to the ends of the world, vol. 2

Well, we were somewhere around Burfjord on the edge of the fjord when the drugs began to take hold… Hah! Hunter S. Thompson, I owe you my prose.
Anyway, Ingrid’s house was a spooky and creaky place, and I was surprised to wake up with all my attachments still attached. A cup of tea and ham with cheese, hey ho let’s go. Zeg revved his Kawi to ten grand and beyond and threw a gravel rooster tail the size of the Eiffel tower. Que much amusement.

Some say the Japs build great bikes these days. Opinions. But I did spend 20 years in the dirt aboard mostly Honda, so I guess they deserve a fair shot. For Baz & Zeg, here’s two pics of Kawi flower.

That morning, the thermometer showed a full 3 degrees Celsius of the warm sort. We clattered teeth for awhile – but this was the last time we were cold. You could hear the South calling, or was it perhaps the humming army of mosquitos waiting for fresh juice? Hard to tell. Again we set off at ridiculous speed – some guy on the red bike out in the front felt it was absolutely necessary for some reason to go very quickly without reason at all. The roads were, like I have to say it, stupendous. And from where we stood, we saw the road on the other side of the fjord, about a fishing rod away. After a spot of mad ballet riding, one hour later, we stood on the opposite side. That’s the beauty of Norway. You get nowhere fast while going really fast.

I had been wise not to wear a backpack, because it dilutes riding and kills your shoulders and shuts down much needed blood circulation. At this point Zeg, who had a major camel on his back, had grown tired of his white fingers. At the next gas station he marched in and in fluent Norwegian bought two big tie-downs. Me and Baz laughed and speculated loudly on how many metres he would get before the rucksack fell off at high speed and killed innocent sheep. Amazingly, it was never to fall off…

As we were crossing heavy mountains, fog fell upon us, while snow was below, if not on the road. We chugged along at about 50 for an hour. We had zero vision. A Wile. E. Coyote moment was never far away. Eventually, thankfully, the mountain recessed.

Thrills and oil spills came next. It seems that the trucks that go up and down in this places tend to be a bit overfilled. So picture this: the road is somewhat damp, but you come around a corner hot to trot, leaning over and feeling fine. Suddenly you see a long fat snake of diesel oil right where your eyes were intending your line to be. Gulp. Up with the bike! Out with the foot! But how to turn an upright bike away from the incoming armco and outgoing drop to eternal sleep? Since I’m here writing, you may draw the conclusion that we made it, and you’d be correct. For me personally, it was the only heart-stopping moment of the whole trip, which is quite an achievement when you travel 3500km around the most challenging roads in Europe while rarely really letting the bike breath…

It proved to be a long tough day. The sole single and one regret I have, is that we didn’t manage sneak off to Tromsö. It was simply too much to bite into. Meanwhile, Lofoten, the other end of the world and the first wonder of the world, was looming large on the horizon in our minds.

Lofoten. Well. L-o-f-o-t-e-n. Think. How to do it justice? Impossible. You have to see it. Words can not begin to describe the unholy beauty, practically Satanic, because the alliance of stone and water is laced with such furious black horror, danger and shadow, all while being cute as a purring kitten in your lap. I’m torn. I’m invaded. My head hurts taking it in. Lofoten is not from this world.
Ever since I read Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea as a little boy, this place has held my imagination in a vice. I’ve dreamt about the maelstrom many a time, falling into it, drowning, going to octopus hell. Unspeakable things. King crabs eat me. Pain. So much pain.

Captain Nemo came to Lofoten in Nautilus, via the ocean floor, threw his submarine into the maelstrom, committed suicide. The ghost rider came along the road, riding a red roaring Ducati, committed antisuicide. Yeah. I came in search of the extract of life, found it, drank it, felt life play pinball in body and soul.

We rode like demons to reach Sortland that day. We lost Baz on the way. When the road is narrow and coiled tight like a steel spring, and traffic plays tricks on you, next time you look back there is only Zeg there. We could have stopped. I wanted to stop and wait. But my body refused to wait. There was the scenery and road of a lifetime ahead, and in my egoistical supersearch of speed pleasure I felt I had to hunt down and knee every kink and bend in Lofoten. I am a weak man. I got swept away, seduced by the love, by the lust of life. In passion I just pinned it.

Sortland was halfway into Lofoten. In the evening, we eventually assembled our group again, sorted out some feelings, and rode as one entity the rest of the trip.

The next day was to be the last day of paradise riding on this trip. From Bodö on, it would be more civilized transportation than dirty rock n’ roll. Well, give me thunder and bells; this last fanfare was the finest day of the trip – and that’s saying some. The last half of Lofoten only confirmed that Norway is, undisputedly, easily, the most beautiful country in the world.
We got up late. We looked at our watches. We turned to the map. The Moskenes ferry, from the very tip of Lofoten, leaves in about four hours. We are at least 400 kilometers away, including one smaller ferry crossing. By now familiar with the utter insanity of the landscape, it seemed impossible.

We rolled into the Moskenes harbour on time. Like three kings, yeah, that’s how we felt.

Let’s rewind, for the road to Moskenes was… uh… perfect? I’m a lousy writer, abusing up all superlatives before the climax. Throw in the clichés to close the lid on my coffin. Just how many times can you say that you “rode like the wind through the Garden of Eden” and get away with it? But we did, dammit!! I’m stating facts! I’m under serious overwhelming here! Go see for yourself. Lofoten will steal your breath away, and if you don’t remember to ask kindly to get it back, you will die gasping for beauty. Norway is nature’s favorite son. If it only didn’t smell of rotten fish everywhere…

Last pic above, at the very end of Lofoten. The Gods of weather were, for once, on our side, at our table, on our shoulders. This is normally an angry spot…
Now, the images are very nice – yet I feel I’m ripping nature off and selling it cheap. These are sights to be enjoyed on site, in flesh. Besides, during our dash for glory from Sortland to Moskenes, we were not able to take any pictures. Not even crazy Baz let his handlebar go to snap pictures at the speeds we were hitting… but I carry these mementos inside my head. Blue lagoons with white beaches, green and grey mountains of steel soaring straight up, so far that you barely believe your eyes and hurt your neck. And the roads… ah… remembrance reduce me to tears. I may never again ride a ribbon of a road so spectacular. Once you’ve tasted a touch of divinity, everything else seems dishwater in comparison.

Ah yes. We pulled in to Moskenes with wheels on fire. Jiihaa. Sadly, our bravado soon paled when we learned that the ferry was already brimfull with busloads of fat lazy bastard tourists. We watched it take off, leaving us stranded.
You have to take it as it comes. Our amazing effort came up short, but, at least on my behalf, there is no denying I had a killer blast ripping past cars like they were going backwards. Bless us.
The next boat was to leave in the evening. We used the time to book the hotel in Bodö, and ride around on the tiptoe of Lofoten in splendid sunshine. I came across some English Ducati enthusiasts on holiday, we chatted heatedly about the best things in life, and their eyes lit up as I revved the nuts of the Hypermotard as a parting gift. The small things count…

The ferry from Moskenes to Bodö was uneventful. We hooked up with a couple of Finnish blokes. We saw whales. We had beers and shrimp. I was too tired even to worry about the maelstrom. On the horizon, Bodö beckoned. It was the first sign of civilization since Rovaniemi many thousands of kilometers ago.

We pulled up to the hotel midnight, had quick showers. All those city lights corrupted us in seconds. We hadn’t seen the shape of women for awhile. Intoxicating. Then there was thumping music, nightclubs, lots of strong and exotic alcohol. Obviously, staggering home in the morning, we had big kebabs on the way. I’ve felt better when we woke up the following hour. For once only, I didn’t feel much like riding…

Down in Mo I Rana, we came upon a racetrack, and not just any old piece of cracked tarmac, but the Arctic Circle Raceway, a magnificent F1-standard circuit in the middle of the Norwegian forest. I had planned, naturally, that we would put in some hot laps here… unfortunately, fate disagreed, and the track was booked for racing. Pah!
After this bitter pill, we stopped for disgusting hot dog p̦lse (Norwegian sausage). Then we hotfooted it over the Swedish border. In the evening a freaking weird food poisoning virus struck me Рthe p̦lse? РI became weak as victor and could not hold anything in my belly. [This incredibly vicious virus was to keep me sick as shit for almost two weeks.]

In the coming two days, we did more than 1200km, tearing through Sweden like it was a job. During these 2 days I had the worst diarrea and was barely strong enough to twist the throttle. To make matters worse – as if they could be – my rear tire started peeling. Badly. I was now paying the price for my trigger-happy riding style…

We slept over in Wilhelmina. This is mosquito heaven. In case you are not an insect, or feeding on insect, this area is best left unattended. Escape.

On the highway from Sundsvall to Stockholm, while weak as can be, I kept waiting for the tire to explode. It is not a feeling I can recommend, when surrounded by big lorries, other traffic, and wire-connected armco sidelining the road – the kind that will take your head off if you go down and slide into it. Should the rear tire go boom here, you will meet your maker. We tried to keep a steady 90, altho Zeg teased us with happy sprints. I tried to kick him off his bike.

It was late when we arrived in Grisslehamn, after 700km of fear, to spend a couple of days in the ever-pearly Swedish archipelago, courtesy of Baz’ dad. I was very happy to step off the bike that night. Then I tried a sandwich. Tasted like heaven. And I shat all night long.

Good ol’ Ove treated us like kings. Sauna, cold beer in copious amounts, akvavit, and delicious food. For my part, I could neither drink nor eat, but Baz and Zeg certainly deserved the fiesta. And even better, the following night was to be the last time I would have to listen to Zeg’s by now legendary snoring. A pneumatic drill is like an angel choir next to Zeg at full blow. Incomprehensible, completely unbearable. Well, I was busy shitting, so I failed to strangle him.

All that was left was the Eckerö ferry to Ã…land, then a short ride across Ã…land – where I prayed that my gummy bear rear tire would last all the way home. All aboard the big ferry to Ã…bo. And hugs. Men hug too. From there on we split up, and I rode straight out to Nagu to nurse myself back to health.

It had been a momentous journey. We went to the ends of the world. My friends were awesome. My bike is the best. The scenery was second to none. Can you hear me pumping on the stereo? Bike rides are not for everyone – but for us, they are the stuff of dreams. Real dreams. You know, I still pinch myself when I think of Lofoten. I get goosebumps when I hit the Nordkapp GP in my mind. I’ve so many fantastic memories from this trip that I’m afraid to lose them unless I keep them fresh every day… and I don’t know what to say anymore. Let Zeg have the last word;

to the ends of the world, vol. 1

Norway. Fjords and mountains and endless bends. On a bike. Ducati Hypermotard 1100. Why, the combination is totally – t-o-t-a-l-l-y – irresistable. For the life of me I can not figure out why I didn’t do it earlier? Perhaps because I never had anyone to go with before? This year around, another story. When our happy trio sat down for the first time back in March, you had an idea these guys won’t start weeping when it gets cold and wet, and big belly laughter will never be far away. Indeed I now stand confirmed. Baz & Zeg, princes among men.

Never mind the planning; here’s the three pistols. And off we went.

Once the tears stopped dropping inside the helmet – the goodbyes to my girls – I found us booming along the 51 to Helsinki. We all had the same feeling of crazy liberation in our souls, barely believing that this was finally coming true. A wild animal was eating my heart. I had to pop a wheelie and shout WOOHOOO. Look out world. Look the hell out.

Aside from buddies, my special companion was one Ducati Hypermotard nice and clean and prepped to the toothbrushed max, with original Ducati accessories (obviously). And can you see the sticker on the front wheel? Rubber’s fresh from the factory, man. I’m gonna lean over on this trip, you mark my words. And in that ridiculously small rear bag I managed to fit 4 socks and 4 pairs of underwear…

In Helsinki, we hogtied our brutes to the train. By the by, message to the greedy dog known as VR; we are not happy about paying full car price for bikes. VR, you suck. But we were on a deadline – there was a funeral to get back to and massive impatience to see Lapland nownownow, on the road. We woke up in Rovaniemi. It was a medium-sized miracle to see our bikes still upright after the rollercoaster night train that nearly derailed about seventythree times. Best way to travel? It is not by train.

It is by bike. To the amusement of the mosquito-bitten Rovaniemi crowd, we changed into riding gear at the train yard, and burned rubber past Santa’s workshop. Then it got cold. Then it started raining. Our situation started out as uncomfortable, changed into bad, and eventually settled on miserable. In Sodankylä we cured our frostbites with hot tea. Kaurismäki was not around, so we hauled our blue asses out of town and up to Inari.

My two Kawasaki-riding friends were cheating in their cosy Gore-Tex suits, but a hardcore biker (me) will always be smelling of leather, preferably by Dainese. While leather is really cool and totally Valentino Rossi, it is also really cold, and if it gets wet, you buy a new one. Why, I had no intention of getting my Gran Premio wet, so every time the drops fell on my nose, I had to pull a rainsuit – again, preferably by Dainese – on top of my leather suit. This is not as easy as it sounds, and takes acrobatic skills. By the time the trip was over, I had mastered the procedure. Right now, not by a longshot. But let’s not kill the rainsuit – or the condom, as it was soon nicknamed by the evil little men in Gore-Tex. Not only were I dry as the desert inside it, while even the Gore-Tex guys got a little moist in their pants during the worst downpours, it also worked as a windstopper, keeping me warm. Well, warm is not perhaps the right word. Alive. Just about.

You may now think that, since it was cold and raining, we were down and out like Bruce Springsteen in Nebraska. Hell no! We ripped Lapland apart with furious joy, and neatly avoided aquaplaning and running into Rudolf the raindeer and all his numerous friends. Just before Inari, the sun came out, the roads dried up, and the lake came in view all mysterious and glorious and religious. I had a deep Kalevala moment inside my helmet, half-expecting Iku-Turso to jump out of the dark waters and drag us down. Eerie. Where is Väinämöinen when you need him?

I had booked a cabin for us at Inari, right next to the lake, and upon arrival we immediately booked the beach-sauna away from the Germans. Naked Finland swam in Inari. We then got imaginative and drank beer and watched football on the world’s smallest TV in our cabin. Baz put us on Facebook, and Zeg snored like a walrus in a gravel factory the whole night.

Morning gave way to a chilly fog… ie, chilly while off the bike. When you moved at 200km/h (100 if the girlfriends read) chilly turns to ice age. But it was early morning and our inner fires were still burning bright and all cylinders were firing, and the Lapland roads were so easypeasy and straightfreight you could take a nap and dream about Miami for fifteen minutes and still find yourself on the road when you woke up. This changed the minute we set rubber on Norwegian soil. “Yeah!” is probably the word I’m looking for.
Soon, the drizzle and fog turned to rain. It didn’t matter. The scenery was now what one would consider exotic, and 3 pairs of eyes gobbled it up. Little did we know it was just a tiny taster of things to come.
Apart from the rain and a spell of 20km on nasty gravel, it was fine. Occasionally, when the sun came out and the roads dried up, we used the tourist buses and stray sheep for slalom practice. I would like to take this moment to thank the Norwegian road makers. Bless you, for you have no peers.
Suddenly, we exited a long tunnel to the other side of a mountain and the weather cracked down on us with the heavy whip. Oh shit. The cliffs go black with anger, roads feel so walled in and narrow, vision is, well, like looking through a long steel pipe. A couple of hundred kilometers of this, and concentration is jack-hammering your brain while you beg for mercy. Should we slow down? Have a break? Hell noo. This was no longer a vacation; it had become a mission. Damn, a riding mission to hell, touch the devil, escape his claw. Or something. It did feel like hell, I tell. Stone towers cast giant shadows, deep below the furious sea pounded away to the sound of anti-music. We were tiny mice in the picture.

And into the cold wet darkness of the Nordkapp tunnel we went. 7 kilometers long, more than 200 metres under sea level. Here, of all the places in the world you least would want to break down, the engine light on my Ducati started shining like a little fucking beacon. The bike coughed. I prayed. I cursed. I prayed again. And then I cursed some more.

Talk about emerge, truly emerge. Steady on the throttle, the bike kept climbing out of the deep hole and onto the other side. Over my wounded v-twin I think I heard angels sing. Hahaha! And you know what? Deep frozen like fish sticks we checked in at our Nordkapp cabins, and the sky turns blue. Blue! My favorite color!
We had the most expensive chicken burger ever in Honningsvåg, at 25€ a bite. But it was also the most delicious thing I have ever sank my teeth into. Having expended so much energy trying to keep the body warm enough to twist the bike into forward motion, we were so famished we would gladly have settled for a marinated chair.

We tried to find a store that would sell warm clothes. But at least we found a store that sold beer and joddlarkorv – that is “yodeling sausage” in the universal language. You know I had to buy. After which I yodeled so much Baz and Zeg went out on the porch of our tiny cabin.

We had plenty of daylight left – let’s face it, this is about the only commodity Nordkapp has in abundance – and the last and best 30 kilometers of road beckoned. Ladies and gentlemen, the end of the world, also known as latitude 71 North. With a belly full of chicken burger and joddlarkorv, we roared off. As stated, it soon became apparent that the final leg of the day was a Marsian paradise, with roads so twisty and beautiful I nearly blew my heart. Nordkapp MotoGP commenced. I will never forget this stage. The Ducati dove into the bends with glowing brakes, and shot out like a firebreathing bat.

It may be a cliché, but I’ll say it anyway. Man and machine became one. Yes. The previous suffering was gone, remaining was an adrenaline rush overload that still makes my body tingle just writing about it. Oh! My soul was utterly possessed! Completely unable to see the deadly drop-offs beyond each corner, I powered the life out of, in my deeply subjective opinion, the finest bike in the world.

At the end of the world, the cameras came out.

It had been an emotional day. Memories had been carved out of Norwegian rock. We took it easy on the way back to the cabin, snapping Ducati commercials and Kawasaki promotional pictures.

It was cold again the next morning, but the sun was out to embrace and the same road that had scared us witless was now our mistress. Even the Nordkapp tunnel seemed inviting…

…and altho the engine light came on again, I now figured it was due to the pressure sensor of being so far below sea level. No sweat. This was to be a sweet ride. On the way, Baz took a moment to meditate…

…and we even had time indulge in faraway beach poses.

Ah, it was pure enjoyment. It seems that fjords are standard equipment to roads, and we took no shortcuts. In the evening, we found our way to Burfjord, where I had managed to prebook a whole house for next to no money, courtesy of charming one-hundred year old lady Ingrid. It took quite a bit of gravel riding to get to this remote outpost, but no problem. I took a warm shower while Baz & Zeg went for food. Sadly, for them, the skies opened up in the biggest way, and I barely recognized the mud monsters that appeared some hours later. Yesyes, I still feel guilty about eating the juicy steaks they brought me… Anyway, the house was smashing, right by a fjord, fishing boats ran by and strange elves shuffled about in the woods.

As always, we told stories and had many beers. Mack rules! And then I had to go and try some of Zeg’s extremely potent snus, which made me dizzy and burned a deep hole in my gum. Behold one pretty biker, for your viewing pleasures.

Days will unfold, tales yet untold, hopefully soon, howl at the moon. What I want to say is, the unshaven hero bikers will return in To The Ends Of The World, Vol 2.

a summer welcome

It was a long and cold winter of the serious kind. Not since the Winter War have there been such big pillows of fluffy white. Highly enjoyable, were you six. I’m not six.

Frankly, we doubted spring would ever come. It did, eventually, like a bona fide miracle. Like watching Jesus walk on water. Like world peace. Like smoking in a bar.

And the flowers came in. It appeared I have green thumbs, because the twohundred tulips I planted in the autumn became the talk of Pleasantville. Purdy, so purdy.

Time to tippa-tappa (Scarlett’s definition of walking on the beach). Time to dip a toe into the sea. Hello summer, why don’t you stay for awhile?

the paint-eating artist

Finger-painting, a splendid pastime! The blank canvas is staring back at you, begging you to explore the endless opportunities hidden only a fingertip away. Scarlett dives right in, red, blue, yellow, green, an alluring dream rises from the paper, like a chemical reaction, like land out of sea, like birth…

… and rock n’ roll. Black. Depth and death entwine, it is the color to end all color, end all – this finger-painting session included. Irresistable, delicious, mysterious black. According to the artist in the picture, taste art and you taste LIFE.

room for you know whom

This cosy little space-squeeze was formerly known – and very well known – as the LEGO-room – a holy haven of construction creativity for me, my brothers, and all our friends.

Since there’s a new family in town, I wanted to dress the room up a little, to better suit the very discerning tastes of Scarlett. I asked what she wanted, and this, I think, is what she said:

suitcase blues

When daddy has to go away on business, Scarlett makes sure she packs herself into my suitcase. And every time I wish I could just leave her there, close it up, take her with me. Luckily, I don’t have to travel abroad too often. I absolutely hate goodbyes and this is one girl you can not live without.

By the by, that’s a rather – if I may say so myself – sweet suitcase you’re looking at; the 1950s legend Rimowa Topas. Take it as a stand against consumer culture – I will probably never have to buy another carry-on again.
I ordered mine from Germany, and it came with a complimentary bottle of champagne…