Happy pillion

In response to a post Dean did recently about bike zen I wanted to write my bit about pillion zen.

I’ve kind of made that name up but after travelling about 120000 kms as a pillion I feel I have enough experience to share what makes a pillion (me) happy.

It’s pretty simple really… A happy rider (Dean). Sure… Not too hot, not too cold, not wet, not too boring, not too exciting (not too many water crossings or sand roads…) But most of all a happy rider.

When there is something wrong with the bike it occupies every second and space of deans brain. Constantly throughout the day I can see when he’s unhappy with how the bike is running.

It seems that to try to diagnose ANY problem with the bike it usually involves accelerating really really fast and then breaking suddenly… time after time after time.  This gets a bit tiring on the back, constantly trying to stop myself from smashing into the back of him but I try to remain calm as I know that whatever is going on in deans head is more painful.  When there are bike issues Dean gets angry which is very uncharacteristic of him… There are lots of air/petrol tank punches when he misses an exit on the highway and lots of shaking of head. For a while I thought it was just big cities and highways that were challenging him but it appears that it was the bike.

He worries and worries and constantly considers worse case scenarios (suggestions of sending the bike home on a boat occur frequently) but its really hard to appear as concerned/worried as Dean is as I know he always fixes everything!

‘it will be fine babe, you fix everything’ is all I can muster as words of encouragement but Dean looks at me like I don’t understand.

He always fixes it.

I try not to mention that I was right 😜

On the flip side when Dean has ‘bike zen’ he is happy and we ride faster and. there are more wheelies… The mixture of excitement + bike zen+ a fast, happy betsy and a bit of testosterone results in a raising of the wheel… It’s quite phalik actually and I kind of feel like I’m imposing on a private moment between Dean and Betsy  but I do try to embrace the air borne happiness … Whilst gripping on for dear life.

The other thing that happens when we have bike zen is night time dean…. We all know what happens when night time dean comes out….

Anyway, we are now back in France, in Bordeaux. We rode through the Pyrenees from Spain which was beautiful. The South of Spain was much like Australia…dry and hot whilst the North was more like England, lush and green.  Spain was full of bars, people , tapas and late nights where nothing gets going until 9-10pm where as France goes to bed at 9pm.

This left us this evening with no wine and barely any food.  Our dinner consisted with everything we had left in our panniers which was pasta, oil, garlic, salami and egg… it sounds better than it was… But more importantly no wine. Camping is hard enough at the best of times but without a glass of wine to help us sleep?!

Spain was unexpectedly unfriendly whilst France has stereotypically and expectedly followed suit. Obviously this is a huge generalisation and we have met lovely, friendly, hospitable people everywhere we’ve been but it’s always interesting to experience cultures based on your assumptions. France had been spot on 😜

Tomorrow we are going to go and visit some wineries which we really hope will be a good experience and improve our opinion of the French and their wines.

Update: (it’s now tomorrow) our opinion of wine hasn’t changed. Some of the French people we’ve met today have been lovely and are changing our initial opinion somewhat 😉

We want to go back to Italy, we miss aperitivos… Xx

The Pyrenees

We left Spain yesterday and took a 300km detour through the Pyrnees eventually in the direction of Bordeaux.

Gorgeous scenery all day, and some great roads for motorcycling.

We slept in a campsite just outside a little town in the mountains last night, and are headed to Bordeaux now.

Just 8 days until Paul arrives!



A wet rainy night in the tent last night, we arrived back at the camp site saturated and cold… Very lucky I sealed the seams of the tent a few days ago!

“I’m not a camper. I’ll never be a camper!”   S Clark. 2016.

Some useful camping advice from the pro’s…

Location… Before going to sleep make sure you are aware of the other campers in the area, or you may inadvertently wee on them in the night.  (Reciprocal weeing has been known to occur by unhappy campers).

Sugar… Don’t buy sugar, you can steal it from restaurants every day, it helps pass the time wandering aimlessly in foreign cities.

Sleep… Always have something black nearby as you’ll need an eye covering in the morning to stop the Sun from buring through your eyelids. 

Underwear… Do not keep black underwear in the tent.

Earplugs… No explanation needed.

Orientation… Try to work out where the Sun will come up and put your tent in exactly the place that you think will be sunny in the morning. You will never work it out, so this guarantees shade.

Pillows… It’s a lost cause, stop trying.

Carrying liquid… Old water bottles take up less space than wine, olive oil (or vodka bottles), and can be squashed up as they become empty.

Plates… Are not necessary. Suitable substitutes include shopping bags, egg cartons and paper bags.

We head towards the Pyrnees today, hoping to avoid more rain!

And finally some bike zen!

This moto travel thing is great fun, but one main prerequisite for the fun is that the bike runs well.  When the bike runs poorly, or is carrying several ongoing problems, my day of riding turns into hours of pondering, analysing, and generally beating myself up for not being better at fixing it.

As the olympics has just finished, I’m going to use an olympic analogy to describle the motorbike.  

I once heard an interview with an olympic athlete, who said that while most people think of athletes as incredibly healthy, finely tuned machines that are totally prepared for 100% performance in competition.  The reality however, is the complete opposite, they are actually continually pushing themselves beyond normal levels of endurance, and therefore injured, sprained, strained and generally hurting somewhere.

And so it is with the motorbike.  After 55,000km on this trip, and about 255,000km in total, Betsy is tired.  She’s willing and will push on to the end, but she’s only human, and things are starting to hurt.

So for the last 10,000km, she’s had a misfire/flatspot in the bottom of the rev range that has eluded my repeated attempts at a fix, and continued to get worse and worse, ruining our riding experience, until we finally ended up being passed by a diesel Golf on the highway recently, and so once again I dismantled some parts, but after so many failed attempts, I wasnt expecting much of an outcome.  But this time, lo and behold I actually found and cured the problem.

Bike Zen.

I’d like to say that I invented the term bike zen, but it may have been my brother, or it may have come from the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, but either way, it’s a real phenomenen which I will now share with you…

Bike Zen : Adjective.  The state of mental clarity and feeling of harmony which can be experienced while riding a motorcycle which you are responsible for maintaining, when that motorcycle is running perfectly.  E.g. “the bike is running great, today was an amazing ride, total bike zen”. Contrasted with “The bike is misfiring continually, it’s really messing with my bike zen”

So finally after a couple of months without bike zen, we have a healthy happy motorcycle again, and therefore a happy rider.

I wasn’t even aware of how frustrated I had become until I found myself punching the fuel tank after missing an exit from the highway recently.

“Are you ok babe?”

“Yeah, this misfire is just really killing the riding vibe ”

“Well why don’t you just fix it then?”

I love the way Sally thinks I can fix everything. Each time something goes wrong and I pace around muttering something about needing parts, or some catastrophic breakage, Sal just sits somewhere and waits for me to fix it.

“You know one day it will stop and I won’t be able to fix it”

“But you always fix everything babe”





Here I am again writing the blog post that Dean was supposed to write but once again he is spending the day working on the bike so I’ve taken over!

Clearly we are having lots of fun here in Europe as you can probably tell from the lack of blog posts! I am currently sitting by a pool in our campground in 35 degree heat working on my tan (I hope I’m not making you jealous?!) That said, it will be our 10th night in a tent tonight surrounded by the rest of Europe who are all on holiday. It’s the cheapest option we have although not really cheap enough to make us feel good about it! A good night’s  sleep however is required so I have spent the last 2 hours trying to find hotels in Seville which we can afford and also have bike parking which is the main challenge. All the old towns here are beautiful with walking streets only throughout however this means no parking – frustrating!

No doubt we will end up in a tent again as it’s all too hard!

Since the last post we continued in France through the Alps down to the south coast which was stunning.

A break in the Alps

A break in the Alps

We ate French cheese, fresh baguettes and cold meats looking over mountains before heading down into the heat of the French Riviera. We found a campsite and stayed a couple of nights as Dean had to try to organise some tyres – ours were beyond bald…!

The French Alps

The French Alps

This was harder than expected and we ended up having to organise some in Barcelona to pick up in a couple of days. We spent some time in Nice and Cannes and made our way quicker than planned to Spain. Along the way we camped in a little town which had been recommended to us which was really lovely. It was the first time we felt we had a taste of France.  We would have like to spend some more time there but the KTM shop who had our tyres in Barcelona was closing for a month so we had no choice but to push on.

Night time Dean in Cannes...

Night time Dean in Cannes…

Its great being in Europe in the summer but we had no idea how EVERYTHING shuts down and EVERYONE goes on holidays. It really sucks! Everything is busy, everything is expensive and all businesses are closed! We feel we are missing out on the usual buzz of places.

So, Spain. We spent the first night in Figures which is where the Dali museum is. After about an hour lining up for a ticket we entered and ‘WOW’ I don’t usually get excited by museums but this was something else. Such a diverse artist.. A must for anyone who ever goes to Spain!

A view of the entrance hall of the Dali museum

A view of the entrance hall of the Dali museum



More Dali

More Dali

The next day Barcelona, via the KTM shop to pick up tyres. Dean was hoping he would be able to fix them in their workshop but they weren’t very friendly or welcoming so he ended up having to do them in a parking lot next door to the shop.

In almost all the KTM shops we have been to around the world the guys that work there are so helpful, accommodating and interested in the bike and will go out of their way to help Dean and let him work in their workshop (and usually spend the day standing around staring at him while he works) but it seems in more developed countries they couldn’t care less which is disappointing.

After spending hours trying to find somewhere to stay in Barcelona we ended up resorting to a campsite 17 kms from the city. It was a dust bowl with hundreds of tents haphazardly pitched so close together you could touch each other and it cost us $45 a night. Some campsites here cost as much as  $90 a night – crazy!

Oour campsite on a quite day

Our campsite on a quiet day

Barcelona is a great city and we rode in every day enjoying the bars and tapas but it drained our budget – especially when night time Dean came out – Danger! We visited the Sagrada Familia which was amazing and still unfinished – another must for any Spanish visit!

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia in need of a clean!

Inside Sardena Familia

Inside Sagrada Familia

So beautiful it almost makes you believe in God...

So beautiful it almost makes you believe in God…

After Barcelona we rode to Valencia for a night which was really nice once we got out of the touristy centre. It was a shame to leave after just one night but it seems that Spain has more to do than we had anticipated!

Now down in the South where its bloody hot and feeling more Spanish which is really great and is making us regret  spending so much time in Barcelona. We are in Granada at the moment which is really beautiful. We were really excited to learn yesterday that whenever you buy a drink, you get a free plate of tapas with it! So 4 drinks also bought us dinner! Bargain! We also wanted to see the famous Alhambra castle here but, alas, its closed for the holidays. Of course!

Dean has finished working on the bike and feels that he has fixed the problem which is great news! A worry free Dean is a fun Dean….but it could mean that night time Dean will want to come out to play tonight and I am having trouble keeping up…! x


Italy..?! Stupid…

Our camp tonight

Our camp tonight

So here we are…in French Alps, camping by a river bed, by a fire, drinking red wine from an empty tin of tomatoes! We’re not sure if we are allowed to be here but so far so good! One of the reasons we are wild camping tonight is because Dean forgot to transfer money in to his account (despite having gentle reminders…) so we have limited money until Tuesday when the bank allows us access to the money J This wouldn’t usually be a problem as I would be better organised but since I had an issue of fraud on my credit card about 3 months ago and am still waiting for the bank to get their shit together to send me a new one, we only have one card to work with…

Camping every night makes small things very important.  Our ‘kitchen utensils’ consist of using paper bags for plates, cut in half beer cans for wine/coffee cups and any random bag as a bin. We were especially disappointed when we returned to our camp the other night to find that all these vital instruments were taken as rubbish and disposed of and we were left with nothing but a plastic spoon and a wine bottle…tough times…!

A beautiful village in Italy

A beautiful village in Italy

So Italy…so ridiculously beautiful it’s stupid! Always a castle, a mountain, a ruin, prosciutto and aperitivos that everyone drinks no matter what time of the day it is! We went to a United Colours of Benneton shop the other day only to realise that there was a ruin in the middle of it…

“Is that an actual ruin or just a feature that has been designed in to the shop?” Dean asks the shop assistant?

“Yeah, its a Roman ruin from about 2000 years ago, there are loads of them here” she says as if she is talking about the weather

There wasn’t even a sign to tell you that it was there …amazing!

Just another castle in a random village

Just another castle in a random village

We spent a few and nights at Chiara’s, Deans cousins place which was lovely. We loved not moving for a while and it was hard to get on the road again. We headed to Verona, and on the way stopped for a lovely lunch in another historic building and a glass of Soave… in Soave of course. We then arrived in Verona and found a campsite which was a 10 minute walk from the centre which was pretty amazing. We spent the next day shopping and then rode out to Valpolicella and learnt more about wine. Very beautiful!

Restauratnt in Soave

Restaurant in Soave

Verona... the view from our campsite

Verona… the view from our campsite

The following day wasn’t so much fun riding through a rain storm to Barolo but we ended up finding a nice camp and spent the next couple of days doing much the same!



It is all very nice but there is a feeling that the wheels are starting to fall off… starting with Dean getting sick of seeing me in the same clothes (it has been a year to the day that we left…still in the same clothes), but also the zips on our bags are breaking…the GPS keeps freezing and turning off…my suit is no longer waterproof…half the bike is being held together with zip ties and to top it all off…our airbeds – which we are using every night at the moment are starting to disintegrate (we think) and have hundreds of tiny holes through them so once an hour we have to wake up and pump  them up again. This results in a bad nights sleep in an already challenging environment and a slightly grumpy Sally…! So…tomorrow our mission is to try to find some airbeds, come hell or high water! We don’t see ourselves being able to afford a hotel room for another week or so until we get to Spain so it is quite important!

Another castle in Barolo

Another castle in Barolo

Despite everything wanting to retire, the sky is blue and the weather perfect (apart from the odd day of rain storms). Everything is green, radiant and oh so civilised. We are travelling through amazing wine regions, beautiful scenery and years of history. We are so so lucky xx


You see?! Stupid.