As South America was deliciously into summer we left for Europe where the winter was still going strong. Traveling as we do is always a game of compromise and best guesses. To keep on schedule for Asia it was imperative we keep moving. The rubber met the road once again in Antwerp, Belgium, after crossing the Atlantic on a cargo freighter.
Changing continents brought back the nervous butterflies, and our excitement was tempered by a mild apprehension of the unfamiliar. As we left the port in Antwerp it was below freezing and there was early morning frost on the road. The bikes were hard to start. Thankfully we didn’t have far to go. Nico and Inge had been following our progress via the S&M Boiler Works Facebook page and had extended an invitation to stay with them when we arrived in Antwerp. They were spectacular hosts for a few days; through the kindness of these strangers our apprehension of riding a new continent dissipated and we became energized for the adventure we were starting. We continued a short distance to Brussels where the bikes were garaged with our friends. It was still very cold so we visited friends in Belgium and England using the local transportation to get around. After a few weeks we reunited with the bikes. The ride south through France and Spain was cold but dry and we were the only moto travelers out and about. Most campgrounds were still closed for the season but we found a few that let us make camp. Europe is expensive so camping is a very important way to keep costs in check.
Nico works at the port in Antwerp. He reached out to us while we were in Uruguay and offered us a place to stay once we arrived in Belgium. The world is smaller and friendlier than we thought and we are blessed to be living this life.
We left summer in Uruguay. Brussels is cold and damp but being in Europe is exciting and new. It feels like we are starting an entirely new trip.
Old world charm is all around us and “cuteness” overload is a distinct possibility in Bruges, Belgium.
Steam punk bird peaking out of a shop window in Belgium.
We often see old cathedrals as a whole building. On closer inspection the carved stonework can be creepy indeed.
Europe is foodie heaven. Shannon is preparing to tear into some scallops with cream sauce in Brussels.
The weekend flea market in Brussels is facinating. With no extra room on the bikes we are forbidden from buying things, no matter how cool.
The motorcycles were garaged for our first month in Europe. Winter was still in full effect and public transport was a saner alternative.
Europe is old and even the “new” construction is older than our home country, USA.
Mick and Mike in a proper English pub. We ran into Mick and his wife Chris in at least 5 countries in Latin America and they invited us to visit them on their own home turf. Milton Keynes, England.
One of Shannon’s besties from Seattle (Vajra) was in London for work. We caught up with her at Camden Locks, London.
Back on the bikes and heading through France. It was freezing cold but fortunately dry for our entire trip from Brussels to Madrid. Our first night back on the bikes and the only open camping we could find this time of year was on a rural farm. Cheap and cheerful.
Normandy beaches are steeped in World War II history. We spent the day visiting sites and museums of the D-Day landings.
Day tripping around Gold Beach. Normandy, France.
Mont Saint-Michel is one of France’s most recognizable landmarks. The monastery and strategic fortification becomes an island at high tide. Normandy, France.
Shannon and our pal Francois walking to lands end. Brittany, France
While in Brittany, France we received word that my father was hospitalized for a serious infection. We bumped up our flight home and beat-feet to Madrid to store the bikes and catch a plane.
My father died a week after we returned to Seattle. Shannon and I were able to hold his hand as his heart took its last beat. This devastation took our breath away and our world became fragile, fractured, and even the light of the sun seemed to dim.
After 20 months on the road it felt strange to be back in our hometown of Seattle.
Looking sharp at Dad’s funeral. Never imagined the gang getting together for a reason as devastating as this.
A vial of dad’s ashes that we are taking back on the road with us. The vial is now lashed to my handlebars so our number one fan can continue the trip with us.
We ended up being in Seattle for almost six weeks. The visit was nothing like we expected but it filled our souls to the top with home, family, and friends. We forgot about our trip. For good or bad, we lost a bit of our edge and once we were back to the bikes everything felt strange and unrefined for a couple of weeks. Our time home had been such a paradigm shift that it took awhile to get the traveling motorcycle mojo back.
We blasted south from Madrid at top speed stopping just long enough to spend a couple of nights on the Mediterranean Coast at the invite of Karen and Dieter, who as strangers invited us into their home and we left as friends. The fantastic people we meet on this journey fill us with warmth and gratitude, we are blessed that life has gotten us to this amazing point.
We got back to Spain after 6 weeks at home. The rain in Spain falls mainly….everywhere. The cold is over but it is proving to be a wet spring here. After our original tent disintegrated from the UV light in South America we opted to go smaller and lighter for our journey across Europe and Asia.
We found the town where the Smurfs go for the winter. Juzcar, Spain.
The Rock of Gibraltar.
The famed monkeys on the Rock of Gibraltar are used to people. This old gal is the oldest in Gibraltar and moves pretty slow these days. She took an interest in Mike and walked over for a face to face while we were looking at the fantastic view.
We are off to Morocco for the next six weeks, feeling strong and knowing where we need to be, both metaphorically and physically.
We are boarding the ferry to Tangier, Morocco and off to Africa for the next 6 week before returning to Europe. We will eventually finish this trip in Indonesia but we still have a long way to go until then. With the sadness and softness that came with the visit home we are now back in full form and emotionally the second leg of our epic adventure begins today!