Tuesday, 10 May 2016

writer's/engine block

I'm in Slovakia, via Hungary in the end because the Ukrainians wouldn't let me in. It didn't occur to me on buying my first motor vehicle that I'd have to register my ownership. No matter that I'm the tenth person to have the pleasure, or that it cost me less than half what my touring bicycle did. Nyet. The border guards enjoyed it for sure, you're not in Europe anymore, kid! So I failed in my own little Brexit, and turned around to re-enter Romania suddenly anxious that if they also insisted on the correct moto-documents then I'd be stuck interminably, neither properly in nor properly out of Europe...

Romania peaked when I got into the Carpathians. I didn't see any of Europe's largest population of apex predators, but just knowing there be bears in these trees felt great. There was a deer in the road but I scarpered it from a hundred metres. Anyway I hardly stopped. Now that my back is no more painful than usual, the milage is a bit addictive. And now that I've finally gotten the hang of the corners, they're a joy. I could write a lot about the machine, how it goes, the noises it makes and all the very specific things I've learnt about its optimal operation. I ride the first hour or so without earplugs so that I can listen and be sure that all is well. Excepting the brittle groan in the lower ranges of second and third gear which after days I realised was just the resonant frequency of the little crack around one of the windscreen mounting bolts, all is well. By early afternoon when its fluids are hot, the engine produces its best work at around six to seven thousand rpm. By evening with my earplugs in and my neck angled just-so - the helmet in line with the lee of the screen - there is barely a sound at six and a half thousand. That's ninety miles in barely an hour. 

The thing is, all of these facts (I barely scratch the surface) are really boring. The new adventure spec bikes from BMW can compare to my 23 year old machine as close enough to half the weight and double the power. There's limitless potential to be seduced by this stuff, but it leaves one with so little that's interesting to say! I used to love describing landscapes. I've seen so many this last week, and they've gone by so fast, and I've been so focused on the few hundred metres of tar in front of me, that I've only a half formed sentence about all the different greens after the Romanian rain. And something about steaming road and apple blossom. And the sunset through cumulonimbus over Bratislava as I flew towards it. But its all half formed and unwritten because immediately a thought comes a truck indicates and I have to forget it and do the mirrors and signals.

It's also more difficult to meet people from beneath layers of leather, kevlar and carbon fibre. I must look terrifying, and it takes me about three minutes to park the bike, dismount and remove my gloves, helmet and earplugs. Same rules for photographs. I'm not complaining. Really, I am really, really enjoying the corners. And the accelerating, and the engine braking noises, and an acquired finesse between throttle and clutch which enables me to allow a modicum of unburnt fuel into the hot exhaust where it can explode gunshots as I speed through mountain tunnels for nobody's enjoyment but mine.

But what can you say about that?! 

I'm in Bratislava today. This evening I'm expected in Vienna by Laura, my old pal from cycling through Turkey, We'll go to an exhibition opening and I'll have a shower. Then I'm planning lots of twisty detours along Austria's alpine length, before visits to family and friends in Innsbruck, Munich, Mannheim, Ghent and Lille. 

I did very much enjoy meeting these two Romanians:

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