The one positive thing I can say about my tendency towards travel mishaps and misadventures is that it gives me almost unlimited blog post fodder. With that, I present the latest chapter, in which my fantasies of rambling by motorcycle about the German countryside, under a benevolent and warming sun, are replaced by the realities of creating one’s own 70 mph wind on a sunless, 40-degree day.
After experiencing a mostly uneventful trip from home to Frankfurt, I was optimistic that the motorcycle riding portion of my vacation would go well. I took the train from the airport to the vicinity of the place I was renting from. This went well overall, but involved a short, cold hike from the train station, struggling with my regular luggage plus the enormous duffle bag full of motorcycle gear that I had decided was essential for the type of riding I planned to do.
I had reserved a 600 cc Honda CBF, which, from the pictures, didn’t look too terrifying. I had some doubts about the wisdom of re-learning to shift a motorcycle while also learning a new area (what I ride at home is an automatic), but I drive a stick-shift car and I have ridden a regular motorcycle, so I figured it would come back to me. What I didn’t count on was the Honda being too small and cramped for me. So, I went back into the shop and asked if I could trade it for something else. They were very helpful, but they kept directing me to increasingly intimidating-looking and powerful dual-sport bikes. I added up the variables and decided there were too many: unfamiliar bike, much more powerful bike, rain, strange land, shifting, autobahn. I would have felt safe with a couple of variables, and maybe even 3, but not 6.
After some discussion I asked if they had maxi-scooter, which is what I ride at home. Indeed they did. It’s a little different from what I’m used to but close enough to knock out 3 of the variables, so I took it. Oh, they were also very amused by my paper maps, which I had just purchased at the gas station across the street, but I have learned, painfully, not to count on digital maps. Between battery life and inconsistent cell reception, digital maps can’t be relied upon.
The original plan was to ride first to Wurzburg, about 100 km from Frankfurt, then, as time allowed, start down the Romantischestrasse, spending the night somewhere along the route then exploring more of the route the next day before returning to Frankfurt.
Instead my story was very nearly a narrative about that one time I rented a motorcycle and rode it on the autobahn to go to McDonald’s. It was so cold that I thought about just giving up and eating the rental fee. I did ride on the autobahn, and I did go to McDonald’s, to warm up and have fries, a McFish and some coffee (then some tea, because I was still cold). Then I got online and booked a hotel room in Wurzburg, having lost interest in trying for more ambitious mileage today. But, after I warmed up and fortified myself, I felt competent to continue.
The McDonald’s stop was about 50 km towards Wurzburg. After I got back on the bike I felt optimistic I could make it the rest of the way to Wurzburg without stopping again. As it turned out, I went another 20 kilometers and was so frozen (and worried about the possibility of needing to make sudden maneuvers in the rain at autobahn speeds) that I took an exit just to stop the wind for a moment.
Once I was off the autobahn I decided to see if I could pick my way along back roads the rest of the way to Wurzburg. I figured if I kept track of where I was relative to the autobahn I would be able to find my route. I had my maps with me, but it was too cold to stand around looking at them. For the first 10 km or so I was confident I was working my way towards Wurzburg, but then I zigged when I should have zagged and wound up on this very picturesque but nonetheless useless road that terminated (or rather faded to dirt double-track) right under the autobahn, on the banks of the seemingly uncrossable Main river. So, I had to backtrack, zagging this time, which took me right across the Main, and onto the non-autobahn route to Wurzburg, which turned out to be very curvy, swoopy and fun.
Despite the fun, I froze again and had to stop at a discount grocery store 20 km out from Wurzburg, for still more tea and a delightfully starchy and sugary item called a nougatring (yes, it’s just what it sounds like). Fortified once again I rode the final 20 km into Wurzburg and … had no idea where my hotel was. See, right when I was reserving the room on Hotwire, the battery on my tablet died. I had three choices: find a pen and paper and write the name/address down; get my phone on the wireless at McDonald’s and sync my email so the address would be on my phone; hope the hotel would conveniently loom into view as I entered Wurzburg. Dear reader, which option do you think I chose? In my defense, I was still kind of frozen.
Tune in next week to learn if I ever made it to my hotel, and if I continued to be a match for the autobahn.