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11 AUG - San Francisco, USA

Date received: Fri Aug 10 2001, 09:47 PM PDT

Yes, that's right, San Francisco.

For those who didn't read my last message, I will do a little explaining.

For over a month, I have been working on plans for the final travel leg of my trip, motorcycling across Asia. Since I wanted to do this travel leg as a continuation of my round the world trip, I wanted to go from West to East, going all the way across Asia. I thought that it would be best to buy and sell the bike along the way, so that I wouldn't have to ship a bike from home or try and buy and then return a bike to Europe. After much pain and suffering, I have come to the conclusion that buying a motorcycle in the Middle East is not worth the hassle. I tried at first to buy one in Egypt, but the availability, price, and bureacracy were prohibitive. Then I thought about South Africa, since I was there anyway, and the availability and paperwork were favorable. But the shipping was going to be too expensive. Then I tried Athens, thinking that since Greece is an EU country, that purchasing a vehicle there would be easy. Unfortunately, Greece is currently in EU court over their vehicle laws, and buying a
 vehicle there was not possible for a non-resident.

That left Turkey. It was a good geographical start for a trans-Asia trip. It is also European enough to have good availability. I called before ever going to Turkey and asked the Touring club all the pertinent questions:
    As a foreigner, can I buy a motorcycle and register it? "Yes"
    Can I take the motorcycle out of Turkey? "Yes"
    Will I be able to arrange a carnet? "Yes"
    Will I be able to sell the bike outside of Turkey and get my carnet
      money back? "Yes"

With such favorable answers, I traveled to Istanbul. Once there, I called and asked the same questions again, and got the same answers, including very specific prices for the carnet.

I then proceeded to spend the next week and a half motorcycle shopping. After many false leads, nightmare bikes, and sleazy dealings, I finally found one. I paid 2 Billion Lira cash for it. On the day that I bought it, I went to the Touring Club to arrange the carnet. They then told me that I would need three times the original amount for a bond ($3000) and that even if I put up the money, they wouldn't issue the carnet to me.

That was almost the last straw. But I had a backup. When in South Africa, I found out that their club issued carnets for only $100 of the value of the vehicle. So I called and arranged the carnet through them.

I thought I was home free. Unfortunately, the registration of the bike proved to be the fatal part. After getting ten different answers on how I should register the bike, I finally was told that I could not take a Turkish bike outside of Turkey if I was not a resident or did not have a work visa. Even if I had a carnet, I wouldn't be able to get out of Turkey.

That was the last straw. Sure, I could have tried another approach; get the carnet, equip the bike, and ride to Iran, and hope that they let me out, greasing palms as necessary. But I didn't want to risk all that money if there was a good chance that I would be stuck at the border. I could also go to somewhere like Germany, where the rules do adhere to EU standards. But by that point, I had had enough of motorcycle shopping. Another day of sitting around in a motorcycle shop trying to figure out paperwork, and I was going to be ill. I didn't want my entire trip to be about trying to buy a motorcycle. My threshold of pain had been crossed. I gave up.

So, the plan was unceremoniously abandoned, and I moved on to plan B: bicycle touring. Bicycling is a wonderful option, since there is no paperwork to deal with, no hassle. It is a piece of transportation when you need it, and a piece of luggage when you don't. No hassles with carnets, borders, etc.

I could have bought a bike in Turkey, but I decided that I really wanted *my* bike, and I didn't really want to have my friends go sifting through all of my possessions trying to find all of my biking gear so they could ship it. So, it made a convenience excuse to make a side trip home.

Within a day of being told that the motorbike paperwork wasn't going to work out, I had a plane ticket to San Francisco. I arrived this afternoon. I will be here most likely for three weeks; two visiting family and friends and equipping my bike, and one at the Burning Man festival.

So, I am in town. For anyone in the Bay Area, I am looking for 1) places to crash, 2) computer access, and 3) people to hang out with/go dancing with. So give me a call! You can leave a message at (415)820-7420, or send me email.


Copyright 2000 Peter Birch All Rights Reserved.