Thursday, March 08, 2018

Bike flight fright

Motorcycles do not fly. At least mine doesn't.

My speculative plans  to ship my GTR over to the USA for this summer's Great American Bucket List Road Trip have come to a resounding phutt. This is because I have received a grand total of two responses from my dozen or so enquiring emails to specialist "We ship motorbikes internationally" companies. Ten have failed to see fit to respond at all to my emails or follow-up emails, and one responded with "We don't ship from the middle east."

So that leaves one.

Twenty days after enquiring I got an email response to my reminder.

"We'll get back to you in a few hours."

Some 300 hours and several further reminders later, I got my quote. Eight Thousand Dollars. That's approaching what the bike's worth. And, lest we forget, the quote excludes the costs of a vast pile of known unknowns: Door delivery using a TSA vetted trucker; VAT; other unspecified tax; Customs duty; import duty; loading and offloading; crating; airport storage.

The fact that rather a lot of these listed charges should only apply in the case of permanent import rather suggests that the shipper hasn't thought this thing through.

Temporary import requires a Carnet de Passage. This is essentially a passport for the vehicle, and basically says that it is considered road legal in the country it's visiting, and it'll be taken out of the country again. So it is an utter nonsense that the UAE authorities would charge 5% of the value of the bike upon its return to the UAE as if it's a foreign bike being imported. It would be like driving to Muscat for the weekend and being charged 5% of the value by Oman authorites and then 5% by the UAE authorities on the way back. Nonsense. The shipping company has no knowledge of the Carnet de Passage.

Compare with testimonials on websites from which I never received a response.

"We arrived at the airport and rode away on our bikes an hour later..."

The bottom line, however, is this: $8000 is prohibitive. I could buy a decent used one out of the US small ads and throw it away a month later, still saving a great wad of cash. Always assuming I could get it registered; not necessarily a given, what with me being an alien and all that.

So it looks like I'll be solving the matter by throwing money at the problem. Bike rental is around $100-$120 a day, and I've always wondered what it'd be like to spend some time on a Gold Wing.


Sunday, March 04, 2018

Plato's Cave

Like most of the people I know, I seem to get a high proportion of my outside experience from social media. Notably Facebook. Yes, like some prisoner in the Allegory of Plato's Cave, I'm getting all my information about the world from a little glowing screen and very little from real life. It's The Matrix.  From time to time something from this manufactured reality really hits home.

One such item was posted by George Takei, linking to an article possibly from the Knowable emporium of clickbaitery. In summary, one anecdote under "Unexpected Things The Doctor Said":

 "I went to the doctor with backache and came out with cancer."

 Oh yes; very familiar indeed.

Another meme, and this time quite independent of the above, was a panel that said something like:

"I weather major crises, 
and then break down 
when I can't find a teaspoon."

This too is happening to me.

DOCTOR:  "You've got incurable Stage IV cancer. We can control it, but you'll need medical intervention for the rest of your life."

ME: "I see. With treatment, can I lead a reasonably normal life?"

DOCTOR:  "Reasonably, yes."


ME: *Destructive temper tantrum because the new DVD is cracked out of the box and won't play.*

Still later...

ME:  *Massive yelling and throwing things because I'm getting no responses to my email enquiries.*

I am basically a dangerous and paranoid menace to society. Not a nice person at all. Most of the time I am just about able to keep a lid on it, but my life has been one crisis after another since 2010. See old blog posts for the litany.

2010 - Made redundant.
2011 - Made redundant (Constructively dismissed for refusing to commit fraud, actually.)
2011 - 2012  Job from Hell in Qatar Resigned after a year.
2012 - 2014  Banned from Qatar because no NOC from Job from Hell 
2014 - 2016  Job from Hell II in Qatar. Was supposed to be for six months. Contract ended after two years.
2017 - Incurable Stage IV cancer. Unable to take up new job.
2018 - With the clock ticking and, let's be frank, not much time to go, being jerked around by Officialdom over my bucket list.

ME: *Considers reasons to keep trying at all.*


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

I still aten't dead

The blog and its author remain alive and kicking.

Four chemotherapy sessions down and eight to go, together with 10mg oxycontin a day, and the Goat is now, startlingly, feeling healthy and happy. The latter may possibly be because he's permanently slightly stoned on the pain medication. Or not.

Anyway, he felt so great yesterday that he took the Kawasaki out rather than the Vespa. A few errands later, including a trip to the oncology department to be unplugged from his portable drug pump, and he discovered himself in Bad Odour with Beloved Wife. Apparently he should have cleared everything with his oncologist, with particular emphasis on getting permission to ride a big bike.

Now, the Goat fully appreciates that the consequences of falling off a 1400cc Kawasaki may include broken bones. And in his current state, broken bones would be extra painful and take a long time to heal. But surely at similar speeds this applies equally to a scooter. And, come to that, tripping over a cat and plummeting down a flight of stairs might have a similar effect too.

Not that there is any intent to do any falling off. The big issue with a 305kg Kawasaki is in manoeuvring it at low speed, and this always takes care and attention. This is where pain management comes in, for any aches, twinges, or searing agonies will inevitably imperil the bike's verticality and plastic. So Zero Pain is mandatory before riding big bikes can even be considered.

Anyway, the Goat has promised Beloved Wife that he will discuss the matter at his next oncology consultation. He suspects that the doctor hates motorcycles, but must be led to understand quite how important riding is to the Goat.

On his errands yesterday, and in keeping with a remark above regarding verticality and plastic, the Goat may have scored some inexpensive rear crash bars to protect the panniers in case of a drop. They come from a police bike that was apparently thrown up the road at 80km/h, and one of them is slightly bent. The Kawasaki workshop has procured new bars for the police, and as the Goat is the only one to have expressed an interest, he might be getting the old ones. It should be possible to straighten the bar, and after polishing and powder coating it'll be all good. And a lot less than $250 from the USA plus the frightening cost of shipping several kilogrammes of scrap iron halfway around the planet.


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Coming to America

My bucket list includes the Great American Road Trip by motorcycle, this being a follow-up to the 2012 epic with Beloved Wife.

Unfortunately, bone cancer (or more specifically my oncologist) has forbidden the use of large motorcycles for the near future. Fundamentally, lack of bone mass and basic body strength makes it too difficult for me to wheel a big bike around. That actually riding it would be no problem is of little relevance when you consider what happens at red traffic lights, gas stations, and overnight stops.

Actually, it came to pass a couple of days ago that I had to move my Kawasaki from the front yard to the side of the Crumbling Villa so it would be parked in a less inconvenient spot. Just wheeling it about five metres was pushing the limit of what I could manage.

None of this has stopped me planning a summer of touring the USA. The overriding assumption has to be that I'll be fit enough to ride every day for a month or so. I floated the idea on a Kawasaki Concours/1400GTR Facebook group with a basic request for opinions on options:-

  • Rent a bike commercially.  Probably at $100 a day, I'd be looking at $3000 or so. It'd not be a Concours, but someone suggested I should go large and rent a Gold Wing.
  • Buy a used one, ride it, sell it.  I'd doubtless have to get my brother-in-law to own the thing because I'm not a US resident, but assuming say $6000 purchase price, it should be easy to sell at less than $3000 loss.
  • Ship my own bike to the US and then back again.  I have no idea what this would cost, nor what administrative hoops I'd have to jump through. But if UAE-registered Ferraris can spend summer in Knightsbridge, the principle is at least feasible. I've asked a shipper for cost and details.

Responses from the Facebook group where overwhelmingly positive, with offers of help, temporary accommodation, and one guy even offering to lend me his bike. "Get yourself to Texas with a license and insurance."

There were also many messages of support regarding the cancer. It seems surprising how many people have been or are are going through similar to me. This trip, if I can pull it off, might conceivably turn into a "Route 66 Defiant Cancer-Surviving Old Gits tour"

Back to Dubai and reality for a moment, and a note that I disgraced myself with Beloved Wife's Vespa yesterday. For the first time ever in my life, I dropped a motorcycle away from myself while attempting to put it on the centre stand, and fell over on top of it. Angry and embarrassed, I now have an exceptionally painful shoulder. The scooter's fine, but the incident serves to illustrate that I am currently in no fit state to be aboard anything heavy.


Friday, January 12, 2018


Is it a bird? Is it a plane?
It's Captain Caprine!!
Radiotherapy has been prescribed, and I'm halfway through ten sessions. I'm having a break because it's the weekend. The basic idea is that x-rays are beamed into my lumbar spine and pelvis to zap the cancer cells therein and reduce the pain. There are no nerves actually inside the bones, but the surfaces are covered in nerves and, as this is where muscles are attached, I get bone pain that feels like pulled muscles. The radiation is helping.

There is a thread on Facebook about this with many friends making comments about how being blasted with electromagnetic radiation will turn me into a superhero, or possibly a super-villain.

As I lay supine with heavy machinery whirling around me like some demonically-possessed fairground ride, it occurred that I might resemble some pharaoh.I was wearing the little paper apron preserving a little modesty, and my arms were crossed in the perfect place for the crook and flail. I guess I should also have had one of those stripy head-cloths and maybe a couple of Bangles...

However, unlike the pharaoh in the Iron Maiden song, I have no intention of being a Slave to the Power of Death any time soon.


Monday, January 08, 2018

The final curtain?

I don’t think so. But I never expected to be writing this either.

TL;DR - I went to the doctor with backache and came out with cancer.

Being a bit middle-aged, and a bit overweight, I took it upon myself to go to a clinic and, in September, received a very clean bill of health.

And I was, with slightly elevated hubris, pleased not to be dying of something out of the Tropical Diseases House of Horrors.

That was September. By October I was getting persistent aches in my right shoulder and my lower back that weren’t getting any better. They got inconveniently worse in November, and a few days of not sitting down over the Formula 1 weekend didn’t help.By the time of my trip to Munich in early December the backache especially was becoming no fun at all. Indeed, when my transfer at Istanbul included an unscheduled trip over a flight of stairs, I was in extreme pain.

So back to the clinic in December.

“A few years ago I had an issue with my left shoulder that was treated and basically cured with microsurgery by a specialist orthopaedic surgeon. Can you check the other shoulder please? And by the way, my lower back is a bit ouchie as well.”

Two x-rays later confirmed no obvious cause, so I was scheduled for a MRI scan of my shoulder. After ten days, my medical insurance decided to approve the MRI and on 12th December I was back in the orthopaedic clinic with almost no shoulder pain but crippling back pain.

“I can see bone marrow infiltration on your MRI, and you need a lower spine MRI. I also need loads of blood tests to eliminate multiple myeloma.”

My back pain got so bad after that. Following a tortured night of no sleep I went back to the clinic, another doctor told me to go to the Emergency Room and to get admitted to the oncology department.

So I did, and suddenly had a week in hospital. This was to put me in the same building as the CT and MRI machines and a load of pain-relief chemicals not normally available even with a prescription.

Every test was the same story: “We are awaiting approval from your medical insurance.” From getting admitted to all drugs, tests, procedures, consultations. A tearful Beloved Wife must have spent hours on the phone to the insurance company.

And after a week and the last (I thought) test, I was discharged with a big bag of pills and a bill for the last night in hospital “Because you should have left yesterday and our tardy approval of your last MRI had nothing to do with staying an additional night.”

Mr Mystery Illness now called for the endoscopy and colonoscopy. Can I have the endoscopy first, please? Especially if you’re going to use the same tube.” A stomach ulcer was discovered and biopsy taken.

Dear reader, you can see where this is going. And on Christmas Eve that is where it went.

I did not have the extremely nasty multiple myeloma, a horrible cancer with a typical prognosis of a five-year survival probability around 50%.

My stomach ulcer is no such thing. It’s Stage IV stomach cancer. This has quietly jumped to my skeleton and has been attacking and weakening my bones for an unknown time.

Making ‘Caucasian Male, 54’ the star of some future dusty medical paper, metastasis from stomach to bone without touching the liver, kidneys, pancreas, etc., is apparently unusual and therefore very interesting to the medical profession.

Bone and bone-marrow cancer as extensively as I have it is incurable. My oncologist will not be drawn to a prognosis. The ever-helpful Dr Google says that the likelihood of five-year survival is less than ten per cent. This is a number that I intend to beat.

And so the therapy started in early 2018. As at today, I’ve had a port fitted in my shoulder to facilitate administration of chemotherapy. One session down and it made me very tired for several days. I’ve had two radiation therapy sessions so far of a course of ten. I have managed to get access to some really very powerful pain relief so that I can nearly function normally.

Life is nearly normal, and with the anti-pain drugs I appear healthy and fully functional. Apart from the life-threatening cancer, of course.

More anon. I am very far from giving up.


Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Turkish Delight

The Goat is back from Germany again, after the semi-regular trip with Beloved Wife to the Christmas markets. With a group of six including Nix and Pegs, a good time was to be had by all. Certainly the Goat ate and drank to excess, and even picked up a few Christmas presents. On the outbound, he got all his luggage including a backpack into one carry-on. On the return journey the now bulging carry-on bag became checked luggage and the backpack constituted the Goat's carry on. And everyone had a great time in München and Nürnburg.

Animal Crackers

Beloved Wife had organised with a shipping agent to accompany live animals to their owner in Germany. The deal was that she and the Goat would accompany two pets each. Three cats and a dog. The agent would deal with all the permissions and paperwork, and all that remained for the Beloved Wife and her Goat was to meet the shipping agent at Dubai where the animals would be loaded, and to meet the owner in Munich where they would be unloaded. This is a common enough procedure.

Except with Turkish Airlines, it would seem. With a week to go, the airline told the agent that dogs and cats could not be transported together even if they were in separate cages, so the dog was bumped off the flight. Three cats in two boxes, then. The agent confirmed everything with Turkish Airlines and went ahead with the expensive export paperwork with two days to go. All confirmed, he arrived at around bidnight at DXB where there was a problem.

"Two animals cannot be transported in the same cage."

This is patent nonsense, and the agent had the approval paperwork to say so. Beloved Wife's aunt recently travelled from the UAE to the USA with her two cats in the same cage, and there was no problem with Emirates. The agent said he'd recently shipped animals to Germany with no issues at all via Gulf Air and by KLM.

And then there arose a second issue.

"Yesterday, the day after we approved everything, Turkish Airlines changed their rules and live animals can now not be transported in the hold. Nor in the cabin, at least, not to Germany."

The agent tried to contact the head office and, surprisingly because it was midnight, got a person to talk to on the phone. This person reiterated that everything was approved and teh kittehs could be shipped. But at the airport, "Computer says 'no.'"

The Goat pointed out that there would be a massive shitstorm if the agent managed to talk the cats on to the plane and they then got offloaded in Istanbul and refused boarding to Munich.

Meanwhile, the cats' owner had already travelled from the German boonies and was in a hotel in Munich, waiting for her furbabies that were now not going anywhere.

Taking the Tablets

The Goat idiotically managed to leave his tablet in the seat pocket of the DXB-IST flight. He realised this after queuing for an hour to get through airport security (where they look for all the drugs and guns everyone has managed to smuggle on to the plane in Dubai, FFS). Having cleared this security, the Helpful Man At The Counter said that the Goat should return to the transfer desk to try to get his tablet back. What he didn't say was that this involved going through a one-way door and would require queuing for security again and missing the connecting flight.

Beloved Wife eventually managed to persuade the Helpful Man to pick up his telephone, and then go and retrieve the tablet. Easy peasy..., eventually.

The long layover became ridiculously short, and now involved a brief gallop across Istanbul Atatürk to board the Munich flight, parked inevitably at the very far end of the terminal.

München Wurst

Having arrived in Munich and taken the train into town, the hotel was not overly difficult to find. Nix and Pegs arrived later, having fortuitously booked the same hotel, and all agreed to meet at breakfast the following morning to agree plans for the long weekend's debauchery. This will, in due course when the Goat has emptied his camera into a computer, form a separate blog post.

Back to Reality

Return flights were an exercise in endurance. First, Turkish Airlines' English website refused to allow on-line check in. Then the Lovely Booking Clerk cofirmed that the Goat and his Beloved Wife would both have aisle seats in a pair of packed aircraft. "Aisle seats" turned out to mean "Window and Middle, next to a large armrest thief comprising mostly elbows" followed by "Aisle and Middle, in front of a family of screaming, seat-kicking brats".

And it seems that of two identically-coloured matching suitcases loaded in Munich, one of them (containing all of the Goat's toiletries, clothes, and Christmas shopping) got to spend an extra day in Istanbul.

Even getting the bag delivered to the Crumbling Villa was made as hard as possible. The Delivery Man rang three times in quick succession when the Goat was unable to pick up. When the Goat returned the calls, he was told that the Delivery Man, instead of ringing to give an hour's notice of delivery, had grown tired of waiting at the Crumbling Villa and had gone off to Sharjah. Further return calls went unanswered, but at 9pm the Goat received a text message to say that the suitcase would arrive at 11pm.

No, the Goat does not have WhatsApp, and cannot send a location Pin. Whatever that witchcraft might be. Does anyone remember street addresses?

The case arrived at two minutes to midnight, coincidentally delivered by the same guy who delivered Beloved Wife's mishandled case in August.

One of the Goat's Antipodean friends has suggested that the Goat is a Travel Misfortune God. In the way that Rob McKenna is a Rain God and should be paid by holiday companies to stay away from sunny holiday destinations, perhaps the Goat should be paid by airlines to travel with someone else.

Such as not Turkish, for example.


The opinions expressed in this weblog are the works of the Grumpy Goat, and are not necessarily the opinions shared by any person or organisation who may be referenced. Come to that, the opinions may not even be those of the Grumpy Goat, who could just be playing Devil's Advocate. Some posts may be of parody or satyrical [sic] nature. Nothing herein should be taken too seriously. The Grumpy Goat would prefer that offensive language or opinions not be posted in the comments. Offensive comments may be subject to deletion at the Grumpy Goat's sole discretion. The Grumpy Goat is not responsible for the content of other blogs or websites that are linked from this weblog. No goats were harmed in the making of this blog. Any resemblance to individuals or organisations mentioned herein and those that actually exist may or may not be intentional. May contain nuts.