Tag Archives: motorcycle

October Update & The LEGO Adventure 2019

The most common two questions I am asked at the moment is, How is Sofia doing in her new school?  and How am I doing with this big change?

With the first, Sofia is settling in really well.   I have to say that all the travelling she has done, has made the transition really easy for her in that she has the confidence to adapt to her new environment and make the best of it.  That is not so say that she is not confronting many challenges, but she seems to be happy to embrace the challenges and for the first time in a school environment, has the opportunity and space to process and recognise those challenges and learn something from them.  It is a huge step for her and I have to say that she is making me enormously proud.

For my part, it has been a surreal experience.  So reconnect to myself, to remember who I was and what my goals were in life and re-evaluate them in the context of today is quite a journey, and one that I feel can’t be rushed.   The conclusions I have drawn are that I will ride the motorbike for my own pleasure and will no doubt seek my own adventures where I can, but I may or may not publish them as part of Adventure with Autism, I don’t have a feel for it yet.  I will however be organising a ride from Lands End to John O’groats (the LEGO Adventure) next Summer for Sofia, which will no doubt take us via Wales and Ireland.

Adventure with Autism in the mean time will remain relatively quiet, as it seems to do during the winter months.   We are just about to leave for a proper holiday (for a change!) tomorrow on a cruise, and it will be an opportunity to recap the last four years since the last time Sofia took a cruise which started off this big travel adventure for her.  I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to film/record it, but we will be going through all the photos I have and reminiscing.  Hopefully catching as many of Sofia’s memories before she forgets them.   The results of this effort will no doubt leak into social media over the winter months so watch this space!

We travel and publish our travel experience on Social Media to help raise awareness for Autism, please could you help us continue this effort by making a small donation – Thank you:  https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charity-web/charity/finalCharityHomepage.action?charityId=1005498

 

 

The Battle to Leave #Nordkapp! – Part 1

Having battled to get to Nordkapp (see post The Battle for #Nordkapp), we now battle to leave!

The following is an email I have just sent to the Insurance company regarding the current situation:  

To whom it may concern at Carol Nash/AXA assistance,

As there have been many phone conversations, it seems prudent that I should in someway to clarify in writing what has been happening in the current situation regarding the recovery of my motorbike (LV03 BWJ).

On Sunday, my bike broke down on the E69 Nordkapp Road in Norway.   Some 4 hours later someone arrived to recover us, however, it was not a motorbike mechanic and he could only take the bike as far as his garage in Honningsvag as that was as far as the recovery had thus far been approved and advised that the bike should be recovered to the BMW dealer in Tromso to be fixed.

You then advised that you needed a quote from your agents in Norway, and in the conversation is was made clear that I had to choose between accommodation or a hired car.  As it is impossible to camp  with out a vehicle as we would have done and did not know if it was possible at NordKapp at this time, despite the offer of a taxi to take us there, so we booked into a local hostel (80Euros)

I believe the phone call was about 10am Monday my time when I fully understood the conditions regarding accommodation and hire car and said that I would take the hired car but please deliver as soon as possible as we had to check out of accommodation at 12pm.  When I called at approx. 5pm my time, you advised you still had not recieved a quote to approve from your agents in Norway for the hired car or for the transport of the bike.

After threatening to claim for expenses for the night, a car materialised an hour and a half later, 500m down the road from where I was located with the bike.  Effectively it took a whole day to organise a hired car that was located down the road.  Clearly someone had woken up as I was then advised that the cost of transport to Tromso had been quoted in the region of 3500Euros (I forget the specific figure)  and that the policy only covered a sum of 2000 Euros – I then stated that then a more local mechanic will need to be found because the priority was the fix the bike and continue our journey as we were on a sponsored ride.   I requested a solution by 9am the following morning or I would start taking the matter into my own hands regardless of the costs that might result for the insurance company.

That night we wild camped – as it was our expectation to do for this journey where ever possible.

I phoned approximately 10am my time on Tuesday morning to discover, once again that nothing had been done.  So I then spent the morning and at the expense of using my mobile phone to phone Norwegian phones, to locate a more local mechanic.  Once located, I relaid the information back to you, and you porceeded to find a new quote for transport.

The new quote to transport the bike a third of the distance than Tromso was 2053 Euros!

If the discrepancy is not immediately obvious to you, please advise and I will explain in much more detail to help you understand.  However, futher to this, the quote is 53Euros over the limit.  I am not prepared pay for a clearly fabricated quote, especially now that travel expenses are 300% up as a result of this situation.  I then offered to source a van myself and drive it and quote you for the job, and you advised that you would be happy to recieve the quote.

I sent you a quote for approval around 3pm (Tuesday) detailing the cost of the van hire for one day, the estimated cost of fuel, and the cost of my time – the quote totalled 600Euros.

I picked up a message from Matt, who was dealing with the case, around 5.30pm saying that the van and fuel had been approved, but the compensation for my time had not and it had be forwarded to other departments – ‘but at least I can now move the bike’

I phoned him back and explained, that I would not be moving the bike until compensation for me to do so was approved.    I am not fool to be used by the insurance company to do work for free that I pay them to pay for.

I recieved a call from you around 8pm asking if the motorbike had been delivered, and in response I made it abundantly clear that I would not do anything with out recieving compensation for it to which he explained that it was unlikely to happen.  I have already sourced a mechanic would will look at the bike immediately (or at least he would when I spoke to him yesterday morning) and researched and provided a quote to do the job of transporting it myself. This is all work that other people are paid to do and are clearly not doing.  I have now provided a quote that saves the insurance company 1400Euros and they now want me to rush the bike over to the mechanic so that they can then tell me they are not going to compensate me so they can reduced their costs further.  The poor chap got an earfull from me!  I was advised that the quote was with senior management.

We spent the night in the hostel (80 Euros) as the weather had turned bad and camping was no longer an option.

Approx 10am Wednesday morning, having still recieved no phone call, I call you to discover nothing had been done. I am called back some time later to be advised that the senior manager will not compensate me for my time, but I am welcome to transport the bike myself still.

I, understandably, am becoming very stressed and advise that you must now pay the 2053Euros as you have now refused a cheaper offer.  Further to that, I was now in a situation as the weather was till bad  and clearly nothing is being done for yet another day and I was forced to book yet another night (80Euros) at the hostel.

You are aware I am travelling with a child (11 yrs old) I have further made it clear in the last phone call that she is autistic that we are sponsored to do the journey to raise awareness for autism, that the costs are beyond us and that I will ensure that they all claimed back from the insurance company when we return because simply put – our plan was to come to Nordkapp, wild camp one night if it was possible, then leave and head south for a bike meet in Estonia.  That we are now still here is entirely as a result of the insurance company regardless of my efforts to help move the situation forward anyway I can, and in so doing saving the insurance company money – something that the company has now rejected.

So the current situation is that we are still in Honningsvag, I have booked another night at the hostel (80Euros)  the hired car will need to be returned in 12 days, the motorbike has not moved, and you the insurance company are not doing what you are contracted to do which is to provide recovery for the vehicle regardless of being given the options to do so.

My stress levels are high and increasing and I have not slept properly since this whole debacle has begun.  My daughter’s travelling preference is to keep moving towards the end goal, and she is now becoming stressed as she can’t understand why we have not moved from Norkapp in the last 3 days.  This is added stress for me as her carer for which there is no relief beyond being able to take out my increasing frustrations on the phone to your customer care agents that phone me intermitantly to tell me that nothing has been done or nothing will be done.

It is now 1.40pm Wednesday – almost exactly 3 days from my first call for recovery.

If I have miss-understood the events that have transpired these last 3 days please clarify, and like wise if you would like me to clarify further on any points I will be happy to do so.

Please note that this is an open email and is published on the internet as part of our (myself and my daughter’s) on going journey to travel from the UK to Nordkapp to Gibraltar and back to the UK with in 8 weeks.

Kind regards

Melanie Cowpland

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If you enjoy following our travels, please make a donation – We are travelling approximately 8,000 miles –  £5 will help us cover 50miles, £10 = 100miles  

We don’t know the costs for fixing the bike yet but any help towards that will be GREATLY appreciated!

Donate here:  http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charity-web/charity/finalCharityHomepage.action?charityId=1005498

 

 

 

 

Maps, phone, GPS! what could possibly go wrong?

We set off feeling very organised, even the navigation, after all a GPS and a phone with Google Maps with a plan to get a map of Europe on the other side.  Not that our first few days were going to be hard map wise, or at least that is what I thought.

Then we arrived in Antwerp around midday on our first day and it started to rain.   All ready exhausted, I made the, perhaps not so wise decision, to exit the ring road towards Brussels, just to keep going and thinking I could turn on my phone to navigate (only to find that data wasn’t connected for Europe), or check the GPS (but the battery was flat from using it to check our route along the way and to find a campsite earlier as Sofia was struggling to stay awake) and a map of Europe that would be waiting for me at the next services (my expectation being that all highway services in Europe have a road map of Europe) only to find that they only had a Belgium map available.

That would have to do – and so the navigation by traditional map began.   It wasn’t so bad, even if irritating having to stop and check which ment Sofia having to get off the bike every time (keeping her awake) the detail being too big to have just one page showing on the tank bag, until I took a wrong turn and couldn’t stop for about 30mins to check the map!

Thankfully once correct we were not too far from where we were aiming for and around 8pm we finally rolled into a campsite.

The next day didn’t feel like a big navigation issue (we had a solid map now!), the plan was to potter around the area until about midday, getting lots of map practise as well, and then start planning our route to Cologne where we were staying with a good friend we had not seen in many years.    Luckily we stopped where a friendly local made the plan for me right up to her front door, wrote it all down, and helped me to memorise it (there was still no data on the phone – maybe just Belgium?).  It was at this point I discover that Garmin, in their desperation for money, have designed the USB cable to NOT charge the device directly from a power socket! it will however charge through the laptop (phew!) We arrived in good time in Cologne with the GPS winning the day for those final street directions, and still no data on my phone now we were in Germany.

The following day I phoned up my UK provider and it turns out that despite the 10 minute conversation about travelling in Europe for 2 months and increasing my data allowance, the customer service didn’t think that turning on data roaming was necessary!  Now turned, all was well, we had google maps, bluetooth into the helmet, a GPS fully charged.   I plugged in my destination via various stops that had been recommended and we set off in high spirits!

The thing I love about technology navigation is that all you have to do is plug in the destination, set preferences to avoid highways, and boom!  you find yourself on some amazing roads, no stopping and checking, no getting lost, nothing.  ‘Turn left in 200metres, TURN LEFT!’   is all that is needed, and if you take a wrong turn, no problem, it recalculates… no stopping and re mapping the route.

To be honest, I have no idea how people cope on motorbikes with maps.  Yes, I think one should always be handy (though I still hadn’t learnt that lesson yet), but to have all that effort removed is such a joy.   Lots of people have said they see more with a map, but what exactly?   I’m just as likely to take a wrong turn using technology (yes really!)  but at least I don’t have to stop and re plan.  And stopping for me is a mission with Sofia in the back – it has to be a place where it is safe to stop and for her to dismount the bike if she needs to.

So there we were having a wonderful ride through the German country side when the battery on phone started running low, I plugged in the charge adapter only to find it had finally given up the ghost and didn’t work at all, about the same time the phone froze so even my desperate stop at a gas station to plug it in to fast charge enough to get us out of the back roads was pointless.  And they had no maps.  I used the GPS as much as possible but again battery ran dry.

Finally I found a map, limited to the area we were in, and decided to take the fast road to our destination (we needed to start chewing up some mileage now!) picking up a new charge socket for the phone and a European map at a services.  Finally!  all bases were covered just in time to find another awesome road before arriving at the camp site.

The following day was the best ride thus far,  with blue toothed instructions to a destination, no highways, I was finally relaxing and enjoying the journey which took us up the east/west divide of Germany.  When navigation works well, it is fantastic!

I think in conclusion to the debate on what to have, all forms are good to have at the ready.  But for people who prefer to use a map on a motorbike, perhaps their destination is the journey itself?  For me, I like to have a destination and then enjoy the unexpected journey getting there, which the tech navigation takes care of.   We don’t always stay exactly where planned, those decisions happen on the road, ultimately though, direction is important to me, and not having to worry about any of the ‘getting there’ is, for me a load off my mind so I can enjoy the journey so much more.

 

If you enjoy following our travels, please make a donation – We are travelling approximately 8,000 miles –  £5 will help us cover 50miles, £10 = 100miles  

Donate here:  http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charity-web/charity/finalCharityHomepage.action?charityId=1005498

An Ode to 2016 – #Europe2017

2016 has been a remarkable year with many changes that will reverberate for years to come.  It feels like what ever follows this year will have its roots in this year and as we say good bye to it, I can’t help but appreciate that significant effect that it has had.

For Sofia most notably it has been a year of expansion of awareness and confidence.  The results of which I got to experience full force at the schools parents evening a few weeks ago.  Every teacher was so complimentary of her, her enthusiasm, her engagement, and her manners.  It was such a joy to hear that she was doing so well.  She is not ‘cured’ of autism, there is no cure, her brain still functions in particular ways that is obvious to those that have experience, however, her ability to cope and function in the world is allowing her to experience it more positively and to interact with out fear of failure.

For me, the change has been one of liberation.  We don’t realise how much our environment in the western world erodes our confidence and prohibits us from experiencing life to the full.  It was a huge step for me to drop everything and embark on adventure that showed a completely different side to life and prove how safety is one that we create for ourselves rather than an existential given that can be taken away.   I stand in a place of appreciation for all the people on our path who helped us realise this truth – and I particularly appreciate Sofia for coming into my life and being my inspiration to do something that added value to so many others as well.   It has been wonderful to hear how we have inspired people to travel or make changes in their lives or do things they didn’t feel able to do before.

For 2017, whilst there is plenty happening on the home front, I am hoping that we will get an 8 week ride in the summer.   For now the decision is definitely Europe which will see us travel up into Russia and then down to Gibraltar and back again (map embedded below).    The world of Europe is becoming dangerous and it may not even be viable by the time we get to summer, so the USA is our back up plan and we will do it 2018 if Europe is a go for this year.  I wish I could be more committed, but things are changing fast and it is impossible to have a crystal ball to know how things are going to look in 6 months time.  All I do know is that once Europe starts to collapse into violence, it will be a long time before travel is going to be possible with any degree of realistic safety.  The violence is inevitable now, it is just a question of when.. this coming year, the next year, or the year after – all are possibilities.  So I think we go now whilst the going is still good.

Thank you everyone for following our adventures this year, and I hope you stick around to watch us in 2017!   if you would like to donate, please feel free to do so at the Virgin money giving link on the right had side of this page.

Hope you have a wonderful 2017!

Familiar Territory

The principle reason for choosing Africa to travel is because I was born in Africa.  Whilst I’ve been in Europe for over 30 years now, it is still very much a part of who I am, and where I feel safest.   An important factor when undertaking a journey like this.

As soon as we entered Zambia, I was starting to feel familiarity with my surroundings.  The Msasa trees and kids in khaki school uniform.  It had been raining, so the vegetation was lush and the ride in the truck down to Lusaka was dotted with abundant produce, there was so much I felt sorry for the sellers, I don’t think they could give it away and wondered about how much would rot before they had a chance to sell it.

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Picking up bike from workshop – Me, Ginty Melvil and Bobby van de Merwe
The bikers of Lusaka gave as a warm welcome, and we were well looked after (esp. Ginty the President of FIM North Africa who accommodated us in his lovely guest cottage).  Bobbie did a fantastic job fixing our structural problem, in fact, he improved upon what we had been riding with, which was great!  and together they raise $1000 USD to help cover the costs of the fix, which left a little left over in much needed cash to help us on our way.

Our troubles were not to be so easily fixed however, and a new twin coil later we continued to Kariba for Easter, and a needed break on home turf of happy memories and great weather.  Crossing Kariba Dam Wall has been a bucket list item since I was a child and there we were in our less than reliable sidecar outfit actually doing it!   At the other side, I stopped to take it all in and were immediately surrounded by an audience, shocked to hear that we were travelling from England.  It is funny how the shock gets bigger and bigger the further south we go!

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Easter was spent on the lake where Sofia landed her first fish, and for the first time actually put her face in water.  Something she has always been too afraid to do.  She was also very nervous about getting into a small speed boat, but once out on the waves bouncing she couldn’t keep the smile off her face.

We set off from Kariba in time to make World Autism Awareness Day in Harare where the bikers were organising a ride out for us to visit local events.  But even this journey didn’t go without hitch as it was discovered that the rear wheel bearing that had been done in Lusaka had been done incorrectly!  the whole assembly had started to fall apart!

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It took a while to work out what all the broken pieces of the assembly and where they belonged
Aside from being utterly livid because I had said that they should check the correct assembly before doing it as it was different, I was distraught at having yet another problem to deal with.  I was still running with an intermittent power problem that was a total mystery, so this was just about finishing me off.

Fortunately I discovered this parked outside a hotel where we had stopped for breakfast.  The manager as an absolute angel, and very calm and confident that a solution would be found.  He drove me around town find bits and people, and finally at 8pm at night we had finished the fix.

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Well met by the bikers of Harare – such a huge relief after such a difficult journey!
So next morning, once again we set off. I was determined this time we were going to enter a capital city on our own wheels instead of a truck, like the last 3.  We stopped 3 times due to power, but persisted, and were happily met by Natalie and the bikers to be escorted in.  Such a happy moment, and wonderful that others could observe what was happening with the bike.  It was embarrassing then to discover that reason for the next to power losses, were due to no petrol!

The main things was, that we made it.  Limping as we were, we arrived in Harare on our own wheels, and even better, surrounded by new friends ready to help sort out our problems.  It was a time to celebrate!