American girl Down Under- Exploring Oz on a 250cc Super Sherpa

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by Travelbugblues, Oct 22, 2013.

  1. Travelbugblues

    Travelbugblues Teacher on the road

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Home: Seattle. Current mission: the world!
    It was time for a big change in life, and I was dying for another adventure. The big problem: I was $30,000 in debt for my master's degree, had a $1,650/month mortgage and very little savings... And a middle school teacher's salary... There was no way I could quit my job and travel the world for the next couple of years... Right?

    But I was a girl on a mission, and something drastic had to change: in one year, I learned to be frugal, paid off my $30,000 in student loans, converted my garage to a living space so I could rent rooms in my house, saved almost $20,000 bucks, quit my job, got full time tenants for my place, and said goodbye to my lovely PNW mountains and home. There was a steep learning curve, but I did it... And maybe you can, too!


    This Ride Report started in Australia on my 250cc Super Sherpa, but strong winds blew me to Patagonia where I bought a tiny motorbike (125cc Honda CGL, for frugality's sake and to show it could be done), with the intention of riding north to Seattle. The CGL adventures start on page 7. Lots more info on my blog, TravelBugBlues.com

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    Videos: See page 48 for the trip videos I'm working on.

    Here's a taste of the ride!

    <iframe width="640" height="390" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/uTBsa3C0lIc" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>


    Some background:

    It was a tough decision to quit my job at a private school in Seattle, but it just felt right. The main problem: my big loans and mortgage. I had a bad coffee and a mild shopping habit, and not much savings. But enough was enough, so I spent the entire next year saving every penny I could and working extra, in order to pay off my loans and save enough money to comfortably quit my job. I refinanced my house at the all-time low of 3.75%, which meant if I managed it very wisely and carefully and rented it out fully furnished to short-term visitors, I'd actually make just over $1,000USD/month on top of the mortgage (of which $100 extra went to the principal loan amount in order to pay off my house more quickly). I budgeted $30/day so a little remained, just in case. Could I really do it?!


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    I arrived in Australia from Seattle, Washington a few months ago. Being a not very large person at 5'6 and 135lbs, it took a while to find the bike I felt really comfortable on, but could still handle the Ozzie terrain and sometimes extreme winds. One that wasn't way too big like my Seattle KLR, but was able to get me around this great country. I decided it was time to get a smaller bike, probably a 250cc. A lot of naysayers said things like "it'll get you to the shops, but that's about it".

    To the fellas who said a 250cc bike would only "get me to the shops": Watch and learn, my friends!

    I started in Canberra, Australia, heading over to the South Coast of NSW, then heading south towards Melbourne along the coast towards Victoria. It was too damn cold though, so I backtracked and spent a few days in Sydney before heading back to Canberra to await a rack and windscreen from the States.

    Once the bike was ready to roll again, I headed for Cavendish, south of the Grampians National Park about 1,000km from Canberra, to the Horizons Unlimited adventure motorcycle event.

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    I took the long way there though, enjoying the scenery and trying not to hit the local wildlife...

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    After testing the bike on dirt and being thoroughly satisfied, I met up with some guys touring on postie bikes and zigzagged our way down to the coastal town of Portland, and along the Great Ocean Road. We again took the long way, making loops through the muddy, slushy hills above. Rain, hail, wind storm or sunshine, we were out there.


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    Yes, the fellas did have to teach this American girl a bit more about off-roading... Once or twice...

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    But it was definitely worth it! We all have to start somewhere, right? And besides, it wasn't all muddy fun. I've seen amazing wildlife along the way, even hand feeding wild parrots and cockatoos, getting up close to koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, echidnas, and seeing zillions of dolphins jumping and playing.

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    I did nearly hit a brown snake (one of the deadliest snakes in the world), and felt a little silly screaming "SNAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAKE!!!!!" in the amphitheatre of my own helmet while lifting my right knee up as high as I could. Turns out, they have actually been known to bite riders- at least that's what a doctor I spoke to said.

    After saying goodbye to the "Postie Corse" fellas, I made my way down the rest of the Great Ocean Road, taking the ferry from Queenscliff to Sorrento and enjoying a few days on the Mornington Peninsula near Melbourne with a girl I met at the Horizons Unlimited event. The trade: She hosts me, I teach her to ride.

    I've now gone 4,000km and am not nearly done! In Melbourne where I am now, I met up with one of the Postie Corse guys and his partner Sandra, who taught me a thing or ten about motorcycle mechanics. Australia is the 11th country I've ridden a motorcycle around, and I have to say, I didn't know anything about maintenance... Getting their help with that has made me feel a lot better about riding around foreign countries on my own.

    The Sherpa is tons of fun, and way better than the other bikes I've owned. It's just as comfortable as my KLR650 or Honda Shadow 750, and still holds 65mph without a problem, even loaded up. And I'm getting around 75mpg.

    One old jerk told me I needed $1,000/week or a minimum of $100/day and that I just needed to take my bike to a mechanic and "not bother" learning to do things myself. Trust me when I say he would never have said this to a man. To all the ladies out there: let's learn to take care of our own bikes, shall we? And to the men with partners who ride: make sure your ladies know the basics, for their own safety as well as confidence.

    MONEY: This trip isn't costing me much. My bike was $2,000 AUD, plus $750 for a windscreen, rack, cheap panniers and new gloves. Topbox? Too expensive. I bought a $25 dollar bicycle rack instead and ziptied it on. Works great. Yes, I did have to pay for some extremely easy mechanical stuff because I didn't know how to do it back then, but now I've learned enough to do my own maintenance.

    While on the road, I spend about $30 a day on average. EVEN IN EUROPE. A lot of people I've talked to have said you need to budget $100/day, which is just way too much for a lot of people. If you have it, great, but if you don't, don't let that stop you from travelling. The more you have, the more you spend. If you have a lot less, you'll still have just as much fun!

    Few people talk about the financial side of a trip. I think this conversation needs to take place more often so that more people feel they can go on big adventures, too. You DON'T need to have tons of money to go on a major trip! Just buy a cheap(er) bike, camp out or use Couchsurfing.org, grocery shop instead of going to restaurants, and travel at a slower pace. Don't spend tons of money on beer 'n booze, which is a major money-vortex for a lot of people. If you can, pick cheaper countries like in Latin America or Asia, where your dollar travels a lot farther. You don't need all the best hi-tech stuff, just work with what you have and be flexible.

    If you have ideas of how to budget for trips and keep costs low, please post 'em here!

    Thanks for reading-

    Elisa
    travelbugblues.wordpress.com
    #1
  2. nameless

    nameless 100% recyclable

    Joined:
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    Fantastic start :).
    And yes, i was interested in the financial part as well. I'm planning some trips of my own, and always looked at the 100€/$ a day as an exaggeration, and it's great to hear about people enjoying with a lot less.

    Keep posting your great photos :clap

    take care and keep safe
    #2
  3. Growl

    Growl Adventurer

    Joined:
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    right on in every way!
    best of luck in your journeys...
    #3
  4. kristofer

    kristofer Motonaut.se

    Joined:
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    Sweden
    So many good points! Just want to chime in and share my thoughts!

    True. I used a 350cc bike (Suzuki DR350S) to ride the around Rocky Mountains (CO-Canada-Mexico-CO, 45 days, +10 000 km), stock with no jet changes for altitudes. It was a bit tired at the top of Pikes Peak, but then I am 6 ft 220 lbs (no riding gear).

    I developed my own "weight-less" universal luggage system to take the amount of stuff I thought I needed. I still could take way more than I needed on that little bike.

    Then of course you can go bigger if you want to , but realize that it is a compromise. I use a DR650 ATM, but would love to try out the WR250R...


    Spot on with my daily budget in the USA.


    Mine was $1,000 USD ;)
    It's great to have a bike that you wouldn't have to think twice about sacrificing for your own safety (crashing, hold-up, etc.)


    I think you should able to fix the bike you ride if you want to go remote and/or solo! It's a safety concern and it saves you a lot of money,


    Well done and I wish you all the best for the rest of the trip!


    Safe travels,
    Kristofer
    #4
  5. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Hi Travelbugblues,

    Glad to see you up and reporting back your Sherpa adventures. It warms my heart to see young resourceful women like yourself out exploring the world on the cheap.

    Keep up the good work!

    Oh, and one thing to note is that the one picture above XL size greatly widened the post. I had no trouble scrolling sideways back and forth on my little laptop, but to make it easier for the small laptop crowd you can limit your pics to XL size.

    Kindest regards,
    John Downs
    #5
  6. marty hill

    marty hill The Energizer Bunny

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    Wonderful, keep enjoying.:clap
    #6
  7. oldtouring B

    oldtouring B Been here awhile

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    Al Ba Jerky. NM
    I commend you on your courage and determination. You are making memories that will last a life time.. be safe.

    On the first picture of the Koala Bear:: It looks like he is riding a Ducati with a trellis frame!!!
    #7
  8. Balanda

    Balanda on any sunday

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2013
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    Australia
    A mate just came back from Cavendish and was very impressed by the American gal on the Kawa. Just fantastic that you've chosen a little tacker like the sherpa to tour Oz on. Even some of the most experienced riders reckon that little bikes are way more fun. Message me if you come thru Bathurst in the Central West.
    #8
  9. Travelbugblues

    Travelbugblues Teacher on the road

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    Hey, small world! There weren't too many people there. Less than 200 by far, I think. Who were they? There were several people I wanted to exchange contact info with and didn't get a chance to. Tons of really great people there!

    Bathurst? Is that near the fire zone right now? Keep safe if so!
    #9
  10. Travelbugblues

    Travelbugblues Teacher on the road

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    Hi John! Thanks for the message and support. I've been keeping track of your thread! Re the photo- I'm on a tiny laptop too, but not sure how to change the size when it's from a URL... Will look into that, because it's very annoying!
    #10
  11. Travelbugblues

    Travelbugblues Teacher on the road

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    #11
  12. Travelbugblues

    Travelbugblues Teacher on the road

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    Fantastic start :).
    And yes, i was interested in the financial part as well. I'm planning some trips of my own, and always looked at the 100€/$ a day as an exaggeration, and it's great to hear about people enjoying with a lot less.

    Keep posting your great photos :clap

    take care and keep safe
    __________________
    :thumb www.Advology.com



    I'd love to have $100 a day with no financial constraints, but that just isn't realistic for most people, at least for longer trips. I'd rather keep my budget way lower, and travel for way longer.

    In order to do this, I quit my job (middle school teacher), refinanced and rented out my house, sold my two Seattle motorcycles, and now here I am... Unless you have kids/people relying on you, or a serious medical condition, most people can do the same with a little financial savvyness. The year before I left, I also had to pay off a $30,000 student loan for my masters degree, all on my meager teacher salary...

    Glad you're planning some adventures!
    #12
  13. TwilightZone

    TwilightZone Long timer

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    That's a drop bear. Very Dangerous. Drops from trees overhead.

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    #13
  14. rootsy

    rootsy Been here awhile

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    I love that image of you pushing on through the rain. You've got a great attitude and outlook. Keep up the good work and travel safely and with joy!

    Cheers~
    #14
  15. McJamie

    McJamie STROMINATOR

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    You go girl.
    Those of us who own Sherpa's know exactly what those bikes are capable of. It will completely humble bigger bikes without too much effort if you are willing. And it will never let you down.

    The big picture of you pushing on through the crappy weather is now my desktop picture.

    I'm in.
    #15
  16. Travelbugblues

    Travelbugblues Teacher on the road

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    Haha, that's funny and great! Thanks! Yes, loving the Sherpa! Already looking to buy another one in the States whenever I get home..
    #16
  17. Travelbugblues

    Travelbugblues Teacher on the road

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    I've heard of that mythical creature, but didn't realize it looked just like a koala!! These guys are so damn cute I can barely stand it. I just wanted to pluck one out of the tree... I think that's equivalent to picking up a raccoon though, which would tear you to pieces!
    #17
  18. Rutabaga

    Rutabaga Been here awhile

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    Southeast Lower Carolina
    Quote from Travelbugblues in first post.
    "To the people who think a 250cc bike is too small for long trips, even RTW: 1) You're a huge fat ass or pack way too much crap 2) you obviously haven't tried it 3) you don't know what you're talking about. "

    Too true in too many ways about so much in life. Happy trails to you.
    #18
  19. CharlestonADV

    CharlestonADV I do my own stunts!

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    Congratulations on getting the school loan paid off.:clap My daughter is also a middle school teacher. The grit and determination it takes to handle that age group is probably excellent conditioning for solo LD travel. :thumb:thumb
    #19
  20. zoro

    zoro Been here awhile

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    Darwin, Australia
    Travelbugblues, where are you planning on riding whilst in Aus?

    Any plans to come to Darwin?

    There's heaps of places to explore/ride up here, plus this is where the real Aussies live....:-)
    #20