From Stuttgart I rode North and East into Bavaria to a small town called Volkach, being flashed by a speed camera (no front plate no problem), but otherwise uneventfully blasting along the Autobahn at around 90MPH. Above that speed my VTEC kicked in and the fuel economy went south fast. Contrary to what I had heard there are still many derestricted sections of Autobahn where you could very much expect to be passed by an Audi wagon going 180+ KPH, the limiting factor was actually road conditions most of the time. Rarely wider than three lanes and usually with some curves and elevation change, the highway demands respect and is not the V-Max playground that it’s made out to be.
After touching the sights and discussing the merits of starting a car import/export business with Markus I slightly girded my loins for another multi-hour blast that would take me to my launch point for the mythical Green Hell.
Lugging my bulky cases to the third floor of the Airbnb in Heerlen, NL, I could definitely feel the mix of exhaustion from my travels and apprehension about how I’d handle my time the next day attempting to wring the most out of my track experience. Finding no seedy HBO channels to distract me after lowering the commonplace metal storm shades I went for the big guns and popped The Notebook into the DVD player.
The next morning, I learned that you should never ride with just one hard case on the bike because your arms will get tired from keeping it upright. Snaking my way south through the sinuous roads of the Eifel forest I stopped briefly at Vogelsang, a sort of summer camp for the future leaders of the third reich. A strange mix of eerie and boring, stripped of its use the facility stands as a kind of monumental footnote.
It is folly to attempt a description of the Nurburgring that does it justice but I’ll try to relate it to what experience I’ve had driving on roads and tracks. It’s first of all, fast. In a lowish power car like the E36 328 I was driving my foot was very often flat to the floor. The elevation change really is wild, an element that video games can’t quite simulate. Like every other paved surface in continental Europe, it’s narrow as well. There are places where I could imagine four cars running abreast but not many of them. Most of all, it’s addictive and intoxicating. The amount of nuance in the corners, the miles of layout to remember, the views of the gorgeous hills and the thrill of feeling the Ring Taxi blow by at three feet from your left shoulder means this place doesn’t meet expectations, it far exceeds them.
The road leading back to the ‘bahn was naturally an amazing sunset ride and after an hour of travel I met up with local student Lukas in the (underrated?) city of Aachen. A place with both a hip vibe and a rich history, I’d love to return for another visit. As Lukas and his friend showed me around the various points of interest from the red light district to the cathedrals to the warm smelly fountain my appreciation for Deutschland was cemented. What I imagined would be a nanny state turned out to be very much in the mold of “don’t be an idiot and the government won’t bug you.”Despite my dead phone and subsequent dread I found my way back to the room in Heerlen and only had enough energy to think “rad” before I was asleep.
Taking mental note of the new speed limit conventions and wondering about lane splitting in the Netherlands I continued north in a drizzle to visit Tom in Made which I know I’m pronouncing wrong because Dutch defeats me.