Friday, January 29, 2010

reading books by other motorcycle adventurers...

I am currently reading a book entitled Odyssey to Ushuaia : a motorcycling adventure from New York to Tierra del Fuego by Andrés Carlstein. Like the last book I read, I'm finding it hard to put down. He's a good writer, using language effectively to make the reader feel as though they're there with him, experiencing the same adventures, feeling the same surroundings.

I'm impressed with the marked differences I've already noticed in the writing style of this book, compared to the last book I completed that I mentioned in a previous blog post. For example, I've just started Chapter 4, and this guy's already had two sexual conquests amongst the Aztec ruins! I'm thinking that by the time I finish reading his book, he either will have had to return home early to seek medical attention to relieve the STDs he contracted, or he managed to happily f*ck his way through South America, breaking hearts along the way. I wonder if Lois Pryce experienced South America in the same way and merely chose not to go into so much graphic detail about her encounters? Sometimes, I think I'm reading an erotic novel - his descriptions are quite vivid.

From the reading I have done so far, I am coming to terms with what I'll need to take into consideration when it's my time in the sun.

( Eek! I should clarify that statement! I was not referring to the sexual encounters that I will be experiencing on my trip! I'm changing subjects now... )

I've been keeping notes on the equipment I will need. I've also been paying heed to the observed cultural differences between the countries I will pass through so that I will not have to learn the same hard lessons that these people did. I'm particularly paying attention to the routes that seem to be hell on earth to ride through. It's becoming obvious that I will encounter a fair share of pot-holes, gravel, mud, sand... these obstacles excite me and frighten me at the same time.

Funnily enough, I am particularly looking forward to riding through the Atacama Desert, the driest place on Earth. Imagine riding over this terrain?
( )

Unbelievably, the stats and reports detail that the average daily temperature is between 0 and 25 degrees celcius. Sounds like my kind of place... I would have thought that I could fry eggs on the ground in a place like that.

But I digress... there's really no point in discussing places that I yearn to see. Best to save such commentary for AFTER I've seen them.

As is the case whenever one has particular plans for the future, I am starting to notice the news reports of events (good and bad) coming out of South America. For example, I awoke one morning recently to hear of a land slide in Machu Picchu, Peru. This place is definitely on my "must see" list... and, of course, the internal dialogue about the dangers I might be faced with started immediately. However, almost as quickly, this was over-ridden by my fantasies of this far-away land that I have only read about.

I have a confession to make on this point. When I was little, I avidly read a series of comic-strip novels by Hergé called The Adventures of Tintin. One particular title of the series was Prisoners of the Sun, set in Peru, where I learnt all about the Incas, Machu Picchu... and even the way the indigenous South Americans use llamas to cross the Andes mountains. It's funny where you pick up trivia - I recall Captain Haddock, one the characters of the book, being spat on by a llama as it became annoyed by the attention it was receiving. (Yes! Apparently, llamas spit on you when they're upset!)

Reading the Tintin series taught me a lot about different parts of the world... I'm sure that following his adventures ravenously as a child shaped the woman I am today, riddled with wander-lust and an insatiable desire to see more of this magnificent planet and the variety of peoples that inhabit it.

So... reading about the adventures of other motorcyclists is my thing right now. As I am not quite ready and able to depart for these places, I am a mental traveller at present. I happily follow along on the trips that are documented in these books, creating mental reminders to make use of when I'm actually faced by the same environment, first-hand. To that end, I have purchased a few books from Amazon and various bookstores on the web. Perhaps others might find them of interest too?

Distant Suns: Adventure in the Vastness of Africa and South America - Sam Manicom

Latin America in the visor - Angela Schmitz

One More Day Everywhere: Crossing 50 Borders on the Road to Global Understanding - Glen Heggstad

Two Wheels Through Terror: Diary of a South American Motorcycle Odyssey - Glen Heggstad

Jupiters Travels: Four Years Around the World on a Triumph - Ted Simon

The Longest Ride: My Ten-Year 500,000 Mile Motorcycle Journey - Emilio Scotto

Riding the World: The Biker's Road Map for a Seven Continent Adventure - Gregory W. Frazier

The Road Gets Better From Here - Adrian Scott

All of these books are giving me courage. It's reassuring to know that I'm not as mad as my close associates have accused me of being. There are kindred spirits out there with a sense of adventure, willing to take the same risks and venture into the unknown. Besides the actual "ride", I am mostly looking forward to immersing myself into the cultures that I will possibly have the good fortune of meeting. Hopefully, they will allow me a glimpse into their world and possibly, in turn, will have an interest in mine...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

press releases, promotion, planning and other affairs...


Why did this get to be so much work?

I can’t complain, I’m learning a lot, but, being restless by nature, I just want to leave already! All the build-up, expectation and anticipation is playing on my mind, affecting my sleep. I’m picturing scenarios that may never transpire – good and bad. Now, instead of worrying that I’ll be hit by a road-train on some remote stretch of highway, I’m concerned that I won’t raise enough money for MS Australia. Is that strange, or is it just me?

Regardless, I have enlisted the help of a sweet friend of mine, who is currently writing up a press release in media speak, so that I can start to seriously enlist the help and sponsorship of companies and organisations that may have an interest in this venture.

I have a HUGE to-do list after that press release is complete – I feel like a runner, waiting for the starting gun to go off… I’m ready and steady, but it feels as though an eternity will pass before I finally take off and GO!

In the meantime, I’ve decided to focus on preparation – I have enrolled in two courses: bike maintenance and advanced riding. I believe that some sound knowledge about the ins and outs of a motorcycle engine wouldn’t go astray on a trip of this magnitude. In the event of a break-down on the road, I won’t be so lost about what could possibly have gone wrong. Plus, having recently completed the intermediate riding course, I felt the benefits of completing it shortly thereafter. Surely, my skills will improve even more after successfully finishing the higher, advanced level? Both of these courses will, no doubt, make me feel even more confident about the adventure I am about to embark upon.

Gosh, I feel like an athlete in training for the Olympics! If I get remotely close to scoring a bronze medal, I’ll be happy…

I have created a Facebook page for the ride too: On this page, fans can ask me questions, make comments, look at my route and donate to a worthy cause. When things get fired up, I will be posting campaign developments in earnest. Fingers crossed this event will be a success.

Now, to other news…

I dropped my bike! I felt like such a dufus… my right leg got trapped underneath the 265kg (give or take) machine and I had to call for the help of a fellow staff member to lift the bike off me just enough to get my leg out. Wow, that hurt like hell! Of course, it landed on my bad leg which has been broken so many times, I’ve lost count. After fifteen orthopaedic procedures in 2001, I was warned by my doctors that if I experienced a similar impact again, my leg could very well be reduced to dust… crumble like chalk, forget about reconstruction.

Of course, being the genius that I am, I have chosen to ignore these negative predictions. I love motorcycling too much to take that seriously.

Now, I didn’t think that my leg was crumbling by having the bike drop on it last week, but I was concerned, from the amount of pain I was experiencing, that I had managed to fracture it, perhaps even break it. “Not now!” I thought. “I have to ride for MS in March! I don’t need to be in plaster!”

First things first… getting my priorities straight, after finishing work that day, I raced to have the bike inspected for damage. I could see that I had crushed my right-hand mirror and my rear brake pedal was so twisted I could no longer reach it with my foot. But, what else did the drop damage that could potentially be dangerous? I had to find out. Who cares about my leg? It’s not like it was falling off or anything.

The guys at Clipstone Yamaha twisted my rear brake pedal back into place, and adjusted my mirror as best they could until I got it replaced. (Can you believe it? The Suzuki dealership I have been going to don’t open on Fridays! What the…?) But, talk about blessings in disguise! I can finally get those matte black pair of mirrors I’ve been coveting for a few months now! Woohoo!

My black pipes got a little scratched, but rather than going through my insurance, I have decided to replace the essential parts on my own and leave the pipes as they are. I have grown fond of the scratches. They add character to my bike, kinda like the character I have, now that my right leg looks like a relief map of the Pyrenees. I’m secretly happy that the bike has little battle scars - it doesn’t look as new and fresh-out-of-the-box as it did. Now, it looks like MY bike. Don’t they say the same thing about pets? That they look like their owners? Or is it the other way around?

Finally, I was positively RAPT when
Mad Biker, Brett, put my right indicator light back together with black gaffer tape! Not only was the colour scheme right, but it added to the overall weathered appearance my baby now finally has! The gaffer tape reminded me of my youth, when I used to wear big old Doc Martin 12-ups that had gotten so worn out by my late teens, I was holding them together with black gaffer tape as well. Ahhh… memories!

So, now, my bike and I are truly one. We look alike, we’ve been through some hard knocks, and have both managed to come out the other end still in one piece and ready for the next escapade. The question is: Will she be the one taking me across the Nullarbor in April?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

plans for this sunday...

Thanks to recently completing a book by Lois Pryce, I am definitely feeling restless. Although I am scared to death about my impending trek across the Southern states in late March, I am also impatiently anticipating the adventure I will, no doubt, encounter. Short trips around the suburbs of Melbourne (no matter how pretty or interesting) are no longer exciting me. I long to experience more of the exhilaration I felt whilst riding from Bright to Lakes Entrance in November.

I can only liken my emotions to that of a serial killer’s… fervently reliving the moment in his head over and over until he can venture out and kill once more. Some of you may think me morbid, even gruesome, for using that analogy, but I can think of no other at the time of writing this.

I look at the pictures I took on that trip, remembering the beautiful sights and scenery I encountered, the smells and aromas I breathed in… I feel a strong urge to go out and repeat the experience, but seeking variety, rather than improving upon the next route… just as a serial murderer would try to perfect the next kill.

That being said, fellow motorcyclists reading this right now might understand why I could strongly connect with the following paragraph in the aforementioned book:

“My bike and I were becoming nicely moulded to each other by now, fusing into one, like some mythical creature - half woman, half motorcycle. Riding felt more normal than not riding, and each morning, as I swung my leg over the saddle, fired up the engine and shifted into first gear, off on another adventure, never knowing what would happen that day, I was greeted with the gratifying sensation that there was nothing else in the world I’d rather be doing. Any uncertainties or qualms that may have taken root during the night would be left in the dust with the onset of motion, as the simple act of moving along became my only reality.”

Due to my inability to take off and ride for as long as I’d like to at present, I take comfort in the fact that I will, at least, be able to experience day trips around the state. So, since the weather threatens to be unrelentingly favourable this week, I have decided to consult Google Maps. Despite lacking the “map assistance” I grew accustomed to of late, I have managed to come up with a route on my own to try out this Sunday:

Olinda -> Daylesford -> Castlemaine -> Golden Point -> Malmsbury -> Kyneton -> Woodend -> Mount Macedon -> Lancefield -> Romsey -> Riddells Creek -> Gisborne -> Sunbury -> Bulla -> Yallambie -> Warrandyte -> Ringwood -> Olinda

View Larger Map

I’ve only been to Daylesford once before - but it remains in my memory as a place that would be good to revisit. I know that I will be enjoying it far more this time around, as I was previously accompanied by someone who complained about everything that wasn’t to his liking.

As for the rest of the planned route, I’ve never been to any of those places before. I’ve always wanted to see Mount Macedon… and Riddells Creek - the name, alone, intrigues me. Perhaps I will be fortunate enough to solve a few whilst I’m there? (Excuse the bad pun, if you please.)

And Woodend… someone once told me that they could think of no better place for me to live. This person thought that I would be as happy as a clam, fitting right in to the community there if I ever chose to follow her advice. I’ve been curious about it ever since - I know a second-hand bookstore owner that resides in Woodend and a thespian/teacher I took acting lessons from lives there too. Maybe the suggestion wasn’t so far-fetched?

Time will tell… I shall go anon…