December 20, 2003 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 December 20, 2003 06:14 PM GMT
 



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