May 4, 2022

Well, it isn’t exactly the start to the trip that we were hoping for, but we’re starting nonetheless.

We left Austin, Texas on a direct Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt, Germany. I was surprised to find that our flight was direct, as there aren’t many places you can fly directly to out of Austin. We surmised that there must be a tech company connection between Austin and Germany that gave reason for this flight twice a week, but when we boarded the plane, very few people onboard, if any, looked like tech nerds. In fact, most looked like retired tourists, and many were simply connecting through Frankfurt to other countries in Europe. So we’re still a bit baffled about the logic behind the direct Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt from Austin.

It’s probably just a result of my advanced age, but for maybe the first time, I was wishing we had a connection rather than a direct ten hour flight. Sitting in my seat after five hours, watching the map on the screen and realizing we hadn’t even made it over Iceland yet, made the flight seem like forever. I used to do those long flights to Japan fairly regularly, and it never bothered me. I’m not sure why this one took its’ toll, but once we landed in Frankfurt at 9am local time (2am Texas time), we were beat. We had a shuttle ride to Heidelberg, where the bike is stored, and we spend most of Tuesday sleeping.

BMW Room Entrance
We ended up with Room #1: The BMW Room for our first two nights in Heidelberg, Germany.

BMW Room Bathroom
The bathroom in the BMW Room. All BMW, All The Time.

Although sleeping most of Tuesday afternoon meant less sleep during Tuesday night, it was probably good that we at least slept Tuesday afternoon, as the motion-sensor light outside our room continuously flashed on and off every five minutes or so all night, creating a light show in the room that made it hard to sleep.

I was determined to stay awake all day Wednesday and get back on a normal schedule, so first thing in the morning, I found the bike and rolled it out of the warehouse to put the windscreen and mirrors back on, connect the battery, and fuel up. And that’s when the “fun” started: apparently at some point during its’ trek across the Atlantic, another bike (a red one, it appears from the paint left on my bike) decided to attack our new Tenere. The right pannier and lid suffered significant damage, and there is additional damage to the right handlebar switch, master cylinder, fairing, handguard, left pannier, and our TouraTech locking GPS mount. Ugh. I will unfortunately repeat the statement I made in 2016: “The only damage my motorcycles have ever suffered during my long rides is when they have been put into the hands of someone else.” This is one of the reasons that I do all of my own work on my bikes, but there are certain points that are out of my control, and shipping the bike is one of them. I did all I could do before handing it off, and, well, the results aren’t pretty.

Fortunately none of the damage prevents us from continuing on, although the pannier damage will likely make the pannier leak during rain, and it’s where we store our electronics, so some additional preparation will be necessary. I’ve beat the lid and the box back into shape as best I can with a hammer and two blocks of wood, but a water-tight seal is unlikely.

I also ended up having to ride into Mannheim today to a motorcycle shop to find some replacement straps for the pannier lid, as the straps were also damaged in the Attack of the Red Bike. Now back at our launch point, I think we are ready to go. Tomorrow is looking to be one of our longest days in terms of mileage, as the goal is to get out of Germany. It won’t be a fun day, since we’ll spend most of it on the highway (Autobahn), but we’re one day closer to where we want to be, and we can slow down after that. The temperatures and the weather thus far have been great, although as I type this, the rain has started. I’m sure it will be brief, but it’s a good chance to see if the pannier leaks while sitting parked at least.

Heidelberg Speedway Poster
I was laughing at this “Heidelberg Speedway” poster, with the “8 miles southwest of Pittsburg, PA” and “Tri-State Championship for Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio”, until I looked it up. There really is a Heidelberg, PA eight miles southwest of Pittsburgh, and it was named after Heidelberg, Germany, where a large number of its’ original settlers came from.

“The Hills Are Alive….With The Sound of Cheapskates” (Or, “When is a Ferry not a Boat?”

May 6, 2022

As with many of our prior travels, my “frugalness” (okay, outright cheapness) contributed to making our first day on the bike in Europe likely our longest single day of the trip, both in mileage and time.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, the Schengen Visa Rule basically states that non-EU citizens cannot spend more than 90 days of a 180 day period in Schengen countries (which is most of the EU, plus a couple of other countries). This means that we have to be particular about when and where we spend our time in Europe, as there will come a point where we will have to leave for an extended period before we can legally re-enter. In an effort to save days on our Schengen Clock, we decided to quickly head south towards Croatia, which is not part of the Schengen system. This would allow us to enjoy Croatia a bit before high tourist season, as well as save days that we’ll need as we head all the way to the top of Norway.

I knew in advance that this first day would be a long day, because I intended to ride from Heidelberg, Germany to Bled, Slovenia, crossing through Austria, a distance of over 400 miles. Much of this would be on the Autobahn, so I felt fairly comfortable that at least it would be a good pace.

When I entered our campsite outside Bled into the GPS, I was informed that a Toll Pass was required to drive on the freeways in Austria.
“Nope, not gonna pay it.”
I hit the “Avoid Tolls” button on the GPS, which added another 30 or 40 miles to the route (and unknowingly at the time, causing another delay…more about that later).

Before leaving Heidelberg, we settled up with our host for the damage to my bike, and I have to say, I wouldn’t hesitate to use Stefan again for shipping. In fact, he is my go-to guy for shipping the bike between the US and Europe now. It was refreshing to have someone say “Just figure out what I owe and I’ll take care of it” — and mean it. The damage to my bike was a rare occurrence in his business, and he handled it like a pro. He even called the pannier manufacturer in Poland on his own to try to get me a replacement pannier before we left.

We headed out of Heidelberg, winding our way to the A5 motorway, then the A8 towards Munich, stopping only for fuel (yes, I know, we were missing some great German countryside, but we will be back when the Schengen clock is less troublesome for us). We spent most of the morning in the number two lane, at 130 kilometers per hour (about 80 mph), occasionally moving into the left lane to pass cars before ducking back to allow the frequent Mercedes to pass at 200+. The average price for 95 octane (“Super”), which is the standard fuel here, was €1.79 per liter, which works out to about $7.15 per gallon. At one convenient roadside station, we paid just over ten dollars per gallon. I was wishing I had one of those “I Did That” Joe Biden gas pump stickers, but for some odd reason, nobody here thinks the US President caused their fuel prices. Huh. Amazing what a little exposure to the real world can do.

South of Munich we turned off onto a small two-lane highway and headed into the Austrian Alps. It began to rain a bit, but only briefly. The small towns that we passed through had that distinctive Alpine look to them, and the jutting mountains and lush green grass and trees had me singing out “The hills are alive” in my headset, which Diana immediately put a stop to.

Nearing the top of one pass, I looked down at the GPS, which displayed a boat icon, informing me that we would be taking a ferry in a little over two miles. I was confused, to say the least. First of all, I didn’t know there was a lake way up here that would require a ferry to cross. And second, I had told the GPS to avoid tolls, so why was I now going to pay to board a ferry?

Minutes later, we pulled into a parking lot and up to a sign that said “Autoschleuse”. It turns out that this ferry was not a ship but a train. We bought a ticket and rode onto an open flatbed railcar for a ten minute train ride. I told Diana to get her camera ready, because the scenery must be spectacular if the pass was so narrow that they couldn’t build a road through.

Autoschleuse sign
The first tip-off that this ferry wasn’t a boat.

Waiting in line for the train ferry.
Waiting in line for the Autoschleuse.

Bikes first
Bikes load first.

Autoschleuse cabin
It’s a ten minute ride. Why bother taking off the helmet?

Okay, I’m an idiot. It’s a ten minute train ride through a tunnel. There is no scenery, just a rock tunnel through the mountain. The train ferry added another 30 minute delay to our day, but it was still fun. I’ve ridden the bike onto the EuroTunnel train under the English Channel, but I’d never put the bike on an open rail car before. Checked that square, as Tom would say.

Off the train and back on the road through the Alps, we had one more pass to cross. We turned up the Wurzenpasse, which was a fun, twisting road up and over, passing the Karnten Bunker Museum (Austria’s largest contiguous Cold War blockade), and into Slovenia.

It was getting dark as we finally pulled into Bled, Slovenia, and our campsite for the next two nights. We had demolished two of our “Golden Rules of Travel”: we had gone more than 250 miles in a day, and we had ridden after dark. I intend to make up for it by severely lowering our daily mileage average over the next couple of weeks by riding between 0 and 150 miles a day max. And none of it at night.

This morning as I type this, we are relaxing in the tent, while it rains outside. The forecast doesn’t look good for the coming week, so we’ll just take it a day at a time, and listen to the raindrops on the tent for the time being.

Camping Bled
Our campsite on Lake Bled, Slovenia.

Who’ll Stop The Rain?

May 7, 2022

Slovenia is a beautiful country. Very green. And as I’ve always said, there’s a reason places are so green. It’s been raining straight since shortly after we arrived in Slovenia. The forecast is for another week of rain, pretty much all day every day. We actually enjoyed the day off yesterday after the long 450 mile day Thursday. The rain caused us to miss a couple of things we wanted to see — primarily the Vintgar Gorge — but it also caused us to just relax in the tent all day, which was nice. And especially nice was the woman on the bicycle-powered bakery cart that came through the campground, selling some great pastries for breakfast.

Unfortunately by this morning it was still raining. We waited until almost 1pm before finally giving in and packing our soggy tent and gear in the rain, and heading southwest. Rather than take the highway, I zoomed in on the Google Map, and found the most squiggly road I could find. Not the best day to be climbing the Vrisic Pass, but even in the rain and fog, it was well worth it. Tons of first- and second-gear switchbacks, sometimes without being able to see the other end for the fog and mist. Incredible views off of the mountain when the fog opened up, but the view was usually out into the a white cloud. It was eerie, like swimming in a deep clear blue sea, unsure how far down it was to the bottom.

Bled Church

Leaving our campsite on Lake Bled, the Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Maria, on an island in the middle of Lake Bled. On a cliff high overlooking the lake is Castle Bled.

Vrsic Pass
Near the top of the Vrsic Pass, the highest pass across the Julian Alps in northwestern Slovenia. The road was built for military purposes in the early 19th century and is known as the Russian Road. It was chilly, but still a great ride.

Just before arriving at our destination, the rain stopped. We pulled into our campsite in the tiny village of Vrhpolje, surrounded by vineyards. This place is sort of “off the map” but in a good way. Our friend Heike from Germany stayed here last year when she rode her Africa Twin to Slovenia, and told us we should visit. We’re glad we did.

Kamp Vrhpolje
Our tent went up quickly today…it was nice to set it up in daylight for a change, and let it dry out from two days of solid rain.

Vrhpolje vineyard
Directly across from our tent is a large vineyard.

Our hosts at Kamp Vrhpolje greeted us with a welcome house wine from the local vineyard.

It’s supposed to rain again tonight, tomorrow, and for most of this week. So, who’ll stop the rain? I have a feeling Croatia will stop the rain, in a few days. But hopefully the rain will be light tomorrow morning, as we have a special tour planned.

Postojna and Predjama

May 8, 2022

We once again listened to the rain on the tent all night, but this time along with a strong wind that we hoped would help dry the tent quickly. By morning the rain had stopped, and we happily packed up a damp tent in cloudy but dry conditions.

As we were packing, our neighbors in the only other tent in the camp stopped by. They’re from France, and are taking four months off to ride bicycles from France to Greece. There are undoubtedly easier routes to pedal than where they had been and were going, but they had a great attitude. Interestingly, they asked us about our tent — a MSR Hubba Hubba NX with the optional gear shed — and then pointed to theirs, a MSR Hubba Tour 2 tent, which has the gear shed (and rain fly) built in. The two tents look nearly identical when set up (with the rain fly on ours). But there is a big difference. Theirs is the same model of tent we used last year on our ride to the Arctic Circle and Prudhoe Bay, and they quickly confirmed the same problems with it that caused us to switch: while the Tour 2 is a simpler set-up due to the gear shed and rain fly being all one piece, the lack of ventilation due to this design causes high humidity and trapped heat in the tent, making it fairly miserable in even moderately warm weather.

Diana and one of the owners of Kamp Vrhpolje. He asked if he could take a photo of our moto, because we are the first people from the USA to arrive at Kamp Vrhpolje on our moto. They loved the Texas license plate. We loved being the first Texas motorcycle here.

The other owner of Kamp Vrhpolje (Damjana?), and the two French bicyclists. You can see their brown tent in the background. There’s a chance we might run across them again on our way back through Slovenia in a couple of weeks, although they are taking a different route south than us.

We said our “Hvalas” (thank you in Slovenian), and left Vrhpolje around 9am. It’s about 20 miles from Vrhpolje to Postojna Cave, and we had tickets for the 10am tour. I figured an hour was plenty of time to ride 20 miles, get out of our gear, cover up the bike and make it to the tour in time.


We made it a few miles down the highway when the Garmin GPS (now referred to as “Garbunckle” by Diana) told us to exit, and then took us down a winding two-lane road through small villages (24 to 31mph speed limit), before pointing us up a dirt road. I thought, “well, why not? A little off-road time is overdue.” Time was getting tight though, and eventually we popped out and Garbunckle said “You Have Arrived” at 9:50am.

Indeed, we had arrived. At Predjama Castle. Not Postojna Cave, which was 5 miles away.

Ugh. Back to the dirt road, this time blasting down it, and arriving at Postojna Cave parking area at 10:02am. Too late. Fortunately, for a small fee, we were able to move our tickets to the 11am tour. Which gave us a little time to relax.

At a few minutes before 11, we walked over to the sign that read “English Tour”. There were other signs for the tour in Italian, Slovenian, German, and a few other languages. We were surprised to find that not only was the English tour the largest group by far, at around a hundred people, but the two of us appeared to be the only people on the tour for whom English was the first language. There were no other Brits, Americans, or Aussies on the tour. Most people seemed to be perhaps Greek, Polish, or Croatian.

The cave itself is fifteen miles long, but only a little over three miles are open to the public. Still, the place feels massive, and although I haven’t been to Carlsbad Caverns since I was about 12 years old, this place puts it to shame as far as I’m concerned.

The tour starts with a train ride into the cave. The cave was originally discovered in 1818, and in 1872 rails were laid and a gas powered train was used to access the first two miles of the cave. After 1945, an electric train replaced the gas train. At the end of the train ride, the one hour walking tour begins.

Russian Bridge in Postojna Cave
This bridge was built during World War I by Russian prisoners of war to connect the old part of the cave, discovered in 1818, with the new part of the cave, discovered in 1891.

After our cave tour, we headed back to Predjama Castle. This 800 year old cave castle sits in the middle of a 400 foot tall cliff.

Predjama Castle

The original castle dates back to the 1200s, but it has been destroyed and rebuilt a couple of times. The current castle dates to the 1570s and has changed little since then.

Getting back on the bike in both the parking lot at Postojna Cave as well as at Predjama Castle, I noticed people walking by, then stopping and pointing out the Texas license plate to their friends, who just stared. We’re used to being approached by people who ask “did you ride that all the way here?”, but so far most people here haven’t approached us. Which is okay too; it does get old after a while. But it’s always an easy way to start a conversation.

We left Predjama on a relatively short 60 mile ride to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, where we will spend the next couple of days. Tomorrow we plan to do a bit of a walking tour of sights in the city, weather permitting. Then it’s on to our next country.

The Tourist Thing

May 9, 2022

Today we did a typical tourist day. We walked the streets of Ljubljana, sightseeing and eating our way around. It rained again overnight, but stopped early morning, so we had perfect weather for just walking the town.

Our small studio apartment is located in the center of Ljubljana, and easily walkable to most all of the normal tourist activities. We began with a walk to the Central Market, crossing over the Dragon Bridge.

Dragon Bridge

All four corners of the Dragon Bridge have large dragons overlooking them, and even the lamp posts on the bridge have small dragons on them. One local legend says that when a virgin crosses the bridge, the dragons wag their tails. I didn’t see any tails wagging while we were there. Hmmm…
The dragons from the bridge, which opened in 1901, have become a symbol of the city.

Being a Monday, the open air market wasn’t as busy as it likely is on other mornings and probably even more so on weekends, but we enjoyed looking at all the fresh produce, and then stopped at a bakery for a pastry and coffee, before heading to the next two bridges.

The Butchers’ Bridge, as seen from the Dragon Bridge. On the left is the Central Market.

The Butchers’ Bridge (named, I believe, because the meat market is directly next to the bridge) is one of those bridges that lovers put padlocks on the cables. There are thousands of padlocks on the rails of this bridge.

Triple Bridge
The Triple Bridge, named because — wait for it — there are three bridges side-by-side that cross the Ljubljanica River into Preseren Square (which is actually circular).

Looking down the river from the Triple Bridge

From Preseren Square we walked past the University and down to Congress Square.

Congress Square

Looking over the Philharmonic Orchestra building from Congress Square, up to the Ljubljana Castle

Congress Square has been known at different points in its’ history as Revolution Square (communist period) and later Liberation Square before returning to its’ original name of Congress Square or Kongresni Trg in Slovene.

From Congress Square we walked back around past the Central Market to the funicular which took us up to Ljubljana Castle.

Looking out over the city from atop the clock tower of the castle.

At the tip of my finger is our studio apartment that we rented for two nights.

There was a large, very ritzy event happening in the courtyard of the castle while we were there. No idea who or what, but the prepared food and wine everywhere was incredible.

After a trip to the grocery store to replenish for the coming days camping, we walked to dinner at Vodnikov Hram, a traditional Slovene restaurant. With all the walking we had done today, our eyes were definitely bigger than our stomachs, and we ordered a traditional Slovene platter for two. Which turned out to be big enough for four easily. It had two different kinds of sausages (four total), two breaded chicken cutlets, sour cabbage, roasted potatoes, grilled vegetables, fries, sour cream rolls, and two large bowls of soup.


As hard as we tried, we couldn’t finish it off, and ended up taking the sausages home. We’ll pack them along for another meal or two. After dinner, we were served Viljamovka, which coincidentally is Williams (Viljam), or Williams Pear Brandy. The Williams Pear is the most commonly grown variety of pear in countries outside of Asia. In the U.S., it’s known as the Bartlett Pear. I don’t know who Bartlett is, or why he stole my pear.

We went way over our budget playing tourist the past couple of days, but it was enjoyable and we’re sort of in the tourist mode for this part of the trip. Even so, we have to watch our budget, so it’s back to camping for the next couple of nights.

Reference Points: Along the Way to Country #4

May 10, 2022

If you’ve traveled even just a little, even only in your own country, you’ve seen enough to develop reference points. Later, when you pass by a certain region, or city, or river, or countryside, you might have that flashback feeling, thinking it looks familiar.

On my ride in 2015-2016, I made it a point to mention these, as it helps me attach a certain feeling or recognition with places based on places I’ve been in the US. For example, there were areas in Colombia that reminded me of the California rolling grass hills near Monterey.

As we left Ljubljana headed south, we found ourselves climbing into the hills on a narrow two-lane road, just barely wide enough for two cars. The road twisted along, following a beautiful flowing creek. Large trees, a mixture of beech, fir, and oaks, covered rocky hills, and large farmhouses sat in grassy clearings, their vegetable gardens overflowing with produce. The area reminded me a bit of the Smoky Mountains in eastern Tennessee, though the farmhouses were larger for the most part, and with brown or red tile roofs.

Eventually we dropped out of the hills and down to the Kolpa River, the border between Slovenia and Croatia. As we approached the river, it became clear that this was a proper border crossing. Unlike passing from Germany to Austria to Slovenia, where crossing the border was only visible due to the blue sign on the side of the road announcing a new country, here was a large fence topped with concertina wire, running the distance.

We stopped for gas in Vinica before approaching the border. Per the official Croatia Government website, I had filled out the Croatia Entry Form online and then printed the resulting page, so I figured this would be an easy border crossing: just hand them the form and the passports and pass through. We stamped out of Slovenia, rode across the river, and up to the Croatian entry point. The officer asked for our passports, stamped them and handed them back. I produced the printed Entry Form and asked if he wanted to see it. He said “No, all good. Go.”

Huh. Another unnecessary formality. I tucked the form back into my jacket and we rode away into our fourth country in the past week: Croatia.

The scenery changed a bit immediately. The tall, lushly covered hills were gone, replaced by shorter, more scrubby trees. The land as well as the farmhouses seemed a bit less appealing, but it could have just been the route we took, as we tend to avoid the larger, more tourist-traveled roads. The small road became an even smaller road, no longer two cars wide, and we entered another forest. This one reminded me more of the road through the trees on Orcas Island in Washington State, climbing up to the lookout tower to look back towards the mainland.

After several miles, we emerged at the main road again near Selište Drežničko, and to our campsite for the next two nights at Camp Korana.

Plitvička jezera

May 11, 2022

After setting up camp, we cooked our usual dinner: pasta with Bolognese sauce. Although this night we added some tasty sausages from our dinner in Lubljana. I also found a peach cider at the camp market for two dollars, and Diana enjoyed her usual mineral water (“with gas”). And I also found this bottle in the market:

I wish I had room in the panniers!

As we sat at the table, a neighbor walked by from his RV, wearing a “Michigan” t-shirt. I had to ask:

“Are you from Michigan?”

He hesitated, and it was immediately obvious that English wasn’t his first language. Finally, in a heavy German accent, he replied, “No. Are you?”

I never did find out the story behind the t-shirt, but we had a good conversation about his and our travels. he and his wife and dog were on vacation in their RV, headed for Albania before going north again.

In the morning, we boarded the bus at the campground entrance, and rode to Plitvička jezera, or Plitvice Lakes National Park. The park is a heavily protected area of 16 terraced lakes, connected by waterfalls, and eventually emptying into a limestone canyon. A hiking path connects the lakes, although at one point it is necessary to take a boat across one of the two larger lakes to continue. At the top, a bus returns you to the bottom where you hike the last half mile back to your starting point. The entire route consists of five miles of relatively easy hiking, broken up by the boat and bus trips. If you’re into water and waterfalls, the scenery is pretty spectacular. Rather than try to describe it, I’ll just let the photos do the talking, with a little commentary here and there.

Much of the five mile walk is along these plank walkways. Yes, the water is that clear.

Veliki Slap
Veliki Slap on the right, the highest waterfall in the park at around 260 feet.

Did I mention the water is very clear?

We’re not big selfie people, so here it is.

This duck swam up to the boardwalk at one point. I count ten baby ducks behind her.

The bear is the image of the National Park, and the area. We were told there are bears in the area. Nobody seemed too concerned about them though; there were no signs warning about bears in the park, and no warnings in our campground about bears or keeping food locked away.

In the end, the park is the walking trail between falls as far as visitors are concerned. There are no off-shoots, other sites (as if this wasn’t enough!), or other activities, save for the snack bars and gift shops. The brochure and map we were given about the park had a long list of things you couldn’t/shouldn’t do in the park, and while we hiked along, I couldn’t help but think about this. For some reason, my thoughts took the form of a Dr. Seuss book…

Plitvička jezera
You can see falls
You can see lakes
You might see bears
Or ducks, or snakes

You cannot swim
You cannot touch
You cannot camp
You can’t do much

Stay on the path
Do not get lost
Don’t feed the bears
At any cost

Don’t miss the bus
It’s a long walk
But most of all
Don’t miss this park!

NOT A TRAVEL POST: Simply a rant against American Express Banking

If you came here to read about our travels, you can skip this post. Go to the prior post about Plitvice National Park, or forward to the one about Split, Croatia. I’m writing this more as a reminder to myself why I should never again use American Express as a “Bank”. This has nothing to do with their credit card company either — as far as I can tell — although the sour taste remains enough that I likely won’t be using that card much any more either, and in fact I didn’t bother to pack it for this trip, mostly because there are limited places on our travels that will take a non-Visa or non-Mastercard.

So, on with my rant:

First, a little background: I have (now had) a Certificate of Deposit with American Express Banking. These get set up as a “Savings Account” in their system. I opened the CD account on their banking website, with no assistance from or contact with anyone at American Express. It’s a pretty straightforward online transaction.

The CD matured on May 7th, and I was given a ten day grace period to cash it out, otherwise it would automatically renew for another three years. If I cashed it out before May 7th, I would be penalized and have to pay a fee. Therefore I would have to contact them between May 7th and May 16th, while we were in Europe. I had this reminder on my calendar to take care of while we were in Slovenia and had good Wi-Fi.

So on May 8th, I got online to cancel the CD, only to find that you can’t do this online. You have to write them a letter and mail it to a Salt Lake City address, which has to arrive within the ten day grace period, of course, or call them at 800-446-6307. Here’s where it starts unraveling.

  1. Unlike their credit cards, they will not provide a non-800 number to call. If you are outside the US and need to contact them about your credit card, there is a regular phone number to call on the back of your credit card (it typically lists an 800 number, then under it, says “Outside the US, call” and it has a number with a US area code. They also list these numbers on their credit card website. Those numbers are ONLY for credit card questions, and DO NOT work for their banking system. If you call that “Outside the US” phone number with a banking question, you will be given the 800-446-6307 phone number (which doesn’t work from outside the US) or the Salt Lake City address and told to write them a letter. When asked for a non-toll-free number, you’ll be told there is none.
  2. On their Banking website, if you click on “Contact Us”, you’ll be given the same two options. If you click on “Chat” within the Banking website, you will be taken to the Credit Card System website’s Chat, which first requires you to log in using your AMEX credit card login (different from the Banking System login). So if you don’t have an AMEX credit card, you have now arrived at a dead end: there is no Chat for banking customers.
  3. However, if you DO happen to have an AMEX credit card login, and you arrived at this Chat box via the Banking System, you will be connected to a person who has no idea about AMEX Banking, as they are with the Credit Card group. They will then tell you to call the 800-446-6307 phone number (which you still can’t do because you are outside the US), or write to Salt Lake City. When asked why they don’t have a non-toll-free number for Banking, I was told because they “don’t do International banking”. Worst. Answer. Ever.
  4. Eventually I was able to call a friend in the States on an app, who then called the 800-446-6307 number on her phone, and held her phone up to her speaker, and I was able to cancel my CD and transfer the money out of AMEX.
  5. While I can easily move money around in my bank accounts from here via the bank’s website (not AMEX’s bank, obviously), and I can easily put money INTO American Express’s Banking System, they make it extremely difficult to get your money back if you happen to be on vacation when your CD matures.
  6. As a final note, I am aware that there are places online that state that I can dial an 800 number from outside the US by changing it to 880. I tried this. Dialing 001-880-446-6307 goes nowhere. Dialing +1-880-446-6307 gets a recording (in Italian, then English, that says the call cannot be completed as dialed.

If there truly is a way to call 1-800-446-6307, American Express Banking’s ONLY published number that I can find, from Europe, I would appreciate that information, and would also appreciate if American Express would acknowledge that there is a way for their banking customers to contact them when outside the US. American Express should also address the errors in their website contact links that take customers to dead ends and useless points that do not actually belong to their banking system.

Until then, I’ll find a “bank” that either lists a phone number or has a working Chat option on their website, or both.

Rant over. Returning to beautiful Croatia.


May 13, 2022

The ride into Split from the north reminded me more of the area around Warner Springs, CA, just east of Temecula. Rocky hills dotted with low scrub and less trees than Slovenia. It was an enjoyable ride through a different scenery.

Arriving into Split, we found ourselves in a real city again, with traffic and small, tight residential streets. We found our apartment for the next two nights just above the city center. The small studio apartment had a small gated courtyard in the front with a table where we could sit and relax and enjoy a drink, or breakfast in the morning. Our host brought us two beers and a home-made snack of glazed nuts and orange rinds, and pointed out the two small bottles of liquor on the kitchen table, along with shot glasses.

A ten minute walk down to the city center brought us to Diocletian’s Palace. It’s pretty hard to miss, as it’s absolutely huge. This massive building, or city of buildings within a building, was built around 300 AD. Parts of it still exist in its’ original form, but much of the interior has been transformed over the centuries, becoming homes, hotels, businesses, and more. Walking through it from one end to the other, down narrow hallways that open into large interior courtyards, feels like walking through a Roman city. The walking surfaces are all paved in stones that over many hundreds of years have been worn into a slickly polished surface. I can’t imagine trying to walk here in the rain.

An entrance into Dicoletian’s Palace from the south side.

Those newer looking apartments and shops at the far end of this plaza are not at the end of the Palace; they are deep within it.

We ate dinner at Kodoba Joze, a small restaurant just outside the tourist area. The coastal cities of Croatia are known for their seafood, and we intended to sample it.


We lazed around the next morning, and got a late start, eventually wandering just across the pedestrian bridge from our apartment to Plan B Pub, which came highly recommended from our host. She wasn’t wrong, as the hamburgers were excellent, and reasonably priced.

This burger had beef, grilled onions, an egg, bacon, mushrooms, pepperoni, gorgonzola, and ham on a sesame seed bun. All for about $6.

Back to the apartment for more laziness before walking back down to the city center, the harbor, and Bacvice Beach.

Bacvice Beach

The strand along the harbor front. As with just about everywhere else here, lots of restaurants with sidewalk tables.

We eventually wandered over to Fife, another seafood restaurant with outside tables on the harbor. We had that all-too-familiar encounter with the obnoxious American tourists, sitting two tables away, talking much too loudly and trying hard to impress others with their travels. I especially enjoyed two of their amplified conversations: the first where she loudly proclaimed her love for Austin, Texas, saying she went there every chance she had. And the other, when she was suddenly introduced to another young American girl; the obnoxious one stated with much fervor, “I’ve been here for two weeks” (in an obvious attempt to declare her long-term travel). “It’s great, but I’m getting over it. How long have you been here?” To which the new arrival explained, dryly, “I live here.”

Best comeback ever. I barely kept from spitting my water out.

Sea bass at Fife

We enjoyed Split, and the peacocks that paraded around just outside our door, but we were also ready to head further south. So after two days, we loaded up and headed south on the coastal route toward Dubrovnik.

If you’ve never been around peacocks, they are as loud as everyone says. They sound like screaming cats.

Unlike the local cats, who don’t scream at all.

Further South

May 14, 2022

We’re heading south along the Dalmatian Coast. Garbunkle (our trusty — rusty? — GPS) keeps barking in my ear: “Keep left! Keep left!”

I’m not sure where she thinks we’re going. Of course I’m going to keep left. If I move more than about three feet to the right, we’re headed off the cliff and into the Adriatic Sea.

Okay, to be fair, there is occasionally a driveway that goes off the side of the road and down the cliff to a home that is beautifully set seaside. But it’s a driveway. And there’s really only the main coastal road, known as Route 8 or the Jadranska Magistrala, running along here, so I don’t really need to be reminded to keep left.

The weather is warmer but not summer yet. It’s upper 70s and low 80s Fahrenheit. Clear skies and dry conditions as we pass through small seaside villages. Outside of Brela is a billboard that reads “It’s All Brelative”. I could definitely spend a lot more time there. Less tourists, nice looking place.

Packs of Italian supercars with Croatian flag decals on the hoods pass by heading north.

Thirty or forty miles north of Dubrovnik, we pass a large new bridge that is still under construction.

After decades of politics, planning, etc, almost finished, but not quite yet…

This bridge will connect the main part of Croatia with the peninsula that juts up from the southern part. In between the two parts is the Neum Corridor, a stretch of land that connects Bosnia with the Adriatic Sea. Since the bridge isn’t finished yet, we have to cross through Bosnia at this narrow section and back into Croatia on our way to Dubrovnik. It’s a very quick passport check entering Bosnia, and just a wave through re-entering Croatia.

Thirty minutes later and we’re in Dubrovnik. The city hangs on the side of the rocky hill. The original Old City walls and towers, where many parts of Game of Thrones was filmed, sits below on the water. Large yachts and tourist boats make their way between the islands off the coast. Our apartment for the next two nights is on the hillside, up a steep switchback road. It has a terrace which is about half the size of the apartment, overlooking Dubrovnik and the sea. It’s the most we’ve spent for lodging so far, at $70 a night; above our budget, but a rare treat. It’s been a long time and many countries ago that I paid $70 to stay in a place with a full kitchen, a complimentary bottle of wine, and a large terrace overlooking a gorgeous town and islands. It’s a relative bargain by tourist standards, but it’s above our budget, and as I’ve preached before, each dollar we save today extends our future travels.

After unloading the bike, we walk to the end of the street to the local market and buy bread, cheese and meats for dinner, and sit on the terrace with our host’s wine, enjoying the sunset. Tomorrow we’ll hike the walls and tour the old city.

Overlooking the walled city of Old Dubrovnik at sunset from our terrace high on the hill.