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Africa Adventure 2010

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Chapter 04 & 05 Dispacth from Dan Townsley




Do to the sparse Internet connectivity for Week 04 and 05, I have combined those Live!Journal Chapers - it's just to difficult for the group riders to provide content to me without that connectivity.


Livingstone, Zambia to Lamberts Bay, South Africa


Lynne Clark and I leave Swakopmund and head back to Windhoek where we will spend two nights before heading south to Keetmanshoop. Recall we are traveling via the National Highway system so our path is rather straight and considerably faster than the rest of the group. The group will be traveling south via gravel and sand roads to Sesriem where they will have the opportunity to see some of the Namibian Dunes up close. Hopefully you will find some great pictures below. From Sesriem the group continues south into the Fish River Canyon National Park again on gravel and sand roads.


In Keetmanshoop, one of the things to do is to go to the Kokarboom (Quivertree) Forest National Monument. These "trees" are actually a species of aloe and can live up to 300 years. The monument is on a very large private ranch. The ranch owners, aside from protecting the monument, also take in orphaned Chetah's and a few other wild animals. I was allowed to go into the enclosure with one of the big cats and acutaly pet the cat while it was eating - a rabbit (Hare). Only a few of the cats can be approached this way. It would be nice if these animals could be returned to the wild but unfortunately they would not survive - many ranchers shoot them in this part of Namibia.


The ride south to Cape Town is through some very arid yet beautiful country - much like the United States desert southwest. Tomorrow Cape Town and the end of this years Africa Adventure. Even though I didn't get to ride through Namibia the way I had hoped, I still have found Southern Africa to be is a very special place - I'll be back.







Dan Townsley



Chapter 04 & 05 Dispatch from Dan Marks

Wow, it’s been over a week since I’ve written – except for delivering our bikes to the shippers here in Cape Town, our ride is over and I and all but four of our group have completed the tour on our bikes. 
This last week and a half has consisted of many long, hot, full but tiring days, often stopping at fantastical lodges in the Namibian out-back and lots of off-pavement riding, including one day of about 300 miles.  I’m finally comfortable, more or less, riding my bike in the dirt – see YATORID, below.  Unfortunately, 2 of our group (Jeff & Tom) had pretty bad accidents on that last long Thursday and another (David) had his rear axle bearings fall apart.  Roger’s back in the States, Jeff & Tom are walking wounded and sore, and David’s just sore that the trusted maker of his after-market axle screwed him up for the last part of our journey.
Just a few miles into our 300 miles of dirt, Randy came upon a crash scene and flagged Diana and then me down.  We see Jeff lying face down in the road, not moving, his motorcycle on its side facing the wrong way, and parts of it and the contents of his panniers strewn over about 30 yards of road.  We all run to Jeff while a tour bus pulls up and someone with a first aid kit comes running out of it.  Randy and I were worried Jeff was dead.  The entire trailing group arrived very soon thereafter, including Helge. He and the tour guide carefully turn Jeff over, remove his helmet which is split along its back, and finally Jeff comes back to consciousness.  At first he doesn't remember the accident and doesn't know who Debby is – possible/probable concussion?  We all help gather the stuff from the road, push Jeff's motorcycle up on Andrew's trailer and console Debby who is doing better as Jeff begins to do better.  Jeff is loaded into Andrew's chase vehicle and they take off to find a doctor/hospital with Helge following.  Not too much further down the road, we come upon them replacing a flat tire.  Not much we can do to help, so we go to the next stop to get doctor/hospital info.
There, in tiny Helmeringhausen we come across David, Sterling and Greg working on David's bike in front of the very pretty inn & restaurant recommended to us for a lunch stop.  David had a flat and when they removed the wheel, discovered that the axle bearings were shot.  The full (with Jeff laid out) chase vehicle rolled into town and they loaded David's bike onto the trailer next to Jeff's.  Then David rode 2-up with Helge, following the chase vehicle to the not so near nearest town with a hospital.
Helmeringhausen is about half way through our 300 miles of dirt – we all continued to the very comforting and comfortable Cañon Village lodge dramatically set in rocky outcroppings adjacent to Fish River Canyon National Park.  Not too distant from the lodge I noticed what appeared to be an abandoned, wrecked motorcycle at the side of the road – there was nobody around and it didn’t look like a GlobeRider’s bike since it had no panniers so I didn’t stop – probably should have and wish I had stopped.  When I arrived at the lodge, I found Ben (who arrived at around noon, riding at amazingly high speeds), Tom, Rich and John in the bar drinking away and immediately congratulating me for making it through the long dirt ride and getting me a Tafel, my Namibian beer of choice.  It was Tom's abandoned, non-pannier’d bike I passed.  He had come to a blind spot at 75 mph when a bus in his lane appeared over a rise - he swerved off into the soft berm at side of road and lost control, flying through the air and rolling many times and his bike doing the same.  It was totaled and he was not doing great with a(nother) broken hand and bruised if not broken ribs and shoulder.
We had a day off following Black Thursday and I and others rode out (on gravel and rocky roads, of course) to view points along the grand canyon of the Fish River, which is much like our Grand Canyon. That evening four of us took a quirky, off-beat sunset tour in a four-wheel drive vehicle way off the beaten track.  Our guide, Harold, really knew a lot about the local flora, fauna, and geology and I could understand him very well.  (All of our African tour guides were exceedingly well trained and had information at their fingertips, though I had trouble understanding some of them.)  The following day we had our last 65 miles of dirt and though there were a couple of tricky spots, we all made it without incident.  We were admonished to be extra careful as the chase vehicle and trailer were full.
Both Jeff and Tom seem to be doing better now, five days later.  Jeff has an amazing black and blue back.  Tom’s hand is very swollen compared to the other which he may have broken earlier and is only somewhat swollen.
YATORID: Yet Another Theory Of Riding In Dirt:
So – I’ve been coached by just about every experienced GlobeRider about how to ride in the gravel/dirt/sand on my F800GS.  Most of the tips are consistent and all are well-meant and in practice by the tipster.  All involve standing up on the pegs with unlocked knees, moving your body to the fore/aft-left/right balance point which depending on the wind force usually has your head well forward over the wind screen, and keeping your arms and hands loose on the handle bar.  The latter is most important, because if you start fighting the way the bike wants to drift, you and the bike get into an unstable oscillation that increases in amplitude until the front wheel locks one side or the other and bye, bye.  OK, so eyes up, speed up and stand up when the going gets squirrely because of loose dirt or corrugations.  But, then I was told that some very good GS riders rarely stand up.  And, I’ve done thousands of miles on my Harley in the dirt without standing up except to cushion some big bumps in the road.  I believe I must have learned through experience to keep my hands loose on the bars, so what’s the difference with the F800GS?  I believe it’s:
  Angular momentum = the gyroscope stabilization provided by a motorcycle’s spinning wheels = M times Omega-squared times R, where M = the mass of the wheel at effective radius R and Omega is the rotation rate in revolutions per time unit, e.g. RPM.  This gyroscopic action is why when one pushes on the handle bar at speed, the wheels and the bike tilt to the pushed side and it is used to prepare for and control turning the bike.  When the handle bar is pushed at slow or no speed, the front wheel turns in the direction it was pushed.
I swapped my Harley’s spoked wheels with tube tires for a heavier aluminum wheel which took even heavier tubeless tires.  I’d guess that the Harley wheels and tires have 2 times the mass of the F800GS’s spoked wheels and tires.  Thus, to get the same stabilization as my Harley, I’d need to go about 40% faster.  (The square root of 2 ~= 1.4.)  This is an over-simplification – e.g. the F800GS weighs less than the Harley, but has a higher center of gravity – but it worked for me.  I sat down because I’m much more comfortable sitting and I sped up to around 60 mph on the straight sections.  And I believe that’s why I was able to handle the last of the dirt.  I still much prefer pavement so that I can observe and enjoy the passing scene.
This has gotten way too long – I’ll sign off for now – see you soon,




Chapter 04 & 05 Dispatch from Jeff & Debbie Hower


All the days of the trip are running together.  It seems it has been forever since we were in Cape Town. The scenery has had great changes since we left Cape Town and we have experienced many things.  One good thing we've missed is having to ride in the rain. The only real rain we had was when we were camping in the delta and that was in the evening and it cooled down everything and just like an "Etch-a-Sketch" it erased all the animal footprints in the sand so you became so much more aware how many animals are really moving about that you never see.


So far Debbie & I have had 2 slow speed falls.  Both in deep sand.  Uneventful and no injuries.  I fell twice on the Rhino Camp road, also in deep sand.  My 5th and last fall was on a gravel road while I was going about 70 mph.  This happened on Nov 11th.  I did a tank slapper and high sided and was found by Randy knocked out in the middle of the road.  I really don't remember anything until arriving at a med-clinic about 2 hours later. Andrew, the chase truck driver, go me in ahead of about 30 people just by showing them the split up the back of my helmet.  Results were nothing broken but severe bruising of my lower back and ass. My bike is unrideable with the front forks bent and a bunch of broken stuff around the handlebar area. Thank for your help to everyone that helped me out with my little crash.  So it's riding the last few days in the chase truck for Debbie & me.


More scenic areas at Fish River, then on to Lambert's Bay where we have an awesome beach fish fry while the sun sets in the Atlantic Ocean. The surrounding area is showing signs of civilization with crops, power lines and buildings.


Back in Cape Town the bikes are reloaded back into their shipping container in preparation for their long trip home.  We have our final dinner together as a group as we all prepare for our long flights home.  I'm going to miss this group of adventure travelers.  Each in their own way has made this a memorable experience and I'm proud to have ridden with each and every one.












Chapter 04 & 05 Dispatch from Randy McClanahan

Lamberts Bay, South Africa. One more day to go. Cape Town tomorrow.


Those last two days in Namibia proved pretty challenging! We have now lost two more riders and three more bikes. Fortunately, I was not one. Knock on wood! Can’t say the same for my dear friend Jeff.


Namibia is a very large country with only 2.2 million people, so most places to stay are desolate. Our lodges were out in no-man’s land, and were typically built right into the rocks, which were granite piles hundreds of millions of years old. They were bubbled up from the earth’s core almost to the surface, and then finally exposed by millions of years of wind and rain erosion.


The riding was pretty good until we reached the Tropic of Capricorn (see photo below) and then all hell seemed to break loose. We were suddenly in a stretch of foot deep sand that seemed to go for miles, although I’m sure that is an exaggeration. I know how one is supposed to get across such sand. Head up, look way ahead and give it the gas. Easier said than done. The survival instinct says slow down and look down. Then the bike goes down, as mine did. Fortunately, my fall was slow and the landing soft. After a bit of mirror adjustment, I was back on my way, with no damage to me or my machine. My ego was saved when I learned that most everyone had similar issues that day.


The next day, however, we had two bad crashes. The day offered options. The first section of the ride required less than 100 miles of more dirt and sand. Then one could choose pavement to the left or even more dirt and sand to the right. The paved section meant an extra 135 miles. Fearing more "surprise" deep sand, several riders, including Tom and Jeff (with Debbie as his passenger), had announced their intention to take the pavement the night before. Tom is a former motocross racer and the sand would normally not be a problem for him, but his broken left hand made things difficult.


The first section proved pretty smooth, however, so everyone decided to turn right and take the dirt all the way in. I was about ¼ mile behind Jeff. Debbie decided to stay in the chase truck, so he was riding alone. We passed a tour bus. I then saw far ahead what appeared to be a group of animals crossing the road. As I got closer, however, they did not move out of the way. Closer still, and my heart seemed to stop. It was not animals. Jeff was down, and it was bad!


The accident scene covered about 100 yards. It started with broken parts and scattered contents of the panniers. Next was the bike, in a heap and facing backwards. Next to the bike lay Jeff, face down and not moving. I feared the worst and prayed for the best. Beyond Jeff and the bike, for many more yards, were more motorcycle parts. He had "high sided" at 70 mph.


I have taken two courses in motorcycle accident scene management and first aid, and much of it came back to me. Don’t panic. Think. I stopped my bike, parked it and turned on the emergency flashers. Flag down approaching traffic so as not to have more crashes. Check Jeff. Is he breathing? If so, don’t rush to remove his helmet by myself, as that might cause further spinal injury. If not, get it off and start CPR immediately.


I could see that he was breathing. But that was about all. He was unconscious and limp. Diana arrived, then Dan. Then the bus emptied and its passengers began running toward us. One person carried a large first aid pack. We asked if there was a doctor or EMT present. There wasn’t, but then Helge arrived, followed by the chase truck (with Debbie). Helge immediately took charge. Jeff regained consciousness – sort of. He recognized me, but called Helge "Olga." He was able to move his limbs, and we carried him into the chase truck, which headed for the nearest hospital several hours away.


I rode slowly and carefully the rest of the day. About 60 miles short of the hotel, however, I came upon Tom’s bike, alone and wrecked. When I reached the hotel, I was glad to find him there, although he was pretty banged up. He had also crashed at high speed in the sand, and now, in addition to his previously injured left hand, he had a clearly broken right hand, and an injured clavicle, elbow and ribs. The trip was over for him and his bike. A Belgian tour group had picked him up and taken him to the hotel.


Word finally was received on Jeff. Nothing on him was broken. His bike is badly damaged (see for example the bent fork in photo below, taken when we were loading the container) but he will repair it himself. (Insurance doesn’t cover accidents out of the U.S.) He has no recollection of the events between the crash and the hospital, which covered several hours. He will get totally checked out when he returns to Missouri, where his doctor is waiting for him. Jeff’s backside is one big, angry bruise. Over the last few days he seems to have recovered, and is now back to his old, sassy self! Lots of prayers were answered, and many of them were mine! Thank you, Lord.


So, here is the (hopefully) final toll for the trip: Roger and Emily are back in Los Alamos and he is recovering. No surgery necessary, but one arm may be a bit longer than the other! He has even started riding his street motorcycle (BMW 1200RT) again! He hopes his Africa bike (BMW R100GS PD) is repairable when it makes its way home. Dan Townsley (BMW HP2) rode the last few days on the paved roads with Lynne, and he has recovered from his foot injury. He is looking forward to marrying a wonderful woman next month. Jeff and Tom are too injured to ride for a while, and their bikes (both R1200GSA’s) are totaled. I’m guessing that Tom’s hand will need surgery when he returns to Detroit. And finally, David’s F800GS suffered a failed rear wheel bearing (after market wheel) and he missed the last three days of riding. He will, however, get to see the U.S. team play the South African team in the World Cup before he returns home. The stadium is just down the road from our hotel in Cape Town. WOW. What an adventure.


Sunset on our trip, looking from the African west coast over the Atlantic Ocean towards home.  I learned a lot about Africa. I learned a lot more about myself. I missed my loved ones more that I expected. There were good days and there were bad days, but the bad days were usually the result of my own attitude. Overall, it was an awesome experience.


Where will Globeriders and this magnificent machine take me next? I’m not sure, but for now, I can hardly wait to get home! See you there.






Chapter 05 Dispatch from Vincent Cummings


37 days later, we have completed the journey.................At the beginning we talked about our bikes and the rides ahead, as the days went by bikes and riding were the main part of the conversations. Of course we would talk about the bikes and the riding after all it is a motorcycle trip through Africa. Yes it is a motorcycle trip through Africa and for some that is just what it is, nothing more nothing less and that is perfectly fine. Unbeknown for some, it turns out to be something other than a motorcycle journey through Africa, it becomes a more of a journey through our lives, where we sort things out, in our heads at least. Spending hours alone inside your helmet you are faced to sit still and listen to your mind chatter which usually has nothing to do with what you are doing at the moment, usually its about  your life and the associated challenges. Enough time spend away for your regular daily life, in a totally different environment,  on you own bike, inside your helmet, provides the opportunity for thinking ["All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone Blaise Pasca ]


I’ve been on 5 GR tours and at the end it is common to hear some of the other rides say that the journey has been a “life changing experience” In many cases the motorcycle ride which at the beginning we thought was the main reason, to our surprise it turns out that the motorcycle was not the main reason, that the motorcycle was just  the transportation to carry us through more of a personal  journey. I find it ironic that we started our journey in Cape town with one perspective and finish our journey back in Cape Town, arriving where we began, with a new or different perspective .   In some ways its seems we have finished this journey through Africa, we’ve travelled all the roads and visited  all the various sites, even loaded the bikes into the container to ship them home, yet in another way it feels like we are just being,  [“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” T.S. Elliott]


I am grateful to have had these opportunities, to have shared them with fellow rides who understand why we do it on a motorcycles and not in a bus or  a car. I wish that  each and everyone them can take something from this time spend riding a motorcycle through Africa to aid them in making the best of this short brief moment in time we call life.








Chapter 04 & 05 Dispatch from Tom Petrillo



If you would like to follow Tom's personal weblog of his Africa Adventure click here

Chapter 04 & 05 Dispatch from Ben Jack



You can check out Ben's Africa Blog by clicking here.


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