Category Archives: Planning – Articles on the lead up to the Trip

3rd Month – Project Shifts into 3rd Gear

As the 3rd month of planning our trip draws to a close, I can’t help but reflect how far suddenly we have come since January!

This 3rd month, though starting slow, suddenly shifted up a gear when I finally passed 11065906_1058236437524911_4721282885934098519_nmy motorcycle test mid month.   Two clutch levers, a broken indicator light and a few scratches later, it finally happened, and my instructor, Mark at M&C Training, smiled through it all, giving me plenty of grief along the way to make sure that by the time I passed, I really was a safe rider on the roads.  What a star!

It was with this pass that gears changed on the project with JustGiving finally sending me the documentation to set up the charity, the press release going out and sponsorship, tn smallmore by accident than intention, suddenly coming into the spot light.  Sponsorship is a whole new territory for me.  I obviously see the best in what we are doing, but so glad that Richard at Trail Quest was on hand to put me into the right perspective and lead us in the right direction.  All this whilst my head was full of flu!

When all was said and done at the end of last week, I am pleased to announce that ADVMoto is now sponsoring us; we are going to be featured on Adventure Bike TV several times, who will also feature updates during out journey and help with editing for ADVMotoLogo-200YouTube posts; Overland Magazine is setting up a radio station this year dedicated to adventure and have asked if we would like to feature regularly during our journey with updates.

So things are generally moving along well, and looking forward to going to the Overland Event in June and meeting lots of people, and hooking up with the team there, as well as Rev’it who have also expressed an interest in sponsoring us.

On the Sofia planning side, we have hit a slight snag in that it is clear that she will not cope well with a permanent place in a mainstream school, even with support.  So now the planning for secondary school, which she will be entering on our return, has also shifted gear as I look for a suitable placement for her, and attempt to get as much of the application process completed before we leave.   It may be that we don’t know the results before we leave, but will have to stay close to what is happening whilst we are away, to ensure we can get as much planning and prep. done with Sofia before we return.  A really special thanks to her school, who are just an amazing support.

So we go into the month of April hoping to secure a bike with sidecar and raise money through sponsorship!  This project is gaining a life of its own, so I am excited to see where we will be in a months time and what my monthly update will be saying.

Please donate and help us get to Africa with Autism http://www.gofundme.com/africawithautism

Sponsored by:

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Autism – Just Roll With It!

25% of this project is planning it, 25% is actually taking it, and 50% of it will be a journey with autism. Yes that is a big chunk of the trip, given over to working with a different way of being and thinking.  However, this is our life, and it doesn’t feel like 50%, and certainly not 50% of posts are going to be about it.   However, because it is such a big part of the journey, it can’t be ignored either.

One of the major deciders for doing this challenge, was because it seems to be a perfect time to do something like this with Sofia.  Along with this was a special needs education review, where myself and the school agreed that we could now ease Sofia into the mainstream and she could spend her final junior year in a local school, before going to high school.

The process of easing Sofia into the mainstream had already started, however, this term it ratcheted up so that almost her entire day was in the mainstream, receiving the same level of support that she might expect next year.  I don’t believe any of us expected the result of this.

I have had reports of her being bullied, of her ‘bullying’, of Sofia having meltdowns, and worst of all, biting another child, something that has never happened before.  Last week, I let the school know that I wanted to discuss rolling Sofia back into the special unit at parents evening, which happened today.

I don’t know what I really expected when I sat down with the group of special needs teachers and learning assistants.   I don’t even know what I was thinking about in the long term.  I had given them time to think about it anyway, and they had taken that time to discuss and be clear on their perspective.  They responded in total agreement, that it wasn’t working out as we had hoped or expected.  That her placement continues with the special unit until we set off to Africa.  That I will have a preparation issue on my hands, because their recommendation is that she has a placement in special needs school for high school.

Hearing this was like a bucket of cold water without getting wet – I so wanted it to work out for her and to see her carve out something for herself in mainstream.  On the other hand relief (hence not wet) because after the last 2 months the idea of her being in mainstream for high school is terrifying.  Academically she is just about keeping up, but what we have learnt without a shadow of a doubt is that her social comprehension will not develop at a rate that will make it possible to integrate into mainstream.

cropped-collage-2.jpgAnd this is the story of autism, never giving up, always reaching for the best, and being sensitive enough to know when to pull back and to set new goals.  The new goal here is that she gets the placement that is right for her to come back to in 2016.  It is a goal I am happy about because I know that achieving it will be a happier child more successful child than the alternative.

 

OMG! What to Choose – BMW or Ural?

It’s no secret that I am coming into the motorcycling world a complete noob, not to mention no prior deep interest in mechanical terminology like ‘horse power’ or ‘cylinders’.   To me if a machine works, use it, if it doesn’t, get a new one.

Suddenly with this project, all this stuff matters, and not only that, advise given is to try out lots of bikes and get experience and build a preference.  Erm, with no license, this is hard to do.  So I have followed a journey on cold facts, and interestingly, in many respects, I am not sure that preference would have helped me make the right choice, only an emotional one.

The first thing I learnt very quickly was that the bigger the numbers the bigger the bike.  I also learnt very quickly that not all motorbikes have chains, like bicycles.  This was a fact I latched on to quickly, because I know about chains on a bicycle, and when it comes off, it can be a fiddle to get back on – heaven knows what that must be like on a motorbike!    The other type of motorbike has a drive shaft which sounds much simpler to me, safer, and less likely to go wrong.

So looking at bikes with drive shafts, I immediately honed in on two motorbikes that are designed as adventure touring bikes with this configuration – the BMW 1200GS and the Ural (all their bikes have this configuration).

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BMW 1200GS with a sidecar attached

You really couldn’t get to bikes more opposite on the spectrum of what is available.  Its like saying that the choice is between a Bentley and Lada car (if Lada’s where still in production) literally.  The BMW 1200GS has every comfort and convenience accounted for on those hazardous roads around the world.  The Ural is a solid Russian bike that hasn’t changed much since inception in the 1930s, it was built to last.  It has only been in the last year or so that they have included fuel injection as standard, a modern technology that now means that ‘software’ has finally made it onto the Ural.  Thankfully the Ural, much like Skoda did in the past, has looked outside of its knowledge base for these upgrades, and in this case I believe that the fuel injection has been supplied by Ducati.

So there we have it. Large choice, suddenly diminished to 2 bikes.   I chose the Ural.

1- Sidecar fitting on the BMW changes the standard structure of the bike so that it is no longer supported by warranty.  This is actually a very important point.  I know many say that the BMW will never break down, especially to the degree where BMW would have to get involved.  Personally, with my daughter in tow, I’m not sure I want to take that risk and ride into Africa on belief alone.

The Ural on the other hand is specifically designed with the sidecar, and with the fuel injection upgrade, they now provide warranty cover.  All thumbs up with Ural.

2 – Fix-ability is a major issue with the BMW.  The motorbike has so much technology now that really you need to have diagnosis tools, software programming degree, and 5 years working in BMW to even have a chance of fixing anything more major than a flat tyre on the road.

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Ural Gear Up

The Ural, however, is still as simple as it can be.  Not as simple as the carburetor version, but you still have a good chance off fixing most problems with the bike on the road, and if you can’t do it yourself, you can probably find someone with a spanner who can. Strike 2 to Ural.

There are other minor graces of the Ural over the BMW, but needless to say, to me, travelling with my daughter in some remoter areas of the planet, my confidence will be much higher with the Ural.  Ok, so it isn’t fast, it isn’t sexy, and it doesn’t have 5 suspension options controlled by a panel on the handle bars, but it works, it gets from A to B, is a lot of fun and if it lets me down, there is a real chance of being able to fix it.

Thank you to everyone who has given me advise over the last few months!  I really couldn’t have gone through this process with out your input.  If the sidecar wasn’t in play, I think the BMW would have been my top choice.

Second month of Planning – By hook or by crook!

It has now been 2 months since I seriously started working on this project and I’m still going strong.  However, this doesn’t quite give the picture of what it is like to actually be planning a project like this.

My main focus this past month has been two fold, firstly to get my motorbike license and secondly to start sending a press release out to the local press.  On both these tasks I can’t exactly say I have met my target!

10985518_10152564261705841_4216046775365532320_nThe motorbike testing has somewhat stalled at the moment.  In the UK the test involved a theory test, which I passed, a Module 1 and a Module 2.  The Module 1 is the control test that takes place in space specific for the test and set up with cones.  One follows a sequence of exercises (exactly the same every time) which test slow control, stop, speed and avoidance.  Sounds easy right? WRONG!   well for me anyway.   Of course I have ability to pass it, I’ve practiced it perfectly enough times, however, I seem to have a psychological issue with tests, and seem to be making silly mistakes.  Of course it is all good extra experience, so I don’t complain, but really would like to get on with the Module2 road test and get the licence so I can move forward with my plans.

I was hoping to have my license before sending out a press release, however, as this happened yet, I’ve been working on it anyway.  We visited Motopodd , who have since offered to sponsor us with training, to at least have some pictures with us and a rig, looking ready to go.  It was also an ideal opportunity to bring Sofia a step closer to the reality of being a monkey (term used for the the person who sits in the sidecar)

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We got some lovely pictures on the training bike, and also some little video clips, my favourite of Sofia having her first ride in a side car which I will post at the end of this blog.

The press release is now in review and will hopefully have it out to local press in the next week.  I can’t keep waiting on the test.  I will pass it, but there are so many aspects that need to happen in this year of planning, I have to push ahead so I don’t loose valuable time.

My out look on all this, is that life is always working out perfectly and exactly the way it is supposed to.   I know that this trip is going to happen, so when time lines start to get a bit mixed up like this, then I will find out that it is precisely what needed to happen to get a result I really want for this trip.

Sofia’s first Sidecar Experience

All this talk and videos about sidecars and motorbikes, it was high time that Sofia got to experience the reality.   We needed photos for press releases, so the two came together perfectly.

I posted a note in the Ural group on FB asking if there was anyone in the South East of England who had a rig we could use for photos.  Rod Young of Motopodd Motorcycle Sidecars kindly obliged, and so we paid him a visit.

Rod makes sidecars as well as doing long adventurous journeys with his sidecar, so it was great to meet him and chat.  He also does training for driving with a sidecar, which was great, because I hadn’t actually gotten to researching a session yet.

DSC_0099I didn’t actually drive the bike with the sidecar today as it is so completely different from riding a motorbike on its own that I didn’t want to confuse my brain before I had completed the tests!  ( I will post about my testing experience at a later date, it certainly isn’t without it’s chuckles! )

Anyway, I hope you enjoy these photos and videos of our morning!

 

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This wasn’t just Sofia’s first ride in a sidecar, but also her first sit on a motorcycle.  She has be too scared to touch a motorcycle, but finally today, she not only touched it, but after being reassured that it wouldn’t fall over, she sat on it.   You can see clearly in this picture below, the bug gripped her and she wanted to race off into the sunset 🙂  She is such a courageous child to allow me to keep pushing the envelope with her in terms of experiences.  I’m proud of her.

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