If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Friday, 18 September 2009

Denmark Trip Day Three

The MC Touring Camp and a ride around the lanes, 34 miles

I ought to start by explaining how this trip came about, and what the MC Touring Camp is. The opportunity for a week away came as we decided that our big France trip this summer wasn't going to happen because of Anna's run of bad luck on the health front this year (posts, passim). It took a lot of thought before I decided where to go (here, here and here), but eventually settled on Denmark.

Anna knows a Danish guy called Poul through an internet game she plays. She told him about my week off, and he suggested that I came to see him, and even offered to show me round the place. I love travel and visiting places I haven't been before, and the offer of a few days in a new country with a clued-up local seemed too good to pass up. Poul is a member of the largest bike club in Denmark, the MC Touring Club. It has about 30,000 members and owns a campsite. Poul is a volunteer helper at the site (in addition to working in Århus), so he has a permanent pitch there with a large tent and a very comfy set-up.

He is a fabricator in stainless steel by trade, and some of his work was wonderful to see. Various bits for the bikes, and little gizmos to make living in the tent a bit easier - all beautifully welded in stainless and polished to a mirror finish. I was very envious of his talents. His 'summer bike' is a Suzuki RF900:

and he also has a 'winter bike' (with a sidecar) for those snowy Danish mornings:

and his wife Alice also has a chariot of her own, a BMW K1100 with a sidecar:

Poul also has a Danish Nimbus from the 50s in bits in the basement of his apartment in Århus, awaiting restoration. As you can see, a serious biking team.

On my first morning in the camp, I was treated to a substantial Danish breakfast, consisting of lots of strong coffee, bread rolls, salami and a powerful cheese. This suited me fine, and I was content to sit for a long time just getting my head together and shooting the breeze with Poul and Alice. A cigarette would have been perfect - the only time in the three years since I gave up that I have wanted to smoke. I didn't give in, but it was a close thing.

In the afternoon, we went for a short ride around the lanes and ended up in a place called Ebeltoft, a very pretty seaside village with a harbour and an 'old' village centre. There was an old frigate in dry dock there and on display, the Jylland - rather similar to the Victory in Portsmouth.

Poul and I had a good time clambering all over her and I was particularly interested in the immense oak store they had for ongoing repairs: just some huge trees, lying on the dockside gently seasoning over the years.

I can't begin to guess how much that oak was worth. It made my store of oak planks in the workshop look pretty pathetic.

We rode into the town centre and stopped for a beer in a small bar, where there were tables outside in the sun. In Denmark, parking for bikes is allowed pretty much anywhere, as long as you don't cause an obstruction, so bikes get parked on pavements and in odd corners, all for free, of course. Not a parking meter or traffic warden in sight.

What surprised me most was the way that we rode. I had rather expected a bit of boy-racer stuff - foreign biker needs to be shown how the Danes really ride, kind of thing. But Poul was Mr Law-Abiding himself, keeping to speed limits religiously, rarely overtaking, and generally behaving suspiciously well. It was a very relaxing day, and an ideal way to get into the Danish way of things as far as road behaviour was concerned. I was to see the other side of things later.

In was treated to a good meal by Alice when we returned, and the evening was spent with more beer and a tasting of the curious Danish drink Gajol. This is a vodka-based liqueur-type drink, flavoured with liquorice and menthol. I think it's a Marmite thing - you'll love it or hate it - but fortunately I like liquorice, so I was a keen student. It comes in four 'colours', each with subtly different flavours, and Alice had been shopping and got a bottle of each (that must have cost a bit!) for me to sample. (The colours, by the way, refer only to the labels on the bottles. The liquid is always the same brown, a bit like thin gravy.) Poul had already sent me a sample of the Blue Gajol, which I had liked. Now I was able to try the Yellow, Green and Red. Some were more spicy, some more salty, but they were all very pleasant to sip as we sat and watched the sun go down.

My tent seemed very small after the comfort of Poul's 'palace', but I crept in and settled down for the night. In September in Denmark, the days are pleasantly warm, but the nights are pretty cold - I must remember to bring a better sleeping bag next time.

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