Week 1

Introduction

Silk Road Madness is a journal of my motorcycle trip from Switzerland to Mongolia between Mai and September 2015.

May 7 to May 13

Of course, I was late again. Final preparations had to be made: picking up my spare glasses at the optician’s, opening special bank accounts to park retirement funds in, sending forgotten and rediscovered paperwork for military compensation to my former employer, buying and wrapping a birthday present for my mother and wedding presents for my friends in Hungary, tightening the last bolts on the KLR 650, and redirecting letters from my current address to my parent’s.

Final preparations, like putting the wheels back on.

The lady in the bank asked about my plans and then told me about another customer of hers that did a similar trip through South America, and who was, after months of meticulous planning and preparing, mugged and beaten down on his travels, only to suffer a near-fatal accident and returning home crippled for eternity.

Delighted by the story, I returned back at the garage and started packing, only to be drawn into a lengthy conversation with my lovely 76 years-old neighbor, who told me everything about her children, grandchildren and succulents.

At around 1 PM, I started the engine, and rolled carefully, still not quite used to the additional weight on the back of the bike, out of the garage.

On the highway I soon noticed the new and interesting dynamics of the bike on which I had been planning to spend the next four months.

At speeds exceeding 120 km/h, the front wheel, freshly set up with a new TKC-80 tire by a seasoned mechanic, i.e. myself, started wobbling excessively, rendering the vehicle virtually uncontrollable.

Kawasaki KLR 2004, fully loaded on the Swiss highway.

Was it the front wheel bearing? Or worse, the steering bearing? The unusual weight distribution with two 15 kg panniers in the back and a 36 liter tank in the front? Or just the new tires? Had I done something wrong when putting them on? Was it the 4 mm, street-illegal motocross tube in the front wheel? Or just driving incompetence on my part?

After some time I got used to the weird behavior and rapid acceleration through the resonance phase rendered the vehicle stable again.

After taking a shortcut in Lugano that cost me 1 hour through rush hour traffic amid hot blooded southern Swiss drivers, yelling “testa di cazzo” out of their tuned Fiat Cinquecentos and shaking fists at me and each other, I finally arrived at my parent’s holiday flat.

We had a gorgeous meal in the inner city and a lovely walk back to the apartment.

The next day, I raced on the Italian and Austrian highways, 620 km to Klagenfurt, Austria.

About half way down the road I checked the vitals of the bike: chain, break fluid, engine oil, cooling fluid. Everything seemed perfectly in order, I kicked it into first gear and headed further east. About 10 minutes down the road the engine stopped. Of course I had forgotten to check the gas level. I switched to reserve, silently cursing my stupidity, and drove on. A pictogram of a gas station with “35 km” written underneath did not exactly put my mind at ease. Good memories of a trip through Italy where I got stranded on my CBF 600 some years ago and had to ask a local family to drive me to a gas station sprang up in my mind.

After a 20 minutes of anguish I finally reached the gas station and climbed off the bike, only barely managing not to drop it, grinning like a retard on amphetamines. I refuelled and drove to Klagenfurt without further issues.

Early but slightly hungover I entered Hungary the next day. I noticed that shifting my weight to the front diminished the front wheel wobble noticeably, and so I was hanging over the tank like Valentino Rossi himself, pushing the single cylinder enduro bike to an astonishing 135 km/h.

Severely neglecting all rules of traffic and common sense, I entered the Hungarian city of Györ, where I was to meet my friends Péter and Linh, who were about to get married.

I was warmly welcomed at their beautiful new flat and invited to a fabulous beef-rice-pasta dish cooked by master-cook Linh herself.

On the next day, Péter and Linh got officially married. They looked absolutely fabulous, Péter wearing an immaculate suit, Linh an Ao-Dai-like red dress. I had the honor of being Linh’s witness. The touchingly beautiful and honest ceremony was followed by an excessive & delicious meal at Péter’s parents.

Linh and Péter’s wedding.

The next day, we explored Györ and later went again to Péter’s parents for a meal that was as delicious and opulent as the one the day before.

In the evening, we prepared spring rolls, Vietnamese style. Linh instructed Péter and me about the preparations, while herself proficiently frying the finished rolls. They were absolutely fabulous.

After the spring rolls, Minttu, Fisshot, beer and wine were consumed by the liter and then we went to sleep.

On 11th of June, we said goodbye and I departed to lake Balaton, the biggest freshwater lake in Europe, where I went camping at a nice spot.

The next day I rode to the university town of Szeged where I spent two days, enjoying the picturesque city, good coffee and the sun.

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