2 Wheels To Adventure

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Alaska/Canada Trip--2006
Two "Adventure" Bikes

Ride boldly, Lad,  fear not the spills! (From "The Man From Snowy River," by Banjo Paterson) 
I'm not the man I used to think I was. (RBW)
"Cast a cold eye
On life, on death.
Horseman, pass by!"
(William Butler Yeats)

For a looong discussion on motorcyling in general and Adventure riding in particular, see the archives (or scroll down) for the first post on September 28, 2006.
It gives some opinions and ideas, along with a bit of philosophy; one (old) man's view of the world of 2 wheels.

New Scooter---2014 R1200RT
Cap'n Ron in the Straits of Georgia
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Friday, October 27, 2006

A Few More Threads...

Rode to Boise and made 5 stops; Beemer shop for oil filter, spark plugs,etc., then to REI and Cabella's looking for a nice small thermometer/temperature gauge to put on the bike so I can tell how cold I am. Neither place had one, which was a surprise.

Then, a stop at AAA for an International Drivers' License, and also where I found maps for Honduras, Peru, and Ecuador (ITMB maps). Then I made it to the Kawasaki store, where I got John's stuff, except for the fuses, which I will get at an auto parts store. The parts man at the Kawa shop said they are much cheaper than what they stock. 

I still had time to swing by "Happy Trails" MC shop, and looked at a Nolan Flip-up X-lite helmet they had there. It was slightly used, but had been sent back to Nolan for systems check, and they only wanted $269 for it. I tried it out, but did not have time to go to the freeway for some highway speed checks of the noise. I think the helmet will be just fine. I had to take silver, as they didn't have any white in stock. Tim said silver is the "new white." 

Tim Bernard, the owner, said, well, just take it for the weekend, and if you don't want it, send it back. Otherwise, send the money later. He recognized me from the description Heidi (my daughter) must have given him when she and Byron were in there. He is a very nice guy, and I cannot recommend him and his shop too highly. They make some very good saddle cans, protective framing, bash plates, and the like, and his shop is well stocked with MC gear, as well as some bikes. A good man, and one it is a pleasure to support.

Back to Buhl tomorrow; spending the night tonight with my son and daughter-in-law. Chilly in the morning, and I may not get too early a start...



8:19 pm mdt          Comments

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Some Loose Ends

I loaded old Gravel Gertie today and took about a 60 mile jaunt to check how she rode. No problems, and I stopped at the local dump and got weighed. They have a scale there, and when patrons come and go they are weighed and pay a fee accordingly. The bike, which had almost the exact weight it will have on the road, weighed 720 pounds, and an even 900 with me aboard. The tank wasn't quite full; it was down about one third of the way, and I didn't have the tank bag on, but that is a good representative weight.

 I had 5 external bags tied on; clothing pack, Ortlieb bag for rain and inclement weather gear, bike cover (in dry bag), tent, and tripod  (also in dry bag). I prefer fewer external tie-ons, but there it is.

In an e-mail today, my Antigua partner requested that I get him some things if I have room to carry them down to him, which I do. He needs a rear inner tube, a chain, air and oil filter, various fuses, spark plug,and spare bulbs. I will go to Boise (120 miles) tomorrow, and get them, at the same time pick up some things for myself; 2 oil filters (I will change oil in Phoenix before starting out),2 spark plugs, spare bulbs (tail light, stop light, turn  signals, head light low and high beam, and then at either Cabella's or REI, a small thermometer, and some equipment dry bags for protecting camera, laptop, and other goodies in case of a spill in water, etc.. I also will pick up some silicone caulking or gasket material to try to make the left Jesse can once again water-tight. That can has been through a lot, and leaked water during the Alaska trip this summer. I think this caulking will seal it again.

So much to do, so little time... 

10:18 pm mdt          Comments

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

1 Week to go!

A week to go before my departure. I plan to truck the bike from here in Southern Idaho to Phoenix, since I awoke this morning to blustery winds and wet snow. It didn't last, but I got the message. It would be a cold ride down Highway 93, and besides, I have some extra stuff to take along, hence the wimpy decision to load the scooter into my pickup and ride in comfort the first 900 or so miles.

I Finally got into gear and started getting prepared for this trip. I secured health and accident insurance, as my Medicare/Tricare For Life (Retired Military coverage) does not pay for care outside the US. I also have applied for liability insurance for the bike. I opted not to get full coverage, as it does not apply in 4 of the countries I will be traversing: Belize, Nicaragua, Colombia, and Mexico. I decided to take a chance. If I cream the bike and survive, I will have to take the loss and call it "experience." The full coverage had an automatic $750 deductible, and they would only pay NADA value on the bike. Since this critter has 67K (miles) on the clock, and has been "on the ground" more than once, I don't think it is really worth the $1200 or so for coverage of less than a year. I WAG the bike to be worth $9K max, so I may regret this decision, but one pays---or doesn't pay---one's nickel and takes one's chances.

For those who do not know, Mexico has a lock on vehicle insurance. You must buy insurance from a Mexican firm for coverage there. It has to be a policy written in Spanish, and cannot be from a US country or company. It is usually most convenient, if not cheapest, to buy it at the border. In an earlier blog, I mentioned that when I returned from Guatemala this Spring, I did not get insurance, and took the chance that if anything happened, I would be in jail until I made good on any damage. Not the wisest decision I ever made, but I got away with it---once. I am not tempting the odds again. I will purchase 10 day's insurance when I hit Mexico, and then again when I come back from the southern regions.

I also bought a satellite phone. My dear Wife, who should be named "Ruby," "Opal," "Pearl," or "Jewel," because she is one, has not once ever complained or whined about this childish obsession I am about. She has never once asked me not to go on any trip, nor ever hinted that she is worried about it. She has, on one occasion, asked "Are you sure you want to do this?" But never shown any reluctance. She always says, "Have a great time!" And waves goodbye bravely. She made this one request; that I secure phone coverage that will keep me in contact wherever I roam on this SA trip, so the only real solution was a satellite phone, which I purchased used, plus a calling plan that should give us enough minutes to cover the trip. There will be phones, cells, and the like available most of the way, but Southern Chile and Argentina are without cell coverage, and land phones may or may not be readily available, so we will have the satellite, which works wherever one has a clear view of the heavens.

 I have "Totake" and "Todo" lists all over the house, trying to think of everything before getting into the short strokes, when panic tends to set in. I am still dithering about the cats, but won't dwell more on that topic.

I will be picking up a riding partner in Antigua, Guatemala. This will be the fellow I met last New Year's Day in Antigua. He was then on his way to SA, but paused at the guest house where I was staying for "a couple of days." It was so pleasant, and such a good deal that he decided to stay a bit longer, and one thing led to another, and he missed the southern summer, so stayed on there in Antigua. He is still there, and is itchy to get on the road, so we will team up. 

 He has taken several trips as far south as Panama City, Panama, so is well-versed on border crossings, places to see and avoid, and other features from Antigua on down to Panama, as well as the general procedures for getting the bikes from there to SA, since the Pan American Highway does not go clear through the Darien Gap. There remain about 70 Kilometers of jungle trails and swamp, so the prudent and faint of heart go around or over, either by sea or by air. John is a good guy, and I think we will make congenial traveling companions.

John has camping gear with him, so I have decided to take mine along, although we probably will not do a lot of camping before Southern Chile and Argentina. But, we will have it in the event we come across a good spot or get caught somewhere without available rooms. 

The plan as of now, is to leave here on the first, spend a week in Phoenix, then strike out for southern climes, and plan to arrive in Antigua 10 days after departing PHX, or about the 20th of November. Then, I expect minimal time there, and hope to be on the road again by the 25th. I would like to be into South America on or before the first of the year. It is about 1200 miles from Antigua to Panama City, then about 6500 miles from thereabouts to Ushuaia. If we make an average of only 150 miles per day, it would be 43 days from Panama City/Cartegena, Colombia to Ushuaia. It would be an additional 8 days from Antigua to Panama City. Leaving, say, on the first of December, puts us in Ushuaia in 51 days, or late January, around the 20th. That leaves a lot of wiggle room from my arbitrary February 15 arrival date in Ushuaia. My distance estimates could be off, way off, but I think they are accurate enough.

This rough schedule is eminently doable. But, there is "many a slip between cup and lip."

6:23 pm mdt          Comments

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Still Dithering...
Here it is, less than 2 weeks to my proposed departure (from here in Buhl, Idaho) to Phoenix, and I have done precious little to prepare for the trip, other than to make lists of "to-dos" and "to-takes."

I still do not have insurance for either myself or the bike, and have not made arrangements for a satellite phone.

On the positive side, the bike is in good shape, although I am undecided as to what to do about tires. The rear has lots of wear left, but it does have over 4000 miles on it, so it will not take me all the way south. The front is a knobby (Continental) that I put on in Anchorage in July, and is getting a bit skinny. It has around 10K on it, and needs replacement before setting out from Phoenix.

I have 2 (yes, two!) sets of knobbies here, but don't think I want to put them on the bike at the start of the trip. They might be nice if I had them on when I start south out of Santiago and into Patagonia, where there will be lots of unpaved roads, but I if I put them on in Phoenix, they will be getting too worn by Santiago, and I don't fancy carrying two tires on the bike all that distance.

This is a constant problem with this kind of riding. It seems that there is always a problem with what kind of tire, and there is always a disparity of wear between the front and the rear. I have changed tires out before on several occasions when one or both of them had wear left, but didn't have enough to go the distance. Better safe than sorry, caught in some remote area with worn out skins and flats. So, I have not yet decided what to do, but will probably put on new Tourances when I get to Phoenix, so as to have good rubber all the way to Ushuaia and back to Santiago, an estimated distance of about 12K, maybe a couple of K more.

The other indecision is about camping gear. I hesitate to carry tent, sleep bag, and sleep pad all that way unless I use them often enough to warrant it. It means more stuff strapped on externally, and that increases the theft potential. Informants tell me that hotels abound on the entire route, and the only camping worthwhile is in southern Chile and Argentina, which means less than a couple of weeks of camping the entire trip. Also, knowing myself, I know that I usually wimp out and go for a motel if it is handy rather than going through the hassle of camping. In CA and most of SA, the hotels are not that much more expensive than camping, and I would only camp at established campgrounds in almost every instance. Possibly in Patagonia I could camp out in the open safely, but I would not risk it most places. So, I am leaning toward no camping, yet it would be very handy should I get caught out between towns or in an area where there are no hostels or other accomodations. I am going to defer the decision, and will take the gear to Phoenix with me, get some counseling from people in the know, and decide at the last minute.

I still have no really good answer to my cat problem. I have two cats, and don't want to leave them in a veterinary shelter if at all possible, since they will be caged most of every day. The personnel there are caring people, but they have other concerns, and cannot be expected to let the cats out all the time. My next door neighbor has graciously offered to come over and feed with them, and sit with them for an hour or so, but that is a lot to ask. Smoke, the male, needs to spend most of his time outside, as he has a little problem that exhibits itself from time to time, and that is peeing in the house. It seems to be behavioral, but I have not been able to get to the bottom of it, and cannot leave him housebound for any length of time. Letting him out most of the time seems to have solved it for now, but I don't trust him.

I have a chance to permanently adopt out Scruffy to a family in Buhl, but I hate to give her up. She is a sweet little cat, and seems to like me a lot, but I want to do what is best for her as well as for Smoke, and if it means adoption, I will have to take that option. Still, Smoke is a problem. What to do with him? Time is getting short...OK, this cat stuff is too much information about too little related to a bike trip. Sorry.

I have a local making an oilskin cover for my internal frame back-pack, that I will be taking along as my main bag. I will strap it on behind my seat, just in front of the tail box, and then, on stopovers, will only have to take that one bag off to have clothes, extra shoes, shaving kit, and the usual overnight stuff. I will keep my laptop and camera in the right saddle bag/box, and will unload that as well on R.O.N.s. The rest of the stuff should be relatively save on the bike, under the bike cover, and parked in "safe" parking at hotels, etc.

That is about it for this blog. More later as things progress/fall apart...
10:10 am mdt          Comments

Thursday, October 5, 2006

Less than a month before my proposed departure on the South America trip---Destination---Ushuaia, the Southernmost city in the World. Puerto Williams is a community farther south, across the Straights of Magellan, but it is generally considered too small to merit the title, although I have seen it referred to as the Southernmost postmark in the world.

Ushuaia will do it for me, I think. I plan to leave here, in Southern Idaho, around the first of November, either riding, or possibly by loading "Gravel Gertie" (my bike's new name) into the pickup for the trip. It really depends on two factors; the weather for the trip to Arizona, and what disposition I manage to make of my two cats, Smoke and Scruffy. I hope to find homes for them here, and am not making much progress along those lines. The second choice will be to find some good temporary home for them, retrieving them when I return. I do not want to leave them in the Veterinary kennel, because, although they would care for them adequately, I don't want them cooped up for all that long. The last resort would be to take them with me to Phoenix for Ruth to care for them while I am gone. I hesitate to do this, because her two cats there have HIV, and mine would no doubt become infected. Even that, though, would be better than leaving them in a pound, where they would be kept only a short time before being put down. If that is the option I settle on, I will have to take the pickup with the bike along for the ride.

They are pretty good cats, and I think a lot of them both, and don't want them done away with. I will work something out...

I am puttering around, getting some final things done on the bike, like putting an oil cooler protection on, fixing a broken mount on the front fender fairing, getting the side stand bar re-welded, and generally going around tightening bolts and doing little clean up jobs.

I had the bike cover repaired where I had spilled acid on it and eaten some holes in it, and also having a rainproof cover made for the internal frame pack I intend to carry strapped on the seat behind me. It looks like I will have to carry several items externally, since I am pretty sure I will be taking my laptop with me. I am dithering about this, but really would like to have it so I can continue this running account along the way without having to rely completely on cybercafes. This way I can type out blogs, and then load them quickly on the site whenever I get a place where I can get on line, be it a cybercafe or a free wi-fi spot. I know there are wi-fi spots available; for example, at the Pollo Campero site in Antigua Guatemala, one can have a cup of coffee and go online free. There are sure to be others along the route.

So, I will have to carry my tent, sleeping bag and sleeping pad, and the bike cover externally. I guess I am taking the camping gear, although I am still undecided about a stove and cookware, as well as my H2O purifyer. They all take up room, and it gets to be a real packing hassle. I always over-pack, and I hope this time to show some real discipline and carry only essential clothing and other accoutrements.

Aside from the amount of stuff taken, packing presents something of a challenge in what goes where. It is nice to be able to take one item off the bike when stopped where there is secure parking, and hitting the hotel room with the essentials; shaving kit, change of clothes (this won't happen every day, or every other day, and probably not then), book(s), map(s), computer, camera, water, and the like. It is a real pain to have to open several items to retrieve what is going to be needed away from the bike.

The bike cover goes over the bike with some of the externals left in place. Of course, anything valuable, like the GPS, camera, wallet, Passport, money, and things like that need to go into the room, but the cover takes the externals, like the tent, sleep bag and pad out of plain sight and makes theft at least a bit less likely. My cover, as mentioned earlier, has a couple of grommets, allowing me to use a shot cable lock to keep it from being removed without slashing it open---what makes me think thieves would be reluctant to do that? I think it less likely, because they cannot see if there is anything beneath the cover worth the effort or the risk. If I have to leave the bike out where it is completely at risk, like on the street, I remove everything, including the tail bag and side bags. Even then, there are risks, because adept thieves can get the mirrors and other bolt-on items in a flash.

I cannot recall staying in a hotel/motel/inn in Mexico or CA where the parking was not relatively safe. As mentioned in an earlier entry, the desk people often suggest, no, insist that you bring the bike right into the lobby!

I will probably get ripped off one of these trips, but one can only be so careful, and my paranoia is pretty minimal at this stage, never having had a bad experience, and should it happen, I vow not to let it deter me from my basic philosophy that people are at essence, good and trustworthy, no matter where one roams. Prudence, not suspicion, is my byword.

I have a few other loose ends to tie down before departure, such as health and accident insurance, bike insurance, and, at Dear Ruth's request, some kind of telephone that can be relied on to work most, if not all the time on the route. A satellite phone seems to be the best, if not the cheapest option. The problem is, that it is another piece of equipment to drag along, and something more to fail when needed, as well as to worry about losing or having stolen.

The plan is this: I will leave here in Buhl, Idaho, around the first of the month (November), and ride or drive to Phoenix, spending a week or so there. I will depart there around the middle of the month and wend my way down to Antigua Guatemala. I plan to head down the Mexican West coast at least as far as Mazatlan, then cut across toward Yucatan and Palenque and Chichen Itza. From there I will drop down the East coast to Tulum and into Belize, then turn right (to the West) and enter Guatemala South of Tikal (just East of Flores). Then, depending on conditions, I may take the back roads from Flores, heading South south west toward Coban, and then from there down to Guatemala City and then to Antiqua. I will plan to arrive there a couple of weeks after leaving Phoenix, around the first of December.

I don't know how long I will spend in Antigua, but probably not more than a few days. I would like to be through CA by the end of December and into South America, probably Cartegena, Colombia, by New Year's day. The plan is to be in Ushuaia around the middle of February, at the latest, since the summer down there is pretty short. I understand that January can be about the worst for wind, and the wind down there can be very strong. I have heard of winds as high as gale force and above, not the conditions I look forward to on a motorcycle.

I probably should be on the road right now, because I can see that things are going to compress, and I do not want to make this a trip that has to be anywhere at any particular time, or in any hurry. I calculate that if I leave Antigua, and make an average of 150 miles per day, I can make the trip from there in about 50 days. Let's say I leave Antigua on December 15. That brings me into Ushuaia sometme around the first part of February, and should leave some cushion, because a 150 mile day average should be pretty doable, even with time out for shipping bike and body from Panama to Colombia (3 days?).
Should be on the road, but I am not going to be ready before the first of November.

We shall see...

More later.
5:07 pm mdt          Comments

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For future use

Our New Best Friend, TRES

My Hero, Uncle Pete, two days short of his 90th birthday.

Meet Mort--- Mortem "mors me cum equitat"
The view from 50 feet up the mast
The Old Guy At The Helm Of "OH MISS"
Adventure Bound
The Old Guy, Back Home Unscathed
2005 BMW K1200LT, long gone to bike heaven
"Der Klunkenschiffter" at age 4, 102,000 miles