Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Perfect Day

At the end of a long day, what better way to relax than sitting in a public square in one of the world's most magical cities, Dubrovnik, listening to a busker playing Tarrega's Recuerdos de la Alhambra. Fantastic.

Day 4 - Croatia

It is striking how many motorbikes we have seen coming to Croatia. Groups of riders from Finland, France and Poland converge in the Adriatic coast to enjoy the wonderful roads.

Today's picture shows one of the more outrageous machines we came across. A customised Honda Gold Wing from Poznan.

It's a bike Jim but not as we know it.

Press Release

The Croatian Ministry of Transport is pleased to announce the 2013 programme of works.

In anticipation of The Republic of Croatia joining the EU later this year, the Ministry has received 500 million Euros to upgrade essential infrastructure prior to accession.

Croatia is a long thin country with one road connecting Optijda in the north to Dubrovnic in the south. This road is 560km long and comprises some of the best motorcycling roads in Europe. The ministry will dig the majority of this road up in April 2013 putting in place temporary traffic lights, uneven road surfaces and piles of rocks.

For the benefit of passing Globebusters, the Ministry will leave 200km of awesome, twisty bends and smooth tarmac. We hope you enjoy it and look forward to your return when we have completed the project.

We apologise for any inconvenience.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Day 3 - Four Countries and a Fish Supper

A long blast south to the sun today.

Leaving Ulm early in the morning to beat the traffic and heading out across a cold, damp Bavaria. Hitting the morning rush hour on the motorways around Munich we ride past the iconic Allianz Stadium, home of Bayern Munich.

Crossing the border at Salzburg and through the Tyrol the weather didn't get much better. Chris was wearing all he had to keep warm.

A short off-route diversion took us through the villages of Fell and Höf. After yesterday's incident, you'll be glad to hear that Deefor didn't. (Fell Höf. Geddit).

Then, through a long tunnel and we emerged into south facing slopes and blue skies. Temperatures rose to 20C+ and the cold weather gear was packed away.

Through Austria and across Slovenia to the Croatian border. It was a shock after crossing four countries in the Schengen Area to finally have to produce your passport.

Then down clear roads to the Adriatic Coast and a delicious grilled, fresh fish supper sitting on the waterfront. Lovely.

350 miles, 8 hours (including stops). Making progress!

Science update: Today Deefor was Prof. Sam's Guinea Pig. Wearing a recording vest that measures skin and core body, acceleration, heart rate etc. It will be fascinating to see what that lot made of the heated jacket!

Today's picture was taken at Slovenia's Army Museum. We are now in what was the Communist Bloc so I am not sure what a US Sherman Tank is doing here.

Day 2 - Black Forest Gateau

A long day on the road today 560km (350 miles) from Reims in France to Einstein's birthplace, Ulm in Germany. A nippy morning put the heated jackets to the test as we blasted down the Autoroute.

The road crosses the disputed border region. Signs beside the road told the story: Alsace, the Saar coal fields, Verdun (France's equivalent of the Somme), the Maginot Line and battles back to the Franco-Prussian war.

Then we were off the Autoroute and on smaller roads over the Rhine and up, up into the clouds hanging over the Schwarz Wald (Black Forest) mountains. Picture postcard timbered houses, onion domed churches, cows grazing in orderly little farms. And a black glass office block looking more like the lair of a James Bond villain than the headquarters of a Mittelstand wood processing company.

And then down along clear, smooth roads to Ulm. Schnitzel, wurst and dumplings for dinner washed down with fine Bavarian beer. Back to the rather posh hotel for an early start for THE BIG ONE tomorrow.

PS Deefor got the prize for the first dropped bike today when it over balanced moving off from a junction. A rather elegant dismount and paratroop roll I thought but a sprawling pratfall to everyone else. Nothing broken apart from my duck.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Day 1 - From Greasy Spoon to Haute Cuisine

Quite a contrast for our first day.

Breakfast in the Ace Cafe, an iconic biker caff from the '50s, was all bacon, beans and a slice. It set us up for the ride out of London. The Met's finest escorted us to the M25 and then we were off to Folkestone and the train.

A cancelation put us behind plan so the group stuck to the Autoroute to Reims (That's pronounced Rhems not Reems according to Patrick).

A few of us didn't know about the change of plan and had a wonderful, if longer, ride through NE France. Open roads, good Tarmac and sweeping bends. What's not to like?

Late arrival meant the pre-prandial beer was rushed but we made it to Brasserie Flo for a lovely dinner and a glass of the local fizz.

The Adventure starts here

At the Ace Cafe with the family for the grand depart. Here we go!

Thanks to Sue, Max, Ash, Jack and Graham for coming down to see me off. Sorry you couldn't ride down with us Jack. You were there in spirit!

Friday, 26 April 2013

Final brief (ing)

The whole team met up in London today for the final briefing before we go. We all had to strip down to our underkecks to be weighed and tested (all in the name of science I can assure you).

Thursday, 25 April 2013

So long and thanks for all the fish ...

Ted Simon says the hardest thing about an expedition is going. The rest is easy.

I would not have got to the going if it wasn't for the fantastic support, encouragement and forebearance of a lot of people.

First and foremost my wife Sue. She has put up with my incessant planning, kit buying, research and impatience for the two years since I signed up. She has never even hinted that I shouldn't go but has encouraged me to follow my path every step of the way. Thank you Susie and good luck with Ziggy while I am away.

Thanks to my boss Cecilia for agreeing to let me take a sabatical. I'm not sure you really thought I was going when I asked for the time off. But now I am!

John, Hazel and the Principals and staff of LST. I couldn't have picked a worse time to go on this trip, apart from all the other times I could have picked. Thanks for your good wishes. I hope I have left everything in good order and expect to see a gleaming new school or two when I get back. Best of luck for the Ofsteds, (I almost said "Break a Leg" there but given my Patagonia experience though that was tempting fate).

Mum and Dad. You planted the seeds of travel and adventure in all of us when we were little. I bet you never thought one of us would be riding half way round the world.

And thanks to everyone else who knows me, has listened to my tales of preparation and has had the politeness not to yawn. You will not escape the holiday snaps, I will be posting them here soon....

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

EWS School Projects

Year 7 & 8 at Elizabeth Woodville School are doing projects about the ride and the places along the way. Here we are at an assembly last week. My theme was "Life is what You make it!" which is one the four core values at Learning Schools Trust. Good luck with the projects everyone. I look forward to seeing them when I return.

Photograph Courtesy of Northampton Chronicle and Echo

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Meet Snowy

Picture courtesy of Globebusters
Pete the Van Man explained to us during training that the van was white because it was for use in emergencies (like an Ambulance) not red for carrying things for us (like a Post Office Van).

So meet "Snowy" the support van. Pete and Kevin are getting it ready; spare tyres, fuel cans, replacement parts, tools and a ramp to put broken bikes in the back until we can fix them.

What I want to know is, if the van's called Snowy. Which one of you is Tintin and which is Cap'n Haddock?

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Fourteen Days To Go ...

Two weeks today we are leaving the Ace Cafe to ride half way around the world. Just a few bits 'n' bobs to sort out at work and I'm ready. The bike is packed, the paperwork in place. Just need the calendar to tick round.

Fortunately I have a countdown app on my phone (T-Zero) that shows how long it is to the nearest second. (Picture taken on Sunday - one day closer ..)

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Visa? That will do nicely...

Travelling to China overland means crossing a lot of borders. To get the necessary paperwork Globebusters suggested we use The Visa Machine (www.thevisamachine.com). They took care of all the paperwork and sent us back the finished article. Great service guys.

Last visa (Turkmenistan) arrived yesterday. Passport in the post and then we are good to go.

The Route - Detailed version

View Silk Road '13 Detail in a larger map

During the training I got the chance to mark up my maps with the detailed route. This Google Map is the closest I can get to the route - a couple of bits don't work because Google doesn't show a road between two points. I'm sure Kevin knows the way better than Google.

You do, don't you Kevin?

Training - Part 2 Part 2

Picture courtesy of Globebusters
While we were down in Wales we also had a final briefing. This included learning how to programme a GPS (again). Given the look of confusion on the faces of the gathered crew, what odds on us all geting to Beijing without getting lost?

Left to right from the front: Nigel, Stephan, Steve L. Mel, Prof. Sam, Deefor, Patrick, Ian. Chris 'n' Susie. Iain 'n' Toni.