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Flag of Poland  , Central Poland,
Friday, October 21, 2011

Today I made an early start, got on the road around 7.30, that’s an hour earlier by the clock I’m still set to. It’s pretty cold here at that time of the morning, it was showing a meagre 4 degrees and even the bike started hesitantly and grumbled at me for pressing the “go” button. I pulled straight into the petrol station at the end of the road and was nearly wiped out by a van who didn’t bother to look. Luckily I’m dialled into the German attitude now so I’d already given him space to be a total prick and no harm was done. He just looked at me and drove on, no emotional impact whatsoever from his act of arrogance and stupidity. This lack of consequence is glowingly apparent in the entire spectrum of German driving and in other areas of the culture. As I pass briefly through it’s rare that you’re smiled at for holding a door open or nodded to for some other act of courtesy. On the other hand there are just as many gestures here of genuine warmth. Clearly suffering from the weather a petrol station attendant offered to pour me some coffee to warm me up, unloading the bike a truck driver ran to help me with the door. The attitude here sucks but the people don’t. In England the manners are maybe more superficial and the people, once you scratch the surface have little substance, here the manners are virtually non-existent but there is a real empathy with some of them which makes up for the shortcomings of the drivers.
Once on the road the temperature climbed to 6 but the wind chill made it feel like a lot less. My muscles burned like a million red hot needles were being poked into my joints and I could feel my reactions slowing as the cold robbed my fingers of mobility and controls were sluggish and awkward. The sunrise before me painted the sky a dull effervescent orange as the brilliant light caressed the few white clouds that dotted the morning sky. The orange faded to yellow while growing brighter and then to white as morning broke on the horizon before me, lighting my way with the optimistic promise of whatever might lay ahead. It also hurt like fuck as the light dug into my eyes like needles. Unlike a car or truck the only sun-visor I have is what nature saw fit to equip me with so I managed an hour on the road squinting like I was fighting out a gutful of german sausage.
I made good time, averaging, I guess around 73mph but I was a slow nuisance on the crazy German Autobahn. I more or less live in the middle lane, the right being full with a convoy of never ending slow trucks on a journey to everywhere and the fast lane full of old German drivers belting past in cars with so many electronic gadgets it’s a wonder they even bother with a driver. Even at 75mph cars were flying past me like I was an old woman driving a clapped out green Nissan Micra up the hard shoulder of the A2 back home.
I stopped for a passable coffee at a petrol station at 9am and let my gloves thaw out on the exhaust pipe and hoped that 10 minutes might warm my fingers through and allow the sun to take a little of the edge off the weather.
I bought a pair of fabric working gloves to wear under my unlined summer gloves and while it made it a bit tight it made the weather far more tolerable. I made good time for the next few hours and proceeded without incident. The roads were clear and the route couldn’t have been much more straight forwards because it was straight forwards. There are no turns, no deviations, I just keep going until I get to Poznan. It couldn’t be much easier.
I stopped again for more coffee and by then the daylight was warm and fresh but at 10 degrees it was still not biking weather. By then i had not seen one other bike on the road so only the crazy and the stupid were out on two wheels today and I guess I must fit in there somewhere.
I’m starting to get into the spirit of this mammoth road trip now. By this evening I’ll be meeting up with marcin and planning the first leg of our onward journey. I want a day off to work on the bike, I’m considering moving the auxiliary fuel tank to the front where it was before only this time directly drilling the mounting holes to the bash plate. That will free up enough space to safely clear the wheel in an emergency stop. There’s a slight vibration showing in the rev range and it worries me it might stress the alloy mounting bracket. I’ve experimented with moving the tank bag to the rear. It is actually a tail pack anyway and it seems to be working. I like having the tank free as it makes the front feel cleaner but it makes the back heavier. I worry for the subframe but all the weight is not balanced on the crossbeam where it’s designed to take the weight of a pillion and has done successfully for thousands of miles. I went around Europe with my partner on the back with no problem so I’m pretty confident she can take it.
It was a relief to finally cross into Poland, everything is a bit cheaper and easier here. Poland is also not really Europe, it’s different, different enough to be genuinely interesting. Riding through it is an experience, the people, the buildings, everything looks a bit different and it’s a welcome and refreshing change to the ceaseless, endless drone of monotony on the motorways. I made good time in Germany and seeing as how I was following the exact some road called the exact same thing I foolishly expected the same thing would follow. Of course it did not. The road in Poland is superb, or it will be if they ever get around to finishing it and until they do it’s a country lane behind endless trucks with blank fabric covers who, if the clichés are accurate are either coming back for some more illegal migrant workers or unloading stolen goods. In any case they don’t move fast unless they’re overtaking and coming straight at you which continues to be a disconcerting experience. Eventually I arrived at Poznan via a toll for a few miles of unfinished road which seemed cheeky at best. Poznan is pretty nice, plenty to look at and do but I must have come at a bad time. I agreed with Marcin to meet him tomorrow in Wroclaw and hunted around for a hostel/hotel. There was no space anywhere and even more worrying the bike went to reserve after only 115 miles when normally it delivers close to 200. In town and with a hell of a lot of sitting at traffic lights I was still expecting 160. I discovered the breather hose was twisted and the tank was mostly full so that was a relief. I eventually ended up in a slightly upmarket hotel outside of town and was warned it was expensive. It ended up costing me £35 with free internet and breakfast so everyone who thinks that is expensive should ride through France and Germany... and England, come to that.
So tonight I am pretty shattered. 531km plus hours of searching for a hotel and that on a 7am start. Tomorrow sees an easy ride into Wroclaw to finally hook up with Marcin. I gather from an email that his bike is stuck with KTM for a service. I don’t care, I like Poland and I’m happy to stay her for a few days.

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thunderstick on

This site is better for pics but shit for posting replies - I just did and it disappeared into the ether. Hope you're getting some decent piwo down you in Wroclaw (Vrots-wav)...Marta says you have to pay the tolls so they can finish building the road in front of you -- Grommit furiously laying down train tracks in 'The Wrong Trousers' springs to mind...

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