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GPS – Going Places Slowly…

Crossing the bridge into Bernkastel-kues was a pretty exciting moment. I was on a high all the way that morning from where I’d camped on a wind generator farm.

It proved disappointing to later find that my helmet camera hadn’t functioned after taking a movie of the great day’s ride, with a few steep hills, alongside the river, through the tunnel and into the most beautiful town I’ve ever seen. Bernkastel-kues is nestled beneath steep slated hills covered with vineyards, beside the lovely Mosel.

Barges and passenger boats ply the river constantly, while traditional brass bands play to the crowds of visitors that flock to the region every summer. Lynne was on bridge to capture Effie & I as we rode proudly into town. Of course it’s never fun trying to negotiate traffic, especially scores of motor homes that I encountered on roundabouts and traffic lights that always seem to change just as I approach but to see her jumping up and down as Effie and I came over the rise made my heart leap.

I’d hardly stepped from the bike before I had my first interview for the day. One or two other early arrivals were there but most were expected the next day. That evening Dieter, the amazing rally organizer and his family, invited Lynne & I to join them for a wonderful supper where we sampled Federweisser a deliciously fruity young wine that has not yet finished fermenting. This wine is available for only a short period each year and is called federweisser because it resembles white feathers in your glass.

Dieter himself makes wine and each entrant in the rally was treated to a bottle of his special vintage, complete with FN label & cap. Thomas, our wonderful friend who organized the tyres be sent to Iran, drove several hundred kilometres to meet us at Bernkastel. It was so great to finally get to know him and it was as if we were old friends. Before he left for home Thomas presented me with a lovely momento – a book featuring the age of Indian motorcycles, one of his special passions.

The rally next day proved challenging as after six kms I had to withdraw due to a mechanical problem. Pieter a local chap kindly lent me his workshop and did some welding. At first when I began hearing an unusual noise I suspected the transmission gears were out of alignment – a major problem. But on removing the rear wheel and engine, (I’m getting proficient at this now), the only obvious cause was the clutch dog that was terribly worn on one face. The transmission gears themselves were still perfect. The same noise though re-occurred a week later and I found it was only the pedal gear housing rubbing on the tyre! What a bummer, I missed riding in the rally because of a false diagnosis. I should have realized that Effie wasn’t about to give up that close to home.

That afternoon I had lunch with two other blog followers, Mark & Geert from the Netherlands. Talk about a small world. When I showed them a picture of a previous restoration, Mark informed me that he had the same picture on his wall! He’d found a magazine in an old bookstore (I think in NZ when he was visiting there) and flicking through it, admired my AJS that had been used on a calendar that was a supplement to the magazine. What are the chances of that happening? Also while we were lunching a guy stopped to say hello who I’d met previously when he was traveling in Romania. I had mentioned I was riding to Bernkastel and he decided to ride 200kms to meet me again! Unfortunately we didn’t get the time I would have liked to spend chatting as we were being hurried to the hall for the Rally presentation. If that Kawasaki rider is reading this, do send me an email.

I was honoured to be the recipient of the longest distance trophy and grateful to all those people who helped get me here. Dieter does such a splendid job of organizing this annual rally and to be part of the 10th anniversary FN run was very humbling given the attention paid to me and Effie. There were many people present who’d followed my journey since its inception and it was terrific to meet them all. Congratulations to all the others who also traveled there from 10 different countries to make this a great weekend.

For those who stayed on til Sunday there was a boat trip organized and a tour of one of the many locks which operate on the Mosel. Dieter had a surprise for me which was to have been a float plane ride, but due to heavy fog it had to be cancelled. Such a shame, but the kindness and generosity behind this though were warmly appreciated. Thank you Dieter.

Before I set off for Belgium next day Dieter and Marita, a local tour guide and reporter showed me around the old town with its fascinating history and architecture. Many buildings still show the high water mark of floods dating back to the 1700’s.

I rode out of Bernkastel while Lynne caught a series of trains to Belgium, this time with much more luggage than she’d had before. Both of us left with many wonderful memories, newfound friendships and experienced the warmth and generous hospitality of so many people. I may not have GPS on my bike but “Going Places Slowly” has meant I’ve come into contact with people I might never have got to meet and enjoyed experiences that only Effie could provide. One of the things that tickled me was to see people photographing my “GPS” route directions – just simple bits of paper with town names listed and attached to the tank for easy reading. I may not have the latest tracking equipment but what I have works well and sure beats unfolding maps in the wind!

Now it’s on to Liege & Herstal, Effie’s birthplace. I wonder if she senses my excitement now that we are so close to the end.

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