Friday, May 29, 2015

Gettin' Our Kicks: Chapter 3 - Packing for Two Months and 10,000 Kilometers

"Judith, please pack light!"

There has been much written on how to efficiently pack for short or long motorcycle tour. I've read many articles, if not all of them and take them to heart, with the promise to myself to follow the suggestions for efficient packing.  My mantra is "next time I'm packing light(er)".

We need to pack for a two month tour.

With that mantra in mind I did pack lighter... that is to say I left the kitchen sink and the portable defibrillator out of the bags.

All the stuff is pretty much packed. My light packing mantra equated to two rolling duffel bags and a medium-large tail bag (that contains another small tail bag and tank bag).

Judith's packing light equated to one rolling duffel bag. Humph!

In all fairness to me, I am carrying a small set of tools, small battery operated air pump and tire repair kit, first aid kit - and my clothes are a lot bigger than Judith's.

As Dean Martin once said (I think it was him), "That's my story and I'm sticking to it."

Here is the pile that somehow needs to get to San Francisco on Sunday.

Top to bottom: Two helmets (carry on), tail bag, Dennis' duffel #1, Judith's duffel,Dennis' duffel #2, laptop/iPad bag, camera bag (not shown Judith's tank bag carry on)

The contents will get transferred to the panniers on the bikes and the tail and tank bags attached. Then the empty bags get sent by FedEx to Pennsylvania for the return trip. I'm pretty sure Gen. Eisenhower had an easier time with logistics for the landing in France.

Off to SFO on Sunday morning.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Gettin' Our Kicks: Chapter 2 - The First Road Trip

A & S Motorcycles
Roseville, CA

The First of A long Road Trip

Off to Roseville

The day after Christmas - most people are running off to the Shopping Mall to either exchange a gift or use a Gift Card.

Not us... we drove to Roseville, CA to buy two motorcycles. Now that I think about it, this is kind of like running off to the Shopping Mall, but we did not have anything to exchange or a Gift Card.

So how'd this all come about? Let me back up to mid December 2014.

Finding Bikes

While searching the Web for some motorcycle dealers to visit during our Christmas Holiday in San Francisco I rediscovered A & S Motorcycles. They had a very good inventory of used motorcycles and I found two that would work great; a 2013 Triumph Street Triple and a 2012 BMW R1200GS Adventure, as well as a few others.

David Morton
I called A & S and got a sales guy named David Morton on the phone and proceeded to explain our crazy idea. David is a great guy. We talked through the various details of how to go about buying, registering and insuring the bikes. David really helped with lots of details that we'd need to get past, and after 30 or 40 minutes we agreed that it is all possible and not that difficult.

Next we discussed the possible bikes. One of the BMW R1200GS bikes I was considering had been sold, but there was another that I had not seen on the Web site that David pointed out to me. This one was a keeper. Next we talked about the three Street Triples and narrowed it down to one with only 1300 miles.

David and his boss agreed to hold the bikes for a couple of weeks until we were in San Francisco and make the drive out to Roseville for the final inspection.

There was also the little hurdle to clear of storing the two bikes from December to the end of May when we'd be back. They also graciously agree to store them at no charge - another problem solved.

This was working out just perfect - and thus the reason for the day after Christmas road trip.

Judith's Street Triple

Dennis' R1200GS Adventure

Tour, Look and Buy

We arrived at A & S about 1:00 PM and found David. First thing, he gave us a tour of the Dealership. This is a large dealership selling BMW, Triumph, Ducati, Vespa and Eric Buell Racing. Each brand has it's own specific area for display and the associated accessories.

After the tour, we looked at the two bikes and determined that all is good with them. Next was discussing some details about a few things we wanted to add to the bikes. Then the ever painful part - the paperwork. We had agreed on the prices, so it was just off to the races to get the paperwork taken care. Actually this is like a slow race. The Calif. documentation is tedious at best, and it would have been worse if we were financing the bikes.

About an hour and a half later we had finished all the signatures and the copies were made.

Dave, thank you very much for making our crazy idea real easy.
BMW Show Room

It was the day after Christmas
so the tree was still up.

A & S has several vintage BMW's on display

Dennis, David and Judith
after the deal was sealed

We headed back West to San Francisco, stopping in Tracy on the way to have a celebratory beer in a local brewery.

A Couple of Details

Well, you may ask: 1) How is it that I can register the bikes if I live in Germany now days, and 2) how the heck are we going to sell them at the end of the trip?

For the registration part it was easy. My youngest son lives in Vallejo and we registered the bikes to his address.

As for selling them, a very good friend in the Philadelphia area, David Harris, agreed that he will sell them for us once we finish. Dave is a seasoned buyer and seller of motorcycles, so he knows what and how to take care of this for us. This is a huge help - so a big thank you Dave. Plus Dave and his wife Mary Ellen are putting us for a few days once we get there.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Gettin' Our Kicks: Chapter 1 - And So it Began

A Road Trip on Route 66

And so it began - 2010

The Corvette
Tod Stiles (Martin Milner)
and Buz Murdock (George Mahris)
from TV's Route 66
"I really want to ride a motorbike on Route 66."
"What did you just say?", I asked.
Judith repeated it, "I really want to ride a motorbike on Route 66."
"Oh, that's what I thought you said."

We had this conversation back in late Spring of 2010, a month or so before I was taking off on my one month motorcycle trip back and forth across the U.S., which included Route 66 - or at least most of it.

I had no idea that the old Route 66 TV show that ran from 1960 to 1964 was so popular in Germany. There are several organizations in Germany that revolve around the history and visiting The Old Mother Road.

At this point Judith did not even know how to ride a motorcycle, but at the urging (or maybe on a dare) from her friend Klaus, she was signed up for motorcycle riding lessons in order to get a motorcycle license in Germany.

Fast Forward - 2015

Judith has a motorcycle license, she has her second bike (actually her third, but more on that later) and we are going to ride Route 66 (or at least more than half of it), plus a lot of other places, this Summer.

Now this might seem about as weird as Them, the Northern Ireland band from Belfast, singing Get Your Kicks on Route 66 back in the mid 1960's.

OK... maybe not that weird.

Logistics - that evil bitch

We kicked this Route 66 idea around for quite sometime and couldn't figure out how to get it organized. Judith needed time off, and we need two motorcycles in the U.S. and so on and so forth.


Sometime early last year we figured out how Judith could get the time off.  A colleague of Judith's at Siemens suggested that she should take a sabbatical, not an uncommon thing for a long time employee at Siemens. So, in simple terms this was a no-brainer - take a three month sabbatical - time off problem solved.

What do we Ride

If you're going to ride Route 66 you need a motorcycle. And since Judith is going to ride Route 66 we need two motorcycles. In other words there is no way she going to sit behind me.

I looked into renting motorcycles. You can kiss that idea good-bye. Way too expensive.

OK, we have motorcycles here, let's ship them over to the U.S. and then ship them back. Sounded good at first, but this is mighty pricey as well, plus there is U.S. and German Customs to fool around with, a bunch of logistics, blah, blah, blah.

One day Judith says, "Let's buy two bikes in the U.S., ride them and then sell them when we're finished with the trip." It didn't take me long to realize this was a brilliant idea - as long as we could find two bikes at a reasonable price. Then we sell them later, with some depreciation, but less than renting or shipping our own. Well, at least this is the theory.

Searching for Bikes

We had planned to go to San Francisco over the 2014 Christmas Holidays. I figured I'd use some of the time to check with motorcycle dealers in the Bay Area and see what I could come up with. In November I got on line to locate possible dealers and look at their current used bike inventory.

Judith decided she wanted to find a Triumph Street Triple like she is riding now. The size is right, she's familiar with the bike and likes it a lot. I would settle for most anything BMW-wise. There a couple of BMW-Triumph dealers in the Bay Area, so I targeted them first.

It was disappointing. The used bike selection was pretty thin. But, what the hell, I figured I would stop in at these dealers and tell them my story so they could keep an eye out for the right bikes. Once the bikes were found we buy them remotely and have them waiting when we arrived end of May.


About mid December I extended my search for motorcycle dealers further out of the San Francisco Bay Area. I found A & S Cycles in Roseville, Calif., which is about 125 miles East of San Francisco. I actually knew the dealership, but had forgotten about them.

Their used bike inventory was far richer than any other I had found. Sure enough they had not one, but three Triumph Street Triples that were barely used. Plus they had several one and two year old BMW's that fit the bill perfectly.

Next Chapter: Buying the Bikes and Getting Organized

Sunday, May 3, 2015

A Ride to the former DDR

Two weekends ago we had a nice motorcycle tour with Laura and Sean Ruddy (friends in the military), my wife (Judith) and three friends, Steffi, Wieland and Christian.

L - R: Steffi, Wieland, Christian, Sean, Laura and Judith: Photo by Sean or Laura

We headed North from Nürnberg and met Sean "Rocket" Ruddy and Laura "MacGyver" Ruddy in Bamberg. The meeting point was to be a Bäkerei (bakery) that turned out had closed in 1985 (thank you Garmin Maps for the up to date information).

Our Route

After we managed to connect at the non existing Bäckerei we headed out North towards the Thüringer Wald region. This is in the former DDR (East Germany), where we found some very nice roads and great scenery.

On the way, Rocket Ruddy lost one of the two screws holding his license plate on, and it was threatening to come completely undone (supersonic speed seems to do funny things to hardware). Between all of us there were no extra screws or zip ties (a very well prepared group - eh?). However, Laura MacGyver Ruddy came through with a roadside repair using an old keyring and a pair of pliers and some duct tape.

MacGyver at work

"I am going to get this thing on no matter what!"

After the repairs were completed we all got a little hungry, so we stopped at a Gasthaus across from the Basilika Vierzehnheiligen for coffee and cake. No... I did not take this picture. I stole it from the Web. The Basilika was covered in scaffolding undergoing a renovation.

The baroque Wallfahrtsbasilika Vierzehnheiligen was built by the famous architect Balthasar Neumann.


Next stop was at Confiserie Lauenstein, where these two group photos were taken. The Confiserie Lauenstein make absolutely killer Pralinen, Trüffels and Schokolade.

: Photo by Sean or Laura
: Photo by Sean or Laura

I picked up some supplies there, as well as a set of tools in case another roadside repair was needed.


More Supplies  

Special Tools

Later in the day we also ran into a guy with a 1920's something DKW at a Tankstelle (gas station). DKW is an old German motorcycle manufacture located in the former Eastern Germany sector.

: Photo by Sean or Laura

An old DKW getting some modern Air

Old bikes have a lot more levers to make manual adjustments to ignition, choke and throttle position in order to get them to start within a reasonable numbers of kicks.

Sorry, but I did not get many pictures, as we didn't do much sight seeing standing still. A couple are from Laura and Sean.

It was a super tour even though Sunday turned into a fairly rainy day and we headed pretty much for home. There is another tour mid May with the cast of characters.

I'm Back...

It has been some time since I posted anything on my blog and it's time to fire it up again.

For the past six months or so I've been side tracked with a Deutsch Integrationskurs and now I am studying for the B1-Prüfung (exam) upcoming on May 9th. The Deutsch Integrationskurs is a 600 hour course for learning the German language, integrating into the German culture learning about recent German history and the Politics. The course has been pretty interesting considering we only speak German and there are people from Russia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece, Romania, Columbia, Venezuela, Brazil, Mongolia, Slovakia and Moldavia in the class. It's sort of like a movie we've probably all seen where the American guy is teaching English as a second language to a group of people who all speak a different language. We have had a few pot luck parties and the food is varied and pretty darn good.

At the end of the course I take an nine hour exam that covers reading, writing, hearing and speaking German. I took the A1-Prüfung about a year ago and passed with no problem. This one is going to be a little different I think.

So, if I pass the B1 exam what does that do for me? My Visa will be good for two or three years before I will need to reapply. If I don't pass then I will need to reapply every year until I do pass the exam - or - until I have lived in Germany for six years when the Visa automatically becomes permanent. Interestingly enough, if you hold an EU Passport all of this is not necessary. Fortunately, I won't get kicked out of the country.
I have to say the whole exercise is a bit frustrating, as I have no problems getting along on a day to day basis living in Germany, even with my limited Deutsch sprechen. I certainly have no problem ordering Nüernberger Bratwürste und Bier.

Nüenberger Bratwürste erobern die Welt
(Nürnberg Bratwürst conquer the World)

On the other hand, I of course understand the idea of being "invited" by the immigrations folks at the Ausländeramt to participate in the course and exam. Germany has been the go to country for folks immigrating (or Ayslbewerber, i.e. asylum seekers) from countries outside of the EU for some time now. Germany would prefer that people who are living here are able to contribute to the overall society. For those who need to earn a living that means speaking the language. Not such a bad idea.