Prepping for SA

What Do We Need to Take to Be “Ready for Anything?”

Two conflicting desires are colliding.  One of the reasons we’re taking a motorcycle to South America is to travel light and fast — we want flexibility to wander and change direction at a whim.  Yet, we’re going to be on the road for a long time; logistics, weather, communications, and mechanical breakdowns figure into the mix too.   What do we need to take in order to be prepared for anything?

We’ve done long trips before so we have an idea of what/how to pack.  Yet, it’s our  experience that’s whispering inside my head,  “There must be a better approach!”   We always start neatly packed, but by the end of the trip we look like a Nepalese street hawker with stuff tied everywhere.   Is this just our destiny, or is there a better way?

We’ve decided to ask an expert for help.   Enter Zigy Kaluzny, a professional photographer and experienced motorcycle adventure traveler.  We’d met Zigy at one of the Horizons Unlimited meetings and we were impressed with his presentation on what to take and how to pack it.

Our packing expert, Zigy Kaluzny, giving a presentation at the Colorado Horizons Unlimited meeting

So we asked Zigy to help us figure out what we should take on our trip.   Here’s what he said.

FW:   How’d you become so knowledgeable about motorcycle traveling?

ZK: I think travel is travel; the same basics apply:  less is always more than enough. Unless you’re crossing the Darien or the Sahara,, there is probably not much you really need beyond the basics, but more on that later.

I’ve traveled all my life, starting with immigrating to America from Italy when I was four, so I could say travel seems normal to me.  Because my parents were divorced, starting at about 10, I regularly traveled alone a day by train to visit my father. As a kid in Chicago, I went away to summer camp and then Boy Scout camp every summer, and when i was 14, my best friend and I took a Greyhound bus from Chicago to Philmont Scout Ranch in NM and again the next year when we were 15, we took the train. It was great to be on the loose like that.  After college i spent a year traveling in Europe and North Africa with a backpack.  When you carry everything on your bac.k, you quickly learn to lighten your load.

As far as motorcycle travel, I only started riding at 42, in 1989, and did my first long trip — six weeks across the west from Texas — on a BMW K75s with the standard bags in 1995.  Seemed pretty simple to pack.  I probably spent more time deciding what books to carry than what clothes.  Since it was fall, the weather was gorgeous and barely got too cold.  I did have Aerostich gear and a Gerbing electric jacket; those took care of being warm on the bike.

FW:  What’s the biggest mistake people make when packing for a trip?

This is bad packing. (Photo provided by ZK)

ZK: That’s easy: taking too much stuff.  it seems people want to be “ready for anything” but the reality is that for most — and i stress most — motorcycle trips, from a weekend to a month (and beyond that more months are just the same in terms of basic needs) there really isn’t much more you need that you wouldn’t take on a week-long car trip.

FW:  What’s the one thing that you’d never travel without?

ZK: Hmmm; hard one.  how about two?  1. bungee clothesline. 2. camera .  If I get a third, I’d say a netbook for accessing info and staying in touch.

FW:  What’s the one thing that most people think they need and really don’t?

ZK: Some will call this blasphemy, but I think that one thing is a GPS.

Really: how often are you truly off the grid and need to know where you are?  if you can’t read a basic map — and we’re talking roads here, not gridlines, elevations or more esoteric topographic info — how can you possibly benefit from a GPS?  Last summer I was planning to ride the Trans-Lab and so I bought my first GPS.  That trip got put off, but during a substitute ten-day ride up to Yellowstone I spent more time messing with the GPS than I everhave with a map.  Yeah, it was intriguing to observe the little indicator move as I rode, know how far it was to the next gas (ok, i DID once make the error of not topping off and was relieved when the GPS told me that there

I'm trying to avoid looking like this. (Photo provided by ZK))

were 10 gas stations around, even if most of them were BEHIND me…), and know exactly where i was at any point (for journaling and identifying images). However, in all the miles and kilometers I’ve ridden across the American west, Canada, AK, Europe, NZ, and Tasmania,  if iwanted to always know exactly where i was i could have stayed at home.  I LIKE not knowing exactly where i am.

I also think using the GPS to find a motel in the next town is a form of “cheating;” isn’t part of travel the discovery of what’s around the next bend?  I LOVE to come into a little town, ride around checking out the few motels and deciding which I’d stay in. Sure, we’ve all arrived in some dump late, tired and perhaps even wet, and it’s frustrating to wander around, but if that’s not part of what riding a motorcycle is all about, you should have taken the SUV.

FW:  Is there any way to plan by the number of days you’re away?

ZK: For me, only in terms of consumables like coffee, powdered milk and the food i carry since i really am sick of road food.  I carry good oatmeal, dates, and almonds from Whole Foods in zip-locks, as well as a particular brand of  East Indian meals.

FW: Are there “economies of scale” that two people can achieve, or is it just 2X the amount of stuff?

ZK: Good one; apart from the obvious of camping, i can’t think of much that both people can share unless they are fortunate — or unfortunate — enough to wear the same size clothes.  And i’ve not yet needed a bra.

FW:  What’s your strategy for what clothes to take?

ZK: The basic fact is that if you really need something you don’t have, you can usually buy an acceptable substitute.  But, here’s my list:

  • Motorcycle jacket / pants (Aerostich Darien and Roadcrafter pants — built in Gore-tex and great venting, as well as super strong.
  • Gerbing jacket (not vest — yr arms freeze)
  • Motorcycle boots
  • Helmet (and depending on where i am going, an extra visor)
  • Riding Gloves:  two or three pair (Held x2 and a vented summer pair); Aerostich Triple Digit rain gloves.

Clothes (almost NO cotton — its bulky, heavy and takes forever to dry)

  • 1 pair long pants — I like REI’s “Guide Pants.”

    The unreachable dream: ZK's packing system. (Photo provided by ZK)

  • 1 pair shorts ( i like the Patagonia heavy cotton “Stand-Up” shorts — super tough)
  • 1 running shorts/swimming trunks (which i wear under my riding pants and wash by wearing into the shower in the evening; dry in the morning)
  • 3 pr mid-weight socks (SmartWool or REI equivalent); my feet sweat a lot
  • 2 pr underpants
  • 2  synthetic t-shirts (REI or UnderArmor), also worn into shower to wash
  • 1 Polar-tech type long sleeve t-shirt
  • 1 black cotton turtleneck (can wear anywhere, and great for layering)
  • 1 pair silk or equivalent light long john bottom
  • 1 thin fleece
  • 1 pair light hiking boots. motorcycle boots not made for walking — and i want mine to air and dry.
  • 1 pair Keens sandals or equivalent
  • 1 hat

AND the famous bungee clothes line (the one from Coughlan’s is vastly better than REI model

Since this is the second time I’vve mentioned this, it must be important, right? YES.  I use it to: hang clothes to dry in motel (better in room than in the steamy bathroom) or at campsite.  hang my sleeping bag to air. This thing is great: no clothespins and costs $10.

And for making  lists of gear, this is a great site, allowing you to custom create a checklist for any reason:

FW:  How do you pack them?  Do you have special bags?

ZK: I’ve been using compressible dry  bags; the ones i use, by WXtex, or the ones from REI, allow me to squeeze all the air out of the bag once my clothes are in.  I can pack all the above clothes (less boots/sandals) into a 15 lt bag and squeeze it down to about 8″ x 20″

FW:  How do you handle the potential for rain?  Our m/c riding suits have an inner layer for rain proofing, but that seems pretty inconvenient to put in if you’re riding along and hit a rain storm.

ZK: Ah, the benefits of Aerostich riding gear! I’ve ridden through what seemed like walls of water at 80 mph on the autobahn for almost an entire day and remained dry.  i’ve never understood the idea of having to stop and take off my jacket to zip in the waterproof liner — as it begins to rain!

FW:  How do you rain-proof your stuff?  Are panniers enough?

ZK: My Jesse cases are waterproof, but the compressible dry bags are both extra insurance and reduce the space needed.

FW: Shoes are always an issue.   I usually just take a pair of flip flops and hiking sandals, in addition to my m/c boots.

ZK: Yes, for me, too. as i said, light hikers and Keens sandals.

FW: Do you camp when traveling?  What’s the minimum you need to take to camp?

ZK: I’ve camped, and that is definitely one thing i can’t imagine doing two-up.

But when traveling alone, i take a comfy one man tent with large vestibule for gear in case of rain, or else a larger tent with enough room for me and my gear inside.  full-length Thermarest (keeps my feet off the cold ground),  goose down bag in fall and spring or a lighter-weight one in

summer; liner for extra warmth if necessary; ground cloth so i can sleep out, weather and bugs permitting.  one thing i never travel without is an inexpensive  camp chair (about $5 at Walmart or other such store); sitting on the ground is cold and often uncomfortable.  My basic cook kit so i can at least have fresh coffee or tea in the morning.  And the famous, oft-mentioned clothes line.

FW:  What about tools? There seems to be two basic strategies.  Bring a mini-tool box and the “right” spares or bring a Gold AMEX. Which do you use?

ZK: I’ve only had one major problem travelling, and that was a dead starter — luckily in Moab — so NO tool kit would have been enough! I carry more than the basic BMW -supplied tool kit, but with an R12GS there is less and less one can do oneself, besides fixing flats, and I have not yet learned to do that… my tool kit has additional metric drivers and ratchet, allen key set, small star wrench set, some wire,  duct tape, lots of zip ties of different sizes, a pack of various size locknuts and washers, some of that steel bondo stuff (NAME??).  i also carry some repair items for clothes:  Aerostich zipper replacements, velcro, rip-stop nylon press-on patches, and a very small sewing kit.  Unless you’re in the middle of the Sahara, its always possible to find someone to perform repairs of all kinds; remember the nomads in LONG WAY ROUND who repaired the gearbox of the photographer’s Chinese (Russian?) motorcycle right on the road?

FW:  What about a first aid kit?

ZK: Another of those location specific things; since i travel in first world countries — US, Canada, NZ, Australia — I carry a basic kit with ace bandages, antibiotic creme, bandages and sterile pads, waterproof tape, scissors,  blister pads, etc.  Nothing really clinically critical.  If I were traveling in South America or Africa, it would be a fully stocked kit, prepared by my physician or as found on some websites.  I bet Horizons Unlimited has some recommendations.

FW:  Any thoughts on how to prevent theft?  I’m not looking forward to having to unpack every night or worry about taking everything into a restaurant during lunch.

ZK: Location specific: in South America, i’d park the bike right in front of the restaurant and keep an eye on it.  In America, I’ve only had one thing stolen, and that was in Taos, NM.  I either take my helmet in, or use a cable to secure it and my riding jacket to the bike frame.   It’s something i just trust my gut on, but again, eyes open.  I know someone who had all their camping gear taken off their bike just outside of Yellowstone…

FW:  What other sources are good for packing tips?

ZK: Your brain.  How much do you REALLY need that you can’t get in most places, besides your riding gear and tech tools?  What’s the old saying? take out half the gear and then take out more… That clothing list i included above is really about it – and I’ve used only that gear for two months in NZ and Tasmania,  a month in BC and AK, and long trips at other times.  Wash every night, hang it up and let yourself be dirty.  We’re motorcyclists: we’re supposed to be dirty and smell bad, even if we DO ride BMW’s!

FW:  Thanks Zigy for all your help!  Now all we have to do is actually pack!

Post Script: The jury’s still out as to whether KR and I have achieved the perfect answer as we haven’t put all of our stuff on Now Voyager yet.  As I write this, we’re in an apartment in Buenos Aires awaiting the arrival of Now Voyager, which is a week late.  We won’t know how over-packed we are until we try strapping everything on.

Here are some stats so far…

  • FW clothes:  16 lbs (not including m/c riding suit, boots, helmet)
  • KR clothes: 13 lbs (not including the above plus all the stuff she’s hiding from me)
  • Electronics and paper: 34 lbs (two computers, three cameras, two GPS, one DVD drive, three flash drives, and assorted cords and batteries)
  • Tools and spares:  unknown weight, but its a lot.  Fills up three tool tubes and part of the left panniers

I sure hope we don’t end up like the guy from Sturgis above…

18 months and $20K later, Now Voyager is ready for crating in front of the shipping company in Los Angeles

Toys Gone Wild: Now Voyager Gets All Dressed UP

Just about ten years ago we were driving through Haines, Alaska and I saw a motorcyclist parked in town.  The guy was outfitted from top to bottom and his GS was dripping with gadgets and bags and stuff.  He  looked like an Adventure Dude, ready for anything, and I was immensely jealous.  KR and I had done a fair bit of motorcycling by that time, including a trip to Alaska, but it was always on our Honda Pacific Coast — the antithesis of what a Real Adventure Bike was suppose to look like.  Sometimes an image just gets burned into the brain, and o, the GS in Haines

Roll camera forward and the world was about to unfold at our feet via our new 2009 BMW F650GS.  We needed to get Now Voyager outfitted for our trip and I was determined to replicate that ten year old image.  No catalog would be left out, no accessory would be left off the list, no gadget or gizmo would go unchecked-out.  I was a man with a mission — build a world class adventure bike and have fun doing it: )))))!

Now, there was a serious side to this as well.   First, Karen and I would be living on this bike for long stretches at a time and it had to be comfortable and safe. Second, and this won’t be news for those who know me, I’m not particularly mechanically (nor electronically, pneumatically, etc.) inclined.  I wanted to build something that would take care of itself, or at least I wanted to be prepared for almost anything.  And, of course, it needed to go most anywhere we would want to go — hill, dale, expressway or back alley.

OK, it had to be cool too.

Trust But Verify: Planning, Mounting, Configuring, Repairing and TESTING

As I write this, I have an 85-page journal chronicling our prep for this trip.  While I’m tempted, I won’t put the whole thing up here:)  I’m going to summarize our efforts starting with some basic stats:

  • We’ve gone to 4 seminars/conferences and countless dinners/lunches to meet as many people as possible who’ve done something like this.  We wanted to learn from them.  There are lots and lots and lots of knowledgeable people out there who’ve done this kind of thing before.  Really.
  • We’ve used almost every adventure accessory maker for various things:  Touratech, Wundelich, Adventure Designs, Wolfman, Starcom, Garmin, Wilbers and many, many more.  There’s nothing like coming home to a new UPS package every week: ) Suffice it to say that we’re not likely to be sponsored by any one of them.
  • We’ve taken eight test rides covering 9,000+ miles, ranging in length from a weekend to two weeks, to test various aspects of the bike and its new parts/configurations.   These have been invaluable and prevented numerous mistakes that we would have had to live with if we were on the road.  These tests are in addition to the 6000 miles that I rode a rented 1200 GS in Argentina and Chile Chasing the Dakar in January 2010..
  • Hollywood BMW and Ryan Reza have done most all the work on the bike.  He’s terrific and I wouldn’t have been able to do all the prep without him.  We have spent hours and hours  and hours together getting Now Voyager ready.  Unless you’re able to do the work yourself, you need to find someone you can trust and make sure you take good care of him/her.

What’s The Goal(s)?

I’ve written about why we selected a BMW F650GS in another post — light, comfortable, go-anywhere, highly configurable.   Now our challenge was to make Now Voyager into a bike specifically for us and for our intended uses.  Sounds rather simple doesn’t it?   Well, while its not brains surgery, there were a lot of moving parts and issues to deal with…

  • We’re small people.  I’m 5’5″ on a good day and way 170lbs.   We need a bike low enough to the ground that I can wrestle it at very low speed situations when its fully loaded with KR and gear.  Moreover, weight is a big deal for lots of reasons including the heavier the bike, the harder it is to wrestle at slow speeds.  We also like to talk while we’re riding, sharing what’s going on.  This is especially important on long stints or riding through cities in which one has to do the navigating and the other does the driving.  Finally, we like our stuff.  For KR, that can mean anything from kitchen stuff to pieces of art that we gather along the trip.  My stuff is almost all electronics:  two computers, backup drives, cords, batteries, headphones, etc.
  • The Lower Suspension/Payload paradox. I was extremely disappointed to learn that BMW accomplishes its “lower suspension” option by making the shock softer.  This causes one really significant problem for serious tourers:  because the shock is just soft, the payload is sharply reduced for a lowered suspension bike.  This was a huge problem for us  because I know we’re going to end up carrying a bunch of stuff in addition to us.
  • How do we keep it as light as possible, yet meet all the above? Not easy, but that’s one of the prime reasons we chose the 650 vs. the 800 as a starting point.  Everything that we put on the bike and intend to take is as light as it could be.  We weighed everything and then we calculated spring rates and dampening for the shock absorber.
  • It’s going to be a moving office. Yes, I intend to work on the road, which is why I need so much computer equipment and while I’ll need a little bit of space for files/papers.   Honestly, if I could have found a small  enough and compact enough printer, I would bring that too:)
  • It has to be comfortable for both of us. This is especially true for Karen since she broke her  back in the Sportsmobile accident five years ago.  We changed seats, put in a back rest, raised the handlebars, etc. all in the pursuit of making Now Voyager a Bark-O-Lounger.

The Parts, Accessories, Gadgets and Gizmos on the bike

Here’s a stream of consciousness list of the stuff that I’ve (Ok, Ryan) put on the bike.  For those of  you who have questions or want more detail, just email or call.  Each piece was put on and then tested.  If it worked, it stayed.  If it didn’t, then it was fixed, modified or eliminated.

The Bike/Bags/Suspension/Body

  • Touratech Panniers (as big as I could get),top box and matching inner bags.  Solid pieces of equipment priced to match.  Aside from the top box, they mounted as advertised.  One of them leaked during a rain storm, though, so they have to be rain-proofed.
  • CeeBaily lowered seat with back restWas made to fit our butts.  Lowered as well.  Very good (so far)
  • Wolfman water proof bags including soft gas tank pannier. Untried, but they look great.
  • Wunderich tank bagFinding THE tank bag was one of the most difficult decisions.  There are lots of tank bags out there, but none seemed perfectly suited for what I wanted.  The Wunderlich bag mounts VERY EASILY, has plenty of nifty pockets, looks like its rain resistant, and has a place in the front where you can run electrical sockets into it.
  • All available Touratech crash bars including oil pan protector and radiator guard.  Lots of folks make these things, these just looked like they were sturdy and they were so convenient, since I was in the Touratech catalog/web site every day 🙂
  • Wilbers shock built specifically to my physical and weight specifications and mud flap.  The shock was one of the best things I’ve done  for a wide range of reasons (bought it from Ted @ 831.438.1100).  We bought it to solve the height/weight problem.  The shock was specifically made for our weight (full up and loaded) and the desired ride height (after sag) that we needed.  The bike ended up being about 1″ higher than the stock shock, but way more stiff and able to handle weight.  And here’s the shocking thing (did I say that) — it improved the precision of the handling of the bike to the point that it was immediately noticeable.  Especially two up.  To compensate the increased ride height, we lowered the bike on the front forks by an inch.
  • Center stand. BMW does not offer a center stand for a lowered bike.  So I bought a after market center stand and a friend, Ron Cottriel, shorten the stand to match the bike.  Works great and it doesn’t scrape at the speeds and lean angles I’m going.
  • Wunderlich throttle cruise controlWouldn’t ride without one.  Very, very high quality piece that works fine.  But its set up backwards so that you lock it ON when you rotate forward
  • Wunderlich adjustable clutch lever Small hands require small levers
  • Wunderlich rear view mirror extenders. So I could see  around KR.  Does the job, but the stock BMW mirrors still suck
  • 20MM Touratech handlebar risers.  I put these on because I had read so much about risers, but I wasn’t really convinced.  I am now, its just more comfortable
  • Air Hawk passenger seat. This is an adjustable seat (by blowing into a little tube) in which KR can make it softer or harder depending on the terrain.  She seems to like it.
  • Two Rotopax1 gallon gas cansI’ve been looking for extra gas cans for bikes for years.  These are definitely very, very trick.  Highly recommend them.
  • Three GT Moto Tool Tubes. I originally expected to mount it inside the panniers, but there’s no room on the F650GS, so I ended up mounting them on the bottom of the panniers.  Since I’m taking a lot of spares and tools, I bought three.  Very high quality stuff.
  • Knobby tires front and rear. After I went over the Andes on a GS 1200 equipped with knobbies, I decided that the standard tires wouldn’t cut it.  On dirt, they make a big difference.  On pavement, I never reached their limit in the mountain sweepers on the big GS until you get well over 100mph.
  • Two thermos mounted with a Touratech mount. Keep drinks hot or cold out in the middle of nowhere can’t be over-rated.
  • Two helmet locksI don’t suspect they will prevent a theft from someone who has the time and tools to have at it, but they will work for quick lunches, etc.


  • Starcom rider to rider communications systemAside from not crashing/breaking down, being able to communicate with one another is really important.  As a result, KR KR and I have gone through many, many communications systems looking for the answers.  I think the Starcom 1 Advance system is very, very good and we’ve now mounted it properly so it should work well.  But IT DIDN’T WORK FINE FOR VERY LONG.  Various problem kept coming up during our test trips, everything from buzzing to not being able to hear the iPod.  I tried getting help from everyone including the factory but was out of luck until I contacted Jeff at Biker Effects (see links).  He totally solved my problem(s) and impressed me that he actually knows something about the system.  Ryan mounted the unit under the EMU under the seat and put in a couple of helmet wire connectors and we’re set to go.
  • Garmin 660 Zumo GPS and various maps. GPS’s are another black box area for me and I finally picked the 660 Zumo, which works fine.  The problem with this is threefold:  (1) Garmin’s user interface/customer support/web site sucks big time  (2) Their mapping software for Mac is not particularly intuitive;  and (3) I still haven’t found the right maps for South America…
  • Gadget Guy GPS mounting kit. The Gadget Guy was another hugely helpful guy.  Genna spent three hours on the phone with me talking me through GPS, the pros/cons of mounting them particular ways,etc., etc.  And his mounting systems are works of art.
  • Adventure Design  VOP 1.5 video camera and mounting system.   Haven’t tried it yet, but saw Jim Hyde use it on our Dakar trip to great affects.  My suspicion is that it will be weak on the software side.
  • Scott automatic chain oiler.  I’m a lazy guy and figured its best to get something to do the daily stuff.  I replaced the standard chain with a much better one too.

Bike Preparation

Not only does all the above stuff need to get put on or mounted, there was a ton of specialized stuff that I wanted done. Here’s a list of the key things

  • Center stand shortened.  See above
  • Back box moved back 1/2 inch.   This little bit made all the difference to KR
  • Panniers lined with foam. I carry a lot of electronics
  • Starcom system was wired to the ignition system, the Starcom box was located under the seat, the helmet wire connectors located at the back and gas tank
  • EVERYTHING was siliconed and or Locktited
  • GPS was mounted as ignition dependent
  • The video camera was mounted in two ways:  forward-looking  and flexible hand-held.  See above
  • Suspension was adjusted numerous times with various loads.  This is an art of which I’m not too skilled.  We tried to reach a balance between ride height, shock travel, and stiffness.  Only time will tell, but there are not a lot of alternatives for us vertically challenged guys.
  • The front forks were lowered about 1 inch to compensate for the above suspension adjustments
  • The Scott Oiler was mounted and tested for flow rate.   When we first tested it, it threw oil over everyone and everything for the 100 miles the oil lasted.
  • A complete service, including new spark plugs, oil/air filers, brake pads, etc.,etc,
  • A spare clutch cable was installed next to the existing one.  Ryan mounted the cable right next to the existing one, just in case I lose one, its a five minute replacement. Very trick.

Pictures of the fun along the way

A rare photo of me working on NV and getting something done

A rarer shot of KR polishing NV's new panniers

One of my favorite shorts. It's very early one Sunday morning and I'd just spent 10 hours trying to get the top box installed.

Many of our tests were weekend rides with the BMW of So Cal folks. The rides always included new and interesting roads to places that we hadn't been to before. They were very useful in testing various things on the bike. And they were also a fun group to play with.

We went to anything we could to learn. This was a well-attended talk by the Simon and Lisa Thomas (see 2ridetheworld link on the links section) at BMW Ventura. If you're thinking about taking a long trip, go to as many of these as possible.

Learning on a whole other level, the Horizons Unlimited meeting every summer in Colorador and California are the single best places to go to learn how to do "this." These folks are the real thing.

Another way of learning -- the hard way. NY stopped running in Gallup, NM on our first significant test trip and we spent FOUR DAYS while a BMW dealer tried to diagnose the problem. We (I) found the answer in the AdvRider Forums of course. 40 pages on F650GS fuel pump problems...

NV will serve as mobil office as well

I've found that the best relationship between rider and technician is based on mutual respect. The guy on the right is Ryan Reza, the best technician I've come across. He needs some training in people skills, though 🙂

One of the last things I installed (OK, Ryan installed) was two one-gallon Rotopax gas tanks. Very trick. They're easy to fill and lockable. Range for NV is now about 280 miles. Definitely cheaper than buying the Touratech large gas tank for $2K.

This is what the electronics look like now. Garmin and POV1.5M camera mounted. The lipstick camera is in its resting place. There's also a mount under the windscreen for road shots. My intension is to hold the camera -- or have KR hold it-- while we're riding.

Gadget Guy GPS mounting brackets

Staging area! My m/c stuff in my temporary living room in Steve and Rita's basement

All suited up and nowhere to go -- yet! First test of my first ever riding suit -- the Revit "Dakar" suit. It's a very good suit, but I wonder whether the whole rain/winter layer underneath is going to work in climates where it rains off and on every day. Bought on sale, of course.

Now Voyager waiting to get crated. I'm feeling a huge amount of separation anxiety...

“Working the Problem”

You know something has changed inside when you really believe that riding a motorcycle around the world is no big deal.  You begin working the problem rather than being overwhelmed by the complexity and risk.  A scene from the movie, Apollo 13, comes to mind when the Flight Commander demands of his team, “work the problem people, work the problem!”  Riding a motorcycle around the world is no moon-shot, but most people view them with equal survivability.

Once we crossed into the “work the problem” mode, relating to other people became harder for all concerned.   The poor souls from Jonestown probably felt similar before drinking the Cool Aide, “What’s everyone worried about?” I suspect that friends quietly wonder, Are Fred and Karen OK? As our ”disease” progressed, we found ourselves seeking out a different type of friend, much as a cancer victim might seek out survivors to gain knowledge and empathy.  In our case, we wanted to talk to  people about the best way to ship a motorcycle around the Darien Gap, or what countries were safe to camp and which were not, how much should you pack, what types of clothing to take for three months rather than three days.  Talking tools, spares, and gizmos all night long is a good thing.

We crossed our personal Rubicon in the summer of 2008 when we attended our first Horizons Unlimited (HU) meeting in Colorado.  HU members are the real deal when it comes to motorcycle adventurists, made up of hard-core travel types who ride to far-away places, regularly.   Rugged and independent, most HU members gather around a tire-changing seminar with the same joy and concentration as a fantasy footballer studies the injury report.   No pretences here and no need to hide; we’re among friends.

After three days of “seminars” on how to travel to faraway places on a motorcycle, KR and I came to the same conclusion.  Like most important things in our life, KR was the first to voice our collective thought, “We can do this.  We’ve done a lot of this kind of traveling already.  We know more than most people here.  We can figure this out.  We can survive!  This is no big deal.”

To be honest, it was a lot more than three days of seminars that got us to this point.  No, it was a couple of decades worth of trips to Alaska, Mexico, every state in the US but one, Nepal, Argentina, Chile, India, a few places in Europe, Puerto Rico and some others I can’t remember.   Not all of these were by motorcycle, of course, but they contained enough “shit happens, we dealt with it” episodes that we’re comfortable with the unknowns of what lies around the next blind corner.

The Modified Plan

I knew the likelihood of getting KR to go around the world on a motorcycle at one time was less likely than the aforementioned moon-shot.  So our first modifier was “one continent at a time.”  We were both up to traveling for an extended period of time – say a continent — but then coming back to a home base for some period before heading out again.  Through a series of back and forth discussions, we generally agreed that the sequence of continents would be South America, Europe, and Africa.  Somehow we’d also find time to explore Mexico and probably dip down to Central America as well.  Asia, South East Asia, the Middle East, and Australia/New Zealand are not sequenced yet.

So, in the summer of 2008 we made the decision to start making this idea a reality, causing a two-year series of consequences chronicled in Rewired, Journey to a New Life.

We have relatively low expectations for this trip; survival, go to some far- away places, meet interesting people, experience! as much of the world as we can, and share it all with our friends.

We’ll keep in touch.