Step 1 – What next?

This is only the 2nd post of this Blog series, but I’m afraid that I’ve been bitten by the writing bug again.  So, as long as I’m feeling like writing, I thought I would lay out some of the planning that needs to get done, in order to be ready for the trip.

The bike

As most of you know, my bike is a 2015 BMW R 1200 GS Adventure.  This bike, along with an equivalent from KTM are likely the most capable bikes on the planet, when it comes to dealing with the stress of Global travel.  But that’s not to say that the bike is perfect, or that it didn’t need a few thousand dollars worth of upgrades.  And so, let’s recap what is already on the bike, and what’s still needed.

I’ve already spent a couple of years, and many thousands of dollars upgrading the bike so that it fits me well, and also that it is durable.  So, I’ve installed the Clearwater Lighting system, which increased overall lumens from about 2,000 to about 18,000 lumens.  The damn thing virtually turns night into day.  I’ve also added handlebar risers, and foot peg lowering bits that allow me to stand on the bike, and control it in a very natural way.

Beyond these creature comforts, I’ve installed a number of protective devices that mitigate the risk of having rocks damage the bike as I’m riding, or an exoskeleton system that protects the bike in case I drop it.  And, about 2 years ago, I had the Beemer Shop in Scotts Valley, CA install the Touratech Rear Shock, specially tuned to my size, weight and riding style.

The bike has about 20K miles on it at this point, and I’ve just ordered an upgraded front shock, which is the partner to the other touratech shock, and which should allow me to travel virtually anywhere, while being confident that I won’t break down, and also that the ride will be comfortable, and the bike will be capable.  Beyond that, it seems like the bike will be 100% sorted out.

The person

When I say “The Person” we need to be clear that I’m talking about me.  I’m the guy that’s planning the trip, and I suspect that I need a few upgrades in order to finish the trip in good working order.  And so, with the help of my new friends at Indanland Crossfit, I’ve begun to develop strength and stamina.  If you’ve never done crossfit, I would encourage you to give it a try, but be wary of the intensity that it will bring.  It’s hard work, but very rewarding.

With each workout, I feel stronger, and my stamina and endurance increases.  I’m optimistic that I’ll lose a minimum of 30 Lbs between now and the start of the trip.

The Navigation System

I love technology, and so it kind of goes without saying that I love GPS systems.  I mean, I love what they do, and I love what they can do in the hands of a skilled technician.  And so, I’ve recently upgraded my Navigation system from the BMW Navigator V, to the BMW Navigator VI.  This device is an industrialized, military spec GPS, which installs into a cradle on the bike, and interfaces directly with the CAN bus of the bike, providing me with a myriad of functions and capabilities.

For example, connecting the GPS to my phone, and my Sena 20S communication device, I’m able to view the map, hear turn-by-turn directions, and see the terrain, points of interest, time/distance to next turn, etc.  And lastly, these devices have an expansion storage slot where I can place a SD Memory Card, loaded with thousands of songs, so that I’ll never be without some really great music.

The Music

On the memory card of the GPS, I’ve got about a thousand songs loaded, and I plan on loading more before the trip.  In preparation for the last trip, I created playlists that were oriented towards sunrise, sunset, border crossings, sitting around waiting, and other events that I would likely have to deal with numerous times.

Try to imagine how right it would feel to be up at the crack of down, heading out into unknown, and remote terrain, watching the sunrise, as you listen to song after song that seems completely relevant.  Every turn of the wheels brings you into and through the sunrise, as you make your way to the next destination.  For me, riding with music in my ears simply seems right.

The healthcare side of things

Healthcare in the US is the responsibility of the citizen in question.  However, healthcare in most of the rest of the world is provided by the governments of the countries in question.  The healthcare is not always as good as US healthcare, but in some cases, it’s better.  In any case, I’ll need to understand how Healthcare is provided throughout the world, so that I can be sure that I’m ready for whatever happens.

I’m also encouraged to bring Hypodermic needles and an extensive first aid kit with me, so that I can take care of anything that happens.

The travel arrangements

My plan is to travel to Europe using miles from one of the airline afinity programs for which I am a member.  The problem is, even though I’m hooked with a big US-based airline, these airlines don’t fly to every country, and their partner networks are sometimes limited, and ultimately I can’t fly directly to Estonia.  So, I’ll need to fly to Finland, where I’ll begin the journey.  I plan to travel Business Class to Finland, and because there are no Business Class flights from Bangkok to Charlotte, I’ll likely have to fly first class on the return flight, which should be helpful, considering that I’ll have to clear gate security couple of times and also take three separate flights.

Timing it so that I make a reservation in time to get the preferred flights, while also understanding that you can’t book a flight with miles a year in advance is a balancing act.

The tour extensions

The ‘Hanoi Hilton”

Right now, I’m looking at extending the tour by spending some time in Finland at the start of the trip, and then at Vietnam and Cambodia at the end of the trip.  I expect that figuring out what needs to get sorted in Finland will be easy, but i’m told that there may be complications with unaccompanied Motorcycle travel in Vietnam and Cambodia.  So, much research will be needed to be sure that I don’t end up in the Hanoi Hilton.

Across Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia there are many interesting and historical things to see, ranging from the Bridge on the river Kwai, to the Hanoi Hilton, to Elephant Island in Thailand.  With a limited amount of time, and virtually no first-hand knowledge, it will be up to me to design and book this part of the trip, entirely on my own.

For sure, many people travel to Thailand every year, and you might ask yourself, so what’s the big deal.  But, if you’ve never traveled by motorcycle, in remote areas, then I’ll need to illuminate the potential problems.  First of all, with a motorcycle, which has virtually your entire world strapped to it, or stuffed inside panniers, it’s much higher risk than driving in a car, or taking buses or cabs.  Each day, we live with the possibility the bike could be stolen, so we must remain hyper-vigelant, and we must find hotels that are “motorcycle friendly”.

Emergency Extractions

Traveling around the world on a motorcycle can be dangerous, and unpredictable.  So, any motorcycle rider that’s worth his/her weight in salt plans for that most unfortunate of events; The Emergency Extraction.  Emergency Extractions are usually initiated by letting someone far away know that you’ve been hurt, and that you need to get to a hospital.  Because cell phones are virtually useless in remote areas, you need a piece of technology that will work anywhere, and that you can use to communicate, if you’ve partially or severely compromised.  That’s where the DeLorm Inreach comes in.

This little device communicates using TXT messages, over a global satellite network, and it is said to be operational over virtually the entire globe.  When you pair this device, with Extraction Insurance, you end up with a reliable way of getting yourself out a very big jam, if the need arises.  In addition, these devices are capable of sending a “ping” out every few minutes.  The ping is a GPS marker, which is received by Delorme, processed and overlaid on an ESRI map.

Once I’m up and running, I’ll place a link into my Blog so that you’ll all be able to see minute-by-minute updates of my precise location on Earth.  You might even be able to help me, guiding me towards Carmen Sandiego, as I search for that little guy.

Last Will and Testament

I suspect that some of you reading this post see some of what I’m writing as a bit morbid, and fatalistic.  But that’s not the case at all.

When you’re riding in remote places, and you’re constantly working to stay safe, managing the risks, but knowing full well that anything can and might go wrong, you need to plan.  In fact, it seems to me that the more you plan, and prepare, the less likely it is that you’ll have an irreversible issue (notice how I euphemistically called Death an irreversible issue).

I’ve always been a planner, and so I embrace these tasks, regardless of whether I’m planning for the best meals and food, or to avoid my untimely demise.  In either and both cases, planning is the key, and so, I plan on updating my will, and all other documents that are related to getting on after I’m gone.

Emergency Contacts

Hmmm, looks like yet another morbid topic.  Sorry for that, but remember, the intent of this post was to show how much planning is needed, in order to be ready for the trip.  So, I’ll provide a series of emergency contacts to my tour operator, and I’ll provide those very same contacts with all of the information to address things, in the event that I need help in any way.

Spare Parts

Remember, riding a motorcycle in remote areas, where replacement parts for the bike are hard to come by, I’ll need to be ready to have parts shipped to me ASAP.  I’ll put together a list of spare parts, and bring some along with me, while I’ll get the others ready to ship on a minutes notice.

Insurance

Here in the US, we all know that we must have proper insurance to drive a car, motorcycle, or truck.  Well, believe it or not, that’s the way that it is over much of the World.  Europe in particular is very conscious of creating a network of safety on their roadways.

And so, this morning, while talking to shipping companies about getting my bike from the US, to some foreign port, I was informed that I’ll need something called Green Card Insurance.  I suspect that this is the World’s way of saying that if you’ll be driving in a foreign country for any length of time, you’ll need to have insurance.

If you rent a car in a foreign country, they often add the insurance on to your bill, or demand that you show proof, but if you’re going to import your own transportation, then these countries enforce this insurance regulation using more Machiavellian means.

Visa’s and Passport

Anyone that has traveled internationally knows that, for most countries, it is a requirement to have a visa, showing your arrival date, estimated departure date, and immigration status.  And so, it’s not unexpected for me to talk about the need for a visa.  But, in a case like this, where I’m visiting a number of countries with the tour company, I plan on also visiting a number of other countries on my own, without any aid from a tour company.  So, there is much work required if I am to successfully enter and exit the various immigration desks for these countries.

Conclusion

So, I’m sure that there are at least another 20 or so areas that I’ll need to plan carefully, but for now, this should provide a good view into what I’m thinking, and why the hell I need a whole year to plan.

About the Author

Cliff Musante

Cliff Musante is a technologist, business leader, motorcycle enthusiast, father, grandfather, and more. In June, 2013 his passion for motorcycles was revitalized, and he set out to ride across Patagonia. Since then, he's logged thousands of miles, ridden across the US, and is planning a trip through Russia and China. This 'Blog is the story of all of his adventures.

Comments

  1. Wow Cliff!!! I am feeling so many emotions right now…..impressed! jealous! envious! but most of all – isn’t it great your mom gave you the name Cliff, for Cliff Notes 🙂 Congratulations on this trip. I will be excited to read your planning and adventures!

    1. Hi Carolyn,
      Thanks for your support. I’m really excited, but at the same time, I’m treating this very seriously. So, I’m preparing like mad.

    1. Hello Burke, my old friend.
      It is so very good to hear from you. Please give Wendy my best, and thank you very much for your support.

  2. Hi Cliff! I’m jealous – you seem to be foot loose and fancy free. I look forward to receiving your blog while you are traveling on your Beemer. We had lots of fun and comaraderie together as we roomed and road down South America with Compass Expeditions. I can’t imagine doing it solo. My last trek with my wife, Bonnie, was to China where we greatly enjoyed our first experience riding in sidecars out to an historic village in the mountains northwest of Beijing. You’ve gotta try being a passenger once in your motorcycling career. Have lots of fun and be safe – “keep the rubber side down” as we say! Cheers – Jim Roberts, Green Valley, AZ

    1. Hey Jim. Great to hear from you. For sure, I remember our time rooming together and traveling around up the zoo, and up the Funicular. What a fun trip it was. You’re right to point out that this one is going to be a bit more remote, and I’ll need to take on a bigger burden than we had when traveling with Compass Expeditions, but what the hell… You only live once. I was excited to hear that you’ve been to China, and so I might want to talk, and pick your brain a bit.

  3. Cliff

    What a pleasure , and I mean that without a tongue in my cheek, to hear about your exploit plans. The last trip dialogue was entertaining, but in all candor I thought presumptuous of you to include all of us. I found myself reading every one of your well worded missives and was saddened at end of the road. Looking forward to reading more. Your talents lent to you friends at the Audi Club will never be forgotten nor will be that occasional blush(flush of red)when a joke or comment landed squarely. Have fun and be safe

    1. Zeke, thanks for the support, and you’re right, I took a chance by including all of the previous recipients in this new adventure. So, if I’ve sent a link to anyone that is not interested in listening to me go on and on about this new trip, I tried to make it very easy for folks to unsubscribe. And, if you or anyone else is not interested, then by all means, please do unsubscribe. That said, it’s nice to build a connection to old friends, once again, and I hope that my pithy wit, and adventurous spirit will be enough to keep at least a few of you on board…

    1. Hi Dave,
      I remember when I was planning the trip to Patagonia, and you were originally slated to be my partner, riding to the ends of the Earth with me, but in the end, you decided that you couldn’t make the trip, and chose to support me through the Blog instead. And so, here we are, once again. Finding a way to share our joy and motivations, trying our best to live each day to the fullest. Just as it should be…

  4. Cliff,

    Lots of insanely crazy scooter drivers in Hanoi. You practically need to take a taxi to cross the street. I imagine riding a motorcycle in Hanoi would not be fun.

    Marc Mehlman

    1. Hi Marc,
      Thanks for the heads up. I’ve seen videos of the traffic in the larger cities in Asia, and part of me is a bit apprehensive, while another part of me says… Move over you little scooter, there’s a big BMW coming through. Now, I’ll just have to learn how to say that in Vietnamese.

  5. So excited to hear about your plans and VERY much looking forward to your narrative as I enjoyed the previous trip. I recall feeling very disappointed on those days that did not have a daily update.

    1. Alex,
      It’s really great to hear from you, and all the others. I realize that many of you said such kind words about the blog, and how you anticiapted the next post, but to be honest, it’s me that was truly grateful to all of you. Each day, when I’d see your comments, I would feel more motivated, and would do whatever I could to spend the hours and hours needed to publish a new blog post.
      While on the road, given all of the Internet challenges of publishing from the distant lands of Patagonia, I put up with just about anything and everything, all with the goal of putting a smile on everyone’s face.
      And so, thank you once again for your support, and for helping me build momentum, and enthusiasm.

  6. I’m envious, sounds like a fantastic adventure. I look forward to your Blog updates and will be tracking you across the world as you travel. It was fun tracking you on your last major journey.
    Good luck and I look forward to your updates

    1. Hi Chris,
      I’ll do my best to make it fun for everybody. I’ll also be using the DeLorme Inreach again, so you’ll all see real-time tracking of my location, as I do my bit of Globe-trotting.

  7. Dirt biking in Cambodia around the Angkor temples is on my to do list after having visited there about 10 years ago. That you’re riding all the way there is awesome!

    1. Thanks Brian,
      On a 600 lb super-enduro bike, I’ll be like a fish out of water in Cambodia and Vietnam, but I’m hoping that if I paint a bunch of shark’s teeth on the font of the bike, I’ll be able to intimidate all of those little 250cc motocrossers.

  8. Cliff – so nice to be included in your blog and adventures once again! I look forward to reading about your latest trip and pithy insights. Take care.

  9. Hi Cliff
    Glad to see you having so much fun and excitement in you life. You live only once on this 8000 year old world( we poor atheists!)so make the best of it and see as much of it as you can. If you see anything older than 8000 years. just make believe it’s just alternative facts.
    I will follow you everywhere you go to keep an eye on you.
    Lots of luck
    Der alte Mann

    1. Hello Walter,
      I’ll do two things for you. First of all, as you suggest, I’ll be looking for things that are older than 8000 years. Second, I’ll try to be sure that when I arrive home, that I don’t personally feel older than 8000 years.

  10. Hi Cliff,

    I was just thinking of you a couple of weeks ago when some nasty weather was headed toward the Carolina’s.

    Looks like a fun adventure you’re planning for. Looking forward to following you blog. Utmost, be safe!

    1. Hey Dave,
      Thanks for the encouragement. We might see another storm coming into the Carolina on Monday or Tue, but luckily, I’m about 150 miles inland, so I’m fairly well protected. And, I’ve planned an awesome ride this weekend, through the Uhwarrie Forest, just east of Charlotte.

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