Saturday, June 25, 2016

Made It!

I arrived home Friday, June 24th after 24 hours in the air and 11 hours of layover time and boy do I have some stories to tell!  I was unable to write any real blog updates while on the trip, but I took copious notes after each days' riding.  I also have hundreds of photos and hours of video to sort through.  I can't wait to share the stories and will be working on each day's details after I settle in and get acclimated to the central time zone.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Atop Ayers Rock!

From Uluru

Sorry so few updates. Internet is sparse in the bush and when you find it, it's practically dialup speed. I'm taking copious notes and will be posting chronologically when I can.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Down Under

Latest update below the map.  In the departure lounge for Mackay.

I haven’t been on a 747 since I was 19 years old when I flew TWA from JFK to Madrid from Air Force tech school to my first duty assignment.  It’s an amazing airframe with a remarkable past and was built from concept on paper to first flight in two years.  Two years seems like a long time, until you consider the engineers used slide rules and rubber erasers.  OK, two years still seems like a long time, but the 787 Dreamliner took over four years from concept to flight - and that was with the aid of computerized design and modeling.  I’ve been on this 747 for only two hours and already it feels like four years.  But I digress.

I spent an hour or so in the Qantas lounge and was surprised at how lavish it was.  This airline knows how to treat their passengers – open bar, massive buffet, showers, spacious seating with private TVs, you name it.  American Airlines’ Admiral’s Clubs are dumps compared to Qantas.  I made my way to my departure gate, which was literally the furthest gate in the international terminal and stuffed my computer and camera bags into a small duffel so I could carry my helmet onboard and not break any carry-on quantity rules; you know, ‘cause I like to follow rules.  When they called the Business Class passengers, I was ready with passport and boarding pass in hand.  The gate agent scanned my pass, they light blinked red, and I shit you not, he said “Mr. Wilson, there seems to be a problem with your reservation”.  I may have just shat you not in that last sentence, but I was about to genuinely shit myself for real because he was serious.  He pulled me aside and when he couldn’t resolve it, called a supervisor from another gate.  As it turns out, the seat I selected 331 days ago when I booked this ticket had been given to another passenger.  I wondered when I saw seat 15A on my boarding pass and knowing that I had selected 17K.  I had my reasons, but they aren’t important now.  What was important was washing out my drawers and getting reassigned.  Apparently, the guy who took my seat was a regular and has uber elite status on Qantas.  I may have been booked in Business Class, but I was essentially a nobody to Qantas who was flying for “free” using American Airlines frequent flier miles.  I had to give up my seat to some self-entitled elite passenger who thinks he’s special and knows everything because he flies this airline all the time.  I wonder if anyone I know knows anyone like that?  Again I digress.  My reassigned seat was fine; a window on the upper deck, just on the other side of the aircraft.

I chose a window seat on the upper deck when I booked my flight.  I don’t know why I wanted the upper deck.  It just seemed cooler somehow.  I wanted a window so my GPS tracker could find signal.  Nevertheless, I was shocked to see how many empty seats there were up there; 17K notwithstanding.  Everyone who wanted it could have their own row.  This 747 has been retrofitted with little private passenger compartments and full lay-down seats.  After we boarded, the flight attendant offered to make up my bed for sleeping.  He had a thick Australian accent and I had no idea what he wanted me to do, so I just did what the other passengers did; stood up and stepped aside.  After he installed a fitted comforter and a pillow (a real pillow; not one of those oversized Kotex pads that smell like beer and pretzel farts that American uses) he offered me some pajamas.  I was pretty sure I knew what he was offering this time and I opted out.  After all, who the hell puts on pajamas on an airline?  Well, apparently everyone.  Everyone except me, that is.  Within minutes of having our beds made, the entire upper deck looked like a slumber party with all the attendees wearing the exact same gray pajamas.  Honestly, they looked like WWII POW uniforms.  With a little less flare, they could have been a dead ringer for the American Airlines flight attendant uniforms that (thankfully) never took off after the USAir merger.  In my bright orange and blue KTM Racing shirt and denim shorts, I looked like the guy who crashed the party without an invitation.

I knew that I needed to stay awake for at least half my 14-hour flight so that I could sleep the last half and would awaken close to our 6am arrival time; setting me up to be on the Australian time schedule with minimal jet lag.  I figured this would be easy as I would be wired for hours on adrenaline alone.  Then they dimmed the cabin lights.  Then they switched on these soothing neon looking glowing tubes in the ceiling and killed the cabin lights completely.  Combine the soothing darkness with the synchronized constant roar of the 747s four jet engines and you have an irresistible recipe for slumber.  Fortunately, I brought my own anti-slumber recipe; 5-Hour Energy Shots!  I slammed one just as my flight attendant walked by and he stopped, asking “Not planning to sleep are you?”  I replied that I needed to stay awake and started to explain why, but he seemed about as interested in my reason as I was in his pajamas.  He was probably thinking, Oh no. Not another one of those…  

I settled in and began nesting.  This jet has more personal storage than Hillary Clinton’s personal email server.  On most flights, passengers are fighting for precious square inches to stuff their belongings into overhead storage or under the seat in front of them.  I couldn’t even reach the seat in front of me and the overheads, like the seats in the upper deck, were mostly empty.  I shoved my helmet into one overhead and dumped my computer and camera bags into the storage bin next to my seat so they would be within easy reach; you know, for when I was wide awake and needing entertainment.

I began goofing off with my GoPro camera and a tripod; playing with the seat/bed controls and raising and lowering the divider wall that separated me from the other (lazy sleeping) passengers.  I was chatting away and did something that cracked myself up.  I don’t recall what it was, but it must have been hilarious.  It was either that or the fact that I had been up for over 20 hours and hadn’t slept decent in days.  Whatever the case, I turned around and caught the flight attendant turning away quickly, as if trying to not get caught looking.  I mumbled something about having fun for my friends back home and he replied “I knew there must be a story”.  When I told him I bet he’d heard them all, he smiled and replied “Yeah, well, I thought I had…”  That’s when I realized that I was the only passenger on the upper deck who was still awake and began writing this entry.  I need to stay away another two to three hours and I’m losing steam fast.  I’ve read my GoPro manuals, played with my night vision monocular, reorganized my IBM email folders, and dammit, nobody is answering the seat-to-seat phone calls!

Oops. Just woke up from a short nap.  So much for my plan.

It's poop:30 and there's a line for the lavatory.

I scrolled through the list of “hit” movies and for some reason landed on “How To Be Single”. This turned out to be a tripe-filled yuppie fest featuring a bunch of whiny (well, all but one) New York chicks that consumed 90 minutes of my life that I’ll never get back; even though those 90 minutes were a mere fraction of the hours I spent while stuck in a southbound 747.  With four more hours still to kill, I watched "Dead Pool".  Meh...

7:00am Brisbane Time, June 1st
Landed and have been waiting for my checked bags for almost an hour, only to learn that they didn't make it over - despite my personally delivering them to Qantas' international check in counter seven hours before my flight.  They said they know where they are and they will deliver them to me in Airlie Beach on Friday.  I'd be a liar if I said I wasn't nervous and pissed.  I can deal with the inconvenience of not having a change of clothes, but my riding gear is in those bags.

Gotta connect to Mackay.  Pressing on despite Quantas' screw up.  Just hoping they'll keep their promise.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016


Nothing exciting.  I'm bored at LAX and just thought I'd try getting the map to populate.  It's set for 10-minute intervals because, what the hell, I'm just flying.  I'll switch to 2-minutes when I hit the trail.

If it's Wednesday and there's no trail of dots, I screwed up.  If I got it right, remember that you can scroll, pan, zoom and change views just like Google Maps.

Departure Day - Hooroo Mates!

It's finally departure day!  I awakened early (not really sure I even slept) and hit the rowing machine and elliptical one more time before logging in at work.  June is end of quarter at IBM, so as the only wireless pre-sales technical resource, it's not the most opportune time for me to disappear for almost a month.  The truth is, I wasn't in this role at IBM when I planned this trip, so there's no remorse whatsoever.

My serene morning after my post workout shower was shattered when my elderly neighbor's sister came to my door in a panic over a snake they found in their house.  I figured it was a garden snake, a grass snake, or maybe even a worm.  We get quite a few raccoons opossums, rats, and mice out by the lake, but I rarely see snakes.  Nevertheless, I grabbed a pair of gloves  and headed next door where my neighbor was hunched over a shovel with a two-foot rat snake pinched between it and the carpet.  I have to admit that while I wasn't frightened, it was much more of a snake than I expected.  I snapped it up and took it to my house next door to dispatch it.  I wanted to just cut it loose behind my yard, but the poor thing was damn near already cut in half by the neighbor's shovel. I opted to put it out of its misery, but not before snapping a photo.  My expectation for this morning had been to handle a work phone call or two, set my Out-Of-Office email autoresponder, and head to the airport; but no such luck.  It occurred to me that this might have been good practice for the Outback and that none of my neighbors would have believed it was a coincidence.  Upon further consideration, I think I'll not share the photo with my Outback riding mates.  They're all from New Zealand or Australia and to them, it probably really is a worm.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of being in the company of many friends who came to see me off.  It was a great afternoon of burgers, dogs (hotdogs and my boxers), cold tequila, and even some Vegemite!  I'm grateful for my friends and it was glad to see them all.

Even though I won't saddle up hit the trail for a few more days, I'm stoked to be heading out after dreaming about this trip for nearly 20 months.  With layovers and connections, I'll spend the next 36 hours just getting to Airlie Beach; my departure city in the northwest of Queensland Australia.  I'll have a day and a half after my final drive from Mackay to Airlie, during which I can chill out and acclimate to the 15-hour time change.

My itinerary includes layover time at LAX before flying across the pond to Brisbane. This will come in handy because I actually have IBM business to conduct for an enormous west coast customer named after a piece of fruit. I don't trust American Airlines' on-time arrivals record enough to get me to LAX without sufficient time to jump through the international Customs hoops, so I'd rather hang out in the Qantas international lounge than sweat the schedule.

The transpacific flight is 15 hours, during which I will have audiobooks, movies, and computer games to entertain  myself.  I'll also have my warped sense of humor and astute observational skills towards the cabin crew and other passengers for my amusement - and perhaps some blog fodder.  Worst case, Qantas' web page says there are 250 TV shows and 60 movies to choose from on their personal entertainment system.  Apparently, the 747-400 I'm flying is a newly retrofitted aircraft with full lay-down seats, privacy modules, etc.  The promo video Qantas sent me said they even have an espresso machine on board.  Great. All I need is 15 hours in a plane full of caffeinated captives.  On the other hand, a Monster Energy machine would be a nice touch.

The seat-to-seat calling feature that the smooth talking Australian-accented woman who narrated the video described could be fun.  I can make random calls to people posing as the captain and see if anyone has any requests, tell people that passengers around them have complained about "that odor", etc.  Maybe I can watch people who go to the lavatory and then leave them a message at their seat about the condition of the lav after the left it.  I suppose I'd better wait till we're at least halfway across so they can't turn back and kick me off the flight.

Hopefully, there will be WiFi on the overseas flight and I can reach out.  Some planes have been upgraded, but as of this typing, I have no idea about my flight.  Regardless, my satellite tracker will be collecting data and readers might be able to see its updates realtime.  Worst case, the flight path will populate the map when I land in Brisbane and my communicator catches up.

With a 6am arrival in country, I'm hoping to be able to stay awake during the flight and condition my biological clock so that I sleep the last eight or so flight hours.  If I can stay awake 24-hours and pull this off, I'll wake up on the Australian timetable and not be jet lagged.  A well-timed combination of 5-Hour Energy and Xanax could be my friend here.

I'm heading to the airport.  Stay tuned to this site and peek in on the map now and then to see where I am.  I plan to switch on tracking just before taking off from LAX.  I'll update the blog when I can, but Australia isn't known for its widespread wireless Internet access and/or speed.  Nevertheless, I'll be taking copious notes and capturing tons of pics and videos for the movie.  If you haven't sent me your contact info for updates from the bush and still want to, drop an email here and I'll do the final update when I settle in at Airlie Beach.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Australian Oddities - The End of the Odd

This is the last Australian Oddity entry.  I must admit it has been alarmingly easy to find stupid stuff to post here every Saturday for the last several months. Oz just seems to lend itself to wackiness.  Perhaps the most stupid stuff of all that I have to post will be the opening account of a crazy Texan who flew halfway around and to the bottom of the world - just to ride a motorcycle in the sand with eleven complete strangers.

Since I dreamed up this ride, I've worked tirelessly to sort out the logistics, to secure the finances, and to condition myself as best as possible for whatever the Outback has to throw at me.  I was fortunate to be able to earn enough funds from side work and massage clients to pay for the entire trip with cash, because I don't finance vacations.  A few people suggested I start a GoFundMe campaign, citing that the entertainment value from my Alaskapade video would make the video from this trip a worthwhile donation motivator.  While I can somewhat see a degree of legitimacy to that idea, there are so many more people who genuinely need financial help from others that asking for a donation for my vacation seems trivial and insincere.  Also, I just can't ask people for money.  In the end, I found a way that allows me to look in the mirror and without leaning on strangers and my friends, so it's all good.

Logistically speaking, once I hooked up with Magnus the Swede and his crew, the support and survival details more/less fell into place.  When I published the details in this update, most people quit hounding me about this being a one-way suicide trip.  Most.

242 Pounds

Physiologically speaking, I was a mess.  I weighed 242 pounds when I turned 53 in November, 2015.  At that point in time, I was confident that I had the aforementioned logistics and finances fully ironed out.  It occurred to me that the only way I could fail at this endeavor was physically and ironically, my physical condition was the one aspect of preparation over which I had complete control.  At that weight and condition, failure was a foregone conclusion. Anyone who knows me well knows that when I make up my mind, I can be the most determined son of a bitch on the planet. Anyone who knows me at all knows that I am pretty much just a son of a bitch anyway, even sans determination.  But I digress.

185 Pounds
I made up my mind last year on that November day while staring in disbelief at the scale and swearing that it had to be broken (or at least in dire need of calibration) and then quietly began a regimen of exercise and proper eating that as of this typing, has helped me lose 57 pounds and more than 5 inches off my waist.  This routine is comprised of consistent cardio, reasonable eating, and nutritional supplements from It WorksI have had no weight training whatsoever and have focused solely on trimming down in a quest for the optimal riding physique.  Motivated by my results and how much better I feel, I recently increased my daily cardio regimen from six to ten miles.  I've been doing 3.5 miles on my rowing machine immediately followed by 3 to 4 miles on my elliptical.  Later in the evening, I knock out another 3 to 4 elliptical miles before going to bed and man do I sleep better!  To better simulate my riding anticipated conditions, I've been doing my evening elliptical sessions wearing my riding boots, a hydration backpack filled with 100 ounces of water, and my helmet/goggles.  I may look like King Uber Moto Dork, but I believe it helps me prepare.  The time seems to fly by while I watch motorcycle riding videos from Australia and before I know it, four miles and 650 calories have flown by.  I admit that I've become a little obsessed.  I returned from Detroit Wednesday night at 10pm and headed straight up to my office to put in the miles and you can bet I'll get my time in before I fly to LAX for the first leg of my journey on Tuesday morning.

Still, just like Jake Epping in Stephen King's 11/22/63 novel, all the preparation in the world couldn't stop the universe from seemingly trying to derail my plans.  I'm convinced that the cardio conditioning and improved strength were key to my not sustaining more severe injuries when I crashed my Harley in 70 mile per hour morning rush hour traffic.  My all-consuming determination (probably to a fault) to make this trip had me flailing like a seizure victim articulating all my joints even before I stopped sliding across the pavement - just to give myself instant peace of mind that I would be ready despite the superficial pain I felt as I laid there on the concrete listening to the sounds of skidding tires and swerving trafficNow, it's go time and the road rash scabs and fractures are mostly healed and I am physically and mentally prepared to take on the Outback.

On Saturday May 21st, I weighed in at 184 pounds and although I've had no weight specific goal in mind, I figured losing 58 pounds is reason enough to celebrate and I treated myself to a steak dinner with a baked potato and Texas toast.  It was a nice treat, but I sure paid for it later.  I suppose my body is no longer used to taking in that stuff and my stomach sure let me know it.  I need to slowly reintroduce that kind of diet because, I was in culinary heaven.

A coworker with whom I was discussing this trip began reading my blog and found the Alaskapade video.  I don't know him well; we're just work acquaintances.  But he apparently watched the entire video and felt compelled to tell me that I seem like a much different guy now, than I was then.  I mulled that statement over and when I asked him to elaborate the next time I saw him, is response was that I seem "resolute, aloof, and generally happier".  I thought about that statement as I flew home from a business trip and it occurred to me that his was indeed an astute observation.  When I left for Alaska, I was not in a good place emotionally and quite honestly, a part of me didn't care if I ever came back.  At the end of the video and reading my last Alaskapade blog entry, it was apparent that I came full circle and returned with my head screwed on straight.  Five years later, I'm leaving for Australia in a much better place, emotionally speaking.  I'm generally happy with my friendships, my family, my occupation, and my personal accomplishments.  I'm looking forward to coming home to my friends and loved ones and telling the story.

I am grateful that I have a job that not only affords me the ability to earn a comfortable living, but also gives me enough vacation to take a trip like this.  I am especially grateful for my loved ones and my friends who have been encouraging me, motivating me, and even challenging me to see this through.  Many have told me that they will watch with anticipation and read every word I write when I post updates.  Despite my physical conditioning and improved health, there is a tremendous amount of this trip that is totally beyond my control.  Irrespective of these possibilities, I have done everything I personally can to make this journey a successful one.  I will not let myself nor you down.

Hold your breath folks because this time next Saturday, I will be out there - beneath the equator - finally living this dream.  Maybe then I can exhale.  Maybe...