Why you should put your plans into action

It’s always an advantage to have goals; the path to reach them is called life. Our goal is to reach Marrakech.

It’s a wonderful Sunday morning. It’s the only time Oranienstraße comes to a rest. Will I see it again? You never know what’s going to happen! Every day could be your last. Is that a reason to live excessively? No, it simply means to consciously perceive everything that come your way. We were given the opportunity to ride 10,000 kilometres by motorcycle over the course of four weeks, and fate seems to be on our side.

Three parties turning an obsession into a reality. There’s only one condition: we want to ride together. Severine is in Brussels; the BMW R nine T is in Munich. I hesitantly let the door shut. I’ll receive invoices and reminder notices; maybe pipes will burst in the apartment above mine? Junkies will go about their business at our building entrance, and demo disciples will force their messages onto our walls. Everything’s possible, yet nothing has to happen – everyday life in Kreuzberg. I’m so tired of it. One kick, and my R50 runs smoothly. Some guy is leaning against a shop window. Moved by my display, he steps towards me and says that he has always wanted to own such a motorcycle! The following thoughts creep into my brain: some middle-aged guy flees into the big city to escape his monotonous life. After a long night of partying, he finds himself alone on Oranienstraße. The vampires of the night have disappeared at dawn, and the radiant sun demands humility. He spots a motorcycle which he associates with a carefree past, packed with a tent, a sleeping bag, food and many opportunities – a revelation! It’s one thing to violently drink yourself into unconsciousness, and it’s another thing to take responsibility for your actions fully conscious. He asks, “How much is it?” The world lies at his feet, an amalgam of South European dandy with a chauvinistic attitude and a 1950s New York writer. “10,000 euros,” I say. He miles and falls back into his delirious state. For a short moment, we were one and shared the universe. Inspiration doesn’t require long encounters; it’s their intensity that determines their impact. I engage first gear – smile – accelerate – ease off the clutch. The journey begins.

Do I have everything I need? To answer this question, I’d have to know what lies ahead. In your mind, you play out a variety of scenarios only to realise that apart from the basic conditions, you have to trust your fate. Heavy luggage is out of the question anyway; two people plus a minimum of clothing. Passport? Yes, that’s important! Camping cooker and cutlery. Tools? No, but a mobile phone instead.

After reaching the autobahn, and seeing the concrete desert disappear in the rear-view mirror, it’s over. All tension is gone, whatever it is we left behind, turning around isn’t an option. Metropolises create a bond. Only if they are out of view, the invisible rubber band rips. The speedometer oscillates in the 120 km/h area. Even after six decades, the 26 horsepower engine hasn’t lost its roar. It’s impressive what this old lady is capable of. I stay on the Autobahn and travel 500 kilometres in one go. By late afternoon, I see the spires of the Würzburg Cathedral emerge. My body is numb, and I can’t get rid of the droning engine sounds in my head. After a few hours of sleep, the sound is gone, and you wish for the meditative engine humming as well as the wind noises to return. What followed was a week off together with friends roaming the streets as I once did as an adventurous teenager. You see what you once saw, but you don’t feel it anymore. On Sunday, I continue to Munich. 130 km/h for three hours; I pass by the Olympic Stadium. My destination is Temple Choppers. Together with a friend, I pick up the R nine T and say goodbye to my former travel companions. And once again, there’s the unspoken question: for how long? The same day, I plan on leaving for Brussels, but I take a look at Kati’s Moto Morino first – which was a mistake. She warns me: it’s not a good idea to adjust the carburettor at 30°C while being enthusiastic about leaving. However, the leopard can’t change its spots. I disassemble the carburettor and insert the Dellorto’s slides twisted by a 180 degrees. As a result, the 3 1/2 only runs full throttle. Hours of adjustment rides follow, all without satisfying results. I decide to stay a day longer and find the error; my error.

On Monday, around 7pm, I leave for Brussels. 800 kilometres into the night on the Autobahn, not completely without fear. How to occupy your mind? My energy levels are low. Estimated arrival in Brussels is 3am. I physically switch to autopilot. It works. Like in a delirious state, I enter the parallel universe of big city lights that is the EU control centre. The GPS unerringly directs me to Midi Station. Severine’s face simultaneously expresses excitement and concern. We eat some soup; the spoon is unusually heavy; our eyes burn; it’s time to go to sleep. All day long, we reduce our luggage on the floor to the bare necessities. A second book, a third flashlight? And so forth, until we have stowed everything sensibly and close at hand. It mustn’t get cold, however. On Wednesday, we leave for Paris. One of Severine’s friends lets us stay at her place. Around 9pm, we reach the city by the river Seine. The traffic chaos is overwhelming. If you’re not determined enough, you’re flushed off the road. Adrenaline is a great thing. Fatigue disappears in a heartbeat, and your survival instinct kicks in. We dart through the jungle and reach our accommodation for the next few days. Paris is not known for being the safest city in the world, particularly if you have nothing but a steering lock to counteract criminal tendencies with. A police station or something similarly confidence-inspiring would help us find sleep more easily. A cul-de-sac full of parked scooters and average motorcycles seems to make most sense to us. We push the R nine T in between two big scooters, making it disappear for the next three days. Jim Morrison, Henry Miller and Serge Gainsbourg are on our list apart from Sergio Leone’s western backdrops and Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia – although the latter two are located in Spain. Morrison’s grave is located at the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise. The overgrown and decaying cemetery is the perfect example of the evanescence of being. The only one who cannot rest in peace here is, apart from Edith Piaf, James Douglas Morrison. We are part of the huge crowd shoving past the grave. It starts to rain. We make a small movie and visit Henry Miller’s former residence. No sign, no clues. The address is correct. A small cramped villa in which Henry Miller wrote “Tropic of Cancer”. Serge Gainsbourg is more visual; a colourful building on a narrow street, just like Paris was depicted in countless monochrome photographs in the exciting 1960s. The next video practically shoots itself. We walk home and let our impressions sink in. With a visit to the Eiffel Tower, our visit to Paris comes to an end.

The first night under the open sky. Bellegrade, what a funny name. An old castle with a ditch and a bistro where all the teenagers hang out; good old village ambiance. Distanced, we dive into the small town’s cosmos, experiencing a carefree and narrow world. „If you keep poor, the struggle is simple!“ I’m reminded of Kenny Howard a.k.a. Dutch’s words. Like spies we watch their simple lives. The night is cold which results in a lack of sleep. Doubts arise. How many similar nights lie ahead of us? If all lack regeneration, then, yes, it will be difficult. Over croissants and coffee, our mood shifts; hopefully as a result of last night. In the afternoon, we stop at a river with boat wrecks lying on the shore. It smells like spring. The weather forecast predicts rain. So far, we were successful in avoiding it; today, it seems unavoidable. Yet, there are no signs of rain at the riverbank.

Why not play our joker card today? Severine has a voucher which allows her to stay at any hotel in France. Rain and motorcycling is not a good fit. Some motorcyclists aren’t bothered by it, but there are also people who don’t care if someone entertains an entire lakefront with their boombox. I can’t deal with either. Our hotel is a magnificent medieval building. The room is small, but there’s no surcharge, even though, we are two. Tomatoes, cheese, olive oil and fresh baguette make up our established standard meal by now. The room is equipped with a TV, however, we prefer the beat caused by rain drops hitting the windowsill. Severine hardly sleeps; something’s bothering her. I avoid an argument. A fight wouldn’t be good for our journey. The Helmut Kohl tactic: to sit it out –he had been in power for 16 years. Breakfast is included: three rolls served in napkins – and we’re off to the south. We avoid motorways. “Route nationales” and third rate country roads are our terrain; always with an eye on the clock. In three weeks, we’re expected to arrive in Glemseck. It’s still possible. We’re just concerned about the unexpected that lies ahead. Not knowing makes it exciting. Everything can happen, pleasant and not so pleasant things. I won’t be able to avoid an argument; I’m worried. Last year, we travelled to France with an MZ motorcycle with a sidecar to a similar region. It was approximately the same season, and we had a similar amount of luggage. We were a couple, though. Now we’re friends. I’m flooded with memories; it’s probably the same with her. We find a camping site. Severine prepares some food, and I prepare our place for the night. We’re like two cogs in a wheel; side by side. Complications? None! Preparing food takes longer, so I take the time to watch the stars. More often than not, I don’t have any idea where we are, but I don’t care anyway because it’s always the same mystic sky with its watchful eyes. Berlin is so far away.

15 years ago, I decided to travel to Africa. At the time, my fleet of motorcycles included a 70s chopper with a rigid frame, an Indian, an old Harley and a heavily tuned SR500. They were all great motorcycles, but they weren’t made for travelling. I’m fascinated with stories about people who travel far distances with their vintage motorcycles. My annual destination were the Netherlands: 800 kilometres, preferably with my chopper. Upon arrival, you don’t think about leaving right away; not because of the beautiful Netherlands that is. A 1992 BMW R100G/S was on offer for 3,000 euros. I bought it for a little less from the original owner. The same day, I rode 300 kilometres on it, and I was astonished how comfortable travelling on a motorcycle could be. I never went to Africa. Instead I moved to Kreuzberg, and I sold the G/S again. At the beginning of the year, I was offered to go on a road trip with the R nine T. “Marrakesh!” I remembered my initial plan at once. Why not try it a second time? With a newer BMW this time. Fate was on my side. I hope it’ll work out this time.

Every day, we get closer to Tarifa, the most southern point in Spain. From there, you can see Africa with your naked eye if the weather is good. In the Pyrenees, the weather gets dramatically worse. It’s cold, grey, rainy; and you can’t see further than 100 metres. It makes you want to get cosy at home, sitting behind your window with a cup of tea in hand. A long tunnel offers some relief. We catch our breaths through wet scarves; no pinpricks on our foreheads for a short time. Unintentionally, we ride faster than permitted. Lightning strikes, yet without thunder. Sorry, BMW, but you’ll receive something in the post. At the end of the tunnel, it’s 10°C warmer. Sun, no clouds, and now it’s official: we’re in Spain. Clouds seem to be French state property.

Spain offers a variety of deserts. The first lies in a national park 150 kilometres away. We type the coordinates into our GPS, and off we go. At its boundary, a herd of sheep crosses our path. We’re surrounded, and it’s worthy of a postcard motive. The road consists of rubble for 60 kilometres. We wonder if we should do this to our wheels. A flat tyre right here would be the worst. We turn around and pitch our tent. For the duration of the sunset, we stay in the ruins of a monastery of which only a 10-metre-high wall remains. Planet of the Apes, lowlands, sunburnt, blood-red fireball, and a ruin. With those images in mind, we fail to find our tent again. A Spaniard notices our dilemma and helps us. Thank you; he was God-sent. At noon, we find ourselves at the national park’s entrance once more. Again we hesitate. A couple on Harleys dares to give it a try, and we follow them. We’re rewarded with a lunar landscape. Once the entire planet looked like this, and it probably will again. We can rest our eyes. There’s nothing that demands our attention. Meditation without volition. Three hours of unreal reality. We hardly exchange words. A camera crew films in front of a monumental stone formation which looks like an supernatural anthill. The story goes like this: a little girl finds her calling in the American desert. The conditions there are supposedly ideal. We didn’t get very far today. Anyway, it was worth it.

Large cities aren’t our thing. It would be different if less would be accessible by motorcycle. We stop at a village pub. No women in here; men discuss loudly over beers; the TV is on; it could as well be a birthday party. We take a seat. They keep us waiting. How relaxing not to be strangers for once, just two random customers. Berlin, commitments, fighting with authorities, insurances, parcel carriers, it all seems far away. Andalusia is like a fairy tale: scorching hot days, mild nights, mountains and the monotony of the colour brown. Looking up, it all seems limitless, only the horizontal line is not. Time passes as if we were on mescaline. Tarifa, the end of one direction; Africa is on the opposite side. Two passengers, one bike for €180 return. It’s 7pm, and Algeciras is located merely 20 kilometres east behind a mountain. Maybe we can find a better offer there? We leave Tarifa at 33°C and unclouded sunshine. Ten minutes later, we reach the mountain top and can’t see for 50 metres. We’re stuck in the clouds; the weather conditions are extreme. In Algeciras dubious fellows scramble to help us. It’s impossible to get rid off them. No chance, we are easy pray. We don’t want to stay. We start the R nine T and leave the city. A few minutes later, we’re back in Tarifa where summer never seems to end. We buy a ferry ticket and look for a place to sleep. It’s already getting dark. “Please, fill out the entry form before entering the ferry!” No problem. Profession? Severine writes “cineaste”, I’m a bit embarrassed and write “journalist” – big mistake. We take a seat on deck. The wind is unbelievable. First Severine pays a visit to the custom authorities on board. Stamp, everything’s fine. My turn. No stamp, no discussion. “Journalist?” The rude officer raises an eyebrow. “Which kind?” His English is questionable. “Motorcycle Magazine.” “Which name?” He doesn’t understand, or doesn’t want to. The situation escalates. He writes the title all across the form and asks me for a hotel address. Hotel? I didn’t book one. Again no stamp. “Marrakech!” isn’t enough. I don’t know how to write Moroccan addresses, and Google doesn’t work. Without a stamp, I won’t be able to leave the port’s vicinity. This accomplishes nothing. I take my passport and leave. Severine is determined to solve the situation. With all our luggage, we pay the officer a visit once more. It’s the same scenario, but this time, both parties speak the same language. He looks at her, “Cineaste, which kind?” She already has a stamp, and tries to reason with him. Moroccans can’t help but participate in communication, and it works. At the opposite end of the ferry, another obstacle: a stamp for our bike, a BMW, which isn’t registered in our name. A Moroccan Will Smith sits across from us. Upright and without further ado, he checks our papers and hands them back to us with everything we need. Shortly before we land, everyone tries to get to their vehicles. We’re second in the parking hierarchy. A station wagon is first. What’s that on the roof? An already assembled double bed wrapped in blue plastic foil maybe? Manoeuvring isn’t his strong suit, though. Maybe it’s his first time, and he’s just nervous. 100 people, 200 eyes on him. German luxury cars are very popular here. Hopefully, the white and blue emblem will safe us. The crowd gets impatient; the person causing the tailback gets hysterical; and we’re in between them. I’m aware that all the commotion is caused by ignorance. If you’ve done this a few times, you know that it’s an orderly chaos. Nothing will happen. These are pros for whom traffic rules aren’t binding. At the border, we’re pulled over. No one wants to tell us why. Severine loses her temper and gets confrontational. The officers ignore her – because she’s a woman? No idea, no one speaks with us. A roughly 18-year-old is excited to get busy and provides us with another needed stamp. That’s it. We’re officially in Tangier.

We neglected to inform our banks that we were going to leave Europe and the euro currency zone. On Sunday, withdrawing money gets a bit difficult. Severine’s lucky at one ATM. At a kiosk, we prepare our dinner: almonds, croissants, bananas and still water provide us with energy. The sky’s clear; it’s about 40°C. Without our jackets, scarves, gloves, boots and long trousers, we wouldn’t even dare to ride for a few metres. You’re always dressed wrong on a motorcycle anyway, and we want to keep up a minimum of safety measures. Rabat is our destination of the day, about 250 kilometres south. The first rest area is quite the experience. The Love Parade offers just as much hustle and bustle. We can’t believe what we’re witnessing here. It’s a cacophony of car horns, all resembling an advanced version of Tetris. The lavatory attendant is close to tears; the petrol attendant loses his rhythm. Even on our motorcycles, it takes a long time to reach the service area. In Rabat, we find out what’s going on. Religious festivities will take place in three days, something similar to Christmas. Everyone’s on their way back home. Camping in Morocco seems hopeless. We stop at a café. Instead of alcohol, they serve black tea as their signature beverage. Wifi is our connection to the outside world. Our phones and GPS are useless here. 20 euros per night for two at a Moroccan riad. Why not? Upon arrival, we dive into a dream of perfect architecture in stone. There are no outward windows, and, similar to a gallery, all rooms are situated around a patio. However, it’s the historic district of Medina that is like the Arabian Nights come to life. The religious festivities approach quickly; sheeps walk through the alleys. It seems like life happens in the streets. Where to park the BMW, though? We ride towards a parking area. An older man seems to be in charge here. At least, he carefully eyes every movement here. We approach him. It’s 30 dirham per night. He’s not someone to bargain with; we’re tourists. Three euros per night for a good night’s sleep? We pay gladly. He’ll keep an eye on it until 9.30am. Trust and knowledge of human nature are the foundation of any business transaction. The next day, it’s unusually quiet. The old man still sits on the other side of the road. I unlock my motorcycle. He nods and holds his hand in front of his chest and bows. I do the same; then he walks away.

We reach Marrakech at night, laying eyes on a modern city you’d find anywhere in Europe. What did we expect? The internet is everywhere; everyone is exposed to the same images and promising advertisements. It takes a while to reach Medina, and we’re overwhelmed. Are we in the 18th century or the Middle Ages? Animals are slaughtered in the streets; barkers offer their merchandise; and countless scooters in between rush through the crowd, rarely below 20 km/h. Arabic is the official language here; French dwindles in importance; English is the future, that’s where the money is. Tourists are pushed into buying all kinds of merchandise. Let the images speak for themselves. Describing Medina in Marrakech is difficult, so we make a film. Uppers? No, thank you! All this drumming requires some downers. The night knows no silence. Jam el fna will be quiet only the day after tomorrow, the day after the big festivities, our departure. It’s true, I imagine the atomic first strike to be like this. Our ears aren’t used to silence anymore after three days. The place is empty. Apart from a few shorts with white legs, only a bunch of sinister looking fellows remain, just like the young interpreter had told us. It’s the turning point of our journey. From now on, we only head north. We pick up the R nine T from the empty parking garage and leave the past behind. It’s time to head back to Rabat, the old man and the riad. The streets are filled with charred sheep’s heads next to burning barrels. It smells like burnt leather. The leftovers of an orgy as it’s been practiced for hundreds, maybe even thousands of years. It’s astonishing how fast a sense of familiarity emerges. Home wouldn’t feel any different. There are cats everywhere, kittens in particular. We buy a pizza with tuna and distribute the fish amongst the small ones. It’s no wonder so many tourists bring home animals from their vacation.

Time is of the essence. Eight days to Glemseck 101. We’re back in Tarifa. Spain, France, Switzerland, and temperatures fall dramatically. On Thursday evening, we’re in Basel. At 9pm, we take on the next 300 kilometres to reach Kaufbeuren in the Allgäu region. A friend offered us to stay at her place for the night. Autobahn? The first 100 kilometres, we meander along serpentines; it’s 9°C on our thermometer. Five days ago, we fought against 39°C. I’m worried about Severine as our clothing is inadequate at best. For decades, I have been suffering from joint pain in winter. Why? Frostbite caused by insufficient gloves while riding ten kilometres to school. Should we pitch our tent in the mountains? In five hours, a hot bath could do the trick. At some point, we reach an autobahn. A detour is better than circling around our destination. Windy roads are great, but on starless nights in unknown territory with chattering teeth? No, thank you. We reach Kaufbeuren at 1.30am. We can’t find the key where it’s supposed to be. Of course, thinking is not an option right now. It takes some time for us to notice that we’re at the wrong address. We find the key. Our faces show neither excitement nor sorrow; we simply function; machines without feelings; we lost all sense of etiquette hours ago. The next morning, I only remember a dream; nightmarish or exciting? Neither. It simply was intense: shreds of McDonald’s; charging my mobile phone: bump-starting a car; missing an exit; eye slit between scarf and goggles; rain; wet lanes; numb fingers; scarce discussions; doubts and being astonished about how far you can go before your body gives up. Not a single clean piece of clothing left. Washing by hand is okay, but clean is something else. The washing machine runs overtime. We spend the day resocialising. Maria, who owns the house, arrives from Hamburg. It rains constantly, and Glemseck is about 180 kilometres away.

Halfway, the clouds part, and Glemseck is flooded with sunlight. Why keep on customising motorcycles? Apparently, everything’s been done. It’s hardly possible to gift the world of two-wheelers with something new, or is it the same interpretation of someone’s good idea from long ago? We don’t know. The party is great. Everyone’s cheerful and time flies. At midnight, we dance in the streets. It’s time to leave. It’s three of us in one double bed. We can’t be bothered with camping in the park. The day after, rain and our return to Brussels. We’re supposed to hand over the R nine T in Berlin. The keys to my apartment are in Munich, so why not stop in Würzburg one more time? Three days left. The R nine T became a part of my body, and I’m going to miss it. The dream is over. What I can describe are circumstances but not impressions. Those you can only experience. At any time if I could; thank you Pure&Crafted.