[YEAR 7!] Quit our jobs, sold our home, gone riding...

Riding into ritzy Bellagio

It's a small world after all!

We had just gotten off our bikes and were starting to do our requisite stroll around Bellagio when this gentleman exits a building and calls us out by name. Totally caught us off-guard. I'm really bad with names and faces, but I was pretty sure I didn't know him. He introduced himself as Gino, a fellow motorcycle rider and traveler from Scotland and he told us that he had been following our blog. Wow! That's incredible! What are the odds?

And that's not the entire story. Earlier this year, Gino and his wife had hosted Sara and Daniel, our fellow Canadian motorcycle friends that we traveled with in Norway. That really makes the world a small place! Gino and his wife were here on a vacation, albeit not a motorcycle one this time. We chatted for a while on the streets of Bellagio and wished each other a good journey.

I was drooling over this Ducati 999. Ah, Italian sportbikes in Italy! This is my favorite and I miss the one I owned dearly

Bellagio is a very upscale touristy town

They call this town the "Pearl of the Lake" and it's where rich Italians go on vacation in the summer months to escape the heat of the lowlands of Milan. One look at the storefronts and we knew we couldn't afford to buy even a soda here, so it's off to do more riding.

Como stai? Bene! Bene!

Andiamo, Bella! Back on the road!

Heading towards Milan

Spending a few days with Neda's sister and her family in Milan

The World Fair is being held in Milan this month. Goga told us that they went and it was crowded and expensive. Good thing that Touring Mode is Off for us, we're just here to hang out with family.
Question: of all the places you've visited, if you had to settle down in one location, where would it be?
I think it's inevitable that you compare every new place with where you used to live. Toronto has many great qualities like low pollution, low crime, familiar culture, all our friends/family live there. The drawbacks are that it's too cold in the winter, the traffic is horrendous and it's very expensive to live in the city.

Right now we're bound by cost. If we got amazing-paying jobs or won the lottery, there are some perfect places to live in Western Canada and Europe, but as of now they're out of our price range. If money were no object we would move to Vancouver Island in a heartbeat. All the benefits of Toronto, familiar Canadian culture plus warm winters, and we have so many friends in the area. But it's as expensive (if not more) than Toronto.

In Europe, we'd live in Ticino in southern Switzerland for sure. If we were stinkin' rich... Great standard of living and temperate Mediterranean winters, and the ski hills are not so far away. Everyone speaks Engish, Neda's sister lives an hour's drive away in Milan, and we have soooooo many friends in Western Europe that are less than an hour's flight away. €50 will take you pretty much anywhere on the continent with RyanAir.

But realistically if we were looking to retire on a meagre pension or stretch our savings for as long as possible, we'd probably settle somewhere in Latin America. I've learned enough Spanish to know that I could probably pick it up if I applied myself.

La Paz, in Baja California was a really nice upper-middle class city, but it gets really hot in the summertime. There are some colonial towns in the Mexican highlands that are also liveable - Ajijic and the Lake Chapala district are very ex-pat friendly with the perfect temperature all year round. Oaxaca is also nice; bit more happening, not as sleepy as Ajijic.

In South America, we stayed in Medellin in Colombia for a couple of months. Enough to know that that is a nice place to settle. There are some lingering crime problems, but nowhere as bad as the Escobar days. Probably as safe as Chicago. The ex-pat neighbourhoods (like El Poblado) are very peaceful and have a good standard of living. And the weather is perfect all year round.

Guayaquil in Ecuador blew us away by how affluent the country is compared to all of their neighbours. It's relatively clean and low crime, and the weather is great all year round, since it's right on the equator.

The only thing we don't take in account right now is healthcare. We're relatively young so it's not important to us, but if we were older we'd have to evaluate access to hospitals and doctors, as well as cost and the quality. And we have free healthcare if we move back to Canada.

So no place is perfect. It's always going to be a balance with cost and comfort.
Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/264.html

After almost a week in Milan visiting family, we're off again.

Generally, we're heading south for the winter, but we're taking the scenic route there, zigging and zagging through some of the more entertaining roads along the way. For a change, I took over planning duties and organized a route for us up and back through the Italian Alps, through the Lago Di Garda area in Lombardy. Then we're going to head up to the mountains of the South Tyrol and the Dolomites region of Italy, just south of Austria. There's supposed to be fantastic riding there and all we want to do is just stay off the highway and take in some twisty roads.

A quick jaunt on the Autostrada takes us past Brescia to the southern edge of Lago di Garda and from there we climb up Monte Baldo, overlooking the eastern shores of Lago di Garda.

Once again, the weather is co-operating with us as we climb higher up into the Italian Alps

Just east of us is the Soave wine region of Verona. There are quite a lot of vineyards that we pass in this area

There are some very pretty touristy towns that line both the eastern and western shores of Lago Di Garda. But we're going to skip them, traveling along the interior roads up and through the mountainous region. We just feel like riding today. So this blog entry will be nothing but pictures of our ride...

Passing more vineyards

Riding through some quaint and sleepy towns in the north-west province of Verona

Soaking in the sunshine on this beautiful riding day

In and out through these small towns nestled in the slopes of Monte Baldo

Such a wide variety of terrain and scenery here!

I have to laugh at this picture. There is absolutely no reason why this road has to be shaped this way.
Not that we're complaining...

We are so spoiled riding around the mountains in Europe. These staircases of roads seem like they are so commonplace everywhere!

Fellow motorcyclists have the same idea as us. Blurring is natural because my camera's auto-focus is so slow.
But it looks cool in this shot!

Riding through The Gorge near Lago Di Garda

The picture that could have been... :(

I take a ton of pictures when I'm riding, pulling out my camera when I see something interesting. Because there's a delay between me thinking, "Hey that would make a nice picture" and actually taking the camera out, I miss out on a lot of good shots. This one above was especially heartbreaking because we had just ridden through a series of short tunnels cut through the rock in The Gorge, and we were at the last set when I had the much-belated thought, "Hey this would make a cool picture".

So out comes the camera, but because the tunnels go from dark to light so quickly, it takes *forever* for the sensor to auto-focus and I JUST MISSED Neda disappearing into the next tunnel ahead. It would have been such a great shot to have her framed right in front of me in this picture!

Bah. Not good enough to Photoshop her in... :(

She'll be comin' round the mountain, when she comes

At one point the road carves a narrow path alongside the steep face of the mountain. Slate grey peaks covered in greenery peek through a shroud of clouds in the distance, and the valley drops off dramatically beside us. The late autumn trees look like they are on fire in contrast to the brilliant blue sky above - that sky that seems to be borrowed from the summer that we never had.

But don't take my word for it, here's a short video! :)

Right about now I'm thinking, "I should really put away the camera and try to make this next turn..."

Descending into Rovereto

We are stopping in Rovereto, at the northern end of Lago di Garda, for a late lunch. About a month and a half ago, I got an e-mail from someone in Toronto who keeps up with our blog. He asked to meet with us because he read that we were back in town for the summer. Unfortunately, because our blog is so far behind, we had already returned back to Europe, so we didn't get a chance to connect. But we've kept in touch since and it just so happened that we were now both in the same area.

So a quick exchange of e-mails and here we are knocking on the door of someone that we had never met before, in a town nobody's ever heard about. But he's a fellow Canadian, so we felt pretty safe... :)

Our mystery host wants to remain anonymous, so no names or pictures, but he fed us lunch and we ended up having quite a lengthy and deep discussion over the kitchen table about our travels. He's also a nomad as well, spending the better part of the last 10 years moving around from place to place, sometimes on a motorcycle, sometimes with a backpack. We have very similar backgrounds, so it was quite a treat to have a Birds of a Feather discussion, getting to share thoughts and experiences about life on the road that somebody else who hasn't done it may not understand or be that sympathetic about.

Rovereto Town Square

It was with great reluctance that we had to leave this tiny Northern Italian town and our wonderful host. We had already booked an AirBnB much further north. I had originally planned more twisty roads through the Dolomites, but spending further time with like-minded company instead was the absolute correct decision.

We were now racing against the setting sun which disappears below the mountains of the Alps extra early - as if to add insult to the injury of the shortened daylight hours! The midnight sun in Norway really spoiled us. So we said our goodbyes outside in the town square and hopped on the Autostrada past Trento. Despite it being a highway, the alpine scenery is still fantastic, but the light was dimming and we arrived in the small village of Sappada in the heart of the Dolomiti in darkness. Not to worry though, plenty of time to explore the area tomorrow!

We wait for our AirBnB hosts to meet us on the one street that makes up the tiny town of Sappada. Only 8PM and it's already pitch dark.

It was a fantastic day of riding. I know in the back of our minds, we're both evaluating the future and where we're going to end up and what we want to be doing, but sometimes just being on the back of a bike and riding some twisty roads for hours on end is the best kind of solution to the problem of thinking just too damn much.


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Gene and Neda both of you guys are very inspiring. The way you are maintaining all of those trips are truly amazing. I like the BMW bikes you've showed, and overall all of these images from the ongoing journey seems so nice. Have a great time here. Keep posting more updates.
Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/265.html

The nights are getting quite chilly this time of year. We've settled in for the evening in a really quaint wooden lodge in this tiny one-street village of Sappada right in the heart of the Dolomites. It's a very popular destination for skiers in the wintertime, but at this time of year the place is eerily quiet - an alpine ghost town. I kinda like it. And I love that we booked the lodge for a fraction of the price that it would list for in the middle of ski season.

Feels like we're on vacation!

Neda gets warm and cozy in bed with a good movie. Big day planned for tomorrow!

But unfortunately, we woke up in the morning to this...

The rain is pounding the roof of our lodge mercilessly. Water is running down the streets in sheets. What a terrible day for riding...

I can't complain though. We've had such an awesome stretch of nice weather over the last few weeks, marred only by a handful of rainy days. That's quite uncharacteristic for us. So in the back of my mind I was always anxiously waiting for the other shoe to drop. The only sad part is that this streak had to end while we're in the midst of a motorcyclist's playground.

We watched from the warmth of our comfy and toasty lodge and waited for any sign that the showers would abate.

Did I mention our lodge has underground parking? We have the whole garage to ourselves. Sweet!

Timing our exit during a lull in the rainfall

Such a shame that the mountains are obscured by a layer of thick fog

We're going to head east today, through the Regional Nature Park of the Julian Alps, which is just west of the Slovenian border. The damp mountain air this morning chills us to the bone and we keep our rainsuits on for warmth but also because we know it's probably going to rain again later on in the day.

On the way, we pass through many pretty Northern Italian alpine towns

Always a church in each town

Into the forest we go...

Just across the border, the forest of the Julian Alps continues into the Triglav National Park. As we enter the park, Neda excitedly tells me of all the places she wants to show me in Slovenia.

These communicators are wonderful devices. Rather than spending the majority of the last three and a half years of our ride in solitude, we've kept the comms open during the entire time, sharing our experiences and reactions of things we've seen along the way in real-time instead of saving it all up to discuss at the end of each riding day.

On this particular day, Neda is in a reflective mood. She tells me about all of the family vacations that her and her family took, crossing into the neighbouring republic to the north. She recounts how she always looked forward to the hiking trips in the mountains of the Slovenian Alps, multi-day treks that fostered in her the love of nature. How they used to stop each evening in mountain lodges, chowing down on delicious hot stew to fuel them for the next day's journey.

Riding through Triglav National Park in Slovenia

As we rode through the park, Neda points up at the peaks through some of the mountains she used to hike as a kid

Neda's a bit upset that the weather is so bad. She would have liked to stop to show me some of the places where she went on hiking trips with her dad. She would point at a mist-covered peak and say, "We went hiking through those mountains...", and added forlornly "...but you can't see them right now". :(

As the ride went on, she recounted her memories of Slovenia and how in the communist system at the time, Yugoslavian families were given "packages" from the government so that they could take vacations. Slovenia was always the more progressive of the republics and is much more affluent now because of it. From the way Neda talked about these trips, Slovenia was always that rich cousin that you looked forward to visiting, but yet made you so envious because they were better off than you.

Entering Slovenia... again...

The road through Triglav National Park is narrow and twisty in parts. Which would have been hugely entertaining except that the rains had started up again. That, combined with the slick carpet of fallen leaves on the pavement, made our going tediously overcautious and frustratingly slow. We got to a spot halfway into the park where we finally conceded that this wasn't fun any more. So we bailed on the ride through the park and made an exit out to the highway. Because this road skirted the border between Italy and Slovenia, we dipped into each country a couple of times, crossing borders like playing hopscotch in the rain.

Thankfully everyone's a part of the EU now so we don't have to fill up our passports needlessly with multiple stamps. But Neda is bummed yet again. She was the one who planned this route through Triglav and this was another spoiled opportunity to show me her childhood haunts.

We booked a couple of days in an AirBnB just outside of Bled

Staying in Bled was way too expensive, so we're in the tiny village of Zasip, about 3kms away from the city. Ever since I've known Neda, she's always told me about Bled. "It's so pretty!", "I have to take you there someday!", "You're going to love it, I know you will!"

The plan is to wait out the rains and on a sunny day visit the town that Neda has told me so much about.

Waiting for the rains to stop outside our BnB in Zasip

The next day we stare gloomily out the window at the storm clouds overhead. They seem never-ending. We spend the day indoors catching up on e-mail and I pretend to work on the blog, which is getting so far behind that it's embarrassing.

The next day it's still raining, so we decide to leave Slovenia. Riding out of Zasip

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