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STRANDED IN SARAJEVO WITH MY MOTORCYCLE

APR 18, 2023

Upon arriving in the city of Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina, I pulled into a gas station and as I tried to dismount my bike, I was stuck and couldn't get off. My backpack strap somehow got stuck in my luggage rack as I was riding. I tried to pull it out, but couldn't. The gas station attendant came and helped me hold my bike while I yanked. My kickstand is spring loaded so any movement causes it to spring back up. Unbeknownst to me, as I turned around to focus on dislodging my backpack, he went to help another customer and let go of my bike. My bike dropped. He and the other customer came and helped me pick up my bike. I pumped gas and left.


No more than 50 feet/ .01 km later, as I tried to accelerate, my bike wouldn't move forward anymore and I was stuck. Dropping my bike at the gas station must have created pressure in the brake system and caused my front brake to seize. The road was only two lanes and I was blocking traffic. It was dark in the evening and just my luck, it was also raining. I had a moment of panic and anxiety as the line of cars started to pile up. I couldn't push my bike out of the way and I didn't know anyone in the country who I could call for help. I saw a hotel only a block away where I figured I could just stay if I needed to, but I couldn't even roll my bike there. I tried to look up mechanic shops while also trying to divert traffic to go around me, but all the shops were closed already. I was stranded.


No more than 5 minutes later, a man gets out of his car and approaches me. Still new to the solo traveling thing, I had my guard up. However this feeling immediately dissipated when he said, "I am an auto mechanic, I don't know how to work on motorcycles, but I have tools." Just my luck! I responded: "I know what to do, I just need tools!"


I used my new friend, Alex's tools to remove the front caliper from the rotor. This released all the pressure from the front brake. Now the hard part was creating enough space between the brake pads to replace this back onto the rotor. After some frustration, I just couldn't do it, and neither could my new friend. Stuck, I was about to give up and just start pushing my bike to the hotel when all of a sudden Alex said, "My father in law has been a motorcycle rider for 50 years. I will call him." So Alex rung up his father in law who said he had a mechanic friend who he would bring.


In 10 minutes, all 3 of these wonderful strangers worked on getting me back on the road. As if things couldn't get more ridiculous, a man walking his dog at night was curious about the situation and started hanging around. A few minutes later a policeman who was patrolling the area asked if I was okay. Now we had a party! The scene was a bit hilarious to me. Maybe 20 minutes later, Alex translates for the mechanic and says, "You have 10% brake. We don't have brake fluid to flush out the system, but this will get you back on the road. This is very dangerous. Even if you need to take twice as long to get to your next destination, go slow and be careful."


What?! I don't do this. I'm safety first with my motorcycle. I don't ride with problems I know about. And 10% brake? That is nothing. But it was either this or stay a night in Sarajevo, but my mind was already set on getting to Tuzla as I had already book a hotel. I thanked Alex, his father in law and his mechanic friend. I was so grateful to them for saving me.


So for the next four hours, I rode from Sarajevo to Tuzla in the rain. This ride should have taken me 2 hours, but I only went 25mph/ 40kmph so it took me twice as long. The brake didn't really do much except help me roll to a stop. And this is how I spent my first Thanksgiving on my motorcycle expedition away from home. I'm so grateful Alex stopped and help me, a random stranger who was stranded in Sarajevo with my motorcycle who had nobody.



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