Ride for Dignity

The departure date for our Europe-Middle East-Africa adventure is fast approaching.  As you may already be aware, one of our goals for this trip is to raise funds for Toronto-based Dignitas International to help in the fight against the impact and further spread of HIV in Africa.  Please take a moment to support our Ride for Dignity.  Even a modest donation will mean tangible results on the ground in Africa.  Over 80 cents of every dollar that Dignitas raises goes directly to the field where it directly helps those who need it most. 

Below is a summary of some of the recent successes that Dignitas (in partnership with the Malawi Ministry of Health) has achieved in the Zomba district of southern Malawi since October of 2004:

  • More than 5,000 children and adults have been started on life-saving ARVs; 
  • An average of 250+ new patients continue to gain access to these medications each month;
  • An average of 3,500+ people continue to be tested for HIV each month at 31 HIV Testing & Counselling (HTC) sites;
  • 31,000+ mothers-to-be have accessed Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) services to help prevent transmission of HIV to their newborns;
  • An average of 1,400+ mothers-to-be continue to access PMTCT services each month at 23 PMTCT sites;
  • Hundreds of trained home-based care workers continue to provide essential care to the most ill patients in their homes;
  • 15 community-based organizations in Zomba District are supported; and
  • 1,000+ attendees continue to be directly reached through HIV/AIDS prevention education activities every month.

Please visit our Ride for Dignity fundraising page.   Thanks so much to those who have already made a donation.  You have almost certainly helped save lives.



Shave for the Cure

This Friday, a group of us medical students (and even some of our profs!) are going to shave our heads to raise money for childhood cancer research.  Some of us have less hair to lose than others, but we all want to find a cure for cancer.  Please support childhood cancer research by sponsoring me.  Your donation to this worthy cause will be much appreciated.

Equipment Test

We found a dirt road on our way to Awenda Provincial Park (which is on the shore of Georgian bay northwest of Penetanguishene) for a camping trip to test out our gear over the weekend.  It was the first time Jeremy has had his KLR off the asphalt. 

We have spent many long days and late nights working on our bikes.  We have installed the racks from Happy Trails and mounted the Pelican cases.  It seems to be a solid and convenient setup (if you don’t locktite the knobs, right Jer?).  I have repaired damage to my dashboard from the last trip, which required soldering some new switches in and repairing the power supply to my trailtech computer. 

We also installed new Pirellis, flushed our coolant, cleaned our air filters, and installed new brake pads all around.  Jer has just about completed the modifications to his bike (skid plate, rad guard, tank guards, serrated foot pegs, heavy-duty shift lever, galfer brake pads, subframe upgrade, doohickey, acerbis handguards, etc.). 

The camping trip was a good road test of our bikes and gear, and more importantly a chance to hang out with our support crew (below).  We had a vehicle stocked with food and cooking equipment just out of camera range the entire trip.

Matt, Mike, and Colleen

Since there was an alcohol ban in effect while we were there, someone thought that it would be a good idea to fill our camelbaks full of single malt.  Now who would propose something as crazy as that?  Although it did turn out to be a good way to flush our bladders. 

My new MEC Merlin (minus 10) sleeping bag was wonderfully warm despite near freezing temperatures overnight.  If only I had had it in the Andes…  Unfortunately Jer didn’t sleep as well, seeing as he forgot one vital piece of kit: his thermarest.  It made for a rocky night for his old man back.

Campsite in Awenda Provincial Park

I can’t believe we are leaving in less than 3 weeks.  The trip preparation has been taking most of our free time.  We had to arrange for Carnets for our bikes, arrange to fly our bikes to London, get green card insurance for Europe, buy all kinds of gear, plus attempt to get as many VISAs as possible.  So far we have VISAs for Syria, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan.  We sent our Kenya VISA application off today. 

The process of getting our Sudanese VISA was helped immensely by the friendly owners of Bougainvilla Guesthouse in Khartoum, where we plan to stay when we arrive in the Sudanese capitol.  They agreed to sponsor our application and had their lawyer present our case to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Interior Ministry in Khartoum.  To cover this expense, we wired a small fee to their Norwegian account.  We shortly received approval from the Foreign Ministry and then sent our application to the Sudanese Embassy in Ottawa.  The whole process took just over a week.

In light of the rebel attack on Khartoum over the weekend, we will have to closely follow the security situation in Sudan before we commit to entering the country.  I hope that the situation calms in the coming weeks as Sudan is one of the countries I am most looking forward to visiting on our trip.

In happier news, Ted “MacGyver” Macher is the proud new owner of a mint condition 1998 Honda Fireblade 900RR, purchased on his behalf in London, England by Tom “The Kid” Smith.  The bike looks money as you can see below:

Ted intends to ride with us as far as Turkey, and then circle back through Europe to the UK.  Sadly, he will have to sell the bike at the end of his month long European tour.  And by ride “with us” I really mean ride for 15 minutes and then wait a half hour for the three Mules to catch up.  There is no speed limit on the autobahns.  My guess is that Ted’s new bike will top out at about 250 km/h, although I’ve been told that I am pessimistic.  Some argue the 900RR can go 300 km/h.  I’m sure Ted will be able to personally provide the answer.

In addition to shopping for sport bikes, The Kid has also been working on a website for our trip.  Please check out DitchtheComfortZone.com for information on our Africa trip.  I think he’s done a marvelous job.