Friday, August 8, 2008

The Long Way 'Round (Part 3)


Getting through the border and tasting the icy cold beer on the other side is something I never thought would happen. I've steamrolled my way through this adventure with a strong mixture of ignorance and confidence. As I sat at the cafe drinking my Karlovacko I had a glorious epiphany. I was actually too stupid to fail. Of course I still had a lot of open road ahead of me before my trip ended but for all intents and purposes I had reached that 'close enough' mark and I could call the trip a success! I was hoping to make it to Rijeka today but without maps I had no idea how long that would take me. After Budapest, Lake Balaton, and the border crossing fiasco I was having troubles believing that I was in Bratislava this morning and it was only early afternoon. Man I can really fly when I need to.

View Larger Map

There was a center set up for renting cars, changing currency, and some tour operators. I found a place to buy a SIM card for my telephone so I got myself a local number and started texting the family. I knew they would be happy to find out I was in Croatia.

I hit the road and the first thing I see is a damn toll booth. I grab a ticket and I hit the highway like a bat out of hell. The road is flat, straight, and made for speed. I occasionally slow down to 160km/h to read road signs. Of course I don't have any maps but I figure as long as I keep my compass pointing west I cant miss the ocean. How I get there is of no consequence.

I get off the highway at the first convenient opportunity. I was a little bit worried as I approached to pay the toll. I didn't buy any Kuna at the border and I don't think I have any Euros left. I really hope they take credit cards. They swipe my plastic and send me on my way. I get a sneaky suspicion that I will get about 10kms and I will have to turn around and get back on the highway. I pass by a few villages and my pace has slowed down significantly. I'm lucky if I can do 100km/h. This could make for a long day, but who cares? I stop in Budinscina and hit the corner store for a beer. The man won't sell it to me in a bottle so I have to take cans. I grab a piece of cheese and meat to accompany my beer. I find a little church to eat at.

Elvis on the Move - Near Budinscina

I wind my way through the countryside and I see people staring at me as I go by. This is really good for a narcissist like me. Of course I'm translating their bewildered looks into looks of admiration. I see the highway up ahead and unless I want to go to Slovenia it looks like I have no option but to go on it. Damn it... another toll.

The signs say I'm heading towards Zagreb. Of course the signs also say I'm going to Rijeka, Sibenik, Split, and Dubrovnik. being from Canada, I sometimes forget how small most countries are. Seeing a sign with Dubrovnik on it would be like me pulling onto the highway in Vancouver and seeing a sign that said St. John's 7439 km

I bypass Zagreb and stay on the highway heading west. Although I make really good time when I'm on the highway, I'm much happier when I leave it. I pay my toll, again, and I take the back roads along the Croatian/Slovenian border. There are a lot of other motorcyclists on this road and I can understand why. The roads are in good shape and the scenery is gorgeous. I think Motorcycle travel in Eastern Europe has come a long way. I travel through Bobovica with a group of other motorcyclists. It's funny, for a guy who's as social as I am I find the group around me is making me a little claustrophobic.

Elvis on the Move - Motorcycles

The group stops in a small village and I honk my horn and give a little wave. They return the pleasentry and I continue on solo. I stop at a Castle to have a rest. I pull out the rest of the food and another can of beer.

Elvis on the Move - Castle

The rest of the afternoon started to fade away with each turn of the windy road. The weather was perfect, the roads were exciting, and I was caught up in the moment. The only word I could use to describe how I felt, "Perfect". The moment was brief but I still feel it as I'm writing this story. The scenery around me was breathtaking and every time I looked at my speedometer I noticed I was going so much slower than I normally do. I could feel that the highway was coming up so I took this moment to have another rest.

Elvis on the Move - The lake

I was right. The highway was just ahead and I went through yet another toll booth. This time I didn't mind so much. The sun had set an hour ago and the temperature was dropping quickly. The road sign read, "Rijeka 52KM". It was a quick drive into Rijeka but finding my way through town was a nightmare. It took over an hour to actually make my way to the center of town. When I got there I had no idea where I was going to stay. I cruised around in circles looking for a hotel but I was having no luck. I decided to dismount and look on foot.

Elvis on the Move - Rijeka Center

The town was alive with action. But I still couldn't find a place to stay. The tourist center was closed but they had a little computer outside with a touch screen. After negotiating my way through a few menus in Croatian I finally noticed the Union Jack in the corner. I touched the Queen's flag and was rewarded with information in English. The computer gave me the addresses of a few hotels nearby and I set out on foot.

Now the directions said it was only a few blocks away but I was lost in the maze of streets and squares within minutes. What I thought would be a 5 minute walk turned into 45 minutes. When I finally found a hotel, it wasn't the one I was looking for. This didn't matter anymore. I needed to get myself indoors. My odometer read that I had traveled 1115 kilometers today and my body could feel every last one of them. I walked in the lobby and I was fortunate to find someone at the front desk willing to check me in. I got my room key and made my way back to my bike. I didn't hesitate to jump the curb and drive my bike through a busy square to park in front of the hotel. I even had to wind through cafe tables to get there.

The moment I entered my room I dropped everything and had a 40 minute shower. The mini bar was stocked... for about 10 minutes. I drank four beers, four mini wine (two red & two white), two bottles of water, and two bottles of soda water. If there was any hard alcohol in the fridge the cola would have been toast to.

I decided to go out on the town and have a few more drinks. There were so many people out. It was very relaxed and people were just wandering about. I sat down at a cafe in the main square, had a few beers, and watched people. I walked around a little more and then I was drawn into a bar playing loud music. It had been a long time since I had been in a busy bar and I think I felt the same way Luke Skywalker felt the first time he walked into the Cantina in Mos Eisley. The people look different, the drinks are strange, and I don't understand the music at all. Of course all three of these things are pluses in my books. I realize it's time to get back to the hotel when I can actually understand the music. My mind must be playing tricks on me.

Elvis on the Move - Rijeka Night Life

I meander back to my hotel stopping a couple of times along the way to abuse my liver. I stumbled into the hotel and I swear I was asleep before I hit the bed. One more night.

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Benjamin Easterday said...

I want a copy of the collaborated edition of this trip..including photos ... travel safe bud and welcome to the home stretch

Elvis Glazier said...

I'm with you on that Benjamin. I already have plans to publish a book. It's good to know I will be able to sell at least one copy.

Anonymous said...

Why didn't u go to Bulgaria? U missed out if u didn't.

Elvis Glazier said...

You need to keep reading. I do indeed go through Bulgaria. Unfortunately, I didn't take in enough of it and I do plan to get back there.

You can read about it here:

Turkey Hangover

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