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It’s been a while. Last post in January 2021, which wasn’t even a real post. Three big trips and a couple little ones between then and now. I’ve changed profession, I’m a motorcycle electrician now. That surely deserves a post. I started writing something about all of them, never finished any of them. Bad blogger. But, here we go.

Terrible storytelling, but I’ll start this post at the end. Or, nearly at the end. My bike, Poe the DR350, got nicked in Palermo. I know, right? What a surprise. Known for being such a safe city too. But, to put it mildly, it was a bit of a shock. I stepped into a building, thirty minutes later I stepped out to find no motorcycle – just a bent disc lock laying on the ground. My heart and stomach immediately landed on the pavement alongside it. Shortly followed by my arse, which – perched upon the stone step – needed to work out what to do next.

But we will come back to that. I want to, very briefly, talk about the trip that led up to that moment. Or, as briefly as I ever write about anything. The idea for Autumn 2022 wasn’t so grand as previous trips to South America or Eastern Europe. I’d ridden across the north of Italy, following the existing TET in early summer and was going to continue the Italian theme. The Italian TET from North to South is conspicuous in it’s absence, so I thought I would reach out to the organisation and offer to scout something out. It turns out that there is already something in the works, so after taking a blood oath that I wouldn’t share the route – or too much information – I agreed to take a shot at following it. The detail of the first, East to West, trip can be found at the following pages.

Prologue 1 | Prologue 2

So, obviously, the first thing I did was to drive to Spain. As you do. Totally in the right direction. I won’t go into detail here, just a few photos. I spent a few days on the TET in the Pyrenees and a few more by the seaside. Good company, good food – like a normal holiday! The full write up I put on Facebook at the time can be found here.

Time for my Italian Experience to start. Where to begin? Obviously, France. For which I have the perfectly legitimate excuse that the bike and I were getting kicked out of the car on the way back home. No detail here either, again just a few photos, but the French TET – at least in the French Alps area is bloody fantastic. Lots of trail, little road, glorious scenery, lavender fields everywhere and superb food. As Arnold said – I’ll be back. Again, the full description can be found here.

Over the border to Italy and from here on it’s all new ground that may one day become part of the TET, until I re-join the official route in Sicily. To call the endeavour a varied would an understatement. At times it was utterly fabulous, the landscapes of Italy vary from harsh alpine peaks to flat plains via rolling Hobbiton hills. High trails with million mile views, deep dark forests, thermal springs, fabulous food and friendly people make up much of it. As do impassable or forbidden trails – with the frustration of trying to find a workaround. Ghastly weather, from riding too late in the season – to the extent I even paid for a night in a hotel. Passes too dangerous to ride due to low cloud and zero visibility. Grim towns that were once obviously glorious places, now fading into decay. A whole region shattered by an earthquake six years ago, with little progress towards reconstruction. Ultimately, the theft of my bike. The complete story can be found in the following pages, copied from the Facebook posts I wrote at the time.

Part Three | Part Four | Part Five

So, there I was, sitting on a stone step feeling more than a little sorry for myself. Once I’d composed myself it was time for a plan, that plan being to back home as soon as possible. A police report was filed, they had no hope of finding the bike but formalities must be followed. After that I took a taxi direct to the airport. I stomped into the airport in my Tech7s, hauling my armour and – small blessings – my tank bag, camera included. Next flight was booked and I was back in Basel, all paid for by ADAC, more small blessings.

So, where am I now? Fortunately I can look back on the whole thing with a substantially more positive perspective now. A few weeks later I was contacted by a fellow trail rider living in Palermo. They found my bike. He’d been in touch the day it was lost, he was going to ask around, he had contacts. I had no hope. But I was happy to be proved wrong. A few weeks of pedantic police paperwork followed but, eventually, Poe was back home. Significantly worse for wear, with hacked up electrics, a missing CDI and a wrecked engine – probably a bent valve – but nothing irreparable. Thousands of Euros of missing camping gear and luggage are, for sure, a sting but I’m happy to have the bike and most of it’s bling bits back.

I had so little hope of getting Poe back that in the time between getting home and hearing that the bike had been found I’d picked up Boris the DR650 – a gorgeous bike, formerly owned by the Belgian linesman. It’s a fine steed and, although I can’t really afford it, I am going to keep the big beast anyway.

So, looking back on the trip it’s an odd set of memories. As a starter for ten I’m pretty sure I’m going to pay more attention to security in the big cities from now on. I’m definitely not going so late in the year again. Scouting out new routes? I wish I could do it in my local area to contribute something to the TET project, but I can’t. I have more time than most, but dedicating the whole of the big holiday for the year to scouting is just too much – for me at least. There were utterly fabulous trails, but for every good one there were two frustrating dead ends or a day of dull blacktop. For every day of flowing, fast fun there were two spent butting your head up against proverbial brick walls. A little bit of forging out into the unknown is a lot of fun, but it needs to be in balance with genuine enjoyment.

Despite it all I don’t look back on the trip as a negative experience. Even if the bike had not been found I still couldn’t. With any luck it’ll be Turkey and Georgia this year. Despite two engine failures and one stolen bike putting an easily end to more trips than I have successfully completed the enthusiasm is still as strong as ever. What does that say about our hobby, sport, activity, passion as long distance trail riders? We’ve got to be on to something pretty special if, when you put it all on the big scales, the positive still outweighs the negative.

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