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Photo by Bettina Hoebenreich, At the foot of the Bear Glaciers, eternal ice, British Columbia, Canada

Adventure is what you make it

Photo by Bettina Hoebenreich, at the foot of the Bear Glaciers, British Columbia, Canada.



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Old 15 Nov 2018
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Join Date: Jan 2016
Location: England
Posts: 38
A HUBB Love Story. 2 Strangers, 2 Bikes, England to Japan

Hi everyone,

I've just discovered there's a limit to the amount of words I can write on this thread. I'll continue writing this up in Word and then add it on to HUBB at a later date.

Let's rewind the clock...

18 months ago I found myself living alone with my cat, working in a job I love, but craving to see the world on my motorbike. I had become a member of HUBB to try and get inspiration for a future trip. I remember seeing a post from someone looking for a travel companion, looking for love. He had been criticised, "This isn't a dating site" someone had replied, but I felt for him, and hoped he would meet a lovely lady one day that he could explore the world with. I, however was looking for someone a little younger , and maybe not for romance, but to share a once in a lifetime experience with, and most of all, to have fun.

Then, one day whilst browsing HUBB I saw a post that jumped out at me. It had been written in October, 3 months before, so I was worried he'd already been snapped up. It read:

"Hi All,

Very early doors to be starting this, but i have been saving and dreaming of this trip for a while now and can now say I will be doing this.

However, I would like to go with someone else and others to share the experience. Im 28 and live in Exeter, Devon. I have a Yamaha xt 600 however I will be selling this for a Honda Transalp instead.

Im open to planning with travelling buddies. A rough course could be to Vladivostok. I can take over 6 months off work, so a trip over to america would not be out of the question, although I do hear you cannot fly with your motorcycle anymore and would need to ship it there from Japan or Korea. So maybe head South?

Though maybe it could be a Pan American trip?

I have done trips abroad on motorbikes and spent a month in Scotland wild camping with a very old Honda CB 400/4. I have limited off road bike experience.

If anyone is out there who's interested in an epic 2018 trip please get in touch.

John 'Tea' Manning"

It sounded perfect. I even browsed his profile and saw he was a Forester and that he played guitar. This was brilliant. A manly man with a creative side.

I replied (all be it 3 months later):

"Hi John/all

My name is Katy, 27, living in Bedfordshire, UK. I have been thinking about doing a long motorcycle trip at some point in the next few years. I'm not in a position where I'm looking to quit my job as I like what I do, but I reckon I could get a 6 month sabbatical if I gave enough notice. I was thinking in 2019 as a 30th birthday adventure but I know a lot can change in that time. I'd also have to get a plan in place for someone to rent my house for 6 months, and look after my cat! I just feel I'd like to do this before/if I ever decide to settle down.

I ride a BMW F650 GS. I've put a fair amount of miles on it in the last few years, and abused it a fair bit taking it off road (well trying), so I'm likely to be upgrading at some point but unsure what I'll get at this moment in time. I've ridden to Poland, Italy, Morocco to name a few. Unsure where my next (1-2 week) adventure will be next year, toying with Austria, another trip to Scotland, or Southern France. Also unsure where I would like to go for 6 months. Like many people I was inspired by "Long Way Round" and "Long Way Down", but America would be pretty awesome too. Lots to think about!

Anyway that's enough about me. Your trip sounds cool so I'll keep an eye on this thread."

And from here on we exchanged messages. Only a few, but enough to arrange a date to meet up the following April in Ilfracombe. I was travelling there for my best friends wedding, and as John lives in Devon it made perfect sense.


The day of the meeting...

We had no idea what each other looked like. We hadn't exchanged any personal information other than what was on HUBB so it felt like a huge mystery. We met at the Verity statue at the harbour. I had ridden to Devon on my bike so it was easy for John to spot me when he arrived. The moment we shook hands we began talking, and we didn't stop for 2 1/2 hours. John had brought a map with him, and Chris Scott's 'Adventure motorcycle handbook', which he lent me. We sat there laughing about how we had both began to get panic attacks at night thinking about this trip. How we were somewhat planning to travel alone but the idea had scared us. That I had talked myself out of it until that exact moment when John shook my hand. We joked about how sick I would get on boats, and how irritated John would get with his allergies. All of a sudden I didn't feel scared or alone anymore, and the doubts in my head had vanished. We were really going to do this.

I left to ride back to Bedfordshire with a huge grin on my face. The whole way home I had Queen's "Crazy little thing called Love" in my head, and kept singing "Take a back seat, hitch-hike, And take a long ride on my motorbike..." Partly because it had been played at the wedding the night before, but it seemed pretty fitting.

When I got home I told all my friends and family how excited I was. They expressed their concerns with me travelling around the world with a complete stranger. I assured them he was a very kind and trustworthy guy, and that there didn't seem to be any romantic attraction between us, we could travel the world as good friends.
Trips Away

John and I rode to Scotland together in the May after we met. We rode to the ADV Strontian rally, one of my favourite places, and we had a great week exploring with my friends, Paul, Mikey and Charlotte.
John and I attempted to ride an old burial trail. It wasn't long after setting off up the lane that we realised it wouldn't be easy. The ground was slippery and trees had fallen over making it nearly impossible to pass through. A little further and we were faced by a mighty slope. We got off our bikes and walked up the track. It was very rocky. I kicked some of the bigger rocks out the way as I walked back down.
"Lets go for it!"
I climbed on Monster nervously and wacked open the throttle. Miraculously I made it to the top. Next up, John.
He climbed on to his bike. We knew his worn road tyres would make it difficult. He was off, his bike clawing at the stones as he made his way up. Then, as he reached half way point his bike completely lost grip and they tumbled over next to a ditch. I rushed down to help him and we moved his motorbike in to a good position to lift it back up. We decided to turn around and slowly made our way back to the start of the trail. Although it seemed like a small failure, it was clear our riding abilities were equally matched and that we could work well as a team.
John and I went for walks in the evening. We took our head torches and tried to find our way through the darkness whilst toads hopped out in front of us. I remember seeing the glowing eyes of deer watching down on us from the hillsides.

The following day I stayed with my girl friend back at the campsite whilst John, and my friend Mikey, rode off to do some exploring. We had planned to spend the afternoon all together. I wanted to be out on Monster having fun too but I didn't know where they were. By the time they arrived back at the campsite the weather had taken a turn for the worse. The skies were grey and it was spitting. I wanted to be on my own. I went out on my bike, Monster, and found myself sitting on a rock next to a mud track in the rain contemplating what I was doing and why I felt so emotional. I was thinking a lot about the past few years and how everything that had happened had put me here.

A few hours later I arrived back at the campsite. I couldn't find anyone so I climbed in to my tent. There in front of me was a little wooden pot, carved in to the shape on an apple. There was a note inside.

"Hey Katy,

Hopefully this apple thingy can fit on your bike!! That's your challenge Haha. It's handmade by a guy in Strontian.

Here's to great times and adventures ahead, Love Johntea x"

A smile beamed across my face. John had clearly picked up on my emotional wobble and had left this lovely gift inside my tent. I went to find him and bumped in to him as I entered the kitchen. I opened my arms wide and gave him the biggest squeeze,
"Thank you" I said, "It's beautiful".

We then attended the UK HUBB event. A few days before we left John and I had agreed to share my tent. It made sense. We wouldn't be taking two tents away with us. I couldn't wait.
My friends and I arrived before John. We assembled our tents, then went for a wander to see what was around. John arrived a few hours later. I'd told all my friends that we'd be sharing a tent for the weekend, but for some reason, there John was, putting up his own tent!

We listened to many 'Around the World' adventurers talking about their trips over the next couple of days. We wrote notes and would use these to help us over the next year to plan our very own adventure. It was all piecing together now. We had taken maps with us and would spend the evenings sitting in my tent marking out places we wanted to visit. In the evening we strolled over to the bonfire to watch a band. We sat around the fire making new friends and chatting to the presenters we'd watched earlier in the day.

Being 4 hours apart from each other was a minor hurdle, we were determined to make it work so we set a date, June the 4th 2018.

Preparations...

The month's leading up to the trip had been tough. My friend had been helping me work on my bike, Monster, in my Nan's garage. We had completely stripped Monster, and I was panicking at points that she wouldn't be ready on time. On the plus side, we had been having lots of fun and I was pleased that I had been taught a lot in a short space of time. I'd moved a lot of things in to my Mum's house, including my cat, Nutmeg, and had locked my house up ready to embark. I was really emotional about leaving my home and cat. I've had Nutmeg for 6 years and she feels like family. I know, I'm such a girl. Maria from HUBB sent the following message which made me feel much better:

"Regarding your cat: don't worry!
Our first big trip was one year (in South America). We had a cat. A very old cat (about 18) and to be fair we never thought she would still be around at the time of our departure. She spent one year with friends and came back home like nothing ever happened. she was not the sulking type!"

I had thought about renting my house. I had a few people come and look around but I got cold feet. When I moved in to my little 1 bed cluster home it was in such a state. My friend and I had spent 3 months, whilst working, completely renovating it and I was proud of our accomplishments. I decided I would leave my house empty. Luckily, because I'd only bought such a small place, my mortgage repayments were low and I had already saved up enough to cover the bills while I was away for 6 months. I was pleased with this decision.

I had already told my boss I was leaving. This was very difficult for me as I love working for Morrison Utility Services and a lot of my colleagues had become very good friends. Unfortunately, my company have never issued sabbaticals so I would have to hunt for a job when I returned home from my trip. I figured that around November time there would be plenty of Christmas temp jobs available which would tie me over. 4 weeks before I was due to leave my boss phoned me with some fantastic news. They had now changed the companies contract and would allow me 6 month's unpaid leave and guarantee my job would be there for me when I returned. Excellent! What a relief!

And one more thing. I'd heard the brilliant news that my sister was expecting another baby. Due in August! I was going to miss the birth. Then John called, "Katy, my sister is having a baby too, also due in August!!!".
"Perfect timing!" we thought, but if we don't go, we never will. There is never a perfect time.

My relationship with John was becoming difficult. His laid-back and care free personality had been a real attraction, but I had started to find it frustrating speaking to him on the phone. We were miscommunicating a lot, and I just wished he lived closer so we could plan and prep for the trip with ease. We were both questioning how we would manage on the road together and had openly discussed the possibilities of parting if things became too hard.

The Adventure begins...

It was now June the 3rd. I had booked a room at a guesthouse near Folkestone for the night. John had agreed he would meet me there to make the journey in the morning to the Channel Tunnel easier.

"I'm just popping round to see a friend, I'll definitely be there by 9pm, I promise." John said on the phone.

I said goodbye to my Mum, and my friend rode with me to Hatfield for an emotional farewell before I set off on my own to Folkestone.

9:15pm arrived. I had spent the afternoon messaging and phoning friends for one last chat, watched films, made myself plenty of cups of tea. I felt surprisingly calm. But, where was John?

I started to worry; "Has he stood me up? Maybe he's got scared and changed his mind..."

Then there it was. The roar of Budleigh, hurtling up the driveway. (Budleigh is John's Kawasaki KLE motorbike.)

"Phew", I thought. And popped the kettle on.

Leaving England...

We boarded the train in good time and waved goodbye to England, Monster and Budleigh standing by our side. It felt surprisingly easy. No tears. It felt like I was going on a short holiday to Europe. I had told myself all along to not put any pressure on myself, that if I needed to come home early that was OK. If we didn't make it to Japan I didn't want to kick myself. I was worried if I set my hopes to high that I would only be disappointed if things went wrong.
"As long as I tried my hardest" I thought, "Then that was good enough."



The first three days...

I was treating us. I had some Euro's left over from a trip I'd done to Germany the year before so I said to John I would pay for the B&B's for the first 3 nights. I figured it wouldn't be long before we would be wild camping so we may as well make the most of it. We had a little detour to Dunkirk on the way to the Netherlands. We then arrived at the rather 'grand' hotel. I'd only booked it up quickly, I didn't realise it was a manor house. It was stunning. And it was here that we had the best dinner, the best dinner of the whole trip!



Then on to Germany. We stayed at a beautiful guesthouse near a lake.



And then on to Denmark ready to cross over to Kristiansand - Norway, in the morning. We visited a little Viking museum on the way and I had some fun watching the trains next to the B&B.



Norway...

We boarded the ferry and couldn't wait to reach Norway. Originally John was planning his trip straight through Europe but I had always wanted to explore Norway and Finland. We had agreed to incorporate it in to our trip. And boy am I glad we did! The first night we found the most amazing camping spot surrounded by trees, with a little steam, and John made a fire. It was our first real taster of wild camping together. We made the most of the stream, washing any clothes from the last 3 days, and cooked our dinner on the fire.



Over the next week we rode North, staying as close to the West as we could. I had read on the HUBB forum that this was the best route up and I couldn't agree more. We saw many beautiful waterfalls, landscapes filled with snow topped mountains, glaciers and bright blue skies reflecting on icey lakes. We rode the Trollstigen pass, and despite being foggy, had a really good time.





One day, as we were hurtling down a lovely scenic road I overtook a lorry. As I looked in my mirror there was no John. I slowed down, still no John. Now the lorry was right up behind me again, but I was worried. I pulled over immediately and the lorry whizzed passed. I looked in my mirror and saw John stopped at the side of the road.

"Argh, why did he have to stop here for a photo, just as I've overtaken a lorry!" I thought.

I rode back to him and discovered that as he'd gone for the overtake his throttle cable had, "ping", snapped on his bike.

We got his bike over to the other side of the road and John quickly dismantled Budleigh. It was surprisingly tricky feeding the new cable through. I thought we'd be on the road again in half an hour but nearly 2 hours later we were still struggling. We were trying to work as a team, but it just seemed our hands were getting in the way of each other. It was becoming frustrating so I sent John down to the steam, only 50 meters away, to have a few minutes to himself. Somehow, and I'm not even sure what I did, as he was gone for that few minutes, I just popped it in to place. Finally!
John quickly reassembled Budleigh, loaded all his gear back on and we were back on our way.

Not a bad place to breakdown though.



We continued heading North towards Bodo ready to cross over to the Lofoten Islands on the ferry. I gulped down my usual travel sickness tablets which worked a treat. The crossing was stunning and as soon as we arrived in Moskenes we couldn't wait to explore. We enjoyed looking at the hundreds of Cod fish heads gathered together on large drying racks as we entered A. (Yes, A is the name of a town). We then headed back up the Island and crossed over a picturesque bridge leading us to a cracking camping spot next to the sea. Lofoten had by far the best bridges we had seen. We had even ridden the Atlantic Ocean Road but had found it an anti-climax. More tourists, less scenic, and it didn't help we had some pretty dull weather.
Once at the campsite we set up our trusty tent, and John wandered over to some rocks in the distance to do some fishing. I made a cup of tea, grabbed my diary, and contently watched him as I scribbled in my diary writing down the days events.





We joined back on to the mainland and continued riding up North towatds Skibotn. From here we headed South East in to Finland. I had the great pleasure of seeing where Santa Claus lives. Although, I was rather confused, there seemed to be a few, and his Reindeer were very still, they looked pretty dead, but John convinced me they were sleeping...

Finland has a lot of water and trees. A lot. And the country is pretty flat. However, we did see one of the best storms of the trip.
We were stood near a lake when the sky turned a deep blue in the distance. We could feel an atmosphere in the air and everything suddenly felt very still. As the dark sky grew bigger and bigger we began to hear the distant grumble of thunder. The darkness was creeping nearer and nearer towards us, the trees began to tremble. From the other side of the lake the rain started. We watched the rain, as it plummeted down, gradually edge its way towards us. It was piercing the water with strength, as though a mighty giant was firing at it with bullets. Then, there was the loudest crash and I was convinced the tree next to us had been struck. The rain was now so heavy it was drenching us despite trying to shelter under a tiny platform. It was gushing over the roofs and creating rivers down the pavements.
John and I looked at each other as our hearts were racing.
"Our bags!" John shouted. We had forgotten we'd left them on the floor next to our bikes in the car port. The rain had flooded in and soaked them. We were in a mad rush trying to lift them of the ground and save everything.
Then, as though nothing had happened, the rain stopped, the sky turned a clear bright blue, and we were left standing in silence.

A few days later we found ourselves at Imatra. We would soon be in Russia. Or so I thought.
We arrived at the Finnish border control. We walked up confidently to hand over our documents.
"Can I have your vehicle registration document?" the lady said.
I reached in to my folder and pulled out my photocopy. "Here you go"
"We can't accept this!" thre lady replied.

I had been such an idiot. I had tried to make sure I had packed everything I needed. Insurance copies, passport, driving license, international driving permit, travel insurance, spare passport photos e.t.c. But I didn't have my vehicle registration document, only the photocopy!
"Oh, s***!!!"
My heart sank. It was a huge achievement for us to reach this point and I'd let us down.

We were stuck at the border for a couple of hours speaking to numerous officials only to be told at the end there was no way we could pass through.

We found somewhere to stay in Imatra and I phoned my Dad pleading him to send the document to me ASAP. All we could do now was wait.

I hated feeling stuck. I just wanted to be on the road. And most of all, I hated that I had put John in this situation. This trip was so important to him too, and I was holding him back. I kept telling him to leave me. That if the document arrived I would try and catch him up. But he didn't want to go, he insisted we were a team and we were doing this together.

I was feeling so fed up I went for a walk in to the town to buy some food for the next couple of days. When I arrived back from the shops John rushed up to me.

"Katy, Katy, you have to come next door and meet someone!" John insisted.

I really wasn't in the mood to meet anyone. I was so embarrassed of the situation I had put us in and was really beating myself up about it. But John seemed so happy I couldn't say No.

I walked round to the back of the property with John. "I really don't think we should be here" I was thinking. A few days before we'd noticed there was a motorcycle sign above a small door behind our guesthouse. It seemed to be hidden away and I had only assumed there was an old mechanic working in there that didn't want to be disturbed by two foreigners.

As we walked round the back I now saw there was a garage, and the doors were wide open. I could see John was bursting with excitement. I edged my way closer to the doors. I could smell cigarette smoke. And as I stepped inside a man appeared, dressed in a black leather waistcoat covered in patches and chains hanging off his trousers. He walked towards me.
"Hey!" he said, with his deep voice, "I'm Ina".

We shook hands and began to talk. His short fluffy white hair contrasted with his thick black rimmed glasses. He had the warmest smile and most laid back attitude. It felt like he had all the time in the world. As he was talking he lead me through the garage filled with shiny Harley Davidson's and leather waistcoats hanging from rails. A few more steps and then there we were, standing in the middle of a club house dripping in motorbike memorabilia with a rifle strapped up on the wall. "This is insane!" I said to John. "I think we are in Sons of Anarchy".



We moved in to the clubhouse for the next couple of nights. We listened to music, drank , smoked and socialised with the club members. I even got to ride a Buell. It felt like Ina had made us part of his MC family and we were honoured. I had forgiven myself for being trapped in Imatra and we were seizing the opportunity to explore the town with Ina. He drove us to the beautiful Lake Saimaa, then on to the spectacular rapids of the river Vuoksi. He even insisted on driving us around a lap of the Imatra race track that we didn't even know existed. He told us all about the history of the track, how this road circuit was feared by many riders due to its fast and brutal nature, and that it was active between 1962 to 1982 for the Finnish motorcycle Grand Prix. He drove us up to the memorial for riders which had sadly lost their lives here. Ina was a fantastic tour guide and he seemed to also enjoy spending time with us.

In the evenings when we were left alone, John and I had a blast. We worked our way through Ina's progressive rock CD collections whilst sipping at whisky. We battled in arm wrestles, not much of a competition so John let me use both arms. I think he still won. We even found the time to watch Easy Rider.
Ina insisted we used the clubhouse Sauna and organised a small clubhouse leaving do the night before we were due to depart.

My document had finally arrived, nearly a week later. The courier company had been dreadful despite the small fortune it had cost me. I ended up riding to the next town, half an hour away, to a warehouse where it had been stored for the last 4 days! I had tried to phone the delivery companies and no one was helping. It was only when Ina called that we were able to locate the letter. I jumped on my bike, picked up my document, and we packed up our things that evening to pass in to Russia in the morning after saying a very sad goodbye to our new friends.

We arrived at the border crossing. I had my docuent ready to hand. They hardly looked at it this time and sent us through nearly immediately. So typical! Nevermind, atleast I had it now for the rest of the trip.

First stop St.Petersburg. It was a nightmare riding in to the city. So much traffic. I had tried to speak to people the week before to get advice on where to stay and everyone had told us it would be impossible to get accommodation during the world cup. We thought we'd give it a go anyway. We stopped at a few places, most of which were full, or were charging a ridiculous amount of money. We were getting really tired and just needed somewhere to sleep. We ended up turning off down a small driveway on one of the main roads and found there was a carpark. We parked our bikes and wandered up to yet another hotel. A security guard met us and led us up some stairs to reception.

"We are fully booked" said the lady before we'd had the chance to speak.

John and I were so frustrated, but we had been warned this could happen. Then the security man said he rented out rooms next door in a separate building and we could stay here. Brilliant!

So we unloaded all our bags wearily, up many flights of stairs to the room. He asked for our money and John asked for a receipt. When arriving in cities in Russia it is important to keep receipts and registration slips from places you stay at, or when you try and get accommodation again they may refuse you, or you may even have problems at borders. We never had problems at the borders though, they didn't even want to see them.

The man would not give John a receipt. We were so tired and needed to rest. They quarrelled it out but the man would not even write one out for us. Eventually, after much discussion the security man took us back to the reception.

"Yes, we do have one room", she now said.

I'm not sure what was going on. Maybe the receptionist and security man had a private deal going on. But we ended up staying in the hotel for the same price, and we now had a registration slip too.

We ventured in to the city by foot and enjoyed looking at the famous sites such as Winter Palace.
We met a RTW motorcyclist on the street who was selling bracelets etc. to fund his trip. We started speaking to him and he asked for some water. We gave him our bottle and he gulped it down. We tried to speak to him, about his adventure, and were excited to share stories or learn from him. But it was apparent that he was only interested in talking to people if they were buying something from his little collection so we walked on.
Groups of football fans strutted past chanting and shouting. It was a lively evening. I did like St Petersburg, but for me, I was happy to be leaving the next day. Perhaps the traffic, the argument with the security man, the dismissive RTW biker, and the noisy football fans contributed to that. But something about the city didn't pull me in as much as I thought it would.



We left the next morning and headed South towards Moscow. As I was riding my temperature light came on. I pulled over as soon as I could. At first I thought it was my coolant as I'd recently changed it before the trip and wondered if I'd done something wrong.
"Where's your fan, perhaps its broken?" said John.
I walked over to the other side of my bike and sure enough it was jammed. We tried for a while to free it but nothing was working. We decided we would continue our journey and that every time the light came on I would just have to pull over until Monster had cooled down.

So that's what we did. Stop, Start, Stop, Start. We were 10 miles away from Zelenograd when Monsters light beamed on as we were filtering down a congested motorway. I had to pull over but the only place was next to a small layby for the road workers. I wacked on my indicator and parked up, John behind me. Then the car that was behind us stopped next to us, wound down his window and the man inside asked if we needed help. We explained what had happened and he invited us to follow him to his family home only 5 miles away. There we could remove the fan properly for a closer inspection to see if we could fix it.
We started up our bikes and he led the way. The large metal gates at his property opened for us as we approached and we parked up inside. The man got out his car. He was extremely tall, with strawberry blonde hair.

"It's nice to meet you, I'm Dmitry."

He whizzed off in to the kitchen to make us a tea as I dismantled Monster. We all looked at the fan together, but nothing was going to save it, I would have to get a new one. We sat in his garden drinking tea discussing our options. Dmitry then invited us to stay there the night so we could get some rest. We had a lovely dinner cooked by his wife and had a tinkle on his bass guitar in the attic. Dmitry stayed up all night searching for a fan for me online and by the morning he had found somewhere, all be it a few hours ride away. It was our only hope, unless I ordered one which could take a long while to arrive. We knew it would be a slow journey but we had to give it a go.

We said goodbye to Dmitry and his family and set off.



And fantastic, 10 miles later we hit traffic. It was a stand still. I had to keep moving, I had to keep Monster as cool as possible but it was proving difficult. Cars were changing lanes, people were beeping, the gaps were small to filter through. I went for it, trying to keep up speed, I had now moved in to the fast lane, where the traffic was trickling along. Then, my light came on.

"F*ck!!" I was now stuck between two lorries and the middle lane had begin to flow. I needed to pull over immedietly but I was struggling to edge my way back out of the fast lane. Then, all of a sudden, I was surrounded in steam pouring out of my bike. I was struggling to see, panicking, and Monster was giving up.

"That's it!" I thought. I just went for it, cutting in front of a lorry and making it across just in time before it hurtled in to me. John was a few lorries behind, noticed the steam bellowing up in the air, and knew that I had hit trouble. He pulled over behind me in the hard shoulder.

I was furious. I had held us up in Finland for a week, and now Monster was properly broken. I couldn't ride her anymore.

John was good. He remained calm and insisted that I put all my luggage back on my bike that I had rashly whipped off. I was ready to take the panels off and check the radiator and coolant. We could already see I had lost all the coolant, and I found the cap to the reservoir balancing behind the panel on my bike which was lucky. John was right. It didn't make any sense dismantling my bike again at the side of the motorway.
"We could use your tow rope?" John said.
We wrapped my tow rope around Monster's crash bar, attached it to Budleigh and we gradually made our way down the hard shoulder, turning off at the first junction on to a quieter road.

As John was towing me I was conscious there was a car sticking with us, protecting us from any cars trying to overtake, and blocking the view from the police pulled over at the side of the junction. We came to a stop further down the road, and so did the car.
A man rushed out and again asked us what was wrong. He couldn't speak English, only a couple of words. I was already ripping Monster to pieces again, pulling out the old fan and getting myself in a fluster. The man looked at it, and gestured as if to say "Wait here".

He left. We didn't know where he had gone. John and I were discussing what to do. We had conveniently broken down next to a hotel so we knew we would be ok for accommodation that night. As we were waiting we heard the roar of a motorbike. We looked up and could see a beautiful silver Harley Davidson riding towards us, the chrome glistening in the sunlight. The bike pulled up in front of us. We could now see the rider.

Wearing his ripped faded jeans with a thick leather belt and silver buckle he climbed of his Harley Davidson. His short sleeve denim jacket was placed over a black t-shirt revealing his tattoos sprawled up his arms. It was clear to see his dark features in his half face matte black helmet. Silver earrings hung from his ears and as he lifted off his helmet his long, thick black dreadlocks were revealed from underneath his blue bandana sprawling down his back. And this is how we met Andre.

We tried to explain someone was already helping us but he stuck around watching what I was doing. He told us that he worked at a garage around the corner.

Then the first man returned. He jumped out his car holding a fan for Monster. I could see straight away that it was the right one. I couldn't believe it. Where had he got this from?



He insisted he fitted it for me at the side of the road. I stood next to him, trying to be of use, passing him tools. As he worked on Monster, swapping over the parts. I learnt that his name was Alec. He didn't say much, but he didn't need to. I knew it was difficult to communicate with each other but I couldn't stop thanking him, he was saving Monster, I was so happy. He popped the new fan back in and we ran the engine to check it was working properly. Then, before I could say anything he had vanished. He'd jumped in his car and driven off. I was confused again. He didn't even say Goodbye. We tried to ask Andre where he had gone, but our Russian is dreadful. We assumed he had gone for good and I finished putting the panels back on Monster. Andre was still standing with us. I knew I'd have to drain the radiator at some point and buy some coolant but at least the fan was sorted for now.

Then we heard a distant rumble of yet another motorbike. It hurtled down the road towards us.

"Another biker!?" I thought.

The dark grey BMW tourer came to a halt. Music was blearing out of the speakers.

"It's Alec!" I shouted. "You've got a motorbike!?"

Alec had clearly rushed home to swap his car for his motorbike. Next thing I remember, we were all riding in convoy, Andre in the lead, John following in line, then me, and Alec riding at the back with his music beckoning out of his bike. As we approached roundabouts Alec would overtake and hold up the traffic, as if we were royalty.
"This is fantastic, what on earth have we done to deserve this!?", I was thinking, as I grinned like a Cheshire cat inside my helmet.



Then we arrived, at Junkyard Customs.

I had never seen a place like it. It wasn't just a workshop, it was a museum. Posters hung from the walls, trinkets were stacked high up on shelves, welding masks and aprons hung on hooks ready to be worn. Huge machines filled the rear of the workshop whilst tools were laid out in rows on silver benches at the front. There was a tree trunk stool wrapped in a leather belt holding hammers and a large black punch bag hanging from the ceiling. Handlebars and other bike parts draped the walls and half dismantled motorbikes stood before us.

"Wow!" I said. "Can I live here?"

Alec began work on my bike again, this time completely draining the radiator and replacing the coolant.

John and I explored the workshop whilst speaking to Andre. I was like a kid at Christmas, so excitable. I couldn't believe that less than a week ago we had the great fortune of meeting Ina and staying in his clubhouse, to now being in the most amazing workshop.

Not long after arriving a new face entered the garage. Wearing jeans, and a black t-shirt, with a brown moustache and beard, his long brown hair neatly tied back in a pony-tail under a red bandana he introduced himself,

"I'm Denis".

We then learnt that Denis owned the workshop, and the building next door. He had ideas to turn the building in to a Hostel which John and I thought was great. Denis was lovely. He made us tea, and coffee, and showed us his red and white Harley Davidson parked up outside that he had arrived on. We met his black cat, Shatoon. He was the cutest, and so playful. He would hunt Denis down like a tiger and pounce on him, then wait for Denis to do the same back, back tracking his steps keeping low to the ground then rolling on to his back for a belly tickle when Denis sprung towards him.

We spent the afternoon talking, laughing and listening to rock music. We met Andre's girlfriend Alla who kindly bought us some food for lunch and Denis told us we could stay at his families flat across the block that night.

We woke up in the morning not wanting to leave. We had enjoyed a fantastic evening with them all and I was already wishing that we lived closer. Monster was up and running with her new fan and coolant. We loaded the bikes and said goodbye to Andre and Alla. Denis rode with us on the first part of the motorway. It was really congested, but he led the way, leading us down a small opening to the left of the fast lane and watching in his mirrors to make sure we were OK. Then he zoomed off in to the distance.
John and I continued, for a few more minutes, sad that we had now left our new Russian friends. As we approached a junction Denis was standing there, helmet off, next to his trusty red and white Harley Davidson. And as though he was saluting us, his hands reached high up towards the sky, holding his arms straight and strong, displaying the peace symbol with his fingers. A tear came to my eye as I raised my hand back to return the lovely message. A beautiful way to end a beautiful meeting.



We arrived in Volgograd a few days later. I didn't have high hopes for the city. I had looked at it on google maps before leaving and I thought it looked dull and barren. I was proven wrong.

Volgograd wasn't the most beautiful city in the world, but it pulled us in with the magnificent Mother Russia statue standing 85 meters tall looking down over her city. We parked up and started our walk up the mound to see her. She was AMAZING. We enjoyed the views from the mound and took many photos of the statue. We then started our walk back down. We had a problem. The sprinklers had all been turned on. Every way we tried to walk there was a sprinkler, and they weren't small, gushing out water in every direction. They would move side to side, but as we went to run past one, another one on the opposite side would be facing us. After trying to make various detours to no avail we gave in and accepted we would get a good drenching.
After much laughing, we walked in our soggy clothes back down the steps towards The Motherland Calls memorial. The site is stunning with water features and various other sculptures. We then walked down the 200 steps symbolizing the 200 days of the Battle of Stalingrad. The walls were lined with mosaic tiles which glistened brightly. As the steps winded round the 3000 names of the lost soldiers were listed on the walls surrounding us. The mood was emotional. We reached the bottom floor of the memorial hall to find the powerfully moving eternal flame burning bright.

The following day we visited the Stalingrad Battle museum.
"I'm not one for History" I told John.
I never had been. I was too easily distracted at school to remember important bits of information but he had persuaded me to go. I was surprised to find myself actually having a good time. The museum was fascinating with visual displays showing the impact of war on the city. They used a projector to mimic planes bombing a model Volgograd, and used lighting effects to show how the city was completely smothered in flames. There were cabinets filled with historical artefacts, statues, motorbikes, and stunning paintings displayed in a panorama on the top floor portraying the devastation of war.

The world cup was still on. John and I aren't big football fans but as Volgograd had a FIFA World Cup stage showing the England game on a big screen we had to go. We sat down in the crowd. There was a great atmosphere and we noticed some of the locals had the English flag painted on their face.

England scored.

"Yes!!!" John and I shouted as we waved our arms in the air.

"Look, Katy" John said, "People are supporting England!"

I could see a couple of dozen people standing up cheering. We sat back down feeling all safe and proud.

Then Columbia scored...

ROARRRRRRRR! "YEEAHHHHHH, WOOO HOOO!!!!" The arena erupted. It now seemed that nearly all the other people watching the game were standing, cheering, jumping up and down. I turned and looked at the locals with the English flag on their face to only find they'd also put the Columbian flag on the other cheek and weren't interested in England at all.

John and I sheepishly looked at each other. "Perhaps we are better of watching this one in the hotel" I said.



And up next. Kazakhstan.

Our first day in Kazakhstan was hard. We'd suddently felt the temperature increase, and the roads we becoming potholed. There was now a lack of supermarkets, toilets and roadside services. We battled through the first day and discussed in the evening how it had felt like the hardest day yet.



The following day we woke up earlier and continued our journey. We knew it wouldn't be long until the road became nearly non existent. As we bumbled down a road we spotted an English number plate on a small black motorbike parked up under a archway at the side of the road along with a BMW 1200. We pulled over further down the road and decided to turn around and be sociable.

On arriving we met Paul, a Slovakian man, who was riding the small English plated motorbike, and Max, an Austrian, who was on his BMW 1200 GS. The pair had only met the day before and had decided to ride together. They had pulled over to get some shade. Paul checked his temperature gauge around his neck, it was already 42 degrees. I couldn't quite believe it. We spoke for a while longer then all set off together. Not long after leaving we hit a road made up of dirt and grit. I started to doubt my riding abilities riding with these 3 men, but managed to compose myself, stay confident and ride on. After 20 minutes Paul had his first off. We stopped for a little break. I looked at John and could see his face and neck were burnt. We laced ourselves in sun lotion, wetted our buffs and carried on. John and I were already running dangerously low on water but there was nothing around.
A couple of hours past and then John started to feel sick. He desperately needed the toilet and resorted to squatting at the side of the road. He then began to feel sick and was dry retching. He didn't look good but we couldn't stop here, not in this heat. Max could see we were struggling, and fortunately was carrying plenty of water. He insisted we took some of his.
I watched John climb back on his bike. He wearily swung his leg over, and started the engine. I was beginning to really worry about him.
Not long after setting of John pulled over again. I could see he was struggling to even put his side stand down. He slid off his bike weakly. He couldn't stand anymore. He'd pulled over next to a bus stop. No roof, just a concrete wall. There was glass smashed all over the floor but he was already lying down in it. He couldn't move, his body had given up. Inside I was scared. My team was broken. We'd just met these two people, we were in a dry, arid, landscape, with nothing around us. John asked me to take his dry bag off his motorbike for a pillow. I walked over and stood at his bike, staring at the dry bag. I wanted to rush, grab pills out my bag, feed him water, but my movements were also becoming slower and slower. I remember lifting up my hands to unclip his bag. My brain was telling my fingers to move, but nothing was happening. It must have taken me 10 minutes to get him his pillow. Max and Paul were busily dousing John in water, trying to keep him with us.

We could see a van approaching from the distance. We waved it down and tried to explain our situation. We knew if we didn't stop this one we could be waiting another hour, or two, for the next vehicle. A lad jumped out and offered to ride with us so John could be passenger in the car. We loaded John in, he could barely talk now. The man jumped on to Pauls little motorbike, and Paul set off on Budleigh. The road had turned bad, really bad. There were so many potholes you could barely ride 2m with out falling in to one. And they weren't little. We couldn't help but occasionally drop in to one as we were zig zagging around, it felt horrible. I was having to use all my concentration, but it felt like my brain was drying out. When the road became too bad we would have to follow sandy tracks running alongside. I'd never ridden in sand. Luckily it was fairly shallow, but I was still using all my strength to keep Monster and myself upright. I had never felt so tired. I didn't know how we would get through this. Occasionally I would ride up to the window of the truck to see John practically passed out with the men inside chucking water at him. I felt like I wanted to stop, but if we slowed to a halt I felt even worse. Perhaps concentrating on the road was distracting me from the fact I was also becoming dangerously ill. The heat was so intense we had to ride with our visors closed. If we opened them the hot air suffocated us.

We came to a stop. We had arrived at the village where the Kazakhstan men lived. They could help no more and there was nothing for us here. No supplies, no accommodation. John felt able enough to ride his motorbike again. John led the way. It wasn't long before the darkness crept in. John and I had agreed before the trip that we would never ride at night but we were trapped. We had to keep going. It was now pitch black, the potholes were impossible to see until you were falling in to them. We took it easy, riding as carefully as we could. It was the longest ride of my life.



To be continued...

Last edited by Kayne; 27 Apr 2019 at 20:59.
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Old 16 Nov 2018
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great opener, can't wait to see how your story unfolds
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Old 16 Nov 2018
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Awesome...Keep us all updated

Wayne
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Old 17 Nov 2018
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Can anyone tell me the easiest way to add photos? I will probably be adding quite a few as the story unfolds...

Thank you
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Old 19 Nov 2018
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Originally Posted by Kayne View Post
Can anyone tell me the easiest way to add photos? I will probably be adding quite a few as the story unfolds...



Thank you


Have a look here - FAQ for Ride Tales Forum
https://r.tapatalk.com/shareLink?sha...5&share_type=t

Looking forward to reading this
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Old 20 Nov 2018
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Finland

Quote:
In the evenings when we were left alone, John and I had a blast. We worked our way through Ina's progressive rock CD collections whilst sipping at whisky. We battled in arm wrestles, not much of a competition so John let me use both arms. I think he still won. We even found the time to watch Easy Rider.
Ina insisted we used the clubhouse Sauna and organised a small clubhouse leaving do the night before we were due to depart.
As Ted Simon said: The interruptions are the journey!



mika
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Old 30 Nov 2018
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Very good read, can’t wait to read more of your wonderful journey!!
Just think John could have been so much different little person haha
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Absolutely loving your ride report cant wait for the next instalment
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Hi

Looking forward to the next part of your RWT
Cheers
Aussie Shawn
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Old 14 Mar 2020
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Your love story is so amazing. I also want to tell story about me and my husband. We met on dating website 5 years ago. it was so nice. I was from Texas USA but he lived in Spain. And we decided that our first date should near ocean. It was the best few months with him. After it we had our wedding and now we already have 2 children. Dating apps are really useful. Now they offer you unlimited likes, comfortable messenger where you can chat and send photos and 100% privacy. Check it here : https://brilic.com/en/countries/ro

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