Hello, and welcome to the next step in my post-military globe-trotting. Many of you followed my first blog (tonyrides.com) as I traveled the United States on my Motorcycle, riding over 18,000 miles and reaching 49 states and three countries.

In this next installment, my friend Jerod and I will be going abroad for an open-ended jaunt. We will start in the Middle-East at the end of February and see where the roads and the winds take us.

Friday, July 30, 2010

One Year, and Going Strong; a Year in Numbers (and some words)

Hello, and welcome to my one year anniversary blog.  "But you have only been traveling for five months" you may be telling yourself.  The truth is, on 31 July 2009 I shaved and put on my Coast Guard uniform for the last time.  What have I been doing with myself, you ask?

Here is a snapshot
  • Countries visited - 17
  • Continents visited - 4
  • States visited - 49
  • Bus mile traveled - 2,377*
  • Air miles traveled - 16,730*
  • Train miles traveled - 2,750*
  • Motorcycle miles traveled - 18,500
  • Miles hiked - 320
  • US national parks visited - 10
  • Photos taken - 4,000 (estimated)
  • Times shaved - 0
  • Days worked - 0
* Distances measured "as the crow flies".  Actual distances traveled are considerably higher.

An interesting note, if you add up those distances traveled it is almost equal to two full trips around the Earth at the equator (24,900 miles is the circumference at the equator).  

Before photo (taken on 31 July 2009)     After photo (taken circa 25 July 2010)

If you want to read more about the first three months of my time off please refer to my other blog; tonyrides.blogspot.com

For photos, please check out my two facebook galleries (you will need a facebook account to view these, but they are public and we do not need to be "facebook friends"); 
Gallery 1
Gallery 2
Motorcycle trip gallery

If you wish to send me a private correspondence outside of the blog comments, feel free to e-mail me.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Celebrity Look-alikes

So, this week we have learned that I look like French rugby star Sebastien "caveman" Chabal, and Jerod looks like Bary Gibbs of the Bee Gees.  That's all for now..........

Monday, July 19, 2010

Winter wonderland

Greetings from the South of America.  I never thought I would be so happy for winter, but after heat waves all through Europe the cold and rain of the Buenos Aires winter is a welcome diversion.  Plus, it gives us a chance to use some of the gear we have been lugging around for over four and a half months.

Initial impressions?  Awesome.  Great steaks, great prices, great people.  We are staying at a very friendly little hostel with loads of good people coming and going.  The owner and manager is a sommelier as well and has a great selection of Argentinian wines available.  Today we had our first spanish class.  For those of you out of the loop, we are taking a two-week beginner spanish class.  We will be in school for 40 hours in the next two weeks.  We have a small class (just 4 of us) and the teachers are really nice.  Today's class made our heads hurt a little since it's been about six years since we've had any formal schooling.  

What does the future hold for us? This weekend we may head over to Uruguay for a day or two.  After our schooling is done we are heading down to Patagonia and Tierra Del Fuego for a little while.  Eventually we will travel North through Chile, do some mountain climbing in Bolivia, and explore the ancient wonders of Macchu Picchu in Peru.  From there the plan ends and we will make a new one.  Stay posted for more developments.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Good bye Europe

Hello, and welcome to my last blog entry from Europe.  Tomorrow Jerod and I will be flying from Warsaw (where we are currently) to Buenos Aires.  26 hours of travel will get us to Argentina some time on the 16th. 

So, you haven't heard from me since Germany.  I have had quite a busy two weeks since then.  I spent three nights in Prague, enjoying the sights and the nightlife.  From there I spent three nights camping at a music festival about an hour from Prague.  I'd tell you more about it, but there may be children reading this.  Next I was in Budapest, enjoying the sights and the beautiful sunrises (no, I was not getting up early).  I also did the same caving trip as Jerod.  Unfortunately, I got stuck in one place and had to take an easier way around it.  I felt like a cartoon image with my feet dangling in thin air, and my arms flailing above my head trying to wriggle through.  No such luck.

Finally, I took an overnight train to Krakopw, where Jerod was waiting for me, following his recent adventures.  We had a very somber visit in Krakow, including the notorious Nazi concentration camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau and Oskar Schindler's Factory, which has been recently converted into a fabulous museum covering the German occupation of Poland.  Birkenau is absolutely staggering in both scale and historical impact.  I won't attempt to describe it, but would encourage everyone to go see it for themselves.  One of most poignant things for me was walking into a room full of confiscated suitcases, and the first one I saw was labeled Goldstein.  On a more positive note, there are six Goldsteins present on "Schindler's List". 

Anyway, enough of being a downer.  Next Monday Jerod and I start two weeks of Spanish training in Buenos Aires, and will hopefully spend our weekends skiing and exploring in Patagonia.  Thanks for tuning in.  Until next time...... 

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Homeland Highpoint

My last week or so of travel has been one of the highlights of the trip thus far.  After picking up my backpack in Sofia, Bulgaria, I spent about a day and a half riding the rails until finally reaching Zdiar, Slovakia.  This traditional Slovak village is at the base of the High Tatras, the western edge of the Carpathian Mountains- the range forms a natural border between Northern Slovakia and Southern Poland.  I spent a couple lazy days at a rural hostel there meeting some interesting travelers, watching Germany get beat in the world cup, and trying one of Slovakia's most well known beers, Zlaty Bazant (Golden Pheasant). 

The extra time committed to traveling off the beaten path was very much worth it.  The scenery in the High Tatras is absolutely striking--the only place I can think of for comparable views would be Glacier National Park in Montana.  After acquiring a good map of the area and enough food for a couple days, I found an interesting trail that would transverse the Slovakian side of the range, summit Poland's highpoint, Mt. Rysy (pronounced REE-shee), and descend Rysy's north face into Poland and eventually the tourist town of Zakopane.  A mountain chata (basically a chalet for those familiar with Alps trekking) was perfectly situated on the Slovak side of the mountain near the border and summit.  The hostel staff in Slovakia offerred to make the reservation for me.  Unfortunately, they could not get through the entire day prior to my departure.  I decided to press on anyway, and when I arrived at the chata, after several hours of ascending, crossing stunning lakes and alpine snowfields (in July), the reason they were unscuccesful in contacting the chata was abundantly clear.  The building had half the roof ripped off and was clearly under renovation.  Fortunately, they were still selling drinks, so I bought a coffee (only one euro on top of a mountain, I was impressed), took a look at the map and decided to press on.  It turned out being about a 10 hour hike to get to a bus on the other side, but fortunately Tony and I's time on the Lycian Way in Turkey made this trek feel like just another day at the office (4,000 feet of elevation gain, 23 kilometers).  Although I will say the descent into Poland on the Rysy trail was quite challenging--the Park Staff has attached chains to the rock with stanchions to assist you during the descent--lots of exposure.  One last note--I had the great fortune of seeing two fairly rare animals during the descent on the Polish side--a Red Deer (something of a cross between a Mule Deer and an Elk) buck with antlers in full velvet, and the Tatra Chamois, the Tatra's version of the Mountain Goat.  Both greatly enhanced an already very rewarding trek.

After two nights in Zakopane, Poland, I caught a bus to Krakow where the plan is to meet up with Tony at a hostel just south of the Old Town.  If all goes to plan we'll be catching up on the last month tomorrow over breakfast.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The best laid plans...

Hey all, Jerod here.  I apologize for my negligence in blogging duties as of late.  After a whirlwind trip back to the US of A (great to see everyone) and all the associated culture shock that came with it (whoa...lots of people speaking fluent English, getting free refills at restaurants, and public restrooms that are free and clean--all items previously taken for granted),  I bought a flight to Prague via Dublin, flying out of New York City.  As it turns out, however, the airlines had different plans for me.  The flight was delayed due to runway maintenance in New York, and by the time I arrived in Dublin I had already missed my connection.  It was going to take nearly 36 hours for the next flight to Prague, so I spoke with the airline and changed the ticket for Budapest.  The airline gave me some drink vouchers for the trouble...the silver lining was clearing Irish customs and having a Guinness (for free) in Dublin.

I've spent nearly a week in Budapest and I think it's a great city.  World class architecture, beautiful views, lots of interesting history--this country (Hungary) and Budapest in particular have been through quite a lot in the last century--literally the front lines of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.  I've had a chance to visit everything from ex-Gestapo prisons to former Soviet relics, along with the famous Thermal Baths (think of a YMCA but much more formal, and powered by naturally occuring hot springs all through the city).  Yesterday I went on a caving trip organized out of the hostel I'm staying at.  I can certainly say it is not for the faint of heart or the claustrophobic.  As the biggest guy in the group, it's not the most reassuring feeling when the guide says "Ok everyone, if Jerod can make it through this next part, you know you can too."  It was a great experience but not something I'm going to need to repeat anytime soon.  More so than the sights, I've managed to make some great friends in a short time here--Csaba, Felix, Marcus, Zsuzsi, Melanie, and Scyvia--thanks for all the memories...and Eg├ęszs├ęgedre!

I left a few items in Sofia, Bulgaria before flying back home, so now I'm in for a couple marathon train rides (about 20 hours each way) to pick my stuff up.  Fortunately I've booked a sleeping car and have a few good books, so I should be able to keep sane for the long haul(s).  A lot of the initial itinerary has changed over the last week, but that's the beauty of having flexible travel plans.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Everlasting Baseball Game

So after a week in Germany with Aimee I have come to the conclusion that the country is like one giant baseball stadium.  You walk around and eat pretzels, hotdogs, and sausages, and drink lots of beer.  Quite a nice way to spend a week. 

In a whirlwind visit we spent two days in Munich, two days in Garmisch, a day in Stuttgart, and a day in Frankfurt.  Berlin will have to wait for a return visit.  In Munich we spent some time ogling vintage motorcycles and bubble cars at the impressive BMW museum and got a panoramic view of the city from the Olympic Tower.  In Garmisch we scaled the snowy alps and shared in the national revelry as Germany routed England in the second round of the World Cup. 

Stuttgart brought a visit with an old friend of Aimee who had been an exchange student in Marshfield.  Annabelle showed us the parks and beer gardens of Stuttgart, and regaled us with the story of the stingy angel memorialised in the main square of the city.  It may or may not be a true story, but we like it all the same. 

Yesterday Aimee and I parted ways in Frankfurt.  Aimee caught a flight back to Boston, and I boarded a train for Prague.  I may only get one full day in Prague, depending on ticket availability for a 4-day music festival outside of the city.