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October 3rd, 2013 | Africa

Re-Connecting…

Since my return to South Africa, I have been itching to make contact with the many people who assisted me before I left to start my journey, and who in various ways assisted me during my travels.

Having spent a few weeks down on the coast with my parents, I was now able to start making contact with my sponsors and supporters, and once back in Johannesburg, began making plans to see them.

I made a series of calls, and heard voices of people that not only brought back very fond memories, but also allowed me to express once more my appreciation and gratitude to them all, for the interest they had shown from the outset, and the many ways in which they had assisted me.

I spoke to Rakesh from Kayama Printing, who had not only printed all the flags that today adorn my panniers, but also the branding stickers that have featured on my windscreen. Over the years, he had printed flags of countries that I never planned to visit before I left, and sent them to me.

When my windscreen was shattered by a crow in Australia, he had reprinted these stickers too, and when my new windscreen was fitted, the Big Fella and I were able to resume my “identity”… And then there was the cards that I handed out as I went, over 3 000 in total, and which most certainly contributed to the popularity of my blog that has today seen over 328 000 visitors…!!

Bavarian BMW in Centurion.

Bavarian BMW in Centurion.

I also made a call to Marius Wannenburg, the South African agent and importer of Caberg helmets, who, a week before I left, and without ever having met me, called to offer me their top of the range helmet to wear on my ride. I had wanted to start my journey with a brand new helmet, and Marius made that wish come true !!

I rode the Big Fella to Pretoria, and stopped to say hello to Roger Smith of Bavarian Motorcycles, the BMW dealership that had very kindly fitted my Ohlins shocks and had them repaired the first time they gave up on me. I spent a short time with Roger, drinking coffee while I brought him up to date on the last few months of my ride.

I also had an opportunity to chat to Lenny the service manager, who had also helped with the set up of the shocks and advice that at the time added to my growing confidence that I could handle most problems that might crop up during my ride.

Barely a few hundred metres away was the new premises of GPS4Africa, owned by my good friend Pauli Massyn, who had helped me in so many ways before I left, that at one point I felt it would have been easier to pitch a tent on his front lawn, than ride to and from his house every other day to have another accessory fitted to the bike.

Pauli was responsible for fitting the panniers and their frames, my crash bars, my GPS and installation of the maps that would see me safely from South Africa through to Algeria. He also installed my spotlights and many other bits and pieces that I had either purchased from him or bought elsewhere.

Being the accomplished rider that he his, and riding the same bike that I was, I gained valuable confidence from Pauli and his experiences riding off-road. We sat chatting until well after dark, sharing a few beers while we filled each other in on our recent adventures. One of Pauli’s life changing adventures involved his wife Joy giving birth to twin girls !!

Pauli Massyn and I, outside his premises in Centurion, Pretoria.

Pauli Massyn and I, outside his premises in Centurion, Pretoria.

I also visited Auto Alpine in Boksburg, where I had bought the Big Fella in June 2007, and met with George Ludeke, manager of their motorcycling division. Although there were many new faces working there, the guys I did know all came out to ogle the bike and congratulate me on the completion of my journey.

I also met a number of customers who I recognized from the few months before I left, and who had followed my journey around the world. It was a good feeling being reminded of some of the things that had stuck in their own minds and moments which had stood out for both them and myself.

Yesterday I was finally able to hook up with the doyen of BMW motorcycle maintenance in South Africa, Mannie Koutsoudakis, who had endured many late night Skype calls from me to assist me with little niggles I thought were troubling the Big Fella. I remember Skyping him from the Alto Plano in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, and being a little worried about the fact that the bike was not performing very well…

He managed to explain how to bleed my clutch, and put my mind to rest by reminding me that I had been riding at 15 000 ft above sea level, and a drop in performance was to be expected… I had felt a drop in my own performance too, so had to give the Big Fella the benefit of the doubt !!

Mannie had been the service manager at Auto Alpina when I had left, and had very kindly given the bike the once over and final pre-trip service, before sending me on my way with much advice on what to expect from the bike and when to ensure that services were carried out properly… Many of his predictions were spot on and whenever I was about to have the bike serviced, I would email Mannie and enquire what I should be requesting they check…

Mannie is now the manager of the brand new Clearwater BMW dealership on Henrik Potgieter Road on the West Rand, and when I made contact with him he was as eager to see me as I was him !! Once we had got the handshakes and hugs out of the way, Mannie surprised me by saying,

“I gave the Big Fella his farewell service, before you left on your epic ride, and now I’d like to close this particular chapter of his life by giving him a “welcome home” service too…!! You will no doubt be needing him to carry you on more adventures !!”

My good friend and BMW Guru, Mannie Koutsoudakis.

My good friend and BMW Guru, Mannie Koutsoudakis.

I was very grateful for Mannie’s kind offer, and set about showing him the few things I needed looked at. I was also able to hand over the very same spares that he had provided me with before I left; coils, accelerator cables, the potentiometer switch etc., none of which I had ever come to need. I figured we might as well put them into the bike and get him as close to “good as new” as possible, considering that he was now at 205 000 km, getting a bit long in the tooth !!

Without fail, almost every person who saw the Big Fella while I was visiting my supporters, commented that he was the best advertisement for a BMW bike that they had ever seen. They shook their heads in wonder as they walked around the bike, pointing at the various stickers and asking me to elaborate on my visits to the places they depicted.

All of this served to remind me how lucky I was to have had so many wonderful experiences and have traveled so far on this bike. It had hardly skipped a beat throughout the journey, and considering some of the accidents we had had, and the roads I had ridden on, I am totally convinced that there is no other bike that I would want to do long distance rides on…

And I am fairly sure that there will be many more long rides we will do together. Some might be fairly tame compared to the one we have just completed, but there is one more “Big One” that I hope to take on in the next few years…

Cabo da Roca in Portugal, to Magadan in far eastern Russia. Should be a cracker !!

Cabo da Roca in Portugal, to Magadan in far eastern Russia. Should be a cracker !!

Good friend and fellow adventurer, Michel Jongens, who has ridden from Amsterdam to Katmandu, and the whole way around South America, has developed yet another itch that he needs to scratch !! He is putting together a ride both he and I have talked about often : Taking on the “Road of Bones” to Magadan in eastern Russia, and preferably not adding ours to the pile !!

There may well be many adjustments to the current route which is about 16 000 km long, as I want to ride as many of the ‘Stans as possible, something Michel has already done as I recall. And being the “extreme” personality that I am, I hope to start the ride from the extreme western point of Europe at Cabo da Roca in Portugal, and travel as far to the east of Asia as is possible, perhaps even beyond Magadan and on to Vladivostok !!

Only time will tell if I get to make this ride, and for the record, Patricia has not yet given her stamp of approval to the idea !! In fact, she knows precious little about these plans, so for the time being, let’s keep it amongst ourselves, shall we !!

Mum’s the word !!

©GBWT 2013

September 30th, 2013 | Africa

Progress on Posts…

In between trying to make arrangements that concern my immediate future, visiting family and have the Big Fella “groomed”, I have made a little progress on the posts that I never had a chance to complete before heading back to South Africa..

The following posts have been published over the last week or so, and can be viewed by clicking on the links to them:

To Prince Edward Island… The Sunrise Trail.

Rachel and Tiernan’s Wedding

Riding Prince Edward Island…

To Cape Breton…

North Sydney and a Change of Heart…

I am working on the next few which will include my thwarted plans to get to Newfoundland; The Cabot Trail; my ride to Edmundston and Madawaska, and getting back into the USA, and my preparations for our flight back to SA.

I am away to the bush for a few days to check out those of tooth and claw, and internet willing, will continue to bring my posts up to date, so that I can get on with writing about the “NOW !!”

 

 

September 23rd, 2013 | Africa

FORKS…. By Allan Karl.

Those of you who have been constant followers of my Gypsy Biker World Tour, and have also read the journal I wrote before that, entitled Taking Back My Heart, about my first major expedition ride to Tanzania and back, will recall with fondness, my good friend, the irrepressible Allan Karl from Encinitas, California…

I credit Allan to a large extent, for firing up my imagination and desire to see many of the places that he had already covered. We met in January 2008 , in central Namibia, and would go on to cover thousands of kilometres together, through six Southern and East African countries, sharing adventures and having a great deal of fun in the process.

We reluctantly parted company on the shores of the Indian Ocean, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Allan rode north, to continue on his quest to circumnavigate the world, while I turned south to return to my home in South Africa…

Three years after returning from his ride, Allan has now completed what was another of his goals, and that was to have a book published that described his incredible adventures, the people he met, cultures he shared, and the variety of meals he enjoyed while doing so.

FORKS - The Quest for Culture, Cuisine and Connection. By Allan Karl

FORKS – The Quest for Culture, Cuisine and Connection. By Allan Karl

Brazil_Recipe_Page_FORKStheBook_Allan_Karl

FORKStheBook-Peru-recipe-pageFORKStheBookSyriaSpreadFORKStheBook-inside-spreadFORKStheBook_worldrider_allan_karl_llama_car

For more information about Allan’s book and an insight into what went into getting it to the point where it is now available for purchase, you can open the link below:

http://worldri.de/r-kickstarter

Here is a copy of today’s press release for “FORKS”….

AROUND-THE-WORLD MOTORCYCLE ADVENTURE COMES TO LIFE IN “FORKS.”

A NEW FULL-COLOR BOOK BY worldrider ALLAN KARL

Culture. Cuisine. Connection. Karl turns to crowd-funding to help realize his vision for this book which lets readers experience the world through fascinating stories, stunning photography, and tasty food from 35 different countries.

Leucadia, Calif.–September 23, 2013–Rather than compromise his vision by using traditional publishers who wanted to simplify his book, author Allan Karl decided to turn to crowd-funding for the printing of the first-edition of his new book. Beginning today, Allan Karl’s book, FORKS. A Quest for Culture, Cuisine, and Connection is available for pre-order on Kickstarter.

The book brings to life a three-year global adventure in a unique oversized, full-color, hardcover book. FORKS has been three-years in the making and includes more than 500 color photographs, stories of extraordinary people, their culture, personal connection and 40 recipes from all over the world.

“The best way to experience the world,” says Karl, “is to see it through photographs, to feel it through stories of connection and culture, and to taste it in the real local food.” FORKS incorporates original photography and food to complement and enhance Karl’s stories of adventure, discovery and human connection. “I dedicate this book to every passionate adventurer, traveler, dreamer, home chef, and motorcyclist”, he says.

The book, along with collector-edition postcards, photographic prints, personalized coaching sessions and keynote speeches are some of the rewards that supporters can expect from pledging on Kickstarter. An intimate dinner party is another of Karl’s rewards. “I would love to travel to your home, help prepare meals from the book and share more stories of adventure”, adds Karl. Rewards start at $10, and books can be pre-ordered for as little as $45.

For three years Karl rode his BMW GS motorcycle more than 60,000 miles over five continents, through 35 countries. As with any adventure there were highs and lows. While in Bolivia he crashed and broke his leg, in the Colombian jungle he was escorted to a remote waterfall at gunpoint, and the governments of Syria and Sudan had to be pleaded with for passage through those countries.

Karl hopes that FORKS—A Quest for Culture, Cuisine, and Connection inspires readers to be open to new experiences. “Every photograph, story, and recipe from this journey embodies the importance of connecting with people—humanity—and overcoming obstacles, and conquering our own personal fears”, says Karl.  “This book presents readers an opportunity to try something new,” says Karl. “Perhaps to taste flavors of a new food or to journey into dangerous or unknown territories. Every experience is an opportunity to connect with others.”

ABOUT FORKS

FORKS is published by WorldRider Publishing and Press. Copies of the book can be preordered on Kickstarter, and more information can be found at www.ForksTheBook.com/media-kit

From The Gypsy Biker to Worldrider :

Allan, I wish you all the very best with the publication of FORKS… I know how much you have put into getting this book ready for publication, and I trust it’s success will justify the enormous effort and labour of love that has gone into it.

When paging through it, I know it will bring back many pleasant (and not-so-pleasant !) memories of the months we spent blundering through the African countryside, and the promise we made to each other, that “One day, we will ride again…”

GB

Uvongo, South Africa.

 

September 20th, 2013 | Africa

Bent, Buckled, Bashed, Bruised and Bemused…!!

Which pretty much sums up how both the Big Fella and I currently feel after our epic journey…

I spent the day after getting the Big Fella from the airport, carefully unpacking my panniers and other kit which I had carried around the world. I took my time doing so, as each item I handled brought back memories and a faraway look in my eye, that had my sister concerned for my mental well-being…

I had carefully counted the cable ties that held various part of the bike together, 18 in all, and mouthed my thanks to the inventor of this simple but highly effective method of holding stuff together !

Preparing the Big Fella for a mini make-over...

Preparing the Big Fella for a mini make-over…

Ten of the largest cable ties I could find, held my two side panniers to the their frames; four smaller ones held my hand guards to the handlebars; two held the left hand cylinder- head guard, to the side crash bar; another two held my spotlight cables to the underside of my front crash-bars; and another held the broken off oil pipe leading to my back shock absorber…

Both of the Ohlins shock absorbers were shot… The back one for probably the fifth or sixth time, and the front one finally gave up the ghost after my accident in Oklahoma. Oil from the busted seal had leaked and congealed on the front cover of the engine.

The areas that had been sanded down to the metal were covered with a black primer. Meanwhile the Big Fella was muttering about something or other he was reading... Think it was something to do with the petrol attendants on-going strike...

The areas that had been sanded down to the metal were covered with a black primer. Meanwhile the Big Fella was muttering about something or other he was reading… Think it was something to do with the petrol attendants ongoing strike action…

My crash bars were scratched, dented and in many places rusted. Stones thrown up over the last 205 000 km, had chipped the paint off them and allowed the insidious cancer of rust to take its hold. My headlight globe hung at an angle, as the spring which holds it in position, had broken when I last made an attempt to change the globe. I had been riding using my high beam only, for the past two months.

My seat had a tear in it that had come from one of the five accidents we had participated in during my journey. The windscreen was scratched and faded in places, but looked a lot better than the first one had, before it had been shattered by a 120 km/h contact with a crow, when we crossed the Nullabor Desert in Australia.

Sometimes lying down on the job, will get the work done !!

Sometimes lying down on the job, will get the work done !!

My right hand spot light lens was broken, and held together by clear sticky tape. The number plate was cracked, and had Doug not drilled a few holds and bolted it to its holder, I would probably have lost it long ago !!

The handlebars are a little skew, courtesy of the unexpected meeting with a wall in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and later, a storm-water drain on the island of Sumbawa in Indonesia.

The pannier frames being sprayed after much work and cursing had gone into straightening them.

The pannier frames being sprayed after much work and cursing had gone into straightening them.

The accident in Oklahoma had also bent the main frame of the bike, although not enough to be too concerned about. It had also put a number of dents in the exhaust from the impact of this accident which had squashed the pannier frame against the chrome housing of the exhaust.

All in all, it looked as though the Big Fella had been to the ends of the world and back…which he has, I have to keep reminding myself !!

On the long ride down to the coast to visit my parents, I resolved to give my trusty companion a thorough going over to make him look a little more respectable and a little less travel weary…

My father’s cousin, Ronald Borrageiro, has a panel-beating business in Uvongo, and was more than willing to help me repair some of the damages. It took the better part of two days to complete the hammering, bending, cutting and welding, to improve the look of my panniers, and get the frames that hold them to the bike, to resembles something close to when they were first fitted in 2010 !

While Ron and my father busied themselves with the panel-beating, I sanded all the rusted bits on my crash bars, in preparation for their re-spray. The parts of the bike we did not want sprayed were covered in a blanket of old newspapers and then the crash bars were sprayed on the bike. I did not want to remove them from the bike for fear that they would never be able to be put back !!

Ron was all for removing them and doing a “proper job”, which included sand-blasting etc… I explained that I actually wanted the crash bars to have the deep scratches and dents that a normal coat of paint could not hide, as I believed that it gave the Big Fella a bit of character… Made him look a bit “rough and ready”, like a patched up prize fighter !!

After the pannier frames had been sprayed to match the colour of the crash bars and bike frame, we bolted them back onto the bike and attached the panniers to them. While they did not quite sit perfectly in their former position, I was more than satisfied with the result of our efforts. I don’t think any amount of un-buckling would ever get them to sit perfectly square again.

Then we set about repairing the cylinder head cover, which required two pieces of metal to be cut, drilled and bolted back onto the places on the engine where the brackets are attached.

Night had fallen when we finally finished up. A toast to Ron for a job well done...!!

Night had fallen when we finally finished up. A toast to Ron for a job well done…!!

Then we fiddled about with the headlight fitting and got that repaired. I had earlier rewired the spot lights and got both of them working again.

The Big Fella was a little bemused by all the fuss, and wondered what had got into me !!

“You realize that at some point in time you are probably going to drop me again, and undo all this good work, don’t you ??” he asked with what looked like a grin…

“Yeah…” I replied, “I probably will, but I’ll try and keep you looking this good for as long as I can !!”, which seemed to satisfy his concern.

The sun had set and a bright full moon was rising as I left Ron’s workshop and rode through the darkness, back to my parents house. In the bright lights of the garage which I rode into, the Big Fella looked almost as good as he had when I left this same garage in March 2010, heading for the southernmost tip of Africa to make the first “Big Tick” on what was then a rather extensive bucket list of goal I wanted to achieve and places I wanted to visit over the next three years…

My gratitude and appreciation to Ronald Borrageiro, who gave up his valuable time to help me get the Big Fella back to a semblance of his former glory !!

He’s almost back to his former self and raring to seek out new adventures…

©GBWT 2013

September 11th, 2013 | Africa

A Much Longer Wait, Rewarded…

The same day that the Big Fella was released to me, was my eldest daughter’s 22nd birthday. I had been at the airport all day and sent my best wishes to her later that same afternoon.

I received an email from her with a telephone number included… I had last seen Roxanne, and heard her voice on the 23rd of December 2009…  And while I was riding my bike around the world, Roxanne was sailing a yacht around it !! She completed her own version of global circumnavigation a few months ago…

What are the chances of a father and daughter doing RTW’s separately but simultaneously ??

Yesterday I was able to dial the number she provided and heard the words, “Hello Dad…” for the first time in 3 years, 9 months, 2 weeks and 3 days… It was a throat constricting moment for me, as you can imagine…

In a few more days, we will come face to face again, and this I hope will herald a new chapter in both our lives…

I look forward to welcoming you back into my life, Roxanne, and hope we never have to endure such a long separation again…

I’ve missed you so very much….

September 9th, 2013 | Africa

The Long Wait to Freedom…

After seventeen days of separation, the Big Fella finally touched down at O.R. Tambo International Airport (still Jan Smuts to me…) at 10 pm on Friday the 6th of September. He had made a quick side trip to Dubai aboard Emirates Airlines, having left New York on the 4th of September…

Although the air-cargo warehouse of Africa Freight Services is open for collections 24 hours a day, the South African Revenue Services are not as industrious !! I decided to tackle the delicate task of getting my bike released first thing on Saturday morning. Craig, my sister’s partner, and I duly arrived at the airport at 8.00 am and began proceedings…

The Big Fella is brought out from the warehouse. The open flap on one end had me dreading what I would find, or rather wouldn't find, inside. After careful inspection, it seemed that nothing was missing...

The Big Fella is brought out from the warehouse. The open flap on one end had me dreading what I would find, or rather wouldn’t find, inside. After careful inspection, it seemed that nothing was missing…

After five hours of “to-ing and fro-ing” between the freight agents offices and warehouse, and the SARS offices, we finally gave up and went home empty-handed… The SARS offices threw up a host of reasons why they could not release the Big Fella and were fairly adamant that I would have to pay import duties on all the goods in the crate, including the bike !! We could make no headway on Sunday, and by Monday morning my nerves were more than frazzled at the thought of paying a small fortune to be re-united with my bike…

Charmaine and I were back at the airport on Monday morning and found a helpful agent in Dynamic Logistic Solutions, and the manager, Kobus Rossouw, accompanied me to the SARS offices to see what needed to be done… Another 500 metre walk that I was making for the eighth time in 30º heat !!

After many questions and suggestion from both helpful and unhelpful staff, we finally discovered that I would need my Carnet to get the bike released, but why this was never mentioned before is beyond me… Seems if you do not ask a specific question, you will not have any information volunteered to you by the SARS officials…

The process of re-assembling begins...

The process of re-assembling begins…

Problem was, I no longer had my Carnet. I had sent it back to the AA from Mexico, more than a year ago. Carnets are not required in both South and North America, and I wanted access to the rather large chunk of money I had had to put up when I took my bike out of the country and around the world. Going through that amazing and wonderful country/dump called Egypt, had attracted a bond of 200 % of the Big Fella’s value, at the time of exit !!

On receipt of my original Carnets, the AA had duly released the bond I had lodged with them. I now needed those original Carnets, and they were stored in Kyalami, on the opposite side of the city…

I had never had to remove the console before, and putting it back on correctly had me a little nervous...

I had never had to remove the console before, and putting it back on correctly had me a little nervous…

We drove across to the AA offices at Kyalami Racetrack, and Melissa, with whom I had made contact with many times during my trip to sort out Carnet related problems, was kind enough to let me have my Carnets, but not before I deposited R6000.00 in cash with her, to cover the temporary removal of these precious documents… The money was duly returned to me when I took the Carnets back to them…

Back at the airport, things went swimmingly from that point on… Documents were electronically submitted to SARS, and minutes later I held the precious release form in my sweaty paws… And no duties payable either !!

Lesson learnt : Never let your original Carnet out of your sight until you have cleared Customs !! Or, if you find yourself in the same position as I did, go and get the Carnet before bothering to head to the airport to collect your bike… Had I had this tit-bit of information to hand when the bike landed, I would have saved myself hours of hassle !!

It is hard to describe my emotions on seeing the forklift reversing towards me with my crate… It wasn’t just that I was happy to finally be getting the bike back… It was much more than that.

It dawned on me that this was truly the end of my journey around the world. It all came down to this moment, even more so than when I arrived in Freehold, New Jersey and saw Patricia and her family waiting for me in the street outside their home; more so than when a week later, after a quick trip to Pennsylvania, Doug and I rode into the parking lot on Sandy Hook, (the exact spot, and just two days before Patricia and I were to be married), and I saw the Atlantic Ocean stretching out before me…

Nearly done, just the windscreen and then we'd be good to go...

Nearly done, just the windscreen and then we’d be good to go…

I remember the happiness and sadness I felt as Doug shook my hand and congratulated me… I think I heard him say, “It’s all over, Buddy !!”, but my mind and immediate thoughts were in such a jumble, that all I could do was stare out to sea… Feelings of fulfillment and satisfaction were mixed with those of bewilderment and a strange kind of emptiness… There would be no more destinations to ride to the following day, no more routes to plan…

I struggled with these contrasting emotions, and only the plans for my wedding were at times able to take my mind off the enormity of what I had achieved… And what I was about to begin !! While I was gaining a wonderful woman to share the rest of my life with, I could not help feeling a strange sense of loss as well…

Technically, that was the day my journey really ended, but it would be a year, and almost 20 000 km later that the Big Fella would finally arrive home… I always said that the day I rode back to the point I started at, would in practical terms be when I accepted it would all be over…

Locked and loaded and ready to roll... We were back !!

Locked and loaded and ready to roll… We were back !!

While Charmaine loaded some of the excess kit into her car, I set about re-assembling the Big Fella to get him road-ready. I re-connected the battery, adjusted the handlebars and re-positioned the GPS bracket, then re-attached the console, something I had never had to do before, but this crate was slightly shallower than the last one I had used and the console had to be removed in New Jersey, in case someone put another crate on top of mine, and damaged the said console.

The BMW guys at Cross Country Cycles thought it would be safer, and I had agreed, so off the console had come…

Then the process of using ten large cable ties to hold the panniers in place began. I noticed that my “good” pannier, the one that had never been damaged in any of the accidents I had experienced, was now bent out of shape… Both of the spare fuel canister holders had been broken off their bolts and were hanging loosely. This had happened somewhere en-route, and I debated whether or not to take it up with the shipping line…I decided that I would have a hard time convincing them of the seriousness of my claim, considering what the other buckled pannier looked like !! Besides, the photos I had taken of the bike being loaded in the USA were on my laptop back at Charmaine’s house… I was not prepared to leave the bike there a second longer than was necessary, so had to be content with dark mutterings about customs agents and forklift drivers…

 We felt that a short lap of honour around the Air Cargo parking lot was called for...

We felt that a short lap of honour around the Air Cargo parking lot was called for…

By 4 pm, we were ready to leave the airport. I pushed the starter button, and the Big Fella roared to life… The crowd that had stopped to stare at us took a step back as I revved the engine, the big bike rocking from side to side with restrained power. It was still strapped to the pallet at this point, and I let it idle while we removed the last two straps securing it…

I put my jacket on, un-raveled the SA/USA flag, and attached the aluminum rod to it’s position on my top-box… A cheer went up from the crowd when they saw the flags and a number of bystanders wanted their photo taken with me…

With a wave to all, I rode the Big Fella out into the rush hour traffic that was clogging the highways around the airport.

“Where the hell are we ??” cried the Big Fella, momentarily confused…

“Help, I’ve gone blind !!” cried Gi-Gi… (Her screen was blank because I still had the North American map chip inserted into her brain…

“Relax,” I said aloud, “We’re home. I’ll take it from here…”

We decided to take the back roads home, but even they were jam-packed with people on their way home from work. I received a few startled looks as I passed vehicles on either side of me… It was great being back in a country where lane-splitting was accepted and expected… People who saw me coming up the middle of two lanes of traffic, eased their vehicle to either side of me so that I could fit the bike through the gap…

Try that in the USA and a ticket for reckless endangerment will be your reward !!

And then a photo of some of the guys who claimed to have been of assistance... If standing around watching me sweat constituted assistance, then they assisted mightily !!

And then a photo of some of the guys who claimed to have been of assistance… If standing around watching me sweat constituted assistance, then they assisted mightily !!

People smiled at me, some just nodded their heads in my direction, a kind of grudging respect written in their eyes… Some gave me the thumbs up; others just stared…

We passed a few bikers who swiveled in their saddles to get a better look at us… I wondered what they were thinking, and almost felt the envy they were undoubtedly feeling…

This was after all, almost every biker’s dream… That long trip to experience the uninterrupted freedom that only being on a bike on the open road to faraway places, can bring…

I had dreamed the same dream once….

Then I had gone out and lived it !!

©GBWT 2013