Day 1—2: Texas—Arizona

We headed out of Austin on two heavily loaded motorcycles on Friday evening. In two days, we clocked 900 miles across the three southern states of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. Getting across the south looks everything one expects it to look. Straight road with red, dusty hue, stretching for hundreds of miles and coming together as a single point at the horizon? Check. Sand storms on the sides of the road? Check. 106 degrees of blazing heat? Check. Neil Young melodies mysteriously sounding from thin air? Ch…nah, that doesn’t actually happen.

In case you’re wondering whether that’s actually fun — yes, it’s a ton of fun, for the first 15 minutes. The rest of the time, which for us has been like 12 hours in the saddle in total, is boring as wretched hell. Riding on a straight, perfectly paved road isn’t much of a ride, and the excruciating heat doesn’t make it any better. The boredom is occasionally pierced by the sighting of beautiful trains, but that doesn’t happen often enough to be anything more than just a blip.

El Paso looked great. Definitely need to go back and explore it thoroughly. Riding along the US-Mexican border and seeing all the colorful houses on the other side of the border within a thousand feet was great. I’m feeling more and more drawn towards the idea of riding across mainland Mexico.


Unfortunately neither Cesare nor I haven’t yet mounted the GoPros, so there aren’t any ride photos/videos in this post.

The real treat was Tim, whose camper we slept in for the night in Arizona, in preparation of crossing the Mexican border tomorrow.

Inside a Camper somewhere in Arizona
Inside a Camper somewhere in Arizona

Tim telling the story of how he hit a tractor with his Harley in 1975 and broke his arm.

Tim and Laura
Laura and Tim

How Baja Came Along. Part 1: BMW

What do all the motorcycle adventures have in common? That’s right, an adventure motorcycle. So this is the story of how my adventure motorcycle came to be.

So Lucy and I moved to America, and we were like — “We’re not gonna spend money on anything significant until we become filthy rich, so that we remain laser focused.” We lived that way for a few months, and then that slowly transformed into “We’re not gonna spend money on anything significant until we buy a house, so that we remain laser focused.” Then a few months after that, we were like “OK fuck, let’s get the best motorcycle money can buy.”

Which motorcycle is that? But of course. The one on my Facebook cover picture.


The problem with America is that everything is so accessible it’s ridiculous. So we went to the BMW Motorcycle dealership in Austin, test rode an F800GS and an F800GS Adventure, went like “naaah we’re not gonna buy a bike, gotta stay focused on buying a house, man”, and forgot about it. By saying “forgot” I of course mean started watching every-single-F800GS-video-on-youtube-every-free-hour-of-every-day. That’s a hell lot of videos.

A few short months later, my colleague Brian goes like “Hey dude I’ve saved up a ton of money, and I don’t have anything good to do with it, so I just wanna waste it on buying one of those Slingshot cars. They carry them at the BMW dealership, wanna come along for a test drive?” “Sure,” I say. Who would mind test driving a Slingshot?

Myself and Brian, under some kind of an influence.
Myself and Brian, under some kind of an influence.
Polaris Slingshot. I know, right?
Polaris Slingshot. I know, right?

So back to the dealership, Brian is checking out the Slingshot, but I’m just glued to the BMW motorcycles section. The salesman, Sean, is the same guy that gave me the bikes for test riding the previous time. He goes “Hey you seem to be really into this bike, why did you decide against buying it the last time?” and I go “Well dude, we’re trying to buy a house, so stop tempting me” and he goes “Guess what, if you buy it today, I’ll give you $3000 off.”

Holy fuck.

Fast forward 1 hour, Brian and I are going back home. Me having just bought a brand new BMW F800GS Adventure. Brian being like “the Slingshot was meh.”

Fresh off the showroom
Fresh off the showroom

Experience: Turkey

After over a month of digesting all the things I have experienced during Oriental Express, now is a good time to reflect.

Turkey is a complex country. You feel it from the moment you cross the border, and this feeling does not abandon you for as long as you are in the country. It is very multi-layered and multi-faceted, and all of these layers are interweaved and connected in a thousand different ways. On one end, it is a powerful modern military state and NATO’s 2nd strongest army (or so I’ve been told), on the other end it is a myriad of different ethnicities and nationalities each with their own history, needs and agendas. On one end it is the liberal, artsy, European and intellectual Istanbul, yet on the other end it is towns like Malatya, and all the problems at the eastern borders, and then the Kurds, and Syria, and Iran, and then Islam and the religious debate, and sexual debate, and how I was advised not to make certain jokes. It is a very complex country. And as such, it is extremely interesting to explore. Not just exploring the layers, but the billions of interactions between them is really fascinating. As a whole country, I do not think any other place can offer so much depth for discovery and comprehension.

The Turkish society is extremely diverse — much more diverse than it is in Armenia, or any other place I’ve seen for that matter. Even in America I do not feel as much diversity. In fact when the Americans talk about diversity, I would say they need to check into Turkey. To have such a giant spectrum of different philosophies, religions, educations, social standings, agendas and wealth — wow! It makes your head spin!

As such, it is absolutely impossible to not find what you are looking for in Turkey.

I want to stress the last paragraph, because many ask — what are the Turks like? I can not answer that question! Depends on the Turk, I guess! But mostly, they are just like you. You know, they laugh when a clumsy child is having a hard time climbing on his tricycle, and they turn their heads after a hot chick wearing high heels or a handsome man driving a nice Porsche, and of course they run out of their cars to help when they see a motorcyclist in an accident.

Was it difficult to travel in Turkey as an Armenian? This question should really be split into two.

Was it difficult to travel in Turkey? Yes, in many ways. Traveling in Turkey is not at all like traveling in Germany. You need to bargain the prices. You need to talk and communicate, sometimes with feelings. There are sometimes not enough instructions. Most things that really matter are subtle and hidden. People mostly won’t smile at you if they don’t like you, or if they don’t know you. Driving is difficult. Gasoline is fucking expensive. People are tempered.

And this is a good moment to answer the second part of the question — as an Armenian, none of that was really difficult! In fact, every single traveler I met on my trip was having a much harder time than myself! What aren’t we used to, as Armenians — sincere facial expressions? Tempered people? Bargaining? Lack of instructions? So I would say, it is sort of difficult to travel in Turkey, but much easier for an Armenian than for a Canadian. That for damn sure!

Do not get me wrong. The last thing I would wanna do is to stand in downtown Malatya on a minaret and yell that I am an Armenian. In fact, I have lied quite a few times about being American… of Armenian heritage. Felt safer that way, especially towards the beginning of the trip. But it never made any difference. I spoke Armenian on a phone video call on the busiest streets, spent two full days with two Armenian ladies roaming outside in Istanbul, and never ever had a hint of a problem.

Again, it was not a problem for me to be an Armenian in Turkey. Not when I chatted other young guys and girls at the bars. Not when I dealed with the policemen. Not when crossing the border. Not when I asked for directions. Never. In fact sometimes in Istanbul I felt like it was a “cool” and “classy” thing to be an Armenian. Surprising, yeah? A good friend of mine told me that he feels safer when there is no special attitude towards him — positive or negative — and I agree. I am not saying it is not special to be an Armenian in Turkey (although these days it is perhaps less special than it used to be 20 years ago). I am just saying it seems relatively safe. All that I had to do was to respect the people I talked to, and smile.

I did occasionally come across some nationalist talk, but on these occasions I decided not to reveal my ethnicity.

Was my journey a brave thing to do? To some extent, I felt that way towards the beginning. But towards the end, I realized that it took me much more bravery to walk around Tenderloin in San Francisco after midnight, or, for God’s sake, to jump with a parachute. That shit is scary!

I cannot finish a post about Turkey without writing about the hospitality. I have lived in a Caucasian country all my life and we are all big on embracing the Caucasian hospitality, or the Armenian hospitality. I have always been skeptical and cynical about it. In fact I could never quite understand what this hospitality thing is, until I experienced Turkey. You just simply have no idea.

Hospitality is getting the Coke free at the gas station only because you said “I’m really thirsty” when paying for it. It is two people you never met spending an entire day with you in forsaken Erzurum just so that you don’t feel lonely or lost. It is the hundreds of cups of tea I drunk when asking for a direction at a store. Hospitality is when you go to a barber to style your hair, and he splits his kebab in half, wraps the other half with his own hands in the remaining bread, and instructs that his apprentice gets fresh tomatoes from the store around the corner so that your kebab does not feel too “naked”. The most amazing thing is, it is not a special attitude towards an Armenian guest who is visiting. It is an attitude towards everyone — a guest, a neighbor, and a friend just walking by. We don’t have that. And Georgians don’t have that. We are focused on something else.

Turks are wonderful people. Just like all the other people in the world. Yes, just like all of us.

Will I go back? Absolutely! I missed the Mediterranean part of my journey because of the accident, and I am definitely riding back. Hopefully with friends, and a bigger motorcycle!

Steve Jobs Motorcycle

Steve Jobs in 1982 riding his 1966 R60/2 BMW Motorcycle
Steve Jobs in 1982 riding his 1966 R60/2 BMW Motorcycle

“When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: ‘If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.’ It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

—Steve Jobs, 1955-2011

Day 18: Trabzon

Trabzon is a seaport. As such, it has a really awesome feel somewhere between Istanbul and the oriental version of Booty Bay.

The difference is stunning — I don’t know whether it is the sea or something else, but after Erzincan and especially Malatya, Trabzon is so full of life and energy! It is so very beautiful, too!

The first thought that occurred after riding in was — “I am gonna stay here for a while.” And I did!

In fact, I stayed in Trabzon for three days — a day longer than I stayed in Ankara. That makes Trabzon city number two after Istanbul on my trip!

The streets carefully laid out of cobblestone, the revolting omnipresent smell of fish, the pubs and the noise make it such a pleasant place to be for any pirate… or adventurer!