January 20th, 2006
I forgot to write about this in my last update (the small tape recorder couldnít take the vibration, have to get a new one) any way, a few things I enjoy about taking back roads is of course the people you get to talk to but also the things you get to see. I had to cross an old ferry, The kind you use to see in the old western movies, where they would load the wagons on it then pull yourself across with a rope, this had the rope but was powered by an engine this one held up to nine cars. This old guy sat there all day running back and forth every 5 minutes I rode it for about 30 minutes just talking to him. Ok back to the 20th.
I got my first ticket, it was a parking ticket, I didnít know but I crossed a Ĺ hour time zone change, I parked the bike in a spot that had no parking before 6pm, well it was 6:15 by my watch, when I got back 15 minutes later I had a ticket I was pissed until I found out about the time change so I paid the $56 ticket (yea right) like a good visitor. Looking at the map I should have an easy day from Adelaide up around the Spencer Gulf. Wrong!!!!!! The day started out looking like I was going to be riding in rain all day, it wanted to rain bad but just never started. That was the good part of the day! The ride from Adelaide to Whyalla was miserable!!! The temperature got up to 46.5 C. that was the air temperature, the temperature coming off the pavement Iím sure was a lot hotter. Those that ride know about ďhot spotsĒ, those are thermal patches that suck the breath out of you. When riding long distances I have several riding positions I use so I donít get tired or locked into one position, the good news was, one of the positions I use I put my feet on the rear passenger foot pegs, I was able to do this for the first time since hurting my knee. The bad news was, one of the positions I use is to lean back and put my hand on the rear saddlebag, I did this only once, and the saddlebag was so hot I burned my hand! You couldnít take your hands off the handgrips because they would get to hot. It was the hottest I have ever ridden in and every where I went they said wait until you get to the Nullarbar Plains. I spent the night planning my gas stops and night stays, I wasnít going to drive past noon no mater how far I rode.
January 21st, 2006
Stopped at Port Lincoln today, itís the last town of any size before the Nullarbar.I would have stopped here any way unknown to me TUNARAMA FESTIVAL was happening whoooooowhooooooooooo. I have no idea what it is but I do know itís a big deal down here. It starts off with a old fashion town parade, there were about 20 Harleys that were going to lead the parade behind a fire truck so I ran into the K mart bought $30 worth of candy and when the parade started joined in, what a blast the candy was a big hit with the kids, its hard to drive a bike throw candy and take pictures but I didnít hit any one so it was a good thing. When the parade was over I talked to the other riders, they were from the local HOG chapter. They liked that I joined in and thought the candy was a good idea and next year every one was going to have candy to throw. The main attraction for TUNARAMA (beside the parade) was the world championship tuna tossing contest. They take a 20 lb. frozen tuna, put a rope between the gills and mouth and toss it any way you want, it was pretty funny to watch I should have signed up first place was $1000 second $500 and third $250, it had to be harder then it looked because they didnít throw them very far. They had a pretty good fireworks show for such a small town, after the show off to bed to tackle the Nullarbar in the morning.
January 22nd, 2006
Only did about 300 K today to Streaky Bay, my last stop before the Nullarbar. Iím carrying extra fuel so it gives me a chance to explore some of the side dirt roads, except for the red dust these roads are better then the roads in Central America.
January 23rd, 2006
I so lucked out today, a cool front moved in and rode the whole day in a long sleeve shirt, so instead of only 250-300 K a day to get past the Nullarbar I did 1400 K and did the whole thing, so much for well laid plans. Gas wasnít a problem, the price jumped about $.40 a litter but 200 K was the longest I had to go between stops. Other they the temperature the Nullarbar was all they said it would beÖ. A WHOLE lot of nothing, but still in its own way beautiful, such openness. There was one stretch called ď90 mile straight roadĒ, and it was straight and pretty flat, itís the longest straight road in Australia. One thing I did notice, 100ís of kangaroo road kills, Iím willing to better there were at least 50 dead kangaroos for every mile then I started thinking, I was on it around 1 PM, I passed one truck and saw 3 vehicles going eastbound someone has to be hitting these, the odds were not very good on my behalf, as it turned out I never saw a live one, must be the people doing this trip at night. I also crossed another time zone ( this one 45 minutes) so I really have no idea what time it really is, some one said there was 2 hours difference between Melbourne and Perth so I must of passed another one some where. Stopped for the night in Norseman, Was going to be an ďI survived the NullarbarĒ bumper sticker but there really wasnít any to the ride, I would have felt guilty bragging about it.
January 24th-25th, 2006
Spent two days riding back roads and camping, this will be the last of the ďoutbackĒ Iíll see for a while, heading back into civilization in the morning. I really enjoyed this peacefulness of the outback, didnít see any snakes or any thing else that I hadnít seen before that was a little disappointing but Iím sure I will I still have over Ĺ the county to see. I went for my first ďride aboutĒ my version of a ďwalk aboutĒ. Rode up to see wave rock found it ok but on the way back I looked at a map and decided to take some back roads. I packed some extra fuel and water, got out the road map and headed back south. The Nullarbar is just a part of how vast Australia is, you ride for just miles and miles of openness you just have to love it. I rode about 80 K went with out warning the road was covered with 3 feet of water, they had a cyclone in the far west about 2 weeks ago and I guess this is some of the after effect, damn they could have at least told you 80 K ago, one sign would of done the trick, I was on the only sealed road, oh well getting out the map I backed tracked to the last sealed road, I got about 65 K before this road also was closed, damnÖ As I was looking at the map to figure out what way to try next a local stopped by and told me the only road open to Albany was a dirt road about 15 K back. I drank some water, filled my gas tanks, found the dirt road, 4 hours later I pulled into Albany, what a great day
January 26th- 27th, 2006
Happy Australia Day!! Not sure what it is, some say its when they arrived here (Thanksgiving) other say its when they got their independence (4th of July) I say itís just another excuse to have it just to have a ďBarbieĒ (BBQ) Rode down to Albany, the hostel I was staying at was having a huge BBQÖ..bonus, free food and a nice hot shower!!! Both felt good. Going to hang around here for a few days and do some half day out trips, seeing the county side. Got to see the Dingo fence, itís the longest man made structure in the world, (I bet some of you thought it was the Great Wall of China) itís over 4000 K long.
January 28th, 2006
Rode to Walpole, going to stay here for the day and do some hiking, they have great forest here, both the ankle and knee are feeling better, I still get reminded now and then to keep an eye on they but day to day activity is no problem. I did the Tree Top Walk today. They built a suspension bridge 40 meters (about 125 feet) above the ground and you walk pretty much at the tops of the trees. The view and sensation are great, when the wind blows or others are walking on the bridge at the same time it has a tendency to sway, I behaved my self and didnít try to make it sway, I know some people (ne-ne) that couldnít done this. In this forest they have trees called Tingle Trees; they are 400 years old and up to60 meters high and 16 meters around the base. Beside the age and size of these tress another cool thing is as they grow they form a triangle at the base and when they get full grown the triangle become like feet and you can walk threw the trees,
January 29th, 30th 2006
Off to Pemberton, again taking all kinds of dirt road exploring did some more hiking in the Warren National Park. They have a tree called the Gloucester Tree, you can climb this if you want..I wantÖ they have steel rebar driven into the tree and you use these as steps with a platform at the top so you can look over the trees, oh I forgot to tell you the tree is 60 meters high, knee felt pretty good and just a little winded when I got to the top. After I climbed it I found out that wasnít the highest one, the Bicentennial tree about 12 K away was 70 meters high, and yes I had to climb that one too, I was behind a couple of younger kids but kept up with the to the top, they were impressed, I was winded! From here off to Augusta, Iím told the sunset and sunrises are great here.
January 31st- February 1st 2006
WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING? Woke up this morning and couldnít move, knee and ankle felt great but my quads are so sore, Craig youíre not 21 any more, maybe you should have only climbed one tree OR not tried to keep up with the kids, will I ever learn? I drought it! Weather came in Damn my luck no sunrise or sun set, thatís ok think I will stay here an extra day. Weather didnít get any better only thing I saw was the point were the Indian Ocean meets the Southern Ocean that was about it, I am not sticking around for weather to get better, beside I need to walk the sore out of my legs, Off to Perth. On the way stopped at a chocolate factory and watched them make all kinds of chocolate, I have to say some of the best chocolate I have tasted.
February 2nd, - 5th, 2006
Stopped just before Perth in a town called Fremantle, only 30 minutes south of Perth, the YHA hostel in Perth isnít finished yet, this is the closest one to Perth. I paid for 2 weeks so will be here for at least that long. Right away I can tell itís going to be a lot more laid back then Sydney and Melbourne, I know Iím going to like it here. Just spending time taking in the sights and meeting people, met a guy that owes a dive boat, his first mate got hurt so Iím going to play Gilligan for a week. Should be a good chance to get some diving in. Knee feels good ankle fees good quads feel good. Spent Sunday getting ready for me week as Gilligan, we took the boat out, he showed me what I had to do and we got in a little diving.
February 6th-11th, 2006
What a great week, hard work but what a great week. Got in LOTS of great dives, met a lot of good people, good time was had by all. Over the week we dove on several sunken ships, two sunken planes Two days diving around Rottnest Island. Saw just about every thing from sharks to Sea Horses. Saturday we did 3 night dives, itís a whole different world under water at night, in some way I enjoy diving at night the best, so many more fish come out and plants open up. Just in case you didnít know this you CAN NOT scream or laugh under waterÖ how do I know this? On the night dive we saw a large flash of something swim right outside out light beams, of course the pucker factor comes into play now, we tighten our circle when all of a sudden this flash comes up from under us and swims right between us, it was a seal messing with us, come to find out this seal does this all the time to night divers, I wonder if itís name is Craig, that would be something I would do. I was being so good not messing with any one while diving only to have a seal scare the shit out of all of us.
February 12th-15th, 2006
No more Gilligan, the first mate came back, I went diving on the boat on the 13th, other then that just relaxing sight seeing and just enjoying life and the west coast of Australia, I was right the whole attitude is different on the west coast, very laid back, itís not spoiled yet. Australia reminds me of growing up in Rochelle, laid back, every one knows every one, and not to crowded, god I hope they donít let visitors spoil it. I tell them every chance they get fight progress keep their little slice of paradise as long as they can. Iím getting ready to leave Perth in the next day or two, I am going to follow the coast north, and Tim the guy with the boat gave me a few contacts in Exmouth. Itís been great here but time to move on. Pretty soon I am going to have to start planning the trip after Australia. I did go and get more pages for my passport and the information to apply for another 3 month extension. I also got my third stage to my Hepatitis A-B so Iím good to go.
February 16th Ė 18th, 2006
Rode for two night with an over night stay in Geraldton, the last town of ANY size until Broom. I was reminded of just the vast size of the state of Western Australia. It covers a little over 1/3 of Australiaís total land mass (thatís big enough to put the state of Texas and both islands of New Zealand and have room to spare), yet only has a total population of fewer than 2 million people, with 90% of those living in the Perth area, only 25% of its roads are paved or sealed as they call it. You see another car on the average of one an hour. The landscaping is pretty much scrub trees, rocks and red clay. Made a detour up to Denham to check out Sharks Bay. Damn no sharks, just a pretty sleepy little town, went to Monkey Mia lots and lots of dolphins; they were fun to snorkel with. From what Iím told Sharks Bay is the number one spot to study dolphins, guess Dolphin Bay isnít as scary as Sharks Bay.
February 19th, 2006
Drove up to Coral Bay, pretty much the same vast amounts of nothingness, donít get me wrong in its own way it is very pretty, it just makes you realize just how small we are. On this one stretch near Greenough the wind blow so constant and hard from the south that no branches on the south side of the tree, theyíre growing on the north side, up and out, so the tree looks like a flag blowing in the wind, some trees grow up to 30 feet, but the tops of the trees are only 3 feet off the ground, really looks strange.
February 20th, 2006
Coral Bay has unbelievable diving; it is right on the edge of one of the best kept secrets Ningaloo Reef, Itís just as big as the Great Bearer Reef, yet unspoiled and not crowded. I saw a manta ray that had a wing span of at least 6 1/2 feet, so big yet so graceful. Also saw some pretty good size sea turtles, damn no sharks yet. Going diving again tomorrow, at the dive shop they had underwater cameras for rent, little expensive but I have to get some pictures, words just canít do justice.
February 21st, 2006
F*&(**%*%* me !!! have you ever heard the saying watch what you ask for you just might get it, went diving again today, I now know what feels like being PART of the food chain and not on TOP of the food chain. Yesterday while cleaning the dive gear some one (Iím not saying who) was cutting jokes about sharks and not seeing any and how if he did see one he would swim up to it and flick his nose. Well to make a long story short he didnít flick the nose. We went diving at a cleaning station, a cleaning station is a place sharks go to clean their teeth, I know you think Iím pulling your leg but thatís what I was told, I was also told that sharks have a ďno eatingĒ rule in a cleaning area. Any way as you can see by the picture we found sharks! Lots and Lots of sharks, it was unbelievable, I would be lying if I didnít say I had a pucker factor going but really wasnít scared, even though I did use up more air then normal. Going to ride up to Exmouth in the morning and do some diving up there. Stay up there for a few days then come back here and dive a little more.
Like I said before unbelievable diving, Dove for 2 days, the beauty of the underwater world just canít be described by words, pisses me off that we would spend billions of dollars to send a rocket to Pluto to find out if itís a planet or not when we donít even know whatís here in our oceans, and we wouldnít have to wait 10 damn years to get pictures back either. So much for well laid plans (how many times have I said that) There is a cyclone heading this way, they say itís going to hit just north of Exmouth, all the locals say if it gets any bigger it could close the roads going north for a week or longer, if I leave in the morning I think I can beat it and get north of it, after lots of thought I decided maybe this was best, I still have lots of places I can dive at and other then diving there is nothing else to do here. WOW I witness the most incredible lightning storm tonight I have ever seen, Northern Australia is known for its fabulous lightning shows, I was hoping to see one, I just stood there with my mouth open watching Mother Nature at her best (or worst depending how you look at it). Once the lighting started it just didnít stop, one right after another, some times 4-5 different lightning bolts would light up the sky like daylight, the hair on my arms stood straight up because of the electricity in the air. Every other bolt was hitting the ground and the thunder was deafening. If the roads are open Iím off in the morning.
February 26th- 27th, 2006
The ride to Port Hedlen was just a tad wet, but I got ahead of the cyclone, when I left Port Hedlen in the morning it was just a little 30-45mph wind and with-in 2 hours I was away from the cyclone. It hit hard south of Port Hedlen pretty hard, so it was a good call. I might have missed out on a day or two of diving but pretty much missed the cyclone. I talked before about the size of the Western Territory and how few and far between the towns are, its unique how they let you know how far it is to the next town, lets say youíre the next town is Rochelle and its 150 kilometers away, there would be a little blue sign that showed ďR 150Ē, now come on, how much more would it cost to write the whole damn name out? I guess they figure because there are so few towns that everyone should know the name of them.
February 28th- March 3rd 2006
Sitting in Broome with really nothing to do the Cyclone closed off those parts of the Kimberly that were open and I wanted to see, Iím told they will be closed for several weeks, damn. No diving here, to many ďstingersĒ (Jelly fish). Going to cross the Kimberly in the morning the next few days just lots of miles to cover, again the vastness of Western Australia. One thing Broom does have is the worlds oldest outdoor theater, itís been open for 90 years, and they had some neat memorabilia I saw that movie with George Clooney, not impressed but, would only give it 2 stars. Because of all the rains, the sun sets where not all that good, I cross the Kimberly in the morning.
March 4th, 2006
Itís 1100 kilometers between Broome and Kununurra, in that distance I got wet more times then I care to count. When it wasnít raining it was boiling hot, thatís not a good combination. When it wasnít raining it was way to hot to wear rain gear, and its to big of a PITA (Pain In The Ass) to put it on and take it off every time you saw it getting ready to rain. Speaking of seeing it getting ready to rain that was actually pretty cool, you could see these huge rain cells coming, and then it became a game to try to time riding in-between them. At one point the road I was riding on was as dry, not a drop of rain, but was raining so hard 15 feet off the road I could hear the rain over the bike! I couldnít stop thinking, this isnít going to be fun when the road turns into this rain, I was lucky this time, the cell ran out before the road turned. Noticed I said this time, about 40 minutes later I saw a wall of rain in front of me and I knew there was no missing it, when I hit the wall of rain it was like riding straight into Niagara Falls, I couldnít have gotten any wetter any faster if I dove into a pool! All you could do is slow down and start laughing, so thatís what I did. These rain cells were only 5-10 kilometers deep, once you got out you had to deal with the heat, humidity and mugginess. Twenty minutes after riding out you were dry and a bone wishing for a drink of water! When it wasnít raining I discovered something else besides all the critters to lookout for. Grasshoppers! They would come in mini swarms of a few thousand; even running into these I was told I was lucky; some swarms have over 100,000. They are about 1 Ĺ inch big and hurt like hell when they hit, I had to change glasses 3 times because I couldnít clean off the grasshoppers that didnít get stopped by my windshield. As if that wasnít enough you know how when youíre driving in heat and you see mirages up ahead and as you get closer they disappear? Well here they all donít disappear! You see them up ahead and think nothing of it, then something in your head tell you they are not disappearing, as you get closer you see the road is flooded over so you get off the bike, walk threw the water looking to see how deep it is, for any rocks and to see if there is any road damage, some of these floodways are 5-6 inches deep. I also had a major miscalculation on today, I asked in Broome if there was any time change between here and Kununurra, I was told there wasnít so didnít think any thing of it, leaving when I did I should get there about 7:30 P.M., and I did the only problem was the sun disappeared at 5:45 and was completely gone by 6, I was now doing something I was determined not to do, drive at night in Australia, all you can do is slow down and watch out for all the critters that come out. Even going slower with all the bugs out it looked like I was a starfighter hitting warp speed and having all the stars fly by in a blur. This turned out a lot better then I thought, first I didnít see any critters on the road plus I got treated to a double show. One was the light pollution free night and all the starts of Northern Australia, very close to that night in Peru, second there was a lightning storm way off in the distance, no threat to me but again a reminder of what Mother Nature can do. While writing this it sort of sounds like a whine session, not at all just a lot happened on this part of the ride but I loved every minute of it, it was Northern Australia at its best. LONGGGGGGGG day, nite.
March 5th, 2006
Welcome to the Northern Territory, I entered early in the morning, I didnít like the first 60 miles or so, the road was very narrow and where the road stopped 5 foot high grass started, god knows what was hiding in that grass. A new Territory means another new PITA, this time its toads. They are about the size of a fist and theyíre every where, they also hurt like hell when they jump into you. Theyíre getting so bad that the Territory of Western Australia as set up a quarantine cheek point coming into Western Australia from the Northern Territory, I guess they get up in the wheel wells and are being seen in Western Australia. One the road widen out and opened up the landscaping turned hilly; you could almost call them mountains. The ride around Katherine was awesome; I even took some side roads just to enjoy the scenery. I just made sure I made it to Darwin before dark.
March 6th,7th,8th 2006
Raining two days in a row in Darwin, again no diving, the ďstingersĒ are still there but thatís not the problem the visibility is only 4-6 feet, there are funny tides here and even with the shitty visibility they can only dive 3 days out of the week. To me it just wasnít worth it... I did get a lot done; I got my extension on my visa even though Iím not going to need it I have another 3 months here. Would be very easy to stay but I know I have to get going. I also found out that I can ship my bike from Brisbane to Bali and the cost is going to be around $1.35 a Kilo plus what ever taxes, not to bad this might be the last time I have to fly my bike until I come home, I still donít know when and what way I am coming home. I also got my windshield fixed; the 3 brass grommets that hold it in came loose, got them replaced and good to go!
The ride to Katherine was a little disappointing, still raining. I did the loop that took me to Jabiru in Kakadu National Park, every thing was closed due to the rain, I missed out on some cool sights but Mother Nature always has the last say, just like a woman (oh damn did I say that out loud?) Pulled into Tennant Creek very wet but all in all an easy day.
March 9th 10th 11th 2006
Made it to Alice Springs no problem, even stayed dry for the day, took it easy the first night, and unpacked every thing to let every thing dry out. Friday they had an Australian Rules football game, I had to go unlike Cricket that took me 2 Ĺ months to understand I got a pretty quick handle on the game, I think I wouldíve enjoyed playing this game, was fun to watch but I still like American football and Rugby better. Saturday night they had dirt track stock car racing. I forgot how fun that was to watch. All local boys, no good crashes but still had a blast. They also had sprint cars, mini sprints, and motorcycles, both solo and sidecar.
March 12th, 2006
Took a ride to the center of Australia today and went and Ayers Rock, I did the base walk (walked around it) itís about 6 miles, took just under 4 hours, I tried to time it with sunset but clouds rolled in and there was no sunset. I did some reading about the rock before I came, it has a great spiritual significance to the Aboriginal people, and they ask you not to take pictures of certain spots, of course these were the neatest looking spots but I honored their request and didnít take any pictures of those spots. You can also climb it but again they ask that you donít. I wanted to but again I honored their request and didnít climb it. Ok maybe it was because I remember how sore I was after climbing those trees, OR being on a bike I didnít want any bad MOJO, but I would like to think it was out of respect. I donít know why if they donít want you to climb it why they even allow it, Iím sure itís because of some agreement when the Australian government turned the rights to Ayers Rock back to the Aboriginal people.
March 13, 2006
Woke up today to try to catch the sun rise on Ayers, over night it rained hard and looked like it was going to rain most of the day. I went any way and yup no noticeable sunrise, from Ayers Rock I rode to Kings Canyon, Was raining too hard to do the long walk so I walked where I could and headed back to Alice Springs. Iím bummed that I didnít get a chance to watch either the sunset or sunrise; from what Iím both are breathtaking.
I was surprised to see that my tire was bald in the back I had a new one put on in Melbourne, maybe it was the heat or how they make the roads here, but it sure ate up the tires. I got to Alice Springs in time to have new tires put on, I was going to have it done before I left for Bali, so I got it done a little early, tires is one thing Iím not going to take any chances with.
March 14th, 2006
Rode to Tennant Creek from Alice Springs, something is not right with the tire they put on in Alice Springs, the road is very good here and every once in a while when I hit a bump I can hear and feel the tire hitting the fender. There is a Harley dealer in Mount Isa, I will have them take a look at it.
March 15th-16th, 2006
Not a good day! The roads in Queensland suck for the most part they are one lane paved and ruff. I could really hear the rear tire hitting the fender I had to slow way down to try to keep it from jarring my teeth out. I went over one bridge and the tire hit very hard about broke my back, I looked in my rear view to see if I missed a hole or something and saw that my main touring box in the back was almost dragging on the ground behind me. I got the bike stopped and saw that the U brace that holds the tour box on broke in half at the bolts, the only thing that kept me the box from falling completely off was, I had my backpack that sits behind me strapped to it, that kept it off the ground. I walked back to the bridge to see what I hit or ran over and only found an inch and a half difference between the road and the bridge. I strapped the box up and carefully rode into Mount Isa. Of course the dealer called every where in Australia that part doesnít exist here. We figured a way to do a ďback yardĒ fix.
Got the bike to the dealer first thing in the morning and by 2pm the tour pack was fixed. I also had them put on a new tire; the tire had some bad rubs on it and a few gouges where it hit the fender. I called the dealer the dealer in Alice Springs to question them about the tire but they insist that they put on a tire smaller then the one they took off. I wrote down the number and will write Harley and find out what went wrong.
March 17th-18th, 2006
I finely found out why everyone was warning me about road trains. For those that donít know what a road train is, itís a Semi truck pulling 3 some times 4 full lengths trailers, they run up to 177 feet and can weigh up to 291200 lbs.! The tractor pushes you away the first trailer sucks you in and who knows what the next two or three are going to do. Then letís not forget all the road shit they pick up and throw around! The best thing to do when you see one coming is to again slow down and pull over to the left as far as you can get they think they own the road and they do! I tried once to stop and wait for the truck to go by, not a good idea, it was all I could do keeping the bike upright. Itís bad enough when you have one coming at you but they like to convoy up, I once had 5 in a row, by the time the last one went by I didnít know if I was coming or going and I had a nice new dent in my front fender, I didnít mind the dent, all I could think of what ever made it would have hurt if it hit me instead of the fender. Did I forget to mention that they are running about 75MPH? I pulled into Cairns just in time to help the hostel I was staying at to get ready for Cyclone Larry, I know I lucked out with the cyclone one the west coast and just got the corners of it but there was no missing this one, itís sitting right off the coast at a category 4 coming right for Cairns.
March 19th, 2006
Spent all day helping getting ready for Larry, the good news is over night it moved just a tad south and will not hit Cairns head on, heís projected to hit about 40 miles south of here, the bad new is they say its going to reach category 5 by the time it reaches land. You can tell how optimistic I am; I booked a 7 day 6 nights Live-on-Board dive trip going to the north tip of the Great Barrier Reef, with a low level (500 feet) flight back to Cairns flying over the reef. The way I figure is we are going several hundred miles north of Cairns and Larry is going to hit south of Cairns. I hope it works out.
March 20th -21st, 2006
Larry hit about 4AM, lots of wind and rain, it did reach category 5 before it hit land. Cairns got lucky it hit about 60 miles south of here; the wind only got up to 140-160 mph here. A small town called Innisfall wasnít so lucky; they got hit head on and got tore up pretty bad. They say itís the worst cyclone to hit Australia in a very long time. One of the good things about Larry was it was a fast moving storm, by 7AM it was over, even stopped raining, then the clean up started. I got a pretty good scare, I had pulled in my bike inside the fence of he hostel, as I walked down the stairs looking for it I couldnít see it, I walked down two more stairs still couldnít see it, down two more stairs and I could see the corner of the fence but no bike, then I noticed a very large bush or small tree where there wasnít one before, I walked around the bush and under it was my bike, you couldnít see the bike from the stairs, as I started to uncover the bike I was happy to see no big branches landed on the bike and it was just covered, I didnít find any major damage to the bike, I lucked out. I volunteered to help clean up and spent the day behind a chain saw, we worked pretty much into the night but got the roads open and major trees off of the houses. I hadnít heard if the dive trip was still on, so I got up early and back behind the chain saw. About 2 PM the people that run the hostel found me and told me the dive was on and the boat was going to leave at 6PM and they would send a bus to pick me up at 530. I stayed working until 5 but by then pretty much all the major clean up was done, like I said before Cairns got lucky. On the boat and steaming North, the ocean is pretty calm and should be a good night. I guess what surprises me the most is how fast it came, how hard it hit, then how fast it left, it hasnít even rained since it left, the skies are still dark but no rain.
March 22nd Ė 25th, 2006
I have been staring at the key board looking for words that would and could describe the last 4 days of diving. I know itís hard to believe, but I am at a lost for words. It far surpassed any expectations I had. We did five dives Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday that includes a night dive each night and two dives on Saturday. Needless to say by the end of each day all you did was eat and go to bed. On the first night dive the first thing I saw was a pretty good size shark, I got the attention of my dive buddy and when I went to shine the light where the shark was it was about 10 feet away heading right for us, now I knew it was only a white tip (safe) but Iím sure my eyes got bigger. The only thing that would have made the dive perfect was some sun. It rained every day out but the water wasnít choppy, so the diving was good. I canít even begin to name everything we saw. The big fish were cool but what I really enjoyed were the small and camouflaged fish. You really had to look for them, if they didnít move there was no way you could see them. I wonít tell you how many times I stared at a rock thinking it was a fish and swam by a rock only to find out it was a fish. I think one of my favorite were the giant clams, one had the nick name VW because it was as big as a Volkswagen bug. The size alone was amazing but what really stood out where the different bright colors. Any one out there that like to dive you have to experience a week long live-a-board, they are the best! Part of the package deal was a low level flight back to Cairns; the reason for low level after diving as much as we did it wasnít safe for a high level flight (has to do with the amount of Nitrogen left in your blood). We could go up too 1000 feet however we spent most of the time flying over the reefs at 500 feet. You could spot sharks, dolphins, sea turtles and huge schools of fish; I was sitting in the co pilotís seat and so wanted to touch to yoke and pedals but I behaved.
March 26th -27th, 2006
I took the 26th as a rest day, I did ask if any help was needed because of Larry but everything was in good shape so I just sat around and took it easy. On the 27th I rode down to Townsville riding threw the heart of where Larry hit. The damage was pretty bad but not as bad as I expected. I would say about 30% of the homes had visual damage, and some of the stores in Innisfall had the roofs missing. They were still without power a week later. What got hit the worst were the banana crops, they were ready for harvest that week and not one banana tree was left standing, the whole crop was a total lose, it was sad to see these huge banana fields leveled to nothing higher then 3 feet. The rain forest also took the brunt of the winds; those trees that were still standing were striped of all the leaves. Itís going to take some time to recover.
The plan is to hang around Townsville to see if they open up the diving to the wreck of the S.S Yongala, Iím told itís a must see dive. After Townsville I am going to work my way down to Brisbane where I will wait for some supplies being sent there, then I am off to Bali.
March 28th-30th, 2006
Not much going on, I did get a chance to dive the Yongala. The Yongala was a cargo ship that went down in a cyclone 80 years ago killing all 117 on board, plus some famous race horse. You canít penetrate the wreck because the bodies were never recovered and itís considered a living grave site. It can be somewhat of a challenging dive, not only is it a deep dive (almost 90 feet at the bottom) but the current is very strong, you have to hang onto a guide rope to the ship itself and once on the ship you have to stay as close to it as you can. We swam up the starboard side (right) against the current first, and came back on the port side. The swim back was more like a ride back, I felt like the sea turtles in the movie ďFinding NemoĒ The swim up took about 15 minutes the ride back took 35 seconds. The second dive to me was much more enjoyable; we stayed on the deck of the ship where most of the marine life is. I thought the dive was good but not what everyone made it out to be.
March 31st- April 4th, 2006
Winding down the trip, the riding is essentially over; itís just getting from point A to point B, most of it on highways. I spent a few nights in a town called Mooloolaba. Nothing special about this town except itís nice and peaceful, on the ocean and gave me one last chance to get a dive in. The government sunk the missile cruiser HMS Brisbane about 9 months ago and made it a dive site. Unlike the Yongala this one you could enter, they cut about 50 holes in the sides so no matter where you were in the boat you could always see a way out. On the second dive we entered the ship down the smoke stack into the engine room. We swam in the berthing area past the toilets (great photo opportunity if I had a camera) up into the fire control room. One of the things I found interesting was on the fire control panel the button to push to fire the missiles didnít say FIRE; they said KILL, that kind of says it all. Brisbane is only an hour south of hear will be heading there to make arrangements to ship the bike and myself to Bali.
April 5th-10th, 2006
Major change in plans, the family is having a surprise 80th birthday party for my father I decided that I couldnít miss this for any thing, also one of my best friends is having a major personal problem, and I needed to look him in the eyes to tell him every thing will work out and if he needed me I was there, I hope he knows that and that I love him like a brother. OK enough mussy crap, so instead of making plans to Bali I made plans to fly home for a few days. Other then that just did a little riding around Brisbane, nice town however too big for me; guess Iím just a small town boy at heart.
April 11th- 25th, 2006
The surprise party was a HUGE success; Pops couldnít have been more surprise! We met at a golf course and played 9 holes then had a party at the club house. I canít remember the last time all the Hutsons got together, Sad as it may be, I think it was my momís funeral back in 83, anyway it was great, good times, lots of laughs, a few tears and in the end I still got beat in golf by a 80 year old, blind in one eye (not really) old man!! Come to think of it he was riding with Aunt Pat I wonder who was keeping an eye on the both of them? Maybe I didnít get beat, I just got out counted??? No, I suck at golf, bottom line a memory of a life time, and I only had to wear the pink panties once (long story).
I have to admit it was great to be back home, time went by way to fast I didnít get all I needed to done or didnít get to see half the people I wanted to, but I have to also admit I was itching to get back on the road.
April 26th, 2006
The flights went well, at least the flights from LA to Sydney and Sydney to Brisbane. The flight from Chicago to LA was the most uncomfortable flight I think I ever had! First of all I requested either a window seat or an end seat of course I got a middle seat. No one was sitting on either side of me so I figured ďthis wonít be too bad Iíll just move after we take off.Ē What I didnít know was the flight was being held up waiting for plane that was delayed and had people making a connecting flight with our plane. Every one got on board and I said to myself, I had lucked out the last two empty seats were next to me, then I saw two VERY large woman walking sideways down the passageway, I just hoped I missed some empty seats somewhere but when they stopped at my row I knew I was in serous trouble, the look the flight attendant gave me behind there backs told me all I needed to know. Now Iím not the smallest person, I got out of my seat and the first one, after putting in a rather large bag of food, squeezed by lifting the arm rest, taking up a ľ of my seat, I then sat down and the other one Plopped into the outside seat taking up another ľ of my seat I had no were to place my arms because both armrest had to be up, they both needed seat belt extensions to buckle up and before the plane took off they broke out the feed bag. Between bites they were talking about how excited they were going to LA for a Bible Revival. Of course we are at OíHare so there is a 20 minute delay the gateway and another 10 minutes before we took off. As soon as the Captain turned off the seatbelt sign I told the lady on the end I had to get up for the bathroom. She smacked her lips (I donít know if it was from the chicken legs she was grazing on or out of discuses for me asking to get out. I thought she was going to pull the seat in front of her down on top of herself trying to pull herself up. The flight attendant saw her trying to get up and helped her out of her seat. When I got to the back of the plane, I told the flight attendants that I was going to stand in back for the flight. They said they felt bad for me and that all my drinks would be free, I said thanks but all I drink is coke, one of the attendants kind of chuckled and said ďto badĒ We started to joke around and I asked if it would be too obvious if I had my picture taken sitting in my seat with the two of them, they laughed at the idea but said they couldnít take the picture, Iím sure they thought I was going to write the airlines or something. All went well for the first 3 hours then one of my fears came to light, the Captain turned on the seat belt sign! I walked up to my seat, both were sitting there reading their bible, they had settled down very nicely, so nicely that their arms were almost touching. I said sorry I had to sit back in my seat and again I got a dirty look, helped her out of her seat, sat down and again she stood next to her seat looked back and plopped into it. They then started to read the bible to me, I sat there very calm, didnít make any smart ass remarks (Iím 35000 feet above ground in rough turbulence, Iím not going to take a chance and piss the big guy off. There was only 30 minutes left by the time the Captain turned the seat belt sign off so I just stayed scrunched in my seat until we landed. I had several people pat me on the back with their condolences as we walked out. All part of the trip!
April 27th- May 1st, 2006
When I got back to the hostel, the bike was right where I left it I lost a day, so the 28th all I did was rest because of jet lag. I spent the 29th and 30th cleaning the bike, I hadnít heard of any quarantine inspection but I wasnít going to take the chance. My plan was to go to the airport on the 1st and fly to Bali. WRONG, another FU*(*%*(Q(#*%_ing holiday! These Ausies have more holidays then any other county!
May 2nd, 2006
I got the bike to Hellmann Worldwide Logistics first thing in the morning; they had me take the bike to DGM (dangerous goods management). They weighted and measured the bike, asked how much gas was in it, and told me to go back to Hellmannís. (At a cost of $110) The DG inspector told he would forward the dangerous goods bill to Hellmann. Back at Hellmannís Sue told me every thing was done I could walk across the street to customs, have them stamp my Carnet and I could be on the way, All under an hour and a half. The total cost of shipping the bike was around $600 after all the BS fees. Again just about the same price as my ticket. Speaking of my ticket, I was forced to by a round trip ticket, seems they have the same rule as New Zealand; you have to have a ticket in and one out, after the BS in New Zealand I just paid for the round trip.
May 3rd, 2006
Both I and the bike made it to Indonesia in one piece. I met some guys on the plane who come to Bali all the time; they hooked me up with a hotel close to the airport. You pay $25 US for a 30 day visa right at the airport. I got to customs first thing in the morning. They sent me over to a company called KLM kargo, no one spoke English there but I got across to them I needed to pick up my bike. I could tell right away to no one moved very fast. The man got out a work sheet and started writing down all these numbers 900,000 ďwarehouse feesĒ, 700,000 ďdocumentation feesĒ, 600,000 ďunloading feeĒ 800,000 ďotherĒ, all in total there was about 3,000,000 in ďfeesĒ( this comes out to just over $300 US). When I questioned the ďother feeĒ by pointing at them and shrugging my shoulders in better English then it should have been for not able to speak it he said ďdocumentation feeĒ, I shook my head no and pointed to the ďdocumentation feeĒ already listed. He then said (in good English) ďwarehouse feesĒ, again I pointed out the ďwarehouse feesĒ on the paper. Once he said ďunloading feesĒ, I took the form he was filling out and the bill he was filling out and walked out the door with out saying a word. He tried to call me back but I just kept walking. I studied the form and it was pretty much like any standard Special Import form, fill in the blanks. I walked back over to customs and asked where the person in charge was. They pointed me over to a building about Ĺ block away, when I got there I asked to see the supervisor in charge, as it turns out it was the Region Captain or General or what ever title he holds. He spoke very good English and I explained to him I didnít mind playing fees that were due and fair however I would like know what Iím paying for. He told he I could fill out the form myself, he even helped me telling me what went where. He also told me the warehouse fee should be around 600,000 and the documentation fee around 300,000 (both being just under $100). I walked back to the customs office with my paperwork all filled out, I was asked to sit that it would take a little while, I knew what game they were going to play, so I smiled, took my shoes off, got out my book, put my feet up and started to relax. Every now and then someone would walk by and give me the sign like ďjust a little while longerĒ I would just smile say ďno problemĒ (every one knows what that means) and just kept reading. The guy from KLM walked in a few time, sure wish I knew what they were saying about me. I think what broke them is when I smiled at them and reached in a got out one of those just add water meals. All of a sudden they walked up and said ďfinishedĒ, I put my meal away, paid my 900,000 what ever and pulled out of there with a huge smile on my face. I almost expected them to tear the bike apart inspecting it, but they didnít even look at it. The funny thing is if they wouldnít have gotten greedy with the ďother feeĒ I would have paid the rest of them. Pretty much wasted the day so I spent the time riding around the town taking in the sights and sounds.
May 4th, 2006
Once on the road I headed south to circle Bali, I was surprised to see how good the roads were, they were a few spots that sucked but by the most part not to bad. Bali is very crowded, there are very few spots where the roads arenít lined with road side shops, stores, or repair huts. They do make good use of space, I saw this in other counties and towns that have road side shops, you will come up on say 10-15 ďshopsĒ along side the road and they are all selling the same thing and only that item, it might be soccer balls, mufflers, plastic air toys (this is a biggie) just about any thing you can think of, I wondered how they ever sell any thing or make any money, granted their overhead isnít that high but still you would think they would spread out a little or mix up their goods
Some of the shops sell homemade furniture, the craftsmanship is just unbelievable; I stopped and watched an old man chisel wooden statutes with laser precision, I donít know who or what was older, the man or the wooden hammer and chisel he was using, a true craftsman at work.
I do believe in the power of the mind, jinx or something, itís happened to me a few times on the road. You will be thinking of something, next thing you know its happening. For example I was thinking how good it felt to relax a little and not have to worry about something jumping out in front of me like in Australia, Wouldnít you know it not 5 miles down the road I had a group of monkeys run right in front of me, I thought great now I have to look out for wild monkeys of all things. I didnít see any in Brazil, but with-in an hour of riding in Bali Iím dodging them. Why canít any of the ďgoodĒ things I day dream about come true? (hehehe we wonít go into those) That brings up another thing I have been meaning to write about. Why it is when youíre riding down the road at a good pace, roads nice and flat havenít seen a car for the past hour in either direction when you see a car in front of you. As you get ready to pass all of course there is now a car coming at you in the other lane, after that car passes you get ready to pass again when the road now starts a big curves, up hill down hill, any thing it takes to keep you from passing the car, once you do get around it, the road goes back nice and flat and no other cars going in the other direction, talk about messing up a good run! I made it to Gilimanuk where you catch the ferry over to Ketapang on the island of Java. The rooms are nothing to write home about (even thought thatís just what Iím doing) but they run about 5 bucks a night so I guess you get what you pay for.
Now is a good of time as any to talk about the bathrooms here. For a toilet, you have a porcelain hole in the ground and you straddle it and do your business. They donít have TP but they do have a bucket of water with a little plastic pot that you use to ďclean yourselfĒ Glad I was a boy scout and always come prepared, thank god for ďBlaze wipesĒ or as most of you know them as wet wipes. Because you know ďif you take care of your ass it will take care of youĒ You donít flush these toilets, there is a flapper valve that you pour water from the bucket until it gets enough weight to flush itself. Now can just imagine, the shape some of these bathrooms are in, woman if you think are aim is bad when men stand and pee........................ enough said about that. The ďshowersĒ are something else, in the corner they build a square tub that is 3 feet high and 2 feet on the sides, you fill this with water and using the same plastic pot you used to flush the toilet you shower yourself by pouring water over yourself. The floor has a drain and thatís how you shower. Nice cold water.
May 5th, 2006
I just feel like Iíve just gone ten rounds with Ali, I am wiped out! As every bit as good as the roads were in Bali they were that bad in Java. The hardest riding I have done to date. I did 250 miles in 11 hours, fighting for every inch of road, never getting into 5th gear, spending most of the day in 1st or 2nd. The temperature was about 100, with humidity to match. The roads are paved but so full of huge pot holes, large rocks, and just plain junk, that you canít take your eye off it for a second. When they do ďpatchĒ a pot hole they have a 2 inch tolerance, meaning they have to get within 2 inches high or low of the original road. The patches are worst then the pot hole itself. I would say the ratio of scooters to cars is 1000 to 1, from trucks to cars, 100 to 1 and from buses to cars 20 to 1. Think of New York City, for every cab turn that into 20 scooters, with shitty roads, all trying to get nowhere fast They carry every thing on these scooters, one guy had 3 dead goats, another 4 fifty lbs. bags of something, wood stacked 5 feet high or sugar cane sticking out 4 feet on both sides, how they keep their balance is beyond me. Almost every scooter is loaded with stuff or people, the most people I saw on one were 6, two adults with 4 kids. If you try to leave a little space in front of you so you can see any potholes or junk it gets taken up by 4 scooters. You just have to do your best and try to avoid the big ones. Here are the ďrules of the roadĒ for Indonesia:
RULE 1: Bigger vehicle has the right-a-way
RULE 2: Person with the bigger balls has the right-a-way
RULE 3: See RULE 1, bigger vehicle always wins!
The trucks have the exhaust venting out the sides, about chest high, so if you get stuck next to a truck you have the hot, smelly exhaust blowing on you. I only made that mistake once! I talked about how much I enjoy the smells of riding, I didnít much enjoy Java, you are either riding in exhaust or smoke from someone burning garage. They have no concept of garage collection, there is garage everywhere, and people just throw garbage on the ground and walk away. I ended up making a mask to breathe in. Between the dust, exhaust and smoke I looked like Al Jostens (I know thatís spelled wrong) I was filthy, and I all I had to look forward to was a nice porcine hole, no TP, and a cold shower!
May 6TH, 2006
I was looking forward to sleeping in today but was awoke at 4AM by Muslim chanting or pray, it sounded like the loud speakers were in the room, as it turns out the call to pray is played on loud speakers four times a day starting at 4AM. There is just no going back to sleep after getting awoke like that. Iím sure thatís the idea. I took my cold shower and headed out. I took the northern coast heading to Jakarta, so I canít say anything about the southern coast except they canít be any worse. Today was the same as yesterday, 200 miles in 11 hours, hot, humid, and smelly. Iím told they have a good Toll Road in Indonesia, I even saw it, however they donít let motorcycles on it, I canít much blame them, and some of these scooters would lose a race with their own shadow. I was told you can save over 8 hours using the toll roads. If only they could have known what I would have paid to use them, but as I keep telling myself ďitís all part of the journeyĒ The roads and traffic didnít get much better; the few times I did run into open road with little traffic the roads where so bad I still couldnít get out of 4th gear. There was one stretch of road, no traffic, no pot holes, but the road was like a wash board and 45MPH was all I could do and still keep my teeth. Besides not spending any money on roads or road repairs they also donít spend any money on road signs! I bet in the last 2 days I havenít seen 10 road signs, and the ones I did see were pointing to nowhere. I saw a sign the had an arrow pointing to Jakarta, they put the sign up but didnít bother having it any where near a road, I guess if you were a bird you would know what way to fly. One sign said Jakarta 87 kilometers; it was only off by 52 MILES! None of the towns were marked either, so when you did get to a town you had no way of knowing what town it was, they must expect people just to know. In one of these towns I was going a whooping 15 MPH when I noticed a scooter to the side of me, the passenger was trying to cut the straps of one of my bags. Lucky for me he ran into a parked car (he forgot RULE #3). I was right outside of Jakarta when it started to rain so hard I couldnít see 3 feet in front of me, I found a place to sleep and called it a day. I got a bar of soap and shampoo and took a shower in the parking lot, I also washed my clothes, and I can just imagine what the locals were thinking and saying. I also saw this guy on a scooter hit another scooter with two adults and two kids, every one got up and seemed alright however it pissed the crowed off and they started to beat the guy that hit the family, I mean a good old fashion ass whipping, Iím not so sure he was going to make it, a police officer was there and just turned his back and walked away so I wasnít going to do any thing about it either.
May 7th, 2006
I donít know if itís because Iím an American, people donít know how to read maps or what but I sure had a hard time finding the Harley dealer in Jakarta. I had a map and an address however when I showed the map or address no one knew where it was or pointed me in different directions. It only took me 3 hours to find it and that was only after I saw an A&W root beer stand and I wanted a cold drink, as it turned out it was only Ĺ block away from the dealer. Or at least the old dealership, they just built a new one and now this shop was just the mechanics shop. That was ok also I had to get some oil any way, as it turned out it was a blessing. I must say that this shop had to be one of the most professional shops I have ever been to. Very clean, well organized and knowledgeable. I was also surprised to see the number of Ultras they had there, seems like every one rides an Ultra here, god I feel sorry for them, itís a big bike to ride here, I know after two days I was done in. All the front desk personal spoke above average English so I sat around bull shitting with them. I told them of my plans to have my bike serviced in Malaysia because it was the last Harley dealer for a while. They told me that dealership lost its franchise from Harley and was closed. I was thinking of having this shop do my service any way so I gave them the green light to service it. I think someone at the shop called the local HOG chapter (Harleys Owners Group, you might recall I met up with a bunch in Chile) and two of their members showed up to take me to lunch. Another piece of luck, I asked them to recommend a decent hotel near by when one of them offered me a private apartment, no charge, to stay in while the bike was being fixed. They also made some calls to the Road Captain for the group and set up a lunch meeting the next day to go over what would be the best way for me to go. We spent the day BSíing, .and for the first time since being in Indonesia I relaxed. I called it a day. The apartment was very nice, a one room with a sit down toilet (OHHH YEAAAAAA), as it turned out the apartment was at a familyís business in a very secure compound and had its own 9 meter deep pool. But still had a cold shower, I couldnít figure out how to turn the hot water heater on
May 8th, 2006
I met up with the road captain from the Jakarta HOG, he told me he spent the night making phone calls on road conditions on the island of Sumatra. I donít know how they could be but he was telling me in some places they were worst then on Java. That I could handle but what he did find out is the ferries that connect Indonesia and Malaysia were not running out of Medan and that the ferries out of Dumai were questionable, seems like the two counties were having a pissing contest over some islands and every now and then they close the ferries down. One county will shut down one ferry; the other county will shut down the other one. So much for those plans, he advised me not to ride up to Dumai, they just couldnít be certain when I got up there the ferries would be running. He did find a way around all this; I could take a ferry to Borneo (still a part of Indonesia, some might remember it from the first survivor series), cross over into Malaysia by land then fly from the Malaysia side of Borneo to mainland Malaysia. He said he set every thing up, even though it sounds confusing, it was the best and safest way to go. I figured it was their back yard so I best take his suggestion. I spent the day being shown around Jakarta. I tell you what, everyone has their hand out in Jakarta, and they have people at side streets that will stop traffic for you so you can get onto the main road, for a small fee. I asked who these people were and what happens if you donít pay. I was told that the corners are controlled by gangs, they say who can work them and when, nothing happens if you donít pay but if you take that way a lot they will remember you and it might take 30 minutes to make your turn. During rush hour (it was all rush hour to me) it might take you 3 hours to go 2 miles in a car.
One of the things I did notice though, of the very few cars I did see they were all top end cars, I didnít see one beater or even a car over 5 years old, and I didnít see any riding around with damage on them from wrecks. Not too many middle class in Java, either your very rich or your very poor. I also went to the Burma Embassy to apply for my visa for me and the bike. It looks like its going to take a bit of luck, from what I am told they donít hand them out. I had to write a letter the Director of Defense explaining where I was going, where I was going enter and leave Burma, and what kind of bike I was ridding. I should know when I get to Bangkok.
Seeing Jakarta like this and meeting these people saved my experience of Indonesia, Bali was nice, if youíre going to come to Indonesia thatís the place to go.
May 9th, 2006
I was picked up in the morning and taken to the ferry in Serang, they had already made arrangements to have my bike there., By toll road it was only an hour away by motorcycle it was 3 Ĺ hours. As we pulled up to the entrance for the ferry a guy was waiting for us with all the paper work, all I had to do is hand him my ID and paperwork for the bike. Every thing else was taken care of. It took about an hour but the guy came back with my ID paperwork and tickets for the bike and me. When I asked how much I was told it was taken care of. I looked over to my new friends and they just shrugged their shoulders and gave me a smile. We ate lunch and they handed me a bag with bottled water, some dry tomato soup (they saw I kept some on my bike) and 8 servings of just add hot water chicken flavored noodles. They waited until I was safe on the ferry before taking off. I hope some day they come to the states so I can return their kindness. A special thanks to A. Pare, the first member of Jakarta HOG I met who showed me around town and took good care of me, Eka, whose apartment I stayed at and Syarif who made all the arrangements for me and the bike. He also gave me a contact number when I got near Kota Kinabalu or better know as KK. Also a special thanks to the whole Harley team at Jakarta shop, every time I saw my bike there were at least 2-3 guys working on it, they found a broken motor mount, replaced a few other small things and for the first time in a while I feel my bike is ready for its next leg of the journey.
May 10th, 11th, 2006
Iím on the ferry heading to Borneo; the water was like glass, not much happened. The ferry had open compartments with about 30 beds and a locker. My bed was right by the TV so I could lie in bed and watch TV. They had satellite TV with HBO and every thing. I did make a new friend, a little 8 year old boy I shared my food with, he had the greatest personality. I must say this about Indonesia people, they have the biggest smiles I have ever seen, especially the kids. Here they donít have a pot to piss in, yet they seem more content with life. Another thing I noticed was even at 6 AM you could always find kids playing some game or another, soccer, baseball, kick ball, and didnít matter they were out having fun. When was the last time you saw kids in the US playing like that? They are all to busy with their I PODS or X Boxís. Who has the right idea here? I wonder.....
May 12th, 2006
The ferry landed at 6AM in Pontianak Indonesia, no troubles with getting the bike, I noticed they also washed it, again thanks Jakarta Harley. I headed towards the border and Kuching Malaysia. The roads were good here (I was told they would be) and very little traffic, I actually got to look around while I rode, I took the coast road all the way up to Malaysia, well at least that was the game plan, when I got up there the road had been washed away by a flood a few days ago and they were still fixing it. I had to ride all the way back almost to Pontianak to hit the only other road that went to the only border crossing into Malaysia. I really didnít mind, like I said the roads were good, the scenery was great and I was back enjoying riding. The crossing at the border was the quickest yet, under 15 minutes. The only bad mark on the day was, I stopped to get gas and while I was paying for it someone stole my Harley map off my bike. I used it since New Zealand and had a bunch of notes in it, bummer! While I was riding I also realized that the contact numbers Syarif had given me were inside the map, double bummer. Even with the detour I made it right outside of Kuching. The only damper of the day was I had no money! Malaysia went to an information chip on all their credit cards and ATM cards; with out the chip they canít process the card. I guess these chips have all your information, banking, medical and personal, sounds like BIG BROTHER watching to me. Normally at the borders you can find someone to exchange money, you take a hit on the exchange rate but at least you have cash, I couldnít find any one to exchange money. The few times I got gas I talked them into taking Indonesian money, again Iím sure I took a hit on the exchange but what are you going to do?
May 13th, 2006
What a great day of riding. I rode from Kuching to Bintulu, I took my time, and the countryside is beautiful. I realized today I was going to ride in a county not on my list. On the north end of Malaysia is a very small county called Brunei. Its claim to fame is all its oil and the sheik was once and still maybe the richest man in the world. (I wonder if I could get him to exchange some money for me)
May 14th, 2006
Another great day of riding. The roads are better then ever; the crossing from Malaysia into Brunei was a piece of cake, no more then 15 minutes. I rode to Muara in Brunei thinking I would take the ferry across over back into Malaysia, that would have worked except I missed the tide and at low tide they couldnít unload my bike from the ferryon the other end. So I had to turn back and cross over by land. The only reason I didnít want to do this was you have several boarder crossing; you start out in Brunei, cross over back into Malaysia, back to Brunei (for 18 miles) then back into Malaysia. I think this is one of the reasons they are so relaxed at the borders. I had a small problem at the last crossing. At each border you have to take a ferry across a small river, no biggie, however when I crossed over the last river I couldnít tell and didnít know it was a border, after the crossing I rode about 5 minutes. Out of the corner of my eye I saw some sign, my brain must have seen more then I realized because something told me to go back and read it again. When I went to read the sign again I noticed what looked like a immigration office, I stopped in with my passport and bike information, thinking it was the border crossing on the Malaysian side going into Brunei, The immigration guy kept telling me I was missing an exit stamp, I told him no, ďI got one, itís there somewhereĒ He then told me I was already on the Brunei side and was missing the exit stamp from Malaysia. Somehow I missed the Malaysian immigration and customs. I couldnít see how, but I did, so I went back to the ferry, the guy kind of laughed and said ďno exit stamp huhĒ I shook my head no. He told me I was going to have to go back to town, to get an exit stamp. I was thinking what town? The last town was pretty far back; sure enough I had to drive back 9 miles (I checked) for an exit stamp. I stopped some guy on a scooter and asked him where immigration was, he told me to follow him and took straight there, its a good thing he had me follow him it was tucked away in a strip mall, no signs, no flags, nothing. I got my exit stamp, went back across the ferry again, to Brunei immigration and on my way. There is no way any one would know to stop where for a exit stamp, Iím told theyíre building a new immigration office right next to the Brunei one, didnít help me, oh well just one of those things that make you laugh. The last border crossing went with out a problem, be sure I was looking for anything that looked like immigration. Syarif had given me a phone number to call when I got to the border of Malaysia, but of course that was with the map when it was stolen I just road into Kota Kinbalu (know as KK) Iím still running with no money what a bad feeling to have, I tried every ATM I saw, not knowing about the chip at the time, I was not very happy with my ATM people. So I will apologize for all the dirty names and nasty thoughts I had. Once in KK I found a hotel that would hold my US money until the morning and I could exchange it over. It was a good thing too, just as I reached KK it started to rain hard. I got good nights sleep knowing that in the morning I would have some money in my pocket
May 15th, 2006
First thing I did this morning was cash in some of my US money for Malaysian money, oh what a good feeling to have money I could spend! I next found an internet cafe and emailed Sharif that I had lost the contact persons phone number, that I had made it to KK and where I was staying. Fortunately for me he wrote me right back and gave me the number. I told him that I would call the contact person as soon as I got back to the hotel. It took me 15 minutes to walk back and by the time I got there I saw a guy in a Harley shirt standing by my bike, as soon as he saw me he walked up and asked if I was Craig the ďChicago lone rangerĒ, I guess thatís what they had been calling me in all their emails and phone calls. He told me Syarif called him and told him where I was staying. He was telling me they had 3 guys itching to meet up with me at the border and ride into town with me. I explained that had I lost the contact numbers and had no way of letting him know when I was close. He told me every thing was ready to go to fly my bike out in the morning to Kuala Lumpur or better know as KL and that we had to run to the airport to drop off the bike and paperwork and then in the morning someone would pick me up and run me to the airport. Again like clock work when we got to the airport someone was waiting for us and did all the paper work, I got my plane ticket and was ready to head off in the morning. The cost of flying me and the bike to main land was under $300. After the airport we met up with some of the guys I was too met at the border, I have said it before bikers are the same no matter where you come from. That night w e went and had dinner Malaysian style pizza, with the guys and their families. It was a great time. One thing odd did happen, we were eating out side and right at dusk a million moths or something came out and started to fly around the lights, they got so bad we had to turn off all the lights outside, however in 15 minutes they were gone! I was told they come out every night at dusk for 15 minutes then leave. After that we didnít see one. This is what the trip is all about!
May 16th, 2006
My ride showed up right on time, short trip to the airport. I flew AIR ASIA, itís a no frills airline, no free service but you can buy something to eat and drink if you desire. One thing about AIR ASIA is they donít assign seats, itís a first come first serve sort of thing. You should have seen every one crowding to the door as they got ready to open up. I could tell by the size of the plane that there was going to be plenty of room so I just sat back and watched. When the open the door it was off to the races, I slowly got up and grabbed my bags, walked to the plane and got a row all to myself towards the back, as it turned out when we unloaded we unloaded from the back, hehehe remind you of he tortoise and the hare? When I got off and picked up my bag a guy in an orange Harley shirt walked up to me and asked if I was the Chicago lone ranger, I just smiled and shook my head yes. He told me he got a call from the KK HOG chapter and he was to pick me up at the airport take me to my bike and make sure I got on my way. Talk about service above and beyond the call of duty, what a network they have. It was a good thing he did pick me up as it turns out Air Asia had its own airport and the cargo airport was 65 kilometers away. Again as we pulled into customs someone was waiting at the gate for us with all the paper work, they walked us right in and in no time we were cleared by customs. He took me to my hotel and asked if there was any thing else he could do. He said that some of the guys wanted to meet for drinks later and they would be by around 7. Four guys showed up and we just went to a local pub and had a few drinks. They wanted to know if I needed someone to escort me out of the city in the morning I told them I should be fine I could see the only expressway from the hotel. At the end I couldnít thank them enough for all their hospitality. I went to bed with a warm heart.
May 17th, 2006
I thought the roads over on Borneo were good; the roads on mainland were as good if not better then any road in the US. Itís a toll road but like in some of the other counties motorcycles donít have to pay, in fact in areas that traffic really backs up they have special lanes just for motorcycles, how sweet is that. Also along the toll road under every overpass they have a shelter behind guardrails for motorcycles for when it rains. They have a sign with an umbrella and a motorcycle showing where they were. In a few spots where there were no overpasses they built shelters just for bikes. I made Hat Yai Thailand with no trouble. I am getting spoiled; again the crossing was under 30 minutes. Itís really not the rainy season here but it does rain at least once a day, like in Australia I donít even bother to pull over or put on my rain suit I know I will be dry with in 30 minutes of it stopping.
May 18th, 19th, 20th, 2006
Made Phuket nice and wet, come to find out some typhoon has been hanging around China dumping tons of rain, just my luck. I hung around Phuket a few days and got some diving in, we saw and dove near ďBond IslandĒ as itís called. Thatís where they filmed one of the James Bond movies. The hot spot in Phuket is Patong beach, tons of things to see and do. Itís sinfully cheep to stay in Thailand. You can get a one room beach hut with a fan for about $6 US a night. Meals are just as cheep and the food is very good. There are 100ís of cart food stands and the food is excellent, not really sure what Iím eating I just keep telling myself itís beef. So far so good as to getting any kind of stomach problems, with the toilets they have here itís a good thing! Weather still isnít that great so I am going to head north to the east side of Thailand,
May 21st, 22nd 2006
Rode up to Chumphon, the roads are still great and the scenery is beautiful. I never realized how many waterfalls and caves Thailand had, I checked out most of the falls and explored some caves on the way up to Chumphon. Weather still sucks, whatís left of that typhoon just wonít go away. I hung around Chumphon for two days hoping for a break in the weather so I can get some diving in, again Iím around some of the best diving in the world and canít get out, and thatís life!
May 23rd, 2006
Welcome to Bankok! There is so much to see and do here and again so cheep. I found a great room for 8 bucks a night, I know Iím splurging, I could have taken the one for 5 bucks a night but I have my own private bathroom PLUS a hot shower. The reason I picked this place was it has great secure biking for the bike, its right in the middle of the Banglamphu district. I will have to explore more of it in the morning.
May 24th, 2006
There really isnít a way to describe Bankok, its one of those places you have to experience! Every where you go someone is trying to sell you something. You can pick up anything you want, up and including the kitchen sink! Itís the only place I know that out on a curb side store you will find a star war action figure next to phallic looking vibrator. The traffic is bad but not as bad as I thought it would be, but I still parked the bike; between he busses, taxis and Tuk-Tukís (3 wheel motorcycles with a large double bench for passengers that sound like a power saw) getting around is no problem. The problem comes from deciding where to go and what to see first. I hire a Tuk-Tuk to drive me around for the day ($5). The Temple of the Emerald Buddha is an architectural wonder! The craftsmanship that went into it is just mind boggling.
May 25th, 2006
Not a good day! I spent all day at the Burma embassy, they granted me my visa, but declined the visa for my bike. The bitch of it is they first approved it then disapproved it, donít ask me why, maybe they really didnít and they just said that to fuck with me, doesnít really matter the bottom line is I have to come up with a way around Burma. FU&^&&%(K!! To top it all off I thought I friend my computer tonight but as it turned out it looks like I only fried my sound card. I was trying to plug in my headphones so I could play some music while I typed when I missed the headphone jack and touched the USB port jack. The screen when black, and wouldnít turn back on. I let it sit for 30 minutes and the computer came on but went I went to play a song it says ďcan not open output deviceĒ when I went and looked for my sound information I couldnít find it. So if any of you guys reading this is a computer expert and you have an idea what I can do or check please email me. I treated myself to a Thai massage tonight, and clean up those thoughts there was no happy ending :) It was very professional and damn did it feel good. You get an hour for about $4.00.
May 26th, 2006
Another wasted day. I spent the day at the airport trying to find a broker to ship my bike to India. When I went on horizons web site no one had posted a trip from Bangkok to India just India to Bangkok. Just before 6 I found someone that might be able to help me I have to fax them the bike information and the size.
My game plan is to fly into India, ride around there to Nepal, then ship my bike to Turkey avoiding all the middle east, I found one way I could ride it but even that way is a tad risky, to me its not worth it so I will just go over.
May 27th, 2006
I spent the whole day at the weekend market. WOW, they have over 15,000 stalls. I wish I knew what to look for they prices were great and the quality looked excellent. I just have no room for any thing. It was fun walking around watching people and looking at everything for sale. I did wonder what was fake and what was real. Some of art work on the carvings was just amazing. I saw a ton of stuff I like but in the end I didnít buy anything. I was tempted with some of the jade. But again how could I tell if it was real.
May 28th, 2006
Went to the floating market today, hundreds of woman in 15 foot canoes trying to sell all kinds of fresh vegetables, and just about anything else you would want or think of. Theyíre like pigeons in the park when you throw bread on the ground; as soon as you showed interest in buying something they all would paddle over to you and fight over you like youíre a bread crumb.
May 29th, 2006
Left Bangkok heading north and of course an hour out of Bangkok it stated to rain. Rain has been a big problem this year for Northern Thailand and Cambodia, lots of flooding, wiping out whole villages. Iím surprised at all the Army gear thatís still worn in Northern Thailand, I realized we had some major Air Force bases up here during Viet Nam but that was over 30 years ago. The style is of that time period that just makes me wonder how many tons of clothes we left, thereíre also still some old style jeeps and trucks driving on the roads. The roads started to turn bad about 60 miles outside of Menam Kohng , 50 miles out, they closed them due to flooding, nothing getting by, not even the high wheeled busses. I turned around and entered Laos in Vientiane crossing over the Mekong River
May 30th, 2006
I really like Laos, the people are unbelievably friendly, plus they drive on the right side of the road, hope I remember how. I do have to keep an eye open, its back to road grazing for the animals. Cows and goats everywhere, but unlike the other places they must really be use to it, they donít flinch or even look up when you ride by, still have to watch them, only takes one. I stop at just about every village to buy some water or something, not because Iím thirsty but to give the people selling the goods some business, again itís unbelievable how nice and friendly they are. Camped out under a sky full of stars
for the night, slept like a baby
May 31st, 2006
Sky full of stars turned into rain, the funny thing was, by the looks of things it had been raining for some time before I woke up, guess I slept like a rock not a baby. Just rode more of Laos today, surprisingly the roads are very good; critters are still behaving them selves and staying where they belong. Iím enjoying Laos a lot, taking side roads until I run out of road or they get to bad to ride, then back to the main road and try the next one. Beautiful people, beautiful county.
June 1st, 2006
What a surprise it started to rain again, this time pretty heavy, spent the day in a small village called Paskse, just didnít feel like riding in the rain today.
June 2nd 3rd, 2006
Into Cambodia right away I notice a huge difference in the roads and people. The roads suck to begin with but because of all the rain the roads are all mud and one pothole after another. When the road does dry out there is a layer of dust 3 inches deep, not the easiest to ride in on a Harley and they hid how deep the potholes are. The bike and I are taking a beating. You have to keep a certain speed to be able to control the bike in the mud or dust but when you run into one of the Grand Canyon potholes you feel it. I figured it would happen but I busted that weld on the bracket on the left side of the bike. This time when it broke, the muffler at the Y broke with it. The bike is pretty loud now even by Harley standards I have ear plugs so I can deal with the extra noise but the break was right under the seat and all that heat was now hitting my inter thighs.
I was riding down a road when a truck that was passing me in the other direction dropped a 2x4, it headed right for me, instead of turning away from it and exposing my leg and the engine I turned into it. It hit the bike with a pretty good thud, I had to ride about 3 miles down the road until I could find a safe place to pull over. The whole time my mind was going a mile a minute wondering what the damage was. I think I got lucky, it didnít hit any of the fiberglasses, and it hit the support bracket that holds up the left side spot light. It was bent pretty good, but with a pair of pliers I got it straighten out. I am so not liking Cambodia, I was thinking what next? I had to ask! Started to rain hard again donít have to worry about the dust now, I know some of the guys who do this trip put their bike on a large sampan and float it down to Phnom Penh on the Mekong River, I looked into this but with all the rain the Mekong was moving pretty fast, I had a bad feeling about doing that so I just turned around and heading back to Bangkok to see if I could get the bike fixed.
June 4th, 2006
Made it back to Bangkok, checked into the same hostel, of course when I got back to Bangkok it stopped raining, you just have to laugh! When I was in Indonesia they gave me a contact number if I needed any help in Bangkok. Itís Sunday so Iíll call them in the morning, I thought I deserve a massage.....no happy ending, but sure felt good! On the way back to Bangkok I did see one note worthy event, now I donít know what kind of rocket program Thailand has but they sure launched something big, I saw the plume about 20 miles ahead of me, it went almost out of sight then the plume started downwards, thatís not good in my book. I sent the next 30 miles looking in the sky trying to figure out what way the wind was blowing. What goes up must come down and with my luck............
June 5th, 2006
Much to my surprise the number they gave me was to a new Harley shop that had opened up in Bangkok, I didnít know they had one here. I rode there and the people were great. They had already had a call telling them I might be calling and to take care of me, more of the Indonesia connection! Of course they didnít have the pipe in stock, but they said they could have one made faster then have one shipped in, it just wouldnít be OME (original manufactory equipment). I left the bike there and took a tuk tuk back to the hostel. I do like the traffic lights in Thailand; along with the normal red yellow green they also have a clock telling how long the lights as left to be red or how long you have under green. Itís like a ďChristmas treeĒ at the drag strip, as the numbers count down in red, everyone revs their engines. Thereís no surprise when itís turning red or green. Seemed to work, I saw very few ďrun the yellowĒ.
Oh another thing I forgot to talk about, here in Thailand you graduated from a hole in the ground to a regular toilet that flushes however you still donít have any toilet paper, instead they have the spray hose like most of us have in the kitchen. The problem with this is they have it hooked up to what seems like a 100 psi air line, I swear you could peel paint with it, so you have to check the pressure BEFORE you use it (and how do I know this?). To bad they canít use some of that water pressure in the shower.
June 6th,7th,8th 2006
Not too much going on, just hanging around Bangkok taking in the sights sounds and smells. The town never sleeps, sorry boring for you guys but Iím just taking it easy. I have been working on shipping the bike to Istanbul Turkey. Iím going to bypass India and Nepal all together, I am kind of bummed about it because I was looking forward to it but they are having a little trouble in Nepal right now and itís just not worth the cost and hassle. More headaches!
Picked up the bike new pipe sounds good. They made a stronger bracket for the one that keeps breaking all is good. I took the bike down to the warehouse the bike is good to go, however the Thailand government isnít. The bike was scheduled to fly to Istanbul on the 9th however the King of Thailand just added the 9th as a public holiday. He is celebrating his Diamond (60th) anniversary as King of Thailand (that also makes him the longest sitting monarch) Good for him but it screws me! The 10th-13th had already been declared as government holidays, so because customs wonít look at the bike until the 14th my bike wonít go out until the 15th, GRRRRRRRR. I have had the worst luck with holidays in every county. Oh well, I can think of worst spots to be stranded in then Bangkok, at least itís cheap to stay.
Speaking of the King, I donít know if itís because of the celebration or if they do it every day but at 8 in the morning and at 8 at night they play the Thailand national anthem over loud speakers all over the city, everybody stops until the song is over. I donít know it itís true but someone said that the king wrote the anthem.
I also went and saw the movie MI 3, they have special theaters here call VIP, the one I went to was way cool, the chairs are huge massage recliners with pillows and blankets. You have your own server and there were no more then 10 chairs in the place. Not a bad way to see a movie I could get use to it. Before the movie they asked every one to stand up in honor of the king and played the national anthem. What I thought was strange was we were standing in honor of the king and not in honor of Thailand. I guess to people of Thailand, the king is Thailand.
The delay was the least of my problems! I took the bike down to the warehouse. They told me they had just informed that the bike had to be crated, I figured I was ok because I had already signed the contract for the 500 kilo rate I knew even with the crating it wasnít going to be over 500 kilos. Wrong! I was told because it was crated they had to charge me volume weight not actual weight, now I donít know what that means besides costing me $700 more! When I tired to argue and show them the contract we both signed they just pointed to some BS that said weight was estimated, I said no, we are still under the 500 Kilos that we agreed on so it should be the same. Suddenly they had a hard time with the English language and made it clear it is what it is; I was not a happy camper. Nothing I could do, I had already paid for the plane ticket for me, it just wasnít cost effective for me to tell them to go fuck themselves and go with someone else. Out of the kindness of their hearts they said they would crate it free of charge but I had to leave the bike now so I wonít even have the bike to ride. I went to pay them with my Visa (I had asked them if they took Visa and was told they did) and they said I could only pay with cash, with the extra $700 I didnít have that much cash. Of course they wouldnít take a personal check, they only think I could do was a wire transfer from my bank to their bank in the US. Now mind you Bangkok is 12 hours ahead of IL time, so when the banks in IL are opening the banks in Bangkok are closing! They gave me a preprinted paper with their banks name address and routing number. The money had to be there the next day by noon since all the banks were going to be closed for the next 4 Ĺ days. That night I stayed up late called my bank, got all the information to them no worries, or so I thought. The next day I got an Email from the shipping company saying URGENT they had not received any money therefore could not promise that space on the plane would be reserved. I tired to call them and of course they were closed. That night I again stayed up late called my bank getting ready to give them a piece of my mind. When I asked them why the money was sent they said they had the address, the name of the bank the routing number however they didnít have a 10 digit account number. I just said WTF how can you have a preprinted form and not have the account number on it. Now remember this is the weekend so nothing can be done until Monday and even then I didnít know it they were going to be open or if I would be able to get a hold of any one. Nothing I could do until then.
June 9th, 2006
Over the weekend I sent several rather blunt e-mails to the shipping company with no answers (surprise surprise) I called the shipping company first thing in the morning, low and behold I got a hold of someone, not the person I was dealing with but at least someone that spoke English. I very politely asked how could they have a preprinted card with their bank information and leave off the account number. He didnít have an answer for me but he did have the account number. I also told him I was not very happy they hadnít answered any of my e-mails and that I didnít care what they had to do; my bike had better be on that plane on the 15th. I stayed up late again, called my bank, gave them the account number, we will see what happens.
June 10th-13th, 2006
The city is pretty much in turmoil over the Kings celebration, traffic is all screwed up they are shutting down road 3-4 day ahead for different parades, all kinds of foreign dignitaries. The King announced that a good way to show your loyalty to him was to wear a special yellow shirt with this crest on it. They sell for 350 Thai dollars; you can buy t-shirts on the street all day long for 50 Thai dollars. But every one got one. I have to admit, itís kind of cool to see 200,000 yellow shirts standing along the road for the parades and walking down the street. I started to go to one of the events but couldnít deal with the crowds. The one I wanted to see was the River Parade with the ceremonial boats, people started to line up at 7AM, the parade started at 5 PM no way. Not in this heat and humidity. Some of the people staying at the same place as I was went down and only lasted until 3, said it was just to hot and the people were so rude because they were not Thai. Glad I didnít go. Sent a few more blunt emails to the shipping company with no response, Iím sure by now as soon as they see itís from me they hit the delete button. Hehehhe.
For those that know me, know I have what some would consider a warped sense of humor, being stuck somewhere not by choice and having no bike is just not a good combination. When I was in the states for Pops birthday I picked up and brought back a little toy. I donít know what it is with men and fart noises but always makes us laugh. That let the cat out of the bag; yes I brought back with me a fart machine. The hostel I was staying had a really nice common court yard with a small kitchen where you could order food, a reading lounge, internet and TV. I taped the noise making part under a chair, sat back and enjoyed! I wonít go into details but a good time was had by all. I even helped the owner buy one over the internet. We wore out 2 set or batteries! I tired to give the owner mine but I think he thought we used it to much and was afraid it was going to break on him.
June 14th, 2006
Last night in Thailand, itís been a blast but Iím ready to leave. Iím sure the fact that I was stuck here had a lot to do with it. I talked to the shipping company; the bike is good to go, I still bitched them out for not answering all my e-mails. I just had to laugh, he said he had been answering them but they were being sent back Bull shit, I said ok Iím looking at my computer (I was no where near my computer) send me the shipping bill for the bike so I know what flight itís on and the time it gets in. After a few minutes he said it was sent, I said ďwhat a surprise I just got it, I wonder what happened to the othersĒ and just hung up. When I got back to the hostel I got lucky it was waiting for me.
I was doing some research on the internet and found out that this weekend the Turkey HOG chapter is having a rally in Ayvalik, about 7 hours south of Istanbul. You know I got to check it out.
June 15th, 2006
Hello Istanbul, always nice to start a new place out with a bang, I just got to my hostel when a bomb went off in a dumpster Ĺ a block away. No one was killed but several were hurt. Needless to say that changed my plans a little; I did walk around the Grand Bazaar, the shops were still open but most of the people had left. I have never done so walking around and window shopping as I have in the past 2 weeks, but I had a good time doing it, the sights, sounds and smells are just amazing. I loved the smell of the spice market, made you want to walk around and sniff. Head back to the airport in the morning my bike I hope will be there. The bike is due in at 5 AM tomorrow.
June 16th, 2006
Well the bike made it, but what a cluster fuck trying to get it from customs! I got to the airport nice and early, no problems with the airlines, paper work was done in less than 30 minutes, I shouldíve known it was going to smooth. The airlines sent over an interpreter to help me with customs, a lot of good that did, to make a long story short I didnít get my bike until 430PM. In their defense, Istanbul airport had a HUGE fire about 2 weeks ago that destroyed over half of the airport. At least thatís what Iím telling myself so I donít go nuts. I was told they just went to some new system and the computers werenít up and running yet. So there I sat, the guy from the airlines was pulling his hair out. One thing I didnít understand no one was in uniform, I donít know who was customs and who were civilians, it was the first time there wasnít some type of uniform. All I was thinking was the HOG rally starts today and I still have a 6 hour ride, and I have no clue where Iím going, what else is new. In the end all they did was write something in my passport and told me I could leave.
This was the only time my bike was crated it and the only time it had some damage. The mirror on my right side had a crack in it; I didnít see it until I was already on the road and the sun hit it just right........figures. The crack is small enough Iím not going to get a new mirror unless it falls out. Oh yea and my gas gauge was stuck on full, I hope they didnít jam some hose in the gas tank to see if there was any fuel in it, I told them it was empty.
The roads in Turkey are not that great, it surprises me because the roads in Thailand and Laos were so good yet the roads in Turkey suck. The ride down to Ayvalik where the rally was being held was beautiful, a nice surprise how pretty Turkey is, but the roads still sucked. The road took me next to a huge inlet called Marmara Dezini, in fact at one point I had to cross it by ferry. On one side I had water on the other side I had huge pines. The best of both worlds. It had been a while (Australia) since I seen pines, I love the smell. It didnít take me long to find out a disadvantage of riding next to these pines, they were all sapping (I donít even know if thatís a word) and soon my bike was covered in pine sap. To make maters worst as soon as it turned dark MILLIONS of little hard black bugs came out, when they hit the bike, the sap would make them stick so in no time I couldnít see out of my windshield and the bike was just covered with black bug dots and sap. While I was riding watching my windshield fill up with sap and bugs I got to thinking ok something is different, what is it? It was one of those things that drive you nuts because you canít figure it out when all of a sudden it hit me, I was chilly, it had been so long since I felt chilly I forgot what it felt like, I had to stop and put on a long sleeve shirt. I got into Ayvalik about 1045 pm, I was done in so I just got a room and figured I would look up the rally in the morning.
June 17th, 2006
I hooked up with the HOG group, I know I said it before but bikers Harley bikers in particular are all the same no matter where you go or what language they speak! There were riders from Turkey, Greece, Germany, and Bulgaria and of course the USA I was welcomed with open arms, the bull shitting started to flow and was non stop all day and most of the night. We went on a ride to Troy. They had billed it as ďRide you Chrome Horse to see the Wooden OneĒ They saying was more cleaver then being there, really donít know what I expected but I enjoyed the ride a lot, the guys road in a group well and was a pleasure. I was surprised to meet 6-7 Americans that now lived in Turkey. So I always had someone around that would translate for me if I had any questions or and for the questions people had for me. A good time was had by all, the band and entertainment for the night was good. I got the plaque for ďmost distance riderĒ I tried to talk them out of it, I would have rather seen it go to some one from Europe. At the other HOG rallyís they understood and gave it to a ďlocalĒ but to much alcohol had been consumed by the time I realized they were going to give it to me and there just was no talking them out of it. There must have been 250 bikes at this rally not a bad showing. Did I mention the roads in Turkey sucked? Well the main roads are great considering the town roads; theyíre made of cobblestone, which in itself isnít so bad. However the streets are so narrow you canít fit a bike and a car side by side. To top it all off, they are pitched down at a pretty good angle with an inch and a half deep center to take the rain away. If the side were even it might not be too bad but there are all kinds of dips, cobblestone missing and dirt. Itís a bitch, your front tire hits any of the above it throws you to the middle groove, then you have to fight the bike to get out of the center, I saw a few guys dump their bikes, which cost them a round of drinks. I didnít know Turkey got that much rain to build gutters in the center of the road. Oh yea I almost forgot, because of all the dirt on the road the businesses are always hosing down the streets to keep the dust down, so you also had to deal with the mud.
June 18th, 2006
A few of us got up early and went for a 4 hour ride, I was a little disappointed we didnít have a better sunrise but for some reason since Australia the sunrises and sets have been poor. Turkey is a very pretty county, people are great, someplace I would come back to, by the way did I tell you the roads suck? A bunch of the guys from Greece and Turkey were heading out to the Greek island of Levos, I figured this would be a good chance to cross the border with someone that knew the border and could help me with any problems, I was told once in Greece border crossings would be under a minute and that some counties didnít even have guards.
Boy did we get hosed on the ferry ride to Levos, they guys who came from Greece to Turkey paid 40 Euro for a round trip, those of us going from Turkey to Greece paid 90 Euro one way. There are still some hard feelings over ownership of the island so I can understand that but DAMN. The only problem at the border was the Carne, they didnít know if they should stamp it or not, after one of the guys from Greece talking with them they just handed it back to me unstamped. One of the guys from Greece was going to a party that night about an hour away, he said I could go to the party with him then crash at his place, my game plan was in the morning to circle the island then catch a ferry to the island of Hios. So off to the party we went, on the way there he lost the gas cap to his tank I had some duck tape so after a quick repair on to the party. It was laid back party and fun for me to just sit back and watch. Most people just canít get the idea of not drinking they have no clue how much fun I get just watching.
June 19th, 2006
Levos was a great ride with two completely different kinds of scenery; the east coast is very green while the west coast was sand and rock, all of it mountainous both beautiful in their own ways. I almost ran into trouble, My ferry was leaving at 6 for Hios, I had plenty of time, or so I thought I was on the far west side of the island and stopped in for gas, I was told the power was out and they couldnít pump any, I still had plenty so I just rode to the next station, yup you guess it, no power, for the next hour the same story, now Iím getting close to a point Iím not comfortable with, remember my gas gauge isnít working and I am just going off of miles rode. So I stopped at a station had a water and waited. About 45 minutes went by I heard the pop machine kick in, got my gas and was on my way with an hour to spare by the time I got back to the port. I rode by the spot he lost the gas cap at, walked around and found it. Put it back on his bike on the way to the ferry, wonder how long it will take him to notice.
June 20th, 2006
Off the ferry in Hios, circle the island; grabbed a bite to eat, back on a ferry for Athens. Such a life I lead! One thing Iím learning fast Greeks are the most animated talkers Iíve met so far, ( I am saving my final opinion after I ride in Italy) They canít hold a conversation without yelling at some point, you half expect them to pull out a knife and stab someone. The gestures with the face and hands are classic.
The smoking here is also killing me, Iíve never seen people smoke so much in my life, and it doesnít matter where they are, who they are with, or even if theyíre eating. For the first time in my life I saw someone take a bite with fork in one hand and without chewing take a drag on a cigarette with the other hand, blowing smoke out their nose while theyíre chewing. God forbid if you ask them to not smoke or at least smoke with their other hand to keep the smoke away from you. Talk about a ďgo fuck your selfĒ look. There are always ways at getting back.
June 21-22nd, 2006
I spent two day in Athens taking in the sights sounds. Great place to visit, so much Greek history and Mythology, I did the entire tourist thing, but toward the end thought to myself how many headless statues and ruins can you see and take pictures of? Plus it was a real turn off to see most of the ruins covered by scaffolding and really turned off when I found out it have been that way for over 10 years! Yet they still charge you. Kind of like toll ways, I think if they are under construction and your delayed by that construction then it should be a freebie I know I didnít see it all but after two full days I was ready for the road. Iím finding out I am not the tourist type person. Give me the open road and the common people and Iím as happy as a pig in shit.
June 23rd, 2006
Ok even after writing what I wrote yesterday I left Athens and headed for Olympia, the place for the first Olympics. Yes I stopped, walked around, took pictures of headless statues and ruins, even did a lap on the track, Iím sure I set a world record. It was neat thinking of the history and what took place there 1000ís of years ago. I spent the day just riding the lower half of Greece, Outstanding, they build the villages right into the mountain side, I look for but didnít find any roads that lead to the top of the villages, now I wonder where is better to live, on top (thatís one hell of a walk) or on the bottom (remember what which way shit flows) I never looked but I would guess honey is a main export from Greece, bee hives line the road, yes they too make a mess on the windshield! I was told to cross into main land Greece at Patrai, they just completed one of the worlds longest bridge, donít know if it is or not but I crossed it, was just a bridge to me, but hey I can say I crossed it. (Like that means anything to me)
I knew it was going to happen I just didnít know when, I had my first (and only I hope) blow out on the rear tire. I figured no biggie I have a patch repair kit with me, I would just patch it and get a new tire at the Harley store in Thessaloniki about 150 miles north of me. Boy was I wrong, the tire was gone and I mean gone, I was shocked I had just checked the tire in Athens, I only had 6000 miles on it or so, but the tire was down to the cord, not just in one spot the whole damn tire. I was lucky. I waited around for about 2 hours for a tow truck to come by, I was told it was going to cost 250 Euros for the tow, thatís very high but what else was I going to do, he loaded the bike on truck, luckily it was a flat bed, even so I think it was the first bike he ever towed, even drop it on itís side once GRRRRRRR. I found out he was on his way to pick up another car so he got a two-for-one, we drop the car off first I donít know how much they paid but I did see at least two 50 Euro bills, so I figured I wasnít getting screwed to bad. He dropped me off at a bike shop that specialized in Hondas and race bikes the owner was a racer and by the looks for the plaques and trophies he was pretty good, any way by the time I got there it was 830 PM but they went right to work on it, since I got burned once before on the size of the tire I looked at the new one close, it looked to big to me and I tired to tell them that, but they insisted it was the right tire and put it on any way, this at the tune of 180 Euro, once I got the bike on the road and went over one small bump I knew the tire was too big ( how do I know this DUH) I turned right around and had them take the tire off, by now itís 10PM .They made it clear to come back in the morning to get the tire fixed, I could understand that so I would be back first thing in the morning, in case you hadnít figured it out, I donít speak Greece and they donít speak English, this is always fun.
June 24th, 25th, 2006
They started working on the bike first thing, got the tire off, when they came back with the new tire I again matched them up this one was the right size, they had a hard time adjusting the tension on the belt it was way to loose at first then way to tight, thatís one thing Harley did do right they have an automatic adjustment washer, line it up and the belt is pretty much balls on, but they were tapping with a hammer trying to tighten it. I met them half way and got out of there by 10. Like I said there was a Harley dealer 150 miles north I figured I would stop there and have them check the adjustment. When I got to Thessaioniki I found the Harley dealer no problem, only problem was service was close Saturday s and Sundays. Damn, I wasnít going to take any chances I would spend Saturday and Sunday here and have them check the belt Monday.
Thessaioniki turned out to be a good place to be stuck in; this weekend they were holding an annual contest where all the different clans come down dressed in their old traditional clothes and perform their traditional dances. It was a party atmosphere plenty of food and entertainment, even had a fireworks show each night. This is what I like real people real traditions, not the tourist traps.
June 26th, 2006
If I didnít have such a good time going to the festival waiting to have the tire checked out turned out to be a waste of time. The mechanic didnít speak English, the girl that worked there didnít even know what a tire was, I got down and showed him how tight the belt was but he just gave me the OK sign, I could see this went as far as it was going to go so off I went hoping the belt lasted until I got to the next Harley shop, maybe I was wrong maybe the belt was ok but for peace of mind I had to find out. Romania was good riding; the roads were average or a little better. I spent an hour or so riding around Bucharest, then headed north up to Suceava, then just had to ride to the town of Sighisoara in the heart of what used to be known as Transylvania, yes the birth place of DRACULA hehehe. They have a castle there with a torture chamber, the stuff looked fake to me, and I did get some pretty good ideas for when I get back home
June 27th, 2006
I like riding in Hungary, as far as the roads go I would give them just a little better then ďokĒ but not good either. The problem was not potholes (I hate potholes) but grooves left in the roads from heavy trucks, itís like they used to soft of asphalt and the trucks wore two grooves in the road where the tires ride. Some of the ruts were four inches deep! Almost deep enough so cars could let go of the steering wheel and the ruts would keep them in the center of their lanes. Now the trouble of motorcycles is every time you go to change lanes its like trying to cross a wake while waterskiing. You have to set yourself up and drive up and over the ruts, then do the same coming back. I can just imagine what these ruts are like when itís raining, not only would you have to fight the water in your lanes but Iím sure the on coming traffic would throw a wave of water at you from their ruts. Iím just grateful I didnít find out. Called it a night in Siofok, itís on a lake in the middle of Hungary called Balton. Great place to call it a night, beaches are open until 3AM, felt good, after swimming a while I realized this is the first fresh water I have swam in for the past year. Mark Siofok on your map fun town.
June 28th, 2006
Made it a little over half way around the lake, such a nice day decided to stop in a town called Keszthely for some more swimming and fun in the sun. Another town to mark on your map, I didnít realize how nice Hungary would be.
June 29th, 2006
After two days of lying around in the sun and swimming I made it to Budapest, first thing I did when I got here was stop at the Harley dealer to check on my belt. They guys at the Harley shop were great , got my bike right in, I was up front talking to them when the service manager walked up, I could tell by the look on his face it was not good news. I was right, he said ďyou have bigger problems then your belt, let me show youĒ The new tire they put on was only rated at 200 pounds, hell I weigh 250, he was surprised that the tire lasted as long as it did. He also pointed out the broken brackets and asked why these werenít fixed instead of welded. He also pointed out a tiny leak in my left shock, all the problems I have with the bike are on the left side and I believe all stem from the first broken bracket. I told every place I went didnít have them in stock. He said they didnít either but could have them flown in and have them here in the morning, and since I had to replace the tire and it wouldnít be ready until the next day any way he would just replace the brackets, under warranty of course. How could I say no? That news ALMOST calmed me down from the screwing I got in Greece. When I told him how much I paid for the tire he just shook his head he told me it was only a 20 Euro tire, I told him I wish he hadnít of told me that. Well nothing I can do about it now, the thing that surprises me was he was a professional race bike rider, he knows the importance of good equipment and tires are, yet he still let me go out with that tire on the back of the bike, Iím truly almost tempted to ride back and have a talk with him. Like I said before nothing I can do about it now.
I found a place to stay for the night, the dealer called me a cab, figured get a good night Sleep and I wonít be so upset in the morning. Boy was I wrong; it was just the start of a string of bad luck. The taxi dropped me off in front of my hotel, I went inside to make sure it was the right one, when I got back to the cab he had my bags on the curb, after I paid he took of rather fast, I even remember saying damn heís in a hurry, when I went to check in I figured out why, he kept or forgot my folder with my passport, carnet, and all my other paperwork. I felt sick to my stomach, to make maters worst the hotel wouldnít check me in without a passport, even after explaining to them the cab just took off with it. Of course I didnít know the name of the cab company and everyone had left the Harley store for the day. God was I pissed! I spent the night walking back to the Harley store. Of course while you walk all your mind does is think, it kept on switching back and forth from the screwing I got in Greece to the mess I was in now. The service manager came in a few hours early, at least something went right. I explained to him what had happened and right away he called the cab company, they got found the driver who picked me up but he said he checked the back seat and truck even looked under the carpet but no folder. He said he would check with the passenger who got into the cab after me to see if he had picked it up. I was wondering how he knew who that was, maybe it was a regular customer, but he called back and said no such luck. At this point I started to make a list of things I had to do and calls I had to make. The good news was my bike with the new tire and brackets would be done that day. WHOOPEE I wasnít going any where I tried to call the US embassy but of course all I got was a recording, call back after 1. I had told what had happened to some of the guys in back, about 12:30 they came back WITH my folder in their hands with a huge smile on their face, all they said was ďhe found itĒ I knew better then to ask, just got to love how things work! I offered them a reward and they said ďyea buy us a beerĒ The Harley dealer had a really nice restaurant/bar upstairs, we had lunch when I went to pay the tab I was told it was already taken care of, I think the restaurant even felt sorry for me. Bike fixed, passport in hand I headed north towards Poland. One good thing, well two good things that came out of this was, first DUH separate your passport and carnet with the copies of them, and the screwing I got from Greece seemed small now. New tire new brackets, only thing they didnít get to was the shock, the placed they ordered their parts from didnít have any; two out of three isnít bad. It hadnít been a problem and now that I know about it will keep an eye on it. Iím go to go! Heading towards Poland
. I got about an hour into Poland when a cold rain hit, I donít mind being cold and I have had enough rain time not to be bothered by rain, I just donít like being cold and wet, so I called it a night.
June 30th, 6006
First of all I have no clue why what happened to my margins , but Pattie look at it this way Iím just making up for all the paragraphs I missed before. Ok this is driving me batty, what the hell did I do or hit to cause this. Well that just wasted an hour and still not fixed, Iím hoping I hit the same button again and put it back the way it was. Until then were having to put up with it.
I made it into Krakow Poland, one of the guys I ride with has a brother that lives here, I gave him a call and we met for lunch, of course I told all kind of lies about his brother. I checked into my hostel, then rode around Krakow, did a little sight seeing, went to an old castle but again Iím not really the tourist type person. At the hostel someone found out about a rock quarry close by that had good swimming and 30-40 foot cliffs to dive from (ok jump from)
July 1st, 2006
Donít ask me I have no clue how it got back to normal Iím just glad it is, I tried to go back and make the rest normal just wouldnít do it so Iím not going to mess with it any more I wasted way to much time on it already. Spent the day at the quarry, had a blast swimming and jumping off cliffs all day, wore out, going to bed.
July 2nd, 2006
Headed toward Oswiecim Poland today that is where the Auschwitz death camps from WW2 are. I was thinking on the way there just what happened here and asked myself do I really want to go there? Lots of bad mojo and lost souls there. We must never forget but no need to glorify it either, I turned around and just went back to the hostel I was just in a bummer mood, relaxed and talked to some of the people staying with me, going to head to Warsaw in the morning.
July 3rd, 2006
Took a nice relaxing ride in the Poland countryside, really not to much to see, land is pretty flat and non-descript, people are not really friendly but no rude either. Had a nice day of riding, got into Warsaw checked into the Hostel and relaxed.
July 4th, 2006
Happy 4th of July, little home sick today, Iím missing the BBQís, how good would a brat with corn on the cob taste. Went to the Russia Embassy to start my paperwork for my Russia visa. The request is a page, both sides. I had to laugh, one of the questions is list all the countries you have visited in the past ten years, the next question was list all the countries stamped in this passport, they didnít leave enough room for either, I wonder if ďsee question 6Ē will do for an answer, I donít think they have a sense of humor so I best fill it out right. You also need an invitation and a voucher asking you into the country; you get this by knowing someone in Russia or booking a room at a hotel, then asking the hotel for an invitation and a voucher. I was told a fax of both would be accepted. Room was booked; paper work was filled out, just waiting on the fax from the hostel. The reason all this wasnít done before hand is you have to lock into the day youíre getting into Russia and the day youíre leaving, until I got to Warsaw I hadnít a clue. I picked the 9th to enter Russia that would give me some extra time to get some riding in.
July 5th, 2006
Got the invite and voucher, went back to the Russian Embassy to find out the voucher was missing some stamp, oh I forgot to tell you the hotel charges $38 for the voucher and invite, would think they would get it right I wonder if theyíre waiting for more money? I e-mailed the Hostel letting them know they forgot the stamp, got an answer in about 5 hours in the way of a new fax of both with the stamps on them, no extra money, maybe it was an honest mistake or the wording of my e-mail hehehe. Back to the Embassy I was told the more I pay the faster I get the visa. I chose the 3 day plan so the visa ended costing about $125. When you pay for your visa you have to go across the street and pay there, of course there is a $5 fee charged for paying for your visa. Itís all about getting money when ever and where ever they can. From what Iím told thatís about normal. I can pick the visa up after 3PM on the 7th.
July 6th, 2006
Two days of site seeing, I did stop by the Warsaw Harley store. I was telling them of my story about the tire and they said you should have the European road side assistance by HOG. If you get into any bike trouble any where in Europe, they come pick you up, take you to the nearest Harley dealer and pay for your hotel until the bike is fixed. Ten minutes and $60 later I was signed up. Itís like a condom, better to have it and not need it then to need it and not have it. What really sucked was I had the road side assistance with my US HOG membership, I just didnít know about it, my bad. My member ship was up this month any way so I had to get it any way. I also told them about my shock, they called another supplier who had it in stock, said they could have them there the next day. They asked it I could bring the bike back in the morning and they would put it on for me, all under warranty, I told them I would see them first thing.
July 7th, 2006
Got to the Harley Dealer at 11, I could tell by the look on the parts managers face there was a problem, He said he just called on the parts and they were stuck in Germany because of bad weather. They were still going to arrive today they just didnít know what time, I might be best to come back tomorrow instead of wasting a day waiting on parts. I told him it was OK I was picking up my Russia visa today at 3 I had already checked out of my room and that I would just get it fixed at another dealer. As long as I added air everyday it was ok. I could see the hurt look on his face he really wanted to help me out, then he smiled and said they had a brand new Ultra on the showroom floor if I didnít mind they would take the shocks off it put them on my bike and when the new ones came in just replace them. He also said they were going to replace both shocks even though there was nothing wrong with the right side shock. I sure didnít mind where the shock came from. By 2:15 both new shocks were on, some pictures were taken and I was off to the Embassy hoping it wasnít like Brazil making me wait until exactly 3 until they gave it up. Nope visa was ready, they handed it to me and I was on my way out of Warsaw. I had plenty of time so I was hitting all the back roads north on my way to Lithuania. Unlike the south half of Poland, north of Warsaw was beautiful, a real surprise and treat. I rode until dark and stopped when I got to some cute little town with a town square. Everyone walking around talking they had live music playing from local bands. I was told this goes on every Friday and Saturday night for the summer. There was a small lake right outside of town and was told I could camp there. I wasnít the only one with that idea, there were 6-7 other camping there, and we started a small fire and stayed up way to late BSíing.
July 8th, 2006
Just a great day riding, no hurry no rush; I just about covered the whole counties of Lithuania and Latvia. It was great riding along some back road seeing a bunch of cars parked in the ditch; you slow down to see why everyone was parked in the middle of nowhere to find a local swimming hole. Of course I stopped several times for a dip; water was just a tad nipply but felt great. I also rode into a small town that had a flee market going on, reminded me of the old Maxwell street on Sundays. You could buy any thing you wanted any thing from a case of socks to tires including the rims. I think you might want to wear gloves carrying the stuff home I would be willing to bet they were just a little ďwarmĒ. I stopped in Rezekne Latvia about 30 miles from the Russia border. Going to get a nice and early start I truly donít know what to expect but Iíve been hearing nothing but horror stories about land border crossings.
July 9th, 2006
ďFrom Russia with LoveĒ well there is no love in Russia what a cluster fuck thatís all I can say. I got to the border at 4am. There was a truck line 3 miles long and about 20 cars a head of me. The border didnít even open until 6. The one and only good thing that happened at the border was they waved me to the head of the line. They opened the border 15 minutes late, no biggie, the first check point two people come out and ask for your passport, they hand you a small piece of paper that I found out later you have to turn in at the last checkpoint. This piece of paper had the number of people in a vehicle. Then the fun begins; now mind you I only have 3 people in front of me 25 minutes later, they hand me two forms (in Russian) to fill out, I looked around but couldnít find any examples in English of what they were asking, about 10 minutes went by when this guy from England also trying to get into Russia hands me two forms in English, where he got them I have no clue but I was off and running. Once that was done I got sent to an office to pay a new road tax or something, it wasnít bad under 5 bucks, back in line only to find out I needed a copy of the receipt for the road tax, I couldnít understand why, they gave me two copies already just best keep your mouth shut and do what they ask, back to the lady that I paid the tax to, showed her the receipt, she knew what I needed made a copy (of course there was small charge for the copy), back in line. Why she just didnít make the copy at the time I paid no one knows, thatís just not the way they do it, if you donít ask or better yet if you donít know about it shame on you, back in line. For those keeping tab, two hours have gone by. This was not just with me everyone was going jumping in and out of the same hoops. I think what bothered me the most is how rude they were to everyone. You could tell they hated their jobs, hated no one spoke Russian(every time you said something to them in English or any other language, they would just start screaming at you) , hated us for making them do work, and just hated life in general. They all had the same dead pan look on their faces. What a life. Next they didnít like the insurance I had, of course I asked about it at the Embassy and was told it was fine but you guessed it, back to the SAME lady, paid about $65 for their insurance, back in line, 3 hours have gone by. Itís finally my turn, I didnít say a word I just handed her my 2 original receipts and my one copy of the tax, my two forms I first had to fill out, my new Russian insurance paper, my passport and registration for the bike. She looks at it and gives me just the dirtiest look and yells at me, the guy behind me laughs and said sheís yelling at you because everything is in English and how is she suppose to read it. She did the same thing to the person in front of me so I just kept my mouth shut, smiled and stood there. She filled out her paperwork, went checked out the bike, even looked at the VIN, Started hitting the paper work with stamps, I knew this was a good sign, then threw the paper work at me. I saw that she did this to the last person, his stuff ended on the ground, I was ready I blocked it with my body gathered it all in, smiled and said Thank You for your trouble, and walked away with a big smile on my face. Six total hours, granted two were because I got there two hours before the border opened, but I looked at the people still in line and it was the same people that were behind me to start with, I never did see any one pass me. Putting the paper work away at the bike I noticed I still had the two original receipts for the road tax what the hell do I need two for why couldnít they give me one and keep one instead of making me get a copy? You should have seen the looks on peopleís faces, all we could do is laugh and say welcome to Russia, get use to it. I was told that the truckers wait in line 3-4 days to cross into Russia. I thought 6 hours was bad enough. On to the last check point where I had to give them that piece of paper letting them know when I started there was only one person with the bike. She got out and looked on the other side to make sure I didnít have someone hidden somewhere. She gave me the nod and I was gone.
Itís just a little over 650 kilometers from the border to Moscow of those 600 kilometers, the road sucked and sucked bad, go figure About 60 kilometers out of Moscow when the roads got better you couldnít make up any time because there were so many police out, and they all had potable radar guns and always had someone pulled over. I figured it will only be a mater of time before I get stopped for something; when it happens I will let you know, donít think my badge is going to help here. About 30 miles out of Moscow I saw a dark rain clouds, it was coming down hard! I kept asking myself ďam I going to make it? Am I going to make it?Ē I decide with my luck not to chance it so I pulled into a gas station to put on my rain gear. I no sooner got under the awning and the sky just let go, not from the rain cloud I was watching but one that didnít look all that bad. When I say let go I mean really let go with high winds and rain that would rival some of the rains in Australia. That just made a long day even longer! I wasnít even going to attempt it. While waiting, 4 other bikes pulled in, and one being a Harley. They werenít so lucky they looked like drown rats. They spoke English, so we sat around talking, they asked me how the border crossing was, the look on my face must have said it all, they just started laughing, and they said it takes them almost as long when they come back. They asked me where I was staying, one of them called the place and got directions. The guy riding the Harley told me to follow him he would take me to the right street. At least something worked out. It was a good thing I was still 45 minutes from the hostel. With out his help it wouldíve taken me a few hours to find it. While I was looking on the street for the address I stopped and asked a couple in car if they knew where the address was as it turned out they were looking for the same hostel, together we found it, called it a night Long day!
July 10th, 2006
Met up with the couple I met last night, turns out theyíre from Austria touring Russia in a Land Rover. We where going to head downtown and take in the Kremlin and Red Square. We decided since driving in Moscow sucked so bad we would go via the Metro, or the Death Trap as I called it, you pack in 150 people in a 100 person car train, then take off like a bat out of hell doing at least 80MPH, the train making so much noise you cant hear yourself think let alone talk to some one. Itís rocking back and forth almost hitting the walls on either side. When it gets close to the next stop it slams on its brakes, comes to a screeching halt, stops just long enough to empty and fill again then off to the races. Oh and you better be out of the doorway when the doors shut, they shut hard and are going to shut one way or another.
I was disappointed of the Kremlin. Donít know what I expect but it wasnít what I thought it would be. Maybe the attitude had a lot to do with it. You see right away there are Russia prices and ďotherĒ prices to get into various places in Moscow. Sometimes those prices can very as much at 20 times more. They also have Russia time, where only Russians are allowed in. Like at the border, the people working at the Kremlin are not the friendliest people in the world, same dead pan look on their faces, and same attitude towards non-Russians. You must stay on the sidewalks or when crossing the street in a painted pedestrian walk way. If not you get all these whistles blown at you (guess how I know this) All the police here and around town carry this little night stick, its always in their hands, for some reason I think theyíre not afraid to use it. The cars inside the Kremlin walls all big, with blacked out window and a blue flashing light) they have right a way, the police start blowing their whistles when they see a car coming, even if the car is a block away. If you donít stop they are not afraid to push you to stop you. I saw them push several people didnít matter age or sex, they were equal opportunity abusers. The Kremlin is also not very user friendly. For a lot of the exhibits the way in is the same way out, it might be a double door but they only unlock one door and that one isnít all that wide, most of them my shoulders wouldnít fit past. You would have one large tour group inside another on the outside; the people on the inside couldnít get out because the people on the outside were trying to get in, but they couldnít get in because the room was too full from the inside people that couldnít get out. What a cluster fuck, the whole time there are the Russian workers with that same dead pan look on their face. Once you did get inside nothing was in English so you had no clue what you were looking at. They would have this full page explanation of what something was in Russia, right below that it might say ďdagger Russia? 1769Ē Itís like no shit itís a dagger, but whatís so important about it? But thatís all they would have.
One of the things we would do was hang around something we wanted to know about and when a tour came around that spoke English we would find out what we wanted to know. Two of the attractions inside the Kremlin is a 200 ton bell (claimed to be the largest in the world) that cracked due to a fire so was never rung and a huge cannon (the cannon balls were over a meter round) that had never been fired, so I said, maybe just a little to loud. ďHMMM let see, a bell that never rang and a cannon never fired, does any one else see a pattern here?Ē At which time we were told ďif your not a part of this tour group please donít listen to meĒ I said ďwhat I wasnít listeningĒ, both comments got a pretty good laugh (I donít know if your allowed to laugh inside the Kremlin) so we decided we had enough and left. With all being said, Iím glad I went but wouldnít go again.
Red Square is really the historic and spiritual heart of the city. I remember seeing pictures in Life magazine of the Russian troops marching in Red Square with all the tanks and cannons. Little history here, the name ďRed SquareĒ has nothing to do with Communism, but comes from krasnyy an Old Russian word that means beautiful. The Square itself is made of reddish cobble stone. I didnít get a chance to go inside the Lenin Mausoleum, itís closed more then itís open. They say itís really Lenin embalmed but most think itís a wax figure. Itís now surrounded by modern shopping malls and cafes. After walking around Red Square itís back to the hostel and a ride on the death train.
July 11th, 2006
Today I just rode around Moscow, traffic is a mess I doní know whatís worst the death trap metro or the roads. One thing I noticed, the McDonalds all have the name McDonalds in Russian in every other county it was always in English. I love the history of Moscow but Iíve had enough, will be heading to St. Petersburg in the morning. One thing I forgot to tell you. At the border you have to get an immigration card, if you stay anywhere for more then 3 days, the hotel has to register you with someone and they stamp your immigration card. I donít know what happens if you never stay more then 3 days in one spot and donít get your card stamped, Iím sure they are going to ask you where you been.
July 12th, 2006
The road to St. Petersburg was a whole lot better then from Latvia, now Iím saying they were good just a whole lot better. There were police running radar every 10 miles or so the whole way, again they always had someone pulled over. Needless to say I set the cruse control 5 under and just took my time. There were also 5 full blown roadblocks; I got waved by the first 4 but just before St. Petersburg they called me in, all I could think was here we go. I was surprised when all he asked for was my passport looked at it and waved me on, that wasnít so bad. I had made reservations at a hostel, even had good directions to it. Only problem was when I got there the hostel was no longer there, shit. I rode around looking for an internet cafe; of course I couldnít find one. I was looking at my map when a guy asked in really broken English if he could help. I made a typing motion with my fingers and said internet? He told me to follow him and he walked into a Sony story and just pointed to the stores internet, hell I didnít know if he worked there or what but I punched in Hostelworld.com found a hostel that was close and looked ok. I show them the address and asked if they knew how to get there. One of the workers got out a CD of a map of St. Petersburg while the guy that I talked to first went to the map in the phone book, found the street, ripped out the page, showed me how to get there and handed me the page. He walked me out to my bike and handed me a card that said he rode with a club in St. Petersburg and said ďme biker alsoĒ he shook my hand and walked away. With the map it was not a problem finding the hostel. I have been in St. Petersburg less then 30 minutes and already been helped more then the 3 days in Moscow.
July 13th, 2006
Spent the day riding around St. Petersburg, again when you think of the history of Russia, Moscow and St. Petersburg itís amazing to be riding around. It was an interesting day. St. Petersburg must be the marriage capital of the world. It was a Thursday and I saw 4 different weddings. They all seem to gather at the water show, they call it a fountain, but itís just pipes in the water that put on a pretty good show. I lucked out, they are holding the G8 summit here this weekend and when I rode by the fountain they were practicing the show they were going to put on for the dignitaries, music and all. While I was watching the wedding parties, and water show I show the police pull a body out of the water, no one else seemed to notice, like itís an everyday thing or they figured if they noticed the police might talk to them. Here you have these wedding parties going on, a beautiful water show and the police just drag this body out of the water, unceremoniously dump it on the ground, I was there for 30-45 minutes and when I left the body was still there, they never covered it or anything. Like I said maybe itís an everyday thing.
I made a huge mistake, I couldnít find this one street, I saw these two police officers standing in front of some statue so I pulled in to ask them directions, dumb idea, the bike was still in the street but the kickstand was on a cobblestone. As I was getting off the bike with my map in hand the police officer came over and pointed to the kickstand on the cobblestone and I think asked me why I parked there. I held up my map and pointed to the street I was looking for. He didnít speak a word of English but the word ďpassportĒ He pointed to the bike made the motion for me to ride it over to his squad, which was parked ON the cobblestone. I thought to myself ďoh great.Ē He looked at my passport then pointed to the bike and said ďpassportĒ at that time I thought to myself ďOH FUCKĒ because as I was leaving the hostel I looked right at the folder thought of picking it up but never did. I knew I was screwed. I tried to explain that the paperwork was at the hotel 5 minutes away. He just turned his back and walked away holding my passport. After about 10 minutes he called someone on his radio, 10 minutes after that another squad pulled up (over the cobblestone), he told me to get in his car in fairly good English. I sat in the car and he asked me where my passport for the bike was. I explained to him I forgot it at the hotel and showed him the address of the hotel. He made a grunt noise and said ďthatís an hour awayĒ I looked at him and said no I just left there itís less then 10 minutes. He countered with ďat least 30 minutes.Ē I wasnít going to argue with him and said ok. He said with no passport for the bike he was going to take the bike to ďspecial police parkingĒ and pointed to a tow truck sitting off to the side (yes on the cobblestone) and that cost was 3000 rubles. (Just over $100) I figured this would be a good time to try my badge, I showed him my badge and told him I was a retired police officer, he basically shrugged his shoulders as if to say so what. I figured that was going to be his reaction. Then he said ďtell me what you would do if you stopped me in the states?Ē By this time I was pretty much feed up with the games and figured I was screwed any way so I said ďwell I sure wouldnít have you sitting in my car tying to intimidate me or try to get money from you. I would shake your hand, tell you to get your ass back to the hotel and get the paper work, and let you know what time I got off so I could buy you a beer.Ē I think that answer surprised him, he sat there for a minute, handed me my passport back and told me to leave. He didnít have to say it twice, I went right back to the hostel (11 minutes) got the paper work, that wonít happen again. I counted my lucky stars that night, oh wait no I didnít there are no stars here, it doesnít get dark!
I have one more day in Russia left but Iím going to head out in the morning, like I said before the G8 summit is here this weekend and starting tomorrow things will really tighten up. They were even welding all the sewer lips down, like if any one was going to use the sewer system they wouldnít go down there until 2 days before the summit.
July 14th, 2006
I was told the road out of St Petersburg was much better going to Estonia then to Finland. I figured I could ride to Tallinn Estonia catch a ferry over to Helsinki. I donít know how the road was north of St. Petersburg but this road I took wasnít that bad, not that good but I think for Russia was pretty good. I had to watch my speed; again there were police every 10-15 miles with radar. Also I was warned that about 30 miles from the border there was a bad stretch of road, pretty rough, but what I had to look out for was after the first curve there was a huge pothole that pretty much covered the whole lane. I was told to make sure I drive over the pothole and not to ride on the shoulder around it, the police almost have a permanent squad there and the fine is 300 rubles for riding on the shoulder. Sure enough it wasnít hard to figure out where the rough road with a curve was, and yup they were there, with 3 cars pulled over, I just waved as I slowly drove in and out of the pothole.
At four different times I saw a large van parked on the shoulder of the road. These vans had 3-4 cameras on the roof, all kinds of antennas, the sliding cargo door was open and you could see a guy in uniform sitting in front of an instrument. I have no clue what that was about, but I did notice that about 10 miles down the road there always seemed to be a road block. One can only guess.
As I got closer to the border I started to wonder what the crossing was going to be like. Figured there was only one way to find out. I was surprised, the crossing only took 30 minutes, no real delays, they had me open my tour box and saddlebags but they just looked in them and didnít take any thing out. Good bye Russia. Right away I felt relief to be out of Russia. Now I can somewhat understand why the people of Russia have such a dead pan look on their face, some of it is fear.
What a great ride in Estonia all open farm land, great roads just what I needed to relax. I hit Tallinn around noon, I checked into the ferry going over to Helsinki, they pretty much had them every hour or so, the only question they asked is you want a fast one of slow one. The slow one was $20 cheaper so I took it. Damn it was the nicest ferry I have been on so far, it was like the love boat with entertainment and all, just no Julie. Spent the night in Helsinki, Iím sure itís a great town I just donít like big cities.
July 15th, 2006
Finland is awesome riding, the roads are perfect and the scenery is amazing. There are so many lakes I think it even puts Minnesota to shame. I spent the day just riding stopping at lakes soaking up the beauty, ride some more stopping what a great life. I was wondering if I was going to see any reindeer, that question was answered in a hurry, thereíre like the kangaroos in Australia, every where! The dumb SOBís think the road is their own personal trail. You just have to watch out for them, I did see an albino reindeer, everything was solid white even the antlers. Rode as far as Oulu and called it a day. People in this town take partying to a whole new level. It just so happened that they had a huge mega concert going on. They closed the center of the city, put up a stage and all night (or should I say day there is no darkness now) bands were playing. It was strange to look at your watch and see that it was 2AM and still bright out side. Iím told in the winter when itís dark for several months the suicide rate jumps every, one gets so depressed. When I said they take partying to a whole new level I should have said drinking. Alcoholism is a big problem in Finland as well in most of the counties over here. Every day you see people walking down the street drinking, at all the gas stations theyíll have one small cooler for soda and 3 large coolers for all the single can beers. I donít know if itís because itís legal to drink at 18 here or what but like I said they take it to a whole new level.
Another day of just riding, the scenery is tall pines and white birch; the roads are flat and have gentle curves not really winding. I spent 12 hours on the bike but only went 200 miles north. Again lots of side roads, relaxing, tonight Iím 5 miles from the Artic Circle. You would think it would be colder here but during the day itís 65-70. I will cross the Artic Circle in the morning and head towards Nordkapp, the farthest point north in Europe you can ride. While riding today I got passed by hundreds of Harleys going in the other direction, I kept thinking damn I missed something big. I stopped several times in gas stations when I saw a bunch getting gas or something to eat. I donít think it was a HOG meeting but they said about 1000 bikes were there and by the tired looks on their faces a good time was had by all. I did notice that every one rode, I didnít see ant bikes on trailers like you do in the US when people go to rallies.
July 17th, 2006
I wish I could find the words describing how peaceful it is to ride up here, great roads little traffic and very little Simi traffic and breathtaking scenery. I crossed over into Norway today, they donít even have a border crossing, if they didnít have a building off to the side where you have to stop if youíre going to declare something you wouldnít even know you crossed counties. I made it about 20 miles from Nordkapp and it started to rain, I got myself a little cabin by a lake and just relaxed. Only thing that would have made it perfect would have been a small fire and the right company.
July 18th, 2006
Made it to Nordkapp, what a scam, but the ride up there made it worth it. The further north the smaller the trees got and the more rugged it got. Still had those damn reindeer to look out for but not as many. The temperature dropped down to low 40ís, with spots of rain/sleet but the killer was the wind, you all know how I love riding in the wind, I had a 50mph wind hitting me from all sides. The terrain was now all mountainous the roads were still good, just narrow and pretty winding. About 15 miles out of Nordkapp you have the Nordkapp tunnel; itís over 4 miles long, half of it going 9 degrees down and the other half 9 degrees up. Then about 10 miles out side you get hit with an $8 toll (that you have to pay going out also), when you reach Nordkapp itís not a town, just like Milford Sound in New Zealand itís just a tourist trap. You get hit with a charge to get in and all there is to see is a building and a cliff. This is theeďmust seeĒ spot to see the midnight sun. The wind was even stronger here; you couldnít stand without bracing yourself. But they do one hell of a trade here. People were coming by the bus loads and I was surprised at how many bikes I passed coming here and how many were parked here. Guess I wasnít the only one taken in. You are only about 1300 miles from the North Pole, thatís pretty cool. After about an hour I had seen enough there was no way we were going to see the ďmidnight sunĒ with the clouds and it had stopped raining. I wanted to get down off the mountain before it started again. I saw it was looking pretty nasty ahead so I called it day about 30 miles from Nordkapp and got a room. Nordkapp is one of those places that itís cool to say you were there but wouldnít go again.
July 19th, 2006
I woke up to snow, it wasnít snowing hard but snowing, what you can expect being 300 miles north or the Arctic Circle. The temperature was around 30. The roads were clear so off I went. The snow turned into rain/sleet about 30 minutes down. One thing I did notice there were no other bikes on the road, after seeing so many I started to think who the fool was or what they knew that I didnít. After a few hours I caught a brief glimpse of some other bikes ahead of me. It took 30 minutes or so for me to catch up as it turned out there three couples and solo rider, three bikes were Harleys and on Suzuki. My hats off to the solo rider he was on a 1959 Pan Head with a ridged frame. I just fell in behind them and settled in; it was nice riding with someone for a change. When they stopped for gas I just followed them in. I walked up and introduced myself, after bullshitting for 30 minutes or so they asked me where I was going, I just shrugged my shoulders and said south. The told me they were headed to a HOC rally, the farthest northern rally in the world. I told them I had never heard of HOC, HOG yes but not HOC. They told me it stands for Harleys Owners Club. Hey riders are riders I donít care what there called. I sort of invited myself, but they seemed happy to have me join. I didnít realize how ok it was until we stopped for the night. We stopped at a camp ground that had cabins; they asked would I be ok with them renting 2 cabins that head 6 people each. We would just put 4 people in each. I was fine with that. That night we started a fire in the fireplace and got to know each other. What a great bunch of people.
July 20th, 2006
Made it to the rally site, had a nice ride, the rain stopped, the temperature was in the low 50ís you just had to deal with the wind. Every one set up their tents, started a huge bonfire and got to know each other better. One of the things they were telling me that made this rally so fun was there were only about 200 bikes and everyone go to know each other.
July 21st,22nd,23rd, 2006
The rally was great, it rained off and on the whole weekend but that didnít dampen any one spirits of fun. They were right about 150 bikes showed up and I got to talk to everyone. The only thing that bummed me out my new found friends left Saturday morning and left me to fend for myself. I did pretty well at the games. I won the horse shoe toss, it really wasnít fair, I like throwing shoes and I donít think they had ever thrown them before. You had to throw 3 shoes, I got first one went over the stake, the next one was a ringer and the last one was a leaner. Only one other person even hit the stake. I won the baseball throw until they called this one guy up; he was so drunk he couldnít stand. He threw the baseball so hard he missed the bottles all together, hit the milk crate it was on and the bottles fell down. You just had to give it to him. One game was a drinking game, I skipped that one, the last game was a pig head toss, I sucked at that one.
July 24th, 25th, 2006
I was by myself again as I left the rally, Just an easy ride from Norway to Sweden down to Stockholm. The weather got warmer as I went south; I crossed the Arctic Circle again and started peeling off clothes. By the time I got to Stockholm it was in the mid 80ís with blue skies. I headed to Stockholm because there is a HOG rally this weekend, I will let you know how it goes.
I realized that I typed out a page and forgot to add it to the blog so I will slide it in right here. Itís only fitting; somewhere 150 miles north of the Artic Circle in the rain/snow/sleet I tuned over 50,000 miles.
On Friday we took a ride to Tromso, very nice town. Two things stood out. IĎve been in a lot of tunnels over the past 11 months, some of them pretty far under ground and some over a mile long, however this was the first time not only did they have tunnels but intersections and roundabouts underground. I was amazed. The second thing I noticed was how many people were pushing baby carriages on one street, I counted over 30. I guess we know what they do in the 3 months of no sunlight.
I also noticed people from north of the Artic Circle make sure you know they are from NORTHERN Norway, I donít know maybe itís a pride thing or if there are any hard feelings with those from Southern Norway.
In the Scandinavian counties a lot of the bikes only carry one saddle bag. I donít know the reason for this, to me it made the bike look off balance, but after saying that I bike that Jimmi/Jeff and I built for me only has a saddle bag on one side, never thought of it before.
I did try some different foods at the rally. They severed reindeer, tasted much like venison. I also tried whale, tasted like chicken ( not really) maybe Iím the only one that didnít know this but whale is meat, I knew it was a mammal and all that good stuff but just never figured it to be meat.
July 26th, 27th, 28th, 2006
I spent the next 3 days walking and riding around Stockholm, as big cities go it wasnít too bad. I enjoyed walking around watching people. From what I was told, the city wasnít as crowed as normal because everyone(locals) were on holidays, looked pretty crowed to me, but like myself, Iím sure most were foreigners. On this trip my geography has improved so much, I donít know if itís because I never paid attention in school (surprise surprise) or we just werenít taught some information but I never knew that Stockholm was a town of islands. Youíre always passing over or under water, like a lot of the cities here they block off vehicle traffic for the main streets, I think thatís a good idea. It gets people to walk around and get some exercise and enjoy what the city as to offer.
I did manage to make myself look like an idiot, even more then normal. A while back I was riding when I hit a bump so big that the tour pack popped open and my camera fell out. I wasnít going that fast but I thought for sure that it was going to be broke, to my surprise everything seemed to work fine. About 2 weeks latter (just into Poland) the auto focus stopped working. I ride a lot of times with the camera around my neck and itís taken a pretty good beating over the past 9 months or so plus being dropped while riding I wasnít to surprised. The only thing I didnít know was if the auto focus was in the camera itself or in the lens in which case I would just buy a new lens, I have wanted a little better lens any way. Here was the first chance to find a camera store that carried Canon lens. So I went walking in and I asked if the auto focus was in the lens or the camera, the kid behind the counter (no more then 18, still had pimples) asked to see my camera and he would let me know. He looks at it and asks ďdid you ever try to take it off of manual focus and put it on Auto focus? (There was a switch on the side of the lens that said AF/MF) I just gave him a dumb look he changed it over and the camera worked just fine. What could I say? I said ďI knew that I was just testing you and you passed!Ē Took my camera and walked away. Iím sure he got a good laugh out of it.
The rally was only 35 minutes outside of Stockholm and was easy to find, just follow the Harleys! I checked in and spent the night BSing with the people. Luck would have it most spoke enough English for us to get by.
July 29th, 30th, 31st 2006
Today started with rain, that sucked because they were doing a charity ride for ďBikers against RapeĒ It didnít dampen our spirits any and soon after the ride began it stopped and turned out to be a pretty good day. We had about 250 bikes and rode right to the center of Stockholm, we got lots of looks and everyone was taken our pictures. After lunch about 15 of us broke off and took a different way back to the rally. Going in the city was fun but this part of the ride was great. We took all back roads; we even had to get on two ferries, got a good look at ďcountry SwedenĒ of course we got back just in time for dinner. It was a good rally but I liked the one up north a little better, I think because it was smaller and you got to talk to every one or maybe because I knew some people there and they made me feel at home. But a good time was had by all. Sunday morning I headed west and south, I enjoyed the ride around Sweden so much I thought I would take one last ride in the county side before heading out. I wasnít disappointed, just a great day of riding. As I was looking for a place to camp I saw a car with its four way flashers going; as I slowed down I could see it had a flat right rear tire. I pulled over to help (I carry a tire repair kit and air pump) when from around the car walk this girl that almost made me forget to put my foot down as I stopped! She was what every guy thinks of when he thinks of woman from Sweden, tall, blond, blue eyes, (drool) (for the record, I saw very few tall blonde Swedish women) back to the story, she said they got two flats and fixed one but only had one spare and would I mind giving her or her friend a ride to the camp site so they could call someone. I didnít see any one else and figured her boyfriend was off in the woods taking a pee or something, I was half right, he was off if the woods peeing but he was a she and if I thought the first was pretty then there were no words for the second one. As much as it would have been nice to have one on the back of the bike I told them I could do one better and could fix both tires in ten minutes. Well it took me 15 (it was hard to concentrate with them leaning over. (Iím sure by accident) They were camping at the same camp grounds I was looking for, so they showed me where it was. As I was getting ready to leave they asked if I wanted to have dinner with them, they were coming back from the store when they had their flats how could I say no, so I set up my tent right next to theirs while they cooked dinner. While we were eating they would look at me say something in Swedish and laugh. I can just imagine what they were saying ok maybe not imagine but fantasize. After dinner we sat around the fire (they were drinking wine pretty hard) talking about each others counties, they seemed pretty amazed what I was doing and wanted to hear all about it. The only bad part, the more they drank the worst their English got. At one point they both got up to get some more wine, I could hear them giggling, and I swear doing ďpaper, rock, scissorsĒ they both came back with a smile on their faces and held their hands out to me as if to help me up, I just smiled but realized shit now I have to go pee, then I thought I really did have to go pee so I woke up and that was the end of the dream hehehe ok so I did help to ladies with a flat and I know 45 years ago they were HOT, and they did give me a kiss on the cheek when I wouldnít take any money for helping them, thought I would just add to it a little. Great day of riding!
August 1st, 2006
Happy Birthday Bro! Just a great day of riding. Crossed over to Denmark from Sweden. Rode around Denmark for a while then into Germany. In fact I didnít even know I was in Germany until I noticed a change in spelling in the signs! Camped to one of the best starry nights I have even seen with a smile on my face!
August 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 2006
As I pulled into Holland I had to stop and get gas, wouldnít you know it, the first guy I see was really wearing wooden clogs, I never thought they really wore them. I was surprised how many actually did. Welcome to Amsterdam! Four days of just walking around, it was a good time to rest and not ride. The weather had turned bad and rained the whole time. I do feel very cultured; I took a walk in the Rembrandt exhibition, and then took in the Van Gogh museum (I learned we share the same birthday). Then walked and visited the sex museum, at least I understood that! I did do the ďHolland ExperienceĒ this is a 3D movie theatre, what a great show, when they showed the tulips, not only did it feel like you could reach out and touch them but they fixed it so you could also smell them.
I was surprised on all the water canals, again I just never knew or realized the city was built below sea level. Another thing I was amazed at was the amount of bicycles, they city is overrun by them; they have their own bike paths, stop lights and parking. I learned very quickly you donít walk in the bike paths; they all have those push bells on the handlebars and sure let you know to get out of their way, because they are not slowing down.
Of course I did take a stroll down the ďRed Light DistrictĒ The smell of pot from all the ďcoffee shopsĒ was pretty noticeable, the strange thing is I like the smell of pot a hell of a lot more then the smell of regular smoke. No I didnít partake in any ďspace cakeĒ or pot. The sex shops were pretty interesting; to bad I didnít have any room on the bike heheh. I was surprised to see how many families with kids were walking around, Iím not talking babies but kids between the ages of 7-13, they got an eye full and Iím sure were full of questions. I can just hear it now, ď go ask your mother that questionĒ. I must have hit the ďoff seasonĒ because I sure wasnít impressed by the woman in the ďwindow brothelsĒ in fact it was kind of sickening, are men that hard up? Woman donít answer that, I know men are pigs.
Amsterdam was one of my favorite big cities so far, not for the reasons youíre thinking but because it doesnít have that big city feeling.
August 5th, 2006
Still raining, riding north to Ijmuiden to get the ferry over to Newcastle, itís a 15 hour ride; most of it was over night so it wasnít so bad. I met some other bikers from England and spent some time with them getting in information. I was reminded that they drive on the left in England/Scotland/and Ireland. Also they use the British Pound in England/Scotland and Northern Ireland but use the Euro in regular Ireland. I asked what that was all about but they didnít want to get into it. Should be interesting.
August 6th, 2006
Since Greece all the border crossings have been a piece of cake, under 30 seconds once you got to the booth, sometimes it took 5-10 minutes to get to the booth because of lines but once there they barley look at the picture and most of the time donít even stamp the passport (this kind of bums me out I like how mine was beginning to look) That was until I got to England of all places. There were about 25 bikers on the ferry and I was going to ride with some of for a while. When I got to the booth the lady at the booth looks at my passport and says ďso are you from America?Ē I of course said ďyesĒ. She got a visible disgusted look on her face and asked to see my information card. Now I had to fill one out for all the counties in South America and other counties but none since entering Europe, I told her I didnít have one didnít know I had to fill one out in Europe. She again gave me a disgusted look and told me to pull over so she could let some of the cars by while I filled out a card. I said no problem. It was a standard card, name, DOB, where coming from, where going to, occupation, passport number (she had my passport) and sign it. So I filled it all out except the passport number. Under occupation I put Ret. Police Officer. She made me stand there for about 15 minutes while she checked cars coming off the ferry (donít forget people are waiting for me) One of the guys walked up and asked me what the problem was, I just told him I had to fill out a card and was waiting to give it back to her. She looked over rolled her eyes and asked for the card. She asked me why I didnít fill the card out all the way I advised her I did except for the pass port number and I didnít want to make any mistakes and she had my passport and I wasnít sure of the number. She writes in the number, and then asks where are you going? On the card I wrote England/Scotland/Ireland. I told her I really didnít know that I was just riding and plan on seeing as much of it as I could. She said something about Bush and how he would make her show a day to day itinerary if she was coming into the US. She again told me to stand back so she could let some cars by. I just told the guys waiting to go ahead a leave I could tell I was going to be there for a while. Another 15 minutes when by before she calls me over and asks, so your a police officer when do you plan on going back to work? I told her I was retired and never plan on working again. She gives me her patented dirty look and says ďso youíre not a police officerĒ, I told her no I had wrote that I was retired thatís what RET meant, there wasnít enough room to write it all out. So she scratches off the words police officer, again says something about Bush and to step back. I just smiled and sat back on my bike, another 15 minutes goes before she calls me back. She asked where are you going first England Scotland or Ireland, I said well since Iím in England now I would have to say England, sad to say she didnít see the humor in that, she scratches off Scotland and Ireland, says something about Bush and said ďI canít believe I had to fill out your card for you, look at all the scratch outs, for a police officer I would have thought you would have been neaterĒ I reminded her as she pointed out I wasnít a police officer. By now another Border Officer was watching Iím sure wondering what was taking so long? I just looked at him and shrugged my shoulders. He walked over and asked me what the problem was, I said I had no clue she wasnít happy with the way I filled out my card. He went inside the booth, she called me over stamped my passport for 6 months no work stamp and I was on my way. All you can do is smile, she sure made it clear she didnít like Americans, or should I say at least Bush. I have to say during this whole trip every where I go Bush has to be the most hated man in the world, over 80% of the people once they find out Iím an American have something bad to say about him. With every one gone off to Edinburgh Scotland, hope the bitch writes Iím going to Scotland next on my card!
August 7th, 8th, 2006
I have really been looking forward to Scotland and Ireland. I was in Scotland in the mid 70ís while in the Navy, loved it then sure Iím going to love it now. I lucked out finding a place to stay in old town, seems I hit right in the middle of Edinburgh Festival the undisputed the worlds largest arts jamboree. In fact its several festivals going on at the same time with the wildest one called Fringe going on now. They turn all kinds of stores, warehouse, and any place they can find and turn it into performance spaces for a bewildering array of artists. In addition there are hundreds of street performers showing off their skills. There are some ungodly talents out there. I was lucky enough to run into a police officer who gave me a VIP pass to get into any show I wanted. I spent the two day seeing every show I could start at 9 am and some ending past 1 am, I know way past my bed time. But I saw some great unbelievable shows and met some great people. With the pass I had they didnít know who I was but thought I was someone important. Not that I would take advantage of that.
August 9th, 2006
Up early to beat the traffic and to start enjoy riding in Scotland and I wasnít disappointed. Took me over 14 hours to ride from Edinburgh to Inverness the home of the Loch Ness Monster. If you look on a map the distance is less than 200 miles, thatís if you go direct, there is no way Iím going to take any direct route here. I was surprised while riding in the Cairngorm Mountains there were some ski slopes, Scotland is not one of the places I would think of going for skiing. Some of the roads were so pretty when I got to the end I would turn around go back the same way just to look at it from a different view, then find another way to go.
August 10th, 2006
Spent the day looking for ďNessieĒ the Loch Ness Monster, I circled the whole Loch, its over 25 miles long one way. Typical Scotland it was raining off and on all day still didnít dampen the day. Didnít find ďNessieĒ either.
August 11th, 2006
The game plan was to ride up to John O Groats the most northern point of Scotland from there I was going to take a ferry over to Scapa Flow a set of islands north of there. After WW2 the Germans were ordered to turn over a bunch of their ships to England, instead of doing that they sunk them here. I was going to do some diving should be interesting. You noticed I said ďthe game plan WASĒ. The weather turned to pure shit. Hard rain with winds up to 70 MPS, you know how I love riding in wind, it was so windy they had cancelled the ferries to Scapa Flow, so I road to the town of Tongue. Even with the rain and wind, I covered just about every paved road.
August 12, 2006
I heard about a hostel that was a castle with a resident ghost, so back south I rode, the ride was great, I wasnít impressed with the hostel, it was nice and all but to much hype and no damn ghost.
August 13th, 2006
I covered most to the paved roads in northern Scotland riding up to Durness. There are times you come across a view you just have to park the bike, sit and enjoy. The roads are pretty good, however they are ďsingle trackĒ meaning only enough room for one vehicle, every ľ mile or so there is a turn out where someone can wait until a car passes. Works out pretty good, a flash of the lights mean keep coming normally the first one to a turn out pulls over.
August 14th, 2006
Ran out of gas for the first time today, from Durness I started south, what I didnít count on is being Sunday the first 4 stations were closed. I stopped in a small town asked where the nearest station was and was told 10 miles, I knew I didnít have enough gas to get there. The lady at the hotel called every one she knew and no one had any gas in a can, or most were in church and she didnít actually talk too many. There were some bikers leaving the hotel, they had their girlfriends with them but they drove in a car. They said they would follow me to the station and if I didnít make it, I could get a ride with the girlfriends. I made it about 4 miles when I felt the engine cough, the bike was still running and there was a great place to pull over so I did. Jumped in the car got the gas told them I would hitchhike back to the bike so they didnít have to back track. Third car that went by gave me a ride all the back to the bike. So I really didnít run OUT of gas technically, but I would have. Just as it was turning dark I made it to the Isle of Skye. You can reach the Island by bridge and Iím told is a nice ride, I will find out in the morning.
August 15th, 2006
Circled the whole island, nice ride but I liked the western coast of Scotland better. Noticed that my front tire was starting to look bad so I headed to toward Glasgow Spent the night in Oban, very nice little town. You can only write great riding so many times!
August 16th, 2006
Into Glasgow, they fit me with a new front tire (#3) and I was off again. I know Glasgow might have lots to offer but again, Iím here to ride!
August 17th, 2006
Took a slow ride down to Stanraer where I will catch the night ferry over to Belfast! I must say I will return to Scotland and ride the same roads over again, not to many places I can say that about.
Iím still trying to figure out the whole England/ Scotland/Wales and Northern Ireland thing. From what I have learned so far its all called the United Kingdom, however Scotland has its own parliament that handles the every day affairs but still under the control of the Queen, and uses Sterling Pound.
August 18th, 2006
I got into Belfast at 430 am, I thought that was a good time to ride around see Belfast and get out before the town wakes up. I did see the worlds 2and and 3rd largest cranes named Goliath and Samson (I have no idea where the largest one is) this was pointed out to me when we were pulling in, I was also told this was the shipyard the Titanic was built. Iím learning so much useful information hehehe. You can still see some of the old signs of the troubles with the government and the IRA. I as told by Sylvia, my brotherís wife who is from Northern Ireland not to talk politics. I just never realized things are not as rosy as I thought, still lots of hard feelings. After Belfast I headed north along the coast, to bad it was cloudy could have been a good sun rise. Again from what Iím told I better get use to clouds and rain here. I made it up to a point called Tor Head, right outside the town of Ballycastle. Itís a little old coast guard house long since abandoned, the view here was spectacular, and itís also the closest point to Scotland just 12 miles. While walking up I ran into a couple coming down, come to find out they lived close by, they pointed at their house and invited me over for some tea after I was done. After taking some pictures and just enjoying the peacefulness I decided to take them up on their offer and stop by for tea(I donít drink tea, itís a long story from my childhood) I figured I could always fake it or just drink water. Come to find out ďteaĒ not only means something to drink but dinner or lunch. Iím glad I showed up they had already had a plate waiting for me.
We just sat around talking. Jimmie like the bike and I told him to take it for a ride, as he took off I knew he was going to have trouble, Ann and I were sitting there talking about 10 minutes went by and I said well Jimmie just tried to turn around and the bike was to heavy for him and he laid it on its side, right now heís walking back. I told Ann not to worry he wonít hurt the bike or himself. About two minutes later Jimmie came walking around the corner with a hurt look on his face saying ďI tried to turn around and the bike fell overĒ Ann Just looked at me and I laughed we walked down about ľ mile and there was the bike on itís side, I just walked over picked it up (lots of practice) and rode it home for him. He was all worried that he hurt the bike but he didnít even move the foot peg.
Before we knew it, it was getting dark, I was just going to go back to the coast guard house and sleep there. They told me there was no reason to do that I was welcome to stay there. I did a bone head move, not the first not the last, I went to download the pictures I took and the camera was missing, the only thing I can think of is I left at Tor Head. I went back but of course it was gone. I even remember sitting it down thinking ďnow donít forget itĒ. I was bummed.
August 19th, 2006
. I got a late start after talking some more, going for a walk and playing with their dog. It was funny when I went to go leave itís if the dog knew and was sitting on the back seat of the bike as if he wanted to go with. Jim got some good pictures of this. I was taking my time stopping at Fair Head, a rope bridge, and the Giantís Causeway. Itís hard to explain what the Giant Causeway is so I will use the description from the pamphlet they give you. I quote ďThe Giant Causeway, 65 miles north of Belfast on the coast, has been a major tourist attraction. Consisting of an estimated 37,000 polygonal basalt columns, itís the result of a massive subterranean explosion some sixty million years ago which sewed out a huge mass of molten basalt into the surface and, as it cooled, solidified into what are, essentially, massive polygonal crystals.Ē Thatís their words; mine are ďa bunch of columns of rocks in the shape of stop signsĒ.
After the causeway I continued to Portstewart, I saw a sign for diving so I stopped in. As it turned out they were having a night dive that night back in Ballycastle. I turned around headed back to Ballycastle. I had some time to kill so I took all kinds of back roads I love the lay of the land, often being stopped while they moved sheep down the middle of the roads. When I left Jimmie and Ann they said come back soon, heheh I bet they didnít know it would be so soon. While I was riding I got to thinking about that damn camera, then I remembered then I picked up the bike Jimmie handed me my hair brush that had fallen out of my bag that was still on the back of the bike. When I got to Jimmieís I went to the spot where he tired to turn around and the camera was sitting there in some weeds, life is good! They were not home to ask it I could stay another night, figure I will stop by after the dive.
I made the night dive. Water wasnít as cold as I thought it would be. I wore a 7 mil wet suit, when you first jump in you get a little ďcold shockĒ but after you body warms the water between you and the wet suit all is fine. The water was also a lot clearer then I thought it would be you could see 30-35 feet. There wasnít to much marine life but we did see some huge lobsters, so bad I donít like them, dinner would have been free! They were happy to see me (or least acted like it) and told me I can stay there any time I want. We stayed up talking I had hidden the famous fart machine and had some fun with it. I thought Ann was going to beat Jimmie with any thing she could find until I set it off with her near it. I know men and their sick humor.
August 20th, 2006
This morning when I left Jimmie and Ann had already gone, as I pulled away I saw the dog jump over the fence and run after me, I kept going until I turned the corner, about ľ mile away. I stopped and waited a few minutes and sure enough the dog turned the corner and kept coming, I took off again watching the dog in the mirror, he showed no signs of giving up. I turned around and headed back to the house; he turned with me and jumped on the seat of the bike when he got to the house. I had to lock him up to keep him in the yard. Made me feel good and miss Ringo. I just followed the coast and spent the night in Dunfana.
August 21st, 2006
I rode the coast line up and around to Sligo then cut back across into Northern Ireland and met up with Sylviaís dad in county of Armagh. Had a great visit and spent the night. The riding and people were brilliant, so many sights. The one thing that was hard, I didnít know if I was in Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland, why this makes a difference is in Northern Ireland use Pound Sterling, Republic of Ireland use the Euro, very confusing!
August 22nd, 23rd, 2006
Short stop over before heading to see the rest of Ireland, I stopped by Melís and Johnís caravan (Mel is Silviaís cousin, John is her husband). They have two boys Jay and Joe. I have to admit it was nice being around a family again; the boys were a blast I spent the large part of two days giving them and all the kids in the caravan park rides on the bike.
August 24th Ė 31st , 2006
I headed toward Dublin staying off the major highways; I know this is boring for you all but it was just great riding. Like I said before so much to see, so much history. I did most of the tourist ďhotspotsĒ like Blarneys Castle (no, I didnít kiss the stone, and you know how many lips have been there? The rock was worn smooth. How many lips do you think it takes to make stone smooth? Way too many, no way I was going to put my lips there. Plus Iím getting to know the Irish sense of humor, you know some drunk Irish guy as peed on that stone at some point saying ďkiss thisĒ), Killarney National Park, Tore Waterfall, etc. I enjoyed it all but what I like most is when I got off the beaten path and met the locals. I loved stopping in old town pubs, sit in a corner and enjoy the traditional music. The county of Kerry around Galway was unbelievable. My favorite riding was the far northwest county Donrgal with the highest sea cliffs in Europe or the ride from the southwest corner to the Dingle Peninsula.
August 31st - September 3rd, 2006
Another stop over with Mel, John and the boys. John even took me golfing, I still suck. I enjoyed the company of the boys and just relaxed.
September 4th, 2006
The web site that runs this blog is called Horizonsunlimed.com; they were holding a meeting in Belgium starting on the 8th, so I headed out to catch the ferry from Belfast Ireland to Liverpool England. Itís and 8 hour ferry ride again at night so it wasnít too bad.
September 5th, 2006
From Liverpool I headed north almost to Scotland cut over then started down past Nottingham. I avoided London as best as I could, jumped on another ferry from Dover England across the English Channel to Dunkerque France. I spent the night in Dover and would head over in the morning.
September 6th, 2006
The ride over to Dunkerque is only 2 hours long. What was cool about this trip I ran into a guy who was on his first day on his trip around the world on his bike. We sat down and talked the whole way. I tired to fill him in on points I never thought of when I took off. I really wish he would have come to the meeting with me and talk to the experts. I knew how he felt; he has such a great adventure ahead of him. I spent the day riding around the coast of France and Belgium, called it a night in the town of Brugge. Has to be one of the prettiest cities I have seen. The streets were all cobblestone and buildings were unbelievable. In the center of town they had a huge old fashion town square; at one end of the square was a huge church with old fashion bell towers. At 9 the bells started to ring, the ďshowĒ lasted 30 minutes and you couldnít help but to sit down and just enjoy.
September 7th, 2006
Itís a short ride from Brugge to Brussels so I headed north up past Antwerp then to Brussels. I walked around Brussels for a while but sort of wish I would have went back to Brugge. I wasnít impressed with Brussels, just another big city.
September 8th- 9th, 2006
You know I think what Iím doing is pretty cool, but after this meeting Iím just on a short road trip. There was a young couple been on the road for 3 years going around the world on 125ccís. Also met two ladies 57 years old that road all of South America. The list goes on and on. The meeting went great. The couple I met in South America going the other way was there. Every one just sat around exchanged information, told lies and had a good time. Great job Grant, see you at the next one. I did win the 50/50 raffle but donated my half back to the charity that provides motorcycles for Doctors in Africa to get help where help is needed. The bad thing about me winning was I was the one selling the tickets, I kept telling every one I always win.
September 10th, 2006
Left the meeting early headed toward Luxembourg, on the way to Prague, I missed the Czech Republic when I entered Europe, good time to hit it now. Spent the night in Schweinfurt, I asked for directions at a gas station and ended up spending the night, turned out to be a biker. The ride in Germany was great; again I stayed off the main roads. I forgot to add; since I left Ireland the weather has been perfect, high 70ís Ė low 80ís in the day dropping down to low 50ís at night. Great fall weather, the leaves are just starting to turn also. Fall is my favorite time of the year
September 11th, 2006
Made it into Prague, the bike was overdue for an oil change so I headed for the Harley dealer. Three hours later I found it, by far the hardest dealer to find, couldnít find anyone riding a Harley to ask. I had a map of the city, didnít do me any good. At one point I was on the other side of this huge hill, the police said I could just ride up these stairs and would be right there. I donít know if they have been watching too many movies but youíre not riding a Harley up any stairs. Once I found the place they said they could change the oil right away, after I got my bill I could see why, Iím not going to tell you what it cost but since I didnít have a first born I had to give my left nut. Then I had to find a place to stay. Found a nice hostel but I didnít like the parking they had for the bike, so I settled for a not so nice one but I could park my bike right in front of the reception. Since I had already seen most of the city driving around trying to find the Harley dealer, I called it a night.
September 12th- 15th , 2006
Well it took almost a year to happen but when I walked out to the bike this morning all my bags were laying open, so much for better parking or parking in front of the reception. They got just about everything expect my paper work, computer and rain gear. I locked the bags up but the broke the locks; luckily they didnít do too much damage to the bags. It was a good haul for them; they got my GPS, my good small camera, my tool bag, all my cold weather gear (figures I carry it for a year, in 110 degree weather and when Iím about to enter fall and the alps I wonít have it) a bag of souvenirs, my brand new only used one weekend tent (I left my other tent in Ireland), sleeping bag, and Iím sure a few other things I havenít discovered yet. Damn that sucks! Oh well nothing to do but laugh, shake your head and believe in karma. It did change my plans a little; Iím going to leave Prague. Think I will head south I have some time to kill before I head to Munich for Oktoberfest. So can you say ROAD TRIP! So I headed toward Vienna, at Vienna I hung a left road to Budapest and had a late lunch with my Harley buddies there. Then off again, over the next 3 days I covered Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, Italy, and into Germany! I have to say I was really surprised how nice and pretty Bosnia was but my biggest surprise was Croatia; I think itís the best kept secret in the Mediterranean. It went on my list of places to come back to. I stopped at a dive shop but missed the dive season by just a few days. He did however invite me out to go help look for his dive computer that fell over board the day before. So we went out to the spot he lost it (GPS is nice, sure wish I had one) set up a search grid and within 30 minutes he found it, we stayed under for another 30 minutes enjoying the sites. The best part was it was a freebie! In Croatia I slept on the beach, there is nothing better then the sound of the ocean and a sky full of stars so close you could touch them, ok there are a few things but its pretty high up there. I spent the night about 20 miles out of Munich; I just happed to come across a nice Inn where four other bikers (all on sport bikes) had stopped for the night. I was lucky enough that 3 out of 4 spoke English, we stayed up late into the night just bsíing. They had just come from riding in the mountains of Italy, but I called the Wussies( or something to that effect) when I found out they were riding to the train station in the morning to put their bikes on a train to Frankfurt because they didnít want to ride the 600 miles.
September 16th, 2006
Today was the start of Oktoberfest in Munich; letís just say it lived up to its reputation, an unbelievable amount of people drinking an unbelievable amount of beer. They set up all these huge tent nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn The food was great, the sights even better but it really is someplace to enjoy with friends, So one night was enough for me and headed south.
September 17th, 2006
Spent the night in Innsbruck Austria, I remember this place from the winter Olympics from way back when, like everywhere Iíve been its even more beautiful in person, I can tell Iím going to enjoy riding in the Alps. I took a short ride from Innsbruck just seeing the sights and back roads, simply beautiful. I canít wait to come back in the spring and do some skiing. Iím sure itís going to give me a whole new view also.
September 18th, 2006
From Innsbruck I rode to Switzerland, via Liechtenstein, now the only reason to go to Liechtenstein (besides being a pretty ride) is just to say you have been there, Itís the fourth smallest country in the world, you blink your in and out of it.
Stunning, picturesque, exquisite, magnificent, scenic, beautiful, marvelous, bravura, grand (ok so I was playing with the thesaurus) that was the ride from Liechtenstein to Milan. The Alps really are breathtaking, in and out of tunnels spectacular scenery, just a pure joy to ride. We had to take a detour off the thruway, itís a good thing I just following traffic because I wouldíve never been able to find this road again or find my way back on, but it was worth the extra hour it added to the ride. (As it turned out the reason for the detour was an accident/fire in one of the tunnels. I watched a rescue helicopter land on a two lane bridge over a river some 200 feet below, talk about balls!) When you ride in so many tunnels you do think of what if a fire did break out, Iím sure itís a mess. There was a little snow on some of the peaks but none at road level.
Made it into Milan found a place to stay and did some sight seeing. I love the different architecture in all these different counties, each amazing in their own way. When you think of how old these buildings are, what it took to build them and what equipment they had back then you just wonder how they did it, well at least I do.
September 19th, 2006
Short stop at the Harley store for a new rear tire (#6 not counting the 2 fucked up ones) the guys at Milan Harley got the bike in and out, I had enough time for me to see the city a little more before heading down to Genoa. Milan is a city in Italy worth stopping in for a visit.
September 20th-23rd , 2006
I rode to Nice France and used it as a base. Stopping in small towns, enjoying the sites. The money in Monte Carlo is sinful; Iíve been to the yacht clubs of Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, Monte Carlo takes it to a whole new level. I can see why itís the heart of the French Rivera. As much as I hate to admit I really did enjoy this part of France, you canít beat the weather, 80ís during the day, no humidity, high 60ís at night. I also liked all the street side cafes were you just sit and watch people. The French people also didnít disappoint me; they are as arrogant and rude as I thought they would be. One time I was standing behind a guy who was talking perfect English on his mobile, when he got off I asked his were this street was, he looked at me funny and asked in French do I speak French? I said sorry no only English, he just shook his and so ďNo English (pointed to himself) and said ďFrenchĒ). I asked him in Spanish if he spoke Spanish again he only shook his head and said ďFrenchĒ, I asked him in German if he spoke German, again only louder he said (NO, FRENCHĒ ( its a good thing he didnít speak either I just used up my Spanish and German skills when I ask, thatís all I know) I bit my tongue didnít say any thing and with a smile, in French I said ďthank youĒ A lot of times when you went to ask someone they wouldnít even look at the map, they would keep walking saying ďno EnglishĒ I also must give credit where credit is due, I did run into a few(very few) who went out of their way to help, but they were the exception not the rule,(Iím sure they were transplants) Another thing about the French, they love small dogs, you know that kind, all they do is yap and shit, and they shit everywhere, you have to watch where your walking, piles of dog shit on the sidewalks. They carry these dogs in little dog handbags or under their shirts so the head it sticking out the neck. If you ask me it looks stupid.
I spent Saturday scuba diving, water was warm, not really too much to see, we did play with some octopus and I was underwater so I consider that a good day!
Rode from Nice to Perpignan following the coast, not liking the looks of the sky, the weather has been great since Belgium; I know Iím due for some rain.
September 24th, 25th, 2006
This is the heart of wine county, grape fields for miles. The day started off very overcast and with the smell of rain in the air. So to save time I put on my rain gear from the get go. I headed inland towards Andorra, again no real reason to go except to say I was there. The rain hit after 30 minutes of riding. Itís a shame because it was little traveled road pass all the grape fields and Iím sure wouldíve been a very pretty road. Right now is harvest time and the pickers were out in force. I didnít mind the rain but the higher I rode the colder it got, I know Iíve said this before, I donít mind being wet, I donít mind being cold, I just hate being wet and cold. Once in the mountains the roads became very windy and because of the rain very slippery. I was worried about ice on the roads, but the temperature never got below freezing or at least not long enough for things to freeze. As I came out of the mountains toward Barcelona the rain stopped and temperature went back to the 70ís. What a difference a little altitude makes.
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