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 . In town I met a bunch of guys from Hungary, of course they were going in the other direction but we had lunch together. I told them the route I was going to take when I got to Hungary, they said it was a good way to go and the roads were ok, I wonder what they mean by ok, we will see!
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.
Posted by Craig Hutson at July 26, 2006 10:12 PM GMT