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Saturday, August 9, 2008

Home is where your heart is.

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So this is it. After all the hardship and toiling, I have actually made it! I still remember the day vividly when I told my father in law that I was going to make this trip to his hometown. At the time I was only making conversation but he took me seriously and told his whole family that I was going to come. It set the ball rolling as I didn't really want to seem like a failure. But that was a life time ago. The trip has changed me and those sorts of things don't affect me anymore.

The world has become so much smaller. 6 months ago I was sitting on my ass in Vancouver dreaming about seeing the world. Now I'm almost 9000 kilometers away riding into a small village named Jadrtovac in Croatia.

"I built a bike and rode to Eastern Europe!"

Those words have gone through my mind more than once over the last 6 days. I remember the Memphis Hotel near the train station in Frankfurt where I spent the night waiting for my motorcycle to be shipped. Czech Republic was only a country away but I didn't believe my bike would even make it to Germany. But it did. I remember taking the first wrong turn and heading towards Holland on the Autobahn and not thinking I would find a gas station. But I did.

Frankfurt CarnivalPhotobucket

I don't think I had a truly positive thought until I traveled into Plzen in the Czech Republic... actually that's not true. I still remember arriving in Plzen and it was night time and I didn't think I would be able to find a hotel to sleep. It wasn't until I drove through the gates at the Pilsner Urquell brewery with my bike the next day that I started believing this motorcycle adventure could end up being a complete success.
PhotobucketPhotobucket

The days following Plzen, I was pulled over in Prague by the police, I rode my motorcycle around the streets of Vienna. My adventure took me to Bratislava where I rode my motorcycle on practically every street in that city, I combated Formula 1 traffic in Budapest, I swam in beautiful Lake Balaton in Hungary, and I saw more of the Croatian countryside than most Croatians ever have the chance to. What an adventure!

Anna and the KingBratislava Balcony
Beers at BalatonEnd of the Road

Now after the long day traveling the Adriatic coastline I take a left turn. I talk about my philosophy on turning left quite often. Left turns are where adventures begin, but this is my final left turn of this journey and it saddens me a little. But Elvis is ever the optimist and I know that although it may be the final left turn of this adventure it is the first left turn of the motorcycle adventure's to come.

I turn left into Jadrtovac and I ride the curvy road into the village on the bay. here's some video I took a week or so after of this piece of road.

video

It was very dark coming into the village (unlike the video you just watched) and the effect of my LED kit was fantastic. I hammered on the throttle for the last straight away and made my bike scream out my arrival to everyone in the town. I saw the house approaching and there was my greeting party on the balcony. I pulled my motorcycle up to the front door, put her on the center stand, and dismounted. I've had many titles over the last few months. Mechanic, landscaper, painter, electrician, machinist, salesman, adventurer, traveler, photographer, writer, medic, drunk, and now I get to add a couple more:

Father and husband.

It has been over two months since my family left and now I have finally arrived. I open the door, excited to see them and worried that they may not recognize me. I have armed myself with presents acquired along the way and I climb the stairs to the first landing. I hold my breath as I turn to climb the next, and there she is. My beautiful Olivia. She is shaking how excited she is. She starts down the stairs and I start up them. My legs carry me farther each step than hers so we meet well past the middle and kiss and hug.

I'M HOME

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The Final Journey

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OH MY GOD! I think I'm going to throw up. I better get to the bathroom quick! What the??? I'm paralyzed. I can't be paralyzed. I feel every muscle in my body and most of my internal organs. I'm definitely not paralyzed but I hurt really bad. I know I had a few to drink last night (read: The Long Way 'Round' - Part 3) but not enough to hurt me like this. I'm thinking too much, my brain hurts.

I overcome the pain and manage to move myself into the bathroom. I say "move" as opposed to "walk" or "crawl" because my method of motion is not a typical means of travel for the human body. Nonetheless, I do make it to the bathroom, "Is that my spleen I just threw up?" I think back to my high school biology. Who cares? You don't really need your spleen anyways.

I work on my stomach muscles a little more from honest barfing to involuntary dry heaving. The effect is the same. I'm sore. 1200 kilometers on a bike... Sorry,let me rephrase that. 1200 kilometers on "THAT" bike has taken a toll on me. I feel as though the Marquis de Sade invited his friends over to have their wicked way with me. My bum hurts!

I deplete the min bar of all remaining liquids and manage to re-enact the life cycle of a human being. I start out in the fetal position, then stretch out to lie prostrate, I then begin to crawl. As I get comfortable with crawling I start to make my way up the ladder of evolution. I take a couple of steps until I stand erect. I open the doors to my balcony and I greet Rijeka with a glorious view of consequences of Western hedonism.

Elvis on the Move - Hangover

Once I get moving it's not so bad. I take a 30 minute shower and get some clothes on. I'd like to say clean clothes but I won't go that far, different clothes maybe, but not clean. I pack up my gear and head downstairs for breakfast. Here's a great traveler's tip. Always bring your daysack with you when you go for your included hotel breakfast. You would be amazed at how much food you can stuff in your bag when no one is watching. This morning I managed to snag a few bottles of water (much needed), four bananas, half a french loaf, a stick of sausage, and a pineapple. I think the pineapple was set out more as decoration than as food but who cares. I need a pineapple and no hotel worker is gonna stop me from having it.

I load up my bike with my freshly gotten booty and I make my way out of town. I take a quick tour of the center of Rijeka and then I make my way towards the Jadranska Magistrala. For those of you without a Croatian to English dictionary that means 'Highway by the Sea'. I was told that I should stay off the Jadranska Magistrala because it is dangerous. Not much of a warning if you ask me. I mean I still remember as a very young boy my mother warned me not to hit down a wasp nest with a hockey stick and that didn't stop me. Heck, she even bribed me with cookies. Needless to say there I was on the so called road of death not even remembering the wasp stings that put me in the hospital.

When I get out of town and to the top of the hill and look down towards the sea. It's beatiful! I take a right turn towards the island of Krk to find the first place I can jump into the water. I drive right into Krk and I can see people walking down to the water. I ride down as far as I can and park my bike. I still have to walk another 5 minutes but it's worth the walk. It's a muggy 35 degrees Celsius out and the water is crystal clear. I didn't bring a bathing suit with me but who cares? I walk down past the crowd and I strip down. The water is refreshing and I feel yesterday's pain wash away. I feel great. This is one of those milestone moments I had envisioned while I was working so hard to build this bike. The thought of dangling my tackle in the Adriatic kept me working into the wee hours of the morning to make this happen. I spend a good half hour in the water. My aches and pains are all gone.

What was that?

Damn it all to hell. I just stepped on something. Cheese and rice that hurts. Ahh shoot I can't even walk on my foot. I hop my naked body out of the water and to my pile of clothes. People are staring at me now. Either because I'm hoping like a chicken with one leg cut off or because I'm the only naked guy at the beach and I'm hopping around like a chicken with a leg cut off. Either way I don't really care because I'm in real agony here. I manage to get myself sat down and put my underwear on. I look at the bottom of my foot and it's riddled with hundreds of little black needles. I really hope they're not poisonous. I pick them out one by one until only a few remain. I can't get all of them but the sharp pain has gone away. Thank goodness. I put the rest of my clothes on. Fortunately the time it took me to pull all the needles out of my foot was exactly the amount of time I needed to become dry. How lucky? I limp back to the bike and I grab my knife. I manage to dig a few more needles out but there are a couple left that just won't come out. It'll have to do. I get back on my bike and make my way back up to the highway. I stop at a gas station to fill up and grab a couple of beers... and some water... and a bag of chips... and some rum. I stop down the road a ways and I have a rest with my beers, and chips, and rum, and pineapple. Very refreshing!

Jadranska Magistrala

Now I know why they call this highway dangerous. This has got to be the curviest road I have ever traveled, and the traffic? Don't get me started. Of course it is Friday afternoon and I'm sure this has to be rush hour caused by people leaving the city to get to the sea for the weekend. At first I can't go faster than about 40 km/h but when I realize that all the motorcycles travel down the center line my speed picks up. Of course you have to have nerves of steel to pass down the center because there isn't enough straight away to know if you will be sharing that center line with oncoming traffic. My god this is scary.

I'm exhausted. I saw a sign about twenty kilometers back saying I could divert up to the autobahn. I'm starting to regret not taking it. My bike is heavy and I have to fight it around every tight corner. The 50mm ammo cans I've used as panniers weigh 30 pounds each and stuffed to the top with gear makes them even heavier. my suspension is pretty much bottomed out. After another hour and a half I'm ready for another break. I stop at a cafe in Prizna where other bikes are parked. I recognize a few of the bikes having been passed by them earlier. As my beer gets delivered to me I watch the cars slowly drive pass knowing full well that I will have to pass them again. A few guys start congregating around my bike and I just watch them. Normally I would go over and talk but I just don't want to right now. I'm tired and the beer is really cold. I only have one more beer and I pay up and get myself geared up to go. Some of the other bikes are leaving at the same time and I follow them out. The road ends at a ferry terminal and I'm lost. I look around and I find an info map. I'm not lost. I'm just taking the scenic route. The ferry shows up and I drive on. The ferry takes less than half an hour to get to the other side and now I believe I'm on the island of Pag on my way to Zadar. It's beautiful here. I can understand why people never want to leave. I drive through the countryside sometimes near the water and sometimes on the hill overlooking it. It's absolutely breathtaking.

It's starting to get dark when I pass by Zaton. I've been here before and I know I should stop in to say hi to the in laws. Unfortunately every road looks alike and I don't have any credits left on my phone to make a call. I continue on. The fatigue gets to me but I'm rejuvenated when I see the sign ahead that says, "SIBENIK 60KM". I stop for my final gas break. I grab 6 liters of Karlovacko and I pack them in my luggage. I also buy one half liter bottle which I put in my pocket.

"SIBENIK 15KM"

Almost there. Jadrtovac is just on the other side of Sibenik and I slow down a little to prolong the trip. As I pass by Sibenik landmarks start becoming familiar. I stop at a rest area after a bridge. I clean myself up a little and open the bottle I just purchased. It has been over two months since I have seen my wife and daughter and I'm starting to get nervous and emotional. My daughter is only two and after two months away from me I don't even know if she will recognize me. I finish my beer and remount the bike. I zip up and tighten up my gear for dramatic effect. I turn the Green LED ground effect kit on for the first time and I take the last left hand turn into Jadrtovac...

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