Monday, September 24, 2018

Balkans September 24, 2018. Bucharest, Romania

4:45 pm.  Turned in the bike, had lunch and walked around.  We rode 4,000 kilometers or about 2,500 miles on our little adventure.  The bike was dirty but other than that and normal wear and tear, no worse off than when we started.  Tibe, pronounced Teebee, was happy to see us and wanted to hear about the trip.  He is a good man and if you ever need to rent, buy or repair a BMW motorcycle in Bucharest he is your guy, Tiberiu Anghel with Moto-Hub,

Now it's time to pack and get ready for an early flight tomorrow morning to Paris, then Atlanta, then Gainesville getting in around 9pm. 

After getting home and letting the dust settle, I may post again with some final thoughts, but for now, goodbye and safe travels.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Balkans September 23, 2018. Bucharest, Romania

8:00 pm.  Back in the Bucharest hotel where this adventure began.  We had a good ride in from Sofia, Bulgaria.  It was about 250 miles and very easy and fast, we arrived at 2:30 pm.  Roads were okay, some highway and lots of high speed 2 lane roads that were rough sufaced and pretty loud. 

Riding across the bridge over the Danube River to the border crossing.  It was backed up but probably took only 45 minutes to get through. We saw some horse drawn wagons carrying people and field crops.  We also saw a 1985 Simson 2-stroke motorcycle with a proud owner that showed it off for me.  It's a German made motorcycle and I have never seen one before. I took a short video of it starting up that I hope you can see and hear.  True classics,  both the bike and the owner. 

Hard to believe that we are all done exploring. We may ride around the city a little tomorrow before turning the bike in. Total mileage should be around 2,500 miles and the bike ran flawlessly.

When's the last time you saw a Yugo running?

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Balkans September 22, 2018. Sofia, Bulgaria

8:00 pm.  We got up, had breakfast at the hotel, came back to the room and took a nap.  We woke up, walked around in circles and took another nap.  Our bodies were telling us to take it easy so we did.

We spent the afternoon strolling around the downtown area looking at shops, eating ice cream and drinking coffee.  On the way back to the room we stopped at a market and picked up some things for dinner.  It was a nice relaxing day.  Only one picture taken, of me in front of the national environment and water office.  Too bad it was Saturday and the office was closed.  Good to know they are paying attention to the environment and water. 

Tomorrow we are off to Bucharest.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Balkans September 21, 2018. Sofia, Bulgaria

9:45 pm.  Another full day of motorcycle riding from Serbia to Sofia, Bulgaria. Roads ranged from bumpy, 2 lane rural roads to interstate quality 4 lane divided highways.  The border crossing from Serbia into Bulgaria was uneventful and we are now using the 7th currency on this trip.

We took back roads through most of Serbia which brought us up to 6,000 feet elevation in ski country. We saw lots of new, modern construction of resort type areas. To us it seemed odd, but there must be a strong market because a lot of new units are being built. 

A shout out to Fred from Ft. White: we took several pictures of classic farm tractors still in good working condition and being actively used.  If you look closely you will see in one of them that it is made in Yugoslavia making them at a minimum 30 years old.

One thing I wanted to mention about driving in the Balkans is that pedestrians always get the right of way, especially in designated cross walks.  Most of the time pedestrians don't even look up because they know traffic will stop even when the crosswalks are not at intersections.

Our initial impressions of Sofia were not all that good.  It appeared run down and kind of dirty.  After we checked in to our hotel located in the old town part of the city we walked to dinner and ice cream and our impressions changed.

The city has a distinct, worn but vibrant vibe.  Lots and lots of small shops, restaurants and service businesses with people walking and mingling around. Families, young adults, kids, old people all walking and doing business.  Stay tuned because we are here all day tomorrow as well.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Balkans September 20, 2018. Novi Pazar, Serbia

7:30 pm.  A day of riding from Kotor to Novi Pazar.  Temps ranged from mid 70s to mid 80s depending on altitude, and colder in the longer tunnels.  It was sunny with little wind, so the weather was pretty much perfect.

We only rode 200 miles but it took us 6 hours, with a nice lunch break.  We went through a lot of small towns with slower speeds, some road construction and rock cleanup, and a very long border crossing leaving Montenegro and entering Serbia.  We were surprised at the amount of traffic. 

The scenery was impressive.  Montenegro is a very mountainous country and we saw some pretty areas along the Adriatic coast through the city of Budva and into Podgorica.  Pictures below were taken by Sooz while riding and show the horizon os mountain layers.  It's pretty impressive.

We passed through lots of tunnels, some short, some long.  Most of them are not lighted so leaving the bright sunlight and entering the pitch black tunnel is really disorienting to me, especially when I forget to flip up my darkly tinted face shield.

Some random observations: drivers here rarely honk their horns even when cut off or almost hit head on;  passing and no passing lines on the road are mostly observed by car and truck drivers but not by motorcycle and scooter riders; speed limits are rarely followed except when coming into town when drivers slow down; there are some really upscale cars being driven, Audis, Mercedes and BMWs; today when entering Serbia was the first time a border guard asked us to take off our helmets. 

We had a nice lunch at a busy local restaurant recommended by a gas station attendant. It was basic local fare in Montenegro and I took a picture of the menu with some English and prices in Euros.  We are really enjoying the local salads usually called Srpska and Sopska, or similar.  The massive hamburger platter with fries and salad just about did me in.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Balkans September 19, 2018. Kotor, Montenegro

3:45 pm.  Pretty low key day today.  We walked into the main area of Kotor looking to take a low intensity ride on a water taxi around Kotor Bay.  We got caught up in cruise ship crowds, I got hot and frustrated and Sooz saved the day.  She negotiated a great deal for just us on a one hour ride around the bay.  It worked out great.

We had the entire boat to ourselves with the captain and mate.  It was leisurely, no crowds and the captain and I had a nice chat.  He was a former captain of an international freighter for 20 years, born and raised in Kotor.  Now he and his family own 2 boats and give tours.  He was a very happy man.

He was able to drop us off in front of where we are staying so we didn't have to fight the crowds again.  We sat by the water, I went for a swim and we came back to the room. 

Tomorrow we leave for a one night stay in Serbia, head to Sofia, Bulgaria for 2 nights and back to Bucharest where we turn in the bike and fly home Tuesday. Hard to believe we are winding down our trip.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Balkans September 18, 2018. Kotor, Montenegro

5:00 pm.  Today we rode into Lovcen National Park and had lunch at Lookout Restaurant. It was one of the most spectacular rides we have ever taken. 

Leaving Kotor the independent thinking Garmin GPS took us through some 6 foot wide paths, a small gulley and finally jumping a curb before entering into the longest set of 180 degree switchbacks we have seen since the Alps a couple of years ago. Sooz took some great pictures while riding, one showing the bike's cockpit with the switchbacks on my phone displaying Google Maps, and the infamous Garmin GPS. The roads were generally in good shape and fairly narrow making oncoming traffic life reaffirming.

The original game plan was to ride to a peak in the park with general access and then ride for lunch at Lookout Restaurant at another location in the park.  That was until we entered a several mile long active road construction project with heavy equipment, no guardrails or barriers and nobody paying us any attention, other than 2 men wearing what looked like Boy Scout uniforms collecting 2 Euro a piece park entrance fees.  It was very dusty, rocky, sometimes muddy and we wondered at one point if were ever going to see the end of the road work.

Miraculously, we soon left the road work and saw signs for Lookout Restaurant. I'm still not sure how we got there but we did, all in one piece. The views and food were excellent and we had a nice conversation with a couple from Majorca, Spain who were riding a BMW 1200 GS Adventure.  They spoke no English so I got to use my poor Spanish, we all left the restaurant smiling and laughing so I guess I didn't insult them.

With the help of our waiter we were able to find a route back to Kotor without going through the construction which attracted the attention of 2 couples from England happy to learn the new route.