June 2nd: Cervinia to Lake Como ~Michael
I woke up, looked out of my hammock and saw a hiker walking by trying to "secretly" take photos of us. However he did a pretty poor job of holding his camera close to his stomach, awkwardly turning his torso in our direction and taking photos as he walked by. It put a smile on my face and made up for the 10-15 slugs oozing across all my gear (I forgot to put it all up on Hans the night before).
We road into the mountain town of Cervinia to try and find a breakfast spot, however nothing except a small bakery was open. We sat down, and with the influence of Graham's enthusiasm for Italian cappuccinos, we each ordered one.
First Italian Cappuccinos
From Cervinia we started our ride to Lake Como. I was shocked by the beauty of northern Italy; it's green, lush and mountainous. However, once we got away from the foothills of the alps, it began to get hot. Much hotter than any of us expected. During the afternoon signs were reading 36 Celsius (~97 Fahrenheit). The heat, mixed with black asphalt and all the motorcycle gear lead to a lot of sweat. During the heat of the day, we found solstice at a grocery store where we were able to buy sandwich material, juice, water and beer (a necessity for rehydrating)
Typical lunch of cheese, salami, tomatos, fruit, water and beer
Venturing back into the heat we headed to the city of Como. As we pulled into the city, I desperately needed to go to the bathroom (I hydrated too much at lunch). I frantically hopped off my bike and started looking for a bathroom. I accidentally stumbled into the Cattedrale di Como. I forgot about going to the bathroom and tried to take in the first Catholic church of my visit to Italy.
The city of Como was nice, however the lake was calling our names. We hadn't showered in 6 days and we desperately needed a bath. We found a boat ramp and immediately jumped in. It felt amazing to wash off the dirt from the road and cool down in the water.
Enjoying a bath at Lake Como (Graham needed it the most)
The water acted as a stimulant and we decided to try our luck at riding the motorcycles up an off road trail in search of a campsite. James went first. Graham and I watched in horror as the added weight from the QUICKjump caused James to fall off his bike and nearly tumble over the 50-60 foot ledge on the left hand side of the trail. He survived, his bike was fine and we all made it up the trail (fairly safely). We were rewarded with a beautiful view of the lake and another reminder of how amazing it is to be able to ride our motorcycles virtually anywhere.
The best views are the free views!
June 3rd: Como to Milan ~Graham
We woke up to a plethora of slugs and ants that were covering everything that touched the ground that night. All the folds in the tarps seemed to hold a few hundred ants. It was funny because we left some food out, and not a single ant touched it but they loved our tarps. Fortunately none of them were biters except for one that didn't like being near James' balls, and let him know about it.
Slug friends on Sarah's pad
We packed everything up, and had a pretty sketchy and hair raising ride back down the steep rocky road we came up the night before. As per usual we headed to McDonald's to plan out the rest of the day. The goal was to find a good hostel to stay in near Milan and do a wine tasting tour. The wine tasting tours ended up being pretty expensive so we opted out of that, but found some prospects for hostels and headed to Milan. We made it to Hostel California easy enough, but they were all booked up when we showed up and their free parking was on the street in an area that didn't look all that safe. We are nervous all the time about our stuff getting stolen so we headed to the Flower Hostel. After a lot of swearing, sweating, red lights, and Bluetooth malfunctions we made it to the Flower hostel in a grumpy mood. They had availability and a safe place to park the bikes so we pulled the trigger. Driving around the city any longer sounded miserable. We dropped some stuff off and walked to the grocery store. We hadn't had breakfast and it was already 1 in the afternoon. We were all starving. Munched our typical meal of baguette, salami, and cheese and finished it off with a delicious luke warm beer. When we made it back to the hostel it was not quite what we thought upon first impression. It was an apartment building for immigrants and their families with a room converted into a hostel at the top. It wasn’t the typical hostel vibe going on. It was interesting to see how some of the people lived around Milan, and I feel like I have a little more insight to the lives of some of the people there. The wifi was pretty spotty and our plans of getting blog and pictures and video stuff done went out the window. We met a semi crazy lady in the common area who insisted she was getting a tummy tuck and Botox next week before she starred in a big Hollywood film that was being shot in Milan. She was nice though and told us about some places to see in Italy. We realized we wouldn't be able to get any work done so we decided to grab some wine and beer and catch the rail into Milan to check out the city. We wandered around a bit until we found the center park and drank our wine on a bench next to some party that was bumping Italian pop music. We all got a decent buzz on, and then roamed around the park to check out the castle. Got lost but found it eventually and it was pretty impressive. We all tried to find the weak point in the castle, but it seemed impenetrable to me.
The night turned out uneventful and we headed back for a miserably hot sleep on dirty sheets. Michael didn't sleep much at all and stepped outside at 3 in the morning only to be caught in conversation with crazy lady. Needless to say we were happy to get out of there in the morning and head to GIVI!
6/4: GIVI Visit ~James
After a hot and restless night everyone was ready to get out of bed and get out of Milan. We woke and all took showers again in an attempt to cool off and wash off the sweat which accumulated so quickly in the hot hostel room. We then headed downstairs to cook breakfast in the hostel kitchen but soon found out that none of the appliances worked. We decided to head to the small rundown courtyard behind the hostel where our bikes were to cook on our campstove. After making a frozen pizza and some delicious eggs we set off to find oil. We found some oil at a motorcycle store but found it to be much more expensive than we were hoping to pay and thus returned to the bikes to head to Givi.
We headed out of Milan across the countryside avoiding toll roads along the way. This resulted in a seemingly endless string of roundabouts. The countryside was beautiful but at 36 degrees Celsius (~97 Fahrenheit) and very limited shade slowing down for the roundabouts was a sweaty ordeal. Arriving at the Givi factory in Brescia we were welcomed by Cristina, Assistant to the President, and offered drinks which we graciously accepted. We were then introduced to a number of faculty and went to go show off our bikes and take pictures. Alessandro who worked in R&D, quickly got caught up on Michael's topbox problem and was soon wheeling his motorcycle off to make repairs in their shop.
We were then given a tour of facility and the manufacturing by the general manager of the UK branch, Andrea. He took us through the design, prototyping, and testing areas where the new products were developed, introducing us to everyone. The time for them to develop a product and get it into production is amazingly short due to their in-house manufacturing capabilities which we got to see next. We hopped in a van and went to the injection molding facility where all of the plastic Givi products are made. Givi makes all of their molds in-house with some impressive CNC's and some very talented people. The manufacturing process was almost entirely automated and was extremely efficient and fun to observe. We also got to see the metal fabrication shop where all the racks and metal products are manufactured. Again, we were very impressed with the precision and efficiency of the processes. Seeing the pride that all of the employees had in their work was awesome and well founded.
Returning to the main Givi facility we had the pleasure of meeting the founder of the company, Mr. Giuseppe Visenzi. Shortly after, Alessandro returned holding Michael's keys and looking pleased. We went outside, excited to see the new mounting plate. We weren't disappointed, the new stainless steel plate was sleek, shiny and more importantly, solid as a rock.
Michael looked like a kid in a candy shop and I admit I was, and am, a bit jealous of his new plate. Andrea who had been our tour guide then took us to dinner. We followed him into the center of Brescia to a "Trattoria" which is a restaurant with simple traditional Italian food. We all got "spritz" a refreshing orange colored drink with wine, seltzer water and a liquor, that we had been eyeing all over Italy. This was complemented by a giant platter of various starters including bread topped with tomatoes and olive oil, fried mozzarella, fried bread and olives. We were treated to a delicious pizza as the main course. We then finished the dinner off with some Limoncello and Meloncello liquor and a platter of cakes ranging from cheese cake to a delicious spongy brandy cake. Andrea then took us on a short walking tour of the city center. We stopped to drink beers at a small bar with some of the "best bartenders" in Brescia. The small bars were too small for lots of people so the streets became the choice location for people to drink and we were told that the streets become too busy to walk on weekend nights. Returning to the bikes we drove to Andrea's house as he had generously offered his house for us to sleep. He showed us his 50cc two stroke scooter which he is planning on taking on vacation all the way down to the tip of the boot before we quickly passed out.
June 5th: Brescia to Pula ~Michael
Waking up in Andrea's house was a much better experience than waking up in the hostel in Milan. The house was hot but I slept on a comfortable pad, I felt safe, and I was not worried about my bike. I couldn't have asked for better hospitality from Andrea and was blown away by how delicious the coffee he made us was.
We left Andrea's in search of a motorcycle store to find some replacement parts (clutch cable, front tire tube, speedometer cable, and oil). After fruitlessly checking 3 stores, we finally came across a small motorcycle parts store that had a replacement clutch cable and oil. From there we took the recommendation from Andrea and headed towards Lago di Garda.
On the lake we found a great spot to pull over, eat lunch, swim and change our oil. It was my favorite stop of the trip thus far simply because of how good the cold lake water felt after baking in 100 degree heat.
Our new name: "Greasy Boys get Wet"
Hans, Seabie and Jolene are complex living organisms that need oil to survive and I like to think that they are the most happy when they get fresh oil. It must feel great to have all the broken down, hot, dirty oil drain away and be replaced with clean, lubricating, delicious oil.
With our bikes happily breaking in the new oil, we road towards Trieste with the idea of finding a camp spot somewhere along the way. We found a great spot, just off the highway, in the foothills of the Dolomites on the Astico River. It was the first time we camped near water and it felt great. There were small trout jumping at dusk and it made me wish I'd brought a fly rod.
James spent the majority of the evening fixing his top case mount and Graham worked to try and fix his speedometer and odometer reader. I had a little free time so I decided to give the SPOT Satellite Phone from Globalstar a try. I was able to have a quality phone conversation with Rebecca for the first time during the trip and called my brother and dad. It was a moral boost to speak with all of them.
That night we made polenta and gnocchi on the river bed and ate while watching the fireflies. It was one of those evenings that felt ordinary at the time, but looking back at it, it was one of the best of the trip so far.
June 6th: Italy to Croatia ~Graham We woke up next to the river and packed everything up pretty quickly. We wanted to make it to Croatia today but we first needed to find a motorcycle store to get some parts. My speedometer/odometer was broken, and it was bumming me out that the miles on my bike would be wrong now. We also needed a new front tube, possibly another clutch cable, possibly a new jacket for me so I wouldn't sweat a liter every time we stopped, and a chain tensioner. We headed to Conigliano, and found a cafe with coffee, wifi and sandwichs. We looked up a good looking motorcycle shop and headed to Dal Bello Moto. It was a large store, but the only thing we crossed off the list was the front tube. We still haven't seen our bikes anywhere so parts that are specific to the bike have to be ordered. It was already sweltering so we got back on the road and headed toward Trieste. We found a cool dirt road that led us along the coast and before we knew it we were at the border with Slovenia. This was the first border that we figured would be difficult to get across so we stopped to eat and prepare ourselves for some difficult negotiations. We hopped back on the bikes and rode straight across the border. Apparently Slovenia is a part of the eu now and the border crossing is similar to riding from Colorado to Kansas. We made it to the border crossing with Croatia in about 30 minutes and now we figured we really need to get our carnet de passages stamped for exiting the EU. Without the exit stamp we can't get back the money we deposited for the carnet which is in the thousands of dollars so it was a large priority to get it stamped. We were waved through at the border without even looking at passports and when we pulled over to try and get stamps they were confused as they are also a part of the eu. The two border crossings were were concerned about for the day turned out to be insignificant as they are both still in the EU. We were hot and happy that it was that easy to get across the borders so we grabbed some beers and headed to the beach in Umag to celebrate. It was nice to sit under a shady tree and relax because we made it to Croatia!
Happy to find some shade in Croatia!
Our friend Hana's family is from Pula which was about an hour away and her uncle, Neven, had agreed to host us for a few days. He lives in a small village called Sisan near Pula, and he doesn't have an address so we had to call him to meet up. I gave him a call from the beach, and he was expecting us. He told us to give him a call when we make it to Pula so he could come find us. So we drove down to Pula and parked out front of the colosseum. It is the most intact one left, and was built at the same time as the one in Rome. Apparently it is roughly 2000 years old.
I gave Neven a call, and he said he would be there in 15 minutes. He was quick though and made it in about ten.
Talking to Neven in Pula on the SPOT phone
We followed him back to Sisan and had a beer at the local bar there. We then went back to his house which was awesome. He has a patch of land where he lives off the grid, and has built his house there. He doesn't have electricity or running water. Instead he has a large rain catch system that hold 20,000 liters of water, and 10 large batteries that are similar to car batteries for lights and other things that need electricity. He has a friend that charges the batteries for him when they are empty. He had a large paddock that took him 3 years to clear by hand. The surrounding woods were dense with ivy and shrubs so it was easy to see why. He had stone walls surrounding his property and when I asked him about them he said when he bought the property they were there so they were a hundred years old or so. He had made a stone wall as well because when cleaning out the paddock he would pick up the stones laying in the yard, and then had no where to put them. So he made a small wall. Apparently that is where all the small walls come from around here. The sky was clear so we laid down a tarp and slept beneath the stars. It was an awesome way to end a long day and we couldn't wait to learn more about Croatia from Neven.
6/7: Safari Bar ~ James
We awoke on Neven's ranch to a beautiful day and some delicious Turkish-style coffees and after some organizing and discussion of the day's events headed to town. Neven hopped on the back of Michael's bike in order to more easily show us around and we ended up at a bakery near the center of Pula for a second coffee and some delicious baked goods. We then wandered down a street to the main square to grab a drink and check out some beautiful pictures of Croatia from the air that were on display. Neven then directed us to some of the best beaches around. The second one we found had an awesome and very large cliff jump into some crystal clear water. We quickly took advantage of the cool water and launched ourselves into the water. We were reminded of how small of a world it is when we ran into some girls from Winter Park Colorado at the same cliff jump.
Returning to Neven's village, Sisan, we sampled some traditional plum liquor at one of the local bars. We were also introduced to Neven's friend who was going to help us fix our kick stands. Unfortunately he had had an accident the night before and ended up having three pieces of metal removed from his eye and was unable to weld the kickstands for us. From the cafe we departed to the town Premantura for food and from there to the national park Kemenjak. Entering the park we road on some dusty dirt roads to the end of the peninsula where the safari bar was located. The bar was a series of low-hanging shelters and paths with wooden tables and various structures overlooking a beautiful rocky beach. The bar had a crow's nest, some giant swings, slides, ping pong tables and more unique features for playing on. We had lunch and spent the afternoon relaxing with some beers from the bar before heading to the beach to jump from the rocks into the crystal clear water. Around 8 we headed back to Neven's, or attempted to but instead spent a good 45 minutes trying every dirt road around Sisan. Eventually we were defeated and called Neven to have him come direct us to his place. Neven surprised us with a Croatian style burrito that was probably one of the best burritos I've ever had. It didn't take long for everyone to make their way to bed shortly after where I quickly fell asleep while watching some spectacular stars.