Down from Scandinavia : stage 10

Helsinki, Finland -> Tallinn, Estonia
26.6 km dep: 11:36 arr: 19:30
Date: 2/08/2012
Weather: Sunny

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I had an awesome time in Helsinki. I met a lot of peolple from everywhere around the globe and even spent an evening drinking with some Finns at a death metal bar. On my way back from that evening, I got seriously lost and it easily took me twice that amount of time it normally takes. I did not get to see the midnight sun, but it never got completely dark at night and high up in lattitudes, the sun rises so early that what I tought was a sun setting (west) was actually a sun rising (east) and it also does so further up north than in Canada so in the end, that got me going in the opposite direction.

Helsinki may not me as beautiful as Stockholm, but it was much more lively with people on terraces, outdoor concerts, markets and such.

My time there did not end very well tough. Finland is in a different time zone and I had decided not to advance all my clocks and always add an hour instead. That idea backfired on me when this morning, all drowsy and hangover from last night, I tought I had set my alarm and hour too early.
I ended up missing my ferry and the company would not give me a refund. I had to spent part of the afternoon in Helsinki and lost quite a bit of time in Tallinn but since I heard so many nice things about the city I may just end up staying an extra day.

While in Sweden and Denmark, I could somewhat read the signs because those two languages share a common ancestor with English I think. Finnish however is completely incomprehensible and so far I do not think I will fare much beter at Estonian. The Finns are all bilingual (and really like to speak English) and everything is also written in Swedish (there is a big swedish Speaking minority in Finland) so it really is never an issue, but I always find it funny to be illiterate.

Up to Scandinavia: stage 9

Turku, Finland -> Helsinki, Finland
165.5 km dep: 08:35 arr: 13:30
Date: 31/07/2012
Weather: Sun and clouds

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That was not such a nice camping spot after all. What I tought was a nice camping spot ended up being really close to a quarry and around 7 am, heavy machinery started plowing dirt my way. I packed in a hurry and was on the road in no time direction Helsink. Since the distance was so short, I decided to take smaller roads so really, I was only less than 100 kms from the capital.

Still I would arrive in Helsinki too early so since I was about a 1000 kms overdue for an oil change, I went on the lookout for a motorcycle garage and soon found one that even had the required oil filter. In no time it was over but I could not stop but wonder what kind of garage I had gotten into: they were not only selling motorcycle and and other related equipments, they had a full alley devoted to barbecueing, kids toys and furniture and decoration which, interestingly enough was all themed white.

Now I am going out with another Canadian (whos on a “pilgrimage” to lake Bodom), a Senegalese and two Russians. Sorry for such a short post, they are waiting for me.

Up to Scandinavia : stage 8

Stockholm, Sweden -> Turku, Finland
95.2 km dep: 05:05 arr: 19:45 (+1)
Date: 30/07/2012
Weather: Overcast

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This day of was not like any other because most of the distance was done on the sea: I took a ferry from Stockholm to Finland. Yet, it still was not any other ferry I had taken before; this felt much like a cruise. The vessel was more than 200 meters long and could take in as many as 3000 passengers. Inside it had all the kinds of enternainment one could hope for in a cruise ship: shows, live music, a cinema, many bars, many restaurants, a pool, a sauna, a sun deck, duty free shop, slot machines, etc. Since none of that was free, I mostly kept to reading, working and walking around but 50 Euros for a 11 hours voyage, I cannot complain.

The city of Stockholm turned out to be dissapoiting. While I did not try hard making friends at the hostel, the crowd hovering over downtown was much older than that of the other capitals I went through. As a consequence everything was overpriced restaurants and tourist shops. I strongly suspect that the inhabitants of the city do not hang around that part of town but for a lack of a decent map, I could not find out the districts that still belonged to them.

While walking along the pier tough, I made an interesting encounter. There was camper that really stood out the rest and on closer inspection, it had dozens of stickers from countries all around the world on its back and sported a North Dakota license plate. I decided to go knock on the door to inquire and was met by a very friendly american of around 65 years of age. On telling one another’s story, I learned that they (his wife was away visiting a museum) had been on the road for close to eight years and had seen the whole americas (north and south) and were on their way to completing a full tour of Europe. One question that even before our discussion was bugging me was how they got their camper across the Atlantic and apparently, its much more simple and affordable that it seems. All you have to is make arrangements with shipping companies that ship cars around the world (some boats are made specially for this purpose) and as soon as they get a free slot on one of their cargo they will be more than happy to fill it with your vehicle. It only costed him 2500$ and took about two weeks from Florida to continental Europe (can’t remember where exactly).
It is always inspiring to meet this kind of persons and luckily, they keep a log of their adventures at Travelling Tortuga.


I am now sitting in the Finnish wilderness by small campfire I made because it is quite cold out. Tomorrow, I will be in Helsinki. As a matter a fact, I could already be dare had I taken another ferry but I wanted to drive around Finland.

Up to Scandinavia : stage 7

Gothenburg, Sweden -> Stockholm, Sweden
487 km dep: 09:20 arr: 18:08
Date: 28/07/2012
Weather: Cloudy with intermittent rain

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I woke up at 04:30 in the morning and it was already bright outside. That dit not prevent me from falling back to sleep but from that point on, I would wake up every hour. At 08:30 I went out of bed and was ready in almost no time.

The trip today was relatively unventful and borderline boring except for a few stretches of curvy roads. I tought I would be going through an interesting part of Sweden but it turned out to be fields and forests with very little terrain.

One thing worth mentionning that I noticed though is that the swedish countryside looks very much that of the Americas. They have a fancy for big trucks and everything motorized. I cruised along for a while with a bunch of Corvette Stingrays and as we got closer to Falköping, I kept seing more and more American vintage cars until we reached the airport where I realized there was a big meetup. There were a lot of camping cars and trailers on the road too and given the amount of campings around, it seems the Swedes are really fond of the outdoors too. With the occasinal rusty car wreck on the side of the road, it reminds me of home.

I made it Stockholm in the planned time and will be spending the next day visiting the city. Since this post was so short, I will add some pictures to make up for it.

Up to Scandinavia : stage 6

Copenhagen, Denmark -> Gothenburg, Sweden
505 km dep: 09:38 arr: 19:00
Date: 27/07/2012
Weather: Sunny

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Today, I dropped my motorcycle. It was a stupid accident due to a lack of judgment and could have costed me my trip. I had stopped over by the side of the road to lubricate my driving chain (something that is to be donne every thousand kilometers) and had raised my bike on its center stand so the rear wheel could rotate freely. However, I had overlooked the fact that there was a slope in the pavement so when I took it of the stand, I lost balance and the bike went down on the pavement with the engine still running.

Dropping a motorcycle is not like dropping a bicycle, it is a big deal. The machines are so heavy that they might very well sustain some damage and so do you if you try to stop one from going down. But that is just half the problem, raising it back up is incredibly hard and in my case took a fair amount of adrenaline so much that my hip and my arms are still aching right now.

Once I got mine up, I noticed some oil had spilled on the road but could not find any dripping part under the bike. When I attempted to restart the engine, nothing happened. At this point, I started to get really mad at myself for letting such and incident happen and just went on cursing for a few minutes when I remembered that when the machine was on the ground still running, I had hit the engine kill switch and had forgotten to reset it. With this done, the engine restarted and went on running like nothing ever happened.

When you thing about it, motorcycles are certainly not meant to be dropped (with the exception of trial bikes maybe) but on the other end, it is something that is expected to happen at least a couple times within a machine’s lifetime so manufacturers must take this into consideration in their design. It does not mean that it should come unscathed, there is a real danger of bending many parts, but the most critical one are kept of out harm so that if it happens, you will make it to a garage.

Later on that day at a gas station, I was wondering what E85 fuel was (40% cheaper than normal fuel). I knew it contained ethanol but I wanted to know what quantity. Then another motorcyclist parked beside me so I tought it to be good idea to ask him. We both went to ask the cashier but he did know so that leaves the mystery whole but while waiting in line, I told him about my earlier incident and he jockingly replied “Welcome to the club!” and went on saying that it happens to everyone and that those who have never ever dropped their bikes are usually newbies. Somewhat reassuring but I would very well had prefered it happening at home rather than 2000 km away.

I would not call this a lesson learned in using the center stand but more a usual case of overconfidence gone wrong. I know perfectly well that when changing tires on cars, you have to be on even ground, so I it was just idiotic on my part not to have verified that the pavement was flat because with cars, I know I always do it.

Onto the road now. I left Copenhagen quite early and made it to the Oresund bridge in no time. Interestingly enough, there was not traffic at all this morning; in Copenhagen, everyone commutes using public transport or bicyles. I really enjoyed my time there and would have gladly spent a few more days. The Danish have an history that while strongly related to that of southern Europe, finds its roots in the Vikings and as most of us are aware, Vikings are cool stuff.

The tip of Sweden was mostly agricultural fields, but about 50 kms south of Gothenburg, it starts to really look like the canadian shield: rocks, lakes and forests. This makes for some really fun driving but not for straightfoward roads. I got lost a few times so I ended up doing about 100km more of distance than Google Map’s estimate.

The man I spoke with earlier told me that Bruce Springsteen was in town but still getting into downtown Gothenburg was not problem at all. I walked around the city for two hours or so and left its premises in order to find a place for the night which, even tough Sweden is packed with wilderness, turned out to be harder than expected. Everything that is flat has constructions on it and with the night falling, it was not a good idea to go venture too deep in the forest roads. I settled for a grassy fields; comfortable but with and unobstructed view of the highway.

It is midnight and there is still a bit of light on the horizon.