XT225 fuel problems…

Today was supposed to be the “first day I rode to work” this year (I wish I was kidding – first major gap in riding in the past 5 years). I had fixed up both bikes last weekend and got them running, so I was pretty confident. All geared up, I decided to ride the XT. My excitement died about halfway down the block along with the bike. Same problem as the last time – it starts up fine and idles okay, twist the throttle and it dies. This time I was able to get it started enough number of times to ride it back to my parking spot, rather than push it. For logistical reasons, I wasn’t able to ride the other bike, so it was back to taking the bus for me.

It’s definitely a fuel issue, but I did take the carb out two weekends ago and didn’t find anything amiss, so I’m not sure what else to look at. From trolling online forums, I guess my next bet is to check the float bowl to see if there is any water or debris in there. I might also try draining the gas completely and putting in fresh gas (although I added fresh gad two weeks ago too). This is aggravating.

AMA Online

The May issue of American Motorcyclist is finally available online. Unfortunately, you do need to be an AMA member to be able to view it. Here‘s a direct link.


Dolomites image on MatadorNetwork…

One of the images I took in my cross-Europe ride in August is featured as the headlining photo in a MatadorNetwork photo gallery today about “What Have You Seen Outside Your Window While Traveling?”: http://matadornetwork.com/trips/photo-gallery-what-have-you-seen-outside-your-window-while-traveling. I had originally posted about it here.

When I saw a request for photos under this theme, this seemed like the only fitting one to me because it’s one that is forever in my mind. I recall the Hotel Colli owner ushering me into this delightful room, which seemed practically palatial after days on the road staying at hostels by night. He opened the balcony doors with a flourish and I gasped. I had been riding through the Dolomiti all day of course, but it still seemed like such a luxury to get a room with a gorgeous view like that. I think I took this picture the next morning after a well-earned night’s sleep when I stood outside and gazed at those magnificent mountains again, longing to stay there an extra day. Part of me wishes that I had, but looking back at how things turned out, it was probably a good thing that I headed to Ljubljana that day because I escaped the torrential rains and snowfall in the Slovenian Alps that followed just a day after I had ended my ride.

This is still my favorite place in the world though, one that I think of wistfully when things are going rough. I feel fortunate to have seen and experienced it. I know I will return there someday, maybe spend a couple of weeks in those mountains, riding a motorcycle, hiking WW2 trails, gazing at the craggy peaks that changed color with the changing light, eating casunziei and other local delicacies, and drinking wine and at one of the small cafes that line the main street, where all the locals know each other. I felt warmth, love and caring amongst the people here like I had rarely felt with strangers on the road for most of that trip. And the mountains – oh those mountains! – engulfed me and made me feel like I had finally come home.

I made the American Motorcyclist May 2011 issue cover…

…. and practically the centerfold too. :P

The good folks at the AMA contacted me a couple of months ago asking if I would write a 700 word piece for them about how to plan and execute a successful road trip. Since I know a couple of things about the topic, I agreed and sent in a write-up. The most difficult part was really trimming it down to the required word count seeing as I wanted to speak volumes about the subject. I think I managed to get it down to about 900 and they did the rest. I think they did a great job with the editing as they kept the essence of what I wanted to say, especially with respect to leaving your gadgets at home (sage advice that I’ve never actually taken) and having a good attitude while on the roadtrip (images of bawling my head off and coming to blows with my co-rider Sarah when stuck in the mud in Slana come to mind).

When they requested the article, they mentioned something about using some pictures from the photoshoot they had commissioned last year. I didn’t think much about it, until a friend pinged me on Friday saying something to the effect of – “Holy &^&@#^@, I came home from work and saw you on the cover of my AMA mag.” This being April 1st, I was going to reply with something to the tune of “Haha… yeah right, nice try.” until he sent me scanned images. Cue shock, delight, shock, surprise, shock, and then finally acceptance. Yes, there was a lot of shock involved and not a few thoughts of feeling like a complete tool and poseur seeing as I haven’t ridden a motorcycle in the past three months (it’s a hiatus!). Oh and the SV featured in it hasn’t run in 8 months since I got stranded on the US-Canada border. Looking at the magazine cover, I felt like I was looking at someone else that I knew way back, and not me! I know that I should just chill out and enjoy my 15 minutes of fame though. And maybe I will. I’m especially delighted with the inside photo accompanying the article, which was taken on a street close to where I live, with downtown Seattle in the background – my own beloved city! It’s a shame the Space Needle isn’t in it.

Yesterday evening, I finally got my own copy in the mail, along with a stack of free copies, same as they did last year, bless ’em. It’s too bad that they are subscription only (even if they do have a distribution of 250,000 or so), so most of my friends won’t be able to buy a copy on the newsstands and have to settle for PDFs. I’ll be able to send one to my mum though, who after last year’s article finally figured out that I don’t really ride a scooter. :)

Oh and I cannot wait for outraged letters to the editor start pouring in, about how they could feature a squid sans motorcycle jacket, pants, helmet or gloves. What can I say – vanity won out over setting a good example for today’s youth. ;)

Here are screenshots of the images and article:

Rashmi AMA Cover

Rashmi AMA Inside pg1 Rashmi AMA Inside pg2

Cover: Link to hi-res PDF
Page 1 – Link to hi-res PDF
Page 2 – Link to hi-res PDF

(Major thanks to Gary Meyering for sending those to me!)

Strange, unknown rider, who are you?

There are still mysteries in this world. A rider from work posted this a little while ago to the riders DL:

I met this gal in Baja out in the middle of nowhere. She was from Japan had been travelling the world for 5 years. This was her second bike, she wore out her first bike which I believe she said was a DR200. I have a DR200 and would definitely pick the xt225 over the DR for adventure riding. The DR is a 5speed and the 6th gear on the Yamaha would definitely make things a little less buzzy at 60. She picked this Yamaha up in Russia. She was just coming out of the salt flats on the west side of Baja which has some sanding spots. She was able to make that bike go where she needed and the bike appeared stock.

We didn’t have much time to chat so I have no idea what type of highway speeds she would cruised at.

There were 3 of us on a 2 week trip and we all had luggage related issues/failures. I am sure if we were out for a 5 year run our luggage would have evolved to what she was running.

She was running bent rims in the front and back and her helmet was a little scrapped up. I got the sense she would run with bent rims until she was done with the dirt section of her current trip and could find an inexpensive country to get new rims.

She was a bit lost when we met her and was getting low on fuel. We gave her some fuel and helped her with directions. Later that night we talked about “what if she didn’t meet up with us?” Would she have been stuck? We quickly came to conclusion that she was probably a very resourceful rider and had probably dealt with being lost/off track before. We also thought this probably wasn’t the last time she was low on fuel in the middle of nowhere.

We were humbled by this small woman on her little Yamaha.

The email we copied down from her didn’t seem to work so we never were able to make contact.

A few months later, a picture of her showed up in a slideshow done by MotoQuest Tours about their tour in Peru which I attended in December. At least, I think it was her. There might be lots of Japanese women riding small dirt bikes down there. :)

This is her (I love her navigational system):

I was curious and dug a little on the internet and found this on page 13 of American Motorcylist:

I dashed off an email to Skip Mascorro to find out if it’s the same woman and if he knows anything else about her and he wrote back saying – “I know nothing of her background other than she humbled our group of macho riders. I believe I was wrapped up “working” at the time ofthat enounter so I didn’t have a lot of time to visit.”

And thanks to Bluepoof, I found a couple of entries on Horizons Unlimited about a woman named “Miki” who answers to the description:

Outside of that, she remains a mystery. If anyone knows anything more about her, do let me know, would you? :)


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Austin Vince at the Georgetown Stables…

I watched Mondo Enduro a couple of years ago and was of course immediately won over by that ragtag group of men who rode their motorcycles around the world back in 1995. So when I heard that both Lois Pryce and Austin Vince were going to speak at two separate locations in Seattle in the space of a week, I had the distinct sensation that Christmas had arrived early.

Austin’s talk was on a weekday, making that a slightly more difficult commitment, but I ended up going after all with Kris, my rider in crime. The talk was held at the Georgetown Stables, a little south of Seattle. I arrived there about 15 minutes before the talk began, thinking I’d just buy tickets at the venue. Kris informed me that they had a waitlist because the turnout was so huge. Who would have known? I guess Vince has quite a following in Seattle. We put our names on it and waited around until we got in.

The venue was tiny and crammed full, so we squeezed into some seats against the wall to the left of the podium area, which had a projector screen set up and the man himself in his trademark red jumpsuit.

Now it had been a while since I saw the movie and I had no recollection of him or what kind of a person he was. All I knew was that he was Lois Pryce’ husband and I secretly hoped that it wouldn’t be a stodgy, dull talk. I needn’t have worried though, because for the next three hours, I proceeded to laugh my head off. Austin’s talk was replete with witty stories interspersed with hilarious imagery and jokes that had me splitting my sides. It wasn’t a traditional slideshow with chronological images of a ride with commentary on the side. That would have been a bit dull seeing that I had already seen the movie. Instead he focused on the kinds of bikes they rode, the gear they carried, chance encounters on the road.

To my surprise and astonishment , and well… delight, his narrative was peppered with snarky references to what “adventure riding” has turned into today –  buying a big, expensive motorcycle – preferably a GS or KTM Adventure, outfitting it with expensive Touratech accessories, and then riding forever on tarmac and rarely going on dirt. Okay, he said it a lot more crudely than I’ve put it, and I wonder how much of the audience cringed inwardly at those remarks. He flat out said that if your riding has been only within North America and West Europe, you shouldn’t dare to call yourself an adventure rider.

He especially seemed to have a big bone to pick with Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman about Long Way Round. I could understand where he was coming from. Him and his Mondo Enduro friends  and riders like Lois Pryce and Ted Simon – have proved that it is possible to travel the world on cheap bikes, minimal gear and nothing more than your wits and an open mind. While I loved Long Way Round for a number of things, the things that bothered me about it were the same things that Vince vehemently spoke out against the fact that they had ridiculously expensive, heavily overloaded bikes, a ton of gear they didn’t need, a team of people who managed all the trip logistics for them, a support crew, and an obvious attitude of suspicion and at times mockery of the foods and customs of the people they encountered during their journey. While the movie was inspiring to quite a few of us, it also seemed to have given the idea that you needed to have a lot of money and privilege to be able to go have an adventure. It is saddening that people like Lois and Vince do not get recognition and acclaim for their remarkable achievements outside of the niche of motorcyclists who recognize their names.

During the intermission, I bought a copy of the book Mondo Enduro and got it signed by Vince and got my picture taken with him.

He spent most of the rest of his talk speaking about the Zilov Gap in Siberia – the Russian equivalent of the Darien Gap in South America. This was a 400 mile section of road between Khabarovsk and Chita that they had attempted to ride and given up on, finally hopping the train, only to discover that the rest of the train journey paralleled a neat little dirt track which they could have been on, if only they had known. During Terra Circa, they made it their mission to find that road and ride the entire length of the gap without taking recourse to the train. He ended that story with a photograph of a dirt road leading to a river, with a bridge above it. He said that he had one thing in common with Ewan McGregor in that they had both been at that exact same location, except that he had ridden all the way to the end, and Ewan and Charlie had taken the train on that bridge.

From here, the talk went on to going towards North America and LA. By now it was well after 10PM though, and Kris and I decided to leave because we had to be up early the next day to get to work. I wish I could have stayed for the whole thing, especially the Q&A. Maybe next time. Although judging by how acutely uncomfortable he must have made Touratech his sponsors with his incessant lampooning of their products, I’d be surprised if he ever got a return invitation. ;)

In conclusion, I’m glad I attended the talk. Austin Vince is a funny, funny man who you wish was in your close knit circle of buddies because you know there would never be a dull moment with him around. I cannot wait to watch Terra Circa and read the Mondo Enduro book.

An evening with Lois Pryce

Two Saturdays ago, Shubbu, Mark and I drove down to Southsound BMW in Fife to go see Lois Pryce talk. The one and only Lois Pryce who rode her motorcycle across the Americas alone! I was super stoked and excited about it, but I managed to curb my enthusiasm enough to get us there in one piece. On the way, Shubbu couldn’t stop talking about how guilty she felt about not riding to the show. Me, not so much. It’s about 30 minutes on I-5 to get to Tacoma and I wasn’t particularly interested in riding the XT on a bunch of boring freeway miles going 65 on roads where the speed limit was 70.

I had brought with me my hardbound copy of her first book Lois on the Loose – the one that had started it all, where she rode solo from Anchorage, Alaska to Tierra Del Fuego down south in Argentina, an epic journey covering 20000 miles in 8 months on a Yamaha XT225 (no co-incidence that this was the dual sport bike I eventually bought as well). I planned on getting her second book at the talk if they were selling it, and get them both signed by her.

We arrived there about twenty minutes before the talk started, giving us enough time to purchase tickets and get food. Kudos to SouthSound for having really good food available! I’d never been to this dealership before. It was huge – almost three times the size of the BMW dealership in Seattle. In the center, there was now a projector screen with a graphic of Lois astride a bike. The seats looked like they were filling up quickly.

Lois, an unmistakable redhead – was actually sitting in one of the seats in the audience signing books. I went and stood next to her for a little bit, quite possibly with a dazed expression on my face. Then I snapped out of it when my friends went to go look for seats to actually sit down in. We found some seats and I bought a copy of her new book Red Tape and White Knuckles which recounted her solo ride through Africa.

Armed with both books, I went over to her and waiting for a couple more people to get their books signed before finally sitting down next to her and handing over my books. She asked me whether I had any big rides planned, and I told her that I was trying to decide between South America and Australia next. I told her that my friend Sarah and I had wanted to contribute to her video Ladies on the Loose, recounting female adventure riders in the world, but we hadn’t because we didn’t have any HD quality footage. She was strongly encouraging of the fact that us women riders must film ourselves more, because  “When you look at what’s out there, it’s all blokes! Fair enough. I pondered out loud that this would be a toughie because it was all I could do to stop riding long enough to take pictures, never mind video. She empathized “I know, you just want to keep riding, not stop!” But maybe this is something I need to think about for future rides. She’s right in that I see a lot of men filming clips of their rides. It’s just not a medium that I’m particularly fond of due to my ultra-short attention span, but the videos do serve to make you more visible, and that’s something that most of us women bikers could use a lot more of. I asked her what her next big ride would be, and she mentioned a possible upcoming trip through Iran, Pakistan and India. How cool! Shubbu and I told her that she had to take us with her when she went. I mean, she’d need guides who spoke the language, right? ;)

We chatted in that vein for a little bit more before I reluctantly got up and let other people have their turn.

At around 7PM, they made an announcement asking for people to take their seats because the talk would be starting shortly. I wished there was some sort of podium that she could have stood on because I had a difficult time seeing her from the middle row seats we had. I was a little surprised to see that her slideshow was about her first book, and not the second. I had assumed that she was on a book tour of the latest book. Since I’ve read the Lois on the Loose a couple of times, I was quite familiar with the story she recounted. The pictures were new though, and her narration was peppered with lots of little jokes that had me laughing.

I remember at one point when she was talking about how people were horrified that she picked a small 225cc bike for her journey, and she responded with yes, it’s pretty slow but it was totally fine for a cross-continent journey. Shubbu whispered to me – “You didn’t even want to ride it to Tacoma. I choked back my laughter at that.

After the talk, there was Q&A where a bunch of people asked a bunch of daft questions, as is the nature of these things. One of them was – “You’re married to Austin Vince, right? Isn’t he too old for you?” (echoing my thoughts somewhat, I have to confess). She replied that they had 8 years between them but that he was a fantastic guy and they had a blast together.

I asked how many miles on average she rode during that trip and what her top speed was. Apparently she rode about 200 miles per day at a top speed of about 60mph. From my experience with the XT, this sounded about right, even downright excessive on dirt roads, but of course she’s a far better rider than I am.

Overall it was a great evening. Even though I had read the book, it was quite something to hear a firsthand account of her experiences and meet the woman herself. I loved how down-to-earth and charming she was. And yet, behind all the jokes and stories, there was no hiding the fact that she is also tough as nails. You’ve got to be, to have done the things she did and lived the life she leads.

If ever I needed encouragement for my next big ride, here it was! Now excuse me while I go recharge the battery of my XT, replace the starter cable, fill up gas and break this three month hiatus to go ride! :P

No riding for a while…

Have you seen a sadder sight? :(

bikes snow


Seattle was hit by a storm two days ago which brought loads of snow and heavy winds. The temperature dropped to well below freezing leading to ice on the roads (and pretty much everywhere). We don’t salt or sand our roads since this sort of weather is most unusual for us. This essentially means no riding of any kind. *sigh*

Photos from Slovenia…

I found some photos from that last day’s ride in Slovenia when we rode down to the Skocjan caves. These were from Lejla’s camera and I forgot all about them until I found them the other day.

What a gorgeous day that was!







Trying on GoGo Gear

This afternoon I rode to Tacoma to visit NW Motor Scooters to check out their LA based GoGo Gear line of protective gear. Go Go Gear claims: Motorcycle and scooter jackets no longer have to be unattractive! Harley Davidson or Vespa, motorcycle or scooter, biker men or women, scooter girl or guy, GoGo Gear brings fashion to protective, armored, abrasion resistant riding gear and accessories.

Naturally, I was curious. Protective gear for women that’s functional and looks good?

I tried on their Military Jacket (liked it a lot!), Trench Jacket (didn’t quite work for me) and Hologram Jacket (I’ll let you decide for yourself). :P All jackets had solid armor in the back, elbow and upper arm area (all CE approved). The armor in the shoulders didn’t quite fit snugly on any of them. Their size 6 was slightly bulky on me especially in the shoulder area, so I tried a size 4, which was a bit snug in the arms, but I like my jackets tight so that it doesn’t shift in the event of a crash.

Speaking of crashes, my biggest concern was of course how well these designer jackets would hold up in worst case scenarios. The jackets are made with either 600 or 1000 denier cordura, which is then covered up with the nicer material – wool, knits or acrylic. This appears to be in keeping with the specifications of the average, mainstream motorcycle jackets out there. I could see myself wearing one of these jackets for in city low speed riding when the option might be to skip gear altogether, but I definitely wouldn’t make any of these my main jacket for either touring or dual sport riding. I can’t imagine how long this elegant designer wear would hold up on a wet, muddy ride. I’m also a gear nazi and I wear only the best protection I can buy – dual layer mesh kevlar custom made by Motoport (not big on looks but very functional).

My other concern was the hip length of the jacket which is fine for scooter riding, but might be awkward for swinging a leg over a motorcycle. Fortunately they had a Kymco 250cc motorcycle on display, which I sat on, and the jacket seemed to be fine and the length didn’t appear to get in the way. They did after all ride motorcycles wearing those big great coats back in WW2. :)

To summarize, I didn’t buy any of them, but I *am* tempted to get the Go Go Gear Military jacket for casual around town riding. With a $375 price tag though, I’ll have to think about whether I’d rather spend my money on one of these or that retro RevIt jacket that I was eyeing a few months ago.

Here are some photos of me in some of the coats that I tried. This one was my favorite by far.


Click below to see the remaining images.



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Dirt riding in the Snoqualmie Falls area…

Click to see Route

I haven’t gone dirt riding since Memorial Day weekend when I went riding up in the Leavenworth area. This was almost five months ago, so I’ve been chomping at the bit to take the XT out on some dirt. The hard part is actually getting to the roads. Most of the really good ones are almost a couple of hundred miles away via freeways and riding the XT that far isn’t very much fun. This leaves the option of taking the bike there via truck/trailer which involves enough logistics that I never really tackled it. Which is why I was delighted when a couple of co-workers mentioned that there were several forest service roads in the Seattle area that we could get to via backroads. We decided to meet on Saturday morning at Salish Lodge in Snoqualmie Falls and set out from there.

I left home at 9:00AM (this used to be the norm back in the day when I rode all day every weekend, but is more of a rarity now). I took 520 and 202 towards Snoqualmie. As I passed Fall City, I started feeling the bike sputter and realized that I was on 120 miles and I wasn’t going to make it all the way to Snoqualmie. I’ve always wanted to find the exact range of this bike and I guess now I did. Either I don’t have a low fuel indicator or it doesn’t work. :P I knew there was a gas station in the neighborhood that I always fuel up at, but I couldn’t find it. All of a sudden I was out of fuel and coasting down the hill without power. I managed to turn left into a parking area and turned off the bike to think. I had passed a gas station half a mile before and I really should have stopped there instead of looking for the other one. Unfortunately it was uphill and pushing it all the way up was not going to be fun. And then I had the brilliant idea (:P) of checking to see if I had a reserve. The last two bikes I have owned didn’t have one, so it’s not something I’m used to thinking about anymore. Turns out that the XT did, so I rotated the knob to RES and it started right up. Yay! I rode back up the hill, found the 76 gas station and refueled. I mentally calculated that I had gone 120 miles in 1.8 gallons, meaning that I was getting a good 67 miles to the gallon on this bike. Not too shabby!

It had started to rain now, although it was Seattle rain, more like a light misting and drizzle which didn’t bother me too much. I got to the parking lot in Salish Lodge in ten minutes and found Dave and Nikolas waiting, the former with a Husqvarna and the latter with a DRZ450. I’ve never seen a Husky up close. Those are some fun looking machines! Of course, I am partial to red and black bikes. ;) Nikolas’ bike was neat looking too, looking more like a dirt bike that had been ridden unlike mine. He had a bunch of gadgets hooked up too, which I made a mental note to get for myself in the future.

Dave led us to the start of the forest service road. The entrance was full of loose gravel and I felt the bike starting to slide around alarmingly. As always, I had that feeling of “Why the hell am I here again?” and “There are people who do this for fun?”. After a little while, we emerged onto more packed road and the bike settled down. Nikolas passed me and they both sped on. I lingered and went slow. They waited for me at intersections, of which there weren’t very many, so for the most part it felt like I was out for a ride in the forest alone, which is a rather nice feeling. :) I think I kept a steady 25-30 mph pace, painfully slow for those roads, but more within my comfort zone. The route itself wasn’t very technical, but it was a good place to brush up on my (mostly non-existent) off-road riding skills. We stopped in a few places, tried one side road that was uphill, gnarly and to my relief, blocked by a landslide so that we had to turn around. We ended the ride at the end of 5700 where we parked, got off and walked a little and climbed onto a broken bridge to catch a glimpse of a waterfall. As with hiking or snowshoeing, I always do like to have a little “reward” at the end of a trek.

The ride back was mostly downhill and I found that going uphill was a lot easier than going downhill. It was here that I finally started standing on the footpegs and was amazed at how dramatically I felt so much more stable. No more sliding all over the place and veering around puddles and potholes. The bike’s suspension took everything the road could throw at it and I barely felt any of it. Theoretically of course I know that standing is better than sitting, but it still feels so unnatural to me that it takes a while before I can muster up the courage to do it. I also get tired and my legs cramp after a little while of standing. More reason to work out those quads!

We reached the end of the trail and Dave slowed down indicating an area off to the right, which I understand is usually closed off. It looked like a good place to go practice dirt riding skills. Unfortunately, it was sandy and I wasn’t going fast enough and I washed out. We got the bike up, but then it wouldn’t start!!! We tried and checked everything we could, with no luck. Press starter button -> nothing happens. No sound of even trying to turn over, indicating a faulty switch somewhere. It boggles my mind how a little tipover could cause something like that. Push starting didn’t help either. It made a sort of sound, but never fired. We think it could be a matter of a bad switch plus a fouled spark plug.

Dave lived pretty close by, so he offered to come back with his trailer. Nikolas and I waited on the side of the road, getting soaked in the rain until he returned. I was relieved to get a ride back to Seattle and secretly a little frustrated at having yet another bike that didn’t start!! I have had the damndest luck this year. :|

So I guess I’m delighted that I could go out and play in the dirt, but really bummed about not ending the ride in a more satisfying way. :(

Kikkers – who wants one?

Fun little motorcycling video. ;) Thanks to Brad for linking it.


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Garmin mind-fuckery…

To be filed under the “Why I adore my Garmin Zumo so” section. Today I plugged the Zumo in while leaving work, only to find that it wanted to speak another language. Observe.

First off:


Uhh… no. Not really.

And then:

P1000830 P1000832 P1000831

But I could at least continue to listen to music all the way home.


I rebooted and it fixed itself. Why it chose to crap out is anyone’s guess. The weather perhaps?


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Faint of heart?

I had lunch with my friend Dmitry today who told me about this Russian motorcyclist he ran into who just rode around the world over 100,000km. He had quite a few colorful stories to recount, involving biker gangs in Australia and being sliced up by machetes in Africa. Unfortunately I missed meeting him because this happened around August when I was gone from Seattle. He does have a blog though, although it’s in Russian, which I don’t suppose any of you read: http://www.filosof.md/route/. Clicking on the US flag appears to bring up an English version of the blog that someone appears to have translated: http://filosof.md//eng/. There’s just a few entries though, and the translation is rather sketchy. It’s a shame – it would have made for pretty entertaining reading.

If nothing else, watch this video of him stitching up his face in a hotel room with a needle, floss and pliers. I made it about halfway through before I started screaming. :P



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I can has new gear?

For no reason at all, I’ve been looking though the internet to see what kind of retro looking motorcycle jackets are out there. Searching for a good quality jacket in women’s sizes is always an exercise in disappointment, so I was a little surprised to find at least two candidates. Hmm… decisions decisions.

Go ahead – vote for one.

REVIT_Womens_CR_Leather_Jacket_zoom   2008_Alpinestars_Womens_Stella_Six_3_Leather_Jacket_Black_White

And while I was at it, I looked up helmets too. I’ve worn solid helmets for as long as I’ve been riding and I’d really like a change. I dislike most of the graphics on regular helmets though. Suomi seems to have been the only brand that made nice looking designs, but you cannot get them anymore. I did think this Arai looked a bit retro and would match either of the jackets rather well. Thoughts?


I haven’t had new riding gear for at least 3+ years and my current silver Arai I’ve been wearing for maybe 2 years, so I don’t feel like I’d be splurging too much by picking up something new.


This is a summary of my month long solo motorcycle ride through Europe in the summer of 2010.

ROUTE: Ljubljana -> Vienna -> Prague -> Berlin -> Hamburg -> Cologne -> Luxembourg -> Strasbourg -> Freiburg -> Basel -> Interlaken -> Bellinzona -> Padua -> Cortina D’Ampezzo -> Bled -> Ljubljana

COUNTRIES VISITED: Slovenia, Austria, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Luxembourg, France, Switzerland, Italy (Rode through 8 countries, visited 11 total)
TOTAL DISTANCE COVERED: ~5000 kms = 3100 miles
TOTAL TIME TAKEN: 1 month (August 2010) although this wasn’t a purely motorcycling vacation. I spent quite a bit of time visiting friends, taking the train or ferry to places, or just laying around and relaxing. Europe had pretty bad rain in August this year too, so that I couldn’t ride nearly as much as I wanted to.
MOTORCYCLE: A 2005 BMW F650CS, which I rented from a rider in Slovenia.


1. The roads – The Swiss and Italian Alps are every motorcyclist’s dream come true. I’ve never ridden on *anything* like those roads. My only regret was that I was on a bike that simply wasn’t as much fun as a sportbike.
2. Lane splitting – I didn’t know what I was missing until I actually experienced it! I was able to ride between lanes every time I encountered a gridlock. I could go right up to the front of the line every time I hit a red light. It’s not only allowed, it’s expected of you.
3. No left lane campers – Europeans observe the rule of “Stay right except to pass” at all times. I’ve never seen traffic flowing so smoothly on freeways as I did on the autobahns and autostrades there. And it’s not like you go slow either. Most all traffic drove at 130kmph.

4. Passing – A car could be going well above the speed limit and you could still pass them without them getting all upset and bent out of shape. For some reason, Europeans don’t get road rage when they get passed by faster vehicles. It’s almost expected, and some of them even move over for you.

5. No cops – I never had any trouble with getting pulled over by cops even though I broke well past the speed limit in several countries. They make the United States look like a police state by contrast, going by the sheer number of cop cars we’re used to seeing monitoring speed on our roads. I’ve always rolled my eyes a little at my fellow riders who complain about cops, but I finally empathize with them to a great extent.
6. The sights – This was of course the Old World, where everything was steeped in history, to the extent that you have to prioritize how much history you were able to take in on any given day. :P
7. The people – As usual, it’s the people you encounter on the road who are the best part of your journey. I consider myself to be really fortunate and privileged to have been able to meet so many good, kind people on the way – the Slovenians who hooked me up with a bike and a place to stay at both ends of my journey, the Austrian guy from ADVRider who rode with me from Ljubljana to Vienna on the first leg of my journey, put me up and took me out with his friends, the random Polish guy I met at a gas station in the Czech Republic who took me to a biker rally, the motorcyclist in Hamburg who put me up and gave me a scenic view of the city, the ADVRider from Luxembourg who took an evening off to show me his city, the lady from a gas station in Italy who gave me a postcard of the Madonna delle Grazie to keep me safe on my travels when she heard that I was riding solo to the Dolomites, my good friends in Stockholm and Cologne who took such good care of me, the students and travellers I met in youth hostels, and all the good people in practically every country with whom I shared laughter and conversations in broken English. :)


1. Rain– It rained for two days after I landed in Slovenia. It rained when I was going through the Czech Republic, enough that I was stranded. It rained for four days straight in Germany, once again enough to strand me for that long. It rained when I was crossing the Swiss Alps. It rained when I returned to Slovenia. It pretty much rained all the f***ing time and I spent most of my time re-routing and dodging rain and missed out on seeing a lot of places that I would have loved to have ridden through.
2. Weather – When it wasn’t raining, it was hot and humid. But I get that I cannot complain about rain and cold *and* the heat, so I’ll let it go.
3. Language barrier – I guess it’s only respectful to learn a bit of a language of a country if you are planning to visit, but there was no way I could have learned Slovenian, Czech, Slovak, German, Danish, Swedish and Italian before my ride. As a result, I had a difficult time of it when it came to communicating with more than sign language in many countries. It also got to be really isolating as the days went by. (Yes, young people spoke good English, but only in the western countries and only in the bigger cities.)
4. Tourists – Yes, I realize I was one of them. No, I still hated them nonetheless. The bigger cities like Prague and Vienna were infested with them and you just have to deal with them if you hope to go see any of these great cities.
5. No wide open spaces – There really aren’t any in Europe like in the United States. Not surprisingly, most of the land is developed and you don’t go very far on the road before you encounter the next town or village. After a while, it was easy to feel a little cramped. There’s a reason why there aren’t very many cruisers out there.
6. Cell phones – I obviously didn’t have a cell phone under contract out there, and acquiring a phone that would work seamlessly in every country was harder than I had imagined. Most prepaid plans were optimized to the country in question while some countries didn’t sell SIMs to non-citizens. Roaming charges were unbelievably high. I ended up spending a lot of money just to be able to have a phone for emergencies. And maybe it’s a sign of how much we depend on our phones, but not being able to just pick up the phone and call friends whenever I wanted was a little difficult to deal with.







































Click here for a link to all the photos



Epilogue/Thoughts (Coming soon)
I eventually intend to add the following entries for folks who might want to attempt a ride of this sort:
– How to acquire a motorcycle in Europe
– Checklist of things to take care of before heading to Europe
– Differences in riding in Europe vs. the United States


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Back to Slovenia…

I woke up in San Vito di Cadore at a respectably late hour, gathered my motorcycle from the garage and rode it out to the front to load up. Checkout was quick, and after a last wave to my hosts, got onto the road. In spite of the gorgeous surroundings, I felt a little unwell and my heart was not really in the riding. Maybe the euphoria of the previous day had been a bit much to handle. If that were true, I pondered what an entire week in the Dolomities might do to my system. It didn’t bear thinking about.

I decided to ride to Tolmudin before setting on a route for the rest of the way back to Slovenia. The road was every bit as fantastic as could be, with the added benefit of zero traffic on the road at that early hour. What few stragglers I did encounter, I could easily overtake. It still intrigues me that Europeans didn’t mind getting passed by motorcycles at all. Some of the stunts I pulled would have gotten me shot in the United States (land of the free).

Anyway even despite my groggy state, I enjoyed the few passes and switchbacks I rode through. By noon however, I was ready to stop and get something to eat. After getting lost a little in Tolmudin thanks to  the GPS continually routing me onto a road dug up by construction, I spied a bright, gleaming cafe called Cafe Leopoldi, went around the block and came back again and pulled onto the sidewalk across the street. A few drops of rain fell as I walked into the cafe.

I ordered my usual panini (ham and cheese sandwich) and water (still water from tap, no gas) and sat at a windowside table. After finishing half the sandwich and poring over my maps of Italy and Slovenia, I laid my head down again, still not feeling very good. I had originally planned on routing through the middle of Italy to enter Slovenia at Socka to ride up north through the Soca Valley and Verzic pass to Bled and finally to Ljubljana. It seemed more than I could do though. I could have split the ride into two days, but they predicted heavy rains in Slovenia the next day which was now becoming increasingly tiresome, and I made the same decision I made in North America the previous year when I was faced with the prospect of riding the Skyline Ridge through a rage of thunderstorms. I decided I’d rather skip that ride than ride through it in miserable weather and not see very much anyway.

I routed instead through the northernmost tip of Italy over straight roads to reach Slovenia at Kranjska Gora. From there it would be about 40 miles to Bled to see the famous lake, and then a short stint to Ljubljana.

Straight roads necessarily meant a great deal of dullness and passing of cars and trucks although I was lucky in that there weren’t very many of either out on the roads. It was a dull, lacklustre day although the mountains and crisscrossing bridges still provided a certain thrill.

Before I knew it, Italian road signs changed to Slovenian and I was on the west end of the Slovenian Alps. The roads gradually narrowed, the surface appeared more and more eroded, and traffic increased as I passed from one little town to another, gingerly testing the waters to see if the good Slovenian people had the same indulgence to eager lane splitting motorcyclists as the Germans and Italians did. They appeared to, so I continued.

Traffic ground to a complete standstill and stop-go pattern as I neared Bled. Far ahead in the distance, the reason was apparent. A tall construction truck with blinking lights crawled along at approximately 5mph and speeding cars in the oncoming lane negated all attempts at passing. I ground my teeth with frustration as I crawled with the traffic, before I finally gave up and pulled in to a gas station to refuel. I texted Tadej to see if he was back home from his travels and received a response that he was still at the airport and wouldn’t be home until late that evening. I called his brother who said I could come over to his place and spend the night, an offer which I gratefully accepted.

I got back on the road where traffic was now flowing normally and rode to the lake in less than 5 minutes. Even in the dull, lacklastre light, it gleamed green and clear. Ducks floated on its surface and little boats plied across the waters towards the island at its center. A castle stood in the distance in a matter of fact manner, as they do in Europe. I walked by the bank and took a few pictures before leaving.


70 more kms to Ljubljana. On the freeway, I could do it in less than an hour, but the freeways in Slovenia require one to have a vignette (paid for a week, month or a year), which I didn’t have and had no intention of procuring for an hour’s ride. I set the GPS to turn off “Toll Roads” and headed southeast.

To say that I flew through the rolling hills and backroads would be an understatement, but my ride possessed a certain fluidity and although I’m not a gamer, it had that feeling of playing a video game where you didn’t really care how many lives you got because you knew that just the one would be enough and no matter how dangerous a casual onlooker would deem your rate of acceleration, you knew you could do not wrong. For here I was in my element, in my favorite type of roads – low, rolling hills, corners aplenty, rural farmlands and green trees and gray cracked tarmac for as far as the eyes could see.

I was on the outskirts of Ljubljana before I knew it, a few lumbering trucks ahead of me signaling that the dream ride was over. I slowed down and rode the last few kilometres to Pegamova, pulled up outside Matej’s apartments and called him.

End of the ride and a meeting with a familiar face! :D There’s no better feeling than this. I parked and we carried my stuff upstairs, laughing and joking all the way. Deep down, I was a little sad at the thought of the epic journey coming to an end. I knew that I would still ride in Slovenia for a couple more days with Tadej, but those would be day rides. The major part of it was over.


The next day the skies open and it poured down all day long. Riding was out of the question. Even walking was a bit much, so I mostly stayed indoors and unpacked my luggage, blogged and slept. Matej and I got lunch at the city center, which was the only time I emerged outdoors until late that night when Tadej came over to pick me up to stay at his place the last two nights.


The forecast for the next day was glorious sunshine all day long with temperatures of 20C, a little on the cold side, but perfect for motorcycling. We planned to ride southwest down to the Skocjan caves, where I would stop to look at the caves, while the others went on to Osp to climb Apparently every Slovenian – man, woman and child is a mountain climber. It’s in their blood, bewildering as it was to me. I declined their offer to be taught how to climb, preferring rock solid terra firm myself. We planned on either riding to Piran on the seaside later, or turning back towards Ljubljana if time didn’t permit.

Since we had a super late start because of a myriad of trip logistics and we were on road a little after 11:30PM. There were five of us on three bikes, me on the BMW, Tadej and Darja on his Yamaha, and Lejla and Borut on his Honda.

Want a truly good ride? Go talk to the locals. And the locals didn’t fail to deliver as we wound through small tight unknown backroads that I would never have discovered on my own. All this without the help of any GPS even. I rode in the middle, content to follow and enjoy the ride. It was slow going because of the nature of the roads. We reached Pradmaja grad by 2:00PM where we proceeded to get a lunch that went on for far longer than we had expected. By the time we got out and headed to the caves, it was already 4:30PM. We parted ways here. I got my ticket and waited for the tour to take me through the caves.

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The caverns reminded me of the ones I had seen in Missouri many years ago at least in the first two “silent” caves. Then I reached the huge cavernous ones, gulped at how far below the river waters were, admired some rock formations that looked like an organ and others that formed a cascade of little pools. It was a good experience although I wish someone would have warned me that walking for two hours up and down 900 steps would be part of the experience. I might at least have brought a change of shoes along. I was completely exhausted when I emerged at 7:00PM.


Courtesy of Wikipedia

Tadej and Darja were still climbing, so I decided to head back to Ljubljana. I knew that I should probably stop and rest because I was bone tired and hungry, but I wanted to make it back before the light started failing. The backroads would be no fun when it got cold and dark.

I navigated to a gas station to find that it was closed. I was momentarily chilled and wondered if all gas stations here closed early like they reportedly did in Italy. The next one I tried was open though, to my relief. I filled up and bought some nuts and chocolate, said hello to another motorcyclist who was stopped at the door and chatting with someone, and sat at a picnic table to eat. It wasn’t much, but it would keep me going until Ljubljana.

When I was ready to walk back to the bike, an older guy at the station gesticulated at me excitedly. Apparently he had heard from the young guys that I was from the US and was excitedly telling this to another guy who was fueling up his car. I walked back smiling, but a bit puzzled. He all but grabbed me by my arm and dragged me into the station, brought the gas station attendant with us to a back room and asked him to pull up Google Maps on the computer. They typed in “Seattle, Washington” and laughed with amusement as it came up. I helped zoom in a bit further and showed them where I lived. More uproar and laughter. He spoke a bit of English and told me that his father was born in Cleveland, Ohio, but he had never been able to visit there. I told them who I was and why I was there. It was all rather sweet and amusing. I asked them if I could take a picture of them, to which they consented, and they asked me how they could find me on Facebook. Ah, modern times! I wished they spoke better English (or I spoke better Slovenian). I bet I’d have had a grand time with that good bunch.


This incident perked up my spirits considerably and I set off for the last part of my ride feeling refreshed and cheerful. This ride again was not unlike the one from two days before, with the flying and the video game effect. It was good going until it grew dark, as I had predicted. I love riding at night, but only in the cities. I was a little paranoid of the forest rats (deer) emerging onto the roads, and I was a little annoyed at the headlamps of oncoming cars glinting onto my visor and blinding me (I wonder if the Pin Lock I had installed had anything to do with it?). It got some annoying that I finally decided to bite the bullet, risk a 300 euro fine, and got on the  motorway for the last 25kms back. Fortunately, I made it without getting caught, and made it to Gameljne unscathed.

It was freezing cold now. My GPS couldn’t find Tadej’s place, so I waited at a neighboring pub, Medo Bar for him. Unfortunately they had stopped serving food, as had probably every place in the region on a Sunday night. I ate the remnants of my nuts and drank water until he finally arrived. We went back to his place, made a rude meal of a tuna sandwich and a tisane and chatted with his mum until the small hours of the  night before finally calling it a night.

The next day was more rain and wind and freezing cold. It made me think that I had ended my tour had the perfect time. Any more of this weather would have been unthinkable. I spent my last day doing my final packing, buying some small gifts, walking around Mitelkova and the city center, and hanging out with Tadej. We met Matej for dinner later that night for (some very odd) pizza and Union beer.


And then it was over. This morning I caught a plane out of Ljubljana to head back to Seattle. Back home again. Just when I was getting used to Europe too.

I cannot wait to come back here again.


I updated the links to my Facebook albums so that non-members can view them. Let me know if anything still 404s!

Ljubljana, Slovenia: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=186501&id=549764425&l=a602c6aab9
Czech Republic: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=187694&id=549764425&l=d86a92ceff
Bratislava, Slovakia: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=187688&id=549764425&l=eaab60f634
Austria: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=187685&id=549764425&l=8f2012243b
Kutna Hora, Czech Republic: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=188560&id=549764425&l=4dafb98808
Prague, Czech Repulic: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=188561&id=549764425&l=dccf879b21
Zerotin, Czech Republic: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=227985&id=549764425&l=5a52ea20a5
Berlin, Germany: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=188783&id=549764425&l=22d67818a2
Denmark: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=189664&id=549764425&l=be63a703e1
Sweden: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=189682&id=549764425&l=e5db32e2ae
Cologne, Germany: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=190251&id=549764425&l=9cf36ed3ec
Koblenz, Germany: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=191028&id=549764425&l=8b2ba8e57a
Luxembourg: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=191030&id=549764425&l=514d818d9c
Germany Mosel Wine Country: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=191031&id=549764425&l=b15c587494
Freibourg, Germany: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=191589&id=549764425&l=4a850531f9
Germany’s Black Forest: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=191766&id=549764425&l=27aa53b02d
Switzerland: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=193187&id=549764425&l=e5aa196e7b
Padova, Italy: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=193214&id=549764425&l=d0642dd434
Venice, Italy: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=193215&id=549764425&l=4ea1a3083c
Dolomites, Italy: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=193213&id=549764425&l=96aae811ed

From San Vito de Cadore…

Today was a day of happiness – sheer, unadulterated happiness over some of the finest roads I have ridden and the most magnificent mountains I had the good forture to see. As I write and sip my martini, I am surrounded by them – gigantic, massive, craggy peaks encircling the little town of San Vito di Cadore, where I am stopped for the night. The Dolomites are truly a thing of beauty. To think that I came so close to never seeing them at all. That I might have left Europe without ever knowing them!

And yet, I agonized all evening, most of the night and this morning when I woke up in Padova, as to what my route was going to be. The easy, short route would have been to go east towards Trieste and Piran, by the water. It would have been a quick ride, and then another short ride the next day to Ljubljana, where I could stop riding, and rest and sleep and call this journey to a close. I was so tired that it was beyond tempting. The other reason at the back of my mind of course was that this was the *Dolomites*, some of the tallest mountains in Europe, and me with my severe vertigo would be a very bad combination. I kept recollecting the moments of blind terror on the Swiss Alps a couple of days ago, and the one moment on Furka Pass when I was quite sure that I was going to die.

In spite of the terrifying few minutes though, I had to force myself to remember that the rest of the ride had been fantastic and the sights I had seen will forever remain in my memory. I also recalled the heart-thumping thrill at the end of the ride, when I rode the last few kilometers to my lodging, with the thought that yes, this had truly been an adventure. It had been challenging to my mind and body, it had kicked me out of my comfort zone, it had forced me to develop riding skills that I’ve needed for the roads I had ridden before, it had been difficult, but I had made it. Out of all the days of the past month that I rode, this was the one day that had felt like a real riding adventure. I could have that again if I could only swallow my fears and head north to the Dolomites. “But I’m scared”, said a tiny voice at the back of my head. Would I rather be scared and take the easy path, or push through the pain and do what I really wanted to do? I chose to do the thing that spelt doom. After hours upon hours of agonizing, the relief that came with a decision made was tremendous.

As it turned out, all my fears were a little laughable. The roads through the Dolomites were fantastic and not in the least bit scary. A big part of this was because even though they climbed as high as the Swiss Alps, they had more tree coverage and there were no unprotected cliff views of how far you could fall if you slipped and went down. (Thinking about that one narrow road on Furka Pass with a drop of 2000+ metres makes me want to throw up.) I was also now a lot more used to riding the switchbacks. I wasn’t fast by any means, and I ran wide way more often than I wanted, but I did fine. The downhill parts were sheer pleasure and I wonder whether the riders that passed me could see the big grin splitting my face in two.


The route that I did today was roughly north from Padova to Bassano del Grappa, which was sheer riding hell going slow through small towns in hot, muggy weather. Thank heavens for lane splitting! Oh and whoever complains about how bad the driving in Italy is, I really wonder where they’ve been riding. Agreed that their roads are arranged in a somewhat crazy manner and I had many WTF moments, but the drivers themselves aren’t at all bad, either on the Autostrade or the little towns. At no point did I feel afraid or unsafe.

I felt my spirits reviving only after I started seeing mountains in the distance. Finally I was upon them. The road surface was not as nice as the ones in Switzerland, but it was every bit as twisty as I had hoped for. Traffic had sped up and I kept passing cars unabashedly even on the solid lines now, taking point from the Italian motorcyclists on the road. On a tangent, I love that European motorcyclists are almost always in full leathers, no matter what the weather. I contrast that with the squids on American roads and I wish we could be more like them.

Further north no towards Feltre and Fiera de Primiero. I stopped somewhere near Mezzano to get lunch (I’d had an awful breakfast the past couple of days) and stepped into a restaurant which had a little boy at the reception. There was not another soul in the place. He took my order of panini with proschiutto and cheese, which turned out to be a hamburger bun with some meat and cheese. *sigh* I asked him if he would at least heat it up, which he did. Communication in Italy has been the most difficult in West Europe so far. Most other countries, folks spoke rudimentary English, especially the younger people, but here it’s been rather non-existent. My fault for not knowing any Italian at all, of course.

After that extremely bizarre lunch, which seemed more of a waste of time, I got on the road again. I went over Passo di Rolle, my first pass of the day. :) Then north to Canazei and the big pass – Passo di Giau. What a fantastic, panoramic view!! The place was crawling with motorcycles and mountains for as far as the eye could see.

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From here, it was a short ride to Cortina D’Ampezzo, my final destination of the day. I wanted to find a place to stay at night, but I learned from the locals that it would very expensive and I should ride down 10km to San Vito di Cadore, which turned out to be good advice. I did get some tasty treats from a bakery in Cortino though. Mmmm… wish they made those in Seattle.

At San Vito, I stopped at Hotel Colli, the first one I saw, which looked the most appealing after I had ridden down the street to the end of town and back. The people who owned it were super-nice, the room was a mere 53 euros, they offered to let me park my bike in their garage, and I think they might have given me their best room, right at the top with a great view of the mountains. After days and days of living in hostels, the last few of which had been really crummy, I was delighted to have my own, private, luxurious room. Oh the small pleasures of life on the road. :)

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After I had unpacked and cleaned up, I walked down to the tourist center, where they gave me a login and password for the town’s free wifi. (Pretty soon we will have internet considered to be a basic utility, I’m sure.) I had dinner which was a tasty ravioli called “casunciei”, considered to be a specialty of the Marmolada and Arabba regions.


After dinner, I went for a walk around town, aiming for the river behind the hotel which I reached via a narrow, crumbling, slippery path. It smelt so good and clean. I really needed the mountain air after the past couple of days in mainland Italy. The views of the mountains once again made my jaw drop. I know I keep talking about them, but you really have to see them to know what I mean. I could spend all day looking at them, watching the colors change and the shadows deepen. The last mountain town that I was in that can even begin to compare was Seward up in Alaska.

This is my idea of an ideal day – great riding in fantastic weather during the day and an interesting place to spend the evening with a warm, comfortable bed waiting for you at the end of the night. I like this town. I see old people gathering in the cafes and families walking by shops and calling out to the owners. It’s the kind of place where everyone knows everyone else by name. The neighborhood bakery and supermarket have cheeful and inviting. They have community here, and they have the mountains. What more could one want?

Tomorrow I start heading back towards Slovenia. I purposefully want to delay it, stay here for longer, roam the mountains some more, but I know that I have to go. Very soon the dream will be over and life will be back to normal. I feel happy though, for the first time this month, or this year. Happy and content and joyous. I think I finally found myself again.

A little sidetrip from Padua to Venice…

Venice was… full of more tourists than you could shake your fists at. I wish I could wax eloquent about how beautiful I thought it was, but to me it had the same feeling as Prague – stuffed to the gills with tourists and shops and restaurants sporting tourist menus and tourist prices, the latter being the more aggravating. Even though I cannot abide obnoxious tourists, I tolerate even less local establishments inflating their prices to almost stupid-high levels to take advantage of them. In most other cities, I had been able to dodge this by seeking refuge in the quieter streets, but here it seemed unavoidable. Everywhere I went there were shops selling stuff and people thronging the crowded, narrow streets, leading to a kind of claustrophobia worsened by the thought of being on an island surrounded by water, with no possible escape. I had at least one unpleasant experience involving paying 30 odd euros for a meal, where I felt completely ripped off and left feeling very disillusioned. One judges a city based on how the locals treat you, after all.

I suppose that on another day at another time, I might think of it as a beautiful city. It was certainly very unique seeing as it was entirely situated on a series of islands and connected by a complex network of canals and bridges, and the only way to get around were boats. It appealed to both my engineering and artistic sensibilities. I also know that quite a few people love this city and keep returning to it, so maybe I will have to give it another chance someday. For now, I’ll just post some photos and remember the best parts.

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P1060656    Everything had moss growing on or under it.

Venetian masks are a thing of beauty. Until you encounter about the one hundredth shop selling them. (I did get two beautiful ones though, which are now on my living room walls.)


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