I should have known better

Consequences. These are my stock-in-trade. For years I have stood at the pulpit of corporate boardrooms evangelizing the consequences of technology innovation – both the opportunities available and the implications of dogmatically continuing to ignore the tides of change. I pride myself on thinking through a range of consequences, considering things from a wide range of perspectives in order to provide foresight to take action against. I’m also fascinated by unintended consequences that become obvious after the fact and I can highly recommend reading the book “Freakonomics” if you are interested in picking up a collection of bizarre but true facts that you can entertain your guests with at your next dinner party. As children, we are made aware of consequences from a very early age and one of my favorite comedians, Russell Peters, does a brilliant sketch on child discipline as he was growing up that should resonate with everyone – it’s worth 5 minutes on YouTube – trust me on this one!

Motorbike riders have their fair share of consequences to contend with:- the consequence of incorrectly hitting a pothole that would be a mere bump to a car could result in death or severe injury as 100% of your directional capability disappears in a flash.

The consequence of not realising that wet patch on the road is not water but diesel, or worse still, oil, with the result the same as above. The consequence of not wearing earplugs during long rides at sustained high speeds is facing a high risk of developing a severe form of tinnitus – an all too common affliction in careless riders.

Even something as simple as the consequence of not putting sunscreen on the back of your neck (like I forgot to yesterday) and getting stuck in a traffic jam for half an hour in 37degree heat while car drivers turned up their aircon, I ended up with a mild case of sunstroke from being burnt at the base of neck where my helmet ends and before my jacket starts……….. Yes, consequences are something I am acutely aware of so I suppose it’s inevitable that I get a wake up call occasionally to keep me on my toes and make me realise there are always more consequences to consider.

Lucy and I had been getting on famously since my blog post about her – it seems she didn’t like the publicity so she had been going out of her way to find me the best possible routes for me to travel. The day I rode from Plitvice Lakes in Croatia towards Ljubljana in Slovenia was fantastic – my route taking in stunning vistas with every turn and as soon as I crossed into Slovenia I was delighted to discover a whole new world of sleepy hamlets, dozing in the midday sun, lying down the mountains consisting of rows upon rows of small vineyards where each grower proudly produces their own wine. Church spires dominated the skyline and castles commanded the best views on the hilltops – this was glorious riding and I was blissfully ticking off the miles to my evening accommodation in Ljubljana.

I was therefore a little surprised when with only 20 miles to reach my destination, Lucy took me speeding through another delightful little hillside hamlet and the road ran out ………….. I came speeding round the corner to be faced by a forest and a dirt track. I’m a dirt bike rider at heart so this didn’t phase me, after all – the track was showing up on a Garmin SatNav as routable – and it’s in Slovenia – it’s got to be a real road, right? Erm ……… After less than a hundred meters, I knew I was in trouble. After 500meters, I had visions of the movie “Hostel” going through my mind – the one where those Eastern European people set traps for unwary travelers so they can hunt them for sport……. After that my brain shut down all thinking, raw instinct kicked in and survival was all that mattered! This was not a road. This was a track made by some deranged Roman centurion who demanded the shortest route over the mountain in order to attack what was on the other side. He probably stuck a firework up the arse of his ass pulling his wagon and told the rest to follow. Apart from that I don’t think it’s ever been used since then as there were no vehicle tracks anywhere to be seen. After the first hundred meters the dirt disappeared from the track in favour of smooth, glistening white rocks – which would have been tricky had the road been straight, but the incline continued to increase to the point that I could not turn back as there was no way I could stop the bike without falling over and doing myself some serious damage. I pride myself on my dirt riding capabilities but now I was on a 220kg motorbike loaded with about 30kg of luggage plus xxkg of me, I was manhandling over a quarter of a ton on a goat track? The bike was careering wildly like a pinball while I hung on for dear life – there was no pretense of control, I tried to aim in one direction but the rocks were now the size of footballs and the bike went wherever it was thrust and I couldn’t help but notice with morbid fascination that the Garmin sat-nav had the damn track mapped down perfectly, turn by turn! My throttle hand was stuck to “give it horns” and the engine screamed maniacally as second by second I saw flashes of trees, then rocks, then a glint of sky (or maybe it was heaven …) then trees again. Lungs burning, arms aching, I suddenly heard a louder sound, drowning out the engine, a beat like satanic metal drummer on acid and I tried to look round in shock until I realized it was my heard pounding, about to burst through my rib cage. The bike and I spontaneously exploded out of the forest onto a “proper” dirt road, almost scaring the life out of an old man riding his bicycle a few meters away from our exit point. I slammed on brakes, killed the engine, put the bike on the stand and got off, shakily removing my helmet, gasping for air, dripping with sweat, the metal drummer still playing his solo in my chest. The old bloke on the bicycle came to a ponderous halt, got off and slowly wheeled his bike back to me.

“Deutsche?” He enquired (when in Slovenia, it is assumed that everyone on a BMW is German).

“Nein, Zuid Afrika”, I replied.

He lay his bike on the side of the road and tentatively peered into the forest and down the precipice I had just come up. He then walked over to my bike and tried to move it off its side stand – his scrawny arms tensing, muscles straining but he couldn’t shift it. He staggered back from the bike in bewilderment, his toothless maw cracked open wide :

“Afreeekaaa – verruckt!!!!” he guffawed, sticking out his calloused hand to shake mine, slapping me on the arm and repeating “verruckt, verruckt” (for those of you that don’t speak German – “crazy, crazy”)

and with that he set off on his wobbly way down the road he was traveling on before I disturbed his day. No doubt he would have a story to tell at dinner about the mad African he met in the forest. I turned back to Lucy and went to put her back on the straight and narrow.

You see, this was all my fault – the consequence of complacency.

I had been so taken with Lucy’s routing of late since tweaking some of the settings under Peter’s guidance that I had neglected to be thorough and check every single option, including one very important one that is buried deep in the menu system. It’s an option that I use when riding recreationally in the UK but not one you want to have active when you are touring alone in a strange place with a quarter ton machine …….. it says “include routing via dirt tracks”.

Life’s lessons huh?

Church spires dominate the horizon