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Pleasantly Surprised

We had been told by other travelers and most of the travel guides that Albania could be a little dodgy. It is a poor country, and supposedly the roads were in bad shape with lots of potholes and bandits were looking to rob unsuspecting tourists. We experienced none of that. The roads were fine and cut a nice meandering path through picturesque valleys and mountains dotted with roadside cafes and wine stands.


We stopped for gas and a break at a random gas station, and we saw several guys having a ferocious but good-natured arm-wrestling match. I leaned over and whispered to Nick that I thought I could beat him even though he was about a decade younger than me.


I walked up and sat at the table across from him and his friends started to heckle him half pretending that they were rooting for me to win. We clasped hands and jockeyed for position and one of his friends yelled go!


I got the jump on him, and I had seen him let his previous opponents almost take his hand down to the tabletop and he would hold them there in a show of dominance and then force their arm over and beat them. This match was heading in the same direction, but little did he know that at the very beginning, I made sure that I had his wrist bent backward which gave me the best leverage. I played his game for a few seconds until I could feel him make his move and I put all my weight into my superior hand position and drove his hand into the table. His friends erupted in laughter, cheers, and high-fives. My opponent gave me a big smile and a hug, we filled our tanks and hit the road.


We ended our day at a little mom-and-pop hotel called Hotel LAS. Mike and I picked most of the hotels and we would usually look on our phones in the morning before we set off and pick a couple that looked good. Our one criterion was that they had to have a hot tub or a pool. There's nothing like jumping into a pool or hot tub (preferably both!) at the end of a long day's ride to soothe sore muscles and ease the strain of the road.


The hotel not only had a pool but the owners were two of the nicest people we met on the whole trip. They insisted on feeding us and Ben the owner even broke out his guitar and performed a mini concert of ethnic Albanian music. They implored us to stay longer but we were on a bit of a tight schedule because my wife was flying from LA and was going to join us in Dubrovnik, Croatia the following day.

We left for Croatia the following morning and I'm not going to deny that as Ben was unlocking the front gate to let us out, the urge to stay another day with these fantastic folks tugged at my heart a bit but I was also looking forward to seeing my wife for the first time in two months.

We drove north along the beautiful Montenegrin coast and took a short, picturesque ferry ride across Lake Tivat to the Croatian border.

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