Sunday, July 21, 2013

KARU MC PORONPURIJAISET.....the Turbo Edition.

Sundown from the Jätkänkynttiläsilta in Rovaniemi, Finland. June,2013.

I didn't realize it until I did slow down but I have started to amass an enormous  amount of photographs, and quite a few good stories too. 
The images need to be organized at some point, it's getting out of hand, and Rovaniemi and Karu MC seems to have inadvertently provided me with that opportunity, a place to rest, work and create, file, shuffle and compartmentalize, and for that I am very grateful to them. But most of all I have developed a wonderful friendship with most of the members here, and I know when it comes time for me to leave and head east, I will feel it, it will not be an easy departure. I have developed a real fondness for Finland, and Rovaniemi in particular.
Simple, the people. 

I'm not the most organized person in the world, so I've been trying to change that, or at least make a better attempt at it with my photographs and the storage and filing of them on my hard drives. Ever since I mistakenly erased over 60 gigs of images from my laptops hard drive in April (including my high res images of my first and only time to shoot the Northern Lights!!), I've been trying to get this organizational thing down a little better. 

"The Dream Board" at Cafe Kauppayahtiö, Rovaniemi, Finland.

When I set out on this trip nearly 4 years ago, I never thought to keep all of the pictures I took of the beginning of the trip for use at a later date, mainly because I just never imagined that it would turn into something as big as this.
It didn't start out as a Round the World trip, it was just meant to be a "get out of Florida" and head NE to Seattle ride, a 1 or 2 month get-away. 
At the time I didn't like Florida much, I still don't, and it had a lot of memories that I just wanted to exorcize from my life and move on to a different, and hopefully better place. 
Being born and raised in Ireland with mountains and seasons, those were the 2 big things I missed tremendously in my time of living in Florida. Nearly 365 days a year of blue skies and palm trees, paradise for some but believe it or not, it looses it's appeal and sparkle after a while, just like everything else does in this life.

I had intended, or had thought about anyway, riding to Prudhoe Bay in Alaska, but when I reached the other side of 150 Mile House, BC, Canada, I just wasn't really feeling as connected and into the trip as I would have liked to have felt, so I decided that the Prudhoe Bay run wasn't for me at that time and abandoned that part of it, and my new riding partner too. 

New riding partner?. 
Yea, I broke my golden rule of always traveling alone. It was a chance encounter in Neah Bay in Washington State, another BMW traveller, John T, who was heading north to Prudhoe Bay as well, and he was also from Florida!. The world is shrinking!. He came across my bike outside Kimm's Take Home Fish Co. fish smoking shack, where Kimm and I were inside eating smoked Salmon heads. Yumm. Especially the eyeball. 
Don't knock it 'till you try it people.

So when John found out that I was going in much the same direction as he was, he say's "c'mon, we'll go together". I agreed, a little reluctantly. 
But by day 3 realized just why I prefer to travel alone, so I bade him farewell and safe travels. He was a little upset at that, I think he wanted me more for his trip than anything else. But, he headed on north, I headed east to Jackman Flats Provincial Park and then down to Nakusp. One of the most spectacular and exciting rides I ever took I might add.
This is one of the posts about it. 
Especially the part where I meet Erik and go for a spin on his Ducati 996. Yea, I know !!.

There's a whole lot of reasons I like to travel by myself. Being a photographer is one of them. I get into my own zone, I stop frequently, or whenever I want to, and really don't want to have to explain that to someone else, or have to wonder if I'm stopping too much and interrupting another persons schedule. Or have my trip in any way dictated by someone else's schedule or requirements. Selfish?. Yea, to a degree I suppose. I have always felt that I was too selfish to have kids, to be a father, so I never did, a very carefully thought through and conscious decision on my part. It's my life and my trip. Life has to have some degree of selfishness in order to be interesting. The battle for just the right amounts of Egoism and Egotism. It's part of human nature to be selfish. Without it, it would be a very dull and boring life.
I don't think I would have had the same experiences or met the same people had I been with another motorcyclist on this trip so far. My meeting with Margareta in Ljusdal in Sweden would probably not have happened if I was with another biker. Maybe it would, I'll never know. The fact that I was a lone traveler played a big part in how I was invited back to Margareta and Birgers farmhouse for breakfast.

When you're alone, on a motorcycle, open to the elements, you're very vulnerable.
You're also very approachable, much more approachable than in a group.
You take a risk when you're alone, but the bigger risk for me is NOT doing what I want to do in life, and realizing that fact only when it's too late, when there's no more time left to do the things I had always thought about or dreamed of.

E8 north to Norway, December, 2012.

Traveling alone challenges me much more than having the psychological safety blanket of being with a partner or fellow traveler. There's nothing like having the shit scared out of you and your strength, confidence, ability and resolve rocked and tested every now and again to remind you that you're not as cool and resourceful under pressure as you think you are. And for me, it kinda knocks me down to size a bit when I start to feel a little to confident. I don't like feeling that way. That's when mistakes happen.

There's a certain level of fear and anxiety that I sometimes feel when riding to a place that I've never been to before that I just don't feel if I'm with a traveling companion. Alone, I'm it. I'm the rescue party, the chef, the mechanic, the doctor and the entertainment committee director. I have no one else to rely on when or if things go bad. Depending on where I am or the circumstances of my being there, that can be a worrisome and oftentimes scary feeling. But it challenges me, puts me under a bit of pressure, and it keeps me on an edge that I like, but don't. 

I rode from Ljusdal to Hammerdal in Sweden last November, only a 290 km ride, not a biggie. But it was the middle of November. It was getting very cold, started snowing a little. I couldn't figure out at the time just why in the world the 2 Wheel Drive system on the outfit wasn't gripping, the outfit was slipping and sliding all over the place, absolutely no grip whatsoever. It was like I had no 2 WD. (I later found out that this was the case, the 2 WD shaft had broken at the weld, but at the time, I had no way of knowing this). 

But I found out when I got to Woodlands MC in Robertsfors in Sweden and took the rear end apart.

Sweden, December 2012.

It seemed late by the time I got to Hammerdal. The fact that it got dark by 3pm made it seem even later. By 7pm I felt like I'd been riding all night long. I had to ride slowly and I had no clue where I was or where I was going t stay or camp for the night. 
Visibility was getting poor, like riding in a glass of milk. The GPS sent me on a road that doesn't get ploughed by the snowploughs, so looking at the next 65km I had left to travel to the next town of Hammerdal seemed like a death ride, I honestly didn't think I'd make it without ending up in a ditch at some point. All of those thoughts and feelings just fused together all at the same time, and gave me a very unsettling feeling that put a nice big knot in my stomach and gave me a pucker factor of about 7 or 8. 
And it was getting colder. 

There were no cars out and the odd truck that passed me was hauling ass and flew by me while overtaking me. And the trucks up here run doubles, which means 2 trailers. So, no 2 WD, no tire spikes, trucks trying to run me into the ditch. I was gonna die or get run off the road. For sure. Of course that didn't happen, but at the time my mind was playing tricks with me, and I had a hard time taking any positive out of that particular situation. There was none.
If I were with another biker or two, it would have been much easier, emotionally, as there's usually strength in numbers. At least if you end up in the ditch with a broken leg, you'll get rescued by your buddy.

By the time I got to Hammerdal and found a place to camp for the night, I remember I was drained, just emotionally exhausted, feeling very low and remained that way for 2 days before I got some strength back to pack up and carry on.
But the process of going through those moments in life is a forced lesson in growth, and for me, a test. A test of myself, my resolve, my emotional stability, or lack thereof as the case may be. A test to see if I can be half the man I think I am. A personal challenge, to myself, by myself. 

I still dream of going to Alaska sometime soon, I would really love to spend 3 or 4 months up there. From other travelers photos and ride reports of their trip, it looks really beautiful, especially from a photography standpoint. I would probably like to go in Winter, as there'll be less tourist traffic and much more winter scenery that I love so much. I know if I make it to Siberia in Winter, Alaska will be easy, and it's part of the good 'old USA.

This year I was planning a trip across to England, Scotland and Ireland in August with John Nikas and Grace, his 1953 Austin Healy, we were going to travel as a team for RideAwayCancer and DriveAwayCancer, but Grace's engine finally took her last breath late last year, and ever since the rebuilding is not going so well from what John relays to me via our infrequent Skype conversations. There were plans for us to meet up in May at this years Mille Miglia, but as a result of Grace's breakdown, they never made it over here to Europe. Now the goal is September or October, maybe, so in the meantime I have some bike repairs, maintenance and projects to do for my upcoming trip across Russia starting somewhere around February of next year. I'd like to stay for some of this winter again here in Rovaniemi to photograph more Northern Lights. This time I'll be sure to save them and not delete them. I may travel a bit further north to Norway to shoot the Aurora Borealis there and visit some friends also.

The Midnight Sun.
 Rovaniemi, Finland. June, 2013.

By that time, the sun will be no more, a distant memory with less and less daylight and eventually 24 hours of night being the norm. 

Cafe Kauppayhtiö, Rovaniemi, FInland.

Antti Kuha.

I still love to go to Andy Kuha's Cafe Kauppayhtiö in Rovaniemi. It attracts a very eclectic mix of people who give the place it's magic and flair. 

Like Pàivi, who was having coffee at Kauppayhtiö with her friend one day. She had a great look, all in black, Mary Poppins stiletto boots and the red highlights of glasses and lipstick. Love it. She owned that outfit.
Pàivi, many thanks for letting me take your picture. You look maahhvelous dahhling!.

Cafe Kauppayhtiö Pure Burger garden, the best burgers in town.

Arska and Marja.

The Dream Board. I wonder was that me she was talking about?.
A peek into the thoughts and dreams of other mere mortals like me. It would be interesting to have them somehow come back 10 years later to write a note beside the one that they first wrote and see where they ended up and how happy they are now vs. then.
When I take a look back at my 10 yr note, which I only have a mental picture of now, am I happier and in a good place?. 
You be the judge.

My outfit sure was in a good place when I went to the Karu MC Poronpurijaiset just outside of Rovaniemi a few weeks ago. It was the 30th year of this event, and my first time at it.

Friends and bikers started gathering at the Karu MC clubhouse on Thurs, bringing with them some great looking bikes, like this Turbo'd Evo chopper. All sorts of nasty hanging off the side of that bike.

Timo Happonen, whom you may remember I wrote about before, brought along his fathers old Ardun Hemi Head race car.

And then this pulled in.
The mother of the Rat-bike sidecar outfits.

A H-D Shovelhead....with a Turbo. Tasty.

And then it was time to leave the club.
Friday it was off to the Poronpurijaiset, only a 40km ride from the clubhouse.

The Karu MC president suggested a quiet and out of the way camping spot with a lovely river view for me for the weekend. He said "you'll still hear the music, but not as much up here", but warned me that it will be FULL of bikes and tents by Friday night. I didn't believe him at first, but the Karu MC Poronpurijaiset is a legendary and popular event, with bikers coming from as far away as Switzerland just to gather and meet old friends. It's been going on like this for 30 years now.

All the way from Switzerland, about 3,000km, on a very nice chopper.

The Adv style pannier mounted to the side just makes this chopper even cooler.

The one thing I notice about the chopper scene up here, and by up here I mean Sweden and Finland, is that they build their choppers to ride, and not to bar hop. The chopper "Bar Bike" scene is not as big here as it is in the US. You won't see a chopper in the US with an Adventure style pannier hanging on the side of it, it's just not cool looking....or so they think. The level and quality of homemade craftsmanship in the Swedish and Finnish choppers is very high, some would say the best. The group of Norwegians I met at the rally think that the Swedes build the best choppers and the Finns are right next to them. They have a lot of admiration and respect for the level and the build quality of the chopper scene here. "No bolt on or catalogue stuff" they said, mostly homemade.

Back when I built my second chopper, a 96" Shovelhead rigid, I based it on the Swedish long bike look, jut like this one.

Another chopper from Switzerland.

By Friday afternoon the empty campground was filled, bikes and people  everywhere.

Traditional Finnish biker greeting.

The Long bike is alive and well and ridden great distances here in the north.
No show bikes for these guys. If you're not going to ride it, don't build it.

On the next installment of Wherethehellismurph, Pt II of the Karu MC Poronpurijaiset, my "little" accident with a tree stump that I didn't see until it was too late, more cool bikes and even cooler people.

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