Sunday, January 6, 2013


January 2013,

I really didn't plan it this way you know, timing it so as I ended up at Nordkapp right on New Years Eve like this. But my arrival here at this juncture in my trip does seem kind of fitting for me, since Nordkapp is as far North as a person can travel in Europe in or on a motorized vehicle, on roads anyway, and was a 'Most Northerly Point' destination for me on this part of my trip itinerary. 
That is until I researched a little more and found out that Nordkapp is not really the 'Most Northerly Point' of mainland Europe at all, not by any definition. 
But I digress.

I was getting comfy and cosy in Alta, first at Bjorn Eric's and then at Bunkers MC, mainly because the weather was pretty inhospitable what with few 'daylight' hours to go out and play or photograph in and basically just because it was dark and cold most of the time. A lot of people told me that it would be this way, some even questioned my decision to come to northern Scandinavia at all in Nov/Dec, most said I should go to Spain or Italy, "It's just too damn cold up there" seemed to be the general consensus. "You should be going in the summer, not the winter" said most. There were one or two who, like me, relished winter and were chomping at the bit to come with me on this part of the trip. Well, one for sure, my friend Bub in Monheim, Germany was considering risking divorce to tag along with me to Nordkapp and Russia, the other was more of a maybe.
But you get used to it, the lack of daylight and the cold climate. You adjust. And I wanted to see the darkness and the bleakness for myself and not just take someone else's word or opinion on it. And I'm very glad I came.

The lack of daylight as I knew it, sun rising at 6 or 7am and bright by 7:30 or so, completely threw off my internal clock of going to bed when it's dark and getting up an hour or two before the sun comes over the horizon. Since that doesn't happen this far north, there's no 'real' daylight per se. It's more of a dull muted light, like turning a dimmer switch on a light only half way up, but it's a beautiful magical light, found nowhere else in the world but up here.
When the light starts to fade the color palette that becomes visible up here is sometimes quite spectacular and breathtaking.
But, if you're normally a late riser, say around 10 or 11, by the time you get up and have your morning coffee it'll already be starting to get dull outside. Then before 3 it's time to go back to bed again because it'll be dark by then. Right now in January it's dark by 1:30 in the afternoon.

Driveway of Eva Bjorkli. Alta Commune, Alta. Norway.

Before I left Alta for the North Cape, I had a Christmas Eve dinner invite from the Reirsens that I was very happy to attend and had a little fun photographing the kids doing the things that kids are supposed to do, being silly. 

Thanks for letting me be a part of your family for Christmas Mrs. Reirsen, dinner was delicious thanks.

Alta and Alta Fjord, Norway. Dec 25th, 2012.

Alta Fjord, Norway. Dec 28th, 2012.

But, before I even got to Alta I had to navigate my way north from the Woodlands MC in Robertsfors, just north of Umeå. Thanks again Mats for the life saving welding on the final drive. Thats Mats second from right.

The further north I was going the colder and snowier it got, and by the time I got to Aurora Choppers the mercury had dropped to a toasty -11 with a low of -15 for the night.

A gas station hot chocolate break, somewhere north of Umea. At this point I was getting a little chilly. 3 gas station cups of sugary chocolaty liquid later and I was good to go. Oh, and a Snickers bar too. Oh, no, that time I had a Mars bar, I remember now.

Aurora Choppers MC, Luleå, Sweden.

Nordmännens MC, PAJALA, Sweden.

 Nordmännens MC in Pajala was the last MC I stayed at before I left Sweden and crossed into Finland, a small and pretty new club in the Region North.
I've been shown some really great hospitality by the MC's all the way up from 
Strömsund further down south. The further north I get the less MC clubs there are, I may have to do a night or two in the tent in Finland. Since getting a new tent from Hilleberg while down in Ostersund, the Hilleberg Keron GT 3, the porch in the Keron makes the world of a difference to the tents I've been using before, as none of them had as good a usable porch as the Hilleberg. The only downside to the tent for me is that it's not a freestanding tent, it must be staked and guyed out. Otherwise I love it and think I'll do a winter review on it in a month or two.

A restful night at Nordmännens MC in Pajala, Sweden, a cruise down Pajala and Main and I was off to cross over into Finland.

Crossing over the Finnish border into Norway, the weather must have been rough in the days and weeks prior to me getting there, I had to deal with some serious ice and snow on the E8 and then on Route 93 up to Alta. But after Mats at the Woodlands MC in Lulea, Sweden welded up the final drive output shaft going to the Mobec Duo-Drive for me, dealing with those road conditions was easier than it was without the 2 Wheel Drive. 
And even though I'm not very happy with Mobec and the quality of the welding on the 2WD, the Mobec Duo-Drive is still a great product and I'll still give them a plug here, because if you're thinking of riding in extreme winter conditions like these, having 2 WD will make ALL the difference in the world. You can do it without the 2 WD, it's not absolutely necessary, but the difference is night and day as far as traction is concerned. On these types of road conditions pictured above, your speed on a sidecar outfit would be limited to 55-65 kph if you want to stay safe. Every time you give the outfit gas on a slippery surface without 2 WD, the rear tire on the bike will just spin and slide the rear of the outfit out to the left. With the 2 WD I was able to safely do 90-100 kph, but usually kept it to about 75. The more I rolled on the gas, the more I felt the rear wheel and sidecar wheel just dig in and bite and drive me forward in a straight line, no sideways sliding at all. Spikes in the tires were a HUGE help also.
I remember asking around before I came up to Northern Scandinavia about the necessity of spiked tires and got different answers from different people. I even had someone say that you don't really need them.
On some roads up here you cannot travel without spikes in your tires, they won't let you up to Nordkapp for example without spikes. So that should put to rest how I feel about them.

Significant Picture #1.

There were two different incidences or happenings of note that occurred on the way up to Norway over two separate days. The first was loosing the Heat Controller to my heated jacket liner a few kilometers up the road from where Significant Picture #1 was taken. I have, or rather had, the controller plugged in and attached to the second car battery I have installed and wired up on the outfit, right down between the bike and sidecar by the rear inside pannier. Every time I got off the bike to take a shot I usually forgot to unplug it from the jacket so it would just pull apart and hang there. I would take the intended shot, return to the bike, put the camera away and notice the dangling box and wire hanging down by the side so I would just reconnect it back up to the jacket and be on my merry way again.
Well, obviously after Significant Picture #1 was taken, I must have forgot to reconnect the heat controller back up to the jacket. After riding another 35 km up this stretch of the E8 in Finland the temperature started to drop and it got a bit cold so I thought to myself "Well, probably time to plug in the jacket for a bit". I reached down to where the heat controller should be but it wasn't there. Panic. F*#k. S**t. I knew what had happened already of course. 
I had forgotten to unplug it so many times and came back to see the controller dangling there that I knew that it was just a matter of time before I lost it. I had every intention of extending the wiring to be able to mount the controller box permanently on the bike so something like this wouldn't happen, but doing stuff like this on the road gets a little difficult sometimes unless you have an inside garage to work on it. But I left it to late this time to fix the short Heat Controller wire problem. Oh well.
On the plus side my friend Stefan Durr in Germany, who also happens to work at Wunderlich Germany, put me in contact with Gerbings who make the heated jacket and heat controller, so last I heard, Gerbings have already mailed another unit out to me in Alta, Norway. We shall see. It's not so bad up here in Norway right now, temps are only in the -1 to -5 range. It's when I start to go down through Finland and over into Russia when I'll need the heated jacket. -20 and below is the norm there and usually accompanied with a wind chill that'll bring it down to -30 or thereabouts.

As an aside, an interesting little ditty about some of the MC's here in the north is that the doors into their workshop are usually only big enough to allow motorcycles in, a full side bagger being the biggest. If you have anything larger or wider, like a sidecar outfit, it won't fit in the doors. Why?. Because they don't want people working on their cars in the motorcycle club. Makes sense. 
It is, after all, an MC, a Motorcycle Club, not a Motorcycle and Car Club. Not all are like that though, it all depends on the building that the club is in. 
In Stromsunds MC you could drive a truck up the ramp and inside, same with Woodlands, though not as large, but I was able to get my sidecar outfit inside no problem.

Significant Picture #2.

Since the E8 north from Muonio in Finland was nothing more than a trough, a blindingly white trough carved out by snow ploughs with banks on either side pretty much camouflaging the entrance to this gas station, I overshot the runway and the gap in the snow, I saw it at the last minute, turned to the right and ended up in the snow bank. No biggie, I got 2 Wheel Drive, right?.
I could have gotten out the snow shovel and cleared the snow in front of the front and rear tires, but I wasn't in the mood for that after yesterdays heat controller debacle. Besides, right in front of me was an SUV with a Norwegian plate, so as soon as I started walking toward him, he had already started to unravel his tow strap. Reminded me of the old days at the Christian Brothers school I used to go to.

We chatted a bit after getting me unstuck, turns out he knew some of the people I was going to in Norway. Anyway, thank you for the help.

Norway Finland border. Dec 13th, 2012.

Lying at the top of Europe, Finnmark is the northernmost county in Norway, the largest county by size and also the least inhabited. It takes a special type of person to live up here in the north of Norway. 6 months of summer and midnight sun where it never gets dark followed by another 6 months of winter where it is light for a few hours a day can test your character. You have to love it up here, have to love winter and all it comes with otherwise you could very easily go over the edge, and it's so remote up in these parts that you may not be heard if you fall.

Next up on

NORDKAPP, Norway. 

Hoping to get to the North Cape Globe Monument for me was more of a fantasy than reality, because I knew that by the time I got up to Northern Norway my weather window to see it would probably be closed, even if I had of managed to leave Holland on time by Sept 14th, so I just figured that at best I'll be able make Alta.
I had allowed 4-6 weeks to reach Nordkapp from the Netherlands which would put me up there by the end of Oct, still late but still ok weather wise.
But to actually ride there in Dec/Jan?. Well, I just figured that if I did make up there the best I would be able to do was get a picture from a distance, since usually the Nordkapp monument is closed in Winter. The winter storms are severe here. You cant even drive up the road to get to the globe without a special convoy. The locking gates on the road prevent you from doing that.

So thats where I'm at right now, stuck in Nordvågen in a bad storm that won't even allow me to go back down the E69 to Alta.........


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