19 December 2013

December 19 Accra, Ghana

Unfortunately, I am STILL in Ghana. I had hoped to get back to the US to see my new granddaughter, see my son graduate with his Ph.D and be somewhere hospitable for Xmas and New Years.  
I currently cannot get to my bike, let alone work on it with one hand, as the insurance company who has my bike will not tell where it is! They also won't email the results of a CT scan of may wrist and hand that I need to know if I will have my cast on for 6 weeks or 14 weeks! I don't why they are doing this after promising to pay for my medical bills and promising to repair my bike. 
I tried to get the police involved, but like other police here, they probably want a big bribe. I'm  trying to get a lawyer to help, but so far, no joy. They, like most here, probably won't do anything here without "grease."

01 December 2013

Accident Update

Ghana mostly sucks so far!
I am in my fourth week here and still do not know yet exactly how many fractures I have. I now need a CT scan of my hand and wrist, but the hospital bureaucracy is abysmal. The last CT scan I had of my neck took over 11 days to get the results. I had a new complete cast put on my hand/arm last week and will have it for between six and fourteen weeks, depending on the CT scan ... if I ever get it.
The hospital, doctors, police, and people on the street are more interested in getting my money that providing good service. I have been to the hospital nine times and spent about 50 hours there, mostly waiting for service. I had two different days where I was there for 11 hours. They "lost" my file and could not give any service until a new one was created, which took days.
There are two prices for everything here. One for the Oburoni (white person) and a much cheaper one for the black man. This discrimination in a country is not so unusual from my experience in 92 countries, but it is much more pervasive here.
Fortunately, I have met some nice people here, especially the insurance people from the car that caused my wreck. They are paying for my medical care and repair of my bike, but not for hotel nor food nor taxi fares to/from the hospital. Even if I could ride, I believe that the frame is bent and should be totaled. I may just leave it here and get out of here.
Sure wish I had medical coverage that includes medivac to get me to decent care! I will not travel again without it.

21 November 2013

Ghana Continued

I am still in Kumasi, Kenya, but hope to take a bus to the capital, Accra tomorrow. I wish I were home, or at least out of West Africa. I would still like to see South Africa since I am so close, but am not in physical shape to go now.
Physically I am not doing great, especially after I spent over 10 hours at the hospital last Friday getting a CT scan of my neck, whose results I won'tl get until tomorrow. They lost my file and charged the insurance company for copies of x-rays for the new file! I am able to walk,but not very far as my knee was hyper-extended. Am also worried about wrist under my cast which feels broken, but at least I don't have to wear my cervical collar full time. Only four more weeks to wear cast! 
I had to make a third bus trip to Konogo to go to court two days ago where driver was fined $250 that was bargained down to $190. He was arrested because he was on my side of the road.
On the good side, besides the miracle of surviving, I have moved to a hotel/restaurant that has good veg food for me (and wifi, which is rare here) after only having two real meals (plus crackers and juice) in the first five days in Ghana.
Typing with two fingers sucks!
Car Vs. Motorcycle

13 November 2013

Almost Fatal Adventure

In Ghana now, assessing damage to self and major damage to motorcycle (probably totaled) after a head-on collision with a car (major damage). Am now out of hospital with cast on broken hand in three places, sprained wrists, sprained neck, and multiple bruises. I was VERY lucky to not be killed (thanks to protective gear) and will have a CT scan of my neck tomorrow. The driver was arrested and will probably receive jail time. Can only type with one finger, so not able to write much. Will post pics later. My daughter had a baby yesterday.

08 October 2013

10 October - Morocco Adventure Travel

I thought I had adventures in eastern and southern Europe, especially with the drivers who have little or no respect for motorcycles, but Morocco is a different world.
Take a recent day:
1. Had little to no traction at one point.
2. Was cheated twice at one gas stop.
3. Had someone try to pick my front jacket pocket while talking to me.
4. Spent almost two hours riding around and asking in the horrendous traffic of Casablanca trying to find a hotel that did not cost an arm and a leg.
5. I finally gave in to stay at a terrible hotel that would not give me a working AC nor TV control. It also cost twice as much as three other hotels that I had stayed in other cities in Morocco.
1. above was due to diesel fuel spilled on the roadway. Fortunately, I had read about the risk of thinking that what may appear to be wet pavement, could actually be diesel and it is VERY slippery. If I had not read the notice, I probably would have crashed. I was also lucky that I was going straight when I hit the lane with it because if I had been turning, there is no doubt in my mind that I would have gone down.
2. above was partly my own fault. The gas station attendant refused to gave me all my change after filling my tank. It was only part of a Dirham, but I should have stopped him at a whole number of liters. When I went inside to buy some fluids for dryness, I paid way too much. I should have asked the price before paying, but I was too thirsty to think.
3. above was when I was at the Mauritanian embassy to get a visa. I was invited to share some couscous for lunch with guy collecting from people parking on the street. I did not lunch with him because it was with meat, but when I returned to get my visa, he spent some time asking me several questions and trying to get me to pay for parking, which I did not do. He got very close to me while I was on the bike and at one point actually had his hand in my top jacket pocket where he had seen me put me money.
4. above was very stressful in the crazy Casablanca traffic. Actually, traffic on the roads in general is quite different. It reminds me of living in Saudi Arabia many years ago because drivers do NOT stay in one lane. It is common here to straddle  lanes. At one point in the city, I was stopped at a light with six cars across ... but only three lanes marked on the pavement. It is unnerving to have a car pass you while they are in your lane and do not feel compelled to change to the next lane to go around you.
5. above was the Hotel Casablanca. While I am very used to staying in cheap places, but this was not cheap and the room was very small on top of it. The only good thing about the hotel was a parking garage that was included in the room price, but the attendant tried to get more money when I left the next morning.
Two pieces of good news. One is that I have had my GPS replaced in Casablanca. The second is that I am very proud of my son Jerry who just finished his doctorate, something I never did.
I am in Marrakech now and will leave tomorrow for the coast; then on to Mauritania.

12 September 2013

12 September 2013 Southern Europe

I got the rivets replaced on my panniers and even had to have a lower support made because it had fallen off. The shoddy workmanship in Germany even caused me to lose this. I was lucky to find a shop who could create it. 
I got to a campground outside of Venice where I met Nigel and Wendy from the UK. They were on a Suzuki Intruder, a metric cruiser. I saw Venice (not as smelly as I had assumed) with them and then rode with Nige up to Liechtenstein. I have now named my motorbike, Wendy, in honor of Nigel's wife. 
On the way north from Venice, I had sung the praises of going via the Stelvio Pass, something I am told that every European rider must do. Sorry Nigel, it was not pleasant on his cruiser and I did not really care for very tight, very steep uphill, 180-degree switchbacks with long straights in between. I usually love twisty mountain roads, but those turns were too tight and the descent almost killed me. I much preferred the roads in Romania.
I posted the following on Couchsurfing: 
Engine Braking CAN be Useful
Since stopping racing, I have not used engine braking as I would rather replace brake pads than overhaul an engine and it uses more gas. As I have been traveling on my motorbike almost continuously for the last four years, and am on a fixed disability income, I need to reduce costs as much as I can. But after a recent almost-death experience in Italy, I am back to using it sometimes, especially when heavy braking on long descents are involved. The following was posted on my face book page and I wanted to warn others here. "I found the famous Stelvio Pass to be not much fun with basically 180 degree turns with straights in between, even though I was a racer not long ago. It got very exciting coming down when I lost first my back brakes, then my front ones! At one turn I was actually hoping a car would come around the corner so I could hit it instead of sliding off the edge. Fortunately, by using a combination of heavy engine braking, which I rarely use, and extreme hanging off, and using the whole road, I made the turn. I rode VERY slowly after that and about 15 minutes later my brakes came back. I guess the brake fluid boiled from over use. I was lucky not to crash."d we traveled together for few days. He has taken off a year from his wholesale online drug sales company that he started and had just ridden from Goa, India, where he lives, to his second home in Germany. It was very nice to meet someone else who knows India and travels off the big highways. We had some great riding. I met Stefan just after I had gotten to see more of my favorite architect's work, a house Gaudi designed in Comillas, Spain.
Anyway, I survived, but had to change my underwear. I got to Liechtenstein and then rode down to southern Italy and across the French Rivera to Andorra. All quite expensive.
I have serious problems with some Italian, French, and now Portuguese drivers in cages. They seem to have no respect for motorcycles. I ride slower now, only up to 120 kph and was frequently passed in a dangerous manner. While going almost the speed limit, a car would come up  behind me going upwards of 140 kph. If they could not just fly by me, they would often come to within a car length behind me; at times even less than that. Then they would usually pass me without bothering to go out of my lane entirely! A couple of times they would be half in my lane. A few times I got out of their way and would then be in the slow lane where I would wave them up to as close to the car in front of them that they had been behind me moments earlier. I was trying to make the point that just because I am smaller than a cage, it is risky to come up too close. Nobody tailgates trucks, do they? 
Since trying the above tactic to make my point in Portugal, I had a couple of cagers actually go up behind the car in front as close as a half car length. I no longer do this.
After tax-free Andorra, I continued across northern Spain, passing through Catalan, Basque country and then into Galicia. I met a German/Indian man on the road and we traveled together for a few days. We saw thousands of pilgrims walking on the roadside beginning hundreds of kilometers/miles away with their final destination of Santiago de Compostela. Coming into Portugal was apropos as it gave me a chance to get a helmet that I wanted that is made in Portugal, but not sold in Spain. My Nexx Carbon full face uses carbon fiber to make the lightest helmet made. I love it.
I am now back in Spain in Seville. I will either stay here for a week, or go on the Morocco. I don't have to be in Tangier until 5 October, but I may just go to ride the hills of Morocco.
My last picture is a service department I found in Portugal that serves cold beer ... gratis!

21 August 2013

20 August 2013 - Eastern Europe

I left my friend Minda in Lituania to traverse Poland, which was pretty uneventful except for a Polish motorcyclist that I met in a petrol station, who was going to lead me across Warsaw. I have not met someone who rode ssssooooo ssssllllloooowwww before. He traveled at no more than 45mph/70kph while EVERBODY was going at least 70mph/110kph, including big semi trucks, and were all  whizzing by and making me very nervous. While I have been accused (falsely?) of riding too fast sometimes; that is just too big a differential and we parted company.
I continued across Poland and on into Berlin amazed how everybody was still flying by me, but now I was going 80mph/130kph. I really try to stay under 75mph/120 as the tires will last longer. Made me feel old.
My reception at Roman and Nico's (brand new motorbiker) included a party! I had met the Berlin posse on traveling via a German ship from Colombia to Panama and then to Costa Rica. In Berlin, I was very fortunate to have their help and transport as I had to leave my moto at a shop for maintenance and pannier fitting. The other part of the Berlin group was Patrick and Jana. I enjoyed observing Patrick, a master Olympic Stadium guide. He is truly skillful and effective ... in my professional opinion, even though it was in German. Patrick exemplifies the professional who has continuously improved rather than do the same old routine over and over and over ... The four of you, minus Fred, were so kind and generous to me and saved me a tremendous amount of time and money; I cannot thank you enough.
I then went through the Czech Republic, with the highlights being the track at Brno and staying at funky country hotel that was in the same building as a hockey rink. Got to watch my first sport love. Was reminded of trying out for the Detroit Red Wings hockey team.
Hungary was next after passing through Slovakia, but without much to report. I really do not care for big cities, so I then went east toward Ukaine.
I assumed it would be different, but did realize how bad the roads could be. When the border guys told me that the main route to Lviv was "off road," I thought they were pulling my leg. I was wrong. While it was not really off road for most of it, but the road was in such bad shape, that it took me forever to get there. When I finally did get there, I could not find my hostel. It was way south of the city in an old tenement complex; the stereotype of how I pictured people living under the soviets. Most of the buildings were empty, but what was especially pleasant was to see the nuclear plant across the street. Remember Chernobyl? The hostel was clean and new with a one-person elevator and the manager cleared out a storeroom for secure bike storage and took me in his own car to buy groceries. I have been very fortunate is having met so many kind folks who have been so helpful.
The trip on bad roads to Moldova was arduous and while the roads in Moldova are not in great shape, at least they are patched. Got some good advice from a Russian gas station attendant and then moved on to Romania.
I was looking forward to riding the famous Transfăgărășan Highway, and the new Transalpina Road. Both were spectacular twisty roads; my favorites. The Romania people that I met were consistently nice and pleasant. My learned strategy of asking for a discount on room pricing by offering to  forgo  breakfast and not requiring an official receipt is paying off frequently. 
My next route was through Serbia, Kosovo (bad drivers, many new buildings, and a great new road), Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and into Slovenia. I met a very helpful police officer at the Kosovo border and nice people in Albania. Montenegro was interesting when I got to the border to go into Croatia. There were hundreds (maybe 500) of cars for many kilometers waiting to go through the border. I first passed a few, then realized that I could be there for many hours as the line barely moved. I ended up passing everyone and waited for maybe 20 cars. While in line, a BMW rode up to join me. We met and decided to look for a hotel together when we got near beautiful Dubrovnik.
Italians on vacation had everything booked. We finally found a room for 3 people at one hotel. I was inwardly amazed that Damian and his lady were willing to share a room with someone they had barely just met. Kinky or very trusting? Was probably the latter, but we did not have to find out as the third bed for the tiny room was not to be found. I therefore stayed at another hotel that I had to break/crawl into when I returned late and the outside door was locked.
Traveled up through Croatia into Bosnia, where I stayed at a nice little inn way away from the road that I never would have found if it had not been recommended. Amir and Emir ran a very clean and modern hotel and restaurant. I learned that while Emir is strictly a title in Arabic and not someone's name, in Bosnia it is a fairly common first name. Unfortunately, although both are Muslim, neither spoke Arabic. 
DIC Hostel Gurus
I am now in Ljubljana, Slovenia at a very friendly hostel, trying to get some used tires with enough tread to get to 
Morocco before putting on the new tires I am carrying. I want to start Africa with good dual-purpose tires, but if I cannot get adequate tires here or in Venice, then I will have to put on my new ones. I was able to deal with a wardrobe malfunction, and do some maintenance on both the bike and my gear. Ljub is an interesting city with more nice people like Damian I had met and hung out with traveling to and beyond Dubrovnik.
After Venice, I head to the Italian Alps to do, the "Four Passes" and Stelvio Pass, then on to Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and France before spending September in Spain and Portugal. October 5 is still the target for Tangier to meet folks to start travel around Africa with.
I will try to update this blog in a more timely manner ... and learn how to format this blog and upload and organize my photos on Flickr.