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!

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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!

Moscow, Russia to Kaunas, Lithuania – Day 39

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Tuesday, 4 September, 2012  Moscow, Russia to Kaunas, Lithuania (752 miles) Total Trip Miles – 11,762. 15 hrs hours riding

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

Well the big day had arrived!…on this day I was going to be riding towards the Latvian border and after a couple of long, tough weeks in Russia finally closing this chapter of the ride.  Quite honestly, the Siberian leg had always been the keystone of the entire trip – to me, the success or failure hinged on this 7000 mile ride across some of the most inhospital terrain and land on the planet…this was going to be a big day for me.

The first 4 hours of the ride was hampered by moderate rainfall making the roads a bit treacherous in spots, so I was forced to keep my speeds down.  As time approached late morning, I could see small breaks in the clouds finally ending up with mostly sunny skies as I approached the border.  As I rounded a corner, I could first see nothing but huge trucks, probably 150 or more stopped and lined up with many of the drivers standing outside…I thought to myself this just can’t be good.  As I worked my way to the front of the line, the line of cars was only about a dozen deep and I actually got to the Russian customs side in less than 30 minutes.  My excitment was quickly dashed when I was asked to move to another line and an older, more distinquished agent – he reminded me of George C. Scott, the actor that played Patton took over the process.

There appeared to be quite the confusion with my documents and I ended up with him for over an hour.  I finally got my stamp, stamp and stamp on some paperwork and was motioned to move to the Latvian side.  The experience was very similar with me being motioned to see this person and that – one said my International Driver’s License was invalid and that my Tennesse license did not allow for me to ride a motorcycle in Lativa – anyhow, I felt they were only hassling me a bit and decided to just go along with them – thought it was quite humorous frankly.  I truly believe they finally just got tired of me and finally after some more stamps, stamps and stamps I was on my way into Latvia.

Immediately I noticed a change in the landscape and road conditions…enough that it quickly became very apparent – the roads were much better maintained and the lushness of the farms was stark.  For the first time in several weeks I began to feel a calmness in the air that helped me to relax as I rolled through the countryside.

Earlier in the day I had been in contact with Piotr Mlodecki, business development with HTL-Strefa, and one of NDC’s vendors out of Poland…I had actually met Piotr in Nashville at a brief meeting and we discussed the possibility of riding together during my trip.  That moment had arrived and just having the opportunty for the first time in 40 days to ride with someone I knew was exciting.  Piotr made reservations at a hotel in city center of Kaunas and we planned to meet around 10 pm for drinks and dinner.  As luck would have it, Piotr met and guy on a bike looking for a place to stay for the night and he ended up joining us for dinner – his name is Martin from Germany and we had great converation about riding experiences and all the spots to see in the region…a very nice closure to an already wonderful day!  I was truly able to finally put a check in the box…Siberian Leg – 7000 miles!!

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!