Well hold on, not so fast.
That's not technically correct since Nordkapp is on an Island, the island of MAGERØYA in Norway. It's not part of mainland Europe, but for this post, it's the most northerly point I have ridden to on my trip so far. And that's good enough for me...........at least for the moment anyway.
And, due to it being the most northerly point in Europe that you can drive or ride to, I kind of, well no, I did intentionally set myself up in advance of actually making it up there, albeit in being originally planned for arrival in October and not December or January because I knew that (a.)it was probably going to be a cold and difficult ride, and (b.)it wouldn't allow me to back out if the going got tough since I already advertised that I was going to do it. I would have to see it through no matter what.
Self doubt and insecurities abound sometimes, and I'm certainly not immune to them, especially since choosing to travel alone like I do. I don't have or use an iPod while riding to take my mind off things, so I'm alone in my helmet with my own thoughts all the time with nothing but myself to paint the picture.
It's like I'm on ALL the time.
For the most part, I like it that way. I've made friends with myself after drinking myself broke and come to understand a lot of what's going on inside of my head. And, I also get to feel, 100%, the whole meaning, IMO, of what being a motorcyclist is all about since I have no other distractions other than whats happening as I ride, how cold it is, how hard it's snowing, how my right foot is starting to get a little numb, how I really need to pee but at the same time I just want to keep the momentum going and finish the last 60 km to my destination. How amazingly beautiful it to actually BE up here in Sweden and Norway, riding on an awesome 2 WD sidecar outfit and be able to see what I'm seeing, how much money I have left and how far I have to actually travel on it, how much I love winter and how much I really don't like riding in the heat very much at all.
All sorts of thoughts go through my head as I ride, I talk to myself a lot on my rides.
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It was only a ride of 4000 kilometers from Rotterdam in Holland to Nordkapp in Norway. Thats provided I did it without making too many detours, but yet it took me almost 4 months to complete the journey.
However, the one thing that last years leg of the trip has taught me is about time management.
Don't try to manage it if you don't have to.
When I left LBS Sidecars in Elsendorp in the Netherlands in Sepember of 2012, I had what I always say that I don't like to have, and that was a plan. A time sanctioned itinerary of where I had to be and roughly when I had to be there. The reasons for this were twofold.
First, I had already for a 3 month visa for Russia which started on Nov 15th and ended on Feb 15th, so until I arrived in Stromsund, that was foremost in my mind and seemed to me at the time to dictate how much time I allowed myself to spend at a given place or town.
I mean, for a while after I left the Netherlands it seemed like my travels were becoming rush rush rush ride to each destination. As soon as I got to one town a day or two later I had to pack, hurry up and start moving on the next 400k to the next point on the planned route. It was becoming like a checklist, Town A, check, Town B, check, Town C, check. And I wasn't too happy about that.
As it turned out, I didn't even make it to Nordkapp by the end of November.
In fact I didn't even leave Stockholm until November 2nd due to a rear shock issue and a clutch/ driveshaft bearing issue that delayed my departure from Stockholm by nearly 10 days.
Meeting Margareta and Birger in Ljusdal, Sweden was the first defining moment for me after leaving Stockholm and it had to do with a comment that Margareta made over breakfast that morning. Over breakfast she was asking me about my trip and about RideAwayCancer so asked me if I intended to visit the hospital in Umea, Sweden. Since my route was not taking me east to the coast road but north to Kiruna I replied no, I probably wouldn't have time. So Margareta replied "You don't have time?. You're on a 7 year Round the World trip and you don't have time?". Well, knock me over with a feather. That was when I started to re-think the whole "I have to be in a certain place by a certain day" schedule that I had given myself.
Then of course there was my extended stay in Stromsund. I think it was my time in Stromsund that made me slow down quite a bit and start to realize that it really didn't matter IF I got to my intended destination at all. Had I not been forced to stop in Stromsund in order to get spikes in my tires I would have never found out about the Stromsund MC, never had the chance to do all the repair work to my outfit there and never had the chance to meet all the wonderful people there that I came across. Stromsund was one of those defining moments of my trip also. Great town and some great people in it. I had the chance in Stromsunds MC to relax, take some time for myself, work on the bike a little and get to meet most or all of the members of the club.
After Christmas Eve dinner at the Reirsen's I had fully intended to go back to Bunkers, pack up the outfit and leave out early the following morning for Nordkapp. But again, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.
On Dec 27th, the morning of my departure my intestinal/stomach gremlin reared it's ugly head and just laid me out flat with abdominal cramps and vomiting. I could hardly move the cramps were so bad. It really took it out of me this time. By the 29th I was a little better but also determined to make it up the last 240 kms to Nordkapp, even if I had to crawl up there throwing up all the way. Having a look at the weather and the storm rolling in all across the north of Scandinavia also meant I had no choice but to leave out that morning, sick or not, otherwise the two mountains I had to ride over to get to Nordkapp would probably be closed. At least one anyway, as this storm was bringing quite a bit of snow with it.
Even though it was only 3 pm when I got to Skaidi it was already dark outside, like it was 9 or 10 at night. "It's gonna be a dark ride to Honningsvåg" I thought. Pity, I'll bet there's some terrific scenery up along the Fjords I'm going to miss out on photographing.
Ok, I was fed, warmed from the coffee and happy from the food. Time to get back in the saddle and do battle with the Nordic Storm Gods on the winding, cold, icy and dark E69 to Nordkapp.
Again, the image looks like it was shot at night, but the timestamp is a little after 4 pm.
The moon is up and it's not even 5 pm.
The 2 larger tunnels that you go through on the E69 on the way to Honningsvåg have gates or garage style up and down doors. Both are automatic. They're anti-freeze doors, designed for winter to avoid freezing of the leaking water inside the tunnel. Once you get inside the tunnel with the doors closed behind you, it's a warm and humid atmosphere in there. My mirrors and the lens of my camera started to fog up almost immediately.
During the summer the gates are left open permanently.
After the war the Norwegian government wanted to move the location of Honningsvåg back to the mainland but the residents worked hard and were determined to rebuild their town in it's original location, so they established camp in the church and began the long arduous task of reconstruction. The church even had a bakery inside and the pews doubled as beds at night. Barracks were built so more townspeople could return and help with the rebuilding of Honningsvåg. And of course thanks to those stubborn few back then, around 100 I believe, Honningsvåg is where it was originally intended to be today, on the island of Magerøya.
By 3pm that afternoon it was dark and cold and I was back in Erling's house with a log fire burning, the smell of the wood floating through the living room and going through the pictures from the day.
January 1st, 2013.