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

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Finland, Art Nouveau, Tanks and One Hot Mess

So after a restful and surprisingly mosquito free evening along the river, we headed to the Latvia border to power straight to Riga. 

We have many, many gas stops. 
We usually stop at a gas station twice a day for fuel. 
After finding how clean the Circle K bathrooms were, well it was only those from now on.
And for those of you that have been in my home or known me a while, you'll know of my love of smurfs so it was with utter glee I found these in the cooler on my way to said, clean toilet. 

So knowing how much I appreciate bizarre signs like 'no butterfly catching' I just had to share this one gas station sign. Usually they are less graphic of the sheer stupidity of humans. 
I really like the 'in your face' aspect of this. 
Don't light a match. 
Don't smoke. Sure this is standard.
Don't choke everyone with exhaust.'t drive off with the gas pump.

After gassing up....We saw a bunch of adventure motorcycles parked at this cafe and usually where there are motorcycles, there is good food. But if it's a Harley, its usually a place to drink. 

They were friendly people headed south through Poland.
We told them about Gruto Park.

When I stop, I usually drape the jacket over the front windshield.
Wish I had not done that as it was super hot when I came back out of the shade and put it on.
It's still hot. 
Like mid 90s hot. 
It's all about turning on the do we do that?
Twist the throttle. 

Inside was a super cute place.

Limited menu but this pork was delicious. 
They really love dill here. 
And fancy ways to 'waffle' cut veggies. 

Now meet who we affectionately call our "Hot Mess". 
More on exactly why he's a Hot Mess later. 

As you can see from his plates, his bike is from California.
So he got excited that I was also from California.
I correct him.

His bike was parked next to ours after we came out of the open air museum outside of Riga

It was hot but we were too early to check into our Airbnb so, why not kill some time here. 

Not a very good photo I know, but all of these buildings had claustrophobic low ceilings and this photo really illustrates it. It was blessedly cool inside of each. 

Here is a close up of those thatched roofs I first saw in Denmark. 

Beautiful gardens.
A small army of people tending to the greenery.
And dressed in traditional garb in the buildings that were open. 
With some stern finger waving if you touched anything. 

Really it was a pretty great find. 

Shortly after this we headed into town to a Triumph dealership to get oil filters. 
Which they didn't have, er, or was it a tube. 
Whatever it was, we made a wrong turn in front of a police car.
Well King Bob made a wrong decision reading the traffic light....and 
"WHHUUU"..."BRRRRTT"...."BRRRTTT" sounded behind me. 
The short story. 
We didn't get a ticket.

Now King Bob is still a little unsure about this whole AirBnb thing but this was a gem.
Restored old building. 
Secured and I mean a secured, locked gate parking for the bikes. 
No AC but otherwise a great place.
My room. 
Grindle wanted the bottom bunk.
I let him decide. 

Living room and nice kitchen.

Bathroom and a washing machine.
King Bob lamented that there was no dryer.
Why do Europeans never have dryers???
Sandpaper towels. 

I always gave him the larger room with the full bed.
He's a pretty tall guy. 

I insisted after a refreshing shower, yep, still only using cold water, we bus into downtown.
 I just could not put on my winter, gortex lined gear that reeked of 5 day old sweat. 

Besides, Google does a pretty good job of helping you know what bus to take. 
Euro's work here in the Baltics. 
Once we get to Sweden and Norway, they have their own currency.
Oh and everything is so cheap here too!

We started with heading to the pedestrian only zone.
I'm super hungry by this time. 
Had a delicious meal of lamb and veggies and watched 'other' tourists go by.

There was a huge teddy bear installation representing the flag for each country in the world. 
Much like the large painted cows or hearts in San Francisco.
I had to rub his belly. 

Get ready for Art Nouveau porn.
For those of  you that saw my Art Deco porn of Napier New Zealand, 
you know what to expect. 
But still, get ready.

They like robots. 

Pastel colors. 

Elaborate ironwork. 

And lions. 

And ladies with wavy hair. 

Storks too.

Operatic expressions. 

And griffins. 

It was one building after another. 
This is the diplomatic area as another tourist pointed out with the license plates on the cars. 
The kind of license plates that a cop in their normal 'right mind' wouldn't pull over. 

And according to King Bob, I had cameras follow me around as I got too near the buildings. 

Don't forget the sphinx. 

Lovely soft shaped windows.

Wicked looking iron works. 

And creepy, whole corners of buildings shaped in faces. 

And owls....with flower petal eyes. 

The next morning we rode our bikes to the House of Blackheads.
HOme and refuge for single sailors. 

My Swedish host told me about a hand pulled ferry in the national park outside of Riga.
We HAD to find that. 
And we did, after a short, easy, well maintained dirt road. 
Here is the slippery, rutted, gravel ramp to the ferry. 

Throughout this morning we were trying to coordinate meeting up with our Hot Mess. 
He couldn't meet up with us the day before, something about filming. 
You see, he's an artist. Native Latvian. 
Spends most of his time in the US.
Didn't have his own phone, had his daughters iphone. 
I saved the Whatsapp text messages...they were so garbled. 
But he did catch up to us here. 
And had a very low rear tire. 

By the time we made it to Polva, his tire was flat again. 
He had no spare tube.
Nor tools to change it out.
Or patch get the idea. 
Sweet, filmmaker, artist, Latvian, Hot Mess. 
He did kiss my hand when we met up a second time. 

Next...the long awaited 'Cat House'.
So remember the FB group recommendation?
This was one of those people.
This house is his second home. 
He said it was a red house. 
All the houses are red here. 
But we found it, despite being cleverly camouflaged. 
He also explained after we arrived this house was for his cats. 
He lives in Tallinn. 

Woke up the next morning and one of the many cats was cuddled up on my gear. 
It took a week+ riding and a wash to get rid of the residual fur. 
These cats literally own this house.
They went wherever they wanted.
Including on the breakfast table while we were eating.
So I put them outside and closed the window.
They still found a way back in. 
And watched us eating our eggs and bacon.

His mother who lives in the house next door left a nice long note urging us to go to this area.
It was a short ride there and a gravel road. 

Cute path down to the water. 

This place has a religious significance. 
Was too hot to stop and read the poorly translated English version. 
Take my word for it, a special place. 

Beautiful damned lake. 
No pun intended. 

Next stop. Tartu. 
University town. 
Very old. 

Where King Bob had his usual lunch time dessert. 

This french cafe was amazing. 

Super luxurious inside. 

Gold plated plate-ware. 

And Nancy parking on the sidewalk again.
The stones used to keep cars from going into these pedestrian areas were in different shapes. 

This one a cute bird. 

Next stop. Lake Pepsi.
According to Hot Mess, pronounced Lake Pepis. 
Seems this area is famous for it's sweet onions and tomatoes. 

I read about this well known fish restaurant. 

And ordered the house specialty. 
Some kind of fish under tomatoes and onions.
It was delicious. 
I can still remember how flavorful it was. 

Then we took the highway towards Tallinn in Estonia.
Our last Baltic country stop before entering Nordic countries, first Finland. 
There were some strong headwinds and I didn't last long on this stretch of highway.
We opted to turn off and follow the coast through a national park area. 

Ended up taking a few wrong roads and in small communities.

This area for some odd reason has hundreds of swans. 

And as usual, saw a nice place to eat and insisted we stop.
This is where I learned that the brightly colored pink/red buff was not such a good idea.
Bees love bright colors...

As we sat down, the rain started.
Boy was I jealous of the whole patio that was drinking these aperol spritz cocktails. 

Another AirBnb success. Nice big house outside of town.
Other than the stairs to go to the 2nd floor.
Gorgeous place and a washing machine. 

My room. Grindle happy. 

Rode into town early the next morning. 
We had a ferry to catch to Helsinki.
We were supposed to stay with our FB host from Polva that never showed.
But he was out on an Iron Butt ride. 
I opted to park on the sidewalk near the information bureau. 

I love starting the day early.
Before the bus loads of tourists. 
We had the place to ourselves. 
Found a great breakfast place that made an excellent ham and cheese omelette. 

And lots of pastries.

So on a personal hygiene note, they install these hand held spray thingies that only work when you turn on the faucet. 
There is no such thing as scald guards here. 

Hard to see but just behind my helmet is the scary, 90 degree, upward ramp to the ferry yet to arrive. 

Voila. Massive ferry and yep, we get to ride up that scary ramp. 

It was only a 4 hour ferry to Helsinki and I read about an Art Nouveau train station there.

It did not disappoint. 

Off statues of men holding globes 
So I held my helmet the same way

Next the tank museum. 
Oh wait, before I move on from the trauma of Helsinki. 
I had only one thing to see.
But the sheer number of traffic signs to pay attention to 
was unlike anything I have ever experienced in my life. 
There were so many signs that it was hard to understand what lane we could ride in.
And when to go.
Or stop.
Or wait for a bicycle.
Or pedestrian.
Or bus.
Or streetcar.
I had a massive headache by the time we finally got out of the city. 

On our way to the tank museum. 

It was jarring seeing all this nazi stuff.
But the Finns kept these tanks as spoils of war. 

WWI tanks were pretty small.  

Then WW2 tanks larger. 

Still hot. 
Famous castle on my trip plan.
Too tired, hot and hungry to get closer. 

As we left the museum, we saw people lining up along the road.
King Bob asked a motorcycle rider what was going on. 
He said, a classic car drive by show. 
Just as we finished a Kebab, they started to thunder by.

Mostly old American cars. 
Many with Confederate flags. 
A few old police cars too. 

Then we found a nice camping spot. 
With a sauna. 
Didn't care about the sauna. 
Just wanted to get into my tent and sleep. 

Woke up the next morning at dawn and enjoyed the light and steam coming off the lake. 

And another Ferry!
Back to Sweden.