Traffic Police, Story Two

Riding home from the Rock Bar, after a friend’s birthday party, 4AM, drunk as all hell.

Speeding to quickly get to the destination and to avoid getting caught. The traffic police patrol car spots me at the beginning of Baghramyan and pulls me over. I don’t stop and keep riding along Baghramyan towards my home, with the hope that the policemen would give up on pursuing a motorcycle right away. The dudes seem tough; they put on the siren and start a pursuit. I cross the Baghramyan/Proshyan intersection under a red light, speeding somewhere around 130km/h, ride across the Barekamutyun bridge, and check my mirrors. The cops don’t appear to be there, and I no longer hear the siren or see the flashing lights. Looks like they’ve lost me. “Losers!”. I ride on. On the intersection of Komitas/Papazian, I turn left and — boom — smash my front wheel straight into the right door of the police car that was pursuing me! I barely hold the motorcycle. The policeman behind the door puts the window down, looking at me in awe, speechless.

“Hi!” I go on, looking straight into the guy’s eyes with a nervous smile on my face.

“Stop at the right side of the street!!” the other guy screams into the mike.

“Can I stop at the left side? I’m going to Papazian street, that’s where my home is.”

“STOP AT THE RIGHT SIDE!!” yells the policeman.

“Aye, officer”

I pull the motorcycle over to the right, get off. The guys are extremely pissed. The one with the higher rank runs towards me and goes on enumerating, hardly catching his breath:

“You refused to stop at a traffic police officer’s demand, you ran away from the traffic police, you crossed a red light, rode on the opposite lane, more than twice exceeded the speed limit for riding in a residential area, you smashed into our goddamn door, and I can already feel standing here that you are drunk! Do you even imagine what kind of a fine are you going to pay?!”

“I’m sorry officer, I didn’t see that you pulled me over!”

“Are you kidding me? You’re lying! You saw us stopping you and you rode away, jumping under the red light!”

“Did I? I thought it was yellow!”

“It was red, and you’re lying! Now tell me that you didn’t realize you were riding on the opposite lane!”

“I didn’t!”

“You’re lying!”

“OK officer, what now?”

“Now I’m taking away your driving license, and you’re gonna have to pay enormous fines! Look at our door!”

“Please sir, it was really late and I just wanted to get home quickly! How about we solve this otherwise?”

“What’s your occupation?” the officer looks inquisitive

“I’m a student!” (Rubik says that this always works with the police. They start pitying you because of your social standing and income. But the officer didn’t buy that.)

“You’re a student riding a brand new 2009 Honda CBF? You’re lying!!”

“Uh sir, how about I just give you all the contents of my wallet and we part?” I take out my wallet.

“How much have you got in there?”

“Well I only have 5,000 drams!”

The officer looks in my eyes suspiciously for a second, then goes on: “Deal, you’re gonna give us all the contents of your wallet. Except we’re gonna check your wallet ourselves!”

He grabs the wallet from my hands, opens it… and takes all ~70,000 drams that I have in it.

“Some twisted goddamn asshole you are!” he mumbles, walking back to his car.

Disclaimer: this story does not represent my personality in any way. Honest!

Safety disclaimer: this story is fictional. I mean, what’s with the filing a lawsuit shit?!

Traffic Police, Story One

Ever now and then I’m having to drive a car instead of my motorcycle, particularly when a lot of baggage and/or a lot of passengers are involved.

So one of these days I had to drive my girl over to the airport with the SUV where she could depart to Amsterdam for her Eurotrip. On the way back, somewhere on the Paraqar road, a traffic police car was standing right in the middle of the road, very obviously hunting for prey. I spotted the car very early, checked my lights, my safety belt, my driving position and of course my speed and nailed it at 60 km/h (no person in a sane state of mind ever drives less than 80 km/h on the Paraqar road).

Right after passing them, the cops turned on the siren and pulled me over. “God damn it,” I thought, “everything was perfect, what the fuck did I do wrong?”

So I pull at the nearest convenient section of the road, put the window down, my hands on the wheel. The officer approaches. He’s a tan and fit dude in his early thirties:

“Your documents please”

“What was the offense?”

“You’re driving 65 km/h in a residential area”

“Dude, I was doing specifically 60 and paying close attention to that, too!”

He looks at me for a moment, takes a look at my documents (they are perfectly fine), then goes on in a really interesting way:

“Speeding is a very serious offense. I’m gonna have to fine you for 20,000 drams and take away your driving license.”

“Seriously though, I did not exceed 60 km/h!”

“If you disagree, you can go to a court with this case. There is a standard procedure for that. If you win, all your fine will be refunded by the State.”

He knows exactly what he’s saying. I will never go through the court hassle in Armenia and even if I do I will never think (perhaps mistakenly) that it can possibly be won. So I sigh.

“Dude, I am no going to go through any lawsuit. I don’t have the time for that and I’m sure neither do you. But I am sure as hell not paying 20,000 for going 60 km/h, and giving up my driving license isn’t going to happen either.”

“How so?”

“I have no idea!”

“You look like a fine mate. How about I fine you just for 5,000?”


“Step out of your car, come pay it over at ours.”

I get out of the car and approach theirs. Give the other cop the 5,000 and walk back to my car. They certainly give me no official piece of paper confirming the payment. Something crosses my angry mind and I think of a quick plan.

Before opening the door of my car, I make it obvious that I am checking their license plate number, then I sit in the car, take my cellphone and dial a friend. The cops look suspicious. They drive away. After a 2-minute chat with my pal about random shit, the cops take two U-turns and stop by my car again. Then the one cop that is not driving asks me to put my window down. I am still on the phone, so I ask my friend to wait. The cop looks very obviously terrified.

“Why aren’t you driving away?”

“I am making an important call. As far as I know, driving when talking on the mobile phone is against the law!” I am then making a move to go back to the phone. The cop immediately interrupts:

“Say,” he says, “I saw your driving license had an A-class permit stamped. Do you ride a motorcycle?”

I nod.

“So considering the road we’re on, you just had to take a car this time to drive a family or a friend over to the airport, right?” he looks excited.

“That’s right, I had to drive my girlfriend for a flight to Amsterdam.”

“So then you mainly ride a motorcycle, not a car!” he looks like he just made a discovery.

“That’s precise!”

“Should have mentioned that earlier, mate… Good luck!!”

The cop hands me back my 5,000 dram bill and they quickly drive away. I smile and take back my phone where my friend is waiting.

“What was going on?” he asks.

“All is well! I’ll call you back tomorrow, bro!”

International Bike and Rock Festival in Armenia

Great news for all of you* on two wheels in (or soon-to-be-in) Armenia!

Here is an email I have received from one of our rider fellows a couple of minutes ago (in Armenian):

bike-festi start@ sksvum e Akhtalaic septemberi 15-in , cankali e bolor@ havakvats linen min4ev jam@ 15:00 (cerek@ ekexecu taratskum kazmakerpvelu e xorovatsi paraton taraznerov derasannerov ev ayln,isk jam@ 6-in stadionum sksvelu e rock paraton). Septemberi 16-in gnalu en Sevan, entex el pokrik mijocarum e linelu,ev 17-in gnalu en Jermuk` mianalu mec rock-festin. Bike festi shrjanaknerum kazmakerpvelu en khaxarkutyunner,mrcuytner,xaxer(Jermukum). Septemberi 21-in bolorov galis enk Yerevan nshelu ankakhutyan ton@. Menk mer vra enk vercnum Hayastanum mnalu voxj @ntackum vareliki tsaxser@. Artasahmanic bikerner@ petk e mtnen Bagratasheni koxmic, ancaketum klini mer koxmic nerkayacuci4,vor@ jamanac bikerin kpoxanci kartez,vareliki ktronner ev ayln. Amboxj @ntackum bikerner@ klinen GAI-i hskoxutyan tak t4anaparhnerin xndirneric azatelu npatakov.

Translation to English:

Bike-fest will kick off from Akhtala on September 15th. It’s desirable that everyone is there before 3:00PM (there’s gonna be a BBQ party in the church during the afternoon with national dresses, actors and shit. Then there’s gonna be a rock festival at 6PM in the stadium). On September 16th there’s gonna be another small event in Sevan, and on September 17th they [the bikers] are going to ride to Jermuk to join the rock fest. During the motorcycle fest lotteries, games and competitions are going to be organized in Jermuk. On September 21 we’re all gonna ride back to Yerevan to celebrate the Independence Day.

We [I assume the organizers?] will cover all expenses of motorcyclists’ fuel during the entire stay in Armenia. Foreign bikers/motorcyclists should enter Armenia from Bagratashen [a border town near Georgia]. We are going to have a representative at the border who will give the bikers a map, fuel purchase checks and other stuff. At all times the traffic police will be escorting the motorcyclists to avoid any issues on the road.

Then I randomly found out that PanARMENIAN.Net has more information available on the subject:

PanARMENIAN.Net – Travel without Borders project initiated by National Geographic Traveler Armenia through the assistance of RA government kicked off on August 24 with sailing of an international regatta.

The project consisting of 5 stages will finish nearby Tatev monastery on October 16, the day of opening of the longest ropeway in the world.

After Nairi and Ani boats complete their voyage, an equestrian tour will launch towards the Selim pass.

Between September 10 and 20, Armenia will host a bike fest, which is expected to bring together 150 bikers from different countries. The bikers will ride Bagratashen-Akhtala-Dilijan-Sevan-Selim pass-Jermuk route.

Besides, Music without Borders festival will take place in Jermuk.

The final stage will feature an international rally to follow Russia-Kazakhstan-Iran-Turkey-Georgia-Armenia route.

Conclusion: if you’re a motorcyclist and you want to visit Armenia (which happens to be a paradise for motorcycling), now is the perfect time!! Whether you’re riding a sportbike, a grand tourer, a cruiser, a streetfighter, a chopper or an enduro (especially an enduro!), hit the road and head over here! Even if you are a sociopath who does not care about the fantastic people he’s going to meet in Armenia, there’s still guaranteed free rides, free fuel and free police escort, where or when else would you ever have all of that together? I’d also add free drinks and free girls (maybe even guys and camels), but that wouldn’t be guaranteed. Take your shot!

For your extra information, Google Maps works great in Armenia (as long as you navigate your way through Georgia).

Have a safe trip!

* I’m gonna be on the other side of the planet from September 10, and that’s a bummer.

Washing Your Motorcycle in Yerevan

Even if you buy a brand new motorcycle and drive it off the stand from the official dealer store, sooner or later it will require a good wash. Even if you are that one lucky rider who has never been caught riding under the rain during the last 25 seasons, even if your garage is more sterile than the 8th Hospital in Zeytun (hey it’s totally feasible!), and even if you take a shower every time before saddling it, if you’re riding it you’ll get it dirty (no pun intended).

Tsakhkadzor, about 500km after the purchase
Tsakhkadzor, about 500km after the purchase

Moreover, if you just love doing it in dirt and gravel, the need to wash it will rise a lot more often than if you’re one of those cafe racer dudes with a Fireblade.

And by often I mean pretty damn often.

Urtsadzor, dirts of Khosrov Forest
Urtsadzor, dirts of Khosrov Forest

So what do you do when the time comes? You know, when the rear suspension doesn’t work anymore because of all the dirt, the leather saddle and the handlebar grips conveniently stick to your pants and gloves like a candy, the turn signal button no longer works because of all the sand around, the mirrors show a blurred vision of a drunk person distantly resembling the reality behind you and she suddenly comes up with all these different reasons why she does not want to ride today? From that point (as well as from any ride that is more than 300km in Armenia) you have two options.

Option number one

Wash your motorcycle. Get some water running (better warm than cold), some dishwashing liquid detergent, a sponge and a bucket.

  • Make sure the engine is not very hot
  • Start with splashing buckets of water to essentially get the motorcycle very wet
  • Spray the running water and try to get off as much dust and dirt by spraying as possible
  • Get more water in the bucket and soap it using the detergent
  • Starting with the top (the mirrors), go down sponging and soaping all the parts, taking care of the dead bugs and paying attention to every detail. Avoid rubbing the sponge against big pieces of dirt or sand, as this will scratch the paint.
  • Clean the motorcycle chain using a commercial chain cleaner available in many stores including Honda’s Yerevan Dealership
  • Rinse the bike using running water
  • Let the motorcycle rest for a couple of minutes
  • Dry it using a damp cloth
  • Lubricate the chain!
  • Go on a ride to dry off the remaining parts (enjoy)!

One thing to keep in mind is, do not direct high-pressure water on the carburetor, the front fork suspension rings or the engine radiator. These parts can easily be damaged by that.

Option number two

Have someone else wash your motorcycle. Many riders are feeling very strongly against someone else washing the motorcycle. Moreover, there is a shared belief that washing the motorcycle at a commercial no-contact car wash (aka “Karcher”) will damage some parts because of the extremely high-pressure water and air. However, in reality things are not so grim, if you take necessary precautions and warn the washer about some specifics.

Commercial no-contact car washes have two big advantages:

  1. They do not accumulate any scratches to the paint, simply because pressurized air is used instead of a sponge
  2. They are quick

Warn the fellow to not direct the stream of water at the radiator, the carburetor and the front fork UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES and always stay to supervise what’s he doing. Then pay your 2000 drams and get done with it.

I am personally going to this typical Yerevan car wash in a yard at Grigor Lusavorich street where a guy named Galoust (he’s in the photo above) has become my own personal bike washing expert. Here is where the place is located:

View Bike Wash in a larger map

Tell Galoust I said hi!

Into the Pit

Armenians are proud people. We are proud with a reason and without. We are proud of our budding democracy, of our chess team, and, above all, of our history. We like to mention that once upon a time our country spanned from sea to shining sea and that we were the first nation to adopt Christianity as its official religion.

This little episode occurred in 301 AD: 12 years before Christianity was even legal in Rome. This change of religion was catalyzed by St. Gregory the Illuminator, now the patron saint of Armenia, curing then-pagan king Tiridates III of insanity, into which he had lapsed after torturing and killing a group of virgin Christian nuns. However, prior to this St. Gregory was imprisoned for 13 years in a deep pit (khor virap) by the same Tiridates III for being the son of his father’s enemy.

So every child educated in Armenia gets this history lesson, but not all of them get to see the actual pit. I had not until very recently. The virap has had a small chapel built over it since the days of St. Gregory, which is now a part of a monastery complex, situated in the Ararat plain, amid vineyards and orchards.

It was a rather short ride from the city, 30 minutes or so, on a boring straight road that didn’t give you much to look at, other than an occasional shanty roughly put together out of metal scraps in the middle of a fruit garden, where a family was laboring together hunched over the earth. The more boring and straighter the road, the more likely you are to speed though, so the highlight of the ride was the roar of the engine, the warm wind in my face, and the meditative state into which I lapse at high speeds. On the other hand, the last short section of the drive up to the Khor Virap monastery was extraordinarily picturesque, one so familiar and dear to the hearts of all Armenians: a church perched on the top of a steep hill with the snow-white Ararat hovering majestically in the back.

The first thing that struck me about the church was I guess the usual sight at most churches in Armenia on a weekend: the wedding conveyer.  One somber couple followed the other into the church where the no less somber priest performed the rites and pronounced them united in the eyes of God, after which the couple was free to go and pose for pictures in the yard. And so there was always one couple getting nervous, stepping from one foot to the other in the church doorway, another couple at the altar, and the third looking at the cameras soberly, gravely, as if trying to understand the philosophical repercussions of “in sickness and in health”.

Marital Bliss in the Making
Winged Wishes
The Wishes Don't Make It Far

The brides’ mothers looked fussy as they arranged their daughters’ veils clumsily and gave them advices as to how to look their best in these pictures that immortalized the most important day of their lives. Maids of honor tried to present themselves to their best advantage in front of the grooms’ friends. Little girls in white dresses spun around and twirled their taffeta skirts in the church yard, looking dreamily at the brides, hoping that one day they will be marrying their own solemn-looking prince charming. But for now, at least they got the dress all ready…

Looking into the Future
The Boundless Joy of a Princess Dress

The main church, St. Astvatsatsin, built in the 17th century, was rather typical, as far as Armenian churches are concerned, built out of smooth orange tufa stone. It sat in the middle of the courtyard contrasted by the rough-hewn stone walls around the whole complex. The back wall of the church was covered in inscriptions: mostly names and dates, some going as far back as 1920’s, making the sense of permanence and continuity real, touchable.

St. Astvatsatsin

The St. Gregory chapel was smaller, simpler, rougher, the inside walls covered with soot, housing the pit that served as St. Gregory’s home and prison for 13 years. We parked the motorcycle helmets by the altar, hoping that no one would steal from a church, and descended into the pit. The vertical ladder just kept going and going and I started to wonder just where I would find myself when my feet hit solid ground again, somewhat like Alice. The pit was dark, full of tourists, and claustrophobic. I guess those pagan kings back in the day were not to be messed with. Couldn’t imagine someone being trapped there for years and years, without the sad-looking but efficient light bulb hanging lonely from the ceiling.

Descent into the Unknown
Local Fauna - Pit Dwellers

Inside St. Astvatsatsin numerous candles flickered in the breeze, as people whispered their secret wishes and most coveted dreams to the quivering flames, hoping that God will grant an answer to their prayers.

Outside the church there was a tribute to the Armenian pagan past: a cock was trotting around proudly, as a true Armenian cock would, still ignorant of the the highest purpose he was going to serve.

Animal Sacrifice is Still En Vogue

On the way back to the city we were bombing down the highway, going over 150 km/hr, probably the fastest that I have ridden on a bike (although I used to squeeze more out of my old Corolla), and the boyfriend’s medium-sized helmet was sliding back off my small-sized head, while trying to crack my neck in the process. The chin strap was digging in painfully, totally ruining this amazing experience of the world rushing past me at a (quite literally) breakneck speed. With all this sliding around that the helmet was doing , I realized that it was on my head just for placebo effect: I may have felt better about having my head protected, but it would probably not do much good during the meeting between my head and the pavement.

So the few lessons to be learned from this ride:

  • Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity in 301 AD;
  • Armenians have a lot to be proud of (in addition to the point above);
  • When you are very low, there is nowhere else to go but up (from the depths of Khor Virap to a patron saint);
  • And lastly, children, not only is it important to wear a helmet when riding a bike, it is also crucial to wear one your size.