December 31. New Years Eve. Istanbul
Tolga and I had signed up for the "couchsurfing.org Istanbul NYE party". He warned me that most of the people there would be Turkish guys. We took our chances and the party turned out to be pretty good. There were about 1000 people from all around the world. Only about %25 were Turkish guys. We met a brother and sister from Atlanta, Claibourne and Prentiss. They were great fun and we celebrated the new year until very late. I'm glad I Tolga was Turkish when we were trying to get taxi cab because we talked to about 5 or 6 taxis before we found one that wasn't trying to screw us. The first few wanted $50 for a $10 taxi ride. Make sure you agree on the price before they start driving.
|Dressed to kill on NYE!|
January 1. 2013. Exploring Istanbul.
We slept in and rode motos around the city. Tolga showed me some of the sights. The Mosques. The old city. The people fishing on the bridges. The most interesting thing is probably the traffic. You don't know till you experience it. While we were parked near one of the Mosques, a bearded guy in his 20s came up to us and asked me if I was Muslim. I replied no. "Well, No one is perfect". Great stuff. Later we met up with Prentiss and her brother for some dinner. I had a traditional Turkish dish that was dumplings filled with meat and covered in a sauce made from yogurt with red peppers. I really enjoyed it.
|Fishing. Turkish style.|
|Um... bait or keepers?|
|Keepers I guess. :)|
|Time to leave I think. Getting stared down.|
|Tolga and my 690.|
|Maybe we weren't supposed to park here either.|
|Tolga and Claibourne|
|My amazing dinner. Could have been a bit more spicy.|
|Chi. All tea is called Chai.|
Tolgo had to go back to work so I worked on the bike. I borrowed Tolga's sweet Honda scooter and found tools I needed. I needed a extendable magnet for the valve shims, a digital mutimeter, and a digital caliper. I found my valves were out of specifications so I was going to have to re-shim. After spending some time on ADVrider, We decided it would be better to replace the rocker arms. I was worried I would not be able to find any. I have heard horror stories of people in the US waiting for months to get rocker arms when the bearings go bad. The next day we would find out.
|The parking garage turned workshop.|
|While cleaning I found a broken pin which needed to be soldered. The reason some of my numbers were kaput.|
On the way back from work Tolga stopped at the KTM dealer in Istanbul. It turns out they had the Exhaust and Intake rockers I needed. They also let me borrow a shim kit so I could get the bike shimmed correctly. I finished the bike in the evening and Tolga and I ate some sandwiches with kofte. Kofte is like meatballs. It also can be raw meat so be careful when ordering. Again we met up with our American friends that we met on NYE. It turned out to be a late night somehow.
|Old Exhaust rocker out.|
|New Exhaust and Intake Rockers in.|
My plan was to leave to start across Turkey toward Georgia. But when Tolga and I woke up, we both had a bad stomach bug. We blame the Kofte from the night before. We did not do much that day. I was either in bed or on the toilet.
January 5. Istanbul to Zonguldak 385 km
I finally left Istanbul and started across turkey. When I started it was cloudy and cold but not raining. By the evening I had rain and snow. I screwed up and made a 90km loop acidently. I thought I was on one road and I went back on my own track. After this I was frustrated and cold so I stopped for the night.
January 6. Zonguldak to Osmancik 393 km
When I woke up in the morning there was sun shining on the bay down below. I felt a wave of relief run over my whole body. By the time I finished breakfast, it had started raining again. Gotta keep moving. The first mountain pass gave me snow with some slush on the ground. By the time I got inland, it was dryer snow and less dense. For much of the afternoon it was cold and cloudy but not wet. At dark I stopped in Osmancik for the night.
|These guys gave me Chai.|
|The hill slid and did this. Crazy.|
January 7. Osmancik to Fatsa 304 km
Dry cold roads to start the day. Snow on the side of the road but the lanes were clear. It was cold enough where any water would turn to ice on the road. Gotta keep your guard up. In the town of Fatsa the snow was falling hard. Big wet heavy flakes. Fatsa is next to the Black Sea and going west, the road climbs over a small pass. I went about 3 km before I could not see any lines on the road. There was so much snow falling I felt like I needed windshield wipers. After I saw one car in the ditch I decided to turn around. Luckily there was an underpass to get on the other side of the divided highway. A short ride later and I was back in Fatso. Withing 15 minutes I was out of my cold wet cloths and eating some nice hot Turkish bean soup. Warm and salty. Just what I needed.
|A cold Noah|
|Snow and the Black Sea.|
January 8. Fatsa to Arsin. 235 km
Got a late start because I had to wait for the snow on the roads to thaw. Wet pavement and rain all day. You really have to watch out for the truck drivers in Turkey. On wet pavement I slow down on the moto tires. Especially when there is traffic around. The last thing I need to do is slide into a guard rail or under a truck. A delivery type van came up on me fast and was about 5 feet off my rear tire. I motioned with my hand for him to go around. The left lane was clear. He went around the swerved back into my lane fast almost like he was purposely trying to run me off the road. I had to use breaks and go into the shoulder to avoid getting hit. I'm not sure what it was about, but this acually happened 2 times to me in Turkey. Tolga said its because not many people ride motorcycles in Turkey and the truck drivers are just "country hicks". I told Tolga in most places the truck drivers at least have a little respect for the people on moto. If not respect, at least they don't try to run them off the road. My recommendations for Turkey would be stay on the small roads/ offroad. In summer time that's where I would have been. Leaving a stoplight I couldn't find my shifter. The spring in the peddle part had broken. I pulled over and spotted what would work nicely... a discarded teaspoon. I pushed it into the peddle and it worked nicely. I found a hotel at the next exit and got a room. It was a "nice" hotel compared to the previous nights and about 2x more expensive. Dinner was pan fried chicken fillets and salad.
|Skies look promising.|
|Should have known better.|
|These guys also gave me Chai. And also thought I was crazy.|
|Quick fix and back on the road.|
|An avalanche probe works very well for drying your boots when the hotel has a heater mounted up by the ceiling.|
It was raining in the morning so I took my time with coffee and internet. At about 11 I bit the bullet and started riding. It rained pretty much the whole day. In the afternoon I hit the Georgian border. About 15 minutes with customs explaining that KTM is the brand name of the moto and I was on my way. The first major town that I hit was Batumi. In the summer I am told this is quite the nice beach town. When I was there it was raining. The hotel I stayed in had a storage room where my moto could sleep the night. It also had a club that was blasting euro-club-techno-boom-boom music until about 2 in the morning. The ear plugs came in handy.
|Getting money and food.|
|Looking south toward Turkey|
January 10. Batumi to Surami. 242 km
In the morning there was snow on the ground but the roads were clear. I rode north along the coast and in the afternoon I even had some sunlight. Later I was traveling east on the main road toward Tbilsi. It starts to wind through some small mountains and of course that's when the snow started. Looking in my mirror I spotted a car coming up on me fast so I pulled over and waved them by. As they pulled along side me they honked and waved with thumbs up. In the rear window was a KTM sticker. They pulled over a bit further and we talked. Then the snow started to get bad. My new friends help me get a hotel. The room was great. 1 room, 1 bed, 1 table, 2 chairs and a wood stove. Just what I was looking for after riding in the snow for a while. That night the snow kept falling. I got my first taste of Georgian Cha Cha with the owner of the hotel.
|Love me a wood stove.|
Coffee and breakfast with the hotel owners. The daughter was learning English in school and was asking me simple questions.. "what is your age".. "where are you from".. she would then talk to her dad and brother in Georgian. I got on the road once the snow cleared. This was the first actual sunny days I had been lucky enough to have in about a week. It was very cold but dry. I rode through Tbilisi and on to Rustavi where KTM Georgia has a garage. This is where I parted ways with the 690. It will be in storage till spring.
|Finally some sun!|
|Teaching dad some English.|
January 12. Rustavi to Gudauri. By pickup truck
Up early in the morning. We loaded a snowbike in the back of a diesel Ford Ranger and headed up toward Gudauri. Its about a 2 hour drive and after the first hour we started to get into snow. The Caucasus mountains are quite spectacular. I would snowboard that day and almost every day since then.
|Pass on a curve? Why not.|
|Seems like a reasonable way to sand the roads.|
|The view from up top.|
|Watching the sun set on the first day at Gudauri|