward the Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey, NW of Barcelona. It had just finished raining when we arrived so the ride up the tight, twisting road was more fun than it should have been. By the time we got up to the monastery it was later in the day so we just snapped a couple pictures and kept on going.DSCF1602

We rode toward Montblanc looking for a campground and found one, almost empty, just closing with a small restaurant for pizza. The grocery store in town had inexpensive red wine, surprise, so a bottle and pizza and I was set. The rain found us again most of the night and we woke in the morning to a flooded campsite and rain still coming down. Since a bathhouse was nearby we broke camp and dried most of the gear under the hand dryer.

Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel, 2WANDRRs, adventure travel, BMW, Carcassonne, Europe, France, Horizons Unlimited, motorcycle travel, Triumph, Trophy | Leave a comment

Papal Palace and Southern France

DSCF1548Our ride this morning passed through fields of lavender running in all directions. The roads were narrow, line-less asphalt stretching out in front of us with a canopy of old trees lining our route with manicured hedges finishing the perfect picture. I wondered why these trees were planted with such perfect precision, mile after mile cooling the air around us from the sun as it heated up the fields of lavender, grapes and other crops in the French countryside. Later in the day our questions were answered. The Emperor Napoleon is credited with originating the policy of lining French roads with trees, to enable his soldiers to march in the shade.

DSCF1546Flowers were everywhere as we entered the center square of Forcalquier and the Monday farmers market. There were a vast variety of vendor selling everything from garlic and more varieties of olives than I have ever seen to flowers and leathers and cloth goods. Melanie spent her souvenir bike space on a small hand-made leather change purse. Kidding.

Church in the square

Church in the square

1235: To the memory of Eleanor De Prouvenco Fourcauquie, the wife of Henry the Third, King of England

1235: To the memory of Eleanor De Prouvenco Fourcauquie, the wife of Henry the Third, King of England

We parked on the corner in front of the monument and wandered around, watching the people of the village checking out the bike and licence plate, talking to each other and wondering where we were from.




Garlic booth


Fresh seafood booth

On our way out-of-town we decided to make a detour to the city of Orange and see the Roman Theater of Orange built-in the first century A.D. to seat 10,000 people. The Roman Theater of Orange is, without doubt, one of the finest remains of the Roman Empire and, as such, has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is, in fact, the best preserved theatre in the whole of Europe. The theater was closed for renovations when we were there but we got a couple of pictures. The second picture is from their website.



Back on the bike and on our way to Avignon we passed a winery that we had to turn around to see. In front of the beautiful building with some very unique sculpture were several old cars in wonderful shape sitting in the weeds and dirt.IMG_20150608_120516415 IMG_20150608_120203557Avignon, set on the Rhône River. From 1309 to 1377, was the seat of the Catholic popes, and remained under papal rule until becoming part of France in 1791. Its center, surrounded by medieval stone ramparts, contains the massive Palais des Papes and remains of the Saint-Bénezet bridge, also known as Pont d’Avignon.  DSCF1558We rode through the gates of this walled city and down the cobblestone street taking in the history surrounding us. It was a very hot day and we were sweating profusely in our gear so finding a parking spot and getting this helmet and jacket off and finding a bottle of water were first on the list. The street was lined with ancient building housing shop and cafes with all the cafe having tables, chairs and umbrellas set up in the streets among the trees. We took off walking, still with boots and riding pants, and went to the Papal Palace and got in line to take a tour. The stone walls of this 900 year-old palace are very thick, keeping in the cool air and repelling the stifling heat on the streets.DSCF1559 IMG_20150608_151001468

(From Wikipedia). The Avignon Papacy was the period from 1309 to 1377, during which seven successive popes resided in Avignon (in today’s France) rather than in Rome. This situation arose from the conflict between the Papacy and the French crown.

Following the strife between Phillip IV of France and Pope Boniface VIII, and the death of his successor Benedict XI after only eight months in office, a deadlocked conclave finally elected Clement V, a Frenchman, as Pope in 1305. Clement declined to move to Rome, remaining in France, and in 1309 moved his court to the papal enclave at Avignon, where it remained for the next 67 years. This absence from Rome is sometimes referred to as the “Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy”. A total of seven popes reigned at Avignon; all were French, and they increasingly fell under the influence of the French Crown. Finally, on September 13, 1376, Gregory Xi abandoned Avignon and moved his court to Rome (arriving on January 17, 1377), officially ending the Avignon Papacy.

IMG_20150608_155211255_HDR DSCF1562 DSCF1572The Palace of the Popes is the biggest Gothic palace in the world. There are 15,000 square meters of living space, which is the equivalent of 4 Gothic cathedrals. The Palace of the Popes, part of UNESCO World Heritage, stands as the symbol of the church’s way over the western Christian world in the 14th century.

Leaving the palace after the tour we went out a door on the opposite side of where we entered and because of my keen sense of direction, (I was completely lost), Melanie was able to guide her front pillion back to the bike. On the was we passed this beautiful carousel. Not as nice as the one located one the Santa Monica pier, but beautiful non the less.

imageDriving a little further looking for a place to camp and eat we passes through the town of Uzès with its narrow, tree-shaded lanes and a quaint downtown area with cafe overflowing into the street. We found a nice little cafe next to a fabulous wine shop owned by a couple Brits. We chatted about each others lives and I ended up buying a bottle of wine, I splurged tonight, while I threatened to come back and open a wine shop next to his, the town was so nice. Next to us at dinner were a couple with a little baby from Colorado, I believe. We talked until almost dark and exchanged Facebook names and promised to keep in touch.

Hurrying out of town we found a nice little, closed campground. After two choices that ended up being occupied, we found a nice campsite looking out over a field and mountain. First thing, riding pants off, bottle of wine opened and camp set up.IMG_20150607_205237437

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