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Day 16: Malatya

The planned leg from Göreme to Malatya was the longest in the journey: more than 415km. Google Maps’ directions was giving me an estimate of 6 freaking hours for arrival, but I wanted to get there much earlier, so I was driving a little fast.

Somewhere in the middle of my path, I noticed an automatic speed radar and dropped my speed to about 100 km/h. After the accident, my speedometer gauge did not work, so I had to figure the speed out purely based on perception and experience.

About a kilometer after the radar, the police pulled me over. Just like that — a cop pointed at me with a finger and said in a mike — “Sıfır dört üç dört APA”. That is “Zero four three four APA” — my license plate. I knew I had to stop. There were three policemen again.

“Hi, I speak English, what is the problem?” I greeted the policeman

“Merhaba” This time around none of them spoke any English.

“Hello! Is there a problem?”

No response, shows with fingers that he wants my driver’s license. I give it to him.

“Motosiklet?” he wants to understand whether or not I am allowed to ride a bike.

I point at the “A” letter under my photo, then turn the license around and show the legend for “A”: motorcycles, mopeds and other motorized vehicles on two wheels.

“Tamam!”

“So, what is the problem?”

(no response, talks something with his colleagues)

“Problem?”

“Speed.” he then makes a gesture suggesting that I get off the motorcycle, take off my helmet and follow him.

As we approach their car, he takes a piece of A4 paper and writes “99″ on it, then draws a circle around it. “Limit!” he says.

“OK, I know, but what was my speed?” I point at myself

“102″ he writes on the paper above 99.

What the fuck, seriously! Is he kidding me? I put a minus sign between “102″ and “99″ and write at the bottom — “= 3!”

He nods.

“Üç (3) kilometre!” I say, amazed and pissed

“Evet, üç kilometre” (Yes, 3 kilometers)

“??!”

“Üç kilometre — problem! Bir (1) kilometre — problem!”

“Amerika — problem yok (no problem), Almanya (Germany) — problem yok, Ermenistan — problem yok, ama Türkiye — problem?? Üç kilometre!!” (Yes, my Turkish is that good at this point.) I get really upset. Usually, +5–10% is always disregarded everywhere in the world!

“Evet, Türkiye — problem. Bir kilometre — problem.”

I ask him to follow me. I show the broken speedometer gauge. Then I take out my accident report filed by the Turkish traffic police. He reads it attentively, and nods.

“Speedometer yok!” (No speedometer) I say. “Ama üç kilometre — problem yok!”

He nods in empathy. Tells my story to his colleagues. But they don’t change their minds.

“So how much do I have to pay?” I make a gesture with my fingers of paying money

“Hayır!, Hayır!” (No!, No!) I think he gets me wrong. He shows me a document where it has instructions in Turkish and English. The 3rd point says that foreign drivers pay the fine at the customs when exiting the country. Then he writes on the paper — “TL 140″.

God damn it!

Some time later I arrive at Malatya. The roads are as slippery as they were in Erzurum, but I feel myself a seasoned rider now and there is no way I will have an accident. The city looks crappy starting from the moment you enter it. The streets are dirty, people look somewhat annoyed and the whole environment feels unwelcoming. I stop and open my Lonely Planet book to find a good hotel. Then put the address in my Android and navigate to it using Google Maps. The place where I arrive does not even remotely feel like there could be any hotel there.

I get off the motorcycle and approach some people to ask for a hotel. Nobody even answers my “Hello”, as if I don’t exist. Spooky!

I get on the internet, and find allegedly the best hotel in Malatya. Ride there through really chaotic traffic, and woah!

Malatya is what Yerevan’s Malatya market would be, if it was separated as a town on its own. It feels like a huge dirty market, that is so intense that even in front of the best hotel in the city some folks are selling sport shoes, and you actually have to twist around if you wanna enter the building.

This photo is not just a random view. Even the first floor of the mosque looks like it hosts a market of goods of some sort.

Downtown Malatya

 

Some unknown motorcycle — Kanuni Tiger!

I think this is Mustafa Kemal, although I am not sure.

The central square reminds of some Armenian town, but I can’t remember which one exactly.

Bicycle and motorcycle general mechanic

Chicks in Malatya

And of course, red apple! Target the right crowd for your outfit!

I was extremely hungry, so I stepped into some steakhouse, where they said that all tables were reserved although it felt like they were just giving me shit because my hair looked messy. I went to the restaurant next to it, where I had 2 crappy lahmacuns and was asked to pay 25 liras for that — most I ever payed for food for one person anywhere in Turkey, including Istanbul.

I walked back to the hotel and decided to never visit Malatya again. Simple as that.

Of Bikes And Women

“Bikes are like women: they are best naked.”

Arbi

Brad Pitt Rides A Motorcycle, Too!

Brad Pitt rides a beautiful custom chopper. How cool is that?

Brad Pitt riding a chopper

Brad Pitt riding a chopper

The bold front wheel and the handlebar of this cruiser make it such a sexy eye–catcher. Now to find an equally stylish helmet, that could prove difficult!

 

Make This The Year!

Yes ladies and gents, Season 2011 is up and there is a great journey ahead for all of us!

To all of you, especially those to whom this doesn’t apply, goes this fantastic piece of video!

Me… I’ma conquer a dream.

I’m not stoppin’… till the road ends.

I’m going… where the wind takes me.

Me… I’m not making any more excuses.

Make this the year!

Hit the road! Ride safe!

Traffic Police, Story Three

After enjoying superb sushi and other great Asian food from some of Yerevan’s best cooks on a friend’s goodbye party at his house, we wanted to continue with an afterparty. Carlos is a marine at the Marine Security Guard Detachment Yerevan, so we decided to continue the party over at the Embassy. The Embassy car arrived to pick everyone up and drive them over, while I rode my motorcycle.

It was freezing cold late in the night, so I was pushing the motorcycle to get to the destination as quickly as possible. The entrance and the parking lot for the personnel are on the other side of the embassy. That means one has to ride all the way to the ramp across the road to make a complex U-turn and ride back. And here is Murphy’s law about rushing to awesome parties in action: just after the U-turn a traffic police car put on the siren and pulled me over. Speeding offenses in Armenia are usually fine and cheap, you can generally get away with just 5,000 drams, but then it struck me (Muphy’s law in action number two) — I left all my insurance papers in a friend’s car during the winter and never managed to take them back! Legally, this meant 50,000 drams. Realistically, this meant a little more than 5,000 drams (depending on luck and sympathy) after a long, tedious and largely humiliating chat with a person whose IQ, statistically, is below the city average. I can handle that most of the time; sometimes it’s even entertaining. But there was a party waiting for me ahead that had all the chances of being more entertaining than a conversation with an Armenian traffic police officer late in the night next to a stinking water reservoir! Now here goes all of the above paragraph and its continuation flashing through my brain on that very moment:

“Fucking cold!… Fucking pothole!… Faster’s always good when flying over potholes… Uh! (a traffic police car)… OK they won’t pull a motorcycle over… (the cops put on the siren) God fucking damn it!!!!… OK it’s only 5,000 drams (turning on the parking signal with my frozen left thumb)… I’ll explain them it was cold and the street was empty so I pushed… Shit, the insurance papers!!!!… (pressing the turn signal button to switch it off)… Only about 1km to the embassy… Honda CBF500 against Toyota Corolla… lets roll!”

“0434, driver of the motorcycle, STOP IMMEDIATELY!!!!”

Have you ever drag-raced with the police? It’s one hell of a fun! And guess what?

A 500cc Honda parallel twin engine carrying 195 kilos including its own weight plus 65 kilos of a fully–equipped Synopsys programmer smokes a Toyota Corolla carrying two tentatively chubby Armenian policemen on a distance of 1000 meters. Easily.

I threw myself towards the personnel parking entrance gate and stopped. After some seconds the cops pushed their brakes right behind me, so close I couldn’t get out if I wanted. Felt much like being in a sandwich. You know, one of those steel-gate—armenian-policemen sandwiches! Among the other ingredients, this one had some meat, a decent sausage, and a motorcycle inside. The Armenian security guards walked out of their booth amused, watching the sandwich.

“Get off the motorcycle!” Yelled the police car from behind me. I pretended I didn’t hear it and looked at the security guard that hadn’t yet said anything, and at that point was just looking at me inquisitively. Even though he had no idea what the story was about, I felt like deep inside his heart was on my side.

“I need to see Carlos!” I put out in English, trying to mimic some sort of an American accent.

“Carlos??” asked the guard

“Zero four three four, get off the motorcycle RIGHT NOW!!” Yelled the policemen again. I wondered if he realized he was being annoying. “Get a life”, crossed quickly through my mind. I repeated:

“Please sir, I really need to see Carlos right now!”

“He is a marine. This is very important!!” I cried, not even looking at the cops behind me.

The security guard looked at my visor, hesitated for a moment, then pressed to open the gate open. “He’s American. Drive off!” he threw his hand at the police car. Throwing the hand worked like a Jedi trick — the flashing siren that reflected on my visor through my mirrors during all this time immediately faded off.

“It’s always the same on this fucking road” mumbled one of the cops, annoyed. “Way to annoy me with the stupid mike!” I thought, as they drove away.

I smoothly rode into the parking lot and started waiting for Carlos, leaning on the bike. They hadn’t arrived yet.

Disclaimer: All characters and events in this post — even those based on real people — are entirely fictional. All celebrity voices are impersonated…..poorly. This post contains coarse language and due to its content it should not be viewed by anyone.

So you dream of a motorcycle

It started with a sexy next-year sportbike model that caught your eye online or in the street. You started wanting one badly. Generally the black one.

2011 Ducati 848 Evo

2011 Ducati 848 Evo

You suddenly began noticing and hearing every motorcycle in the street, and with time your plans started shaping up. But then so did your thought process. You started “getting real”!

What if you get married and make ~40 babies? Even now, you already have a family that needs to be driven somewhere every now and then. You couldn’t ride your mom to a hair saloon on a motorcycle now, could you? Of course not!

More than the need to drive them around is the need to convince them you are going to ride. Of course, you could do that! You have the authority, you are self–sufficient and your word matters! But you calm yourself down — it’s just too much hassle… you respect your elders, you don’t wanna make daddy a sad panda!

Afterall, you also need to haul around some luggage sometimes. Heavy suitcases, personal computers, pillows, blankets, construction materials, livestock and nuclear warheads.

What about the winter? You can’t ride a motorcycle in the winter! Argh!

And you want to be safe. You want to be able to make mistakes. Airbags and crash tests!

Comfort is important to you. Who doesn’t like the good familiar bass line streaming out of the subwoofer, along with the flow of hot or cool air? Climate control! You want to be able to control the climate around you!

The apparel. What, you’ll need to purchase and wear special equipment to ride? But you love wearing your slippers out!

You love vehicle maintenance! Greasy hands are sexy in the music videos! But seriously, changing your oil and the brake pads, cleaning your carburetor and configuring the clutch, that’s more effort than watching a video!

The motorcycle has no doors. I mean of course, you’ve seen it has no doors, but whew — really? No doors? What if someone steals it? These are hard times we’re living in!

Then of course the parts! No motorcycle is an Opel Vectra, where would you order the parts? UK? USA? You get online for that? Uh!

How much fuel per 100 kilometers? 7 liters? Hey that’s almost like a car! I mean, my friend’s Cherokee burns only like 14! Nah, not when he’s pushing it of course. Still!

Finally comes the neighbor who knows someone who knows someone else who has heard of someone’s relative telling about his wife’s colleague’s lover’s neighbor dying in a motorcycle accident in 1981 on an unknown motorcycle. “I mean, the brains were all over the place!” he adds. The other neighbor confirms his words with a thoughtful nod.

And so you buy a car. Something reasonably aged, but not too old. Something you can convince yourself and the others is the coolest car one could ever own. You’re certainly planning to travel with it just as you would travel on a motorcycle, so you make sure it has a 4WD differential lock and throw in a sleeping bag into the trunk. ”2011 X6?? Are you fucking kidding me? I would never ever ever change my 2001 Toyota RAV4 for that shit! My car is truly offroad and totally stylish, while X6 is just a pile of junk for wussies! I mean you can’t even ride X6 on worn tarmac, let alone gravel! Who buys that shit?! It doesn’t even look that good!” Some around you argue. Some nod. What matters is your feeling of self–righteousness.

Toyota RAV4

Toyota RAV4

 

BMW X6

BMW X6

Of course, you will get a motorcycle. Someday. Now is a little tense, financially. The stock market is going down. It is just not the right time.

You pick a date that is reasonably far away not to require any actions today, but sounds close nevertheless. Sounds to who? To yourself of course! Two or three years. Then it’ll be yours. You pick a model out of the blue — say, a Triumph Rocket III. There’s a dude standing in the promo poster that totally looks like what you would want to look.

2010 Triumph Rocket III Roadster

“This shit is my favorite motorcycle!”, you tell your friends. Of course you’ve never even seen one on TV, just the Internet. “2,300 cubic centimeters! That’s 2,3 liters in the car slang! But I can totally speak cc’s!” You learn all the specifications of this motorcycle by heart and set it as your wallpaper for a couple of weeks, before the next cool game comes out or the next awesome abstract wallpaper is published on DeviantArt.

It is pretty much sealed — you will probably never ride.