Riding – 2009 World Tour Progress Report

[Original post by Elliot Mogerman – Transferred from yahoogroups.com]


One question I have been asked it what is it like riding. So I decided to wait for the worst day to explain. First, the good, we bid farewell to the manager and employees of Godzilla in Moscow, pack up our gear and with full tanks of gas head out. In the morning around 8am and I feel good from resting all day yesterday. Unfortunately, didn’t sleep very well at night but I was relaxed. The traffic was poor again and as we are heading out of the city we get pulled over. This is a common occurrence in Russia whenever the police want extra income. We were going about 4 miles an hour behind another car in traffic and they see us and think money. There was no other explanation to pull us over. Great news, they don’t speak any English, not even enough to ask for a passport. So they figure we would take too long to get money out of us in rush hour and they are missing opportunities for bribes, so they wave us away after about 15 seconds. They day starts around 65 degrees, beautiful weather and I have my rain gear on just in case with a few clouds and our luck so far you never know. The roads are flat at this point, the view is green and we stop for gas. Two Russian gentlemen come over and stare at our bikes. So we try to talk to them and let them get on and take pictures. They immediately thank us and get on their phones. I get an energy drink and off we go. As we are driving the road becomes more difficult to enjoy as conditions worsen and one fun thing is there are black birds on the side of the road, and flocks of them everywhere. When cars pass they do nothing as they must be used to them. As we pass they all scatter and makes me kind of realize why dogs like chasing after birds. It’s fun to see them all fly away at the same time. We pass lots of police stops but they all seem to watch us and let us ride through. Wonder if those two guys had anything to do with that. Some police even run out of the station to watch us drive by but don’t motion for us to pull over. The temperature reaches 97 degrees and we have to stop to take out my rain gear as I’m overheated and Mike removes his wind breaker.

Ok now for the question to be answered. Usually, I get on my bike and it takes about ten minutes to relax and become one with it. Today I am still a little shaky and sick. My nose is plugged and it’s almost impossible to blow it with a helmet on. So I prepare for a day of inhaling and snorting to keep it from running down my face. We are outside Moscow and only been riding for an hour. My fingers, especially thumbs, begin to go numb. This happens when you grip the handles too tight. So I use my throttle lock and alternate my hands to let them relax a little and when the feeling returns I switch back to the other. Now the road begins to become worse I need both hands so this happens throughout the day. I am groggy from not sleeping well so I try to drink caffeine at every stop. As trucks pass by the opposite way a wall of wind hits you and the bike. Depending on circumstances you sometimes have to compensate or you will be thrown off the road or into traffic. The highway gets bumpier and we start hitting what I call shark fin speed bumps. The first one racked my balls and caught me my surprise. When there is an object in the road you can’t turn away from quick enough, you hit the throttle and lean back to take weight off the front end to minimize the impact. Maybe stand up a little on the foot pegs so your butt doesn’t get sore so quickly. The black clouds of exhaust from these trucks are so bad Mike went through one cloud without holding his breathe and coughed for 15 minutes to eliminate it from his lungs. One section of road, maybe a few miles, was under construction and the road was covered in tar and grease. Some cars were driving off the road in the dirt, but we are unsure of the legal implications, so we stay with traffic. We were already behind due to my day of rest and Mike’s paperwork in Ukraine. So when my body wants a break I overcome the need and keep going. Then I think what makes a person’s will power strong? Is it just simply heart that an individual uses to not give up and is different in everyone. Maybe it’s a special someone that motivates you and gives encouragement. Perhaps it’s knowing the value of travel and the unknown what the next day will bring. Things that were important to me when working in large corporations are suddenly not. What I was told would make me happy has changed. Really happiness isn’t a thing that you can buy or be entertained with. I feel it’s a state of mind and all I have to do to be happy, even with a shit day like today, is to change my mind. Regardless of the reason we keep going.

By now, my butt feels like iron and concrete, heavy sore and no matter which way I sit can’t seem to get the sensation to go away. I think in Japan I will get foot pegs so I can place my feet out on long stretches. This changes the position of your muscles so you can relax certain areas and begin using others. Since I have an extra helmet I have ties it to the tires behind me. Unfortunately there was slack, and I never took time to learn how to make great knots. It keeps bumping me in the small of my back. At first it was annoying, then it began to hurt. So each stop I would quickly try and reset it as not to waste too much time. But it seemed every large bump it would pull slack and continue hitting me. There is a trick to stand up when going slow which is used in rough road conditions like dirt and rocks so I do this to let my tooshie rest. When I try to sit back down the helmet is on my seat and I am unable to sit. So I use one hand to reach back and pick it up and then slide it behind me to that great spot it has been hitting all day. We are approaching the 13 hour mark and almost 500 miles. Normally would be a tough ride for a healthy person. I have noticed a cough has begun because of all the crap I’ve been inhaling down my throat all day. I also wonder how Mike’s hand is. A few days ago when it rained and our gloves were wet, he developed two large blisters in the palm of his hand which looked pretty uncomfortable for riding. Guess he has had to use the stranger. We stop at our last gas station about 10 miles out of Volgograd.

As I can barely get off the bike and muster enough energy to put it on the center stand with Mikes help I look around the bike. Now placing the bike on the center stand to fill up optimizes the amount of gas you can fill as it makes the tank more level instead of on the side stand. I notice a sticky wet substance on the tires, my cases, and the helmet. I was carrying an extra oil container and the cap came off through the bumpy road and it spilled over everything. So I throw the container away and as I am coming back to the bike notice a few more things. The rear tire mud sling, used to prevent debris from flying and hitting vehicles behind me was uneven. In Moscow I noticed this and a screw had came out through all the vibrations which they replaced. Well it looked like it happened again but this time the screw head was broken and stuck in place. So since it is useless weight anyway, Mike rips it off and we throw it away. Then we notice one of the tie down straps had come loose and entangled in the brakes. This could have been bad but thank goodness my luck had a little left. So we worked on getting the tangled strap out of the rear brake and retied the excess to my side case. At this point I was so beat down I stopped looking for problems. We get on our bikes and head to the hotel.

Mike’s GPS gets us to the hotel but they are full due to a German convention the next day. Mike thinks this is funny because this is the place where they got their butts kicked in WWII. So we try another hotel next door and they have openings for us. We unload, pay the security guy to watch our bikes, shower, and then go eat at a steakhouse. I get back to the room exhausted, broken down, and go to sleep after killing a few dozen mosquitoes on my bed. Mike left the window open and lights on. In the morning Mike cleans hundreds of dead mosquitoes off the window sill, the light from the center of town must have drawn them all to the window, and we eat breakfast. I return to the room to sleep all day to try and get over this crap and Mike goes sightseeing. When he returns he had a ripped shirt and cut on his arm. I asked what happened expecting a normal answer. The answer is perfect Mike. He was reaching for two beers and got caught on a corner lock of the kiosk. He is sewing his shirt to resemble a Frankenstein quality to it and I will be returning to my bed shortly. For you gentlemen, if you are looking for a town with beautiful women, so far this city is number one on the list. We might add whiplash to our list of riding issues by the time we leave.