I beg of you.
Please skip this one. Just know that I am writing this now, so it couldn’t have been that bad - but it was…
Now, listen. Get it together, man. We're both professionals here, okay? I don't need to tell you this. You're not out there to join the party. We already have one Hunter Thompson. You're out there to interview and to report. - Ben Fong-Torres: Almost Famous
With three days of Brno in our mirrors, it was time to start making our way back to Munich. We didn't head straight there, though, as Cat scheduled some unwinding time in the city of Prague. Even if we wanted to go straight to Munich I think the massive amounts of Czech construction would have lead us through Prague anyway.
We left The Grid Hotel, our souls full from three days of riding the Brno Circuit, but our fuel tanks were not on the same level. With the van loaded we decided to grab fuel at the track since it was close, but with no attendant there and some of us a little foggy from the night before we could not as a group sort out how to make the go-go juice flow.
Cat was on van duty for this leg. He found a gas station not that far out of town and punched the details into one of the bike's GPS units, while someone else pulled up the same location on their phone's navigation program. The plan was to meet up, fuel up, and then haul ass to Prague. I rode ahead to snap some pics of everyone leaving the track and figured I would just catch up to the group so I didn’t even ask about the name of the gas station.
Yeah, it went about as well as you might expect.
I ended up getting stuck behind the van that was stuck behind a giant truck, and found myself just out of the range of our intercom units. By the time I found an opening to make a pass and motor ahead, utter bedlam had ensued.
The GPS route had a couple of ridiculous and out-of-the-way turns included in the directions, something that a couple of riders noticed and ignored, while others ended up following the full route. The smartphone-using rider didn't have the weird additions to the journey, but they also had a totally different gas station selected, so at this point our group was split into four... five if you include the van.
I found myself on vapors with nothing plugged into my GPS or phone, and no visual on any of the other four groups. I did see the sign for a gas station off in the distance down a road that, surprise, wasn't on the GPS.
I fueled up and pulled out my phone to share my location on Whatsapp in an effort to get the band back together, only to find three other people doing the same thing which confirmed my suspicions that we were all about 10 minutes away from each other.
After regrouping we motored on with the same plan of the van taking a direct route leaving the motorcycles to have a bit of fun in the Czech countryside on the way to Prague. Road construction had other ideas, however, and we soon found ourselves navigating poorly marked detours...again. At one point we came across a massive, under construction roundabout that was, you guessed it, not on the GPS. There was a roundabout on the GPS, just not this one that had a lane to bypass the whole thing. We needed to take the third exit, a task that would not have been an issue had we not been on the bypass road.
A quick bit of redirection later we were back on a road that seemed to be pointing us in the general direction of Prague...until the next detour...and the next. Eventually we ended up in a small town that was holding a car and bike show in the square causing, us to stop for a bit to check out the sweet rides on display.
There was some confusion as to if this was the scheduled lunch stop, so part of the group wandered away to find lunch, part of the group wandered and looked at old cars and bikes, and part of the group wondered why we bothered to stop at all.
Tempers got a little short at this point, but once we regrouped and got back on the road to Prague we got back on the same page...Until we got to Prague and discovered that there was no place to park. We went to the parking garage that was on our list of waypoints, and there was nothing reserved.
A group of riders that drained most of their energy on a MotoGP circuit for three days, that ran into another series of detours and sketchy GPS directions, that were looking forward to parking their bikes, getting their room, grabbing a beer, and probably a nap before dinner, now stood - in full gear- in front of a guy that spoke broken English who had absolutely no idea that we were coming.
Of course, the area in front of the hotel was...wait for it...Under construction... so we ended up clogging the sidewalk with our motorcycles while we waited for Cat to roll up with the van.
Eventually the hotel manager sorted out a parking solution for us. There was an elevator to another parking garage that the manager was able to clear two spots for out 10 bikes. While not ideal, it was the shortest distance between point A: Needing a shower, and point B: drinking beer in Prague.
I won't go into the details of how part of our group got stuck in a hotel parking lot elevator, but yes, Cat had to make a phone call to the hotel manager to let him know that there was a group of people stuck on an elevator.
Once we recovered our missing members, took our respective showers, changed into something less motorcycle gear, we all met up at the bar and made a plan to grab some dinner.
While the pre-dinner conversation could have been about the weird re-routing, the lack of parking, or yet another bit of construction that made things weird for us, it wasn't. Yes, there was a bit of frustration on the surface of a few of us, including the author. But we all knew what we signed up for. We knew that there would be glitches here and there and did our best to overcome them with smiles on our faces.
We decided to do a quick walking tour after dinner, guided by Rage who had been to Prague before. Rage set a walking pace similar to his speed on the track, meaning just a bit quicker than I was comfortable with...what with me being out of shape at the track and trying to drink my beer on the walk. His pace had a purpose though as we arrived at the Prague Astronomical Clock right as it did its thing, giving us plenty of time to take a more leisurely stroll over to the Charles Bridge.
Remember those electric scooters that a few of us were schmobing on in Munich? Larry came up with the idea of doing a pub crawl of sorts on those after breakfast in the morning.
The plan was...
I never actually heard any more than scooter pub crawl after breakfast, so I honestly don't know what the plan was still to this day. All I know is that I saw an Irish bar on our night walk and I was determined to have a pint of Guinness at some point the next day.
If I only knew what that bar had in store for me the next day or what it would take to get there.
Morning arrived and I saw nobody down at breakfast, which was unusual, but I rolled with it. Some suggestions came in as to where to kick off our scooter crawl, and it seemed like the general consensus was to start at a beer garden that opened about 10am. I timed things perfectly, that is if my phone based navigation would have had any sort of idea how directions worked. That and I stopped for some post-breakfast doner. I fucking love doner.
About 10:30 or so, after being directed to the wrong side of the block and then rerouted back, I ran into Steve and we decided to pop in and have a beer. We found a seat and were met by someone with a tray of shots. I told Shot Guy to come back after I had a beer, thinking that the rest of the group would show up and we would be on the way out the door before his return.
That was not the case.
After my first liter of beer, the Shot Guy came back. I should mention that since I didn’t indicate that I didn’t want a second beer, a second liter of beer hit the table while Shot Guy was telling me about his wares. Since I just got a second beer it would have been silly to not sample both shots, so before meeting up with anyone besides Steve I was two liters of beer and two shots into my day. Drunk Logic is often thirsty. It was 11:30am.
Before Shot Guy could come back we fired off a generic message to the group about looking for the Irish bar, paid the tab and set off in full adventure mode. Drunk Logic mandated that Steve and I rented some scooters, plopped our live locations into Whatsapp, and set out to find that Irish bar for a pint of Guinness. As we set sail, we realized that we didn’t know the name of the bar or where it was. Minor details, I mean how many Irish bars could possibly be in old town Prague?
Three, as it turns out, and we did our best to guess at the one that might have been on our walking route from the night before. While we were searching for the bar, other people in the group were trying to find us based on the Whatsapp info that we were blasting into the universe. As mentioned in older posts, the GPS updated with the sense of urgency of a kid being sent to bed, so the pursuing group was about 10 minutes behind us even though it showed them that they were at our current location.
Eventually the whole group ended up at a bar with a view of the astronomical clock, where I had liters three and four of beer, followed by some appetizers, and then liter five of beer. I pitched the elusive Irish Bar idea to the group, and it turns out that the place was just around the corner and everyone was game. We decided to head over there for dinner as a group and then plan the evening.
William Miller: So Russell... what do you love about music?
Russell Hammond: To begin with, everything.
Steve and I made it to the Irish bar first since we still had our scooters, and went in for the long awaited pint. We sat down at a table right as a guy in an AC/DC shirt sat down with a guitar and played some Johnny Cash. I found out very quickly that his name was Marcus, and that he was from Central America. He came to Prague on vacation, met a girl, and never went home. Given that Marcus knocked “Ring of Fire” out of the park and his shirt choice, I asked if he knew any Nirvana.
He did. He also knew every other band that I requested (except Local H, but he had at least heard of them). Steve and I were in the bar for about 5 songs before the rest of the group showed up and wanted to sit outside, away from Marcus. I was not a fan of this, but the team player that I am, I dropped another 10 Euro into Marcus’ tip jar and sat with the group. Dinner was ordered, and while we waited a kid in his early 20’s from Denmark came over to our table and bought us a round…and a second round…bringing my drink count on the day up to, well… yeah. Here is where things started to get fuzzy. As you know by now that music is on the same level as motorcycles in my world, so I made an excuse to go inside for a fresh beer as I was curious where Marcus’ set had traveled. I heard REM, so naturally I paused, bought him a beer, and forgot that I had a group of friends outside. The group waited a few minutes for me to return, and then just left me at the bar thinking that I wandered off to the destination (that they decided on while I was on inside listening to Marcus absolutely crush REM) without them. Drunk Logic assumes telepathy amongst peers.
When Marcus’ set finished, I followed him outside and convinced him to play some Stone Temple Pilots while he waited for his ride. It was at this time that I first noticed that everyone from my group had left and realized that I had been inside for an hour. Marcus’ ride showed up and I went back into the bar for another pint and to try and figure out where everyone went. The problem with that is, since everyone was together, nobody was messaging the group about where they were until after my phone died later in the evening. Why didn’t I message them? Drunk logic is not always reliable.
While at the bar my new Danish friend came up and bought me a shot of whiskey, a shot of whisky, and a shot of tequila. I returned the favor by buying him the same, and then a guy from Japan who was going to school at UCLA and on vacation in Prague came into the picture. He talked about meeting a girl on the train and he was trying to figure out if he should call her. I told him I would give him advice if he bought me a beer, which he did, and it came with a shot of whiskey. I told him to follow his heart, unless of course his heart said to not go directly to her house and do whatever the Czech equivalent of holding up a boombox in the rain is. Drunk logic always provides the fun answer.
The three of us bought somewhere between one and more six rounds for each other. At this level of intoxication I was oblivious to the fact that a very attractive Ukrainian woman had sat down to my left and was trying to chat me up. She eventually got my attention by grabbing my chin, spinning my head (which was already a little spinny) forcing me to look at her square in her deep blue eyes. Then she said those six little words that I have always wanted an attractive female stranger to say to me - “Can I buy you some absinthe?” Why yes, Svetlana, you can.
After the shot of absinthe, I offended my latest beverage benefactor. It turns out that her name was not Svetlana, and she took offense to my assurance that it was. She moved a few spots down the bar and bought another guy a drink. I was informed later by the bartender that she was a prostitute, which totally clarified why she, a “Prague 10”, was talking to me, a “Bay Area Homeless 3”. Drunk Logic should have caught that one, if I am honest. Eventually the Danish guy either passed out or left (my money is on that he is just now waking up in the back of the bar) and the UCLA kid went to fulfill his destiny, leaving me alone again at a bar that I couldn’t find earlier by myself. I did the only logical thing. I ordered a double 30 year old Scotch and listened to the musician that came in to replace Marcus do their best to fill his shoes.
I miss Marcus.
Hey mom. I know you are reading this, even though I suggested that you didn’t. Seriously though, all of the above is Sunday school compared to the rest of the story. Please. Don’t read any further. You have been warned.
I eventually left the Irish bar with the intent to just try and retrace my steps back to the hotel. This went about as well as you might think. Since Steve and I spent so much time looking for the bar earlier in the day, we traveled down all sorts of wrong streets that now look just as familiar as the way back to the hotel. It had nothing to do with the week’s worth of alcohol I had consumed in a matter of hours…
I wandered around Prague with no real intent on going anywhere for a while, because it is a beautiful city. After wandering either closer to the hotel or deeper into old town Prague for a while I realized that I didn’t know the name of the hotel or what street it was on. All I knew was that we had walked by a McDonald’s on the way to the Irish bar the night before, so I punched the home of the quarter-pounder with cheese into my trusty phone based navigation program just in time to discover that I had 3% battery. Drunk Logic can always find a McDonald’s.
I remember telling myself to preserve the battery, advice I evidently decided was bullshit given I chose to take a video of the ground while I was approached by a prostitute named Monica. We discussed my drinking and how lost I was, and once she realized that I wasn’t buying what she was selling she walked away. I took another video of me pointing out that I knew where I was, where I had been, but not where I was going, as well as taking some pictures of the ground before the battery level dropped to zero. Drunk Logic demands videos. I was on my own, didn’t know where I was, didn’t know the name of where I was going, and just kinda assumed that I lived in Prague now. Living there seemed like the easiest choice, especially if Marcus was a regular performer at that bar. Drunk Logic again with the best idea..
I walked for another hour or so, and was sobering up rapidly when I heard a voice from behind me. The following is how I remember the conversation going, and may not be exact quotes. Also, you are going to think that I am just assigning a “funny” name based on stereotypes, but I swear that the name used was what the guy told me he was called.
“My friend, you look lost!” a man with an eastern European accent joyfully shouted, “Where are you from?”
“America”, I probably slurred. “We loooooooooove Americans! Please, let us help you get home”, said Boris.
“Nah man, I’m good. I will find it eventually.” I replied.
“No, my new American friend, please, I will give you a ride. Where are you staying?” Boris inquired.
At this point, I knew better than to get into a stranger’s car. A stranger’s car that was a blacked out 3-series BMW and not a Skoda. A stranger’s car at 3am in old town Prague. I knew better. So I got into the car…
Before you judge me, I sized up the full situation, or at least as much as I could. Boris was about 5’5”, and might have been 125 pounds if he ate at the McDonald’s that I was trying to get to. I am 6’1”, 220ish and I once pinned a state champion wrestler back in 1992. Invoking drunk logic, advantage me. I pretended to be a bit more drunk than I was and fell into the back seat of the car, making sure to keep my legs on the outside as I grabbed the passenger side door handle. When the door opened I was able to determine that they didn’t have child locks engaged. Drunk logic insisted that I could get out of the car at any time.
I sat behind the driver, who judging by how much legroom I had was shorter than Boris. I figured if shit went south, I could just choke the driver out and being drunk, I would be the only survivor when we crashed into a wall. Isn’t drunk logic magical?
I told Boris that I had 1800 Czech Koruna on me, and that it was his if he could take me to McDonald’s. That works out to about 75 bucks in American cash money.
“No no no no no”, Boris said rapidly, “I don’t want money, I want to help Americans!” I thanked him, knowing that either he was being honest or I was being kidnapped. Ultimately it felt good to sit down, and drunk logic said to roll with it.
Boris was dead set on taking me to my hotel, not McDonald’s, which if I needed an additional red flag to go along with the three that I ran already, this one was big. Why? Because tourists don’t only have 75 bucks on them. Tourists leave the rest of their cash, laptops, and other valuables at the hotel. I knew that if I gave him a hotel name Boris would want to make sure that he escorted me not just to the hotel, but into my room so he could harvest my kidneys. Jokes on him, I didn’t have a clue as to what the name of the hotel was, and see above about how much my kidneys are worth on the black market. Boris should have done more research.
Anyway, back to the car I shouldn’t have gotten into.
They drove around, asking me all sorts of questions that I couldn’t answer if I wanted to. Once they knew that I was a complete and total idiot, Boris dropped the other shoe. “My American friend, we have to let you out here since we don’t know where to take you”, Boris said, the smile off his face for the first time in our half hour relationship.
“Are we at McDonald’s” I said, trying to remind him that was where I wanted to go.
He chose to not answer any more of my questions.
“I don’t want any money, but my boss here does”, Boris said pointing at the hella short driver. Seriously, he might have been sitting on a phone book with blocks strapped to his shoes he was so short.
The driver held in his carny-sized hands a very official looking taxi meter that indicated that I owed them about 75000 Czech Koruna, or about 3500 George Washington’s.
I explained again that I didn’t have that much, and Boris graciously made sure that I was driven to an ATM.
At this point, I was VERY sober, but doubled down on my hammered and friendly American persona that he had grown to tolerate.
When we got to the ATM, Boris got out with me, and the driver stayed in the car. Probably due to him needing someone to pick him up out of his booster seat. Seriously, he was small enough to be Boris’ kid. I asked Boris to give me space and watch for people that might be trying to take advantage of me while I got his cash. Boris was as stupid as I hoped. He gave me about a Brno track width of space, which was perfect for step two of my rapidly-being-cobbled-together plan to not pay the Czech Taxi Mafia 3500 bucks to not take me to McDonald’s. If you are reading this, Boris, fuck you for keeping me from McDonalds and seeing if they really do call it a Royale With Cheese. I hate you. When I got to the ATM, I pointed at it and yelled back that it was broken, while staggering off away from the car. “My friend, you need to pay,” Boris yelled as he took a drag from a cigarette.
“I know, this one is broken, I am going to that one over there”, I yelled back, gesturing in the general direction of another ATM that was farther away from the road, and more importantly farther away from Boris and Czech Tom Cruise’s stunt double in the car.
When Boris turned his focus onto the ATM to see if it was broken, I bolted down a pathway that I hesitate to call a road as it was (fortunately) too narrow for a car to get down. I had about a 50 meter head start and I hoped my route didn’t dead-end into a little square like EVERY OTHER TINY PATH IN PRAGUE DOES. Seriously, the amount of little hidden squares in old town Prague is pretty high. I wonder how many of them have Doner stands? I saw some garbage cans in an alcove and ducked behind them. I was far enough ahead of Boris that he ran right by me, the scent of cigarette smoke trailing behind him. I could hear Boris yelling in front of me in English, the Czech Taxi Mafia car’s squealing tires behind me, and then two men screaming at each other in Czech wherever the two ended up meeting.
Fortunately for me, they didn’t bother back-tracking the 20 meters or so that I ducked out behind them, and tore out of there in the car either trying to track me down or to reset the trap for the next idiot.
Not sure which it was, I decided to change my appearance to the best of my ability and tried to stay inconspicuous.
I was wearing a Local H shirt (surprised?) with a giant cat face on it, which I took off and turned inside out. I hustled out of the pathway and found a busier stretch of road and proceeded to just walk with small groups of people like I was playing live-action Assassin's Creed.
This went on for at least another hour until I was the only person walking on the roads. With no crowds to blend in with, I was hyper paranoid about any car that I heard approaching, and found myself hiding behind shrubs and between parked cars. This went on at least another hour before I luckily walked by the van. While I had no idea where Cat parked, I knew the hotel had to be close, and it was. I had missed it by a block… More than once, when I look back at it. I never did find that McDonald’s.
I woke up in my room about 2 hours later, just in time for breakfast which is where I discovered those videos that I didn’t remember taking. Like the one below that I took about after leaving the Irish bar. According to google maps, it I was a three minute walk away from where I started, yet I took this about 2 hours after I left.
Mom. I know you made it this far, so I guess keep reading. I promise you that this is the first time that I got into a car with strangers. I promise to not do it again, at least not in Prague. I can’t emphasize how good it felt to sit down, though, and I don’t regret my decision, especially since I kept all my organs.
I want to thank you for encouraging me to play hide and seek in grade school and supporting my strange urges to run track and cross country in high school. Both skills were put to use with great success this trip and allowed me to tell this story.