Wednesday, 3 February 2016

A journey to Germany and a divorce from BMW imminent

The trip to the Elefanttreffen was another thing off my must do list and coincidentally also finished my relationship with BMW (broken motorcycles worldwide) We set out on Saturday 23rd January and had an uneventful run to the ferry at DFDS Newcastle. Great to see a former work colleague at the services just off the A1, Pete is now a motorcyclist and had come along to see us. We then headed to the ferry and basically straight through and on the boat nice and early. I noticed a couple of buses despatching the “mini cruise” passengers and decided to upgrade to Commodore class, expensive but worth every penny. These mini cruises are used as booze cruises and this is why generally in the Summer I avoid Saturday or Friday night sailings, not that I’m against drink (as most of you will know)  but can’t be bothered with the boorish behaviour that comes with an overindulgence of alcohol amongst those who haven’t learned to hold their liquor.
Off the ferry an hour late due to heavy seas into a very grey Ijmuiden, normal really, even in the Summer. The outfit grounded as I got off the boat and realisation dawned that its too low for real adventure stuff or even getting of a boat really.

Through Holland on a Sunday is the best way to go, no trucks on the road and we quickly entered Germany, going down the 45 towards Kaichen just North of Frankfurt. We had all weather except sunshine, grey, cold, rain, sleet and snow but bizarrely it was an enjoyable run. The big issue was that with a fully loaded sidecar with two of us and riding at 70-80mph we were only getting just under 30MPG, this meant a careful eye was needed for fuel stops. I always struggle in Germany to find signs advising you where the fuel stations are. A late lunch stop saw us see snow for the first time, this is what we prepared for and came for, I managed to choke on my spag bolog and throw up which wasn’t part of the plan, apologies to my fellow diners. We turned off the motorway to find fuel got back on the motorway then found a service station about 5 miles further down the road, typical.
We arrived at Tomas and Andrea’s house to the usual welcome and the usual nonsense ensued, I was 1.7 Litres of whisky poorer in the morning and was missing a few more brain cells which I must add I can ill afford. This meant a later start than envisaged then a 170 mile ride to the very pretty town of Bamberg, well worth a visit, full of authentic drinking and eating places, as you might imagine food was more of a priority than drink that evening. A ride through the town in the morning was pleasant and revealed some pretty buildings we’d missed the night before. We decided to head to a village quite close to the rally for a final night of luxury before entering the lions den. Near some services near Regensburg we met some German guys heading to the rally, our first sighting of fellow loonies, then Clayton and Jill arrived on a GS12 with a Ural chair, loaded to the gunnels with camping gear and even a stove, we were to find this sin’t unusual. I can recommend the Hotel Gasthof Kammbrau in Zenting which is only about 5 miles from the meeting. There was deep snow but the roads were cleared as you might expect, we stocked up on essential provisions in Zenting (mainly whisky) and headed to the rally.
Leaving Scotland (again)
Food and sick stop, note the weather!
Andrea manning Tomas's personal bar
Tomas in full flow with his Scottish fiver
Fellow Elefant goers
At the digs in Zenting
To be honest when I arrived it was with a sense of Déjà vu, I’d watched many of the you tube videos associated with the event and it was all recognisable. We rode in and looked for camping spaces, there was snow with ice below it but it seemed to be melting. We rode to the bottom of the hill, decided this wasn’t a great idea then got stuck trying to get back up. Within five minutes of arriving we had to get a tow from the organisers in their 4 wheel drive Polaris, the shame.
Deja Vu 
Idiot being towed

We found a spot but first had to dig some snow to park the outfit then dig the snow to make space for the tent. The organisers sell straw bales which people use as seats and to put under the tent for insulation and to put in the muddy bits.
Our neighbours lent us a bigger snow shovel which was kind of them, everybody seemed to be so friendly. After the tent was up we stopped the guys going around selling wood and bought some, one of our neighbours (from the group that lent us the shovel) came down with his chainsaw and chopped it up into manageable bits. We thanked him and Archy asked us to join them for dinner in their club tent (Bikerstammtish Auzenkirchen e.V a medium size marquee ) I was surprised to see a table inside laid with plates and cutlery, they were all incredibly nice and supplied us with beer and water as well, the meal was fantastic. We didn’t want to outstay our welcome so we went back to our tent and started a fire. The evening was spent watching the mayhem around us, someone told me that “this place is like a zoo, just sit and watch” I was happy enough to watch the goings on from our fire. Guys on Urals and MZ outfits, pissed up screaming up and down the access roads, crowds at the Imbiss (a kind of beer kiosk near us) cheering when somebody done anything really stupid. Fireworks going off to loud cheers (they are banned) all madness was here. We turned in eventually but Fiona who wasn't helping me with the whisky had a bad night with the cold creeping up from the ground. Thursday we wandered around as the place got busier, the madness continued, impromptu races up and down the big hill where we’d got stuck, now a bit of a quagmire.

Tent up, happy Fiona
looking back up the hill
ideal coolbox
congestion, note the trailer with hay!
In the club tent
Our neighbours bike, loads of pics got taken of this
Looking for a place to camp
Urals everywhere
sledge getting towed
Wood collecting
Interesting outfit, look at the snow chains
This got thrashed all weekend
Tank art
some of our pals from Bikerstammtish Auzenkirchen e.V
Our woodcutter, super nice guy
not sure how far this guy travelled
different, look at the outrigger wheels
Brit registered MZ's with ski's
Our new Spanish friend Jaf from Spain on a Vespa 300 scooter 
Top bar
Getting busy
and crazy
with style
 We chatted to the fellow Brit’s off and on all day, we met Jaf (Jose Antonio Fernandez) from Spain who had come to the rally on his 300cc Vespa, looking at his bike I spotted stickers for the most extreme rallies I'd heard off which he’d been to, respect. Later on Steva and Paulo (Guzzi riders) from Italy camped next door, we spoke for a while and exchanged Grappa and Whisky, the fire started again and we had plenty visitors as the night went on. Joe from Germany who we’d met in the Summer and his pals appeared, we all talked late into the night, well until my last bottle of whisky got broken during an early morning bit of log cutting  then I decided to call it a night.

Camp fire
I liked this shot, atmospheric
Hmm it's difficult to find your pals 
Nice Guzzi outfit (many of them)
Vista from Thursday afternoon
Joe (Left), Fiona and Paulo share a drink
In deep Guzzi conversation with Steva
Steva and Paulo left in the morning to head to near Prague because it was too warm!
Friday morning and we were leaving, I was told to try to get out early as the incoming volumes would make it difficult to get out later on. We were packed, bike warmed up and said our goodbyes by 9 am. Then as I put it into gear to leave the bike stalled and lurched forward, the clutch was knackered somehow. Fiona went to try and get me a tow but the organisers were busy ferrying the previous nights casualties to the medical centre. I called my insurance company’s breakdown service and gave the guy on the other end my coordinates and told him I needed recovered to the Nearest BMW dealer , luckily a guy passed in a tractor and kindly towed me out of the increasing mayhem, he parked us in the other side of the barrier which is forbidden except for organisers, locals and broken down BMW’s.
After 5 hours of standing around in the freezing cold and countless expensive calls back to the UK our truck arrived and took us to the BMW dealer in Passau, my hope was that they could fix it by lunchtime on Saturday and we could head home. We were told the mechanic finished at 3pm in the Winter on a Friday so they couldn’t look at it till Monday, really, I reckon of the 6000 odd bikes at the rally 15 miles away 3000 were BMW’s and they had no mechanics on, Doh.
I called the insurance and they agreed to get us a hire car the following day. A taxi into town and turned away by the first Hotel, probably because we looked like refugees, we were carrying all our bike gear, tent, clothes, sleeping bags etc as we have a meeting next week and didn’t want to leave anything behind. Our taxi driver eventually dropped us at a family run bar/hotel just outside town, superb and good beer. We were both exhausted, it had been a stressful day not helped one bit by the Insurance company who were sowing seeds of doubt as to whether they would repatriate the bike. The beer and food went down very well. Saturday we taxi’d to the car rental company, picked up our car and headed back to the Hotel to pick up our luggage, At 10am there were guys in the bar having beer with their breakfast, when I said to the owner she said “yes this is a Bavarian breakfast” so funny.

It was busy Friday
Sleeping bags being dried, oh no
BMW on truck, oh no
Got the T shirt
We headed North stopping Near Koblenz for the night and then Sunday to Haarlem in Holland to drop off the hire car. A nice night in a very nice hotel then a taxi to the ferry in the afternoon  then the struggle on with all our luggage as a foot passenger. A storm was coming in just to top it off so we had a rough crossing and 2 hours late into Newcastle, yet another hire car and home.

A great trip spoiled by the ultimate adventure bike BMW, the adventure in adventure bike for BMW means figuring out how do you get home when it breaks down or how long do you have to wait for the dealer to fix it. Enough is enough we are selling the 650’s and the sidecar (when it gets home and gets fixed) I wouldn’t trust them to get to the end of the road.

The trip was great, met lots of great people, saw loads of nice and funny things, now got the badge (Fi has the T shirt ) I will buy another sidecar at some point (just not with a BMW attached) the other revelation was after spending so long speeding through Germany to get to other places I realise we’ve missed out on the many nice places there are to see in Germany, and the beers not bad either
Broken Motorcycles Worldwide


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