It is Saturday 27. March, on this 16th and last day of our Riding
-vacation. We are in Patras, in the warm hospitality of
Dmitra and Soto (Quicktoys2). The ferry back to Italy departs this
There are quite a few things I regret not having photographed while in
Greece. On top of that list of "argh - I forgot" is the cake Dmitra
had baked for us, and served in the morning. During our stay we have
had many different settings for breakfast, so I assume that in Greece
there is no strong tradition to follow on that time of the day.
But back to the cake: We're in the sitting room of Dmitra and Soto,
talking calmly as you do early in the morning, and eating her cake.
It is hard to envision a better way to start the day in a foreign
country. If you have a better way, I would like to know.
Being in the private sphere of strangers, even foreigners, makes a
strong impression on me. Even more so in the morning: I am not a
"morning person", and I feel that my skin is extra thin at that time
of the day. What can be more gentle than Dmitras cake?
The general plan is that Soto goes riding with us. Then we try to
meet Dmitra for lunch, before Soto guides to the ferry. We start
packing; we haul along too much crap. Luggage is like time (here in
Italy): It is a plastic material that fills all space available.
As I have said repeatedly: The Greeks come in two models.
We have only one request: Show us the bridge! If you are an engineer
there is no substitute for the bridge they have here in Patras.
We start somewhere different: During the earthquake in 1988 the road
split open here (if we understood correctly). We, from Norway, don't
even know what an earthquake is. We find it ultra cool. I guess this
is as close as we have ever been to one. Admittedly, this isn't very
close. And we are happy for that, too!
As we try to keep up with Soto as he zooms through traffic, we talk
about what vacation is, what is was, and what it should be. In my
previous life, when I would not venture anywhere without my mobile
phone and PowerBook within reach, at the time when I had to keep
abreast of (very!) talented students, at the time when I did spend more
time at airports that I believe one should, at that time vacation was
to fly to Thailand, sit on the beach with a cigar, and let three weeks
pass by without doing anything. It took a week just to calm down.
It's not like that any longer.
Ah - those were the days. I even smoked cigars then. And there is no
more than two meters of snow on the lawn. It's not like that any
longer, either. At least, not on the lawn that I now own.
But now, now that I don't need an iPad, now I instead need action in
my vacation. That is probably why I resist any attempt to plan
vacation. I want to be invited to Dmitra for breakfast, and if we had
a hotel reservation we would not have been invited for breakfast. It
is that simple, I think.
Patras sports a magnificent bridge. No less that magnificent.
hmmm, that Greek rider seems to ride on far out the right. hmmm, I
don't seem to ride far out on the right. Good that we aren't in Rome,
because when in Rome....
In addition to the stunning view, there is a pleasant surprise
awaiting us on the north side of the bridge: Toll. Mr. Soto
says he is sorry, and seems more than a little puzzled when we are
full of joy and price.
OK - I know many hates toll roads. But I like them. I like that I
(and others) are made aware that things have a cost. Bridges do not
come for free. If there is no toll too many will quickly demand a
bridge somewhere else (if they got, why not us?). This is the first
toll we see in Greece, and we like it.
Very few other bikes.
We are on the north side of the "fjord" (at least, that is what we
would have called it in Norway). We are on the north side, riding
east. This road is better than what we have become used to; we have
obviously avoided the main routes. There is very little traffic here.
After all the slow winding and twisting, it is nice to get some wind
in our hair. Keeping up with Mr. Soto requires some effort.
We stop in Nafpaktos. Saturday morning and all places we would have
liked to sit are full of people. We ride on.
After a while we arrive at Galaxidi, where Mr. Soto knows about a
small place. They have a cake with enough energy to launch at least
two Space Shuttles. The problem is: The taste is outstanding.
None of us seems to want Greek "coffee". My cappuccino is quite OK.
She says her "frappé" is OK, but I can see on her face that you need
to know your theory of relativity to put that into context. Afterward
she calls me a snob, but in my view the world is like this: If your
job is to make coffee, doesn't it make your life better if you make
people happy? Coffee isn't just "something". It is a means to
happiness. And when you make coffee you are in some sense God: You
decide if other people are to become happy or not. And that, in my
view, is a heavy responsibility. Not all coffee-makers understand what
is at stake.
The cake-maker has obvious understood his power. He did not choose
to make my morning miserable. He chose to make me happy. I am
grateful for that.
I really need to do something about the side stand. He almost falls
over. Note: A large puck is already installed. I really need to do
something about it. One of these days.
The vest? I've used it all through the vacation. The idea is that
since no-one (as in zero, nil) else is using one, I really stand out
in traffic. I saw a (very!) bright yellow helmet the other day. That
was even better. I'll look into it.
Have I mentioned that Mr. Soto rides briskly on his Capo Nord?
I must really get out my whip and give it to Bamsefar to keep up.
Fortunately I have a young and attack-minded lady riding pillion. If
I instead had had a sixty-something boring middle-class lady dreaming
of a new car, what would my life have been?
There is an important line to be drawn in life from entering a
left-hand curve on the north side of the fjord near Patras. When the
curve tightens, we must lean further and further, even though the
horizon is already at about 45°. There is an immense value in life
having a wife that does the right thing when you enter a curve like
this at well over 100 km/t. We meet such curves, as such high
velocity, both when we ride, but also in life in general. For the
most part, life is not a smooth ride. At least not a life which keeps
you alive. Life is more than breathing, you know.
But I don't make any mistake here, because she does not make any
mistakes. Together we pull the barge that Bamsefar is smoothly
through the curve. Before we together pull him up, and make him ready
for the right hand curve we can see rapidly coming towards us just
Being on a motorcycle vacation is not so much about riding a
motorcycle. Bamsefar is, after all, just our means of locomotion.
But to ride together on a motorcycle is something bigger. It is
dangerous to drive a car, too. But you are shielded from the
elements, and one forgets just how dangerous it is. I don't "drive my
car". I am on my way somewhere. In the car. But driving is so
ubiquitous that I don't notice it as an act in itself. Not so when I
ride with Capa Superiore della Famiglia, the most stunning grandmother
you can envision, the most precious gift a man can get.
At 100 km/t in a tight left-hand curve, with a right-hand curve in
sight, one that might be ever tighter, with my wife on board, I feel
alive. Very much so. On the bike, we live our lives together. Not
only together as "in the same house", but together as in "close
together, living together". I don't know if you understand the
Can you ask more of a vacation than the feeling of living together?
I, for one, do not need to get anything more from my vacation than
this. The curve, the bike, and being on vacation with my wife. There
is simply not room in my small brain for anything more.
Suddenly we stop for a sign. Mr. Soto photographs it, so I
photograph him photographing the sign. I have no clue what it says.
We pass back over the bridge. Then he takes us to a nice place for
lunch, next to the water. You know, not even a cake lasts forever.
Not even a high-energy one. The bridge, the bikes, and nice people:
We're ready for lunch.
We're going home soon, so I need to use this joke yet another time:
Completely Greek to me.
In theory, as we ride by places we would like to explore further, we
say: We'll be back soon. But reality isn't like that. The world is
large, there are a countless number of places we haven't seen yet,
there has already been talk about Portugal, and so on. It is highly
unlikely that we'll be here again anytime soon. That is not related
to the place, to the Greeks, or to the lunch.
Soto arranges for us to have a varied lunch. A couple of salads, some
sort of vegetable pie, grilled chicken, and some grilled meat. Not
so much meat, just enough to make sure the lunch changes from
"something to eat" into "a lunch". We live in Tuscany, remember.
Dmitra can't make it, and that hinders the lunch from reaching the
peak it otherwise would have been. Nevertheless, we manage to pass
the time just fine. The sun is shining, we're sitting by the sea, the
bikes, and in the background the bridge. This fine piece of
At the end of every day, not only on vacation, I ask myself if this
has been a good day. One that has enriched my life. One worth living
for. Some days aren't. Some days are filled with repetitive tasks,
boring things, paperwork, and what not. You need to keep watch: If
the number of "not worth it" days start to grow, your life might start
to go to waste. When the "not wort it" days are no longer a passing
evil, but has become part of the structure of living, they action is
required. When this day draws to a close, and I ask myself if it was
worth it, I will recall the picture of Capa Supriore and me, the
bridge, and the bike; it features blue Greek sea, blue sky, and
everything else you can ask for.
Yes, this day was worth the effort.
Just in case you have forgotten that the Greeks use far too much oil
in their salads (I discussed it the first day), here is a picture to
show you what I mean. Maybe the oil is the next best in the world
(after, obviously, oil from Tuscany), but still. It is too much!
No-one can have everything. I used to have more things, and more
resources, that what I now have. But slowly the "not worth it"-days
grew in number. I am very happy I didn't accept that. That I managed
to turn my back to the salary, the PowerBook, the iPod, iPad, and what
not. We have managed to carve out a new living. One with far fewer
"not worth it"-days. Still some (give me a break), but far fewer.
Or, in other words: More Life in the life I get to have.
We skip "coffee" not to ruin the otherwise excellent morning!
We ride back to town, and we check in on the ferry. With the help of
a local (guess who), we escape from the inside of the barrier to go
riding instead of waiting for boarding. It is because only one things
is missing: A small map on a sticker. I want to add one to our a
pannier. We have looked for one all through the vacation. Mr. Soto
guides us to an obscure shop in town and there you are!
Mr. Soto - you are an example that we should all learn from. Your
hospitality is unsurpassed and you are a fine ambassador for your
Finally we roll on board. We feel small inside the huge hull where
large trucks zoom around. Lots of space (even though is filled up
somewhat more than this).
As the light slowly gave way for the nigh, the moon rose, and Greece
slowly sank down into the ocean behind us, I stood on one of the upper
decks while refraining from smoking a cigarette.
On the 17th and last day of our vacation we rode the 894 km from Bari
and home. Here is my advice: Make sure your wife doesn't balk at
plans that include a 900 km day to get home. Makes planning a lot
The photo was taken at 140 km/t on the Italian Autostrada. We are on
our way home!
Our holiday Riding in Greece
was absolutely worth the
effort. We planned by means of not planning, and it turned out to be
just as planned. No pun intended. Just as on Sicilia and in Spain,
the plan of not planning gave us a perfect mix of good and boring
(nothing bad!), the meals ranged from outstanding (with the crying
waiter) to the ordinary (grill i Kavala).
We met a mixed bag of people. From the Albanian teenagers in the
mountains to the ugly nationalist by the Lion, from the man who came
out and served us coffee in a village north of Kastoria to the young
man in the bar in Drama who said the crisis was created by Merkel for
domestic reasons. Or, in other words: An empirical study of the
Greeks has reviled that they are like people all over the world.
Some good, some not so good.
The wine surprised us. We are obviously tourists, but if that
compels the establishments to serve watered down wine, that surprises
me even more. In fact, I don't what is worst.
Thank you very much for taking a part in our tiny ADVenture. I am
truly happy you have taken of your time to read.
Finally, I would, in particular, like to thank the ADVriders who took
it upon themselves to offer advice on what to do and what to see, to
meet us for lunch, to share a dinner with us, or, as the ultimate
sacrifice, share his home. I hope I can pay you back! I will hang
around in Tuscany waiting for you to pass by.
The only thing left to mention is the coffee.
(this page is purposely left empty)
The last day in Greece.
Mr. Zumo tells us we rode 3.923 km in Greece and 1.729 km in Italy for a total of 5.652
(about 3.500 miles).