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Old 05-25-2013, 05:50 AM   #1
eightup OP
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From Europe to Russia and Back

Well since I have some free time now, I figure its about time to start one of these. This ride is still on-going so if anyone is in the area and would like to ride or meet up, please don't hesitate to send me a PM.


The plan: Start off in Heidelberg, Germany where I picked up my bike, ride through Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, France, and the rest is undecided. (I'm kind of making this up as I go )


The Bike: A 2006 Suzuki DRZ-400s, I should probably mention this is my first motorcycle, first long distance ride, and first time out of the US.





Mods: Bark busters, Side racks and pelican case on one side, top rack, MOLLE tank bag system, and that's it. I made the racks and for the tank bag setup I just modified some old military gear I had laying around. It came with the larger fuel tank.

Navigational Equipment: Maps and compass


A bit about myself: I'm Josh, 24 years old, I spent the last couple years as a diver in the Navy before figuring out it wasn't really the life I wanted. I planned on doing some travel originally but after my brother talked me into a bike, one thing led to another. I also like long walks on the beach


eightup screwed with this post 05-25-2013 at 10:44 AM
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Old 05-25-2013, 05:58 AM   #2
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Oh,Man...this is probably going to be good...good luck.
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Old 05-25-2013, 05:59 AM   #3
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Prologue

Originally I had all this worked out a bit better. I nice cross country ride from Arkansas to California to shake the bike down and figure out what needed to be changed. Well a couple days from home I picked up a nail in the rear tire, while unfortunate it was nothing I couldn't handle. Out came the patch kit and I went to work. I couldn't find anything to prop the bike up on to remove the rear tire so I figured I would just lay her over for a bit. I've seen plenty of pictures of people laying their bikes over for one reason or another, so I wasn't worried.

A short while later my tube was now holding air. Feeling quite proud of myself, I righted the bike and went to start her. Half a crank... Flooded. Out came the spark plug and a large excess of fuel was removed. Let her sit for a bit, check the oil levels, all good. Time to try again, nothing, not even anything that sounds like combustion.





To make a long story short, I never finished that ride, and due to a few problems with parts acquisition, she was back on the road 3 days from the shipping date out of the US. It was time to get this now untested bike overseas.
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Old 05-25-2013, 06:07 AM   #4
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Germany!

I arrived in Frankfurt, Germany on May 3rd, to meet the parent of my friend (both who I had never met in person before). Their family was kind enough to give me a room for a week in the beautiful village of Rockenhausen.



I picked up my motorcycle from Knopf Tours in Heidelberg a few days later. Couldn't be any more pleased with the process. I showed up, packed my bike, grabbed a few papers, and was out the door. Extremely simple.

After a week in Rockenhausen, more than a handful of beers, and an hour or two looking at google maps, I was ready to hit the road. The decided route was through the Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine, and then up to Moscow to meet another friend.

With a less than adequate road map in stowage, I pointed my bike towards the rising sun and headed off into the unknown.
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Old 05-25-2013, 06:34 AM   #5
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Day 1

Starting Point: Rockenhausen, Germany

Heading east through the winding roads of what I assume was wine country my worries slowly started to wane away. The weather was beautiful, the roads were perfect, the contrasting colors of the fields were breathtaking, and I knew just enough about the road signs to keep me out of trouble. My only itinerary was that I would like to be entering Russia on the 20th.

In my south eastern route I stumbled upon the ruins of the Limburg Abbey



Country side from an overlook:




Some where along the 200km mark, I noticed that a tab had sheared off on the right side cargo rack. With no real way to repair it, the luggage was readjusted, and the rack discarded.

As the sun was setting, I started hunting for a camp site. I found what I thought was a suitable location in the woods, away from any paved road and a good 200 meters from any dirt road, with plenty of brush to cover the line of sight from the road. Standing around for a few minutes to reminisce on the day and oil the chain I heard a branch crack. Thinking to myself how funny it would be to meet a bear or something on the first night out, I was relieved to realize it was only a dog. It just so happened that attached to the dog was an older gentleman carrying a crossbow and double barrel shotgun. It had just become a party!

I donned my best smile and prepared for the worst. After explaining my lack of German, I was relieved that he knew a bit of English. I explained my intentions for the night and he was kind enough to explain the wild pig problem in the area. Hence crossbow and shotgun. I thanked him and promptly relocated to a more suitable location about 30km away.

Ending point: Unknown
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Old 05-25-2013, 06:45 AM   #6
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Day 2: Discovery of the Bakery

I was disappointed to realize the sun rose at 5 A.M. I really would have liked to squeeze another hour or two out of the night. Shaking off the grogginess and an abundance of slugs from my ground pad, I started to pack my gear and prepare for the day. Upon noticing that I went a bit further south than not planned, going through the Czech Republic seemed like the best option and was now added to the "Route".

About an hour or so later and with a rumbling tummy, I learned the German word for bakery and couldn't be more pleased. The similarities and views of delicious baked goods from the windows might have sped up the learning process.

The day brought more rolling fields, small villages, immaculate roads, and dark clouds.



Around noon, I got to see how well my riding jacket and pants worked at blocking water... for the next 6 hours. Somewhere in that 6 hours I decided motorcycle travel was a stupid idea and curse you guys for making it seem fun

Cold and with wet feet, I passed on camping and grabbed a hotel room in Regensburg.

Ending Point: Regensburg, Germany
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Old 05-25-2013, 07:13 AM   #7
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Day 3: What Border Crossing

Freshly rested and with now dry boots, my outlook on traveling by motorcycle was once again cheery. The sun was shining, bakery food was delicious, and it was time to cross my first border. Heading off to what I only assumed was grumpy border officials and long lines, I was extremely surprised when I kind of just drove into the Czech Republic. Confident that I had just done something extremely frowned upon, I pulled a U-turn and heading off to find some officials. At what I hoped was some sort of customs building, I parked my bike next to all the police cars and strolled inside. The guys there were more than happy to point out that this is the EU and that getting a stamp wasn't needed but gave me one as a souvenir anyways.

With a border crossing under my belt and a new currency in my wallet, I headed towards Prague to do some sight seeing. This was the first large foreign city I have driven in and I found it a bit confusing. The fact that they were having a marathon didn't help with the navigation. Which brings up my first interaction with the police.

Confidently lost and heading back to try a different route, I pulled down a side street to make a U-Turn because it was vacant. It just so happened to be vacant because of the "No Vehicles" sign in the middle of the street, which I missed of course. The officer was kind enough to explain this and upon finding out where I had came from and where I was going wished me luck on my trip and waved me off.

Now deep within Prague and very close to where I wanted to be, it was time to find some parking. Possibly a bit distracted by the architecture and because I swear it wasn't marked. The road I was on just kinda led into one of the main squares. Which of course was closed to vehicle traffic. Which brings me to my second police interaction. In broken English it was pointed out just exactly where I was, and how I should not be there. The same questions were asked and the same answers were given and with a smile, hearty wave, and a few directions on how to get out of said square, I was on my way.









A short time in Prague and the rain picked back up leaving me with a chilly walk back to the bike. After an hour or so of heading east, I was rewarded with sunny skies. Here on the back roads I opened up the 400 and made my way towards Poland.

Night had fallen as I was pulling into Trutnov. After a short time of looking for a hotel, I instead found my 3rd police encounter.

Once again with the turning around, I spotted the police car and just knew they were going to stop me, because I looked extremely out of place. These two officers knew Czech and German. I wasn't surprised by this and made full use of hand signals here. After about 5 minutes the point was made that my tail light no longer worked. A few more minutes and I have what I think is directions to the closest hotel. With a smile and promises to get the light fixed first thing I headed off. Only to drive in circles for about 10 minutes and re-arrive at the police officers. They led me there.

Lost: 1 Map & Compass: 0

Ending Point: Trutnov, Czech Republic

eightup screwed with this post 05-25-2013 at 08:16 AM
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Old 05-25-2013, 08:03 AM   #8
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You better keep this thread updated!
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Old 05-25-2013, 09:24 AM   #9
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Day 4: The Quest for a Tail Light and Other Misadventures

Starting Point: Trutnov, Czech Republic

I awoke early with all previous thoughts of police run ins out of my mind. Another wonderful day and Poland was only about 30km away. I inquired at the front desk about finding a motorcycle shop but she had no idea. She was able to point me in the direction of a car repair shop and they should know what to do. She wished me good luck and off I went.

She sent me to a Hyundai dealership with a service bay. Beggars can't be choosers I guess and Ford places are few and far between. After acting out that I need parts for a motorcycle the guy behind the counter draws me a map to the correct shop. That much closer to hitting the road. Roll outside with a smile on my face, gear up, and start...

"Damnit Nicole (name of my bike), this had better be a bad joke." Check kill switch, neutral, kick stand, all the little stuff and try again. Sporadic cranking. Seemed like a short somewhere and there was this clicking sound. 3 days of driving through rain may something got messed up. Now I am mechanically inclined but chasing down electrical stuff is my weakness. But in a foreign country theres not a lot of other choices. Off goes the luggage and out comes the tools. Bike disassembly take one.

One hour later, sitting on a curb, "I seriously hate you Nicole. I hope you know that"
Time to repack and hike to the moto shop.

I walk in and ask the pretty receptionist if she speaks English, luckily she does, but just a bit. I explain the best I can in the form simplest I can and how I think I need a solenoid. She pulls up Google translate, I type in solenoid and the translation please.... solenoid. Time to draw. We ended up loading into a van and going to pick up my bike about a kilometer away. Few tests later and we try it with a new battery and it fires right up. Perhaps my diagnostic skills could use some work

The good news, we knew the issue. The bad news, a BMW shop doesn't carry a battery that fits in a Suzuki DRZ. Looks like I would be spending another day in Trutnov.

Ending Point: Trutnov, Czech Republic
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Old 05-25-2013, 09:38 AM   #10
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Day 5: Some Things Are Fun Enough to do Twice

Starting Point: Trutnov, Czech Republic

The walk from the hotel to the motorcycle shop was much longer than I thought. Getting a ride to the hotel made it seem short. I immediately regretted taking all of my stuff with me. I show up, we install the new battery, and I am on my way to Poland.

Crossing the border here was very similar, I only stopped to read the sign that had traffic sign information and speed limits.

About 40km into Poland my display cuts out...
Option 1: find a repair shop and figure out whats wrong.
Option 2: Never shut my bike off again.

I passed an auto service place which was really a guy working on a couple cars out of a garage attached to his house, but it was enough. I stopped, confirmed it was in fact an auto shop and then shut off the bike. Naturally, it wouldn't restart. The guy there was extremely helpful and jumped right into poking stuff with his multimeter. After a few minutes we couldn't figure it out so on goes the battery tender and a motorcycle shop was located.

It took all of 10 minutes to diagnose the problem at the new shop. The culprit, a corroded plug that prevented the battery from charging. A quick cut and splice and I was all set.

With the road underneath my wheels I was back on the hunt for oddities.



Ending Point: Gmina Stopnica, Poland
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Old 05-25-2013, 11:13 AM   #11
eightup OP
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Day 6: Polish Awards

Starting Point: Gmina Stopnica, Czech Republic

The goal for today was log a few miles and either get close to Ukraine or cross into Ukraine.

The speed limit when entering a town goes to 50kph. If I slowed down to like 60kph, people are right on my ass. If I am following people it seems like 65-70ish is normal. Anyways, after finally getting a straight stretch to pass a couple trucks I had been behind for the past couple kilometers, I was moving. Roll into a town and decel to 70ish. BAM, speed trap. First one I had seen. I get flagged down, so i remove my helmet and don the smile. He doesn't speak English, neither does his partner, I don't speak Polish. This is going to be fun. The radar gun got me at a cool 71kph in a 50kph zone. Soon I was asked for my papers and it was apparent I wasn't getting out of this one.

100 Zloty (30 USD) later I was on my way with a new souvenir.



I no longer did any speeding.


The Ukrainian Border

It was early afternoon and I knew I was getting close. As I rolled up on a line of cars, vans, buses, all loaded down with various goods from tires to garden hoses, I knew I found the border. It was also clear that it would not be as easy as before.

I kind of just picked the open lane and went to the front, hoping I wasn't doing anything wrong.

First toll booth, receive piece of paper and proceed.
Second toll booth, all my documents are collected and they start the process. It became apparent that they don't process a lot of motorcycle travelers. Receive everything back and proceed.
Third toll booth, hand over slip of paper. Hooray I'm through! Oh wait... that just got me out of Poland.

Receive Paper, proceed.
Go to booth hand over documents, it was here I learned the concept of an orderly line doesn't exist everywhere. As people arrived they kind of just formed a tight group around me as they waited.

It was at this booth that I bumped into another rider on an orange Triumph Tiger with aluminum panniers and ADV stickers. He said they were on the bike when he bought it, good thing I didn't open up the conversation with a salute.

Finally, I got all of the required stamps and I was off into Ukraine.


After the first 100 meters it became apparent that Ukraine was much different from the EU. At first I was worried because it looked like a shady neighborhood but after a few interactions with people and logging some kilometers, I learned that's just how it looked. Kind of surprising how much can change because of a border.

Ending Point: Lutsk, Ukraine

eightup screwed with this post 05-25-2013 at 11:27 AM
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Old 05-25-2013, 11:53 AM   #12
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Day 7: Ukraine

Starting Point: Lutsk, Ukraine

A few observations about Ukraine:

The roads are much worse, some where along the line they agreed a road in Ukraine can only be paved once lol. Away from the main roads they quickly progressed to dirt tracks. Which really made me wish I had a GPS and a couple weeks to spend in there. It will definitely be a country to revisit in the future.

It seems like traffic laws are a bit more lax. The road would be marked for 2 lanes of traffic in one direction and there would be 3. Or the roads simply wouldn't be marked.

I started to catch on that motorcycles can almost do as they please. Now on to the stories.


I started off riding in Ukraine the same as I did in every other country, buy a map and head east. Taking any road I pleased. I quickly learned that this was no longer an option. Some roads formed huge loops, others progressed from pavement, to cobblestone, to dirt track, to just kind of ending. I definitely needed more than a street map here. Not to mention I don't really have any dirt experience so my travel rate was less than impressive. I didn't have time to go across Ukraine at 40kph.

It was on one of these dirt tracks I dropped my bike for the first time on this trip. I really wish I had grabbed a picture but see the prologue as to why I didn't just wait around.

So after a couple hours of cobblestone and dirt riding I found my way back to a main road and continued towards Kiev where I planned on spending a day or two. It was here I met my first foreign biker. I passed up a guy pushing a cruiser type bike along the shoulder. I wasn't sure if I could help or even understand him but I couldn't just keep driving. He had ended up running out of fuel, I gladly gave him the fuel from my MSR bottle and his bike kicked right over. A few hearty hand shakes and one hug later he was riding off towards the nearest gas station. Good deed accomplished.

Fast forward a few hours and I am pulling into a hotel just outside of Kiev. As I am getting ready to stash my bike around back a man in a BMW pulls up, checks out the bike, and starts asking questions. I do the usual routine of not comprehending and explaining where I'm from and we part ways.

Later that night as I head down to the restaurant to get some wifi our paths cross again.

"You are the motorcycle guy ya?"
"Yea thats me."

He tosses an arm around me and invites me to his table for drinks. They were in the middle of a birthday celebration and had a full spread on the table. The whiskey was flowing. The food was great. One of the ladies translated for us all night as we talked about bikes and traveling. He was dead set on a gs1200 and hopefully I will get the chance to travel with him in the future.

I enjoyed their hospitality until well past midnight before the whiskey started saying it was time to quit. With a full belly and a woozy head, I slept like a baby.

Ending Point: Kiev, Ukraine

eightup screwed with this post 06-02-2013 at 11:10 AM
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Old 05-26-2013, 02:53 AM   #13
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Subscribing to this one.
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Old 05-26-2013, 08:26 AM   #14
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Day 8: Kiev

Starting Point: Kiev, Ukraine

I woke early and ready to go explore this great city. With the bike stripped of luggage I set of to begin the quest for parking. After a few detours and no run-ins with the police, I saw another motorcycle pull up onto the sidewalk and park under a tree. "When in Rome..." Up onto the curb I went and next to the other guy. His English was pretty good and he gave me some pointers at driving around Ukraine before heading his own way.


I spent the next 8 hours wondering this city, taking in the amazing architecture and sculptures, and of course enjoying some fantastic food. On to the pictures:











I got back to my room with sore legs and a slight sunburn. I have a lot more photos. I can post them all up if you guys are interested.

Ending Point: Kiev, Ukraine
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Old 05-26-2013, 08:37 AM   #15
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