June Expense Report

July 1, 2016

I always knew from the very beginning that traveling in Europe would be one of the most expensive parts of my trip. But I’m learning some interesting things from analyzing it.

First, some rankings: June was spent in the UK and Europe. June ranked as my #1 most expensive month for fuel cost, and my #4 most expensive month for food cost even though I bought groceries and cooked quite a bit, and (gratefully) had many meals provided by others.

Lodging tends to be one of the biggest daily expenses, so controlling this expense makes a big difference in extending my travel and having reserves for other things. Even though I spent the month in places where the lodging is the most expensive I have encountered, June was #7 on my expense rankings for lodging. This is due to camping and the generosity of others, as I had seven $0 nights, which really add up. I also had my first $0 day of the entire trip, thanks to Michau, Patricia and Lukasz, who provided food and lodging on a day that I didn’t ride so I didn’t buy any fuel.

On average, June ranked fifth in terms of daily average expense for food, fuel, and lodging at an average of $42.76 per day. Not bad for Europe. It could have been even better, but I spent a couple of nights in hotels, which quickly raises the overall average.

A set of tires in Scotland, the ferry to the Isle of Man, and the Channel Tunnel train added to my expenses in June.

Gas: $239.33 (Daily average: $7.98)

Food: $331.50 (Daily average: $11.43)

Lodging: $700.62 (Daily average: $23.35)

Bike maintenance: $206.76

Ferries, Channel Train: $256.14

Biggest lesson learned: accept the kindness of others, and you can afford to travel longer, or in more expensive places like Europe.

Czech-ing out of Poland and into Austria

July 1, 2016

Riding through Czech Republic, I pass several motorcyclists on beautifully restored (or maybe they are original?) Jawa two-stroke motorcycles. It’s great to see these being used as daily riders and kept in such nice condition. I’m reminded that after all the years I have pronounced it “Ja-Wa”, the correct Czech pronunciation is “Ya-Va”.

I’m back on small roads and really enjoying it. Many of the roads I’m riding don’t have a center stripe due to their width. This is my preferred riding: I get to see a lot more of the local “flavor” on these roads. 

Czech countryside

Approaching a small village, I encounter a detour. The bridge is being rebuilt through town, so the detour takes me several extra miles through the countryside. I somehow manage to miss the turn to head back towards the main road, but according to my GPS, there is another small road about a half mile further that will take me there. 

I turn down that road, and it winds through woods before descending a fairly steep hill. At the bottom of the hill, the road curves to the left around a blind corner. As I come around the corner, there is a woman lying in the middle of the road, with a man kneeling next to her talking rapidly on his cell phone. She appears to be unconscious, and there is a bicycle lying in the grass at the side of the road. 

I park the XT behind them and dig out my first aid kit. She appears to be in her mid-60s and is pretty banged up and bleeding from road rash. As I approach, she is coming to, and the man is helping her to sit up. I stay with her while he runs to his car and retrieves an umbrella (it’s already sunny and hot) and a blanket for her to lay on. I get the water container off the XT and pour some onto a towel to help keep her cool, and we wait for the ambulance. 

It takes about twenty minutes, and the paramedic tells me that she has a broken scapula, and thanks me for stopping to assist, especially in slowing the cars down that have been racing down the hill towards the blind corner. I keep thinking, “why would someone come upon this and not stop?” I’m hoping it’s just more good karma for later in case I ever need it. 

Bicycles can be dangerous. Fortunately she was wearing a helmet.

I ride on, eventually crossing into Austria, and find a terraced campground on the edge of a nice lake. I’m back in the expensive part of Europe again, and camping is more expensive here than a hotel was in Mexico and Central America. 

Bike path? Nope. That’s the road.




Unfortunately, in the direction I’m headed, it’s not going to get any cheaper any time soon. I’ve also noticed that the “friendliness” of bikers has decreased dramatically since I’ve headed back west. In Poland, everybody waves. In Czech Republic as well. Once you get to Austria, it’s a rare occasion. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of BMWs and other bikes on the road here, and only occasionally does someone wave. I’ve taken to referring to it as “Snobstria”, although that probably isn’t fair; I’m not sure if they are all Austrian bikers. There are a lot of others riding these mountains as well. 

Lost in Translation

July 2

Sometimes the language differences can be amusing, but it often takes a native speaker to point them out. Here’s a few recent examples:

This chain of petrol stations and convenience stores is apparently named after a local family. However, in Poland, the word “pieprzyk” also means something much less savory. I won’t say it here, but it rhymes with something like “Little Trucker”.

This one is my favorite though:

As I pulled into a campground in Austria, a guy saw my Texas license plate and approached me. His accent didn’t sound Austrian, but more eastern European, so I’m not sure where he was from, but english was not his first language. He asked, “You are from Texas?”

“Yes, I am.”

“I have uncle in San Antonio.”

“Oh, that’s very close to me. I lived one hour north of San Antonio.”

“He is very old. And dead.”

I almost spit out the piece of bread I was eating, and it took everything I had not to laugh.

Add that to my now-famous “I’m from Vindu, would you like a puppy?” story.

Fortunately, I had this guy to translate for me in Poland. 🙂 Thanks again Michal!

Sensory Overload: Austria to Switzerland

July 2, 2016

My mind is having trouble making sense of what I am seeing. I’m nearing the top of the Arlberg Pass in Austria. It’s been raining steadily on the climb up and it’s also getting cold. I’m in a long tunnel, and thankful for the reprieve from the rain.

The tunnel bends, and as I exit the curve, ahead of me is a puffy, bright blue blob. It looks like someone put a blue light bulb in a large ball of cotton and stuffed it in the end of the tunnel. The tunnel’s edges are fuzzy, not defined. It’s hard to tell where the road goes, but the cotton ball is approaching fast. Suddenly I’m at it, and I realize that it’s dense fog. So dense I can barely see the front fender of my motorcycle. I can’t see the road at all, but I know I’m out of the tunnel and on top of a mountain, with drops on each side and little or no guardrails. If I look straight down, I can see the white stripe on the side of the road, but it fades into the fog within just a few feet ahead of me. I’m traveling about 50 kph (30mph), and I’m hesitant to slow down because I know from the tunnel that there are cars behind me. But I have to, because I can’t see where to go. 

I flash my brake light hoping that will help, and begin to slowly lose speed. I can make out headlights behind me, or at least a bright spot, and I’m hoping he can see my tail light. 

Suddenly out of nowhere there’s a guy on a bicycle in front of me, and he’s headed the opposite direction, up the hill. I can see him for all of about two seconds before he disappears into the fog again.  This is crazy, but there’s no place to safely pull over. If I cross the white stripe, I risk riding off the road and/or off the mountain. I don’t think there’s a shoulder, and if there is, it’s not much safer to stop there than in the middle of the lane. 

Within a couple of miles I’ve lost some elevation and the fog is lifting. I’m back to just rain, which before seemed bad, but now is welcome. 

The rain continues on and off all afternoon, sometimes heavy, which prevents me from taking many photos. Even so, the scenery and the roads are beautiful. I’ve entered the alps in Tirol, in western Austria, and headed for Switzerland.

That tower is the top of the Olympic ski-jump in Innsbruck. It’s right in town, with a beautiful view from there overlooking the city.


I cross through Liechtenstein and into Switzerland, staying off the motorways and on back roads. The road marked T16 up to the village of Wattwil is beautiful; billiard-table smooth, with fantastic sweeping curves. I consider turning around and riding back down, just so I can ride this stretch of road again.

Yep, it’s a country. With a total area of only 62 square miles, it has the third highest GDP per person in the world, and one of the lowest unemployment rates at 1.5%.

As I near Lucerne, I decide that camping tonight is not going to be much fun, since it’s still raining and everything is very wet, including me. I decide to search for a hotel and quickly find a place with a nice view of a lake from my window. 

I missed the 125th anniversary by one day.


Looking out the window of my room this morning. The rain stopped, and the sun is out. I had to carry all of my wet gear down and lay it in the parking lot to dry for a couple of hours.


Everywhere around me looks like this. Beautiful.


There used to be a dairy advertisement in California that said something like, “Great cheese comes from Happy Cows. Happy Cows come from California.” I’m willing to bet these cows would argue that point. Except maybe in winter. These cows probably dream of California in winter.

Questions From The Road

July 4, 2016

Most other travelers I’ve spoken with tell the same story. The top questions they get are always:

  1. Where did you come from?
  2. Where are you going?
  3. How long?
  4. How big is the bike?
  5. How much does it cost?
  6. How fast does it go?

These are typically questions asked to the guys riding BMW’s or other large adventure bikes. My little 250 eliminates most of the “How Big? How Much? How Fast?” questions. Although I do still get those occasionally. But they are usually geared in a different direction: the “Why a 250?” being more prevalent.

But by far, the Number One question I’ve had from all people, whether motorcyclists or not, regardless of the country, income, education, background, etc, is this:


I usually just say “Tools”, “Herramientas”, “Spanners”, or the like, and they nod and walk away. Once in a while, I go into my longer speech about carrying so much weight on the rear of a small, lightweight motorcycle, and needing to transfer some weight to the front. But leave it to the French guys in Scotland on their way to the Isle of Man to have a fittingly French response: “It’s not for wine?”

I had never even given that one a thought.

The other question (and comment) that I’ve received a lot in many different countries, and which I still struggle with, is “Aren’t you afraid? You’re so brave!”

Honestly, I’m still trying to figure out the “brave” part. I understand why people would be afraid to do this, and most of that is unfounded fear based on media hype and propaganda. And I guess that leads to their thought that it takes someone “brave” to travel alone through all the places I’ve been.

I think the only “brave” thing I’ve done in the last year is to follow through with the decision to do this journey. The most difficult part of it all is deciding to walk away from everything at home: the job, the house, the lifestyle. But once you’ve done that, everything else is easy. Looking back, it’s easy for me to say it was “pan comido” (a piece of cake), but until you cross that line, it can be scary.

I haven’t met a single other traveler that has regretted the decision. And I put myself in that category as well.

Alpine Heaven

July 8, 2016

The people I have met on this trip have all been great, and many have become great friends that I hope to keep in touch with.

After leaving Team Poland, I headed west again to Switzerland, and met up with another of those great people that I had met on the road earlier.

Judith in Nicaragua last September.

Last year, I spent several weeks riding on and off in Central America and Colombia with Judith. She had shipped her Suzuki DR-Z400 to Anchorage on July 1, 2015 and was headed for Chile when we met in Guatemala. She made it to Santiago, Chile before having to return to Switzerland at the end of December (I only made it to Lima, Peru by that time, having been sidetracked by a couple of weeks paragliding in Colombia).

Judith (and Jamie) live in Lucerne (or Luzern, as it is correctly spelled here), in a beautiful apartment overlooking the city.

View of Lucerne from Judith’s terrace. Great weather. Perfect temperatures. Very relaxing.

Her apartment takes the entire top floor of the building, with a wrap-around terrace. Spectacular.

As I said earlier, it’s extremely beneficial to have a “local” tour guide, and Judith was willing to show me Switzerland, and especially the Alps, in a way that I never would have found on my own. And she managed to arrange a V-Strom 650 for me to ride, so I could keep up with her Gladius 650 and give my XT250 a few days’ rest.

Judith on her Suzuki 650. Her DR-Z400 (“Suzy”) is in the shop for a major heart-transplant after her trip through the Americas.

Judith laid out a route over nine passes and just under 500 miles. The scenery everywhere in Switzerland is breathtaking, and the mountain passes are just that much better. We avoided a few of the more popular passes in order to avoid the traffic, and instead ended up on some beautiful single-lane roads. Even so, the amount of bicycle traffic is amazing. I have trouble understanding how so many people can pedal up these hills. Then again, at one point we saw four people who looked to be in their 70’s riding mountain bikes, and it wasn’t until Judith later pointed out that they were electric mountain bikes that I lost a small amount of my astonishment. Still, I’m impressed at the energy levels of everyone here.

We also just happened to stumble on the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Lenzerheide.

Just before the Mountain Bike races, we passed through the small village of Filisur. Well, I guess normally it would be a small village. But this week, as we rounded the curve descending into town, we were met with thousands of tents. The “One Love Festival” was happening, and it apparently is quite popular. Lots of bands, DJ’s, music, and other “activities”. 

Most of the passes have a small restaurant/cafe at the summit, usually with an outdoor deck, and nearly every one of them is filled with motorcycles.

Typical scene at the top of one of the passes.


The real fun is getting there.



I met these three at the top of one of the passes.


In Switzerland, you can get a license to ride a moped at age 14. These guys were 14, 15, and 16. (Note the handlebars, and the Gas Monkey sticker on the back of the box. Gas Monkey is hugely popular in Europe).


They were doing a five day tour of Switzerland, including most of the passes that we were riding on 650s. If I had done this at 14, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have waited until I was 55 to do this trip. Too bad this isn’t the norm in the States.



This was an “art installation” tying the old and new bridges together. Looked like somebody’s laundry to me…


Bored of leading the American around already??



At the end of the first day, we stopped just past St. Moritz (wow, just wow) at Diavolezza. This small hotel caters to skiers in the winter and to mountain climbers and trekkers in the summer. It’s only accessible by gondola.

Quickest way to the top of the world.





On the second day we took some smaller passes, and I found my favorite: Klausen Pass. Others may be higher, or have smoother switchback climbs, but the scenery climbing up to the top of Klausen was breathtaking, and the (even narrower) road down the other side towards Luzern was spectacular. Definitely no room for error, especially with the supercars that were coming in the opposite direction, but you’d miss some of the best sights if you were completely focused on the road.

Typical Swiss architecture in the small villages we passed through.



Small country, BIG scenery.





Back at the Suzuki dealer in Luzern with Christoph and Judith. I enjoyed my time on the V-Strom. If I were doing a different kind of trip, I might seriously consider a bike like this. For my trip, it’s still a little too big, and much too heavy.


Great rider, great tour guide, great friend. It’s just a matter of time until she’s back on the road on Suzy on her next World Tour. Thanks Judy!!


Swiss Hospitality

July 10, 2016

I spent the day walking around Luzern. Being a Sunday, most shops were closed, but that didn’t stop the tourists from coming out. This is a beautiful city, and the weather just invites the crowds to hang out near the lake and in sidewalk cafes.

Part of the old city wall


Spreuer Bridge. Originally built in the 13th century, it was destroyed by a flood in 1566, and rebuilt after. It’s one of two existing covered footbridges in Lucerne.


Inside the bridge in the triangular structures above are these paintings of the Danse Macabre or Totentanz in German.


These paintings were done from 1616 to 1637 and still exist in this open public structure. Tell me where in the States this would exist without being covered in graffiti the first night.



Some of the paint work on the outside of the buildings is pretty extraordinary.


That’s all painted on the outside of the structure.


The Jesuit church in Luzern on the left. Unfortunately the interior was closed for renovation.


The Kapellbrücke, or Chapel Bridge across the Reuss River. This is the world’s oldest truss bridge, and the oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe. A large part of the bridge burned in 1993, but has been restored.





I was once again honored to be invited to a family BBQ and gathering at the home of Judith’s brother’s family. Although english is definitely a second (or third) language for them, they were willing to try to communicate with the language-challenged American. And food transcends language barriers. Although I draw the line at grappa. As Lucasz said in Poland, “You can practice for Russia by drinking vodka here”. But Croatian grappa is beyond the limits of this non-drinker.


Great food. More great new friends.


Photos, Videos, Selfies…

July 10, 2016

I was riding along the other day and noticing all of the guys on sportbikes and BMW GS’s that passed going the other way, and many of them had GoPro cameras mounted on their helmets. I’ve been carrying a GoPro with me since I left home a year ago, and I think I’ve used it three or four times total. I started thinking about why — or why not — and I came to this personal observation. This of course is my opinion, and I’m sure others will disagree.

Go Pro = “Look What I Did” (A form of “Look At Me”)

Selfie Stick = “Look At Me”

Photos = “Look What I Saw”

I’m not a “Look At Me” person. Lots of people have been to these same places before me. I like to take photos to remind myself of a place, a person, or a funny thing that I saw. I really write this blog for myself, even though I’m pleased that others have enjoyed it.

So, thus the reason I have used the GoPro so little, and sent the selfie stick home after about one use. And why my blog is filled with photos and words.

Old school? Yes. Yes, I am. I’m lucky I can even spell “blog”.


July 12 , 2016

After a year on the road, I am taking some time off from this amazing journey. It’s time to take a break, consider my future travel plans, and future life plans for that matter. 

I had hoped to get through Russia, Mongolia, and SouthEast Asia before taking a break. But this trip has never been about adhering to plans. 

I’m headed to a place where you can buy meat and vegetables in the same store, although it may be a bit longer walk from “home” to get there.

Or buy motorcycle tires and inner tubes in the same store, though it still may be easier to ship them in.

Where “public transportation” is not defined by a mini-van, a Chicken Bus, or a tuk-tuk.

Where “private transportation” is not defined by a bicycle, or a donkey.

Where “highway” means the road is paved, and “paved” means the road is in a condition that can be driven by a regular car at speed, without fear of being swallowed by a pothole, or suddenly and without warning ending in a gravel or dirt or sand footpath.

Where the distance to the next town is measured in kilometers or miles, not the number of tribes you pass through. 

On the other hand, I am also going to a place where people are not as open and welcoming. 

Where people consider their options and the ramifications before offering to do something for you. 

Where “free wifi” is an advertising slogan, not a given, and it’s only “free” because the hidden cost was added into something else you got charged for. 

Where ten dollar hotel rooms are either unheard of, or unseemly.

Where you are rushed through a dinner at a restaurant in order to “turn” the table, rather than invited for the evening.

Where having someone else fill your vehicle with fuel is either non-existent, or considered an extravagance, rather than the norm. 

And where the most important invention in Western architecture — the toilet paper roll holder — is a standard fixture in restrooms.

Note: Bucket instead of toilet paper; water tap on wall. Yes, I am spoiled by western standards.

So what I’m saying is, there is no one perfect place. At least I haven’t found it yet. I’ll let you decide where this place is. I’m not sure yet how long I’ll stay. I’ve learned to take things one day at a time. If I like it, I may stay longer. But one thing is for sure: within a very short time, I’ll be planning the next leg of the journey, and looking forward to the road. I am addicted to this lifestyle and the stress-free life it has given me.

Thanks for following along. I hope I have inspired you to pursue your own dreams, regardless of where, how, or the means of transportation. If you need more motivation, don’t hesitate to email me, or better yet, come visit, take a ride with me, and we can discuss what it’s like to ride the world, what it takes, and how to get there.

And if your dream sounds like one of my own, maybe I’ll see you down the road. 

Life’s too short. If not now, when?

To be continued…

It’s Always Now

July 15, 2016

I have several topics that I still need to post from my last year’s travels, so there will be a number of updates on this blog during my “intermission” from my journey, though they may be sporadic and random. I’m working on a “review” and rating of all the equipment I used over the last year, so those preparing for a similar trip may find more useful info while deciding what to take with them.

I’ll also do a bit more analysis of what I spent and where along the way (and a comparison between the expense of taking the 250 versus my 1200 — more than just fuel cost, it includes shipping costs, carnet costs, maintenance costs, etc). This is not intended to advocate the small bike, but rather to show unbiased numbers, and allow those with larger bikes to have accurate information on the cost of taking their bike on a similar trip.

One of my readers, Jordan in New York City, sent me this link to a Sam Harris presentation on YouTube. You may have to listen to his words more than once…or maybe it’s necessary to have lived it the way I did for the past year to really understand and appreciate how accurately he describes the experience of “living” in the present versus a daily existence focused on the wrong things.

You may find it “new age” or too much of a “feel good” talk, but if you have a desire to see the world and experience different cultures, the most difficult part for most people is letting go of the commitments to daily life. Many of these perceived commitments aren’t real once you examine them. They are simply the choices you made previously, which can be altered, adjusted, or changed completely once you commit to a different lifestyle. Taking that giant first step — the leap from being committed to a job, a mortgage, a daily routine, to being completely free of all of those things — can be frightening, until you do it and look back and realize how liberating and life-changing it can be. On the other hand, it isn’t necessary to make such radical changes if you don’t want to; you can still have these experiences and maintain much of your present existence with a little extra planning.

Dare to dream. More importantly, really dare to make your dreams a reality.