Name: Theo Kelz
Home: Ossiach, Austria
Photo: Motor Cycle News
In 1994, Austrian policeman Theo Kelz lost both his hands when the bomb he was defusing exploded.
Six years later, he made history as the second person ever to undergo a double hand transplant. When the operation proved successful, Kelz knew he had to do something monumental to mark the occasion. Touring the world on his 1977 BMW R100RS seemed a fitting marker.
"I was waved off by a small group of friends and acquaintances," Kelz recalls. "I fitted my BMW with an 80-liter special tank, two 40-liter aluminum packing cases and stronger shocks.
"My route took me from Austria across Hungary, Ukraine, Russia, Siberia, Mongolia, back to Russia, Japan, then across Canada, back to Europe and then home to Austria. Some of the roads in Eastern Europe were so bad I had trouble holding onto the bike. I made it to Russia before my new shocks gave up the ghost.
"Thunderstorms and heat were my constant companions in Siberia, but I also visited the Prisoner of War camps near Novosibirsk, where my father was held for five years. It's now a rising metropolis, this town famous for the October Revolution, where Lenin is still a hero."
"The roads in Siberia were catastrophic. About 150 kilometers before Cita I found a crack in the frame and a puncture. The local mechanics of the motorcycle club welded the frame back together and repaired the shock absorbers. To thank them, I took them to a local restaurant. We ate and drank vodka into the early morning hours.
"The roads outside of Khabarovsk were impassable, so I loaded my motorcycle onto the Trans-Siberian railway and rode for 2000 km., reaching the city in mid-June. I was surprised to find five enormous men from the local motorcycle club waiting for me at the station. I took the ferry from Vladivostok to Japan.
"In Japan, everything was complicated. My mobile phone didn't work and my credit cards were not accepted. Fortunately, I had cash [U.S. dollars]. The Japanese were always polite and helpful, but life is expensive there. I finally flew from Tokyo to Vancouver and rode through Canada to Toronto.
"The last few days in Toronto were spent with friends, but I really started to look forward to going home to my wife.
"As I arrived back home, I was greeted by a police escort. They said, 'You've made it this far. We want to make sure you don't crash now!' When I turned into my lane, I was taken aback-the entire lane was decorated to welcome me home. Many friends came to congratulate me on my gigantic achievement.
"The trip put more than 24,800 km. [15,410 miles] on my bike, but I also travelled 2000 km. on the Trans-Siberian railway, 1500 km. on the ferry and 13,600 km. in flight. My hands didn't hurt once!"