We spent the night crossing from Greece to Italy on the ferry, a six hour crossing. We
tried to sleep in some chairs in the lounge, but with the lights and television on
it was impossible to get any good rest. We arrived in Italy about midway up the
heel of the boot at about 0800 in the morning and headed north on the Autostrada
(four lane divided highway like an American "freeway"). We wanted to stop at the
first campground we would come to and spend the day and night catching up on sleep.
We had traveled about one half hour when it started to rain and we decided to pull
into a gas station and put on the rain gear. As soon as I touched the brakes we
lost traction and crashed! This picture is taken approximately at the point where
it started. It ended by the sign for the gas station on the right.
The front wheel broke loose and went to the left, the rear wheel lost traction and
went right. We went down on the left side and slid into the concrete divider hard. The
bike was sliding down the road against the divider with us in between it and the
concrete still astride the bike. I pushed the bike away with my feet and it then
flopped onto its right side, the trailer came around and crushed the trunk lid scattering
the contents over the highway. The trailer finally popped off the hitch and rolled
to the curb in front of the gas station and tipped over on its side. It has been
right side up this whole time. The bike slid to a stop near it and we are in the
middle of the highway. Traffic has stopped and we jump up and start gathering the
stuff from the trunk; the computer, toiletries, first-aid kit, books and maps, etc. Then
we hobble to the bike which is beside the trailer in front of the gas station. This
lets traffic get by and we put the bike on its wheels with the help of some soldiers
The bike is heavily damaged. The front end is destroyed and every piece of plastic
is broken or badly scraped. The clutch lever is broken off and we can't get it out
of gear. A recovery truck with a boom is called and the bike and trailer are lifted
on it and taken to the wrecking yard.
The police said that they often have accidents here after a rain. They pointed out
that the right lane had a much smoother surface than the left lane and became very
slick after a rain. In the top picture you can see a difference in the surface color. The
darker colored left lane has a pebbly texture and the right lane is very smooth.
From the recovery shop we call the international representative for the GoldWing
club of Italy. He suggests a couple of shops to take it to. One is about 70 km.
away in a very small town, the other is about 1000 km. away but it is near a large
city (Milano), specializes in GoldWings and has the resources we want nearby (car
rentals, hospitals and doctors). So we make arrangements to go to the Wingstore
in Novara with a different, smaller, recovery truck.
The Wingstore is an independent GoldWing shop much like our beloved Wingman in Portland,
Oregon. Nunzia and di Maurizio opened Wingstore 18 years ago and will work on any
motorcycle but are primarily GoldWing enthusiasts.
The shop is clean, neat and well stocked. We were very favorably impressed. They
unloaded the bike and we took a good look at it. There is not a piece of plastic
on it undamaged, except the windshield. The front wheel is canted sharply to the
bike's right. The fairing is crushed on the left side and also bent to the right. Both
of these are the result of hitting the concrete barrier. Both saddle bags (panniers
to our European friends) are cracked and scraped. The trunk (top box) lid is split
open and won't close. The two antennas are bent towards each other.
di Maurizio makes a list of repairs and Nunzia runs the cost estimate. Thirteen
thousand Euros to get it back on the road, nearly $18,000!!! We could buy a brand
new GoldWing for that money back home.
We ask them if they would buy it from us for salvageable parts and they gave us 500
Euros for it (about $700). We took the custom seat off of it. It is a Russell "Day-Long"
seat made specially for us and cost $1100 when new. It will fit on our GoldWing
While that is happening Nunzia calls a doctor friend of theirs and he comes to the
shop and looks at my foot. I have been hobbling around with considerable pain. He
determines that I probably have broken it. We also have several large bruises and
Kathy has pain in her left ribs. Nunzia takes us to the hospital and stays with
us to get us through the bureaucracy. X-rays determine that Kathy has no broken
ribs but that I have three broken toes. The three middle toes are broken just behind
where all the toes join the foot. This is the exact placement and width of the gearshift
lever when I'm riding the bike. It must have been pressed hard upward when we hit
the barrier. The Italian doctors put a cast on my foot and say I need to be back
home and examined by my own doctor within 10 days. Kathy has several bruises like
the one on her right hip and I have one.
After the hospital Nunzia takes us to a hotel and loans me some crutches. The next
day we try to get a rental van or truck to take the trailer and us to Holland. Nobody
will rent one for international travel. So we try for a car with a trailer hitch,
also not possible. So we call upon our good friends in Holland to come an get us. It
is their trailer and the only way to get it to them is for them to come and get it.
It is over a thousand kilometers (600 miles) and takes them a long day's driving
across four countries to get here. This picture is just before we left the Wingstore. From
the right is Nunzia and di Maurizio of the Wingstore, Kathy and then Dirk and Hetty
from Holland. Without all their help, time, trips, errands and advice we would probably
still be lost in Italy. We can't thank them enough for all they have done.
When we arrived in Holland it was late and we were all tired. The next day we went
to a travel agent and booked round-trip tickets home. One way tickets were over
2,100 Euros each, round-trip were 750 each, for the same seats on the same plane. (This
is not uncommon, but I have never figured out how it can cost three times as much
for half the service.) We didn't use the return tickets.
Now we are home, the foot specialist says that I don't need an operation. I have
a new cast and am hobbling around on more borrowed crutches (these from Hetty in
Holland). We are enjoying being home but this is not the way we had it planned.
People say bad luck comes in "threes". If so then we have reached our limit. If
you have followed from the beginning then you know that our first year's travel was
interrupted by breast cancer, the second year our house burned down while we were
in Spain, and now we have had a serious wreck and destroyed our bike. We hope that
is enough to satisfy whatever evil demons have been picking on us.
I hope to be healed up in time to go on the "Polar Bear Run". A one day run held
by a local club on the first of January each year. We have a GoldWing here in America
and if I'm healed enough to go on it there will be an update about it in the North
America section. There is already a very short page about the 2004 Polar Bear Run
in that section.
To all of our friends in all of Europe, GoldWingers and others, thank you for everything
you have done. Many of you opened your homes to us, others helped us with repairs. We
were given advice on things to see, taken on runs and rides. You let us use your
phones, beds, and houses. You ran errands, and bought things. We were given shirts,
hats, stickers and pins from GoldWing clubs that we will always treasure (even though
most of the stickers were stuck to the bike we left in Italy). And all without expecting
anything in return.
We have memories that will last us forever. The history of Europe, the buildings
and castles, the cities and towns, the mountains and waters, the roads and trails,
the food and drink, but above all the people of Europe. Everyone we met was friendly
and interested in our trip and our lives. The politicians and bureaucrats may argue
and fight but the general people of any country are the same; friendly, helpful,
generous and just trying to make it to the weekend with enough leftover in the paycheck
to have a beer with friends.
We rode over 40,000 miles (70,000 kilometers) throughout Europe in 21 months over
three years. (A map is in the Maps web page.) It cost us much more than planned
because of additional trips home and that the US Dollar was very weak during our
trip. (During planning it was about $1.20 to the Euro, during the trip it was mostly
$1.45-$1.60, now we are home it is down to $1.32.) And this year gasoline was at
an all-time high during the summer. (Now that we are home the wholesale cost is
down over 50% from its July high point.) We also spent considerable money on all
new quality camping gear and travel clothing before we left. All together, including
the value of the wrecked bike we left at the Wingstore, we estimate we spent over
$100,000, but it was definitely worth it!
Thank you everyone and please raise a beer (or whatever) in memory of "The White
Dragon" at your next get-together.