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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Achievable Dream The definitive guide to planning your motorcycle adventure! This insanely ambitious 2-year project has produced an informative and entertaining 5-part, 18 hour DVD series. "The ultimate round the world rider's how-to DVD!" MCN UK.
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Hi fellow riders! Anyone in Albuquerque? Meet up with us at the Main Library in Albuquerque at 501 Copper NW today. We have a display set up outside with the motorcycle and will be doing an educational lecture and slideshow from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Would love to see you there!
Parker Dam to Phoenix, AZ is about 170 miles, but we took the back roads and that made it an 8 hour ride. I’m convinced that Arizona has the best highways on the planet. The asphalt is flawless, and the scenery is spectacular. That’s why a lot of people migrate south from the northern states during the winter months to bask in the sun and enjoy this beautiful state. The open roads and sunny skies of late were calling not only us, but many other motorcyclists to the road as I have never seen so many motorcyclists on as in I did in Arizona. There were motorcycle gangs and solo riders everywhere we looked. As long as you stay in the shade, the temperatures are actually not too bad but. No wonder you don’t even see bugs out in the heat of the day.
On our way to Phoenix we stopped at a cool little Western town called Wickenburg with hitching posts and statues of people in old-fashioned attire. The town almost looked deserted but it was clean and we found a great shady spot by some fenced off train cars next to the Chamber of Commerce. We were really dehydrated and some lady kindly gave us a cold bottle of water and filled up the rest of our bottles. A friendly local guy named Scott, who was a rider as well, came over to see the bike, and since my trusty Garmin GPS had just stopped working for some odd reason, he gave us some good directions to avoid the Phoenix rush-hour traffic.
We made it to Phoenix rather late at night with no place to stay. Cynthia convinced me that we should try to send out a last-minute request on couchsurfing.com to see if anyone would put us before we tried to find a cheap hotel. We’re on a rather strict budget and try to use hotels only as a last resort. Around 9:15 p.m. we got a call from Ryan who welcomed us to his home in a beautiful Mesa suburb. We were his first couch surfers ever, and Ryan turned out to be a first-class host. His home was immaculate and comfortable. Ryan helped us do our laundry and feel human again after riding in the desert for the past few days with no shower. After sleeping in, we woke up delighted to be on the receiving end of Ryan’s delicious cooking and enjoyed the gourmet breakfast that he had waiting for us before we went on our way. Thank you, Ryan, for opening up your home to us at the last minute.
We found shade and a place to work on the bike at the local Wal-Mart service bay where the employees helped us a lot with providing degreaser, rags, and washing container for me to clean the dusty clogged air filter that was making the bike choke and replace the windshield. My friend, Laura Blackwood, met up with us with a refreshing frappuccino in hand to cool us off and brought us our mail and the new windshield from National Cycle which had been shipped to her for us to pick up. National Cycle generously replaced the cracked windshield at no charge. National Cycle is one of the leaders in the motorcycle windshield market, and they make quality shields for a broad range of motorcycles. I’ve been very happy with their products and will continue to use them. Thanks to Steve at National Cycle for assisting me with taking care of this problem.
Laura is multi-faceted woman with many interests and talents. She has worked in radio and is a great story-teller thanks to her background in radio and education in English. After chatting for a while and reviewing maps with Laura, we said our good-byes and left Mesa for Northern Arizona’s high country. A big thank-you to Laura for her assistance in helping us out with bringing our mail and for the frappuccino. We gradually climbed higher into cooler climes and the cactus-covered land gradually gave way to full-fledged pine forests with rivers and creeks. We stopped in Payson, AZ to pick up some groceries and pushed on to find a place to camp in the woods with nightfall rapidly falling. We found a very nice campsite by the river amidst a stand of tall trees. Cynthia is petrified of the dark and was constantly shining her little bitty headlamp light in every direction for the boogeyman that is supposedly out there. I enjoyed scaring her to death by throwing rocks into the dark and pretending to hear something outside of the tent every once in a while. I hope she gets over her fear sometime soon as we will be camping in much more scary places than peaceful Payson, AZ. Stay tuned.
We would like to thank Sarah Jennings and Cheryl Gibson as well as our anonymous donors for their generous donations.
The cool air by the river in the Payson pine forest campsite tempted us to linger a little longer as it was a welcome relief from the heat from earlier in the week. Reluctantly we packed up camp and loaded the bike to get on the road again. The process takes at least a good 30-45 minutes. We started back on the 277 to Albuquerque, enjoying the dramatic and changing scenery from pine trees to cactuses to beautiful red rock cliffs. The open road was especially windy. Highway 40 was even shut down shortly after we passed through it due to high winds. The road seemed never-ending and by nightfall, we still hadn’t reached Albuquerque but wanted to push on to our couchsurfing hosts, Janice and Dan Kostelnick.
We arrived late with 4 layers of shirts due to the wind-chill and were grateful to be met by Janice’s warm and welcoming hospitality. She kept a delicious dinner waiting for us and made us feel right at home. Janice is an exuberant, straight-shooting, creative soul who loves art. She was working on an amazing mosaic project on the wall around her house. Her husband Dan is an engineer and has a calm steady demeanor and sarcastic wit. The two make a good balance for each other. Dan had an awesome garage with every tool imaginable and helped me do some maintenance on the bike.
We are grateful to Yvonne Scott, another fellow couchsurfer, for writing about our World Hunger Exhibition on her blog. Yvonne lives and works in Albuquerque, NM, enjoying her granddaughters, mountains and year around motorcycle roadways. She is a landscape consultant and freelance writer on everything from Mongolian embroidery to her other passion: solo travel on the cheap.
Trying new things comes part and parcel with traveling around the world. In all my 28 years I’ve never even heard of a Flowbee, much less had my head shorn with one by an Italian ex-hippie. But thanks to our next hosts, Katherine and Bob Riolo, I can now cross that off my list! They were contemplating moving to work with the needy in another country after having gone to Nicaragua for one month. Inspired by the movie, The Bucket List, Katherine wrote her own list and was actually going to shave her hair for cancer at an event for St. Baldrick’s Foundation.
During our stay in Albuquerque we had two slideshow presentations and lectures scheduled at the Albuquerque Main Library as part of our World Hunger Exhibition. We also had a display outside the library to spread the word about the expedition and fundraise and were able to meet Harry, a physician, who had gone to hear the presentation before ours by Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières). We are grateful to Joani Murphy, the library manager, for her assistance in coordinating our events at the library.
At the end of our stay, we met Steve, a kind-hearted and free-spirited guy and got to stay in his very cool bus/RV. Steve is a talented wood-working artist and photographer who travels around the world selling his art and enjoying other cultures. He rides a BMW 1200RS that smoked our ride by miles when we went out cruising together.
All told Albuquerque was very kind to us and we enjoyed our time there and the people we met. The flavors of the Southwest have been delightful thus far and we look forward to more.
The ride to Santa Fe along the Scenic Byway 14 unfolded like a picture-postcard. You couldn’t have ordered a more beautiful day. The layers of endless white clouds billowed around us in every direction. We stopped in the artsy little town of Madrid, which was once a historic mining town and ghost town, for a pit stop, and then continued on until reaching, America’s oldest capital city, Santa Fe.
Santa Fe, or “the City Different,” as it more aptly nicknamed, is loaded with flavor with charming and interesting architecture and art engaging your senses everywhere you look. The city is home to a host of art galleries and museums for art lovers, including the famed Georgia O’Keefe Museum. We landed at the historic Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza which has retained some of the original adobe walls of the 350-year old home of Santa Fe’s “first family,” the Ortiz family. Many thanks to Suzanne Lehman at the Hilton Santa Fe for sponsoring our first night in the beautiful hotel.
We are still on our fundraising portion of our expedition before turning south for Argentina. It’s hard to put the word fun in fundraising as taking off helmets and riding gear every five minutes to approach another business is not a pleasant task, but the creative vibe of Santa Fe must have rubbed off on Chris while we were there as he had a eureka moment of EPIC magnitude which has been taking up a lot of time in planning. The plan is to set up a charity ride. But not just ONE charity ride-try 50 simultaneous rides in all 50 states!!! This unprecedented event will take place in late August (stay tuned for the exact date and locations as we sort through this). This ride is a nationally and internationally sponsored event, with lots of cool raffle items and entertainment. We are looking for volunteer ride leaders in every state so if you are interested, please send us an email and we’ll put you on the list.
We would also like to thank Jean Salisbury at Lamplighter Inn and Brian Womach at Holiday Inn of Santa Fe for sponsoring the rest of our accommodations while networking and getting the charity ride off the ground. We enjoyed their clean and comfortable rooms and their top-notch hospitality. We both agreed: Santa Fe, NM is a really cool place. We loved it there and bet you will too.
Stay tuned: a motorcycle safety awareness feature and adventures on the road to Denver coming up!
As we rode up the 25N, we felt a little bit like we were in the twilight zone, each of us privately musing over our recollection of US geography and wondering how in the world Las Vegas could be on our route. Hadn’t we left that back West, miles ago? But sure enough, sign after sign kept pointing towards Las Vegas. Turns out there is another Las Vegas, in New Mexico, although this one doesn’t come up in the first five pages of a Google search, if you just search for Las Vegas instead of Las Vegas, NM, but it should given its colorful and storied history.
Las Vegas was established in 1835 after a group of settlers received a land grant from the Mexican government. The town was laid out in the traditional Spanish Colonial style, with a central plaza surrounded by buildings which could serve as fortifications in case of attack. Las Vegas soon prospered as a stop on the Santa Fe Trail. Historian Ralph Emerson Twitchell once claimed, “Without exception there was no town which harbored a more disreputable gang of desperadoes and outlaws than did Las Vegas.” Among the notorious characters were such legends of the Old West as: dentist Doc Holliday and his girlfriend, Big Nose Kate, Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp, Mysterious Dave Mather, Hoodoo Brown, Durango Kid and Handsome Harry the Dancehall Rustler. A number of films were made in this town, and Patrick Swayze, American actor, dancer and singer-songwriter, had a ranch in Las Vegas.
After grabbing some New Mexican grub in Vegas, we headed out into the fierce winds, like 2 bugs on a bull. The wind was blowing around 45-50 mph. and pushing us back and forth all over the highway. Sometime during the ride, the plastic cradle for the GPS which was mounted on the front left side of the bike broke off. Luckily, Chris was able to grab the GPS before it fell and smashed to bits on the highway. We pulled over at a rest stop to get a reprieve from riding in the winds. Chris latched his helmet onto the front left pannier as he had done hundreds of times before, and the rack supporting the pannier sheared completely off and fell to the ground with the pannier.
Thankfully a friendly family traveling in their RV came over to chat and gave us some rope to help strap the box to the rear left pannier. It’s important that the weight on the bike be properly be balanced and distributed so as to ensure the maximum safety while riding. We were already having trouble riding in the wind but after having to re-position the left front pannier to the back, we were wobbling back and forth in the wind.
With miles to go until Denver, Colorado, we were trying to make good time to reach our couch surfing host, Paul Cornelius, but had to ride between 45-65 miles per hour. This slower place made it easier to spot the antelope dotting the plains as we drove by. The sun set gloriously against the mountains, and we still were hours from Denver. We threw on more layers to help beat the wind-chill and pushed on until we arrived exhausted at Paul’s doorstep. Paul opened the door before we even dismounted from the bike and came out to welcome us. Although our stay with him was short, he took the time from his busy schedule to visit with us and share stories about life and travels around the world. He’s traveled all over Central and South America as well as lived in Europe and will be leaving shortly on a back-packing trip to Asia and Africa for the next 2 years. The next morning we lucked out and found the coolest guy on the planet with more tools that I could care for. We’ll be fixing the bike here in Denver and get on the road. Stay tuned!
Early dawn found us packing the bike grateful for a few hours of shut-eye out of the wind. We said good-bye to Paul as he had to head to work and found a Wal-Mart to buy the replacement rack for the bike. Then we camped out at the Golden Arches as per usual, when we need Wi-Fi, to try to find some place to work on the bike. I posted an SOS on the GS Resources forum to see if anyone from the Denver area could help us out. After a few hours we were relieved to get a call from fellow GSer, Tom Kent, who invited us to his home in Littleton, CO. He met us with lemonade and invited us to his granddaughter, Amberlynn’s birthday party down the street where we met the rest of Tom’s family.
We love meeting new people on our trip. So many people have gone out of their way to help us or to make us feel welcome, and Tom’s family was no exception. Tom and his lovely wife, J’Amy, graciously welcomed us into their home, along with their son, Thomas, and cat, Tweak. They made us feel like part of the family while we were there. We were even able to attend Thomas’s graduation. Congratulations Thomas!
Tom is an airline pilot with a love of restoring old bikes. He has a fully-stocked garage and was even in the process of adding a shop to work on his projects. Soon we were swapping stories and chatting like old buddies. Two heads are often better than one, and as we parleyed ideas for the bike, the original project of fixing the rack for the pannier evolved into a multi-faceted task. A three hour job turned into a 4 days of fabrication.
The main problem with the hillbilly racks was that they were aluminum and were not designed to hold anything more than 10 pounds. They broke from the weld joint every time in the same spot leaving the whole rack useless. The cure to that came from a metal scrap yard where we bought aluminum stocks and sheets to make our braces. Two semi V shape brackets on sides, and two on the top did the job but the aluminum tube of the rack was so thin that you could barely put any force on the bolts. We cut aluminum tubes to go over the bolts and keep the main tube from crushing under the force. To make it even stronger, we fashioned four steel tube braces to go from the engine mounts to the boxes to keep the boxes from swinging left and right. To cap it off, we changed the oil and added two 55W Halogen fog lights to the front to fix the lighting problem.
I lived so long with the pain of the old and bent-up side-stand that I almost forgot what a good side stand would be like. Not any more. Tom is the master of fabrication, and all it took was two aluminum hockey pucks and two machine screws to put an end to that old pain. He even welded the backside of the stand to make it sturdier and now I have a fully functioning side stand. Tom promised me to burn that old block of 2x4 I hauled around for under the stand along with his Harbor Freight Sawzall!
We bid farewell to Denver in the late afternoon with plans to head to Laramie to stay with some couchsurfing hosts there. Taking a scenic route through the Colorado giants, we soon encountered breathtaking views and snow along the road. We entered into the Rocky Mountain National Park enjoying peaks at antelope and elk along the way. We had to go slowly in several sections of the road where there was gravel or there were workman taking down trees ravaged by the rampant beetle kill. The light started fading just as to our dismay, we reached a road barricade with no hope of passing through. There wasn’t a soul in site and the official campgrounds we passed on the way had all been closed. We would have to go a long ways back to make it out of the park and into a town, and at this point I was nervous about hitting an animal in the poor visibility. I’ve already had some close calls in the past in my Jeep and wasn’t eager to press my luck, as one wayward deer would likely make road kill out of us on a bike. We tried to call our couchsurfers in Laramie to let them know we can’t make it and soon realized that neither one of us had cell phone reception. We walked around the hillsides trying to get a signal but the cell phone gods were not on our side.
Deciding to forgo dinner as we were too cold and tired to cook, we pitched camp, making sure to hoist our food up a tree a good distance away in case a hungry bear came around. In the morning we met a couple from Germany who was also waiting for the road to open. They said that it was supposed to open that day with a ceremony to start the season. We are heading up north for Montana for a few days. It’s raining and snowing hard in Teton and Yellowstone so we have to make our call…
First I would like to thank Frank Perreault of the GS Resources for his great support and generous donation.
As we stated earlier, we are still on the fundraising tour in the U.S. and also putting into place details for the charity rides. It helps to have a home base to work on the details and also looking to avoid tornados and flooding due south and east, we decide to keep riding north to my hometown of Helena, MT.
We continued on into Wyoming. The winds were with us again, a seemingly ever-present part of our trip by now. But each time they seemed to blow more viciously. When we would stop for breaks, it was difficult to walk in the wind. Sometimes Cynthia takes pictures as we whiz by some pretty scene on the bike, but the rabid winds hamper those photo-opt moments greatly, so mostly she just hangs on tight to my back. We have a very limited (close to non-existent) budget for hotel stays and try to camp, couchsurf, or get sponsored stays when we can. But with nightfall upon us, feeling exhausted and windblown, Cynthia put us up in a hotel with a free breakfast. After a good night’s rest and a hot breakfast in our bellies we headed for Teton and Yellowstone National Park.
The road through the park is kind of a shortcut but living in Montana has taught me a thing or two in the past; never trust the weatherman, and be ready for snow even in July! I was hesitant to take that route, but since Cynthia has never been to that part of the country and was really looking forward to it, I went for it anyway. After all it was sunny, and I didn’t want to chicken out prematurely.
The weather started out to be promising, but then all bet’s were off and we had the most intense, crazy riding day I’ve ever experienced: driving rain, sleet, snow, hail, poor visibility, freezing our assess off, you name it. The irony is that I was hoping to find “good” weather by heading north, and on this day, we happened to be riding in the coldest spot in the U.S. Unfortunately, due to the weather, all we could manage was a brief drive-by tour of Yellowstone, but Cynthia was elated nonetheless at each new mountain peak and animal we encountered. We actually were the only crazy motorcyclists on the road until we reached Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park.
At times we rode on with maybe 25 feet of visibility in a complete whiteout. My face was frozen, thanks to my open face helmet. Snow kept plastering my goggles and every time I cleaned them with my wet gloves, it made it worse. I had to take off my goggles to actually see where I was going, and our speed dropped down to 20 mph. Every time we stopped Cynthia was more amazed at the scenery, and I was more apprehensive of the situation. As a matter of fact, it was so cold that I had icicles hanging from my knees, and my cheeks were almost frostbitten despite of my ski mask.
It was pitch black and pouring icy cold rain by the time we made it out of Yellowstone. At a gas station in West Yellowstone, we were told that it would take at least another 2 hours to reach our next couchsurfing destination in Bozeman by way of Hyalite Canyon, and that it would surely be snowing. We sought shelter and Wi-Fi at a McDonalds but couldn’t get a connection. We finally started calling hotels from my GPS and were soon finding out that almost every place in town was sold out! Several places even ran out of food, including McDonalds! We lucked out in getting a last available room at one joint which turned out to be reminiscent of a hotel that would be used in a thriller or horror movie, but at least it was a place to warm up.
The next day we suited up and started off in the rain anxious to get to Helena, MT. As the miles rolled by the sky cleared up, and we drank in the spacious skies of the state that is aptly named the Big Sky Country. I never imagined that I would be coming full-circle in such a short time since staring my trip, but life has a way of bringing the unexpected, and sometimes it works out better than any plan you could make! Stay tuned!
What I heard the most in past few weeks was the question: “Are you back already?!!!”
I never thought that I would see Montana again, at least not for a long, long time, but here we are, back to where I started a year ago. Since I started this journey on my motorcycle, I have covered Alberta, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Alaska, British Colombia, Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. It seems like forever ago but such a short distance, more like a shakedown ride to me.
I learned a lot about riding and more importantly living on the road. I met some amazing people, saw some beautiful places, and built a sophisticated touring machine out of a 1982 Suzuki. But my true discovery came in the form of a dawning comprehension of the struggles that go on every day on every corner of this planet: in particular, the travesty of extreme poverty and malnutrition.
Well actually that wasn’t it. I discovered that I’m not the only one, and there are hundreds if not thousands who share the passion to help bring relief to those suffering from hunger. This journey evolved beyond the scope of my one-man band, and eventually I founded and incorporated the Transcontinental Humanitarian Corp., a non-profit 501(C)(3) organization to bring together those with a similar passion and desire to give a helping hand to ordinary people during times of extraordinary tribulation.
This is not an impressive resume for a so-called adventurer. From the minute I got back to Montana, I had the itch to get back on the bike again and head out for the unknown. But you know how it goes, when the bike is ready, I’m not, and when I’m ready the bike is not. Since I had a warm dry garage, I figured to fix everything I could possibly fix and with that in mind, I tore up the bike to pieces again.
I had some problem with the steering head bearings (which turned out to be far more gone that I thought), the rear brake needed new pads, the headlight wiring had to be redone to fix the voltage drop, wire the new fog lights, add some reflectors to the boxes for more visibility, add more lights to the back to mark the width of the bike, hardwire my GPS, Install the new camera mount, sand and clear-coat the side covers (cosmetic only but they had been bothering me for a long time), fix the oil leak form the cam-chain tensioner, head gasket and oil pressure switch, Install an alarm system, change the gearbox and drive shaft oil and grease everything.
The bearing races were in awful shape; no wonder this bike wobbled a lot in low speed. I could run my fingernail across it and dig in deep in the grooves made by the roller bearings. The rear brake pads were almost to the metal, and they were so far down that I could barely see any brake fluid in the reservoir. After adding 5 relays, the electrical system is now in tiptop shape and the headlight is as bright as it can be. I also added a security system with a screaming siren to ward off bored and crazy kids in third world countries; it also gives me a peace of mind while sleeping as I know it will go off the second a bird lands on it.
By the time I was done with all these chores, the bike looked and felt so good that I didn’t want to ride it anymore! In the meantime, Cynthia went back to California to give her two week notice and quit her job for the long run. She has come a long way. To be honest I didn’t think that she would make it more than 3 days, but she braved the road for 3000 miles and 40 days and she was eager for more. She quit her job of seven years as a social worker to join a crazy expedition on a motorcycle around the world. I did the same thing, but this was my dream. She wasn’t a rider, nor had she ever camped out more than a couple of nights at a time in her whole life without being close to her familiar surroundings. That’s adventurous in my book.
I picked her up at the airport in Missoula, and we are packing again, this time even smaller. We’ll be on the road before you know it, and this time no return for at least five years…
What you see on this website is the collection of my journals, photos, videos and reports of my everyday life, riding a classic Suzuki motorcycle around the world. The expedition starts in Helena, Montana. From there I ride to Canada before turning south toward Latin America. Self supported, I will be traversing 6 continents, 200 countries and territories, 24 time zones and 130º of latitude. I am working with both non-profit and non-governmental organizations all along the way, raising awareness and funds for ‘world hunger’, while humbly trying to make a difference, however small it may be.
Home is both “here” and “there” or somewhere in between. Sometimes it is “nowhere”. For me, the border is no longer at any fixed geopolitical site. I carry the border with me and find new borders wherever I go. I believe in a race-less and borderless world. Being black, white, yellow or purple does not define us. We only get one life and one ride, so lets leave our differences behind and enjoy this train before it has passed. It is just a ride and we can change it any time, it is only a choice, between “now” or “never”.
Imagine all the money spent on nuclear weapons and meaningless wars each year, all the embargoes and sanctions imposed upon innocent people – trillions of dollars. If we spent that money feeding, clothing and educating the poor of the world, not one soul excluded, it would pay for itself many times over. We could explore our globe together, forever in peace.
Lets not forget that my opinions are just like everyone else’s. They are all personal evaluations of certain situations in a given time. Scratch every opinion and underneath it, you will find a human being, trying to defy and justify his own existence. What follows is the account of my struggle: first-hand, unbiased, and uncensored.
Awesome blog and for a great cause. Thanks for doing what you did. Thanks for posting as well.
Hello friends! Our latest blog post comes to us courtesy of our organization’s Public Relations Director, Jared Williams. We are inspired by his recent trip to Haiti and his work there and hope you will be too. -Chris Sorbi
It’s been a week now since I returned home from an 8 day missionary trip to Haiti. What I saw in that time has clearly changed me and helped me to grow and coming home has been surprisingly hard. I long to be back in Haiti where I can see myself helping people directly and can see the faces of those receiving my gifts. However as I contemplate my trip and my contribution, I have wondered if that is truly the case, would I really help those in need more in Haiti or more back home?
I do not have that answer and perhaps it is not one answer for my entire life, but I will try to share with you some of what I experienced in Haiti. Each aspect perhaps reflects a lot on who I am and my personal story. For you to really fully understand the situation in Haiti and how it reflects on you and your life can not be done through my pictures, my videos or my stories. It would only happen with taking a trip to Haiti yourself and experiencing it in person.
My fulltime job involves large-scale planning and tracking for road and bridge projects for a 3 billion dollar 8 year program. I am used to looking at single projects and seeing how that interacts with hundreds of other projects working together as part of one large infrastructure program. My mind has been trained for years to break down huge construction projects to smaller and smaller pieces until they are manageable work activities then link them back together in a sequence and order to calculate how long it will take with a given effort to get to the eventual completion of the project. A simplification would be to say the greater the effort the less time it takes, and the smaller the effort the longer it takes.
While many on the trip saw the volume of destruction as insurmountable, I saw work activities that needed to be done. After temporary shelters, the road and transportation infrastructure immediately stood out as the first area needing focus in Haiti. This would help with the physical rebuilding of homes and businesses, but also aide the eventual economic rebuilding required to one day lift the country out of the immense poverty it is in. Unfortunately, throughout my stay I saw very little progress with a few curbs being made with hand-mixed mortar and stone and a stretch of roadway being placed with the only concrete mixer I saw, all ¼ yards of it. I even saw a single backhoe and loader along with a handful of dump trucks. The scale of reconstruction ahead of Haiti demands fleets of vehicles, massive transfer stations to break down the rubble into reusable aggregate, concrete mix plants and so much more that just isn’t present or available. Needless to say it was easy to see no end in sight for the cleanup let alone reconstruction with the current effort on the ground six months after the earthquake.
Once we got to the work sites, my trade experience as a carpenter kicked back in, and I felt good to be actively helping the people around me in a physical way. I got to meet the 26 children in Leogon using the orphanage we were putting walls up on; I got to see the 400 children in Laquil using the school that had no roof when we came benefit from finishing the roof over them, I got to see the 200 children in Foe Shea who would benefit from our trenching and wall building to keep their school above the flood level during the rainy season. It might be a postage stamp effort in a country that needs so much, but I could finally dig in and do work that was helping those in need.
Everyone we met in these villages was so thankful for us and our help but working alongside some Haitian workers I felt a sense of selfishness as what I spent to come to Haiti could pay for a crew of them to work for a month, helping both the schools in need and the workers and their families. This feeling was short-lived as they were so receptive and thankful, even the concrete crew I helped would say, “Merci Jared” after each pail of mortar I mixed and shoveled for them. The resounding message they all told me was simple, to not forget them and to share their story. They did not see me as taking their work but helping them as an equal and a brother that could take their story home to all of you reading this.
Now what touched me the most during my trip relates to my role as a father of three wonderful children. I saw so much faith and hope in these kids. They grew up in these surroundings and even with losing the little they had with the earthquake they retained a bright outlook on life when the rest of the world sees little to no hope for them. The faith they had reminded me of a Bible verse that has stuck with me for a while but came to new life in Haiti. In Mathew 18:1-6 it reads:
“1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3 And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 “And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. 6 But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”
We can learn a lot from these children and I saw the schools MissionE4 run as a direct and real tool being used in God’s name to support and further the faith these children have for their future. My personal sponsorship of Falonne is not just helping to feed, educate, and clothe her but is helping her to remain a child just a bit longer. This little gift by my standards is everything to her and directly helps her maintain that humility and faith through giving her a chance at a future in a country with so little.
As I was in Haiti and even coming home, I have struggled with how I can help best: is it being in Haiti and doing work on the ground, is it “sacrificing” a few luxuries I really don’t need to give a onetime gift towards rebuilding homes, or is it making a longer commitment to one of the many children still in need of a $30 a month sponsor? So as I ponder how best can I help my brothers and sisters in Haiti, I simply ask you to consider the same question. Do not let guilt guide you but only give what and how you are comfortable with. Is it a commitment to come on a future trip, or to give a onetime donation to the rebuilding effort, or to sponsor a child, or maybe all of the above?
Now in closing I ask you to consider the many options of who to donate to and where the money goes when you donate. While millions of donations are filtering through the government and other large aid groups its use and impact is hard to see on the ground right now. I pray it will be seen and real change will come but as I pray for that, I see smaller groups like MissionE4 as a direct and immediate channel to help the people in the most need. My reason for choosing to continue supporting MissionE4 is that they were in Haiti helping before the earthquake, they have the people and infrastructure on the ground to immediately put your dollars to work now, and when the rebuilding is complete, the sponsorship program ensures they will be funded to continue helping long into the future. I urge you all to consider the options, pray about it, and give cheerfully where and how you feel God will best use the gifts he has bestowed upon you to share with those in need.
Information on going on a future trip to Haiti: Expeditions General information and rebuilding donations: home Child Sponsorship information: Sponsor A Child
As a volunteer for the child sponsorship program you can also contact me directly at JaredNWilliams@gmail.com with questions or information on children looking for sponsors.
The torrential tropical rain of Honduras abated for the first time in five hours and the pitch black darkness descended for yet another night on the road in Central America. The SRZero electric car was in front and the support van following closely as they decided to pass the semi-truck ahead of us on the continuous yellow line. Passing cars on curves has become our favorite and routine pastime, so we don’t even second guess our actions, but this time turned out to be the inevitable.
The SRZero passed with no problem and the van followed, so I swerved to the left, picking up speed when suddenly, there it was, a giant pot-hole (more like a crevasse, to be honest) the whole width of the lane and 8 to 10 inches deep. There was nowhere to go and as I hit the brakes frantically, we hit the hole with full force. The horrible noise of bottoming out was one thing and the realization that the bike wasn’t able to accelerate anymore because of jammed front brake was another. The low headlight beam went out, the brake jammed and a flat tire capped off the festivity.
Two weeks ago, Cynthia and I made a connection with Claudio Von Planta, the famous documentary filmmaker and producer, popularly known for his work with Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman on BBC television series Long Way Round and Long Way Down, the motorcycle trips around the world on BMW GS’s.
Cynthia had been busy with doing social networking online to get the word out about Transcontinental Humanitarian Expedition and our ride around the world to raise awareness for world hunger. In the process of linking and spreading the word, she ran across the twitter profile for Claudio and within two days of following Claudio on twitter, she saw that he put out a tweet about needing to ride pillion to Mexico. It seemed like a great idea to join forces since we were going the same direction as we could help him out and in return we would benefit from his expertise with international travel and the margin of safety traveling with a group offers. We contacted him via email that night and by late afternoon of the next day, Friday, August 6, had settled that we would join him and a team of young Imperial College engineering students, Racing Green Endurance (or the RGE team for short), traveling from Mexico to Argentina with a Battery Electric Supercar, the SRZero, and filming a documentary series about the record-breaking journey of the electric supercar.
The plan was for me to ride the motorcycle while Claudio films the electric car on the back of the bike. Cynthia would ride in the support van and switch to the bike when Claudio isn’t filming and assist with Spanish translation and photography. The team had actually already started their journey on July 4, 2010 in Alaska as their mission is to take the car on the Pan-American Hwy from Alaska to Argentina.
It was such a short notice that I couldn’t even say goodbye to my closest friends in person and in 7 hours, we packed everything for the trip, did some last minute maintenance to the bike and by 6 a.m. Saturday morning, we left for a jaunt of 1800 miles from Helena, MT to the border town of Eagle Pass, TX to join the team in an exhausting two 900 miles days. Within the first five minutes of leaving, the clutch cable broke. As I had previously routed a second cable next to the original just for occasions like this, all I had to do was to connect it and continue on. Thankfully it broke close to my friends and expedition sponsors, Debbie and Tom Matte of Batteries Plus, and they provided the tools to fix the job along with fresh batteries for my camera.
We started our trip down to Mexico on Saturday, August 7 on pretty much no sleep which made the first day a challenge to cover ground as I was seriously sleepy. I kept having to stop to wake myself up and finally opted to try to get some sleep somewhere in Wyoming around 8 pm instead of pushing on. We were apparently the only motorcycle on the road NOT heading to Sturgis. We must have seen thousands of bikers on the road decked out in their leathers. Every gas station looked like a Harley Davidson showroom.
We were really hoping to make it to Eagle Pass, Texas for the border crossing with the team on Monday morning, but the miles were stretching endlessly before us. I was relieved when Claudio updated us that they delayed their crossing until Tuesday morning due to some breakdowns. He also assured us that we could meet up with them somewhere on the road in Mexico if we couldn’t make the border crossing, but I still wanted to try my best to cross the border with them.
Sunday morning we headed out on the road, but stopped to get more malaria medication and supplies. I desperately tried to order a set of tires to have an extra set in case of a flat. The tires on the bike already had a lot of miles and would need changing soon anyway. However, despite calling a million places, I had no luck getting anything en route or shipped in time to the border. We stopped before Denver to pick up a new camera for our trip, and then stopped again at Tom and J’Amy Kent’s house in Littleton, CO. Tom was my hero again and supplied me with a spare clutch cable and fed us sandwiches and drinks. We debated spending the night there, but I was still quite awake and knew that we needed to cover more ground. So we bid farewell to our pit-stop lifesavers again and headed towards Oklahoma.
With lightening dancing directly overhead we drove straight into a pouring rainstorm. I had only six hours of sleep in two days and there was nothing I could do to keep myself awake anymore. My eyelids closed every 5 seconds, and I honestly have no recollection of the scenery or the road for that section. My rescue came in the form of caffeine pills called NoDoz. These little pills are godsends as they made me jitter like a monkey on coke and bought us two more hours of riding before crashing like logs in Lamar, on the border of Oklahoma. Coming up next: Lamar, CO to Eagle Pass, TX in a heroic (Stupid if you ask me) push. Stay Tuned…
Here’s the trailer for RGE as a teaser. Visit Electric Adventures for more videos and to pre order the DVD.
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