Tuesday, 21 June 2011

If I knew then what I knew now... (Scott)

There is an old Faces track I like to use for conference final slide shows, Ooh La La (http://tinyurl.com/5r77l2l) which has the great line: "If I knew then what I know now" which is a good start to this final tale of naivety, near misses and boys own adventure.

So here goes.

SatNav is a good idea in larger towns. It's not just the losing time but the frustration which saps your will to live.
Rotterdam for example was truly awful both times. Apparently when lost Tim says even with a full face helmet I look grumpy and pissed off. Too right, it's an arse of a place to navigate. Maps strapped on the front rack are fine, but with a Vespa you end up having to switch off the engine as the vibrations at idle make it hard to read, so stopping every five minutes, off with the engine and gloves, 5 mins to find yourself, and then repeat is strength sapping.

An iPhone should never be used with international data roaming with Google maps. Hello £20... Good bye £20. We were a little lost in Parma (of the ham fame) so I quickly checked where we were, and how to get back on to our road. 4 minutes, tops. O2 are (or really remain) thieving bastards.

Pack wisely. We bought half of Halfords with us, which I don't regret. But we also bought too much security equipment, about 4kg worth each) which we could have left behind. I think I packed rather well the with rest of the equipment, but probably could have taken out 4 kgs of SLR camera and accessories. To get a camera out of your waterprood kit bag just takes too long to unstrap remove, take and then stow again. I needed just something small like a Canon Powershot G12 (http://tinyurl.com/5rvy25q) which has SLR control but in a compact factor which can fit inside your jacket.
Shame, we saw some awesome stuff, and the iPhones just didn't cut the mustard.

Get more than one pair of gloves, or silk glove liners. Tim had a pair of the black murderers' silk gloves on inside his motorcycle ones, which helped slide on his gloves beautifully. Mine were just normal winter gloves which officially stink now. They got so sweaty I couldn't get them on without a struggle at each stop. Vented summer gloves are a good idea too. If it had been cold and raining, which was entirely on the cards, my gloves would have been perfect. It wasn't and they sucked. Two pairs is best. I got some summer weight Bering ones since getting back, and they are lovely, but the vibrations are much worse on the hands, so taking two sets would have been better.

Remember the old project management rule of thumb. Work out how long and how much as accurately as you can, and then double the time figure and add half again to the cost, and you'll be on time and under budget. Hook of Holland to Dusseldorf in 12 hours, without SatNav, was a haul. We wasted at least 2 hours with not knowing where the hell we were. If we had any mechanical mishaps we would have been in big trouble. We should have allowed at least 2 days.

Pick your companions wisely (bromance alert!) Tim and I were a great pair, and managed to buoy each other when under stress or nervous. It's hard to know until your on the road, but I was very lucky with Tim. He might say otherwise especially with my snoring. At least when we go to India we will be able to afford separate rooms. One thing I was very sure from the start, was that if everything did go seriously tits-up for one or both of us, we would have been able to make a plan somehow.

Love your machine. I was quite taken with the PX at the start of the trip, and absolutely smitten by the end. If you start hating the equipment, it turns into a grudge match. 

Mirrors in cars and on bikes in Genoa are only to be used for personal grooming. They aren't looking for you. Stay clear!

Life in the slow lane is sometimes just rather lovely. Riding down through a stunning gorge at 70 kmh instead of 120kmh in a car is awesome, you see much more.

All the hand-wringing and soul searching we did prior to departure was of some use (though we sounded like a pair of moaning minnies) we had put quite a lot of thought into the trip and prepared quite well, we treated the journey as something which could go quite badly, but we had explored a lot of possibilities and I think put us on a good footing.

Don't be a dick and run out of fuel, if you are getting down on juice, and pass a town which is 200m in from the main road, drive in and refuel. I was lucky to run out on the forecourt of a gas station, but it was stupid and could have cost us an hour very easily if Tim had to go and get some petrol for me. And it would have pissed him off too I imagine.

Don't rely on credit cards, the petrol stations in Holland and Italy didn't like Johnny Foreigner Visa cards.

Try and have fun. It's all great in retrospect. The last hour of getting into Dusseldorf and nearly missing the train was truly awful at the time. Great now. Sometimes you are riding along, your hands are sweaty, your bum is numb, the other drivers are sub-moronic and your stress level is through the roof, however all of a sudden you remember that you are riding a Vespa to Italy, another PX rider waves as he comes past the other way, and you remember how awesome it is to be you at that moment. 

And finally. Beware. Be very aware that any trip like this is only going to make you want to do more. In New Zealand we call it itchy feet syndrome. You have to get out there again, soon. I do about 100miles a week round London. That's rubbish, I want an adventure. We went to a Classic Car & Bike show on the weekend, and I saw a couple of Royal Enfields. I am sold on them, and the trip to India  to Chennai and Pondicherry can't come soon enough. I'm back to studying the highway code and doing mock tests for my full bike licence (and having L plates still on is rubbish!) 

Thank you all for listening. Thanks to all the lovely people that we met, our bunk-mates on the Auto Sleeper, and everyone else that made this trip so awesome. And happy travels. If you have a scooter trip blog let us know and we'll add a link to it on this blog for you. Just go out and do it, and make sure you blog about it... soon!