The Split Clubhouse
I spent Oct. 20-Nov. 21, 2018 cycle touring unsupported from Milan, Italy to Split, Croatia this post recounts part of that journey.
The trip was coming to a close.
We wanted to go to Dubrovnik to see the UNESCO World Heritage City that is the backdrop for many Game of Throne scenes but we knew another 450 km round trip was out of the question. Before we cycled the final leg to Split I looked up places to stay. Hotels seemed pricy but there was an urban campsite near the coast that looked promising.
I used my SIM card to call the number I found on Google, hoping they were open. They weren’t. But they did answer. I talked to a very nice proprietor who spoke excellent English and informed me that they were (like so many other campsites in Croatia in November,) closed for the season. I asked if we could stay anyway. That we had all our own gear and just needed a safe place to set up the tent. He agreed, asked us when we planned to arrive and told me to call when we got there.
The camp site was tucked away between a marina and a park where old men were playing pétanque. The gate was open. A few benches and tables made of old pallets were set up in the yard and a large, locked structure on the property had bathrooms and showers attached. We called the number and scouted out places we might lock our bikes for a few days while we checked out Dubrovnik.
The owner was young, around our age and wearing spotless white Adidas sneakers. He explained that a lot of people cut through the property to get to their boats and that the season was very good to him but he just didn’t have the energy to clean up and would come back in the spring to set up for next year. He showed us inside the structure. A large bar area with tables and chairs and a concrete floor was surrounded by large banners advertising alcohol. A back room had a couch, basketball arcade game and a ping pong table. It was a mess but it was a large space. He showed us how to turn on the hot water and lights.
Then he did something amazing. He gave us the keys to the bar and asked that we set up inside so we were less noticeable. He told us we could drink whatever was in the bar, use the fridge and sleep on the couches if we liked. He had stacks of blankets and pillows for guests who don’t bring their own camping equipment. He asked that when we leave we put the keys under a light in the yard and that we could stay and keep the bikes there as long as we wanted.
We felt like we hit the jackpot. So many of our logistical issues suddenly evaporated. We had a safe place to sleep, a warm shower, a reasonable bed and a place to disassemble and keep the bikes. All for free because of the kindness of this incredibly hospitable campsite owner. We thanked him profusely. He gave us wristbands with the campsite name written on it and told us to come back in the summer when the party would be in full swing.
We referred to the bar as our Clubhouse, slept on the couch and indulged in some Johnny Walker and flat coke that was out on the table. The morning light poured in through the plastic beer signs that made up the walls and the wind shock the metal frame, but we stayed warm and safe.
We toured Split, downtown was only a 30 minute walk. And we found a bike shop close by that gave us boxes to fly our bikes home. We had the whole bar to pack and disassemble. We kept our bags and bikes in the Clubhouse and took the bus to Dubrovnik for a few days before returning to pick up the boxes and Uber to the bus station to catch the shuttle to the airport that would take us back to Milan via Germany for the end of our excellent adventure.