In 1998:
Route Map
01 Extremadura
02 Cabo de Gata
03 Mallorca
04 Ronda
05 Madrid

In 1999:
06 Sevilla
07 Mojácar
08 Towards Norway

Rocinante the Tiger:
On the Road
An accident

And some more:
The Short Story
Bars in Andalusía
Nerja and Axarquía
Photo Gallery
The road home 2001

Go to Pan American Home

Rocinante goes North

The day had finally arrived when Rocinante was going to Norway for her new life in the cold North. I wanted to make the trip along with her instead of sending the bike on a boat or truck, simply because the trip sounded tempting. The idea was to do as many kilometres as possible each day and then just see how many days I needed to complete the 3200km journey from Malaga, southern Spain to Stathelle, southern Norway. Bente chose to stay home. She had her work to attend, and we agreed that, with this scenario, the trip was better done alone. It proved to be both challenging in unpredicted areas and a lot of fun.

The journey took me straight north to Pamplona, then along the west coast of France, further in a almost straight line from Bordeaux to Trier in the Mosel valley, then finally north to Kiel where a ferry brought me to Oslo and not to Gothenburg as planned.

A village in the Pyrenees

Getting started

The flight from Norway took me back to Malaga airport once again, in the evening on Monday the fifth of April, 1999. I jumped in a taxi and soon after stood in the workshop of Antonio Luis Motor, for the last time I guess. The bike was ready to go, except for the thick layer of dust that covered her from head to tail. Before I managed to protest, one of the mechanics had taken off on Rocinante to clean her up at the local petrol station. I held my breath and regretted not stopping him. I didn't like a stranger running away with the only mean of travel I had. What if he crashed it on the way? What would they say - 'Relax, we'll fix it in a matter of days!'? No way, I was ready to start the next morning.

The bike returned safe and I drew my breath in relief. A few more items were sorted out and at six thirty in the evening I left the dealer with best wishes for my journey. I quickly decided to make a last visit to Nerja for the night and start the drive in the morning.

Beatrix and Derek, our expatriated Mexican/British friends, greeted me with incredulous smiles when I arrived on their doorstep, saying 'you're not supposed to be here'. I explained the trip I was making and stayed for dinner.

Day one, sweat pours down

It was ten o'clock in the morning when I hit the road with San Sebastian as goal for the day, 1000 km north. The breakfast at hostal Miguel starts at nine and I just had to wait for it, remembering it as delicious from earlier visits. The Swedes who run the place gave me more good wishes and finally I started a journey I had wished to do for so long and at the same time feared for the shear length.

The road turned north at Motril and I made a good first leg, with about 150 km before my first coffee break. The weather was a bit too good this early and I anticipated temperatures well over 30ºC later in the day.

It got hotter as the day got older and in the high plains that surrounds Jaén I started to feel pretty boiled. This part of the trip went through known terrain and it wasn't before Ocaña, close to Aranjuez, that I left the motor way and entered unknown territory. I chose this route to avoid the heavy traffic around Madrid and to get off the high speed road for a while.

The heat really got to me now and I was in a foul mood,  thinking thoughts like 'What the hell have I got myself into'. The first 500 km was done and I was totally exhausted, feeling my head was going to boil over. My new BMW helmet helped me a little since it is possible to open up the front. Whenever the speed got low enough I opened up and let the air cool my face.

The frustration I felt lasted for a few more hours. Strangely enough, when it started to rain in the evening and I cooled down, my mood raised again to stay up for the rest of the day. At about 750km I had more or less decided to stop for the night. The rain made me do another 220km and at ten o'clock in the evening I was in Pamplona. San Sebastian was not far away, but in the wrong direction, so I decided to stay.

One whisky in the bar and a short stroll in the street outside was enough to knock me over. I fell asleep before I hit the bed.

Day two, France in slow motion

Last stop in Spain I woke up at seven and realised my neck was stiff as hell. Pain was radiating out into both shoulders and I could hardly turn my head to the right. An small and stupid accident some 13 years ago had weakened my neck and twelve hours of fighting the winds the day before had clearly left it's marks.

It improved a little over breakfast which consisted of a sweet cookie and coffee in the hotel bar, but I was a little worried how this would affect the driving the rest of the trip.

The sky was dark so I dressed for rain and set off north into the Pyrenees knowing I was going over a couple of mountain passes before entering France. Not to my surprise my buttocks started to ache after a few kilometres. After all I hadn't driven the bike for a couple of months when I started. So with all my small pains and worries I climbed the cold looking mountains at eight in the morning. The cold was actually my least worry, I had clothes enough for a trip to the Himalayas.

I drove slowly and enjoyed the mountainous terrain and the several villages I passed through when my forehead started to itch like I never had felt before. I felt very stupid stopping every few kilometres to remove the helmet and scratch my head. This was not a lucky start.

A village in the mountains called for a short stop so I could have a look at the souvenirs in the last Spanish shop before France. The owner was in his fifties with a hunchback and a maddeningly twist in his neck every other second. He sold me a bottle of Moscatel wine and a piece of Jamon Serrano and we spoke for a while about my trip and the winter they had this year.

France came without any signs or remnants of a custom gate. I didn't know I had entered a new country before the next village showed signs in French. Neither did I have a road map of the country, so the first task of the day was to get this. The guy at the local petrol station shook his head when I asked if he spoke English or Spanish. When I pointed at a roadmap of France and said 'Pesetas?', he shook his head again and I left disappointed and a little annoyed, a few kilometres across the border and it was like Spain never existed.

The course was set for Bayonne on the west coast. I knew roughly where to go and planned to drive towards Bordeaux and find a road map on one of the service stations along the motorway.

The mood was good, in spite of the never ending itch. My neck was a lot better and I hardly felt any of the pain from the morning. I didn't make much progress though, after three hours I had made about 180 km. If I continued like this it would take me weeks to get home.

This part of France was a disappointment to me with never ending straight roads, heavy traffic and the forests screening out any views.

I passed Bordeaux and got off the motorway towards Angoulême and further towards Limoges and Bourges for the night. The N10 was packed with traffic and progress was slow. At a coffee and lunch stop I had to create a temporary head band to deal with the itching on my forehead. This may sound like a trivial problem, but I can assure you that it wasn't to me. My forehead skin had dried out on the first day and the fabric in my new helmet was not yet worn down enough. The head band solved the problem immediately and I was once again a happy, smiling biker driving through new terrain, singing along with a voice only a mother can love. Fortunately the helmet protected the people I passed from the terror.

As day turned to night the weather got worse and heavy, dark clouds surrounded me in every direction. But I stayed dry. At times it felt like I had to draw my elbows closer together to avoid the showers on both sides.

The mood had dropped a little again. This country wasn't made for communication, unless speaking French. I didn't and was left alone on my breaks when people realised I was completely incompetent in their language. Never ending France

When I drove in towards Bourges around eight in the evening I had covered another 740 km and felt reasonably satisfied. A small hotel on the outskirts of town glowed with red neon signs, just telling me to get in there. It suited me perfect, not having to enter the town and throw away more time than I wanted. I got my room, parked Rocinante just outside the entrance, the manager promising that the bike was safe, and had a long chat with Bente back home. The dinner was consumed with three bottles of Guinness. I was dead tired for the second night, but I was also happy that I'd made so much progress despite driving on backroads the most of the day.

Day three, entering high speed Germany

The morning light and a telephone call from the reception woke me up at seven. A short walk around the room revealed more neck pain and an extra tail bone. I anticipated a painful day. The reflection from the mirror was that of a Mongolian male, both my eyes were swollen from the many hours of driving. None of this took my good mood away, though. I was ready for day three and planned to get at least 800 km more on the clock. If I did I would have no problem catching the seven o'clock ferry from Kiel to Gothenburg the next evening.

At eight I was on the road again. This time I drove through nicer scenery than the day before. The road led me through many small villages in the direction of Troyes, Metz and finally Trier in Germany.

It seemed to me that the neck pain and extra tail bone were fading away after a while. I started to feel adjusted to the bike again and were really able to enjoy the nature around me. The route I had chosen for the first part of the day was more back roads with varying traffic. At times it was heavy and after a while I got more aggressive, passing hundreds of cars in a few hours. This culminated in a near miss that could have ended in a fatal collision. Ahead of me was a straight stretch of road and I saw twenty odd cars where three of them were signalling that they were going to overtake the car ahead of them. The first two cars changed lane while the third seemed to hesitate. I was ready to overtake this one even though the car was still signalling. Very stupid indeed. The car never intended to overtake anyone. He was making a left turn into a small dirt road that I had missed. I hit the brakes hard and stopped a few meters from a frightened old man in a small Renault. He looked at me with angry eyes. All I could do was to signal with body and arms that it was all my fault. I drove on and after a little while my heartbeat was back to normal. That was the third time during my nearly 10 years on bikes that I made the same near miss. Maybe I've learned now.

I drove slower the rest of the trip to Trier where I made a new stop to call home. I had now made enough distance to say for certain that I would catch the ferry the next day from Kiel to Gothenburg. Bente would book me in. It started to get dark and I hit the road again after a chocolate bar and a cigarette.

I got myself through Trier and onto the German autobahn in half an hour. Finally on the high speed road again, I crept behind the windshield, put my sore butt halfway up on the pillion and opened the throttle. I calmed down around 160 km/hour and stayed in this speed for the next hours, interfered only by short stops to loosen up muscles and refill the petrol tank and my nicotine level. At nine in the evening, on a fuel stop between Köln and Dortmund, my eyes caught the familiar and tempting red neon sign from a hotel up in the hill above the gas station. I gave in to the temptation and got myself a room. The target for the day was made, 800 km in 13 hours.

Bente informed me over the telephone that the seven o'clock ferry to Gothenburg was fully booked, there wasn't even space for a lousy motorcycle. Damned it. Our brains worked overtime to find an alternative. Could I possibly go to Fredrikshavn in northern Denmark and take the night ferry from there? The trip would add another 500-600 km to the next days ride and I would probably not get there in time. I could go up to Helsingborg/Helsingør, but this wouldn't give me a night ferry which meant another night in hotel and a lot more kilometres. What about the Kiel-Oslo ferry the day after? The only problem was that the ferry left at two in the evening and I was 550 km away with swollen eyes and exhausted from the three long days I had been on the road. We discussed the different options and finally agreed that I would go for the Kiel-Oslo ferry, if I felt ready for it in the morning. Bente would book me in as soon as the ticket office opened on Friday. The ferry company  had already confirmed that there was plenty of vacancy. I said goodbye with promises of 'safety first' for the next days ride. The reception promised to wake me up at six thirty. My eyelids shut and it got dark.

Fourth day, sprinting towards Kiel and the ferry

I woke up to a screaming sound. It took several minutes before I realised it was the wakeup. After a quick breakfast I felt surprisingly ready to go. My eyes were swollen as never before, but my butt and neck seemed to have adjusted, the pains were less now than on day two.

Rocinante was at this stage dirty with Spanish mosquitos-terribles decorating the front and a chain that desperately needed a tighten up. I double checked it to be sure I wouldn't get into problems. Both tires were worn down a lot. They would be replaced once in Norway. The screw behind the generator which had loosened and was replaced on warranty - after god know how many man hours of searching for the problem, even though I told the garage what the source was - had loosened again and the familiar screaming metallic noise was back. This time I knew at least what the sound was and didn't have to worry about it. All in all the bike was worn but had no serious problems. I decided to go for the two o'clock ferry.

At seven forty I was on the road, soon doing 160-170, riding position down behind the screen, ear protectors on, warm underwear - shirt  - wool sweater - another sweater - warm inner lining and finally the Bullson suit. It was no more than 10-11ºC but again I was dressed for the Himalayas.

I stopped for a coffee and a cigarette after one hour. The speed had varied between 140 and 195 - which was the maximum Rocinante would do with saddle bags and top box - and I had made 155 km in exactly one hour. I was impressed. Never before have I even been close to such a number. I was convinced I would be in Kiel in time.

I continued doing around 160 km/hour and made three more stops. It was more convenient and even felt safer to drive in speeds around 160 than 130. On the two lane autobahn the trucks did 100-110 in the right lane and the faster cars did 150-200 in the left lane. If I did 130 I had to switch right and left all the time, making the drive look more like slalom. But if I did 160-170 I could stay in the left lane most of the time. Sometimes however, small insect sized cars in the mirror would grow to huge dimensions in a matter of seconds. I had to look out for this all the time and do a small detour to the right lane to let the car pass me.

At twelve o'clock I stopped the bike outside the ferry terminal and walked in to buy the ticket. I had made the 550 km in less than four and a half hour. I wasn't even extremely exhausted, just plainly crashed out after being exposed to hurricane winds for half a day. Before one o'clock I was in my cabin and called Bente. When she picked up the phone in her office I simply simulated the sound you make after the first sip of an extremely tasteful beer has passed your lips and said, "That's the sound the guys in the bar will hear from me in ten minutes time". She didn't believe I was calling already and wasn't quite happy when I told her about my drive. But it was soon forgotten and we were both glad that we would see each other again the next day.

My thirst for a cold beer led me through the ship to the only bar I found that served Guinness. The bartender smiled at my sound so I told him why the beer tasted better than anything I could remember. I had two more. Then I went upstairs and crashed out on the bed for the next four hours.

I woke up hungry and went for a huge dinner at a steak house. The lamb did wonders for my body along with the bottle of wine and the coffee and cognac afterwards. I was in a good mode, thinking back on the three exhausting but adventurous and fun days since I started in Nerja Tuesday morning. I was also happy because I had made the longest trip ever and shattered all my previous trip records. I know it might sound childish, but this was part of my thing regarding this trip. I wanted to try to stretch my limits and see how much driving I could take without it affecting safety. I felt I had come through on top of it, with the near miss in France as the only - although a little scary - exception.

Final day, a short trip to Stathelle

It felt strange to take Rocinante off the ferry and onto Norwegian soil. She didn't belong here, but rather in the Andalucian highland. I wondered if she would see it again.

The custom office was filled up with people, and I almost freaked out in my armour when the two French women in front of me told the officer that they had thirty-two dogs with them from France. Luckily they didn't have to check every dog, but still it took me almost one hour to get to the desk. I filled out the declaration form and had three days to take the bike to the local custom office in Skien.

The drive from Oslo to Stathelle, 165 km  south-west of the capital, was done in two hours and at mid day Rocinante was parked outside our house and Bente opened the door.

We kissed and hugged for a long time before I started to unload the bike. Then we fired up the fire place and talked for hours about my trip.

It was over, done in only a few days an it felt slightly unreal. I had left Stathelle on Monday morning. It was noon Saturday and I was back already.

The strange thing is that I could do it again any time. Even as I talked about the trip to Bente I realised that I wasn't tired of driving, not even temporarily. It's a good thing, I guess.

The End

A motorcycle wedding picture, Frigilliana, June 1st 1998

Foto Studio Baldo Ramirez, Nerja

On Two Wheels In Spain ends for now. Hopefully we will have stories to tell from a northern Spain adventure within the next year or so. Thanks for the ride.

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