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Monday, June 28, 2010

Why THIS trip...?

So, to properly start at the beginning, Goin' Toco is a motorcycle trip from Toronto, Canada to Toco, Trinidad. The trip's scheduled to begin in September or October 2010, and should last between 3 and 6 months.

Right now it looks as though I'll be traveling alone. I may get some company down in Central America, if Daunette can fly down for a down and ride with me through Belize or Costa Rica.

Other riders are more than welcome! :)

Most people ask me "why and I doing this?"

Several years ago I launched a small initiative to teach middle-school students how to build web sites. The Power Project was meant to be a traveling workshop, run in 100 schools from Toronto to Belize City.

Well the project had a successful pilot in Unionville, Ontario and received a lot of positive feedback and support from many folks. But then .... my attention shifted/fizzled/died and nothing's actually happened since 2007.

This current trip has grown out of that.

But can you spot the major difference? I've left the entire Teach-the-Children portion out of it!

Trust me, I'm struggling with that right now. Without any sort of altruistic project attached to my travels .... then what do I really have other than a self-indulgent journey?

Is there enough value in simply doing the trip --- for the sake of doing the trip?

Posted by Darren

Monday, June 14, 2010

Over The Shoulder

When I told family, friends and coworkers that I was spending the long weekend trekking to Albany NY on the back of Darren's bike ... please tell me why most had a tale of tragedy and horror about a friend of a friend who knew someone who was either maimed or killed on a motorcycle? I felt a bit gypped in not getting as many "have a safe trip"'s as I had anticipated but I was in no mood to be deterred or discouraged.

Sure I was nervous, and yes, I did have one nightmare that resulted in a whole day of convincing myself that it was not a premonition. This, despite a hidden suspicion that I might be clairvoyant or psychic - can never remember which is which - and of course 'I'm kidding' ... or am I.... Anyway, for the most part I was looking forward to the trip and felt quite good about myself for being adventurous and facing a challenge. 'Bout time too!

Let me start (yeah I'm just starting) by saying that I am home safe and sound and full of new visions, memories, insights and "What's next?"s. Not only will I be getting on the back of his bike again but I am planning on taking riding lessons and getting my own bike!

I had a real good time on the trip. So when Darren asked me if I would like to post a blog about my experience on the bike I thought "of course!", this makes sense. There's a lot of literature, blogs, and websites about bikes, riding, and bikers, but there's not a lot for motorcycle passengers. This is my first blog.

In thinking about what to write I decided that because I had learned a lot through trial and error I had some things to say. So this goes out to those who are first time motorcycle passengers and this is information I wish I had been able to read about beforehand so I could've taken certain precautions to, at the very least, set expectations so the trip would have been even better.... for both of us.

Here are my top 5 Tips For Your First Long Ride As A Motorcycle Passenger:

I have never been a light packer so my first challenge was to pack everything I would need for 4 days in 1 knapsack. I did it and managed somehow to hush the voice in me that nagged that I had to be prepared for every emergency and should try to squeeze in just one more thing. Be organized and pack intelligently with all the things you need easily accessible should you need to get something in a pinch. I trusted Darren and he had carefully planned and mapped out our trip. He spent weeks getting things in order and when he said everything was "good to go", I believed him.

#1 - Travel with an experienced rider and traveller. Someone who is organized, respects the road and values safety to the letter.
I can't stress how much worry this alleviates, 'cause riding tense will break a body!

#2 - Get a good nights sleep and stretch your whole body before long rides and stop at least every 1.5 hours for a 5 minute stretch.

On the last day of our trip and on the scenic long route home I had to get Darren to stop quite often. I was tired and hadn't stretched. I couldn't find a comfortable position and because I was so uncomfortable it was taking away from my enjoying some stunning scenery. That frustration kept me tense, and it was a vicious cycle of pain leading to frustration, and so on. At one point I even felt like crying but I didn't. I knew that over time I would adapt and so stayed determined to take everything in and learn from it.

#3 - Make sure you're completely comfortable before take off.
To find a comfortable seated position when getting ready for the long road ahead - fidget around on the seat till you feel your bottom is evenly carrying the weight of your upper body with a balanced sensation. Hold on where you feel most comfortable. Make sure that you stay connected to and aware of where your bodies touch so you can stay in tune with your riders movements making the twists and turns fluid and synchronized. Once you find that spot take a deep breath and hold it. Before exhaling relax your jaws, tongue in your mouth, neck, shoulders and face then breath out slowly. Settle your body on to the seat and feet on the pegs to fully connect with the rider one body part at a time. Take a moment to let your body memorize this position then give your rider the signal to take off. Doing this each time you sit will train your body to be relaxed in your optimum seated position and soon you'll find you sit that way without thinking.

In planning for our trip we knew to expect heat and rain, coming and going. Both of us had proper, full, protective gear, and both of us gave serious consideration to what we'd be wearing underneath. Still, like everything else about this trip it was going to be my first time being in this get-up for 4 consecutive days and I worried about sweating, chafing and .... well ... having that not-so-fresh feeling.

#4 - Dress comfortably. For the first day I opted for an halter top which did keep me cool, under the heavy jacket, but the strings bit into my collarbone leaving bruises that I can still see today. My cargo pants were of a light material with drawstrings at the foot so the legs could convert and be shortened. Yea, this proved, also, to be a bad choice despite keeping my legs cool, as the gathers and string bunched up under my boots and made my ankles sore. Modifications to how I dressed for day 2 saw a 100% improvement in my comfort.

#5 - Discuss the trip and prepare to work as a team. Darren invested in a Rider to Passenger communication device that worked amazingly and allowed us to have relaxed conversations without competing with the sound of the rushing wind. We also agreed upon signals and word cues to assist in better communication. I was coached on how to balance myself with the movements of the bike in motion.

For most of the ride I stayed relaxed with my hands on my thighs or gripping the bars on the side of the bike. But every once in a while I wrapped my arms around Darren's waist and enjoyed a closeness that only comes from being perched precariously on the narrow seat of a fast moving object with someone you completely trust at the helm. There is a strange freedom in relinquishing full control and I found myself smiling a lot, giddy with excitement (thankfully all this was hidden under the helmet).

And as we sped past picturesque small towns, open fields, farms with animals, bustling city centers and waterways glistening with sunlight I finally understood why so many people love (live) to ride. I felt the passion and the peace it brought to my repressed and ignored nomadic spirit. Even when it rained... I felt charged and unscathed. I was changed and it felt real good.

So there you have it ... I was inducted into a new world .... presented, to me, over the shoulder of a friend who gave me the gift of adventure and shared his love of the open road and I just can't wait to have my own bike to ride when ever ... where ever.
Soon though ... soon!

- Daunette

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Coming along nicely

The farkling of 'becca is about complete. Right now I'm waiting for a cigarette lighter socket (to charge the electronics, and run the air compressor to fix flat tires). The only other changes I am considering are:
- upgrading the brakes and brake lines
- switching to a smaller front fender
- raising the handlebars

It's good to know the bike is performing so well, has been completely reliable to date.

I did have to learn how to adjust the chain to take care of some surging at around 80 km/h, but now that I've done it once, I'm not so scared of the process. I will have to do something about the height of my centrestand though. It's plenty high enough when i have to get the bike up onto it -- but once there, I find I'm not getting enough clearance. The back wheel always touches the ground, unless I get someone to put lots of pressure on the front end. That's obviously not a good solution for a solo traveler.

The next big trip will be a camping gig, even though I'm not totally convinced that I'll actually be doing a lot of that on the Toco ride. From what I've been reading, I'll probably only want to camp in Canada and the US, as the price of accommodations in Central and South America are very affordable. Still, I do need to prepare.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Big Trip

So I'm finally making some progress on creating a map of the route. For now, only a few major points are on the map, but it will be filled in over time.

Here's the route so far:
  • Toronto
  • Ottawa, ON
  • Labrador, NL
  • Prescott, NS
  • Peggy's Cove, NS
  • Boston, MA
  • New York, NY
  • Albany, NY
  • Chicago, IL
  • Deal's Gap, NC
  • Atlanta, GA
  • Albuquerque, NM
  • Belize City, Belize
  • Colon, Panama
  • Turbo, Columbia
  • Cartagena, Columbia
  • Guiria, Venezuela
  • Chaguaramas, TT
  • Toco, TT

View Goin' Toco in a larger map