I decided to move pretty fast thru California, Oregon and Washington since I had already seen all that from the Harley and was anxious to get to Canada and that famed scenery. I left on Monday May 29th about 8:30 after making a nice breakfast for my sweetheart (needed to be extra nice since she will be taking care of things at my house while I am gone). :=) I made it to Redding the first day then Walla Walla, Washington on the 30th. I was using Highway 99 in California and Highway 97 thru Oregon and Washington. High-speed cruising on the KLR is NOTHING like my Harley's but I have a nice backrest and "highway" pegs fitted and with the Corbin seat, a 500 mile day is doable, but I sure don't plan on them regularly.
I entered Canada at Osoyoos and spent my first night in Canada in Peachland at nice motel right on Okanagan Lake . I don't think the border crossing was indicative of the ones to come in Central and South America since it only took about 3 minutes total. On June 2nd I cruised (slowed down to enjoy the fantastic scenery) thru Merritt and Cache Creek on Hwy 97C and Hwy. 1 into Prince George. The town seemed very full and I noticed all the motel signs said "No Vacancy". I asked a gas station attendant what was going on. Turns out the Forest Festival was in progress. I described it to the folks back home as "like Sturgis, only for lumber jacks". :=) Fortunately, I met a Harley rider while at the gas station who was in town on business and had a motel room with double beds. Invited me to share it with him, which of course I did. I had originally planned to take the Cassiar Highway but I HAD to go to Dawson Creek to get the obligatory picture of me at the start of the Alcan Highway so I continued on up Hwy 97 to Dawson Creek,
got the pictures and rode on to Fort St. John. Found a nice motel with free internet access, breakfast and a laundry. Going to stay here for a couple of nights.
Hit the road again on June 4th, and cruised thru Pink Mountain, Prophet River, Fort Nelson, Toad River, Laird River, Coal River (did I mention that there a LOT of rivers up here). Entered the Yukon Territory (another one of those "I always wanted to do that moments"). I took this great picture
and didn't notice till later when I was looking at them on the camera, the big pole in the background that says "Welcome to North of Go!" I think that must be a play on the "Do Not Pass Go" thing. Thought it was very funny. Got to Watson Lake after a fairly long riding day. It is impossible to describe the great scenery let
alone trying to capture it on the camera but I have it "locked" in the old (and I mean old) memory banks. I left the Alcan and cruised Hwy. 2 thru Carmacks and Stewart Crossing into Dawson City. Planned to stay here for a couple of days also. Parked the KLR in front of the Downtown Hotel http://www.downtown.yk.net/index.html
and was immediately greeted by the owner, Dick Van Nostrand, well know Downtown Dick, who is also a rider. Very friendly fellow. And before you ask, "No", I am not a member of the Sourtoe Society (you will just have to look that up for yourself). I took a room that was across the street in the annex. There is a VERY nice spa there that I put it to good use. Dawson City is a great little town with dirt roads and board sidewalks. Has a very "Old West" atmosphere to it. Very cool internet access (it is in a bar and you can drink while typing). I had to go back a LOT and re-read stuff I think I typed :=) LOTS of travelers from around the world here and at night a very "party" attitude. I am too old for this :=) I received a weather report that says Fairbanks and Prudhoe Bay will both be good for the next three days which is exactly what I was hoping for so I am out of here for the Artic Ocean.
Well, THAT was an adventure. Left Dawson City (via ferry over the Yukon River) and headed down Hwy. 9, the very aptly named "Top of the World Highway". Good gravel and absolutely outstanding scenery. Entered Alaska at Poker Creek,
the "most northerly land border port in the USA" (cool, another point in the braggin rights contests) and made my way to Chicken, Alaska.
I had seen many travel pictures of the place and now I had some of my very own. Pushed ahead to Tok, then Delta Junction. I of course, HAD to get the picture of the "end" of the Alcan Highway marker for the "bookend set".
Looking at the map, I was aiming for a town that was shown as Livengood. Thought I would get a hotel there since I was trying to make that three day window of "good" weather for the run to Prudhoe. I shot right on thru Fairbanks heading to Livengood. Anybody that has ever been to Livengood and is reading this right now is rolling on the floor laughing because THERE AIN'T NOTHIN IN LIVENGOOD!! At least I was only looking for a hotel. I met a fellow that had planned on getting gas there and ran out later on. I looked at the map and saw that Yukon River Crossing was another 60 miles along. It was not so good gravel and it had started to rain so it was going to be exciting. Here is an article I wrote for my Harley Owner's group. It is sort of "tongue in cheek" but it is accurate.
-- About 50 miles north of Fairbanks, Alaska the James Dalton Highway, locally known as the Haul Road (cause that's what they do, big trucks haul huge things to and from the oil fields) starts it's way toward the Arctic Ocean. The name Haul Road is much more appropriate than James Dalton Highway because THERE IS NO HIGHWAY! The little red line on the map for the Haul Road is the same size and color as the rest of the lines on the map I got with my Alaska Milepost (I'm still thinking about filing a law suit for misrepresentation) and the roads getting up to Fairbanks were fine. I figured the ride to Prudhoe Bay was going to be a piece of cake, that is until I picked up the official BLM visitor's guide for the James Dalton Highway (AFTER I had already ridden 60 miles of gravel, dirt and mud and was wondering about the lack of highway). Here is the actual description from the guide. "The 414 mile road is narrow, has soft shoulders, high embankments, and steep hills. It is mostly gravel surface with sharp rocks, potholes, washboard, and depending on the weather, clouds of dust or slick mud. Watch out for dangerous curves, loose gravel and mud on the entire highway". I picked up this information while at Yukon River Crossing where I had stopped for the night (night being a whole other story since there IS NO NIGHT up there) because I was tired of riding in the rain and mud. The next morning it was still raining but I was feeling good so I continued on the 60 miles (and two hours) to the Arctic Circle turnoff, and got the picture. While there I talked to a couple of fellows on motorcycles that said they were turning back after getting their pictures (obviously much smarter than I). Another 60 miles and two hours (you do the math) brought me to Coldfoot Camp. This is the last place with ANY kind of services for the next 240 miles to Prudhoe Bay. As I was paying for my gas, I mentioned that I was heading for Prudhoe Bay. The kind lady said that I should look at the weather report they had just received from the Alaska Department of Transportation. Remember the part in the road description about "depending on the weather"? The paper she handed me had the following boxes checked: (1) High/Gusting Winds (2) Poor/NO Visibility (3) Blowing Snow/Drifting snow and (4) One Lane. There was also an additional information section that read "The Dalton Highway road conditions are very difficult due to gusting winds, heavy snow fall creating drifts, slick roads and low to zero visibility. Travel only if absolutely necessary." HUH? I had told all my friends that I was riding to the farthest north spot you could get to by highway so it was ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY that I travel (try NOT to figure out my logic)! At 12:00 noon I left Coldfoot Camp (I arrived there at 10:00 AM so I DID think about the situation for a couple of hours) and finally made it to Prudhoe Bay at 8:00 PM (again, you can do the math)! I had done it!!!! The Haul Road "braggin rights" were mine. The next day I took the guided tour so that I could get the picture of me standing in the Arctic Ocean (don't ask why, because I don't know). About 1:00PM I started back down the Haul Road which had dried out a bit over night, and the trip that had taken 12 hours coming north only required 7 hours to return south. --
I stopped at Coldfoot for the night (again night being relative), and secured a very expensive room (based on it's size, it may have once been a closet). Made it to Fairbanks about noon and straight to the car wash (of which there are a LOT) and then to the Kawasaki dealer for a service. Another expensive motel room but very appreciated.
Rested up in Fairbanks and then headed down the Parks Highway to Talkeetna. Got stopped in Nenana for an hour or so by forest fire that had jumped the highway. When they let us go there were still flames on both sides of the road. Stopped in Denali National National Park for a look around. Couldn't find that mountain everyone talks about. :=) I was hoping for a sight seeing flight that would let me get a picture of Denali Mountain and that would land on a glacier. Waited around for two days for the weather to clear the mountain top. Talkeetna isn't a bad place to spend time.
Great little town with lots to do and see. The Talkeetna Air Taxi company finally said that there were flights that would get pictures of Denali but wouldn't land on the glacier. I didn't know how long it might be for a glacier landing so accepted their reduced fair and went for the mountain picture ride.
Very cool. It was an old DeHaviland Beaver with skis (that we didn't use). I owned a Cessna 182 for 6 years and had always wanted a ride in a DeHaviland so this ride would be doubly exciting.
Got the pictures and moved on down the road thru Anchorage to Cooper Landing on the Kenai Peninsula. From there on to Homer.
A few days down here eating more fresh halibut and salmon than I thought I ever could.
Headed back up north. To get to Whittier, AK, you have to pass thru a VERY long (2.5 miles) ONE WAY tunnel used both for auto and train traffic (you'll just have to figure it out). It is the longest highway tunnel in North America (the points just keep adding up) Not much in Whittier unless a cruise ship is in port, then it is overrun with tourists looking for gift shops that don't seem to be there. Back thru the tunnel (there is NO other alternative except ferry) and north to Palmer. Stayed here for a couple of days while attending the Alaska State Harley Owner's Group Rally (hey just because I am on my KLR doesn't mean I can't attend -- does it?)
I left Palmer and headed up Hwy. 1, the Glenn Highway and the Tok Cutoff back to the Alcan and south to Haines Junction.
A very nice little place to stop (as long as the wildelife is still on the salad course) after some more fantastic scenery and great roads (you getting tired of hearing that?). I was on my way to Haines to catch the ferry back to Bellingham, Washington (figured I deserved the rest and relaxation after a lot of riding). It was a great ferry ride with lots of scenery (sorry), but about two days too long. I met two fellow riders, Cody (BMW GS) and Gary (Harley) and they, along with the adult beverages we brought aboard made the trip seem a little less long.
It was actually a really nice cruise (the parts I remember). :=)
Got to Bellingham around 9:00 AM and made it to Spokane on some great motorcycling roads with great scenery (again sorry). I told several people that the only thing missing were the snow covered mountains.
Making my way toward Billings Montana, and the National H.O.G. Rally.
Got to Billings. I left Spokane and toured around the Lake Coeur d'Alene area. Yes, more beautiful scenery and great roads. :=)
Spent three days getting over Lolo Pass on Hwy 12 (enjoying the area),
one of my all time favorite roads, to Missoula. I found the Kawasaki dealer and rode there to get the bike serviced. When I rode up in front I felt that I had been there before and when I went inside, I was even more sure. I asked if this shop used to be the Harley dealership and sure enough. Got the bike serviced and headed out for Helena. One night there and then made it to Billings and the H.O.G. Rally. Got some funny looks (being at a H.O.G. Rally on a KLR)
but after people ask me what the "deal" was they became VERY interested in my Alaska trip. I think everyone that rides wants to go to Alaska but most just don't have the time, motivation, or courage, to actually take off and do it. Too bad, they don't know what they are missing.
I had the required credentials to ride in the "official" H.O.G. parade but thought better of it (didn't want to push my luck too far). :=) Finally time to turn south and "head for home".
I left Billings on July 2nd and headed south. Rode Hwy. 212 to Red Lodge then over Beartooth Pass to Cooke City.
Yes, I am going to say it again. There is some absolutely fantastic scenery here. If you haven't thoroughly toured the USA, you don't HAVE to go to Alaska to see a lot of wonderful country. If you have seen it, then definitely go up there. I rode down thru Yellowstone National Park, thru the Tetons, and south to Jackson.
From there down past the Flaming Gorge
and along the Colorado River into Moab, Utah. I had been here many times and still try to return to this area when I can. From Moab I rode south thru Mexican Hat, Monument Valley,
and into Flagstaff. I rode a long part of old Route 66 from Flagstaff to Oatman
and then into Laughlin (hey, I had to stop somewhere and I still had a few bucks left). Then next morning, I borrowed some money for breakfast and started the last leg home. Got into Oxnard around 2:00 PM. As I rode into my driveway, two thoughts went thru my mind (1) Part 1 of the Prudhoe Bay to Tierra del Fuego ride was over and a success and (2) I needed to give my lawn mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. I guess that nice breakfast I fixed for my sweetheart back in May was not enough and long forgotten. :=) btw. I rode 9222 miles on this part. Wonder what is in store for parts 3 and 4? Part 2 won't involve riding, just working. ;=)
If anyone might be interested in seeing ALL my Alaska Part 1 pictures, they can be found here. http://RickMcD.smugmug.com/gallery/1849361/1/92776851
There are 500 pictures, so if you are not on a highspeed connection don't EVEN consider going there! :=)
After my long ride I enjoyed driving my F-150 (with air conditioning and stereo) around my local area for awhile. I have been servicing the bike (new tires, oil and filter change, repacking, etc.). I took several things on the KLR to Alaska that I didn't use or wear at all so I am cutting down "on the load".
I usually work one or two days a week at the Harley Dealer but since I am going to leave again in late September all the other sales guys and gals are taking their vacation time now, so I have been putting in many more hours than usual. Bad for the old tired body but good for the old bank account. I also spent some time trying to get my lawn back to life :=) Since the breakfast didn't seem to be enough, I took my sweetheart to Cabo San Lucas for a week of relaxing on the beach and around the pool (I am going to be gone for about 4 to 5 months on the Central and South America leg so I figured I better really "butter" her up). Also, she says (I had been consuming adult beverages and still don't remember) I areed to take her on another cruise to Tahiti.
We had done a Regent (Radisson) 11 day cruise to Tahiti, the Marquesas,
and the Tuamotus in July of 2005 and really enjoyed it, so I MAY have said something like that. Thankfully, all this working at the Harley Dealer will help that situation (although "part-time" wages just ain't going to cut it). :=) I was able to "put her off" till November of 2007 for the cruise, so maybe I can save up a few bucks.
Not much new to report. I have been putting in more hours than usual at the Harley dealer but it is going to come in handy (especially on that Polynesian cruise). I have been regliously reading the travelers stories and watching the HUBB on the Horizons Unlimited web site (if you can't find it, you have a problem) :=), making lists, and pouring over my maps getting ready for leg 3 and 4 of the Prudhoe Bay to Tierra del Fuego ride.
Time to get back on the road for the second half of the Prudhoe Bay to Tierra Del Fuego adventure. Saturday, Sept 30th is the day.
As you can see I drew in the road line for the Prudhoe Bay/USA part of the trip and now the challenge is to get to Tierra Del Fuego so I can draw in that line. I am looking forward to seeing a LOT of different sights and visiting some more of those places I mentioned. I plan to leave Oxnard and ride to Yuma then cross the border into Mexico at San Luis Rio Colorado. I have used this border crossing before and know the routine so it should be easy. It will be east on Mexico 2 then south on Mexico 15. I will probably stop for a couple of days in Mazatlan since I know where a nice inexpensive hotel right on the beach is located and also the BEST taco stand in the world (and where the coldest Tecate is)! :=) I will post as time (and internet cafe's permit).
Some of you have requested that I add you to an email list to automatically get notified when I update this blog (which I did). For the rest of you, in case you want to be added to the list just look in the middle right hand side of the page and you can sign yourself up there. If you don't want to be on the list, what can I say?? :=)
Down the Road Rick!
I had a very nice ride from Oxnard to Yuma although it was VERY hot. I stopped in Palm Springs and tried to remember the Alaska cold (it didn´t work). Crossed the border into Mexico Sunday morning. Had a little trouble at the border. The brand new registration I had just received in the mail for the bike didn´t take effect till Oct 8th. The lady giving out the vehicle import permits wasn't having any of it. I smiled and winked. She said "go to customs and have them give me a letter". I went over there and they were closed on Sunday. I wonder if she knew that. I went back. I cried and begged. Nothing worked. I pleaded. After an hour she asked if I might have the official title. Yup (I brought it since I heard some countries didn't want the registration but instead the title. She said no problem. At the risk of looking a gift horse in the mouth I ask her why the title worked. She said "official document with no dates". Good enough! Away I went. Thru Hermasillo, Guyamas, Los Mochis (found a Colonel Sanders there so what the heck, I´ll get plenty more real Mexican food on the road). Got to Mazatlan Oct 3rd. About 75 miles north of Mazatlan there was a LOT of hurricane damage. Trees and buildings down and bridges out. Not much evidence in Mazatlan though.
I went looking for that great taco stand I mentioned. Eric, Susan, and Peter (some friends from the Harley group (we rode down 5 years ago)) can vouch for how great it is. You can imagine my sadness when I saw this.
Someone saw me taking the picture and told me they had moved down the street so headed there with great relief. Same great tacos, same pretty owner (right Peter)!
I talked my way into a very reduced price for a beach side room at the Playa Mazatlan. There are NO tourists here at this time of year. May have to do with the 90 degree temperature and the 95 percent humidity! Even so, I will stay here for a couple of days.
I also just looked at my online banking stuff and see that I just received my last paycheck (for a long time) from the Harley dealer where I work part time. I want Jan, Tracey, and Jason to know that I will spend it wisely. Most of it will go to liquor and lap dances and I will probably just WASTE the rest! (Julia, that was a joke, uh huh, yup a joke. That's my story and I'm stickin to it!!!)
More from down the road!
It had to be done. I had to drag myself away from the great hotel and beaches in Mazatlan and move on down the road. I left and spent the next night in a quaint little fishing village on the coast called Puerto Vallarta. :0) A local American told me where the best taco stand in PV was so naturally went there. Had two asada tacos (they WERE great).
I was smoozing with the owner and he said try the "treepah" (that is the way he pronounced it) taco. I said "sure". Did I mention that I had been drinking a LOT of beer, and HE DIDN'T PRONOUNCE IT like I do.... It DIDN`T taste like chicken. If I had been stone cold sober, I probably wouldn`t have liked it. :=) Moved on down the road to Manzanillo (yup more beaches and beer). From there to Pie de la Cuesta (about 10 K`s north of Acapulco).
There is also a LOT of rugged, remote, and undeveloped coastline around here. Picture Big Sur with NO development and jungle right down to the water (well you get the idea). I stopped on the side of the road (those that know me will know why -- well OK for the rest of you, I was taking a "leak") :=) on a high cliff above what I thought was a very remote beach. When I looked down I thought "heck, it can´t be too remote with ATV tracks all over it" then I took a better look at the tracks. Must have been a sea turtle egg laying party last night (I hope I am right about those tracks, at least they weren´t ATV) :=)
While in de la Cuesta I received an email from my sweetheart that said her boss had a friend that was also traveling down Mexico to Panama. She gave her boss my cell phone number to pass along. That night Cory (the boss`s friend) called. He and a friend (you may need a program to keep up with the players here) were just a few miles south of Acapulco. We agreed to meet in Puerto Excondido (the next planned stop for both of us). In PE I found a very nice hotel right on the beach and checked in. About an hour later, Cory called and and he and the friend came to the hotel. They were both riding Suzuki Vstroms. When Cory`s friend took his helmet off, I said "I know you". Turns out Shell had come into the Harley shop thinking of selling his Harley to get a bike for adventure riding. I convinced him that he should keep the Harley to "cruise" when he was not adventure riding (got to have the right tool for the job at hand). We had talked about what bike to get for his ride and also MY upcoming trip (of course). Small world. They liked the hotel, checked in and we started (drum roll please) drinking beer and tequila. Another hotel guest oveheard and introduced himself. Nick is also riding his KLR to Panama and South America. IT`S A PARTY (better party for Nick since his girlfriend flew down from Oakland for the week (Julia take note)).
That is Cory, Shell, Nick, and Jenny (you will have to figure out which direction to read).
We are going to stay here for a couple of days. Cory and Shell are going up to Oaxaca, Nick is staying here till Saturday (his girlfriend is here remember) ;0} In a couple of days we plan to meet in San Cristobal de las Casas to cross into Guatemala together. More adventure to come I am sure.
btw, There are many more pictures from the adventure here if you want to look them over.
btw2 You can also send me email at my regular email address. I check it almost every day. Two days at the most. Every little town has an internet cafe!
AGAIN, I had to drag myself away from a great beach, cold beer (with tequila chasers)
and magnificant sunsets
but it was time to make progress south. Left Puerto Escondido and made it to Tuxtla Gutirrez. Cory and Shell had gone to Oaxaca and I was going to meet them in San Cristobal de las Casas after visiting Palenque. The road from SCDLC to Palenque was only about 120 miles but it turned out to be more of an ordeal than the Haul Road in Alaska. It started to rain on me just as I turned onto the road north to the ruins. I wanted to get there and back since the guys were coming that night (I thought) to SCDLC. It was a BAD road made worse with the
obstacles and the topes. After 3.5 hours I was not even half way there so the thought of a nice warm, dry hotel room made me give it up and turn around. Very depressed but ....... Made it back to San Cristobal in a downpour and quite accidentally found a GREAT hotel, The Mansion del Valle. It is an old converted mansion (was that a surprise)
in one of the most charming Colonial Mexican towns in the heart of Chiapas.
Dryed out and went (you knew this was coming huh?) looking for some beer.
The guys called and said they were stuck in (wherever they were) and wouldn`t be there till tomorrow afternoon. What luck, stuck here for two days. What ever would I do (you already know don`t you). More taste testing. The guys got here Saturday afternoon and we have been taste testing the afternoon and evening away. Tomorrow I am almost sure we will leave for Guatemala. That would be the 15th, the very day my Mexican insurance for the motorcycle runs out (coincidence, I think NOT). There are more photos added to the album here!
More from Down the Road, I am sure.
Ok time to catch up! It has been a several days and a few countries since my last update so I guess I better bring you up to date. Before I do that though, I want to tell you about some other adventurers I have run into down here. I was reading another motorcycle traveler's blog and he met a couple from Germany that had fixed up a Toyota RV of some kind, for around the world travel. He had met them in Alaska and I thought "how cool it would be to meet them". Well, you guessed it, sitting in front of a fruit stand south of Puerto Escondido Mexico, there it was.
I stopped and introduced myself. His name, I have forgotten (maybe Rolph), but hers was Trouta (because when she introduced herself, she said "like the fish"). Easy! They have traveled all over the world in this van. They invited me in for a cup of coffee and we talked for a long time about traveling. Hope to run into them again. I also met two other guys just north of San Cristobal de las Casas. They are on a fast track to Santiago, Chile. Dave plus the big fellow, Bob Tisch, who is on his way to Chile to marry a high school sweetheart.
She was a foreign exchange student from Chile in the mid seventies and they dated. Both married, he divorced, her husband died from some medical complication and Paul Harvey will have to "tell you the rest of the story" :=) Actually, I begged Bob to email me and let me know how it all worked out. Great story huh?
Travelin', meeting interesting people, hearing interesting stories, who wouldn't want to do this? :=)
Back to my little adventure. We left San Cristobal de las Casas on the 15th of Oct (had to, remember my Mexican insurance was out), and crossed into Guatemala at La Mesilla. The border crossing was not too tough (if you are the kind of person that has root canal WITHOUT anesthesia) :=)
We made it and continued on to one of the many old colonial towns down here. Quetzaltenango (yeah, try saying that after 4 beers), was a VERY cool little village. When we arrived there were streets blocked off, tents up with hundreds of people around, music going and dancing girls doing their thing.
WE figured they heard we were coming. Turns out it was the annual "Festival of the Virgin". We checked into a great hotel right on the main square where the party was going and joined the festivities.
Of course there was beer and tequila, and this time some Mescal involved. Met some local fellows that said I was good enough (at beer drinking) to join them.
Those are their beer bottles, not mine (sure) :=) Slowly left Quetzaltenango the next morning and headed south to what the Panajachel towns folk bill as the prettiest lake in the world, Lake Atitlan. I will let you decide but they put up a pretty good argument. A GREAT fish lunch right on the water.
Another great hotel with pleasant grounds and lots of hammocks (had to take a nap)!!
Ok, some pictures of the lake from different places as we rode around it to leave to the south. It definitely was some scenery that I won't forget.
We crossed into El Salvador (another test of patience) at Cuidad Pedro de Alvarado.
I had been told that Hwy CA2 thru El Sal was extremely pretty. Whoever told me that, I owe you a six pack (they are probably empties though). Great road with no topes, wide shoulders, banked turns and views of the ocean that were outstanding.
We got into Acajutlia and found a nice little beach place near Los Cabanos that was only 14 miles from where the guide book said it was (oh well, they DO say GUIDE).
A very accommodating young couple ran the place and they fixed dinner just for us as well as breakfast in the morning. Room, two meals and 13 beers between us cost me $41. I may have to come back here. The surfers that are reading this may very well know the place. The next day on down that great road to another beach place called El Cuco (seemed appropriate for the likes of us). A somewhat nice place but what the heck, save a little money when you can. We stopped for lunch at another surfer paradise called Punta Roca.
I am sure some of you have heard of it (Jason?) The next day was to be the ultimate test of patience. It also was Shell's anniversary so he figured the least he could do was CALL his wife so .....
That big smile went away when he got the "this phone has been disconnected message" :=) We were going to cross TWO borders in one day. As we pulled up to the line getting into Honduras, another motorcycle traveler came up behind with his "handle" painted on the side of one pannier.
I immediately recognized Salvador Carlucci, known on the blogs as SALCAR. I had spoken to him several times on the blogs and he also remembered me. Cool HUH? Sal who has an Italian and Nicaraguan passport spoke perfect Spanish (plus many other languages I am sure). I am sure when Julia hears that Sal and I are going to hook up to do the South American part of the trip, she will be more than happy to join me in Machu Picchu. :=) Sal's Spanish speaking skills made our boarder crossings a "little" bit better (but unfortunately even he couldn't reduce the stress level). Still had to go thru the process. Out of El Salvador, into Honduras,
100 or so miles and into Nicaragua. I had been told that the crossing INTO Honduras was the worst of the Central American crossings AND THEY WERE RIGHT!! Getting out of Honduras was not so bad but getting into Nicaragua
took some time and the sun went down. It was about 60 (seemed like a thousand) miles to Leon and I had been told that Hwy CA2 into Nicaragua was terrible AND THEY WERE RIGHT!! This road made the Dalton Highway/Haul Road to Prudhoe Bay (you have been reading the whole blog, right?) seem like a wide open freeway. Gravel, mud, potholes the size of lakes (it was raining), and trucks trying their best to kill us was only part of the fun. To add a little excitement (a LOT of excitement) we did it in the dark. Haven't had that much stress since that last IRS audit! :=) We were breaking the first rule of riding down here (NEVER drive at night) in a VERY big way. The 10 or so granola bars I brought along (thanks Julia) served as dinner along the way. We got into Leon around 9:00 PM and collapsed into the first hotel we ran across.
After a LATE (well deserved) breakfast we left Leon and headed south again. Sal has relatives in Managua so he headed there, I (we) will meet him again in Panama City. Cory and Shell went toward Granada and I came down here to San Juan Del Sur (another great beach and surfer community) just so I could download pictures and do this blog update (plus some laundry and of course (drum roll again) drink the local Nicaraguan beer.
A nice hotal across the street from the beach, harbor, and several bars (oh yeah).
Tomorrow, Cory and Shell will come down here and the next day we will head for another border crossing into Costa Rica. More adventure to come I am sure!!!!!
There are many more pictures here.
OK, time to get you all caught up. When I last left you I was sitting in a bar (only because it was raining) on the beach in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua. It was only about 35 miles to the Costa Rican border. Got there fairly early and was looking forward to a little less stressful crossing.
As we were checking out of Nic., Shell discovered that somewhere along the line he had lost the "original" bike registration paper. The Nic. "officials" immediately jumped on that and tried to extract large amounts of money from Shell to "make the problem go away". :=)
They obviously did NOT know who they were dealing with. Before it was over, the official said he would give Shell 10 bucks if he would just leave right then. :=) Fortunately Shell had found the original "temporary" registration under the seat that had no date on it. With that he "beat up" the officials and we left. They got the last laugh though since they called their Costa Rican buddies and it started all over again trying to get into CR. AGAIN, Shell was a clear winner in the battle of wills and as Cory and I sat by (with our papers perfectly in order), we watched as another border official "gave up" and told us to move out. Into Costa Rica we went. Very pretty country and surprisingly (after what I had heard) pretty good roads. We rode about two hours and stopped at a very nice cafe in Corobichi and discovered they specialized in whitewater rafting expeditions. Hey. We needed a break from riding. Took a very nice hotel and the next morning did a half day raft trip down the Tenorio River. LOTS of fun. There were many class 3 and a couple of class 4 rapids. One of those rapids had a 12 foot fall.
Over we went and out of the boat I came. Came up under the raft and I was sure Julia had paid one of the guys to hold me under (she knows where the will is). Fooled her again and made my escape. FORTUNATELY the cameraman's equipment had quit working just before my spectacular exit so we were invited to portage back up and try it again.
Somebody had to carry the oars! :=)
Sure, why not. I didn't drown the first time, might as well try again!! This time, I cheated death once again (sorry Julia) and even stayed in the raft. This river was very wild and scenic. Lots of birds and even some of my relatives showed up for the party.
The very nice lady at the cafe also made arrangements for a 2 day trip out of San Jose on the Pacuare River. Our guide book said it was supposed to be one of the 5 best rafting rivers in the world. Also we would stay at a lodge on the river overnight that could ONLY be reached by river. Made it to San Jose and headed out on our 2 day rafting trip. Very cool. Many class 3 and 4 rapids (I stayed in the boat on ALL of them). The lodge was very nice.
The guides fixed dinner and breakfast for us. It was so isolated that the only thing to do after dinner was go to bed so we hit the sack at 8:30 (NOT unusual for me though).
In the morning we were treated to a "zip line" canopy tour.
VERY cool. After the canopy tour, it was back on the river for another day of wet. We made it back to San Jose tired, hungry, wet, and very happy for the diversion. Left San Jose the next morning for what has been described as the prettiest part of the Pan American Highway ride in Central America. It follows the continental divide and a large portion of it is in the 10,000 feet elevation range. It is impossible to describe how pretty and scenic it was. NO, Really, Impossible. We didn't see ANY of it. :=) Light rain, clouds, and fog all the way to Panama. Oh well, I'll take the other folks word for it "it is beautiful" (??). Checked out of Costa Rica and into Panama with little trouble (obviously the western border officials decided NOT to punish their eastern friends with Shell). :=) We made it to David then headed for Panama City. Got there Friday (27th) and checked into another GREAT hotel thanks to Cory's businessman friend Jules (who lives here).
On Sunday we decided to take a little side trip to Bocas Del Toro on the Caribbean Sea side of Panama.
Very cool place with lots of small hotels right on the water. Rented kayaks and explored the place. Came back to to the City and took the tour that included the locks. I took lots of pictures. It is VERY cool to stand beside a huge ship being lowered 54 feet in about 45 minutes.
I tried to capture it on the camera but ya just need to see it. Now that I have some down time, I've been making arrangements for bike servicing, doing laundry, kicking back, resting, and waiting for Salvador to get here from Nicaragua. Cory's wife will be here Wed (probably will be the last we see of him for awhile) and she, Cory and Shell will store their bikes and fly back home. Salvador and I plan to fly our bikes to Bogotá, Colombia on the 6th of Nov. for the third part of the big adventure.
Don't forget that there are many more pictures here.
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. www.salcar.net 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! RickMcD.smugmug.com/gallery/1920061/34/108098461
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!
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. RickMcD.smugmug.com/gallery/1920143/1/109593686
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. RickMcD.smugmug.com/gallery/1920143/19/112891817
More from Down the road!
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! RickMcD.smugmug.com/gallery/1920143/30/113880485
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!!
Ok, we had overdosed on ruins around Cusco and had drank all the beer in the world famous Norton Rats bar so it was time to move on to our next destination, Lake Titicaca. The ride from Cucso to Puno was another one of those 14,000 foot roads with more beautiful scenery. Our first view of Lake Titicaca was not as breathtaking as we expected but the views just got better as we rode the shore of the lake.
We arrived in Puno and both of us were disappointed in the city. We had heard it was a very nice town but we just didn’t see it that way. Many tourists in town to visit the floating islands of the Uros but I had heard they had become floating souvenir shops, so we passed on that and headed down the road, across the border into Bolivia.
The border crossings so far in South America had been “bribe/propina” free. Not here. The border police, who are there to protect us from corrupt border officials and scammers, were the ones who demanded money. I ask why and was told that it was so he didn’t have to spend the next three hours thoroughly searching all our bags. Sal gave him 10 soles (about $3). He said 10 for each bike. I yelled “start searching”. He said move on out! A very small victory at best. Only 10 more kilometres to Copacabana. I, of course, expected to see white sand beaches with long legged girls in string bikinis, but much to my disappointment it turns out, that is another place in another country! :=) We had to settle for a very nice little town with some of the best sunset views over Lake Titicaca that you could ever want.
We arrived in Copacabana just in time for a bike/auto/bus blessing by the priests from the main Cathedral. I had heard about this elaborate ceremony and was pleased to be able to participate.
The bike is now blessed and so far the blessing is working perfectly (well, we still have that rear sprocket to worry about) :=) From Copacabana to La Paz was another great 14,000 foot road with even more fantastic views.
There was also a very scary ferry ride across Lake Titicaca thrown in just for the excitement. I figured if they could take these big trucks, two little motorcycles wouldn’t be a problem.
It was touch and go there for awhile leaving the dock as the wind and waves kept pushing us back. We did make it across finally after holding the bikes up with a death grip as the waves tried their best to push them over. Finally into La Paz. Went to a motorcycle shop north of town that I had read about on the internet travel blogs. Nosiglia`s Cycles took us right in and the KLR got fresh oil, filter, knobbies, brake pads, and would have gotten a chain and sprocket but they didn’t have the sprocket. Bought the chain to carry till I find a sprocket.
The next morning we headed to Potosi on another perfect road with absolutely NO traffic.
Later we wished they had saved some of the money for the road between Potosi and Uyuni because it was 120 miles of this (but this was the only straight section as we rode up and down over 4 different ranges of hills).
It took us 4 hours to do the 120. We did the last 20 by the light of the moon which is NOT NEAR enough for that kind of riding. :=) A replacement sub frame bolt (that vibrated out) and a chewed up (rear knobbie) and lost license plate (the next border crossing may be exciting) were the only two casualties of the road. Into Uyuni and straight to the nearest bar to celebrate cheating death once again. The next day we rode out onto the Salar de Uyuni! This was why we came this way and it was worth the effort. The Salar is the highest (12,025 feet, thank you mister Garmin) and largest (dunno) salt lake in the world. It is as flat as the proverbial pancake and you can see for many, many miles (see that there is NOTHING but salt).
Obviously, a major salt processing industry thrives here. The salt forms these very intricate multi-sided figures with some kind of very soft crust.
We didn’t even feel them as we pretended we were the world’s fastest KLR. Driving 100 mph was no problem (for Sal, at this altitude my KLR was only good for about 85). :=) Btw, the next time you put more salt on those fries at McDonalds, there is a possibility that I may have put tire tracks on it. :=) We also decided to have some fun with the camera. The riding, scenery, and stark remoteness’ were making us feel giddy!
We are back in Uyuni now. Will rest a day and head south (on more gravel roads) into Argentina. We plan to be in Mendoza or Santiago in a few days where we will take another break and look for that sprocket (if I make it there on the one I have) :=) There are many more pictures starting here (I apologize for the silly ones but it was just too much fun)! RickMcD.smugmug.com/gallery/1920143/41/115350018
More later from down the road!
Riding on the Salar de Uyuni and taking funny pictures was a lot of fun but little did we know that there was a BIG price we were going to have to pay. That price was the road south from there to Tupiza, Bolivia (where the map said paved road started again). The gps said it was 97 straight line miles. When we finally got there we had covered 170 of the WORST gravel roads (the map called them ”seasonal tracks” and they were that at best) that I ever hope to ride. It took us 10 hours (you can do the math again) and at least on my part a LOT of praying. The roads were gravel, sand, rocks, mud, and small boulders.
When we weren’t clinging precariously from the side of a mountain, we were riding in the bottom of a river bed
(yes there was a rain cloud hanging over us but it at least didn’t let go). When we thought it couldn’t get any worse we were detoured thru a little settlement called San Vincente. This is the little mining town where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid held up a mine payroll and then were later killed. I got the picture BUT IT WAS NOT WORTH IT. :=)
Made it to Tupiza completely exhausted only to find out that the map was wrong and we had 60 more miles of gravel to ride to the Argentina border. That road was not bad though (NOTHING would have seemed bad after yesterday) and we made it to the border (and thankfully paved roads) in only about 2 hours.
Into Argentina. We saw the sign that told us how much farther we had to go.
It is just over 5000 of those Kilo things (I think that is about a ton and half) :=) Argentina presented an entirely new and pleasing perspective. First, PAVED roads, nice scenery, light traffic, and higher speeds. I think the guys that design and build roads in Argentina are motorcycle riders. The road south from Salta to Cafayete HAS to be one of the PERFECT motorcycle roads.
Out of the mountains following a canyon with a rushing river in the bottom, no traffic, perfect curves, and perfect temperature. Ironic, huh, the WORST day of riding separated by only one day from the BEST day of riding. On south toward Mendoza, Argentina. For my friends in Southern California, it is very much like riding thru the Santa Ynez Valley only 1000 miles. Roads lined with nice fences and trees separating grape vines as far as the eye could see.
Very nice “fincas” with long driveways, lots of horses and horseman and wine tasting places every mile. If you like beef and wine (and I DO), this is the place for you!
I am having the bike serviced here (new chain, sprockets, and rear brake pads) and tomorrow (13th) we will start the big push for Ushuaia (after all we still have ton and a half to go). :=) More pictures starting here!
More from down the road!
We still had a LONG way south to go so it was time to leave Mendoza. We decided to set a course southeast toward the Atlantic side of Argentina. Sal and I both had spent a lot of time on the Pacific ocean in California and we wanted to see what the Atlantic looked like
(btw, it is very hard to tell them apart) :=) Ah, the Patagonia and the Pampas. It reminded me of a song about the gauchos riding the pintos along the Pampas trails. What the song DIDN’T tell you was that the gauchos were probably TIED to their saddles because if they weren’t they would have been BLOWN out of their saddles! :=) The WIND, it NEVER stops. Always gusting, swirling, blowing me and the bike first toward the gravel shoulder then reversing and blowing me into the oncoming lane. Somehow we survived though! Made it to Las Grutas,
a very nice town on the beach,
with some great sunsets!
Then to Camarones, 45 miles off the main Route 3 but on the beach. While there, we took a little side trip down a fairly good gravel road to see a Penguin colony. There were thousands of adults and almost as many babies.
Very friendly and unafraid of the crazy motorcyclists.
Can you tell which one is the indigenous one?
From Camarones on south down Route 3 for a couple of days. About 60 miles north of San Julian (where we were going to stop for the night and about 3:00 PM., the real excitement started when the chain departed. Actually it didn’t depart, it just parted (brand new in Mendoza but with a clip link vice riveted) and wrapped itself around the rear sprocket and swing arm. Things came to a SCREECHING halt as the back tire locked up while I was going about 60 mph.
That`s my skid mark from back up the hill coming down this way (the one on the right was aready there)! VERY exciting!!!!
Much to my surprise (and great relief), I was able to keep it from going down and rode it out to a stop. It was in the middle of the lane and unable to roll. Sal had already disappeared down the road. I flagged down the first car that came along and they helped me slide/drag it to the side of the road. They left and I sat down and cried like a little girl until Sal came back (couldn’t let him see me do that). :=) Two Australian couples came along on BMW´s and with their assistance we removed the back tire and untangled the chain. It was in several pieces so I left it on the side of the road (damn chain).
Sal towed me to a gas station a couple of miles down the road and there I was told that there were NO motorcycle repair shops in San Julian, I needed to go to Rio Gallegos (300 miles). I ask Sal to ask every truck driver headed south if we could get a lift for the motorcycle. The very first vehicle that stopped was a fellow and his girlfriend in a Ford F150 pickup that lived in – Ta Dah – Rio Gallegos. He said “sure load it up”.
They drove the bike and me (in air conditioned comfort), 300 miles to Rio Gallegos. He owned 4 bakeries in town and knew everyone so he called the motorcycle shop and told them NOT to close till we got there. Rolled in about 8:30 and they were waiting on the bike. They asked if I wanted it that night (they had the sprockets, chain and new tire waiting). Told them the next day at noon would do. It was ready at 12:30 and Sal and I made the final push to Ushuaia.
Crossed into Chile for few miles then back into Argentina (yup had to do the same border crossing procedures even though we would be in Chile only a couple of hours (we have to do it all again on the way back also). There ws another ferry ride involved but this time they knew what they were doing and it was big boat!
The last 100 miles to Ushuaia has to be some of the prettiest scenery you could ask for.
It looked very much like Alaska (trees, very low timber line, and snow covered mountains) only COLDER! :=)
Got to Ushuaia at 1:30 PM on Dec 20th.
The “braggin rights” were mine!! Just under 20,000 miles from home to Prudhoe Bay and then south to here. Haven’t figured out the next step yet, but I think it involves riding up to Buenos Aires or Santiago and flying the bike back to California. :=) I am sure going to miss not being with Julia on Christmas but she understands (at least she tells me she does) I KNOW it will cost me something (that Fiji/Tahiti cruise) :=) I’ll update again when I get back home. More pictures starting here. RickMcD.smugmug.com/gallery/1920143/34/118108836
I have received some email asking about my status since the last time I updated was Dec 21 or so. Thought I would give you a quick update but no pictures since the connections here in El Calafate, Argentina (now you know where I am on Jan 1st 2007) :=) are really slow. I was in Ushuaia (the End of the World) for 5 days. I had Christmas eve dinner with 13 other motorcycle travelers and we heard that there were that many or more at the campground just south of town. As you can tell, Ushuaia seems to be the place to be (at least for motorcycle travelers) for the Christmas and New Year holidays. Sal and I left Ushuaia on Dec 25 and headed north. We worked our way to El Calafate, a very nice little town with a LOT of tourists. The area is surrounded by snowcapped mountains and glaciers. We did the touristy things and visited the glaciers (got lots of pictures that I will download later). I also got the chance to go fly fishing one day and it was great. I landed 3 large trout and let 2 nice ones slip away when I lowered the rod tip too soon. :=) To my surprise, the guide started a fire, cooked two of the trout, broke out two bottles of wine and I had the freshest trout lunch you could ever have. Course after the two bottles of wine, I was done fishing and needed a nap! :=) Today is Jan 1st, 2007 and Sal and I are making the run to Buenos Aires where I have a plane ticket home on Jan 8th. Sal will continue riding and the folks at Dakar Motos in BsAs are going to take care of the sea shipment of my KLR. I will post a final update and some more pictures of glaciers, snowcapped mountains, and trout when I get back home. Thank You for following along on my wonderful adventure. More later from home! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
OK, made it back home again and I am already into the old routines. It
We were able to take some tours of the very nice snowcapped mountains
and the many glaciers around El Calafete.
As I said, I was also able to go trout fishing and had a little success.
Even though this area is very touristy I enjoyed the visit very much.
We left El Calafete on Jan 1st and headed northeast. The first part of the road was 120 miles of gravel. We never saw ONE car but we did see this....
A couple of 400 miles days and a couple of 500 mile days and we were in Buenos Aires. A very BIG town compared to what were used to. We found Dakar Motos with only a few wrong turns and enjoyed a couple of days visiting with all the other motorcycle travelers that had also found their way to the place.
I was able to get a city tour of BsAs that went to many different sections of the city. One of the coolest sections was the Caminito section where the Tango was
born. I even managed to get in a few steps with one of the many dancers
that "hang out" in the area! :=)
My flight out was on Jan 8th and it was with very mixed emotions that I headed out to the airport. Glad to be going home (I REALLY missed Julia), and sad that a very great adventure was coming to a close. I did have a LOT of time on the plane to do some planning for the next one though. I think a circumnavigation
(or at least as much as can be done) of Australia would probably also be
a great adventure. Stay tuned!! ;=}
Many people have asked me why I decided to do this kind of ride. I tell them that I wanted to see some more of the world, visit some of those places that I had only read about, and meet people from other cultures. I tell them that because that is what I think they want to hear. The REAL reason for the trip as "BRAGGIN RIGHTS" :=) I figure when I am sitting around the rest home with all the other old curmudgeons, I can start to talk about "back in ought 6 when I rode my motorcycle from Prudhoe Bay to the tip of South America" it will be pretty hard for most of them to top that! :=) There are some more pictures starting here RickMcD.smugmug.com/gallery/1920143/40/122370364
(yes, there are a lot of me at the End of the World. I was trying to get a good one that I can frame for my cubby hole at the rest home) :=)
In case you were curious, I rode 23,300 miles from my home up to Alaska,
down to Ushuaia and then back up to Buenos Aires in about 5 months time
(btw, I am standing up while I type this).
Thanks for tagging along. I hope we get to take some more adventures together!!
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