February 1, 2014
The first day of February: not usually the time of year that I think about going for a motorcycle ride. Dan had expressed interest in visiting our local KTM dealer and the easiest way to get there was on the motorcycles. And when the forecast called for rain later in the day but dry in the morning with temperatures in mid 40s (F), we figured that it was the perfect opportunity.
The KTM dealer is only 18 km from our apartment and it was an easy ride there. The owner is very engaging and he gave us a tour of his store before taking us down into the shop and giving us the details of the “KTM 690 Quest“. If anyone wants a serious adventure bike, this is the one to get!
We had spent enough time at the KTM shop and it was time to go. The weather was too nice to retrace our steps so we decided to take some country roads through whatever was between us and Basel. I read the GPS wrong and due to a severe mis-judgement of where we were, I took us on a much longer detour than I had expected. But the sun was out the the roads were dry – it was a good ride.
Leaving the KTM dealership
The road to Liestal
A view of the Jura
The quiet streets of Waldenburg
Snow was beginning to cover the fields and I was concerned about ice on the road. One of our communicator batteries had died so I couldn’t easily ask Dan if he was comfortable with this road. I kept on going, figuring that if he didn’t like it, he’d stop. The road wound its way between a farmhouse and its outbuildings when I saw him: an old man on his stomach, head towards the closed barn door. At first I thought that he was in that position to peer through the crack under the door, but as I blitzed by and checked my mirror, he hadn’t moved. My gut said that something was wrong and I immediately pulled over, much to Dan’s surprise. He had also seen the farmer but assumed that he was cleaning out a drain of sorts. I turned around and saw that the man was still lying prone on the ground. The area around the front of the barn was ringed by a sheet of ice but I crossed over it and parked the bike in the next barn bay. I got off the bike and went immediately to the guy and offered in German to help him, but his reply in Swiss German was too difficult for me to fully understand. I gathered that he needed help to get up, but as I started to pull him up, I worried that I could injure him further than he might already be.
By then Dan had turned around and gauged the situation. He rode ahead to the farmhouse to get help while I tried to reassure the man that someone was coming. I watched four or five people look in my direction as Dan called to them. Apparently one of the guys rolled his eyes, assuming that “another motorcyclist” had injured himself on the pass up the road. Then he saw me standing over the old farmer and his pace quickened. The family gathered around and lifted the man to his feet. I guessed that he had slipped on the ice and when he landed, he had hit is face on the pavement, as there was a bit of dried blood from his nose. To think that he had been laying there long enough for the blood to dry! The family herded him back across the ice and same guy who had rolled his eyes thanked us as they walked by. Dan and I stood there for a little while longer, discussing the events that had just taken place and deciding if we wanted to continue up into the snow. We chose the snow.
The farmhouse: scene of the crime
I’m glad that we continued
The sun even came out
The rest of the ride was mostly me just trying to figure out where we were and the best way to get home, without finding too much snow. I think I was pretty successful.
We had seen a couple of sidecars that day, nothing too unexpected since they had less to fear from icy spots on the road. But when we passed by three more of them in rapid succession near Crémines we figured that something must be going on. Our suspicions were confirmed when two more sidecar units were pulled off to the side of the road consulting their rally maps. It was a good day for a ride, two wheels or three.
Despite the snow, this was a warm valley
The road between Crémines and Vermes was a wonderful surprise. It was a narrow path through forest and fields, following a icy brook. I am determined to come back here on a warmer day.
The GPS insisted that I go right, which I thought was odd, and I soon recognized the landscape. It was Ruta de la Scheulte, one of the nearby passes that I’ve been over a number of times. I also knew that there had to be a quicker way to get home. I pulled off to the side, re-configured my GPS and turned around. We were home 30 minutes later.