Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Find Me in a Mountain of Papers

I've spent the last couple of days getting together paper work for our trip while Sam nails down the final shipping details. To say that there's a lot of documents involved in putting together a trip like this is an understatement. But it's coming together.

My father and I are carting my bike back to North Bay on Saturday. It will spend two or three days in the shop, and then we'll spend the last week in garage tuning them up, adding a few new parts, and then putting them in a crate. As of May 15, the bikes will be in a crate on their way to Cairo. In short, things are coming together. I can't wait to get it started as soon as I get out from under this pile of paper...

Friday, April 25, 2008

World Malaria Day

Today is the first World Malaria Day. To commemorate it, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is launching an initiative to end deaths by malaria. This is an achievable goal, just as the virtual eradication of polio and ring worm around the world has been achieved. And just like we have achieved the effective eradication of TB in the West.

Malaria is a particularly capricious disease. It's easily transmitted, it's recurrent, and it's crippling. When combined with HIV/AIDS it can be completely devastating. It's a shameful truth that at least 1 million people die from it each year, and many of them are children. But this is preventable.

As you may know, Sam and I are raising money on our trip for Spread the Net. Many of our old friends and now new friends have been very generous is dontating. The idea is simple: you give Spread the Net $10 on our behalf and they make sure that a child in Africa gets a mosquito net. If you're inspired by our trip and you'd like to give money, you can go here. We've set a goal of $50,000 and we're a quarter of the way there! But even better would be to spend a few minutes learning about malaria and educating other people about it. You can start learning about it here.

Keep well and keep looking ahead.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Seven Motorcyclists I Admire

I think Sam and I are asked about Charlie Boorman and Ewan MacGregor at least once a week. This is to be expected. They are probably the world's most famous adventure motorcyclists and they've taken some pretty awesome trips. Support vehicles and corporate backing aside, they have done some pretty tough stuff (even if we're going to do it a lot faster). On balance, they've been really positive for motorcycling.

But if you're interested in finding out about other people who are serious motorcyclists and who are to be admired, you don't have to go too far. So, here are seven motorcyclists I admire, in no particular order:

1.) Gary Eagan -- He rode a Ducati from Prudhoe Bay to Key West, Florida in less than 100 hours. Enough said. But if you want to read about him, click here. And you can see pictures here. Check out how tired he looks when he is getting his tires changed.

2.) Thane Silliker -- This cat rode from Halifax to Vancouver in sixty hours. You better believe he had the auxillary lights on full bore when he was blasting across Northern Ontario. If you're wondering how someone covers 5000 kms in that time, take a look at the tube coming out of his pant leg. It will give you a hint. (He's also ridden the Trans-Lab, though not as fast as Millar and me).

3.) Farmer Bob -- We'll write more on Farmer Bob at another time. For now, it's enough to mention that he's a dairy farmer from upstate New York who we met on the Trans-Lab. His mouth would make a sailor blush, he buys a new motorcycle every year, he once got caught going 150 mph on a Hayabusa, and he rides solo. And, to quote him, "I don't wear a ****ing Harley jacket, I wear this." All bike, no flash. As it should be.

4.) Helge Pedersen -- Pedersen's been at it for decades. And he once rode/pushed/prodded a BMW R/80 120 kilometers across the Darien Gap. With a broken leg.

5.) My Dad -- He tears it up on an ST1100, but never rides stupidly. He'll put in a 2000 km weekend with no complaints. And he's in it for the riding, not the image. No Harley man he. Plus, he insisted I take a safety course when I first bought a bike, which was a great decision.

6. and 7.) Kevin and Julia Sanders (aka The Globebusters) -- these characters circumnavigated the globe (19,000 miles!) in 19 and a half days. Thanks, but no thanks!

Monday, April 21, 2008

A Vicious Cycle

Sam and I are quite excited that we've received sponsorship from A Vicious Cycle. This is a Canadian outfit run by a great guy named Eric Russell. Eric probably has more riding experience than Sam and I will ever accumulate between the two of us and he's been giving us great advice for the trip. He is also helping us accumulate all the spare parts and accessories we need for the trip.

If you ride a dual sport in Canada and you need to gear up, Eric is the guy to call. If you also need to be reminded of how much you need to learn about motorcycles, Eric is also the guy to call!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Back in the Saddle

It's been two weeks since we've last posted, and what a two weeks! Sam has been out and about in Afghanistan and I've been confined to my office finishing my dissertation. With a loud (and most probably dull) thud on the department secretary's desk, I freed myself of this responsibility on Tuesday. I now await trial by jury in June!

But, in the meantime, expect a lot more action on the site. I'll be prepping our bikes over the next month and we'll be putting them in a crate at the beginning of May. And expect a few more bike stories in the meantime.

As always, keep in touch and keep looking ahead.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Night Ride II

As Sam has written, our run through the Gaspesie, into the Maritimes, and across Maine was a great trip through some of the most beautiful places of Canada. The Gaspesie exceeded all my expectations. It is such a stunning combination of coastal villages, soaring hills, snowcapped peaks, and thick forests, even at elevation. The only shame is that so much of that portion of the trip was hobbled by a problem with my fuel system.

The trip had been chock-full of some difficult moments. We rode through snow on the way to Quebec City, and the next morning we rode through a proper snow storm on our way over the Charlevoix and down into Baie-St-Paule. I remember wanting to quit and then Sam laughing at the slush caked on my knees and chest. Two days later, riding out of the Gaspesie, we hit sheets and sheets of rain. It was terrible weather for a great trip.

I’ve since lost track of the days when we travelled, though I think we left on a Wednesday, rode to the Gaspe on a Thursday, and continued on to Sackville, NB on Friday afternoon to meet Anamitra at the train station. We all planned to stay with our great friend and former professor, Frank Stain, and his wonderful wife, Michelle. Our intention, at least, was to arrive in the afternoon. Instead, we’d come in in the rain at 3 am, eyes as wide as saucers and adrenaline at its peak.

That Friday, bad weather, a broken bike, and some bad decisions all piled on top of one another. At five pm, we were in Gaspe, at the end of the peninsula, with 600 kms to Sackville. We made the best time we could – I have a speeding ticket to prove it – but soon found ourselves in the Miramachi, past midnight, in a terrible rain and fog. Looking at our maps, we decided we would run Highway 126 rather than 134. It is an older highway, but it appeared a shorter route by 10 kms. We didn’t know then that it was called the Moose Road, or that it would twist like a spring, or that it would be near-impossible to navigate in a thick fog.

A great danger on a motorcycle is overrunning one’s headlights. It’s a problem I learned of as a young boy when a snowmachine slammed into the wall at the end of the bay on which my parents live. The riders had been out at night and by the time the wall came into their headlights they could not stop. It was my same fear on the bike: our headlights caught in the fog and the wet road and the fatigue would all conspire to prevent either of us from stopping in time for a moose, or a stopped car, or some other obstacle.

Still, we were against the clock and were tired, and were more than keen to meet scotch and warm beds and see our friends in Sackville. After Sam led for the first half of the road – the much more difficult and twisty section, I might add – I took point for the second. My speed soon reached the maximum the bike would allow, something like 90 km/h. I thought that since I was not at top speed I would not have to worry about stopping in time for the unexpected.

The unexpected eventually came in the form of a stop sign at Magnetic Hill. By the time I saw it and pulled in the brakes I was skidding across the road coming to a stop only on the other side as a car passed behind me. We had travelled fifty kilometres at this speed, never aware that we were running far faster than we could manage. There’s a greater lesson in here somewhere, but in the meantime I have only the story and memory of how fast my heart was beating.

We did arrive in Sackville forty-five minutes later. The last kilometres into our old college town, with the radio lights in the marshes cutting through the fog, were matched only by that time pulling into North Bay after the first night ride. Might we have many more and with plenty of time to stop.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Victoria Day weekend ' 07: the Gaspé, the Maritimes and Maine

On a long weekend at the end of May, Peter and I made a ~3400km loop of the Gaspé Peninsula, the Canadian Maritimes and returned to Montreal/Ottawa via Maine. Our plan to find dirt in the private forests of northern Maine was thwarted (only four wheeled vehicels allowed), but we still had a great time. I celebrated my 31st birthday at a campground in Quebec just on the southern border with Maine. The other noteworthy point of the trip were (a) continuous mechanical issues with one or both KLRs throughout the trip and (b) the amazing self-regeneration abilities of said KLRs.

Photos and explanations of key moments are available here. Our ~3,500km route (Ottawa to Ottawa) is here.
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