I started April 1 (no foolin) 2003 in Buenos Aires, finished July 16, 2003 in Ecuador, returned to USA to work, then returned back to Ecuador on November 2 to go to Ushuaia (also to race the National Rally of Ecuador, in which I placed 2nd). Should finish in BA in April, 2004.


December 20, 2003 GMT
Many miles, much adventure

It's been a while since I had a working email connection. The first day out of Iguazu falls was the first day the weather wasnt perfect. In fact, it sucked. Cold rain the whole day. But, I finally got to ride some dirt roads. A lot of fun till the hard red clay got more slick than an ice rink and the front end went out from under me. Down I went for a 50 foot head first slider. Loaded and fueled, the Great White Pig weighs around 480 lbs and it was ALL I could do to stand him up again. Several bent parts - the pig does not crash well. I got going again then stopped to straighten the shift lever. Then it refused to start. Got the tools out as the lightning got closer and closer, still pissing down rain. Turns out, the RUN botton was off. DOH!

Made it into town then it started dying on me! It felt and smelled really rich. Would not run at an intersection, again, as the lightening got closer... I finally nursed it under a roof in front of a tire store and tore into it. When I pulled off the left side cover that comprises one side of the airbox, about a quart od muddy water gushed onto my boot! Apparently, in the crash, the side cover scooped a bunch of mud into the airbox and plugged the drain at the bottom. The airbox then filled with water. I think the filter stopped all the water and mud from going thru the engine.... I also lost one of my shoes and both my spare inner tubes that day - they just fell off somewhere. Thats why they call it an adventure.

The last 2 days, I have been putting in the miles- 480 the day before last. Yesterday, through sheer force of will, I made 580 miles, including a jaunt thru Rio (not nearly worth the large effort). About 400 miles were on twisty 2 lane road with beautiful scenery. The last 100 were in the dark with occasional light rain. Great White may not yank my arms off like my other bikes, but yesterday, I passed about 300 trucks (NOT an exageragtion) on the 2 lane road and he always got the job done in the left lane (or on the shoulder, as Ive become fond of doing).

Need to change the oil and buy some shoes before I leave Vitoria this morning. I'm getting close to my friends. It will be good as I am not catching on to Portuguese at all.

===== Jim Stanley
Managing Member Stanley Alpine, LLC
www.sopgear.com

Somewhere WAY, WAY south of the border... "Sieze Liberty"

Posted by Jim Stanley at 06:20 PM GMT
Hell or High Water

Im still trying to catch up to my friends who left 1.5
months ahead of me. I have been hammering out the
miles (about 4000 so far). I think this will qualify
me for an Iron Butt award (for those of you who dont
know, thats a real award, not a joke).
Last email I had said they were going to Recife, on
the coast of Brazil. I figured I could make it in 2
400 mile days and planned accordingly. A very early
start put me in Downtown Recife at about 4:30, looking
for an internet cafe to see where they were. Turns
out Recife is about the worst place I have ever been,
and I lived in Detroit for over 7 years! Most
Brazilians are inteligent, well educated people, but
not in Recife. When I asked where to find internet, I
got nothing but blank stares. My Portugese sucks, but
its the same word! I pulled into a Honda dealership,
parked and asked again. After being sent on many wild
goose chases on foot I returned sweaty, tired, and
frustrated. Then the first guy said something like,
Oh Yea, we have it here. I cheked my email only to
find that they were not in Recife, but in Pipa or
Natal. I hated Recife already, and was bound to catch
them, come Hell or High Water, so I set out North
again. I asked at the Honda dealership how to get
back to the main road which I pointed to on my very
good map. I got the same type response I got when
showing a map to people in the mountains of Peru who I
am very sure had never seen a map in their lives.
Eventually, the one english speaker told me to take
Avinida Norte and that would work. Trouble is, there
is not one street sign in the whole city! Also, EVERY
street was absolutley gridlocked (at about 6:30PM) Not
even my best 3rd world tactics could get thru, so I
found a bar and had acouple of beers while the traffic
disapated. I again asked where the main road was (it
was about 2 miles away) and again, totally clueless.
Back out. With the GPS, I know roughly where I need
to be and which direction to go at all times. But the
bastards just would not let me leave the hellish city.
Every street turned me back to downtown. It was the
most frustrating thing Ive ever done. Finally, I
lucked onto Av. Norte. I only knew this because of
Hotel Av. Norte- no street signs, remember? This
eventually led to BR101, my road north. The road
curved parallel to 101 and looked like it would merge.
After about 2 miles, it dead-ended with not a single
entrance ramp. Well Fuck You, Recife- thats what dirt
bikes are for. 3 hours on BR101 led me to my turnoff.
Actually, I should have taken the next turnoff. This
one led to a small town just south of Pipa. At 12:30
at night, the only one around was a kid on a bike who
I was sure was the official village idiot. He
eventually led me down small path to his house. His
older brother who was sleeping on the porch jumped up
and pointed to a ferry boat made from rough-hewn wood,
large enough to carry a ful size pickup truck. I was
bound to find them Hell or high water so I got on the
ferry and he poled it skillfully to the other side of
the inlet and pointed to a dirt road. The moon was
full, the stars were out, and it was such a nice
change from the noise and toil of the bike. About 4
miles of fun riding on the bumpy, sandy road led me,
at last to Pipa. I started riding up and down the
small winding streets looking for my friends or their
bikes. As I passed one bar, a small attractive
Brazilian woman ran out and started yelling at me.
All I understood was something about cold drinks and
relax. I jumped off the bike and did just that. A
life-of-the-party type, she invited the next 50 or so
passers by up also. After a few more beers, I was
invited to a Luau on the beach. A full moon, palm
trees, crashing surf, dancing in the sand- that trumps
hell or high water any day. Still havent found them...

=====
Jim Stanley
Managing Member
Stanley Alpine, LLC
www.sopgear.com

Posted by Jim Stanley at 06:18 PM GMT
Rock stars, the Brazilian slalom, big water and a flashing of knives

We were unable to locate the exact trails in Fortelza
that the ISDE will be run on and we are a bit pressed
for time to get into Peru so we left for Belem without
getting to ride the trails.

We made a bit of a sidetrip to a national park where
we went into the hottest cave Ive ever been in. Lots
of cool rock formations above ground too.

We decided to take a shorcut over dirt roads on the
way to Belem. The road was muddy in spots , bumpy
everywhere and a lot of fun. We were riding through
one tiny village after another dodging all manner of
animals the whole way. I actually failed to dodge a
chicken once, but I want to write that up later with a
bit more flair.
I had a few problems near the end (more on that later
too) and had to catch up to matt and ed. I found them
drinking cold beer on the outskirts of a small village
just as it was getting dark. I stopped, took of my
hot clothes and grabbed a beer. The crowd was just
starting to form. They gathered around us in a
semicircle, not speaking, just staring. About 20 at
first, then 50, then mayby 100 or so. We assertained
that we were the first Gringos they had EVER seen in
person! they just stared silently as we drank our
beers. Then an intrepid young woman produced a camera
and demanded pictures with each of us and our bikes.
Then we got out our cameras and took pictures of them.
Then they started talking and joking and litterally
mobbing us. We felt like rock stars. No sooner had
Ed joked that they would ask for autographs than a
girl aproached with a paper and pen. I drew the line
when another girl wanted me to sign her stomach. We
left the next day, having to take a ferry across a big
river.
We returned to pavement later that day. I had bought
a big expensive knobby tire for the dirt and didnt
want to ruin it on the pavement, so I had a kid swap
it for my old tire, which I had igeniously mounted to
the back of the bike in such a manner that the side
knobs (the only ones left) poked me in the spine with
every bump. I was afraid the kid would pinch my tube
and I offered him my high tech titanium tire irons,
but he refused. He made the initial pry at the
biggest knobby on the continent with 2 sharpened
pieces of rebar. From there he used a giant rubber
mallet both to remove the knobby and to completely
mount the old tire. The whole operation took about 5
minutes. I love to watch a master work.

The road to Belem is probably the worst PAVED road in
the western hemisphere. Most of the roads since Natal
have had giant potholes everywhere and we had
developed what I call the Brazillian slalom weaving in
onad out of the big tire eaters. Its a lot of fun
actually, but the problem is the cars ad trucks do it
too and you never know what lane they will be in and
when they will suddenly dive to one side or the other.

I had just "threaded the needle," passing between a
big truck and an ox-drawn cart while dodging potholes,
when it occured to me that the part of my brian that
should say "Gee, that was a bit unusual," had been
numb for thousands of miles. Just after that, Matt
hit a vulture with his head. Ive had 2 small birds
fly into my legs on this trip an I hardly felt it
ether time. But the vulture damn near knocked Matt
out. It broke the visor and shield off his helmet too.
But the vulture flew away! That and the holes in the
road that were litterally big enough to hide a truck
in kind of woke up that part of my brain and I spent
the day laughing inside my helmet. One of the holes
actualy had cones around it. The fucker was over 10
feet deep! If you drove in, you would hit the other
side then bounce off before you finally hit the
bottom.

We got to Belem and secured a boat to take us up the
Amazon to Manuas. We were dealing with some brokers
at an office and they needed to take someone to see
the captain of the boat. Ed went with them in a taxi
while Matt and I stayed with the bikes. The situation
at the bikes was not good. Some ruffians were milling
around and we had a bad felling about them. Matt
informed me that one of them was now hiding a small
knife in his sleave. We were just saying, "I sure
hope Ed gets back soon" when he showed up in the taxi
and announced the deal had been made with the boat. I
said something like "Good, now put on your helmet, its
Time To Go." We had just gotten our helmets on when
when another guy chaced the one hiding the small
knife out into the street with a BIG knife. "Time to
go!" We jumped on our bikes. Dirtbikes have the odd
habit of not wanting to start at critical times. Mine
is the only one with electric start and it was
cranking, but not firing. I could hear Matt and Ed
behind me kicking their bikes but no engine sounds.
"Start em up kids!" Mine still wouldnt go. OK stay
calm. Kickstand up? Yes. Run switch on? Yes. Stay
calm. Try the choke. Stay calm. Give it some gas.
It started and I lept off the sidewalk and into the
street. I stopped to look for Matt and Ed who finally
got theirs started. The two with the knives had seemed
to settle down but were still in the street. Ed took
off and we followed him back to the boat, still wired
with adrenaline.

The boat aint no luxury liner. Its a 3rd world boat,
complete with giant cockroaches and at least one
medium sized rat. But she looks seaworthy and we have
2 rooms among the 3 of us (Ed cant stad up in his). I
met the captain, and I like him. It will be a fine
voyage. We leave tomorrow.


=====
Jim Stanley
Managing Member
Stanley Alpine, LLC
www.sopgear.com

Somewhere WAY, WAY south of the border...
"Sieze Liberty"

Posted by Jim Stanley at 06:14 PM GMT
Backyards, Bolivia, Jungle slot cars, Indians, Missionaries, I take the plane

Saturday afternoon, we met up with a large (about 18)
group of Brazilian dirtbikers who go riding every
weekend. Some of them were pretty good, others were
just learning. I rode close to the front to stay out
of the dust but still wanted a faster pace. I knew the
locals wanted to see just what a big Six Five Oh would
do and showed them a few times with generous amounts
of throttle. Matt impressed them with lots of
wheelies. I crossed a DEEP mudhole along with a
couple of other front runners, only to find that we
shouldnt have crossed and needed to go back. Lots of
throttle and momomentum carried the Great White Pig
thru, but the others didnt make it, so I helped drag
them thru. I hated to think about the creatures both
great and microscopic living in that ooze, but helped
them out just the same. A few more open trails led us
into the jungle trails. I was eager to show the boys
that I could ride the tight stuff too, even with the
heaviest dirtbike on the continent and passed 3 or 4
immediately and hung right with the front runners, but
it was tough. My front tire is pretty bald from 6000
miles of mostly pavement and the jungle trails were
all slippery mud. But there were ruts through all the
turns so I just rode the ruts like a slot car. Hard
work and when I came out the other side and stopped
with steam from the mud coming off the engine, the
heat was indescribable.

On the way back, we took the powerline path through
the neighborhoods. Thick, viney grass up to 10 feet
tall, glad I was wearing moto boots in case one of
them little fellows with no shoulders and long fangs
should try to bite. Our fearless leader fell on an
unseen rock in sight of a backyard. I heckled him
with the horn, children cheered, dogs barked,
shirtless men waved the remnants of their beers. We
rode over handmade plank bridges that looked like they
would barely support a fat man on a bicycle, much less
a slim man on the Great White Pig, through a soccer
game in progress, several backyard barbeques, dumps,
and businesses. We would have been lynched in the
USA. The value of local guides.

Sundays ride was much more tame, but still fun. Mostly
dirt roads, only fun when you rode them really fast.

Monday we went out to the missionarys compound to fly
to the Indian tribe. I got lost, but got there
eventually. From the air, we confirmed what the
missionary had told us about the shrinking rainforest-
Yes, there is logging near the towns and roads, but
there is still one hell of a lot of it left untouched
in the interior. The landing strip was small but one
of the best ones they have. We came in steep and
slow, with the stall warnings blaring, bounced twice,
then stopped.

The tribe came out to greet us. We werent sure how to
greet them, but they mostly came with hands extended
for shaking, saying Bom Diar (Portugese for good day).
One of the leaders, dressed in a very old sport coat
and slacks, gave us each a hug. They were mostly
dressed in tattered Tshirts and shorts with bare feet.
Some of the girls had red face paint which used to be
symbolic, but is done now mostly for fun. I was a
full head taller than the tallest man.

I climbed a tree with some of the kids to get some
fruit and was scared to go as high or far out as them.
We walked through their whole village with Steve.
Steve was born and raized in the village, the son of
the first missionaries there. Steve is a real life
Tarzan and until recently held the worlds record for
finding trhe largest Tarantula (something like 15.75
inches in diameter!) We saw where they worked, played
and slept. Most of the men were out hunting or
something and most of the others were either following
us around or lounging in hammocks. Not much to see in
terms of activity, but I guess it was like trying to
see what a north american family does and finding them
watching TV. Not exciting, but typical, nonetheless.
We did see their pets and livestock- monkeys, a tiny
deer, a ratlike thing, another ferocious rodent type
thing, dogs, and chickens. The chickens had to be
kept in very tightly woven coops at night to keep the
vampire (yes, vampire) bats from killing them.

My overall impression was that the missionaries were
doing more good than harm. These indians had been
contacted by the outside world by miners and fishermen
who would have done far more to corrupt them than the
missioanries. The missionaries also do seem to be
sensitive to keeping their way of life intact. Where
the Brazilian governemnt has interfered, the indians
have moved to town, forgotten their own language, etc.
Still I wish the good things they do could happen
without the religion.

Steve took us for a walk through virgin jungle, very
thick, and the ground was not dirt- it was soft dead
vegetation. I dont know how deep you would have to
dig before you hit dirt, but I guess 2-3 feet in most
places. Thats why they have to burn it off to plant
anything.

Before we took off, I told our pilot, Ray, that I fly
a paraplane at home and had read a few books on flying
real planes and that he could talk to me intelligently
about what was going on. Just after takeoff (we
barely made avoided haveing to abort it), Ray told me
to take the plane because he had to write some things
down. I thought he was joking, but he wasnt. I flew
almost the whole way back (he landed it, of course).
Overall, it was a very good experience and I feel much
better about the missionary presence here.

Yesteryday, we rode to the Bolivian border but did not
cross. We crossed today, having to take a very small
boat across the river. I was more than a little
worried as the bikes made the center of gravity pretty
high and I was wearing heavy moto boots and a
backpack. (The driver was wearing the only lifevest.)

No problems getting through customs and we rode good
dirt roads for about 100km before stopping. Tomorrow
will be a big day with about 10 hours of dirt road
riding (almost all the roads in Bolivia are dirt).
All for now.

=====
Jim Stanley
Managing Member
Stanley Alpine, LLC
www.sopgear.com

Posted by Jim Stanley at 06:11 PM GMT
December 16, 2003 GMT
American Fastguy Takes Silver and Green in La Vuelta in Best Possible Form

As I said in a previous email, the Vuelta a La
Republica is the Indy 500 of Ecuador. It is a 7 day
race around the country and it is huge. As the only
North American, I recieved a lot of attention. I
tried to make it clear that I was racing the same bike
I rode from BA and was heading back south to Ushuaia
on the same bike after the race, that I was just here
for fun, etc. I was actually making excuses because
my bike was by far the heaviest and slowest in the
race.

My old friend, Joe Kenty from the Bentwheels racing
club in michigan came down to join me for a few weeks
and watch the race. This is his first trip to the 3rd
world so its quite an expeiience for him. From Quito,
we took a bus to Ricardo Roccos motel in Santo Domingo
where my bike was waiting. On the previous trip, I
had ridden it from Buenos Aires to Ecuador and left it
at Ricardos motel. I had not yet met Ricardo as he
was in USA at the time but felt I knew him because of
all the stories Matt and Ed had told me. I then
returned to USA to make some more money. I had poured
oil in the cylinder to prevent rusting and it didnt
want to start. Ricardos friends nephew, Daniel, took
joe, me and the bike back to Quito with a pickup
truck. I met Ricardo for the 1st time at Mario Gomez
Motos. About 5 minutes later, Ricardo, another rider,
and I were sitting at a table being interviewed on
national TV as the Official Team Honda. The other
rider is Felipe Eguez, a young hotshot, former
national motocross champ, english speaker, and all
around good guy.

I finally got the bike started for the first time
after the interview. Ricardo and I headed down to the
start of the race in Loja with Daniel and a young
mechanic named Luis. Joe would later name Daniel and
Luis The Two Stooges. Joe stayed in Quito and later
flew down to Loja.

The racing started with the superprime, a short 1 km
dirt cicuit where riders race head to head 2 at a
time. The superprime only determines start position
for the next day, nada mas, but I wanted to show the
southerners what I had. Unfortunatley I went into a
corner way too hot and slid the back end ALL the way
around and dumped it where everyone could see. Joe
said maybe they didnt know I was American.
Considering the huge American Flags on each side of
the bike, I doubt that was possible.

The crash was actually good, because it slowed me down
a bit during the real race. The race was about 60%
hard dirt roads with the other 40% pavement and
slippery cobblestones. Speeds were high, the course
was fast, fun, and dangerous as Hell. I rode the
first 2 days at about 95%, butt on the back fender,
chin on the gas cap, throttle wide open all the time.
I had switched my digital speedometer over to kph.
Its scary to glance down and see triple digit speeds
locking up the brakes for another blind gravely
corner. I had adopted a style I learned long ago. A
friend of my dads had taken me to a combat shooting
tournament. I used his modified 1911 Colt .45 pistol.
He told me this-just find the front site and
immediately pull the trigger. NO front site- dont
pull the trigger, but the instant you find it, pull.
All the corners are blind to me as I dont have a
copilot telling me what is next like the car guys do.
So I went in consevartively and looked for the exit.
The instant I found the exit of the corner, I pulled
the trigger (twisted the throttle) No exit, no
throttle. By the end of day 1, I had moved up to 4th
in class, 8th overall.

The course was tough on rider and bike, and the
attrition started on Day 2. Ricardo was the first one
out, having taken a bad crash at speed breaking, among
other things, a brand new helmet. A little later,
Juan Pablo Validvieiseo went out with a locked up
engine. Ricardo loaned him enough parts from his bike
(both XR650Rs) to rejoin the fray. But he had a 3
hour penalty for not finishing Day 2. Juan Pablo is
Blazingly fast, but not that fast.

The attrition moved me up to 2nd in class. Good
enough for a $1,000 prize! No that is not a typo- one
THOUSAND dollars, baby! I had a 30 minute lead over
third place so I was pretty safe- just needed to
finish, so I started riding very conservatively on day
3. All went well until I got a flat tire. I did not
have a spare tube, nor a pump (bad planning on my
behalf) I could see 10 Ben Franklins flying away and
all I could do was ride. 90mph on a flat front tire.
This race in not for the faint of heart nor the small
of testicle. I finally caught up to Felipe, who,
thank God, had a spare tube. I got it changed with
about 1 minute to spare before the next prime.

Day 4 started tragically when a support truck hit a
bus head on. Felipes mechanic, Christian saw the
whole thing and rushed out to help. All he could do
was hold a mans hand as he pleaded for help and died.
The racers voted not to continue racing.

Day 5. Last day. Im 2nd in class (500cc and up), 5th
overall, with a 30 minute lead over 3rd place. Our
friend Tito Sanchez, was 1st overall, 1st in class
(250-500cc). Unfortunately, he broke a chain on his
YZ450 in the first prime of the day, taking him out
and moving Felipe to 1st in class, me to 4th overall.

I just rode conservatively, trying to conserve my
engine. It has no compression left and no power.
Christian blames the cylinder sleeve I had installed
in Bolivia. It needs another rebuild badly.

At the end of the 2nd to last prime, my friend Andres
blew his engine. He had been leaking water all day,
filing the radiator between primes. NOw it was locked
up solid. He was in 3rd place in class (250-400cc)
and looking at $500 cash. If he didnt finish he didnt
get the money. If I didnt finish, I didnt get my
money. If I got 3rd, I only got $500. I WENT AND
BOUGHT A ROPE AND PULLED HIM. I pulled him 25km to
the start of the next prime. I then pulled him 18km
through the final prime, risking my money and my
engine.

The course was totally lined with people cheering. I
have never been so proud to display the American flag
as at that moment, pulling Andres. I cant even begin
to describe it. The race ended in Ambato, the town
where Andres is from. Those who understood what I did
came up to to thank me and congratulate me. Every
time I turned around, someone put another drink in my
hand.

Felipe took 1st in class, 2nd overall. I took 2nd in
class, 4th overall and had the time of my life.

It doesnt get much better than this.

Posted by Jim Stanley at 07:44 PM GMT | Comments (0)
 
 

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