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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