On a -12C Canadian winter day in February 8, 2007 I left my warm comfortable home near Toronto (and my partner and my almost grown-up kids) and headed to Mexico to begin my dream trip around South America. I had originally planned on going to Australia but it somehow seemed too easy to rent a bike and travel in a great but English-speaking country. I could do that after bigger challenges.
After all I had a perfectly good BMW 650 Dakar in the garage - why not use it? A Horizons Unlimited meet in British Columbia made believe I could do it. When my partner, Maria said she would go to Brasil to visit her parents it gave me the last reason to go - I could meet her there!
In January, I put a heater in the garage and started getting the bike ready. Not much more to do than a complete maintenace, new chain and sprockets, Bridgestone Trailwings, Touratech Zega panniers, engine guards and handlebar risers. Did all the work myself as I will need to my own maintenance on the trip.
This is my first "real" trip having rented a motorcycle in New Zealand, taken guided bike tours in Vietnam and Thailand. Also rides close to home in Canada and USA, of course. I must give credit to my buddies at the Ontario Dual Sport Club http://www.odsc.on.ca for helping me learn to ride off-road (don´t quite have that down yet but...) and for their encouragement.
Checking the Weather Channel almost hourly, I saw the forecast open up with clear but very cold temperatures -12C for my route down I75. That´s what I needed, dry roads (no snow/slush). So making a quick decision, I wheeled out across my snow-covered driveway and hit the 401 to Windsor/Detroit.
I should have worn a snowmobile suit but didn´t want to have to throw it away or carry it to Patagonia (where it might be useful again). So wore my BMW Savannah riding gear including boots. This was supplemented with high tech ski socks, ski long johns and heated vest and gloves. Then over everything I squeezed into my $75 rain suit that normally would be a sauna but it did a great job stopping the wind. I found I could ride about 1 1/2 hours at 100kph before getting chilled.
After a very cold 4 hour ride, it was a blessing to have some difficulty crossing the US border at Detroit. It was warm in their offices.
I spent the night at a friends home in Detroit then was back on the road at 8:00AM. It was even colder than the day before!
The interste highway was boring but had he great benefit of speed. The faster I could get south to warmer weather the better. I stopped just outside Memphis for the night. the motorcycle did not seem to mind the cold temps but I worry it might be running too cool.
I’m currently holed up in The Super 8 in Beaumont, Texas. The predicted severe thunderstorms broke about 6:00PM and I just made it to the hotel lobby. I wanted to get to Houston today but it is another hour down Interstate 10.
My bone-chilling trip from Canada finally warmed up yesterday about mid-day as I entered southern Alabama. It was great to see the snow disappear from the ditches and have the smell of pine trees. By the time I arrived in Mobile and the Gulf coast it was quite pleasant. Since then I have removed my layers of clothing sequentially as the temperature rose along with my confidence that it wasn’t just a cruel joke and would start snowing! I don’t think I will ever attempt riding in those temperatures again.
Some things I have learned so far:
1. A lot of things fall off trucks on interstate highways (chains, tarps, bits of metal, and the ever-present shredded tires
2. People in cars stopped waving to me in direct proportion to the rise of ambient temperature
3. Men my age (60) can’t resist telling me about the motorcycles they have owned
4. Everyone has been pleasant and kind to me (includes the guy who tracked me down in large bookstore to say my lights were on and many “ride safely” and watch for; weather, construction, crazy drivers, etc comments)
5. If you ask for a discount at a discount hotel – you’ll get it easily
6. New Orleans is still a mess – I saw hundreds of flood-destroyed homes, mile after mile from the highway. Didn’t have the heart to stop and take pictures (we have all seen enough)
7. I should have started to study Spanish a long time ago
Today’s ride through southern Louisiana (Cajun country) was an amazing geography lesson. It seemed half the highway was really an elevated roadway over swampland or “bayou” of the Mississippi delta. At this time of year the trees and bush has no leaves allowing you to see deep into the swamp. A very special place.
Should cross the Mexican border on Feb 14th - Valentine's Day.
Next HU Events
- Brazil: Feb 22-23
- Germany: May 29-June 1
- HUBB UK: June 19-22
- NEW! Canada Maritimes: July 4-6
- USA Colorado: July 11-13
- Ireland: July 18-20
- Canada West: Aug 21-24
- USA North Carolina: Sept. 4-7
- Canada Ontario: Sept. 11-14
- NEW! UK - Haggs Bank: Sept. 19-21
- USA California: Sept. 25-28
- Aus Queensland: Oct 3-6
- Aus Perth: Oct 10-12
- Aus VIC: Oct 24-26
- NEW! South Africa: Nov 14-16
Horizons Unlimited DVD Special - it's time to Get Ready!
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