Monday, December 28, 2009

America and Canada 5 months experience

Hope Too in Sydney Airport.

We entered USA via Mexico on 26 June 2009. We met many nice people in Canada and USA.

The first person that talked to us was also a biker that wanted to invite us to her house but we are urged to go to Dave’s house for the night.

Dave was amazing. He hosted us and helped us in our biggest problem we had on this trip. He introduced us to Gary and Heather, which Hope Too was hospitalized there for about 19 days before the engine finally broke down.

When Hope Too was broken down along side of the highway, we actually received help from 3 different people but we did not get them to help because Gary was coming to pick us up to the nearest motel on the next exit.

We felt very homely when we stayed with Leo, Helen and Michael after flying to Boston with a backpack for the tree conference. Over at New York which we got there by bus, we were rejoiced to meet Waimun.

when we flew back to Dave’s house, the ‘new’ engine arrived at Houston. it was Mike Bui, someone that I do not know personally, recommended me to MPH cycles where Mike Haven helped me to repair Hope Too for free!

Our first destination with Hope Too after his recovery was Dallas, meeting a fellow Singaporean that had stayed in USA for some time, his name is Aaron.
the writing till here, I suddenly felt bored. Not because the last topic was about Aaron but because the way I am writing, too longwinded.

ok, lets start all over again:

Our 5 months USA and Canada experience:

we met many nice people in USA

Gary & Heather
the 3 person that offer us help when Hope Too broke down along the highway.
the lady that I hitchhiked with.
The old couple that brew us coffee when we were staying at the campsite of Rhode Island.
Leo and his family.
Waimun in NY to catchup with.
The black lady, unknown name. we were ‘lost’ when someone did not promise to come and fetch us from the airport, she guided us on taking bus and nagged at the bus driver so that we can get the ride for free.
Mike Bui.
MPH Cycles and Mike Haven.
Aaron Thor.
Bill, helped on our tire puncture repair.
The friends we made during the Horizons Unlimited Bike Traveler’s meeting. (many)
Karen Rutherford and Fred Walti.
Blanca and Jim Williams.
Tom Mclnally
Mary Pint and John Willcox.
Lawrance Pevec.
Peter Kiss.
Drew and Dave Gottenborg.
Joshua Briggs.
Ian Stewart.
Eric Stieglitz.
Luigi Chiarani.
Christ Ratay.
Dr Greg Fraizer.
Mark Weeding and Rosana.
Bill in Arizona.
Derek Jou.
Another Bill and wife near Las Vegas.
Tara and Bruce at Yosemite.
Thor Anderson and Jerry.
Richard and Jacqueline.
Sonia, Taiwanese lady we met at Cresent City.
Duncan Badine and friends.
Patti and Herb Harsch.
Longbeach motorsports.
The bus driver that guided us in LA after we sent in Hope Too to the warehouse.
Jose, that drove us to the freight forwarder when we can’t catch a bus or taxi in time.
The Chinese couple we stayed with in LA.

Don Serl and family.
The guy that bought us lunch.

Other than that, we also met some NOT very nice people, that gave us a lot of problems. to quote a few:

Houston motorcycle exchange (VERY NASTY)
Truck rental company, U-haul, in Houston.
Subway sandwich in Rhode Island. Did we tell you the story about that?
Custom officers in Canada: fine us for CAD$1000 because of their EGO.
A police officer in Califonia.
The customs of USA: Accused us for smuggling the bike into USA when we wanted to fly out to Australia.
‘Swindle’ Logistic Company in LA (THE WORST).

we spent a lot of money going to north America. from the start when we were back in Singapore, the USA embassy took US$100 from Samantha and did not approve the visa. from that incident, we were not very keen on going USA. 1 year later, after hearing many travel stories from fellow bikers that went to USA, that motivated us to apply for the visa again. we spent another US$300 for that visa and luckily it was approved. we also spent about $1400 to buy air tickets out of USA 6 months in advance for the visa application.

the more painful things began in Houston Motorcycle Exchange where we spend about $245 on them for something that I can DIY and still having the problem unsolved. that led me to look for Gary, were we spent 19 days repairing the bike, that we have to include the living expenses, and buying of parts for the repair. on that 19 days we spent about US$1000.
After the breakdown, we had to stay in a motel and rent a truck back to Houston, that cost another $300. then we have to buy airticket to Rhode Island because we couldn’t ride there in time for the conference, that cost another $930. another $230 for car rental.

when the engine arrived in Houston, we have to rent a truck $150. then another $1200 for the engine and custom clearance.

we spent another $800 to change the date of our airticket out of USA.

On just the broke down of engine in USA cost us US$4855 from what we calculated from the above. That was excluded from the aftermath of it. Then our plan was delayed for 2 months for everything. going to Alaska and Canada 2 months late was expensive too. We had to stay in expensive lodging because of the weather. even we go back to the south, in USA, there were many places we couldn’t visit because we were 2 months late and again, we had to pay $$$ to stay indoors instead of traveling. all these extra lodging due to the weather cost us about $300.

then it comes to the ‘swindle’ freight forwarder that took about extra $1000 on top of the initial quote.

don’t forget about the CAD$1000, we are still fighting for this case. the officer that we are fighting with is tough because if we win, it will affect her job.

so the most important question:

was it worth going to USA and Canada after all these troubles?

answer: YES!

will we go back to USA or Canada again?

answer: the only reason that we would go back would be the friends there.

so now, whats happening to us here in Australia.

we arrived on 28 November 2009. till date, our fund is almost dry. so we wanted to cross Australia as fast as possible to Darwin and go to East Timor and Indonesia where standard of living would be much affordable for us. BUT BUT BUT: going north now is the worst season. Rain, flood, extreme dry in certain places, cyclone and terrible roads. No bikers would want to go north now till mid march 2010.

our visa in Australia will expire on 26 February 2010. we have to pay A$250 each to extend the visa. I heard from a fellow biker, he extend his Australia visa for another 12 months, he had to pay the A$250 and had to proof to the officials that he had at least A$12000 in his bank. He did it. we don’t think we are able to show this amount of money and it would be a pain to pay A$500 just to extend the visa for 2 months.

what about going south now?

it would be a good time to stay in the south now but we can’t travel because we do not have enough money. so we are staying in a friend’s (Steve Smith) house, apply for a working holiday visa now and will go and find work after all these holiday seasons are over.

meanwhile, Steve would be busy doing his paperwork for his business and had less time with us, he suggested us to move to his friend’s (Paul) house, near Kilkivan, Queensland, to stay while I can practice on my chainsaw skills there for a couple of week.

Paul lived in the bush. there isn’t running water or electricity but there would be plenty of dead trees to cut and practice.

we will be at:

S 26° 14.476’
E152° 14.756’

from 30th December 2009 till maybe 10th January 2010 before coming back to Steve’s place at:

S 26° 42.014’
E152° 56.645’

the problems we had now was due to a chain reaction. It started off with the lost Hope in October 2007.

If I were not to visit my friend’s father at a Malaysia’s hospital, Hope will not be stolen.
then we will not be getting Hope Too,
then we would not had spent so much money on Hope Too and all the stupid repairs,
then we would not be 2 months late.
then we would have enough money,
then… lesson learn:

don’t visit your friend’s father in Malaysia’s hospital where he get into motorcycle accident while riding with his friend and his friend left him alone in the hospital and come back to singapore, that caused his son and his friend (me) to go and settle the case and take care of him? no.

don’t go to Malaysia with your motorcycle? no.

I learned to double and triple lock my bike and belongings. just a lock at that time could save us so many things. I am still upset over the lost Hope and when all these problem we face now, even everyday riding Hope Too, it linked to the day when Hope was stolen. Up till today, Hope Too is giving us problem (like a stone in the shoe) and we do not know when he is going to break down on the road again. We have no confident on him. Nobody here knows how to repair Hope Too even they are willing to repair, it cost a lot of money for their labour.

we are just waiting for time to pass now, till all these holidays are over and could look for a job and working visa, that allow us to go home.

Plan always don’t work out so we have to plan of some other plans along the way.
Mr Lou, we stayed with him in LA. He loves real spicy food!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

australia christmas

we are at steve smith home, north of brisbane. palmwoods 4555. lots of things to do here. everyday we are busy with steve. he's training me on chainsaw while we stayed here. we are waiting for the season to be better in the north which it's having cyclone now. will wait till march.

well, merry xmas, here's a video for u guys!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Santa Barbara and with Duncun Bardine

Thank you Yi Lin, Marisol, Tuc, Andrea & Thomas (swiss) and Vigor for leaving your comment on our blog. it just kept us going... for more postings!
We also like to thank Mr LOH NYEN YIU of Singapore for his generous donation.
Pictures by William Holland.

Pictures by William Holland.

Picture by William Holland.

Mulholland highway, near LA.

Every satuarday there will be many many bikers going to this natural track. look at his knee guard. he really slided alot with it.

Professional photographer (mr William Holland, the one with the red shorts) will take this chance at Mulholland highway to take pictures. He made his promise after taking pictures of us and did sent us his shots on the same day. Unlike the lady we met in Death Valley. See the first 3 pictures.

anyone knows what does it means and where it came from? 'i need a miracle'. Duncan explained to us!

Along the road, we met fellow bikers again! The Germans!

Axel rode from Germany to Nepal, then flew his bike to Australia and also rode around New Zealand where Katarina came over to meet him as what they planned. Katarina bought a Yamaha 600 in Australia and they shipped their bike to Canada, then they went south. They were on their way to Argentina. We exchanged informations. Axel and Katarina gave us info on Australia where we gave them about Latin America!

Teddy had new friends now! Too bad they were not in facebook.
This was the first night we camped together. the nearest campsite was US$35 so we shared. till the next morning, no one came and collect money from us and we rode away. anyway, we are not the only people doing this. US$35 for a campsite is really ridiculas. Please keep this a secret.

so it was early morning 8am, we rode back onto Highway one and it was a single lane highway. Speed limit was 60mph and we were traveling at 55mph. Axel was the lead, followed by Katarina and we were the vehicle. On my mirror, i observed there were about 5 cars following behind us. I tried to slow down for them to overtake but the immidiate car behind me wasn't confident enough, causing a 'convoy'. Then a police car came behind me with his siren on, instructing us to stop.

Axel went off, Katarina stopped and i stopped aside. The policeman came out of the vehicle and started YELLING AT ME:






I just gave him a silly smile and he was really pissed off and went back to his car, made a u-turn leaving the dust created by his tires and zoommed off.

we were more pissed off with him. there wasn't any signage of 'to stop aside and let the vehicle to pass' or any other special instructions/rules. we were not speeding as we were traveling 5mph below the speed limit.


An elderly came to talk to us when 4 of us were eating breakfast outside a supermarket. Herb Harsch was curious about us and was eager to show us his toys. He invited us to his house for a hot chocolate and introduced us to his wife, Patti Harsch (above). Patti was a belly dancing teacher. she also made costume for belly dancer. Herb (below) was retired but he had alot of toys!

his most reason toy is the Buell. though he is 85 years old, he kept many younger bikers on the road behind him with his new toy.

Herb had a collection of motorcycle. one of the most intresting one was a Japanese made with boxer engine shown below.

We went furthur south to Santa Barbara to meet Duncan. Remember the 'strange' guy we met in Harbin Springs?

Meeting Duncan was like a red carpet invitation. He had posted a small signboard for us. Duncan had a special life. on the 2nd morning in Harbin, i told him about our plans to go LA to look for a crate for Hope Too, he took out his writing pad instantly to drop down notes of the specification that i needed.

few days later, i recived an email from him about the crate. he is a person of action. when we first him, i told Sam that this guy is abit crazy but after some time, thou he is crazy, he is a high energy person with good responsibility. he knows how to take care of people around him. if you meet him, you will realise that what he have now is thro his experiences and good analysis skills. I see him as somebody that could change the world if he really wants to.

Duncan brought us to visit Santa Barbara's attraction.

Santa Barbara is really beautiful. Nice sunset with good company of friends!

nice sunset!

Duncan's way of living is very special. you have to go Santa Barbara to see him and be his friend!

The next day, he brought us to ride some nice route around the region where he linked us up with his buddy, Christ. we had take away lunch at the beach.

Before saying goodbye to Duncan and Christ, we told him that we wanted to camp in USA for the last time before reaching LA. The campsite around the area was expensive. we have:

4 person and 3 motorcycles.

total fee for us to camp in the site was US$49.00

a camp site cost US$25.00

it only allows one vehicle in the site. so we have 2 extra 'vehicles' and it would be US$12 per extra vehicle.

it doesn't makes sense. these campsite are non-motorcycle friendly. the space of 3 of our motorcycle takes up much smaller than those camper vehicle (size of a bus, towing a car) and we are paying more than them!

we gave up the idea and took up Christ's invitation and stayed with him for a night.

After saying goodbye to Axel and Katarina on the next morning, we went into LA, where we had early arrangement to a home stay with a Chinese family.

They were really easy going. thou we are paying US$30 a night (we spend 11 nights in LA) for a private room with internet but they treat us like their children. they will invited us for their dinner sometimes, brought us around the town, and send us off to the airport. it's more than what a landlord should do.

Mr and Mrs Luo.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Highway 1, confusion hill, where is gravity?

We would like to thank Tom Tran, Arnold Posadas, Cong Trinh, Tuc Huynh and Paul Wetmore of San Jose, USA, especially Tuc Huynh for organizing.

Thank you!

In most other countries, diesel is often the black colored handle and unleaded fuel is the green colored handle. be very careful in USA where it it the opposite. i nearly fed Hope Too with diesel.

The Highway 1, costal route of north Califonia.

Enjoying the morning breeze and the sunshine.

It is not uncommon to see these friends along the road, trying to get to the other side where the grasses are better.

Highway 1 of Califonia.

A tree house.

Big foot were most common spotted in this area. the above is just a model of big foot.

This is a grandfather tree.

can u see the sea lions lying around?

log house... we did not enter because there was an entrance fee to it but taking picture is free!

the most intresting place we went to is this confusion hill.

look at the above picture, we are stepping on the same level, witnessed by the red water level, both slabs were at equal height.

when we change over, it seems that who ever standing on the right slab will be taller. why? both slabs are levelled.

Another part of the confusion hill, where micheal jackson can do the moonwalk, so can i.

Sam can do it too!

during our USA and Canada trip, we get to be intrested in the Smokey Bear.

To us, thou Smokey is just a cartoon but it helps to educate everyone about fire.

the world tallest chainsaw curving. it's outside confusion hill.

After being satisfied with the big red woods, we went back to Thor's place for a night. Next morning, we set off to the south, towards Los Angeles but we can take about 5 days to reach LA which is about 400miles (640km). our first stop away from Thor's place in San Francisco is San Jose, where we visited the NASA musuem and just hang around. We got to meet Tuc.

Tuc known us from a motorcycle forum and read our blog. We have not seen him before but we recived an email from him that if we are passing by San Jose, please give him a call.

We met up with Tuc in the evening and we followed his car to a Vietnamese restaurant. We were with Tom Tran , Arnold Posadas, Cong Trinh, Tuc Huynh and Pual Wetmore (not in the picture).
Tuc and Cong were bikers too. They were all colleagues. Arnold is from Phillipines and Paul is from USA. The rest of the three were from Vietnam. Over the dinner, Tuc told us story about his childhood where he had to flee out of Vietnam by boat and how they were adopted by international groups. Cong was only 1 year old when his parent flee out of Vietnam. It was a terrible truth and a sad story. After hearing this, Sam and I felt very lucky to be born in other parts of the world.

This is the first time where we had dinner with everyone using chopsticks. Friends at home (asia) may think that it is so common but to us, we had not have dinner with 'chopsticks' people for a long time!

After dinner, Tuc arranged us to stay in a motel (a very good one) and paid for it! We also went to a local coffeeshop. the coffeeshop is like a pub, with music and karaoke, with games machine and sexy waiteress. over there, we had coffee and have a nice chat. This kind of coffeeshop trend was brought over from Vietnam. Since there were a hugh number of Vietnamese community here (demand), then there would be a coffeeshop here (supply).

We do not known them well and they just invited us for dinner and paid for everything.

crippled or handicapped birds?

Along the costal route to Los Angeles.

It would be nicer without the fog from the Pacific Ocean.

It is common to see vegetable farms along the route between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Riding thro, we could smell the fresh vegetables. We saw them harvesting the product. Who are the workers that do all these hard labour? Without the Mexican migrants, the vegetable we ate in USA will be more expensive!

NASA center in San Jose is free of charge. we get a chance to be 'on the moon'.

The 'chopsticks' people!