Joined: Feb 2006
Location: Close to Cumming (GA that is)
........And they're off.
Trip Day 1. Jo'burg-Augrabies
Jet lagged and dealing with a 7 hour time difference, I was expecting the scheduled 5am start to be a little optimistic for my old bones, but once again the anticipation of a day spent riding in unfamiliar territory trumps any physical lethargy and we all roll out of Paul's garage on time. (I don't actually remember sleeping that much, but it could have just been latent terror from the previous day's warm-up ride 'round Jo'burg.) The first stop is just around the corner where we meet the rest of the crew at a gas (petrol) station.
Ready to roll: Gary (800GS), Narissa & Koshik (Fireblade), Di & Mikie (1200GS ADV), Me (800GS), Paul (R1100s). In front: Cindy (R1200ST)
It's maybe worth mentioning at this point that as the trip departure date approached, a few extra riders had signed up, and in total we ended up with eight participants including two female pillions, one of whom is riding on the back of a Fireblade. Since a typical trip for me usually follows the ride.eat.sleep.repeat mantra, I was a bit concerned about how this was going to pan out. Gary's an Ironbutt veteran, who I assume was thinking along the same lines. Anyway everyone's ready and waiting in the early morning darkness, so we're off to a good start. All the participants are 'Thinkbike' members and in addition to those coming on the trip, a couple of other guys showed up to see us off and escort us out of town (thanks 'BMWfan' and 'Trumpet').
The 'escort' consists of the two outriders running up ahead (with Trumpet's piped Daytona typically bouncing off the rev limiter), stopping all traffic at each stoplight (which we'd eventually learn to start calling 'robots') and letting the rest of us cruise through like motorcycling royalty. I must admit it was a bit difficult to get used to and, being a Georgia resident I had a problem getting the mental image of being either (a) t-boned by a big 'ole pick-em-up or (b) shot at by some shotgun wielding good old boy, out of my head as we passed each intersection. The local cagers seemed cool with it though (and they also seemed quite happy to move over for any lane splitting maneuvers). 'Scuse me, we're with Thinkbike'. Not that it's particularly difficult to achieve, but the level of driving skill possessed by the typical South African cager is generally light years beyond what I'm used to in Georgia (and in fact the first time I got cut off on the trip was when some asshat on a cellphone almost took the front off my wife's car as we were coming back up 400 from the airport.)
Pitstop outside Jo'Burg after our 'royal escort'
After leaving our escorts, we start on the trip proper. The day's ride has been billed as 900+kms of fairly uneventful plains riding in order to get closer to the good stuff over on the west coast - mainly rolling down the N14. As the day progresses, it strikes me that the start of this ride's a bit like heading west from Atlanta - you pay yer dues across Kansas to get the payback in Colorado and beyond. Actually the landscape and scenery does appear somewhat similar to Kansas in the early going, although as we head further west, it starts looking more and more arid in a similar fashion to, say Nevada/Arizona.
In sharp contrast to the US though, we're not riding along (per Ironbutt regulations ) at a GPS indicated 75mph which makes things a bit more interesting. After riding a KLR for a number of years, it hadn't entered my head that an 800GS wouldn't be 'fast enough' for this trip. I'd pictured the entire group riding along in a pack at, say 80mph-ish. However, in what is to be the typical pecking order for anything resembling a straight road, Gary and I are bringing up the rear on the two smaller GSs, cruising at (a comfortable pace for the bike) between 90-100mph, Koshik/Narissa and Mikie/Di alternate between riding with us (slow) and running up ahead with Paul who's apparently (I never got close enough to actually get a visual on this) leading and Cindy a little way behind. Paul's Thinkbike handle is 'Splat' and he's also known as 'Rabbit'. Hmmmmmmmmm...
'You guys aren't worried about getting a ticket?'
Stopped for Breakfast at a 'Wimpy' - the first of many. I thought maybe the locals were trying to play to my British heritage and assumed I actually 'liked' crap food Actually it's better than the gas station fare normally a staple of the '20 min max, Gary mandated gas stop'
Since it's Valentine's day, the girls get special treatment from the wait staff (what some people'll do for a tip, eh!). Both pillions seem to be having a great time, maybe this is gonna work after all.
Typical shot of the first day's riding - FLAT and STRAIGHT (and fast)
Crossed over into the Northern Cape just before midday.
You make your fun where you can get it 'Hotazel?' - 'Yes it was'. Flirting with 100F in some places (BMWs computer gives the temperature in deg C, but there's plenty of time to do the math on the dead straight roads F=(9/5*C)+32). Winds were pretty high too - did I mention it seemed a lot like Kansas?
Not 'everything's' bigger in Texas - birds nest SA style, with man-made Albatross below
'Hey guys, I think I've got the hang of this SA riding style'
At some point during the afternoon, we passed through a small town that had a bunch of burnt out tires all over the road and one or two burned out vehicles too. I'm not sure what all that was about and unsurprisingly no-one felt brave enough to stop for a photo
Interesting roadside machinery.
Mikie sizes up a new rear for the GS - actually something with a bit more grip might have been useful - stay tuned
The riverside in Uppington
Storm clouds loomed as we left Uppington, but the group managed to run between what looked like two seperate storms and barely got wet. However a few miles up the road after a gas stop miscalculation, all the bikes (besdies the big GS) were running on fumes. The Fireblade was the first to run dry, but no big deal. We transferred some fuel from the GS into the Honda (of course given our backgroud Gary and I are carrying just about everything 'cept the kitchen sink in the 'emergency' dept - so a syphoning device is ready to hand) There was some good natured ribbing going on of course and more than one BMW rider mentioned that the Honda seemed to run better with 'BMW gas' in it FWIW I finally figured out a use for a 1200ADV
First night's accommodation at Augrabies -$20 per head which, along with the cost of the food is looking like pretty good value to the Americans.
At the end of the day, we made it to Augrabies in time to take a quick look at the national park and waterfall. However, although arriving at the entrance a good 30 minutes before closing time, the place was already closed for the evening. Undeterred, we rode back to the Augrabies lodge and had a great dinner, which if I remember correctly, came to about $35 for all eight of us Afterwards, we grabbed a few beers and headed back to the digs for the rest of the evening. The group are all happy and everyone's getting along fine. The local's are treating Gary and I like they've known us for ages, and their laid back manner and friendship is quickly turning into one of the best parts of the trip.
Douf screwed with this post 04-15-2009 at 06:39 PM