I’ve been home long enough to decompress and readjust to what passes for my normal life. The 10 months I spent on the road almost seem like a dream, a series of mini-adventures (and occasional frustration, malaise, loneliness and homesickness) that happened in a movie, in another lifetime. I get a lot of the same questions about the trip, so let’s knock out some answers for my patient readers, and the idle curious:

The numbers: 18 countries, 23,000 miles (estimated, see below), 10 months, 4 ferry rides, 2 airplane rides. 1500 games of Freecell. Two sets of tires, two sets of drive chain & sprockets.

The bike: Performed wonderfully. Only the speedometer cable drive in the front hub broke while in Kazbegi, in northern Georgian Republic (thus the estimated trip miles). The top rack broke (and was welded back together) in Mongolia. The windshield broke and was discarded after several falls in Mongolia. Before departure I failed to ensure that the seat was adequately comfortable, and paid dearly. The Shinko 705 tires were installed in Vancouver and lasted until Almaty, Kazakhstan; the Metzeler Tourances that replaced them lasted all the way home! Chain & sprockets, also installed new in Vancouver, were replaced in northern Jordan, and are still on the bike.

The rider: Not bad, all told. Two cases of diarrhea, one case of flu, various aches and pains from lots of saddle time. Picked up a cigarette habit on the ferry to Russia, and quit once I returned home. Psychologically there were bouts of homesickness and saturation of my brain with memorable sights and experiences. By the time I left Egypt I was full up on travel, so much so that I barely gave the pyramids at Giza a second look as I rode by them on the way to Alexandria.

Equipment, what worked and what didn’t: I am pleased with what I brought & how I packed it all, with a few exceptions. I used my helmet cam once, in Korea. My AA battery charger (a complicated, programmable model) vibrated apart in the middle of Mongolia. I only used my 9′ tarp & collapsible poles once. Most of the camping gear I used was consumer grade stuff from REI, Coleman, and the like, proving a personal theory that top-shelf, ultra light, hi-tech, expensive gear is not needed for what is essentially an extended motorcycle camping trip. My Asus netbook, purchased used, worked flawlessly (and indeed I’m banging away on it right now). My tent, stove,¬† riding jacket and¬†motorcycle were also secondhand purchases.

Safety and security: The biggest threat to my safety was the seemingly homicidal driving habits throughout Asia, the Middle East and Egypt. I was made to feel very welcome in the Middle Eastern nations; I would stop for gas or to ask directions and a half-hour later would find myself drinking tea with complete strangers. I would hear the words “You are welcome in Turkey/Syria/Jordan/Egypt” at least once a day. In Tblisi I was shaken out of bed by a bomb blast a block away, when the government opposition party’s headquarters were blown up. And in Kazakhstan at a roadside chaikhana, I met three rough looking fellows (lots of prison ink and gold teeth) who were driving a huge, white Mercedes sedan. They were sure I had lots of money, and at one point I saw them having an involved discussion while gazing into the capacious trunk of their car. The thought popped into my mind, quite unbidden, that they were trying to determine if I’d fit in the trunk…

Costs: Air freighting the bike from Vancouver to Incheon, and then from Lisbon to Baltimore each cost around US$1300, with my personal flights costing about half of that. Daily living costs from Russia to Egypt ran about US$30/day, with costs going up in cities and touristy areas. Surprise costs included purchasing an unexpected transit visa for Russia (US$250), and replacing a digital camera that was stolen in Mongolia. Once I entered Europe, costs went up to US$80-US$100 per day and beyond, again depending on how “large” I was living and how many tourists were around.

Favorite country: A trick question! I liked different countries for different reasons. Mongolia was tops for “adventure” motorcycling, with its lack of infrastructure, wide open spaces, and decidedly non-Western culture. Favorite foods were in Korea, Italy and France (although recalling the smoky street food stalls of the Middle East get me salivating). The people of the Middle East were the friendliest, and the Russians the kindest (although Russia was also the only country where I was the recipient of an extended middle finger). Italy and France had the best motorcycling culture and some of the finest mountain roads. Uzbekistan’s Silk Road madressas in Samarkand and Bukhara blew me away. Georgia hit me hard (in a good way), with its unique language, culture and intriguing history.

Approximate dates of travel:

  • Canada: 6 – 10 Aug, 2010
  • South Korea: 11 – 19 Aug
  • Russia: 20 Aug – 2 Sep
  • Mongolia: 2 – 25 Sep
  • Russia: 25 – 28 Sep
  • Kazakhstan: 28 Sep – 15 Oct
  • Uzbekistan: 15 Oct – 6 Nov
  • Turkmenistan: 6 – 9 Nov
  • Azerbaijan: 10 – 13 Nov
  • Georgia: 13 Nov – 19 Dec
  • Turkey: 19 – 25 Dec
  • Syria: 25 Dec – 5 Jan, 2011
  • Jordan: 5 – 25 Jan
  • Egypt: 25 Jan – 19 Mar
  • Italy: 20 Mar – 8 April
  • France: 8 – 11 April
  • Andorra: 11 April
  • Spain: 11 – 26 April
  • Portugal: 26 April – 10 May