Welcome Back to USA: Disaster & Ripped Off.

Well it should have been an easy task. Get my brother Jon to take a bit of time and shuttle me up to the Port of Baltimore, where Doc would be waiting for me. I had locked my boots, helmet and riding pants into the top box and Jesse Bags. My jacket was sent ahead for some repairs under BMW warranty, so with that I’d just pick up the rest of the gear and ride back to Virginia to spend some time with my brother and his family before embarking on the cross-continental USA leg of my WorldRider journey.

Not so fast.

The freight was sent freight-collect. So I’d sent my final payment to WWL a few days earlier. All I needed was to get my final bill of lading stamped by WWL at the Port of Baltimore and then get customs cleared. Simple enough. I was just about through the whole process when the U.S. customs agent asked that I bring the bike around to verify the VIN#. He pointed to the warehouse where I’d find the bike.

But when I got to the bike this is what it looked like:

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On top of that. The key that I’d left with the WWL agents in istanbul was in the ignition, the handlebars were locked, but they were locked in the first position. That is, the position that locks the bars and puts on the “parking” light. The battery was dead. A port mechanic tried to help me jump the bike. But when the cables were pulled off the bike just died. The battery is a goner.

But that’s not all. Closer inspection revealed that the locks were pried off my Jesse bags. My Aerostich Tank Panniers were slashed (I had small pad locks on the zipper pulls). Pulling the key out of the ignition I opened the top box. My helmet was gone.

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That’s not all. My riding pants were gone. But oddly enough, my boots were still in there. Nearly anything of value was stolen:

$499 BMW Rallye2 Pants (gry/blk size 42R)
$279 ea. BMW GoreTex Rallye II liners (sold with riding gear; I packed in a stuff sack in pannier. Replace jacket only; liner comes with pants $279)
$250 Caberg Justissimo Helmet (sadly no longer available in USA)

$200 BMW Heated Vest

$159 Held Steve Gloves (size 7.5)

$130 Held Hawk Cold Weather Gloves (size 8) no longer available replaced new model

$127 Aerostich Ultralight Bike Cover (lg)
$117 Aerostich Tank Panniers (std. blk.)
$ 80 Held Air Gloves (size 7)

$ 79 Petzl Myo XP Led Headlamp
$ 47 Digital MultiMeter (mini)
$ 44 Eagle Creek Pack-It Cubes (2 half; 2 qtr)

$ 25 Craftsman Screwdriver Set, Ratcheting
$ 25 Sears Digital Tire Gauge
$ 15 Silk Bacalava
$ 12 Silk Glove Liners

Minimum Loss To Date: $2,088 — from what I can remember. Then add the cost of a new battery of about $60 and we’re over $2,100. Hey, if there ever was a time you’ve thought about putting some gas in my tank through my “Friends of WorldRider” page, now is a good time to add to my kitty, as I’m going to have to replace most of this stuff for my journey across the United States. It makes me sick to my stomach and pains my brain to think that this happened just before I got home.
And thanks to all of you who have and many who’ve donated multiple times — I’m blessed to have your support and cannot thank you enough.
Thankfully, I had packed all of my electronics, GPS, camera, iPod and clothing among others things in my duffel bag which made it back to the states safely.
While I know this stuff was ripped off at the port in Istanbul, it just is extremely hard for me to believe and I’m saddened that the end of this part of my trip comes down to the biggest breach of my journey. I’ve been to the purportedly most dangerous and unstable places in the world and never have I been ripped off. Oh, yeah. I got pick-pocketed in the Buenos Aires Subte. But that was sans motorcycle.
Truth is, this trip has reinforced my confidence in the good of humanity and the notion that with a good blend of attitude, streetwise, prudence and common sense that danger and rip offs can be avoided — anywhere. Here I though my bike was in the good hands of the largest auto shipping company in the world. But perhaps that is the one place I let me guard down and it came back and bit me.
I’m told here by WWL’s NYC office that their liability is limited to $500 in damage – unless I have marine insurance. Items not “part” of the bike are not covered. I was never offered insurance by the WWL agent in Istanbul and I had no insurance on the bike as the most common domestic policies don’t cover vehicles when they leave the country.

Hassles at the Port of Derince

Sebile (a woman) at Yakin Dogu Deniz Acenteligi instructed me to bring the bike to the Port of Derince, which is about 45 minutes from Istanbul on the Marmara Sea. Though my schedule ship would not leave for about a week, I figured that the bike would be safer in the hands at the port rather than on the sidewalk in front of my hotel in Istanbul.

Sounds easy enough, but Yakin Dogu referred me to a customs agent who told me that I would not be able to bring the bike to port until the ship was ready for loading. This actually turned out to be false information. Further complications about clearing the bike for customs and the cost of doing this created a bit of bad energy at among the customs brokers. Plus, Turkish customs refused to stamp my carnet, though the customs officials at the border of Syria did stamp my carnet “incoming.” Theoretically, without an “exit stamp” the CAA could hold my deposit. But with a bill of lading from the landing at Port of Baltimore, I should be find and there would be no problem.

So after all the commotion I left my bike in the Turkish Customs holding warehouse. Removing all those items I’d need for the rest of my stay in Istanbul and Turkey, I secured the unnecessary items into the Jesse Bags and top box. All else was loaded into a large duffel bag and would allow me to check it through on my flight back to the States.

So it was a sad day that I left Doc at the port. Though the trip is done here in Asia and Europe, I do look forward finishing a leg by riding across the United States from Washington DC to New York and on to California.

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It’s that time. Doc sits awaiting to be loaded onto a ship headed to the Port of Baltimore on the eastern seaboard of the United States in the State of Maryland.

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Istanbul (not Constantinople!)

Istanbul is crammed with so much great architecture, history, people, food and art that it’s impossible to explain it all. So better to just explain my feelings.

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In 2002 I had this crazy idea that I’d ride around the world on a motorcycle. Maybe it wasn’t so crazy but it was long a dream to travel around the world. With my passion of writing, photography, history and meeting new people it was a perfect plan. I’d sell everything I didn’t absolutely need including my car, home furnishings and just stuff that I accumulated and then head out on the road. Originally I thought I’d leave in July 2004, but a mild set back put that plan off by a year. On July 4, 2005 I was on my way. Without a home and only a motorcycle packed with way too much stuff.

Here nearly three years later I sit at the confluence of two continents. There were milestones I had conjured up in my mind: Alaska at the top of the world; Tierra el Fuego at the bottom. I’d always wanted to see Buenos Aires and the Amazon River. I’d dreamed of Namibia and the great sea of sand. Victoria Falls and Lake Malawi. Of course the Serengeti and the Sudan. The pyramids? Let’s not forget Petra.

But Istanbul? I remember cursing the country watching Alan Parker’s Midnight Express and yet I still wanted to see “for myself.” Getting caught up in the speed of life for so many years these dreams and milestones never left me. So while many people talk about doing something they’ve always dreamed of, I felt it was time to stop talking and dreaming and just get on with it.

Now I sit in Istanbul. Sure, there is more of the world I want (and will) to see. But it’s time to go home and continue to share my experiences and what I’ve seen, learned and felt over the years I’ve been on the road. I know I’ve inspired many who are planning their own trips or just setting out on new adventures regardless of whether they entail traveling. Just do what you want to do and believe in yourself. You can do it. The only person stopping you from doing it — is you!

So as I wander through history and exploring the Ayasofya, Topkapi Palace, Basilica Cistern, Blue Mosque and the giant Bazaar I wonder how I can bring the excitement I feel while cruising this sites and the streets of the city. So rather than labor on about the sites, I’ve decided to mix it up a bit and present some of my favorite images to an old-time swing song about this fabulous city.

I hope you enjoy.



The Price of Gas? Come on!

I’m finding Turkey to be perhaps the most expensive country I’ve visited on this journey. I guess that’s the western European economy bleeding over into the most western part of Asia from this side of the globe.

In the USA everyone is up in arms about the price of gas – petrol, fuel, benzine – whatever you call it. But we’ve got it made compared to Turkey. Average price per gallon to date? $12.50/gallon of gas

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Making my way through a small Turkish village.

The Arduous Process of Getting Home

After numerous e-mails and phone calls to more than a dozen shipping and air-freight brokers, I’ve found a way to get Doc home for a reasonable price. Thanks to the good folks at Yakin Dogu Deniz Acenteligi A.S in Istanbul who were referred to me by Wallenius Wilhelmsen Lines (WWL), I’m arranging to have my bike sent back to Baltimore, Maryland. It should arrive at the Port of Baltimore sometime in late July or early August.

My research found that airfreight would cost about $1,500 additional which is about the cost of my airline ticket to return home. Plus, WWL indicated that there is no need to crate the motorcycle – saving additional time and expense. They are the largest automobile shipping line in the world. My contact, Sebile Yazici is working with me to prepare the manifest, bill of lading and the necessary customs declarations.

I did my homework before choosing WWL and the group at Yakin Dogu Deniz Acenteligi. A couple other motorcyclists I’d found on the internet had positive experiences shipping motorcycles from here or there. So I was comfortable given the reputation of the company and past bikers experience.

Overall the process should be simple and straight forward. I’ll bring the bike to them for review and final clearance soon.

Longing for better roads?

I remember days in Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Malawi and even Namibia and Sudan just wishing and dreaming of nice sweeping turns on pavement roads. But you know what? I miss those places. The roads too. The more I ride and the more obstacles I overcome and those fears I confront, I build more confidence and therefore desire to try something new — or something again. In hindsight, I wish I had pushed harder for a visa with more time in Sudan. But why dwell. I’m in Turkey. And check out these roads! (Thanks for the photo Ursula)

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Riding Through A Small Turkish City

Classic Four Minaret Mosque

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Photo by Ursula

Istanbul. So Much To See

Constantinople? Istanbul?

There are two sides of the city. One is in Asia (Anatolia) and the other Europe (Rumelia). It’s truly where the two continents meet. Crossing the bridge over the Bosporus, the narrow strait that connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara, which ultimately connects with the Mediterranean. This narrow strait is actually the most narrow used for international shipping. Sitting on the European side of Istanbul and watching the massive container and tanker ships is a great way to get away from being overloaded on art, history and architecture of Istanbul.

Perhaps the last great Roman ruler, Constantinople made his last bad strategic decision – that is to move “Rome” to the hills above the Bosporus. He did this around 330AD and called the new Capital Constantinople. Then in the 1400’s the Ottoman Turks, well on their way of building an empire took Constantinople and ultimately renamed it Istanbul.

Connecting with my new Brit friend, Patrick, who I met a week or so earlier, together we explored Istanbul on foot. Still amiss that as a British national he had no problem securing an Iranian visa, whereas us less fortunate Americans are consistently denied. We road across the Bosporus using the efficient and inexpensive public ferry system. This way one can “sail” from Europe to Asia. And just a few days before I rode from Asia into Europe. It’s maddening. But it’s true.

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Looking over the sea of Marmara, I spot Constantinople or modern day Istanbul. It’s over these waters that someday my bike will head back to America.

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Always making friends with the local authorities. I found the Turkish police to be much like the police in other countries: friendly, curious and funny!

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Arriving in Istanbul at night, I took the chance to have a beer and a plate of hummus while gazing out at the iconic AyasofyaIMG_9115_2.jpg

This tiny passage is the narrowest used for international shipping – the Bosporus.

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It’s always time for Chai – as Patrick demonstrates.

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Patrick shows off his iranian Visa!!! I won’t see one of these anytime soon.

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Decorative takes on art are abundant in Istanbul – check out this shoe shine box!

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Riding the local ferry across the Bosporus.

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Istanbul Haydarpaşa, the main train station on the Anatolian side of Istanbul. It was build on over 1,000 wooden piles slammed deep into the seabed and as such it is like a peninsula surrounded by water on three sides. Built between 1906 and 1908, It was a gift to Sultan Abdulhamid II from Kaiser Wilhelm II, his ally.

Riding Turkey With New Friends

Riding the roads in this area of Turkey is quite blissful. Unique scenery, oddly shaped formations, historical and culturally rich and for now — great weather. But with Istanbul and the city where East meets West and Asia meets Europe awaits. Long a dream to visit istanbul, I set my sites for the big city. And along the way? Whatever comes.

Meanwhile, I am coming to realize that it will be from Istanbul at some point that I will put Doc on a ship and send my faithful companion and motorcycle back to the United States. But there’s more riding, exploring and wandering to do before that. But I’ve been in contact with some companies and am looking to coordinate the shipping.

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I couldn’t believe I was in Turkey. Riding down he road and spotting this 1972 (?) Chevrolet Impala.

The morning I headed toward Ankara with the sky a deep indigo blue with barely a marshmallow of a cloud in the sky, I passed a massive salt flat and surrounded by a massive agricultural operation. Massy-Ferguson tractors and equipment I’d never seen lined the roadside. I buzzed along and pondered Turkey and where I should go next.

Stopping for gas on a lonesome Turkish highway a couple on a GS1150 pull up. The man, Christian, tall and with salt and pepper hair and sporting a demeanor and confidence like George Cloony while the woman, Ursula, slender with long blond hair and an easy smile, I soon learned that the two just spent the last several riding through Turkey, Iran, Georgia and would be heading home through Bulgaria, Greece, Italy and Austria. They’ve traveled on this bike to more than 50 countries since 2001. But this afternoon they were heading back toward Germany. With weather uncertainties and time running out, they were thinking of be-lining it toward the Mediterranean and Bulgaria. But as I shared stories and the reality that soon I’d be returning to the States, Christian and Ursula decided to take some extra time and ride with me as I headed toward Istanbul. IMG_0145_2.jpg

Christian and Ursula loaded and riding on!

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Time to take off the rain gear.

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Ursula tend to the sheep outside a small village in Turkey.

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We pulled out our maps and I pointed to Iznik, a small village sitting on a large lake a few hours south of Istanbul. We could spend the evening there and in the morning they could continue onward toward Germany and I could explore the region and ultimately head to Istanbul. It was a plan. We plotted a route that would take us off the major thruways and plotted our way through tiny towns and countryside villages. As we moved further west the sky darkened and the threat of rain loomed.IMG_9066.jpg IMG_9067_2.jpg

We got slammed by a quick shower followed by light sprinkles about 100km outside of Iznik. Not only were the roads tight, narrow and twisty but compounding the fact that they were now wet and not exactly designed to drain well, our speed slowed. But it had to be some of my best tarmac riding that I could remember. Hanging on the back of that big GS, Ursula donned a Nikon DSLR and continued to shoot photographs. At one point she hopped off the back of Christian’s bike, while he and I rode together splitting her as she shot more photographs. Traveling alone means there aren’t a lot of photographs of me “riding”. And after a while photographs of the bike here or the bike there, well, they get rather boring. With a tiny flexible GorillaPod I’ve been able to do some self-timed self-portraits. But they’re not the same. I was excited to get some photos of me riding the Turkish countryside.

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Pulling into Iznik we eagerly searched for a lakeside Inn or Hotel. And settling on a small hotel with a restaurant we shared more stories, photographs and dinner as the sunset over the beautiful lake lined with groves of olive trees. We all wished that we had more time and had met earlier so we could have shared more riding. Christian has logged nearly 100,000km on his bike since 2001 — or maybe more — and they continue to ride to new countries taking a month or so off each year and then doing several short weekend trips. Living in Europe provides such great riding plus with countries about the size of many of our states, or smaller, it’s easy to cross several borders and experience new cultures over a long weekend.

The owner of our small hotel did everything. He was the bellhop, reception, waiter, chef and probably did all the maintenance. After ordering our dinner, I pondered the pre-printed wine list that was obviously provided by the distributor. After trying to decipher the Turkish, I decided on what looked like a good bottle to share among friends. I wandered the dining room (we were eating outside) and found our guy in the kitchen cutting the veggies and prepping our meal. “No you don’t want that bottle,” he said confidently when I pointed to my choice. “Very expensive,” he said confidently. “You get this one. Very good. Cheap. You try. No like, no pay.” Well, expensive is relative so I asked how much. Turns out it was close to a $100 US. He was right. So I pointed out another. Same answer. Then another. Nope. I asked if I could at least look at the bottle. “No have,” he said as he flicked some garlic into the fry pan. “Okay?” I said. “What do you have?” He points to the same bottle he mentioned earlier. Okay. Seems that’s about all he has in stock. He brought us glasses and opened the bottle. Lovely. Very happy. Turkish wine? Amazingly good!

The next morning I waved them goodbye, promsing each other that one day we’d ride again and for me I walked to the lakeside and stared out wondering what would be next for this worldrider once I got back to the states.

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The Crooked Merchant of Cappadocia

My wandering continued through Cappadocia and here are more close up photos of the wacky formations and Fairy Chimneys that make this region so oddly unique and interesting. But before that I do have to report on a odd and sadly disappointing experience I had with a merchant in Cappadocia (Goerme).

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When first crossing the border in Reyhanli, the boys that helped me find a map and introduced me to local motorcyclists also helped me secure a GSM chip for Turkicell for my mobile phone. Unlike other countries in Africa, the Turkicell command prompts for customer service actions are all in Turkish. When I bought the GSM chip I was told that it came with ten turkish lira value of air time. I think the chip itself cost 15 turkish lira.

But after purchasing the chip the sales agent told me that it would take up to 12 hours to activate. Because the language barrier was very difficult I asked several times if I needed to buy additional “air time” in order to make calls. I understood that I had sufficient air time and no additional “credit” would need to be purchased. But for the first few days in Turkey while I made my way through the countryside to Goerme, I could never get the phone to make calls or send SMS messages.

So in Goerme, it was suggested that I probably didn’t get airtime and likely needed to buy airtime credit. So I marched into a local small grocer and explained my plight. He grabbed my phone and punched some numbers and reaffirmed my Goerme findings: I didn’t get airtime after all. He punched some things into the phone after I paid for ten lira more of airtime and asked if he should add the airtime to my account. I said go ahead, because in the past in other countries where language was initially a problem people offered to help. I thought nothing of this.

He then handed the phone back to me and said he switched it to English and the recorded voice at the other end indicated I had 10 lira credit for airtime. Excellent.

When I was ready to leave I asked for the “used” airtime credit “card” as I like to save these from each country as a memento. He asked me why and before handing it back to me told me he needed to write down some numbers and he proceeded to write down the 12-16 digit code that is entered when upping the airtime credit.

This was odd. Why would he need those numbers. And why did he want to keep the card. I grabbed the card from him and outside his store I called the access code and followed english prompts to add airtime to my account. Because I felt funny, I entered those numbers from the card. Just as I’m doing this the guy comes running out of his shop with his mobile phone in hand asking to see the card again — he said he needed to see the numbers again. Then he asked me what I was doing.

I finished entering the numbers into the phone an then heard the lady repeat my account credit: 20 New Turkish Lira. Just then the shop keeper through his hands up in the air and muttered something and ducked back into his shop.

The guy tried to rip me off. And bad. I actually DID get 10 lira credit with my GSM chip. But the GSM chip never was “activated” because I never knew how to change the language. He simply activated it, changed the language and handed back to me after I paid him the 10 lira and tried to show me that he had entered the card into the phone and I was now up to date with my 10 lira. In reality, he never did enter the card and was simply going to use the code to add credit to HIS mobile phone.

What an idiot. I never had anything like this happen. And i was surprised this happened in Turkey. I guess that’s what happens in tourist towns. But why Turkey?

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I wandered to Avanos and to Urgup and through the valley and parks of the area. Sure, I had to content with some tourism. But words truly can’t describe this bizarre, interesting and UNESCO World Heritage site. Once again, I’ll try to let my photos tell the story. I spent several days here and met a number of interesting people, including Pat, a cheerful brit who recently visited Iran as he’s trying throughout his recent lifetime to “bag” as many. With so many good things said about Iran, I’m bummed the prospect of a visa for me diminishes by the minute.

But not to dwell. I’m enjoying the wild surroundings of Kapadokya. Think not of what I don’t or can’t have; rather think of what I have. And surrounding me here in Goerme is a dream. A lifelong dream. I’m in Asia. And I’m in Turkey.