I’ve been riding most of my life. Several years ago, after several life changing events, we decided we had too much “stuff”. Our first world life of over zelious consumerism had developed a question mark, WHY? Why chase our tails to have more stuff when what we really wanted was to travel and make great memories. Our jobs took up most of our time and energy, and it was draining us.
Then we discovered Horizons Unlimited and saw the movie, “Long Way Down”. I had also met a man near me in Florida that had lost everything. He took off in a sidecar with his dog. I read a book, “Jupiter’s Travels”, by Ted Simon. I read about “2 Ride the World”, Simon and Lisa Thomas. I wanted more.
In 2010 we sold everything and took off in an RV, seeing America and working on the road. We saw the US and rode our motorcycle through every state. Then we did an international motorcycle trip, just us.
We were hooked.
We have since ridden in 57 countries, with several big rides sketched out on maps still to come.
This brings me to the topic of this blog.
Commitments…or a Great Family. A few years ago a friend, Ted, asked me “Why don’t you just go?”. I answered job, family, dog, etc, and he said “So!”.
We got to thinking, Why don’t we just go, why are commitments holding us back. Well, we decided that our commitments were a couple things of our lives we loved, family. It’s said that you can’t have it all. I thought, why not?
So we redesigned our lives. We had zero debt and our expenses are our lives, wherever we are. We didn’t need stuff. We didn’t need a home in one place. What we needed was the only thing you can’t have more of, time.
Now we don’t work and are thrifty with our money. We have bikes on three continents, all valued at a total of $8000. We ride, we camp and we cook.
But most importantly, we see our family.
You can have it all.
We take off next week to ride from Eastern Europe to Nordkapp, then back to the Overland Event in the UK.
Below is what we did the past couple months, with family.
Packing up and saying goodbye to our amazing hosts, we headed to Pamukkale.
From Google; ‘Pamukkale is a town known for the mineral-rich
waters flowing down white travertine terraces on a nearby hillside. The town
neighbors Hierapolis, an ancient Roman spa city founded around 190 BC. Ruins
there include a well-preserved theater and a necropolis with sarcophagi that
stretch for 2km. The Antique Pool is famous for its submerged Roman columns,
the result of an earthquake.’
As we pulled into town, we were greeted by a man on a scooter whom wanted us to follow him to his hotel. He gave us a good rate with breakfast included and a view of the white travertine terraces, so we stayed. Walking through town several restaurant owners met us in the street to tell us a story about their eatery. We will choose one and return later.
The next morning, we walked up the terraced warm pools and swam in the Antique Pool. Just sitting on a submerged column, you wonder who else has been is this very place with 2000 years of history. The theater is very well preserved, and you enter from the top as it is built into the hillside.
Our next destination is Gallipoli, near the southern border
with Greece. Anzac Cove is a small cove on the peninsula of Gallipoli. This
area became famous during WW1 and the landing of the ANZAC’s (the Australian
and New Zealand Army Corps) on 25 April 1915. The campaign was doomed from the
start after missing the intended landing site and mixed signals from the
commanders. Since 1916 the anniversary of the landings on 25 April has been
commemorated as Anzac Day, becoming one of the most important national
celebrations in Australia and New Zealand. The anniversary is also commemorated
in Turkey and the United Kingdom.
We stayed in Gallipoli at a small hotel frequented by
Australians coming to this area. We met several, some ex-military, with
extensive knowledge of the ANZAC campaign.
The next morning, we entered Greece and rode down to the “Three Fingers” of the Halkidiki Peninsula that stretch into the North Aegean Sea. The third “finger”, furthest east, of the Halkidiki Peninsula is Athos. Unlike Kassandra (#1), and Sithonia (#2), Athos has mostly been untouched by modern development. Most of Athos comprises the monastic community of Mt. Athos. The rules of visiting Mt. Athos are very strict. Only men aged 18 and up can visit since legends say that the Virgin Mary visited Athos and blessed it and therefore the Holy Mountain is considered the Garden of the Virgin and there is no room for other women. Men must get an advanced permit and book a visit up to six months ahead. Visitors must follow the monks’ lifestyle during their stay. We intended to ride around Sithonia but the route south along the eastern coast was blocked by a large forest fire. Disappointed, we rode back across the mountain to the east coast and found a great place on the water.
The next morning, we rode north toward Sofia, Bulgaria, where the Yellow Donkey would be spending a few months sleeping. Our friend in Sofia, Dimitar, had suggested for us to visit the Rila Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in Bulgaria. We were given advice of a nice road to follow to get to the monastery. We had just ridden through a small town and some cars were parked along the road. As we slowly passed, we saw a woman laying on the ground in a small pool of blood. Several people standing around her. Quickly stopping the bike, I grabbed my first aid kit. With the language being a barrier, we figured out that she had been walking and had been hit by a car. Several people seemed upset with my decision to assist her. The injured woman had fear in her eyes as I checked her vitals and for injuries. Her injuries seemed to be a gash on the skull to which I applied pressure. Melanie had come by the woman’s side, talking softly and holding her bloodied hand. As she looked into Melanie’s eyes her stoic fear became tears as she tightly held Melanie’s hand. After several minutes an ambulance arrived, and I communicated my finding with them. With the injured woman still holing tightly to Melanie’s hand, she was loaded into the ambulance. With many non-verbal thank-yous, from the ambulance crew and bystanders, we acknowledged and continued our way to the Rila Monastery. The connection made through these gestures helps with other peoples view of Americans, while also refueling our karma bank.
Founded in the 10th century, the Eastern Orthodox Rila Monastery is regarded as one of Bulgaria’s most important cultural, historical and architectural monuments. The hermit, St Ivan of Rila, is whom the monastery is named after. He came to this area in the 10th century. Living in a cave, without material possessions, the monastery was built by his students where they came to receive an education. The oldest buildings in the complex date from this period -— the Tower of Hrelja (1334–1335) and a small church just next to it (1343). It is now inhabited by 60 monks.
We left and stopped for some soup along the road. This was a very friendy pup.
We headed to Sofia where we were met by Dimitar, who would be our generous host for the next couple days and would be taking care of Yellow Donkey for the next several months. Dimitar gave us a tour of Sofia and some favorites pubs, where a couple of his friends showed up. My BILT boots had just fallen apart during this trip so we found a motorcycle dealer in town. I found a pair of Forma Adventure boots at a great price, which, after hearing our story, were significantly discounted for me. As we were preparing to leave, Dimitar presented me with a bottle of homemade Raki. We had a great couple days in Sofia and all to soon had to be on our way.
Our flight back took us through London for an overnight, on Melanie’s birthday. Several of our friends came out to the pub for drinks and to help celebrate another trip around the rock. Many thanks to all that showed up.
The next morning, we took a walk along the harbor. The town
was waking up with the smell of fresh baked bread in the air. Fishermen were
busy getting their boats and nets ready for the day. Barely a ripple disturbed
the surface of the water. Tiny fish swam in the crystal-clear water.
Returning to the hotel a wonderful breakfast was waiting for us in the open-air café. After enjoying a couple cups of Turkish coffee, we slowly packed up the bike to continue. We wanted to remember the past few days and the kindness we had experienced and friendships we had made.
Continuing south we followed the sea as closely as we could. It was a beautiful day with cloudless blue skies blending into the calm seas. Later In the day we stopped for a late lunch, coffee and free Wi-Fi. We made reservations on booking.com and headed south to find the homestay. The days were getting shorter and we arrived to find…nothing. The directions led us to a three-way intersection. After riding a round looking and asking anyone we could find about the hotel, we were stumped. Nobody knew of the place, but no one spoke English either. As dark was coming on we made another stop in front of a small farm to ask again. With a similar reaction of confusion from the residents, no English, I pressed the bikes start button again. Nothing! Not even a click.
I took off the seat to get to the battery, connections good.
I hooked up my power pack to jump the bike, nothing. I worked on connections
for about 30 minutes without anything. It was almost dark. An old woman crossed
the yard and approached us. In her hands she was holding a Pomegranate. She
offered it to us as they didn’t know anything else to do for us. We accepted
the kindness gratefully. Such a kind gesture.
As we were riding around, Melanie had noticed a small, closed
hotel a mile of so up a busy road. There was a side road that went to the
hotel, mostly uphill. We started pushing. Finally, in the darkness, we quietly
arrived at the side entrance to the dark hotel. The gate was slightly agar, so
I entered. In the back I noticed some lights on by the pool. Two women and a
man were sitting at a table eating dinner. I startled them as I approached and
said hello. I was a sight. Dirty motorcycle gear and drenched in sweat. They
quickly regained their composure and in perfect English, welcomed me in. Telling
my story, they told me that their hotel was closed for season and they were
getting ready to head back to their home in Istanbul. In the next breath the
kind man said we were welcome to stay in their hotel; they would ready a room
for us. He readied the room as we unloaded our gear. But next was the biggest surprise.
They told us they wanted to feed us supper. “Please, take a shower and come
down and relax and have a beer. We will make you something to eat”. They
reopened the kitchen and made us a wonderful meal. They told us we were welcome
as long as it took to fix the motorcycle. After supper the front gate was
opened to bring the motorcycle into the property to be secure. Never was the
topic of cost or payment brought up by them.
After a wonderful night sleep in a beautiful suite we came down to figure out the bike. A wonderful breakfast was waiting for us. There was such a variety of foods and beautifully presented. Dish after dish was brought to our table. Just amazing.
As we were miles from any city, I was stumped. Everything checked out, but the battery was just bad. I contacted Ferhat in Gulluk. He was upset that I had waited so long to contact him. We were 200 kms south, but that seemed not to be an excuse. It was Sunday, but he said he would take care of it and would call me back. As we waited our hosts brought us a pomegranate from a tree in their yard to snack on. It was amazing.
A couple hours later my phone rang, and it was my friend, Ferhat. He had found a friend, a member of the Turkish Hells Angels, that would find me a battery, deliver it and install it. He wanted detail of the battery along with dimensions. An hour later they had found a battery. They had called two motorcycle shop owners to check for a battery. Remember, its Sunday and shops are closed. They had all done this to help us. The guy was bringing the battery to me and would be there in an hour or so. You could hear his Harley pull up outside of the hotel and I went to great him with my host. With the host being an interpreter, he introduced himself and his son, that was riding with him. Within minutes he confirmed that the battery was bad and had the new one installed. I thanked him and offered to pay him for the battery and his time. He accepted the money for the battery but refused anything for his time for helping me. Such kindness.
Our host insisted on us relaxing for the rest of the day and spending another night. The beach was within walking distance, so we set off. Just so happens there was a bar right on the beach. Being on a cove with mountains surrounding us, the views were fantastic. With the beer being US$1.50, it was a perfectly relaxing afternoon. We were again served supper, had a great night sleep and an enormous breakfast. We insisted on paying for everything, and, as expected, the bill was very small. The Turkish people have been so kind.
The line was already starting to form as we pulled up to the ferry port. People were walking down the road pulling overstuffed suitcases. Everyone was looking for coffee, but we had to wait until we were boarded.
We queued in line and started talking to a couple from Athens. She was in her car and he was riding his GS. Whatever works, I guess. Tickets in hand we went back out to the bike waiting for the ferry to arrive. Several people were standing around that looked like part of a group, with a couple photographers along. My curiosity got the best of me and I went over to talk with them. They were taking part in the UK version of “The Amazing Race” called “Race Across The World”. They were starting their second leg of their journey. Melanie is a fan of the US version, but had already boarded the ferry and was up on deck.
Finally it was my turn to board so I rode up a very uneven docking made worse by thick hemp ropes filling in the cracks. Once on board I lashed Yellow Donkey to the rail and headed up to find Melanie. I told her of the people on board and we ended finding each other, both interested in the others trip. We enjoyed conversation and shared coffee, my gift to them, since they are traveling on very limited funds. It was just great. In the end we were also asked a few questions by the cameraman and had our picture taken.
A short 30 minute ferry ride had us in port at Cesme, Turkey. Shortly after riding off the ferry we found an ATM and a small cafe for our first of many Turkish coffees. The owner was fascinated with our trip and loved that we had decided to come to his country. He proudly showed us where he lived above the cafe and his pride and joy, his motorcycle in the clean alley behind the store. The owner made wonderful coffee and pastries.
Back on the bike and headed to Seluck and the ruins of Ephesus. We had found a small hotel that seemed to have a view of the city on booking.com. We climbed and higher into the hills and the roads went from bad to worse, then to, well nothing. It seemed the hotel didn’t exist. Back down the hill and into town, closed roads and the market. We finally found a hotel that was quite nice, but way out of our price range. Across the ally was a hotel named the Australian/New Zealand Pension. Rooms were nice and the new owner had bought it from the Aussie that had opened the place.
After booking in to the hotel we set out on foot to explore the city and find a bite to eat. Passing a small cafe with seating on the street with an attached rug store, we were ushered by the owner to a nice table with a colorful umbrella providing shade. He recommended a wonderful lunch and sat and talked with us. The business was his and his wife’s. She did the cooking and he spent his time between Seluck, Istanbul and the United States. Every year he would spend a couple months driving through the US selling his beautiful rugs.
Later that evening as we walked the streets looking through the shops we passed another cafe and the owner came out to talk to us. We had a fun banter which resulted in him calling me his brother. Deciding this was where we wanted to eat we sat down to order. After we ordered our meal, dishes would come to the table which we didn’t order. He was very proud of our food and wished to share them with us, including dessert and and Raki. The bill only included what we ordered. the rest was his gift to us. Going back the next night the same thing happened. At the end of the night, many hugs were passed around. We ate in the shadow of an ancient aqueduct in the shadow of the Temple of Artemis, (built around 550 BC), and considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
The next day was spent exploring the ancient city of Ephesus. Built in the 10th century BC, it is close to the coast and is one of the 12 cities of the Ionian League. Among the ancient building is the Library Celsus and a theatre capable of holding 25,000 spectators. Ephesus was an important center for early Christianity from about 50 AD. Ephesus is one of the seven churches of Asia that are mentioned in the Book of Revelations. It is believed that Gospel of John was written here and Mary lived out the last years of her life here. The place is spectacular are took several hours to walk through.
The next morning we headed out without a real destination, just south. At a stop for fuel and coffee we were sitting at a table and a car pulls up. A man jumps out and runs inside toward us. The conversation went like this. Him: “Is that your bike outside?” Me: “Yes.” Him: “Are you from the US?” Us: “Yes.” Him: “I want to talk to you and get to know you. I don’t have time right now, I’m with my boss. Please meet me at the Mayday Bar in Gulluk, down toward Bodrum, about three hours away at 3 PM.” Us: “Okay. See you there.” And he ran out, jumped in the car and sped away. We both looked at each other and said, why not? Who can really turn down an invite like that. We spent a couple hours exploring the city of Bodrum since we had some time to kill.
And that is how we met this fantastic man and friend, Ferhat.
We sat at the bar, run by a lady from the UK, and talked, drank, ate and met his friends throughout the night. He had an amazing philosophy on life and working. He was a Tug Boat captain and you could tell, loved life. He was such a kind soul. He found us a place to stay at the nicest hotel in town. At the end of the night he gave me the ultimate compliment by “placing me at the top of his head”. If I needed ANYTHING, he would be there for me. Little did we know that would happen two days later.