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Greetings from  Ostffyasszonyfa, Hungary

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From the travels and adventures of the “World’s #1 Trackchaser”

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pannonia ring

 Pannonia-Ring

Asphalt road course

Lifetime track #2,236

 

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Editor’s note:  The primary purpose of this trip was to see some racing in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).  Bosnia would become the 72nd different trackchasing country where I have seen racing.  The finish of this trip had my good friend and BiH race driver, Boris Miljevic and I traveling to Hungary to see some Sunday afternoon racing.  It was a great weather day will lots of on track racing action and paddock people watching.  Much of this Trackchaser Report will focus on planning the trip to BiH.  However, the visit to Hungary was the cherry on top of this international dessert.

 

 

 

PRE-TRIP

 

 

 

Advance Preparation

 

 

 

THE RACE 

 

Boris head shot

This was not the easiest race to confirm in advance. However, I had a special advantage. That advantage came in the form of a fellow named Boris Miljevic. You’re going to hear a lot about Boris later in this report.

 

 

Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) races just one time per year. They have only one racing circuit in the entire country. That limited my timing options somewhat didn’t it?

 

 

Here’s some information I gathered from the site, www.racingcircuits.info about the BiH race circuit.

 

 

Zalužani aerial

“Zalužani is Bosnia’s only motor racing circuit, based on the grounds of a former military training centre. On roads that once might have seen tanks rumbling along them, you’ll now be able to see various Yugoslav racing series throughout the year on two and four wheels.

 

 

The circuit sprang up in the late 1980s and was fairly primitive in its early years, little more than a small pit area and a course marked out around the roads of the complex. Safety arrangements were fairly minimal, with little in the way of run off for anyone who should stray from the narrow ribbon of tarmac – it was essentially only the width of a normal two lane road.  Nevertheless it proved popular and was an alternative to the street racing which otherwise made up the balance of the local racing scene. It was good for spectators too, with large amounts of the circuit viewable from close to the pits.

 

 

The Bosnian War inevitably brought racing to a close in 1992 but resumed in 1998 on a slightly shortened course, the final hairpin being tightened and brought closer to the final corner in a bid to increase run-off. Facilities remained fairly primitive until 2008, when the majority of the course was resurfaced and a proper pit lane installed – this time separated from the track by a concrete barriers. Some other improvements were made to run-off areas and tyre-bundles appeared at certain corners, providing a modicum of extra safety.

 

 

The track has remained in active use for a variety of local championships, perhaps the highlights being the running of ex BTCC and STW Cup Super Touring Cars in the mid-2000s. The circuit is also available to lap in a road car for very reasonable prices.

 

 

Recent years have divisions in the organising bodies, leading to some being unable to compete at the track, while local reports suggest that part of the site is also being used for landfill by the local authorities, while at other times part of the circuit is being used as a diversion route following a dispute about access rights to a local road. Nevertheless, local racing does seem to be continuing, so it is to be hoped these difficulties can be resolved.

 

 

Getting There

Moto Staza Zalužani is located at Zalužani, a village just north of Banja Luka, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The nearest aiport is Banja Luka International Airport, which is around 20 minutes’ drive to the north.

 

 

The circuit is straightforward to find, being located alongside the M16 road which links Banja Lauka and the airport. A petrol station, tyre shop and restaurant are located near to the circuit entrance.”

 

 

Thanks to the folks at racingcircuits.info for providing this background.

 

 

 

THE VISA 

No visa needed for U.S. residents. However if you are from BiH you need a visa to enter the United States! Some countries require foreign travelers to have a travel visa in addition to a passport to enter their country. Most countries allow some foreigners to visit without a visa while requiring other foreign travelers to the very same country to get a travel visa.

 

 

buddies

I never understand the rhyme or reason behind those decisions. For the most part I think a country lets it’s “buddies” in without a visa. Those they don’t care for so much must go through the hassle and expense of getting a visa. It’s not too much different than everyday life. If you know the right people you’ll have a much easier time of it. As you will come to learn I know the right people in BiH.

 

 

 

TIME ZONES 

The time zone difference was significant. I had come here after spending a few days in the Eastern time zone. I trackchased in Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio before boarding a jet airplane to Europe.

 

 

time zone 3

Where I was headed, Banja Luca, Bosnia and Herzegovina is nine hours ahead of the Pacific time zone in Los Angeles. This made it somewhat difficult to stay in touch by phone with family members back home. If I woke up at 8 a.m. it was 11 p.m. on the shores of San Clemente.

 

 

 

BOOTS ON THE GROUND

This would be an unusual trackchasing trip for me. I do all of my own travel planning, navigating and driving. I stop when I want and go when I want. Some of my fellow trackchasing competitors seemingly require a travel companion to drive them to most tracks, including foreign locations, they visit. If they can’t get someone to go with them they don’t go much. In most circumstances that system doesn’t appeal to me.

 

 

boris-miljevic-in race car

However, more than two years ago I met a guy from BiH. I was online searching for information on racing in both Serbia and BiH. That’s when I met Boris Miljevic. Boris is a professional racecar driver. He’s won more racing championships in several forms of competition (circuit, hill climbs and karting) than any other BiH racing driver. That’s impressive.

 

 

Carol and I were set to meet Boris in May, 2014. However a 100-year rain came along and flooded the country like never before. The BiH race in 2014 was canceled. Nevertheless, we met Boris, his father Damir and their friends from Croatia at a race later that summer in Austria. Then Carol and I had dinner with Boris in Serbia three weeks ago.

 

 

Boris is a native of BiH and specifically the country’s second largest city Banja Luka. Boris wanted to join up with me for a trackchasing effort in first BiH and then Hungary. I would be leaning on Boris’ knowledge of BiH and the overall Baltic region. More on all of that shortly.

 

 

Surprisingly I didn’t get much help from my friends on TripAdvisor. Truth be told I didn’t need their help on this trip. With a BiH native I had all the help I would need.

 

 

 

 

THE TRANSPORTATION

Why don’t you try this trip on for size when it comes to using airplanes. For me, it’s all part of the hobby. These are the airports I used on this trip.

 

 

airplane

Los Angeles, California

Portland, Oregon

Chicago, Illinois

Indianapolis, Indiana

Atlanta, Georgia

Dusseldorf, Germany

Frankfurt, Germany

Zagreb, Croatia

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Dusseldorf, Germany

Chicago, Illinois

Seattle, Washington

Los Angeles, California

 

 

The above covers about 40 hours of flying. Folks, I’ve trackchased in 72 countries over six continents. Imagine how much airtime that has taken and where I have been. It’s a fun ride. That’s why I do it.

 

 

Three weeks ago on the trip to Serbia we rode airplanes, trains, sightseeing boats, city buses, subways, taxis, trams and private cars during our trip. This trip’s transportation choices were much more limited. It included planes, a private car…..and Uber. That’s right an international trackchaser has never ever used Uber during one of these trips.

 

 

 

CURRENCY

The international portion of this trip would include racing in first BiH and then Hungary. Both of those European countries use there own currencies. No euros for these folks. As it turned out I didn’t have to get any money from BiH or Hungary.

 

 

 

 

WEATHER

 

hot weather 2

Hot. Just about everywhere we went it was hot. Temperatures were as high as 32-33 degrees Centigrade. That’s in the neighborhood of 90 degrees for us Americans.

 

 

 

OVERNIGHT ACCOMMODATIONS

 

banja luca b7B

I stayed in luxury Sheraton hotels on several nights and little B&Bs in both BiH and Hungary. I’ve never had better accommodations. If I told you what I paid (Boris knows) you’d think I was stealing.

 

 

 

 

THE RENTAL CAR

No rental car needed on this trip. We would be traveling through multiple European countries (BiH, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia and Hungary) in Boris’ Toyota Yaris. I don’t ride with someone else driving very often. I would estimate than some 99.9% of the miles I spend in cars finds me at the wheel. Whenever I had the urge to press on the brake pedal from the passenger’s seat I reminded myself, “This guy’s a professional race driver!!”

 

 

 

NAVIGATION 

For the most part we relied on Boris’ knowledge of the region. Occasionally we reverted to the GPS system from his iPhone.

 

 

I would say I am at the top of the technology curve for people close in my age range. That’s a little bit like saying you’re the fastest runner at a Weight Watchers convention. I learned several tech things from Boris. I really liked that.

 

 

 

THE TRAVELING COMPANION

 

cinderella

No Carol on this trip. She was back at home resting after notching her 40th trackchasing country three weeks ago in Serbia. O.K., she wasn’t resting at home. She never rests at home. Why? First, because she can’t sit still. Secondly, because I don’t do ANYTHING at home. She does EVERYTHING. I’m not bragging….just telling you the truth. O.K., I do manage the refinancing every couple of years for our mortgage.

 

 

Carol did accompany me on the first five days of this trip. I drove her all over the Midwest. Then I put her on a plane back to Los Angeles…..and then went exploring this big wide world of ours.

 

 

  

 

THE SUMMARY

 

world photo

My “world map” has filled up surprisingly quickly. BiH will be my 36th European country where I have had the chance to trackchase. Here’s the European list:

 

 

Andorra

Austria

Azerbaijan

Belgium

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bulgaria

Croatia

Czech Republic

Denmark

Estonia

Finland

France

Georgia

Germany

Greece

Hungary

Iceland

Ireland

Italy

Latvia

Lithuania

Luxembourg

Malta

Monaco

Netherlands

Norway

Poland

Portugal

Romania

Russia

Serbia

Slovakia

Spain

Sweden

Switzerland

United Kingdom

 

 

 

I first became exposed to the early part of my non-English speaking trackchasing countries from Belgium trackchaser Roland Vanden Eynde. He’s the master of Europe. However, I’m not too far behind.

 

 

Roland has seen racing in a couple of European countries that no longer exist, East Germany and Yugoslavia. He’s also been to Slovenia, which doesn’t have any trackchasing countable racing. Roland has also seen racing in Ukraine. Carol and I had a trip to Ukraine cancelled on about two week’s notice when our buddies over in Russia invaded the country!

 

 

I’ve seen racing in two countries, Azerbaijan and Russia, where Roland has yet to trackchase. Currently I trail Roland, in the continent of Europe, in total countries 38-36. However, I have designs!

 

 

 

So how did THIS trip really come down?

 

 

 

 

Wednesday – June 22, 2016

 

 

 

Hot on the international trackchasing trail.

 

serbia crest

Just 16 days ago Carol and I were trackchasing in Serbia. Serbia was the 71st different country where I have pursued my hobby of trackchasing.

 

 

There are not all that many countries that have racing, where I have not trackchased. However there are some.

 

 

72 Lloyd Caldwell Render Special

#72….here I come.

Today I was leaving the United States. I was headed to what would become trackchasing country number 72. Where would that be? Bosnia and Herzegovina.

 

 

For the person who didn’t do that well in world geography Bosnia and Herzegovina are not two countries but one. This country was birthed when Yugoslavia broke up into six different countries if you don’t consider the situation in Kosovo.

 

 

If you live in my world.

The logistics of getting to Banja Luca, Bosnia and Herzegovina were fairly simple if you live in my world. However, very few people live in my world.

 

 

What did you think of the travel itinerary I listed above? No, I don’t have the big budgets of those Dreaded East Coast Trackchasers. But I’m street smart. I know how to get from point A to B,C,D,E,F etc. and it won’t cost me much money.

 

 

On most of the planes I used I didn’t even know if they would have a seat for me until about 15 minutes before the plane lifted up from the runway. Most people wouldn’t have much interest and/or capability to travel to all of the places this trip took me with that uncertainty. For those that might have an initial interest most of those folks would drop by the wayside if they were flying standby!

 

 

I would give it a try.

Of course this is summertime. The time of year simply added to the overall standby flying challenge. Air travel to get from United States to Europe and back is both expensive and crowded. During June, July and August the demand for seats is at a year-long high. Would I be able to find an open seat on the airplane flying toward Bosnia and Herzegovina? I was certainly going to try.

 

 

indianapolis motor speedway 39

From the Midwest to Bosnia.

I was already in Indianapolis, Indiana when the European portion of this adventure began. Carol and I had had a very successful trackchasing trip up to this point. We had seen racing in Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio.

 

 

A couple of days ago I sent Carol back on a jet airplane to Southern California. Someone has to look after our modest seaside cottage right? Carol is the person for the job. She enjoys it a lot more than I do!

 

 

It was time to board the airplane.

Today I would be taking a plane from Indianapolis to Atlanta, Georgia. I got up early to catch a 7 a.m. departure for two reasons. First, that flight had more standby seats. Secondly an earlier flight would also beat an expected major rainstorm that would hitting Indianapolis about an hour after I left.

 

 

I landed in Atlanta without incident. Many of my international trackchasing trips have emanated from ATL. Atlanta is a big airport. It’s got some great walking paths to get from one end of the terminal to the other. Today I covered just over 4 miles mostly walking the Atlanta airport.

 

 

How would I entertain myself all day in an airport.

I landed in Atlanta about 8:30 a.m. The flight I wanted to take to Düsseldorf, Germany was not leaving until nearly 6 p.m. What would I do in the airport for that long?

 

 

American Airlines Admirals Club 2

The answer was pretty simple. I would head over to the American Airlines Admirals Club airport lounge. This is a private facility mostly used by business travelers.

 

 

Years ago, when I was in business, I was a long time member of the Admirals Club. It’s a great place to get away from the crowds, relax and enjoy food and drink on a complementary basis.

 

 

Free is usually not free.

Of course it’s not really “complementary”. The dues for an annual membership to these clubs are fairly expensive. The Admirals Club is one of the most expensive of any being offered. Nevertheless, because I am a member of the Alaska Airlines Board Room club I get complementary admission to all of the American Airlines Admirals Clubs around the world. Folks, let me tell you that that is a very nice travel perk.

 

 

I spent much of the day in the club managing my multiple travel arrangements for this and future trips. I got a lot of “paperwork” done on my computer.

 

 

I was glad I wasn’t trying to go to Stuttgart!

I will be flying from Atlanta to Düsseldorf, Germany. Let give you an example of what the demand can be for European flights during the summer. There was a flight boarding just across the hallway to Stuttgart, Germany. Demand was so high that they overbooked the plane. That’s right. More passengers with a purchased ticket had shown up to fly that plane than there were available seats. They were offering passengers $800 if they were willing to give up their seat and take a flight tomorrow. Fortunately the demand for my flight to Düsseldorf was not as high.

 

 

My nine-hour flight was relatively uneventful which is the way I like my airplane rides to be. I watched one movie on my Apple MacBook Pro simply to clear out some space on my hard drive. I have to watch the available storage on both my computer and my iPhone. The photos and videos I take use up a lot of storage space.

 

 

 

 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

 

 

sheraton dusseldorf

Sheraton Hotels….a fine trackchasing sponsor.

I landed in Düsseldorf at about 8:30 a.m. Carol and I first discovered the beautiful Dusseldorf airport on our trip three weeks ago.

 

 

I had also discovered there is a Sheraton hotel attached to the Düsseldorf airport. From time to time the Sheraton hotel chain is willing to sponsor my trackchasing hobby. This was one of those times.

 

 

The least expensive rates at the Sheraton Düsseldorf airport hotel go for about $200 per night. I’m retired. I haven’t work for money for 14 years. I’m living off my lifetime savings. On my own I couldn’t afford $200 a night. However if I had a full sponsorship… I could!

 

 

germany map 3

What should I do in Germany?

I had a few choices with how I wanted to spend my day today. I hadn’t slept much on the nine-hour flight to Germany. I was going to need some sleep sooner or later.

 

 

I was hoping they would let me check into the hotel at about 9 a.m. They did. I had a beautiful room that was quiet. I was only 100 meters or so from the airport terminal itself.

 

 

Trackchasing strategy.

My first strategy was to take a short nap for two hours or so. Then I would hop on a train and ride it down to the old town section of Düsseldorf. Carol and I had enjoyed our time down there earlier this month. We took a ride on a Rhine River cruise and had lunch in the old town section of Düsseldorf.

 

 

Committing a cardinal sin?

I have traveled to Europe more than 100 times. I know it’s a cardinal sin, when arriving in the morning, to go to sleep before 6 p.m. or so. If one does that they’re going to have a very hard time going to sleep when it’s nighttime in Europe.

 

 

I didn’t care too much about that problem today. It was 9 a.m. I was tired. I was by myself. What harm could a two-hour nap do at this point in the day?

 

 

I would take that nap. However when my alarm woke me after two hours I didn’t really feel like getting out of bed. It was about 11 a.m. local time. That was just 2 a.m. back in California. I don’t normally get up at 2 a.m. in California to begin my day. I wasn’t going to get up at 11 a.m. in Düsseldorf, Germany either!

 

 

I figured it would be too much trouble to take a train into Düsseldorf. I would just relax and sleep as much as I could. I was going to have a very busy weekend. The more sleep I could get now might be helpful for that part of the trip.

 

 

With complementary Wi-Fi, based upon my gold status in the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) program, I slept off and on and used my computer for future trackchasing research. I never let up on my fellow competitors.

 

 

You might not believe the time it takes to put together these trips. Even though I consider myself one of the most efficient travel planners I know, O.K. the most efficient travel planner I know, it still takes some time to do the job right.

 

 

 

Let’s take on the day….’er night.

It wasn’t until about 7:30 p.m. that I ventured out of my room in search of dinner. The Düsseldorf airport and terminal has more shops and restaurants for its size than any airport I have seen. Everything is dramatically upscale as well.

 

 

When I had arrived in the morning the terminal was a beehive of activity. Now, at nighttime, the entire terminal was a ghost town. It was eerie.

 

 

McDonald’s? In Germany? You’re kidding right?

I knew where the McDonald’s was in the Düsseldorf airport. I had successfully navigated their self service ordering kiosk and even paid with my ApplePay feature on my Apple iPhone on my last visit here. I had chosen McDonald’s simply for the fun of operating the kiosk.

 

 

It would have been easy to eat at McDonald’s tonight. However, I don’t travel this far from home to do things I can do back home. I would choose another restaurant location in the airport.

 

 

dusseldorf grocery store

Supper at Kroger’s?

I scouted around and soon found a supermarket of sorts. I wondered in just to check things out. I ended up grabbing a couple of pastries and a bottle of Coke Zero.

 

 

Then I walked a few more steps and found a restaurant called ” Asiagourmet”. These folks were preparing cooked to order real gourmet Thai food. I had the prawns and noodles. It was one of the best Asian dishes I’ve ever had. I’ve had my share.

 

 

I had very little cash.

I didn’t have a lot of cash on me. When Carol went back home on Monday to California I was left with $83 U.S. I couldn’t find any 7-Eleven ATMs in Indianapolis or anywhere close to where I was. Why was I looking for a 7-Eleven. They work withy my bank, Citibank, and don’t charge any ATM fees. I was going to have to exist on $83 cash for the next 8-10 days.

 

 

Would you do this?

I spent ten of those dollars to get into the Rush County Fairgrounds on Tuesday night. Now I was leaving on a trip to Europe, which would include stopping in six different countries. I had $73 to my name. Would you do it this way?

 

 

international currency smuggler

Is Carol an international currency smuggler?

However, Carol had given me a cellophane package full of euros. I wasn’t sure how much was in there. I don’t even know where Carol gets the foreign currency she gives me or where she keeps it. I just know that if I asked for any of the popular currencies, within an hour, a cellophane bag of foreign cash will appear on my desk. It’s nice to have a “banker” like that on the team.

 

 

Thinking about the travel part.

Following dinner I made the short walk back to the hotel. In the hotel lobby I found a kiosk. It would allow me to check into my KLM Airlines flight for tomorrow.

 

 

This trip had begun in Los Angeles. It would end in Los Angeles. I will have been in these airports after I left California: Portland, Chicago, Atlanta, and Düsseldorf. The only airline ticket I had purchased in advance would take me from Düsseldorf to Amsterdam and then onto Zagreb, Croatia. When I was finished seeing racing in BiH I hoped retrace my steps from Croatia back to Germany.

 

 

Once back in Germany I wasn’t really sure when or where I was going to go from Düsseldorf. Likely candidates included Chicago, Atlanta, Boston, New York, Miami, Los Angeles and even Fort Myers, Florida. Who would have guessed there was a nonstop flight from Düsseldorf, Germany to Fort Myers?

 

 

However when I got back to the U.S. mainland I was not headed home. I still had some more Midwestern trackchasing to do. I also hoped to stop off at my sister’s home in Illinois. But alas I am getting ahead of myself. I have work to do in Europe.

 

 

It was nearly midnight now. I was now going to pay the price for sleeping during the day. Would I be able to sleep at night? I didn’t really know. At midnight here it was just 3 p.m. in Southern California. Not too many SoCal residents go to bed for the night in the mid-afternoon. Nevertheless, the anticipation was building. My alarm was set for 4 a.m. I was headed to trackchasing country #72. See you tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

Friday, June 24, 2016

 

 

 

If you can’t handle change you can’t handle trackchasing.

I enter every one of my trackchasing trips with a robust travel plan. However, on nearly every trip I find something doesn’t work out. I never know exactly what isn’t going to work but I’m pretty sure something isn’t going to work.

 

 

I had made it all the way to Germany flying on a standby basis. However on the one ticket I had purchased in advance there were problems.

 

 

My wake up call was set for 4 a.m. this morning. I figured that would get me to my 6:20 a.m. departure on KLM Airlines flying from Düsseldorf to Amsterdam in plenty of time.

 

 

flight cancelled

Up early….cancelled?

After having slept a good part of the previous 24 hours I was up at 2:30 a.m. checking email and messages. That’s when I noticed my early morning flight to Amsterdam had been CANCELED!.

 

 

That was problematic. No one likes to encounter problems at 2:30 a.m. to begin their day. The original plan called me for me to go from Düsseldorf to Amsterdam and onto Zagreb, Croatia. Now what was I going to do?

 

 

In the KLM message notifying me of the cancellation they told me they were “working on” a new plan for the World’s #1 Trackchaser. They didn’t exactly put it that way but I think you know what I mean.

 

 

The NEW plan.

It wasn’t long before I received another message from KLM. They had a new travel itinerary for me. Now I would be flying from Düsseldorf over to Frankfurt, Germany and then to Zagreb, Croatia. That was actually a good thing in a way. The departure time was 10:35 a.m. rather than my original 6:20 a.m. That was a good thing.

 

 

I rolled over and reset my alarm for 6:30 a.m. and just relaxed. There wasn’t much I could do other than go with the flow.

 

 

dirty clothes in bag

How’s this for being an opportunist?

I would be checking out of the Sheraton airport hotel at the Düsseldorf airport this morning. However, I would be coming back to this hotel on Monday evening. That plan would prove fortuitous.

 

 

My plan was to leave my army field jacket stuffed full of unneeded shoes and clothing at the hotel. This would lighten my load so that I could meet the stiff weight requirements for carryon bags from European airlines.

 

 

It’s really nice staying at an airport hotel. There’s no need to return a rental car anywhere. There’s no hotel shuttle bus to ride. I simply walked about 100 meters from the Sheraton to the airport itself.

 

 

The only other time I can remember doing something like that is when I stayed at the secondary Frankfurt, Germany airport. That’s a very small place. They have a hotel that’s probably 30 meters from the front door of the airport terminal.

 

 

Trying my best to avoid checked baggage fees.

With KLM Airlines having canceled my flight I would now be flying on Lufthansa Airlines. I checked with them to make sure everything was OK with my carry-on baggage plan. I also wanted to weigh my carry-on bag as well as my “personal item “.

 

 

Carry-on

Managing the numbers to preserve my cash.

I knew I had an 8kg limit for my carry-on bag. With all of the stuff I left back at the hotel in my army field jacket my carry-on bag weighed only 6.4kg. I was golden. Just for the fun of it I weighed my “personal item” which was actually my laptop briefcase bag. It weighed 5.8kg. The airline agent winked at me and said, “Don’t show anyone that number.” I wouldn’t.

 

 

There was plenty of time to walk around the airport getting my 4 miles of walking in for the day. I also stopped at the grocery store at the end of the terminal C area. There I picked up a large pork sandwich and some German bread to go along with a bottle of Coke Zero. I was really golden now. I found a quiet place to eat my German breakfast. 

 

 

Germany to another part of Germany to Croatia.

I would have just a one-hour connecting time from when I was scheduled to land in Frankfurt, Germany and then take off for the Zagreb, Croatia. Under normal circumstances that would be fine.

 

 

However, for whatever reason, my flight from Düsseldorf to Frankfurt, a distance of all of 117 miles, left 25 minutes late. When we landed we taxied forever. Then it turned out that our gate was occupied. This is a common problem in the U.S. as well.

 

 

I was getting very concerned that I wasn’t going to make my connection to Croatia. If that happened it would be a major problem. Luckily we found a gate in Frankfurt in the next few minutes. I made the connecting flight by the skin of my teeth. Good things are never easy.

 

 

zagreb croatia from the air

My first time ever flying into a Croatian airport.

It wasn’t long after that, actually about an hour and a half, that I was landing at the Zagreb airport for the first time ever.  I was seeing Croatia for the very first time from the air.  It didn’t look all that much different than parts of the U.S.  I had trackchased in Croatia in 2012 (track #1,762) at the Autodrome Grobnik. It was a fun day of trackchasing on a glorious afternoon then. I was able to walk all around the road course. I had a great time although my time in Croatia had been brief.

 

 

I had friends meeting me at the airport.

Today my good buddy Boris Miljevic would be picking me up at the airport. I first met Boris back in 2014 at the race the famous Salzburgring in Austria. Boris had been helping me online with information about the racing in Bosnia his home country.

 

 

boris 3

Boris is a professional racecar driver. You can follow him at http://www.borismiljevic.com. I had intended to first meet Boris in Bosnia in 2014. That meeting was canceled when they had a one hundred year rainfall. That was disappointing. In the big picture that might have been fortuitous. It us allowed us to meet Boris for the first time a little later in 2014…..in Austria.

 

 

hanger-7

Hanger-7!

Carol and I had a lot of fun meeting with him and his dad and their friends from Croatia in Salzburg, Austria. Following that race in 2014 we spent time with them at the “Hanger-7” a car museum of sorts in Salzburg. Hanger-7 is owned and operated by the Red Bull energy drink people.

 

 

Boris and I communicate frequently. He was anxious to help me enjoy my return trip to Bosnia. The weather in Bosnia wasn’t going to be rainy but on the other hand extremely hot. Boris and his dad had driven two hours from their home in Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina to meet me.

 

 

I had seen Boris just three weeks ago when Carol and I visited Serbia. He was in Belgrade to do some promotional work. We met for dinner one night and for drinks on another. It’s fun having international friends from some faraway and interesting places. I think my international friends see it the same way for the same reasons.

 

 

zagreb new air terminal

What a beautiful Croatian airline terminal….not.

When I landed in Zagreb, Croatia I saw a beautiful airline terminal. It was all silver and shiny. There was just one thing odd thing about that terminal. There weren’t any planes parked in front of it.

 

 

Why would that be? It turned out that the newly built airline building had not opened yet. They were still using the old terminal in the Zagreb Airport built a long time ago….a real long time ago. I guess I had flown into Zagreb a few months too early.

 

 

 

Time to meet the Miljevic’s.

 

zagreb airport

Nevertheless, Boris and his dad Damir (above) were waiting for me upon my arrival. This was going to be an unusual trip. I normally seek the advice of anyone I can find on these international trips. In some places it’s not that easy to get people to converse in English. I know that local folks know so much more about their geographical situations than I do. That’s as true outside the U.S. as it is in my country.

 

 

Local knowledge.

What made this trip so unusual is that Boris was going to be my navigator for the entire three days I would be in the area. That’s not how I normally do it. Nevertheless, it was going to be a lot of fun seeing the inside of Bosnia with Boris as my guide. He had lived here since birth.

 

 

A notable feature of the weather today was the high temperatures. It had to be in the low 90s. The three of us enjoyed talking about Bosnia and its situation since all of the trouble with war that happened only 20 years ago. When you think about it that’s not really that long ago when they were having major issues.

 

 

 

The Bosnian War.

 

Bosnian War 1

Later in the day Boris and I had the opportunity to talk about the war. He is 31 years old today. Nevertheless, it sounded as if his childhood might have been different than mine.

 

 

When I was a kid I played sports 24/7. The most dangerous thing in my life was when the Masters brothers (they were twins – Bob and Jim) came walking up my street when they had finished delivering newspapers. It was my job to take their collection money from them on the basketball court. Normally, I did.

 

 

 

Did you do THIS when you were a kid?

 

AK-47

When Boris was a kid he owned his own AK-47! He also had an RPG (rocket propelled grenade). Heck, I was simply trying to get a new basketball from time to time.

 

 

Boris’ family (Boris, his mother and his sister) caught one of the last planes out of Bosnia toward Belgrade, Serbia. There they lived for a while to avoid the war. Boris told me of the time he and friends were playing on the roof of their apartment building in BiH. What flew by? A Tomahawk missile, just 50 feet above their heads. I’m 100% certain I really have no idea what life was like in BiH during this time.

 

 

bosnia having a coffee

“Having a coffee”.

We stopped on the way back to Bosnia for “a coffee”. Coffee drinking is a national pastime for Bosnians. We would stop for “a coffee” many times during the weekend. I’m not a coffee drinker. I went with Coke Zeros most of the time. Nevertheless, I now regret not having a single “coffee” in BiH.

 

 

damir miljevic

Damir, Boris’ father, is an economist. He had some interesting thoughts on that subject as it relates to Bosnia, the poorest country in Europe as he described it.

 

 

Having originally gotten up at 2:30 a.m. today I was dragging by the time we reached Banja Luka at about 7 p.m. I was thrilled when Boris suggested he drop me off at my hotel for an hour and a half or so. Then he would return. We would go out to dinner. That sounded like a great idea.

 

 

banja luka b7B 2

A lovely little place in Banja Luka.

I checked into the Hotel Villa Victorija a place Boris had recommended. It was a very modern smaller hotel with just 12 rooms. The interesting thing about the hotel was it was located only 200 meters from the racetrack. There is only one racetrack in BiH and my hotel was right on top of it.

 

 

The B&B rate was going to be only about forty dollars U.S. That price included breakfast. This was a perfect situation. The hotel came with a 9.2 rating on Booking.com.

 

 

Banja Luka b&b room

The first thing I did when I checked in was to take a 40-minute nap. I think I could have slept at that point for four days. However, I needed to get up and take a shower and meet Boris for dinner.

 

 

What time do you have dinner?

At home we commonly have dinner at 5:30 p.m. If we want to be extremely adventuresome and are up for some risk-taking we might even have dinner at a little past six. Tonight we wouldn’t be sitting down to dinner until past 10 p.m.

 

 

It is quite normal for Europeans to have dinner late. Boris chose the Marco Polo restaurant located next to the Vrbas River in Banja Luka. We ate outdoors in very comfortable surroundings at an upscale restaurant.

 

 

banja luka wine stewart

Boris is a wine expert. He knows a LOT about wine. On the other hand my wine knowledge stops shortly after, “red or white”. Boris also knew the people who ran the place. They treated us well.

 

 

 

How often do you BEGIN sightseeing at midnight?

Following dinner Boris asked me if I would like to see the sights in downtown Banja Luka. Of course I would. It was just past midnight. I had gotten up at 2:30 a.m. today. Nevertheless, we went sightseeing….at midnight. I never want to miss a thing.

 

 

 

Seven girls for every guy?

Boris told me that for whatever reason Banja Luka seems to have seven girls for every guy. That was a nearly unbelievable statistic. After we had finished touring I believed him 100% on this point.

 

 

banja luka sites

We saw some beautiful old buildings, churches and mosques. The most followed religion in BiH is Muslim. I didn’t know that. All of the buildings were lit up for the night. They really were unique and historic buildings. The mosque was one of the very best.

 

 

banja luka night life

Young people were out enjoying their Friday night.  It was absolutely true. There were at least seven girls all dressed up for partying for every male I saw. These women were all in there twenties and good looking.

 

 

Banja Luca is Boris’ town.

Boris is quite the popular figure in his hometown. At the restaurant everyone knew him. As we walked along Bosnia’s second largest city more that one girl stopped him to say hello and give a welcoming kiss. It was nice to see that Boris is so popular with the people he had grown up with.

 

 

I truly believe that Boris would have continued to show me the city until the sun came up. Nevertheless, I recommended we call it a night. It was 2 a.m. It had been a long day. I had flown on a couple of airplanes. It was more than hot. I checked my iPhone app. I had walked more than five miles today.

 

 

I’m very much looking forward to tomorrow. Tomorrow I’ll be seeing racing in my 72nd different country. That’s going to be fun. I can’t wait.

 

 

 

 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

 

 

72 s

Time to get up. This was the BIG day.

Breakfast was being served in the café next-door as part of my hotel room rate until noon. I liked that feature. I couldn’t drag myself over there until 11:15 a.m.!

 

 

I felt fresh. However I knew at the end of today I would be dragging because we’re going to be out in the sun a good deal at today’s race.

 

 

raje bih waiter

Raje was cool….just cool.

My waiter, Raje, was a big friendly and gregarious guy. He spent several minutes at my table telling me about his home country. He was most proud of it. Everywhere I go, in the U.S. or not, it seems as if everyone loves where THEY live. That’s cool.

 

 

Following the race today our plan was to go over to Boris’s family home in downtown Banja Luka. I was hoping to meet Boris’ mother and girlfriend and spend some more time with his dad. After that we would drive north up toward Hungary. We had a race planned for Hungary on Sunday morning.

 

 

International trackchasing is fun in so many ways.

This was another excellent day of international trackchasing. It was a special day on really two fronts. First, I would be able to go trackchasing in a country where I’d never seen racing before. I’ve only had that experience seventy-one times before.

 

 

This was the trip’s highlight.

Equally important I would get to do something that very few people have the opportunity to do. I would be able to experience a foreign culture up close and personal. My activities were simple but at the same time they were things that very very few people ever get to do.

 

 

 

boris trophy room

When Boris came to pick me up we drove over to his parent’s apartment in Banja Luka. The apartment has been in the family home since 1971. My hobby is all about doing things I have never done before and that other people haven’t done either. How often do you get to go into the home of your friends who live on another continent? I’ve done it a few times notably in Scotland, Belgium and Brazil. I hope I’m not forgetting anybody. Trust me. It’s a fantastic and unique experience. Oh yeah, I also got to see Boris’ trophy room.  That was a treat!

 

 

72 ei

Time for trackchasing in #72.

 

BiH grandstand g

Then Boris and I drove just a couple of miles to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s only racetrack in the entire country. As a matter fact, they race on this track only one weekend each year. That didn’t give me very many options to come to Bosnia-Herzegovina. It was now or next year or never! 

 

 

BiH racers

There weren’t all that many cars racing today. They had two divisions of touring cars. The first group started seven in the 14-lap race. About nine or ten took the green flag in the second and final race of the day. Boris told me that just a few years ago they were getting as many 80 entries in these types of events in BiH. 

 

 

rnl in bih paddock

Paddock touring.

Today we first toured the paddock area. Boris spent time catching up with friends he hadn’t seen in a while. Boris is frequently off to all parts of Europe testing and racing cars. I had a chance to get photographs of virtually all of the racers as well as the entire layout at the track. You won’t want to miss those. 

 

 

bozo and boris

Meeting the movers and shakers of BiH racing.

I was also able to meet and talk with Božo Erak the track and race promoter. He was a nice guy. Bozo was most appreciative that I had taken the time to come to see them race in Bosnia.  He and Boris are good friends. 

 

 

BiH racing 2

There was a 100% chance of rain pretty much right at race time. Božo told me the rain would not effect them. The cars could use rain tires if necessary. It was comforting, more than comforting, to know there was no way the race would be canceled this year because of precipitation. 

 

BiH race perimeter

Boris and I moved all around the perimeter of the track getting some good video clips for your viewing enjoyment. Don’t miss the video of my trip to Bosnia.

 

 

We also noted where an old karting track was once used. Today that area is a bit overgrown. It obviously hasn’t been in use for some time.

 

 

boy at fence at bih race

Knot-holing.

There were areas just beyond the track’s fencing where I took several photos/videos. In the turns that wasn’t the safest place to be! At some spots young boys had parked their bicycles and were “knot-holing” it. By the way, there was no admission charge for anyone watching the races today.

 

 

Making our plans for the rest of the trip.

You might rightly note that I didn’t spend much time in this report talking about the racing. I do that for two reasons. First, the racing brings me to a new country. However, it is the people and places I visit that are the highlight of the trip to me. Secondly, you’ll get to see the racing from my YouTube video.

 

 

Hungary

It’s Hungary tomorrow.

Following the race we went back to Boris’ apartment to make a plan for tonight and tomorrow’s visit to the country of Hungary. Tomorrow we plan to see a race at the Pannonia-Ring race circuit.

 

 

Pannonia-Ring is located in the unusually named town of Osffyasszonyfa. I’m glad I don’t have to spell that every time I rent a car or stay in a hotel!

 

 

While researching the Bosnia race I had discovered the race in Hungary. When I mentioned it to Boris he was most enthused to become a “trackchaser” for the weekend.

 

 

We combined our efforts in online searching and came up with the Var Park Sanzio bed-and-breakfast hotel in Sarvar, hungry. We were able to get two rooms for a low price of just twenty dollar per room. The hotel had good ratings and looked modern.

 

 

Family stuff in Banja Luka.

 

BiH birthday cake

Next up was a visit to the Banja Luka Brewing Company. No, we didn’t go there to drink beer. We were going to a birthday party. The party was for a one-year old the daughter of one of Boris’ relatives.  The mother of the “party baby” made a special trip over to give me a piece of birthday cake.

 

 

Boris with family

This would be my first opportunity to meet and visit with Boris’ mother Gordana. She was a lovely lady. Boris, his father Damir, Gordana and me all sat down to have a drink. We spent several minutes talking about all sorts of things.  This was a definite highlight of the trip. 

 

 

What is so special about trackchasing?

Trackchasing is a special hobby for me. Lots of people think the hobby is about racing. That couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s about meeting people, seeing foreign (not always foreign countries) places and figuring out how to get there and back.

 

 

It is the people and places I will remember long after any memories about the racing have faded away. The racing is the spark that generates these experiences. However, the very best part is meeting and getting to know people like Gordana, Damir and Boris. How many people get the chance to do something like that? It was a highlight of the trip for me.

 

 

Hill climbs!

Boris is not only a circuit race driver from Bosnia but he also had participated in a large number of hill climb competitions. Hill climb racing is very popular in Europe. I’ve never seen a hill climb race in my life. Boris drove me up the hill climb course used in Banja Luka. I could tell he wanted to let “loose” in the Toyota Yaris but traffic prevented most of that! Hill climb racing in not a countable form of racing by trackchasing rules.

 

 

Boris was up for an international trackchasing adventure.

I had invited Boris to come along with me to the race in Hungary after today’s racing in Banja Luka. I had mistakenly thought the driving time was about two hours to get up there. In point of fact it was 5 1/2 hours! Nevertheless Boris was up for the adventure.

 

 

The trip would take us from Bosnia and Herzegovina first through Croatia, then Slovenia, Austria and finally into Hungary. In some ways it wasn’t much different that driving from Iowa to Illinois to Kentucky to Tennessee. In most other ways it was a lot different!

 

 

What’s the Schengen Agreement have to do with all of this?

Most of those countries are not part of the Schengen Agreement. The Schengen agreement was signed on 14 June 1985 by five of the ten current European Economic Community. Those countries were Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany countries. The agreement essentially allowed people to go in and out of these countries without border checks. Today the agreement covers 26 European countries. The initial agreement was signed independently of the European Union.

 

 

banja luka rain

Good luck and then some minor bad luck.

Just before we left Banja Luka it began to rain hard. Had the rain come a couple of hours earlier we would have gotten drenched watching the race at Zaluzani.

 

 

boris yaris hood up

Before we could leave town Boris would need to add a quart of oil to his Toyota Yaris. Of course when we went to the gas station we couldn’t get the oil cap off to add the oil!

 

 

It was now seven o’clock on Saturday night. We had a five and one half hour drive ahead of us. What did Boris do? He simply called his mechanic, who is part of his race team, and told him we were coming over to seek some help. How many of you can call your mechanic on Saturday night and get them to help you out? I can’t.

 

 

Soon we were driving into a residential neighborhood and meeting up with Boris’ friend who works on all of his cars. The guy had a lift in his garage. The problem was soon solved and we were off to the races so to speak.

 

 

tour bus crossing international border

The passport stamps were mounting up.

At each border crossing, our trip involved five different countries, we had to show our passports to leave the country. We also had to show our passports to enter this next country. The border control stopping points were just yards (meters?) from each other. Our passports got a lot of stamps!  At one point an entire tour bus of people had to get out of their bus to have their passports examined.

 

 

vignette purcase site

Ever had to buy a vignette?

In two of the countries, Austria and Hungary, we had to buy “vignettes”. These are stickers that cost about €10 each. They allow people to drive for a short number of days on the highways of that particular country.

 

 

If you don’t have the sticker and get caught, like I did in Austria a few years ago, the fine can be stiff. At the time I came to Austria I didn’t even know a vignette was needed. I ended up having to pay a fine of €170 which is nearly $200 U.S.

 

 

having a coffee BiH

Having a coffee!

We stopped from time to time to “have a coffee”. I am addicted to Diet Coke. Boris might be addicted to cappuccino! These were nice opportunities to relax and chat. We very much enjoyed each other’s company for the 5 1/2 hour drive up to Hungary and all weekend.

 

 

We didn’t arrive to our hotel until nearly 2 a.m. Last night was a 2 a.m. “night” as well!. The hotel proprietor told us he was available 24 hours a day so it really didn’t matter if we checked in late.

 

 

 

No lights. No hotel manager. No nothing.

 

hungary B&B

However, when we arrived at the small modern hotel there were no lights on. No one seemed to be available. Boris had to call the hotel manager on his cell phone. Finally the hotel owner’s wife came down to check us in. She did not appear to be all that happy to be awakened at this hour of the night.

 

 

Without showing any identification whatsoever she simply handed us our keys and wished us a good evening. You wouldn’t see that happening in any United States based hotel.

 

 

Our rooms were on the second floor of what looked like an eight unit building. In the U.S. our rooms would have been on the third floor. In most of Europe the ground floor is called “0” not “1”. That takes some getting used too. Of course there was no elevator.

 

 

Initially we couldn’t find the remote control for the hotel room’s air-conditioner. The rooms were hot. However, Boris went down to the main desk on a reconnaissance mission. He soon returned with remote controls for each of our rooms. We agreed to meet tomorrow morning at 8:30 after just five or six hours of sleep. Trackchasing is not for the faint hearted. Boris was just beginning to learn this….and loving it!

 

 

 

 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

 

 

Knock. Knock. Knock.

Boris and I had agreed to meet each other in the morning at 8:30 a.m. for breakfast. He did tell me the night before to knock on his door if he didn’t show up on time.

 

 

I was dressed and ready to go at the appointed time of 8:30 a.m. There was no Boris. I went to his room and wrapped on his door hard. Soon he appeared but was not quite in breakfast mode.

 

 

Boris was feeling the effects of his first real trackchasing weekend. In the past several other people have trackchased with me for a day or three. Their common conclusion was the same as what I heard from Boris, “I don’t know how you do it”.

 

 

hungary B&B breakfast

One of the best hotel values ever.

Soon we were enjoying our breakfast. We had stayed in a B&B for the night, which included air-conditioning, free Wi-Fi and a fully cooked breakfast. The place was quiet and modern. What would something like that cost in Hungary? Not very much. We paid €20 for each room which is about $22 U.S. per night. That’s got to be the best value in a hotel room I’ve ever paid for.

 

 

randy and pannoring

My second trackchasing stop in Hungary.

Soon we were driving a short distance of 10 miles or so to the Pannonia- Ring in Osffyasszonyfa, Hungary.  Hungary has just two permanent road courses. Back in 2009 Carol and I saw racing at Hungaroring in Mogyorod. The World Formula 1 group races there. On that trip, seven years ago, we saw racing in first Hungary, then Switzerland and finally Italy over a three-day trackchasing weekend.

 

 

I had found today’s track when researching trackchasing opportunities in both Serbia and Bosnia. Since they were racing on the same weekend as Bosnia, just 5 1/2 hours driving time away, I figured we might as will visit the track and make it a weekend. Boris loved that idea.

 

 

Suzuki cup hungary

Suzuki Cup.

The Suzuki Cup sanctioning group was the featured attraction at Pannonia-Ring. I asked Boris what Suzuki (a Japanese brand) had to do with Hungary. He told me Suzuki has a major factory and production plant for their automobiles in the country.

 

 

When we entered the track Boris flashed his Porsche sponsorship logo. That was good enough to get us both in for free. I don’t know how much they were charging the general public.

 

 

I did tell Boris that if I had flashed my Randy Lewis Racing business card we might have gotten in for free AND received complimentary food and drink. He just smiled!

 

 

pannonia rign winners

A nice morning and afternoon of Hungarian road racing.

The Pannonia-Ring opened in 1997 with an emphasis on motorcycle racing. They do a lot of testing at this track. In fact, Boris’ race team tests here. Boris was testing at Pannonia-Ring just a couple of weeks ago.

 

 

pannonia ring women drivers

We were just in time to see the Suzuki Cup feature event. They started about 25 cars and ran for 25 minutes plus one lap. We first watched from the start/finish line.

 

 

Then we moved over to what you might call the backstretch at an oval track. In point of fact this was virtually all of the track with the exception of the start/finish straightaway.

 

 

I was surprised at how much of the track was visible from our slightly elevated position. Much the track was a long distance away but at least you could see the cars to some degree. That is not always the case with road course racing.

 

 

pannonia ring hotel

While touring the track we noticed a 25-room hotel in the middle of the property. There were elevated (about 15 feet) viewing areas where the handful of fans watched.

 

 

There was also a karting track on property. Today some flat karts and smaller motorcycle classes were practicing.

 

pannonia ring porsche

We watched the second feature event of the day for the Porsche race group. These guys are fast. They had much more horsepower than the Suzuki racecars.

 

 

pannonia ring boris randy coffee

Time for a coffee.

From there we went to the track’s café. We relaxed in the shade with Boris having his famous coffee and me swigging Coke Zeros. It was a nice relaxing way to spend a few minutes as we contemplated our three-hour drive back to Zagreb, Croatia.

 

 

International jet setters….or international drivers!

To get up to the track in Hungary we had begun in Bosnia and Herzegovina, passed through Croatia, Slovenia and Austria before reaching Hungary. We would reverse that path on our way to Croatia.

 

 

Several of those countries including Slovenia, Austria and Hungary require vignettes to legally drive on the roads. These vignettes normally cost €8-10. They are good for a week or so. If you don’t have one of those with your car in either decal or paper form you could be subject to a fine of anywhere from €170-€1000. We made sure we had all of our vignettes!

 

 

We both have had negative experiences with not having the proper vignettes in foreign countries. In Austria I was fined €170 with I didn’t have the country’s vignette. Heck, I didn’t even know I needed a one at the time.

 

 

bribe image

Wink!

Boris was stopped without a vignette once. The fine was going to be nearly €1000. Let me put it this way. He was able to creatively use five euros and the potential liability of €1000 euros quietly went away! You can draw your conclusions as to what that might mean.

 

 

european thunderstorms

On the way back to Croatia we ran into some very severe thunderstorms. We could see the dark black and blue clouds coming our way from a long distance. It looked as if we might miss them but in the end we did not.

 

 

We were crossing country exit borders and entry borders it seemed like every few miles. The passport stamps in my book were piling up. At this rate I’ll need new pages before you know it.

 

 

We elected to ride the storm out for a few minutes along the Austrian/Slovenian border. I was quick to take advantage of this opportunity. I napped for a few minutes. Then we were on the road again down toward Zagreb, Croatia.

 

 

Here’s my view on sleeping in the car.

By the way let me share my view on sleeping when I’m in the car with someone else. In almost all circumstances I think it’s disrespectful to sleep while you’re traveling companion drives. I consider that to be the height of selfishness.

 

 

There were a couple of times on this trip where I was so tired I don’t think I could even speak. Nevertheless, I fought the urge to go to sleep. Boris was driving. It wouldn’t have been fair to him, even though I knew he would not have minded, if I slept while he took the responsibility of driving.

 

 

Of course there could be times when it’s O.K. for the passenger to sleep. If both people were switching off the driving chores and the passenger needed to be fresh for his turn at the wheel I would consider that acceptable.

 

 

zagreg city

Zagreb, Croatia – capital city.

It wasn’t long before we entered the capital city of Croatia, Zagreb. I had a reservation at the Sheridan hotel located in the middle of the nearly 1,000,000 person city.

 

 

I checked into the hotel while Boris parked his car right in the front of the hotel. Then we retired to the piano lounge for a glass of wine. It had been a long trip up to Hungary. Now we could sit back and admire our accomplishments. I was lucky to have Boris on my side. He is a wine expert and gave me lots of good advice…which sadly I will not remember.

 

 

zagreb boris wine

This is definitely the life.

The hotel gave us some ideas on restaurants. We soon found ourselves at an outdoor café dining in comfortable weather and being served gourmet food.

 

 

zagreb calamari

Boris selected a nice bottle of white wine. We scanned the menu. My entrée selections included grilled calamari (squid) and gnocchi (potato dumplings). Don’t miss the pictures of this meal. I enjoy calamari all the time. However, I’ve never seen it prepared like it was today or had such large pieces of the delicacy.

 

 

zagreb people watching

We had a few minutes to explore downtown on a beautiful Sunday evening. Lots of people were out and about just enjoying the city. The weather was perfect for people watching.

 

 

sheraton zagreb

We headed back to the Sheridan hotel for a final drink. The weekend had gone exactly as we had planned. We really enjoyed each other’s company and the challenge of “seeing another track”.

 

 

boris head shot 2

Boris could be a trackchaser!

I think if Boris lived in the area where there were more racetracks to see he would be all over the trackchasing hobby. As it was we discussed opportunities on when I might return. I was equally interested in seeing Boris and his girlfriend Sophia visit the United States. I would love to have Boris see the sights of the U.S. Hopefully we will be able to meet both of those goals.

 

 

So long Boris….until next time.

Soon Boris was leaving for the two-hour drive back to Bosnia and Herzegovina. I went up to my room in search of a bed. We had gone to bed at 2 a.m. each of the last two nights. I was starting to feel it.

 

 

randy world's #1 trackchaser hat

About that time I got a call from the hotel’s front desk. They had a hat for me. Yes I had left my “World’s #1 Trackchaser ” hat in Boris’s car. Luckily, he had noticed it. Did you know you can buy those hats with my logo at the Mall of America in Minneapolis?

 

 

boris with randy lewis racing t-shirt

By the way my gift to Boris for his friendship and hospitality was a Randy Lewis Racing t-shirt. The shirt fit perfectly and matched his shoes in color!

 

 

 

 

Monday, June 27, 2016

 

 

Time to start heading for home.

Today I had an 11:55 a.m. flight from Zagreb to Amsterdam. In Amsterdam I would have a three-hour layover until I picked up a flight to Düsseldorf, Germany.

 

 

croatia uber driver

Croatia. Uber. A good combination.

I left the hotel at 9 a.m. I simply ordered an Uber ride from the hotel to the airport. The hotel desk clerk told me a taxi to the airport was about 150 Croatian Kuna. With Uber I paid just 90 Kuna saving me about $10.

 

 

The driver showed up just four minutes after I placed the order on my iPhone. He was driving a Mercedes van. My chauffer grabbed my luggage and off we went to the airport. It took us 21 minutes to go 16 km. Paying just $13 for a ride of that distance is a pretty good deal.

 

 

I like Uber.

I don’t know if you’ve tried Uber yet. I’ve used them in Washington D.C., Honolulu and now Serbia. It’s easy to order a ride on the iPhone. There is no cash exchange. Everything is billed to my credit card at the end of the ride. I get a chance to rate my driver and he rates me!

 

 

Bilked!

I was early for my KLM Airlines flight check-in. There would be time to have breakfast. I was about ready to lose the $10 advantage I had gained with Uber.

 

 

The existing terminal was built in 1966. A new terminal is under construction. It will be completed by the end of this year. I just missed it!

 

 

Today, on the second level of the very old terminal there was a small café. They were serving a limited assortment of entrées for breakfast.

 

 

zagreb airport breakfast

I chose the breaded chicken with boiled potatoes. I also selected a small jar of orange juice and a small Coca-Cola zero. Any idea what that might cost? How does $18 U.S. sound! It didn’t sound very good to me. When I ordered my food there were no prices. I can see why now!

 

 

Powerwalking in Amsterdam.

I boarded my flight to Amsterdam without incident. That’s saying something nowadays. Once in the Amsterdam airport, which is huge, I took the opportunity to do some walking. Airports are a great place for exercise. When I don’t have time to exercise aerobically I like to walk a minimum of 4 miles each day.

 

 

My layover in Amsterdam went by quickly. I was soon on a regional jet headed to Düsseldorf, Germany. Tonight I would be staying in the same Sheraton hotel at the Düsseldorf airport where I had stayed on Thursday night.

 

 

This hotel has to be one of most convenient I have ever used. It’s located 100 meters from the arrivals level at the Düsseldorf airport. From the time I got off my airplane to the time I walked up to the front desk of the hotel maybe three or four minutes had elapsed.

 

 

dirty clothes in bag

How many hotels have stored your dirty clothes?

When I checked in I had something very important to do. I had to pick up my military field jacket. I had stuffed it with dirty clothes when I departed last Friday. I couldn’t take that stuff with me because of the weight requirements for my carry-on luggage with the airlines.

 

 

The Sheridan hotel was on the ball. They brought me my clothing wrapped in a nice shopping bag in a matter of seconds. Soon I was in my hotel room anticipating a flight back to the U.S. tomorrow.

 

 

At about 8 o’clock in the evening I walked back over to the airport for dinner. I went right back to the Asiagourmet restaurant where I dined a few nights ago. They do a real nice job for a place located in an airport.

 

 

I was leaving Europe and bound for any of seven different locations.

I was hoping I could fly to Chicago tomorrow morning. The flight had some open seats unless I was burned by “weight and balance”. If I made it to Chicago on time I could see a race in Indiana tomorrow night. How’s that for being efficient?

 

 

If I didn’t make it to Chicago I might end up in Boston, New York, Miami or Los Angeles just to name a few of the options. Was that concerning to me? Not in the least. I simply go with the flow when that’s the best I can control.

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

 

 

Meeting new people. That’s what this is about.

I made the flight from Dusseldorf, Germany to Chicago. I got a seat in coach next to a young woman (most woman I meet at younger than me) from the Netherlands. She was a dog groomer going to visit her sister in Denver.

 

 

woman airline passenger

We hit it off and talked for nearly the entire nine-hour airplane ride. It’s amazing the things people will tell a fellow airline passenger during a long flight! Jennifer, nice meeting you!

 

 

I cleared U.S. border control in a jiffy with the Global Entry system. Soon I was renting a car and driving off toward Ft. Wayne, Indiana on ANOTHER trackchasing adventure.

 

 

I am very lucky.

When I think back on it I am very lucky to have the trackchasing hobby as a motivator for me. As you can see it motivates me to just get up and go….all over the world. Without it I would travel. I just would not have traveled to nearly as many faraway, interesting and adventuresome places.

 

 

73 e

I’ve seen racing in 72 countries. What about #73? Believe it or not I’m working on it right now. That doesn’t surprise you does it!

 

 

 

Thanks for reading about my trackchasing, 

 

 

 

 

Randy Lewis

World’s #1 Trackchaser

Randy is a freelance journalist who winters in San Clemente, California and sometime flies in coach.

 

 

 

And so it goes from country #72. I hope you’ll tune in when country #73 becomes a reality. It’s more than a glimmer in my eye right now. I’m working on it as this is read.

 

 

 

 

THE COUNTRY LIST

 

#72!!

 

 

RLR – Randy Lewis Racing Lifetime Trackchasing Countries

 

 

 

# 1 – UNITED STATES OF AMERICA – Peoria Speedway – Mt. Hawley, (oval) – Track #1, Peoria, Illinois – circa 1954 (age 5)

 

# 2 – CANADA – Cayuga Speedway (oval) – Track #174, Nelles Corner, Ontario – July 31, 1988 (Dick Trickle winner)

 

# 3 – AUSTRALIA – Parramatta City Raceway (oval) – Track #180, Granville, New South Wales – November 17, 1989 (accompanied by Carol)

 

# 4 – UNITED KINGDOM – Northhampton International Raceway (oval) – Track #378, Northhampton – June 26, 1999 (accompanied by Carol, Kristy, Jim)

 

# 5 – NETHERLANDS – Driesum Racetrack (oval) – Track #839, Driesum – May 5, 2005 (accompanied by Roland Vanden Eynde)

 

# 6 – BELGIUM – Bellekouter oval (oval) – Track #841, Affligem – May 8, 2005 (accompanied by Roland Vanden Eynde)

 

# 7 – FRANCE – Circuit de Croix en Ternois (road course) – Track #843, Saint-Pol sur-Ternoise – May 8, 2005 (accompanied by Roland Vanden Eynde – 2nd new country in one day!)

 

# 8 – GERMANY – Nurburgring (road course) – Track #844, Nurburg – May 13, 2005 (accompanied by Carol, Roland Vanden Eynde)

 

# 9 – NEW ZEALAND – Western Springs Speedway (oval) – Track #1,134, Western Springs – December 26, 2006 (accompanied by Carol)

 

# 10 – MEXICO – Triovalo Bernardo Obregon (oval) – Track #1,281, Tiajamulco de Zuniga, Jalisco – October 14, 2007 (accompanied by Carol, J.J., Roger Ward)

 

# 11 – BARBADOS – Bushy Park Racing Circuit (road course) – Track #1,296, Bushy Park – December 9, 2007

 

# 12 – THAILAND – Bira Circuit (road course) – Track #1,300, Pattaya – January 19, 2008

 

# 13 – SOUTH AFRICA – Durban Grand Prix (road course) – Track #1,315, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal – February 24, 2008 (accompanied by J.J. and Will Van Horne)

 

# 14 – JAMAICA – Dover Raceway (road course) – Track #1,322, Brown’s Town St. Ann – March 24, 2008

 

# 15 – SWEDEN – Sturup Raceway (road course) – Track #1,335, Malmo – May 10, 2008 (accompanied by Carol)

 

# 16 – DENMARK – Ring Djursland (road course) – Track #1,336, Tirstrup – May 11, 2008 (accompanied by Carol)

 

# 17 – CZECH REPUBLIC – Automotodrome BRNO (road course) – Track #1,381, Brno – September 13, 2008

 

# 18 – AUSTRIA – Lambrechten Stock Car Track (road course) – Track #1,382, Lambrechten – September 14, 2008

 

# 19 – IRELAND – Tipperary International Raceway (oval) – Track #1,388, Rosegreen – October 26, 2008 (Carol and I visited this track earlier in the year)

 

# 20 – GUYANA – South Dakota Circuit (road course) – Track #1,390, Timehri – November 2, 2008 (accompanied by Carol)

 

# 21 – CHINA – The Guia Circuit (road course) – Track #1,392, Macau – November 16, 2008 (accompanied by Carol)

 

 

# 22 – COSTA RICA – Autodromo La Guacima (road course) – Track #1,398, La Guacima – November 30, 2008

 

# 23 – ANDORRA – Grandvalira Circuit (road course) – Track #1,404, Port d’Envalira – January 17, 2009

 

# 24 – ARGENTINA – Circuito Efren Chemolli (oval) – Track #1,406, Buenos Aires – January 31, 2009 (shared with Jerry Fisher)

 

# 25 – QATAR – Losail International Circuit (road course) – Track #1,408, Doha – February 13, 2009

 

# 26 – BAHRAIN – Bahrain International Circuit (road course) – Track #1,410, Sakhir – February 27, 2009 (accompanied by Carol)

 

# 27 – UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – Dubai Autodrome (road course) – Track #1,411, Dubai – February 28, 2009 (accompanied by Carol)

 

# 28 – COLOMBIA – Autodromo de Tocancipa (road course) – Track #1,415, Tocancipa – March 22, 2009

 

# 29 – SPAIN – Motorland Aragon (road course) – Track #1,416, Alcaniz – March 28, 2009

 

# 30 – PORTUGAL – Circuto de Murca (road course) – Track #1,417, Murca – March 29, 2009

 

# 31 – ICELAND – Kapelluhraum (road course) – Track #1,420, Hafnafjorour – April 25, 2009 (shared with Will White)

 

# 32 – HUNGARY – Hungaroring (road course) – Track #1,426, Mogyorod – May 8, 2009 (accompanied by Carol)

 

# 33 – SWITZERLAND – Hock Ybrig (road course) – Track #1,427, Hoch Ybrig – May 9, 2009 (accompanied by Carol)

 

# 34 – ITALY – Vighizzolo d’Este Stock Car Track (road course) – Track #1,428, Vighizzolo d’Este – May 10, 2009 (accompanied by Carol)

 

# 35 – DOMINICAN REPUBLIC – Autodromo Mobil 1 (road course) – Track #1,515, Santo Domingo – December 6, 2009 (accompanied by Carol)

 

# 36 – MALTA – Ta’Qali Race Track (road course) – Track #1,521, Ta’Qali – February 7, 2010 (accompanied by Carol)

 

# 37 – FINLAND – Lake Pidisjarvi Ice Track (road course) – Track #1,524, Nivala – February 20, 2010

 

# 38 – JAPAN – Suzuka Circuit (road course) – Track #1,530, Suzuka – March 21, 2010

 

# 39 – CHILE – Autodromo de Interlomas (road course) – Track #1,531, Temuco – April 18, 2010

 

# 40 – MOROCCO – Circuit de Marrakesh (road course) – Track #1,535, Marrakesh – May 1, 2010 (accompanied by Carol)

 

# 41 – BRAZIL – Circuit de Caruaru – Aryten Senna (road course) – Track #1,540, Caruaru – May 16, 2010 (accompanied by Carol, Jerry Fisher and Katina Spencer)

 

# 42 – ESTONIA – Laitse Rally Park (road course) – Track #1,571, Laitse – July 24, 2010 (accompanied by Carol)

 

# 43 – LATVIA – Bikernieki (road course) – Track #1,572, Riga – July 25, 2010 (accompanied by Carol

 

# 44 – GUATEMALA – Autodromo Pedro Cofino (road course) – Track #1,580, Alotenango – August 15, 2010

 

# 45 – EL SALVADOR – El Jabali (road course) – Track #1,582, Quezaltepeque – August 22, 2010 (accompanied by Carol)

 

# 46 – ROMANIA – Bradu (road course) – Track #1,603, Bradu – October 16, 2010

 

# 47 – BULGARIA – Closed Route – Burgas (road course) – Track #1,604, Burgas – October 17, 2010 (accompanied by Lyubomir and Plamen Simeonov)

 

# 48 – SOUTH KOREA – Korea International Circuit (road course) – Track #1,605, Yeongam, Jeollanam-Do – October 24, 2010

 

# 49 – PHILIPPINES – Batangas Racing Circuit (road course) – Track #1,608, Batangas – November 21, 2010

 

# 50 – NORWAY – Lyngas Motorbane (road course) – Track #1,648, Lier – April 30, 2011

 

# 51 – MALAYSIA – Sepang International Circuit (road course) – Track #1,656, Sepang – May 28, 2011

 

# 52 – INDONESIA – Sentul International Circuit (road course) – Track #1,657, Babakan Madang, Boder – May 29, 2011

 

# 53 – LUXEMBOURG – Alzingen (road course) – Track #1,711, Alzingen – September 4, 2011 (accompanied by Carol)

 

# 54 – POLAND – Tor Slomczyn (road course) – Track #1,713, Slomczyn – September 11, 2011 (accompanied by Carol)

 

# 55 – SINGAPORE – Marina Bay (road course) – Track #1,714, Singapore – September 24, 2011 (accompanied by Carol) 

 

# 56 – URUGUAY – Piriapolis Grand Prix (road course) – Track #1,724, Piriapolis – November 12, 2011

 

# 57 – SRI LANKA – Pannala Race Track (road course) – Track #1,732, Pannala – February 12, 2012

 

# 58 – ECUADOR – Autodromo Internacional de Yahuarcocha (road course) – Track #1,736, Ibarra – March 11, 2012

 

# 59 – SLOVAKIA – Slovakia Ring (road course) – Track #1,742, Orechova Puton – April 29, 2012

 

# 60 – MONACO – Circuit de Monaco (street course) – Track #1,746, Monte Carlo – May 13, 2012 (accompanied by Carol)

 

# 61 – CROATIA – Automotodrom Grobnik (road course) – Track #1,762, Rijeka – June 23, 2012

 

# 62 – PERU – Autodromo La Chutana (road course) – Track #1,802, Lima – October 21, 2012 (accompanied by Carol)

 

# 63 – GREECE – Serres Circuit (road course) – Track #1,807, Serres – November 4, 2012

 

# 64 – RUSSIA – Moscow Central Hippodrome (oval) – Track #1,824, Moscow – February 23, 2013 (accompanied by Carol)

 

# 65 – LITHUANIA – Marijampole Autokross Track (road course) – Track #1,842, Marijampole – May 12, 2013 (accompanied by Carol)

 

# 66 – INDIA – Buddh International Circuit (road course) – Track #1,915, Noida – October 27, 2013 (accompanied by Carol)

 

# 67 – GEORGIA – Rustavi International Motorpark (road course) – Track #1,916, Rustavi – November 10, 2013

 

# 68 – TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO – Larry Gomes Stadium (road course) – Track #1,928, Arima – January 26, 2014 (accompanied by Carol)

 

# 69 – TURKEY – Istanbul Park (road course) – Track #2,035 Akfirat (accompanied by Carol)

 

# 70 – AZERBAIJAN – Streets of Baku (road course) – Track #2,037, Baku (accompanied by Carol)

 

# 71 – SERBIA – Usce (road course) – Track #2,224, Belgrade (accompanied by Carol)

 

# 72 – BOZNIA AND HERZEBOVINA – Zaluzani (road course) – Track #2,235, Zaluzani (accompanied by Boris Miljevic)

 

 

 

 

The International Big 3.

 

  • . Randy Lewis, San Clemente, California USA – 72
  • . Roland Vanden Eynde, Vilvoorde, Belgium – 52
  • . Carol Lewis, San Clemente, California USA – 40

 

 

2016 is becoming a great international trackchasing year.

 

 

 

 

 

LIFETIME TRACKCHASER COMPARISONS 

The three most important trackchasing comparisons to me are:

 

 

Total lifetime tracks seen

Total “trackchasing countries” seen

Lifetime National Geographic Diversity results

 

 

 

Total Lifetime Tracks

There are no trackchasers currently within 550 tracks of my lifetime total. Don’t blame me.

 

  • . Randy Lewis, San Clemente, California – 2,235

 

 

 

Total Trackchasing Countries

There are no trackchasers currently within 10 countries of my lifetime total.

 

  • . Randy Lewis, San Clemente, California – 72

 

 

 

Current lifetime National Geographic Diversity results

 

  • Randy Lewis, San Clemente, California – 4.47

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

That’s all folks! Official end of the RLR – Randy Lewis Racing Trackchaser Report

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do not miss the photo album of this trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina.  There was so much to see.  What a great trip.  Click on the link below.

 

 

pannonia ring boris randy coffee

 

Pannonia-Ring…racing from Hungary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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