Let the Adventure Begin

About Me

Las Vegas, NV, United States
This is my 2008 grand adventure...riding a bicycle with 35 international bikers across Europe, following the Danube River along the Orent Express route through eleven countries. The ride is 4000km over 50 days of which 39 are ride days with camping and 11 are rest days in hotels. Our tour group, TourdAfrique, provides a tour leader that provides directions and transposts our luggage, a mechanic, and a chef who promises gourmet local cuisines. We start out in Paris on June 1 and travel through France to Germany, where we pick up the Danube river. We then follow the Danube through Austria, Slovakia and Hungary. Then we ride cross country through Romania, Bulgaria, and finally Turkey, where we finish in Istanbul on July 20.

Jul 22, 2008


The Day After: 4000 km, 39 ride days, 50 total days, and eight countries.

What a great way to end this trek. Last night we had a harrowing taxi ride to and from a beautiful outdoor restaurant for the final meal, a fantastic slide show, and farewell to the team. It is with mixed feelings we ended this adventure, but all agreed it was time. Eight are continuing on for an additional four months to Beijing…thankfully not me.

This morning, our Turkish guide arranged a city tour for 15 of us that showed what an amazing place this is. Istanbul is a modern city of officially 14 million and unofficially 20 million. Building a Mosque is one of the ways to get to heaven, so the city has 4000. We found it to be modern, very clean, busy, and friendly.

We got a tour of the ancient city cistern, the Blue Mosque, Sophia, and the Grand Bazaar (comprised of 4000 shops making it the largest tourist trap in the world). Interestingly, we all seemed to just take it in, but were already maxed out with 50 days of images and experiences. Istanbul is fantastic, but I am in overload. I’ll have to return with Sandra and do the city justice.

On this quest I found that America is still a great country, but Europe and the European Union are rapidly catching up. Americans are still well liked, but not so with the American government. Change is in the air everywhere. The simple things in bring happiness and contentment.

So I end this saga…4000 km along the Orient Express and I rode EFI (Every Fantastic Inch) and the second continent I’ve crossed.

July 20, Tayakadin to Istanbul, 46 km, Day 50

Finish Line! Yea!!

This was the last ride day. It was supposed to be a scenic Sunday morning country ride to the Bosporus, and then a 20 km group ride along the waterway to the hotel in downtown Istanbul. However, the road was closed for construction and we had to take the main highway through an industrial part of town. We found out that Sunday is a busy work day in a Muslim country, but the shoulders were wide and drivers courteous.

The Bosporus is a strategic 20 mile long waterway that connects the Black Sea to the Mediterranean and separates Europe from Asia. Istanbul is built up on both sides of the one to two mile wide waterway. When I arrived it was quite dramatic, with bright blue sky, clear green water, and ships cruising past. We did an obligatory group photo shoot, and boarded a ferry for the 20 km boat ride to our hotel. After being in what seemed to be wilderness, the views from this waterway were stunning. We passed under two Golden Gate suspension bridges, and saw what is reported to be the most expensive water view property in the world - $5 million to $500 million homes.

All 40 of us thought this was a fitting end, but a bitter sweet moment. It was wonderful to check into a first class hotel in a world class city, and not be thinking about getting prepared for the next leg of the bike ride!

July 19, Saray to Tayakadin, 90 km

Bush Camp!

This was our last long ride and was over hilly back roads with 3200 feet of climbing. Most of the scenery was forrest, but along the way, three of us stopped in a farm village for a coke. The owner of the small grocery store gave us drinks and brought up chairs, insisting we sit and rest. Unfortunately, we didn’t speak Turkish and he only knew a little German. These Turks are amazingly friendly people. My ride group didn’t want me to wear any USA jerseys and even gave me a Canadian flag to fly on the back of the bike. I have not seen any hint of anti-Americanism. The word from our , Cim, is American tourist are great, Pres Bush and the American government is terrible, with the mess created in Iraq.

Our last night out is camping on a scenic hill top that looks out over a farm valley and the Black Sea. However, it doesn’t have a shower and the toilets are squatters. The staff, being quite resourceful, rigged up tarps with buckets of water for us to use with our water bottles and have an improvise shower. It was wonderful getting the sun block and salt off. Some of the riders that traveled across Africa said they got used to not showering, so this was not a big deal. The shower was essential for the rest of us.

We had quite a barbeque feast and watched a great sunset from our hilltop vantage point…a fitting final night.

Kirlclarili to Saray, July 18, 77km

What a Friendly Country!

This was a good ride day on good roads. The drivers are the best anywhere, giving bikers plenty or room, and a friendly toot when passing or approaching. The towns folks wave and cheer when we pass through. It doesn’t get any friendlier.

I stopped and took a picture of several towns’ people milling wheat on a town street. They insisted I retake the picture with them waving and posing. The country side is rolling hills with fields of sunflowers and wheat. Most farmers have modern American tractors.

Several of us went to the city park and sat with the locals and people watched for several hours as we drank tea. It was interesting to watch a Gypsy mother work her two young boys. She would send them off to stand by people ordering snacks and look hungry. The unsuspecting patrons would invariably order for them too, and the boys would bring the booty back for mom to stuff in a bag. In two hours she had quite a haul.

The hotel was worthy of mention. Just down the street was a Mosque that we could listen to prayer calls. The Saray Hotel had cable TV in each room and one of the ten channels was the Hustler Channel with continuous porn movies. This country is sure one of color and contrasts.

Jul 17, 2008

July 17, Kirklareli Rest Day, Day 47

Three More Ride Days to Istanbul

Today Cem offered to take us on a day trip of an ancient Turkish capital. I know it would have been informative and entertaining, but we declined. Most of us need just a relaxing rest day with minimal information or excitement.

I had a leisurely two hour breakfast with the group, where we rehashed and solved world problems. Then we explored the town, a bazaar, had Turkish coffee (exceptionally strong espresso), a lunch with locals, and a Turkish haircut (first in six weeks). Some one really appreciates the simple life.

We learned from Cem that the new conservative Muslim government has imposed a sin tax on beer and wine, which has driven up the price and frustrated many of the locals.

July 16, Malko Tarnovo to Kirklareli, TURKEY, 50 km

Goodbye Bulgaria, Welcome Turkey!

Today the ride was short, but very hilly, with some rain and cool temps. The border crossing was on a forested mountain top. This crossing was like the old days where one has to wait in lines for an hour and pay for a visa - $20 for me. It is clear we are in a different world from Eastern Europe – all the towns have mosques, the older women are covered and only kids wear shorts (young people are in jeans and T-shirts). There are lots of stores that sell everything, but the price of beer and food has doubled.

We picked up a great Turkish guide, Cim (pronounced Jim) who gave us a walking tour of the city, and showed hundred year old Greek homes that are being restored. We seem to be somewhat celebrities to the city fathers who arranged a wonderful dinner for us at a Turkish restaurant. The city is starting to promote itself as a tourist stop, and we appear to be an international group to carry the word to the outside world. Kirklarili is a fun little city with very friendly people. The mayor has promised to personally ride with us out of town and provide a police escort!

July 15, Aheloi to Malko Tarnovo, 105 km

A Night in an Old Hospital

After a long, hot, and hilly ride, we made it to our hotel – an old town hospital that has been converted to a hostel. Three of us stayed in a room with hard cots and five shared a bathroom. The bathroom was a little primitive, there was no A/C on a hot night, and all night the local dogs barked. It was a fun stay, though.

The ride was inland on a secondary road, so we felt much safer today, where we could look at the country side and visit with each other. We stopped at a small farm town for a Coke, and shared a three litre bottle that cost $1.20. During the break, we were entertained by and accordion player who thought we were French going to Istanbul, so he played French songs.