As ever, when someone comes over from America to Europe for the Motocross of Nations we write a blog about it. Normally it's Wes making the trip but due to shoulder surgery, he was forced to pass on the duties to New England's Danny Stuart. Hopefully you read his first entry here about his trip, but from now on, everything will be all kept in this one blog entry for ease of reading.
****We will keep updating both the text and pictures, so make sure to keep checking back for updates... newest stuff at the top, oldest at the bottom****
So it's been almost a week since the update and the bad news is – Danny Stuart is on a flight back to America. To say that his time over here was hectic would be a vast understatement and these past few days were some of the busiest yet. By now you've all seen, read and watched everything you'll ever want to about the Motocross of Nations (except for Taking on the World Episode 6, which Danny is finishing on his flight back to the USA) so I won't go over too much of the racing action. Instead, I'll try and fill you in on everything else that happened the last few days.
Due to a lack of planning, and the fact that I didn't know if anyone would be joining me for this year's race, I didn't book a hotel for the weekend and when I looked, I was waaaaay too late. That meant that Danny and I would be sleeping in the van and tent over the weekend. Little did I know when this arrangement was worked out, was that it would be absolutely freezing overnight at the track. Literally. I woke up from the tent with frost on the outside. Luckily a few beers meant sleeping wasn't too badly affected but I'm sure Danny will chime in here about his troubles.
A big thanks here to Alpinestars who brought their catering truck to the race and allowed us to eat decent food at the track both nights. After a diet of far too many McDonald's, some vegetables was much appreciated and the steak I had was awesome as well. Cheers guys.
After all the racing was done and dusted all that was left was the after-party to celebrate an awesome year of GP action. One of the cool things about this gig is that plenty of riders show up and let their hair down for an evening, and this evening certainly had that. I can't remember too much about the night, other than leaving at 5am and being recognised by two fans when we arrived at about 10.30pm. Always nice being recognised for our hard work, especially by riders which also happened to Danny a few times. Hopefully these past few weeks have laid the groundwork for a lot more European content in the future and I have to say I'm really excited to by the prospect.
One prospect I wasn't looking forward to was the 11hr drive back to England. Hungover and Tired. Danny resumed his role of sleeping 70% of the time so it was just left to me to steer us through the wondrous German, Dutch, Belgian, French countryside. I've probably driven from Antwerp to Calais about 15 times this year and it doesn't get any more exciting each time I do it. Flat, boring, scenery, with just enough traffic to be annoying. We made it back though and I proceeded to go to bed at around 9pm. Hardcore. Another reason for the early night was the fact that we were going into London the next day. With Danny flying out early Wednesday, this was the only chance to show him around one of the best cities on Earth so we got our walk on and nailed most of the big attractions. Whistle-stop would be the most accurate description.
All that was left to do was wake up at 6.20am today in order to get Danny on his way to America and finally finish watching Breaking Bad (which was epic). Catching up on some sleep was also in order. Anyway, we did approximately 2500 miles in the three weeks, crossed 16 borders and slept in over 10 hotels (I seriously lost count) which isn't too shabby for a dirtbike vacation.
I thought the autobahn was a road you go to when you want to to drive fast. I’d thought that everybody driving it would have their game faces on behind the wheel and if you’re not pedal to the metal, get off. Full throttle or no throttle, no ifs ands or buts. But as it turns out, I was wrong. It is like being on RT95 or any other interstate but rather than having different speed limits, there are spots that simply don’t have a speed limit and those spots are called “the autobahn”. Is this news to anyone??? I always pictured it to be some crazy road that you went to for one reason and one reason only, to go fast. Despite being different than I’d expected, it was still pretty wild. 90mph shouldn’t seem slow.
We’ve made our way to Germany and got to check out the track. I’ve never been to a MXdN race before, so this is icing to the cake. As if spending a few weeks touring Europe and meeting up to shoot with a bunch of badass dudes over here isn’t cool enough, the trip is ending with the biggest race of the year. Honestly, I remember talking to a friend Eli years ago about how cool it would be to go to one of these races. It was just small talk though, we were pretty young. It never seemed realistic; until a few weeks ago when Wes mentioned that maybe I could go shoot it, if I wasn’t too busy? I don’t know why he didn’t expect the answer to be a definite yes, but it was, and luckily my father let me take time from working at the track (mx207) for these few weeks to take this opportunity. Let me cut to the chase, rolling into the track to shoot the track preview video was unreal, and I can not wait for this weekend.
The next day wasn’t too eventful, we watched Breaking Bad a lot, but Thursday was cool. USA had finally arrived so we woke up early to go shoot with them. Unfortunately it was raining most the day but all in all it was a good day. It’s been about two weeks since I’ve had a nice easy-going accent-free American conversation. If you haven’t watched the video yet, I suggest you do. These guys are here to do business.
David Bulmer: As part of this trip, we've been employed by booking.com to test every single hotel's wifi in the Benelux region and to be quite honest, a lot of them have failed. The offering in Arnhem was reasonably fast but unfortunately it had an 100mb limit for data. Do you know how much stuff you can do with 100mb?!? Not a lot I'll tell you right now. Wanna watch a Youtube video? Congrats, you are now unable to do anything except go to ASCII websites. That meant we have to bring out the credit card and splurge a whole 9.90Euros for the “Unlimited” internet package, a package that meant we could download and upload as much as we wanted, or so we thought. No, we were limited to 250mb per session before we'd have to logoff and log back in again. No worries... unless you want to upload videos from the day's action (which we had plenty of, after the Dutch race at Lichtenvoorde). Anyway, we had to get a bit creative with our rendering settings but eventually we made sure each video was under 250mb to get our jobs done.
Other than internet, another problem we've run into is that Danny has now realised (despite me telling him all along) that Euros are worth more than $$$ and that he might want to tone down the spending of “monopoly money” as he likes to call it. Well sure enough, he's now broke. This means we are on the European equivalent of the PB&J diet which is basically the McDonalds value menu. Hunting for food he can afford now takes twice as long as before and we've taken to punishing ourselves after every Breaking Bad episode by doing push-ups in order to stay in some kind of shape.
As far as the trips been going, we've finally made it to Teutschenthal. Yay. It's about a 5hr drive from the Netherlands but we split it over two days just so that I didn't have to drive all that way with Danny drooling in his pillow. Instead he actually stayed awake for some of the drive and introduced me to his entire rap / hip-hop collection on his iPhone. Lucky me.
Danny Stuart: So, we got to go to Amsterdam. Whether it was on the way from point A to point B or not is irrelevant. Let’s be real here, it had to happen (luckily Bulmer thought so too). That was the good news, bad news came upon arrival. Driving there, I had the head phones in and the computer out so I could get the “Vurb Original: Conrad Mewse” video finished. Eventually I felt nauseous and needed to take a break. I looked up and Bulmer just casually says we’re in Amsterdam. That wasn’t the bad news, obviously. We were in the land of #bikelife, I couldn’t believe how many people were cruising around. Anybody who’s been there knows what I’m talking about, and to anybody who hasn’t been, you wouldn’t really believe me if I tried telling you many many people there are on bicycles there. After about 30 minutes of searching for a spot to park and a 2 mile walk to the Hostel (because Bulmer wouldn’t parallel park), I had to get back in the zone for a while to finish up the video and have a free schedule for the night. Finally, that was done and it was play time. I didn’t have any money on me so I paid a visit to the ATM where I realized I legit just didn’t have any money at all; ran the account dry. Do I need even say that this was the bad news? I’ve arrived to Amsterdam with empty pockets, no bueno. But, thinking on my feet, I may or may not have transferred some $$ from Bill Stuart’s account. Problem solved, thanks dad.
No need to really go into detail about the night really, other than the fact that it was cool and that that place doesn’t seem real and that I want to go back. The day after, we watched about 7 episodes of Breaking Bad. We rested a lot. The day after was a Dutch National. Going to these races over here is cool, it’s another World really. In the states you know who’s who, you know who goes fast who doesn’t, and you know what’s going on. Over here I’m sort of lost the entire time and haven’t really got a clue who a lot of these guys are, but they all rip. It’s so laid back over here and so far, every single rider we have shot with has been super cooperative and really cool, which is something you don’t always come across back home sometimes.
Now we are heading West (I believe) (Editor's note: It's East) to Germany. We’ve got the big race at the end of the week, and I can’t wait.
David Bulmer: After our shoot with Conrad in Dunkirk (which apparently isn't as gnarly as Southwick errrr) we headed west to the wondrous city of Amsterdam. Well first we sat in traffic for an hour around Antwerp before reaching our hotel, but on Friday we did indeed see the bright (red?) lights of Holland's biggest tourist attraction.
I've been here a few times before, including showing Wes around it last year, but our boy Danny Stuart had never seen anything like it. “They have a lot of bicycles here” he observed, before promptly stepping out in front of five of them. Luckily no harm was done and we settled into a quiet evening's entertainment which involved jigsaw puzzles, some lemonade and a bit of pictionary. Nothing too exciting to report really... but I'm sure Danny will add this at some point.
As Davey B already said, we’ve got a pretty consistent schedule here; shoot, eat, sleep, new hotel, shoot, eat, sleep, new hotel. It didn’t seem there was going to be any change anytime soon, until I woke up the following morning (Wednesday) and it was raining. Not like that hadn’t stopped us before, because only a 24 hours prior, we were in the pouring rain shooting with Calvin. But non the less, it was changing our plans this time and I wasn’t too disappointed. Yeah I like shooting and stuff but lets be real here, a day off is nice. Time to be a tourist.
We’d walked about 30 minutes to the down town area for lunch. When I was in Wales, Mikey Neale insisted that Bulmer show me to a Duvel beer, so of course that’s what was ordered to wash down my nice (actually) Belgium waffles. Aside from the lunch, we popped our head into about a dozen stores trying to find some sport shorts, something cosy to sit around in. The one pair I brought with me got absolutely smoked when we went mountain biking, so since then every night when we get back to the hotel room it’s straight to ‘boxers only’ mode. I almost feel bad for Bulmer but not bad enough. Normally when we type these blogs we attach photos relevant to the topic, but I think I will pass in this case. Anyways, we looked and looked and there wasn’t a single pair in any of the stores, we even went to Foot Locker. I never found any, I’m not wearing pants right now.
Around this time is when the trip went from good to better. You ever let your dog out of the car after a long drive and it instantly starts freaking out running every where as if the thing is possessed? Yeah that was Bulmer when it was time to go out. Just kidding, a little, but we were ready. Started off slow, typical dinner and drink, then we went hunting for the bars. Once we decided to try one of the little alley-ways, boom, jack pot; the gold mine of bars. To keep this simple, we’ll just say that the first place we went to had a buy 2 get one free special. Shortly after, upon meeting some people, I was Danny from Canada, not America, Canada. I guess it’s easier to be liked this way, and it seemed to have worked great. At one point a girl asked why I know no french, I had to explain to her that people don’t actually speak French there. Unfortunately she knew I was full of shi+ because she’d been there. So no, what I meant was just my town doesn’t speak french, that seemed to do the trick.
The next morning was pretty brutal. Obviously I slept the entire way to the track, I don’t remember even leaving the hotel parking lot. I’ve got to give it up to Bulmer for the amount of driving he has been doing. Luckily I don’t have a license here so he never asks me to drive. I sit there passed out while he keeps the show on the road. An occasional pit stop for some shut eye here and there and Davey B is ready to keep on keeping on.
David Bulmer: So once again we're falling a little bit behind with the blog but that's partly to do with our hotel-shoot-change hotel-shoot schedule we've had the last couple of days and partly to do with the fact that the wifi at the hotels I've been picking has been shocking at best. It is pretty much the one essential item we require as travelling moto media people (just ahead of a bed) and not having it can make our lives living hell. Danny wasn't able to get on at all at one of the hotels, whilst I have been surfing at 56k speeds most of the time. Even the one that I used to upload the last couple of videos took all night to get online. There seriously needs to be a wifi rating system separate for hotels on these booking websites because choosing poorly can be fatal to an evenings' work schedule.
Anyway, after the Sunday at the Belgian championship, we headed south into Germany to get ready for a shoot with Dutch/South African rider Calvin Vlaanderen just across the border in France. With pretty much every track in Belgium and the Netherlands closed due to rain, this was one of the few tracks actually ridable.
As we rolled in on Tuesday morning, the track looked pretty damn wet and slippery but thankfully looks were slightly deceiving and the track turned out ok. Calvin didn't seem to mind the conditions and even threw some whips at the end of the session and I reckon the video turned out pretty good considering. With the shoot over, it was back to Belgium to another hotel and hopefully some better weather... but I'll leave Danny to fill in those details in the next update.
Danny Stuart: My first morning waking up over here was a tough one. It seemed like I’d just fallen asleep only a short while before I had Bulmer in the room talking to me. I so badly wanted him to leave, I was wondering why he wouldn’t. I’d begun to ask myself, is it time to get up or something? What is this? Is he going to be my Dad on this trip or what? So after trying to make it clear that I was tired and not really acknowledging him still standing there, still talking, I asked “is it time to get up or something”. Unfortunately it was. We were at Mikey Neale’s house in Wales, who’m by the way was one of the coolest dudes I’ve met. The three of us were going mountain biking, obviously I’ve ridden a bike but never anything like this. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. We get to the place, sign up, I rent a bike, and we meet up with this dude Leon Rosser. He seemed like he knew what he was doing, little did I know the guy is a downhill god in the UK.
I’m not going to tell you too much about the beginning of the day, because I would only embarrass myself if I went into detail. To make a long story short, our first trip up the hill quickly turned into me on the fire-access road, pushing, while the rest of the crew kept it in beast mode pedaling through the trails like a bunch of savages. I played the “jet-lag” card heavily on that one. To make that short story even shorter, I’m a b****. Little did I know, there was a lift that brought you to the top like you’d see at a ski resort. Once we’d got on that program, I realized maybe it wasn’t going to be such a god awful day after all. In fact, now I want a mountain bike, I’m hooked.
That concluded the visit to Wales, unfortunately. We’d gone back to Mikey’s house for a quick shower and dinner before hitting the road again. I passed out pretty much instantly once I got in the van, which isn’t too courteous when you know you’re driver wishes he were sleeping too, but in this case it may have been better for him. After a pitstop and an energy drink, I was good to go, it became open-mic night in the passenger seat. I’m not really sure if he would have preferred I go back to sleep or not, but either way got where we were going to in England, and spent the night at Bulmer's.
Leaving England was pretty neat. We cruised down the road a bit, to the Euro Tunnel where ourselves and several others all funneled down into/on board a train as if it were a single-filed parking garage. I was jazzed, 100% tourist mode, while Bulmer passed out the second he put the car in park.
Once we arrived in Belguim, it was pretty much straight to the hotel to pass out. We were waking up early for a Belguim national. Our arrival to the race could have gone a bit smoother. “Will Call” as most of us are used to calling it, (where you get your passes) was at a local gas station. We’d gone there, given the people our names, received our wrist bands, and were on our way to the track, where we were promoted to show our wrist bands. It was at this moment that Bulmer shows the dude his left wrist, then his second wrist, then digs into his pockets, checks the dashboard, and looks at the man like a deer in the headlights. I instantly knew; this fool forgot his wrist band at the gas station. Luckily, when we got back to the gas station his wrist band was still right where he’d left it. Strike one Bulmer, strike one. (Editor's note: the correct version, with Danny forgetting the pass, is written below)
David Bulmer: So I'm a little bit behind on this whole diary thing, which isn't a great way to start it off really. However, as ever with these roadtrip ordeals, it's not because I've been lazy of couldn't be bothered to do it... it's because I've been absolutely slammed ever since I picked up Danny from the airport. So yea, this is written on the 16th September, but covers the last four days, so get your reading glasses out.
So I picked Danny up bright and early on Thursday morning, and proceeded a further 3hrs in the van in order to head to a shoot in South Wales. Now South Wales may not seem like a motocross hotbed but our itinerary involved us doing an off-road shoot with Welsh rider Jamie Lewis for the Out of Bounds series on Motosport.com's Youtube channel. Needless to say Danny killed it, but he was assisted by our good friend Mikey Neale (from GP video fame). Mikey is a native to the land and helped us navigate both the landscape and the language in order to find the best spots for was is going to be an awesome little video. Stay tuned for that.
Apart from an extremely difficult to understand language, South Wales is home to some of the best mountain biking in Britain and with a new trail centre opening just two weeks ago, I thought that'd be a great way to spend a Friday. Danny and Mikey were both rookies but with a MX background I knew it wouldn't take them too long. We were also joined by a couple of Mikey's friends, one of which was pro-downhill rider who made us look extremely slow and unfit all day long.
It really was a cracking day though, despite the first climb which almost took down Danny, with jet-lag, lack of water, and a huge chinese dinner the night before catching up in a perfect storm that made pedalling up a mountain a bit of a struggle. Not that Mikey and I found it much easier. Thankfully the downhill aspect was awesome, even in the damp conditions and the sport has just found itself two new participants in Danny and Mikey. As usual when I ride with ex-MXers, I found myself at the back of the pack but not even a tube-blowout (waaay more extreme than a puncture) or a run-in with a tree could dent my enjoyable. The only thing that could do that was a 5hr drive home, on a Friday evening, feeling tired as hell, in torrential rain... which then promptly happened.
Danny did his best to stay awake but this was a nightmare drive. My legs felt like jelly, my arms were dead and rush-hour traffic in rain meant extremely low visibility. How we made it back without seeing any major crashes was a miracle, but made it back we did. Home sweet home. At least for the next 28hrs.
All Friday, I had been waiting for news to tell me if my new 7D had been delivered. No news meant no 7D, which then meant no heading across to Belgium to check out the final round of their championship on Sunday. However as I got in, I was informed that the delivery man had in fact tried to deliver my camera to the wrong address and that if I wanted to get it before Monday, I'd have to drive to their depot and get it. Obviously I was less than impressed with this, especially when I found out that the depot was on the same route I'd driven late the previous night. A 2hr round-trip later, I had my new 7D and we were ready to head across the channel... once I'd packed. Danny of course was amazed by the whole “driving on a train under the sea” experience, I could tell this by the sheer number of photos he took. Having done this a few times before, I slept, only to be awoken with an iphone in close proximity to my face. Danny had exhausted all possible angles of tunnel shots, so turned his attention to me. Awesome.
The Mont St Guibert track in Belgium is one of the most unique tracks I've ever been to so I was really pleased that the 7D arrived in time to hit it up. I was also pleased that the guy at the Welcome Office remembered me from last year when handing out the passes. Nice to know I made an impression. Well after getting the passes Danny headed into a gas station to grab some batteries before we headed into the track... which is down in a quarry. I mention the last bit, because you certainly don't want to get all the way to the bottom, get stopped by security and realise that you left your pass on the gas station counter... do you Danny?!? Yup, that's right, Danny “noob” Stuart decided he didn't want to put on his pass as soon as he got it, but instead wait until we'd driven for 10mins and are in line to enter the parking facilities, get all the way to the front before having to perform a U-turn to the amusement of all the on-looking Belgiumish people. Thankfully the day got better from that point on and we got all the work done that we needed to do
and watching Ken de Dycker on a 2-stroke is always worth a gander.