Julien Melissas


Nomading 2016: Days 8 & 9 – Motorcycle Trip

Posted on .

Nomading 2016: Days 8 & 9 – Motorcycle Trip


A BMW F700 GS, a good friend/riding buddy, and 400km of open Portuguese road. From the moment I picked up the bike I knew I would have a good time, but I never expected a day quite like that one. The next morning I woke up, got back on the bike with another friend Liz, and rode until 12. Worked for the rest of that day getting some Local Development stuff done and then went to a Lisbon pub crawl to then dance!


The Bike

The bike was a 2014 BMW F700 (a 798cc twin). In my favorite color: white body with red frame Trellises. It’s basically the most perfect BMW bike ever. Why? Oh well I’m glad you asked. First of all, it comes in at a pretty good weight for what you get, and great power out of a super torque-y twin. A full-featured adventure bike that can easily handle gravel/dirt roads at 10kmph (6mph) or the highway at 170kmph (105mph) and switch between the two all day. It’s great for riding two-up (with a passenger) and has 6 gears. I did 405km (250mi) and only had to fill up once, the gas milage is insane. I’ve actually been wanting to own this bike all year (seriously in this exact color and everything) but haven’t ever had the chance to ride one. I’ll consider this the best test ride of my life.


Ride Wherever

The original idea was just to ride to Sintra, then Cabo de Roca (the most western point of Europe), then Cascais, taking the coastal roads whenever possible. This would take about 2 hours of riding and maybe 120km (75mi) – map here. But then Amy was like “we have the whole day, maybe we should go to Nazaré” – home to some of the biggest waves in the world. Then we would ride down the west coast to Cabo de Roca for the sunset and head back towards Lisbon. This was more like 5-6 hours of riding, and a route I didn’t know at all. No problem haha, you’re just on a motorcycle, so I mean you’ll get there eventually anyways, right?

When we set out, it was about 2 hours later than planned, so we had less time. I took the highway straight to Óbidos (a small town with a castle) and then headed to Nazaré. That itself ended up taking about 2 hours, and there were some pretty brutal winds on the highway. Luckily on the BMW there is a nice windscreen and leaning down kept me out of most of the wind. It’s much easier for Amy as I’m taking most of the wind first and she’s already behind me. Amy quickly realizing what riding a motorcycle was all about! She kept yelling “mate, mate, mate…” (which is Austrian for “dudeomg”), and I took it pretty easy at first. Once I got a bit more comfortable with the bike I could get on it a bit more… Damn that thing has some pickup!

We stopped in Nazaré for some food, a bathroom break, and some exploring. I hate to say it but we didn’t even look at the waves… But there are some cool pics haha


We went on our way, this time agreeing to take some more back roads vs the highway. It’s much better because then we’re able to take everything a little bit slower, see more of the small parts of Portugal, and still talk when we’re at lower speeds. We ended up on an awesome ridge with valleys on one side and the coast on the other. It was amazing!


I put my end destination (Cabo de Roca) into Google Maps on my phone and then it feeds directions onto my Pebble watch. Really really helpful for motorcyclists, seeing as I don’t have to be starting at a screen the whole time, and it’s very accurate, even with roundabouts. The only problem is that once I realized how the maps/route looked, I knew I could deviate and Google Maps would eventually re-route me somewhere haha. So I’d do this thing where I’d be like “ooohhh that road looks good, we’ll take that one instead” and I’d just do it. Amy didn’t really seem to care. So I kept doing it, and I’m so glad I did. There was one point where I turned around cause I was like “I wanted to take that one” – I’m so glad I did. A little bit after taking that road we were sent through the cobblestones of a tiny town, where everyone was looking at us like we were crazy. As soon as we got out of that town, the road curved, and I looked up: we had found ourselves a canyon to carve. There were 2 mountains up ahead, and a small, windy road in between them (and no cars). I wish I could have taken a picture or even better a video because right when we saw it I started to laugh like an insane person. Amy’s just like “mate, mate, MATE” cause she knows it’s about to get real fun. That canyon in that moment will probably always be one of the best things I’ll ever ride. BRWWWAAPPPPPP up the hill in the GS was no problem. It ended too soon, but the road was still awesome.

The sun was setting and that meant it was getting colder by the minute. We had jackets and sweaters under them, and gloves, but I realized that the light wasn’t the issue, it was going to be about getting too cold. Amy said she was fine though so we kept up with the backroads. After for a while we rode on another ridge and got some pretty great pictures of the sunset. I’ll have to ask her if she has some better ones…

On this pull-off, I stupidly thought it would be funny (with Amy off the bike) to do a little bit of off roading… Turns out soft dirt, a bunch of plants and a 500+lb motorcycle isn’t a good combo. The bike fell over on me (typical, and no big deal at low speeds, don’t worry mom) when I got super stuck in the vegetation riding around like an idiot. Amy’s on the side of the road laughing her ass off trying to film me. I got her help to lift it back up (at that point I was too tired to do it myself – need more Crossfit I guess) and then I proceeded to get it out of the dirt (maybe only 10ft) for about 10 minutes. A careful balance of throttle, rocking back and forth, and pushing it forward or backwards. Eventually I got it out and Amy got back on the back, and we headed back towards Cabo de Roca.

At some point, we realized it was going to be too cold and too dark before making it to Cabo de Roca, so we diverted and headed towards Sintra. We passed through Sintra, really only on the outskirts, but the mountains there were really fun. Okay, getting pretty cold at this point. I kicked it into high gear on the highway for a bit as there was nobody on the roads. About 160-170kmph (~100-105mph) is not a problem for the BMW in 6th gear for a while, and as long as you and your passenger are crouching down out of the way of the wind. At that speed it’s beating the shit out of you.

Finally, back in Lisbon there was a decent amount of traffic. Luckily lane-splitting is legal in Portugal (and it should be everywhere, as it incentivizes people to ride smaller, more gas efficient vehicles, as well as forces drivers to be more aware of their surroundings) and after seeing a few other people do it, I was like “screw this we’re not dead yet.” At that point I was pretty comfy with the motorcycle anyways, so a very small chance of hitting another car or falling over in traffic or something. We were getting hangry, but we got back to the hostel right as Mama’s dinner started! I was exhausted and fell right asleep.

I tried to estimate the route… this is as close as I got:


Another Ride/Saying Goodbye

It was Amy’s last day in Portugal the day of the ride, and she was at the airport by the time I got up. I felt like I had been hit by a truck, but I had another 3 hours before I had to return the motorcycle. You bet your ass I was gonna ride it until the last minute. I went downstairs for breakfast and asked Liz, another cool person from who I met in the hostel – from Flordia actually, if she wanted to go on a quick ride over the 25 de Abril Bridge so we could get a good view of the city. We got a little lost in the city trying to find it without any GPS, but eventually we got over the bridge and it was awesome! Then I realized we had to turn around and get back to LX Rent!

Returning the bike was easy, as I hadn’t messed anything up really, it was just a little bit dirty from the offroading haha. He said “oh good, you actually used the thing!” 😝 Goodbye wonderful motorcycle.


Get some work done, Julien

I know, I know, it looks like I’m having lots of fun, and I am! But I’m also working, it’s just less fun to post about. Disclaimer: this next section might get nerdy. Earlier this year, I started experiencing some issues with a few of my Vagrant boxes and browsersync’s watch reloading. Taking up to 10 seconds to load a page after a PHP file change, but no issues with JS and CSS changes, as they are injected into the page in Sage 9’s Webpack build system. I have a few different VMs running on my machine. I’ve had VVV for some old projects, then recently moved over to Local by Flywheel, which has a GUI. I also use Trellis for the vm for the Brewery Platform we’re building. I haven’t had any issues with Trellis (of course, cause it’s awesome), but on everything else stuff has been sucking. So I finally decided to move over to Valet that day – by the team from Laravel. It uses your mac as a webserver so that you don’t need a VM. It’s really quick, and always running so no start/stop weirdness. Now everything is working great!

Julien Melissas

Julien Melissas


I'm a Web Developer, Foodie, and Music Lover/Maker living in Asheville, NC. I make things on the web at Craftpeak & JM Labs.