We took two days to cross France using the high speed toll highways. These highways
are very expensive. We spent over 40 Euros ($50) on tolls in one day. We made it
to Paris about 17:00 (5 PM) and headed around the core area on the freeways. The
traffic was stop & go for most of it. The French bikers just go up between the lanes
and keep moving. The amazing thing, to an American, is that the French car drivers
cooperate. They move over and give the biker room!!! In America, if they saw you
coming up in their mirror, they'd close up the space, not open it. So we traveled
through Paris rush hour white-lining between rows of cars and trucks most of the
way. The French bikers did it even when traffic was moving 80 kph (50 mph) but I
wouldn't do it over 40 (25mph). Kathy said she would have made a movie for you folks
to watch but she was too scared to get the camera out!!! It was exciting for me
too, I was concentrating so hard that I had hand cramps afterwards.
Anyway we made it to Intermot and set up camp in the "Biker Camp". A parking lot
with a small patch of grass and trees. Lots of RV's and tents. That is the edge
of our tent in lower right corner. European campgrounds do not have individual spaces
set out for tents. They just have an area set out and then you find your own space
within it. So things are very haphazard for arrangement. There was a food/beer
booth in the parking lot but we thought the prices were outrageous. We walked across
the bridge past the cathedral and into the old downtown to a small market where we
bought beer for half the price and then got Doner Kabobs on the way back. (Doner
Kabobs are the "hamburger" of Germany and much of Europe. It is a hand held bun
with small pieces of broiled meat, sauce and fresh lettuce and tomatoes. They are
from Turkey and are very popular.) They are good and filling. It was about a 4
kilometer walk (2.5 miles). It felt good to walk after two days just riding.
The cathedral took 600 years to build, starting in the 1100's. It has amazing stone
work and carvings. The cathedral was not destroyed in WWII because the spires were
used by bombers as a location marker for other targets, like the bridge.
We spent the next day (Saturday) walking thru all of Intermot. It is huge. There
are thousands of booths arranged in seven huge buildings. Any of the smaller of
the buildings would have held the Seattle Bike Show (which is held in the Quest Field
Exposition Hall, the old King Dome site) without a problem.
This show is at least a dozen times bigger, but that is the only difference. There
were booths selling and displaying all types of bikes, bike gear, magazines, insurance,
clothing, parts, improvements, helmets, gloves, trinkets, etc. etc. etc...... Everyone
of the big guys in the industry had huge display areas, Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki,
Harley, etc. promoting their latest and greatest. In some cases a country had reserved
a block of booths and then sublet them to companies from their country, China, Japan,
Taiwan, US, Great Britain, and some others had all done this. The most amazing thing
was the amount of Chinese (not Taiwanese) companies. There were at least six major
bike/quad manufacturers that had huge displays, none of which we had even heard of. Then
there were hundreds of Chinese booths selling upgrade parts, chains, sprockets, gears,
shocks, brakes, batteries, electronics, etc. Some of these booths were in the Chinese
blocks but many were there on their own.
We talked to many people about many things. One of the most interesting was a couple
who run tours in Russia (and other parts of the world), including one in 2008 that
will go all the way across from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok in 42 days. That would
be fun! Check out www.ride-onmotortours.com for more info. Another interesting
and long discussion was with the two Australians who make the PacSafe products. These
are bags, pouches, and cases that have a wire mesh between two layers of material
and a cable that can be locked around a solid object like a motorcycle. They were
very excited to meet real customers. We have four of their products. We have my
waist pouch, Kathy's purse and two helmet bags. They also make wire mesh bags that
a person can put a backpack or sleeping bag into and lock it to an object. We had
looked at those to secure our external bags to the bike but did not buy them because
they would have scratched the bike. We found out they are developing a waterproof
bag with the mesh that is big enough to hold sleeping bags or other bulky items and
the mesh will be between layers of material so it will not scratch. We told them
we were very interested and gave them our card.
On Sunday afternoon we packed and headed up the river toward Koblenz. We took the
back roads and made an easy trip of it, arriving in about three hours. We found
a campground right on the riverbank where the Rhein and Mosel rivers meet. It's
a rough life at times and then there is this! This is an historic place for Germans
with a huge statue of King Wilhelm I on the point. The statue, not including the
base, is 14 meters (45 feet) tall.
There is a huge amount of barge and tour boat traffic on the two rivers. We thought
we saw a lot of boats on the Columbia in front of our house. It is nothing compared
to this. There is a boat going by every couple of minutes, often three or four are
in sight at one time. The fort across the river is from the 1200's. The Romans
were the first known to have settled here.
We will stay here today (Monday the 16th) to do laundry and update the web and then
take the scenic route to Frankfurt and on to Munich.