Jul 11

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

by in Bulgaria

With no speedometer, I’d originally taken a rough guess at what distance I thought the total journey would ultimately be. Well, it seems I really underestimated this and daughter Nikki has been hard at work calculating distances far more accurately than I ever did. Apparently  I’ve already covered 13,926 kms – which is bloody amazing! I had been concerned Effie might only last a total of 12,000kms but she’s proved a gutsier little engine than first thought. So I take my hat off to her and the engineers from way back in 1910 that did such a great job creating this robust machine.

Today I’m setting off on the road again, heading towards Romania. I’ve been reading up on this next stage and it sounds like there are some pretty amazing roads & scenery ahead. I’ve been looking forward to the Dracula rally since I first heard about it a couple of years back and being with fellow riders for a whole weekend promises to be fun.

The weather in Bulgaria has been much hotter than I imagined it might be. I’m not sure if things will cool down at all in the next few countries, and it’s possible there could even be thunderstorms given the present heat wave we’re experiencing. Apparently when it rains here it ‘s a torrent, so I’ll be heading indoors if at all possible should that happen as I don’t imagine Effie is much good at swimming! Veliko Tarnovo has been an easy town to find my way around, not too many people or cars, and an interesting mix of traditional houses in the old quarter and apartment blocks in the new town. Waking to the sound of the chiming clock in the square and a spectacular view of the town and surrounding hills is pretty special.

Adrian, a keen motorcycling Brit with a couple of nice bikes in his stable, including a Galera, kindly invited Lynne & I to stay at his restored 200 year old home overlooking the old town. He and his lovely wife Sue have been fantastic hosts and we can’t thank them enough for their warm hospitality and friendship.

There’s a strong expat presence in Bulgaria and we’ve enjoyed getting together with people who’ve chosen to spend the summers here. Only the really hardy (or the insane), stay on for the harsh winters. Locals too have been welcoming, including Valeri & his family who treated us to a relaxed evening meal in the garden of his home on the outskirts of town. Surrounded by vegetable garden plots tended by his family & neighbours, it reminded me of when I lived in Sydney, where migrants from all over Europe, Asia and the Middle East had huge vegetable gardens which provided food for all manner of traditional dishes they brought with them.

I’ve recently stripped down the barrels and checked the pistons. All was well so I removed any carbon buildup, gave the exhaust valves a quick lap in even though they didn’t need it. I tried to buy a Bosch spark plug in Veliko Tarnovo for the one the porcelain had become loose in, but there were none available, (not even in another brand), that would meet the necessary heat range.

It made sense to remove the sponge and vinyl from the seat that I’d had put on in India as it was now too compressed and not adding any comfort whatsoever. Adrian kindly gave me a gel seat cover from a bicycle and I managed to fit it under the leather. It feels more flexible and we’ll know in the next few days just how well it works.

The pedaling chain had stretched to where it was necessary to remove one link to make it tight again. And to make the dovetail tighter on the adjuster for the pedaling chain, I’ve inserted a sliver of aluminum from a coke can and that’s been working real well.

Rear spokes are still a problem and I seem to need to replace one or two every few days. My feeling is the flange on the hub that the spokes go through is too thin which results in the heads being cut off the spokes.

Dave, a nice guy in VT, acted as a local guide in his old London cab, and very kindly made me a stick-on transfer for the bike tank, listing all the countries on my journey. It’s pretty exciting to realize that I’ve already visited most of them.

Adrian and I have pored over maps, checking out all the possible routes between here and Germany and I’ve been guided as to the places not to be missed. I usually don’t have the luxury of maps given they’re just another thing to carry, but we’ll be doing some of the riding in Romania together so sitting down with a fellow enthusiast and sharing that sort of camaraderie is always rewarding.

Until Lynne meets up with me again in Turda for the rally she’s travelling by buses and trains through the rest of Bulgaria and Romania. When she entered from Turkey, there was a 3 hour delay while customs officials went through everyone’s baggage, uncovering perfume and cigarettes the hapless travellers were hoping to slip through unnoticed. I, on the other hand, had been waved through with no inspection of my gear. Life can definitely be easier in some respects when you only have yourself and your machine to worry about.

Before I can set off this morning I need to push the bike down the cobbled street to the main road. There’s no way I can manage riding an FN with no suspension downhill (or up) on the cobbled village streets. Outside of the USA, I’m not sure if there’s any other yellow brick roads but Sofia, Bulgaria definitely has one. Whether or not I’m heading to the Emerald City (Wizard of Oz) is anyone’s guess!

ADDENDUM: Mileage to date (differences between Effie’s efforts and Ron’s due to Ron and Lynne taking side trips to Karakoram Highway, Shiraz and Caspian Sea when Effie stayed behind to rest!)

Ron – km this leg

Ron – km to date

Effie – km this leg

Effie – km to date

Kathmandu Pokhara

70

70

Pokhara Butwal

263

333

263

333

Butwal Basti

231

564

231

564

Basti Agra

534

1098

534

1098

Agra Jodhpur

567

1665

567

1665

Jodhpur Suratgarh

474

2139

474

2139

Suratgarh Taran Taran

321

2460

321

2460

Taran Taran Amritsar

23

2483

23

2483

Amritsar Lahore

54

2537

54

2537

Lahore Gilgit

797

3334

0

2537

Gilgit Hunza

189

3523

0

2537

Hunza Lahore

986

4509

0

2537

Lahore Multan

141

4650

141

2678

Bahawalpur Quetta

855

5505

855

3533

Quetta Bam

1059

6564

1059

4592

Bam Yazd

552

7116

552

5144

Yazd Tehran

626

7742

626

5770

Tehran Shiraz

942

8684

0

5770

Shiraz Tehran

942

9626

0

5770

Tehran Tonekabon

225

9851

0

5770

Tonekabon Tehran

225

10076

0

5770

Tehran Van

1117

11193

1117

6887

Van Cappadocia

812

12005

812

7699

Cappadocia Istanbul

1093

13098

1093

8792

Istanbul Veliko Tarnova

828

13926

828

9620

Veliko Tarnova Svishtov (today)

80

14006

80

9700

17 Responses to “Follow the Yellow Brick Road”

  1. From libor marcik:

    Hi Ron

    We are looking forward to seeing you. How long you want to stay in the Czech Republic. When you arrive in our country? Do you have favorite places where to look, or I can offer something.What do you prefer, a city tour or a visit of the National Technical Museum, or nature? We have a beautiful castles, I recommend an old water hammer – lies on the way. You are tired of motorcycles , but a lot of veteran bikers will come to encourage you . If you have a phone, teacher English of my wife is your neighbor from Brisbane.
    I sincerely, Libor

    Posted on July 22, 2012 at 4:54 pm #
    • From The Old Bloke:

      Hi again Libor

      I’ve replied via email, but just to confirm I’d like to meet up in Prague, especially if there’s the opportunity to meet other veteran bikers. I’m never tired of seeing old bikes especially as many of your marques never came to Australia.

      Cheers,

      Ron

      Posted on July 27, 2012 at 5:33 pm #
  2. From libor marcik:

    good day Ron
    I am excited about your trip. Yesterday I returned from a trip to Paris – Vienna 1668 km traveled on a motorcycle Rösler + Jauernig from 1904 for ten days. I am a collector of motorcycles Hospital (1904 – 1924) and I live close to Prague – Czech Republic. If you would like to agree to accompany the bike in the country from 1904. You can spend the night at my home or garden. Am with you!

    Greeting Libor Mar?ík

    libor.marcik@volny.cz

    http://www.libormarcik.cz

    Posted on July 21, 2012 at 4:00 pm #
    • From The Old Bloke:

      Hi Libor

      Great to hear you’re still riding a bike so old – that’s fantastic. I see you also have an interest in FN’s. I will be visiting Prague so it would be good to meet up. I’ll email you direct so we can have a chat.

      Keep enjoying the ride!

      Cheers, Ron

      Posted on July 22, 2012 at 4:22 am #
  3. From Thomas:

    ;-))

    Posted on July 20, 2012 at 12:00 pm #
  4. From Thomas:

    Hi Ron,

    i am just back from a 4 days Long-weekend trip to Vienna (incl a fabulous Springsteen concert). Have been there before, but always for business in + out. Vienna is a facinating city with a lot of cultural places. So it is good tt you hv it now on yr list. Just in case you are getting short of time (or to avoid traffic of another big city), you should know tt you can go fm Center Vienna to Bratislava by Speedboat in 75 Minutes. So this may be a daytrip without Effie. But you are passing Bratislava anyway on your trip to Vienna.
    Good luck for the rest of the trip. Only 9 weeks left to reach Bernkastel…
    Thomas

    Posted on July 16, 2012 at 10:45 am #
    • From The Old Bloke:

      Hi Thomas

      The weeks are flying by. Great you got to relax in Vienna for a change and enjoy Springsteen (63 and still going strong). Thanks for the suggestions – I plan to pick up a map of Europe and check out routes now I have a few days in Turda. See you soon.

      Cheers,

      Ron

      Posted on July 20, 2012 at 5:08 am #
      • From Thomas:

        Hi ron
        seems tt somebody had already taken the decision. Check under “Route” in your Blog and you will find the exact route you have to go and under Nbr 67 you see: Vienna… ;-)) Seems you have Lynne not under full control…;-)
        Take care
        Thomas

        Posted on July 20, 2012 at 8:31 am #
        • From The Old Bloke:

          LOL I don’t think having Lynne under control is achievable in this lifetime, but then I wouldn’t want it any other way.
          You know more than me about where I’m heading Thomas. This is only the first time I’ve bought a real map and it’s good to see where I’ve been! Our daughter Nikki (who created the website) filled in a rough itinerary just to give an indication of the route, but it’s open to change when people suggest alternatives that might be more scenic. Now that I’m rested up for a few days after the amazing Muntii Fagarasuiui Lynne & I are sitting down and looking at the last leg. I’ll keep you posted.

          Cheers, Ron

          Posted on July 20, 2012 at 11:50 am #
  5. From Andre de Koning:

    Hi Ron,

    Message here from us two and Sarah (Salisbury) with him whom we are staying for a few days (Sarah going to the Paul Simon Graceland concern in Hyde Park).
    We’ll be in Holland from July 18-12August and then possibly back to the UK for a 2 week period and then off to Portugal. What will be the time you think you’ll arrive in Belgium?
    Love from us here, with good memories of India,
    also to Lynne,

    Andre

    Posted on July 15, 2012 at 10:37 am #
    • From The Old Bloke:

      Hi Andre

      Good to hear from you again. It seem ages ago we were all in India. Hope Sarah enjoyed the Paul Simon concert – another old guy still going strong, even older than me!
      Will keep you posted on arrival dates for Belgium once we work these out. The Rally is the middle of Sept in Germany so I’ll probably head to Belgium soon after that. Only have 90 days for Schengen countries with alot to see. May go on to UK but still not decided about that just yet.

      Love to you all from Lynne & I,

      Ron

      Posted on July 20, 2012 at 5:33 am #
  6. From Pierre LAUMONT:

    Hi Old bloke,
    Always happy to read a new chapter of your odyssey !!
    I am sure no belgian would have even dreamed of such a long trip : you hardly see a four cylinder FN at a rallie nowadays !!
    Keep it up, see you in Herstal where the bike was made !!
    Pierre

    Posted on July 15, 2012 at 10:27 am #
    • From The Old Bloke:

      Hi Pierre

      Thanks for still being here! Hopefully a few old bikes will be dusted off and out on show when I arrive in Belgium. You have to wonder where they’ve all got to these days? Look forward to seeing you in Herstal.

      Caio,

      Ron

      Posted on July 20, 2012 at 5:36 am #
  7. From Sue Trim:

    It was an absolute pleasure to meet you both in VT. I am now following your travels avidly. I wish you well and hope to see you in England!
    All the best from Sue xx

    Posted on July 12, 2012 at 11:16 am #
    • From The Old Bloke:

      Hi Sue

      We loved spending time with you & Adrian in VT. Thank you for everything. Good to hear you’re keeping up with the blog. Here’s hoping we can catch up again in England.

      Cheers, Ron

      Posted on July 13, 2012 at 7:43 am #
  8. From Paula:

    You never fail to amaze me, Ronnie – a sliver of coke can here and a bicycle seat there and all is well and good.
    My Gertie wishes I had your ingenuity as the “temporary fix” you did on her side mirror 15 years ago has just come unstuck…
    No wonder Effie has managed such a hugely impressive distance with you looking after her.
    Love every update. I’ve always said Lynne should write a book as the descriptions and emotions of this journey really resound.

    Posted on July 12, 2012 at 8:02 am #
    • From The Old Bloke:

      Hi Sis

      Good to hear Gertie’s mirror repair lasted this long. While I keep a close eye on Effie each day I’m still always amazed that she just keeps on going – it says alot about how well the bike was engineered. Still a way to go but I’m confident we can make it. Yes, having Lynne as translator helps in sharing the experience with the wider world. Definitely no room on the FN for a laptop! LOL

      Love from us both, Ron x

      Posted on July 13, 2012 at 7:30 am #

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