November 04, 2006 GMT
Part III - Letters From The Road

I am so proud of my dad. This trip is certainly not for the faint of heart. His friends think he's crazy. Hes absolutely killing it. I have seen him maneuver his bike up and down steep grades of washboard gravel and sand and even through washed out river crossings. I've seen him weave in and around potholes the size of craters on the moon. I've watched him negotiate heavy crosswinds and rain while cornering sharp turns. Part
Ricky Carmichael and part Valentino Rossi. I always have a watchful eye on him through my little side mirrors and heīs always right there every step of the way with that headlight brightly beaming, right on my ass. I admire his spirit of adventure and hope that I will carry that through when I'm
in my 60's and beyond.

Every morning we suit up in our gear and adorn ourselves with our blackened jerseys (which were once sparkling white) like a badge of honor. We will have a light breakfast if it is available, we gas up and give each other the handshake and I pray for the motorcycle gods to be with us another day. We board our all-terrain B.C. bound rockets with 'JWM is my co-pilot' emblazoned on our front fenders and just like that the day begins. At 7am, the road is ours to own. Within a few hours the traffic thickens and we must jockey for position. We continually battle to be in the front of the line. My dad and I share this common thread that has definitely been a key to the success of this trip - our relentless pursuit of open road. We have passed hundreds and hundreds of bikes, cars and trucks. I'm quite certain it is in the thousands. You may think this sounds reckless and unsafe but I would have to disagree. I can justify our riding style for five solid reasons:

1. Time - My dad says I have to get back to work!
2. Safety - As I can attest to, being behind other vehicles makes dodging potholes, roadkill and other hazards far more difficult.
3. Navigation - Being stuck behind trucks makes following signs more complicated.
4. Health - Who wants to choke down diesel fumes all day?
5. There ain't nothin' like open road.

By tomorrow, Mexico will mark the 7th country in as many days. We have been clocking about 500 kilometers per day and it is completely exhausting. My dadīs face is always caked with dirt and diesel exhaust. You are so worn out from all of your senses consistently being on high alert. Even that sixth sense. Not that one that lets you see dead people but that intuitive one. That one that senses dangers up ahead or lets you know when a motorist hasnīt seen you and will pull out in front of you. Like smelling the rain before the downpour. You are so completely vulnerable out there. It is humbling. I always pretend that I am invisible when I ride and nobody can see me. I become THE ghostrider. That way I expect the worst out of every driver, pedestrian, child or animal. My fingers seem to inch towards to that almighty front brake, ready to pounce
on it that moment your heart shoots adrenaline through your entire body. It has saved me many times.

The roads down here are fantastic. A few days ago I just may have ridden the most beautiful motorcycle road ever traveling from San Isidro Del General through the mountains to Cartago in Costa Rica. What a track. Even the boys from the Riding To The Moon website(moonride.org) describe it as īpure riding ecstasy'. A beautiful medley of hairpins and long sweeping rollers on high grade carpet with little traffic. We began our
ascent in the morning and it wasnīt before long that we pierced right through the cloud cover. It was brisk, I even had to switch on my handle grip warmers which some riding purists might scoff at. Iīll take that technology any day. I even almost smashed a giant vulture with my face. It was snacking on some dicey road kill and it so non-chalantly tried to get out of the way and I just missed it. I could even feel the force of air from its wings. Those have got to be the dirtiest birdies on the planet.

You really face all the elements when you are out there. It is true travelling. I will not forget the blistering heat of the Panamanian plains that came seething through the asphalt. Even at 120km/hr there is no escape from it. The mountains of Costa Rica proved to be chilly and damp and I will never forget the howling crosswinds that came sweeping off the
grandiose Lake Nicaragua literally trying to throw us off our bikes.

I must admit, these bikes garner a fair amount of attention down here. We are turning heads through every town we roll through. Quite often I will be approached by a man. He will come up to me, eye up the bike and then ask two questions. How big is the engine and how much did it cost. I would be lying to you if I told you I wasnīt overcome by a sense of guilt
every time I tell him. They look completely astonished and this then is usually followed by a look of bewilderment. I can see it in his eyes and it kills me every time. My ride probably costs more than they will gross in two decades and it leaves me wondering why I have been given so much and they have been given so little.

The other night we stayed in Danli, Honduras. I read on the Moonride journals that the boys stayed there at Hotel La Esperanza. It was the first and only hotel that we stayed in that we knew he slept in. We found it pretty cool when they gave us room number 13. That was his favorite unlucky number that he always put on all his dirtbikes. In the evening after dinner I walked around. I stumbled upon a carnival. It was four rickety old rides probably made in the 1950s. All the kids just sat
along the edge and watched the rides go round and round with nobody on them. Apparently none of them could afford it. I stood there with my heart in my throat. Beside me was a ten year old kid on a donkey. He started pounding it with his fist and pulling on its mane because it wasnt moving. The donkeys ears were out to the side the way a cats get when
its mad. It was hating life. He grabbed a brick from the ground and started pounding it in its ribs and it reluctantly started moving. His buddy even drop kicked it. I tried to tell them to stop in my gringo Spanish but it was futile. It just may very well have been one of the saddest things I have seen in my life. I have called it The Saddest Carnival In The World.

The poverty down here is heart-wrenching. I have been to poor countries before but tend to gravitate towards the nicer spots where they roll out the red carpet for tourists. This is different. Since Panama it seems with each border crossing we are taking a step deeper and deeper into poverty with El Salvador being the worst. My father and I made a stop at the Save The Children office my brother had visited in Managua, Nicaragua. The Moonriders were able to raise some considerable monies for this cause which goes towards helping under-privileged children with an emphasis on education. We both made a donation in his memory and it was comforting to know that it will be put to good use. If anyone out there is feeling charitable, consider this cause. Whether its five bucks or five hundred, he wouldve liked that but more importantly, the kids would too.

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Posted by Ryan Martin at November 04, 2006 10:06 PM GMT
 



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