Poland – Day 18 – Hull to Woking

229 Miles

After the overnight ferry from Rotterdam to Hull, it was a pain getting off the boat. They unloaded the lower decks before ours and there were long lines getting through immigration. Hull was as I remember it from my time there in the 1980s, cold, wet, and windy.

Mac took the lead as we left he port, Mark was behind him, and I brought up the rear. Mac had lost us by the time we went through the second or third roundabout. Mark and I just trundled along across the River Hull and the road out of the city.

The weather was awful. It was raining lightly and the cars and trucks were kicking up a bunch of spray. When we got alongside the Humber out by the Humber Bridge we really got a feel for things. The wind came whipping in off the water and shifted us across lanes, especially when we were passing trucks.

When we hit the M62, Mac had slowed down to let us catch up and we picked up again. The bridge over the River Ouse was fun with warnings ahead of it about the winds to expect. The good thing was there was roadwork on the bridge so they’d slowed everyone down so it the peak it did not feel that bad.

Ten miles down the road, I split off from them to head to the SOUTH as it is signposted on the M18 to Doncaster. I was probably the lucky one as I left the M62 before it went up and over the Pennines. As I headed south it started to clear up.

About an hour in, I stopped at a services for a coffee and bacon sandwich. I had planned on having one on the boat but had slept in and when I got to the cafe, they sold the last one two people in front of me. You can’t beat British bacon – as some wise woman once said – it beats that streaky American rubbish.

The rest of the trip to Woking to drop of the bike was uneventful. My petrol light came on with 20 miles to go and a 50 mile range. I was able to fill up at the station a mile from the RoadTrip location.

A last look

Here’s a last look at big, I’m not sure if it is, Bertha’s or Bert’s dashboard. Three things to note:

1. Heated grips are on

2. Heated seat is on

3. 3381.6 miles total

That is 218 short of my allowed mileage. To paraphrase something I said to Mark, a CPU second not used is a CPU second wasted, I’m in two minds as to whether a mile not used is a mile wasted or not.

Poland – Day 17 – Osnabrück to Europort (Rotterdam)

208 miles

Osnabrück to Rotterdam

Today was the last day of all the gang being together. Martyn’s plan was to stay in Germany and do some more exploring before heading back to the UK later. As the forecast called for rain and we could not check in at the ferry until 4:30 in the afternoon, we decided to hang around in Osnabrück until later.

Coffee is love

Mark, MacBean, and I walked into to to find breakfast. We had been offered it at the hotel for 23 euros per person. We were able to find a cafe two minutes away where they served all three of us with breakfast for 22 euros.

Mass in progress

After breakfast, I went for a walk around the town. It is a lovely place with lots of pedestrian walk ways. You do have to be careful not to be run down by the Fraus delivering their children to school on bikes with big kid-carriers stuck on the front.

The Dom

I’m always surprised in the US how many churches there are. I guess it is no different than Europe, here as in Poland there were churches at every turn.

Historic style

Apparently during the war, the city was heavily damaged in the Allied bombing raids. After the war, it was rebuilt with an historic aesthetic.

After leaving the hotel, we made good time into Holland and the Europort. At one point, we stopped for coffee and we all commented on how different the Dutch motorways were in comparison to where we’d been for the last two weeks. Mark made the comment, “In Poland anything goes, in Germany everything goes, and in Holland nothing goes”.

Rain in Rotterdam

The pace was amazingly slow. Even so we made it to the port with hours to spare. We decided to go and find lunch and went to a little town called Oostvoorne about 5 kilometers away. We found it thanks to a kind waitress at a dumpy little place, with a grumpy proprietor, who told us where to go. After a nice little lunch and coffee, the rain came and it belted down for about 10 minutes. By the time we left, everything was good again.

Check out the date

Again, getting to the ferry, Mark and MacBean were ahead of me and had no issues boarding. When I pulled up the woman could not find my reservation. Finally using the booking number, she was able to point out it had been for the following day. That’s the last time that I let Rob make any travel plans for me.

I was a little concerned for a few minutes.

“Can you get me on this ship anyway?”

“I will have to call my boss to find out…..Ok, we will get you on but you have to pay an extra 30 pounds. Do you have a credit card?”

Suspecting Amex might be a challenge – although only declined once on the trip, “Here’s may Apple Mastercard.”

“This is no good, it has no numbers on it. I don’t have a machine, I have to type it all in.”

Fumble, fumble – “Here’s my Amex”

Typing, typing, typing. Puzzled looks. Checks numbers and name. Picks up phone, “Dutch, Dutch, Dutch, American Express.” Hangs up phone.

“We don’t take American Express”

Fumble, fumble, unzip jacket arm pocket for toll-road credit card, “Here’s my Visa.”

Typing, typing, typing, “Okay, we are good, here is your boarding pass and cabin key. Please use lane 3.”

Slowly make my way up to passport control behind all go the bikes and scooters that got ahead.

“Hi, are you traveling alone”


“Where have you been”

“We’ve been riding motorcycles in Poland”

“Aren’t you traveling alone”

“Well yes now I am”

Flick, flick, stamp, stamp, “thank you”.

My last view of Europe

From the weather forecast, we left at the perfect time. Rain and colder temperatures forecast going forward.

Poland – Day 16 – Świebodzin to Osnabrück

352 miles

Świebodzin to Osnabrück

The trip out of Poland and back into Germany had a single goal. Get us into position for an easy trip across Holland and to the ferry on Monday. As such, it was another big riding day. It was all motorways and once again on the autobahn it was silly season.

Mark explaining how he gunned it to get out of the way of a Kompressor

Today, we took on formation riding. Martyn up front in the left track setting the pace, Mark staggered behind him in the right lane, me staggered back in the left and MacBean running sweep in the right. We did great job of maintaining formation across Poland. It was more of a challenge in German as you have to get out of the way of some extremely fast cars who are inches from your back wheel. That said, given the speed you can go it is fairly easy to recover lost ground.

Over two days riding, I have done about 750 miles. I have no idea how the Ironbutts do 1000 miles in 24 hours.

Bitte en bit

After getting checked in at the hotel, this was a welcome beer. We have some small Bitburger glasses at home that Lisa brought back from her time in Germany. These were big, full-on, half-liters.

Bridge of the river Hase

Osnabrück is an old city. This bridge is dated from 1562. It was attached to battlements that seemed to be from a castle or old city wall.

Sunset of the cathedral

In the evening, we walked into the the old town to for dinner. We found the remnants of a festival that seemed to be celebrating African culture in the square outside the cathedral.

Everyone agreed that the previous night’s antics had not been well thought out before a long days disciplined ride. We all retired relatively early to watch England play Japan in the World Cup. It’s hard to believe that it was 4 years ago that I was there watching in Japan. Tempus fugit.

Poland – Day 15 – Nysa to Świebodzin

390 Miles

Nysa to Świebodzin

Let me start by saying that it should only have been 190 miles.

After a nice stroll around Nysa in the morning and taking in some of the sights, we set of for Świebodzin as we started to head back towards the UK. Everything was fine except for a big back-up on the motorway somewhere south of Wroclaw. A little while after we’d made our swing north around Wroclaw, we stopped for coffee. It was there that MacBean got a message that the guest in room 3 had left their slippers and headphones.

A quick check of my bag and I knew they were my Sony WF-1000M4s which are virtually brand new after Sony swapped them for me a month ago. I also could not locate my flip-flops – leather Olukais which are so comfortable. So, I turned around go be retrieve them.

When I got there, after riding through the traffic back-up on the other side caused by a rubberneck accident, the fourth generation of the women who live in the house handed me my headphones – awesome – and Martyn’s flip flops.

Martyn’s flip-flops

Finally, after 390 miles, over six hours of saddle time, and some heads down riding, I made it all the way to the hotel and got parked up in front. We were joined by a Polish lad who was riding the Trans-European trail, a dirt-road ride across Europe.

The Siesta Hotel

That night we did not stray far. From the room you see at the top of the hotel, down to the restaurant to the picture left of MacBean. Given this was our last night in Poland, we sampled far too much of the local vodka. Mark – “I don’t remember paying the bill but here’s the receipt”. MacBean – “I remember eating dinner but I don’t know how I got to bed”. My wife the next day – “You told me all the yesterday, you were quite giggly”. Martyn – “I feel fine, I don’t know what’s wrong with you lads.

Poland – Day 14 – Krakow to Nysa

166 miles

Kraków to Nysa

Nysa is a plain little town on the Czechia border with Poland. We ended up staying at a quaint, loosely termed, hostel close to the center of town. The place was probably built in the 1930s or so. It had expansive rooms that were stacked with antique furniture and one of the proprietors art works.

Villa Navigator

We learned at breakfast that there were four generations of women living there and running the place.

River and park

One thing that I noticed was that the town was staked with churches.

The Basilica
Stained glass in the Basilica

Some like the Basilica were in great shape. Services were going on inside when I stuck my head in. Others like the one below needed some love and attention. This place was closed up, if not derelict.

A power wash and paint needed.

The one below might look like the one above but it was completely different and only 500 meters away.

Night lights

I wanted to go and take pictures of the Basilica after dinner. We saw these domes and presumed that this was it. So we followed our noses and came upon it. It turns out we had gone in the opposite direction for the church. Getting back to the hotel proved a challenge. Apple Maps walking directions wanted us to walk through a four meter ditch and someone’s back yard.

Poland – Day 13 – Auschwitz and back

88 miles

Krakow – Auschwitz – Krakow

Given the weather was supposed to turn from sunny, hot, and the 90s (30 or something in Celsius) to rain, we decided to hole up in Krakow for a couple of days. As we were only an hour or so from Auschwitz, I decided that I was going to go whether it rained or not. Mark and MacBean had no interest. Martyn however thought it was something he should do.

When we arrived, we found that there were only timed entry tickets for the Auschwitz part of the memorial and ours was slated for 4:15pm and this was right around 11:00am. However, there are no restrictions on the Birkenau part of the memorial so we took the bus there

The first view of the camp many who were brought here would see.

As people arrived at the camp, they were often sorted into the “able” bodied and the “weak”.

The walk of death

The weak, women, children, the infirm were separated from the other people at the station and sent down this brick road. At the end, they would be shepherded to the gas chambers.

Recreated camp huts

I have known for a long-time that 6-million Jews were murdered by the Nazis. However, until I visited, it was hard to recognize how big that number was. The scale of the camp is enormous. These recreated huts went off into the distance

The remains of the destroyed huts

Behind them stood the remains of the destroyed huts which went on forever in every direction. The place was a massive slaughter factory.

A dormitory hut

The able bodied were forced to live in these huts. Originally, they had been stables to house forty horses. Instead, 400 people were crammed in to these cabins.

A pit by the gas chambers

At the far end of the camp you come across the remains of the gas chambers. They are a sobering sight.

The remains of the gas chambers

When the Germans began to retreat from Poland, they tried to cover up what they had done. They began dynamiting the facilities and force marched the inmates to Germany.

A memorial plaque in English

After exploring Birkenau neither Martyn nor I felt up to wait until later in the day to see the Auschwitz part of the camp.

Poland – Day 12 – Kazimierz Dolny to Krakow

156 miles

Kazimierz Dolny to Krakow

Today was another day following the Vistula river south and east to Kraków. I was nominated for lead off as everyone else’s nav was taking us back to the ferry. For whatever reason, my gps did not agree with anyone else’s and after constant re-routing they turned theirs off. I did the same when I was following.

Morning visitor

As we loaded the bikes, we had an eight legged visitor. His body was about and inch long and his web was three or four feet wide.

Lunch in Kraków

We only stopped for coffee on the way into Krakow and were starving by the time we landed and got into the apartment. We found (were told to follow our noses) this little restaurant across the street which served a two course meal for 30 zloty, about $7.50.


After lunch we wandered into the old town and one of the first things we came across was the Solidarnosc offices. It’s funny it was here and not in Gdańsk.

The main square in old town Kraków

Old town Kraków is beautiful. The main square is full of elegant buildings, churches, towers, and countless cafés.

Café life.

We came back in the evening for dinner at one of the cafés sitting out on the street.

Old Polish Stew

I chose the old Polish stew with bread for dinner. It was very similar to the Cuban dish ropa vieja – which literally translates to old clothes. I wonder if the old part of the stew name originates in the same manner.

Poland – Day 11 – Płock to Kazimierz Dolny

148 Miles

Plock to Kazimierz Dolny

PSA – Płock is pronounced something on the lines of Pwotch.

Today, we basically followed the course of the Vistula from Płock to Kazimierz Dolny. Breakfast in Płock came from a little bakery around the corner from the apartment. I had what I would in the US call a cheese Danish – who knows, here it might be called a Polish.

Ali’s Kebab Shop

At some point during the morning, I picked up lead monkey duties. About an hour in MacBean came up alongside and give me the international symbol for stop lets have a cup of tea (saucer in one hand, tea cup in the other with little finger extended, and cup raised to the mouth twice in succession). Within 10 minutes, I spotted Ali’s Street Food. It only took me a u-turn down a side alley to get us there. We were only supposed to get drinks but Ali was so nice and the smell was delicious so Martyn and I had a “small” kebab. These things were about a foot long.

End of the road

As we got close to Kazimierz Dolny my nav said go left over the bridge. Mac’s, who was in the lead, said go straight ahead. Little did we know that this led to the ferry. This would have been great but there was no one there and a hand written note stuck on the side of the ferry. Kudos to Alphabet – Google Translate was able to read the handwritten sign and tell us that the ferry was closed for the next four days. Back up the road we went and across the bridge to the hotel.

In the city

We got into town pretty early so after showering and cleaning up, we went into the main square. There are some really cool buildings here with some dating back go the 16th and 17th centuries.

Cocktail hour

Happy hour started early today. When we sat down there were only a few people around. However, it turned out we were at the meeting point for all the tourist buses in town and were soon swamped.

Name the Ed Sheeran song

There is a to of history in Kazimierz Dolny. The castle on the hill dates back to the 1300s.

Traditional Polish Food

We found a Jewish restaurant for dinner just off the main square. I think the Jewish side of the restaurant was the style of food as these cabbage roles were stuffed with pork products.

Clandestine Drinks

After dinner there was a suggestion that we needed Polish vodka as a night cap. This year, my culinary delights of gone from gas station pizza to gas station vodka. I had to decide between the two gas station pizza in South Dakota beats gas station vodka in Poland by a mile.

It’s funny, after all this I called Lisa as I was going to bed. She did point out that it she was at lunch and it was barely nine o’clock here in Poland.

Poland – Day 10 – Jora Wielka to Plock

144 miles

Jora Wielka to Plock

The ride down to Plock was easy for most of the way. Leaving Jora Wielka, we went out the same way that we came in which meant dirt road, sand wash, and cobblestones. Going back up the cobblestone was no problem. Like all riding going uphill feels much easier than going down. Everyone else cheated, they went up the sidewalk.

The country side in Poland is interesting. Lots of small farms with old tractors. It has none of the massive agribusiness feel that the US and Western Europe do. There are lots of two-lane bumpy roads lined with trees. At times you feel like you are goin through a green tunnel. At times, I felt like I do in the mountains as you drive from switch back to switch back and you have to flip your sunglasses at each turn.

Downtown Plock

We had not done much research on Plock before picking it a it destination. It was just in a good location for the next stops in the trip. It turns out to be a pretty industrial town known for its oil-refinery.

Looking across the Vistula from Plock

Plock sits on the Vistula river. As much it is industrial town, the views across the river are beautiful.

See, I am here

To prove that I’m on the trip, I thought I should insert an obligatory selfie. I have to admit, my beard has a little more salt than it did last year at this time.

Plock’s main square

When we arrived at the apartment our greeter suggested we come down to the main square to get dinner. He recommended the local brewery as having good beer and good food. As we stood in front of the, what appeared to be, town hall a version of the last post was played. Apparently, this is traditional and it is never completed in honor of a trumpeter who was shot while playing it.

Dinner indeed was at the brewery. The food was good. I had potato pancakes with goulash. For beer, I started with and IPA – pronounced eePAH – boy was it hoppy. It was too hoppy, so I switched to a Pilsner. Mark and Mac had a stout and we similarly unimpressed.

Poland – Day 9 – Staying Local

109 miles

The land of lakes

Jora Wielka is on the edge of what is know as the land of 1000 lakes, quite a bit shy of the 10,000 in Minnesota. It also known as the Polish Lake District but it is missing the mountains if you compare it to the English Lake District.

Mark and MacBean wanted a day off to hang out by the lake and take a nap. Martyn and I took ride up around the lakes to get lunch. Once out of Jora Wielka, the roads were great. We left by an alternate route which only had about 1.5 kms of dirt road to deal with an no cobblestones.

The town of Mikolajki just down the road was quaint and the ride along the river and lake up to Gizycko was beautiful. We found the marina in town and stopped for coffee and cheesecake for lunch.

Polish Cheesecake

I would take this Polish cheesecake over New York style any day. It was light and cheesy and the berries had just the right hint of tart.

Rather than riding straight back we headed south-east to Elk. There we had a water break and gassed-up. Home was a straight shot back to Mikolajki and back up the road into Jora Wielka.

We had decided the day before to cook in today as it was a Sunday and lots of places were going to be closed. We made barbecue baby-back ribs and baked potatoes served with tomatoes and pickled cabbage with carrots, all washed down with an Argentinian cab – we have yet to find a Polish wine.

Sunday dinner