The Unchained Tea and a Wee Tour.
Put the kettle on IÔÇÖm on the way to South America.
ÔÇ£They make an awful lot of coffee in BrazilÔÇØ
ÔÇÿColumbia blend coffeeÔÇÖ
Seattle, hometown of Starbucks.
Within days of having decided that Dec 2008 was the go date for a ride to Tierra Del Feugo, I was questioning the wisdom.
As soon as I announced my intention, fellow riders were pouring from every nook and cranny, ÔÇ£oh IÔÇÖve beenÔÇØ, ÔÇ£IÔÇÖve been tooÔÇØ. ÔÇ£You should speak to X, Y and Z, theyÔÇÖve all beenÔÇØ, ÔÇ£My grandma went with her dogÔÇØ.
So many riders have made this trip, IÔÇÖm surprised it doesnÔÇÖt show as a permanent red-line-jam on local traffic reports. ItÔÇÖs like finding a human crowd queuing up, to summit Everest. Not at all what I expected.
I need something to help me differentiate, to give purpose to my ride, I donÔÇÖt just want to be a tourist evicted from a coach and plonked on a bike.
First thought was to change the bike.
Because a GS is exactly what youÔÇÖd expect people to ride through South America on. Incredibly capable, accommodating and reliableÔÇªdo any of those terms spark your imagination? Do they scream out ÔÇ£Daring AdventureÔÇØ?
Still, I have a GS and have no plans to replace it, so that option was out.
The big GS also, sort of, eliminated the option of crossing the Darien Gap-just too damn big to haul on winch and harness through this 200 miles of muddy, liana bedecked over and undergrowth.
So where would my inspiration come from?
Well, England actually.
I was reminiscing about my time near Colchester. Sunny Sundays would often see the Aprilia Mille, or prior to that, a ZX9 or two, wheeled out and pointed at the north Norfolk coast. By taking the back roads, I could usually reach Cromer, once a grand Victorian escape, now a decrepit seaside resort with all the charm thatÔÇÖs implied by a kiss-me-kwik hat and a plate of chips (fries) in gravy.
It did however have two redeeming features. Firstly, a car park that was free for bikes, and, a tea hut with a toilet. Okay IÔÇÖll give it another plus, it was geographically placed on my way to either Blakeney Point-a tranquil stop for boat trips to see the seal colony and bird sanctuary, or Hunstanton, a well known biker haunt, with live bands on the green and enough bikes to look at, to pass a pleasant Sunday.
Anyway, back to the Tea hut. The run there became known as my ÔÇ£tea and a weeÔÇØ ride, as it gave me the opportunity to partake of both and each was equally welcomed, for diametrically opposed reasons.
And so it was, that during remembrances of the bluff brown waters of the North Sea and the equally brown water of my styrofoam encased tea, and whilst pondering over a map of South America, it came to me.
Could I ride through South America, the supreme domain of coffee, only drinking, and obviously, peeing tea? Could I, whilst in the sanctuary of caffeine, conjure up a teabag or two?
And then finally I noticed something, or rather somewhere, that was the clincher. The Falkland Islands. Could I get to this most distant of BritianÔÇÖs British corners and get a cuppa?
And, yes IÔÇÖd be starting from SeattleÔÇªhome of StarbucksÔÇªoh, the irony.
So, that was the plan. Not great, not worthy of note, but my plan. Something that would, when I joined the traffic flow south, give me a reason to be in the queue.
Can do spirit.
One thing I admire about Americans, is their, ÔÇÿcan do spiritÔÇÖ. ThereÔÇÖs not much of a, ÔÇÿwhy do spiritÔÇÖ, or a ÔÇÿhow, or what do spiritÔÇÖ, but ÔÇÿcan doÔÇÖ has certainly been mastered.
I donÔÇÖt have it.
I do indeed do, but throughout the doing, I constantly wonder if doing, is actually the right thing to be doing, or even am I doing doing right?
There are lots of pre-doing issues that need addressing with a trip like this.
Do I travel alone?
First thoughts are, yes and no.
IÔÇÖd like to try riding with a colleague down to Tiera Del Fuego (TDF), but by then, IÔÇÖd expect either they will have tired of me, or me of them. Plus, the little matter of a side trip to the Falklands for a cup of tea, well, it just might not be everyoneÔÇÖs 'cup of tea'.
Do I have the time?
YesÔÇªthatÔÇÖs an easy one at-the-moment, but, will the answer be the same come next December?
Do I have the finances?
See previous answer.
Do I have the support of my wife?
SheÔÇÖs already telling her colleagues IÔÇÖll be away, so IÔÇÖll take that as yes.
Do I have the riding ability to undertake this journey?
IÔÇÖd like to believe so.
I rode 10,018 miles on a trip across the USA in 06.
I rode down to Death Valley, then over Tioga Pass, to challenge my vertigo, later in 06.
Took, and passed, the Washington Motorcycle Instructor programme early in 07.
Joined in the Jimmy Lewis Off-Road school in the summer of 07.
Did some riding on ChinaÔÇÖs Hainan Island in September 07 and have extensive riding experience back in, and around, Europe, including some riding with the Brit Motorcycle Police, that goes back many, many years.
So, I reckon my skill shortages are in other areas:
Do I have relevant motorcycle maintenance and repair skills?
Well, I know where the Service Dept is, at Ride West BMW.
Do I have First Aid knowledge, sufficient to be able to handle whatever the road may deliver?
Will a sticking plaster cover it? How about an aspirin?
Do I speak Spanish?
The answer to that is a resounding Non, or is that Niet?
Do I have the ability to be able to stay convivial, for long periods, under duress, with a riding partner?
The longest period IÔÇÖve had to share the road with anyone has been three weeks, and that was with my wife as we toured Spain, so itÔÇÖs not the same, as I got to sleep with her. I have no intention of doing so, with any riding buddies to TDF!
The first three I can address. The last, only time will tell and is very much dependent upon chemistry.
Do I really believe I will be able to find tea, all the time?
Not really. However, thatÔÇÖs not the point. ItÔÇÖs trying that will make the difference.
IÔÇÖm sure that there will always be some form of sticks, herbs, leaf and dirt concoction that can be drunk if boiled sufficiently long enough, that wonÔÇÖt quite kill me.
So, for now, thatÔÇÖs all folks. ItÔÇÖs time to hit the books, research, meet up with the two guys who have said they are looking to ride and generally get up to speed.
I must dash now, the kettleÔÇÖs boiling.