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Archive for 2009

December 26th, 2009 - Happy Holidays

“Are you on your honeymoon?” someone asked. While honeymoon doesn’t quite describe my situation, it’s honest to say that I have been a lazy writer. The transition from a free roaming lion to a domesticated cat is perhaps not the case here but not far from reality either. It’s like day and night comparing my careless life to what is becoming a more meaningful and sophisticated journey of its own.

I have gone from meet-the-parents to the emotional rollercoaster of dealing with the last minute syndromes. I have learned things that I never knew existed. To this day I had no idea that there were such things as blackheads and whiteheads and that women hold the only permanent cure to these abominations. I have been startled with a contraption that looked like a needle-threader to innocent eyes but turned to be a secret society torturing tool to pave the uneven skin by removing the undesirable colored heads.

I have felt the tension building up as the departure date is getting closer and nothing seems to go smoothly until the last second. It has been hard for both of us to cope with the uncertainty of the upcoming years or the tendency to pick  fights for the smallest things that would not matter under any other circumstance. All that aside, we plow through with conviction and determination, no matter what the next obstacle will be.

Cynthia has been working hard to meet these unsaid expectations and I am astounded at her fortitude every day. She is becoming an undeniable part of my life which scares me even more than the torture tool, but there is no measurement for the joy and happiness she brings to my life. She will fill you in on the latest news… Merry Christmas everyone.

-Chris Sorbi

Early mornings are not my thing. But this past weekend found me up before daylight two mornings in a row in pursuit of a lifelong dream. Thanks to the generous sponsorship of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, I attended the Basic Rider Course in Hesperia, CA under the excellent tutelage of Andy, Casey and Tom, the course instructors. I say excellent because I am not the quickest learner (understatement) and my renowned klutziness makes Bambi on ice look Kristi Yamaguchi. But somehow these amazing men managed to remain chipper despite the early cold mornings and having me as a pupil! They had boundless patience, explained the directions in clear terms, and were never at a loss for a smile or a word of encouragement.

Chris was very kind to accompany me to Hesperia so that I wouldn’t have to make the trip alone and to provide moral support, as well as to take some pictures and video of the class.  We ended up finding a last-minute couch-surfing place to crash in Hesperia with a college history professor named Jim Comer. We enjoyed visiting with this intelligent, kind and modern-day Renaissance man who served us pine-twig tea and a dessert from an ancient Carthaginian recipe.

Day one started with classroom instruction from Tom. After reviewing the entire handbook in the classroom and a delicious breakfast which was Tom’s treat to the class, the morning ended with a written test. I was struggling to remember some of the details and while I knew about 40 of the answers, I wasn’t exactly sure about the remaining 10. Biting my nails, I handed my test in to be reviewed and went to the restroom. When I returned, Chris shook his head and told me that I didn’t pass and that I was the only one who didn’t pass. My heart sank. He had told me that it wasn’t an option to fail. I sat dejected, kicking myself internally for failing, when finally he told me that I did pass. The poor guy apparently just wanted to mess with me and joke around but at that moment, I didn’t find the humor in his joke.

The afternoon of day one started with a basic overview of the bike. There were 11 students taking the course. The only other girl in the class, Jamie, told me that her husband told her that when he took the class, the 3 girls in the class failed. We were both quite nervous about passing to say the least. We bonded over Gatorade and set out to master the basics. The hours flew by as we went from one exercise to another. By the end of the day I was sore and mentally exhausted but thrilled to be learning how to ride.

Chris and I went to Starbucks after the class to meet up with Jesus Granados, a new friend from the Hooligan Crusiers motorcycle forum who kindly rode in from about an hour away to meet with us and give us some information about traveling in Mexico. He also sent us numerous emails with valuable links and resources for our travels. We really appreciate his time and willingness to connect and help us out. Hopefully we can find a chance to go on a ride together before we leave the States.

The next day started with another beautiful sunrise, something that the high desert seems to have no lack of. After warming up the bikes we started going through more drills and exercises to teach us how to stop, swerve, go around curves, go over obstacles, stop in curves and change lanes. My nemesis was the “box,” a drill which involved doing a modified figure eight within the confines of a rectangle shape. I felt like I was riding a bull backwards for as much as I was able to get the bike to do what I wanted it to within that box. Thankfully, throughout the whole morning, Casey and Andy kept giving me helpful feedback and direction. Without fail, they were patient, kind, and good-humored.  Chris saved the day by bringing me breakfast so that I could get some sustenance during the breaks. Before I knew it the drill/practice time was up and we had to take our tests. One by one the entire class went through each exercise while Casey and Andy took notes on their clipboards. We gathered together for the moment of truth and cheered to discover that the entire class passed. So it’s official. I can ride a motorcycle. Well, not really. I still have to pass the written test at the DMV to get my endorsement. And I have miles to go in practice before I am fully competent as a rider.  But I’m on my way!

With 5 million graduates and counting, this is another testament to the efforts of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation and its great team of people who care about and value rider safety and shine through with their knowledge, patience, and dedication to making the roads safer and more enjoyable for everyone.

~Cynthia Q

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December 15th, 2009 - The End of the One-Man Band

I resolved the towing issue although not to my satisfaction. Instead of leaving the bike for eight days in their repair shop, I opted for a one-time cash settlement of $350 for the damages. This doesn’t even come close to the actual cost but I had no desire to stick around and try my luck with the bureaucracy of our justice system. I fixed the bike in Bakersfield and aside from the paint damage, it is up and running again.

Up to now, this expedition has evolved on so many different levels and I am excited to announce a very special change. As you already read in my previous posts, a series of events and setbacks have kept me in Bakersfield and during this time I met Cynthia. Cynthia is a passionate social worker and award-winning photographer whom I relate to on many issues. This was not an easy decision to make for either one of us, but after much consideration and internal debate, I am honored to introduce you to Cynthia as she will be joining the Transcontinental Humanitarian Expedition. Please welcome her to the world of tarmac and rubber.      –Chris Sorbi

My name is Cynthia, and I am about to take a leap. I am not the ardent adventurer that Chris is. While motorcycles intrigue me, I’ve never so much as ridden one alone aside from a couple of short zips down a quiet country road. Yet, I am about to join an expedition that involves leaving behind all of my creature comforts and head off into the unknown on one.

What would induce a social worker with a stable and rewarding job to leave the security and safety of her day-to-day life? The truth is that I have been dreaming about doing something that allows me to combine my passion for helping people with my passion for photography. The heart of this expedition, which is to raise funds and awareness for starvation, is what compels me to make that leap.  I am excited about the unique opportunity that this expedition affords me to have a greater platform to impact change and to make a difference in a tangible way.

Of course, there are certain risks and challenges involved with an undertaking of this sort, particularly as a female. For one, my hyper-active imagination and penchant for reading news about tourist trips gone wrong don’t help my peace of mind in setting out into the great unknown. I am easily scared. I feel vulnerable not knowing where exactly I’ll be laying my head and what sort of two or four-legged creatures will be outside my tent at night. Not having my soft bed or a warm shower every day I can deal with. But the cold and I are not the best of friends, and I loathe the thought of times of being bone-cold and tired with no relief from the cold. I freely admit to being jealous of the male species’ plumbing as I know that I can’t count on finding an actual restroom in the middle of nowhere whenever nature calls. But the drive and the passion for the cause outweigh these minor hardships.

Along with the massive amount of preparation that has to be done to get myself ready to join this journey in short order, there are technical issues to be addressed. In order to maximize my chances of success in enduring life on the road, we have planned intensive training to bring me up to speed. Courtesy of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, I will be taking the Basic Rider and Dirt Bike courses in the following week. I will also undergo additional hands-on training under the tutelage of Andrew Pogany in Monterey, California. While this preparation phase will be intense and challenging, I am determined to make the best of it so that I can be ready.

Hasta la proxima! Chau!

-Cynthia Q.

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December 6th, 2009 - Bike Assault and Battery

Have you ever wanted to castrate a man with a dull spread knife?

On one of my last days in Los Angeles, I parked my bike on a street under a sign that read “tow-away zone from 4-7”. I was thinking of moving it the whole time but one thing led to another and by the time I got around to it, it was 4:30 and the bike was gone.

I called the city and they said that bike was impounded and they gave me the towing company’s address to go and get it. Since this motorcycle is my only transportation, I called a cab and got there 45 minutes later in the rush-hour traffic of L.A.

I walked inside a mall size towing company called Keystone Towing where my motorcycle was supposed to be stored. I was already angry and blaming myself for the stupid parking zone violation, but that’s just one side of the story. They told me that the towing fee was $217 plus an $80 citation to the Los Angeles police department.

I told the clerk to show me the bike so I can inspect it and see that everything is ok before I would pay the charges. He walked me through the storage lot and when I got to the bike, I couldn’t believe what I saw. The tank was ripped off the frame and hanging from the two bolts under the seat. The cable lock was wrapped up around my rear wheel from them pulling the bike. The forks were bent with a slight arch in them, the seat was bent back and ripped, and finally, the gas tank rubber bushings and a 10mm bolt sitting under the bike.

As calm as I could be (which is probably not what you imagine the word calm would mean), I asked for the manger to come over. The operations manager walked out and I told him I don’t care how it happened, just tell me loud and clear what you are going to do about it and tell me now.

With utmost insolence and unprofessional disrespect, he countered with “how do we know it wasn’t like this when it got here?” At this point I wanted to demolish his face right then and there but I stepped away and called 911 to send out a police officer.

While I was waiting, the manager went on with taking pictures and telling me that I have two options: A) pay the fee for the bike and get it out of there or, B) they would charge me an additional $45 every day for storage if I choose not to pay the fee now. The cops got there and they refused to make a damage report on the grounds that this was a civil dispute and not criminal, and if I have a problem with it, I can go to court and request a hearing.

Since I’m constantly traveling, have nowhere to stay in the city, nor have the time or patience to pursue a law suit against a city-contracted towing company, so knowing all that, I said to the manager “you know what; just give me something…, drop the towing fees and I’ll be on my way.” After a long conversation, he said that $100 of the towing fee goes to L.A county and they can’t wave that and all he can do is to give me a discount, and for that, I had to sign a waiver that I am OK with everything and will not sue the company!

As I assessed my options to settle the damages given my travel situation, I told him to let me try to crank the bike so I can see if it even runs, and that there might be other damages that I can’t see in the dark warehouse with a flash light. If it at least moves, I can make my decision then.

Not only was this guy rude and arrogant from the start, this time he said: “Take it or leave it. I won’t let you see the bike until you pay for it or get out because we are closing right now.”

At this point I paid the full amount so I retain the right to sue them when I get the bike out. They ran my bank card and then, they wanted me to sign a paper saying that “I have received the above vehicle in satisfactory condition”. I told them “Hell no. I’m not signing that. I already paid for your ‘service’ and I want my bike NOW.” They said if you don’t sign the paper, you will not get your bike.

So I called 911 again and asked for yet another visit from the police which took 45 minutes. With police intervention, a segment was added to the paper that the bike is in a damaged state and I listed all the damages I could see, made two copies and I finally got the bike out of there.

I bent the tank back down but it’s only holding on with the back bolts, the paint is chipped and cracked on the tank(this tank was in immaculate shape, see the older pictures on my website) and the seat is bent and ripped and it won’t stay on without moving to left and right.

I am seriously thinking about suing the United Roads Towing Co. and its division the Keystone Towing. Maybe the damage is not worth the trouble, but it is a matter of principle. Paying the traffic fine is one thing which I don’t have a problem with as it was my own fault, but getting raped by the city and their contracted towing company is something else.

I am grateful to Dana Onel for hosting me at her place in Sherman Oaks and like to thank all those who called, emailed and offered their help to get me back on the road. Wrong doing of one company does not alter my perception of the good people of California and in particular Los Angeles.

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I am on the road again heading for Los Angeles after a rather long period of inactivity (riding wise). I came to Bakersfield, CA to fix some motorcycle problems and had no intention of staying more than a night or two but ended up staying for 29 days, aside from my time in Barstow.

Andy Pogany once jokingly mentioned that Cynthia was keeping me like the Sirens from Homer’s Odyssey. Legend has it that the Sirens sing from the sharp rocks by their island to lure sailors. As the sailors hear the singing, they cannot resist so they draw closer to the rocks until they shipwreck. Legend also holds that if a sailor hears the singing but is able to escape, the Sirens perish.

Now, I am no sailor, and Cynthia doesn’t sing, and as far as I know, she is very much alive! What did keep me here was my nightmarish logistical planning for crossing the border into Mexico and getting everything done before I leave the country for the next 5 years. I also wanted to get a jump-start on my Spanish which Cynthia offered to help with.

Cynthia has been very enthusiastic and supportive about the cause ever since I set foot in Bakersfield. She came up with different ideas literally every day on how to help, from donating her payment for a photo-shoot to Dispensario Bethania (the malnourishment recovery institution in Guatemala), to coming up with ideas on how to raise more money and awareness about starvation. November 11th was Cynthia’s birthday. At her party, every guest who attended was asked not to bring a present, but rather to donate to the cause in lieu of gifts. As a photographer and social worker, being involved is not new to Cynthia, but I am glad to have her on my side.

Aside from working on my meager Spanish skills, I’ve been diligently spreading the word about my expedition and in particular, the issue of Hunger. I’m excited to see that more people are coming on board with ideas on how to get involved with the cause from all parts of the globe: from Paraguay to the Netherlands to Iran to Australia. It’s been rewarding to establish connections via different mediums such as forums, emails, and my blog, and to know that my work is paying off.

During this time, I also managed to bring my website up to the shape that it is today with a lot of help from Andy Pogany. My stay in Monterey, CA brought upon a great friendship with Andy and ever since then, he has taken on the role of proof-reader/editor for the website. I stayed up many nights editing CSS, HTML and PHP codes, refining the layout and functionality of the website. I can say that it is finally what I envisioned a year ago when I was planning to launch it.

On one of those long editing nights, I received a $20 donation from a guy named Matthew Hanscom. Moments later, I received another email notifying me that Matt sent a friend request via Facebook. I was already on-line so I added him and we started chatting. As it turned out, Matt is another GSR member (GSR is short for GS Resources, a motorcycle forum community that focuses on the old GS line of Suzuki motorcycles) who rides the same motorcycle as I do and wanted to help.

While I was thanking him, I mentioned how I do not ask people to alter their lifestyle or to give away half of what they have, but that any little thing that someone can spare goes a long way. I was blown away when Matt responded that his donation of $20.00 was exactly half of what he had in his bank account at that moment. If that is not selflessness, I don’t know what is. Oh, and by the way, that is not all Matt did. He read one of my posts that my windshield was broken and offered to send me his. Although I didn’t end up taking him up on his offer as my windshield is still functional, it is heart-warming to see such generous acts of kindness.

I fully understand that times are tough for many of us. With all the lay-offs, rising cost of everything and our own to care for, it is hard to part with our disposable income. Yet, some are figuring out ways to still contribute regardless of their financial circumstances.

Jared Williams is one such person. Yet another GSR member, he is a man with a heart for helping people. Jared reflects, “We should all be doing the best we can to keep things together and help out those that we can. Some of that is people you are in direct contact with on a daily basis, and part of that is through monetary support for people in need further away.”

With 3 kids at home to provide for, Jared and his wife strive to live a life in which they make good use of their resources. They eschew excessive consumption and waste in favor of reducing what they use as a family, and ultimately giving some of what is not used to help others in need.

When Jared first contacted me he wrote: “Things are tight now as with others but I will set something aside and send it along.” Soon after, he wrote again to report that he had finished building a bar and gave his customer a bare bottom price for his work and told the customer that if he liked the work, to consider paying a little extra so that Jared could donate to the cause. Jared’s customer ended up paying an extra $100 that Jared donated on my website which will go to the World Food Programme.

Jared used his skills to come up with a solution, Cynthia made her birthday party into a fundraiser, Matt gave half of the cash he had, and Andy made it easier for you to read my blog by polishing my writing.

Where there is a will, there is always a way. This story was their way. This ride is my way. Make this month a month for giving – find your way.

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November 15th, 2009 - He had high hopes

First, I would like to thank Steven Lovestrand and Irina Loftus for their generous donations.

After spending three days on the phone talking to UNICEF directors in three countries and four different banks to get the phone number of Dispensario Bethania, the malnourishment recovery center in Guatemala, I finally got a hold of its director, Dr. Carlos Arriola. I was trying to confirm the account information to ensure that the money didn’t end up in the wrong person’s pocket. International wire-transferring is a complicated business as the funds have to go through several channels in order to reach the final beneficiary. I’m glad it’s all done and the funds are going to where they were intended to be.

As part of my outreach, I am interested in establishing contact with activists and bloggers who are also concerned with malnutrition. In my research, I ran across “Hunger and Poverty”, a blog by Scott Hughes. Scott is a passionate individual who runs a few websites including which is a forum-type website focusing on malnutrition and poverty. The discussion area on his site is a great tool to bring like-minded people together and discuss ideas and solutions for different issues.

“We base our philosophy on the belief that every sane person [in the world] would rather get quality education and sufficient employment than suffer from poverty, hunger, or homelessness,” Scott explains. I admire his dedication and agree with his ideology.

Today is the 90th day since I started my journey and I am overwhelmed by the support and generosity of so many. I am also touched by the numerous comments and emails that I have received throughout this time. It is your comments and notes that encourage me to go on and help me not to feel alone.

Of course, it is natural that not everyone will agree with what I do or how I do it. There have been times when I was criticized for my views and even the cause. Some wrote to suggest that our planet is too over-populated and that famine works as one of nature’s regulators for population control. Although it is true that famines and wars do regulate population, they failed to mention why some have the right to live and others don’t. What makes it ok for Maria in Honduras to perish from the devastating effects of famine while Jack in Connecticut can enjoy golfing on his private course?

Some even consider me nothing more than a “hippie dreamer” with unrealistic expectations. They claim that reaching out to other cultures is futile and label whoever runs their countries differently than ours as dictators.

In response, one commentator countered with: “…most dictators in the areas where these practices are happening are in fact puppets of western states. You won’t hear about them on CNN, however, when a country gets away from this and elects a leader focused on bettering their own people, they are vilified in the popular media, targeted by western death squads, and the country is usually devastated by economic sanctions, or by the use of free flow capital and the trade of prospect, driving down the local currency making it harder and harder for the country to stand on its own.”

Whether I receive criticism or praise, I embrace both wholeheartedly as they bring about attention to this issue and function as catalysts for change. That’s what I like about Scott’s website as it enables people to speak out and through dialogue, to achieve a level of understanding and compassion for each others’ viewpoints, and thus brings them all to the realization that together we can be constructive regardless of our differences.

Hippie, Yuppie, Republican, Democrat, Bible-thumper, Atheist, Star-Trek fan, or whoever you are, keep in mind that at the end of the day, we are all human beings with the right to breath, to dream, to have the chance to become better than what we are.

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November 8th, 2009 - Windmills of my mind

First, I would like to thank Cynthia Qusipe, Matthew Hanscom and Debbie Medina for their generous donations.

Bakersfield to Barstow on Hwy 58 is only 130 miles, but it was the worst 130 miles of my journey so far. Wind blew at a vicious velocity bringing clouds of dust that made the highway invisible at times. My mouth filled up with sand, and my goggles didn’t seem to be effective in protecting my eyes. I stopped after every dust storm and cried a river to get the sand out of my eyes.

Stretching from the Colorado River on the Nevada border to the highly populated Riverside, San Bernardino County is a barren piece of land at best. Boasting to be the largest county in the lower 48, the northern part is also one of the poorest I have visited so far.

My presentation was scheduled to be on the 9th of November at the Barstow library, but to my surprise, the newspaper article claimed it to be on the 6th. Nevertheless, the library staff were super and helped with everything I asked for and I enjoyed chatting with them for hours. They provided services with what little they have in a town of about 30,000 and did a great job of it. To accentuate how poor this town was, I had found Wi-Fi in Chicken, AK with a population of only 27, but Wi-Fi was non- existent in Barstow library.

In Barstow I stayed with Eva Cox, the daughter of Tom Cox of Poet Motorcycles (one of my sponsors), and had a great time. We celebrated her roommate’s birthday that evening, and I awoke the next day with a head the size of a basketball. I guess I’ve lost my edge on the whole drinking thing – dang, I used to be good at it!

I was praying for low winds on the way back to Bakersfield, and for most of the way it was fine; but as I approached the windmills outside of Mojave, the winds got stronger by the second. An electronic sign read “High winds – Campers and RVs not advised”. I have been through some strong winds in my lifetime, but none compared to what I went through in that 20 mile stretch. The wind pushed and shoved my 1000lb bike to the other lane with no effort, and all I could do was either a) hang on for dear life or b) pull over to set my balls back into place.

Well, I’m back in Bakersfield for Spanish lessons now. My plan was to attend a language school once I entered Mexico, but I decided instead to get a jump start here in States. I will get back on the road shortly and will head for Arizona. Stay tuned…

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October 29th, 2009 - And that’s how it goes

Every generation needs a new revolution. —Thomas Jefferson

I have an addition to this famous line; to have a revolution, we first need an evolution.

We live in a time in which the world has never been healthier, wealthier, or more advanced; but absurdly, the conditions for the world’s poor has not improved for centuries regardless of our advancements. With blood-sucking organizations such as the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund leaving nothing for the poor and only caring for their own power, Leonard Cohen’s song keeps ringing in my head, “The poor stay poor and the rich gets rich, and that’s how it goes, and everybody knows…”

Does everybody know?

November is bladder-control awareness month! We have a month dedicated to not pissing our pants but shamefully and shockingly, there is no month or even a day dedicated to the number one cause of human death in the world: Hunger. No pretty pink or yellow ribbons, no merchandising propaganda, no bracelets to be sold at gas stations.  And sadly, no one seems to care.

Hunger-associated disorders kill 36 million people each year worldwide. This is more than coronary heart disease, stroke and other cerebro-vascular diseases, lower respiratory infections, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diarrheal diseases, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, tracheal, bronchial, and lung cancers, road traffic accidents, and premature or low birth weight, COMBINED.

Let me rephrase that because it is vaguely important. Despite the fact that hunger-associated disorders kill more people than the 10 major causes of death in the world, our government is more concerned with banning artificial sweeteners because of the increased rate of bladder cancer in laboratory rats that were fed large doses of saccharin!

The question remains: Why should we care?

Remember the hurricane Katrina victims? They had faces. They had media coverage. They had the whole world watching. We still failed to give them their most basic needs. Now imagine a family in Ethiopia or Haiti with no media coverage, no Wal-Mart to bring water, and nowhere to turn. Their story could be YOUR story. All it takes is one heavy cloud, one strong wind, one earthquake.child-deaths

I don’t have unrealistic expectations. I know that change won’t happen overnight but I also know that if we all sit around and do nothing, nothing will ever change. It takes one step, one dollar, one person at a time and you can have a share in it. The first step is raising awareness and every single one of you is capable of doing so. Spread the word. Send this message to everyone you know, whether via Facebook, MySpace, forums, or email. It takes less than a minute of your time to care and the result is undeniable.

You can refer them to my website at To make donations to reach the goal for the month of October, please visit the donation page on this site and make it a reality.

Revolutions start with evolving our resources and ideas. We are far away from revolution. Let’s evolve for now; revolution will follow.

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