Day 1 - Heidelberg (Baden-Württemberg, Germany) to Nysted (Lolland, Denmark)

501 miles

I leave Heidelberg around 8:30 am. The day before, I got a really short haircut (3/8") so that my long hair will not bother me inside the helmet (they don't always get along). I'm riding a BMW R1150RT, a superb bike with lots of extras and a huge fairing. It's a welcome upgrade from my R1100R -- my plan calls for long days and large distances, I'll need all the additional comfort (top-case, heated grips, adjustable windshield) I can get.

I am sick as a dog, having had a virus for the last four days or so. I've been living on medications to keep me functional, I've been trying to cough as little as possible (don't get me off the plane, please!), but the fact is unavoidable: I'm feeling like s**t. As a result, I don't see the need to do any tourism, look at quaint little villages, take photos today. Oh no. I'm going on the highway and I'm going to go as far away as I can.

As soon as I leave Stefan's house, the compass is pointing straight to the North. Hooray! It's a good omen. After a few more twists and turns, I find the highway, and the compass is still pointing North. I'm on a roll! After a few dozen miles, and a few twists and turns, the compass is still decidedly pointing North. In fact, it's not budging. Mmmh... at the first pit stop, a little test concludes that the North is really something near the tachymeter on the left hand side of the bike. So much for not having to rely on maps...

The great thing about Europe is that you can stop at any location on the side of the road, and you will usually find exquisite food. I stop a few times for snacks, but around 1 pm I'm not feeling good. In fact, I feel like I'm going to pass out. I quickly get off the highway, pull into a nondescript shopping plaza, park the bike on the sidestand, and lie down on the pavement. I don't think I've ever fallen asleep so fast, except maybe for the time I was given anesthesia before surgery. I slept 30 minutes shaded from the blazing sun by my trustworthy motorcycle. Weird.

If you've never been on a German highway (commonly referred to as the Autobahn, which is basically the German word for "highway") here's a brief description [skip paragraph if you know]. There are usually two or three lanes on each side. If you're on the right side, chances are you're going pretty fast, say, the usual international speed limit (around 70 mph). If you're in the adjacent lane, you're going so fast that the folks in the right lane are basically moving very slowly (you could be around 110 mph). In the third lane, you're going so fast you would be taking off if you had wings -- it's not uncommon to have folks zing by at what is probably 150 mph). So the lesson is: do not change lanes unless you are absolutely, rigourously certain there isn't anything larger than a speck of dust in your rearview mirror. Otherwise you could be entering the lane of somebody going about twice your speed -- and that's not cool. I think I pissed off a few folks when I overtook some cars at what I thought was the awesomely cool speed of 110 mph, only to be seriously flashed because of my lack of consideration for those who actually *know* fast.

I choose to enter Denmark on the ferry -- it's great to see the water, and also it's an opportunity to stretch the legs and meet some nice people. As I land on Lolland, I find a nice campsite on the Baltic sea.