End of the year 2021 was quite busy so we had a travel break. Joris needed to do some last bits of the administrative paperwork (all was finally completed. Agata needed to consult a few things with doctors (also everything turned out to be OK, but the waiting was a bit nerve-wrecking, especially when further diagnostics was needed). All that needed time, so we were again unsure what the next steps should be.
We spent wonderful time with Agata’s family during Christmas, visited some Christmas Markets and enjoyed all the warmth this period brings, despite the winter weather.
We also took the opportunity to go on small trekkings in the mountains (not too high) to burn the calories absorbed during all the feasts 🙂
And we managed to do some maintenance on our VW T4 Kamyk 🙂
Winter in Europe was a bit of a show-stopper for travels. Ongoing COVID-19 wave, travelling restrictions and so on. As we were a bit too late to ship our bikes to South America, we checked the options to ship them to USA. We thought of travelling the US for a few months in Spring, then doing Canada and Alaska in Summer and then going back south to reach Central America in Winter and move on down to South America.
We got the acceptable quote for ro-ro transport (the shipping costs skyrocketed recently) with inTime, got our US visas / ESTA waivers, Import Exemptions for motorbikes and motorbikes insurance from Greenpoint Insurance Brokerage, and chose the flights to New York for March. We were as good as set.
And then we needed to cancel everything due to some further medical checks needed by Agata.
Our Dragons were fully serviced during the late Autumn/early Winter period. We reduced our luggage to end up with approx. 25-30 kg of luggage on each of the bikes (depending on the amount of water or other fluids, like motorbike oil etc.)
After dropping the idea of shipping them to the USA, we had some further brainstorming. Do we really need the bikes with rally pedigree?
Yes, they are fun to ride.
Yes, they have a great autonomy on one 30L tank.
Yes, they are light.
Yes, they look sexy.
Yes, we invested a lot in them.
Yes, they are as good as new with all the bugs fixed.
But… They are still tiring to cover long distances. They are still high maintenance. They still have side stands that you can’t fully trust (and with the height and when the bike is loaded it is a challenge for Agata to confidently get on and off the bike). And as on the RTW you should avoid unnecessary risks, they would not be used in the terrain they are made for…
At this point we actually felt the most regret that we had sold our “big bikes”, Olivier and Bert.
Joris wanted to go back to the BMW R1200GS Adventure, and he started looking for one. And he found one just a few kilometres from where we stayed – 2011 make year in a top condition for a very decent price.
Agata had no idea for a machine for her. There were a lot on the list: BMW F650GS (single), Honda CB500X, Honda CRF300 Rally, Yamaha T7, AJP PR7… But there was always something not OK. Either not available, or just not feeling good, or both… With one exception. KTM. In autumn we visited a KTM dealer in Antwerp and there was a nice 790 Adventure, fully set, with loads of accessories and Agata felt very comfy with it. But KTM? Anyway, after a rather disappointing check on the top-heavy Yamaha T7, we went to the KTM dealer in Kraków, and there was a freshly delivered 890 Adventure. Available. Damn it.
Two days later Agata bought the bike.
A new bike needed a proper run-in, so we did some small tours here and there in the late winter/early spring. The temperatures were still quite low and days short, so the distances covered were just enough to allow for the first KTM maintenance after 1000 km.
Agata also cashed in her Christmas present and attended a 2-day individual training at Strefa Enduro, to get to know her bike better when off the road.
We also attended a short meeting organised by friends – and this resulted in the only video we have from this ReisePause stage 🙂
Not so small trips
Direction Ukrainian border
The original plan was to write some articles for a Belgian motorbike magazine, promoting the beautiful but unknown Poland. But it never came to that…nevertheless, a part of the plan, riding the Eastern border of the country, was done. It was March and still snowing and freezing cold in Poland. But being bored at home Joris took his newly bought motorbike out for a spin, direction East.
Since there was a war going on in the neighboring country, it would be an interesting voyage. And soon Joris started to notice what was the situation all around. As camping was not very pleasant at minus 15 degrees Celsius, Joris opted for some hotels and pensions. To his surprise they were all fully occupied… by Ukrainian women and children. And another surprise, everything was for free. But Joris did donate in the local collection boxes for help to the refugees.
The trip on itself was beautiful, snowy landscapes in the east, friendly people all around, a joy to travel. Also a longer test ride on Joris his future travel horse, the trusted BMW 1200 GSA. It proved to be a good buy. Even in this harsh weather conditions, his new companion didn’t let him down and performed well.
After a week of hopping around in the south-east part of beautiful Poland it was high time to get back to his partner in crime, continue the planning for the bigger trip.
Eastern GS meeting Belgium
As Agata was working a couple of months to upgrade her travel budget again after buying her new and shiny motorbike, Joris was restless again and agreed with some friends to meet up on the big GS meeting that was planned for the Eastern weekend. But just driving there and join the meeting felt a bit boring to him. So he decided to make it a 3 week trip and take the long way around to get there. As travel budget was still running, and Joris wanted to cross Czech Republic, he looked for Bunk-a-Biker pins on the map… what a disappointment, just one in the country…. But still, he contacted the one and got accepted, so off he went direction south. Arriving there, he was in for a surprise, the only pin in the country turned out to be a Flemish guy, Wouter. And more, Wouter had a nice stock of Belgian beers… till the next morning at least… A friendship was born. Later on the bigger trip it would be confirmed, but more on that later…
After riding some very nice tracks in Czech Republic, and moving trough Germany in the pouring rain, a couple of days spending with his family were on the program. It was nice for Joris to see his family again after almost a year. And as his base he could stay with his best friend and also catch up on stories and tales. But then a terrible accident happened, joining a friend he hadn’t seen for over 20 years, a test drive on Joris his bike turned bad… 12 broken ribs, broken shoulder and collarbone, punctured lung were the verdict. On top of that Joris’s bike had a damaged fork. Not the best result of a meeting after 20 years, but all turned out well. Of course, with his bike broken and the GS meeting coming up, Joris found himself driving in a car to a motorbike meeting… not really what he had in mind. But still, meeting old and new friends made him forget the troubles and still catch up on old times around the fireplace. And there was a surprise as well – he met Olivier, former Agata’s bike and his new happy owner 🙂
Joris had his bike towed to the BMW garage to do the impossible and had the bike fixed in a couple of days – a huge thanks to them for giving Scratchy a priority.
Time to make the ADV Hoppers team complete again, and finalize some paperwork in Poland so all would be set for the big journey a couple of weeks later.
At the same time, Agata was enjoying Easter with her family and eating traditional Polish food 🙂
But she also got a special present from the GS Riders Motor Club Vaanderen – a can of Belgian… chocolates 🙂
Back to work
As we were in Poland for some time anyway, Agata decided to go back to work – partially to pay for the new bike and also check how are the things in the clinical trials industry after a nearly one year break. The recruitment process went fairly smoothly. However, three months in the corporation were more than enough. Not only because of the number of technical struggles faced being a new hire (actually this was a bit ridiculous), but also the burnout kicked in faster than expected… or maybe was never gone. Maybe that was a sign to change the branch and look for other opportunities when the time comes.
Time to go
So, all things got sorted out, checked, arranged for and we were ready again to hit the road and continue our interrupted journey. We did not do much more preparation than we had done already last year – just had a few more farewell parties with friends and family and then hopped on the bikes and restarted our trip…