Sunday, September 8, 2013

GOODBYE SUMMER......Autumn reflections from the ARCTIC CIRCLE in Finland.

Suggested listening for this post.

 The Kemijoki, shot from the Jätkänkynttilä or Lumberjacks Candle Bridge in Rovaniemi, Finland. Sept, 2013.

Jätkänkynttilä or Lumberjacks Candle Bridge, Rovaniemi, Finland.

Not many more of these summer days left at Karu MC. In the background and waiting on parts to come is my outfit.

There has been a definite drop in the mercury these last few weeks up here in Rovaniemi. Summer at the Arctic Circle, looks like it's coming to a close soon.
Not everybody is happy about it though.
Most of the members here at Karu MC are not looking forward to this change in season, and I completely understand why. They live here. Most of them hate the winter. Their summer is so very very short and their winter is so very very long. And dark. Very dark. Nearly 24hrs of cold cold darkness and nighttime for 4 months or more. Depressing at times I'm sure. I guess if I lived up here all year long I might get a little sick and tired of winter too. Maybe not. But we all grow accustomed and tired of the repetition in our lives at some point. It's human nature to want change. 
That's why we all need to have our dreams. Our goals and aspirations to strive for and one day to reach.

It's never easy. It never comes easy.
But easy is not always good or rewarding for the body or the soul. Most often times it's not. Why?.
Because it's just too easy to take the easy way, the path most traveled. Anyone can do that. Many have. 
What's the point and where's the challenge in that?. 

Being a climber in my teenage years (with dreams one-day of becoming an expedition caliber mountaineer), one of my idols growing up was and still is the British mountaineer Douglas Scott. 
I still have my original Meindl climbing boots I bought back in 1977 when I was 15. And they still fit. And I still use them. And I still have my Ice axes too.

Anyway, Doug Scott, along with Dougal Haston climbed and summited Mt. Everest on the 24th of September, 1975, in a Chris Bonington led expedition. Their route was by the unclimbed south-west face, and they were the first Britons to climb and summit Mt. Everest during this expedition. 
In an interview with Doug called A Conversation with Doug Scott, his opening line in the video are words of wisdom to live by: " I couldn't ever think of going all the way to the Himalaya's just to carry on repeating what other climbers did in the past. It just seems like a complete waste of time". Exactly.

Now, coming from most people, this could be taken with a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lime, but mountaineers are a very special breed of people. And Doug Scott?. Well, Doug Scott isn't most people either. 
In 1977, Scott, along with Chris Bonington, summited Baintha Brakk (aka The Ogre) a 23,901 foot rock and ice tower in Pakistan's Karakoram Range. It was late in the day, they had to get down while there was still some light left, which they were going to do by abseiling. During an early pitch of the descent, Scott slipped on ice taking a wide 30m swing, pendulumed violently, and crashed into a rock wall breaking both his legs above the ankles. Scott and Bonington were 9,000 feet above base camp and the sun had just about set.
To make a long and painful story short (you can read Dougs complete account of it here) it took Scott and Bonington 8 days to get back to base camp with Scott having to crawl all the way, wearing through 4 layers of clothing in the process and ending up with swollen and bleeding knees into the bargain. He never panicked. He always knew he would get back down, he just didn't know how. So he took it hour by hour, crawl by crawl. He just pieced together a lot of little small steps.
He didn't talk about the accident for nearly 25 years after it happened, and when he finally did, he recounted his ordeal so matter-of-factly that you would think that he assumed that everyone behaves like this under these types of extreme circumstances after breaking both legs 23,000 feet up a cold and dark mountain. But we're not all Doug Scott.

When I think of riding across Russia in winter, with temperatures going down to -50 at times, in all honesty, it seems like a cakewalk compared to some of the challenges that Scott faced on Everest and The Ogre back in the late seventies. I used to think of it as a pretty monumental trip, but at least the motorway that spans the 9,100km from Moscow to Vladivostok in Russia, is now paved all the way and easier to get help on if something goes wrong rather then trying to get help when you're 23,000 feet up on the side of a massive mountain where there is nobody and nothing. They were tough men in those days. And even tougher journeys and expeditions. As one commenter on Scott's Youtube Conversation video said, referring (a little harshly perhaps) to Britain as " A country full of saturday night thugs and football hooligans parading around representing themselves as hard and tough, I wonder how hard and tough they'd be on a Doug Scott Himalayan expedition". Most people probably wouldn't last a day.

A Doug Scott expedition would be a test that I would like to think I could of achieved but would probably have fallen way short of the mark on. But it's Scott's principle of not repeating or following in others footsteps, of carving your own path and to not be afraid to keep challenging yourself at every turn that I (try) to keep at the forefront of my thinking and reasoning these days of what I'm doing on this trip and why I'm doing it. Of why I'm alive and here on this earth for whatever amount of time I have left. It's one of my reasons for traveling in winter. The challenge of it. When I told some friends I was heading north to Nordkapp Norway in December, they told me "you're crazy, you should be going to Spain or Greece in December". Why?. That's too easy. That's what everybody else does. Why bother doing the same thing that every else does?.
Dougal Halston once said "In winter, the mountains seem to regain their primitive, virginal pride, and no more do the howling, littering summer masses tramp their more accessible slopesThe same feelings I attach to my choice and love of traveling in winter. Aside from the increased degree of difficulty and test of ones physical and mental toughness and durability (especially while camping in -20), I also don't have to deal with the summer and her fair weather masses, who are are all vying and clamoring for that same spot to get the same shot that everyone else before them got.
In winter, I have most, if not all, of the serene and calm beauty of her picture perfect snow covered landscapes all to myself.

Steamboat Colorado, USA. Jan 2012.

But then again, I've always loved winter. Winter reaches all the way back to my childhood, and probably does for most of us. Growing up in Ireland we only got a white Christmas every 4 years or so, so that fact in itself made me love it's beauty and magic it all the more.
Even getting snowbound and stuck in Steamboat Colorado in January of 2012 didn't deter me. I just had to figure out how to be able to travel on a motorcycle all year round.
And especially in winter. So I did.
A 2 wheel drive sidecar. Brilliant.

Riding to Nordkapp in December of 2012 seemed to be, at the time anyway, a difficult and challenging trip. Not so in reality. There was nothing too difficult or challenging about it at all. With spiked tires, some good winter gear and 3 wheels on the ground, I was all set. Don't get me wrong, it's not a cakewalk. I was still cold riding in -28°. But it's not difficult either. On a 2 WD sidecar, in degrees of difficulty, it's on the low end. There are way more difficult things I could think of doing. 

Everyone has challenges and struggles in their life that they have to face and deal with. Some of those challenges are choices, self imposed, like 64 year old Diana Nyad who "chose" to make life extremely challenging, difficult and very uncomfortable for herself by deciding to swim from Cuba to Key West in Florida. Without a shark cage. Why?. Because she wanted to and she thought she could. And did. With her "keep pushing" and "never give up" attitude and on the 5th try since 1978 (the other 4 were fraught with box jellyfish problems among others) she finally succeeded and made history. She tweeted 3 messages of motivation and inspiration on her feed: 1. #NeverEverGiveUp, 2. NeverTooOld to chase dreams, 3. NeverASolitarySport. And I can relate to all three, even though I always travel on my own, there are many many people behind me who have helped me get this far in my journey and continue to do so in many different ways, from simply buying a sticker set, sending a donation, or writing to me and letting me know how much of an inspiration I am to them and how I'm living their dream too. And all the people I have met along the way who have supported me with food, shelter and help with mechanical issues and repairs as I travel, those people have all played a big part in my trip. And the emotional support I get from readers like you who are perusing my blog right now, who read my FB page and watch my videos and leave comments about just how much I inspire you. All of that is a great confidence booster for me and doesn't make me seem as crazy and nuts as I thought I was in the beginning.

Mandy Miller.

Another one of my inspirations, who happens to be a personal friend (and savior too) is Mandy Miller, who was one of the three people who were instrumental in getting me into rehab to get the help I needed to get sober and back on the right path again. I wouldn't be able to do this trip if it weren't for her intervention and help.
Mandy is another one of those "keep pushing and never give up" type of person who, along with her husband Andy, is an accomplished triathlete and multi marathon competitor. She's currently in training for the Kona marathon in Hawaii next year and a 100 miler in the Yukon in January. A 100 mile run. It's normal for her. A special breed them Scots and marathoners.  So when I think of Mandy, Diana Nyad, Doug Scott, it helps me and makes it easier for me to push myself to see just how far I can go. The human mind and body is remarkable in that regard. When we're faced with something difficult that we have to overcome, at the time it seems like it takes so much out of us. Until we reach the next level of difficulty that makes the last level seem easy by comparison. And so on and so forth. Always pushing upward for that next step on the ladder. Growth. Stretching the boundaries. Pushing them further and further back. Making more room for more growth.
NeverGiveUp, NeverTooOld.
It's good to keep pushing yourself, no matter how old you are, and especially the older you get(if you make it that far). It's good to try and avoid falling into the "Golden Years" trap and mentality of "well, now it's time to take things a little easier". No, it's not. It never is. You owe it to yourself to keep pushing forward.

"Life can change in the blink of an eye"

There are challenges that people face that are not always of their own volition or choosing. Last Saturday a group of Karu MC members went for a 200k ride to see fellow club-member Jaska. 
 Jaska last year.

 Jaska now.

Jaska's life changed in the blink of an eye.
In March, at only 42, he had a stroke. Life changing. At 42 you would think that you still have your whole life ahead of you to do whatever you want to do, right?. 
Think again. Maybe. Maybe not.
How do you find out?. You don't. You make the best of now. Right now. Because in reality, that's all you have. Right now. This moment. Think about it.

The full article, photos, and hopefully a sit down and chat with Jaska will be on the blog in a the next few weeks.

It's a very fragile and very short life we have. I'm in awe sometimes that I made it this far considering the things that have happened to me. Many of the things we have we take for granted, the simple little things like getting up out of bed in the morning and walking to the kitchen to make some coffee, are only missed when you're not able to do them anymore. I'm guilty of this at times, of taking for granted what I have had , and have. I've made it to 51 already, pretty much unscathed too after completely drowning and pickling my internal organs and brain in booze and ending up in hospital knocking on deaths door. 
All I have to complain about now is a slightly sick transmission that's in need of a few parts. And it's not a problem at all. Just an inconvenience.
What's the difference between a problem and an inconvenience?. 
Here's the real world difference: If money can fix it, it's not a problem, just an inconvenience. 
If you're told you have 1 month left to live, all the money in the world won't help. That's a problem. A big problem. 
But my transmission and clutch?. No problem. Nothing that money can't fix. My life is that simple now. And I'm happy. Inside. The wind doesn't blow through the big hole that used to be there before. The hole is much much smaller now. And the wind has died down a lot.
And speaking of things that money can fix, here's a quick "How to" for other BMW 1150 GS owners out there on repairing a stripped valve cover bolt hole.
There are (4) M6 valve cover bolts on the BMW 1150 GS boxer motor that attach the valve cover to the cylinder head. The cylinder head is aluminum and it's quite easy to over tighten the valve cover bolts and strip a thread in the cylinder head in the process. But don't worry. No need to freak out. If you do, it's an easy 5 minute fix to repair it. Ok, maybe 10 minutes, but no more. 
And here's how you do it.
First, remove the 4 M6 valve cover bolts. They have a built in stop mechanism that doesn't allow them to be removed completely from the magnesium valve cover. The bottom bolts in the above photo is as far as they come out.
Next, remove the valve cover and turn it upside down and place it in a catch tray so no dirt or debris gets inside and sticks to the oil residue on it and the excess oil will drip out and down into the tray.
Now is a good time to get your Helicoil kit out.
 Here's what the good thread should look like.

And here's the stripped thread. No problem, we can fix you. 

Ok, next, cover and wrap the exposed valve train in a rag or tissue paper in order to catch any loose pieces of aluminum when you drill.
If you buy a complete helicoil kit, it comes with the correct drill bit size, the correct tap size and the tool for inserting the helicoil into the newly drilled and tapped hole.
 Next step?. Drill baby drill. Be careful, the drill bit will catch on the soft aluminum and pull it through very fast, so use a slow speed and very light pressure on the drill. Oh, and make sure your drill bit is level and goes in straight.
Clean out the hole of aluminum chips, insert the tap and turn.
A little alcohol on the tap helps to lubricate as your turning and rethreading the hole.
I used a Liquer in this instance, since it was late in the evening and after dinner it seemed to fit the bill quite nicely. But you can use whatever's laying around the Tiki bar.
 Turn clockwise and then counterclockwise to clear out the tap, making sure the aluminum chips and filings fall on the paper and not in the valve train.
 Clean out the hole and insert the helicoil with the special tool supplied in the kit.
Screw it in, break off the end tip with the supplied tool, remove it and you're done. 10 minutes tops. Good job.

And on the subject of my sick outfit and specifically my transmission and the parts needed to repair it, it would appear that a new sponsor has stepped in to fill the void that was left since W'lich and myself parted ways in April. At least for this parts list anyway.
The parts list for the outfit has grown. I'm going to put in a brand new clutch, new clutch master cylinder and new bearings in the gearbox and drive train, as they're all original with 80k miles on them and are at the end of their lives. Rather than wait until they disintegrate (like half way across Russia in -40°) it's a preventative measure to ensure that all is good while the back end of the BMW boxer engine is all apart like this.
And who is this new parts sponsor you ask?. Well, rather than attaching it as an addendum to this post, I would rather wait until parts get here and new decals for this company are made in order to properly introduce them. They warrant that much at least. So, that means it will be in the next post in 2 weeks. But, I may do a fill in post next Sunday, so stay tuned to this blog. You never know. And interestingly enough, they wrote to me offering me their assistance with my mechanical problems, and not the other way around, which I was very pleasantly surprised by, and also very very impressed that the owner took the time out of his busy schedule to choose to help me. Details on the next weeks post.

While my sidecar outfit is in pieces and awaiting repair, I haven't been exactly motorcycle-less. Raimo, a Karu MC member, gave me the use of his wicked cool 1952 Triumph bobber. It was a 500cc but now it's a 650. This coming week I'll take it out and take some glamor shots of the bike, there's a whole bunch of little details on this bike build that make this one really unique ride. It also has a leaner sidecar for it, so after I post up todays article, I'm heading over to Raimo's and we're going to attach it to the bike. Pics will follow.
Raimo's got some interesting old iron, two wheels and four.
Like his chopped and channeled '29 Ford with a Flathead motor topped with Navarro heads. Nice. I've taken a whole bunch of winter and summer shots of this car which I have to post up in the coming weeks too. It's just too damn cool not too.

A note of thanks is in order to GSI Outdoors for shipping me, all the way to Finland, a new Glacier Stainless Toaster. 

I love toast in the morning, and used to have to hold the bread over the flame of the MSR Dragonfly stove with a fork to toast the bread. 
Well, that's when a friend turned me onto the GSI Outdoors Toaster and I've been using it ever since. It's stainless steel, folds down completely flat, and comes with it's own black canvas carry pouch. And it's only $10. So when a hole developed in the the wire mesh on my toaster, after 3 years of continuous use I might add, the mesh deteriorated quickly after that, but the frame was still perfect and intact. So I wrote to GSI and asked them do they sell the mesh separately. Well, they just sent me out a brand new one instead.
Now that's good customer service. Top marks to GSI Outdoors.

Did you enjoy this post?. 
Did you get something, anything from it?. Good. That was the intent.
Maybe you brought something away with you from it today. If you did, leave me a comment either here or on my FaceBook page if you have time and let me know.

There are one or two people I have spoken with in the last few days, and these last thoughts and sentiments are for you. You know who you are.

Do not live in the past, do not live in resentment. Do not live in anger.
Focus on the present, but look forward, be strong. 
Live only in the moment of time that you have control over.

Have the day of your choice,


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