After months of planning, failing to execute and planning again, we did it. We packed our gear and headed out into the unknown. And it was the kind of journey that fills the void in your soul caused by the mundane way of life for a mindless drone…
I said I was going to write about the gear, especially the TomTom Bandit action camera and TomTom RIDER 400 navigator, and I will but not in this post. Because this is about freedom, the very essence of being a biker, and technical specifics, how important they may be, will just have to stand back for now.
It was a beautiful day, one of the nicer days of a cold, rainy summer. The timing couldn’t have been better but then again, as a biker in Sweden you’re kind of used to being glued to the weather apps, hoping and planning for every chance to get out there. That being said, I didn’t really know what to bring. I could have done without almost all the stuff but as it was a test of packing and gear, I went for the heavy stuff. We’re talking dry bags, tent, sleeping bag, mattresses, different kind of straps for securing the luggage, chargers for the Scala Rider, iPhone, camera and so on.
The first lesson learned is that it always takes much longer to get your gear securely fastened than you think. Especially if you are more than one person and the other one has bought a universal strap system with pieces missing in the shipment… Our departure were delayed with several hours but eventually we could leave Stockholm behind us. Well, it took us forever to leave Stockholm actually. Having set the Garmin Montana 600 for a route with more curves, avoiding freeways, we took the detour of our lives, cruising back and forth through the suburbs.
Outside the city we decided to head for Norrtälje and then further up the coast. It didn’t take long before we hit jackpot: twisting and turning roads, sometimes with flawless tarmac through the most beautiful landscape you can ever imagine. The lush greens, the yellows, the hills and the forests – Sweden is where fairytales come for inspiration.
A spontaneous pitstop at a go-cart track turned out to be epic. I’ve never tried go-cart before and it was quite the experience. How come riding at 80 km/h feels like a breeze while going the same speed in a cart has your heart racing like humming bird? For me it had the positive side effect of easing a bit of my stil present fear since the accident.
We headed on, going more or less aimlessly on intuition and whims, forcing our navigators to constantly recalculate our routes. But they did a pretty good job because when we arrived in Norrtälje in the early evening, we had just had the kind of epic ride that leaves you breathless of joy.
Feeling hungry, we had a burger at Ed’s burger and, once again on this trip, I was in awe. The burger was probably the best one I’ve ever had. Being there with a buddy, having a burger in the sun, heading for a great adventure, what could possibly go wrong? Well, my crappy bike for starters.
I’ve had some issues with the battery before but it was more or less dead this time. We tried to push-start it to no avail. When a couple of police officers passed, I stopped them to ask for starter help. They got the cables and we tried to jumpstart it. No luck. It clicked and sparked, and I was sure that this was the end of the bike. Luckily we were close to hotel in the middle of the town and not at a camping site but it still felt kind of lame.
My buddy, always having my back, went to Biltema, a chain specializing in cheap car related stuff, and bought a new battery while I was talking to the police officers and trying to get the bike running. It was actually pretty nice although anticlimactic. Just as the police officers were departing, my friend came back with a new battery. Having foreseen all kinds of trouble, I had packed some tools and they turned out to be sufficient to replace the battery. I pushed the button and it started! We were on the move again.
This ordeal had cost us at least an hour of daylight so we decided to head for Grisslehamn instead of Öregrund as we had planned before. More great roads almost gave us a happiness overload. As long as you have gas, a running motorcycle, some sun and a friend in the intercom, there is nothing that can bring you down,
We roared into Grisslehamn just in time to get some groceries. The plan was to have dinner at a nice restaurant but people seemed a bit off there so we asked around for a beach to put up the tent before sunset. Some vague instructions lead us onto some dirt roads through a forest but soon enough we came up to this rock beach with the perfect view of the archipelago.
Some drunk hillbilly had already set up shop there with his girlfriend, drinking and shooting air guns, so we went down as far as we could to the water to put up the tent. Word of advice: Practice with your tent beforehand. We had not since this was a loaner. We spend the better part of an hour trying to get the tent in place. Then it was time to collect some firewood. I wasn’t expecting much luck; the last months of rain would probably have soaked everything, but we managed to find enough to get a fire going.
As soon as we sat there in front of the fire with a beer, watching the sun set over the ocean, listening to the sounds of the sea, the great calmness swept into my mind, whispering soothing words in my ear and I felt at ease for the first time in… ages. There is something so sincere, so primal of being far away (like a 150 kilometer, not more than so) from your everyday life, not having access to internet, not thinking about work, bills, careers but focusing on keeping the fire alive while at the same time just being. It was magic. I like camping but unfortunately don’t get out much. This was a reminder that I have to do it more often.
Sleeping on rocks wasn’t the best idea. Even through the therm-a-rests we felt the sharp edges but it was nice anyways. We woke up at four in the morning, the sun having risen already. At six we packed our stuff to head back. We did it quietly not to wake the hillbillies up. Bad move. As I tried to start the bike, it was completely dead. Nothing. Not even a light. I panicked for a second or two. Then my friend noticed that someone (the god damn hillbilly) had pushed the killswitch, a button I never use. Let me tell you this: I did not feel any guilt when we roared off, with our aftermarket slip-ons waking the fucktards up.
We headed for Norrtälje again through some really twisting roads, once again feeling the thrill of the ride. I am not a fast rider, not nearly as fast as my friend, so I had to really fight the fear to keep up with him. There were parts of the road when I felt the old rhythm, gently moving from side to side, and then there were parts when I felt myself tense up, wrestling the bike rather than riding. I guess I’ll have to keep working with that fear…
In Norrtälje we had a nice breakfast (and cheap too compared to just a coffee in Stockholm) at Café Hörnan, the oldest cafe in the town. Feeling invigorated we took off, heading home. Not quite as light heartedly as riding out but still enjoying the almost ridiculously beautiful landscape. With just shy of an hour left of our ride, one of the Scala Riders turned off, having drained the battery. Immediately the ride turned from being one of friendship, adventure and freedom to a means of transport. I’m not ashamed to admit it: riding is much better when it’s shared. Without talking to each other, you have to focus more on where to go, what’s the status with your fellow rider and so on.
The last few kilometers, we cheated and took the highway to save some time. The clouds were building up anyways and we were satisfied, having accomplished what we set out to do: get away, find a nice spot, enjoy nature and some mighty fine riding and then come back, all within 24 hours. Yep, in just a day we had ourselves an adventure. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that. I promise you that no matter where you live, you can always find something new.
When we rolled into the garage, we had done 350 kilometers, which on a KTM 690 Enduro with stock seat means a lot of pain. We had found some epic riding spots for later tours, we had eaten great, enjoyed nature and summer, slept bad, solved some bike problems, talked to nice people and had fun. The only problem is how to go back. Now that we’ve kicked this door open, you want to do it again and again and again, venturing farther into the unknown every time. Who knows what’s behind the horizon…