SATURDAY 31 AUGUST, 2002 - SEATTLE, WA USA
[Just another beautiful night in Seattle. For those of you who have never seen the Seattle skyline, a view of the Space Needle looking towards the downtown area.]
I have a stubborn streak that demands I finish what I started. In my last update, I was mending a few bruises and broken bones at home in Seattle, watching the weekly video coverage of the Globeriders World Tour on Speedchannel, wishing more than anything that I was there with them.
After weeks of sleeping upright (ever tried to lay down with broken ribs?), I couldn't stand it anymore. On 30 JUN, my wife Aillene and I and departed Seattle-Tacoma International airport on NW/KLM Flight No. 34, bound for Amsterdam, with our final destination being Warsaw, Poland. Our plan was to meet up with the Globeriders as they crossed the border from Ukraine into Poland.
Flying now across the Atlantic, we endured a blessedly uneventful flight, arrived in Warsaw, and took the train to Krakow. Our tour leader, Helge, suggested that we drive to the nearest border crossing to meet the group. Little did I realize the crossing was hundreds of kilometers East of Krakow! Nonetheless, we re-joined the group as planned, and finished the tour. Since I was still in recovery mode, we assumed a new role as the "chase vehicle", renting a Mitsubishi Charisma, the best that Hertz Rental in Poland had to offer.
Today, I received "how are you" email from Mrs. Feng Lin, the kind woman who was my translator at the hospital in China. Hers was one of many messages that I recv'd wishing me well, and wondering how the trip ended. Like I said, I like to finish what I started. Over the next month, I'll be sending "slightly" delayed Updates on the remainder of the tour. It certainly doesn't have the impact of real-time reporting, but, there's some good stuff to come....
In the next Update - Poland!
TUESDAY 02 JULY, 2002 - KRAKOW, POLAND
[The Cracovia Hotel in Krakow, Poland]
GPS TRACK SINCE LAST UPDATE
[While Aillene and I traveled around 5,800 miles by plane and train in a little under 30 hours....]
[...the Globeriders covered close to 7,000 miles over a period of 48 DAYS! That portion of the journey is their story, and it wouldn't be right to recount it here.]
GLOBERIDERS TOUR DAY NO: 56
DAYS SINCE LAST UPDATE: 48
TOTAL NO. OF AA BATTERIES USED TO DATE: 20
Aillene and I took the train from Warsaw to Poland. I was glad to see that even the national railway people had a sense of humor, see below:
[I doubt Steven Spielberg would approve of this aptly-named dining car. Hope the scene inside doesn't match that of the movie from which the name was derived!]
Since I had last seen the group in Beijijng, they have driven over 7,000 miles, travelling through Northern China, Mongolia, across the vast country of Russia (8 time zones!), and through Ukraine. I hope some of you were able to follow their exploits on Speedchannel. I couldn't begin to recount their adventures (and mis-adventures) here, but I know that a lot of vodka was consumed, a few braves souls dared the frigid waters of the world's largest and deepest fresh water lake, Lake Baikal (20% of all the fresh water on planet Earth in that lake!), joined in drag races, got lost, found, and continued to make friends and memories across Eurasia.
However, the "endurance far and above the call of duty" award had to go to David Wilde, an English ex-pat from Indonesia, riding his Kawasaki KLR 650. Somewhere in Russia, his bike developed a VERY pronounced vibration from somewhere down in the bowels of its engine. Another rider, who rode it for a while to give David a rest, claimed that he could only hold onto the handlebars with one hand positioned near the center. The vibration was so bad his hands became totally numb in minutes. As if that wasn't bad enough, David's rear shock lost its damping ability, meaning that he was riding solely on the spring. Imagine riding a two-wheeled pogo stick across Russia! Then, adding insult to injury, the shaft and spring finally gave up the ghost and broke. A replacement shock was nowhere to be found in Russia. Their solution is shown below:
[Any self-respecting engineer would tell you that you can't weld steel to aluminum - here's proof that isn't neccessarily true. A local repair shop in Russia took David's now broken rear shock, removed the upper and lower mounting points, and jammed and welded them onto a piece of rebar (concrete reinforcing bar, a universal way to strengthen concrete)!]
[A bemused Sterling Noren holding David's make-shift "shock".]
I'm sure the pogo-sticking was bad. I can't imagine how horribly worse it must have been to ride a motorcycle on roads in a sad state of disrepair for hundreds, if not thousands, of miles. In the United States, people still build highly-customized motorcycles called "choppers", and many of these are intentionally built without a rear shock to enhance their appearance. These are commonly referred to as "hardtails". With his "rebar strut" in place, David surely deserves an Ironbutt award for riding the "ultimate" hardtail through the world's largest country! Fortunately, I had received a desperate email plea to locate and hand-carry a new rear shock with me from the States, which I presented to a weary David when we met at the border. The cost of a new replacement shock in the States as quoted by a local dealer? $850.00! The value in Poland - priceless!
[David and friends busily installing the new shock in a border restaurant's parking lot near Krakoweic, Poland.]
In the next Update - Krakow, Poland....
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