Route du Salève – D41A France – First Real Ride

If I don’t improve riding twisties during my time in Switzerland than I do not deserve to ride a motorcycle.

This week, after a whole set of false starts associated with getting my motorcycle registered, I went on my first real ride. From my apartment’s balcony there is a view of Mount Salève and I thought, “Why not ride up there?”

This mountain screams, "Come to me!"

This mountain screams, “Come to me!”

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O Brave New World

O brave new world

That has such motorcycles in’t

Is it a car? A motorcycle? A scootar?

Is it a car? A motorcycle? A scootar?

A variation of these lines is spoken by Miranda in Act 5 of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Prospero’s answer, however, is a dismissive “‘Tis new to thee.”

Prospero has seen the world. Miranda has not. Therefore, the world is wondrous to Miranda and ho-hum to Prospero.

Perhaps you have seen the world. I have not. Therefore, this strange motorcycle contraption is wondrous to me.

Take a closer look. It's that awesome.

Take a closer look. It’s that awesome.

It seems simple enough. A windshield and a piece of plastic stretched over the seat of a scooter.

What, however, is the point? If it rains you still get really wet. If you crash you still break your head. It you tip over you still have an annoying hunk of metal to lift up.

The only advantage I can see is that it protects from the sun…but that has never been a concern in all the time I have ridden a motorcycle.

Geneva is a strange place where things are done differently from what I am used to. Appointments are almost always necessary, motorcycle accessories are strictly regulated, and people ride roofed scooters that have no identifiable advantage that I can discern.

Nonetheless, I am looking forward to discovering all the motorcycle mysteries this country has to offer.

Do you have any idea what the advantage of this motorcycle might be? Psychological protection? A place to hang fuzzy dice? Leave a comment and let me know!

 

Hello Geneva!

Please excuse my long absence from blogging. Things have been quite hectic for me and there has not been much personal motorcycling to write about. My time has been preoccupied with a half-hearted job search, waiting for my container of possessions to arrive and debating where all our pictures should be hung.

Apparently, the hanging of pictures is extremely important and if not done with care and tact our time in the apartment over the next three years will be disastrous!

Nonetheless, things are coming together. I have been getting to know Geneva (or has it been getting to know me?) and I have decided that I like the city. I feel confident saying that and I predict that over the next three years I will be extremely happy living here.

Mainly, because it is a motorcyclist’s paradise!

I want to ride all of these...

I want to ride all of these…

To be fair, a lot of the two-wheeled vehicles here are scooters, but I am not going to get into a debate about which end of the egg to crack (always the big end). If you have a motor, balance on two wheels, and worry about where to put your helmet when popping into the grocery story, you are a motorcyclist in my books.

Since there are so many riders the entire culture of riding seems to be different. In Canada, motorcyclists usually politely wait behind cars even if there is space for them to pass and go to the front of the line. In Geneva, packs of motorcyclists come swooping in at red lights and cut in front of the cars. The drivers do not seem to mind.

Personally, I think I will stick to my Canadian riding skill set until I get a little more comfortable. However, by the end of three years I can see my self weaving through cars, lane splitting, and generally making a nuisance of myself which would get me yelled at on the streets of Ottawa.

My bike arrived without too much trouble and now it is just a matter of putting it back into service. I need some oil, some chain lube, and some gas. Then, all I need is a pre-ride safety check and I will be enjoying the streets of Geneva with all the other motorcyclists.

Looking forward to it.

Have you ever been somewhere else and found the entire culture of motorcycling different from what you’re used to? Write a comment and let me know!

Goodbye Canada!

When did the world become so obsessed with tech and afraid of human contact? I am currently sitting at a bar in the Toronto airport and I used an iPad attached to the bar to order my pre-flight gimlet. Nobody spoke to me, nobody made eye contact, and when the drink was ready they sneakily placed it in front of  me without me seeing them do it…I am beginning to suspect this bar is peopled by the elves in that old story about the shoemaker.

I guess I should not complain though. I’m currently using this iPad to update my blog. Leaving Canada is a bittersweet affair. I will be separated from my family, I gave up my job with my amazing students, and motorcycle season is just starting! But what am I gaining?

Most importantly, I get to be close to my wonderful wife again. These last ten months of constant back and forth have been hard on both of us. I look forward to just spending time doing mundane things like drinking coffee, going for bike rides and cleaning the bathroom together. It is the small things I missed the most…and no amount of motorcycling could fill that gap!

What else do I gain? Adventure! As I down this extraordinary gimlet made by Dobby and the other house elves, all I can think is that my life is a really awesome Choose Your Own Adventure novel that is set in Switzerland. Will I work? Or, will I just decide to travel around Switzerland and rely on the kindness of strangers? Maybe I will write a novel! Or, maybe I will get really really really good at Mariokart!

The point is: Anything could happen.

Finally, what I am most excited for is the motorcycling. Apparently, Europe was designed by God for motorcycle enthusiasts. I am looking forward to riding through the Alps, experiencing German made roads, and stopping in every quaint town along the way that has a history that stretches back to the Roman Empire.

I am happy to be leaving even though there are things in Canada I will miss like my nieces, Sunday night dinners with my family and Ottawa shawarma sandwiches (the best in the world…seriously).

Goodbye Canada! Your airports are not a testament to how beautiful you are

Goodbye Canada! Your airports are not a testament to how beautiful you are

So Au Revoir Canada! Other than Rob Ford you are a pretty cool place to live and be from! See you in 2017! But before I go…Dobby! Make me another gimlet!

Any advice for living in Europe? Know any good roads I just gotta ride? Leave a comment and let me know!

Jealousy

I leave in week and every time I see a motorcyclist ride by I am filled with jealousy! I want to be riding my motorcycle.

Soon, David, soon. Soon you will be riding the twisties through the Alps.

While we are on the subject of jealousy I would like to share with you a photo I took while visiting Quebec City a few months ago.

Seriously? Is it as awful as smoking?

Seriously? Is it as awful as smoking?

This picture was taken on the outskirts of Vieux Québec as we were walking past the ramparts (oldest north of Mexico, yo) towards Château Frontenac.

Now, I understand that culturally, this is a very important part of Canada. The city walls are a Unesco World Heritage site since 1985. There are architectural examples of early Canadian building design and the roads are paved with cobblestones.

But why ban motorcycles?

No other form of transport is banned. The only limiting factor is whether or not you can get your vehicle under the archway.

We're good! There's an inch of space!

We’re good! There’s an inch of space!

While I was walking through the Old City I was surrounded by the constant racket of cars driving over cobblestones, cars trying to get through the intersection before I had a chance to exercise my right to cross the street and cars parking in the most annoying of areas on already squished streets.

Nonetheless, how would any of that been worse if motorcycles had been allowed to enter the Old City? It might actually be better since motorcycles take up much less space.

As I saw that sign however, I could not help but think that whoever had made that policy had just been jealous of those who rode motorcycles. Why else ban one motor vehicle and not another which will impact the environment less?

My solution would be to ban ALL motor vehicles in the Old City. Motorcycles, scooters, cars, buses, trains, and tanks. All of them for all time. Turn it into a walk and bicycle only area.

That will probably never happen though because a huge portion of the population believes they should be able to drive their car everywhere.

And a another huge portion of the car driving group wishes they rode motorcycles.

All Packed & Ready to Go!

The last month has been a whirlwind of tasks. My wife and I put together an itemized list of everything we needed to accomplish before moving to Geneva. I swear, there were hundreds of items that needed checking off and every free minute has been spent trying to  complete them or dreading the thought of completing them.

Finally, however, we have finished the bulk of our tasks. The other day the Federal Government contracted movers came to our house to pack everything up and put it in a shipping container.

Not seen every day in residential neighbourhoods

Not seen every day in residential neighbourhoods

The movers were quick and efficient and managed to pack up all our possessions in a fraction of the time it would have taken us. One of the packers told me that after a quarter century of packing he got pretty good at it…just another argument for job specialization.

By far the most difficult task for me was preparing my motorcycle. From a technical standpoint it was not hard, but coming to grips with the fact I would not be riding it for the next six weeks filled me with dissatisfaction and ennui.

Boxing it up!

Boxing it up!

The shipping company had all these rules about my motorcycle. It had to be crated. I had to take out all the oil. I had to take all the gas out. I had to disconnect the battery and tape all the connectors. Oh yeah, and it also had to be cleaned.

It was ironic because my Nissan Versa only needed to have less than an ⅛ of gas and it was good to go. No draining the oil. No disconnected the battery. No crating. I could also drive it onto the container caked in mud.

I think the discrepancy is due to the fact that our society never sees dangers in those items that are plentiful and sees a multitude of things that can go wrong with items that are less common. How else can you explain making it harder to use solar energy when Ontario is awash in nuclear, coal, and natural gas energy?

Before I knew it my motorcycle was crated and ready to be shipped.

My motorcycle wants to break out of its cage!

My motorcycle wants to break out of its cage!

The shipping company has estimated that our belongings will arrive on June 19th. I leave on June 23rd. It will be a long hiatus from riding but I am sure I will be able to endure.

Since my wife has already left for Geneva, perhaps she will surprise me by readying my motorcycle for a ride before I arrive!

Have you ever encountered problems when shipping your motorcycle? Do you think the restrictions are onerous or valid? Leave a comment and let’s discuss!

Polar Vortexes & Ice Quakes

This winter has been a very depressing one for someone who loves motorcycling. It started by snowing in November and not letting up. It has also been deathly cold.

I tried taking up cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. I went downhill skiing and skating on the Canal. The only problem is that nothing beats motorcycling.

Except watching my niece go sledding!

Except watching my niece go sledding!

Over the last four months I have experienced polar vortexes, ice quakes, extraordinary hydro bills and the paralyzing fear that this winter will never end and I will be trapped in some strange Game of Thrones winter for the next several years.

Thankfully, in the last two weeks the weather has improved considerably. It has rained a lot and washed most of the salt and pebbles into the gutters. Nonetheless, I still woke up this morning and experienced zero degrees. Last week it was -16 with the windchill so at least things are improving.

This weekend I go to pick up my motorcycle to take it out of its abnormally long hibernation. I cannot wait to get on my V-Strom and ride again.

This heart in the snow represents my love for motorcycling

This heart in the snow represents my love for motorcycling

It has been five long months since I have motorcycled. I hope I am not too rusty.

Have you managed to get your motorcycle out yet? Has this winter been especially hard on you. Leave and comment and let’s discuss!

Moving to Geneva

First of all, I apologize for the last few weeks with no updates. It could not be helped. Other aspects of life have taken on a new sense of urgency and priority.

As some of you are no doubt familiar, my wife works for the Canadian Government as a diplomat. Early in January, we found out that the Canadian mission in Geneva wanted her to relocate to Geneva for the next three years…immediately.

Needless to say, we were stunned. There had always been the possibility of relocating with Leigh’s job but we had no idea that things would move so quickly. Therefore, the last few months have been a frantic rush of packing, inventory making, and generally preparing to leave our lives in Canada for the next three years.

We basically just bought a case of maple syrup

We basically just bought a case of maple syrup

We were very fortunate that Leigh’s job allowed her some time to get things prepared for our move. She left mid-March. I, however, decided to stay back until the end of June so that I could finish the academic year with my students. I did not feel it would be fair to leave them in the middle of the year. No need to add to the already stressful job of being a middle-schooler.

Nonetheless, as I look out my window and see mountains of snow that do not look like they will melt anytime soon, I wonder if I should not have just left with my wife and enjoyed the weather Geneva has to offer.

A little rainy but it beats snowbanks any day

A little rainy but it beats snowbanks any day

I can’t even remember the last time I experienced outdoor temperatures that were positive numbers.

Also, my wife says Geneva is a city of motorcyclists. Every night she tells me stories of motorcycle-only parking, streets thick with motorcycles and gorgeous roads and scenery to while away my hours. She makes it sound like a vehicular promised land and I can not wait to get there and begin riding.

My brother got me this book as a gift when he found out we were leaving:

Can you even imagine?

Can you even imagine?

Every night, as a bundle up with several blankets to keep myself from freezing, I look through this book and plan how I will conquer all the exceptional roads that will be offered to me once I arrive in Europe.

I will be joining my wife at the end of June and will start riding soon after I arrive. I will be continuing this blog while we are abroad and I will endeavour to chronicle all my motorcycle experiences in Geneva.

Over the next couple of months I will be busy packing up the rest of our worldly possessions (humans LOVE stuff), looking for someone to rent our house and I have a multitude of little administrative tasks I need to perform before leaving. You can not just move to another country – you have to fill in a bunch of forms. They do not feature that tedium on House Hunters International!

I will be updating this blog as often as I can, but any inconsistencies are due to my hectic schedule. I look forward to have more time in Geneva.

Have you ridden in Europe before? What are the roads I must ride? Leave a comment below and let’s discuss!

Venezuela to Ban Motorcycles at Night

A few months ago I wrote about how Nigeria was effectively banning the use of motorcycles in many city centres such as Lagos. At the time, I commented that Nigeria was being shortsighted and using overly simplified cause and effect scenarios to justify outlawing the bike. Finding a powerless scapegoat for society’s ills rarely is a panacea for much more complicated and entrenched social inequality.

Well, it turns out the Venezuelan government has not been reading my blog because they have turned around and done almost the same thing as Nigeria! Continue reading

Review: Tomorrow Will Be Better

I love Netflix. Thousands of titles that I can watch whenever I want is perfect for my kind of lifestyle. I grew up with cable and so I love the convenience of just putting something on in the background without having to think too much about what I am going to watch.

This speaks to me…

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