North through the Baltics

We rode into a town that evening looking for a place to stay. The place we had looked at on booking.com was full. There wasn’t much more in the area, so we decided to head to the mountains. The skies were darkening as we left town and on the edge of town it started to rain, hard. We turned around and headed back to town, but still could not find a place to stay. We decided to head out of town again, in the rain. A couple miles out of town we found a small hostel. The price was right, the owner was nice and it had a kitchen and free Wi-Fi.

Wood carving in a park.

The next day we set off for the Bicaz Gorge. The road follows the river, twisting and turning on its path. As you ride, walls of rock start to soar above on either side you revealing incredible gorge.

Stopping briefly at the bottom of the gorge to get some photos, we met several motorcyclists from Hungary. We talked for a bit about each other’s trips, took some photos and then took off.

Hungarian bikers

We were looking for a hotel and decided to stop and check our GPS. A friend of ours would be stopping at a hotel near us, so we set out for the hotel. The mileage to the hotel wasn’t bad, but the roads were in terrible condition, or just dirt. Our friend. Doug Wothke, was towards the end of an incredible ride. He and four other friends had shipped their World War II vintage Harley Davidsons across to the UK. From there they invaded Omaha Beach for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion in France. The ride was across the top of France, Belgium, Germany and ended several weeks later at MotoCamp Bulgaria.
Doug pulling to the hotel with one other guy still in tow. We had a fun night eating and drinking (I was drinking) and telling tales of the road before parting ways the next morning.

Special dinner for us.

The next morning we headed out toward Hungary. Finding a small road that bordered the Ukraine, we followed it. The road ended up being a small, one lane pass road with perfect tarmac and wind is way through the forests to some in incredible views.

A couple days later we crossed from Hungary into Slovakia and rode toward the northern ski area at Strbske Pleso. The Carpanthian mountains rise dramatically here. We pulled in and looked for a place to park. As always, we looked where other motorcycles were parked. Finding several on a grassy area, we parked beside them and went to find something to eat. A couple minutes later the local Barney, (Police), pulled up to tell us we had to leave, it was not a parking space. OK, no problem. They checked my passport only, no one else. We rode down the road and found another spot of the resort area where bikes had been parked when we came to town. We pulled in. Within two minutes the cops were back. They told us all to leave, seven bikes plus us, and hassled me, the biker from America. They kept yelling at me in a language I didn’t understand, and rubbing their fingers together. Understanding the sign language of corrupt police officers, I asked them if they wanted a bribe. They then took out a book and indicated they needed €20 for the “ticket”, and handed me two pre-printed stamps, that were meaningless. Everyone else rode off while I was being hassled. We left right after for Poland. Corrupt officials somewhere, everywhere.

Corrupt Police

The next few days we rode toward Tallin, Estonia. This is where we would catch the ferry to Helsinki.
We stopped in Lublin, Poland to walk the old town and see the castle. We had found a place to stay on AirBnB which turned out to be very special. This was a 2-story apartment that was called the “Music Room”. Downstairs was an office, a well appointed kitchen and a nice bathroom. The whole upstairs was the bedroom. The space was decorated with musical instruments and vinyl records, 33 1/3 and 45’s. They also had a wonderful set-up, including the turntable. Needless to say, we played old American music from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

Record room

The rate also included a breakfast. Our host would arrive in the morning and ring a little hand bell, indicating he had arrived with our wonderful breakfast. We told him we were taking the bus to old town and he even went out and bought us bus tickets.

Wonderful breakfast in kitchen area

Lublin was formed around the 13th century. It was a Nazi camp for Jews that were segregated into an area called the Lublin Ghetto. In one month in 1942, 26,000 Jews were sent to extermination camps. The city suffered significant damage during WW2, but has since been restored. The castle steep is original and had been used in the past to house political prisoners.

Lublin Gate

Finding the correct bus to get back served to be another issue, complicated. Solved after a beer.

First, a beer

Next, figure this shit out.

Crossing the border to Lithuania we stopped at Grūto Parkas.
Grūto Park (unofficially known as Stalin’s World) is a sculpture garden of Dinner-era statues and an exposition of other Soviet ideological relics from the times of the Lithuanian SSR. It was founded in 2001 by mushroom magnate Viliumas Malinauskas. It is quite controversial, so we didn’t pay the entry fee to go in.

Our next stop was to see the Trakai Island Castle on Lake Galve. The castle is the only island castle in Eastern Europe, constructed in the 14th century.

Goofing around

Before crossing into Latvia we visited the Hill of Crosses, near our hotel. This was started after the unsuccessful 1831 Uprising against the Russian authorities. It was destroyed several times by the Russians, but always rebuilt. It is estimated over 100,000 crosses are now there.

We spent a couple nights along the coast in Latvia, on the Baltic Sea.

Ferry crossing to a dirt track. I think we’re lost.

Who’s driving this ferry??

It was a beautiful campground on a bluff overlooking the sea. They let us stay for free. Camped near us was an older rider on an older African Twin. He was from Austria. He came over to chat as we were setting up camp. He invited us over to his camp later that evening for a fire, and took off on his bike. Later that evening we discovered that he had gone to the store to get snacks, beer, ciders and wine for the evening fire. What a fun night we had. A reminder, too much beer means too many times up to pee at night.

Ahhh…

Austrian rider

What a view!

Sunset

A couple days later we
crossed by ferry into Scandinavia.

Cheers
2WANDRRs

Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel | Leave a comment

Bulgaria and Friends

We were up at 3 a.m. to catch our flight to Sofia. Like any big city, London never sleeps.
Our flight into Sophia on EuroJet was great, except for the lack of food and alcohol.

Good friends

All of our motorcycle kit made it and Dimitar was there to collect us. After a quick bite to eat, I paid Yellow Donkey a visit. Dimitar had put new shoes on her and after a couple tweaks, she was ready to go.

That night we decided to go out for a quick bite in the park. The quick bite turned into quite a few beers after some friends arrived.

Around midnight we left the party. Melanie helps guide my stumbling self to the subway station. I went directly to the ATM machine to buy my subway tickets. Melanie directed me to the proper machine and we made it to our fifth stop. As usual, we had a great night in Sophia.

The next morning we wanted to head to MotoCamp Bulgaria. While nursing a hangover, I retrieved the bike and we worked at getting the bike all packed to head out. After a quick lunch the thunderstorms rolled in. After waiting a couple hours we saw a quick break in the storms. Riding in a light rain we left Sophia. changing directions, sunshine became our companion for the final three-hour ride to MotoCamp Bulgaria.

As you turn off the main road onto a small tarmac road you pass fields of sunflowers and a small pond. Turning right at the village of Idelivo, MotoCamp will soon be on the left, you can’t miss the old motorcycle out in front. Opening the front gate is like coming home, with Polly and Ivo greeting us. While you always make new friends at MotoCamp (Steve, Ulla and Bernd) and we had several old friends Dave, Dan) that were also there, and a couple coming in the next day (Nigel, Dimitar and Kostadine). We were surprised by a visit from Sofia and Joe, who have bought a house in the village, and Graham Fields, who has called this place home for four years. Great surprise from all. Thanks. What a great couple days we had filled with good craic and beer.

Thanks Dimitar

Sofie Jacobs and Joe Dustworld

On the last day we were invited over to Graham Fields’ house for coffee. He has a beautiful place high on a hill, overlooking the entire valley. If you need a house and cat sitter sometime…

Graham Fields

Dimitar then lead several of us on a spirited ride to the flying saucer, Buzludzha, dedicated to Communism. It has even become more run down since our last visit there. The inside used to have amazing mosaics all made out of tile. There are now guards stationed there keeping people out. The dangers are great since the ceiling is now falling in.

We finally had to leave. Saying, “See you later”, is always tough. So difficult that we returned 6 hours later to retrieve my phone that I had left on the table. Ha, more drinking.

Oh oh, what broke, Sir Nigel?

The following day we headed to the Black Sea and found a great campsite right on a bluff overlooking the beach. The campground was on a small cove surrounded by bluffs with a small slope in the area down to a great beach. After a nice swim, we had a good meal and a couple beers overlooking the blue ocean while the sun set behind us, casting shadows and colors on the cliffs.

Black Sea is a beautiful blue.

The next day we crossed into Romania. As the temperature soared to near triple digits, we pushed west. With the sky a cloudless deep blue we rode through fields of bright yellow sunflowers and purple lavender. Staying hydrated, the day was a boring but good ride.

Cheers
2WANDRRs

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Europe 2019

We are ready to leave again. First stop will be London and a couple pints at Ye Olde Six Bells tomorrow. This pub has been around since the 9th century. Hope the ales are fresher.

One of the most difficult things in leaving is leaving our 15 year old pup Gypsy behind. She is in good hands with Melanie’s sister Sharon in Texas.

We will be in Sofia, Bulgaria to collect the Yellow Donkey from our good friend, Dimitar, whom has been taking good care of her for the past few months.

You may follow our progress as we ride to Nordkapp then back to the UK as we attend the Overland Event in a couple months. We will be using a Sat tracking device called SPOT and this is the link.

SPOT

Cheers,

2WANDRRs

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Commitments…or a Great Family?

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.

Cheers,

2WANDRRs

Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel, 2WANDRRs, family, Horizons Unlimited, motorcycle travel, Suzuki VStrom1000 | 1 Comment

Headed to Bulgaria, and Karma

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.

Until next time…

Cheers,

2WANDRRs

Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel, 2WANDRRs, adventure travel, Greece, Horizons Unlimited, Monastery, motocamping, motorcycle travel, Suzuki VStrom1000, Turkey | 3 Comments

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