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!

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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!

Calais, France to London, England – Day 42

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Friday, 7 September, 2012  Calais, France to London, England (86 miles) Total Trip Miles – 13,092. 2.5 hrs hours riding

Weather Temperature mostly sunny in the upper 60’s…a perfect riding day back to a more civilized world

By the way, I am now just 6 hours ahead of the central time zone which means since leaving Vladivostok a couple of weeks ago, I crossed 10 time zones as I made my way west.

Yesterday evening I met several folks on bikes from the UK doing a fundraising ride for fallen soldiers and I asked about crossing the channel on a ferry and they all emphatically suggested the Eurotunnel.  During some of my trip planning, I had looked into making the crossing on the train, but since it required a reservation I opted to pass on scheduling at that time.  They mentioned to Google the world “chunnel” and that would get to the Eurotunnel website.

To avoid traffic delays, it was also recommended that I schedule my crossing at about 10 am which I did…As I approached the area to catch the Eurotunnel train, I quickly realized this was a highly sophisticated operation that not only moved people, cars and buses, but large trucks with freight going to the UK from all parts of Europe.  I ended up being slotted with other bikers and we were all guided onboard the train…it’s a ride on – ride off system that’s quite efficient.  The trip under the Channel takes just 35 minutes and this gave me time to chat with some of the bikers from the area…most were in my age group and had been touring on their bikes in all parts of Europe.

Almost forgot to mention, that when I was clearing UK customs at the port prior to boarding, the customs official asked about what I was doing and he was genuinely interested in my trip and many of the details…he even wrote down for me all the highways I needed to get to Gatwick Airport.  At that moment I realized that every person I have come in contact during these last several weeks has been very pleasant and helpful…I have not had one bad experience which I find utterly amazing.  Also, there is something so civilized about the British and their accent.  I remember years ago after being in Zimbabwe and other parts of southern Africa for a few weeks, I was returning home to the US on board a British Airways flight to London when the flight attendant asked how I would like my afternoon tea…”with milk & sugar?”  It was at that very moment I realized I was back and just how good I felt to once again return to the more civilized world!!

After departing the train, I immediately got on the M20 heading towards London’s Gatwick Airport and my hotel.  There I unloaded my gear and began preparing my bike to take over to the airport for shipping back to Montreal on Monday…the hostess at the hotel, Alicia, mentioned the rental car agency attached to the hotel might be willing to wash my bike…she also accepted my offer for some free gas or petrol since I had to drain for the flight shipment.

A young man at the rental car agency used a high pressure sprayer to remove the weeks of Siberian dirt and grime from the bike and I gave him 10 pounds for his efforts…

Off to the airport I located the Serviceair air cargo facility and after a brief inspection and a little work on the bike removing the windshield, mirrors and disconnecting the battery, it was ready for x-ray and shipment.

Mike at Serviceair gave me lift back to the terminal so I could catch a bus back to the hotel and after a late lunch and a Jack Daniels on the rocks to help celebrate and commemorate the moment, I found myself dozing off at the table.  After a hot bubble bath…that’s right a bubble bath, I crashed in the bed and slept like never before for about 8 hours – by far the best sleep I’ve had in well over a month…ohhh, how I missed you civilized world!

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!

Samara, Russia to Moscow, Russia – Day 38

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Monday, 3 September, 2012  Samara, Russia to Moscow, Russia (750 miles) Total Trip Miles – 11,010. 14.5 hrs hours riding

Weather Temperature mostly sunny in the mid 60’s with a mix of sun & clouds with some brief rain showers.

After loading up my bike, the Europa Hotel in Samara served up a nice breakfast included in the rate, which is typical for most hotels in Russia – a ham & cheese omelet, coffee, orange juice along with a an assorted meat tray & yogurt.  They were running a bit behind so I ended up getting a later started than anticipated, but starting my day with a good meal has become more & more essential given the long hours on the bike.

Getting out of Samara at 8:30 am took about 45 minutes due to morning traffic and the fact that I had to cross town to get back on the highway.

I only wish the photo above was of a Moscow street!…It’s actually one I took from my apartment window in Novosibirsk.  I had often imagined getting my photo taken on the bike at Red Square; however, this would need to postponed for a later time.  Since having the mechanical delays, I could only get to the outskirts of the city on this day – I talked with several folks that said weekday traffic in downtown Moscow was a problem.

To assure I could make the border crossing the following day at Latvia, I decided to get on Moscow’s outer highway loop around the city to end up on the west side of the city and better poised to make a run for the border the following morning.  Keep in mind it was dark and the highway was nothing more than a 2-lane state road in the US with heavy truck traffic.

With time approaching 11 pm, I decided to look for a hotel to stay the night in the Obinsk area and was unable to find one that I didn’t have to drive a distance.  Well, since I am fully self-contained and decided to pull out the sleeping bag and camp next to the bike at a 24 hours fueling station – sounded like a logical choice.  Ended up sleeping between the bike and curb and with all the trucks, lights and the like I suspect my sleep was something less than optimal, but hey, I as tired from the days ride and it felt quite refreshing to me.  After about 5 hours of sleep, i was awakened by the light taps of rain – that was my wake up call and before daylight I was up and on the road towards the Latvian border.

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!

Chelyabinsk, Russia to Samara, Russia – Day 37

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Sunday, 2 September, 2012  Chelyabinsk, Russia to Samara, Russia (566 miles) Total Trip Miles – 10,260. 14.5 hrs hours riding

Weather Temperature mostly sunny in the upper 40’s with rain & high winds the entire day…by far the worst weather day on the trip so far!!

Like yesterday was one of the better riding days relating to weather…today turned out to be the worst to date on this trip…As I left the hotel in Chelyabinsk, that was absolutely fabulous, it started to rain with temps in upper 40’s…no big deal except the rain and temps continued for the entire day including heavy winds that blew constantly out of the north often making it a challenge to maintain control of the bike.  I truly believe I shivered the entire day and the tension in my back and neck muscles was terribly uncomfortable.  I found myself stopping along the roadside to warm my hands & gloves with the bike exhaust.

The weather also made the roads treacherous for travels and speeds were reduced significantly making progress slow…I continue to be amazed at the number of huge trucks that run these small, two lane roads day to day given these conditions…I suspect the winter months bring even more difficult challenges.

This next section may be too much information but it is one of the realities of cycling across Siberian considering I’m spending something north of 12 hrs a day on the bike.  For the entire trip I have been using Gold Bond powder, but after today, I reached into my bag of tricks and went for the heavy artillery – Baby Anti Monkey Butt Powder…a secret Dave Rose and others has commented about prior to me leaving.  Being wet yesterday for about 14 hrs, it was just time – a fella can’t afford to have issues in those areas!!

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!

Omsk, Russia to Chelyabinsk, Russia – Day 36

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Saturday, 1 September, 2012  Omsk, Russia to Chelyabinsk, Russia (628 miles) Total Trip Miles – 9694. 11.5 hrs hours riding

Weather Temperature mostly sunny in the upper 60′s for the period with little or no rain fall…a beautiful day for riding

Unfortunately I inadvertently deleted the copy of this blog…oh well.  The following will be an abbreviated version allowing me some time to update yesterday’s events.

As you are aware, I was fortunate enough to spend the night with Vitaliy and his family…he is a member of the Siberian Bears Bike club and was an excellent host – started our day early with some local bakery pastries and hot tea…that right hot tea.  Russian’s commonly drink hot tea with any meal and/or event.

Vitaliy drove me out to the bike clubhouse to get my bike – it was in a secure location surrounded by a wall and gate…I guess secure enough for my tastes since Vitaliy and most of the members leave their bikes on the grounds.  To get a better sense the place, it reminds me of what folks in my family would call a hide out – nothing fancy, but with all the necessary ammenities – refrigerator, sink, grill, seating, porch and the like… basically a great get away spot for these guys.

After packing up the bike, Vitalily lead me through town to get me on the right main road up to Chelyabinsk.  The ride was a bit long; however the weather made it for one of the nicest riding days on the trip.

Most Russian cities have churches similar to the one posted above often ornately decorated in this traditional style and architecture.  Like the churches, most cemeteries are have fenced plots with are colorfully painted often with many flowers and other arrangements…they can be spotted on virtually every horizon.

As he sun started to settle in the afternoon sky and I rolled into Chelyabinsk, I was amazed at the hotel Melissa Smith, one of my co-workers at NDC, booked for me…it was a magnificant spot probably 20 stories high and would rival any hotel around the world…staff spoke good English and the breakfast buffet was terrific the next morning.  I had planned on grabbing some dinner at the bar; however, I ended up falling asleep in a chair in my room…

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!

Novosibirsk, Russia to Omsk, Russia – Day 33, 34 & 35

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Wednesday – Friday, 29 – 31 August 2012  Novosibirsk, Russia to Omsk, Russia (440 miles) Total Trip Miles – 9066. 8.5 hrs hours riding

Weather Temperature mostly sunny in the upper 60′s for the period with little or no rain fall.

Been a crazy last couple of days but I finally made it to Omsk this evening from Novosibirsk.  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.

Friday morning I was up early, loaded the bike and was off for Omsk at about 10:30 after saying our goodbyes….Kirill even lead me our of the city on his pearl white Honda Gold Wing.

Before leaving, Kirill also gave me the contact information of his fellow club member, Vitaliy, who I was to call as I entered Omsk. After making my call to him, Vitaliy asked me to wait along the roadside and he’d come out to escort me back to town and their clubhouse. Imagine for yourself a black, late model Honda Gold Wing with Russian rock blasting from the sound system with a small-framed man wearing black and a Harley, German-style helmet on this massive machine. While riding through town I could even hear his music from several hundred yards back…believe me – every person we passed turned their grassy to see what just went by!…an incredible sight.

As I mentioned, this has been a crazy week and my luck was going to continue when my bike finally dropped the main drive chain as we worked our way through the streets of Omsk…are you really kidding me! I was able to get the chain back into place and we continued over to the Bears clubhouse where Vitaliy and his friends immediately jumped into action to find a replacement….within the hour I had a new replacement part in hand and with their help and the help of Roland at Cool Springs Motorsports over the phone back in Nashville for some technical advice, and some technical help, I was back in business.

We left our bikes at the clubhouse and took a taxi to Vitaliy’s house to also celebrate his birthday with is family and friends…a very nice ending to such a crazy week.

Over the last couple of days I must also recognize the overwhelming acts of selflessness of the Russian biker community that was extended to me…without them, my situation would have been dismal at best….there is such a huge comfort knowing that in a spot far, far from home there are folks like these you can count on!

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!