WinVlad 2012 - An antidote to well planned and expensive adventure
On the night of the London Olympics opening ceremony I set off alone on an 8000 mile adventure from Winchester (UK) heading for Vladivostok (Sea of Japan). I had a bike purchased for £900 from Ebay. I had no special equipment other than stuff you could buy from an outdoor camping store.
I wanted to attempt the trip for two reasons; firstly to see how others perceive Great Britain whilst the world's eyes were on London and secondly to attempt to disprove the myth, abetted by bike and equipment manufacturers, that adventures have to involve expensive impractical bikes with every detail of the trip planned to the very last degree.
Here is my story..........
6 months to go
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Mind sharing with us your success criteria? zero breakdowns? 100% riding - no trains, planes, cars/trucks?
I'll be watching this thread - there are loads of riders, just like you, doing what you're doing, in one direction or another and I love the personal perspective.
Pictures and words please :) good luck.
edot: just watched your first video. I like it, very cool. Fettle away!!
1 month to go
So, one month to go Ė am I ready Ė NO. Is the bike ready Ė NO. Have I kept my promise to keep a regular video diary - NO.
Have I got a visa; booked the flight back; booked the cross-channel ferry out; got the kit I need; got a working bike????? errmmm Ė NO.
Not to worry thereís still a month to go.
My tactic is simple. All those TV documentaries, books or articles where people spend months planning and preparing for their epic voyage is, in my humble (and possibly misguided) opinion, a way of ameliorating their fear for the trip.
Iím going to just get on the bike and go. Well maybe get a visa and arrange the ferry across the Channel (it could be quite a boring few weeks travelling around the UK otherwise).
My many years of travelling have taught me the following:-
So, in my mind Iím almost there. The fact that Iíve got to sit on a motorbike for 8000 miles is a mere detail.
I was a little perturbed the other day when I took the bike in for its MOT. The mechanic couldnít stop laughing when I mentioned that ďI am going to the far eastĒ on it, by which I think he thought I meant Ipswich or Hull. When I explained that Vladivostok isnít in fact in the East Riding he gave me the distinct impression that he in his worldly mechanical opinion the bike would get much further than Felixstowsky.
At least I now have a brand new Ministry of Transport certificate of fitness for the thing. Iím a bit miffed that Iíve had to have an MOT lasting 12 months when itís only going to be used on UK roads for 4 weeks. No doubt when Iím stopped by the Siberian road police I can exhibit the virgin MOT with a flourish. No doubt the law enforcement officers will look with pride at the crappy bit of paper the UK government now issue as an excuse for an official document. I know the details are now kept on the DVLA computer and are available to most of the developed world at the click of a mouse but Siberian Plod is going to look at the lack of a good quality embossed certificate and laugh. Maybe heíll think Iím calling his double bluff as even a 5-year-old can produce a better certificate on Photoshop than the supposed ďoriginalĒ I have in hand. I wouldnít be surprised if the Siberian Rozzer then mentions I should have stayed in Imminghamgrad instead.
As you can see the my Russian is coming on.
Anyway, roll on the Olympics. It will then be time to go.
A touch of the Donald Rumsfeld
I didn't know what I don't know before I set off so my only success criteria was making it back in one piece. If one piece meant that the bike blew up on the first day in Belgium then despite being a tad disapointed (and ashamed at having to go back to work 2 weeks early) then that's what the adventure was meant to be.
3 weeks to go
I think I may have taken my minimalist approach to the journey too far this week.
I am without a motorbike.
Even I understand that attempting a motorcycle trip without a bike might pose an obvious difficulty.
The best laid plans etc although I had put the shock absorber back, greased the swingarm bearings and fitted new break pads, I had hoped to do some more maintenance on the bike before I set off. But I’ve decided that due to work commitments, and following the withering comments of the mechanic who MOT’d the bike, I’d better have it serviced and checked over by someone who knows what they’re doing.
Whilst I’m firmly in the “don’t force it use a bigger hammer” approach to engineering, Kyle and Bob of Woolbridge Motorcycles are true experts. For many years they ran the KTM/Victory workshop at Sideways Garage and they’ve maintained my 2006 990 Adventure from new. I did feel a pang of guilt handing the keys to Kyle and telling him the bike is in fact a shed. His eyes said “you don’t need to tell me I can see from here”, but he’s far too much of a gentleman to comment. I’m going to tell him about this blog, so if you’re reading Kyle, you’re a pro, I can’t thank you enough, and yes I will drop the 990 in when I get back.
Other things this week – I’ve applied for a Russian Visa – a double entry one (there’s got to be a joke there somewhere – accountancy joke that is). I read that it might be handy to have the ability to enter the country twice on the same visa, just in case. There are 100 miles or so of road that goes through Kazakhstan and although I intend to go around it (staying in Russia) I’m guessing that the detour roads aren’t very good. Unfortunately after smugly applying for the Russian visa, I remembered that as I don’t have a visa for Kazakhstan my fiendish plan won’t actually work.
I’ve also booked the channel tunnel crossing, well when I say booked, I’ve applied for the Tesco vouchers that I need to book the channel tunnel. Well when I say I’ve applied for the Tesco vouchers my wife did in fact apply on my behalf.
Apparently, as a reward for trudging around Tesco every week they, in their infinite benevolence, kindly send you through the post some paper vouchers. Now here’s the clever bit, your nominal £10 Tesco paper voucher converts into a £30 Channel Tunnel voucher. In order to do this you have to apply back to Tesco on their website. Once they have received this online application they then post back to you the PAPER Channel Tunnel vouchers. You then use these paper vouchers to then apply ONLINE to the Channel Tunnel company for the actual Channel Tunnel ticket. I don’t know if I subsequently get a paper ticket or an online one, by this staged I was actually quite happy to pay full fare anyway and I'd lost the will to shop in any supermarket ever again (not that this will was particularly strong in the first place). My wife obviously understood the whole voucher application process completely.
I merely revelled in the simplicity of it all.
2 weeks to go
Quiet and steady progress this week. Iím writing this post on the 1835hrs train from London Waterloo which means that the unlocked broadband dongle has arrived and is working. Iím hoping to buy a sim card in Russia in order that I can communicate whilst on the road. The dongle did take some setting up, but Iíve used it with various telecoms providers and it seems to work well.
Iíve also got a new back tyre and spare inner tubes but not fitted them yet as Iíve not collected the bike. Kyle hasnít phoned so I donít know if thatís because the bikeís beyond repair or due to the appalling weather theyíve had in Dorset itís actually floated away.
Visa is still awaited, but after a bit of a cock-up on my part it is now at the Embassy.
Iíve had an email from the Channel Tunnel Company (wot not a letter, or more vouchers, or even a fax). They informed me that they donít actually send paper tickets but I do have a code to use at check-in. Marvellous.
Iím hoping to go to the Festival of Slow tomorrow with the girls. Maybe a project for next year after youngest daughter has finished her A Levels. On Sunday my wife and I are cycling 50 miles on the tandem in the Wantage to Winchester Hyde 900 event. Our training (the occasional bike ride) was going quite well until about a month ago, but the weather has put a stop to it. Never mind, itís only 50 miles. My training this week has consisted of purchasing two family sized bags of jelly babies from a Sainsburyís garage. (Bargain, only a pound each). And walking to the pub for a beer with mates. My wife did offer to give me a lift in the car to the pub but I declined on the grounds of maintaining my physical prowess. (I have the body of a god Ė Buddha).
So, I wonít be doing much towards the trip over the next few days. What is nice though is that this last week Iíve noticed quite a number of signs ď17 days to goĒ, ď16 days to goĒ, ď15 days to goĒ. I even saw a massive electronic board in Stratford London today. Liz thinks theyíre counting down to the day the Olympics begin, but we all know theyíre actually counting down to the start of my Winchester to Vladivostok adventure. Iím sure the world will temporarily forget about wars, famine, economics and even the bloody Olympics and tune in to an epic adventure of an overwieght middle aged man on a bike (bought on Ebay) plodding across the Russian hinterland. You never know, there could be a film in itÖÖ..
1 week to go
Marvellous news, I collect the bike tomorrow. Bob and Kyle have been sourcing parts in The Motherland (a new coil) so apparently the shed is now once again a bike.
Iíve also got my passport back. I think itís got the right visa in it, but as the stampís completely in Russian I canít be too sure.
Liz and I finished the Wantage to Winchester last Sunday. We were the fastest tandem to finish, purely by virtue of the fact that we were the only tandem to start.
I managed a very wet hour at the Festival of Slow on Saturday. Here are the dryer highlights:-
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I want one of those 125cc, 2 stroke mobility scooters for my dotage. Perhaps KTM would like to consider building one, (whereas for years BMW have been producing bikes that feel like a standard mobility scooter [:-))
No doubt a busy week ahead, still need to change the rear tyre, decide what tools to carry, attach the panniers and get some spares.
This time next week Iíll be off Ė I canít waitÖÖÖ.
Well dear reader, I am so sorry to say I lied. There will be no Winchester to Vladivostok trip. Due to work commitments I couldn't actually start the trip…………
…… from Winchester. Instead I had to record the official start of the voyage from Warsash Maritime College. This was due to a calendar mix-up of my own making which resulted in a hastily arrange commitment for me to undertake some lecturing at WMC on Friday morning. I hope you don’t mind I can’t be bothered to re-name the road report et al, so I hope you forgive me for keeping the original moniker. I was going to nod at Winchester as I passed it going up the M3 at full throttle, but the traffic was so busy and time was so tight, that I was concentrating on filtering safely so I missed it. Anyway, Warsash, Winchester, they both begin with a W and are vaguely near each other.
Instead of a photo recording the vista of Winchester I had to make do with a picture of the flag staff at WMC. Not very exciting but I’ll see if I can get something better to record the end at Vladivostok – there’s a challenge.
As you can see, I'm taking massive amounts of luggage. I've decided not to bother with any camping equipment (other than a duvet cover).
The alloted day came around all too quickly. It has been such a hectic week, with so many people wishing me well, I've been surviving on a few hours sleep every day all week. Your kind sentiments are gratefully received. I only hope I can get a reasonable distance.
I even had best wishes posted on the blog from Jackie Stuart – what the legend that is one of the greatest racing drivers of all time you may ask? surely not…….well yes, not, as it turns out, it was Stuart and Jackie from next door, but no less encouraging all the same. Thank you.
Despite a hectic day, the only word I can use to describe the proceedings so far is “clumsy”,
Clumsy goodbyes for loved ones, who I know love unreservedly in return. The girls are clearly not keen for me to do this trip and I struggle to justify undertaking it. Ideally I would like to quote Thucydides funeral oration of Pericles, “The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.”
But yes, I would agree that the planning for this trip has hardly given me the clearest vision, and yes, dicking about on a motorbike for a couple of weeks isn’t exactly what Pericles had in mind when he thought about the bravery of mankind, but you you ADVriders out there get my drift? It's our one small step for biker-kind......
So girls, Let that be a lesson to you :nod
(I don’t know, not even 500 miles on a bike and I’m philosophical already).
Other clumsy moments; clumsy, getting the kit on the bike, resulting in me being late and having to rush for the tunnel crossing, pushing the bike faster than I would have liked, and probably faster than what is good for all that old engineering; clumsy, faffing with the tank bag when filling up, resulting in spilling petrol all over the bike, my leathers and bag; clumsy, not being able to find my ticket reference number for the tunnel automatic check in (yes you were right Liz I should have written it down rather than trusting to the iPod); clumsy not having the satnav set up just right and having to watch the picture constantly jumping between landscape and portrait; and clumsy not seeing the tw*t on the autobahn doing about 200 miles an hour as I about to overtake a lorry just before I got to Duisburg (if you are reading Mr Audi, yes my hand signal does transcend any linguistic interpretation and you were indeed driving like a c*ck).
Everything on the bike feels a bit new and unfamiliar. I’m sure it will all settle down over the next few days. Just need to keep putting things in the best place and remembering where they are. It all just feels a bit odd, I’ve not settled into a routine yet.
I’m hoping to post photos of people I meet along the way. I met two chaps on the tunnel train. Jim Cam and Leigh Gosling are lifelong friends who kept me amused the whole crossing with biking stories. Jim and Leigh had done a trip around the west coast of the States on fatboy Harley Davidson’s for Leigh’s 50th. It sounded like they had had a hoot, not least riding through Death Valley with hang-over's and no water. They were going on a touring weekend of France and hoped to include Rouen and Le Mans. They obviously enjoy biking and their enthusiasm struck a chord with me. Although the body may be aging we are all still just 17 years old in our minds. I would say Jim’s recounting of doing 64 mph on his motorbike inside the train whilst disembarking is quite a feat.
On the other side of the Channel it rained, so I spent a few hours in a continuous downpour. Unlike the UK section, at least I didn’t have to hurry and eventually got to Duisburg.
So here I am in Duisburg, just watching the TV with the athletes parading into the Olympic arena. I’ve got a pizza in one hand an Beck’s Gold in the other. What more can a person need after such a day.
Summary: Day 0 – Warsash to Duisburg
No of miles for the day: 432′
Average Speed: 52 mph
Hi, the beginning was interesting, can't wait for the entire RR !
I like your style - both writing and travel.
I know it's hard to put it together so long after the trip, so will keep my fingers crossed.:lurk
Hi Racki and Piopio
Many thanks for your kind comments. I'm delayed in the USA at the moment but hope to be back in Blighty tomorrow, so will have the gps/picture files available to post more stuff. Sorry for the delay. I'm grateful that you're reading.
All the very best
Can't wait for the rest of this to unfold- A small world; my daughter attended Warsash a few years ago- a Canadian prairie girl at a marine college in England.
And I'm glad to see others share my training regimene.
Hi Owlseye - it's that 6 degrees of separation theory working again.
I can probably be best described as being in the "lecturer of last resort" category for imparting knowledge. Thankfully (for the course attendees) I don't do very much of it.
The Traveling Buddha is no youngster, totes a large sack and has quite the gut. :wink:
I'm in and will follow along.
Did Wallace ever heed Grommet's reactions to the plot? :lol3
Carry on and stay calm!
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