Week One Starting Sunday 29th March 2009
So I have been on the final days of the preparation for the first stage of the overseas portion of my Round the World trip. Sounds confusing I suppose, but I was confused with all the things that had to be done. But, they were nearly all done. I had my TomTom thing to do on Monday, I also needed to buy an Airhawk seat, say goodbye to my sister Christine and of course get to the airport on time.
Sunday morning I left with some bags strapped to the bike after saying bye to my parents yet again.
They have suffered my presence under their roof the past few months while I dithered about trying to decide what to do :) Thanks for the support mum and dad!
Music in the ears, good weather to start with although rain was forecast, what more can you ask for. Well, a Madstad bracket for a start, lol, I had sent mine to Utah and I found the Nolan helmet was slightly taller in profile, bummer. It meant severe head wobble and turbulence all the way down, I have not experienced that for a long time. I think I may have become used to the Madstad and it knocked me around something shocking without it!
Anyway I stopped at a few places just for a break, this is Bororen early on in the trip, reminder, do not have two cups of tea AND a 600ml bottle of water before you start, woolies bladder time!
I had to stop for fuel a bit later and as it looked like rain, I kitted up. Good move as I had numerous rain showers for the next 400km. I eventually got the correct address in Brisbane about 4.15pm, this was after some pretty major road works bottlenecks and the Sunday arvo traffic. I skipped most of these because not having any fat arse panniers, I just filtered my way through about 10km of 2 lane traffic jam :)
I met up with Graham, he was going to be looking after the bike while I was away, and also Don, another Vstrom rider I have met quite a few times now. A few beers were had and a great dinner then a few more beers.
Next morning, as it was Monday, I had to sort out the TomTom thing. This is the official way it went: You can skip this drivel if you wish!
Last Friday I got my TomTom Rider 2(TTR2) back from repair, the bike mount cradle had failed and it needed replacing and they also installed a new battery in the TTR2. OK so far. On Saturday I connected the TTR2 to the laptop and used the TomTom Home software to download a set of maps for the USA, Canada and Mexico. The only way this can be done is online. I had an Optus wireless prepaid dongle, so as the maps were 2Gb in size, I added some more cash to the credit so there would be enough. Good so far, in TT Home, I click on buy maps and follow the prompts
add my credit card details etc
then it takes you to screen that wants you to add a “Secure Internet Password”??
OK, so I log onto my bank and find that part and fill that out and set the password etc and update it. I go back into TT home and enter the password or PIN in the box provided and click on Submit. It thinks for a few seconds, then it clears the box and sits there???? Now what has happened, it is asking me for the password again, I do it again and the same thing? I call up internet banking support and ask them, they reset all the info and help me step through it, but it seems to be from TomToms end where the fault lies.
This is annoying as there is no weekend support for them, but I can do it Monday. :(
Monday arrives and I talk to TomTom support, I cannot buy the map except as a download and after they try and help me on the phone, while waiting I am trying to do the same thing again online. When you have to put in the PIN in the box there are 3 other options on that page, Help, Cancel or Back, this is within TomTom Home software, you can see the buttons on the screen here:
I have already used the Back and Help buttons the other day and of course the Submit button, so I thought, what the heck and clicked the cancel button, well blow me down with a feather, it then took me to a page which said “congratulations, your purchase has been approved” and now I can download and install the maps??? What a stupid system and I told them as well as I was still on the phone!
Anyway, things are now happening, I make sure my 2Gb SD card is in the TomTom and start downloading, it goes straight to the card and not to a spot on your HDD. I leave it to download as it says it will take about one and a half hours. I looked in a bit later and it had an error message, grrrr. To cut a long story short, I made a number of calls to TomTom support and tried this download a few times. At one stage it had downloaded 750Mb before an error message, when I tried again it ‘seemed’ to resume, but I was unsure. Once again I spoke to support, they said it will not work, it has to be one download. Well, now I did not have enough data limit left on Optus, the support people said to use a cable connection as the TomTom server is expecting a 250kb/s constant transfer and wireless is always up and down! Well, that is not good enough, they need to make this more user friendly. Anyway, I borrowed Grahams cable connection and started again, it proceeded to download and told me it would be ready in 40 minutes, half the expected time.
By now it is nearly midday, I started this process just after 8am, QLD time. I left it run and if it failed again, I would have to try again once I land in the US. Did I mention, there is NO refund given, what a crock of !!!!
So, Don and Graham took me down to a pub for a great lunch and Guy turned up for a chat. This us, Graham, me, Guy and Don
After a couple of beers and a feed, it was time to head back and pick up the bags as Don was dropping me off at the airport for my 5pm flight. Guy said, what’s the hurry, there has been a baggage handlers strike! Of course, Guy being who he is and the boy who cried wolf etc, I did not believe him, I thought he was having a go! :) I found that my TomTom now had the US maps on it, but I could not access the Australia maps, but I did not need them at this time, so I was sort of happy that something had worked.
Well, after arriving at the airport I found out it was true, there had been a baggage handlers strike! They were back at work now, but there were delays everywhere down the line. I had a small issue with some scissors in my carryon baggage at security, which meant reclaiming my checked luggage and putting them in there, they were nice about it, so I would not see them bags until LA.
After the expected delay we finally boarded about 40 mins late and on to Sydney. The flight was uneventful, I flew Virgin, but due to daylight savings lost an hour on arrival in Sydney. Now I had to rush to get the connecting bus to the International terminal, check in and get seat allocation (right at the back, but no windows left) get through customs, buy some booze and smokes etc and finally got on board after only one PA announcement as a missing passenger :)
The plane was cool, each seat had its own TFT monitor with a heap of free stuff to do, games, movies etc etc. This shows the planned route, I missed the info at the bottom but it changes and shows a 12,500km journey, and the plane travelled at just under 1000kmh.
The trip was OK, but next time I will sit a bit closer to the front as we were the last for drinks and food every time, but the crew were great and the food was quite nice.
After a 12 hour flight and this is my first view of America, of Los Angeles to be exact.
Then we had to go through customs and homeland security, I got told off for taking this picture, I had looked for signs but none around saying no cameras.
The only issue I had at the check point was the guy explained that my 5 year visa is not a 5 year visa? It is ‘valid’ for 5 years, but only runs for 6 months? That was not what the chap at the US consulate in Sydney told me. Grrr, but it turns out I can re apply for an extension, so I better remember that date!
Now my destination was to get to a city 100km east called Fontana, I had been given instructions by the bike seller there, so first step was to get the shuttle bus to Union Station from outside the airport.
Once on board I had a good seat at the front and my first views of LA from the ground, including all the crazy multi lane freeways, which I hoped to stay off when I am on the bike.
I even got a glimpse in the distance of the Hollywood sign on the hill, but it was too far for a picture. The driver, Mr C, gave me some helpful tips on how to get to the correct train I needed. I then had to learn how to use the ticket system, I contacted Thomas the bike seller and let him know I was on my way to the motel he recommended. I had a few dramas at the other end when I got out at Montclair train bus transfer station as there were no more direct busses. It was now just after 8pm, but after some help from a local chap, I ended up getting a cab to the motel, this was not cheap, $45, but at least I could now book in. I did so and called Thomas again and he brought the bike around so I could check it out, which I did so and was happy with what I could see and hear and closed the deal with a handshake. The rest of the details would be sorted tomorrow, so I extended my room stay for another night.
Right next door was a Saloon, so although it was late I had a quick beer and found out they drink pints here, I will have to watch that, hopefully there are smaller glasses. After that I had a few rums after getting some coke from the machine downstairs. That was wierd, the chip and snack machine only takes $1 bills, the drink machine only takes coin!!! But, on each floor is a free ice machine
So, I filled up the little ice bucket and had some rum and coke in a plastic cup, reminded me of a night club. :)
I had a reasonable late night, the room had free internet, until about 2.30am as my body clock was out of whack!
That’s it for my first night in LA.