Freunde der Africa Twin Rally Spam
June 2008

In the middle of June 2008, amid quite a bit of other activity, we went to a weekend gathering for about 300 Honda Africa Twin motorcycle riders, mostly from Germany.

The Africa Twin motorcycle was developed for the Dakar Rally (of which we are still mourning the demise) and proved to be hugely popular in Europe, especially Germany. It's no longer manufactured, and it was never sold in North America, but the Africa Twin remains a HUGELY popular bike over here. I'll never forget when Stefan bought his - he looked like he had won the lottery. 

This "AT" rally took place about three hours from our home, and was organized by a motorcycle club called Freunde der Africa Twin e.V. (FAT), based in Oberursel-Weisskirchen, which is North West of Frankfurt. The gathering was very well-put-together -- I wasn't expecting this level of event organization from a small social club. But, then, I realized that a lot of the attendees are a part of the club's online community -- so it's yet another example of how the Internet can be used to build face-to-face community, not just online. All of the workers (food preparers and servers, registration, etc.) were volunteers in or associated with members of the club, and they obviously loved what they were doing.

The camp site was the parking lot of Burg Lissberg, a tower in a charming little village. The tower grounds are surrounded by a high stone wall, and on the grounds there is a large meeting room where presentations were held, a paved area for socializing, another walled area for a bonfire, plenty of good, cheap beer (ofcourse! it's Germany!), free coffee, terrific food (including delicious vegetarian options!), and BATHROOMS, not just pit toilets or port-o-pots (I really, really like plumbing).

On Saturday, attendees had a choice of going on a seven-hour road book tour, with stops for small competitions (like rowing across a lake), or a five 1/2 hour road book tour. We chose the latter, since it was chilly and threatening rain (the longer tour got rained on; we managed to avoid it). The ride was a great mix of paved and gravel roads, which all riders did at their own pace. We mostly road by ourselves, but we did ride with others at one point, when we all got lost in the woods -- which proved to be kinda fun, actually (even though I pointed out the probable way out and Stefan "didn't hear me", and the way out described by a passing local on a bicycle was, indeed, my way...).

On Saturday night, there was a presentation by a couple who toured Argentina, Chile and a bit of Bolivia for a year via their ATs (we are ready to go NOW), followed by the announcement of the winner of a restored Africa Twin motorcycle (the money for the raffle for this went to build a school in Kenya).

People were very nice, as most motorcycle travelers are. I don't speak German and, yet, I felt very welcomed and comfortable. And I really can't emphasize enough how well-run and how friendly this rally was. I think this may be the rally to which I judge all others - though, of course, the only other one I've been to is Moto-FERNREISE-Treffen by the famous (infamous?) Bernd Tesch.

There were a few non-ATs at the rally: a couple of KTMs, one or two Varaderos, maybe three Translips, a couple of BMWs... and a few women riders, some shorter than me, which I always am inspired by. Passersby were impressed either with the maps on Stefan's boxes that show where he's been by motorcycle, or by the Bushmill bottle holders on either side of the bike, which Stefan adapted from the boxes Bushmill's ships whiskey in.

Our next motorbike trip, by the way, will be to Eastern Europe in September. I hope we can also do one more trip in the Spring before we move back to the USA. Once we're in the USA, we have several motorcycling travel goals to realize: various parts of the USA (including Alaska), Canada, and Chilé top the list of goals. And, of course, I want to learn to ride myself and buy my own bike (not an Africa Twin; I just think it's much too big for me). 

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