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Moskoblog: Coronavirus v1.0

Moskoblog: Coronavirus v1.0

March 28, 2020

By now, everyone has been affected by the virus in some way. Here’s our story.

On February 1st, Ash and I boarded a flight to Vietnam via Hong Kong to get bikes and ride around for a month. The virus situation was developing in China, and we knew it might be a factor on our trip, but at that point we weren’t too concerned. We thought it would be like SARS: slightly scary, slightly disruptive, but ultimately contained.

Even at that early stage, it was hard to ignore the virus while traveling. Leaving Portland, there were lots of masks on the plane. Every cough or sneeze got a sideways glance.

Browsing the news on the seat’s LCD, nearly every story was about the virus.

In Hong Kong and Vietnam, there were temperature checks for incoming passengers.

Once we landed in Vietnam and got on the bikes, the virus became background noise. We rode Northwest from Hanoi toward Laos, about 100 miles from the China border. The China/Laos border was closed due to the virus, so the hotels and restaurants were eerily empty. Some pics of the journey are in this blog post from 2/21.

On February 10th I broke my leg. Not knowing the best place to find a doctor, we continued riding to our destination, the small town of Phongsali, and found a hotel. That same day, Ash started coughing and sneezing. Initially we joked about it, like ‘hey maybe it’s the virus,’ but we didn’t take it very seriously since the leg seemed like a more pressing issue.

That night her cough got worse, and the next morning she had a fever and was too sick to ride. We decided to sit tight for a day and see what happened, so we stocked up on snacks and water, and booked the room for a second night. That day in the hotel with a broken leg, fever, and coughing was the nadir of the trip.

Although we figured it was just a normal traveler’s crud, given our location, it was hard not to consider the virus. It didn’t help that the news was all-virus-all-the-time, and we were stuck in a room with nothing to do but stare at our phones.

We learned that Laos had a virus hotline. We were worried that if Ash had the virus she might contribute to spreading it as we traveled, so she called the hotline and talked to someone in Vientiane (20+ hours south by road), who told her to go see the doctor in Phongsali immediately. By then it was 10pm, we were in bed about to sleep, and we planned to ride 6 hours south to a real hospital (with an Xray for the leg) in the morning. However, the hotline lady wanted Ash to go see the doctor right away, that night.

Here is Ash’s Whatsapp exchange with the hotline.

Ash followed their advice and went. We were worried she might get quarantined regardless of her virus status, because we were foreigners, the virus was all over the news, she was clearly sick, and they probably didn’t have the test in Phongsali. Here’s Ash with her bugout bag packed, leaving for the doctor alone at 10pm in the dark, hoping she’ll be coming back after. I couldn’t go due to my broken leg.

What actually happened – rather than quarantine – was that after a brief, awkward, and confusing exchange with the doctor, it became obvious that no testing would happen in Phongsali. The doctor – who put on a second face mask when he learned why she was there – was not excited to see her. She returned to the hotel an hour later, and the next day we left. Riding south to Oudomxay we were a motley crew, me with my broken leg and Ash with her fever. Here’s Ash, feverish, fully passed out on the side of the road.

This is all in our ride report. Long story short, Ash recovered and continued south on the bike, exploring Vietnam solo. I went to Thailand for treatment, where my friend JM loaned me a car to drive around. We reconnected a few weeks later in HCMC to visit factories and fly home on March 1st. By then, virus awareness was widespread in Vietnam, and temperature checks and health questionnaires were standard everywhere we went.

Landing in Portland, it was clear the US had a different perspective. The health checks we saw at borders, hotels, and airports throughout Asia, were completely absent coming home. We showed our passports at the border and walked right through, no questions asked. Nobody had gloves or masks, and nobody seemed too concerned about the virus. I’m sure it’s different now, but that’s how it was a few weeks ago.

Back in the U.S., on March 3rd, we had an all-hands meeting with the Mosko team to discuss how the evolving situation might affect our business.

We looked at it from three angles:

  1. The health of our team, families, friends, and riders.
  2. Disruptions to our supply chain: factories, materials suppliers, and shippers.
  3. Reduced sales from canceled events and general economic malaise.

At that point it still seemed reasonable to travel, and no events had been canceled. Our first Spring event was Adventure Days at Rawhyde’s ‘Zakar’ facility in the Mojave Desert. From there we planned to go to Salt Lake City for a meetup, Odessa, WA for the Desert 100, Tennessee for March Moto Madness, Florida for a meetup, Missouri for a meetup, then home. JC packed the Mosko show trailer, I hooked up the Mosko camper, and we headed south to the Mojave with two trucks and two 40′ trailers in tow. Sarah, Ash, and Jenn flew down from Portland the next day, rented cars in LA, and met us at Zakar on March 11th.

This was our fourth year at Adventure Days, and it was as awesome as ever, despite what was happening in the rest of the world. With the virus situation evolving, there was something very appropriate about heading to a container compound in the desert, designed to survive a zombie apocalypse (Zakar = zombie apocalypse + Dakar). Maybe – hopefully – this was as close as we’ll ever get to ’28 Days Later.’

Ash and I did several presentations on fly-in trips, Mosko, and our trip through SE Asia. I was limping around on a knee crutch with my lower leg in a fiberglass cast.

Our buddy Tommy showed up with his custom overland vehicle ‘Big Momma,’ which is built on a 5 ton chassis with a KLR on the front. This rig is so badass. He built it all himself by hand, starting with just a flatbed. Check it out at Overland Expo this year (if that still happens, the dates were moved to July).

Tommy and the Mosko team went for a ride on Sunday afternoon, after packing up the booth.

While we were at Zakar, the virus situation escalated further. The Desert 100 was canceled, California banned public gatherings, and ‘social distancing’ became a thing. We canceled our SLC meetup, canceled future travel plans, and sent out the email I posted in the last blog. We were returning to a different world than the one we’d left just 5 days before.

Ash, Sarah, and Jenn flew home – the last flights anyone at Mosko will take for a while – while JC and I drove with the trailers, detouring through the desert to avoid the worst of a late season storm. At a campground in Nevada on Monday morning, with snow falling outside, we had a conference call with the team, and decided to close the Mosko office until further notice. Everyone started working from home.

Also that week: virus awareness increased massively, the stock market hit new lows, and large scale lockdowns and travel restrictions went into effect in the US and Europe. The headlines looked like this.

Back home in Washington, I was happy to finally get my cast removed, and replaced with a walking boot (no more crutch!). Vernon Wade, the x-ray tech who cut the cast off, has this killer Triumph sidecar that he showed me in the parking lot on the way out, as we practiced responsible social distancing. Check out Vern’s website here: Adventure Sidecar.

Looking at our sales so far this year, it’s pretty clear that until Sunday – the last day of Adventure Days – our sales were on one trajectory. Then starting Monday, they adjusted to a different (lower) trajectory. Now we’re adapting our business to that new trajectory, since nobody really knows how long this will last.

Some of the steps we’ve taken include reducing work hours for everyone on the team, freezing discretionary spending and travel, requesting extended terms from our major vendors, and contacting our landlords and lenders for payment deferrals while our office and vehicles sit idle. We’ve also applied for some special ‘disaster’ loans being offered by the SBA. The SBA’s website has been so overloaded with traffic, that I had to upload our application at 4am so it didn’t crash.

Andrew, Scott, and Julia are working on new designs at home. Jenn, Paulina, and Sarah are responding to calls and emails as usual, going into the office occasionally – solo or 6′ apart -when needed. Lee and Ames are in close communication with our factories, which are reporting delays and in some cases (i.e. Bangladesh) temporary shutdowns. Spencer and Ash are keeping up with social media – which is more active than ever, with so many people home-bound and/or #motodistancing – and creating new videos. Roel is laying low in the Netherlands, boxed in by the European travel restrictions. JC left Washington for his home in Colorado two days ago, and should be there by now. Everyone is hunkered down, sheltering in place.

Our warehouses in Portland and Amsterdam are fully operational. Orders are still coming in, product is still going out, and phones and emails are still being answered. When the restrictions lift, we’ll bring everyone back to full time, move back into the shop, load up the bikes & booth, and get back on the road. In the meantime, if you have any questions about anything at all, or even if you just want to chat because you’re all cooped up at home, do not hesitate to reach out.

Here’s what our home offices look like.

Spencer (Marketing)

Scott (Apparel Design)

Sarah (Sales)

Lee (Engineering & Ops)

Julia (Product Development)

Jenn (Rider Support)

Dan (Graphic Design)

Ash (Marketing)

Andrew (Bag Design)

Ames (Special Projects & Ops)

Paulina (Rider Support)

Roel (International Sales)

Me (Crash Testing)

It’s a weird moment. Normally we’d all be in the shop together, shooting the shit and comparing notes. Instead we’re hunkered down individually at home, connected by phone, text, Zoom, and Slack, doing our best to make decisions with the limited information we have. I’m sure we’ll all be telling stories about this period for many years to come.

If any travelers are stuck out there anywhere in the world, stranded by the virus situation, and we can help in any way, please contact us. We have internet, phones, resources, and time, plus a network of riders and friends around the world. Maybe we can help you.

Stay safe & healthy!