Wednesday, July 23, 2014


The bike had pinned me. No matter how I tried to scoot I was trapped. And I was not able to use my right arm to help pull me out.  I knew the rear wheel had come out from under me, but I could not figure out how it had happened as I tried to get out from under the running machine. 

My Mongolian summer stopped abruptly 3 hours east of Bayan Olgii, Mongolia about 11:45 a.m. on Wednesday July 9. Our group consisted of Tom Bosman, my Belgian roommate and travel companion for the past 40 days, Uwe the German motorcycle mechanic working in Sweden, Chris the Australian adventure rider, and Thomas, the German engineer with enough guts to travel to Mongolia by himself.
The Road to Bayan Olgii from Russia

 We had met two days earlier on the Russian-Mongolian border high in the Altai. It did not take long for everyone to agree that it was safer and best to travel as a group. So after a long and cold border crossing we had checked into the Blue Wolf Gert Camp in Bayan Olgii for a couple days and were underway on Wednesday morning. It was just about lunch time and we were looking for the lakeshore to have lunch. 

There are few paved or maintained gravel roads in Mongolia, or so I had been told. There were a few short stretches of paving near major towns. But we were nowhere near a town and had been on dirt all morning. So I was not surprised when we had to cross a dry wash. It was a bit steep and the approaches were rutted, but did not look dangerous. As I got on the opposite side I had to ride the crest of some erosion, and when I did my rear wheel lost some traction just as my front hit a crevice. So the front stopped. The rear kept going. And I ended up underneath.
Mongolia for as far as the eye can see

The impact tore my right pannier off the bike, drove my right shoulder into the rocky soil separating my arm in the socket, and landed on my right foot tearing the leather off the boot and spraining the ankle. I yelled for someone to turn off the bike, which was done and then the machine was pulled off of me. I thought it would be alright until I took off my coat and felt the huge lump on my right shoulder. This would not be good.

The decision was made to go to what looked like a village about 2 km away to seek some help. I could not ride. About 30 minutes later a Toyota Land Cruiser appeared with “the Doctor”. The village was a Chinese titanium mine and the doctor was their medical officer. I did not ask to see his diploma or certificates. I was happy for any help. But it was all in Mongolian and Russian. They injected some pain killers and I sat there shirtless as time went by.

About 1 p.m. I was informed that this was a mine and that they could not use the company equipment to transport me to a hospital in Bayan Oglii. But they did not kick me out of the Land Cruiser.

Downtown Bayan Olgii
 By now Tom and the others had moved my bike to the mine. It was apparent there was not much my friends could do and I told them it was alright to go on without me. I thought I would have to hire a car from town to come out and get me. 
Then one of the miners asked if I would pay to ride to the hospital. They wanted $250. I said OK and a phone call was made. The lady on the phone spoke English and informed me they needed $200 to transport me to the hospital in Olgii. I said Ok and my stuff was loaded in the Toyota. I was taken back by three guys – the Doctor, the brothere of the lady on the phone , and another guy. 

For the next 2 ½ hours I bumped along back to Bayan Olgii. It was pretty brutal because by now my injuries were starting to really hurt. I could not lay down. I had to hang on with my remaining good arm.  

When we got to town I was not taken to the hospital. Instead I was informed the guys had to get back to the mine. So I dug out $200 and handed it over. I was loaded shirtless into the car of the lady, who spoke great English. Mairash and Tolepbergen, her husband, would eventually be my ticket out of Mongolia. She was going to take me to the State hospital but I said a private hospital was good too. So she brought me to Dr. Kabil. He took a look at me and figured out I had separated or dislocated the right shoulder. He injected pain killer and proceeded to pop me together. It was meatball medicine. No preliminary X-ray because that was at the state hospital. But after it was done he called his buddy at the state hospital and I was taken over there for X-ray just to make sure I had been put back together properly. It was explained, in  Mongolian, that I had no broken bones. So they did what they could for me. 

Then Mairash took me to the best hotel in town, which is not much. She told me that on the next day she would help me retrieve the motorcycle. And then I was on my own. I went out and filled a prescription for some pain killers given by the Dr. Kabil. I found some food and went to bed.

Mairash and Tolepbergan - took care of me and my bike

Thursday morning I slept in. My pain was now very intense. I looked at my riding boots and decided that they were toast. Even if I had wanted to ride out of Mongolia my boots would need to be replaced. But I was going nowhere. So I went over to the Blue Wolf to see if I could hire a guide who spoke English to help me get the bike out of Mongolia. This is where the story gets crazy. 

I had imported the bike as a temporary import. So that means I need to take it out with me. The Mongolians do not want old vehicles dumped in their country. So there is a hefty import tax for older vehicles. Mine would be about $2000. I thought that cannot be so. I showed up at the customs house with my translator and was called by Mairash, who had just been there. The guys who ran it were gone for a national holiday, which started the next day. They had just taken off early and would not be back until Wednesday the 17th. There was no way I wanted to sit in a hotel room in pain for 6 days. 

So Mairash and I went to a Notary and I gave her power to sell or give away the motorcycle so I could leave country. As it turned out I did not have to pay $2000. I also looked at transporting the bike to Ulan Bator (UB), and then to the USA. I got a best guess of $4000. 

By now MedJet had put together an evacuation plan that called for me to fly to UB on Saturday and on to the USA on Sunday.  So on Friday I hauled all my stuff to Mairash’s house. The bike was there. It kept blowing fuses, but I got that sorted out. Mairash was going to sell the bike, pay any duty, and send me the difference less some commission.

I later said I would pay the duty in UB at customs because they had to be open. When I got there they said customs was not open because of the national holiday, but it was OK to leave the country because I had the POA. They just assumed it would all be taken care of. So when I left on Sunday there were no customs officers. There was not request for my customs declaration. I had been led to believe that I needed to present my arrival customs declaration upon departure. Not so.  

But the way it all settled out is this. I left all my stuff in Mongolia. I gave it all to Mairash and her husband Tolepbergen. I reckon they will sell it or keep and sort out all the import mess. And if they don’t, so what. Will I be banned from Mongolia? I’ll take my chances.  

When I got back to Omaha it all started to fall in on me. I had lost over 20 lbs. I was down to 155 lbs with a 31 inch waist. But I was suffering from exhaustion, jet lag, and shock. I am good for about 3 hours in the morning. After that I sleep. 

I am with the family in Colorado now resting up. 

I met some great people on this ride. Tom Bosman and I were thrown together in Baku. We survived some really bad experiences and some really great experiences together. I met Helge and Werner on the Pamir; and Thomas, Chris, and Uwe in Russia. I am not happy I crashed. But I am happy I took the trip. I will just take the recovery as it comes.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


Sorry - but the internet here is too poor to load photos
On July 7 at about 4 PM I entered Mongolia. It took seven hours at the Russian border to exit. A new world’s record, not even matched by Kazakhstan. I have no idea what the problem was. It just took forever. 

We had spent the last couple days in the Russian Altai region. It is a very beautiful place and would be worth a return trip. We stayed at a camp where many families spend some summer vacation. The Russians are very outdoor oriented. But it was rainy and cold in my opinion. That did not seem to hinder the Russian children. 

I met up with another group of bikers while waiting at the border and we have decided to travel together. So Tom Bosman and I are now with Uwe (German working in Sweden), Chris (Brit living in Austalia), and Thomas (German). We are all headed in the same direction, Ulaan Baator. 

When we left Russia the weather changed instantly to an ice storm that left the dirt road on the Mongolian side covered in about an inch of slush. I do not want the trip to sound harder than it is; but no matter what, driving in ice is lousy. It is not adventure. It is just difficult. We made it to the Mongolian immigration/customs border from the No Man’s Land between the two countries of about 17 Km, and it just poured cold rain. My supposedly water proof First Gear Jacket became decidedly not water proof. And I froze. 

So I was in no hurry to clear Mongolian customs and immigration and go back in the weather. Then we got a break. As we finished up buying insurance (in the rain), it started to clear. We took off for Oglii, the next town of any size. The weather got better. The road got better. But there were still long stretches of dirt and gravel. 

We made it to Oglii and got settled. By now it was apparent my bike had problems, again. I had broken a weld –not a big deal. But I also was showing signs of an oil leak. And my tires had some slits in them. 

We checked into the Blue Wolf Gert Camp, and we got some Gerts (Yurts). And that is where I am now.  

I spent the morning sorting out the weld and mechanical issues. They are somewhat solved. This means I filled the tire cracks with super glue and intend to carry on to Ulaan Baator. I am prepared mentally to break down and hire a truck. But I really want to avoid that – Duh! The oil leak seems to be solved; and I bought more oil just in case. 

So far the roads are OK. That means I have had normal scary moments on gravel. But after Tajikistan my self-confidence is much higher. 

Oh, by the way, Mongolia is not warm. It was pretty cold here. Tom says it was about 36 degrees Fahrenheit when we came into Mongolia. Last night was chilly in the Yurt. But the sun is shining and life is good right now. 

My blog depends on the availability of internet. So just hang in there. It will probably be 3 or 4 days until I get a connection again.

Friday, July 4, 2014


Siberia is wonderful. I never thought I would utter those words. But I was so happy to enter Russia. The food is great. The roads are superb. The people are hospitable, and some downright friendly. 

Let me bring you up to date. Tom and I had one last bout of food poisoning on the way out of Kazakhstan. Tom is the best barfer. But I am a better bowel voider. Both of us are thin and stringy after a month of riding in Central Asia. We were basically starving to death because we would have repeated episodes of food poisoning or some other intestinal ailment. So we spent last weekend in Almaty, Kazakhstan, a truly great city looking for real food. 

Almaty has everything and is very European with an Asian flare. We found good food and the hostel was nice too. We thought we were cured.  

We left on Monday, and the road was not too bad for Kazakhstan. But after about 200 km it was apparent that I had blown out my right front fork seal. Not good. I carry the parts, but a shop is needed to complete repairs. So I watched fork oil seep out for the next 4 days.

Then we ate a bad pizza at a hotel on Tuesday night. By Wednesday afternoon we knew we were in trouble. Tom had been laid low in Osh, Kyrgyzstan for 3 days the week before, and I had troubles in Bishkek before my infamous border incident. (Remember they would not let me in Kazakhstan).

Victor - Savior of Motos

The shop - with hangers on

Fellow Bikers heading to a rally
On Thursday the 3rd of July we crossed into Russia. I am in now in Barnaul. Barnaul is three time zones East of Moscow and four West of Vladivostok. So it is like Omaha - only further from a Starbucks.
Tom got new tires today, the 4th. I had my forks rebuilt by Victor, the famous Russian bike mechanic known worldwide to over landers for his ability to repair most any bike. I also got a new chain. That may not sound like a big deal to most of you. But it made me a very happy guy. I can now rest without worrying that my chain will snap in Mongolia.

Asian Russia does not feel like Asia. It is more like Minnesota speaking Russian. And that means the gnats and mosquitos are also here. The farms are huge and I now understand the wealth of Russian agriculture. The roads are so perfect that I suspect they use Gomaco pavers to put down asphalt. 

I do not have many pictures because there is not much to photograph. Kazakhstan was much like the Nebraska Sandhills for the last 2 days. Except that the potholes in the roads are a constant menace. And Siberia looks like Northern Iowa and southern Minnesota from the seat of a motorcycle. So just get out your family albums with the pictures of Esterville, Iowa and you will see the same thing.

That all ends in the next 2 days. We leave tomorrow for the Altai region, and then enter Western Mongolia. The roads end. Mongolia is not paved for the first thousand plus kilometers on this side. As we approach Ulaan Baator there is asphalt – or so we are informed.

Thus, I will be off the radar for about ten days.  I do not expect much WiFi or internet until I reach Ulaan Baator. So do not worry because I do not post. It is just the world as it was before Al Gore invented the internet.

Saturday, June 28, 2014


The Kazakhstan immigration officer on the Uzbek border three weeks ago almost ended my trip when he stamped my passport. The stamp meant nothing to me, except that I had officially checked out of Kazakhstan. To the Kazakhstan immigration authorities it mean much more. 

So let me tell you how I spent a blistering hot Friday stuck in limbo on the Kyrgyzstan-Kazakhstan border.  

I had a very good ride from Osh to Bishkek Kyrgyzstan over 2 days. The road was near perfect. I was high on the back side of the Himalayas. Yurts and horse herds dotted the landscape as I descended to the capital. 

So my life was going swimmingly as I left for the border on Friday morning. Tom and I did not expect any big problems; just the regular search of all our belonging two or three times. 

I had made it out of Kyrgyzstan and was going through Kazak immigration with my two year multi-entry visa that had been used for all of 4 days in the beginning of the month. Then the immigration officer said to me “Go back Kygyzstan – visa closed.”  I told him “no –multi entry” in both English and Russian. But he insisted that the stamp I had received three weeks earlier by some exit officer had canceled my visa. I would not be allowed to proceed. The immigration officer said I could go back to Aktau or Bayneu and get the officer to remove the stamp. That made no sense because I was not being allowed into Kazakhstan, so how could I go to Kazakhstan to get the exit officer to fix things. 

All this time Tom was being processed and was going to gain entry in due course. He had a double entry visa with the same stamp. But apparently for a multi entry visa the stamp canceled the remainder of the visa. Go figure. 

This was not good. It was about 90 degrees by now, 11 am. I had been at the border since 10 am.  And it did not look like the immigration officer was going to relent. I explained that I was riding a motorcycle; and that there was no where to go. I could not go back to Uzbekistan, because I have no visa to an adjoining country. I was stuck. So I just stayed there. 

In about 20 minutes the immigration officer came out, got my paper work and said “follow me”. I was then brought into the inner sanctum of Kazakhstani immigration and customs. The office was well run, and most of the people in charge were women. The people working the line outside were all guys. But the brains were female. One of them spoke good English and listed to my story. She said “not to worry”. Yeah – Right. I was told to stand “here” under the stairs, and so I did for an hour. Then I was brought upstairs to a real office. Here I met the captain who ran the entire operation. My case had gone to the top. A female officer bluntly told me that I had to name the “port” where I left Kazakhstan, or I could not be helped. I left Kazakhstan in the middle of a desert, and there was not a town for over 90 km located in Kazakhstan. I asked for a map and showed the town. That helped me remember the “port”, which meant post. It worked. 

There was a lot of conversation in Russian, most of which I could not understand. But I was watching the captain and I distinctly heard the word “idiot” on several occasions while referring to the exit officer. It was apparent to everyone that the exit office had just blindly stamped the visa three weeks earlier and had not looked to see it was a multi entry visa. 

Phone calls were made. People were not available. I was ushered to a more comfortable office. I asked for water at 1:30 pm. The officers found water for me right away and then were very apologetic as they offered me some of their lunch. More time went by. The immigration officer who had originally refused my entry now referred to me as “Martin”.  I actually thought I would spend some time in custody for refusing to move or go back to Kyrgyzstan. He said to me “No. I help you.” And so he did. 

About 2:30 he took me to the toilet. Pretty Spartan arrangement. Then he handed me my passport with a big stamp across the original cancellation stamp that I think says “annulled” or something to that effect. The captain had been able to move the system and get authority to fix the act of the “the idiot”, a/k/a exit officer. I now have my multi entry status back. 

By now it was over 100 degrees. It was about 2:45.  But there was still processing. So I was searched again – twice. Then I was sent on my way. About 3 p.m. the gates opened and I entered Kazakhstan for the second time.  

So what happened to Tom?  Well he had been told to move along, and was not allowed access to the area I was being held. So he left a note on my tank bag with the coordinates of the hostel in Almaty. Then he hoped for the best.  

I showed up in Almaty about 7:30. The ride was scalding hot. It was the first time on the trip I shed my armored jacket because it was just too hot. When I got some altitude and the temperature dropped I put it back on. But driving bumper to bumper in Almaty in the driving jacket, grueling heat, and no real food since breakfast was sapping. 

Now it is Saturday. If one reads the information from the US embassy in Astana it would appear that US citizens are registed at entry in Kazakhstan. Let me back up. Kazakhstan requires all all foreigners to register within 5 days of arrival with the immigration police. The US consular information says US citizens arriving by air and through land crossings a designated “ports” are automatically registered. I do not know about air, but the land crossings do not register Americans. 

So Tom and I had to find the immigration police and get registered. I was not too bad. It cost about 5 cents to make a copy of our passports, and the lady at the copy machine then filled in our forms. It is all in Russian. For those of you interested in what the paper works really needs to look like, I have photos. This is what you need: 

The saga continues. The Kazakhstan officials went out of their way to solve a problem not of their making. The young immigration officer did not have to go higher or bail me out. But he did. I gave him my card and told him he has a friend in the USA. I hope he contacts me. I would like to thank him properly.

Monday, June 23, 2014


It has been a long time since I have been able to write. I am sitting in the Biy Osco Hotel in Osh, Kyrgyzstan. I am eleven hours difference from Omaha and basically sitting on the other side of the world. This post will be different from the others because a lot has happened since Khiva, Uzbekistan when I was last able to post. 

The people in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan are wonderful until they get behind the wheel of a car. Then their personality changes to aggressive egomaniacs. I thought I had seen some poor driving habits in Central America. Central Asia has now taken the lead. 


Tom and I escaped Uzbekistan. The place is a police state with a lot of left over Soviet thinking. The cities of Khiva, Buhkara, and Samarkand can each be seen in 4 hours if you are interested in the leftovers from the Silk Road Era. But be prepared to be stopped and exhibit passport and bike registration at all internal police checkpoints. No one was ever rude, but it became apparent that all foreign travelers would be logged as they made their way around the country. 


I could not enter Tajikistan until June 14, so we ended up sitting on our duffs for a couple extra days in Samarkand. That was a waste. But the Emir Hotel/Hostel was good. We finally had enough and headed for the border.   

A word about money in UZ. It is hard to come by US dollars. But that is the currency of exchange. I found one working ATM in the entire country at Kapital Bank on Busigina Str. in Samarkand. At least I think that is the name of the street. An employee at another bank wrote it down for me and I gave it to a taxi driver. I was able to get US dollars and refresh my supply. But there is a rub. When you enter UZ you must make a customs declaration that includes prescription drugs, motorcycle, and all foreign currency. Then when you leave you must make the same declaration. If you have more currency of any nation or EU going out than coming in there is a big problem. Read the US consulate warning and country information in this regard.  

For example, if you declare $2000 coming in and declare $2001 leaving, then there are fines and confiscation. And there is no mix and match. So, if you come in with 500 Euros and USD 1000, you cannot leave with Euros 600 and USD 100; even though you have less value in foreign currency. We found that out the hard way at the border leaving. The guy let us “amend” our declaration. Otherwise I would be writing this on toilet paper from an Uzbek cell. 


On June 12 we left UZ and entered Kyrgyzstan. We were searched on the way out of UZ. The guards took my hard drive and it took about an hour before they returned it. So it took two or three hours to get out of UZ. It took about 15 minutes to clear immigration and customs in Kyrgyzstan. Then we entered Osh, which is just chaos for driving. 

After about 2 hours of going around and getting separated, we found the hostel. The next morning we checked in at Muztoo Central Asia Travel Company. Patrik Zimmerman is a Swiss national running an adventure motorcycle tour company in Osh and also stores and repairs bikes for travelers. or contact Patrik direct at He has a full stable of good Yamaha endure motorcycles and can arrange tours of the Pamirs. His prices seem very reasonable for what he provides. Also, Osh is cheap to get to. The flights connect through Istanbul.
We left our computers and any other unneeded items at Muztoo and left for the Pamirs. I had developed a bad steering bearing, and the part would come in on June 22. So I figured I would just ride the Pamir highway with the little catch in my bearing, which I did. It never became worse. And  I actually got used to it. But at the time I was scared and worried that the Pamir would defeat me, and the bike, and I would have to haul both of us back in a truck. 

We headed down the road to Sary-Tash in KRG. When we got to the town ot Sopu-Korgun the locals had blocked the road in some type of protest. We talked to them, and they were friendly enough and did not treaten us at all. But it was also apparent they did not want traffic coming through because that defeated their protest. 
Welcome to the Pamirs

So we went down on the river bank and did a little off road riding with a water crossing. I eventually got on the other side of the bridge that was blocked and scooted between some Yurts that were set up in the middle of the road. Tom took the embankment and came up between some cars. But we both made it and went to Sary-Tash. 

In Sary-Tash we met Helge from Norway and Werner from Switzerland. Also Marc from Spain. We would travel with Helge and Werner for the next 6 days. Lots of great pictures. Helge is on the BMW R1000 with the sidecar. Werner is on the Honda Africa Twin. Marc is on a bicycle! I am in awe of the bicycle riders doing this route. They are tough and smart, and lucky. It takes them 5 days to ride what we do in 1, but they have no support. And they have to carry all the food and gear too. 


On June 14 we entered Tajikistan – the hard way. We came up over the high pass. There really is no road for the last 15 km on the UZ side of the border. There is only a semblance of road for the next 30 km on the Tajik side. And much of the road is horrible washboard that just beat me to death. The road had an asphalt surface once left by the Russians, but it has got to hell. It was so bad that we changed our plans. Tom and I thought we would just do a loop in the Pamirs and come back the way we came. Neither of us wanted to go back over that crappy road again. So we went on to Dushanbe via Khorog. 

In Khorog we stayed at the Pamir Inn, where I had to set up my tent on the veranda because it was full of bikers and backpackers. 

We left there on June 17 for what turned out to be the hardest day ever. It started raining. There were water crossings where none existed a couple of minutes before. The mountains have no soil and shed water directly across the road. As I was dodging a hole and a rock, I clipped a rock outcrop with my right pannier and it was ripped off. It did not dump me. The pannier kind of survived with 2 cracks. 
We were headed to Kalik-Kum. That is a mere 230 km in a day, 130 miles. It took over 10 hours. It kept raining. Then there was a major water crossing. The water was gushing over the road. I took the lead and made the crossing. Then, I was headed for an embankment and did not have momentum to turn. I dumped the bike. All was well or could be fixed easily. 

But the road was taking a terrible toll on Tom and me, and our bikes. We had not eaten all day. And then my gas canister just broke off the bike from the constant vibrations and beating. 

The good part was travel with Helge and Werner and Tom. I could never have made this trip without Tom. And Werner and Helge were godsends on the Pamir. All these guys are way better on the bike than I am. I just give it gas and pray I come out on the other side. 

June 18 looked good. There was actually real asphalt road – for about 3 km. Then we hit the water crossing. The road got bad, which became a relative term.  “Bad” in my parlance now means potholes, water over the road, occasional muddy run, and barely enough room to clear an approaching truck. “Horrible” means I am scared to death, the bike is sliding in the mud, and a Chinese truck is bearing down on me with nowhere to pull off. The road got horrible. It started to rain on red clay. It was skiing on snot. I just prayed I would finally find some stone surface or broken asphalt. There was none. Then the rain stopped and the clay adhered to the bikes and us. 

We pulled into Dushanbe at about 6 pm after taking a wrong route through a closed tunnel looking like drowned rats (More later on tunnels).  

We stayed in Dushanbe the next day. I found a car wash and we blasted the red clay from the bikes.  

On June 20 we headed for the Kygyzstan border again, and the Tunnel of Death. Yes my friends there is such a place. On Tajik maps it is shown as “dangerous tunnel”.  There is no light. It is over 5 km long. There is no ventilation except one fan in the center. The roadway is nonexistent in some places and it is filled with water. There are holes big enough to break a bike and throw the rider off. I was lucky. I hit a hole that sent me to the wall, but I was able to recover. Not by skill, by terror. I have it on video. I will post it later. Helge got me on his GoPro while following. I got it from my perspective. I am going to post some of the still shots of this hell hole. I never want to ride there again. At lunch Helge said with reference to the tunnel “did you ever see the movie “No Country For Old Men”? “. I have seen the movie and this is it. 
Tunnel of Death
June 21 we crossed back to KYG. There is only one problem. Uzbekistan maintains islands of territory in Kyrgyzstan. We had to find a dirt road and skirt around UZ territory. I was a bit shaken because I never want to go back to UZ. My gps showed I was in UZ territory on the road. It turns out the gps maps are wrong. The road is all Kyrgyzstani. We popped out at a Kyrgyzstani border post, and were let through with no problems. 

So I though all was well as I headed towards Osh. Then the worst happened. Two stupid Kryg drivers passed me then Tom at the same time just flying. It was all ego and poor judgment, along with poor driving skills. There was oncoming traffic. One guy hit the shoulder and lost control. He skidded sideways and then came across the lane, where he collided with a family in an oncoming car. 

Tom missed the collision by luck. He was ahead of me and got stopped. I stopped and said we had to render aid. By now people were coming to see the wreck. The family climbed out of the car and plenty of people were there to help. Then we decided to move on before the guy who caused the crash decided to blame it on the foreigners. It was the right decision. In places like this people do not carry insurance, and it is very convenient to blame someone like us. The authorities just hold you until it is sorted out (means foreigner pays).
My bike - ouch!
So I am back in Osh. My bike went to Patrik’s. I have new bearings. I have patched my panniers. And I am on my way to Bishkek KRG, then on to Kazakhstan again. It may be some time before the next post. Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 8, 2014


It seems like just yesterday that I was wondering how and where I would find gas. Come to think about it, it was yesterday. But I am now in the land of milk and honey and fuel.
At Our  First "Hotel"  in Uzbekistan contemplating no gas
Tom and I left Khiva 3 days ago (Friday) and rode to Bukhara. The hotel in Khiva had a 17 year old fixer who was able to score 34 liters of 80 octane fuel for $50. That is a deal. The only rub was that the guy selling the fuel needed the containers back, so we would have to fill up our machines fast.

Over the years I have acquired some skills, one of which is knowing how to filch gas. So I cut the bottom out of a water bottle to make a funnel. Then I fetched my trusty siphon hose. Yes kids, I carry a siphon hose. What juvenile delinquent type of person would not know how to use a siphon hose?  I actually learned how to use the siphon hose from Father Willard Dressell, SJ at Creighton Prep when I was about 17. Father Dressell taught physics; and, as a part of the well rounded curriculum of a Jesuit education, all his physics students were required to understand and apply the physical principals necessary to siphon gas. Thus, I have basically the same skill set as the Pope. It is comforting to know that the spiritual leader of the Western world also knows how to steal gas from a 1969 Yamaha Big Bear 250.
Notice the squat technique with the siphon hose
I think the headlamp adds to the drama
Tom's extra supply for the ride to Bukhara
Tom and I set about siphoning off gas from the containers so as not to waste a drop. Then when we got the container down to a weight we could handle, we switched to our funnel and filled the yellow Rotopax container faster.
Road Hazard - Khiva - why we do not ride at night

I do not know how many of you recall, but the hotel in Istanbul used my 1.5 gallon Kolpin container and lost it. So they replaced it with a 2 gallon Rotopax, which is not supposed to fit on my Kolpin bracket. But it does because I made it fit. Also, they could not find the gas container. But they did find a diesel container. Since I am the only one who ever fills the tank it does not matter and no mistakes are made. I am so happy I have my extra fuel system, even if it looks a bit strange. Tom and I have made good use of it.

You will notice in the pictures that Tom has the deluxe spare fuel system consisting of 2.25 liter Coke bottles. Tom just filled those whenever he could, stuffed them in his camel back, and would then ride until his tank could handle the extra fuel.
First Yurt on Road to Bukhara

100 km outside of Bukhara in terrible heat
We made it to Bukhara on Friday evening and found a really good hotel, except it had no internet. We also just parked the bikes outside on the street. Mine still had the dry bag and fuel on it. We had no fear of someone stealing anything. There had to be 8 cops at the intersection. And the Uzbeks are taught as toddlers not to touch other people’s things. But the bikes were a big hit, and lots of locals took pictures.

Bukhara is hot. I mean 100+ degrees hot. We slept all Saturday and finally went out about 7. Both of us are looking forward to the mountains of Tajikistan and some cooler weather. Fuel in Bukhara turned out to be no problem. The husband of the owner is the local manager of all the fuel stations. So they gave us a little drawing leading us to a station that sold 91 octane.

But, I must stay in Uzbekistan until the 14th because that is when my Tajik visa starts. So I am going to explore Samarkand and work on my Russian.

I am now in slow travel mode. That means ride 300 km, then stay a couple days. Then ride 200 km and stay a day or two. I hope to be able to get my GoPro back up and running here. Today the scenery was gloriously boring. There were some stretches of bad road, but it was no Kazakhstan.
Life is good.

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Thursday, June 5, 2014


When I last left you I was at sea. After arrival in Aktau, Kazakhstan we anchored offshore and waited for an entire day before we could unload. Tom and I cleared immigration at 11:45 pm Saturday night and had to come back the next morning, June 1, to clear the bikes. It was awful.  

First, the ATM ate Tom’s card when we went for cash to pay the fees at customs. Then it took 3 hours and a couple a searches before we were cleared. They went through pretty much everything and confiscated my pin drive. The customs guy later returned it “no problem”. I think he made a copy of the contents, but I cannot tell for sure.

Then we headed into the Kazakh desert. The ride was actually pretty good; and when we got to Shaslik there did not seem to be a hotel. So we rode about 15 Km out of town and found a place to camp. It was actually very enjoyable and a welcome change from the boat.

There are camels in Kazakhstan. They are everywhere. The first one’s called for photos. But after a while it was just another group of camels on the road. 

Monday June 2 was miserable. The road was horrendous. The dust and sand engulfed us. We rode to a town called Beyneu and did find a good hotel. After knocking off the dust we found gas and prepared for the border crossing into Uzbekistan.





June 3 trumped June 2.  We figured there would now be a good road to the border. We were wrong. No more had we turned to go on the highway than it became noexistent. The old Soviet style road had disintegrated to the point that rebar was sticking out of the surface. So we went off road in what can only be described as moguls.

This went on pretty much to the border. We filled up at the last station in Kazakhstan and filled our extra bottles with gas as well. It was the last gas we would find for over 600 Km.

Then we hit the border. What a mess. We just took the initiative and went to the front of the line. The Kazakh soldier guarding the gate asked for our passports. Then he let us in. We cleared out of Kazakhstan pretty fast. But it was another 3 hours in Uzbek customs and immigration together with 2 full searches before we were allowed to leave. It was 2 pm and we were 100 miles from the nearest town. We were the first to leave. Truckers had been in line for over 2 days, some with loads of livestock in the heat. 

So we hit the road. The desert in Uzbekistan is every bit as windy and miserable as that in Kazakhstan. But the road was better overall. There were only small stretches of dirt to ride, most less than 20 km.

We were able to find a hotel (at least that is what it was called) a Shaslick. That is my best guess at a Latin spelling. The owner said he would sell us gas. But in the morning he decided not to because it would hurt the bikes. We should have insisted that he sell us the gas. We were barely able to make it to Nukus. We did find 20 liters of 80 octane there. We decided we had to use the 80 octane or apply for Uzbek citizenship because we would be stuck there forever.

In the end we made it to Khiva. So June 4 was about 10 hours of driving and well over 500 Km on some pretty poor roads, some pretty good roads, and worrying about gas the entire time.

Today is a rest day. We went out and toured  the ancient city of Khiva, one of three historic silk road capitals in Uzbekistan. It was known for its slave market where captured Russians were sold. Ultimately the tables were turned and the Russians conquered the Uzbeks. The old city is very well preserved.  

Tomorrow we go another 500 Km to Bukhara, the second capital. We did find gas here thanks to the hotel. We just hope it is good enough quality for the engines.
By the way, it is true that there is no gas in Uzbekistan if you are coming from Kazakhstan. You will need at least 600 Km worth of fuel before you are able to find any station. But do not count on it. We think it is 1000 Km between the last station in Kazakhstan and Bukhara, where we are promised 91 octane fuel.