Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Cops and Robbers


August 19, 2009 – Afternoon

Elvis' Bike with Ukraine PolicemanI'm being pulled over again. I really dread the feeling I get when I'm pulled over for the first time in a new country. You really just don't know what to expect. I mean, I kind of know what to expect, but I never know what the outcome is going to be. One of the things that I have learned in my travels is that the police in most of these Eastern European countries want my money. What I don't know is the tactics they are going to use to get it. Fortunately, thus far they have only resorted to using broken English and sign language. Someone really should remind them of how heavily armed they are and how unbelievably alone I am.

"Papers?", he says in his thick accent. Everytime I get asked this question I always feel like I'm in some war movie. I see a confused look on his face when I hand him my documents. Sweet, the match has begun and the first round goes to yours truly.

The word they use for a traffic fine in the Ukraine is, "Protocol". The officer uses this word many times as he mimics the reason for pulling me over. It's quite funny. He points at the stop sign and stomps both of his feet down one after the other. I completely understand what he's getting at. I was supposed to come to a complete stop and put both of my feet down at the stop sign. I pretend I don't understand only because I am enjoying his new found line dance.



Questioning look from Elvis.



Questioning look from Elvis. This is too easy.

He beckons me across the street where another older officer and a soldier are standing watching us. I think the older officer is enjoying the young officer's dancing as much as I am. He hands the the older officer my papers and the game comes to its conclusion swiftly. He hands them back to me and motions me to go on my way. This puts everyone in a good mood. I may be getting away without a fine but the game isn't over yet. I need a trophy. I've decided that anytime I get pulled over I want the cops to pose in a picture with my bike.

I takes a little convincing but he finally gets in front and I snap a picture. He does one more dance for me to remind me to come to a complete stop and I get going again. It's still early and I really want to make it to Odessa at a decent hour. The Ukraine landscape may be beautiful but the roads are hardly drivable. That's probably the reason why there aren't many vehicles on the roads.

I get back underway and head down the road. I'm passed by a group of bikers and I try to keep up with them but like most of my encounters on the road it's impossible for me to keep up. Oh well...

The lone wolf rides alone!

The pace today is slow and relaxed. I don't know how to describe how I feel right now. I'm having such a moment of euphoria. I'm in the Ukraine right now on a motorcycle I built with my own hands. This is incredible! I'm on a route right now that I would wager not too many North Americans have even seen. It's definitely the long way 'round. There are quicker routes to get to where I'm going but I'm loving the choices I made to get here. The villages I'm passing look like they are still in the 1940's and 1950's. People are still getting around using their horse drawn wagons. The roadside is littered with people selling everything from wine and liquor to watermelons and vegetables. It's at this moment that I remember why I wanted to take this trip in the first place. I've heard stories about countries like Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Hungary back in the 1960's and how wonderful they used to be. The accounts of how you could stay at the finest hotels and eat the best food for next to no money. How the people were just so poor yet so wonderful. I made that trip last year hoping to see some of that, but it wasn't to be. Capitalism had taken hold with both hands and wiped away the memory of the communist regime which held them back. Hungary is now more expensive to visit than New York and Czechoslovakia doesn't even exist anymore.

That's what makes this part of the trip so wonderful. It feels untouched by progress and I love it. Some of the roofs in the villages are thatched and the people are dressed very traditionally. I doubt there's anyone in these villages that has even heard about the Gap.

More cops up ahead. It's great that everyone feels obliged to warn you of every police stop. I slow down as I approach the police but they're already busy. One of the bikers that passed me is pulled over. I guess his friends didn't care enough to stop. My mistake. As I enter the next village the rest of his 'gang' are stopped at a little watermelon stand being run by two young girls. I decide to pull in.

What a great choice I made. These guys are from Russia and they're alot of fun. The first thing they do when they stop is strip down to there jeans. In this heat I can understand why. Plus, they're wearing alot of armour. It's making me feel a little under protected. I strip down as well and they invite me over to share some watermelons with them. I happily accept. We find ourselves a great spot in the shade and start carving up the fruit. Their missing compadre joins us and they all greet him with laughter. These guys all speak a little English so it's a nice change for me. It's been a long time since I've been social and I'm enjoying it. I asked the guys about his 'protocol' and he replied, "fuck stupid police I don't pay anyways".

"Good to know", I think to myself.

I pulled out my video camera and caught these guys on video. The one guy told me how his wife doesn't like him taking these trips and threatens to destroy his motorcycle. It seems to be a common theme amongst women with husbands who ride.

I take a few pictures with the guys before they gear up to leave. I decide to hang back and save myself the embarrassment of not being able to keep up and I save them the hassle of feeling obligated to slow down. We say our 'dasvidaniya's' and they hand me a bottle of Russian vodka as they head off down the road.
Elvis with Russian Gangsters
It was nice meeting up with my Russian counterparts. I didn't want to ask them how they afforded such expensive beautiful bikes but my hunch was that these guys were Russian mobsters. Hard to bring that one up in polite conversation. Besides, who really cares?

Out here on the road we're all outlaws.

1 comment

Anonymous said...

"Most" wives may not like the riding trips their husband's take, but not "all" wives. I am a wife, that rides, I love every aspect of riding, except for unsafe, reckless behavior on the road.
Oh yes, the other aspect I don't like... Being told that as a woman, I can't go on riding trips, much less alone.... Something about it being unsafe, and not having the physical fortitude?..
We have yet to see about that! Lol!
One of the reasons I like this Blog, its encouraging!

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