Thursday, June 22, 2017

ADVENTURE RIDING BUNNY - JUNE, 2017 REFLECTIONS



ADVENTURE RIDING BUNNY (First published in CITY BIKE Magazine, July, 2017 issue, by columnist Dr. Gregory W. Frazier, Chief of the World Adventure Affairs Desk, text below)

“I’m out!” declared the wannabe global motorcycle adventure rider. Like a scared rabbit he abandoned his attempt to circle the globe and quickly bunny-hopped a flight back to what he perceived as the safety and security of his home in the United States.

During his previous weeks on the roads through South America and southern Africa he had scurried from hotel to hotel, often locking himself into the security of his hotel room from 8:00 PM until 8:00 AM.  To limit his perceived exposure to danger during daylight riding hours he often chose the most direct, and paved, route from hotel to hotel, while vectoring away from gravel roads on his BMW GS motorcycle. Some days his adventure riding traversed fewer than 25 miles.

While the claimed reason for aborting his attempt was based upon the advice of his lawyer, (“My personal assets for Russia are too exposed if I have an accident.”), it was suspected he or his family had interpreted US State Department Travel Alerts to advise staying away from the described areas, specifically Europe and Asia (Russia), his next two continents to be done in a six week period.

This excuse, the exposure of his personal assets, would have been no more or less had he had an accident on the previous three continents (North America, South America, and Africa), so that excuse was deemed feeble. 
  
The U.S. Travel Alert said, “Extremists continue to focus on tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and local government facilities as viable targets.  In addition, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, high-profile events, educational institutions, airports, and other soft targets remain priority locations for possible attacks.  U.S. citizens should exercise additional vigilance in these and similar locations, in particular during the upcoming summer travel season when large crowds may be common.”

The Travel Alert had been initially issued prior to the winter holiday season, and expired at the end of February.  The motorcycle adventure bunny had aborted his attempt to ride onward to Europe and Russia on February 26.

Hopping back home to the perceived security of the United States (referred to as “Dorothy and Toto’s Kansas”) ignored the reality of extremists and bombings in the USA like that during The Boston Marathon April 15, 2015. 
  
Another reality the motorcycle bunny had ignored was that of how dangerous was piloting a motorcycle in the USA.  According to articles by motorcycle safety guru David Hough in the well-respected Motorcycle Consumer News, using data from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, “Motorcycles are less than 4 percent of the registered passenger vehicles in the US, but we rack more than 20 percent of the fatalities” and “…motorcycles are about six times more dangerous than cars, based on registrations.”  However, “Looking at the Vehicle Miles Traveled … for 2014, motorcycles come in at 22.96 per 100 million VMT versus 0.85 for cars.  That makes motorcycles about 26 times more dangerous than cars, on average.  To be clear, the difference is not 26 percent, but 2600 percent.”

The message, loud and clear: riding with Toto in Kansas was not as safe as one would like to believe, or as Hough wrote, the 2600 percent increase in risk is “such a huge difference that most of us can’t wrap our brains around it.”

Rabbiting back to the USA also ignored the elephant in the room: how dangerous simply being in some American cities is.  On a published list of the 50 most dangerous (murders per 100,000 people) cities in the world, St. Louis (#15), Baltimore (#19), Detroit (#28) and New Orleans (#32) occupied fairly high positions.

Observers of the U.S Travel Alert noted, “Statistically one is much more likely to be killed in random gun violence in the US than from any terrorist or criminal activity in Europe. Given the worldwide threat of terrorism, the USA might as well issue a travel alert for every country where Americans might travel. Conversely, all other nations should consider issuing travel alerts for the USA.”

Mr. Adventure Riding Bunny had also ignored the famous saying by Mark Twain: “So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

The bowlines were the warnings of doom and economic loss, the safe harbor, America.  Adventure was to explore, dream and discover.

If the wannabe adventure motorcyclist purchased an RV, joined the Good Sam Club and relished sitting in a lawn chair under an awning, parked in the Wal-Mart parking lot, while trading flat screen TV one-upmanship’s with other RV owners, then adventure motorcycling, anywhere, was not in their motorcycling DNA.  Better to simply admit an inability to handle the stress and trouble management associated with Steppenwolf’s song Born To Be Wild: “head out on the highway, looking for adventure” on the roads around the globe than to try to fob their paranoia off on travel alerts or lawyers, both of which would rather the bunny stay at home in their perceived comfort zone, huddled in the far corner of their hutch, nose quivering.
  
In the book THE GASOLINE TRAMP, Carl Stearns Clancy, a 21-year-old adventurer, who was the first to pilot a motorcycle around the world in 1912-1913, wrote, “…more important than fame or glory was the invaluable education, experience, worldwide point of view, and acquaintance with human nature that eleven months of travel had given me.  I had started a boy, I had come back a man.”

Clancy did not write, “I started out a man, hopped back home like a scared bunny.”

Reflections of “Dr. G’s” current adventures while circling the globe with a motorcycle can be found at rtwmotorcycleadventurerally.blogspot.com. Or, just get a copy of his all-color coffee table book, Down And Out in Patagonia, Kamchatka And Timbuktu, available at MotorBooks.com.  The Good Doctor noted, after making a presentation at The Adventurers’ Club of Los Angele, that an esteemed member opined, “Today, if seeking adventure, one must look for trouble,” not run from it.
 
[END Published Column]

Sunday, June 4, 2017

EUROPE - ADVENTURE TERROR, MOTORCYCLE HISTORY, INFINITE ADVENTURE WOMAN



To salute Carl Stearns Clancy and his decision to venture on alone after having been abandoned by his riding pal in France 113 years earlier, Dr. G carried on alone around the world, having also been abandoned (see previous May, 2017 post) by his riding pal.  Pictured above in France was Dr. G’s motorcycle sporting the Clancy pendant that had at this point itself been ‘round the world, carried by five different entrants.

Having considered the options of flying, shipping, buying or borrowing a motorcycle for European Stage Four,  Dr. G, an acknowledged frugal economist, opted to rent a 1994 BMW K75 for his European Stage.  He said of the three cylinder 750cc motorcycle, “I’ve used twin cylinder models up to this point, the largest being 800cc.  The use of big displacement and powerful motorcycles might lead to my focusing on smaller displacement for diversity while crossing Asia.”

Dr. G used as his European start base the globally known motorcycle adventure center, Knopf Tours (www.knopftours.com).  A previous plan mapped out in July of 2015 was massaged to exclude the self-imposed DNF of # 7, but owner Stefan Knopf and several of the well traveled guests at his motorcycle bed and breakfast designed a Plan B for tagging and bagging countries and miles across Europe. Excluded was Spain, Dr. G citing and honoring what Clancy had written in THE GASOLINE TRAMP (http://bit.ly/2qpizmi and at Amazon): “To all who are planning to motor in Spain, let me give this one word of advice – don’t!”    

The Knopf operation in Heidelberg, Germany, where nearly 300 foreign motorcycles were stored, and which had 10 motorcycle theme rooms that were filled for rent and was filled with avid adventurist motorcyclists ranging from the USA to Kuwait, catered to travelers whom had literally been on every continent of the planet.

Unknown to Dr. G was that the expired U.S. Travel Alert that could have contributed to his traveling partner’s (# 7) scuttling back to the USA had been re-issued May 1, suggesting Dr. G (and any U.S. citizen) “should always be alert to the possibility that terrorist sympathizers or self-radicalized extremists may conduct attacks with little or no warning.” The alert specifically cited “widely-reported incidents in France, Russia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
After having ridden in a train from the Frankfurt airport, and then a taxi to a hotel/guest house, Dr. G had almost checked off the full list of places the travel alert warned U.S. citizens to exercise additional “vigilance,” such as having eaten at several restaurants, wandered into a church, attended a high-profile city fest in a Stuttgart city park, another city party in Schwabin Hall, and numerous described “soft-targets” such as train stations, parks and a school for yoga teaching. As seen above, he spent some time at a club while drying out his Aerostich (www.aerostich.com) riding gear as well as his Nolan (www.nolan-usa.com) motorcycle helmet after two solid days of driving in the rain, blissfully unaware many Americans were huddled in what Dr. G had dubbed “Dorothy and Toto’s Kansas, USA” where they thought they and their assets were safe.



After he had done all of the above, a U.S. resident referred him to the refreshed May 1 alert that said, “Extremists continue to focus on tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and local government facilities as viable targets.  In addition, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, high-profile events, educational institutions, airports, and other soft targets remain priority locations for possible attacks.”



Dr. G said, “Ahhh, errrr, true ignorance had been bliss, and I’d had a most blissful 3,528 mile adventure around Europe, likely the easiest continent I traveled through with the exception of the USA.  I wasn’t in a terrorist attack, but possibly because I missed being in a local government facility, unless one of the public pissoirs or sanisettes on the streets in France qualifies.”


Proficiency of a foreign language was a perishable skill Dr. G had succumbed to, although he managed to find his German, Austrian, Italian, French and Spanish at a level he could eat, drink and be blissful.  He did note that the Spanish he had learned on the road in Central and South America was far from the Spanish he needed near Spain, but he could read road signs as seen above and compute Euros to Dollars.  English (not Americanized English like “Yep” or “Hokey dokey”) was spoken widely, far from what he had found in 1970 while first looping around Europe on a motorcycle.

 

The one language he found most difficult was the only one he had studied in school, French.  He said, “The French people prefer to speak French, even when they know English, and it was often spoken faster than I could translate.  It was fun, speaking French and not once did I overpay, go hungry or miss a recommended road.  Reading newspapers was easy.  I could understand about 25% and with the photographs closer to 50%.”


Due to economic constraints, Dr. G had to stay away from the five star hotels his former riding pal # 7 preferred to book on the previous stages.  He found a wide variety of clean, comfortable, and affordable hotels in the $30.00-$60.00 range, often including breakfast.  He said he did not miss the swimming pools and fluffy pool towels of the five star hotels, saying to another budget traveler, “I’m an adventure seeking motorcyclist, not a swimmer.”

Another benefit of the two and three star European hotels, B & Bs and guesthouses was the opportunity to meet other motorcycle adventurers who favored the less swanky places.  Information was traded as were tall tales and motorcycle trivia.  The camaraderie of the motorcycling roads was far more prevalent than in a Hilton hotel or similar secure and sterile five star hotels where were found a bellman to schlep bags, menservants, and subservient front desk personnel to key in user names and passwords on demanding customer’s proffered smart phones.

Dr. G did say he met some extremists at the less expensive sleeping places, but not of the variety referenced in the U.S. travel alert. He said they were “extreme motorcycle travel and adventure seekers,” some whom had met him on earlier circles of the globe, who, like him, were still exploring, learning and sharing through motorcycle travel.
Managing his eating budget moved Dr. G from expensive restaurants to fast food eateries where he was surprised by not only the upscale quality and variety but significant price differences.  Without a certified sommelier to present the cork of a $30.00-$50.00 bottle of wine as had been done with his former traveling pal, Dr. G found a $10.00 filling and nutritional meal followed by an inexpensive bottle of beer or wine purchased from a local market enough to taste a bit of each country through which he was passing.
Joining Dr. G was Kerstin Hassmann, an extreme female motorcycle adventurist from Germany. Having ridden motorcycles through some of most harsh and remote locations on the planet, she brought her adventuring motorcycling skills and experience to The Great Around The World Motorcycle Adventure Rally, qualifying as # infinite, or a blank place where qualifying numbers were normally printed on the event number plates. She had initially asked what had happened to the # 7, to which Dr. G said, “The # 7 is a self-imposed DNF, kind of the lost man on this global adventure.”

Asked if she was worried about the danger implied by the travel alert issued to Americans warning of travel in Europe, Hassmann said, “I’ve been to America many times and can read the world news. We Europeans should be travel alerted about the terrors of guns and killings in America.”
Dr. G was invited to visit the private BMW Sport-Museum of “Metzger Rudi,” where arguably the premier collection of pre-1960 BMW racing motorcycles in the world were displayed. For three hours Dr. G was given a history lesson on insider racing tricks and tips by the former one-man pit crew of famed BMW racer Walter Zeller.  Included were several stories about Schorsch Meier, including one about Meier asking his pit crew to cut off a part of a protruding rock on a tight curve in the 1939 Isle of Man race which helped him win.  Eventually Metzger Rudi and Dr. G realized their paths had crossed in the middle 1980’s when they were often enjoying late day beers at a common pub in Germany. After the private tour and some souvenirs all Metzger Rudi asked for in return for his time and history lesson were some photos to display in his museum of Dr. G when he was racing and winning road races in America on 1970 BMWs.
A secret look at part of the collection of BMW racing motorcycles in Metzger Rudi’s Sport-Museum is pictured above.  If one were to ask “how much” one of the one-off original racing machines might cost, the seeker would be out of place in this candy store of BMW racing history.  One secret Metzger Rudi did let slip was that a # 1 BMW racing machine on display in a public museum was really a replica, “nothing in the engine and transmission,” that the real one was the one he had in his collection, donated by the # 1 owner/rider.
As part of The Great Around The World Motorcycle Adventure Rally entrants had been researching how far back in motorcycling history motorcyclists were two wheel motorized adventure seeking.  Discovered in the Deutsches Zweirad und NSU- Museum (www.zweirad-museum.de) was a German manufactured 1928 Wanderer motorcycle, a 498cc single cylinder machine that Dr. G said, “Oozed adventure long before BMW claimed the adventure word usage as applicable to their GS models. In 1929 the company was sold to a Czech firm that went on to manufacturer the more commonly known JAWA motorcycles. The last Wanderer made by the German firm was in that year, 1929.”
Joseph Schickler (photo above), an American from Reno, Nevada, was starting a wide ranging motorcycle adventure through Europe on his Ducati with his wife riding pillion.  When asked about whether he feared riding in Europe, given the May 1, 2017 U.S. Travel Alert, he somberly noted that just under a year ago 49 people were killed and 53 injured in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, and that was in Orlando, Florida, the good old “safe USA.” He said he would rather be riding in Europe than exposing himself and his wife to the risk of those kinds of killing numbers in the USA.
Bill Frantz and his wife Midge (pictured above), from Temecula, California, on May 19, were starting a five week tour of Europe from Germany on their 2010 Harley-Davidson Softail. 

Asked if they were fearful of traveling in Europe, given the May 1, 2017 US Travel Alert, Bill laughed and said to Dr. G, “On May 7, a week after that alert was re-issued, 50,000 people had to be evacuated from the German town of Hannover, not from some terrorist with a bomb, but from five unexploded bombs from the United States in WW II. Maybe your referenced imaginary Kansas with Dorothy and Toto can find perceived safety in a Wal-Mart parking lot with their motor home and toy hauler trailer.  My lovely wife Midge will navigate us around any problems over here. The biggest fear for me is that the big money I paid for this new waterproof jacket will be that it leaks.”

Sadly, on May 22, a suicide terrorist killed 22 and injured another 116 at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England. Great Britain moved to high terror alert.  However, the country had never been on the map for Dr. G’s European route.
RIP to the owner of the Goldwing pictured above. The passionate motorcyclist passed over to The Other Side, not while traveling in Europe, but while driving a motorcycle in his native country of Kuwait.

After successfully completing Stage Four, all of which was while under the ominous warnings about travel in Europe, Dr. G opined on motorcycle travel safety, the DNA of a motorcycle adventurer and some comments from others.  His submission to CITY BIKE magazine (www.citybike.com), titled ADVENTURE RIDING BUNNY, was at the end of U.S.A. Memorial Day weekend.  That weekend 6 people were killed and 44 wounded in the U.S. city of Chicago.

Before the ink was dry on Dr. G’s CITY BIKE column, where he is the Chief of the World Adventure Affairs Desk, another 7 people were killed and 61 injured in the same city. The following day, May 30, 3 more people were murdered and at least 12 injured. 

Earlier in the year Dr. G’s riding pal # 7 had said, “Chicago is safe,” when the pair were discussing why # 7 wanted to avoid certain cities in South America.  In May, 2017, to bolster the claim of safety in Chicago, the city touted the fact that to date there had only been 235 murders compared to 244 in the previous year, and shooting incidents had dropped to 1,047 from 1,222 in 2016.

On May 25, 2017 the U.S. President, Donald Trump, was in Belgium and Italy, while former U.S. President Barack Obama (formerly from Chicago) was speaking in Germany.
 
Dr. G suggested of the Presidents’ travels in Europe, “Even Toto, Dorothy’s dog in THE WIZARD OF OZ, could separate the wheat from the chaff about personal risk given where the heads of government were versus the claimed safe city of Chicago. I’d submit that ‘Chicago is safe’ falls within the definition of bull flop by philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt, that being information presented without concern for truth. The believers and promoters could suffer from meta-incompetence, having a high degree of fake news receptivity. It might be their time for deep therapy on a psychiatrist couch with some strong ‘come back to planet earth E.T.’ reality drugs prescribed.” 
                       
 (Next: Dr. G makes plans to avoid time consuming and expensive paperwork, government required tour guides, and faces extreme motorcycling risk during Stage Five, across Asia.)