Gawping Goldfish at Groblershoop
(A Saddlesore Story in South Africa)
by Jim Lundberg

Alberto 2003 BMW R1150R
Jim 1997 BMW R1100R
John 2003 BMW K1200GT

Of all the things expected and hoped for, nothing prepared me for the strange sight of my friends, at Groberlershoop (and many other places on this day,) who could have been blowing bubbles in a goldfish bowl! Clearly I was able to see mouths moving. Apparently words should have been formed, but I could hear nothing.

This peculiar scene is not so strange as it might seem. Plugs were firmly inserted in my ears. And those of my fellow travelers too. The wind-noise experienced on a motorcycle at high speed, is sufficient to deafen a person in a short space of time.

I should tell you that three of us, John, Alberto and I, had set out to pursue what my wife has described to be a pointless objective. A motorcycle trip of 1000 miles, to be undertaken in a period of not more than 24 hours. And, we would start and end in the same place! This being the minimum entry requirement of the Iron Butt Association. "Toughest Motorcycle Riders in the World."

Leaving Ficksburg in the small hours, long before sun appeared over Maluti mountains, we rode large capacity motorcycles at full speed. This day-long effort was sufficient to achieve our objective. I have to admit that I had under-estimated the effort that would be required to do this. At first I was uncomfortable, subject to a serious amount of wind buffeting. The noise and the strain on neck muscles later became familiar.

I struggled to keep up with the group during the first 70 km. The dark and intermittent mist would not allow me to travel faster. Shortly after dawn we were caught in a dirty little rain squall which dampened our spirits momentarily. As we traveled west, the sun rose directly behind us, flashing in different mirrors. Growing stronger, clouds were banished and we rode under a blue sky. Later to become blistering hot, mid-day temperatures towards 38 degs. C.

We had an enormous playground, which included substantial parts of the Free Sate, Northern Cape and Eastern Cape. In general road conditions
were excellent. On stretches between Kimberley and De Aar it was possible to travel for an hour without meeting another vehicle. Not surprisingly after some time one has a feeling of owning the road. I mean there was no one else there! Flat empty desert. Imagine our surprise to be overtaken by a luxury German car, traveling considerably faster than we were. Only one time that this happened.

I recorded a section of nearly 80km, which had a course alteration of just one or two degrees in the middle. (Can't call that a corner!) I wonder how many places there are in the world where one can ride at full speed the entire length of the day? We saw only one traffic cop. Sitting on the wall of a filling station, no transport in sight. John asked if there were any speed traps. He laughed loud, and told us no.

Another image, that is only a memory as no photograph was possible; of a bird struck by Alberto's handlebar as we slowed to approach Kimberley. An explosion of feathers, many meters up in to the air. Gently falling around me as I passed the same spot some seconds later. Yet another bird was found at the end of the day, lodged in the oil cooler of the same motorcycle.

At last we settled in to a routine, repeated many times during the day, as follows:
Select neutral, brake, stop. Lights off, ignition off. Bike to center stand. Open fuel cap, replace key in ignition. Sun glasses off, helmet off, ear plugs out. Lot of noise but can't hear well. Ask for fuel, pay and get receipt. Fill in log sheet. Eat something small, drink a little. Chat about destination and distance of the next leg. All of the first part in reverse order. Now moving; have I got my wallet? Is my bag closed? Is the fuel cap closed? Did I leave anything behind? And so to the level of concentration required to maintain the necessary steady high speed. This to keep position in our small group.

I had chosen not my usual sun glasses. Instead a Polaroid pair which produced some very strange effects in combination with the visor of my helmet. Occasionally some object surrounded by a shimmering purple silhouette. The tyre marks of other vehicles on the surface of the tar, iridescent green. Once, out of the corner of my eye, the entire horizon in pink. Very surreal. This in the middle of the day, just depending on how the light fell. More consistently, the blue colour of the horizon immediately to the front. Peering over the top of the glasses in an experiment to measure the effect of Polaroid, no Polaroid. Certainly the
glasses helped to see the rain showers during the afternoon in the Eastern Cape and Free State.

We had slowed to a more-or-less respectable speed at which to pass through a small town. On exit from Redesburg, over the brow of a hill, we could see heavy rain falling and pulled to the side of the road. Raingear? Yes. Yes. Twenty minutes later, having struggled into various pieces of water-proof clothing, the rain stopped and we rode on without getting wet. Frustrating as this was, the unscheduled stop was still welcome.

Sixty kilometers from home, another brief stop to phone and inform of our imminent arrival. And what an arrival it was. A hero's welcome. We owe a debt of gratitude to Ian Shekleton. He was there at 03:40 when we prepared for departure, to witness the start. He was there now at the finish, with clipboard, stop watches, bells and whistles, plenty cold beer and half the patrons from a local public house. He certainly looked and played the part of our official time keeper. Celebrations continued at the Bottling Company, where more beer was provided. Much joy at the completion and grateful for safe arrival. Exhaustion was not far away and we left a rowdy bunch to continue partying in to the night.

BMW motorcycles performed impeccably. No measurable amount of oil used. The only consequence of the day's activity, a serious amount of rubber disappeared from the back tire. A moderate amount of planning and much last minute speculation about weather, ensured this successful and trouble free day. Can't say that I would rush out and do it again next week. John made the comment that if one should do it again, another day, it wouldn't be the same. In the end, some serious fun for boys and their toys!

My hearing recovered (slowly) the next day.

distance covered  1770 km
average speed  120 km
avg. ride speed
(excl. stops)
 147 km