Poor U.S. foreign policy over the last couple of decades has ensured that an American attempting an overland Round the World trip be greeted by the impossible and the near impossible. Basically, there are two routes for an honest RTW. One passes through Russia (as well as Kazakhstan and Mongolia if you are so inclined) and one splits Iran, Afghanistan, and/or Pakistan into South Asia. Though I would love to have the option of the latter path, even those of only marginal sanity must cede to the fact that it is almost surely suicide. Therefore, as a cogent individual, I am relegated to using Russia in order to complete my trip around the world.
A Friendly Diversion
Now there aren't too many East Tennesseans that can claim to have several close friends throughout Europe, much less one that a certain Washington County sessions court judge once proclaimed the worst criminal in his courtroom, but I do. It seems that my brand of assertiveness is more accepted in recently communist countries than in the land of the free. Lucky Me! And so it was that two of my very good friends from years gone by were attending a jazz festival in western Romania. The sheer statistical improbability of these two drastically diverse and unacquainted Romanians, which I knew from Tennessee, being among the roughly 2000 attendees at the same obscure festival high in the Carpathians was enough to bring me out of the doldrums and head west.
Riding with Russians on the Transfagarasan
About 125 miles from Bucharest I encountered the Fagaras mountains. Reaching about 8400 feet, this is the highest range within the southern Carpathians. It is also home to one of the coolest roads on the planet, the Transfagarasan. Romania has proven to be a bit of a motorcycling Mecca and, as such, the Transfagarasan was my rug. A fine July morning witnessed no fewer than three cycles of plummets and ascents of the serpentine ribbon of asphalt and I was considering more when I encountered a group of Russians that invited me to join their party. Quickly, I clamped myself to the tail of the swiftest of the group. Our speeds charging down the mountain were more in line with the capabilities of the Honda sport bike I was chasing and it didn't take long to cook my brakes. Inevitably, I found myself alongside the road awaiting my dot4's return to a liquid state. Eventually my brake leaver regained resistance and our oddly diverse crew was once again mobile. After a brief, tentative, period the road flattened and our pace hastened. A great ride concluded with beers and a late lunch under the looming presence of Cetatea Poenari, one of the dozen or so "claimed" residences of Dracula . I was given contact information for the Black Bears motorcycle club in Moscow and I continued on to Garana, Romania.
Vlad and Cristian, Oddly Similar Yet Distinctly Different
Allow me to preface this portion of my story by expressing my love and admiration for these guys. They are genuine to a fault and I am fortunate to be able to call them friends. With perfunctory explanations dispensed, let's roll back the years to 1995.
|During lunch one of the Black Bears exclaimed, Snowden is in Russia and yet you are not.|
|Cristian to my right , Vlad to my left, and communist era project to the rear.|
Ten years on, I again found myself expelled, this time from East Tennessee State University. For
|A little finish sanding to break up the beer swilling.|
The seven years that bring me current have seen change, both in regards to perspective and development. In addition to finally graduating from university (University of Tennessee Chattanooga., economics, w honors), I have also been examining the world, first hand, at a furious pace. With every new inch of space I see, my universe shrinks and my priorities shift. The mountain route I took to Garana was along a less developed trail but my Tenere was up to the task. Cool temperatures and light traffic more than compensated for the inconsistent road surface. It was an environment ripe for contemplation. Law School, or no Law School?
I reached Garana midevening just after darkness had shrouded the Valley where the festival was in full swing. Cristian found me with 2 bottles of beer in his possession. Extending one in my direction he said. "It is German beer. Drink it. It is good". Seven years didn't seem like so long a time. I was led to a campsite and erected my tent. There was no Russian Stamp in my Passport but there was a smile on my face. The fact that I ever made it here defied great odds. Just give me some time. I'll get where I need to be.