I look around my apartment here in Athens. My helmet sits on a chair in the living room, my riding suit stained from over 5,000 miles of riding takes up the sofa, and I strew more laundry and loose items from the kitchen table to the side tables in the bedroom. I’ve made a mess. Now I must pack everything up again. I leave tomorrow.
Last night I spent a long evening with Panos and Iza at my favorite Athens hangout, Vintage Wine Bar & Bistro. I love this place and the people who work there. Here I meet Maria, the jewelry maker, and a Konstantinos and Maria who own the Oinovate Wine Bar in Thessaloniki in northeastern Greece. I make a note to be sure to visit them next year when I return to Greece and forge new paths east.
I also bring a bottle of wine that I’ve been toting around the Balkans since I arrived in Athens in July. I brought it to share with newlyweds Pan and Brit, but we never had alone time to sit and enjoy and celebrate. So it’s been rattling around in my pannier, heating – or perhaps baking in the summer’s heat. It’s a great bottle. Or, it was a great bottle. I fear it got cooked. The 1996 Shafer Hillside Select is over twenty years old. And subject to the heat and shock of riding on a motorcycle, I was sure it would be gone—finished. Too bad, it’s not a cheap bottle.
I ask Panos to open it, and together we’ll taste. It surprises us when the wine is youthful, lovely, and rich and concentrated. Maria says, “it’s almost too perfect.” We are drinking a California Cabernet Sauvignon here at a wine bar in Athens. I share it Konstantinos and Maria from Wine bar Oinovate in Thessaloniki. They love it too.
The next night I find in Marina Zea, a cozy restaurant called “Corks & Forks.” This is crazy and coincidental. My last book is Forks, and I’m writing my next, “Corks.” I meet Dimitris, one of its owners. I promise to get him a copy of my book when I return. He and his partners have another place on the water, “Hams & Clams,” I will dine there the night I leave for California.
I have one last item of business: my bike. Doc overheated again as I rode into Athens a few days ago. I cannot figure out what is going on. I replaced the radiator in Zagreb a month ago. It’s been running cool and calm since. But this must wait. I do not have time. I will store the motorcycle again at Michael’s office in Voula. When I return next year, I will get with George at Vagianelis, and his team will certainly figure out the problem.
Also, Doc is filthy, so I take the bike to a specialized moto wash where the team does an outstanding job and cleans the bike better than it’s ever been. After, I ride the bike to Michael’s, though I must stop every 500 meters letting Doc cool. It’s sad to me that I must leave the bike without addressing this. At least it’s clean, however.
My flight leaves earlier in the morning, so my taxi driver Nick, meets me at 4:30 am in Marina Zea. For now, it’s goodbye.
I will be back in Athens in July 2019. More adventures, stories, and colorful characters await.