The day will come when I will die. So the only matter of consequence before me is what I will do with my allotted time. I can remain on shore, paralyzed with fear, or I can raise my sails and dip and soar in the breeze.--Richard Bode

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Greek motorcycle club

I rode on down through Croatia, and liked it better with each mile I put under my tires. It seemed like each curve in the road presented more beauty to admire.

I was ready to make some time, though. I wanted to get on down the road. But first, I had to do another ferry crossing. I could tell that taking the ferry saved me a lot of time.

It would have taken me hours to go around this bay on a road, if such a road even existed, which I don't think it did

Finally I passed through a little sliver of Montenegro. It should have been obvious to the border guard that the road was going to put me back into Croatia in 5 minutes or so; but it wasn't obvious at all. The wait in line seemed interminable, and when it came my turn to face the guy, he demanded every piece of information about my bike that I had with me.

And then I went into Albania. That was another long wait while they looked at my insurance card, my license plate registration, my motorcycle title and, finally, my passport. Each of these operations required at least two men. 

Albania seems to be very poor. Everyone is looking for a way to make money. These two young men were hustling around washing cars. They washed my bike for me and did a good job, although their high pressure hose blew off some of my stickers. Oh well.

There are unfinished houses like this all through Albania. Did they just run out of money and quit working? In many cases, people were living in the houses, but I am not sure where.

I stayed in a fairly nice hotel, and left the next morning headed toward Greece. The map showed a major highway going my direction, and my GPS said it would take about 4 hours. Here is the highway. In towns it always seemed very rough, but in the countryside it would sometimes smooth out.

Had to watch out for obstacles along the road. There was a lot going on: people walking across the road everywhere (there were no crosswalks, even in the towns), sheep, cows, and sometimes little burros carrying or pulling enormous loads. I thought this was a well behaved cow to be patiently following the man and his loaded down burro.

In Albania, you never know when you are going to come around a tight curve in the road and see a scene like this. Of course, I was never going very fast: I was fortunate to average 25 miles per hour.

After about 2 hours on this road, a man (who sounded British) flagged me down and told me that the road was closed ahead due to a landslide. I couldn't get through. I had to turn around, and after another two hours I was back at the hotel I started at 4 hours earlier. What a long day.

But after some arguments with my GPS, I found another road and went into Macedonia. It was another long border crossing wait. I think they can't figure out my American and German documents.

Macedonia is a little nicer than Albania, but both of them have just left Communism behind so they have a long way to go to catch up with the rest of the European Union. I tried not to spend any money in these countries, because they always gave me change in the local currency. As a result, I have a sack full of money that I can't spend and probably can't exchange for Euros or Dollars.

The Greeks I met refuse to call the country of Macedonia by that name. They insist on calling it by the name of the capital city: Skopje.  And I think they have a good point, because northern Greece is actually Macedonia and the home of Alexander the Great.

I was on my way to a meeting of the Hellas VStrom Club. My motorcycle, Odysseus, is a VStrom. It is a popular motorcycle, and I found a lot of them at the club's meeting.

I wasn't sure where the club's meeting was, but I did know it was at the resort city of Kastoria. When I got to town, this young man spotted me and led me to the hotel where everyone was staying. I love the custom paint job he has on his VStrom. I want one too!

The members of the Hellas VStrom Club are wonderful people. They were so gracious, and they went out of their way to help me and to talk to me and to be nice to me. They even made me an honorary member of the club.

They also gave me some cool stickers for my motorcycle, and this club T-shirt.

The next morning we all went for a long ride into the mountains. I have never ridden in a group of over 40 motorcycles before. It was fun. We might need such a large group if we run across a bear or a wolf. Just kidding.

Our first stop was at a lake to visit a tiny village out on an island. It was a step back in time.

I wandered around taking pictures-----

This may have been a little Greek village, but their animals spoke perfect English. I was impressed.




Wait a minute guys -- You are speaking the wrong language. 

Yeah, but we are wild ducks and don't know the difference.

I couldn't figure out what these water buffalo were doing here in this lake. They are supposed to be in Asia. Maybe they are lost.

Sotiris and Yanna thought the water buffalo were an unusual thing to see here also. Sotiris and Yanna were absolutely wonderful. Yanna had spent several years in Chicago, and she made me promise to call them when I get to Athens in late July. I will try to do that, Yanna. Thank you for being so nice to me.

I could have stayed at that island village a bit longer, but it was time to get back on the bikes and head off to another lake and another village.

At the new place, we got on boats and headed out to see some things that can only be seen from the water. Like, for example, this 12th century monastery built high up in a cave among the cliffs.

Those monks sure went to a lot of trouble to build up here. Look at how they decorated the inside of their church.

What a hard life. It is no wonder to me that this particular group of monks finally gave up and went somewhere else to live.

Back on the lake and some more motoring about. Look at this lake pelican. There was a bunch of them. They are not too cute on land, but they are sure beautiful fliers.

Time for a last group shot before heading back to modern life. The club put me in front. Can yo spot me and my VStrom?

Today is Sunday and everyone is headed home. Tomorrow is a work day for them and a travel day for me. I am headed for Turkey.

Talk with you later:

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


I rode down from Trieste, Italy, along the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia. It is hard to believe that this country was communist Yugoslavia just a short time ago.  It is certainly beautiful now.

I stayed at a nice house owned by a very outgoing and hospitable woman. I camped though. Just outside the garden gate was the beach, full of activity and sun bathers.

There was one rather large man who had a beautiful Labrador Retriever. Over and over the man threw things into the water for the lab to fetch. They must have played for an hour. So much fun for them both. I didn't get their picture, but I did get a photo of this beautiful ketch that was anchored there.

When I looked out across the water this morning, I could see rain coming. By the time I got everything all squared away, it started a drizzle that was to last all day. Still, it did not detract from the beauty of this Dalmatian Coast. Croatia has come so far in the last few years, and a lot of it must be due to the tourist trade. Each town was filled with people out having fun.

I didn't see any of those spotted, firehouse dalmatian dogs, but I did see a lot of interesting sights along the coastal highway.  Now, here is a question for you, kids. A long way across that body of water is Italy. I am looking west. So, what is the name of the sea? Hmmmm.  Give up?  I will tell you in a little while.

I loved the coastal highway. It tended to stay up high, a each curve revealed a picturesque village way down below by the Adriatic Sea.  It couldn't have been more beautiful. Plus, they thoughtfully put pull-off places with picnic tables every mile or two so that it is always tempting to pull over and look at the view.

Speaking of views -- this valley caught my attention right away.

I pulled over to take a picture of the valley, and there was a fruit stand right there. The lady inside told me all about the valley, continuing all the while to sample me with fresh fruit that they grow there.

She spoke excellent English. I asked her how she got to be so good at it, and she says everyone speaks English these days-- American English, because of all the TV shows and movies. Anyway, she explained that 60 years ago the valley was under water, and is still under sea level, and that some people call it "Little California" because of all the fruit and vegetables they grow there. Her son was all that much interested in that. He was more excited that America is doing well in the World Cup Tournament down in Brazil, but he was sad because Mexico had beaten Croatia, so his team was on its way home.

But look at this town. It is absolutely breathtaking.

It is named Dubrovnik, and it is absolutely packed with tourists. One of the main attractions is the city wall. Gotta walk around on top those things.

I can just imagine the Ottoman Turks trying to break through those walls and take over Dubrovnik back in those long ago days.

More recently, back in the early 90s when Yugoslavia was breaking apart, Croatia tried to declare its independence -- Yugoslavia (what was left of it) and particularly the neighboring Serbs, bombed the heck out of Dubrovnik. So much of it had to be rebuilt. And a good job of it they did, too.

Dubrovnik is at the south end of Croatia. As I rode on further south, the drizzle made the roads so slick and my back tire fish-tailed on a couple of curves. I thought that was scary.

As I rode on, I went through border checkpoint after border checkpoint. I was in Bosnia-Herzegovina for all of 20 minutes until the road spit me back into Croatia. Finally, I ended up, tired and a little wet, in Montenegro.  Time to quit for the night. I stopped at a beautiful hotel and took a room, breakfast included, for 27 Euros (about $32.00). It even has air conditioning, a luxury I have not found many places in Europe. Another couple just checked in for the night. Those two plus me makes a grand total of 3 customers staying here. How can they stay open at those prices?

Gotta get up early tomorrow. There are two big motorcycle rallies happening in this area the day after tomorrow. I am going to have to decide which I want to go to. One of them is Horizon's Unlimited, a club of international riders I belong to; the other is the VStrom Club of Greece (I ride a VStrom).  Which to go to --- hmmmm.

I will let you know my choice later.  Goodnight.


Monday, June 23, 2014


I got Jessica back to her apartment, and spent the night there. She says that she will always remember our ride through Romania. What a trip that was. Somewhere in that trip I guess I had picked up some kind of foreign matter in my front fork seals because they were leaking oil like crazy. I was certain they would have to be changed, which I could not do in a parking lot with the limited tools I have with me. I called the Suzuki shop in Prague, and they priced the job at 4.5 hours of labor, and they could not do it for a week.  I got online with Stromtroopers (a VStrom forum), Adventure Riders, and Horizons Unlimited. There were dozens of helpful people who responded to my questions, and most said what I needed to do was run a 35 mm photographic negative up and down through the seals to clean them out. Who has film these days, but I did find a piece of plastic and it did the trick perfectly. Now I have no more leaks, and I saved probably $600 plus 5 days.

Thanks a bunch to all who responded. I really appreciate the help.

I rode south from Jessica's and Renaud's apartment in Prague to a town on the southern edge of the Czech Republic that they suggested I go to. It was really a neat place. It was like a miniature Prague. It had a fairy-tale castle, a trope l'oeil church, and even its own tiny version of Prague's Charles Bridge.

But to me, the most impressive thing of all was the Revolving Theatre. Now, I had no idea what a revolving theatre was, but a woman had an extra ticket because her daughter backed out on the performance, and she sold it to me cheap. What happens in the Revolving Theatre, is the action takes place on the paths and gardens and lawns, and the audience revolves to watch each scene. It was marvelous: there were sword fights, bombs, horses, drunken fights, dances in the castle . It was very good, although I didn't understand a word of it since I don't speak Czech. Still, I really liked it. The performance was The Three Musketeers.

I wasn't able to take a picture once the play started, but you can get the idea from this picture. Imagine that the audience strolling up the path, was actors instead, maybe even on horses, and that the audience turns right or left to follow the action.

By the way: did you know that Budweiser Beer started in Prague? And the real, original Budweiser Beer is still sold there.

I rode on south, and finally came to the famous Danube River. My GPS had me take a ferry across it.

I will never understand why my GPS does some of the things it does, because not more than a mile farther along it had me go back to my original side of the river over a nice bridge.  Hmmmmm.

I got stopped in a long line of traffic while passing through a tiny Austrian town. It looked like there was a parade going on. I followed another motorcycle rider up to the front of the line. I wish I had been able to get my camera out sooner, because the parade was to the cemetery. There was a band following the clergy and family, and the coffin of the dearly departed being pushed along by what looked like the local Shrine Club. It was quite the sight. All I was able to do was get a picture of the tail end of the parade going up into the cemetery.

I made it down to Vienna, Austria. Now, I am not a fan of big capital cities, even ones as famous as Vienna. There just is not much about them that appeals to me. I did take in a performance of Mozart music though. If you saw Amadeus, you will remember that much of what he did took place in Vienna. I am a huge Mozart fan, so I really enjoyed the show,

I even did a "selfie". Ha.

I really did not have a great deal of interest in seeing the sites in Vienna. I have been there before with my wife anyway, I was much more interested in riding south into the Austrian Alps. It was a Sunday, and apparently riding those roads on a motorcycle is the thing to do on a warm, sunny June day, There were literally hundreds of them,

The roads in Austria are marvelous. I loved riding them up through the mountains.

After a long day of riding, I was ready to crawl into my tent (Yeah-- I am back to camping. I get really tired of hotel rooms and restaurant food.

One of the things you must do at European campgrounds is clean the toilet if you leave a stain in it. They say: "Nobody wants to read your tracks." See if you can figure out which of these three uses of a toiled brush is the only correct one.

I was back on the road today, passing back and forth between Slovenia and Austria as Odysseus and I traversed the alps.

I dragged my footpegs more than once going around the hairpin curves.

Odysseus and I finally entered Slovenia for a last time. We will stay on this side of the Alps for now.

I was lucky to average 25 miles an hour on those Alpine roads. Time to speed things up, I hopped on the autobahn and took it to Trieste, Italy, at about 70 miles per hour, It took almost no time at that speed. And, as soon as I got to Trieste and the Adriatic Sea, I took a left turn, headed south into Slovenia (again) and found a marvelous campground to stay the night.

The man just down the way from me is from Australia, and is riding a BMW motorcycle on his way to Ireland to see his 90 year old mother. He has gone around the world on motorcycles twice and is quite the interesting guy.

That's all for now. I am working mny way south toward Greece.

More later,