M5 inter-continental road trip across USA & Europe [150+ photos] - BMW M5 Forum and M6 Forums
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post #1 of 55 Old 11th December 2015, 01:43 AM Thread Starter
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talking M5 inter-continental road trip across USA & Europe [150+ photos]

Hi drivers!

Last year (2014) I decided to quit my job and drive around the planet with the M5.
First destination was Europe and Autobahn, but I got in some frustrating trouble, about which you can read here:

M5 (inter)transcontinental trip and accident [long story, frustration galore + lots of pics] (quit my job and driving around (half) the planet)

Anyway, I put everything on hold for a year and did it again in spring of 2015 on almost exact dates... and... success!
Parked the car for the (Californian) 2014/2015 winter in garage, and went to Europe anyway and came back in Spring 2015 to pick up the M5 and ship it to Europe.

Back in May 2015, busy with life and adventures, decided in last second that it's time to do this trip attempt again and time is now & of the essence.
Ofcourse, road trip is significantly less fun without someone to share the memories with.... did my best to gather my friends to join in:

- I flew from Riga, Latvia to Los Angeles.
- Didzis flew in from Africa to LA. (While he was driving to airport, bought ticket for him, hit BUY just as he arrived at check-in.)
- Mona flew in from London to LA. (Convinced her 2 days before Road Trip starts to drop everything and come)
- Janis flew from Seattle to LA.
- Xenia (who I had met in Europe right before flying to LA) flew from Moscow to LA in last minute... Told her "Just get here, now, I'll take care of the rest and everything". She showed up ~20 hours later from Moscow.
- Thomas awaited us in LA; also wanted to ship his Volvo to Europe.

From no plan, in 5 days we had planned a trip and got a crew together.

So now we had 6 people, and 2 cars and 3000+ miles in front of us to NYC.
We had a big party in LA and headed out to NYC, and Europe.

Starting up the car after 7 months of hibernation, like it's been parked since yesterday.

Installing 5x camera, full HD, microphone, security surveilance system in the M5, in order to document all of road trip in detail and record everything, from all angles.
Can connect through mobile app to security surveilance system and see what's going on while driving, live.

Los Angeles / 405 Fwy traffic on way to Airport

Picking up Xenia

Los Angeles & Xenia

Continuing to install security system (couple days work).

Friend checking out the security system we're installing.

Before departure picture

Heading towards Death Valley

Pit stops are made where gas is cheapest and toilets are readily visible.

Heading towards Death Valley through dirt roads in the desert. 48c / 120f temperature.

Yoga is important

Pit stopping at the sand dunes

Checking in at Badwater, Death Valley - hottest place on the planet.
I though the fan blades of the Aux fan will disintegrate, the fan was spinning so fast it sounded like a jet engine.

Heading towards Las Vegas

Heading into sunset towards Utah

Attempting to sit on a cactus

At Zion National Park

Bryce Canyon Yoga

We drove a road called "Ridge Route", and that is exactly what it is- cliffs on both sides.

Driving on Highway 24 in Utah.

50 Miles / 80KM without a single turn. No phone reception for last ~20 hours.
I already blew out a tire on this road with the M5, in exact same spot, years ago. Triple digit speed.
The asphalt is very coarse and hot, highly risky to speed. Sides of road are littered with destroyed tires. Closest tire shop that carries something that fits M5 is 188 miles / 305km away.

Moab National Park

On the way to Denver, heading East.

Taking pictues outside the car, while driving.

Checking in at the Rocky Mountains; M5's getting same fuel economy as Volvo while cruising at 75mph.

Got rolled by the Colorado Highway Patrol; apparently someone's outside the car and taking pictures, while driving.

Collecting plenty of bugs while moving through the mid-west. Nothing but farms as far as you can see.

We left with low thread on the back wheels, figured there's enough for 3000 miles or so... but we didn't count on Death Valley and the heat; the tires got soft at Death Valley where temps were at 49c / 120f in the "shade". Thread was worn completely bald by time we got to Las Vegas, and the M5 has significant camber. Ended up driving from nowhere Kansas all the way to Des Moines, Iowa before I found a tire shop that carried something that fits the M5.

New & Old.

Chicago's finest checking in. I knew what law I broke, and then saw them and pulled over 30 seconds before they arrived behind me. Told them I was waiting for them. Got off with a warning.

Chicago Skyline

Downtown Chicago

Xenia with Sears Tower in the background. Warm nice night. Full moon.

Somewhere in Nowhere, Pennyslavnia. Hill billies everywhere. Interesting.

At port in New Jersey, getting the car ready for shipment to Europe.
It was Saturday morning and we had to get there before noon- when the gates close. I was running out of fuel and last place I fueled up was Pennyslavnia. I decided to risk it and not fuel up, not knowing if I will make it. The car choked to stop right in front of the gates and we had to push it in at 11:59, literally. Ha ha. This means it was EXACTLY one full tank from the last place I filled up to the port.

Morning, chilling & breakfast before departure to Europe.

When I arrived in Europe, while waiting for the car, spent time biking around with people and enjoying the European summer. Everyone's on bikes and moves quickly through the compact cities.

The freight forwarder told me the car would arrive in 3 weeks, but it was more like 7-8 weeks. Pretty much double everything they tell you.
I bought shipping insurance, then found my roof fairly scratched upon arrival. Inquired to them regarding a claim, but they did not respond... will probably paint whole car again in near future.
Picking up the car at the port, this is first sight of car in Europe. Mind slightly blown. It's been with me in USA for 7+ years, and now it's in Europe. EUROPE!!!

First car wash in 3000+ miles / 5000km. Gotta look good in Europe.

Downtown Riga, Latvia

Latvian country side, visiting the places less traveled.

Cruising the Latvian countryside dirt roads

'Murican invasion! American license plates in Latvia. My world-traveling friend also has a car he brought over from California: Dodge Ram Charger. No roof on this one.

The California license plate line-up in Riga, Latvia.

This castle is 800 years old and has been re-purposed into a K-12 school.
Quite different from the prison-like designs of US High Schools.

Sometimes, I park the M5 here at night.

Old folks on the country side, interested in the engine.

Road tripping around somewhere in Eastern Europe towards a ferry.

Gumball M6 & E39 M5 side by side.

Stopped by a childhood friend who now runs the auto service MRiepas.lv .
Replaced all steering control arms & links, sway bar links, oil change, windshield washer pump & lines, brake lines and brake fluid, Michelin ZR rated tires & alignment. The M5 is ready for Autobahn max speed. Die Maschine bereit für die Autobahn ist!!! Drives like new!

Start of November in Riga.

In middle of Nowhere, Poland, on a really foggy night:
What happened here:
I had been too busy enjoying my stay in Riga and elsewhere..
I had been putting off going to the Autobahn and Nurburgring until later ("I still got some time before Winter"). Then one Saturday I realized Nurburgring probably closes for the season sometime soon! I immediately went home and called Nurburgring and the woman on the phone told me that tomorrow is probably the last day for the season, judging by weather. Nurburgring is 2000km away from me, now in Latvia. I calculated that the only way I can make it on time to Nurburgring is if I leave right now and drive non-stop 20+ hours. I immediately went and had a big dinner, grabbed my brother and started driving to Germany and Nurburgring. I left at 6:30PM and drove all night to Germany. Hit massive fog at the Lithuanian and Polish border, that lasted through winding back country roads all the way to Warsaw. I started considering turning around because I was forced to drive 50kmh, due to less than 30 feet of visibility. Stopped twice to try to adjust headlight fall-off. Ran over a dead deer, that I could not see on the road at 50kmh. It damaged/ripped couple under panels on the car, but those I managed to tighten down enough to hold steady for Autobahn and last until I can get the car on a lift. All in all the Lithuania-Poland segment was drivers hell, no visibility, seemingly endless, on a cold, wet, moist night somewhere in Nowhere, Eastern Europe. Made the decision if Fog continues after Warsaw probably should turn around and call it a 2000km detour/mistake...
Got shadowed by the Polish police, utterly confused what I'm doing out there with such plates at such hour, in middle of nowhere.

Fueling up in Warsaw, after wet fog hell for 5 hours. Finally fog clears and rain starts instead. In Poland, apparently the police can not sit on the side of the road at night, if the road is not lighted up. This means dark highway segments are free cruising zone and even if the Polish 'bahn has 140kmh speed limit, you see cars moving quite bit faster through the dark areas. Average time to Germany was great.

Filling up in Poland, before entering Germany.

Aaaah! Finally the M5 is back in the Vaterland! Entered Germany and first road sign I see is "Autobahn der Freiheit", translated to "Highway of Freedom". HAHAH!!!! Muoahahaha!! Finally the machine will be used for what it was designed. I was waiting for the '3x stripes' road sign that cancels the speed limit, but spent another 30 minutes driving inland before I saw it. This is seconds after passing the 'no speed limit' sign.

Here's a video with shots filmed on Autobahn while cruising to the Nurburgring.
It's Sunday morning and trucks are not allowed on Autobahn on Sundays! The Polish nightmare fog is a distant memory. The weather is beautiful, the Autobahn is open. The M5 runs strong. The destination is Nurburgring. I haven't slept for 24 hours, while driving last 14 hours non-stop. Everything's awesome!

While in the left lane, an Opel popped in the rear view mirror at 250kmh, asking kindly to pass. I move over and let him pass, then he maxed out his Opel at 260kmh+ and moved over to the right, letting me pass him. Even at 250kmh you gotta check your rear view mirror. Fuel drains at a very fast rate at this speed. 2.5x to 3x worse consumption, while moving at 2.5-3x rate of normal 100kmh.. So the tank needle moves about 9x faster.. almost possible to see it physically move.

I have two GPS tracking devices in the car. One is anti-theft low frequency position pinger (hidden by company, so I don't even know where it is) and the other is advanced vehicle tracking/management system by SkyFMS.com.
I checked SkyFMS tracker history and there were two segments on Autobahn of 54 km and of 80km where speed never dropped below 200kmh. Still Autobahn has plenty of speed restrictions, construction zones, city zones, high traffic zones, poor segment zones. Germany is densely populated (with plenty traffic), which means that often (except Sunny Sunday Morning), Autobahn can not be used to full potential.

Max speed on Autobahn was GPS-recorded at 274.xx km/h. I did not try to max the car out, I was just crusing as it felt comfortable considering traffic and conditions.

I made sure to bring with me the song Kraftwerk - Autobahn. It was on repeat for most of the time. Just like the video.

All in all, the drive across Germany to Nurburgring seemed very short, fast, blurr.. warp zone activated.

At the Nurburgring fuel station, with plenty of interesting cars popping in n' out. There's so many nice cars moving around Nurburgring. Scenery is gorgeous. A magnificent place.

Made it on time, after driving 21+ hours non-stop. Only problem is that there's an accident on the Nurburgring and no one's getting let on until they clear it.

Cruising the Nurburgring. Photo by Nurburgring photographer.

The Karussell at Nurburgring. Photo by Nurburgring photographer.

Photo by Nurburgring photographer.

Photo by Nurburgring photographer.

Picture perfect Sunday afternoon. Perfect timing. Even locals were talking about the sunset and sky.

Everyone's at the 'ring trying to get their last laps of the season, on the sunny Sunday afternoon.
The long straightaway is jammed with cars trying to exit. Very crowded day.

Due to accident and my late arrival, I only got 1 lap in on Nurburgring, but bucket list check has been completed. I am not disappointed because I actually didn't believe I'll make it when I left Latvia.
Next year I come for more.
Met another Belgian guy who tracks his E39 M5 on the 'ring weekly. Also one of the Nurburgring service cars is an E39 M5 Silverstone.

Fueling up with 102 octane, during a pause from crusing at 200kmh+. Americans will understand.

Back in Copehagen, Denmark. Everyone bikes. Norrport Station, bicycle parking as far as the eye can see. Amazing city. I suggest going to Cristiania once you get to Copenhagen, but don't bring a camera, cameras are forbidden there.

Getting used to it... perfect roads.

What I learned here is that the Swedish police does not use radar, that max speeding fine is 4000 Svenska Kronor, and that they can not take a foreigner's driver license.
"Hello there, English? ... You are driving little fast, it's no big problem, but it will cost you a little".
*Janks out the driver license from my hand".
"In Sweden, if you Swedish and we catch you like this, we take your driver license"
*Hands back driver license*
"But not you, you are OK".

Told officer "Your roads are better than the Autobahn and I didn't see where I crossed the border.", the officer enjoyed the compliment and smiled back.
They asked where my front license plate was, I told them it's in the window. They told me I have to put it on at the fuel station. I told them I don't have holes for it. They said "Have a very good day in Sweden, enjoy your stay, good bye now". Very polite. Very clique for the polite Swedish. Spoke English very well.

At Frihamnen port in Sweden. Got stormed by the customs authorities. Quite agressive. Thought that they had a case of customs tax evasion or something, apparently they had never seen California license plates.
Question me and brother, checked all documents (US documents).
I speak Swedish and understood what they were saying, "Why are we so worried about this car?" .. "Because this is so damn unusual, I have never seen this". I spoke to them in English, not to confuse them even more (of what I'm doing in Sweden with US plates) by speaking Swedish.

On the ferry, getting shipped back out east from Stockholm. Police/customs officers standing in a row, one after another, each asking same stupid interview questions all the way to the car deck on ship. At this point I got really tired of all the attention that the foreign plates and suspiciously looking car brings.

In Eastern Europe, again. Dirty as your mom.

Well earned badges/stickers.

I still got terabytes of video to go through, filmed from the M5's 5x security cameras and multiple video cameras. I just barely got done with pictures.
Going to lay low for winter with M5. Next spring must figure out where to go next, maybe more east- to Russia, or Africa, or something...

Last edited by Terabass; 11th December 2015 at 03:30 AM.
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post #2 of 55 Old 11th December 2015, 03:00 AM
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post #3 of 55 Old 11th December 2015, 04:52 AM
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You're doing what only some of us could only dream about. This is a stunning adventure! Can't wait for future updates. Bravo, Bravo

I've always wondered how authorities would even process a USA licence plate out there.

Having heard the entire story from when the mishap first happened with caliber, it looks like it's only getting better from here on.

Perfect roads, classy taxi's, nice police in nice cars, what more could ya want

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post #4 of 55 Old 11th December 2015, 05:02 AM
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post #5 of 55 Old 11th December 2015, 05:13 AM
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amazing, i never thought u cud ship your car out to europe and drive it there! can we do the same? bring a car back from europe after owning it there? amazing pictures, dont mind me asking, if you use a full frame camera?

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post #6 of 55 Old 11th December 2015, 05:14 AM
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Absolutely amazing - thanks for sharing!

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post #7 of 55 Old 11th December 2015, 05:36 AM
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Maximum respect. I salute your determination. This was a life time experience. Glad that you push hand realize your wish. I envy you
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post #8 of 55 Old 11th December 2015, 05:38 AM
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This is living. Epic road trip in the king of all road trip cars. Well done sir.

True story: When I was looking for my M5 5+ years ago, I had a photo of this car as my wallpaper.
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post #9 of 55 Old 11th December 2015, 08:56 AM
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post #10 of 55 Old 11th December 2015, 09:21 AM
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Nice write-up. One reason why the custom officers in Sweden were "aggressive" is because a lot of exclusive cars are stolen in Sweden and shipped over to Eastern Europe, not to speak of "White vans" filled with stolen goodies from BMW, Mercedes etc.

Modifications: Too many!

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europe , intercontinental , road trip , usa , x-continental

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