Thursday, October 31, 2013

People that matter


Along the way we have met some truly wonderful and helpful people. Always complete strangers and always by pure coincidence. Sometimes they are motorcyclists, sometimes they are just interested in what we are doing, other times they just want to help. A few people we met, we think, are worth mentioning. They have offered us their help, their time and often will go out of their way to help you.

Jono Pope, Pope Packaging, Auckland, New Zealand
Packaging is a specialised business. Anyone can bang a box together, but to make a crate that can handle the 'bastards' in the shipping industry is another matter. Pope Packaging has been around for years and take pride in what they do. They know what's needed to get your bike undamaged to the other side of the world, as was proven when the crate arrived extensively damaged as someone had rammed it with a forklift. A factory crate wouldn't have protected the bikes, the Pope crate did! A big Thank you to Jono Pope and his team for helping us out at short notice and doing an excellent job!

Pete McNally, Avon Tyres
Right from the beginning we wanted to do the trip on Avon tyres as over the years I've learned to appreciate how good their tyres are. How many manufacturers actually reply to e-mails with technical questions these days? Pete does! He has been a great help in sorting out tyre options and size-issues we had before the trip, looking into important things like the tyre pressures we needed for an untried combination of dual-sport tyres on a heavily loaded road bike. Thanks Pete, you've been a gold mine of tyre info!

Peter Thoeming, Australian RoadRider 
In the planning stage Peter answered numerous questions I had and pointed me in the right direction for questions he couldn't answer. Peter has been around the world himself, published many travel related motorcycle books and belongs to the minority that actually reads and answers an e-mail. Thanks for all your help Peter!

Imperial Motorcycles, Vancouver, Canada
A friendly old fashioned bikeshop in Vancouver. Helpful, knowledgable and fair prices. They supplied our first set of tyres and fitted them. 'Thanks for the long sleeve T-shirts guys, we've used them so much in the colder morning and evenings that they're almost worn out!'

Travis Fields
We met along the Cassiar Highway, happened to be staying at the same campground. As Travis was travelling a bit faster than we were he sent us through all the places we should and shouldn't see, and in effect became our 'personal' tour guide. He's a great guy. Thanks for all your advise Travis! 

Terry Madden, Whitehorse, Canada
Just a guy who likes motorcycles and loves his KLR650s. He happened to be on the same campsite near Whitehorse as we were and came over for a chat. On the way back from Alaska he saw us ride past and wondered if we would be staying at the same campspot, we did as it's a great place to camp. He came over especially just to see us! We talked about the trip and I asked him for a local steel place to get some rods to fix Mike's rack. 'Come over tomorrow at work (this was on a Saturday!) and you can use the workshop to fix it! He organised a couple of snowplough brackets from a Bobcat for us and with the use of an oxy I could bend them into shape. He also gave us a set of tentpoles we could use to keep Mike's tent going for a while longer. Great guy! Thanks Terry!

The Motorcycle Shop, Anchorage, Alaska
We were advised to go to Alaska Leather as the owner, Barb, would be such a wonderful person… she isn't. The Barb we met is grumpy and very un-helpful. She wasn't interested in selling tyres, we couldn't fit them and ordering them in would take at least a week. So we went to The Motorcycle Shop. The workshop manager there is a great guy. He let us service our own bikes there for no charge other than the oil and parts we needed and even lend me a couple of tools I forgot to bring. They also have a couple of good sales guys in the spare-parts department and the whole atmosphere and friendliness is so much better than at Alaskan Leather.
Thanks guys!

Bryan and Diana Jones, South Africa
We met them for the first time on the Cassiar Highway, at the 'Welcome to the Yukon' sign. In their 70s and doing the longest overland trip in the world, Argentina to Alaska. Hats off to them. Wonderful people. We stayed in touch and met again in Alaska, they were then on their way to Halifax to ship the LandRover back home. Bryan has been a goldmine of information. He pointed us towards the openstreetmap and gave us valuable insight into Mexico and Central America. He has a great sense of humour too! Great people! Their blog can be found at http://blog.travelpod.com/travel-blog/panamericalandy/1/tpod.html

Sven's Basecamp, Fairbanks, Alaska
Not a motorcycle shop or even a motorcyclist. Sven simply runs a hostel where you can also camp in your own tent. Sven is from Switzerland and an all-round great guy. Nothing is too much trouble, he is easy going and the atmosphere he creates is great. We ended up staying much longer than planned as we enjoyed ourselves so much. We met wonderful people there, both with and without motorcycles. Sven is a goldmine of information, loves Alaska and runs dog sledge trips in winter.

The motorcycle campground, Tok, Alaska
A very simple and basic campground operated by a lady who loves motorcycles… well, she mostly loves Harleys but we won't hold that against her. It's the first campground I've seen anywhere in the world that not only allows you to work on your bike but even has it's own workshop you can use free of charge! It's also the first campground I've see where a cast iron frying pan closes the toilet door…! 

An unknown helper, Beaver Lodge, Canada
At Beaver Lodge we found Mike's rear brake pads had disintegrated with plenty of friction material on it. On a Sunday, in a small town, what do you do? I had a used Triumph pad with me but needed someone with an angle grinder to make it fit. I won't go into detail here, as that's all in the book, other than to give a big Thank You to the guy restoring old cars and building custom bikes there for letting me use his workshop, on a Sunday, for no charge!

Harley Davidson Rentals, Jasper, Canada
The Triumph pad was working fine, but the other original brake pad at the rear was now doing the same thing. It was so brittle it lost bits of lining. In Jasper I asked the Harley Davidson Rental shop for a brake pad that I could make fit until we could get new ones. I had by then worked out they were the same as on a BMW 650GS and... he had one of them with a seized rear brake! If I could salvage the pads I could have them! I freed his rear brake for him, cleaned the glazed layer off the pads with a file and they are still in the Yamaha today! A big Thank You!

Fort Steel Heritage Lodge in Canada
Thanks for letting us use your jack to fix a flat tyre on Jeanette's Bonneville. I should get a small bike jack myself one day!

Rocky Mountain ATV
Not a motorcycle shop but a 'box mover'. Very good prices on parts and tyres, prompt service, free delivery and on time. I've used them for a couple of years now, they supplied all our tyres when we were still in Australia as the Australian bike shops and importer put huge margins on the tyres we use.
They have a wide range of tyres, parts, tools etc.

Lili and Richard, Bike Alert JT Sprockets
Lili replied to my e-mail for help in locating a set of sprockets for the Yamaha. The XT660R is not sold in the US and has a unique front sprocket and we thus couldn't get one anywhere while in the US. Not only did Lili and Richard organise the sprockets for us in record time, they also suggested to support us. Initially that was going to be until Argentina but when Lili became aware that we were doing a world record trip, she arranged support for the whole event. Not only did they help us with their support, we also found JT chains and sprockets top quality as you can read on the blog, so we're double happy. Thank you Lili, thank you Richard and thank you Bike Alert!

Mike Granger, Lewistown, Montana
We met at a petrol station on the Alaska Highway in the Yukon, he was going south, we were going north. We talked for a whole 10 minutes and received an invitation to drop in if we were going to Montana.

We ended up staying a week! Serviced all three bikes, replaced tyres, made a pannier rack and reinforced the feeble Ventura ones properly. He let us use his house, his tools, his garage and he even fed us for a week! A truly remarkable person. Also a big thank you to Shelly and Katie (their daughter) for all the nice baking and cooking and of course for Mike's page 88 recipe as breakfast…! Mike is a keen woodworker and made these side stand foot for us, very handy on soft ground.
Mike also allowed us to see the Formula1 and MotoGP, the first races of the season we could see! Not only that, he showed it on his big screen TV! What a treat for a couple of Formula1 and MotoGP fans. A big big thank you for having us!

Lindsey from Lewistown Honda, Montana
Although not a Yamaha dealer Lindsey from Honda in Lewistown, Montana sourced the SBS brake pads and organised to send them on to us. I've tried several different brands of brake pads over the years and found SBS, Scandinavian Brake Systems, very good. They also supplied us with the clip links needed to fit the new chains. Lovely people!

The mechanic at the wildlife refuge, Lewistown, Montana
To the mechanic we have never met at the WildLife Refuge Centre in Lewistown Montana, but who's workshop we were allowed to use in the evening by Mike Granger, we'd like to say 'sorry we burned a hole in your overalls...' we used them to protect the bike when I welded the broken Ventura rack.

Ruby Lodge, Bryce Canyon
When the nasty Bush Rangers of the national parks decided to close everything down and ruin people's holidays, Ruby Lodge setup a free shuttle for everyone to the rim of Bryce Canyon. What a marvellous gesture! They allowed us to see Bryce after all. We decided to stay the night in the campground and have another look in the morning.
Thank you Ruby Lodge for allowing us to see Bryce!

UPS, Cedar City
The lady at UPS Cedar City depot, who's name escaped me, for solving a problem singlehandedly that the whole UPS customer service department couldn't and in fact wouldn't solve. She located our tyre parcel, made sure it was relocated to the right address, on time and even called both the depot where they were and the driver who was supposed to take it to us to make sure it was indeed done.
Thank you very much for organising it, very much appreciated.

Troy's Desert Powersports, Kanab
Just a simple bikeshop, nothing flash, no expensive showroom, no bikers lifestyle rubbish and no expensive high-heeled blonde behind the counter. Instead you get a friendly guy who works for himself, knows his business and won't charge you through the nose. In other words: just what you need. We only needed some engine oil, not a lot of money involved but Troy still offered me the use of his oilpan. We ended up not only buying oil, but also inner tubes, oil filters and spark plugs, as they all were in stock (try that with the expensive blonde…). When he couldn't supply me with a new battery for my Bonneville he called around to see if anyone else had one; and when that turned out to be not the case he gave me a piece of paper with the WPS part number for it. How's that for service! A nice guy, a good shop, well worth visiting.

Jay Wilburn
At Corel Pink Sand Dunes we struck unusually cold weather and found everything covered in snow, in southern Utah! We literally froze our butts off and as we were due to leave that morning we were low on food as well. Jay stopped by and invited us over for a hot Lasagna meal, which we gladly accepted! We had an enjoyable evening in his warm RV, enjoyed his company and left warm and well fed! Thanks Jay.

Zach and Amanda
We visited the Las Vegas Triumph dealer for a new battery and a sidestand spring that was squashed at Monument Valley. When we asked for a campground nearby Zach offered us his house! We could leave all our gear in their garage and they even escorted us to 'The Strip' in Las Vegas that evening and thus allowed us to ride our own bikes over one of the most famous roads in the world! Zach gave us a RAM mount for a Garmin 62 GPS, which we were about to buy as well. We've therefore named the GPS 'Amanda'!
Zach and Amanda had just done a 3 months trip through the USA. Amanda rode her Honda CBR600R over miles and miles of dirt roads. They are making a movie about their trip. We've been fortunate enough to see a preview... it's well worth watching. You can read about them at PursuitHorizon.com

The Aquamarina RV park La Paz, Baja, Mexico
We arrived with two blocked bank cards, little cash, on motorcycles and with tents at their front door. Enough reasons for them to refuse us entry I would think. They didn't. Despite that they are more setup for RVs plus what I mentioned above, they welcomed us with open arms. If the money issue wasn't bad enough, we heard the next day that we couldn't leave as Mike was refused his temporary entry permit. Maria Luisa Valdez Lazcarno and her son Roger helped us out with that too. They organised a meeting with a Mexican Lawyer, drove us to her, interpreted and then went with us to get the permits. Could we have asked for more? I don't think so! I've also mentioned the park in the Baja what an experience post as it's a great place to stay as well. Clean bathrooms, secure and the best spot to pitch a tent we have seen in Baja. Thank you Maria and Roger for helping us to continue our trip!

Fred and Marilyn from Florida
We met at the Aquamarina RV Park in La Paz, Baja. We were struggling with our 3-word Spanish, they gave us a motorcycle friendly small dictionary! Very much appreciated. Fred and Marilyn used to have a Honda Goldwing... You still meet the nicest people on a Honda!

Bob and Sue Morton from Red Rock, Canada (or Mazatlán Mexico, depending on the season)
We met at McDonalds in Mazatlán, we were filling our seasick stomachs with a burger, they were celebrating their daughter's birthday. Bob asked where we were from and what our plans were. They kindly invited us over to stay with them in their home, took us around Mazatlán, helped us sort out some banking issues by letting us use their phone to call to Australia(!) and gave us a wonderful time in Mazatlán. Thanks to the secure parking we could walk around the beautiful old Mazatlán without having to worry about the bikes and saw much more of Mazatlán than we would have otherwise. We enjoyed the wonderful Mexican food and had a great time!
Thank you Bob and Sue!

Cruz Maria RV Park Lo de Marcos
We had planned to stay here just one night, a stopover. Dave, the owner, welcomed us with open arms but said that he wasn't really setup for tents… Now where have I heard that before? (See 3 paragraphs back). It's a beautiful park, right at a beautiful beach, has proper showers and toilets, washing machines, a dryer, power and Wifi. A walk over the beach brings you to Lo de Marcos, a lovely little town. Dave and Juan setup a table with a 'palapa' especially for us, organised chairs to sit on and made us feel very welcome. So, we stayed another day… and another… and another! It's one of those places where you feel at home, right away. The people, mostly Canadian snowbirds, are very friendly and helpful. After paying for another day, Dave said half joking, 'you know we have monthly rates too…' With Christmas coming up, we decided to take him up on his offer. We will be here until the New Year!
Thanks for having us Dave!

Doug and Ginger Jones, British Columbia
Our neighbours at Cruz Maria in Lo de Marcos. Very friendly people. They froze our water bottle for us and gave us cool drinks when we arrived. When we decided to stay a bit longer at the Cruz Maria they offered us their portable fridge, a table, a light, fruit bowls, drinks and food. Thanks to Doug and Ginger we could enjoy a cold coke, buy fruit and keep it cool and have yoghurt for the first time in weeks (and non-melted cheese!). Their 5th wheel trailer is opposite to us, decorated with Christmas lights.
Thanks Doug and Ginger for making our stay so much more enjoyable!

Absolutely everyone at the Cruz Maria RV park!
We know they have been mentioned before but as we have truly never met such an incredibly friendly lot anywhere, we recon they deserve another mention. Everyone loaned us things to make a long term stay so much more enjoyable, from lights to Christmas decorations. Chuck and Sandy made us some very good Burritos, Doug and Ginger took us for breakfast. They gave us another warm breakfast on the morning when the park flooded due to heavy rainfall and gave us real American... eh, Canadian Hotdogs that day too! We simply cannot thank you all enough!

Bill and Kim, Cruz Maria RV park
'You meet the nicest people on a Honda!' how many times have we said that? Well guess what: Bill and Kim are the nicest people you could possibly meet and… they did have a Honda. Quite frankly they are such nice people that Honda should give them one for free! They took us to the Petroglyphs, the La Penita market and all the way to Tequila, and wanted nothing in return but our company. They were even the very first to make a donation via this blog! Kim is a great singer and Bill is the clown of the park, who else manages to get himself a black eye with his own surfboard… We had a great time with them! Thank you for all you have done and the great times we had together!

Karina
Karina is Dave's wife, they own the Cruz Maria RV park in Lo de Marcos. Like Dave, she is a very caring person. Karina is born in Mexico and knows her country! She loves it too and it shows! She showed us Puerto Vallarta like we would not have been able to see it. She also alerted us that the road we wanted to take from Lo de Marcos would lead us straight into problem areas and contacted friends all over Mexico to see which would be the best  route to take, to experience Mexico the best way.
Only days after we left Lo de Marcos, problems raised to a new level along our original route… how lucky were we to have met Karina!
When we were about to leave Lo de Marcos, Karina was in Guadalajara helping her sister out with her business and offered to show us Guadalajara… and a place to stay! What followed was more than a week of her time in which she took us, in between her busy work schedule,  to all the nice places to see, places that gringos never see, she took us around everywhere, we tried all the food in the best restaurants in town and when my back-pain started to take on a nasty form, she not only found a doctor for me, but took me there as well. Our days were full of beautiful events from early morning until late at night. Like Dave, there is no end to Karina's generosity and caring. Our stay in Guadalajara would simply not have been possible without her. We would have only gone through it as parking the bikes somewhere with all our belongings on them is not something we easily do. Apart from that we would have perhaps somehow been able to see the touristy bits, but not the magical real Mexican parts that Karina took us to!

Marisa Daniela
Marisa Daniela, known as Dany, is Karina's sister and another person we love to mention. Dany is a vet, she runs her own clinic in Guadalajara: Veterinaria Valles. Vets are good people in my book anyway as they care for animals, which is more than can be said about most of us. Dany takes it a step higher though. She really cares. If an animal in her care is seriously ill or hurt, she stays at the clinic all night if she has to. Or she takes him or her home with her. She's not in this work for the money, she simply loves to care. It must be in the genes. She also works with people that look after stray cats and dogs and offers board for domestic animals too. Of course she also opened her house to a bunch of stray travellers. The clinic opens at 10 am and is open until 7.30 pm… but her love for animals means it often becomes much later than that! She's also open on Saturdays until 6 pm and on call day and night. Dany loves what she does, is very good at her job and is a very special person, one of those people the world needs a lot more of.
Sayto and three generations of Torres, Juan Manuel in the middle, during our visit. 
Juan Manuel Torres, Sayto, Guadalajara
Sayto is the main parts supplier for motorcycle shops in Mexico. It's a big company but also a family company. No less than 3 generations Torres work at Sayto. Juan Manuel is the managing director, obviously a busy man. They also supply Avon tyres in Mexico and helped us to get the tyres we needed and send them to possibly the best bike shop he could have send them to! See the next paragraph. Two tyres were missing, due to miscommunication, but Juan Manuel arranged for them to be airfreighted to Chetumal, at no cost to us. Is this a great guy or what! He also donated the beautiful Barry Sheen design helmet we've shown on our Facebook page, supplied new inner tubes and even anti-leak stuff when he heard we've had 4 flat tyres already.

Tony Roura, Motorama Ticul and Progreso, Yucatan
When Tony heard we were coming to Motorama to fit the tyres, he came down from Merida especially. Motorama in Ticul is operated by his brother Javier, also a very nice man but he doesn't speak English. Tony has lived in the US for many years and thus came down to interpret. He made the workshop available to us, took us out for a wonderful traditional Yucatanalunch when we were finished fitting the tyres and suggested we'd come to Merida with him so that he could show us the beautiful town. As you can read in the post about Merida (see right hand column) we had a great time. Thanks Tony!

Pieter at Seatrade Costa Rica
We suddenly had to change our plan and ship the bikes to Europe. All short notice of course. We had met a very friendly and helpful Dutchman at the Costa Rica border who told us about a car that needed shipping back to The Netherlands. We contacted him and he put us on to Pieter at Seatrade Costa Rica. Pieter rides a bike, ok it's a Harley but at least he's half there :-) Pieter turned out to be very helpful and has a true can-do mentality. He's geared up to get things done and do it right. Not only that, when the shipment turned out to be more expensive than anticipated, he reimbursed the difference! Thanks Pieter and thank you Seatrade Costa Rica!


Ray at Icon
Just like David, Ray at Icon was a bundle of enthusiasm! We were looking for helmets, he read the blog and saw the potential! Mike agreed with his suggestion for the Variant, I was a little bit sceptical at first. Mike and Ray were right. It's a great helmet! On our upcoming trip to the UK we will give them a long term test and write a post about our findings. Initial 'tests' have been very good already. Thanks Ray and Thank you Icon

Elina and Milla at Rukka
It was a long shot. Mike came up with the idea to contact Rukka. Rukka? I said. Are you mad? That is top quality gear, the Rolls Royce of motorcycle clothing. They won't say 'yes'… never! Mike tried anyway. Elina from Rukka replied not only enthusiastic but also wanted to be our exclusive clothing supplier…! I couldn't believe it. They asked us to select what we wanted, which was very difficult as all Rukka gear is great quality. We looked at the online brochure and came to the conclusion that we had no idea :-) I suggested to let Rukka sort out what we needed, after all they know much more about clothing than we do. Milla read our blog, especially the part where I wrote about my dislike for textile clothing, and suggested the Cosmic suits… I read Milla's reply and realised that not only were they sticking their neck out and supply us with suits, they were also convinced I would change my opinion on textile clothing… how's that for confidence? Milla made sure we received everything we need, from thermal underwear, to jackets and pants, gloves and even a jersey! Thank you Elina and Milla for your enthusiasm, your invaluable help in selecting the best gear for the trip and getting it all delivered on time!

Aleksandra at Holan
We have been in contact with Aleksandra at Holan for quite a while now, she has been our point of contact since 2011 when we started planning this trip. I went looking for panniers and dismissed quite a few like Hepco and Becker, Touratech, Metal Mule etc. By pure accident I found Holan, and actually through the rant of the former US importer (they are imported by another company now). I read about all the problems and people complaining about deliveries. Two things stood out; no-one complained about the quality and an Englishman who replied 'why don't you contact Holan direct? I did and had no problems!' Looking at panniers and assessing the quality over the web is difficult, so it was a gamble to order a set from Australia but I did. I'm glad I did too! They arrived on time and were perfect. Not only are they waterproof, they are also dustproof. The workmanship is perfect and they are strong. I have parked mine in a bank at 40 km/hr without as much as a scratch, Jeanette's Bonnie fell down on a hill with the whole weight of the bike dumped on one pannier. It landed on a rock that made a small dent but the pannier is still perfectly water and dust proof! Holan has since become a supporter of the trip and we now all 3 have Holan panniers. Thank you Aleksandra for sorting out some pretty complicated shipments along the way and making sure everything arrived on time. Thank you to the whole team at Holan for making a perfect product that makes our life so much easier!

Vera at Motorkleding Discount
When Icon wanted to support us with helmets, we needed somewhere to go and fit them. Motorkleding Discount in Schiedam is the Icon dealer for the Netherlands so we went there. Vera owns the shop and knew she wasn't going to sell us anything but that didn't stop her to help us get the right size and making sure the helmets were there. Vera's shop sells a complete range of clothing, helmets, gloves and boots. She's a goldmine of information, very friendly and helpful, knows her business and gave us a set of helmet liners too. Thank you Vera!

Rita at Morren Import
When we busted a shock absorber in Belize, we obviously contacted Ikon in Australia as it was one of their shockies that broke internally. They couldn't have been less helpful than they were… So we went looking for an alternative and stumbled upon Hagon. Hagon has been around for years and so has Morren Motorcycles, owned by Marten and Rita Morren. Rita replied to my e-mail the same day and just from her reply I knew we were on a winner. She's a real lady and nothing is too much trouble for her. We could even drop in and test them out! Mind you Rita isn't the manufacturer, she just has her own shop selling shockabsorbers, yet she gave us a huge discount. She even fed us on the day we were there. Thank you Rita!


Everyone at Sislocar in Limon
People in harbours are always a bit on edge, even more so since 9/11 and especially so when they operate a bonded warehouse. Usually these areas are strictly off-limits to outsiders. Not so at Sislocar in Limon. They were somewhat surprised that we turned up still riding the bikes but made no problem out of it at all. The contrary! We could ride our bikes into the bonded warehouse (!) park them there under strict security (!) and pack them in the container ourselves two days later after Customs inspection!!! They even organised a couple of straps for us! We could photograph and film the whole process and they sealed the container before our eyes. Could it have been better? No, this was perfect!

Adrian at BMS Costa Rica
Looking for straps we tried BMS in Costa Rica. They are Triumph dealers and who knows they might have a couple of straps for us, so we thought. We ended up at the KTM part of BMS and found Adrian, a 26 times National motocross champion! He pulled straps away from everywhere so that we could safely ship our bikes. What a great service! Thank you Andrew and thank you BMS!

Petra at Seatrade Rotterdam and everyone at the Vlissingen terminal
We had shipped the bikes twice before and both times getting them released was all but easy. Seatrade in Costa Rica had been very good to us, could we be lucky and find Seatrade Rotterdam good too? We were lucky. Petra sorted out the paperwork and all that was needed for release while the bikes were still at sea! I have done some shipments over the years but this kind of efficiency was new to me. The result was that when the boat arrived (spot on time!) the bikes were ready to be picked up as soon as they unloaded the container (which was the same day!) Of course we arrived there at lunchtime, but everyone at the terminal came out to open the container and see what was inside it :-) Great people! All we needed to do now was ride them to Dutch Customs to have the registration documents checked against the VIN numbers and we were away… well, almost! The Customs officers were motorcyclists too, so we talked bikes for a while :-) Thank you Petra and thank you everyone in Vlissingen harbour, the best shipping experience ever!

Tim and James from Haynes manuals
Haynes manuals are invaluable for sorting out repairs and maintenance issues. The only problem is that because they are so extensive and well made, they are also big and heavy. We seriously needed to drop weight and bulk and looked at the Haynes manuals… wouldn't it be nice if we could get them digital? So we contacted Haynes and told them the problem. They replied straight away and supplied us with digital copies of both manuals!

Thanks Tim and James!

Ashley at Avon tyres, Melksham, UK
We all ride on Avon tyres and have done so for years. We have never had a bad tyre from them and have used quite a few different types. While in the UK we wanted to visit the Avon tyre factory to see where the tyres we put our trust in are made. Visiting factories can be quite tricky for various reasons. Not Avon!

We met the guy that designs the tyres we ride on: Ashley. He wanted feedback on how we like their tyres and then showed us round the whole factory. Not only did he show and explain the whole process, he even showed us the new designs that aren't even on the market yet! We learned a lot about tyres and the history of Avon Tyres. The good people from Avon are clearly proud that they have been making tyres over 100 years in Melksham, England. Some factories close their doors to customers, like they don't seem to care. Avon is very different and we're glad we went. Thanks Ashley!

Joe and Mike at Alt-Berg
Some people are very inspirational. Mike and Joe Sheehan definitely belong to that category. When one of the last British shoemakers, where Mike was working, went bust, Mike bought the old machinery and started his own business… against all odds. The first 5 years were a continual struggle, with an ever increasing overdraft and ancient machines that other factories didn’t want. In the early days of Alt-Berg, things were very bleak, there were days when they had no money, no orders, and the machines just kept breaking down… They didn't know if they would last another week. But the Sheehans persevered. Mike had been told by a man who had survived the 1930s depression ‘when times are bad, just concentrate on making good boots… there’ll always be someone who wants a pair of good boots…’ and that’s what they did and still do… We have Alt-Berg motorcycle boots. They are without a shadow of a doubt the most comfortable ones we've had. They have proven to be waterproof too, again the first ones we've had that are. When Mike had a fall recently and his foot became trapped under his pannier with the whole weight of the bike on his foot, they protected his ankle and foot perfectly. For that protection alone I want to thank Joe and Mike!

Michael at Barkbusters and Lee at CI-Sport
Jeanette's Bonneville suffered badly in Nicaragua, see the post called crashing Jeanette's Bonnie to see what I mean. Having worked as a mechanic at an Australian Cattle Station, I should have known better and fitted the only hand guards worth their money: Barkbusters. In the time I worked there I had seen first hand how good they are and how much they can take.
Michael at Barkbusters helped us out. They saw the result of our Nicaraguan tumble and want us to succeed safely in Mike's record attempt. Via CISport in the UK they supplied both Bonnevilles with Barkbuster Storms. What we didn't know at the time was that they'd be tested in Norway… and performed flawlessly preventing damage to Jeanette's hand and the Bonneville! A big Thank you to Michael! A big Thank you also to Lee at CI-Sport who took the time to mix and match the various versions of Barkbusters and brackets to suit the Bonneville!

Jim at Bike Alert
Our first point of contact with Bike Alert had been in the US when they came to the rescue and supplied us with sprockets that were unobtainable in the US as the XT660 was never sold there. Apart from being friendly and very helpful we knew little else about Bike Alert. Having just visited their head office in the UK that changed dramatically. Jim, sales manager, is a gold mine of technical info on chains, sprockets and air and oil filters. He's a keen motorcyclist himself and a great guy. Again people that want to help Mike in achieving his goal by supplying their top of the range products. It all started with a chain and sprocket set to test, which proved to work very well, see our post on them here. Their filters have kept the all important oil flow going well, as my Bonneville has now covered 93,000 km without any problems, they have proven to be good!

Martin Tillsen and Daniel… at ProImp, Sweden
Needing new front tyres in Sweden, we contacted ProImp, the Avon distributor. I'm glad we did as they gave us the best possible service. Not only that; when I damaged a tyre just two days later they made sure a new one was at our campground the next morning at 8 am! Great people… but they did one better still. In Norway the Distanzias on Mike's and Jeanette's bike were up for replacement Daniel had given me his card and had said just let me know if you need tyres when you're up north. As we were now in Norway and had limited access to wifi, we just send Daniel an e-mail, basically asking him who to contact in Norway. Daniel contacted the Norwegian importer who didn't have two Distanzias in our size in stock… so Daniel sent them up to the good people at Terje Vold in Trondheim. The people at Avon Tyres in the UK have been amazing, as have the people at Avon in the USA, then we had good service from Sayto who does Avon in Mexico and now ProImp in Sweden. Good tyres and good people, period!
Thank you Daniel and Martin, we couldn't have hoped for a better service!

Grandma and grandpa!
Although I can hardly be described as the perfect grandson, and even less so since I decided to travel around the world for several years, they still welcomed us all with open arms and made us very welcome. We could sleep in a normal bed again, which was nice(!) and work on the bikes, block their internet to re-plan the next part of the trip when war and disease made our intended route impossible and we could even enjoy grandma’s cooking! They helped us out and support us the whole way, we couldn’t have wished for better grandparents! They are a little bit camera-shy though so it was hard to find a photo of them... in fact they don't even want to be in here :-)

Torre and Arne, Mittet, Norway
For the great experience we had thanks to them in the small town of Mittet. Great camping spot, being chauffeured around in a unique Nash car and the tip to ride the Aursjøvegen! Read more about them here

Everyone at Terje Vold, Norway
Simply for letting us use their premises and offering their machines to fit the tyres. It was raining cats and dogs when we were there, opening their workshop to us and let us work on our bikes was a godsend (as was the tyre fitting equipment!)

Elina and Mika, Lahti, Finland
Yes I know, they are in here twice, but long after I wrote about them we visited them in Lahti. They took us in, made us feel very welcome, showed us Lahti and gave us the best time we could have hoped for! Mika took us to the ski-jump and arranged for us to take photos there too! We met the Rukka design team thanks to Elina and had a great time at the Ace Corner Finland as well. Thank you very much for everything you have done for us!

Everyone at Rukka, Finland
For making the best motorcycle clothing on the planet and taking the time to talk to a couple of dusty motorcyclists! You picked up the gauntlet when I wrote leather is better than textiles for bike clothing… and proved me wrong! Read more about Rukka here

Daiva, Lithuania
For welcoming us with open arms and giving us a unique insight into the Lithuanian way of life and history. Read more about what a wonderful person she is here

Beate from Zabi Raj, Poland
Thank you for opening the campground when we arrived, late in the evening and even though we were the only campers and even though it was still ‘under construction’. Thank you also for a full breakfast in the morning. Zabi Raj was a truly lucky find! Read more about it here

Aleksandra, Tomasz and everyone else at Holan, Poland
For simply making the best panniers in the world. Panniers that saved us from injury and protected our gear at the same time no matter what we threw at them. They repaired a small dent in Jeanette's pannier (can't even see it anymore now) and custom made side stand extenders for all our bikes too... while they took us out for lunch! Lovely people! Read more about them here

Campground Forteca, Poland
For opening up the campground while it was closed for the season and looking after us when Jeanette needed a few days rest after a wasp attack. ‘Looking after us’ included great cooking from the restaurant! Read more about them here

Adam and family, K+K Motorcycles, Poland
K+K Motorcycles is a small family business in southern Poland. These guys live and breath motorcycles. They offered to do us a service for free(!) I still can't get over that Adam washed them too(!!) They gave us tips on where to go on our way south and sourced a replacement for my Bonnie's dead battery. Lovely people! Read more about them here

Autocamp on the hill, Czech republic 
I’m embarrassed to say that I can’t remember the owners' name… but he offered us two cabins for the price of one tentsite, which we gladly accepted! The only thing I can do to make up for not remembering his name is give the GPS coordinates: N49.54422 E16.29303 hope you enjoy your stay as much as we did!


Evelyne from the Swiss Automobile club 
For sorting out a complex Carnet de Passage problem we had. She answered all our questions and helped us out tremendously herself as well as using her connections! Having an UnZud registered bike while being Australian was complicated. Thank you very much.

Peter from the ADAC in Germany
For sorting out the International Driving Permit issue when the AANZ was uncooperative. Normally these are easy to obtain but in our case it turned out to be a massive problem to get one. Between him and the New Zealand Embassy we did get it sorted! Thanks a million!

Faraz from the Pakistan Embassy
For not only sorting out our visas while we waited but being the first and so far only person to understand the primary function of being a consulate: promoting his country. We went there to try and get a visa for Pakistan, we came out with a wealth of information on where to go and what to see. He showed us photos of the area and gave us the best visa we could have possibly hoped for. A big thank you for your help!

Stuart from Vancouver
For organising everything for the trip to China. He took it upon him to be the spokesperson for the group and did a very good job in sorting it out and keeping track of everything. Very much appreciated.

Carmen and Andries from Alpen camping in Reisach
For opening their campground to us even though it was officially still closed and let us use their restaurant to sort our photos, edit the video, update the blog and upload the videos. Thank you for you hospitality!

Nick and Nicky
For making us very welcome at their Veliko Tarnovo campground in Bulgaria and really caring! We were allowed to have parts send up to them and enjoyed our stay so much that we returned there after our visit to Romania.

Roxynel
For putting up with us in the first place... and for much longer than any of us could have known due to uncooperative embassies. She opened her home to us, showed us Bucharest and Dracula country while preparing for her own trip. We can't even begin to express how grateful we are. Multumesc for everything you have done for us and we hope your next ride will be as good as the last one!

Octavian, Roxy's brother
For letting us store the bikes at his place in Bucharest so that we knew they were safe! Again: Multumesc!

Andrei and Olivia
For taking us on a 700 km trip together with Roxy followed by a weekend trip via the back roads to the Black sea. We really enjoyed your companionship and conversations. There is something magical to Romanian V-Strom owners... see the next person that matters... Wonderful people.

Dan, Andrei's cousin
For allowing us to stay in his holiday home in Vama Veche and the BBQ! Guess what he rides... yep another V-Strom! Dan: Multumesc!

Radu
Prominent member of the... Suzuki V-Strom club(!) in Sibiu for showing us his hometown, the scenic backroads and shouting us a traditional Romanian breakfast. Multumesc!

Jude and Nick from Tutoro
For helping us out double quick to sort out an issue we had with one of the Tutoro chain oilers. Not only a great product but also super after sales!

Everyone at UClear Europe
For persisting in finding a solution for a problem which turned out to be due to a faulty battery (a bought in item). They didn't give up but kept looking for an intermittent and thus very hard to solve problem... and did find it! Our UClears work flawlessly once again. Many thanks!

Our Garmin GPS!
For stuffing up while in Austria, which resulted in one of the most beautiful rides ever!

Everyone at the Russian Embassy in Georgia
The second embassy that we feel deserves a special mention as they were very helpful where the other Russian Embassies were just obstructive. In Georgia everyone seems to be out just to help, especially the two guys at the front desk who speak English, Georgian and Russian and make sure everything runs smoothly. At the same time the Russian diplomat, telling me I was crazy for crossing where we wanted to cross, gave us 10 days to do so! Very much appreciated guys! 

The various farmers we met in Georgia
For letting us free camp on their land. Non of them said no, quite the opposite, one of them even pointed out the best spot to put the tent up! Because of them we had one of the best camping experiences of the whole trip. Georgia is a pretty wild camping paradise when you get off the beaten track. Because of them we could camp along wild flowing rivers, pristine lakes and were always well out of sight from anyone.

The unknown Russians...
- The unknown lady at the pharmacy in Vladikavkaz who let us use her wifi to update the crashed firmware on our Garmin 62, so that we could get the GPS working again! On our first day in Russia we found ourselves without a GPS and unreadable roadsigns...! 
- The unknown guy who talked to us for 5 minutes while we were filling up the tanks and then paid for the fuel! We simply were not allowed to pay for our fuel :-)
- The truck driver who communicated with us via a translator on his smart phone and then gave us a huge rock melon out of his refrigerated truck which was a full size meal! Very much appreciated, even more so as it was 48 degrees out there!
- Four unknown men in an ageing Lada, who jumped out of the car, ran towards us to shake our hands, ran back to the car to get two melons, shook our hands, ran back to the car to get two more melons, shook our hands again, ran back to the car, jumped in and drove off... leaving us looking in amazement wondering what had just happened :-)

Rita Morren, Morren Motorcycles, The Netherlands
For sorting out new shock absorbers for us, organising shipment to Russia (who send them back due to a boycot at the time) then sending them to Kazakhstan and all under warranty! Very much appreciated and unparalleled service!

The Russian truck drivers we met in Kazakhstan
Who told us so graphically that we were crazy to cross Kazakhstan on a motorcycle as the roads were 'shit!' You guys made us laugh!

The unknown man in a petrol station in Taraz, Kazakhstan
Who gave us a piece of water hose from his Lada toolkit so that I could make a temporary fix for a disintegrated chain guide on the Yamaha... a Yamaha with a Lada part :-)

Freerider bikeshop, Almaty, Kazakhstan
For letting me fit the shock absorbers in their workshop (plus several other small issues) and service the bikes, as well as sleeping in the guesthouse right above the shop.

Memo's Guesthouse (Dolonsky 78), Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
For letting us stay for a week in his guesthouse (and cooking Italian for us!) while we were waiting for the India visas, in return for servicing his fleet of Honda XRs.

Allen of the Friends of children orphanage in Sokuluk, Kyrgyzstan
For giving us a rare insight into life at an orphanage. Allen and his wife Cheryl are doing an impossible job under impossible circumstances. We feel so privileged to have been able to experience first hand how much love and devotion they put into the orphanage. Read their full story here and then make a donation as it is all privately funded, they deserve it and the kids deserve it!

Tursunay of Tash Rabat Yurt Stay
For allowing us to stay by ourselves in her 6-man Yurt close to the Chinese border, even though the rest of the group for China never showed up... She cooked special meals for us to settle our stomachs and told us everything we needed to know about the border crossing. Such a lovely person! You can read more about them here

The unknown person at a bikeshop in China
Who came back with a couple of clutch cables for me to try, and thereby saved the day! For a total outlay of $2.38 I had a clutch again and could continue towards the highest international border crossing in the world. Cheers mate!

North Pakistan border officials
Simply for smiling and being so friendly and helpful! Having just been through what I can only describe as Chinese border terror, executed by officials who seemed to enjoy being the bully, Pakistan was a very much welcome change. It was a forebode of things to come as Pakistan is an amazing country with even more amazing people.

The petrol man along Lake Attabad, Pakistan 
We had almost ran out of fuel as the fuel station listed on the map was no longer there. We asked around and around but got nowhere. One guy told us to follow him and he took us to a shed with 200 litre drums of petrol, sold in coffee pots(!) Cheers, you saved the day!

The very friendly official at the Pakistan border crossing to India... who I offended!
He told us where to go and how to fill in the forms and stayed with us all the time. I thought it was some sort of 'helper'. When all was finished he wanted to know how much Pakistan Rupees I had... reinforcing the feeling he was some sort of scam artist. He then showed me his Pakistan Customs warrant card and only wanted to exchange Pakistan currency for Indian as we would need some at the India border... We later found out he gave us a good exchange rate too...! Embarrassing!

The officials at the India border
For giving us a fascinating insight on how India can make everything so incredibly complicated. Normally a carnet just needs a stamp and a date, simple. In India it takes 10 people to do that, who take 4 hours to put that one stamp in... we also had to show our passports 11 times at the same border... unreal!

The wonderful people at the Aditya Guesthouse, near Shimla, India
We arrived there with Mike being seriously ill with salmonella poisoning. They took us in and took good care of us while Mike slowly recovered. They even washed our bikes! Good food, lovely people and quiet (in India!), very much appreciated

Triumph Chandigarh, India
We hadn't made an appointment but yet were able to sort out the first problem on this whole trip with the Bonneville: a weeping seal at the gear lever shaft. I also had spacers made for the shock absorbers through them at the local bazaar and when we wanted to leave, found the Bonnie had a flat rear tyre... fixed that too and went on our way to the next People that matter :-)

The New Chandigarh Holiday Home, India
A strange name for a beaut of a guesthouse with lovely owners. Secure bike parking, everything works and in a beautiful part of Chandigarh. As we were arriving on bikes they had reserved a room for us on the ground floor so that we didn't have to drag our stuff upstairs. Highly recommended.

James, Ohio, USA
James always puts a smile on our face when we get a notification from PayPal that he's made another donation. He does so regularly. The biggest smile came after publishing our chain and sprocket article, where we bought a chain and front sprocket kit just in case (which later came in very handy, see Vijay in the next mention. James donated the $17.42 with the note 'Your new chain is on me. Merry Christmas.' :-) Thanks mate!

The small shop NOT selling Pepsi or Coca Cola along the way to Delhi
We had stopped there for a drink, as his stand was made up of Pepsi signs I assumed he was selling that. He wasn't... but said 'please sit down sir' dashed off on his bicycle and came back with a bottle of Coca Cola! He didn't want any money for it, it was his welcome to India gift to us! 

Vijay in Dimapur India
The spare front sprocket, see above, came in very handy in Dimapur when Mike's front suddenly broke it's teeth (totally worn out). All I had was the 14T sprocket from the set originally made for a small Hero Honda, so I went looking for a guy with a lathe, on Saturday afternoon... late in the afternoon, and found Vijaj! He did miracles and saved our entry into Myanmar that way. The experienced lathe operators had given up and gone home. Everyone had already gone home but he kept going until it was finished. The sprocket survived through India, Myanmar and was only replaced in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Not bad for a sprocket put together by hand. It's a sprocket that will go on the 'offerings to the God of travel' wall!

Our guides in Myanmar
For saving what was becoming an unpleasant and dangerous trip due to 4WDs in our group who weren't team players. They did the impossible and changed the trip around. We had a great time because of it, they allowed us to pioneer a new concept of tour where we didn't have to follow the pilot car anymore but still got to see all that Myanmar has to offer. Both come highly recommended!

The unknown family somewhere between Inle Lake and Bagan, Myanmar

Who cooked lunch for us and had a lot of fun doing so, which rubbed off on us big time! They didn't speak English, we don't speak Burmese but these ladies didn't mind and neither did we! We have no idea what we ordered... and no idea what we got! but it was all good!

To be continued....

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