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: