Sunday, February 24, 2013


4 Years in.....

I parked my bike by this old fishing trawler in Apalatchicola Florida in the Gulf of Mexico.
A passerby stopped to chat with me, mentioned he had a similar model of BMW motorcycle and then asked me if I wanted him to take my picture
At the time I didn't give much thought to the significance of it, in fact I very nearly said "nahh, that's ok thanks", as I'm not that big on having my own picture taken, and usually when a big Nikon D3s is dropped into someones hands they look incredulously at me, have no idea how to use it and nearly drop it. 
But, had he not offered to take the picture and had I not said "ok" I probably would not have such an important record of this day. I remember this day as clear as if it were yesterday. 
The bike is still the same bike I started out with and I'm still the same person I started out as. 
However, we both look and feel a little different today. We've both weathered quite a bit, altered our looks quite a lot and have adapted ourselves to our journey and travels together. We've both come a long way from where we both started out over 3 years ago, both physically and spiritually. Yes, even my bike has grown. 
She is my home after all, and she's carried me for 3 years and 125,000 km with all my heavy camera, camping and living gear with no major issues or accidents so far. Thanks Babe.

My first night out under the stars.....under an abandoned stilt house on 
St. George Island in the Gulf of Mexico.

What started out as a "Get Out of Dodge" two or three month exploratory road trip to the Pacific North West of the US has me still on the road today and now in my 4th year and still "exploring". 
I'm finding out that there's a lot of planet to explore than I initially thought. May not even have enough time in this lifetime to do it all.

Another 4th for me that I quietly celebrated on January 17th of this year was being 4 years sober, something that some of you may know about and some may not. 
I don't try to hide the fact that I'm an alcoholic and on the wagon, 
it's on my "View My Complete Profile" on the blog, but it's not something I make a fuss over and advertise either. Not drinking alcohol is just one of those things that I know I have to do in order to have peace of mind and a happy, healthy and emotionally well balanced life. If you can call life on the road in a sidecar "well balanced". 

In all honesty I do. I feel more at peace and stable now with no official home, no job and no income than I did with a couple of houses and apt's and an income from the rents of said houses. I felt then like I had no control over my life, I was at the mercy of my alcoholism and all it's associated side effects like mood swings, sleepless nights and a general feeling of apathy. City, state and government regulations were strangling the life out of me and my business, and had me pinned down because I had a vast amount of monthly bills to pay to my local agencies. I was basically a prisoner in my own home town, an area that was dictated by where I paid the most bills. 

I sometimes describe this trip as the moment I said Fuckitall, the end result of my implosion over 4 years ago when I hit my rock bottom. Starting my 4th year on the road this year I wouldn't change a thing. I feel a freedom now that I heven't felt in a long time, no matter how much money I had and how many expensive vacations I took per year. Looking back to the last time I felt like this, it was probably back when I was 16 and heading off to Europe with a backpack on my back. That was the first of my freedom trips, a time in my life where I had no worries and no fear.

Fortunately, from my vantage point today, things are quite different and much, much better for me. Again I have a freedom. 
Freedom from many things, freedom from a lot of social and economic shackles that held me prisoner for a long time, and most of the time I wasn't even aware of it. 

And through all the towns, cities and countries I have traveled through so far, I've ended up here in Rovaniemi, Finland for the start of year 4 on the road. Fitting as a starting point really for another year on the road. In the last few weeks here in Rovaniemi a number of positive and important things have happened to me and my trip that have really kind of solidified this journey of mine and made me feel like this "Spur of the Moment" trip I embarked on wasn't just an irresponsible, knee jerk and irrational selfish pursuit. I had an idea from the very beginning that it wasn't, but at the time I couldn't identify it or find a way to convince myself that it wasn't, but I always knew that I would get bored real fast with riding from town to town and country to country and taking pictures. There was going to have be much more than that to keep me emotionally satisfied. 
And now starting my fourth year on the road, the three years "Apprenticeship" that I just went through is finally starting to add up.

I know I left a tent here somewhere........

...there we go.

Fortunately, camping on this leg of the trip has not been necessary. Here in Rovaniemi I'm staying at the Karu MC, and as has been the way all along the route so far since I first stayed in Strömsund at the Strömsunds MC last November, the hospitality and friendship shown to me at Karu by the club President, Hekki M, and all the members is second to none. I've really gotten to like Rovaniemi and Finland tremendously, and it's due in no small part to how relaxed and made at home I've been made feel by Hekki and the guys at Karu MC. 

Initially, my stay here was only supposed to be a week or so. I had intended to ride down from Rovaniemi to Helsinki and then over to St. Petersburg in Russia by the middle to end of February. However, when I crossed the border from Norway to Finland many things changed for me. At first it was just the landscape that changed, which in turn changed my vision and outlook and general state of mind for the better. I saw the sun for the first time in months, and, I saw the type of landscape I normally only saw in postcards. Being in a picture postcard environment is kind of like a dream really, a fantasy landscape. It's sometimes hard to believe that you're actually there. And as I mentioned many times before, Winter like this is my favorite season by far.

These images I shot were from a snowmobile ride in Rovaniemi that I was treated to by the president of Karu MC, Hekki M. 
Again, many thanks Hessu-san.

We ended up doing a roughly 40 km loop, which started out on the banks of the frozen Kemijoki river and ended up back at the same spot later in the afternoon.

The frozen Kemijoki and the Hotel Rantasipi Pohjanhovi. Rovaniemi, Finland.

As I mentioned earlier in this post a number of positive and important things have recently happened to me and my trip, and one of the bigger one's is the fact that Motortrend are flying over from the US in a few weeks to meet me here in Finland and shoot a Pt II to their first video they shot about my travels called A Man, A Motorcycle & A Mission on the Downshift Episode 18
To say I'm excited about this would be an understatement, I never imagined that it would generate so much interest on Youtube. Nearly 96,000 views and over 300 comments is not very much when it comes to Youtube video hits, but for me it's a huge number.

RideAwayCancer is also making great strides and developments, all thanks to John Nikas who started the whole thing almost 3 years ago by accident with DriveAwayCancer. Details on these developments are not complete yet, but the DriveAwayCancer page is supposedly going to be splitting and will be shared with RideAwayCancer within the next few weeks. Again, I'm overjoyed at ths news. Due to the severely cold temperatures I've been riding in these last few months RideAwayCancer hasn't been as active as I would like it to be. So I have to come up with a Plan B.

I have enough photos and stories so far to keep me going here on the blog for the next 6 months non-stop without amassing anymore, so I could really start double posting or maybe fitting in a 5th post in the month, but I kind of like the regular Sunday morning post. I would actually appreciate your feedback on this issue, so if you could let me know how you feel about this, it would be appreciated and taken into consideration when making my decision.

Another Karu MC member who is a major gearhead and hotrodder, Ari, has been an indispensable help to me with a lot of projects that I needed to get done on the outfit but wasn't able to get done due to lack of a decent garage space to do them in. 
Well, Ari has the garage from Hot Rod Heaven, and the necessary skills to be able not only to assist me with some projects that I'm not that good at but also do them for me. Like wiring. I HATE wiring. Ari not only likes it, but is very good at it. 

So the first wiring project that had to be tackled was the wiring harness for the 2 big WARN SDB-210's Dual Beam Driving/Spotlights mounted up front on the sidecar. I really love these big lights. I had them on my '76 Toyota FJ40, so when I shipped the bike over to Holland I stuffed them in one of the panniers because I knew I wanted to use them for the sidecar. They're a great and powerful light, they can throw a nearly 270 meter beam ahead of you and of course they're just a fantastic looking light to boot. 

I wanted to give the front of the outfit an old Group B Rally Car look to it like the one Ari's brother co-owns in the pictures above, since I grew up in that era and helped my neighbor across the street in Ireland build a Group B Ford Escort, so I'm really happy how they look on it.
The wiring harness on the WARN's was made for a car, so it was about 2 meters or about 6 feet short of wiring, so Ari worked his wiring magic and did  a really nice job of cutting and piecing in a 2 meter section into the original WARN wiring harness.

We had to cut a piece of plastic off the side of the seat support on the bike so the fuse panel would fit snugly.
I hope it doesn't void my BMW warranty.

And while we were at it, he also suggested putting in an accessory fuse box to clean up all the connections that were starting to clutter up the battery terminals. So now instead of connecting an accessory direct to the battery, the new fuse panel in mounted under the seat and is a safer and neater looking solution.

Down on the right you can see the Bosch S4 car battery now clean of messy terminal connections. Everything now gets routed through the new fuse panel.

But the REAL reason I like coming over to Ari's garage is his dog, Ronja.
How could you not love a face and a dog like this?. I want to steal her and put her in my sidecar when I leave.

Judging by the busy schedule that I have coming up in the next month, it looks like I will be staying in Rovaniemi until the middle or even the end of March. I'm not complaining mind you. I feel and have been made to feel quite at home here in Rovaniemi, and am very appreciative to all who are helping me and giving me their friendship here.

Much more to come on the blog next week. Don't forget to comment on my 5th post question and if you're not already a follower, please click the "Join This Site" under the "Followers" tab.


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