The End of the Road

We’ve reached our final destination: Istanbul, Turkey!


The 14th was our last day of bicycle touring. We considered taking a bus from Burgas, Bulgaria to Istanbul, but decided we wanted one more good day of riding to end our trip. The Black Sea coast of Bulgaria is too developed for pleasant bicycle touring. Traffic is heavy on the coastal road and you rarely see the sea at all. The weather forecast showed two days of sun before more rain started, so we left the coast to head inland to the border with Turkey. It was a nice ride up in the mountains and we enjoyed the fall scenery while contemplating where the year went.


After 90 kilometers and 1000 meters of climbing, we arrived in the small border town of Malko Tarnovo in Bulgaria where we spent the night. The most memorable thing about the town was that the hospital doubled as the hotel. The hospital looked like your stereotypical giant communist building and had no signs, so we had quite a time finding it. The room was clean though and we left with all our organs. The next morning we woke up expecting sun, but were instead greeted by heavy rain, so we decided to cycle 10 kilometers to the border-post and try to catch a bus into Istanbul from there. Finding a bus wasn’t as easy as we’d hoped though and we ended up waiting around for four hours only to have the first three buses refuse to take us. We were up at 800 meters and the rain had become intense, so Sarah began to panic and started to formulate an elaborate plan on how she was going to convince the next driver to take us. She was going to look as desperate as possible, tug at his shirt sleeve, and even considered shedding a tear. Luckily, that wasn’t necessary because the fourth bus agreed to take us immediately and we were able to avoid riding in the downpour.


Since we arrived in Istanbul, we’ve been enjoying the sights, getting ready to leave, and getting ripped off. A minibus from the bus station to the center cost us 40 lira (~US$33) and a 15 minute taxi ride to the DHL office to pick up our airline tickets was 40 lira as well. Transportation has really proved to be the mother of all rip-offs on this trip. It’s not like we aren’t trying either, check out all the negotiation I attempted with the taxi driver below. When we first settled on the price for the taxi, the driver flashed three fingers which I interpreted as 3 lira, but he later claimed he meant 30 lira. When I was trying to get him down to something more reasonable, he kept insisting his patron would actually kill him if he accepted anything less than 40 lira.


Other than the conniving transport vendors, Istanbul is a great city. Maybe the best city of the trip. This is actually our second visit here, but Istanbul still impresses. The city is filled with beautiful mosques and other exotic architecture. It’s great to just walk around the city and marvel at the spectacular ancient buildings.


The food is awesome too. We’ve been feasting on various types of kebabs and other Turkish specialties. Our favorite so far is Adana Kebap which is a little spicy. We’ve also been drinking a lot of Ayran, which is a salty yogurt drink that you usually consume with a meal. It sounds gross but it’s actually really tasty! The city is a little more expensive than we remembered though; a meal for two at a Turkish restaurant costs around 15 lira (~US$12.5).


Sweets are also plentiful. Every block has a few shops dedicated solely to desserts and candy. They sell so many different types of baklava, Turkish delights, and other unidentified sweets that it would take us weeks to try it all!


There are also lots of fresh juice stands. We couldn’t resist trying the pomegranate. It had a different taste than the bottled stuff, a little more earthy.


The most popular beverage by far, though, is tea. It is served in small glasses with two sugar cubes on the side.


People drink tea everywhere, not just in cafes. There are tea vendors running all over the city carrying silver trays full of tiny glasses of tea which they serve to people hanging out on the street. Along the Bosphorus Strait, we saw many men fishing while sipping their freshly delivered glasses of tea. Looks like fun!


We’ll be here until the 21st when we fly back to the US. We have been packing up the bikes, figuring out how we are going to get our excess baggage home, and how we are going to get to the airport. Bicycles are great when you are on the road, but they are a huge drag when you are trying to get on an airplane. We almost suffered another rip off when one bicycle shop owner wanted to charge us 20 lira (~US$17) for a single bicycle box. Luckily, we found another shop where we got two boxes for 15 lira.


Next stop Wilmington, North Carolina, USA!

23 Responses to “The End of the Road”

  1. Jared Yeater Says:

    Will you be headed to NYC at all once returning to the U.S.?

  2. John Bob Says:

    Wilmington, NC – USA!!! Hooray!! Next stop, Minneapolis, MN!! Hooray!

  3. Mark Stosberg Says:

    Thanks for sharing your adventures!

  4. Susan Says:

    Hello there! I have been following your blog since you were in Asia and I have to say it is fantastic. I love reading about your adventures. I found you through Erin in Minneapolis (waifstar).

    It’s sad to see your adventure come to an end, but I am sure you guys are ready to go home! Speaking of home, have you figured out where you will live when you return to the States? I hope you continue to blog!

  5. Mike Hedge Says:

    well done!!! I was in Istanbul last summer. very neat place.

    Have a great trip home. thanks for being an inspiration!


  6. David Says:

    I can’t believe you’re almost done! I’ve followed you the whole way and I have vicariously vacationed / traveled through your experiences!

    Thanks for the tip on Miles from Nowhere. I loved the book and has motivated me to bike across the country. And I am going to do it next summer, so check out my blog.

    Why NC? Are you going to bike back to WA? That’s one thing that surprised me is that you ended up driving across the US, not biking. You might have said it at one point but maybe you figure that this is something that you can more easily do in the future than traveling all the way around the world.

  7. Stephen Says:

    Check this out.

  8. James and Sarah Says:

    We fly into Wilmington and will spend three weeks there with Sarah’s mother. We are going to start looking for jobs and then make our decision on where to live based on that. We’ll spend Christmas with my family in North Dakota and then hopefully make our way (by car) to our final destination in early January. Doing some bicycle touring in the US is definitely on our agenda. I guess a cross country trip won’t be in the works for quite a while though.

  9. Alex Wetmore Says:

    Congrats on finishing the trip. I’ve really enjoyed reading about your adventures and look forward to some sort of final wrapup post.

    Shoot me an email if you come back to Seattle, it’d be great to get a beer or two.

  10. Dad Says:

    Bon voyage and safe travels!
    Happy Thanksgiving!
    See you in Minneapolis!
    Peace & Love,

  11. Brian Says:

    It has been great tracking your travels for the past year. Looking forward to seeing you two in sf. work at google.

  12. erin Says:

    Nice comment, Brian. You’re not even going to be IN San Francisco, riiiiight? Pfft.

    Anyhow, Jamie and Sarah – is it so weird to be going home? It is hard to believe that it’s been a year for you. I’ve loved following the blog and your journey around the world.


  13. Alison Says:

    Safe travels! Can’t wait to see you when you return!

  14. George and Jann Glumac Says:

    Jann and I found you through Aunty Jane. It has a been facinating adventure we enjoyed. The photographs and dialog were very well done, informative, and personable.
    The last time a saw you Sarah was at Swan Lake when you were very young. It’s been awhile. I am sure Louis and Florence would be proud.
    We are living on the Western Slope of Colorado, Montrose, our doors are always open. My daughter Sarah is a bicycle enthusiast and found your travels very interesting as well.
    Great job you two! Keep up the teamwork.
    George Glumac

  15. Emily Says:

    You should move to Grand Forks!

  16. ryan Says:

    Hi, I met Jamie on the Counterbalance meet the team ride last year and he told me about your plans. It has been great following your journal for the past year. After reading about your ride through Vietnam, my girlfriend and I decided that we had to come for ourselves. (I’m writing you from Hoi An on week three of our two month trip.) Best of luck with the job hunt and it’d be great to ride with you guys sometime if you’re back in Seattle. -Ryan

  17. Aunty Jane Says:

    Returning to the USA!! Wish we could be there when you walk into the terminal!! Imagine balloons, banners and family there to welcome you home!! We will be in spirit!!
    How about settling down in the Midwest? I am sure your cousin Johanna and husband Terry would love to see you often!
    We’re getting together in Madison for Thanksgiving, with a 32 lb. turkey! Does this not sound like your Grandma Erck?? We will give thanks to have you back in the country.
    Welcome home!
    Love, Aunty Jane
    P.S. Christmas sock will be in the mail next week!

  18. Charlie Says:

    Congratulations. I’ve very much enjoyed reading about your travels and seeing the pictures from foreign lands. Here’s to a safe and expedient return.

  19. Aunty Linda Says:

    Welcome back to the USA!! I’ve enjoyed reading about your travels. I tried to keep track of every country you visited but lost count. Could you please e-mail the countries you visited in the order you visited them. I have an idea for a late wedding/one year anniversary gift.
    Happy Thanksgiving! I know you both have a lot to be thankful for.
    Maybe we will see you in Pengilly next summer for their Centennial Celebration. love, Aunty Linda

  20. Jeremy Says:

    Hey Both,

    Wow! It’s over but your new adventure begins. Drop me a line if you ever make it to SF, a fairly bike friendly city. Congratulations to you both!


  21. daniel Says:

    Wow – Congratulations! Thanks so much for sharing your adventures with us all. You’ve been a great inspiration.

  22. yaya guo Says:

    Sarah and James,

    What a wonderful year for you guys! Thanks for sharing your great adventure with us. I still cannot believe you have toured around the world in bycicles for a whole year already! This is only a wonderful start, and best wishes to you for the journey ahead!

    keep in touch and happy holidays!!


  23. Jen M Says:

    Congratulations!! I’ve been reading your blog since Asia. I was working in Hanoi, Vietnam for a month this summer and met a Canadian family bike touring throughout Asia. That sparked an interest in bike touring, which led to lots of time wasted surfing the net while imagining doing my own road trip-cum-honeymoon trip (still waiting on that engagement, though). This bike touring stuff sounds much more compelling that another five+ months of Ironman training.

    I found your touring blog to be the most interesting, relevant, and inspiring. Thanks for sharing and I hope you take another trip soon.

    Jen M.
    Falls Church, VA

Leave a Reply