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Fasten your seatbelts it's going to be a fun ride

Thursday, November 29, 2012

My Serbian family....and yes, more rain.

This will be my last post about the trip.

Long, cold, wet, lonely stretches of highway. Didn't have any luck seeing anything cool during my last days riding.

But one great thing came out of a bad experience before I left Italy.

I ran out of facial cleanser and while I've stopped brushing my hair and don't remember to brush my teeth that often now, do like to have a clean face. The GPS was able to find a local Sephora store just a couple of miles from the campsite and off I went. 
In the rain. 

What the GPS didn't know is that the whole area around this store was blocked off to any motorized traffic. Albeit these crazy Italians will go anywhere on their scooters but even the Italians draw the line somewhere. So as I wound my way around narrow, cobblestone walkways, to the annoyance of everyone....well everyone except one boy that was about 6. 

He saw me coming. His eyeballs just about popped out of his head. His mouth opened and closed as if trying to speak but unable, and when I got close with my Big Red and my bright orange horns on my helmet, he exclaimed as if thunderstruck "WHOA!" like I was some superhero out of a movie. It was pretty neat and his dad gave me a wink too. 

After my brief replenishing stop, decided to get out of town. I had a lot of highway to go and the rain clouds were dark, so I started down a street with steel tracks for some kind of streetcar and before I knew it, did a 180 spin, ending up on the ground in the middle of an intersection. It all happened so fast. Then equally fast, a gorgeous, strong man ran to my rescue and picked up the bike while a duo of female cops came to check on me.

Meet Mary. She's the one on my right.

She's a rider herself and insisted that I ride the bike just to the next corner for a cafe to relax and calm my nerves. These ladies patiently sat with me and helped me calm down, even managed to get me to laugh. There wasn't much laughter left in me at this point.

I took off, avoiding toll roads and ended up criss-crossing back and forth over the damned thing anyway but I did pass through some cute towns. When I was low on gas, I found this place that had a Hello Kitty buff! It put such a smile on my face, I had to buy it.

First stop was Piran Croatia on the coast. Unfortunately, you can't ride into this town its so small, instead you have to park outside and bus in.
No thanks. 

Made it a "Dan" style stop and pressed on to Pula Croatia.

While I was moving in that direction, I noticed a couple of guys hitchhiking to get there and one looked deceptively like Ed MacFarlane. Somehow I passed these guys a couple of times more and by the third time we were grinning and waving at each other. I should have stopped, they seemed cool enough and looking back I realize that had I made some friends, I would have stayed in this town and avoided some drama to come.

Arrived at Pula and wondered what all the fuss was about. It was a tourist mobbed town with chaotic traffic....tried to find a campsite and while I was wandering around came on to this!

It was time to eat and I smelled a familiar perfume in the air.

Oh yeah. You bet!

So I decided to press on. All I could think of was being with my Serbian family for comforts I really needed. Soaking and cold again, a never ending theme. 

After a close call running out of fuel, I rode into Pirzan and pulled in the only gas station in town right when a heavy deluge of rain pounded down and I just sat there waiting and wondering what the hell to do. It was growing dark and I was making increasingly bad decisions and I knew it. Part of me just wanted to push on to get as close to Belgrade as I could and part of me knew it was folly because it was already growing dark.

Now, if I have some female readers, they will enjoy this next part. 
The only hotel in town was hosting a local bowling event where men from Italy, France and Spain were all staying. Most of them were smoking outside when S.A.N. (the little wet rat) pulled up on her Big Red and before I could turn the bike off, had half a dozen of them helping me with my bags and all trying to figure out what language I spoke. 
The Frenchies won and I hung out with them a bit before curling up in a comfortable bed and spent the night hearing the rain pour outside. 

Sorry ladies. No photos, and yes, most of them were pretty cute.

The next day woke up to more rain (I've stopped hoping for a clear day by now) and worried about yet another high altitude pass on my way to Zagreb. I stopped at a gas station and another rider taking a break said 'whatever you do, don't go to Split, its pouring hard'. So guess what happens next?

The GPS put me on the road to Split by mistake and the next exit was 40km away. Toll roads in Europe are very different than the US. Once you get on one, its a commitment. I ended up turning back and riding against the traffic, on the shoulder to get to the exit I took by mistake once I realized I had 30+ minutes in increasingly pouring rain in order to turn around.

Rode through Zagreb. Didn't look nearly as cool as in the James Bond movie, From Russia with Love.

Finally crossed the border into Serbia and once again, because of outdated maps in the GPS, it could not find the little town of Opovo where I was going to stay with my Serbian family. I rode the long way, avoiding Belgrade, and finally made it to the tiny village, where once again, no one knew this family or even the address. WTF.

Following my intuition, I finally turned on the right street and there Milorad was, sitting outside waiting for me to arrive. Within a couple minutes, Angelina came outside with a big smile and warm hug.

Then it was time to FEAST!
She's an excellent cook and I spent days looking forward to being in a warm, comfortable bed. Under a roof and dry for a change and eating excellent food.

She made one of my favorite dishes that I tried many times to order along my trip. Stuff peppers.

And these little custard filled cream puffs. Deadly.

Goran's parents have a large garden out back and this pizza was made with tomatoes and fresh herbs from it.

Nancy's stuffed and smiling again.

I met these wonderful people through a friend I worked with a few years back here in the Bay Area. Their daughter, Mira came to visit and took me to Belgrade for a wonderful day of wandering about the historical areas and finally helping me find my lemon Blend-A-Med toothpaste.

Then what? You guessed it. MORE food.

They managed to put the weight I had lost back on me within just 3 days.

It was with sadness I took off towards Sofia for my last leg of the journey. Thankfully, it didn't rain and I made it there in good time. Luke was there waiting for me and I unpacked the bike in short order and made ready for my departure.

I was hoping for a dinner to talk to him about my trip (at that point I almost needed a psychiatrist) but he had other plans and dropped me off at a hotel near the airport. The next day I took a cab through the gypsy settlement and boarded the plane with swirling emotions. 

Thanks for reading about my trip, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did, learned what to avoid from my mistakes and are inspired to get out there and do it yourself!