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  #1  
Old 23 Mar 2008
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California to TDF - questions!

Hi all,

I am currently planning my first adventure ride which will be from California to TDF leaving from Australia in October and I have a couple of questions, hopefully some of you kind people will help me! I have searched some things but have not found entirely clear answers to my problems. My bike of choice will be a KLR650 or DRZ400.

First of all is it hard for me to fly into the USA, buy a bike, change the title so that it is under my name and then ride away? If I have to wait for the process to go through then are there cheap backpackers in the states? How much is a cheap motel room? What would the recommended process of purchasing a foreign bike be? Should I buy it before I leave? There are many on Craigslist so I think it should be OK but not sure if it's a good idea because I might get ripped off.

I know some borders require insurance and I read you just need a piece of paper with the registration ID and insurance written all over it, so which would be the best method to obtain a cheap insurance paper used to cross borders?

Which immunisations would you recommend? So far I have yellow fever and rabies on my hitlist. I am a keen off-road / enduro rider and plan to go deep into some areas.

Will I require thermal or electric riding gear from USA to Panama? I was thinking I may save some space if I buy that stuff once I arrive in the colder climate areas rather than lug it around and not need it.

Also a question about the KLR650, does it have a cigarette lighter? If not is there a universal travel adapter which will convert all countries from USA to Argentina? I will need to charge my eeePC and GPS phone often.


Umm last but not least, any ideas of a good name for my blog! I am hopeless at this ... how about 'el camino largo casero' (the long road home in Spanish, joke lol)

Cheers in advance!
Adam
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  #2  
Old 23 Mar 2008
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I try with some answers...

Adam,
first of all: Congrats to your decision, it will be fun.
Now some answers:
Contact the local Community in California, I am sure they can help you with the answers concering the import / export / paperwork.
Next, I avoided a US number plate in order not to get all those "special taxes" the Gringos had to pay. Yes, they are treated a little different on the way South... So your choice.
Then for the Middle and Latin Americas I travelled with the Footprint books. Good on details, easy to locate inexpensive alternatives, safety etc. Have a look.
I would ride as light as you can with expensive materials such as laptops and GPS. Why? Well, you will find in every little house an internet cafe with good equipment and uploading facilities for your photos. I did it that way and did not need to worry about my expensive stuff... Secondly, any more chargers and electronic you will put on a bike will increase the chance of a defect.
On clothing, well, you will hit the tropical rains in Middle America as well as maybe minus 10 Celcius in the upper Bolivian Andies.
Japanese light bikes are a good choice as there are everywhere repair and part possibilities.
What more? Take your time, enjoy and listen to the locals...
Cheers
Rasmus
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  #3  
Old 23 Mar 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by razmataz View Post
Adam,
first of all: Congrats to your decision, it will be fun.
Now some answers:
Contact the local Community in California, I am sure they can help you with the answers concering the import / export / paperwork.
Next, I avoided a US number plate in order not to get all those "special taxes" the Gringos had to pay. Yes, they are treated a little different on the way South... So your choice.
Then for the Middle and Latin Americas I travelled with the Footprint books. Good on details, easy to locate inexpensive alternatives, safety etc. Have a look.
I would ride as light as you can with expensive materials such as laptops and GPS. Why? Well, you will find in every little house an internet cafe with good equipment and uploading facilities for your photos. I did it that way and did not need to worry about my expensive stuff... Secondly, any more chargers and electronic you will put on a bike will increase the chance of a defect.
On clothing, well, you will hit the tropical rains in Middle America as well as maybe minus 10 Celcius in the upper Bolivian Andies.
Japanese light bikes are a good choice as there are everywhere repair and part possibilities.
What more? Take your time, enjoy and listen to the locals...
Cheers
Rasmus
Hi Razmataz, thanks for your info it's very helpful. What country number plate did you use on your bike instead of a united states one?
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  #4  
Old 23 Mar 2008
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Pockethead,

I think you will find that the USA is the cheapest place to buy a bike, due to our low import taxes. Not sure about Canada, but definitely cheaper than the Latin American countries.


Quote:
Originally Posted by razmataz View Post
Next, I avoided a US number plate in order not to get all those "special taxes" the Gringos had to pay. Yes, they are treated a little different on the way South... So your choice.


I wouldn't worry about the US number plate. In riding through Central and South America, I was never hassled by any locals about being a "Gringo", only by a few "Eurotrash", like razmataz, and luckily they don't have the power to "tax" me.
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  #5  
Old 23 Mar 2008
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Hi PocketHead. What part of California are you planning to start in?

I'm on my own trip right now, but I should be back in San Francisco by the time you start. If you need any logistical help, including a place to crash for a week or two, let me know.

Buying the motorcycle: Unfortunately I don't know the process of buying a motorcycle as a foreign national, but I suspect it can be done. You also need to insure it for the time it will be in the US. You might be able to get some good answers out of the online help agent that some insurance companies (like geico.com) have. Keep in mind that all the rules will change from state-to-state.

If you want to have the pink slip (title) for the vehicle, you usually get it in the mail a week or two after the purchase. This might not be a major issue though, and you can always have a scan sent to you in email and color printed in a major city. I don't believe it's necessary for Central America at least, although I have color copies of mine just in case.

Insurance: Insurance is something that must be done country-by-country. Some countries (eg US, Mexico) require it and some don't. Your US insurance isn't good in Mexico, your Mexico insurance isn't good in Guatemala, etc. In some cases (US) it'll be much cheaper to get insurance only for the short time you will be in the country (and unfortunately you can't register the bike in California without proof of insurance). In some cases (Mexico) it's only a tiny bit more expensive to get insurance for the whole year. I used Baja Bound Mexican Auto Insurance - Travel Safe in Mexico! for Mexican insurance, and will figure out each additional country when I get near the borders.

Heated gear: I left for parts south in December and froze my ass off in the high deserts of Arizona, even with my heated vest and wearing everything I own. Northern Baja was also pretty cold. I've found several occasions to use the heated vest in central Mexico, although I've removed the liner of my jacket. It's much easier to turn the vest on and off than it is to stop and add/remove clothing to suit the current temperature. Also, despite best intentions, you will find yourself occasionally riding at night (ie, you just spent your last two hours of daylight fixing a flat). I'd bring a vest but heated sleeves, socks, gloves etc are overkill.

Immunizations: My doctor only gave me Typhoid, Polio, a Hepatitis A/B booster, and a prescription for Malerone, but I'm not going farther south than Panama on this trip.

Power sockets: I don't think the KLR has a socket (usually BMW-type, I've never seen a bike with a cigarette lighter) stock, but they're easy to add. I hardwired my GPS cradle but charge my other electronics (laptop, phone, cameras) when I sleep in hotels. Haven't had a problem yet. Keep in mind that (like my KTM) the KLR and DRZ alternators are anemic and you have to be a careful with draw... I can't use my heated vest and heated grips at the same time.

Good luck! I will look forward to your trip report

Jeff
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  #6  
Old 23 Mar 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lhoriman View Post
Hi PocketHead. What part of California are you planning to start in?

I'm on my own trip right now, but I should be back in San Francisco by the time you start. If you need any logistical help, including a place to crash for a week or two, let me know.

Buying the motorcycle: Unfortunately I don't know the process of buying a motorcycle as a foreign national, but I suspect it can be done. You also need to insure it for the time it will be in the US. You might be able to get some good answers out of the online help agent that some insurance companies (like geico.com) have. Keep in mind that all the rules will change from state-to-state.

If you want to have the pink slip (title) for the vehicle, you usually get it in the mail a week or two after the purchase. This might not be a major issue though, and you can always have a scan sent to you in email and color printed in a major city. I don't believe it's necessary for Central America at least, although I have color copies of mine just in case.

Insurance: Insurance is something that must be done country-by-country. Some countries (eg US, Mexico) require it and some don't. Your US insurance isn't good in Mexico, your Mexico insurance isn't good in Guatemala, etc. In some cases (US) it'll be much cheaper to get insurance only for the short time you will be in the country (and unfortunately you can't register the bike in California without proof of insurance). In some cases (Mexico) it's only a tiny bit more expensive to get insurance for the whole year. I used Baja Bound Mexican Auto Insurance - Travel Safe in Mexico! for Mexican insurance, and will figure out each additional country when I get near the borders.

Heated gear: I left for parts south in December and froze my ass off in the high deserts of Arizona, even with my heated vest and wearing everything I own. Northern Baja was also pretty cold. I've found several occasions to use the heated vest in central Mexico, although I've removed the liner of my jacket. It's much easier to turn the vest on and off than it is to stop and add/remove clothing to suit the current temperature. Also, despite best intentions, you will find yourself occasionally riding at night (ie, you just spent your last two hours of daylight fixing a flat). I'd bring a vest but heated sleeves, socks, gloves etc are overkill.

Immunizations: My doctor only gave me Typhoid, Polio, a Hepatitis A/B booster, and a prescription for Malerone, but I'm not going farther south than Panama on this trip.

Power sockets: I don't think the KLR has a socket (usually BMW-type, I've never seen a bike with a cigarette lighter) stock, but they're easy to add. I hardwired my GPS cradle but charge my other electronics (laptop, phone, cameras) when I sleep in hotels. Haven't had a problem yet. Keep in mind that (like my KTM) the KLR and DRZ alternators are anemic and you have to be a careful with draw... I can't use my heated vest and heated grips at the same time.

Good luck! I will look forward to your trip report

Jeff
Wow, I just read over your trip, sounds great! Your objectives are scarily similar to mine which I did yesterday (but did not copy!), you have written:

I don't have a lot of specific plans. Ride great roads (both paved and not). See cool things. Eat yummy food. Meet interesting people. Drink. Learn Spanish. Write code for the Next Big Thing.

In my blog I have:
My hobbies are motorbikes & enduro riding, meeting new people etc, the usual stuff. My goals are to learn Spanish, see a lot of cool stuff, and experience something far different from Melbourne, where I have grown up.


I will definitely be keeping up-to-date with your travels. I am also curious have you had any problems like razmataz brought up, being from the USA and charged 'gringo' taxes?

Also thanks for the info, especially with the insurance.

Adam
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  #7  
Old 24 Mar 2008
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Thanks all, big help. Andy I did not see your post the first time around, it is good to know you weren't 'taxed' for being American. I think I will however stick a couple of aussie flags on the shrouds to minimise the chance of harassment

I will also wire together the fuse block as you say Patrick, I have a diagram in my book 'Adventure Motorcycling' which explains it in great detail. Also this week I will speak to my doctor and begin my immunisations (argh) and purchase the DNS entry for my blog.

So much planning but it's good fun! Cheers again,
Adam
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  #8  
Old 25 Mar 2008
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Good Luck Bro

Hi Adam,

Good luck with all your planning. I am in the begining of a similar adventure like you have planned. I bought myself a new KLR650 (a gift from my mom or a nearly new one would have been fine) here in Phoenix & have been touring Arizona & a few bits in Utah yet. As Patrick says very easy to register a bike here, no worries really & have been using a temporary plate so far.

I have wired a cigarette style socket straight to my battery but as you have mentioned will look into the fuse block in 'Adventure Motorcycling'. I do not have my blog setup yet, same as you still looking for a suitable name? I am heading into California next week & plan to enter Mexico 1st week of May.

Cheers & good luck, see you on the road someday.

Mojo.
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  #9  
Old 25 Mar 2008
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Hi pockethead

I have a KLR650 and though its good I find that I had to do alot of upgrades on it. With the klr you need to do a doohickey right of the bat. One of the lads has the KTM and I find its a far better bike.

As for registering the bike here, you will need a us drivers license to register the bike, california is one of those states that have a lot of laws and very little breaks. You can get a drivers license here, all they would need to see is the green slip in your passport, they will allow you to sit the exam and give you a temporary one for a year, that way you can register the bike, but then you will need insurance to get registration here.

If you buy a second hand bike, make sure the registration isn't up, and then I wouldn't worry to much. I drove around for ages without any, obeyed the rules and never got hassled by the cops. Unless you are trying to be evil kenevel they don't bother us as much.

If you are doing this from san francisco, lets us know I will give you as much help as I can.

good luck
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Old 25 Mar 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PocketHead View Post
My hobbies are motorbikes & enduro riding, meeting new people etc, the usual stuff. My goals are to learn Spanish, see a lot of cool stuff, and experience something far different from Melbourne, where I have grown up.

I will definitely be keeping up-to-date with your travels. I am also curious have you had any problems like razmataz brought up, being from the USA and charged 'gringo' taxes?



My buddy Gavin (who I'm currently hanging out with in Atlanta) is also from Melbourne. He's on his way to meet me in Zacatecas, leaving his Multistrada in Phoenix for the quick trip out east (we're running a - I can't believe I'm saying this - half-marathon).

I don't about "gringo taxes"... so far I've been pretty much unhassled by the Mexican cops. I did notice that I was being charged twice as much as locals for ice cream when I was at the ruins at Mitla, but it was still only a buck so I didn't really care. Oh, my bike got booted in front of the Cathedral in the DF... but I suspect they would have nabbed anyone who turned their back on a vehicle for 60 seconds
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  #11  
Old 25 Mar 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by binlid View Post
As for registering the bike here, you will need a us drivers license to register the bike, california is one of those states that have a lot of laws and very little breaks. You can get a drivers license here, all they would need to see is the green slip in your passport, they will allow you to sit the exam and give you a temporary one for a year, that way you can register the bike, but then you will need insurance to get registration here.
Hi Binlid,

I am from the UK and had no trouble registering a bike here with my UK license here in AZ. Is it different in CA? I did have my insurance in order though.

Cheers Mojo.
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  #12  
Old 27 Mar 2008
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registration

The new law in california is if you don't have insurance they won't give you registration, if you have registration and cancel your insurance, the dmv will cancel your registration and its a pain in the ass to get back. The insurance company now report directly to the dmv.

As for getting it on a foreign license, that is kinda the luck of the draw, I talked to the Irish center and they basically said try a few different places, some dmvs are giving it some or not.
However alot of the cops mostly the highway patrol don't recognize it and you might get a hard time. My mate did when she was out from home.

As for the bikes, its one of those times where I should learn to keep my mouth shut. The KLR is great, I take it off road, so I suppose thats why it needs a lot of work. But one thing, those who didn't get there doohickey done, regretted it. But each to our own, and most second hand bikes have it done already.
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Old 5 Apr 2008
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Hi Adam, there is a great website called couchsurfing.com that you can use to stay for free at the home of fellow travellers in their countries. I would advise against camping in U.S. campgrounds often because they are expensive. Advrider.com is a motorcycle website similar to this one and they have a 700 free campgrounds that you can stay at in the U.S.

As far as which states are best for backpackers that is a hard question. I would say that you would really enjoy Colorado, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Vermont, and Utah if you are into the outdoors. I would avoid to much time in California because it is expensive.

Hope you have a great trip,
I am near finishing the same trip,
Geoff
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