Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Albanian Gypsies


August 14, 2009 (Somewhere near the Albanian border)

I know this is a little late but I was going through some of my helmet camera footage and I came upon this gem of a video. You really need to watch this:

After getting through the Albanian border I came to a one way bridge and was stopped there. The young kids of the village swarmed me and I began to feel unsafe. You really need to watch this video to understand what I mean.

You can see that these gypsies were sizing me up to rob me. I did manage to get myself free of them, but when I stopped at the next gas station there was a cut on my bag. Fortunately the bottom of my bag was lined with towels so there was no way to get anything valuable.

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The Death of a Thousand Cuts


The motorcycle ride through Odessa was amazing. A feeling of euphoria washed over me as I meandered through the streets of this city. I couldn't wait to see the Black Sea from Odessa. It has been on my mind for so long and today is the day I get to do it! As with most larger cities I have been in during this trip I was lost within minutes. My sense of direction seems to have evaded me and I end up on a highway leaving the city and heading out towards the country. Sheesh. You would think I would get lucky every once in awhile.

I decided to stop at a gas station for a drink and directions. my motorcycle needed a rest and I needed some liquids. I grabbed an iced tea and then I noticed something so amazing I was awestruck.

Gin and Tonic in a can! I love this country!

With an iced tea and six cans of pre-made G&T I asked the girl for directions back to Odessa. The language barrier came into play and the only useful information I got was a finger (not that one) pointing back the way I had come. I knew this already, I was just in denial.

Entering the city for the second time didn't have quite the same effect as the first. Now I was starting to get a little peeved. Even if I had a map I wouldn't have been able to decipher the letters they use on the streets anyways. Armed with that piece of useful information I just randomly navigated myself through the streets of Odessa until I found what I was looking for. A tour bus parked in front of a hotel. I'm in the right neighborhood now. This was the nice part of town with expensive shops, trendy restaurants and hotels on every block. The only thing that was missing is water. Where the heck is the Black Sea? I dismounted and took up my search on foot. This was a good idea. I was so close already but without getting off my bike I would have never seen it. The viewpoint could only be reached by foot.

Fantastic! The port was breathtaking from up here. In many ways it reminded me of Vancouver. There were alot of freighters coming in and out being loaded and unloaded. This was a working waterfront and it was busy. I could see a hotel down there but I really had no idea how to get there. I mounted up again and went in search of a road down to the water. It took a little while but I finally found a route. Getting to that hotel wasn't very obvious at all but I did make it. I pulled up to the front and I went in to see about getting a room. The people in front of me were taking a long time so I decided to sit down and have a gin and tonic while I waited. I wasn't trying to attract attention to myself but having a can of gin and tonic explode on you while you jump up and try to deep throat a can really does get people looking at you. Once the effervescence settled down I was left with about a third of a can which I finished quickly. I don't even want to know what I look like. I decided to stand in line and try to motivate these people to finish their business a bit quicker.

A couple of guys walked in and lined up behind me. I had noticed that they took some time to check out my motorcycle as they walked into the lobby.

"You didn't drive that bike from Canada did you?", the one gentleman asked me in a thick Italian accent.

"I did! And I gotta tell you it was a little cold coming up over the North Pole", I replied. I could see by the look on his face that he quickly understood my humor and the joke wasn't lost upon him. He began to laugh.

It's very rare that you know right away that you have met a lifelong friend, but I knew the instant I met these two Italians that I was introducing myself to two lifelong friends. Marco and Paulo would be my posse while I stayed in Odessa. I was still trying to check in and these guys were in desperate search of the internet to find their way to Bulgaria. Without thinking twice I reached into my bag and gave them my laptop. This hotel had WiFi so they could check ferry schedules while I checked in. I told them I would meet them in the lounge after I got settled in.

This story isn't about Marco and Paulo though. The next two days will be full of them. This story is about me. I know it sounds selfish but if you keep reading you will understand. After waiting far to long I finally checked in. I have to admit that Odessa is cheap, sorry inexpensive, and I would recommend coming here if you're in need of a vacation that offers good value.

I went up into my room and got myself cleaned up. My hand was aching from the burn and I there was alot of puss forming. I could tell you how I dealt with this or you could just watch this video. Trust me, it's a good one:

After I finished administering my first aid I got dressed and met Marco and Paulo downstairs for a beer I think my generosity paid off with the computer because they bought the beers.

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Welcome to Odessa


This posting is going to be a Video Only Post. For those of your receiving this by email or RSS feed you will probably have to go to the website to view the video.

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Open Mouth, Insert Foot


August 19, 2009 Somewhere in Moldova (Again?)

After my new Russian friends left me behind I slowly geared up and continued my journey towards Odessa. About 30 kilometers down the road I passed the Russians who were stopped at the side of the road. I thought about joining them again but I decided to keep going. Besides I was traveling at a good pace and my front brakes still don't work as well as they should. I honk my horn and wave and they return the wave. Man! They look like they're really enjoying themselves. I honestly don't know if I could travel in a group, but I can see the allure of having companions. Of course, before I could ride with a friend I would actually have to have a friend who would want to torture himself with this kind of a ride. And he (or she I guess) would have to be the kind of friend who wouldn't keep telling me what kind of idiot I am for not having a plan, or route, or bike, or clue.

Nevermind. Sounds like to much trouble. The lone wolf rides alone.. and uncriticized.

Another fifteen or so kilometers down the road I see a long line of traffic. Most of the cars are stopped and people are wandering about. There are some kiosks at the side of the road selling various things that I can't read the signs for. What is this? Another border crossing? I don't see a building.

I decide to ride around traffic and see what the hold up is. A soldier with a machine gun is stopping everybody. A couple of weeks ago I would have turned around and got in line and waited. After the road I have traveled I drive right up beside the soldier and ask him what's going on. I don't understand hm anyways but I have my papers in my hand and say, "Odessa". He doesn't look twice at me or my papers. He just hands me a slip of paper and stamps it.

Whatever... I just continue on and wonder what the people behind me are waiting for. About two hundred meters ahead another soldier stops me and takes my slip of paper. I give it to him and just as I'm about to leave he turns my bike off. I lurch forward a foot and nearly dump my bike. I scramble to regain my footing and the action startles everyone around me including the rest of the soldiers. Three of the other soldiers jump to attention and before I have myself righted there's the muzzle of one gun wedged on the back of my neck while the other two soldiers have their machine guns leveled at my face! I freeze... and wince my eyes. My bike falls..... Shit, I'm dead.

YELLING, Yelling, yelling..........

wait for it.

wait for it.

wait for it.

wait for it.

wait for it.

wait for it.

wait for it.

wait for it..................nothing.

I open my eyes... I'm not dead... yet.

"Passport?", the original soldier asks with his hands out to his side easing his partners guns down with his hands. I hand him my passport but it's hard to get my hands to work. He looks at it and hands it back. His body language says, "Move on" but I'm deaf to it right now. It's a bit of a garage sale around me as I have dropped everything I was holding on to. I pick up my bike and put it into neutral and slowly walk my bike forward seeing if anyone was going to shoot me. As soon as I clear the checkpoint area I hit the ignition hammer it into first and drop the clutch. I'm in fourth within seconds as I try to put some distance between myself and the soldiers. Once I feel safe I pull over. Everything that I dropped at the checkpoint is wedged under my ass or tucked into my jacket.

I throw down the kickstand and get off my bike.

Damn it! That was scary. I replay the moment in my mind. It starts to make more sense. When the soldiers turned my bike off the bike backfired. Everything else was a blur. It's hard to see what's going on when your eyes are shut tighter than a gnats ass stretched over a rain barrel.

I sit for a moment. I see a soldier about twenty feet away but he's wearing a different uniform. Who cares? He's got a gun and I don't want to be anywhere near him. As fortune would have it I've stopped at a fruit and vegetable market at the roadside. I walk over to the guy selling grapes and after a bit of negotiating which consisted of me handing him two Euros and him filling up a plastic shopping bag full of grapes, I find myself a seat and almost start eating them. Before I can get one in my mouth the guy stops me and takes my grapes away. What's going on? Oh!!! He's washing them for me. How nice.

I sit in this little courtyard with thatched roof tables and I enjoy my grapes. There's no way I could eat this many grapes but I'm giving it a good try. It doesn't hurt that these are the best grapes I've ever tasted. Of course they say that after near death experiences colors look brighter and things taste better.

I take out my video camera and film my surroundings. I'm really enjoying being in this spot. The weather is nice, the grapes are amazing, and Im alive! It really doesn't get much better. I wish I had something to drink.

The guy who sold me the grapes walks up to me and motions me to join the table of guys a few meters away from me. I happily accept. Next thing you know, I'm eating sausage and bread and tomatoes and cheese and I'm washing it all down with some fantastic red wine being served out of a recycled two liter pop bottle. Now this is living. Everybody is having a great time, the guys are laughing, and they're trying to communicate with me. It takes me awhile but I finally explain that Canada is not a part of Alaska. I try to explain my trip to them but it's too hard to do it with words alone. I pull out my fold up map of Europe and I take a felt pen to draw my route. Holy shit! I have traveled a long way to get here. The guy takes my pen and draws the line to accurately place me on the map. He shows me the map and says,"Moldova".

Not understanding what he's saying I recap all the countries I've traveled through. Germany, Czech, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, and now the Ukraine.

He responds saying, "Moldova?" as a question.

I go on to tell him how much I hated Moldova. I tell him this and I use sign language to back it up. After the way i was treated at the border crossing I really can't say too much about how much Moldova pissed me off. I'm guessing he was surprised that I made it through too. In hindsight I can see the error of my ways but at the time I feel I was justified in expressing my opinion of Moldova. He looked at me do my little pantomime about being disgusted of Moldova and then he brings me over to the map again. He points to where he drew our location and says, "Moldova". I'm like, "No Moldova" with a sour look and then he says it one more time before I understand what he's trying to say. I grab the map up closer and with horror I realize that I'm in Moldova right now. There's a small piece of Moldova that cuts across the road to Odessa. Oh my God! I'm an idiot! Ive just been sticking my fingers down my throat while describing this man's homeland. I feel awful. These guys have been treating like family and I repay them by slagging their country. I'm a jackass.

Fortunately, he doesn't even chastise me. I'm pretty sure he knew what I was saying but he could see the look on my face and I'm sure he realized I was sorry. The wine is flowing quite freely and the mood is good. No tourist is going to ruin the mood here. We talk some more, drink some more, eat some more, and my antics are forgotten quickly. They try to teach me a bit of their language but the only work I figure out is cheers. Of course I forget how to say it now. But that's probably the wine's fault.

So after being fed by these wonderful people, I get up and begin saying my goodbyes. They make it very clear that they would like to see me come back after going to Odessa. I might just do that. As I get my gear together they come back with a bag of assorted fruit. I object but there's really no use. I know how these kind of people are. There's really no sense in saying no so I quickly turn that 'no' into a 'thank you'. I accept there generous gift and walk over to my bike. The kids are around it looking it over with the soldier I spoke of earlier. Unfortunately, I still have my camera on when I approach so they scatter being very camera shy.

I get on and continue down the road. I really should come back here. I think I could really enjoy myself here. It's seems very relaxing. As I ride I can feel the bag of fruit behind me and it warms my heart to know that the poorest of people are always the most generous!

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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.

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Only when you have eaten a lemon do you appreciate sugar.


August 19, 2009 – Afternoon

I'm in the Ukraine and heading to Odessa! The border crossing was pretty easy in comparison to many others. It still took forty five minutes but it wasn't terrible. Unlike my new friend Mikhail from Italy who was heading up to Russia for work. They went through his vehicle with a fine tooth comb. They have two lineups for the crossing into the Ukraine. The “Red Line” and the “Green Line”. He was in the “Red Line”. You don't want to be in the “Red Line” because that's the spend a few hours getting to know your customs officer line. It has a pit underneath it so they can inspect your undercarriage as well. I chose to go through the “Green Line” and it was much simpler.

At this border crossing, the Moldovans and the Ukrainians share office space. I'm not sure whether I'm coming or going, I just float around and try to get someone to point me somewhere. After the Moldovans release me from their country the Ukrainians have me fill out a form to enter their country. I fill it out quickly and hand it to the officer.

“Where are you staying?”, he asks me.

“I really haven't decided.”, I respond,”somewhere in Odessa”

I can see the frustrated look in his eyes. “You need to have a place to stay”, he commands in his deep accent. You can not enter without a place to stay. He puts on his hat and gets up to leave his desk. He hands me my forms back and says quietly,“Hotel Odessa Black Sea. That's where you will stay.” He leaves the room and I fill out the form with his recommendation. I want to hand it back to him but he won't acknowledge me now. I get the feeling that he did me a huge favour and that he could get in trouble for it. I wait for the other officer to come and hand him the forms. He takes a brief look at it and...


Everything is good and I'm on the home stretch. I just need to wait for the inspector to come by and look at my bike and gear. While I wait my new friend Mikhail is reaching his boiling point. He's being quite belligerent about the process of getting through the border. Fortunately for him and perhaps me is that he's doing it in English. I must say I was a little uncomfortable talking with him because I didn't want to get into the “Red Line” but at the same time this guy was an absolute character and I couldn't help but want to talk to him. For all the borders he has to cross to get to Russia he's developed a great sense of humour. Of course it's mostly aimed at stupid border guards so I'm his biggest fan. We both get released at the same time and with that release we both shut up ad get in our vehicles as quickly as we can and burn out of there. There's a time for joking and there's a time for business. We both know how to discern between the two and we take off as if we stole our vehicles.

I pass the final checkpoint and I'm now officially in the Ukraine Republic. It has taken so much out of me to get to this point that it's hard to put into words how I feel. I will simplify it for you:

“I feel Great!”

(Very hard to say without sounding like Tony the Tiger from the Frosted Flakes commercials.)

The roads are terrible, I can't read the road signs, and I'm probably lost but I'm in really good spirits. The weather is beautiful and for the first time since crossing the mountains in Albania I actually feel like I'm going to succeed.

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All Work and No Beer, Makes Elvis Go Crazy


Elvis Cafe Racer Beside Ukrainian Relic with SidecarAugust 19, 2009 – Ukraine Republic?

Now I thought the roads in Bulgaria were the worst that Ive seen. Let me clarify that. I thought the roads in Bulgaria were the worst that I have seen called 'highways'. I have seen some bad roads. The worst have to be the mountain crossing through Pogradec in Albania. But they didn't call that a highway. I think the term the Albanians used was 'goat path' or some translation that doesn't mean quite the same thing in English.

The 'highway' here in the Ukraine is terrible but I'm used to bad roads. The first chance I get to make a decision regarding direction I get it wrong. Fortunately, I hit a dead end fairly quickly so I've only lost ten kilometers at he most. I go back to the fork in the road and take the other branch. That's where I see this beauty of a motorcycle with a side car.

This is just such a rare find for me. The guy that owns it laughs at me taking pictures of it. Twenty kilometers down the road I understand why. They're everywhere! If I had the time and money I would come back to this country and fill a container full of these to bring home. Talk about a bulletproof motorcycle. One and two cylinder bikes with a kickstart. It doesn't get more reliable than that.

I head down the right road to the town of Izmail and I become lost again. They don't make this easy. I'm pretty sure that Odessa is the only city of consequence in this region. You would think that they would make the route easy and well marked. I drive around town a bit trying to pick up the scent.

I meander aimlessly through town when I come upon a group of young me having beers at a little cafe. “I could really use a cold beer”, I think to myself and turn in.

I'm the center of attention while I park the motorcycle. I get my gear off and I go up to the guys and ask them if they speak any English. I'm in luck they speak a little. I ask them the route to Odessa and they begin to tell me. I can tell by their English that this is going to take awhile. I stop them and excuse myself to go get a beer. When I go into the store and grab a beer the woman looks at me funny and says something and takes my beer away. I assume she is going to open the bottle for me, but I'm mistaken. How awkward. Maybe she doesn't want me to have a bottle. I've had that happen before. Some shopkeepers are sticklers about keeping all their bottles for deposit. I go to the cooler and grab a half liter can of some Ukrainian concoction and put it on the counter. Her mood hasn't changed but I put money on the counter and she reluctantly sells me my beer. Do I even dare ask for a glass? No need I see them.

I come back to the table of guys and I put my gear down and pour my beer into my glass. The beer hasn't even reached my lips when one of the guys stops me.

“You can't drink that”, he says with a worried look on his face.

I respond with a puzzled look. “Why not?”

“None. Not while with motorcycle”, he informs me.

"Not even one?", I lament.

Another guy enters the conversation with, “you can drink beer and motorcycle in Kanada?”

“Yes. But only three or four beers.”, I do the weight calculation on the fly and I can see the shock in their eyes. These guys wouldn't even consider having one or two for the road. They look with amazement. They then explain that with even a sip the police can put you away and it will cost 500 Dollars to get out.

I hand the beer over to them and they are pleased. I'm wondering if I was just conned. No matter, the beer cost about 50 cents. They give me directions to Odessa. Like when I got lost in Albania it turns out I'm only two blocks away. I get through the town of Izmail and back onto the "highway". I make my way getting closer to Odessa with every kilometer tick on my odometer. Nothing can stop me now.

Am I being pulled over by the police?

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The Longest Yard.


August 19, 2009 – Morning

Recap: Elvis was being led by the young border guard to the return line to Romania, his bike still impounded, and all of his gear still at the hotel in Moldova. Could this be the end of Elvis and his trusty cafe racer as they travel around the world together?

The story begins... again.

The guard was moving at a terrible pace. It's a good thing I lost all that weight and ran every morning prior to taking this trip. The “Fat Elvis” would have had a heart attack running up these stairs. The “Fit Elvis” only had a minor heart murmur. It didn't help that I could feel the lump in my throat as I knew my adventure was ending here, right now. How will I get my stuff back? I mean I have all my camera equipment in my shoulder bag but my clothes, my laptop, my tools. They're all in my army bag. This is going to suck. I'm going to miss my toiletries. At least I'll smell like a local when I take the bus ride of shame across Eastern Europe. Where's that lawyer when I really need her?

I followed him into the building and he led me down a row of offices with handwritten signs. The office door he opened had a sign and the writing resembled the word:


There were a few weird Russian characters in there, but that is what it translated to in my mind. This is good! No, this is great! They want me to buy insurance. Insurance for my bike that is. I'm moving forward! Don't let my face show how happy I am. Keep your poker face together Elvis. Don't let them know you were ready to fold.

The guy hands over my registration papers to the guy with the cigarette and briefcase. He opens up his briefcase and begins the process of writing me up some Moldovan Insurance. The border guard left me there almost right away so I figured they had their fill of me. It took about half an hour to draw up the documents and when it was over I handed him ten Euros and he handed me my insurance policy. Very official looking indeed. When I get back to Canada I think I'm going to start making up official looking documents for my bike with pictures, stamps and embossing for my next trip. I'll make it a 30 page document written in languages no one can recognize. Oh right, that would be English in these parts.

I grab my policy and I run back down the stairs. I push my bike to the final checkpoint and hammer him with all my paperwork. My passport, my registration, my German insurance, my Montenegro Insurance, my Albania insurance, my Turkey Insurance, my receipt for a Turkish visa, my payment plan for my British Columbian Insurance. I fanned it all out in front of him. He took one glance and lifted the gate. I pushed my bike over to the hotel and I loaded up my gear. My beautiful gear that I thought would be lost to me forever!

I'm gripped, loaded, and ready to go. Let's get this party started.


No love. It's a good thing I didn't try to abscond with my bike. I doubt the Kevler in my jacket was meant for stopping clubs to the face.

I pushed my bike up to a gas station about fifty feet away and I begin the routine to get started. This time it was considerably easier. I just used a two Euro coin to bypass the starter relay and I got ignition right away. Next time I'll wear a glove when I do this because the electric shock and heat kind of hurts. Not as much as the burn on my hand that I got when I was tweaking the idle on my bike after the new exhaust screwed everything up. That hurts way more. Especially because it's really infected now. I'm going to need a doctor when and if I ever make it to Odessa.

Who cares? Right now I need to make a beeline for the Ukraine and get my bike warmed up for the day.

I take the first right and enjoy the fact that I'm riding in Moldova. How many North Americans have been here on two wheels? Not many I bet. I think today I just joined a small fraternity of bikers who would be willing to ride n this part of the world.

That was short lived. The Ukraine border is right in front of me. That couldn't have been more than half a kilometer. You mean I went through hell for five hundred yards of Moldova? This is bullshit! They couldn't have made a border crossing between the Ukraine and Romania? Idiots!

View Larger Map
The map illustrates this better. Galati is the last town you pass in Romania, Giurgiulesti is the town where the hotel is, and Reni is the first town you pass through when entering the Ukraine.

For scale it takes ten minutes to drive from Galati to Moldova. It would probably cost half a million dollars to build a road around Moldova straight to the Ukraine.

Oh well, lets get this over with.

Next Exit: Moldova... sheesh.

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Je me souviens


August 19, 2009 – Morning in Moldova

The morning couldn't come quick enough. I set my alarm for 6am and I was happy to hear it when it came on. I drifted in and out of sleep all night waiting for the Austin Powers theme (for Canadians who remember it was also the theme to the game show 'Definition') to wake me up. I was worried sick. My bike was confiscated by the Moldovan border guards and I wasn't sure what to expect this morning. I was getting ready to start some kind of international incident if I had to but I have a feeling there isn't a Canadian embassy within a thousand kilometers of here. I'm in a particularly uninhabited corner of the world where I don't think things like 'habius corpus', due process, heck... I doubt they even know what the Magna Carta was. Democracy is in very short supply up here. We're as close to being in the epicenter of communism as I care to be and although these little states have freed themselves of mother Russia's chains they haven't embraced capitalism with open arms either.

I do the walk of shame down to where they are holding my bike. I'm in full riding gear as a show of strength. Plus, if I have to run from gunfire I'm hoping the Kevlar jacket will help me. When I get down there I'm ignored. I wonder if these pricks know I have another set of keys in my pocket? I could probably get on and make a run for it. Of course if I get on and she doesn't start then I'm screwed. Nope, I'll have to do this the hard way. If that doesn't work I will wait for cover of the night and come in and emancipate her.

The guards finally notice me and they seem happy. It would seem they were expecting me and they brought in an interpretor. Fantastic! They introduce me to her and she greets me with a smile.

“Bonjour! Comment ca va?”, in perfect French. This isn't the first border guard who practiced their French on me. As a Western Canadian it's sad to know that we don't have much of an identity. Unlike our brothers from Quebec.

My heart drops,”Bonjour, ca va bien. Parlez vous English?” In the accent of a man who never got passed grade seven French.

What does the rest of the world think about Canada? I'm finding out on this trip that most people don't even know where Canada is. You always here about backpackers sewing Canadian flags on their luggage to no be confused with Americans. The truth is nobody on this side of the world really cares about Canada at all. For being the second largest country in the world we're really quite insignificant. I should have said I was American. At least no one expects Americans to be bilingual. Hell I don't think people expect Americans to be lingual at all. Pay the money and go. That's what an American would do.

“No non non, blah blah blah, english... pas... ribbit ribbit ribbit”, I had no clue what she was saying and she could tell that in my eyes. In truth I did get the feeling she was asking for money, but I glazed over that one.

I stood there and stared at her. I shrugged my shoulder and pointed at my motorcycle and raised my palms in a questioning manner.

She walked away and the guards had a huddle. One of the older guards said something to one of the younger guards and he goosed stepped over to me and grabbed me to motion me to follow him. His pace was fast and he led me up the stairs to the line up going back to Romania.

Damnit! I'm being deported and they're keeping my bike. It's OK. I can cope with this. I'll catch a bus to Bucharest and head back to Croatia. I miss the Adriatic. I'll get a tan and drink icy cold Karlovacko all day long. That doesn't sound bad at all.

I'm glad I kept that Romanian money after all.

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