Sunday, 31 May 2015

Madness mayhem and motorbikes. . Mugello

Well to start at the end. . I've given up getting out of circuit for a while so found a shady spot to let the departing hoards pass me by for a while. .
Where to start describing this event in words is beyond my vocabulary. . Take a rock concert throw in lots of very loud motorbikes both on and off track. . Chuck in a whole population of crazy Italians. . Braze gently under a hot sun and add large amounts of alcohol together with smoked barbecue food, add smoke bombs and burn out tyres then stir loudly with a manic chain saw and scooters with no exhausts and Ducatis booming and bikes revved to the limiter. . . Maybe I'm almost getting the image across. .
Everything that imola WSB wasn't, this is and much much more. .
Everyday is a race on Italy's roads but this morning was the world championship event, with everthing from sports bikes to tourers, scooters to adventure bikes out to overtake everyone else on the way to the race
I arrived on race day by 8:30 but the party had already started. . I guess it never stopped from Saturday night!
Camping is a free for all once you're in and everything from expensive campers to throw away tents compete for every spare space. . Making use of even the most unlikely camping spot.
Have a look at the YouTube video that I tried to capture the sights and sounds.
Update on the Mugello exit strategy. . .There isn't one!
I expected chaos and I wasn't disappointed. . An hour and a half after making my way towards the exit I eventually got there only to find the road utterly grid locked for over an hour . . So another sit in the shade until some traffic movement occurred. . . To be followed by the poliza closing the road needed to get back to the hotel. . . A very helpful policeman suggested an alternative route that took me an hour to get to a point 10 minutes from where a left the circuit. .
So after the madness of mugello my time in Italy has an end in sight, as I now head south to catch a boat across the Adriatic sea. . I'm currently in no mind to rush and don't intend to push for a lot of miles each day. So I'll see what I find and where I end up along the  way. .

Monday, 25 May 2015

One month on. . . .

Just realised today  is one month to the date since I left Britain's grey shores for . . . At the time even darker lands. . .but since that initial 3 difficult days life has been good, living in the warmth of Italy. . Good food, good wine and relaxed times. . .moving when I want to, travelling when I feel the need and staying still because I can.

Next weekend I travel to Mugello to fulfil a long held ambition to see the Italian motogp round. . I hope it lives up to expectation.

After that I head south . . To tackle more of this adventure. . Another holiday destination perhaps, but one I have never sampled so no pre-conceptions. Do I take in the popular tourist destinations? . . Probably not. . I never really have so no point starting now. .
I will pretty much race across Greece but that update is for a later entry. .

After six days by the sea I feel a need to move and tomorrow I will travel inland a little way . . I guess I'm more of a country boy than a seafarer at heart. .

So for now my next update will be at the bike grand prix . . . Come on England!  Can Cal , Brad, Scott and Eugene do us proud ? . . I hope so

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Sulphurous hot springs of Saturnia

Friday brought a dull grey day with a little rain. . 15°C but it felt a little chilly. . Guess I'm getting acclimatised!

So a short journey brought me to the sulphurous hot springs of Saturnia. . A regular tourist trap it seems. . Even for Italians it's a popular destination, but I can see why.  The Romans and before them the Etruscans it seems favoured the healing properties of the waters. . Well after taking the waters I hope to report an improvement in my general health and well being.

Saturday was an easy day , bit of shopping and browsed the local town market.Felt cold today though - less than 10 degrees and rain. Needed extra layers on again.

Sunday demands some pre packing ahead of my next move to the west coast. Planning on somewhere near Grosseto for a few days before moving a little further north but staying near the coast, over next weekend then somewhere near Firenze until Friday when I have a hotel booked for the MotoGP weekend. Nothing is eternal on the road. . It is always time to move on. .
Apart from that preparation I'm not planning on doing very much, the sun is shining and time to relax a little ahead of my next travelling adventure. 

"Cos I'm restless, I'm sleepless, on this quest I must go, out here searching for something, what it is I don't know. . Might have to find it under my headstone. . Cos I keep rolling like a rolling Stone. . ." (copyright BBS)

Not that I'm searching for something out here, but I like the song and it seems to fit. 
Keep on rolling baby ....

PS.. Flickr album updated click the Flickr box on the right ->
Video (lots)( to follow on youtube when I get decent WiFi.  

Friday, 15 May 2015

Touring through Tuscany

After leaving Imola on Monday morning I headed south west towards Firenze (I don't understand why we translate that to Florence?)
I wanted to avoid using the motorway as usual and looking at a map I found a route that went across country directly towards Mugello.. I found the road completely by accident once I set off. I turned out of the campsite away from the main road and immediately found a signpost with the correct road number on it - Destiny!
At its highest point a cafe and a large parking area mark it out as a well used motorcycle route that is popular with local bikers. Linking Imola to Mugello like it does I'm not surprised ! Some fantastic hillside roads were the entertainment for the day.
Chatting to a guy riding a Triumph speed triple it seems it is the place to go for the local bikers. No surprise there. The Triumph rider ran a safety school to educate bike riders on how to avoid becoming a statistic on the many tight curves. Seems bikers throwing themselves at the scenery is a universal problem. . Only 5 minutes later whilst looking at the said scenery I ran wide into a corner and gently brushed the roadside barrier. . Had a bit of a word with myself after that.
Dropping down out of the hills the quiet roads are replaced with the bustling streets of Firenze. Scooters dart here and there taking every opportunity to get to the front of queues and every spare space on the street is taken up with herds of parked scooters of every description from the oldest vespa to the latest three wheeled yamaha. Ridden by business men, stylish girls and teenagers its seem the way to get around the city is on a small two wheeler.
South of Sienna a peaceful countryside campsite provided a suitable antidote to my frazzled thoughts in Imola. . Time to recharge and do some washing!
On Wednesday I retraced my steps and had a day out in the glorious historic streets of Sienna. Standing in the main piazza del campo where an infamous horse race takes place each year, you get an real sense of the past that still lives in modern day Italy, despite the hoards of tourists and associated businesses that feed off them.
At €8 for an ice-cream they know how to make a living from it. . It was however, worth every cent!
I spent a little time on Thursday with a bit of motorcycle maintenance. The clutch had got a bit tight in the hot city traffic but was easily adjusted. The chain needs no adjustment at all so far which bodes well. . I am a little concerned at the wear rate of the tyres but will see how it goes. Not much i can do if they don't last to Istanbul as planned except buy some more if it comes to it.
After days of wonderful sunshine it seems I have stayed too long in one place and the rain has found me again. . Friday has started with cloudy skies and light rain on the tent.
I still have no suitable WiFi connection to upload the latest set of videos but will get them online as soon as possible.
I'm heading for the west coast next week. Haven't seen the sea yet on this journey.  Time to rectify that.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Imola world superbike weekend.

This particular blog entry is a bit of a compilation of (some alcohol induced) thoughts over the weekend while i have no internet connection to upload an update, so you'll forgive my slightly meandering line of thought.

Travelling is a funny thing.

Take everything that makes your life comfortable and give it up.. Leave everyone you care about and throw your lot in with strangers who don't even speak the same language
Take the simple fact of knowing where you will sleep tonight and make it an unknown.
You can plan ahead a little and carry some provisions and maybe book some accommodation in advance but in the end all of life's securities are up for discussion and suddenly the life you know and rely on are not necessarily the actual outcome.

That in its self is an exciting concept but one that needs a bit of thinking about. I guess in history, human life has not been at the comfort level that we take for granted in the modern world. Hunting for your evening meal must have had is unknowns and potentially hungry nights. In some ways rediscovering the basic needs for living is a part of this venture. I miss satellite TV, my truck on the drive with enough fuel to driven anywhere I want to. Beer in the fridge and the internet to discover yet more facts I didn't need to know or care about regarding someone's latest breakfast/night out or boredom level. So long Facebook I didn't need you before, I'm even more sure I don't now.

Extracting myself from the modern world had been something of a wrench. And yet I'm still able to get online to communicate with everyone via text, phone, mail, twitter or blog. In so many ways I am actually still connected. It's just not immediately available on demand all the time.

On holidays you still know that you will have a bed for the night and a meal at some point.. My holidays over the years have to some extent followed a similar way of living to what I am doing now but dealing with that for 2 weeks is part of the joy I get from living without too much of a plan. This journey feels different because it seems right now to have no end and dealing with that is a wider experience than have dealt with so far in my life.

I have wondered what historic explorers must have experienced without modern communications. Completely cutoff from their own world. While I am no Dr Livingstone deep in the African bush,, I am on my own voyage of discovery. My normal life of work, nights out, a beer in the pub, getting paid monthly and all the modern trappings has been changed.

One thing about Italy that has struck me on my travels around this glorious country is how much road building had taken place to allow easy movement by car/bike.. Bridges that span whole valleys between tunnels drilled through hills and mountains that must once have cut off whole communities. Some of the older tunnels I guess must date from the 50s or perhaps earlier and as such they are mostly oxygen free zones in places. Newer ones are much nicer to ride through. There doesn't seem to have been much thought for the natural environment with some of the concrete monstrosities that divert traffic around the smaller towns deep in the valleys and often dissect the buildings from one side in the shade to the other sunlit side. It's a strange contrast of modern needs conflicting with old ways of life.

Imola world superbike weekend has been a somewhat strange affair compared to my previous experience of motorcycle race meetings. Considering the current top four most successful riders in the series are British I have yet to actually meet any British motorcycle riders that have made the journey. My last time at an Italian round in Monza in 2002 was a sharp contrast with a lot of Brits around. Maybe it's the case that most British bikers have got old these days and have flown to comfortable hotels! Assuming they are here at all.
Maybe years of restrictive legislation and nanny over protective parenting has prevented a new generation from enjoying the freedom and thrill of two wheeled transport that is the accepted norm in the rest of Europe. Sad.

As I sit here on a balmy Saturday evening with a (plastic) glass of red wine, the rumble of motorcycle engines and the smell of BBQ smoke hanging in the air along with an expectation of a great days racing ahead tomorrow life seems pretty cool. There's a couple of things missing that would make it complete, but for right now I don't need much else to make me happy.  I struggle with normal day to day life at times. Always have. Working to earn living. Living in a world where money means happiness to most people. It's true that money make life easier and let's be honest without money I wouldn't have been able to make this adventure happen, but living is what makes me happy. By living I mean experiencing new things, enjoying the things I like and not worrying about what in the end are trivial modern concerns. At 51 years old I've had my share of heart breaks (literally as well as figuratively) and disappointments but I've also had amazing times and looking ahead I don't want to get bogged down with normal life. I've only got a limited amount of time and spending it being happy seems to make perfect sense.

Having re read these peculiar ramblings I'm in two minds whether to publish it, but having written it and in the end this blog has been, is and will continue to be an honest description of what I experience on the journey. The highs, the lows and the meditative in between bits, I think I should once I get reconnected to the world wide web.. How did we ever manage without it... Somehow we survived for millennia.

One foot note to add to this entry.. After the racing I visited the senna memorial which is located at the spot where he died. While I am no big F1 fan it was a sombre moment and the personal tributes placed there show how much impact that one person had on so many people. I don't think the visit to imola would have been complete without visiting that spot.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Wednesday's excursion to Lucca was a lovely day out.. To get there I stayed off the main pay autoroute that goes via Firenza and took the ss64 that runs from Bologna to Pistoia and what a fantastic road it it as it winds its way across the hills and valleys that separate this are from the west coast. 

described better than I  can manage on
"2. Via Porrettana (SS64), Italy 
This quiet 85-mile (138 km) backroad through the Apennine Mountains is positively bucolic. Linking Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna, it leads northwest from Pistoia, just east of Florence, to Ferrara via Bologna. It crosses thick chestnut forests, the ancient spa resort of Porretta Terme, and small, sleepy towns."

I had planned to get to Pisa for a gratuitous tower shot! but the weather looked a little inclement near the coast and after getting lost on the autoroute around Pisa I decided to cut and run. There will be another opportunity I'm sure. 

A tasty quatro formaggio pizza for lunch in the Piazza dell Anfiteatro and bottle of merlot when I got back to the campsite topped off a great day. 

Thursday is about sorting out the everything and re-packing again - I will find the ideal balanced way of doing things. Living in and out of a few bags and pannier that I carry gets a bit difficult without some sense of organisation, which I am rubbish at ... always have been, I guess its time I learnt. 

I've looked up the camping availability for Imola and that seems to be ok. I will leave as soon as I am ready on Friday morning and should be there for early afternoon. 

until next week, Internet access might be a bit unavailable so will update again as soon as I can. 

in the meantime I uploaded a video from the day out to Lucca .. Its got a bit of rough editing in there, but you get the picture.. I need to figure out the microphone situation.. lots of wind noise when I try to get on bike footage and its a bit quiet if I'm a couple of steps away from the camera.. anyway you get a feeling of what's happening in each mini episode I hope.

More pictures on Flickr too.. 

next update - Imola WSB ...

Monday, 4 May 2015

Catching some rays.

In complete contrast to last Monday... I'm not moving today... Sun is shining, the sky is blue cuckoo in the distance and I'm relaxing for the day. No point rushing around this week. I've got plenty of time to explore Italy's wonderful interests, but for now its a very pleasant 24 degrees with a nice cool breeze. Why do anything else? After a long grey dull British winter, the first chance to sit in the sunshine is something I'm enjoying. 

I have done one thing today and that was to check the bikes cooling system. I replaced the coolant with fresh just before I left.. On Saturday whilst riding in warm temperatures it was bubbling a bit after I switched the engine off.. bit of an air lock I think. sadly to get at everything on the Versys you have to dismantle the body work.. Even the coolant expansion tank cap is inaccessible without getting the spanners out. Nice design Mr Kawasaki!

Anyways its sorted.. moving on :o)

Another peaceful night after a bottle of wine(again) - think I might have a night off the alcohol tonight..will check my INR tomorrow. not that it makes much difference,it seems better when I do drink.. That's my excuse anyway. It was a little low last week, so I have been compensating with increased doses of warfarin. I don't expect it to be far out when I do check

I think I'm starting to get myself a bit more organised with camping and the gear on the bike.. I was frustrated last week by misplacing everything. In such a small space it shouldn't be possible. For anyone that has ever seen my garage you will understand. I've always had a mischievous fairy that follow me around moving things I need and putting them back when I'm no longer looking for them. She/it seems to be accompanying me on the trip !
So having struggled mentally, across France's overcast skies its amazing how a little sun and warm temperatures can ease your mind. I'm sure there are fiercer temperatures to be experienced over the coming months but for this sun starved Englishman, right now its just perfect thanks. 

Looking at the map Imola is about an hour and half away I think. setting off on Friday morning will see me there by around lunch time easily..A weekends racing action will be in stark contrast the relaxing atmosphere of this Italian hillside, but that's a good thing, contrast is what makes life interesting - ying and yang 

Not moving on!


Oh Yeah! - Captains log - supplemental  - I have uploaded a few pictures to the Flickr album.. Link is on the right near the youtube link. - just in case your interested :o) 

And if you see an advertisement on the front of the youtube vids - be a little patient and see it through (its only a couple of minutes) but hey I get paid for them ! lol - thanks

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Bolognese blogging

After 3 days lake side in Garda it was time to move on as the rain made a valiant attempt to catch up with me. Not the best campsite in the area I'm sure but it gave me time to catch my breath after racing the weather since leaving the uk.

A fairly uninteresting ride across the flatlands of northern Italy's Po plain through Modena and slightly lost around the periphery of Bologna see's me in more entertaining countryside with typically Italian landscape wonderful scenery and the constant call of a distant cuckoo to accompany my pasta tea..

I have lots of video of the ride over the Alps and into Italy to upload when I get a decent WiFi connection. , but until then I'll keep on filming for when the opportunity arises.

Next target is the world superbike round at Imola, which is about an hours ride away so I think this is a place to sit back for a while and enjoy the peace and tranquility of Italy's rolling hills.

Chasing dreams just got chilled..