The Achievable Dream 5-part series - the definitive guide on DVD for planning your motorcycle adventure. Get Ready! covers planning, paperwork, medical and many other topics! "Inspirational and Awesome!" See the trailer here!
Gear Up! is a 2-DVD set, 6 hours! Which bike is right for me? How do I prepare the bike? What stuff do I need - riding gear, clothing, camping gear, first aid kit, tires, maps and GPS? What don't I need? How do I pack it all in? Lots of opinions from over 150 travellers! "This DVD will save you a fortune!"See the trailer here!
So you've done it - got inspired, planned your trip, packed your stuff and you're on the road! This section is about staying healthy, happy and secure on your motorcycle adventure. And crossing borders, war zones or oceans!
On the Road! is 5.5 hours of the tips and advice you need to cross borders, break down language barriers, overcome culture shock, ship the bike and deal with breakdowns and emergencies."Just makes me want to pack up and go!" See the trailer here!
Tire Changing!Grant demystifies the black art of Tire Changing and Repair to help you STAY on the road! "Very informative and practical." See the trailer here!
Ladies on the Loose! For the first time ever, a motorcycle travel DVD made for women, by women! These intrepid women share their tips to help you plan your own motorcycle adventure. They also answer the women-only questions, and entertain you with amazing tales from the road! Presented by Lois Pryce, veteran solo traveller through South America and Africa and author of 'Lois on the Loose', and 'Red Tape and White Knuckles.'
"It has me all fired up to go out on my own adventure!" See the trailer here!
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Ride TalesAn easy way to post your ride reports, whether it's a weekend ride or around the world.
Please make the first words of the title WHERE the ride is.
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“Are you on your honeymoon?” someone asked. While honeymoon doesn’t quite describe my situation, it’s honest to say that I have been a lazy writer. The transition from a free roaming lion to a domesticated cat is perhaps not the case here but not far from reality either. It’s like day and night comparing my careless life to what is becoming a more meaningful and sophisticated journey of its own.
I have gone from meet-the-parents to the emotional rollercoaster of dealing with the last minute syndromes. I have learned things that I never knew existed. To this day I had no idea that there were such things as black-heads and white-heads and that women hold the only permanent cure to these abominations. I was startled with a contraption that looked like a needle-threader to innocent eyes but turned to be a secret society torturing tool to pave the uneven skin by removing the undesirable colored heads.
I have felt the tension building up as the departure date is getting closer and nothing seems to go smoothly until the last second. It has been hard for both of us to cope with the uncertainty of the upcoming years or the tendency to pick fights for the smallest things that would not matter under any other circumstance. All that aside, we plow through with conviction and determination, no matter what the next obstacle will be.
Cynthia has been working hard to meet these unsaid expectations and I am astounded at her fortitude every day. She is becoming an undeniable part of my life which scares me even more than the torture tool, but there is no measurement for the joy and happiness she brings to my life. She will fill you in on the latest news… Merry Christmas everyone.
Early mornings are not my thing. But this past weekend found me up before daylight two mornings in a row in pursuit of a lifelong dream. Thanks to the generous sponsorship of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, I attended the Basic Rider Course in Hesperia, CA under the excellent tutelage of Andy, Casey and Tom, the course instructors. I say excellent because I am not the quickest learner (understatement) and my renowned klutziness makes Bambi on ice look Kristi Yamaguchi. But somehow these amazing men managed to remain chipper despite the early cold mornings and having me as a pupil! They had boundless patience, explained the directions in clear terms, and were never at a loss for a smile or a word of encouragement.
Chris was very kind to accompany me to Hesperia so that I wouldn’t have to make the trip alone and to provide moral support, as well as to take some pictures and video of the class. We ended up finding a last-minute couch-surfing place to crash in Hesperia with a college history professor named Jim Comer. We enjoyed visiting with this intelligent, kind and modern-day Renaissance man who served us pine-twig tea and a dessert from an ancient Carthaginian recipe.
Day one started with classroom instruction from Tom. After reviewing the entire handbook in the classroom and a delicious breakfast which was Tom’s treat to the class, the morning ended with a written test. I was struggling to remember some of the details and while I knew about 40 of the answers, I wasn’t exactly sure about the remaining 10. Biting my nails, I handed my test in to be reviewed and went to the restroom. When I returned, Chris shook his head and told me that I didn’t pass and that I was the only one who didn’t pass. My heart sank. He had told me that it wasn’t an option to fail. I sat dejected, kicking myself internally for failing, when finally he told me that I did pass. The poor guy apparently just wanted to mess with me and joke around but at that moment, I didn’t find the humor in his joke.
The afternoon of day one started with a basic overview of the bike. There were 11 students taking the course. The only other girl in the class, Jamie, told me that her husband told her that when he took the class, the 3 girls in the class failed. We were both quite nervous about passing to say the least. We bonded over Gatorade and set out to master the basics. The hours flew by as we went from one exercise to another. By the end of the day I was sore and mentally exhausted but thrilled to be learning how to ride.
Chris and I went to Starbucks after the class to meet up with Jesus Granados, a new friend from the Hooligan Crusiers motorcycle forum who kindly rode in from about an hour away to meet with us and give us some information about traveling in Mexico. He also sent us numerous emails with valuable links and resources for our travels. We really appreciate his time and willingness to connect and help us out. Hopefully we can find a chance to go on a ride together before we leave the States.
The next day started with another beautiful sunrise, something that the high desert seems to have no lack of. After warming up the bikes we started going through more drills and exercises to teach us how to stop, swerve, go around curves, go over obstacles, stop in curves and change lanes. My nemesis was the “box,” a drill which involved doing a modified figure eight within the confines of a rectangle shape. I felt like I was riding a bull backwards for as much as I was able to get the bike to do what I wanted it to within that box. Thankfully, throughout the whole morning, Casey and Andy kept giving me helpful feedback and direction. Without fail, they were patient, kind, and good-humored. Chris saved the day by bringing me breakfast so that I could get some sustenance during the breaks. Before I knew it the drill/practice time was up and we had to take our tests. One by one the entire class went through each exercise while Casey and Andy took notes on their clipboards. We gathered together for the moment of truth and cheered to discover that the entire class passed. So it’s official. I can ride a motorcycle. Well, not really. I still have to pass the written test at the DMV to get my endorsement. And I have miles to go in practice before I am fully competent as a rider. But I’m on my way!
With 5 million graduates and counting, this is another testament to the efforts of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation and its great team of people who care about and value rider safety and shine through with their knowledge, patience, and dedication to making the roads safer and more enjoyable for everyone.
I hope 2010 is off to a great start for everyone. It has been almost 5 months since I left my home in Montana and it has been a blast riding through some of the most beautiful parts of the United States and Canada. I have met so many amazing people and experienced the ups and downs of the traveling life. I started this ride with a vision and hope of good deeds and I have tried to incorporate my passion for the cause with activities which would stir up the attention for the cause.
I am pleased to announce another exiting change. After a long and exhausting research and tweaking my financial resources, I decided to take the leap and make the 501 (c)(3) a reality.
On December 3, 2009, the Articles of Incorporation were filed with the Montana Secretary of State office on behalf of the Transcontinental Humanitarian Corp. to form a non-profit corporation. The corporation was formed after the initial meeting of its board of directors and approved on December 7. Transcontinental Humanitarian Corp. is now a legal entity formed and operated exclusively for charitable purposes under the section 501 (C)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
On December 27, I received the Federal Employee Identification Number (EIN) for the corporation and with help from the directors, I am almost done with the federal paperwork for the tax exemption status.
To give you some idea on how extensive and exhausting this process is, I will name a few of the documents which I had to write and get approved by the board: Articles of Incorporation 6 pages, Bylaws 13 pages, Conflict of Interest 6 pages, 1023 Form 28 pages, additional information for the IRS 18 pages and so on…
The costs for forming the organization are significant and all the fees were funded from my own pocket. I invested my own resources into the corporation and while this is taking from me personally, the 501 (C)(3) status will open up many more fundraising channels and allow for us to write grants to virtually any foundation or corporation in the word.
I am in process of appointing and electing officers for the organization. I would like to invite and encourage the public to participate in this great and meaningful undertaking by filling the officer positions.
To be considered, you can apply for an officer position by sending your resume to Chris at motorcyclememoir dot com (Sorry spam robots) or by mail to:
ATTN: Board Selection
Transcontinental Humanitarian Corp.
P O Box 7603
Helena, MT 59604
The board members and officers are NOT employees of the Transcontinental Humanitarian Corp. but are the governing body and agents of the organization. There are no compensations of any sort and on solely volunteer basis. I as the founder and director still don’t receive any salary of any sort nor will any of the corporation directors. Lastly, not one penny of the public and private contributions will ever be used for recreation or personal gain.
I realize that lately I haven’t been posting any ride reports because in truth, there are no rides to report on. Despite the fact that it may seem that I’ve lost my focus about continuing on the expedition or that I am being lazy, there is a lot taking place behind the scenes. I’m eating out of my own pocket as I always have been and everyday that I’m immobile and not making mile-measurable progress, I’m losing what little I have left but the reason for all these delays are due to extensive logistical changes and the aforementioned governmental paperwork.
Adding another person to the expedition is not as simple as doubling grandma’s favorite cinnamon roll recipe. The fact is that there are a myriad of details big and small which are being dealt with: from motorcycle training for Cynthia, packing all her stuff, getting her medical exams and shots and finding the right gear to further modifying the GS to able to haul what would be impossible to fit in an SUV. We are working on some fundraising events in Bakersfield, sending out sponsorship letters and setting up future lectures and slideshows down the road while counting days for departure time. The ride is not over and it has merely begun. It is expanding beyond the scope of what I envisioned for a long time and it’s getting done the right way.
There were times that I was mean and at times polite
I guess you can be a either a bum or a knight
What matters is not the might or the blight
I don’t think what I did will make it any right
But I had enough of this perpetual fight…
I am on the road again and to my own disbelief, not two-up but one down. My life has been public for a quite sometimes and I’m not going to change that now. The truth is that I’m back on the saddle and without Cynthia. I can give a million reasons why it didn’t work out and hold discussions and debates here but my job is something else. For me not to fall apart, it’s crucial to keep it together and offer my face to the gods of bugs and rocks on the back of my bike. The end result is what it is, no matter how I put it.
I would like to share my sympathy with the people of Haiti for what they have been going through. I grew up in a country that sits on an earthquake belt and shakes and rocks from time to time. I witnessed one of the deadliest shake when I was just 9 years old. Growing up as a kid, I knew how terrifying it was to hide under a desk or a doorway, holding to an illusion of safety from tons of adobe bricks coming on our heads.
I have been away from the news scene for a while, and when I found out about the disaster in Haiti, it was already two days later. I became aware of the situation when the visits to the website started skyrocketing. At first, I thought of spam attacks but when I looked closely I realized that people were coming to the website because of using search terms related to the Haiti earthquake.
What led so many people to this website was a blog I wrote a month earlier:
“The question remains: Why should we care?
…Remember the hurricane Katrina victims? They had faces. They had media coverage. They had the whole world watching. We still failed to give them their most basic needs. Now imagine a family in Ethiopia or Haiti with no media coverage, no Wal-Mart to bring water, and nowhere to turn. Their story could be YOUR story. All it takes is one heavy cloud, one strong wind, one earthquake.”
Prediction? Absolutely not. Coincidence? Not at all. Story repeating itself? Perhaps.
This corporation is not in a capacity to be of any help at this point so I won’t beg you for money here. All I can do is to ask you to donate what you can, it doesn’t matter how much it is.
Donate it to the World Food Program (WFP) of the United Nations. They have the staff in the field, they have the choppers flying; they have the dogs searching. What you give right now is a matter of life and death. Save a $5 bill out of your weekend gas money or coffee run and save a life with it. If you use the donation button on this website, everything will get redirected to WFP daily for the next month.
I would like to thank all the people who had shared their sympathy with me on continuing on the road alone at this point in time. Despite the fact that Cynthia isn’t joining the expedition, she is still very much involved with this budding corporation as she is still the secretary and a director on the board. She is an amazing person and has a lot to bring to the table besides keeping me company and I would rather have her as a friend than losing her altogether.
When I arranged the training courses with the Motorcycle Safety Foundation two months ago the MSF was generous enough to offer us a private Dirt Bike Course for just the two of us on top of the Basic Rider Course, which we documented previously. Since Cynthia virtually had no practice on a bike since Hesperia, she was reluctant to take the dirt course but was willing to accompany me down to the Honda Training Center in Colton located in Southern California to take video and pictures while I took the course. I was eager to take the course and build up on my skills as I will be encountering many dirt and mud roads in different countries in the course of this expedition, and this training offered an invaluable opportunity to learn the ropes on how to better my riding.
We left Bakersfield in an eye-blinding morning fog at 5:30 a.m. wrapped in layers of fleece and protective gear, but the cold kept seeping in as we rode over the Tejon Pass at 4183 ft. It took us about four and a half hours to make it to Colton, CA.
The Honda Training Center is one of only four of its kind in the United States. It is an amazing facility which accommodates many kinds of motorcycle training as well as All Terrain Vehicles. They pretty much thought of everything when they built this place. They even built a dirt trail system with cactuses, trees, rocks, stairs, and a mud pit (I don’t know if the mud pit was intentional but the recent rains had made a pretty good one).
Though we arrived late, our instructor from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, Jun Villegas, met us with a smile. Although Cynthia was only planning to take pictures, Jun encouraged her to at least try getting on the bike and took us to the gear room to set us up with motocross gear. The course started covering the basics just like in the Basic Rider Course, from getting to know all the controls to spider-walking the bike. I was amazed at how quickly Cynthia felt comfortable on the bike and to her disbelief, she actually remembered all the things that she learned in the Basic Rider Course.
It must be a requirement in MSF’s hiring process to only hire the nicest, most encouraging, and positive people on the planet because I have not encountered one grumpy or impatient MSF instructor to this day, and Jun was no exception. For myself, I have no problem to get yelled at or criticized as long I’m learning and I have no problem to take on harder stuff right off the bat. However, I am sure it gets frustrating for the first-timers to process so much information in such a short time but that’s where the competency and patience of the MSF instructors shines through as their positive attitudes and words make all the difference.
The day went on with riding our butts off (both seated and standing) on different exercises like counter-weighting in turns, and riding over obstacles. I loved riding closed circles as fast and as tight as I could, and Jun did not freak out as I tried going faster and lower to the ground. We had a lot of fun trying different techniques and especially riding the trails around the property at the end of the day.
Cynthia was a trouper and despite a couple of spills, she kept on getting back on the saddle with a joyful smile and riding away. The most memorable incident was at the end of the day. I was directly behind her and Jun was in the front as we approached a tight turn. Jun shifted his weight and cornered fine. When I saw Cynthia approaching that corner at that speed, I had an epiphany that this was not going to end well and before I finished my thought, she was sliding and heading for the trees to the right side of the trail. She freaked out and turned the handle-bar to the left and ended up climbing a steep hill to the left covered in boulders. She ended up going between two boulders with her legs wide open while screaming and somehow managed to not crash into anything. The amazing thing was that she kept on rolling the throttle full-blast and would not let go as she missed a tree by inches and stopped near the top of the hill without a scratch.
I can strongly say that this course was the most fun and challenging thing I have done in a long time and Cynthia agrees as well. Anyone who rides motorcycles or even has the slightest interest in riding on two wheels should take this course. I would even suggest taking this course before the Basic Rider Course as it’s a fun way to start learning how to ride as there is no pressure to pass or fail in order to obtain a waiver exempting you from taking the DMV skill test.
Thanks again to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation for granting us this great opportunity and many thanks to Stacey Hall at MSF for arranging the trainings. She worked very hard to make them happen and we are eternally grateful to her and MSF. For more information on how you can enroll to take this course in your area, click on the MSF logo on top of this site and get dirty.
I'm glad you liked it. I had to take a little detour and ended up on the other end of the world. (read the following blog.) Thank you for you donation, we really appreciate it and keep on reading buddy. A lot more to come...
At long last, the endless project of completing the IRS paperwork for 501(c)(3) status is completed which takes a huge load off of our shoulders. I wouldn’t do it again for a million dollars as the process was intense, complicated, meticulous and not fun at all. Just when I thought that I could rest for a few days, I ended up leaving the motorcycle in California and flying out of LAX to Tehran, Iran due to a family emergency.
I was born in Iran and lived there until I was 18 years old. Most of my family migrated to the United States starting from my oldest uncle three decades ago. My grandparents whom I dearly love are still living in Shiraz, my birthplace. My elderly grandfather is not doing very well, hence my excursion to the forbidden land.
I call it the forbidden land as everything is forbidden for one reason or another. From the heavily-filtered internet and disputed elections, to capital punishment for dog-walking in public (Dogs get executed by hanging, not the owners), there is always something to get a good kick out of. Despite all of this, Iran is a lovely country with an amazing history, mesmerizing scenery and the most welcoming people around.
You know you are in Iran the second you walk out of the airplane and stand in one of the never ending lines (even for killing yourself, you still have to stand in line in Iran) to the immigration and maze of suitcases full of western merchandise piled up at the customs waiting to be released. Tehran’s airport has been moved 60 miles out of the city and even though I arrived at 3:30 am, the whole city was alive with the preparation for the February 11th demonstration and the opposition protest of the recent election. The heavy presence of police was felt on every corner and frequent search stops brought me back to the reality I was away from for so long.
My aunt and her family live in Tehran so I have been visiting with them for a few days. It is great to see my cousins and hear their stories as they try to fill me in on the recent changes and of course, the inflation of prices. I had no interest in spending my short visit here in one of the notorious Iranian prisons, so I stayed away from all the political dramas of the revolution’s anniversary on February 11th.
Everything was shut down due to all the holidays, and I had to wait four days to buy a plane ticket to Shiraz, so I tried to make use of my time by checking out some of the museums and historical sites around Tehran. One of the places I visited was the Ancient Persia Museum in Southern Tehran. My visit was a bittersweet experience as it was hard for me to see billions of dollars worth of historical artifacts sitting so shamelessly in what I can only describe as the most careless and lackadaisical manner with florescent lamps lighting up the show floor like a ghost town. The materials are fascinating and range mostly from 2nd to 5th millennium BC, covering from the Stone Age to the magnificent Persian empire. Artifacts from 7000 years ago are on display in glass cases, and one can’t help but marvel at the craftsmanship of the early Persians. (If you believe that the world is only 6000 years old, Iran is probably not a country to visit as it might shed some serious light on your biblical beliefs.)
Just north of Tehran, starts a 200 kilometers two-lane road called the Chalous Highway which twists and turns all the way to the Caspian Sea in Northern Iran. There are tunnels after tunnels which have been dug out the heart of Alborz Mountain range, and it’s one of the most beautiful places you can visit in Iran. There are no camels contrary to popular belief, and snow-covered mountains cover the area. Much of the forests are memories of the past and have long given their places to cheap villas, shopping malls and ice cream parlors. You see more trash on and off the road than ever before. It makes me furious to see what my people have done to this once pristine landscape while still claiming to be glorious Persians.
I’m flying south to Shiraz in a day or two and will post more reports once I get there. I’m planning to visit a few orphanages and will cover the poverty of the rural life of Southwestern Iran so long as I can find an internet connection to get the news out. Till next time …
First, I would like to thank Steve Davison for his generous donation. Although I’m not in the States right now due to a family emergency, but the mission is still the same and the rest of the directors are taking care of everything. I received a rather historical question on Iran’s relation with foreign countries from an interested blog reader. I’m no expert, but here’s my humble attempt to shed more light on Iran’s history so the American readers can understand where the hyped-up media reports come from. This was written to give an insight, however small to the recent history of Iran with the hope of better explaining the background of its people. It is not an accusation nor is it a defense of any government.
Iran was known as Persia until its name was officially changed to Iran in 1935. Iran is not an Arab country. In fact, it is an insult to call Iranians Arab. Iran was invaded by the Arabs in 644 A.C. The religion before the conquest was Zoroastrianism and is still practiced in Iran. Contrary to the claims of apologists, Iranians in fact, fought long and hard against the invading Arabs. Once politically conquered, the Persians began to resist the Arabs culturally and succeeded in forcing their own ways on the Arabs, and it’s not a coincidence that Iran holds the largest Muslim Shi’a denomination which is a minority in Muslim world. The Arab states (Sunnis) have never been an ally to Iran with the odd exception of Syria and have gone to great lengths to even name the Iranian territories by Arabic names and the biggest abomination of all, calling the Persian Gulf the Arabian Gulf.
“It’s all England’s fault,” goes the semi-humorous saying that has been repeated in Iran for centuries. Russia, England and the United States have been always controversial in Iran. Great Britain is traditionally blamed for all the troubles in Iran with the United States considered the “Great Satan.” Russia is hated for the confiscation of two provinces in Northern Iran in 1813, due to incompetency of one particular Persian king, Fath Ali Shah. The invading Russian armies occupied the Aral coast in 1849, Tashkent in 1864, Bukhara in 1867, Samarkand in 1868, and Khiva and Amudarya in 1873. The Treaty of Akhal, in which the Iranians were forced to cede Khwarazm, topped off Persian losses to the global emerging power of Imperial Russia. That’s enough loss to make any Iranian have a second thought when it comes to deal with anything Russian.
England has a long history of colonialism as we already know, and when it came down to rich Persia, they were ecstatic about what they could get out of it. Before 1800, the Brits had no substantial influence as the Persian kings were particularly strong and oil was not their priority. However, after the 18th century, most of the Persian kings started their leisure excursions to the European countries and were mesmerized by the way of life abroad, which paved the way for the British government to hack its way through Persia. In fact, Iran’s current southern and eastern boundaries were determined by none other than the British during the Anglo-Persian War from1856 to 1857.
In 1941, in midst of the Second World War, Russia and Great Brittan yet again, ignored the Iranian neutrality plea and invaded Iran forcing the king, Reza Pahlavi, to leave the country in exile and shifting the power to his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last king of Iran.
At the end of World War II, there came a new rival to the traditional two-pole foreign influence of Russia and England. This time the United States moved in to convert Iran to an anti-communist state in the rage of the Cold War, and that ended the long-lived Russian influence in Iran, but the Brits stayed close on the scene.
In 1951, Dr. Mohammad Mosaddegh, Iran’s prime minister, started a movement which led to the nationalization of the oil and gas industry and by that, cutting the hands of the Brits off the liquid gold. What the Brits paid the Iranians for oil before the nationalization was nothing but highway robbery, and they were not happy to see it go. The United States also saw its interests in danger and shook hands with Great Britain to bring down the prime minister. In November and December of 1952, British intelligence officials suggested to American intelligence that the prime minister should be ousted. On April 4, 1953 the CIA director, Allen Dulles, approved $1 million to be used “in any way that would bring about the fall of Mosaddegh”. Mosaddegh became aware of the coup and dissolved the parliament. The CIA plan, however, was carried out to insure the United States’ and Great Britain’s cheap access to the Iranian oil. On August 19, 1953 the planned coup came to a successful end and by that, the only democratic government Iran has ever seen came to an end. Mosaddegh was imprisoned for 3 years and spent the rest of his life under house arrest until his death in 1967. Yet again, the coup confirmed the lifelong suspicion of the Iranian people that nothing good ever comes out of foreign relations.
In the winter of 1979, after a decade of uprising, the Iranian revolution finally became a reality and with that came the end of 2,500 years of monarchy in Persia. Shortly after, the Islamic Republic of Iran was formed under the supervision of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, and little by little, the secular west-praising Iran shifted to a Muslim state which scared the hell out of the neighboring Arab countries as well as the Western powers.
The Arabs were concerned because they didn’t want Iran to export its Shi’a revolution to their Sunni-run countries, and the West was concerned for the seemingly over-the-top fundamentalist leaders of the new republic. This concern was heightened when Iran invaded the US embassy in Tehran and took 53 diplomats hostage for 444 days during the Carter Administration which ended on January 20, 1981, twenty minutes after Ronald Reagan was sworn in as the new president.
On September 22, 1980, with the backing of the Arabian states, the demented leader of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, decided to take advantage of the revolution’s chaos in Iran by invading the Iranian soil from Northwest to South on the old claim of border disputes, thus beginning the Iran-Iraq War. Iraqi armies advanced full throttle for the central and the oil-rich south, killing and destroying what they could on their way. By March 1980, the invasion came to a stall, and Iraq’s army did not advance another mile from what they had already taken and that included the city of Khoramshahr in Khuzestan province. Nothing major happened in the following year, but in March 1982, Iran took on the offensive and inch by inch, the Iranian military took back all of the occupied territories by July 1, 1982.
In 1982 the Arabian states came together and offered the total reconstruction of damages by compensating Iran to end the war. Iran denied the offer, and the war raged for another six long years as the Iranian government made it its mission to advance until the occupation of Baghdad and put an end to Saddam’s regime.
The United States along with other European and Arab countries contributed greatly in weapons and economic aid to Iraq during the war. The Soviet Union, perhaps, was the number one supplier of weaponry and military advisors to Iraq during the war to the extent that, at the end of the war Iraq owed the Soviet Union almost $10 billion in military debts alone. The Soviet Union also sold weapons and ammunitions to Iran, completing its race for the weapon sale and destruction. France was the second greatest supplier to Iraq and tended to supply higher-technology equipment than the Soviets. This does not mean that many other nations did not either provide materials or encourage client states to do so, or that there was not a brisk business by private arms traders.
The Reagan and Bush Administrations sold over $200 million in weaponry to Iraq with billions of dollars in loans, including The Iraq-Gate Scandal which an Atlanta branch of Italy’s largest bank, Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, relying largely on U.S. taxpayer-guaranteed loans, funneled $5 billion to Iraq from 1985 to 1989. Not only did Reagan’s administration turn a blind-eye to Saddam’s regime’s repeated use of chemical weapons against Iranian soldiers and Iraq’s Kurdish minority, but the US helped Iraq develop its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs. With more than 100,000 Iranian victims of chemical weapons during the eight-year war, Iran is one of the countries most severely affected by Weapons of Mass Destruction, yet it’s being accused of producing such weapons by those who actually made them. At the time, the UN Security Council issued statements that “chemical weapons had been used in the war” and again, the United States and Great Britain remained shamefully silent.
Iran also obtained weapons and parts for its monarchy-era U.S. weapons through underground arms dealings from officials in the Reagan Administration. It was hoped that Iran would persuade several radical groups to release Western hostages, though this did not result; proceeds from the sales were diverted to the Nicaraguan Contras in what became known as the Iran-Contra Affair.
At the end of the war in 1988, the USS Vincennes, an American gunship, shot down an Iranian airliner flying from Shiraz to Dubai claiming that they “mistook” the giant Jumbo-Jet for an F-14 Tomcat Jet-fighter. Tragically all 290 innocent civilian passengers, including 66 children perished over the Persian Gulf. At the time of the attack, The USS Vincennes was indeed inside Iranian territorial waters, and the Iranian airliner was within Iranian airspace.
Was the crew court-martialed? No. They got decorated. After completing their tour, the Vincennes crew was awarded Combat Action Ribbons for having actively participated in ground or surface combat and the captain William C. Rogers received the Legion of Merit which is a medal that is awarded for “exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements.” Finally In 1996 the United States agreed to pay $61.8 million in compensation for the Iranians killed, however, the United States did not admit responsibility or apologize for the killings.
After 8 years, Iran and Iraq finally signed the UN Security Council Resolution 598, and on August 20, 1988, peace was restored. The war between Iran and Iraq left Iran with over 700,000 deaths, more than $500 billion in economic loss and thousands of families mourning, including mine. I grew up in that war.
Very interesting read Chris, thanks for the history lesson. I have a friend from France who did a rtw trip in 2008 and spent a week traveling through Iran and had a great experience with the people and the culture. It is shame what governments create in this world
First I would like to thank Stephanie Schell for her generous donation. I wish her the best of luck and success in all her endeavors.
Although I have been practically homeless for over 8 months, California sure feels like home, and it’s nice to be back. My five week excursion to Iran was bittersweet as I got to see and leave my grandparents for what I know for sure was the last time. Iran was just Iran with everything the same as I left it 10 years ago. The people were the same, the culture was untouched and from what I could tell, the only real difference was the mushroom-like apartments which were built on every corner.
I visited a few orphanages in Shiraz and got to see aspects of the “traditional” poverty in Iran which screams for education. A notable orphanage was the Narjes Home which focuses primarily on underprivileged children with mental and physical disabilities. This facility is an award winning non-profit, non-governmental rehabilitation and care center located in Shiraz, Iran which is home to many children. I was greeted by a blind kid named Zahra at the entrance who almost didn’t let me go until the end of my visit. I spoke to the management team and had a brief meeting with some of their directors to find out their problems and to see if we can do anything food wise for the patients.
Iranian people are semi-religious (they are just as religious as if a cow that was born in a tree is a bird, I wouldn’t call them fanatics) and because of their beliefs, they usually provide food for these kinds of places so generally the orphanages have no shortage of food. In fact the kids at Narjes were very well fed and I envied the fresh squeezed juices they were having after their lunch. What they needed most was diapers and cleaning supplies which are out of our organization’s focus, but I managed to round up some locals, family and friends to attend to their needs for the upcoming New Year (Persian New Year starts on 21st of March, the first day of spring). Overall this place is a very well-run institution which actually spends the money it raises on its patients rather than showing them off as poor to make more money. We cannot fundraise for them, and we will not as our mission is something else, but if anyone is interested in sparing a few dollars for these children, you can help out by visiting their website. I personally vouch for their honesty as I reviewed their financial statements, organizational documents and service records and found them to be exemplary.
Iran with all its peculiarities is still a notable place to visit. The people were hospitable, food was great and the traffic as deadly as it comes. For every car there were two motorcycles on the road and at times, the whole country seemed to run on two wheels. In fact, if you ever get stuck in traffic, all you have to do is to jump on back of any bike and it automatically becomes a two-wheeled taxi. The rest is like being in a 3D movie theater as every object comes to millimeters from your eyes before miraculously disappearing. Motorcycle taxis are plenty in big cities of Iran and you can expect your rider to have no helmet, wearing flip flops and riding like he’s Ted Kennedy and the liquor store is closing in 5 minutes.
I have to get new tires and do some adjustments on the bike and I’ll be on the road heading for Arizona for our World Hunger exhibitions and lectures. The weather is nice, the bike is running like a champ and the roads open. Till next time…
The time I have been waiting for so anxiously has finally come. The GS850 was a fine bike to begin with, but now it’s even better. The second leg of the expedition has started and in order to maximize the storage capacity for the longer push, the bike had to go through some more modifications along with the regular maintenance. Finally, it’s in tip-top shape.
First thing was to resolve the fork seal problem by installing bright yellow dirt bike fork boots to prevent dirt and bugs from ruining the fork tubes and seals. It kind of looks funny (Cynthia calls them Big Bird Legs), but I’m convinced that they will make the seals last much longer.
After exhaustive research for the best navigation system, besides stopping and asking Seven Eleven clerks en route, we finally decided on the Garmin Nuvi 260W GPS with 4.3” display. This unit is a discontinued model, but it is powerful and robust. The routing engine is excellent and since we have no use for Bluetooth, MP3 player, or traffic updates, this $100 GPS fits the bill perfectly. I had to come up with my own ingenious hillbilly-design mounting system, but it works like a charm.
In order to make more room in the aluminum panniers, I got rid of the big water bottle and instead, installed two smaller external bicycle-style water bottles on the outside of the boxes. I mounted another bottle cage on the back for the fuel bottle so it now sits outside instead of taking up room inside the pannier.
The pannier rack had to be redesigned to accommodate more rearward mounting of the panniers, so a completely new rack was built from scratch to move the boxes back 11 inches. The rear turn signals had to be relocated, and they are pointing downward nesting between the boxes now. The rear footpegs were also relocated by drilling two holes in the aluminum receiver so the rack could be mounted using the stock rear footpeg mounting holes.
I ordered the Kenda 761 tires and after a long mounting battle, they are on and looking good. The complete test report will follow on how they perform, but my initial impression is that they seem to be well made, have sticky rubber compound, and I like the tread pattern.
There were two pieces of equipment which failed during the first leg of the expedition. One was the trusty Optimus Nova multi-fuel stove and the other the Princeton Tec Fuel headlamp. I have used Optimus stoves on the highest mountains and harshest terrains and have yet to have a problem with any of them, but this particular one baffled me. It kept leaking and regardless of what I did to fix it, it refused to get better. Optimus kindly and promptly replaced the stove after only one email, and they even sent a newer model right to my door. Princeton Tec also replaced the faulty headlamp for a new unit for no charge. I’m sure these were just couple of bad apples in a bunch, and both companies stood by their products. I will continue to use their gear and will attest to their quality and customer service.
Stay tuned for the reports as they will come more regularly from now on.
I left Bakersfield for Monterey, CA on a beautiful sunny day. I was going up to Monterey to meet up with Andy Pogany, our CFO, to do some work on the books and get the bike tested in the process. I figured that since he has a garage, I might as well take the new Kenda tires with me and install them there. The ride was a great one. The bike handled very well fully loaded, and even with two odd shape tires strapped to the back, and the mighty winds of Kern County, I kept a steady 80mph pace easily. For those of you who have been following this blog religiously, you might remember that I first met Andy on my way down from Alaska. He is a fellow GSer (gsresources.com, a motorcycle forum focused on older Suzuki GS line) who invited me to stay at his house for a day or two. The first time I ended up staying for 4 days and this time I doubled that! Andy and Jollene are gracious hosts. Andy’s house is right on top of a giant hill with a view of the Pacific Ocean, and his property is as close as to any wilderness you can find in California. It’s got raccoons, deer, turkey, wild boars, hawks, frogs… you name it, it’s there.
For some odd reason, Andy and I get along like we’ve known each other for years, and he is one hell of a cool guy. With a BS in finance and MBA, it really was a no-brainer to elect him as our CFO/Treasurer on the Transcontinental Humanitarian Corp. board. This non-profit bookkeeping business is more than I can take, and I’m glad that Andy is pretty good at this stuff and volunteering to do it. Cynthia joined me in Monterey the next day and we pretty much got the whole corporation beast under control. We held another board meeting with all the directors and unanimously elected Jared Williams (another fellow GSer, I know! The list is growing.) as the 6th director and Public Relation Officer. Welcome aboard Jared. You will be hearing more from him and his upcoming hunger walk in Boston soon.
But the biggest news of all is that WE DID IT!!!! 4 months and 20 days of hard work finally paid off. Our application for tax-exemption got approved by the IRS, and Transcontinental Humanitarian Corp. is officially a non-profit public benefit 501(c)(3) corporation, and that means that from now on, all contributions and donations are tax deductable. You don’t believe me? Try the donate button and see for yourself. No seriously do it! I dare you!
When I received the news, I was in shock for longest time. It feels good to see what I have started is becoming what I didn’t even imagine. I started this ride to make a difference and see the world in process, but I met so many people sharing the same passion and enthusiasm that I could not resist the temptation of jumping higher. We are divided as species, but we can unite on what we can believe in and make a bigger difference together. A 1982 Suzuki motorcycle became something bigger than life for me. Now I can say that I’m content with what I have done, and I see a very bright future for this budding organization.
Many thanks to beautiful Cynthia Quispe for her hard work on writing/editing and proof-reading the countless words I scribbled on the corporation documents. I couldn’t have done it without her. Thanks to Andy Pogany for crunching down all those alien numbers, thanks to Kyle Ford for looking over the steps like a hawk and pointing out legal misunderstandings. Thanks to Joe Deluca for running around and getting the signatures, thanks to Jared Williams for his share of knowledge and his great support, and many thanks to Don and Pam Chriske for scanning and sending all the correspondent letters, and thanks to myself for not killing myself in the process. Thanks to all of those who made this journey possible, from individuals to big corporations, all who provided road-side assistance, occasional and burger sponsors, thank you to all of you, I couldn’t have done it any other or better way.
We took a successful test drive in town and on freeway to see how the bike handled with the two of us and all of our gear loaded up on it, and discovered that we would have to continue to pare down our meager belongings to reduce the weight as the bike was quite unwieldy to maneuver. We also needed more air in the tires as we were sitting pretty low. At one point, with a little too much throttle after stopping at a light, we almost popped a wheelie! So we made the final kinks and tweaks to setting up the bike fully loaded for two.
We only have 2 pairs of pants each and aside from our riding shoes, 1 pair of flip-flops each. This is not a fashion tour to say the least! And in practicing the art of minimalization, we follow the adages that “what’s mine is yours,” as well as “sharing is caring” as we not only share deodorant and toothpaste but toothbrush as well. For those interested, the following is what made our short list of actual belongings that we could fit on the bike.
2 sleeping bags and 2 sleeping pads
1 four-season mountaineering tent and tarp
2 seven pound bags of clothing for both of us
2 pairs of riding gloves, 2 helmets, 2 pairs of cold weather gloves, 2 riding gear sets (jackets/pants), sunglasses and riding glasses
1 skillet, 2 camping pots, 1 hatchet, 1 multi-fuel stove, 2 plates, 1 cup, 2 spoons & forks, P31 can opener, fire flint, washing sponge, Zip-lock bags, lighters
1 box mixed spices, 1 small bottle olive oil
Video camera, photo camera, batteries, 10 in Netbook, chargers, 2 cell phones
2 boxes of tools, 2 microfiber towels, 1 can of Pledge, fishing pole and reel, assorted fishing tackles, can of Neverdull, oil filter, flat iron
Medicine and first aid kit, 1 toiletry bag, 1 very small camp towel
1 book each, 1 journal each, 2 headlamps, 1 small flashlight, sunscreen, bug spray, and a shit shovel, toilet paper, 2 pens, maps, compass, GPS
We made our maiden voyage today under a sunny sky and warm breeze. The road from Bakersfield to Barstow was windy as usual and trying to get the beast under control in the wind made for a good challenge. Cynthia is a great passenger, and we sync perfectly on the bike. We left a little late in the afternoon and by the time we got to Barstow, the sun was already setting. We were both exhausted fighting the wind so called it good for the day and settled down. The closest store was the 99 cent store and luckily the grocery section was quite accommodating. Writing some emails and dosing off to a movie capped off the night. Next stop: Arizona.
Cynthia was quiet and all I could hear was the spinning of the tire. I turned my head to look at her, but a cloud of dust was all I could see. The rear wheel finally stopped spinning and I felt the bike disappearing underground. We were stuck in the deep soft sands of the Colorado River bed. It was already dusk and not a soul around.
That morning we had departed Barstow headed for the Grand Canyon, but the wind didn’t ease up. And neither did the temperature which kept sky rocketing to 98 degrees by only midday. I grew up in desert and seeing triple digit temperatures is not alien to me, but wearing two pairs of pants, a black riding jacket and a giant helmet is not exactly hot weather attire. Sweat kept coming down my forehead into my eyes, and I could taste the salt every time I licked my lips. We stopped in a shade to get out of the heat for even a second, and Cynthia almost passed out from exhaustion.
We had over 7 hours of riding to the Grand Canyon, and we had to make a stop in Phoenix to see my friend, Laura Blackwood, and pick up the new windshield and our bank cards. We also had to be at Albuquerque, NM on the 10th so abandoned the thought of visiting the Grand Canyon for making better time and took the opposite rode for Lake Havasu City in Southern Arizona. We arrived in Lake Havasu City around 5pm and stopped to get some water. Lake Havasu City is home to the famous original London Bridge which was relocated from England to the United States in 1964. We did our grocery shopping and headed south again with hope of finding a camp spot before dark. Highway 95 follows the Colorado River south for the most part, and both side of the highway is desert with cactuses and the occasional hill.
We found a nice campground on the river close to the Parker Dam but at $26 a night, my immediate reaction was to turn around and look for a free site on the opposite side of the highway which was all BLM lands. We took the first passable dirt road that we could find off the highway. The road started with hard packed dirt, turned into loose gravel which grew larger, and then turned into shale. At that point Cynthia wanted to get off the bike as we were fishtailing all over the place. In the distance I saw a scraggly tree, more like a large shrub which I hope would provide a smidgen of shade, and a relatively flat spot so I stood on the pegs to ride the bike down to the good spot. I was all happy until I tried to put the bike on the kickstand and get off. My feet started sinking, and I knew then and there we were in deep shit.
With a block of wood under the stand, I got off the bike and started unloading our gear with the hope of making the bike a little lighter, and I aired down the tires a few pound for better floatation. All I had to do was to cover 100 yards of a loop to get back up to the solid ground, but the ground turned into powder that swallowed everything. With all my might I completed the loop almost home free, but the last section was the worst, and the bike didn’t move an inch forward but kept on sinking down.
We were almost a mile from the highway and no one in sight. The bike went so far down that the rear wheel stopped spinning, and the exhausts were getting buried in the sand. The good thing was that the bike stood upright without needing the kickstand so I could get off of it. Cynthia suggested that we should dig the bike out of the sand. I looked at her like she was crazy and told her so. It seemed like the sand went all the way to China. My master plan was to get AAA to come and pull us out, but that all ended when they informed us they are not responsible for anything more than 100 feet off the closest paved road. My next plan was to go back to the main road in the morning and find someone with a truck to pull us out. Cynthia kept insisting that we try to dig it out. I told her that if you want to dig it out go right ahead, and I got on the phone to talk to commiserate my woes to my friend Andy.
When I was done with my phone call, I noticed that Cynthia was on the ground under the bike with a flat rock digging out sand. She was covered in sand and dust, but to my astonishment she dug the whole tire out and kept on placing small rocks under the tire to give it some traction. Finally I agreed to give it a shot and after spinning the rear tire on and off and digging it out a few more times, we managed to get the bike onto semi-solid ground. Cynthia got a Girl Scout badge and was honored a medal for saving our butts. I made up for the efforts for setting up the camp with the most comfortable sleeping pad (check out the picture). It looked hillbilly but hell it was comfortable. It’s hot out here; by 7 a.m. we were baked out of the tent. We need to get out of Arizona soon. Stay tuned.
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