Freedom, it's a word that many dogs cannot fully comprehend. Though, I suppose it possesses a sliding scale. Everything is relative after all. There are many stages of individual liberty between a life locked up and one led off a leash wandering around Europe. Having experienced both extremes of the spectrum, I was lucky to have skipped a few levels in between. Once you have smelled sweet freedom, there is no returning to the tethers of oppression. I began my life, shortly after birth on a small farm, within the walls of the Washington County Animal Shelter. Shelter being a somewhat misleading term. Some of my fellow K-9s never make it out of there alive. Luckily, I had my sister, Maggie, to keep me company. We were both of an obstinate bent, however, we were bright, cute, and athletic too. Our stay was brief. A girl named Annaka rescued my sister and I from our austere surroundings. The following day, in the summer of 2003, I first met my friend Israel. He was there to collect some things from Annaka's house. Maggie and I were romping in sun soaked grass when the tall, and marginally aggravated, man came over to play with us. After about an hour, I remember him saying, in a very matter of fact tone, "I'm taking this one; she's bright and wild; her name is Daisy".
"We're going to Asia", he said, in such a way that left no questions. I was initially a bit skeptical, I'd heard that in some parts of this continent dogs were used to support dietary needs! It was a relief to find that we were only going into the western portion, along the Mediterranean, to place called Turkey. That made me think of holidays with the family. Mmmm.., let's go, I thought, MY dietary needs could use some support. There was a caveat within this deal to reach the promised land of
delectable birds though. Our motorized home was to be left in Northern Romania. We were to take the cycle. The logic was sound from a certain perspective. There is something missing in the use of our moving homes. It's difficult to put a claw on, but it has something to do with insulation from the elements. Though I can see the animals, mountains, and trees I love so dearly, I am simply an observer of the world passing by my nose. Especially in the more civil parts of the globe, it's not quite an adventure. The duocycle offers a more engaging experience. I can hear more, see more, smell more, and feel more, as the wind blows by my nose and ears. I am part of the scenery. It's an exciting way to travel. However, there were two big reasons that I found this plan problematic. Firstly, it was winter, and secondly, it was going to be a long trip, almost 2000 miles.
I didn't begin motorcycling till an advanced age. I was about 50 when we went to Birmingham (the one in Alabama) to collect a three-wheeled cycle for me to ride in. I say in because the attached box has a car-like quality to it. Aside from having a windshield, its seat is big and cushy. I can stand up, turn around, or lie down if I so choose. Motorcycling in Europe is altogether different. This cycle's box, or pannier as Israel says, is nowhere near as big or
We departed Cluj mid-afternoon. The temperature was slightly
above freezing when we left, but as sunlight dwindled it became painfully frigid. Our friend, Cristian, made arrangements for us to stay at his childhood home, with his parents, in the medieval city of Sibiu. It is place I found to be most agreeable. Cristian's mother, Iolan, possessed a seemingly unending supply of sausage
which certainly did nothing harm my appraisal. My love of all things pork not withstanding, Sibiu has a young, progressive, population that demonstrated an appreciation for my finer qualities. The old cobblestone streets are good for walking and there were plenty of places willing to allow me in (that's just good business).
Another late start was made the following day after a long lunch. We took the lowest available pass through the Fagaras mountains (the highest in the Southern Carpathians), and found ourselves in a snow storm. It was the first of this trip. It would not be the last. After descending the mountains, the weather improved and we met Cristian in Bucharest. Unfortunately, our accommodations fell through, but that isn't the sort of thing to bother us. We found a place in the center of town built for the community and set camp.
|The People's Palace? I guess dogs don't count.|
|Cristian, have I ever conveyed to you my fondness of Kabab?|
A fast moving high pressure system brought huge gusting winds and extremely cold temperatures to greet us the following morning. The motorcycle was blown over twice. Once, striking a glancing blow to Israel within the tent as he readied baggage for our departure. Packing up camp was an infuriating affair and the tent sustained damage when it was blown down the hill into a massive thorny bush while Israel attempted to hoist the cycle from its side for the second time in close succession.
After finally getting underway we dodged some livestock and dogs on our way back to the road leading to the border. We weren't quite sure what to expect crossing into Turkey. Ultimately, we were happy to find that it was just a matter of money. After an hour of buying stamps and documents, we were again on our way. Just as we pulled away from the final checkpoint, we were warned that there was snow ahead. Israel motioned to his new tires and gave a thumbs up sign along with a toothy grin. I place immense faith in my friend, perhaps, at times, too much. I mean he had already been wrong about so many things. I was disheartened to find that the climate was nothing like I'd been told it would be. Mediterranean, my butt! It was freezing, and that was before the sun went down. To compound my anguish, I didn't see a single succulent bird anywhere after crossing into the Islamic nation. Fraud, I though, as the cold, dark, foodless, night dashed my dreams to oblivion. How could things possibly get worse? About 50 miles from our destination, snow began drifting across the road.
Being extracted from a metal box, which mercifully hasn't become your coffin, after skidding along
|Tis but a scratch!|
|Our haven from the storm. Taken on the less trying trip North|
|Bent but not broken. My thanks go out to Roger, at ARD cases.|
Perhaps it was God. Maybe it was fate. Then again, it may have just been good, old fashioned, luck. But the sound of a particularly aggressive gust of wind thrashing at the building's metal siding was quickly followed by one of the duocycle hitting the ground for the 4th time that day. Israel rushed out to the icy, snow covered, shoulder of the highway to lift the bike up onto its wheels. This time there was no one to stop and help. It took several minutes for my obtuse friend to gain the footing required to raise the cycle from the snow. He was beaten, and he knew it. He pulled the bike into the building and cracked open a Guinness. "Things will look better in the morning", he said. That's what I wanted to hear, friend, that's what I wanted to hear.
We were awakened late the following morning by an odd, chain smoking, Turkish fellow. He was the security guard that had been housed in the lit shipping container at the lower end of the construction site we had spied the previous night. For you prospective adventurers out there, a piece of advice. It is better to ask forgiveness than permission. This guy wasn't too concerned by our presence, although, he took care to avoid the gaze of our camera. I suppose he could be forgiven for sleeping on the job the night before. Nobody in their right mind would have been out in such weather. The expression on his face was priceless. We may as well have been visiting from Mars.
Once back on the road it became apparent that continuing on the previous night would have been
|Rolling in the Snow! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0gHRFuOlYfs|
|The edge of Asia|
|Not everybody you run into takes good photos|