No Clue and No Plan: Solo RTW, Rallies, and Other Fluff

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by EvergreenE, Jul 10, 2019.

  1. EvergreenE

    EvergreenE Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2016
    Oddometer:
    95
    Hey all! It's been a while since I posted anything on the forum, and I figure it's time to start another RR. Not for any lofty or noble purposes, but merely because I miss storytelling, and more than that, I miss doing it my way. Surviving on the road as a freelance writer has its perks, but it's been a while since I wrote anything just for the sake of writing, so here I am - and besides, I'm hoping to show that if a completely clueless, topographically and mechanically challenged individual on a ridiculous budget like me can ride around the world and race rallies, then, well anybody can. It's just a matter of being creative about the meaning of the word "realistic".

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    Now that I've thoroughly excused my presence here, here's a quick recap of what has happened so far.

    In 2013, I learned to ride a motorcycle while backpacking in Peru, bought a small 150cc Chinese bike named Blinkin, and set off to ride South America. I made it from Peru to Tierra del Fuego to Bolivia, answered "blue" when people inquired what kind of bike I had, and sported a kickass Taiwanese helmet with a melancholy Asian Spiderman painted on it. My gear consisted of construction boots, jeans, and a puffy parka, and my luggage set up looked like this:

    [​IMG]

    The reason there is a Monster sticker instead of a number plate is because I lost it on some off-road track in Bolivia and, since Peruvian plates are blue, I figured the Monster would do and I could still cross borders. Amazingly, it worked.

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    After riding to Ushuaia, running out of money and working on a ranch in Tierra del Fuego as a horse trainer, I rode Blinkin back North via Argentina and Chile and had to sell it in Bolivia. It's probably still alive and well somewhere in La Paz. After that and a ten-day stint in Europe sorting out a medical issue, I was back in Cuzco, Peru, on another Chinese bike headed for Colombia.

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    Sid was a magnificently powerful 250cc machine and had a somewhat crooked but almost legit Dakar logo on its tank, so I now knew I had moved to a whole another level. About that time, I had also discovered that what I thought was merely noodling around South America on a motorcycle with my backpack and other crap strapped on the tail of the bike was, in fact, called "adventure riding". I met other adventure riders on the way - mostly Germans and Swiss, for some reason - and got very jealous of their comfy GS's and especially their tank bags. I'm not sure why, but those pretty Touratech things just caught my eye. It got so bad that I actually strapped my sleeping bag on the bike's tank hoping it would at least look like a tank bag.

    [​IMG]

    So, in essence, I thought that being a "real adventure rider" basically meant having a nice tank bag. I actually saw one in Lima at an air-conditioned Touratech shop, but since it cost as much as at least three weeks on the road, I decided I'd have to just suck it up and remain a lowly Random Adventure Minion instead.

    To this day, I still don't own a Touratech bag, so I guess I just never made it.

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    Anyhow, the full ride report of my South America travels can be found here. After I got to Colombia, the pesky little detail of running out of money came up again, so I had to sell poor Sid for parts in Bogota and haul ass home. Bad idea: home kind of sucked. Or rather, I liked my life as a Random Adventure Minion so much I just couldn't sit still, and stuff like a 9 to 5 job, groceries, and Netflix just didn't do it for me anymore. People went about their lives, football games, gossip, and Friday nights out as if nothing's happened, and I felt like an alien trapped in some distorted parallel universe. The only things that I liked about Europe and that were decidedly better than in South America were plumbing and Lithuanian beer, so I knew I had to get out before it was too late. I got myself a monstrous, old, leaky Yamaha XJ900 because I felt like I had to have a Big Bike now ("real rider" delusions were back in full force - Europeans are very snotty when it comes to small Chinese motorbikes); the Yamaha promptly kicked the bucket and was replaced by a TDM850, an equally disastrous bike I lovingly called The Cow and could only ride off-road in second gear.

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    I knew this was going nowhere and I needed to hit the road again, but there was the small problem of not being able to actually afford it. During my brief stint at a motorcycle shop in England as a bike saleswoman, I began pitching magazines and online publications; before South America, I worked as a journalist in newsrooms back in Lithuania, so I figured I could try and make it work as a freelance journo/writer. My first freelancing gig paid 25 euros, but to me, it was a sign that it was doable - I just had to keep trying.

    All the while, I met rtwPaul in the UK, and we ended up traveling Europe two-up. Paul has covered this extensively in his RR's, so I won't repeat it all here, but long story short, we then bought two DR650's in Arizona and rode BDRs and parts of the TAT in the US as well as Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada, then made our way south to Mexico, Guatemala, Cuba, and finally Colombia again. Somewhere in Peru last year, our ways have parted, and ever since, I've been riding around solo. During these two years, I managed to grow my 25 euro gigs into something I could actually live off, and the days of the Starving-But-Kinda-Making It Freelancer began (I believe the proper and adequately douchey term for what I am is a digital nomad).

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    Hanging out in Arequipa, Peru, in January, I found myself wondering whether I could try and chase the Dakar on Lucy (short for Lucifer), my DR650. I didn't have the first clue about rally racing, but since the Dakar was going to stay in Peru for the whole ten days, and since I was there... I decided I'd try. The biggest hurdle was getting access to the bivouac, so I reached out to a few Lithuanian racing teams and asked if they needed help. I was in Peru already, so I figured maybe I could be useful, and it turned out I could - people needed SIM cards, hotel reservations, and so on, so for the two weeks leading up to Dakar I was running errands and helping out. I also had to do a quick border run to Chile to extend my Peruvian visa and bike import stuff, and at some point, traveling the hot and dusty Panamericana towards the Chilean border, I caught myself thinking that this was a dumb idea. Would I even be able to keep up? Yet, when I finally arrived in Lima and rode to the Dakar bivouac on the Magdalena Beach, I was instantly hooked, and what followed was a ten-day madness across Peru following the rally, reporting, helping riders, and being bitten by the rally bug. My full Dakar reports can be found here.

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    Once the Dakar ended, I realized I had a bad case of rally blues, and that I wanted to try rally racing myself. I had the wrong bike, no support, and no budget, and roadbook navigation was a complete mystery to me. Still, I was never one to be hindered by ideas about what is realistic and what isn't, as mentioned before, so I rode back to Southern Peru again crossing rivers in excavators and battling rally fever, packed Lucy into a shipping container, and headed for Europe again.

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    Only this time, it wasn't about jobs, hot showers, or everyday melancholy. I was going to enter Hellas Rally Raid, one of the biggest cross-country navigation rallies in Europe...as a competitor. With Lucy.

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    Currently, I'm riding from Albania to Montenegro and Bosnia for my third European rally, and after that, I have no clue and no plan. It's now too late in the season to head to Russia and the Stans - originally, I thought I'd ride there, cross Siberia, and ship Lucy to Alaska because North America was easily one of my favorite places on Earth, and I'd love to ride it again. It looks like it'll have to wait though, so my options now are North Africa or Turkey; chasing the Africa Eco Race from Monaco to Senegal is another tempting idea, but I haven't made up my mind yet.

    I'll pick up this RR from landing in Europe, doing a training rally in Portugal, figuring out roadbook, riding to Greece, and doing Hellas to now, wherever and whatever that happens to be. I honestly have no idea where I'll end up, I'm still useless when it comes to fixing things on poor loyal Lucy, I have only recently figured out how to download maps to my Garmin Montana, and when asked what kind of a bike I ride, I'm still tempted to say "white". And yeah, I still don't own a fancy tank bag, although my old and beat up Giant Loop thingy seems to be doing its job well holding lollipops for kids, duct tape, chain oil, and a small ziploc bag full of pieces of wire, washers, and other bits and bobs I have absolutely no idea what to do with but hope that it'll come handy one day.

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    If you'd like to see what everyday life on the road looks like up close and personal with zero illusions about this being a "kosher RTW", "real adventure riding", or any other serious terms reserved for people who actually know what they're doing, follow along and I hope I can keep you amused.

    Hellas photos by Actiongraphers

    Attached Files:

    #1
  2. 5N-ADV

    5N-ADV Adventurer

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2018
    Oddometer:
    13
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    Minna
    Great introduction, I'm in for the adventure....
    #2
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  3. Stubanger

    Stubanger Adventurer

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2012
    Oddometer:
    39
    Location:
    South Australia
    You're awesome! I'm in again :clap
    #3
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  4. RedDogAlberta

    RedDogAlberta High Plains Drifter

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2009
    Oddometer:
    20,578
    Location:
    Edmonton, Alberta
    All aboard!
    #4
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  5. dano619

    dano619 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2011
    Oddometer:
    994
    Location:
    sunny san diego
    Get this train a rollin!! :)
    #5
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  6. West38Moto

    West38Moto Ride and Discover

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2019
    Oddometer:
    62
    Location:
    Colorado
    Following along for more adventure!!! :sweeti:raabia:dllama::lurk
    #6
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  7. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2016
    Oddometer:
    1,701
    Location:
    Sherwood, Oregon
    Effin fantastic! Terrific writing style and I seriously dig your approach :thumb

    I come from the opposite end of the spectrum and envy your free spirit and attitude.

    I’m looking forward to following along. And if you make it back to NA, there’s incredible riding in SE Oregon, into Nevada, and then north into Idaho.

    Safe travels :ricky
    #7
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  8. achesley

    achesley Old Motorcyclist

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2003
    Oddometer:
    3,567
    Location:
    Jennings, Louisiana
    Started really following you with the Chasing Dakar. Loved it. You have a fan here.
    #8
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  9. roadcapDen

    roadcapDen Ass, Grass or Gas, no free rides.

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,012
    Location:
    GTA, ON, CDA
    Following amusedly!

    CC and I would love to host you when you make it out this way again. :beer
    #9
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  10. borderlinebob

    borderlinebob Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2016
    Oddometer:
    156
    Location:
    CANADA-1/4 mile N of International Falls, MN
    I’m thrilled that you are starting another RR.
    Your original one was outstanding and sure led to a lot of great reading.
    Happily following your latest adventure
    :hide
    #10
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  11. RokLobster

    RokLobster Far from sanity

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2011
    Oddometer:
    111
    Location:
    Mill Creek WA - Land of perpetual wet
    Labas! :lurk
    #11
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  12. elron

    elron Still Standing Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2010
    Oddometer:
    643
    Location:
    Now Scott Free Wis
    jackie-gleason-and-away-we-go.jpg
    #12
  13. EvergreenE

    EvergreenE Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2016
    Oddometer:
    95
    Thanks for such a warm welcome all! I've just escaped a freaky tornado and searing hot temperatures in Albania and have holed up in Sarajevo, Bosnia, for a week. What a place! But I'll get to it; for now, as promised, I’m picking this up at the point just before my first ever cross country rally in Evora, Portugal, in March.

    As Lucy was still making the journey across the Atlantic Ocean in a container ship, I hung out back home for a few weeks. It’s all sorts of weird to be in Vilnius after months and months of living off the bike in South America, but the one thing that’s always almost physically delicious in Lithuania is being able to speak my own language. Seeing my dad and friends is cool, but the fact that I can actually communicate with people in Lithuanian is such a treat. I don’t realize just how much I miss it until I get home.

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    As this was early spring, the riding season hadn’t really started yet, but I decided to book a couple of off-road riding sessions, because frankly, the way I felt about the upcoming rally was pretty much this:




    I got the invitation to race in the rally from the organizer Joao Soares, and although I readily accepted, I was absolutely terrified. When I told people I was going to do this, someone on Facebook asked me, “no offense, but, like, can you ride at that level? Do you know anything about racing?”. It put a bit of a dent in my enthusiasm because the reality was, of course, I was a pretty crappy rider, and no, I did not know anything about rally racing. Chasing the Dakar is one thing – and that was intense enough – but participating in a rally yourself is quite a different story.

    When it comes to off road riding, I did travel through some gravel roads and sandy tracks in Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, and Peru in 2013-2014, but since it was on Blinkin the Valiant – a loyal but tiny motorbike – it didn't really count as I mostly just paddled along at slow speeds and it was easy to pick the bike up when I fell. Basically, riding off road on Blinkin was a version of this:

    [​IMG]

    In 2016, when I saw Lucy for the first time, I was sure I wouldn’t be able to keep up with Paul on off-road tracks – but, since we’d decided we’d do parts of the BDRs and the TAT, it was sink or swim. After Blinkin and my weird Yamahas that kept on breaking down in Europe, the DR650 felt like a massive and unruly beast (hence the name).

    Luckily, I got some help. @West38Moto invited us for a training weekend in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and it was a game changer. In just two days, Dusty and his crew managed to install some better software in my head, and although I couldn’t power-slide or wheelie or do any other cool tricks, I got some solid foundations for better technique and, possibly even more importantly, confidence. In the pre-Dusty era, I’d look at something I’d not encountered before, like a soft sand dune or a log, and think, omfgimgonnadietheresnowayyyyyicangetacross. Post-Dusty, I’d encounter something new and think, yeah, OK, this is sketchy AF, but I’ll give it a go and see if I can figure it out. I will never forget Dusty’s wise words: “we’ll come up with shit, and it’ll be awesome”, which have guided me through all sorts of bumpy situations on and off the road since.

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    Months later, I attended another training weekend with West38Moto in Ouray, Colorado, which gave me yet another huge boost and which I was extremely grateful for in Portugal and later, Hellas… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

    After that, I did some more off-road riding traveling across the Americas. Still, I felt this was nowhere near enough to be ready for a rally, so I figured I could use some help. Back in Vilnius, I found a local enduro/motocross racer Mykolas who also moonlighted as a coach and booked two lessons with him before I left for Portugal. While those two sessions did not transform me into a Dakar demi-god capable of death-defying speeds over the roughest of terrains, I finally figured out sand (turns out it's so much easier on a light 250 than a loaded 650 - who knew!) and even managed to get over a log. Mission kinda sorta accomplished, I pondered as I packed my stuff for Portugal.

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    Trans Alen Tejo Rally in Evora was going to be a three-day event with 200-kilometer special stages each day; there were several different categories for people with adventure bikes and newbies like me who wanted to have a GPS as a backup to the roadbook. Roadbook intimidated me the most; I had done an interview with Meletis Stamatis, organizer of the Hellas Rally Raid, previously, but I was still a bit confused on how it actually worked - and whether I'd be able to figure it out. On the other hand, Trans Alen Tejo organizers do not time riders and you only get ranked according to how well you navigated, so the pressure for speed was somewhat relieved. Still, being excepiotnally talented at pre-worrying about stuff, I was very thoroughly terrified, all sorts of worst-case scenarios going through my head, as I packed my Mosko duffel and boarded the plane bound for Lisbon.
    #13
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  14. twowings

    twowings Comfortably Numb... Supporter

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    Dec 29, 2015
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    Location:
    Satellite of Love
    Gera pradžia — pusė darbo...:D

    Linkiu jums saugaus konkurso ir laimės!
    #14
  15. mjs3800

    mjs3800 Adventurer Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2006
    Oddometer:
    83
    Location:
    CA
    In for the amusement.
    #15
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  16. scout68

    scout68 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2018
    Oddometer:
    407
    Location:
    Germantown TN

    E,
    Bring on the new RR. Thrilled to hear you’re starting another.

    I’ve followed your previous riding and writing, and re-read and re-read many passages from your previous reports, your style and cadence and transparency just really grab a lot of us I think, myself included.

    I don’t mean to get all touchy-feely here, but your mention of a fellow rider asking If you were really capable of riding at a certain level makes the point exactly. I would wager that no one reads your reports to garner the latest tips on high speed cornering, trial-bike obstacle mastery, enduro race wizardry, and navigational bad-assery...rather, what makes your RR so engaging is precisely because, as you so graciously assert, you are not the mostest-baddest-ass-of-all-things enduro...and yet you take so many along for the ride. And you do so with a warmth and humor and language that draws us along on a great ride. That’s pretty damn rare and cool.
    #16
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  17. Romero

    Romero At Cinépolis or OXXO

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2016
    Oddometer:
    607
    Location:
    Morelia
    Following! Missed you guys last time in New Mexico and Old!..
    Suzuki power!!!
    #17
  18. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2016
    Oddometer:
    1,701
    Location:
    Sherwood, Oregon
    Had to quote this as it made me laugh out loud, going to laugh when I think about that from here on forward.

    Thanks for the update @EvergreenE :thumb
    #18
  19. NSFW

    NSFW basecamp4adv Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2007
    Oddometer:
    23,312
    Location:
    Burbank CA
    In for more.

    Love your travels and RR. Great reports on home page too.
    #19
  20. X-wing fighter

    X-wing fighter Do or Do not, There is no try!!!!!! Supporter

    Joined:
    May 11, 2017
    Oddometer:
    440
    Location:
    Ester, Alaska
    Always a pleasure to read about RTW on skimpy budgets with no plans! I feel I am becoming an anti-planner, however I can't quit obsessing over maps!
    #20