November 09, 2009 GMT
Starting out and background info

This is the first entry for a tale which will hopefully reach from just outside Chicago, Illinois, to Mendoza, Argentina, and Aconcagua.
At the moment I am at the US/Mexico border, staying in Edinburg, Tx. This proves to be a pretty reasonable town, with all the stores and supplies that you could need. I am waiting for sprockets for the 95 DR650 that is to be my method of transport through central and south america. The shop that I found, F&T valley motorsports, was able to overnight the parts, so I was happy about that.
The forward plan is to get the sprockets and get across the border tomorrow, and make some distance before night fall. I've been told to be careful of shady people on the roads in Mexico, and central america in general, and not to try to run after dark. I am interested to see just what the real situation is.

A little background:
The bike is a 95 DR650, a dual sport, single cylinder, counterbalanced, but street legal/headlighted tailighted machine.

I bought it with 12300 miles on it, and for a pre-trip test, took it on a loop through the central part of the north-american west, covering places like Yellowstone, Arches, black hills, and Colorado. Overall, the machine worked well, but problems were: limited cargo space, high vibration, some breakdowns, and general mediocre handling on the highway (to be expected from a high suspension, knobby-tired beast like this.)
The trip lasted 4000 miles, and after finishing with that, some modifications were needed before heading south.
A hard saddle bag from an 82 yamaha was mounted on the left side, and a tubular steel rack was mounted on the right, to which the spare tire and pack are strapped. Stirrups, made from an old serpentine belt, were mounted to the front forks, and heavy-duty mirrors from a kaw zrx 1100r which I wrecked were fitted. Hopefully these will be able to withstand the vibration from this bike.
The aftermarket (discount auto parts store) muffler was plumbed and welded in, and the lic plate mounted on a structurally supportive piece of sheet metal, which I hope will prevent cracking and damage of the rather flimsy aluminum license plate.
On the trip out west, I became familiar with two aspects of this bike that are potential weak points: Engine/trans mount on the rear upper corner of the trans: these small metal three-holed mounting brackets are prone to cracking/breaking, and once this happens the motor will vibrate to high heaven, resulting the quick eating of the drive chain and sprockets. I have had to have the right side bracket welded twice; although I know that the weld needs to be such that the bracket is properly aligned, I am concerned that the metal being weakened lowers the lifetime of that critical part.
Balancer chain: an internal engine part, this was so worn that the metal rollers were completely gone in some cases with the pins only remaining. The metal debris from this wear was in the oil, and although I am concerned about further damage to the bearings etc, I have rode about 3000 miles from the time of that repair, and so far have seen no appreciable change in engine function.

Going forward, I plan to take the most direct route through Mexico, Central America, and down the west coast of south america in order to get to Mendoza.
I'll be keeping notes here regarding border crossings, experiences in countries along the way, and how conditions are for this type of transit.
My hope is to get across into south america by the end of November, with the goal of reaching mendoza before the beginning of the high season for park entry to Aconcagua. This would mean getting to Mendoza by probably the 11th of December, and taking a day or two there to gear up and get ready, then entry to the park on 13 or 14 December.


Posted by Trale Bardell at 07:52 PM GMT

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