The Balkans – Day 2

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Sept 17 – Sunday

Map Link

There was a fountain outside of our window that I could hear throughout the night, so I wasn’t sure if it was really raining when I woke up. But it was raining. The night had passed well, other than the extremely loud crying of the child in the room next door and a slightly sore back.

Our morning view

It was a nice valley

Breakfast was at our assigned table and this time we were one of the last tables to arrive. We weren’t in much of a hurry to get on the road today, since there was a steady drizzle outside. I already had a route set in my GPS, although of course I could always adjust it due to the weather. I was considering doing so, but without accurate information on the weather and passes around us, I figured that I would just leave it “as is” and see what we ran into.

We eventually ran into snow.

The rain was steady and my pants leaked within the first ten minutes of riding. This was incredibly uncomfortable, since it was a very cold rain and the pants leaked directly between my legs – not a good place for ice cold water! But there wasn’t much to be done about it, so I just complained about it once in a while to Dan, so that he could share my misery. He, in turned, complained to me that his glasses and visor were fogged up and he couldn’t see anything. We were quite the pair that morning.

We got caught behind a Fiat rally: at least a dozen classic Fiats trundled up the road before us, their trunks open to let the motors stay cool while they rumbled their way up. There were a couple of kids waving to us from the back seat of one of the cars. I would have loved to have photographed them, but with the rain coming down, I did not want to expose my camera to more moisture than I had to.

The rain turned into fat, thick snow flakes as we neared Lago di Carezza (elev. 1,519 m). We pulled off into a parking area so that Dan could sort out his vision problem and I just sat on my bike, unwilling to shift in my seat for fear of losing my warmed up spot.

Snow, again.

Further up from Lago di Carezza there was some more snow, this time with slush actually on the road surface. I thought fondly back to my mid-February ride years ago through the Cascade mountains, crossing three passes, the last one covered in snow. The key to riding in snow is smoothness in everything: steering, braking and throttle. But the cold was still with us, and with my completely soaked pants and undergarments, I would be happy to find some sunshine and leave the frozen and wet mountains behind.

Somewhere near San Pellagrino

The road wound down from the pass and into the town of Moena. The GPS wasn’t clear and we got an inadvertent quick tour of the town, seeing that a Sunday market was in full-swing and many people were walking the streets. If it hadn’t been still raining slightly and me with wet pants (and feet, and hands – my gear was not up to this weather), it would have been nice to see what was being offered. Instead, we got back on track and continued through the mountains.

Goat crossing!

We were not the only ones out here!

We were now in the heart of Dolomite National Park. The mountains – what we could see of them – towered above the road but the rain continued to drizzle on us. At least the temperatures had gone up a bit and it wasn’t as uncomfortable as it had been early this morning. It was only fifteen minutes of riding through the park but I could tell that it would be a grand place to visit on a clear day. As it was, the drizzle changed to an outright downpour as we came out of the southern entrance of the park near Belluno.

Dolomite National Park

Looking back at the downpour we had just ridden through

Dan forgot to untuck his pants from his boots, so his feet were swimming by now

Leaving the Dolomites behind

It was definitely time for lunch. We were in sunshine now and I was looking forward to putting something warm in my belly. A random restaurant at the side of the road caught our eye and we pulled in, dumped our gear and ordered the best pizza I have ever had. It might have been due to my hunger and just how good it was not to be riding through snow and rain, but I was more than happy to clean my plate.

Lunch near Lago di Santa Croce

Lago di Santa Croce

Dry roads and sunshine!

Viadotto Fadalto

It was quite extensive

We had left the mountains behind and entered the flat plains of Italy. Trucks with open loads of grapes passed us on the backroads. The sun had warmed everything up and my pants were actually getting dry in the 20 °C temperatures. I expected a fast afternoon’s ride to end somewhere near Trieste, Italy, where we could enjoy an evening on the coast of the Adriatic Sea. A quick stop for fuel was thwarted when the pump did not accept our card, so we kept going on for a little bit, passing through the town of Vittorio Veneto.

No gas here!

Welcome to Vittorio Veneto

Canals of Vittorio Veneto

We stopped at the next gas station where we once again debated on the standard 95 grade unleaded, or a “super” or “plus” unleaded. Dan’s bike can be picky sometimes, so we switch it up when on the road. We decided to go for the premium gas and filled up with Excellium.

Ten minutes down the road Dan’s bike died.

I swung around to find him parked on a residential street that ran parallel to the main road. His bike would crank over, but not catch. We dropped some gear and brainstormed. While Dan fiddled with his bike, I noticed some kids on the porch of a nearby house watching us. Dan made the determination that it was “bad gas” and we would have to drain the tank. I went to the house and asked around. Unfortunately, no one spoke English or German, so it was slow going to get my point across. Eventually the son came out and he knew some French, so I sent him over to go talk with Dan. A few minutes later we had a container, a siphon tube and half a dozen family members standing around offering their help in a confusion of languages. I tried to use GoogleTranslate on my phone, but it was not always clear. This was especially obvious when they would type something to translate into English and it was just a jumble of words.

Early diagnosis

Then the neighbors came out

The wimmenfolk and kids watch from the porch

It was truly amazing to experience the genuine friendliness and willingness of this family to help us. I eventually learned that the family was from Morocco, but casual conversation was difficult and I did not learn much else. The father-figure took the lead and kept pushing his way into the middle of the action. He was very insistent that we do everything his way, but overall, it worked out well. We had determined that the fuel we put in the bikes was not actually gas but diesel and we needed to siphon it all out. As the crowd grew around the bike, a member of the Polizia Municipale, who was on his way to work, stopped to see what the commotion was about. The father gave him a brief synopsis and before I knew what was going on, Dan was in the car with the Polizia, empty container in hand, heading to the nearest station to bring back some good gas.

In moving my bike around it was found that even though my tank is almost twice as big as Dan’s, the diesel content was high enough to keep it from running and it was decided to drain my tank, too. Another container was sourced and the siphoning process began again.

For Dan’s bike, even with the good gas, the repeated pushes on the starter eventually drained the battery. A lot more options were bandied about, including leaving the bike there until the next day when we could find a mechanic (it was, after all, late afternoon on Sunday). And then a decision was made: I would take my now-running motorcycle back into Vittorio Veneto, find a hotel room and then come back and get Dan. Meanwhile, “the guys” would sort out something with Dan’s bike. (As my bike had not been run for very long with the diesel, it was easy to siphon most of the the fuel out, put a couple of liters of fresh fuel in, and then run the motor hot enough to burn off the remaining diesel.)

About ten minutes back up the road was Albergo Hotel Sanson. It did not look fancy but we didn’t need fancy. We needed somewhere nearby where we could spend the night until we got our bikes sorted out. I parked the bike and walked to the door – it was locked. But then I saw the sign that said that the main entrance was around the corner. So I walked around the corner and found the main entrance – which was also locked. Just then an older gentleman walked up and saw my predicament. He stood at the gate to the back courtyard, calling out something in Italian. The gate opened and an even older gentleman came and opened the door. Once again, no English or German was spoken, but I managed to secure a room for the night, letting them know that I had to go again to get my “other half”, but we would be back soon.

It doesn’t look like much from the street – Hotel Sanson

I zoomed back to the site of bike activity just in time to learn that the father knew of a mechanic who would come and fix the bike. Right here. Right now. It was still unclear exactly what was happening, so Dan jumped into the passenger seat of the father’s car and I followed on my bike. The mechanic’s house was about ten minutes away and he was willing to come back to the house as soon as he could gather his tools and supplies. The father drove Dan back to his house, I followed and behind me drove the mechanic. It really was chaotic because we had very little idea of what was happening, only that “something” was happening, and it was being done to our benefit. So we played along and hoped for the best.

Tools out, the fuel pump was removed in order to eliminate the last of the diesel. The bike was hooked up to the mechanic’s car and, with a lot of love, he eventually got the bike to catch and stay running. Yay!!

Mechanical hero to the rescue!

Burning off the diesel

Finally, both bikes were running well. Mine was still a little rough, but we figured that it would clear up with time. We could now continue with our trip. We said heart-felt thanks to the family, took some last-minute photos and exchanged numbers in case we wanted to send an SMS later. We honked and waved “Good bye” as we pulled out of the driveway and aimed our bikes for our hotel.

The kids loved the bikes!

At the hotel we were greeted by the older gentleman and what could be his daughter. They made sure that we had the needed keys and gave us some old newspapers to use to attempt to dry out our boots and gloves overnight. The granddaughter came a little later and she spoke excellent English. Any remaining questions were cleared up and we were given a recommendation for where to eat dinner.

It was dusk when we finally made it to dinner. The hostess who greeted us didn’t speak English or German, but thankfully her colleague spoke German and he came out to take our orders. I never expected to be so thankful to be able to speak German before! We enjoyed a big plate of lasagna, returned to the hotel room and, after changing out the newspapers in our boots, went to bed after what had been an unexpectedly long day.

Day 3