Like most things in this highly-interconnected world, the goals of any one require the cooperation, assistance and support of many.
I could not have gotten on the plane to depart the US without considerable help from a large number of people. First, I suppose would be the acknowledgment of support (some would say permission) of Michelle to “allow” this, um, eccentric trip. Her support will be further honored by doing what we’ve often done on a trip not normally discovered in a guide book or travel story in a newspaper – proceed in directly the opposite direction of the final destination. (In ’94 we began this habit in Alaska’s Wrangell-St.Elias National Park, a place nearly inconceivably large and even more so that so few people are aware of it even now when it’s, in fact, larger than all the National Parks in the lower 48 combined – about half the size of the UK). This time I’ll ride about 2500 miles (4000km) in the “other” direction.
Every one (or company) in the ‘Links’ section was helpful of course. Several I’ve met in person, all have been incredibly positive. There’s a guy, an inmate on ADVRider.com, Dave Jankowsky who makes the definitive cradle for my GPS, stepping up where RAM rarely stumbles. Mark Lawrence of CALSCI provided me with a garage over the snowy winter for storage and tools and space to perform the final prep. Paul Coleman provided storage space for parts, tools and accessories. John Katics, (p86 on the link, whose ridden more than 50,000 miles for a dozen consecutive years) whined consistently but always assisted with numerous issues including getting parts, tools, a shipping pallet and most importantly, his time and input. Walter Colebatch I’ve yet to meet but have shared lots of email and PMs regarding many things. He’s written the mother of all ride reports on ADVRider.com and his sense and appreciation of the challenges and history of the people who inhabit the Eurasian landmass makes one proud to be human. The Horizons Unlimited Bulletin Board (HUBB) has showered me with insights and pointers and up-to-date information regarding many things when crossing more than a dozen countries and 11 timezones . . . though they missed the air embargo into Mongolia. It was through the HUBB that I contacted Tony Pettie in Moscow and miraculously one day a package of Russia maps showed up at my door in Chiang Mai, Thailand. ADVRider.com and especially it’s ‘Orange Crush‘ forum have provided solutions and alternatives for many things, including KTM motorcycles ! Jeff Ponta and his merry band of AWM (angry white men) provided me with some valuable experience riding in an area I know well for mountain biking and hiking but until recently not at all for it’s off-road motorcycling. As it is for mountain biking, it seems for motorcycling – you must come prepared, physically and mentally, be prepared for mechanical issues and enjoy challenging riding. Jeff, Steve and Brendan allowed me to try and keep up with them through the finest hardships Sierra County and the Tahoe National Forest offer. Thank you, gentlemen.
Hinshaw’s Motorcycle Store in Auburn, WA . . . wow. Read reviews of the place on the web and you’ll be suspicious. They’re even better !
Almost without exception everyone I’ve spoken to about the trip has been supportive. But it has been heartwarming the response of so many of the fellow motorcyclists and adventurers. It’s a tiny, little planet but it’s not lacking for good people. And I fully expect to encounter many more on this trip, of all colors, creeds and religions.
We live in a technological age, that’s no secret. One that’s, in many ways shrunken the globe and narrowed the differences between and amongst it’s inhabitants. Still, one must actually GO physically places that the Discovery Channel hasn’t been and never will visit. Technology has allowed communication to inform and often reduce the complexities of travel for those willing to dig a bit. My latest SNAFU with shipping the motorbike has been greatly alleviated and expedited immeasurably by the Internet and email. That doesn’t take away from the professional-like assistance of Yuri in Vladivostok or Wendy in Seoul but makes it easier for more of us to be touched by it, and appropriately humbled. (Hint: Good on you for reflecting some that goodwill and Godspeed.) For my trip in particular Google Earth and OpenStreetMaps provided questions and solutions that would have been nearly unimaginable just a few short years ago. (I can remember when a trek in the Himalaya took place with a mimeographed map of questionable veracity in one’s pocket.)
Canada gets a big thank you / merci beaucoup. Alaska proclaims itself “The Last Frontier” but my most recent visit saw a scourge of franchises in Anchorage, a glut of tourists along the banks of every Kenai fishing spot and clear evidence of decline outside of tourism. The day I visited Skagway left a lesion on my memory like visiting Graceland. The Yukon, on the other hand, is about 15% larger than California and has just 30,000 denizens, two-thirds of which reside in it’s capital – Whitehorse. The Tombstone Valley off of the Dempster “Highway” is as pretty a place as I’ve ever been and it was a welcome return after 18 years. In the Yukon one can easily go 300 miles without a fueling station, a caravan of Winnebagos and even without tarmac. Just double-rainbows, granite mountains, the most intense fall colors and . . . a few Canadians, Mrs Christie’s Figs . . . and grizzlies, moose, elk, caribou, beavers, fox, geese, ptarmigan, etc. There are just two sizeable places of terra firma left on this tiny, little planet that don’t mock the term “wilderness” – the Yukon/NWT and Siberia.
I’d hoped to begin my ride on America’s 235th birthday. Not because I’m a blind patriot – blind and patriot don’t belong together. But because that day is clearly a break from what came before, not all of it bad, but certainly overdue for some questioning. My people, like many in the US, somehow convinced themselves that getting on a small ship and sailing across the north Atlantic for 3 months without ever having ANY experience on a boat was a good idea. Was it THAT compelling ? Arriving in the New World they found much they could not have anticipated nor planned. Some of those people moved west across grasslands always at risk of enveloping them in fire. Then across deserts hard and dry and mountains steep and unforgiving. It wasn’t that long ago . . . they didn’t consider it an adventure. It was their life. What would they say about my ride ? “Big deal.”
UPDATE 2013: John Katics fashioned me some fantastic tools that allowed me to improve my servicing options. Michelle’s mom did a truly unbelievable job of fixing my fantastic Revit Mistral pants. Walter Colebatch provided information, guidance and good luck.