In the summer of 1980, I took a 22 day trip from Stuttgart, Germany, to Munich, Salzburg, Austria, then to Split, Yugoslavia, ferry to Pescaro, Italy, rode north to Florence, then to Venice. From Venice, I rode west for awhile and then up through Switzerland for a couple of days, then back to Stuttgart. I was riding my 1975 Honda Gold Wing, which was outfitted with Vetter Fairing and Bates bags, all painted with the stock Honda red color. I also had a combination AM/FM radio with CB Radio. CB radios were illegal in Yugoslavia so I removed the antenna so it would not get me thrown into a dungeon. The most memorable moment was when I arrived at the Yugoslavian border from Austria. There was a rise in elevation up to the border crossing and on this particular day, there were low hanging clouds with a spooky mist hanging in the air. When I arrived at the border gate, a very pudgy Yugoslavian border guard came over to me with a most unfriendly look on his face, and a most noticeable red star on the front of his cap. I thought, …Oh crap, the commies are going to kill me and confiscate my bike!! He was fascinated with the bike and especially the fact that it had a radio. He abruptly reached over and turned on the radio without asking, and tuned in radio Zagreb. Then, he called out his compatriots to see this motorcycle spectacle. I thought for sure then that I was going to mysteriously disappear from this earth!! Finally, I got released with my passport stamped and on my way down the coastal road to Split. I enjoyed this leisurely ride since it had low speed limits and it was very scenic with little traffic. Towards the end of this first day down the Yugo coast, I had to stop and seek a place to stay for the night. I was also thirsty for a cold beer, so I stopped on the outskirts of a small fishing village and went into what looked like a bar. Luckily it was cool inside and had an atmosphere of something you would see in a movie, especially with the language sounding very Russian. A very healthy corn fed waitress came over and took my order for a beer. While I was enjoying the beer and trying to speak with her about a place to stay, a large strapping guy came over from the bar and started speaking to me in English. His name, ironically, was Boris. Boris began to tell me about his life as a stowaway to the USA on several occasions, being caught and sent back to Yugoslavia every time. He asked me if I wanted to go fishing with them in the morning and I politely declined due to my schedule and a slight fear of being dropped to the bottom with a cinderblock on my ankle. My 22 day trip took me on down to Split, stopping a few nights along the way, then overnight on a ferry to Italy. On this overnight trip, I met an elderly gentleman that had loaded the only other bike onto the ferry. I sat up most of the night drinking beer with him and listening to his “around the world” venture on his Beemer R69S. This guy was truly a worldly motorcycle adventurer. Upon departing the ferry the next morning, I quickly learned that the Italians like to put the road’s center stripe down the middle of the car for navigation, causing me to do a lot of defensive driving. On to Florence, then north to Venice. While on this part of the trip, I decided to take a very small country back road and kept noticing some signs along the way. At first, I didn’t realize what the signs were saying but then it dawned on me that they were warning of “banditos” along the route. Oh, crap, better speed up and not stop for anything. After visiting Venice for a few days, I rode westward further in Italy, then north into Switzerland. Best secret wine ever and they don’t export it!! Bought some cheese on my last night at a Swiss cheese factory, which left a nice aroma in my saddlebag for quite some time. This ride was my most memorable one ever in over 50 years of riding motorcycles. The people everywhere were friendly and most interested in talking to an American. I heard the story of Tito and the Russian influence, Boris’s adventures, a tour guide admitted communist, and many other stories of interest. I took other trips in Europe (one of 21 days in opposite direction), but this one was the most interesting and the most fun of all my trips. Washing clothes was a problem so it was on this trip that I invented the EUT – “Emergency Underwear Technique”, which is flipping them inside out and wearing them for a couple of extra days. The Gold Wing drew a crowd in every town I stopped in or rode through. I really wish I had taken that fishing trip with Boris and his pals.
Written By John Glidewell