Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Silk Route Trip 2005

4/18/05 Flight to Munich was ok. Naturally I have some dreads of how the bike will be and if all will go well and if I find the BMW dealership starting off from the airport etc but let’s get there and we will see.

4/19/05 I had made arrangements to take the bus from the airport and that worked out great. I took the airport bus to the city and I am glad I did. The taxi would have been way too expensive. The airport is a good 1 hour from the city center. I spoke to the bus driver, who looked at me funny, seeing me travel with a motorcycle helmet as my luggage. Of course it helps a great deal when you speak the language. He was kind enough to pull over on the way to his final stop, he even helped me get a taxi and stuck me in this taxi, told the woman driver in Bavarian where I wanted to go and off I went to the BMW dealer “BWM Niederlassung” and checked out the used bike I bought and all seems ok. That is a great burden off my shoulders. I took a chance on this bike. I bought it sight unseen and it had 22566 miles on it when I bought it. So, it’s not a new bike and has been ridden thru Africa and been shipped around the world. This was not a bike that stood in somebody’s garage being pampered. The bike is set up close to what I will need but I have to add some things I feel are essential things. I can make due with the set up as it is but while I am in Germany it’s better if I do it here. The best place for adding things to my kind of bike is Touratech in the Black Forest region. I have an appointment with them in 2 days and will go there. Fred Meyers, of BMW Niederlassung, did a good job prepping or preserving this bike I just bought. To not just walk out without giving the dealer any business, I bought some spare parts; I immediately noticed they are a lot cheaper here then in the U.S. Miles on bike: 22566

4/20/05 Wed. Fred Meyers gave me the address of a Hotel right across the street from BMW Niederlassung and I slept there the first night. It is only a convenience Hotel, nothing special except that it is expensive. When I travel I like to find unique places, unique does not mean expensive to me. I like to find the local charm in a place and this hotel was just like many other hotels, a bit sleek and definitely not one to be remembered as ‘outstanding’. I picked up the bike across the street at BMW Niederlassung and left in cold and rain on my ride from Munich to Niedereschach. Niedereschach is the Corporate Headquarter of Touratech. A very small town in the Black Forest and a bit hard to find even with a map. Getting going from Munich I can say the Bike runs fine. Everything works, shifting, compression, handling is ok. It feels just like the bike I have at home. The saddle is a bit low for me but it is wider then what I am use to. Let’s see how it is after the Autobahn ride. For future references I need to remember to take the Exit “Villingen” off the Autobahn because it led to the next Road on the left towards the town of Dauchingen. It was real easy to find Dauchingen, the town with the Hotel. Niedereschach is so small it does not have a Hotel. So, Hans, remember, find Dauchingen, then you will find Niedereschach automatically. Dauchingen is about 6 Km away from Niedereschach. I booked a room in the “Schwarzwaelder Hof” in Dauchingen.
Yes, they have other hotels but this is the best one. Nice people operate this place and it is not too expensive and HAS the uniqueness I like in a place. The owners of the Hotel let me use their garage and I used their personal space to let my stuff dry. I was really wet from riding the stretch from Munich to here and it felt good to have a dry place to rest for the night. The food in the Restaurant in front of the Hotel, run by relatives of the Hotel owners, is very good. Yes, typical German food. I loved eating the fatty pork meat ‘Eintopf’ even so I usually don’t care for fatty meat. The service is great and friendly. The whole area of the Black Forest has a nice aire about it, a nice place to spend a vacation. Well, I did not come here for Vacations. I need to be at Touratech early tomorrow morning.

4/21/05 Thu Niedereschach Rain, cool
I have trouble sleeping at night; it must be the time change. I lie awake for hours just waiting for morning. Of course I fall asleep a few hours before it’s time to get up. I Overslept! Not really, I got up at 8am but it feels like it.
Being that close to my destination I got to Touratech at 9 AM but was the 2nd in line to get through the door. Touratech is a “slow” place. It is not operated like Corporations in the hectic U.S. Coming from the nutty New York area it is a real adjustment on my part to see people work like that. People are friendly but they have their own way. “Slow” opening at 9 AM and lunch is already at 12 noon. Lunch is from 12 to 2 PM. That was only 3 hours of work in the morning, 3 hours before lunch starts. Then they work from 2 to 5 in the afternoon. Again just 3 hours. 6 hours work total in a given day. It is very difficult for me to understand and to live with; coming from 24 hours stores in the U.S. I find it frustrating.
In addition I feel isolated waiting while they work on my bike. I’m sure they will do the job right but nobody “asks” anything. Nobody comes and tells me when the job will be done. It’s poor communication. I am used to being coddled by service people.
NO internet available for the waiting customer. It’s poor thinking! They have internet at every desk, why not have terminals for waiting customers?
Free coffee is good. Free Mineral water is good. Still, I like to be informed, like to “know”. I guess they are NOT set up for repair jobs and installations. Touratech is more of a shipping Headquarters. But only 6 hours a day of work? It boggles my mind that this can be so in an industrialized Nation like Germany. Don’t they have competition? Or are we in the U.S. nuts for working like we do and the Germans are doing it right?
I tried to call home during the 2 hour lunch break, no luck! I walked to Niedereschach, about 20 minutes down the hill from the Touratech office and tried 2 phone booths. No connections! Yes, Niedereschach is a small town. Lady on the “phone” (operator) could not help either, even so I explained everything in German to her. (Or maybe she was on her lunch break, too and did not want to think) No internet available in town as well! So it’s waiting, waiting! Waiting to call home, to find internet, to have bike set up, waiting!
Finally, at 4.30pm my bike is ready! New Ohlin’s shocks installed; a better luggage holder behind the rear seat and the catalytic converter removed. I am ready to go to China.

4/22/05 Fri Kirchheim Nice weather
What a glorious day! A great day to get back on the Autobahn and give this fixed machine of mine a trial run to Kirchheim. I said good bye to the folks in the Black Forest, gave the owner of the hotel, a BMW rider himself, stuff I found in the panniers (a cable to lock the bike, an extra lock, a net to hold stuff down, etc) and off I go. The ride was ok and I got to Frankfurt/Kirchheim without a hitch. No problem, great riding weather and the Bike ran fine except…….
After coming off the Autobahn, at a traffic light the engine stalled. Oh no! That should not happen and can be dangerous if and when power is needed in an emergency. What is wrong? The bike ran fine! Right away my mind runs wild! Questions shoot thru my head in rapid order and I want immediate answers. Do I have to adjust the fuel flow? Is it too lean, too rich? How will that affect my trip? My mind is like that, right away I want to know answers, and I want to know what I can do; just because the bike stalled at a traffic light. I did nothing! Waiting for it to happen again seems the best answer!
I knew Stefan Knopf would not be at home but I talked to him and he said I could use his shop when I would come to Kirchheim. I went to his house to check in to his B&B, say hello to his wife Petra, and then I went to Stefan’s’ shop. I added oil to the engine, learning in the process how much or how little oil this new bike needs. Every BMW bike ‘eats’ oil and I always carry some oil with me. I used the left over oil from last year’s trip I had stored at Stefan’s. I noticed that the bike did not need much oil but it needed some oil. Next I played mechanic and set up the bike with stuff I hopefully will NOT need on the trip. I tied spare clutch and brake handles to bike, bolted brake pads to license plate holder, pre-drilled holes for the Chinese license plate we will get and just checked every bold and nut. This is just a precaution and makes me feel better having checked over the bike, one screw at the time. Over the years I learned that things shake loose and while the bike runs ok, it is a good practice to always check for stuff on the bike. Are the tires ok? Look for things lodged in the treads! I visually just give it a quick check. Listen for rattles, pull and tug gently, look for things that might be loose, etc. It’s just like insurance and Stefan’s place was as good as any place. I do this check in parking lots; I don’t really need a mechanics shop like Stefan’s. Everything was ok, just….the bike stalled at the light, however, remember? While it still bugged me I pushed it aside in my mind and did nothing. Maybe it was because I removed the catalytic converter and the bike runs different now. I did not notice anything different, but who knows. Forget about it, Hans, it will be ok, you will find out what did it.
I went back to the B&B and I noticed no change in the town of Kirchheim, same town as last year. It is a small town and life goes on without any great upheaval for most of the decade. Behind Stefan’s B&B was an empty lot last year, now some new apartments are going up, but that is about it. I immediately get this ‘small time’ feeling when I am in Germany. Everyday is the same, nothing great happens. The people here like the status quo. I hate it! I could never go back and live in Germany. It bugs me to see ‘no changes’ and yet, it is nice to know it exists. Guess I am having flash backs from Oppum or from Uerdingen.
At Stefan’s I met Marcus from Chicago. He is waiting for his wife coming in on Monday. He came a few days earlier to pick up his bike, a brand new bike with “new” front end.
He tells me the story that last year with only 80 miles on his bike a 25 year old kid hit his front end. Marcus went down and was lucky; he only broke his right wrist and a finger.
His wife got bruises but nothing more serious. Now, this year, they want to finish last year’s trip. Plus, they want to see Carcarsonne, France. I gave him some hints about France, the way they eat lunch at 1 pm sharp, on how they eat breakfast, etc. He was thankful for my tips but he was also eager to go and find out for himself what France is all about. Marcus was THE Photographer who did the work for Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs. Marcus made a good living plus some extra, which he put away each year. With both catalogs going out of business and now digital photography taking hold, he closed his shop and is now selling his good, old, expensive Hasselblatt cameras on eBay. Nice guy, this Marcus fellow! We had dinner at night near the B&B and were joined by Petra, who has a build in baby sitter for her 4 kids now that her oldest daughter is 13 years old. Time flies when you look at children and see how fast they grow.

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