This week, I have no two wheel adventures of my own to post. Instead, I am in Lisboa, Portugal, missing my bike and acutely tuned to the many motorcycles I see buzzing about the downtown streets of Lisboa. Everywhere, two wheels (occasionally three),
In the downtown area where I am staying, many of the streets are old brick, which is not particularly fun to ride on . There is a jostling and bumping that can be jarring. Electric cable cars share many streets. The cable car tracks weave throughout the narrow streets. They obviously require considerable skill by motorcyclists to skirt safely around. When wet, these bricks are slippery--I know because one of my favorite routes in Chicago has bricks like these and when wet, they are slicker than castor oil. It rained a bit yesterday here and there are small, shiny variously shaped bricks that cover the pedestrian walkways, which required my full attention to stay upright.
Thought I'd share some of my motorcycle observations while here in Lisboa. First, there are motorcycles and scooters everywhere! While I've seen lots of small cc scooters, there are lots of huge displacement (650cc) scooters whizzing by. Boy do they move! Next, every rider on two wheels wears a helmet! I now have tons of pictures of motorcyclists, not one have I seen yet without a helmet.
Funny thing though, while the modular helmets seems to be most popular, the trend seems to be to wear it in the upright (flipped up) position! I don't know if this is a statement against having to wear a helmet or just a local motorcycle fashion. It's an interesting sight to behold.
Motorcycle parking is ample! On many occasions I've had a motorcycle riding by me on the sidewalk! They are heading to spaces (some unmarked) near corners of the sidewalk. At times, these areas are marked with a large blue and white sign with an image of a motorcycle posted underneath it. Motorcycles also park on the street next to cars. They are also parked outside buildings--again on the sidewalk. I would imagine that these considerable parking allowances relates to the sheer number of bikes in Lisboa needing space.
Lisboa reminds me of San Francisco. In fact, the tour guides have said the same thing. It's the streets of Lisboa! And, like many European cities, the streets, particularly in the old sections of town are narrow--really narrow. I've seen cable cars, motorcycles, and cars partake in a seemingly precarious dance of close calls and near misses. But they all seem to manage well. Lots of stopping in curves so one must remember to straighten up and out those motorcycle wheels before applying the brakes.
The Honda Transalp motorcycle is ubiquitous! Lots of Honda CBs and Honda 599. Dualsports of all types can be spotted among the crowd. I've counted many BMWs but no F800ST--yet. I know that at least one resides here because the owner participates in the F800riders.org forum that I frequent. I'm hoping to see him before I leave this incredibly interesting country. I have seen no HDs! None. Zip. Nada!
The "Policia" are fitted with motorcycles--pretty cool ones too. They ride dualsports and standards. The most popular is a white bike with the checked paint design and matching paint job for the helmet. I've taken many pics of motorcycles. I heard that there are motorcycle tours available. I'm still checking that out. They do have self guided tours in the SmartCar. It is equipped with a GPS that narrates the trip and tells you where to go. They also have a similar tour in a three wheeler, which is really a little car (like a three-wheel Piaggio) in a colorful, roofless body. The driver and passenger don helmets and it navigates through traffic just like the big cars--it sounds extremely motorcyclish!
I still don't get the driving here. Enough head scratching round-abouts to cause permanent brain damage. Yet, Lisboa would be a thrilling place to ride two wheels--once one gets accustomed to the curving streets, the steep climbs and sharp descents and the many many blind side streets that people seem to enter and exit with some mysterious order that keeps the traffic flowing but escapes logic.
The food is something to write home about! I've had some of the best grilled salmon ever! The gelado, local ice cream, is simply "to die for!" I speak not a word of Portuguese but my daughter is here with us and she is fluent. It is amazing to me to see her navigate her way around, take the public transportation system with ease, do all our food ordering and hotel negotiations.
For a price, I'm willing to share her. If you need a tour guide to any place where Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, or Catalan, is spoken, she is available during the summers. All negotiations must go through her mother--and I get to come along.
This week away from my bike warrants a big trip when I return. I'm seriously thinking that another Saddle Sore is in order. Hmmm?