November 06, 2006 GMT
Leaving Panama City Going South!

Panama City, a VERY nice place to spend a few days!!

The new skyline, and

the old parts of the city are both very nice!

Now a bar and restaurant but before it was a dungeon that would flood at high tide and drown the prisoners. Better hope your sentence wasn't longer than 12 hours!!

One evening (thanks again to Jules) we even got invited out to a VERY nice yacht for cocktails. The owner is a Harley rider and had heard about us and our trip! (still wanted to talk to us even though we weren't on our Harley's! :=)

Also while here, we got invited to a meeting of the local motorcycle club. Their meeting was VERY much like our Harley Group meetings. Everyone talking at the same time and still having a good time. The members gave us a club hat and patch and also took us out sightseeing and beer drinking after the meeting. We rode in a nicely restored Volkswagen convertible! Great guys and a good time. Very helpful!

I found the Harley dealer, bought the shirt!

Before we knew it a week had gone by and it was time to continue the adventure.
Cory and Shell stored their bikes here in Panama City, went back to the USA and will fly themselves and their bikes to Santiago, Chile on Feb 1st for the second part of their adventure. It was a pleasure riding with them. I didn't even have time to get lonesome because the fellow that is traveling with me to South America (Salvador Carlucci, SALCAR on the travel blogs) arrived here the same day they left (5th), so it is time for me (and Salvador) to take the next step (a very big step) :=) This is Salvador's travel blog if you want "another" perspective on the adventure. Monday is a holiday so on Tuesday (7th) we are taking the bikes to the cargo shippers at the airport, sorting the paperwork and turning the bikes over to their (hopefully) capable hands to get them to Bogotá, Colombia. There is a flight for us at 7:00 PM that arrives at 9:00 PM but we decided we didn't want to arrive in Bogotá after dark (imagine that) so we are planning to fly on the 8th at 11:00 AM. Gets us there for lunch (and a beer) and maybe time to recover the bikes (wishful thinking). :=) I am really looking forward to the South America part of the adventure while at the same time missing the "routines" back home (NO, Julia is NOT routine, and I am missing her a LOT)! ;=} I will update the blog after we arrive in South America or soon thereafter. More adventure to come in South America!!!!

More photos here!

Posted by Rick McDermed at 06:08 PM GMT
November 12, 2006 GMT
Bogota Colombia. Part 4 Begins

Part 4 of the adventure is underway. Thanks to Copa Airlines and Girag Cargo Service, crossing the Darien Gap was a snap. In Panama City at Tocuman Airport we crawled thru all the paperwork hoops (2.5 hours) and turned the bikes over to Girag Cargo Services who promised that they would have them in Bogota, Colombia the next morning at 4:00 AM.

With a little prayer we boarded a Copa flight the next morning that got us to Bogota at 1:00 PM. Went to Girag offices (only about a 10 minute walk) and holding our breath, asked about two motorcycles. The nice lady said “sure, we wondered where you were!” Very relieved we crawled thru some more paperwork hoops (2.5 hours) and back to the bikes.

Installed the mirrors and windshield and then the fun began. We had to ride thru a fellow’s office and down two sets of stairs to get the bikes to the street. No pictures because I was too busy! :=) Next morning we hired a cab driver/tour guide to take us on a personal tour of Bogotá. A beautiful city. Some pictures!

Even found the Harley Dealer.

Up bright at early the next morning we headed for Cali to the south. We were told that the ride from Bogotá to Cali would be one of the prettiest rides on the whole trip and they were right (we even got to see it this time, no clouds, fog or rain). Elevations to 3200 meters with green valleys, swift running rivers, nice roads, coffee bean fields outlined with eucalyptus trees, made it an absolutely GREAT ride.

We never got stopped in even ONE military checkpoint (waved us thru every time). We made the 297 miles in 8 hours. Two things to mention here about motorcycle riding in Colombia. EVERY motorcyclist must have a reflective vest with the tag number displayed. You can see that I am right in style! :=)

ALSO, motorcyclists do NOT have to pay any tolls (and there were a lot). There is a special lane just for motorcycles!

How cool is that? Great chance to pass that truck! Many more photos of the South America Adventure here!

Also don’t forget that I can receive email at my regular email address. I check it almost every day!! More from Down the Road!

Posted by Rick McDermed at 02:06 PM GMT
November 18, 2006 GMT
Into Peru from Ecuador!

It’s time again for an update. Let’s see, we were in Cali, Colombia when I last posted. A VERY nice thing happened for us in Cali after I posted so I will tell you about it. If you have been keeping up with the blog (and you should be) you will remember that we were given a tour of Panama City by a fellow ( Douglas) in the motorcycle club who had the nice VW convertible. While Sal and I were visiting Douglas he said that he had a cousin in Cali Columbia and he put us on the phone to him from Panama. His cousin, Gus seemed sincere when he said to call him when we got to Cali, so I did. He invited us to his very posh and private club for drinks then took us on a tour of the city after which he introduced us to his daughter who went with us to dinner. Gus was a VERY nice and funny guy. He also happened to be the ex Governor of that district and the ex Director of Ports for Colombia. He knew everyone as we toured. He also insisted that we stay the next day because he was having a family party at his finca/farm in the mountains and since we were now ¨family¨ we MUST stay and attend.

His farm was WAY up in the mountains above Cali and if it had been a clear day you could have seen for 100 miles I am sure. It was a GREAT party. Just family and friends talking and laughing.

Gus cooked paella. Maybe one of the best I have ever had.

He also had a good supply of liquor and of course firearms (don’t they always go with liquor?)

We ate, drank, laughed and finally had to go back to town so we could TRY to get up and hit the road south. It was hard but we made it to Pasto, Colombia then to into Ecuador and stopped at Quito for a couple of nights. I wanted to see the equator monument.

I took my gps and of course HAD to point out that their monument was NOT on the equator, (they seemed to know it and didn’t appreciate it being pointed out for the millionth time. :=)

There was a tour available (very near the actual equator) that showed many unique things associated with the equator (sundials, balancing an uncooked egg on the head of a nail, water swirling down the drain in different directions (or not at all while the pan was on the line, etc.))

I did walk a ways north and found the REAL equator (thank goodness I had the gps) :=)

When we left Quito and ask for directions south to the Pan Am Highway EVERYONE sent us the same direction. It was a GREAT road. A six lane freeway and no cars. NO CARS in either direction. There is a CLUE here somewhere and we found it.

Yup suddenly ended in deep mud about three miles before the intersection. Why did they all send us this way (we never did figure it out)? Just part of the adventure. Another part came a bit later for me.

That’s a huge nail. Split the tube completely in half all the way around. A young man dismounted the wheel, and the tire, put in my new tube and remounted them and asked for $2.00. I gave him $5 and he was very happy. We rode on down the road south out of the mountains toward the coast of Ecuador and it turned completely tropical.

All we could see were banana and fruit trees and pineapples. Today we crossed into Peru. The border procedures were very simple but the mass of people at this border were not to be believed.

We had to ride thru the masses and park among them to do the paper work. No cost involved in getting out of Ecuador or into Peru! The ride down the Northwest coast of Peru is VERY much like riding the Baja.

Scrub desert on one side and deserted beaches with many little palapa´s on the other. We will be in Peru for several days since it is a long north and south country. Looking forward to seeing the Nazca lines and Machu Picchu soon. More from down the road later.

Many more pictures here.

Posted by Rick McDermed at 11:44 PM GMT
November 26, 2006 GMT
Cusco Peru. Machu Picchu here I come

We left Piura and made it to Trujillo for the night. There were some very nice views of the beach and villages along the way [if you could ignore the desert].

Nice towns and had some of the best Chinese food ever in Trujillo. We found some very nice stops for breakfast along the way.

We made it to Casma where I toured the ruins at Sechin. It is not a very big ruin but there is a very well preserved pyramid base with very detailed carvings all the way around.

I THINK they show some kind of major war (the info pamphlet was in Spanish). :=) Lots of bleeding heads and such. It was interesting though to be standing in almost 4000 year old ruins that are that well preserved. From Casma we moved on to Lima. We stayed in the Miraflores section. It is a very upscale section with a LOT of night life.

From Lima on to Nazca where the famous Nazca Lines are laid out. They are HUGE drawings in the sand and rocks (or lack thereof) that can’t be discerned from ground level only from the air.

I HAD to take a flight over them of course to get the pictures. There are many theories about why, how, and who did it all. I, of course, am convinced that the aliens did it or at least helped them lay out the diagrams! :=)

As we left Nazca we passed this.

Cerro Blanco, the world’s highest sand dune. 2078 meters, and yes people come here from all over the world to slide down it in cardboard boxes. From Nazca we made it to Cusco but not without a LOT of effort. The road climbs up into the Andes and as you would expect, it is VERY winding and HIGH. The gps said the straight line distance from Nazca to Cusco is 221 miles but the road distance is just over 400. For my friends in Southern California, think Decker Canyon Road, only make it 400 miles long, put it at 14,000 feet and the wind and cold that goes with that altitude. And if all that wasn’t enough there was a MAJOR landslide that covered the road for several hundred meters. It stopped ALL traffic in both directions except for some crazy American motorcyclists!

LOTS of wildlife!

And even more scenery!

The gps said we got to 14,915 feet but my fingers were so cold that I couldn’t work the camera so had to settle for this picture.

I saw a LOT of altitude on the gps (just before it FROZE up). Just kidding, but we ain´t in the desert anymore. :=) Speaking of deserts. Maybe I was just not paying attention while reading the other motorcyclists travel blogs, because I don´t remember them talking about the desert in Peru. EVERYONE talked about the Atacama Desert in Chile but dang, the northwest coast of Peru is a major desert right down to the Pacific. I was a bit surprised. There are 100 mile long stretches with NO vegetation whatsoever and when it is there it sure isn’t much.

We are in the mountains now and it is cold so I am sure I will look back on the desert heat with longing! The Atacama Desert is not too far away though.
I also want to tell you about several other motorcycle travellers we have met in the last few days. John is from B. C. Canada (Peachland).

He is 71 years old. He flew to Caracas, Venezuela, bought a 125 cc Chinese motorcycle (that is being kind, it’s really a scooter) :=) and is doing a three month circumnavigation of South America. He has almost no pack and rides in sandals. He also has no windshield and a very little helmet. He is a retired logger, I guess that is what made him so tough! John is having a GREAT time and Sal and I sure enjoyed his company. We will see him in Tierra Del Fuego since he plans to be there for New Years also. We also ran into Yoshi and Yuko Ishizawa.

They were on some kind of large scooter and were doing their trip in stages. In April 2005 they started in Los Angeles and made their way to Prudhoe Baby and back to LA. This year they are going to make it to Santiago, Chile. VERY friendly folks. Hope to see them down the road. On the road from Nazca to Cusco we met this fellow. I have forgotten his name but he is a REAL biker.

Riding a bicycle from Quito, Ecuador to Santiago, Chile.

We made it to Cusco, in spite of the road conditions and checked into a hostel on the main square

right under the famous biker bar in Cusco, The Norton Rat’s.

I can fall off my bar stool right into my room! Had a very nice dinner,

you thought they were just for sweaters huh, and retired early. Sal on the other hand closed the local club. We are making arrangements for a trip to Machu Picchu and I will update again after that. I also uploaded MANY more pictures starting here.

More from Down the road!

Posted by Rick McDermed at 09:43 PM GMT
November 30, 2006 GMT
Machu Picchu Visited

The Machu Picchu tour is in the bag and what an excellent adventure it was. The train trip from Cusco to Machu Picchu is a 4 hour ride that is interesting from the very beginning and just gets better as you continue to Agua Calientes (the little village where the train stops and you stay overnight if that is the way you schedule your trip). Even though Machu Picchu is approximately 3000 feet lower than Cusco, the train has to climb over a very steep mountain to get out of the Cusco valley. It is so steep and narrow that the train has to "switchback" up the side of the mountain. The train can't turn around, so goes forward up the steep grade for a ways and passes a switch. A fellow jumps off and changes the switch and the train BACKS up the steep grade for a ways then the process starts all over again. Forward and backward to the top of the mountain. From there it drops down into a VERY narrow and steep canyon that follows the Urubamba River to Agua Calientes. There are mountains on both sides of the train that are thousands of feet high. Many of them were cloud covered and some of them snow covered. All of them have many very tall and thin eucalyptus trees.

We are NOT in Kansas anymore Toto!! It is breathtaking.

We spent the night in Agua Calientes so we could be in the Machu Picchu ruins when they opened at 6:00 AM. It would have been a great plan except for the clouds and rain that hid the views of almost everything.

I climbed to the "lookout" house because that is where the picture that is mostly associated with Machu Picchu was taken and I wanted an "original". The clouds and rain had different ideas. Waited up there for an hour and got a few pictures but not the "money" shot. Climbed back down and thoroughly toured the lower parts of the ruins.

It looked like it was going to clear up so I headed back up to the "lookout" house again. Stopped to recover a couple of times this trip (VERY steep climb). Got up there and into the house just in time avoid getting rained (poured) on.

Waited another hour and headed back down to meet the guide for the "official" tour. As we meet him at 11:00 AM the sun broke out and I knew the picture I was looking for would be available. Excused myself from the tour and for the third time climbed back up to the "lookout" (as I said I REALLY wanted this picture). :=)
This picture would look just like the ones you see on the post cards if it weren't for that "Yeti" that popped up just as I took the picture.

There are MANY more pictures starting here (thankfully most don't have that yeti in them). Many of them would take a LOT of explaining. Market in Cusco, and a very special drink!
Needless to say I was thrilled to finally be in Machu Picchu. The train trip back to Cusco was just as good and even had entertainment.

We will leave here and head to Lake Titicaca and La Paz, Bolivia. From there south into Argentina and points beyond. More from Down the Road!!

Posted by Rick McDermed at 03:24 PM GMT

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