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.
We have learned a trick when riding in big cities. Park the bike securely and do public transportation. The first thing we look for is the Hop On/Hop Off Sightseeing Bus Tours ( https://www.hop-on-hop-off-bus.com ). These buses hit most of the tourist areas of the city and narrate, in your language, what you are seeing. And if you want to explore more on your own, just get back on the bus at another stop. Easy.
In the morning we walked to the pickup location for the bus and rode a big loop to see the sights before deciding which place we wanted to see first. From many areas in the city all you have to do is look up and on a an enormous flat rock 490 feet above and overlooking the city is the Acropolis of Athens. This ancient citadel was built in the 5th century BC. The area contains several ancient buildings of great architectural and historic significance, the most famous being the Parthenon. The Parthenon was dedicated to the goddess Athena, whom the people of Athens considered their patron. The Acropolis is undergoing extensive renovations at the present time.
Back on the bus and to the market. We wandered around looking at the people selling all kinds of things, even food. Finding a little cafe we ordered a great homemade pizza and a beer and chatted with a couple out enjoying the day with their new baby. On the way back to the bus we came across a car show of old Fiat 500’s. Cute little buggies.
The next day we decided to buy our ferry tickets before hopping back on the bus for more exploration. Getting off at a couple locations to look around we finally headed to the Old Market to wander around some. On the way we passed the Presidential Palace. The Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was about to take place. We hopped of the bus and were treated to the wonderful ceremony. From the side the three guards entered the square, two officers and the guard. as they approached the spectators parted down the center of the viewing area as the soldiers high stepped through the people to the guarded area. One of the officers narrated what was about to happen and the two guards high stepped toward each other preforming the Changing of the Guard ceremony. It was very impressive.
Our next stop was the old town market and lunch. Finding a cafe with an outdoor seating area we ordered a couple fresh Greek pies with meat fillings and feta cheese. Excellent choice. Sitting on the street the market area filled our senses. All around the sounds of people bargaining with the shop owners for the best price, couples chatting, scooters buzzing, horns honking gave us a sense of excitement.
Ever visit must include the Olympic Panathenaic Stadium. The stadium was built on the site of the original Panathenaic games in 300 BC. The current stadium was built in 144 AD, had seating for 50,000 spectators and is built entirely of marble. For many centuries it sat abandoned until being refurbished and used again for the opening and closing ceremonies in 1896 for the first modern Olympic games. It is also the last venue in Greece from where the Olympic flame handover ceremony to the host nation takes place.
We walked on the field and sat in the chairs of past rulers and just felt the history. We walked through the entryway that the contestants had entered the field through and walked the length of what looked like a long cave carved into the marble leading to the main halls and an exhibition area. Truly spectacular.
The next day we arrived at the ferry port to make our way toward Turkey. We had to cross first to a small Greek Island, Chios, just 30 minutes from the Turkish coast. The ferry took several hours and we arrived to Chios at about 0400 am. There were a couple cafes open so we sat, had coffee and a Greek pastry, hooked up to WiFi and looked for a place to spend that night as the ferry to Turkey didn’t leave until the next morning.
It finally got light and we went looking for the place I had booked on booking.com. It was described as on the hill overlooking the beach and ocean with a pool and a hot tub. After negotiating a terrible broken road down to it we found what was a deserted hotel. Nobody was around and the pool and hot tub looked as if they hadn’t been used in years. I had already paid for it through booking.com Grrrr. They did reimburse my money.
Headed back to town we found a great place place right on the water on the other side of the island. First up, go explore the island. The island was beautiful and ended up being one of favorites, it seemed almost deserted.
On the backside of the island we came across a road that looked like it went down to a beach area. Coming around the first corner we were startled by a group of tanks with soldiers standing near them. We waved and they waved back as we passed and soon we became aware we were on a proving ground and the signage encouraged us to turn back. We took the advice, there is always another beach. The soldiers waved at us again as we passed probably laughing amongst themselves.
Riding back across the mountains to the other side we saw a sign for the Nea Moni of Chios. This was an 11th century monastery that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to tradition, three monks founded this monastery here when they miraculously found an icon of the Virgin Mary, hanging from a branch of myrtle. Constantine was exiled on nearby Lesbos. The monks visited him and told him he would become emperor. He promised them he would build them a monastery if that became true. Indeed, when he became emperor, he built them the monastery. Over time the monastery became the riches monastery in the Aegean with nearly 800 monks. It was well known for it’s mosaics, which are one of the finest examples in all of Greece.
As it got toward the end of the day we found our hotel, a wonderful studio with cooking facilities. The owner couldn’t have been friendlier. He showed us around and took our picture with Yellow Donkey to put on his wall to remember us. There was a market just on the street facing the water. A wonderful man helped up with vegetables and pasta for our meal for the night. Such wonderful people.
The next morning we set out in the dark to get to the ferry port. Our host was at our side wishing us a safe journey and to return to see him again some day.
We arrived at the ferry port in plenty of time and sat in an outdoor cafe sipping coffee on the docks. Our ferry to Athens hadn’t arrived yet, other ferries were in port and the docks were bustling with activity. The chatter around us was very international with many languages mixing together and competing with sounds of diesel trucks and ferries.
The ferry finally arrive and everyone moved very quickly to queue in line to get the best seats on board. Usually the motorcycles board first but this time we were delayed as large semi trucks and cars loaded first. It was finally our turn and we were directed to a post in the front of the line. The mates on board did an expert job at lashing my overburdened Yellow Donkey securely to the post.
The winds had picked up again and the 6 hour crossing was rough but the large jet ferry handled the rough waters without much concern to us. We arrived at the ferry port of Pireas outside of Athens just as the darkness of the day was closing in. The next day we were exploring west of Athens and had book a unusual looking place along the coast a few miles outside of the city. As I was trying to keep up with the traffic and follow my GPS I must have been going a little fast between lights. We stopped at a light and a motocop pulled up beside me. He was very upset and was yelling something to me in Greek. I didn’t understand at all what he was saying and he started motioning to me to follow him and off he went. As I was about three lanes in from the turn, and the light had just changed I just went straight heading for the A road. It was several turns away and I guess the cop gave up because I never saw him again.
By now the dark of night had settled in. The road twisted along what I believed was the coast as every once in a while we could look to the left and see the lights of Athens in the distance. The road seems very desolate in the darkness so we were wondering if what we had booked was actually there. Finally, as we rounded a corner, a hotel came into sight. The distance was about correct so we turned in to find out if this was the place. I went to the front desk and this was it, but not in the hotel. One of the guys working there had a wooden shack out back right on the ocean. It was tiny, but comfortable. It was no more than 70 sq ft. but there was room for a bed and our gear. We could use private facilities at the hotel for the bathroom and shower.
We unpacked the bike, got changed and headed to the restaurant. In the parking lot was a truck with Suzuki motorcycle stickers on it and several signed names on the side. As we entered the restaurant a poster on the door showed that there was a Legends Track Days with the Stars at the Athens motorcycle road track that weekend. We sat down next to an older couple with team Suzuki jackets on talking to another man about the track days. I could hardly sit still as I wanted to talk to them to find out what was going on. After dinner we were able to talk to them and they were among the races going to the track days. At the end of the evening they invited us to come over to the track the next day and check thing out.
The next morning, after our delicious free breakfast, we wanted to check out the Corinth Canal a bit further to the west. As we were leaving the hotel a man pulled up beside us. He was the organizer of the Legends Track Day and invited us to be his guest at the track. We will definitely be there but it wasn’t starting until around noon, giving us some time to explore. We took off for the canal. It was just amazing to stand on the center of the bridge above the Cornith Canal and watch small boats passing almost 150 feet below us.
From WikiPedia: “The Corinth Canal connects the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea. It cuts through the narrow Isthmus of Corinth and separates the Peloponnese from the Greek mainland, arguably making the peninsula an island. The canal was dug through the Isthmus at sea level and has no locks. It is 6.4 kilometres (4 mi) in length and only 21.4 metres (70 ft) wide at its base, making it impassable for most modern ships. Nowadays it has little economic importance and is mainly a tourist attraction. The canal was initially proposed in classical times and a failed effort was made to build it in the 1st century AD. Construction started in 1881 but was hampered by geological and financial problems that bankrupted the original builders. It was completed in 1893 but, due to the canal’s narrowness, navigational problems and periodic closures to repair landslides from its steep walls, it failed to attract the level of traffic expected by its operators. The canal consists of a single channel 8 metres (26 ft) deep, excavated at sea level (thus requiring no locks), measuring 6,343 metres (20,810 ft) long by 24.6 metres (81 ft) wide at the top and 21.3 metres (70 ft) wide at the bottom. The rock walls, which rise 90 metres (300 ft) above sea level, are at a near-vertical 80° angle. The canal is crossed by a railway line, a road and a motorway at a height of about 45 metres (148 ft).”
From there we continued west on a great curvy road through the mountains but along the coast headed to see the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus, built in 340 BC and still in use for concerts. The theatre was dedicated to the ancient Greek God of medicine, Asclepius. It is considered to be the most perfect ancient Greek theatre with regard to acoustics and aesthetics and seats between 13-14,000 spectators. Standing at the base of these structures just lets your imagination run wild as to the people that have been in attendance through the centuries.
Excited to return to the track we loaded up and raced back toward Athens. As we approached the gate we were waved through and ushered to a special covered parking space. Boy, did we feel special!
We started walking around looking for the couple that we had talked to the night before, racer Mauro Stucki and his lovely wife, Judith. We found them, Mauro in full racing leathers, waiting for his turn on the track on his GSX R1100 Suzuki.
We visited for a couple minutes and then headed to the entrance gate to the track. Seeing all of these famous racers was just fantastic. They would wave before entering the track to have 10 laps of fun. In a line-up of older Ducatis waiting to take the track “Fast” Freddie Spencer lined up in the back on his new factory Honda. He had laped all but two on his first two laps. Then they just played passing each other and having a great time.
After their track time we went over to where Freddie Spencer was and Melanie and I got to chat with him for about 30 minutes. I grew up and rode in Daytona Beach and remember him racing there in the 80’s. He was just a great guy and it was an amazing experience. On top of that, he signed my motorcycle helmet.
We then headed over to the concession tent where the racers and the organizers were selling shirts, hats, photos and other things. The world famous Giacomo Agostini was being interviewed and in a photo session.
From Wikipedia: Giacomo Agostini (born 16 June 1942) is an Italian multi-time world champion Grand Prix motorcycle road racer. Nicknamed Ago, with an absolute record of 122 Grand Prix wins and 15 World Championships titles.Of these, 68 wins and 8 titles came in the 500cc class, the rest in the 350cc class.
The organizer of the event, whom we had spoke to at the hotel, saw us and motioned for me to come up with him and Ago, he wanted him to meet me. I was just beside myself as we both asked questions and chatted. We posed for the photographers and he also was kind enough to sign the other side of my helmet. This old lid will be retired soon and become a treasured conversation piece. As we left and were getting ready to move on the photographer wanted to interview us and take pictures of us with the “Yellow Donkey” as we were leaving. Wow, what a day.
We headed into Athens to a hotel near the ferry port with secure motorcycle parking. The next couple days would be spent exploring Athens before we would catch the ferry toward Turkey.
So much has been written about this island. It appears as the number one island to visit of the Greek islands in the South Aegean Sea. But with that comes a fee. Increased costs for everything and people in the annoying form of tourists off a cruise ship. The worst ones.
Santorini is the largest island of a small, circular archipelago, which bears the same name and is the remnant of a volcanic caldera. The island was the site of one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history: the Minoan eruption (sometimes called the Thera eruption), which occurred about 3,600 years ago at the height of the Minoan civilization. The eruption left a large caldera surrounded by volcanic ash deposits hundreds of metres deep. It may have led indirectly to the collapse of the Minoan civilization on the island of Crete, 110 km (68 mi) to the south, through a gigantic tsunami. Another popular theory holds that the Thera eruption is the source of the legend of Atlantis. (wikipedia)
As the ferry pulls into crescent bay you can see why it is so popular. It’s just beautiful! The ferry docks at the base of a sheer cliff, which makes up the inside of the caldera. Riding off the ferry we wait for a couple large trucks to clear the tight serpentine road leading to the top of the cliff. The AirBnB we booked is on the east side of the island with contrasting beaches to the cliffs. This is the original side of the island before the eruption formed the caldera to the west.
We pulled into a small beach village of Kamari and up a side road to our place for the next few nights, the Villa Dioni. The restaurant attached to the villa is Alexanders, named for Alexander the Great, a Macedonian. We are greeted by the owner of Alexanders as we dismount, trying to figure out where to park the bike. He tells us in perfect English that it will be fine right in front of his restaurant. The owner of the villa, his daughter, is out at the moment and to please come in and be his guests for a cup of Greek coffee. We had a wonderful visit with him while waiting for his daughter to return. He invited us to return in the evening to his restaurant to eat, drink and enjoy the Greek music of which he would be part of. Of course we will return in the evening.
The next morning we took off to explore the island. We rode along the top of the caldera along towns with white washed building clinging precariously to the side of the cliff. On the northern most tip of the island is the town of Oia. This is what Santorini is known for. The side of the mountain from the top and spilling down towards the water are whitewashed and blue building. It is an amazing sight with the deep blue of the water in stark contrast to the white. Cruise ships and three and four-masted sailing vessels drift in the water below. Across the water is the other side of the caldera and the rest of the now inactive volcano. There are no roads in this town other than at the top. The inclines are steep and when too steep, stairs. All the way to the bottom. Overweight tourists grumble as they all have to walk to their overpriced accommodations somewhere is the maze of white buildings. Porters carry enormous suitcases stuffed with way too many pairs of shoes and coordinated finery. The problems of the rich.
We sit and look at the beauty and the watch the tourists complain. On the way back to the beach we pass a brewery, the Santorini Brewing Company. We chat with other Americans there that can’t believe we would actually ride a motorcycle over here. The owners and brewers are also American and the beer is actually very good. On tap are Red Donkey, Crazy Donkey, and Yellow Donkey. We thought this would be a good name for our poor, overburdened V-Strom, so it is duly christened at this point.
Deciding we have seen enough we head back to the hotel and spend another fantastic night at Alexanders eating amazing food and listening to our host and his small band play traditional Greek music. What a night.
The next day we catch the ferry back to Athens for a few day of more exploration before heading to Turkey.