My big ride - A Kiwified Dutchman heading South from LA

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Normlas, Sep 9, 2017.

  1. Normlas

    Normlas Been here awhile

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    Welcome to my wee adventure ride report, I enjoy writing so apologies up front if its a bit wordy. Hopefully you'll enjoy a bit of a back story and the ponderings of a travelling Kiwi with Dutch heritage, then come along on my first big cross-continent adventure journey starting in LA in a couple of weeks.

    In a way, this adventure started around 7 or 8 years ago, when the Auckland city council (in their infinite wisdom, ahem) decided it would be a good idea to install bus lanes on all the main routes into and out of Auckland city, effectively halving the amount of road space available. This meant that my daily cage commute to work went from 20 minutes to 45 minutes each way, most of which was standing still in a row of cages sitting next to an empty bus lane, which occasionally had an empty bus in it, and interestingly – motorbikes, as these were allowed to use the new bus lanes. So after a few months of getting up early and watching motorbikes whizz past me, the obvious thing to do was to get on one and make use of this magic empty lane on our otherwise extremely busy Auckland roads.

    Having not ridden a motorbike before other than a 49cc 1970’s Piaggio Puch moped whilst I lived in Europe for a few years, I got my provisional bike license and went down the bike shop and tried all the bikes they let me try, from cruisers to choppers, and from death defying street racers to the more gentle café style racers, none of which felt comfortable for my large frame at 196cm (around 6’5”), until I got on a dual purpose adventure bike, which felt good. I went on to buy a Honda XR250 tornado, which was a great bike to learn on and I eventually graduated to a ’08 KLR a couple of years later.

    It turns out that once I got started on riding – I totally loved it, and especially to get off-road and explore the Auckland region. Having always loved to travel, it was a natural progression to farkle the hell out of my KLR, get some panniers and hit the road, exploring our beautiful country, which I also loved. Then came years of lurking on ADVrider, “The long way around/down” etc etc. I was hooked and the dream started, the dream which is about to become reality.

    In between my burgeoning love affair with adventure biking I had some pretty serious issues with my lower back after a workplace injury caused a couple of disks to blow, this led to years of pain and struggle and eventually to a two level spinal fusion and a second spinal surgery about a year and a half ago……. All in all, it was about 5 years of struggle with on and off riding ability and all the while with this dream building to do a “big ride” once my back got sorted. Well it turns out that my back is not going to get sorted and it is probably about as good as it’s going to get, and it’s manageable. I went for a test ride around NZ this last summer doing around 10,000kms in 70 days, camping 80% of the time and it went pretty well and gave me more confidence to do this. Below are a couple of pics from that journey of some of my favourite wild campsites.

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    So I left my job with an amicable separation (woohoo), bought a well farkled ’08 KLR sight-unseen on Craigslist in Las Vegas and the good guy I bought it off (thanks Dave) dropped it off to our close friends in LA (thanks Randy and Mary!) where it sits now waiting for me to get there – and my girlfriend and I leave on Sunday!! I’m thinking to call the bike Lucy, after Hunter S Thompson’s “Savage Lucy” from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, a fav movie of mine and also describing a dame from Vegas (thanks Pete). Once I actually meet Lucy next week I will update on exactly what kind of farkles she will finally travel with.

    [​IMG]

    The plan is to spend 3 or so weeks visiting our friends and exploring the California region, after which my wonderful and super supportive partner Lisa goes home and I get on the KLR and head South. My rough target destination is Tierra Del Fuego (TDF) after which I aim to return to the States via a big loop. I guessed that this may take around 8 months, but I could be sick of it and home in 2 or loving it and not see change out of a year on the road . It's all about the journey and the adventure, I'm not putting any pressure on myself to make it to TDF per se, but it's nice to have something to aim at rather than just 'South'. Crossing the Darrien Gap between Panama and Columbia is a big and expensive deal and may also be a good turn around point - I will just see how it all goes. My route is pretty much ad-hoc with my only thoughts to start at a language school in Baja and get some Spanish under my belt to help with the journey.

    So welcome to my ride report and please feel free to chime in and give advice, support and especially to recommend cool must-ride routes along the way.
    #1
  2. Tyrepower

    Tyrepower Been here awhile

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    Well........... you write better than me. Take better photos than me. And your doing something I would love to do. So I'm in. The NZ thing is probably a more realistic thing for me to aim for. Pics like the above do nothing to dampen that dream.
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  3. Tyrepower

    Tyrepower Been here awhile

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    Looks like just you and me at the moment. But keep on posting.

    Cheers Richo
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  4. Normlas

    Normlas Been here awhile

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    We’re off to a bit of a rough start……

    So on the day before yesterday, 3 days before we fly, I was packing away my KLR here at home for an extended period, giving her a good scrub and dry, draining the carb, removing battery, oiling/greasing/cleaning, chain / tyres etc, etc and lastly, covering her up with a couple of tarps and some bungee cords. Out of nowhere, one of the bungees slips off and smacks me with great force right in my eyeball, and hooks on :(.

    I black out briefly and come to on the carport floor, peeling the hook out of my right eye, feeling like I was going into shock with unbelievable pain, sweating / heart rate etc. Luckily I had my phone in my pocket was able to call my awesome neighbour for help, I can’t see and am in crazy pain and end up getting my first ever ambulance ride to North Shore hospital. North Shore can’t handle it so pump me full of fentanyl and I get a second ambulance ride to the Greenlane emergency eye clinic. All I can see through my right eye is flashing lights, like a psychedelic Nemo fish doing laps around my eyeball, its very worrying. The docs are concerned about my retina but they can’t see it because my eye is completely filled with blood. If it doesn’t clear by Monday they will operate to clear the eye and hopefully fix the retina.

    They say there is NO WAY I can fly, probably for at least a month and if they do this operation, then it will be 2 months because they pump air into the eye to displace the blood and it can’t take pressure changes after that.

    I cannot put into words how gutted I feel right now, just put our plane tickets on hold, WTF !! GGRRRGGGGG !

    We were back in hospital on Friday, there was no change and the docs sounded genuinely concerned, which is never a nice feeling, I have an appointment with the Prof of Ophthalmology for Monday with ordered bed-rest until then, fingers crossed, but what a way to start my big ride ……. not a happy camper :devildog :trp
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  5. Normlas

    Normlas Been here awhile

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    Thanks Richo, if you want to ride NZ, get "the NZ motorcycle atlas" link

    Start mid-Feb and ride the recommended routes, it's excellent, will keep you busy for 3-4 months and doesn't miss much.
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  6. Tyrepower

    Tyrepower Been here awhile

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    Bloody hell. Those things are dangerous. Do as the Doc says. An adventure without adversity is just a ride. Looks like your adventure is starting even before the ride. Keeps us updated. Don't know you, but wishing you all the best for some good news.
    #6
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  7. Humming-bird

    Humming-bird n00b

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    OMG Arjan.....keeping all my fingers crossed!!! Sending you all good vibes.
    Hugs, Mirjana
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  8. HalfTwain

    HalfTwain n00b

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    Damn! I really wish you the best, a speedy recovery and return to the saddle!

    Something similar happened to a friend of mine years back. Was outside of a gas station bungee-ing a bag to his bike. Well, the bungee slipped out of his hand, smacked him square in the forehead and next thing he remembered was lying flat on the ground.

    Consider switching to cinch straps for your trip down south!

    Hang in there!


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    #8
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  9. Normlas

    Normlas Been here awhile

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    Thanks everybody for your kind messages, emails and PM's, much appreciated. It's been two weeks now and we are still at home. I've been to eye clinic about 10 times and still have zero sight in my right eye :dunno . The inside of my eye is filled with blood and it isn't clearing, this blocks any vision and also increases eye pressure 4 to 5 fold, leading to headaches/nausea/vomiting etc, so it's been a fun 2 weeks and I've lost almost 5Kg. The docs have decided to operate and I'm on bed-rest until they can get that organised and the bureaucratic / insurance approvals through, hopefully next week but could be longer.

    The dream in officially on hold :becca

    It's hard to put into words just how pissed off / disappointed I am..... hopefully we can still go in 3-4 weeks and that would be OK climate-wise, much later than that and it will be hard to make it to Argentina before their summer is over making motorbike travel distinctly less enjoyable :vardy.

    But the bike is there and near ready to go, I have everything I need for this adventure except my health and the Americas are not going anywhere (although they're having a bit of a rough time at the moment to be fair) so the dream is not cancelled, just on hold.

    I'll report back with any significant changes, thanks for your support everyone - and especially Lisa for putting up with a very grumpy partner!
    #9
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  10. Tyrepower

    Tyrepower Been here awhile

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    Just got back from an awesome ride with 6 mates. And believe it or not in the middle of WA I was sitting under the stars around a big fire having a hell of a laugh with the boys and I told them of your story to date. Wondered how you were getting on. Get home and this from you. Hope it keeps improving.
    Cheers Richo
    #10
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  11. Eatmore Mudd

    Eatmore Mudd Mischief on wheels.

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    Sorry to hear about your misfortune. Man that SUCKS. Prayers sent, heal up quick.
    #11
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  12. Normlas

    Normlas Been here awhile

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    Thanks heaps for all the support and happy thoughts guys. I have now been scheduled and approved for surgery this Tuesday, apparently I need a Vitrectomy, which seems to be a pretty involved surgery and I made the mistake of looking it up on google..., with pictures, big mistake, kinda like Dr Dewall's posts in the WTF thread - some pictures cannot be unseen.

    Anyways - I don't really have any choice so I have literally bought the ticket and am on the ride. If all goes well I should return to 20/20 vision and be able to fly within a week, however the doc also said to not book any tickets yet so he's clearly not all that confident that the best case scenario is likely.... hhmmmmm

    Wish me luck!
    #12
  13. oldbeer

    oldbeer Grandadventurer

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    Mate, crap start to your trip, but in a sense the adventure has started, just not the way you planned. Hopefully all your bad luck has been used up. Good luck with op.
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  14. RobBD

    RobBD Been here awhile

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    Wow - bloody bungees - Ive had a few close calls so don't use them anymore . A slight delay my friend you'll be on that bike and heading south before you know it.
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  15. Hewzie

    Hewzie KTM 790 Duke

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    Shit luck, champ. I was only just reading yesterday that Andy Strapz (Aussie luggage ties) came about after a bungee accident just like yours many years ago. Damn that must have hurt!!!
    Good luck for your op and trip, from an ex Te Atatu rider living in Perth.
    #15
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  16. Normlas

    Normlas Been here awhile

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    So it turns out that the vitrectomy is not at all similar to the horror film that my little brain had imagined it to be - thank goodness. I had images of a 1.5 hr eye surgery under local anaesthetic with no choice of whether or not to watch surgeons coming at my eye with needles and knives etc.... Thankfully they gave me enough valium so I had no real anxiety and my biggest issue was staying awake during the procedure. Back for a checkup the next day and I have 90% of my vision back ! woop woop ! So they managed to clear all the blood and finally have a look at my retina, which was coming off in a couple of places and so they lasered the thing back into my head ? The technology is just incredible. Below is me just after surgery looking and feeling relieved and a little confused.... but in a good way. Never thought the first pic of me on here would be in a hospital bed, but oh well, best get it out of the way early on in the trip and then not have to go near them again:)

    [​IMG]

    Unfortunately, they are not satisfied enough with progress to let me fly or even book new flights yet, back in a week for another check up and will hopefully get clearance to fly then. Onwards and upwards, finally feels like we're making some progress and such a relief to have sight back mostly. It's still a little foggy, head-achy and I have a random blue dot that flies around but the psychedelic Nemo fish effect is happily gone :clap
    #16
  17. SOLOKLR

    SOLOKLR Back to work

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    That is great news! It's amazing how far medicine has come.
    I bet you've sworn off ever using a bungee cord again.
    #17
  18. Tyrepower

    Tyrepower Been here awhile

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    Fantastic news
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  19. Trip Hammer

    Trip Hammer It's not the years, it's the mileage Supporter

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    Damn, just catching up here. Glad to hear you're on the mend and can hopefully do the trip. You always hear the horror stories about bungee cord injuries. Sucks ass you actually experienced it. Hang in there, Normlas. I'll be following along.
    #19
  20. Normlas

    Normlas Been here awhile

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    So I finally got the Ok from the eye Doc to travel ! woohoo !! :clap Plan A is back in action

    Not wanting to waste any more time, we've rebooked for this coming Friday and are on our way once again, first stop LA, meet up with our friends and check out the bike!

    It's been a real rollercoaster of events and emotions these last two months, a few scares and the relief of getting most of my vision back after the op. My eye is probably at about 85% or so of normal. Straight lines are not totally straight and the colour and focus is slightly off, but it should keep improving and I'm also getting used to it. It sure has been a lot of hanging around doing nothing and not being able to see very well, so I have lost a lot of condition and weight - down almost 10kg just from the nausea and haven't sat on a bike in almost 3 months - that worries me a little.

    I've even had days where I thought to throw the towel in all together and forget about my adventure and just get back to normal life, and then days where I can't wait to go again. I worry about the risks and can't help thinking of some of the people on here that have inspired me, people who's travels I have followed.

    Especially, Clayton's trip, also on a KLR and doing exactly the ride I want to do, following him was a life changing experience for me, I recommend his ride report (link here), but it is a sobering read for sure.
    Then I followed Miserygoat's travels down South and of course Lalo on his Ed-venture- who started doing the ride I want to do and just got plain carried away :) (link here)

    If I can have just a tenth of the adventures these guys had I will be happy....... and the adventure is finally back on ! There is only one more visit to the eye Doc on Wednesday, but he can't stop me now, we're booked and we're going!
    #20
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