Friday, August 15, 2008

The Road of Tears


Motorcycle Adventure Travel - Fire on the Autobahn in CroatiaThere's really nothing worse than watching a grown man cry. Unless you're that grown man. After crashing my motorcycle on the Autobahn I was forced fight back the tears and make a decision to adventure forth or turn back. I was in a lot of pain and I figured only the adrenaline (and beer) rushing through my body was keeping me upright. By morning I would probably not be able to walk. So as romantic as being stranded and possibly hospitalized in Slovenia sounds I decided it would be better to go back to home base and regroup, convalesce, and continue my travels at a later date.

Why is it that the ride back always seems to take so much longer than the ride there. Just the turnpike to get myself turned around seemed to last forever. What's that up ahead?

A toll booth?

Talk about adding insult to injury. Now after crashing my motorcycle I'm forced to pay to turn around. What a joke!

So I paid my toll for traveling as far as I did on the highway and then I had to make a U-turn and get another ticket to go the other way. This just gets better and better. Is that a fire up ahead?

The ride back was hot, but at least I didn't have to fight traffic through the tunnels again. It would seem the traffic jam was one way only. Even with the lack of traffic I noticed my speedometer rarely read over 100km/h. It would seem that I was too rattled to open the bike up. At one point I was pretty distracted with the thoughts running through my head that I was almost run over by a passenger bus cruising along at a healthy 140km/h.

I stopped at a couple of gas stations along the way to check over the bike and rehydrate. By about the third stop I was more composed and I had faith that my motorcycle was mechanically sound. I started to pick up a little more speed as I closed in on Sibenik and Jadrtovac.

Trying to find the silver lining in every storm cloud, at my final gas stop, I walked away with a good piece of knowledge, nay wisdom, that I can pass along.

"Beer and ice cream don't mix"

I took my favorite left turn and it was starting to get dark when I pulled the motorcycle into Jadrtovac.Motorcycle Adventure Travel - Jadrtovac Croatia Hrvatska
This is one motorcycle adventure that turned out poorly.

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Elvis is Alive!


Elvis' Bruised Leg - Motorcycle Adventure TravelWhere am I?

How did I get here?

The last thirty seconds of my life start coming back to me. I'm face down on the Autobahn in some nondescript part of Croatia.

Is that gas I smell?

Panic sets in as I turn onto my back. Am I alive? Can I feel all my limbs? Am I bleeding? Oh my God, I have crashed.

Where's my motorcycle?

A lifetime of images flash through my mind as i try to trace the decisions I made in life that brought me to this small piece of asphalt, in this tiny country, at this tiny moment in time. Was this karma? Am I being punished? Was this natures way of paying me back for not having a beer at the gas station? Too many variables, lets chalk it up to bad luck.

I slowly bring myself up onto all fours, as traffic flies past me at speed slightly below the sound barrier. It's hard to hear the cars over the ringing in my ears. I can't support any weight on my right hand and I stumble as I try to. I get on my knees and look at my hand. My motorcycle glove is shredded along the knife of my hand and as I see the blood soaking through the pain is transferred to my mind. It burns! Now I know how the girl in the Exorcist felt.

That is gas I smell.

I've been lying in a puddle of gas. My motorcycle stopped sooner than I did and it was laying behind me. My adrenaline kicks in as I get my feet under me. My bike is lying down under the metal barrier I ran into. I go over and pick up my motorcycle. I don't have the strength to put it on it's center stand so I lean it on the barrier and sit down in the grass. It's all coming back to me.

As I was leaving the gas station and merging onto the Autobahn a nondescript silver, or grey two door or four door car decided to change into my lane at ungodly speeds. I had only a split second to make a decision... not a real decision where you can weigh out the pros on cons and consider the consequences. No, this falls into the category of what's going to hurt less? Being hit by a car doing 2000 miles per hour or running yourself into a corrugated metal barrier doing sixty. I didn't have much of a chance to weigh the pros and cons, but at the time the pros of hitting the metal wall was possible life and the cons of being hit by the car was almost certain death. The fact that I'm writing this story now proves that I was at least half right at the minimum.

I don't know how long I sat at the side of the road but it seemed like a lifetime. It's really hard to put time into perspective. I remember when I was still in elementary school the two months of summer holidays would feel like a year. As we grow older the time starts to speed up. Seasons fly past us like a weekend. Years drop like sand through an hour glass. It takes moments like these to reset a person's perspective and to slow time down. The minutes I sat at the side of the highway felt like months.

Elvis is Alive Monument

This nondescript piece of countryside turned into a monument dedicated to everything I've done in life. If I were to erect a sign it would read, "I'm alive! And if you don't believe me, here's the gas station that proves it! signed, Elvis"

When will the bleeding stop?

I decide to be a little more proactive in my first aid. The blood is dripping down my hand and I see some blood seeping through my jeans. I better get the bleeding stopped. Here's a great piece of advice I can pass on. An experienced motorcycle adventurer would already know this but unfortunately I don't fall into this category. Always carry a decent first aid kit in Europe. What passed for a first aid kit at this gas station was incredible. I spent about 60 dollars to buy this huge first aid kit and all that was in it was gauze, gauze, and more gauze. No band-aids, no disinfectant, no wipes. Nothing that could actually help someone who required medical attention. I mean there was a little bit of tape but nothing to clean a wound with. This would be a great kit if you were perhaps shot at short range and you needed to clean the blood up off the floor. What a waste of money.

So I went into the bathroom and cleaned myself up. The wounds weren't too bad, mostly superficial. My leg was throbbing but the adrenaline kept it moving. I didn't want to look at it because I knew it was worse than it felt. This is what it looked like a few hours after the crash.

Elvis' Bruised Leg

I left the washroom looking like someone had slaughtered a small animal in it and I went out to inspect the wreckage. Some scraping on the engine cover, my mirror was gone, the handlebar was shaved down on one side, some scuffs here and there, and a missing tank of gas. I walked the bike back to the gas station parking lot and got my bearings. I primed the engine and decided to try and start the motorcycle. It started instantly and I was so relieved. I shut it off and walked back to the gas station. There is something missing from this story and I'm not sure if you have noticed it yet. I'm the only one in it. This was a busy station with a busy cafe and lots of people in the parking lot but no one seemed to notice me. No one cared that there was an accident. Even the police just drove passed the crash site.


Anyways, I went back to the station and bought a couple of beers. It was hot out and I deserved them. I sat next to my bike and drank them. The first one quickly and then I savored the second and third. It was a good day to be alive and that deserves a beer. I also needed some time to consider whether or not I would continue on to Slovenia or if I would turn back and regroup.

I put my gear back on. My helmet had a nice crack in it where it did its job keeping me from dying. I got on my bike and gave it a once around the parking lot. I filled up with gas, and tried the Autobahn again.

The turnpike was a kilometer ahead I could feel the pain in my body as I was starting to seize up. It's not bad enough that my body is broken but I left a bit of my spirit on that road back there. I can't describe the hurt I feel right now.

I turn my signal light on and turn right onto the turnpike...

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On the Road Again


I figured out a destination for a motorcycle trip and have received permission to travel. It's amazing what can be accomplished with a mapbook, a bottle of Malibu, pineapple juice, a high powered blender, bendie straws, and the only ice making refrigerator in a 20 mile radius.

I have a few tricks up my sleeve and one of them is frozen cocktails. It is impossible to say no to anything when you're drunk on slushee Malibu pineapple drinks. I think that the ice and coconut rum create a temperature that temporarily freezes the part of your brain that makes rational thought possible. It's never been proven empirically, but I have a lot of field evidence that backs up my theory.

Needless to say I am packing up to go to Postonja in Slovenia. There are some famous caves where the human fish lives that I have always wanted to see. It's not even that far away, about 400 kilometers and most of it is freeway. If I don't doddle I can be there in less than 4 hours.... If I don't doddle.

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I'm not going to bother putting my luggage on. I'm only gone for a couple days and I don't mind wearing the same clothes over and over again. I mean, as long as you're not in the same place for more than a day nobody will know you're wearing the same clothes. They will just assume I have poor hygiene if they get close enough to smell me.

The day is brilliant. I didn't get an early start because I needed to pack and get a few things in order before I left. By the time I started this motorcycle tour it was already noon. I rode up to the freeway, grabbed my toll booth ticket, packed it away, and set the tunes in my motorcycle helmet to keep me company on the way. I made a few good playlists the last couple of days while I drank beer on the beach. One of the lessons I learned on my adventure here is that just because your mp3 player can hold a thousand tunes doesn't mean that there are a thousand songs you actually like. It's amazing how a bad song can affect your mood. It's even doubly so if you are like me and you enjoy riding alone. When you are stuck in a helmet with only yourself as company you become a lot more susceptible to sudden mood swings. This is something to keep in mind if you're planning a solo motorcycle tour. In my opinion a good playlist is more important than clean underwear. So I turned on the music (heavily laden with James Bond theme songs) and burned rubber.

I flew to the A1 Autobahn as fast as was comfortable, about 160km/h until I hit traffic. These highways are fairly new and the Croatians are spending a lot of money to add capacity to the tunnels. Unfortunately, this means it can take a couple of hours just to get through a single tunnel if traffic is bad. Today traffic is worse than bad... it's Superbad according to the song playing in my helmet right now. Not being from here I find myself hesitant to split lanes until I see a couple of other bikes blow past me. So just like Sherriff Roscoe P. Coltrane I find myself in hot pursuit. Is that the Dukes of Hazzards theme playing?

Motorcycle Tour Sveti Rok Tunnel

Now this is scary. People in cars have been inching along for hours trying to get through tunnels that are kilometers long. Impatience and claustrophobia are not good traveling companions. Needless to say people are opening their doors trying to hit me and swerving to try and run me off the road. How exciting. I never knew people could be this stupid and mean. It's not like I'm the one slowing them down. Perhaps they recognize my bike and realize that there is a good chance that there won't be any beer left when they get to where they are going.

That's valid!

As one guy tries to rub me into the inside wall of the tunnel I learn that It's a good thing I bought gloves with decent knuckle armor. I also learn that putting my fist, albeit attached to my handlebar, through a side view mirror doesn't hurt that bad. Mind you, the mirror is completely disintegrated. Thankfully I am learning these lessons at 40 kilometers per hour and not 160.

It takes me an hour to get past all this traffic. It's over 40 C outside and the heat coupled with the constant evasion has me pretty tired. I pass the Sveti Rok tunnel and pick up speed again. I see a nice gas station up ahead so I pull in. There are quite a few fellow motorcycle adventurers at the station. I think the last 60 kilometers took their toll on all of us. It's truly enjoyable seeing the looks on people's faces when I pull up on my bike. Now don't get me wrong, I like BMW's. But does anyone in Europe ride anything else on long rides? They have become so 'dime a dozen' over here that I barely notice them. What I do notice though is how much happier,calmer, and more comfortable they appear than myself. That's OK, I'm only a little jealous, but that wears off every time I get an approving look from a fellow biker.

Instead of my typical beer I actually have a coffee at this stop. You heard right! The day was catching up to me and I was feeling a little tired. The nice thing is that I was rewarded with a really good cup of coffee. I stretch up and have some chips that are not nearly as rewarding as the coffee. I remount my motorcycle and head towards the exit to the Autobahn.

One nice thing about Europe is that they make stopping for gas really easy with nice long on and off ramps to the stations. It resembles a pit stop in Car racing.

I pick up speed as I enter the highway.

What the?!?


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