Welcome Home

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The folks at NDC surprised me with a welcome home cake!  Had an extremely busy work schedule my first week back in the office, but it was terrific to finally return and get reconnected.

Looking forward to NASH Bash this Saturday, 29 September at the Hutton Hotel in Nashville to not only celebrate my return but National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

If you would like to make a donation to give all kids diagnosed with cancer a better chance at living the full life they deserve, please visit Rally Foundation & Rally Around the World or Text “RALLY” to 85944 to give $10 to WIN the fight against childhood cancer. Send this message to 10 of your friends…Be a RALLY 10 to WIN!

Crash in Novosibirsk – the Real Story

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Well it’s now time to come clean on an defining-moment event that took place in Siberia just outside Novosibirsk on Wednesday morning, August 29th…on my actual post I only mentioned a mechanical issue that required some local support – while most of the details I posted were accurate, the bike falling off the center kick stand was not.  Again, my mom is going through treatments in her battle with cancer, and I just couldn’t post all the details of my accident.

The following was from my actual post from August 29 – 31 – everything is accurate except for the “minor event”:

Wednesday started out like most of my Rally mornings except this day changed the entire flow with such a seemingly minor event.

While at my fuel stop just outside of Novosibirsk, I rolled my bike up on the center kick stand only to have it turn over in the parking lot breaking both the clutch lever and adjustment ferrule making it impossible to ride.

After some thought and not having a clue as to where I might get parts, I turned to my contact list provided by Max Karnarsky, president & CEO of Multi-Radiance – the list included biker club contacts across Russia. Max works in the healthcare business like me and was born in Belarus and after coming to the US many years ago, has remained in contact with many folks in that part of the world.

I reached to Kirill in Novosibirsk with the Siberian Bears and he and a friend, Andre, drove out 40 miles within the hour with a trailer to load the bike and return to their body shop…Let the hunt for parts begin!

Before I go there, Kirill also provided me with the keys to a 7th floor apartment in downtown Novosibirsk as my place to stay…newly renovated it was the perfect spot and belonged to his friend, Vitaliy, a member if the Siberian Bears in Omsk. I was wondering to myself why Kirill provided me with the apartment so early and it wasn’t long after I realized why…

As an aside, the reason for no blog updates is I had no web access….

There are no Suzuki dealers in Novosibirsk and very few dealers of motorcycles for that matter…we spent one and a half days visiting bike shop after bike shop trying to come up with a replacement parts solution and as as luck would have it, the last place came up with a used part match that would work.

Both Kirill and bis wife Mikasha were wonderful hosts treating me to breakfast, lunch & dinners and hauling me around town in my parts quest.

The actual details of the “minor event”:

While making my way across Siberia I had been searching for that defining moment for my trip around the world and I got what I’d been looking for from an unfortunate event that took place at about 9:30 in the morning on Wednesday, August 29th about 60 kilometers outside Novosibirsk.  It was one of those typical mornings on my ride and I was traveling about 100 kph or about 65 mph, when I noticed a vehicle, a YaG – 2206 (old Soviet miliary vehicle), moving slowly ahead on the 2-lane highway.  I signaled left and moved into the left oncoming lane of traffic to pass when I noticed the vehicle begin to make a left turn into my lane.  I immediately began to apply my brakes and turn to the left to avoid a collision and unfortunately I struck his left front bumper and fender with my right rear pannier.  While it was somewhat of a glancing blow, the impact at about 45 mph sent me to the pavement, road shoulder and field.  I impacted the ground face-first and on my left shoulder finally coming to rest several hundred feet from the road.

Those of you that have been in a similar situation often note that the event typically seems to occur in slow motion and this one followed suit.  Just as I struck the vehicle, I remember saying to myself, “I’m in a tight spot” from the movie “O Brother Where Art Thou” knowing that I was having a collision with a Russian national in the middle of Siberia and the outcome could be nothing but dismal at best.  Secondly, as I impacted the ground, I thought, “Man, that was a tough shot” since I hit the ground quite hard and lastly, I as stood up in the field looking at the roadway and other vehicle and saying to myself once more, “I’m in a tight spot”.

The next sequence of events can only be attributed to either fate or the Forrest Gump Effect with things seemingly beginning to go in my favor.

As I stood up to begin my assessment of the situation, which quite frankly didn’t seem very favorable, two young men on dual sport bikes like the one I was riding came running down into the field to ask me if I was alright and to help pick up the bike.  Both spoke good English and were from Moscow on holiday on their bikes in Siberia – there names were Mike & Max – both were professionals with Mike working for a software company and Max for a telecom company in technical support.

For the next 5 and a half hours both Mike & Max remained on the scene to translate for the police, sign documents and advise me…this was fast becoming my defining moment given they were a 3 day ride back home to Moscow and each having no obligation to help me.  Since that day I have had many, many thoughts about what the outcome might have been without their assistance and the only scenario I can come up with is bleak at best.  Many of the other details of that day were correctly reported in my blog, with Mike reaching out to Kirill with the Siberian Bears and both he and Andre also driving the 40 miles with their trailer to transport the bike back to Novosibirsk.

However, Mike, Max & Kirill also spoke with the local police on scene which took almost 2 hours for them to arrive.  They answered questions on my behalf, assisted the police with diagramming the accident and attended my hearing with the the police commissoner, that’s right a hearing to determine who was at fault in the accident – felt like I was on the TV show, “Siberian Justice with Judge Yuri”.  Do you not think that the word Gulag came my mind as events of the day continued to unfold.

Fortunately, I was exonerated in the accident and the Russian driver was cited for not clearing the lane before making the left hand turn…I can only attribute the favorable outcome to the support I received from Mike, Max & Kirill on scene that day.  There was even a moment when the police asked if I had a gift for them and I, of course, reached deep into my panniers to give them a couple of Jack Daniels mini-bottles…hey, you play in Russia like the Russian’s play.  I doubt the fellas in the YaG had any gifts to offer and I’m sure that all played in my favor.

My defining moment was the extraordinary support I initially received from Mike & Max and, likewise, the support that followed with Kirill and Andre.  It has caused me to re-evaluate at what lengths I would go to support another person in a similar situation…be assured this event has changed me forever in that regard.  Their selflessness goes so far beyond anything I’ve ever experienced in my life – this is the essence of truly giving on oneself to help another and transends simply writing a check to a charity with the belief you are somehow truly that giving as an example…these guys defined giving for me.

Here’s Part 2 to further exemplify that defining moment of what it truly means to give…

After saying my goodbyes to Mike & Max and thanking them over and over before they headed back to Moscow, I returned to Novosibirsk with Kirill and he insisted that I go to the hospital to get examined.  I was quite sore from waist to my shoulders with my ribs and chest being the most uncomfortable.  After x-rays and a consult with the doctor, I fortunately did not have any broken ribs, but was quite bruised and very uncomfortable.

Next Kirill took me to a very nice restaurant for some dinner and to meet his wife Mikasha.  While I was sipping on a cold draught beer and eating Russina Pelmeni, a dumpling originating in Siberia filled with ground meat and spices, I mentioned to Kirill what a bad day this was.  He raised his beer and say, “this is not a bad day, this is a good day.  You are having a cold beer, eating pelmini with friends and you are OK from your accident.”  I thought about what he said for a moment and realized for the first time that he was right…I was very fortunate to say the least.

After dinner, Kirill took me to an apartment in downtown Novosibirsk which was to become my home for the next two nights…it was newly renovated complete with new furniture and appliances.  Kirill said he would pick me up the next morning at 10 and we’d start looking for parts for the bike – keep in mind there are no Suzuki dealers in Siberia and no motorcycle dealers of new bikes for that matter.

The next morning Kirill arrived and we had a late breakfast with his wife – she actually works for the equivalent of a Google in Russia.  We drove all over Novosibirsk looking for parts at various motorcycle stores finally finding what we needed at the last spot at about 4:30 that afternoon…they were used parts that would work on the bike.

On to Andre’s shop and the first time I’d seen the bike since the accident, I was completely disheartened by what I saw – the bike was almost completely disassembled and I needed to be back on the road the following morning if I even had a chance of making London in time to drop the bike off for shipping back to North America.  Even with the language barrier, Kirill seemed to sense my disappointment but he kept saying he understood and that the bike would be completed.  I only wanted the bike serviceable for the ride to London and they continued to repair & straighten things I felt were totally unnecessary.  I wasn’t quite sure what was going on…could only imagine how much this was going to cost with several working diligently on the bike.  At midnight, Kirill said he would return in about an hour and I was left alone with Andre.  Once alone, I asked Andre how much I owed him and he said nothing…I continued to press him and he continued to saying that I owned him nothing.  At this point I was confused by his responses and waited for Kirill to return.

As he said, Kirill returned and with his 17 year old daughter Ann, who was in her first year of college…she had a command of English and he wanted me to not only meet her, but to have her translate some questions he had for me.  The main topic of discussion was the accident, insurance claims and other things he wanted clarified.  After about a half hour, we were on our way back to the apartment and I asked Kirill how much I owed him for all they had done for me these last 2 days and he responded, “Nothing”.  I was completely speechless for a moment – let’s see…feeding me for 2 days, allowing me to stay in an apartment for 2 days, driving all around the city looking for parts for a day, driving out to assist with the accident, transporting the bike back to Novosibirsk and finally repairing the bike – all for nothing!

I honestly felt upset with myself for even questioning their intentions.  I continued to press Kirill for an amount and he finally said, “100 dollars.”  I could hardly believe what I heard and instead I gave him $400…that’s $200 each for both Kirill and Andre - such a small price to pay for such extraordinary measures they took to take care of me.

I find myself constantly wondering just how I might ever repay Mike, Max, Kirill & Andre for their selflessness – they defined for me just what that truly means and the power & bond of the motorcycle community around the globe…utterly amazing.

The success of my around the world journey lies completely with the pivotal support I received on those 2 days in Siberia – without it, the outcome of Rally Around the World would have been different.  My sincerest & deepest thank you goes out to you – Mike, Max, Kirill & Andre and for enlightening me on what it means to truly give…you became the defining moment of my journey.

If you would like to make a donation to give all kids diagnosed with cancer a better chance at living the full life they deserve, please visit Rally Foundation & Rally Around the World or Text “RALLY” to 85944 to give $10 to WIN the fight against childhood cancer. Send this message to 10 of your friends…Be a RALLY 10 to WIN!

Atlanta, Georgia to Nashville, Tennessee – Around the World in 49 Days

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Friday, 14 September, 2012  Atlanta, Georgia to Nashville, Tennessee (315 miles) Total Trip Miles – 14,721. 5.0 hrs hours riding

Weather Temperature mostly sunny in the upper 70′s…a perfect ending to an incredible trip around the world

Hard to phathom that this journey around the world is finally coming to a close after almost 15,000 road miles on a motorcycle in just 49 days…Around the World in 49 Days!…has a nice ring to it for a book title.

For my last day on the road having Rick and his dad, JR, join me was quite special…as you remember, Rick rode to St. Louis on my first day of the ride and to have him close the ride was only fitting.  It was also quite relaxing to have someone to simply follow back to Nasvhille and, for once, have the opportunity to begin to reflect on this journey of the last several weeks.

We made good time and rolled into the Cool Springs area of Nasvhille about 12:30 and I met Shanon for lunch…Rick and his dad didn’t join us for lunch saying they were just going to head home.  It was truly incredible, emotional & exciting to see her after so many days away for the first time…she looked terrific and for the first time I truly began to feel I was finaly home!

After we finished lunch and were walking through the parking lot, I noticed Rick was still there and his dad was nowhere to be found; his dad had driven off after we arrived at the restaurant and vanished.  Rick had family members on the way, was calling neighbors and the like – still no word on his whereabouts.  After about 10 more minutes, his dad, who had no cell phone, came rolling into the parking lot; he had been at a Krispy Kreme nearby waiting – I guess there was some miscommunication between he and Rick.  We all had a good laugh and Rick decided to load his bike on the trailer and drive his dad home – don’t believe JR had any objections!

I decided to head over to the office and visit my co-workers before beginning my first day on Monday…enjoyed seeing everyone and looking forward to getting back to work!  It was another one of those “are you kidding me” moments as I begin my transition back to this place called the real world…in an odd way there’s an element of surrealism to the whole experience.  I was truly beginning to feel that groove again that was only a distant memory for so long - Big Time’s Back!

Met Chuck & Dave for a celebration drink in Cool Springs and caught up on some of the events over the last several weeks…great to see them!

Got home to a home-cooked meal of roast beef, mashed potatoes, carrots and green beans that Shanon had prepared…so goooood to have some good southern home cooking.  Ended up going to bed about 7:30 and sleeping for about 13 hours – I was totally exhausted and my own bed felt awesome!!

If you would like to make a donation to give all kids diagnosed with cancer a better chance at living the full life they deserve, please visit Rally Foundation & Rally Around the World or Text “RALLY” to 85944 to give $10 to WIN the fight against childhood cancer. Send this message to 10 of your friends…Be a RALLY 10 to WIN!

Forest City, North Carolina to Atlanta, Georgia – Day 48

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Thursday, 13 September, 2012  Forest City, North Carolina to Atlanta, Georgia (261 miles) Total Trip Miles – 14,406. 3.0 hrs hours riding

Weather Temperature mostly sunny in the upper 70′s…

Did I say, “WOW!”…what a truly incredible day starting off with my sister, Portland, arranging a Rally 4 Quarters for Research funding raising event at her school in Cleveland County, NC – Springmore Elementary. The only detail I was given was to meet her husband Bert at 7:50 am so he could show us the way to the school; had my Mom, brother Tye and Aunt Camey following to be a part of the event.

As we approached the school it was one of those typical school morning sights with kids being dropped off by their parents and buses of eager kids unloading. Within minutes I was asked to ride my bike through a door leading into a hallway…believe my Dad once did the same thing back in high school but under much different circumstances – sure there were some very unhappy teachers and school administrators on that day!

But this was different as I approached the school’s gym filled with 700 screaming elementary kids and the Crest High School Marching Band playing their fight song…what a truly unbelievable sight! I parked the bike in front of all the kids and watched as a PowerPoint presentation of my journey was played for everyone. The school had a change drive over the last couple of weeks and I was presented with a check as their contribution to Rally Foundation…to me this is Rally at its best – a grassroots organization empowering everyone to join in their mission to help in the fight against childhood cancer.

The entire event was in honor of Rally Kid Seth who was unable to attend since he had just finished up his last round of chemo therapy and wasn’t quite feeling up to attending. However, Seth’s Mom Sharon, who teaches second grade at the school, and sister Gracie did come out to greet me. I gave Seth’s Mom a refrigerator magnet of Moscow I’d been carrying in my pocket since Siberia; it was a gift given to me by a Russian that had assisted me after my crash…couldn’t think of any better time to share that gift than at this moment with Seth…hang in there young man!

As I fired up the bike the marching band followed me out of the gym and down the hall…you couldn’t have scripted a more powerful event…what a homecoming this was becoming.

Said my goodbyes to the family and I was off to Atlanta stopping first to see my friends at MDSI…saw Scott & John and we chatted about stories from my journey – just a great time to catch up and to start getting my mind right on returning to work next week.

The folks at Rally arranged a small get together at a restaurant in Roswell complete with pom-poms and cheers…happy I got the opportunity to meet all the folks at Rally that helped to make my fundraising event the success it has become.

Later that evening I was joined by Shanon’s brother, Trent, who lives in Atlanta and Rick and his Dad JR who came down to ride my final leg back to Nashville. You may recall Rick rode to St. Louis with me on my first day of the ride and also accompanied me on my first hospital visit..so great to have Rick and his Dad along to complete this journey.

If you would like to make a donation to give all kids diagnosed with cancer a better chance at living the full life they deserve, please visit Rally Foundation & Rally Around the World or Text “RALLY” to 85944 to give $10 to WIN the fight against childhood cancer. Send this message to 10 of your friends…Be a RALLY 10 to WIN!

Winchester, Virginia to Forest City, North Carolina – Day 47

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Wednesday, 12 September, 2012  Winchester, Virginia to Forest City, North Carolina (419 miles) Total Trip Miles – 14,145. 7.0 hrs hours riding

Weather Temperature mostly sunny in the lower 70′s…

Another one of those perfect riding days with sunny skies and temperatures in the 70′s as I rode my bike from the beautiful city of Winchester, VA to my hometown of Forest City, NC to family and friends.  As I passed the Cane Creek area of Rutherford County – the old home place of the Thompson family in North Carolina from the late mid 1700′s starting with James Thompson and many grandfathers to follow, I finally realized for the first time I was going to make this around the world ride happen.  Before that moment, it was always only a distant dream out on the horizon some place.

There were so many events these last few weeks that could have ended the trip, but somehow, the stars continued to align in my favor…wow, this was truly going to be a reality…I often thought of Forrest Gump – always seeming to be at the right place at the right time.

My Aunt Jerre had arranged to have a home coming get together with about 30 family and friends in Forest City…my grandmother, mom, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends…great NC hot dogs on the fire pit, cold slaw, baked beans and sweet iced tea….are you kididng me!  The weather was absolutely perfect and I enjoyed telling some of the stories from Siberia and other parts of the world.  I was also surprised by my brother Tye who flew in from San Antonio…he was my weather man during the trip posting daily, weather updates on Facebook helping me to prepare for the next day’s ride.

I also was able to for the first time talk with my Mom face-to-face about the serious accident I had in Novosibirsk, Siberia…that’s right I had an accident and I’ll detail over the next several days.  My Mom has been battling cancer over the last several months and I made the decision not to devulge the event until I returned to the US…on her front porch, I detailed the crash and how fortunate I was to have the help and support from several incredible Russian folks…keep checking back with me on the blog for pictures and more details.

If you would like to make a donation to give all kids diagnosed with cancer a better chance at living the full life they deserve, please visit Rally Foundation & Rally Around the World or Text “RALLY” to 85944 to give $10 to WIN the fight against childhood cancer. Send this message to 10 of your friends…Be a RALLY 10 to WIN!

Montreal, Canada to Winchester, Virginia – Day 46

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Tuesday, 11 September, 2012  Montreal, Canada to Winchester, Virginia (634 miles) Total Trip Miles – 13,726. 12.5 hrs hours riding

Weather Temperature mostly sunny in the lower 70′s…a beautiful to come home to the US

Didn’t sleep much last night and was up at 4 am…guess all the excitement of knowing I would be entering the US for the first time in many weeks got the best of me.  The morning was quite cool in the mid 40′s as I followed my GPS route out of Montreal on Hwy 401 which followed the St. Lawrence River on the Canadian side.  Around 8:30 I was approching the US/Canadian Border and had to stop on the Canadian side to clear customs on the bike and return some temporary importation documents.  Once back on the road I crossed a large bridge spanning the St. Lawrence River headed for the Ogdensburg border crossing…the process only took minutes and the border patrol officer said I may want to pull my bike aside and watch the morning events.  A bit confused for a moment I quickly realized this was the morning of 9\11…

For the next 10 minutes the US border crossing at Ogdensburg was closed for a special ceremony to honor the moment and the people that lost their lives that tragic day.  The entire US Border Patrol staff of about 20 and one lone staff member playing the bagpipes  gathered around the US flag and I was a part of this special ceremony.  The very moment I was setting foot back on US soil after so many weeks traveling around the world, I somehow got this special gift to witness and join in on the ceremony.  It was quite an emotional moment for everyone and hearing “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes only added to the emotion….still struggle from time to time remembering all the words to that song.

If I had not stopped for fuel earlier, if only I had grabbed another cup of coffee for breakfast, if only…I would have missed this once in a lifetime event marking my return home…wow, what a morning!

My only wish was that I had a couple of pictures to share, but I was told that they weren’t allowed of the staff…from the image above, you can place the people around that flag pole and for a moment and, you too, can join in on that moment.

Christen Patterson at Rally had arranged a visit for me at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital in Syracuse, NY and based on my GPS I was going to arrive about 2 hours earlier than scheduled so I gave Toni Gary a call and she happily adjusted her schedule to accommodate me.  After arrinving just after 11 am I was given the honor of officially presenting a check from Rally Foundation as part of their Corks Against Cancer program….always great to see firsthand how Rally supports these hospitals.

My travels today started in Montreal, Quebec and I ended up passing through New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virgina and Virginia…crazy since the day before me and the bike were in London.

The day was one of those postcard perfect motorcycle riding days with temps in the upper 60′s and lower 70′s with mostly sunny skies…the air & trees offered a hint of fall in the air.

Tommorow is a big day for me since I’ll be arriving at my hometown of Forest City, NC to see my Mom and the rest of the family…a pre-homecoming celebration before returning home to Nashville later in the week.  Remembering some of my old Bloodhound training days of search & rescue dogs…I was now closing in on the scent trail for home – I can somehow just about smell and taste that moment now!!

If you would like to make a donation to give all kids diagnosed with cancer a better chance at living the full life they deserve, please visit Rally Foundation & Rally Around the World or Text “RALLY” to 85944 to give $10 to WIN the fight against childhood cancer. Send this message to 10 of your friends…Be a RALLY 10 to WIN!

London, England to Montreal, Canada – Day 45

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Monday, 10 September, 2012  London, England to Montreal, Canada (0 miles) Total Trip Miles – 13,092. 0 hrs hours riding

Weather Temperature mostly sunny in the lower 70′s…a beautiful day for travel

What a great day this has been!…celebrating my birthday for 30 hours with the time zone changes and being back in North America for the first time in weeks! Also, thanks to everyone for all the birthday well-wishes and welcoming me home.

Departed London’s Gatwick airport at 12:30 pm for the 7 hr flight to Montreal and as I was boarding I saw several ground handlers and asked about my bike being on board…one of the guys showed me his cargo load sheet pointing to the exact spot it was located on the aircraft…it is actually just inside that forward cargo door. Comforting to know the bike was with me on the flight and that there would be no issues getting it to Montreal.

Arrived in Montreal on time at 3 pm and ended up catching the hotel shuttle since the bike wouldn’t be ready for pick up for an hour or so. The driver Mark said to just give him a call and he’d take me over to the air cargo facility when I was ready.

At the hotel I grabbed just enough gear to ride the bike back to the hotel and off we were…at CAS Air Cargo I processed the necessary paperwork and paid a $75 handling fee believing I’d have the bike in a matter of minutes when I was told I needed to visit the customs office about 3 miles away. With no transportation I asked if they’d call me a taxi also knowing both the customs office and the air cargo facility were closing for the day within the hour.

After arriving at the customs office there were concerns as to why I was only importing the bike into Canada for only one day before leaving for the US…why didn’t I just simply fly directly to the US I was asked. After explaining my fundraising efforts for Rally, the customs official cleared my bike for a temporary importation…It’s for the children folks.

I asked that the taxi wait for me and we were once again off to air cargo to pick up the bike! After some minimal work in the bike, I was off to the hotel to join some friends from Medicom for dinner…Jan Levine & Scott Woolford. Funny thing that when I arrived at the hotel and gave Scott a call, he was actually staying at the same hotel…crazy. Ian & Scott treated me to a nice dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant…what a nice welcome back home!

If you would like to make a donation to give all kids diagnosed with cancer a better chance at living the full life they deserve, please visit Rally Foundation & Rally Around the World or Text “RALLY” to 85944 to give $10 to WIN the fight against childhood cancer. Send this message to 10 of your friends…Be a RALLY 10 to WIN!