A friend of mine asked if this was the start of my midlife crisis as I went on and on about my motorcycle and my plans to ride it through 100 countries. Or to 100.000 km, whichever comes first. I got my rider’s license and my first motorcycle as I was approaching 39. That’s sort of middle of life, I guess.
It never occurred to me I might someday ride a motorcycle. Car, wife, kids, sure, that’s stuff I could see myself doing later in life, more or less. A motorcycle was never on that list. I never noticed them on the roads, I didn’t have friends who rode them, I didn’t hear any inspirational stories about them. My attention never focused on motorcycles. And then I went to SE Asia, where scooters abound and they became hard to ignore.
I rode scooters in Malaysia for 2 years. First, one of the automatic ones, no clutch, no gear lever, a beaten up thing rented from the Chinese guy’s store. Then it made financial sense to buy one and I got myself the lovely Honda Wave Alpha, sport rims edition with disc brakes, no clutch, but a gear lever and 110cc of pure power. They didn’t have it in full black. I bought it new for like 1000 EUR and sold if for 500 a year later.
At the time, I didn’t think I needed a license for this. Seems really silly in hindsight, but I honestly read about it online enough to know that you needed a B-class driver’s license to ride a motorcycle, and a B-class license is what I had. It’s just that mine was issued in Europe, where we use B for cars, while in Malaysia it’s used for motorcycles. I even got into an argument with a cop who pulled me over, I kept showing him the little „B” until he was convinced. Or just exasperated. And he let me go. Ignorance can be a powerful thing.
When I went to Cambodia, I decided on a whim to book a group dirt bike ride as a nice distraction from all the temples I’d be seeing. The „group” was me and Sky, a local guide, who had me hip-deep into a brown river in like 30 minutes. I could never have imagined how much fun this could be.
Fast forward to today, proper driver’s license in back pocket, key in hand and large grin on face. Caressing the red seat of my new Honda CRF250L and already blazing through rock, sand and mud in my head. Black worn-out dusty leather jacket, dark hair in the wind, cigarette hanging in the corner of my mouth. I don’t smoke anymore and I’m pretty much bald. Some guy in a motorcycle store also steered me clear off leather and into synthetic breathable fabrics. But the journey had nevertheless started.
She was never really into them, always scared of falling and always worrying about what might happen. She’s also four foot eleven (151cm), so most of these things are tall beasts for her. She rode pillion and was (mostly) happy about it. When she did try it solo, she usually loved it.
I think at some point she decided she would get over her fear and try to experience a new kind of travel. She gets that way sometimes: hard to get started and then impossible to stop. We went through the courses and got our licenses at the same time. She’s now really into her Grom, the Honda MSX 125, and looking foward to adventure.
There was no real planning this time. Shocker. We just knew we wanted to ride. After a few rides around Romania and a couple of silly falls, we decided we were ready for more. We have two good friends who live in Slovenia and we thought that’s as good a destination as any. We packed very light (we’re good at that), I turned two bicycle panniers into a saddle bag, bought a fanny bag of sorts that we strapped to the Grom’s seat and off we went. Moto Euro Trip.
We did pick nicknames for ourselves and created logos. Didn’t get a chance to turn them into stickers before we left. Next time. By the way, no relation to google-famous porn stars Kitty and Ada, we knew fully well what we were getting into when we picked the nicknames. And the title of this post.
We didn’t really have a clear route in mind. Except for Slovenia, which was on the list from the start, we only had a very rough idea of where else to go. We made up the route as we went. We had visited Serbia and Croatia before, but not Slovenia or Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Starting out. Romania and Serbia
We both have just under 1K km each under our wheels as we’re starting out, so we’re as green as it gets. It’s easy to get used to the road though. I worry about the luggage straps and touch them from time to time to make sure they’re still handing on. They are. And they never budged for the entire trip. We only stop for gas and sometimes for snacks at supermarkets. I notice we are approached by people every time we stop. They keep asking us how much these things cost. Actually, no one cares about mine, they’re mostly curious about the little Grom.
We went through southern Romania from Bucharest to Orșova, spent a night close to Craiova and a couple more in our country house (RO), before crossing the border into Serbia.
The border crossing happens uneventfully, even if we’re a bit awkward and we don’t yet know what to do with our gloves, helmets and documents as we stop and go from booth to booth. We haven’t yet gotten the hang of the whole process but we’re getting there. No hassle from the border guards.
I’ve got my phone under this clear plastic sheet of my tank bag and I set directions to Belgrade on maps.me. I use an offline map because Serbia is not part of the EU, so enabling mobile data on my phone would become very costly very quickly. I’m used to paying around 1 EUR per GB at home or Roaming in Europe, whereas in Serbia it would be close to 10 EUR/MB!
We head to Belgrade and quickly find our hotel. We park the bikes (the hotel has a little parking spot behind a closed gate) and we go out to explore the city on foot. We’ve been here before and we like the city a lot. Everyone seems to be out, the cafes are always full, good vibes all around.
But for this trip we’re mostly looking to ride away from big cities and more into nature, mountains, winding roads, that sort of thing. We head towards Croatia almost in a straight line and only stop for food and gas. And for this nice green view by the side of the road.
We’re 5 days into the trip and so far there’s been absolutely no motorcycle trouble, no scares, no problems. We’re getting more and more comfortable and our asses get tougher and tougher by the day. Little did we know, things were about to take a turn for the worse… I always wanted to write that in a story. It’s supposed to keep the audience hanging by the edge of their seats and craving for more. But things actually got better and better every day. I mean, there was some crying by the side of the road, bitching, moaning and aching, but nothing too serious in retrospect. We got to see some really cool places and ride some wonderful roads. And we have a ton of photos to show for it. Stay tuned for more adventures – is what we would say if we were on the radio.
Next up: a quick first leg through Croatia, then, in Slovenia, taking in some of the best mountain views we’ve ever seen, plus a water park, forest hikes and waterfalls. We also talk about working on the road, our choice of motorcycles, the luggage setup and the gear we use. Keep reading: Slovenia by motorcycle: working eating, raining, riding.