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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.

2014R1200RT.jpg
New Scooter---2014 R1200RT
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Cap'n Ron in the Straits of Georgia
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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

BRAZIL, BRAZIL, BRAZIL!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007 Day 107? BOISSUCANGA, BRAZIL
That old song, "Brazil" keeps running around in my head, and has been doing so for several weeks. If you are too young to remember the song, maybe you saw the movie by the same name, written and directed by Terry Gilliam. Surely you know who he is? He was the seldom seen member of "Monty Python," and was responsible for most of the art work, in addition to being the only American member of the group. It was a very good movie, but it got spotty reviews, and was not seen by large numbers of people. The song was a theme in the movie (strangely enough), and I cannot get it out of my mind. FYI, Robert Di Niro had a cameo role, one of his first tries at comedy, and quite successful at that. You might find it worth renting or receiving on Netflix.
We heard from David this morning, and he arrived in Sao Paulo OK, so that worry is over. He did not get murdered, robbed, or otherwise waylaid. We have decided to await him here, or at least until we find out if he can be on the road soon.
We fully expect the diagnostic machine at the Beemer shop to find a fault, but no underlying problem, and have it fixed in a flash by resetting "default." That is the problem with computer controlled machines: you cannot fix it yourself out on the road, and the fix answer is usually "Well, computers do that sometimes." Maybe the old machines with their chains and carburators (Sp?) were not so bad. They broke more often, but they were easily fixable by comptent mechanics, and they are everywhere...
So, we are spending the day with a little housekeeping...

9:55 am mst 

Monday, February 26, 2007

Sometimes, Things Break
Monday February 26, 2007 Day 106 BOISSUCUNGA, BRAZIL
We are at a beach resort on the Brazilian Atlantic coast. We left Peruibe this morning, right after I got my rear tire repaired. I picked up a nail yesterday as we did the white-line trick to get past a huge traffic blockage on the divided highway up the coast. They have a 75 mile-an-hour highway, that is suddenly reduced to one very rough lane for a distance of about 100 feet. It has apparently been that way for some time, but traffic was backed up for at least two miles. We slithered down the left hand side of the left lane, sometimes splitting lanes, but mostly on the paved shoulder of the road, and saved ourselves at least an hour, but, stopping for gas, the attendants pointed out that my rear tire was very soft (10 psi). I pumped it up and we headed for the nearest town, and made it after another stop for pumping. Fortunately, I have a handy-dandy electric pump that plugs into my bike´s outlets, and does the job huff-and-puff free.
This morning, I pumped it up again, and rode to a local tire shop, where the mechanic plugged it in less than five minutes. I preferred that he put a boot in it, but had no way to so communicate, and took what I could get.
We did have heavy rain yesterday, and my nifty Aerostich riding suit finally let me down, and leaked like a sieve. I had it washed in Ushuaia, then applied rain repellent, but it is not working. I am going to have to buy some good rain gear in Rio.
Today, more of the same. Heavy rain, and after a stop for gas only a hundred and twenty-five miles or so up the road, David´s R1200GS suddenly quit after he had started up the road a half mile or so. We checked it out, and it was an electrical problem. He pushed it back to the gas station, where there was a bike mechanic, and the battery checked out OK. The mech. said it is a computer problem, and he of course has no equipment, so David is stuck. He is going to truck the bike back a couple of hundred clicks to Sao Paulo. The truck driver who is taking him said he would leave early in the morning, and that we should load the bike on the truck this afternoon, and Dave can spend the night at his house. Not the best of plans, but there is not much alternative. He cannot leave the bike at the gas station, as there is no secure place to lock it up, and there was no way to get it into town, so we loaded the bike, and then Ian and I followed the truck, with Dave and the bike toward the driver´s house.
I say followed, because finally, we left the slippery, slimy and treacherous mud road and began a very steep climb up a concrete path that appeared to be a driveway. It was two concrete tracks, each wide enough for a car´s wheel, about 18 inches wide. In between was tall grass, and each side had grass right up to the concrete, also about 12 or so inches high.
Against my better judgment, I started up, got about 100 feet, and slipped into the center grass area, where there was no traction, and down I went. No damage to me or the bike, but she was down, down, down. Ian came up and tried to help, but once we got her on her wheels, there was nowhere to go but back down, and it was very steep. Finally, the driver and Dave came back down the hill, and the four of us, plus a couple of neighbors manhandled the beastie back to level, but very muddy ground. But another crisis averted.
The driver graciously invited Ian and me to also spend the night, but Dave said it was even worse at the top, and we should go find a hotel, since there was no place safe to park our bikes, and we couldn´t get to the house. We left reluctantly, as we are not absolutely certain that Dave is safe in these stranger´s hands. But, the bike was on the truck, along with Dave´s gear, and what was he to do? He said he would be all right, and we slithered back to town and found a hotel, thoroughly soaked.
We will decide tomorrow whether to wait here for him, or proceed to Rio de Janeiro and wait there. He said to go on, but I hate to separate us any further, and to leave him even farther behind. We all agreed there was no need to all go into Sao Paulo with him, but now I am wondering if we did the right thing, leaving him out there all alone tonight...
4:26 pm mst 

Friday, February 23, 2007

Brazil!
Friday, February 23, 2007 Day 103 IGAZZU FOZ, BRAZIL
We were at the Brazilian Embassy early, just as they opened. All was in order, except that they do not currently accept payment in US dollars, and I had to find an exchange booth open at that hour. The fee was 360 Argentine Pesos, and the exchange rate is now 3.06 to one, so it is significantly over $100 US. They can only issue a visa for 30 days, and that means before that time is up, if one expects to stay on, he must go to the national police station and apply for an extension, and I am betting that costs more $$, or, rather, Reales (the Brazilian currency, currently valued at a bit over 2 Reales to the dollar).
We got the visas in a little over two hours, and hit the trail for the border. All went fine checking out of Argentina, immigration and customs (bike registration, or, I should say, de-registration). We hit the Brazilian side, and swept through immigration in record time. Next stop, Aduana, or customs. Glitch! Only one guy was working, and his main job was to process the endless stream of trucks transiting into Brazil. He worked us between spurts, and it only took two hours to process us three bikers.
That hurdle out of the way, we whipped into the city on the Brazilian side,  looking for banks and ATMs. They were all over the place, but it took the better part of an hour to find one that would honor any of our bank cards. Finally we found one, and cashed in. Meanwhile, it was hotter than the hinges of Hell, and we nearly drowned in our own sweat. It had to be nearly 100 degrees, with humidity above 50%. The good news is that it was not raining, and we had money, and we were in the country.
A bike hustler sold us on a hotel near the central part of town, and we followed him there. $135 Reales for a triple room, and breakfast AND DINNER included! We checked in and Ian and I hit the pool, which was a very refreshing dip. Following that, we spent an hour having our bikes washed by a pro for a paltry $5 US, and then returned to the hotel for the buffet dinner, which was VERY good, drinks and ice cream after not included. I was quite surprised at the spread and the quality of the food. A very good deal.
The people here in this border city speak and understand most Spanish, and we are not having trouble being understood. This will probably change as we travel into less touristy areas, but point-say has worked before. We are putting away the Spanish dictionaries for now, and trying to learn the basics: Hello, please, thank you, goodbye in Portuguese
Not much adventure in these latest reports, and I am pleased about that, your entertainment, or lack thereof notwithstanding.
We will try to be at the Brazilian side of the falls in the morning when they open at 0900, take a quick look, then come back and check out of this place and head east. They are forecasting rain over just about the entire country, so we expect to get wet for the next stint on the road. This is the rainy season, and that means rain for a good part of every day, and when it rains here, sometimes it REALLY rains.
I failed to mention that the shop in Buenos Aires did a nice job on Der Klunkenschiffter. She runs like new, and the new rear shock absorber makes the ride much more stable. I was finding the ride a bit too soft, and in the turns a couple of times south of B.A. I almost got into a high-speed wobble during turns on uneven pavement. It set up a dynamic that threatened to send the front steering into a frenzy of oscillation and inevitible crash. As reported earlier, the upper pinion bushing had worn out, and the hole had become elongated, allowing for lots of unwelcome movement and a corresponding lack of stability in the suspension. All fixed now. Der bike handles entirely different. I am back on tippy toe when stopped, however, and it makes maneuvering when stopped pretty precarious. I have not  dropped her yet, but it is touch and go on every stop and every start. It keeps me from boredom. I have to search carefully before selecting a stopping point, lest loose gravel, wet surface, or oil cause my toes to slip when putting a foot down followed by the TIMBER of bike crashing to the pavement with concurrent broken turn signals, scratched hand guards, and the like. Always good for a few laughs from onlookers, and made worse by the fact that I seldom can get her back on her wheels without assistance.
We had an incident in front of a bank here today, when Ian, parked to my right, lost his scooter when it pivoted on the side stand and started over into me. I had a left foot down, and was barely able to keep from going down, as we stood there, or I should say, leaned there, his bike against mine, and mine tilted crazily to the left, screaming for David to get over and help right Ian before I lost it and we both crashed to the pavement. He made it in time, and all was saved, with no damage, and some delight from passersby. We were happy to have brightened their day.
4:36 pm mst 

Thursday, February 22, 2007

What Do You Mean You Have Never Heard Of Iguazu Falls?
Thursday, February 22, 2007 Day 102 IGUAZU FALLS, ARGENTINA
The bike was ready Monday morning, and I was on the 11:15 Fast Ferry (Buquebus) to Colonia de Sacramento, Uruguay. I made it to Punta de Este in jig time, and after some searching, found a hotel room, with the help of the local tourist office. Ian and David had a hotel, but only could find a double, and the place was full. I found a nice little place for only $75 US (!!), and the only internet within shouting or walking distance was the hotel desk computer, which the clerk let me use to check e-mail.
We reunited the next morning, and headed across the small country to the Argentine border at Concordia, where we took a triple for the night. No internets close by that were not either closed, or full.
Wednesday, we headed north and managed to find a small town with accomodations, but again, no internets available. By now, Ian and I were suffering severe withdrawal, but we sucked it up, and did without.
This morning, we high-tailed it north 60 miles to Puerta Iguazu, and parked at the falls parking lot. We spent most of the day hiking and looking at these spectacular falls. We were told it takes 6 hours to see them, and they guide was just about right on. We took it all in, taking scads of bad photos along with all the other tourists, and there were bazillions of them.
We left there at about 1530 and headed for the Brazilian border. We checked out of Argentina and went into immigration for Brazil. Tilt! We were informed that Americans and Canadians must have visas pre-issued by the Brazilian consulate. Fortunately, there is one in Pte Iguazu, Argentina, but that meant we had to go back into Argentina, with all the paperwork redone for the motorcycles. We asked them if they just couldn´t give us back the paperwork we had turned in fifteen minutes before, saving them and us a lot of bother, but, no, the papers had to be redone. A nice Aduana lady (customs) sped us through, and we were on our way to Iguazu and the Brazilian Consulte, which was, of course, por supuesto, claro, cerrado (closed, closed, closed). We will hit it early tomorrow, with our paperwork and money in hand. One needs have a passport picture and (Americans) $100 US in hand in order to obtain the visa. Now we wait to see how long that may take. We hear it could take a couple of hours, and then again, it could take days...
There you have it. We are back in Argentina, and time will tell how long we will cool our heels here.
Mo latuh.
4:17 pm mst 

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Sunday, February 18, 2007 Day 98  BUENOS AIRES
Here are a few random factoids about Argentina. I say factoids, because they are unconfirmed:
1) B.A. has somewhere around 8 or 9 million inhabitants. The “Greater” Buenos Aires area is something like 18 million, which represents about half ot the total population of Argentina.
2) There are 40,000 taxis licensed in the Greater B.A. District.
3) Iguazu Falls are in the Northeasternmost corner of the country, about 800 miles from B.A. They are on the border near Paraguay, between Argentina, and Brazil, and comprise 275 separate cataracts between 50 and 80 meters in height (160 to 270 feet). They form an arc over 3 miles long, and, if I did the math correctly, dump water at the rate of 61,000 cubic feet/second.
And here are a couple of observations regarding the denizons of B.A.:
1) There is a lot of smoking. One sees many people out on the street puffing away as they chat on the ubiquitous cell phone, especially women, and young women at that. Yesterday, I observed this knock-out, drop-dead gorgeous young woman with a toddler on her hip sidling down the street, smartly attired and flourishing a steaming Virginia Slim, or whatever other brand is now in vogue. You seldom see that in the US anymore.
2) These people are not afraid to touch.  You see people hugging (abrazos) and kissing whenever they meet or part, even among young men. It is not unusual to see a couple of young machos give each other a hug and a peck on each cheek as they dash off from their coffee break back to the workplace. Not seen in homophobic America, not seen.
3) Not so much in B.A., but moreso in Patagonia and the south, one sees signs that read: (in Spanish) “The Malvinas are Argentine!” referring to what the Brits call The Falkland Islands, the subject of the unfortunate war some 30 years ago wherein the Argentines had over 600 men killed. Asked about it, a cab driver explained to me that the Islands belong to Argentina, that the British stole them many years ago, and the war was an attempt to regain them. He also thought the war was a political diversion by the military government here as well as by Margaret Thatcher to rally the English around their government. Whatever the cause, and whomever the guilty, it was a stupid war, as are most of them. In towns all around Argentina are monuments to the war and the “Heroes of the Malvinas.” The Argentines were outclassed and outgunned, but had they held out a bit longer, the outcome could have been quite different, as the British supply lines were too long to sustain a campaign for more than a few months.
4) Back to B.A. specifically, but Argentina in general; there is no shortage of henna here. One sees hennaed hair on women of all ages with very little gray hair among women, and precious little in the men.
5) There are few black people in Argentina. I am hazy regarding the history, but apparently the slave trade did not reach this far south. I understand that Brazil imported a large share of the slave market, hence has a large black population, but hereabouts they are scarce, although there is no apparent prejudice.
6) Buenos Aires is a World Class city, right up there with Paris, NYC, Rome, San Francisco, and London. It has character and soul, but it also has the Tango, making it unique, alive, and vibrant.
Nearly 500 years old, it is somewhat like Paris, a bit like New York, yet it sparkles in its own beautiful setting, with parks, monuments, wide boulevards, and tree-lined avenues. La Avenida 9 de Julio is said to be the widest avenue in the world, over 70 meters from side to side, but they cheated a bit, because parallel, on either side are two more streets that are really separate, but appear as part of the main street. It is most appealing, and the crown jewel of the city. This city is one of the great ones.
5:58 am mst 

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Another Bleeding Crisis Defeated (more or less)

Saturday, February 17, 2007 Day 97 BUENOS AIRES (STILL)

OK, no more political comments. I promise. 

I arrived at the bike shop just as they were opening. Large, the Service Department Manager, showed me the rear shock that had been removed from the bike. The upper attachment bushing had worn completely out, and the hole was slightly elongated from the constant pounding. This would take about three or four (working) days to repair. The alternative was to replace it with a standard Adventure shock, which would cost a buck or three, and also would again raise the bike a couple of inches, a situation that I had removed by putting on the now shot shock. But, it could be done in a matter of minutes, and I would be able to leave town tomorrow as scheduled with my companions. Great.

I waited until the bike was done, expecting to pay the entire bill (large, but not Large) by credit card. The job done, Large informed me that they needed cash for the shock, and would put the rest of it on credit card. I departed on foot for an ATM. They were not close, and the first one was out of money. The second would not accept my card, a situation that happens around here from time to time.

I returned to the shop and asked where the nearest might be. Not close, they told me, but Large would take me on the back of one of the bikes. We hit five or six, and none would accept my card. Strange. There was apparently a lock on my account. We returned to the shop, and Large said OK, he could take whatever cash I had (about 600 Pesos, or roughly $200) and put the rest on my CC. Great.

He ran the card. Rejected! This had happened once before on the trip. Ruth had paid a bill by credit card, and the account was frozen. She called USAA and it was straightened out. I figured this may be another incident of the same type, so I did not think to have him run it again. This was a manual entry of the user card number rather than an electronic entry. I should have had him re-enter it.

I rushed back to the hotel to find USAA phone number and make things right. The shop was closing at 1300, and it was now just past that time, but Large said, don't worry, I will wait until you call.

I called the USAA and the bank, and was put on hold on both, totaling entirely too much time. Tick, tick, tick. The clock was running. Both enterprises assured me that all was OK. I rushed back to the bank and tried it. Nada. I called again. Everything is OK, I was told. I then called Large at the BMW Agency. No bleeding answer. It was now 1400, and I imagine Large had better things to do than hang around the shop waiting for me to get my act together.

I did get the CC to work by trying it out to pay the week's hotel bill. Good. Went to the ATM up the street, and got some Pesos. All is great now, except that I am now waiting until Monday to get the scooter, and in the meantime Ian and David are leaving for Uruguay. They are going across the river to La Colonia de Sacramento, the to Punta Este on the Uruguay coast. I will skip that, and head north for Iguazu Falls, about 1000 Km, planning to meet them there in a few day. It will work out, but could have been so simple...

I am guessing that Large entered my card number in error, because the CC agent told me that when the card is entered correctly, even though some other data like expiration, may be incorrect, they show it on their records immediately. He showed no charges, which meant that the card info never left the BMW shop.

I really do like Buenos Aires, but it would have been nice to get on the road tomorrow. Not a big deal, and I managed to cope with all of this with a minimum of swearing and ranting. It was but a small bump  on the road that makes up the trip.

Here is some useless information about B.A. The government buildings here are pink, or, if you prefer, rose-colored. The story has two possible forks. One says that in the old days there was no satisfactory water-proof paint, and they concocted a mixture of cow blood, lye, and something else that escapes me, which made it semi-waterproof.They continue the tradition.

The other, perhaps more credible, is that there were two parties in the old days, one that wore white uniforms, and the other red. In a sign of unity, they mixed the two in denoting the buildings as a sign of unity, and the resultant rose paint survives to this day.

Take your pick. 

 

2:12 pm mst 

Friday, February 16, 2007

Raining On My Parade

Friday, 16 February, 2007 Day 96 BUENOS AIRES

As I begin my 74th year, it is raining here, and it is also beginning to rain in my life, as I have learned that my son's Air Guard unit is expecting deployment "overseas" in a few weeks. He is a Master Sergeant, and works in aircraft maintenance (in his military capaciity as well as his civilian job) so his exposure to immediate danger is not high, but he surely will be at risk merely by the fact of his presence in the most dangerous area of the world. He will miss the high school graduation of his niece and his son, and I can only hope that is the worst that comes of this deployment.

I have been voluble in my attitudes regarding this Iraq adventure, and this brings it close, very close to home. I shall refrain from using this blog as a forum, except to say that I fervently hope it comes to a quick conclusion. He is a soldier, and he signed up for whatever may come, so he goes where he is sent, but it is my contention that his government has failed in its implicit promise not to send troops into harm's way unless it is absolutely the last option. This disaster in Iraq is the result of hasty decisions reached without clear and irrefutable information. An enterprise entered in error is doomed to end the same. It cannot and will not end well. I could be wrong...

On a more positive note, the rain has ended, and there is a good prospect for clearing. 

5:53 am mst 

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Las Madres De Los Desaparecidos

Thursday, February 15, 2007 Day 95 BUENOS AIRES

Ian and I took a city tour today, and saw some of the main sights of the city. In La Plaza de Mayo, we were fortunate enough to observe the weekly protest march of the mothers of the missing children. These mothers have been assembling every Thursday for 36 years in protest because there never has been a thorough investigation of the estimated 30,000 dissidents and intellectuals who were swept up into the government interrogations, most of whom never returned. Many graves were later discovered, along with photos of the interned youths, men and women, but a huge number have never been accounted for. These mothers continue to demand an investigation as to what happened to their children. To date, they have not been answered.

It is a moving sight to see these now aged women silently marching around the central statue with their banners and flags, quietly making their case for satisfaction, if such could ever be forthcoming.

Today, one of the marchers was a former US official who was instrumental in starting the movement. He was fairly high up in the US  Embassy, I was told, and despite the embassy's reluctance to "stir things up," he did that very thing, and helped start the movement to oust the military government and to get these bereaved mothers organized into a defiant group. We could clearly see today that these ladies revered this man, whose name I did not get, and that he knew them all well. He is presently in town at the end of a cruise, where he was one of the featured speakers, according to an American couple I met there in the square. The cause continues...

Of course, it could never happen in America...

 

2:07 pm mst 

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Killing Time In B.A.

Thursday, February 15, 2007 Day 95 BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA, a World Class City

 This was written on the 14th, but not posted until today, the 15th of February.

For some reason, I feel older today...

The passport was ready at the promised time, and I picked it up without incident. This is an "Emergency" passport, and only good for one year. I will have to renew it, without additional cost, when I return to the US. All that is required is that I fill out the necessary forms and send it to the passport center along with 2 pictures, and I will be issued a new one.

The bad news is that I will lose all of those visas acquired over the trip that were in the old passport, plus the new ones I will accumulate on the Emergency PP from here to Arizona. My Dear Wife and I have this childish little game of One-Ups-Manship as to who can get the most visas, stamps, and the like, and who has been to the most exotic places. I was miles ahead, but now all is lost...

The three of us have an informal little bet as to when the bikes will be ready. Large (yes, that is his name, Large. Fortunately for him, he is not small. I would consider him about average), the manager of the maintenance section said he was 90% sure they would be ready on Friday, and we are hopeful. I shall be quite surprised if they are done in time to flee town before Saturday morning. 

So, the Dixie Chicks won five (count 'em, 5!) Grammys the other night! Ain't that sumpin'? It looks like the worm has, if not turned, at least is altering direction. Could the rest of the nation be far behind?

If you have not seen the BBC film clip of one Eldon Anderson of Boise Idaho attempting to defend the unfortunate Idaho Air Guard pilot who mistakenly attacked a British patrol, killing one Brit, consider yourself lucky. Whatever your stance on this Iraq mess (and whatever that stance may be, surely you agree that it is indeed a mess), you would have to be embarrassed and shamed by the quotes that spewed out of Mr. A,'s lips. He said that pilot is a hero, (I have no quibble with this, and my heart goes out to him, because these things can and do happen), and that the British had better get on board, quit sucking their thumbs as they did in WWII, and start cooperating. He further said that we do not need their help, only their cooperation (whatever that may mean). Mr. Anderson showed utter ignorance, if not stupidity, and maligned a great nation that has been an ally of ours for many, many years.

People like Anderson do a great deal of harm, and, unfortunately, the environs of Provincial Idaho, even the more cosmopolitan Boise harbor many attitudes like his. He has done us all a great disservice, even though he later made a feeble effort at an apology, saying that he never meant to insult anyone, and that he meant no malice. Good! I should hate to hear what he might say had he meant an insult.

Once again, Happy VD! 

2:03 pm mst 

Lounging around in "Good Air"

Wednesday, February 14, 2007 Day 94 BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA

May you have lots of sweets from your Sweetie. 

There was a Braziian fellow at the BMW shop yesterday when we dropped off our bikes. He is riding a late 90s model R1150GS, quite similar to mine. He took an interest in us, and offered to give us some routes through Brazil on our way to Belen and the Amazon River. We met him later in the evening for a couple of brewskis and came armed with our Brazil map. He arrived with an orange marking pen, and spent quite some time in marking out several routes, noting particulart spots of interest. With this information we can make a good attempt at the best route through that huge country.

Often we accuse others of not looking at the Big Picture, but when one has reached the goal on a trip like this one (Ushuaia), looking at the BP, a return of over 10,000 miles, it can be daunting. The prospect of 8 or 9 thousand kilometers just to get to the north of Brazil and the Amazon River, looked at as that BP is discouraging, to say the least, especially when one realizes that time has marched on, and there are only about 10 weeks left until the first of May, which is my particular hoped for date of return to reality.

Further, one can count on just about a month from Colombia to the climes of Scottsdale, and that is with a pretty hard ride and no dilly-dallying around. That means 6 weeks from here to Caracas or Bogota, a hard ride in itself.

One needs look at the day to come, and not six weeks or more down the pike. You lay out a loose itinerary, then focus on the day ahead, or perhaps the mile ahead. This works well for a motorcycle trip, but one wishes the Shakers and Movers would take a quick peek at the BP and the possibilities it may hold before executing actions with grave and disastrous potential. Failure in this case can lead to a road that runs over a cliff...

7:53 am mst 

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Another Very Good Day

Tuesday, February 13, 2007 Day 93 BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA

Things went very well at the US Embassy. The consul was most helpful, and is going to help get me an emergency passport, which should be ready tomorrow (Wednesday) afternoon! He told me it was up to the traveler to determine what is needed, and to find out what the time for a new passport will be, and asked me how long I had been in Argentina. I told him two weeks, and he said that I should have come right to the embassy and applied. I told him that I am not traveling by air, and that I had come through southern Chile and Ushuaia by motorcycle, and that I had just arrived in Buenos Aires yesterday, having made the appointment by telephone nearly a week ago. I also related my mugging in Peru, and the fact that a little old man traveling alone is an easy target, so I need to stay with my two Canadians, who are on a tighter schedule and cannot wait 10 days for me to secure a new passport. He was most understanding, and told me again that they do not normally do this, but he was going to do it for me. I take back any and all negative things I may have said or thought about bureaucracies and US Embassy people.

Lesson: When you travel, find out before hand what the visa requirements are for the countries you may visit, and how long you can expect to wait for a new passport should you need one. I told this gentleman that I knew some countries require at least 6 months on a passport, but thought it unwise to renew mine that long before I left the US, and besides, it takes 6 weeks in the US to get one. He saw it my way, and then we had a nice chat about the airlines and the fact that my Dear Wife will have 50 (FIFTY BLEEPING) years as a flight attendant in May. That really blows minds, my dears.

New Topic: Seasoned travelers know this one, but here it is as a reminder: When you are in a strange city, in a hotel you hardly noticed when you checked in, BE SURE TO GET A HOTEL CARD when you go out for dinner, shopping, sightseeing, etc.

The other night in Mar Del Plata, we three left the hotel after checking in to get dinner. We wandered past the park, down a walking mall, around a couple of corners, up a street, down another, and found a suitable restaurant, chatting all the way. I left no trail of bread crumbs, nor did I much note where we were or how we got there. After dinner, I decided to get what is left of my hair cut before B.A. and new passport photos. I left Ian and David, got a trim, and started back to the hotel. After a couple of blocks, I was nearly overcome with panic, because I briefly thought I had lost my way. I could not recall the name of the hotel, nor the street where it is located. I was facing the prospect of being lost without a clue as to how to relocate the hotel. This is about as frightening as being in the middle of a strange city without $$. It is not a happy prospect.

The streets were crowded with people, and they all looked the same (the streets and the people), but fortunately, I found the main plaza, and shortly recognized a fellow with a huge black Newfoundland dog who had been selling people the opportunity to have their pictures taken with the dog (business was surprisingly good). We had seen him on the way out, and I then knew that the plaza was the right one, and found the hotel just across the square. Whew! Now that would have been embarrassing! 

Our bikes are in the shop, and we expect them to be ready on Friday, making for a Saturday departure for Igazu falls, on the border north of here between Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. Maybe, and maybe not. Vamos a ver...

I even found a MC shop that sells Nolan helmets, and secured a new visor for mine. My MC pants have had zipper failure (again) on one of the legs, and are in a repair shop for a new one---three doors down from the hotel. Clean clothes await at the laundry just around the corner. Now, if I could just find an electric shop to fix the plug on my GPS...

Yes, sometimes little things like this make for a Very Good Day indeed. 

3:25 pm mst 

Monday, February 12, 2007

Buenos Aires, "Good Air"
Monday, February 12, 2007 Day 92 MAR DEL PLATA TO BUENOS AIRES
We rode the 290 miles to B.A. in good weather; lots of sunshine and very little wind.
We are ensconced in a hotel in the main part of town, and a huge town it is. Tomorrow we take the bikes in for service, and I make my pitch to the American Consul for an expedited passport so I can continue with my companions into Brazil and points north. They will not grant visas unless the passport has more time to expiration than the length of the visa, and mine runs out at the end of April. The normal renewal time here is ten days, and that was quite a surprise, since my Dear Wife got hers renewed in Paris in 24 hours (that was 10 years ago). I will throw myself on the floor and kick and scream, hoping to get some positive results. In any event, we shall be here for several days, as the Beemer dealer here has only one bike mechanic currently, as the other is on vacation. I hope he is riding safe and having a good trip.
As we rode north the last couple of days, the terrain and environs slowly began to change, and we soon were out of the pampas and into countryside that looks quite similar to Kansas, without the rolling hills and undulating highway. This country is still flat as a table top, but we began to see more cattle and sheep, and then cultivated fields. We passed through an area where they raise onions, and finally began seeing tall green things growing here and there. Some were along the road and some were in clumps out in the mid and far distance. They were sometimes nearly fifty feet tall, and we eventually determined that they were trees, something we had not seen much of for a week or more. There seem to be lots of Eucalyptus trees here, and when riding by the large stands alongside the road, you can smell the distinctive aroma of Eucalyptus. There were also pines, or some other kind of evergreen, and various kinds of deciduous trees.
There were also large "estancias" or ranches, and plenty of contented looking beef cattle, grazing out on the open fields. It is quite a contrast to the CAFO (confined animal feeding operations) we have become accustomed to seeing at home, with the cattle, whether they be dairy or beef, massed together in large feed lots with nary a blade of grass in sight, but standing in waste and bare dirt with nothing to relieve their barren lives. These Argentine cows look pretty fat and sassy, and the beef here is mighty tasty. I had a Bife lomo last night in Mar Del Plata, and it was very good, smothered in mushrooms, with a rich brown gravy and "papas naturales (roasted new potatoes). This all for about $5 US.
The drivers around us became more aggressive as we neared the big city, and we were constantly being passed by cars whizzing by with little room to spare, as they passed and jockeyed for the best position and apparently to see who could arrive somewhere first.
I am learning to shrug it off, and let them go without rancor. I recently read some of the best advice I have ever had, and that is "do not take it personally." No matter what happens, whomever did it was not interested in you personally, and there was no malice intended. It is just one of those things that happen, and it may well have been someone else that guy just cut off in traffic or tail-gated for ten miles. They don`t care who you are, or what you look like, they just do what they do, and it is nothing against you personally. I keep repeating this mantra, and it seems to help. Life is much simpler with this attitude ingrained, and I am striving to make it part of mine.
2:28 pm mst 

Saturday, February 10, 2007

A Friend In Need...

Saturday, February 10, 2007 Day 90 TRELEW TO VIEDMA, ARGENTINA

We have been incredibly fortunate, especially with the weather. Today dawned bright and sunny, and the wind had decreased during the night to a nice morning breeze. We had coffee at a local equivalent of Starbucks, and hit the road about 0910. The road is through Argentine Pampa, as it has been for the last 1200 miles or so, and the pavement is very good, so we made very good time on roads straight as a string and with very few curves. We stopped in Puerto Madalyn for more coffee and some rolls. P. M. is a beach resort frequented mostly by Buenos Aires weekenders and summer vacationers. A pretty little town, we were reluctant to leave, but threw the legs over the bikes and started off with the sea at our right once again, assuring that, unless this is the Pacific, we are headed in the right direction.

I mentioned earlier that we had hop-scotched some Brazilian bikers ever since Bariloche. As a matter of fact, Ian and David first met them in Mendoza, and struck up one of those on-the-road acquaintenceships that sometimes develop into real and lasting friendships. They were originally four, but since have lost two of their party who had to hurry home to Brasilia to work, leaving just the married couple. They are both doctors, he retired from the Brazilian Air Force, and she still on active duty as a flight surgeon. She rides (and quite well) a VStrom, while he keeps up with an ancient Suzuki DR800. We keep running into them along the way, and Ian and I bumped into them last night in Trelew when we had finished blogging and headed to a local snack shop for a late dinner. We told them we expected to see them on the road today. 

We dallied for a couple of hours in Puerto Madalyn, and expected that they had once again jumped ahead of us, after a late start because they had to fit her bike with a new chain and a new set of tires for his machine.

Late in the afternoon, Ian and I were in the lead, as David had pulled over for a rest stop. We were making pretty good time on a perfectly straight stretch, when we passed a wayside stop and there was the fellow, waving his arms like mad, with a look of mild panic on his bearded face. I backed off the throttle and cramped on the brakes, then we made a one-eighty and cruised the quarter mile back to where he was pulled off under the shade of one of the few trees in the area. He had run out of gas, or rather, they had run low on gas, and he had used his reserve can of gas to give her enough to get to the next town, and then he had run out and was soliciting help. Ian had a can of about 5 liters, and we poured that into his tank, but then his battery was low, so Ian got out his jumper cables, and we got him started. About that time, David came screaming along, and we pulled him over to add moral support. We got the bike started, and (Golly, we still do not know these people's names, although introductions were made weeks ago) the man started for town. I got my gear on, and took off at a good rate of speed behind, catching him in about ten miles. I settled in behind him, in case the 5 liters proved to be inadequate, as I had a liter in my Jesse can from the last time John ran out a couple of weeks back (out of gas three times in less than a week).

We rode at a moderate speed for several miles until, there came the Mrs. boiling down the road from town, Hell-bent on getting some gas to her stranded spouse. As she approached, we both waved like mad, and yes, she waved like mad---and continued streaking along undiminished. She had not recognized him, and was intent upon her mission. Several miles behind, Ian also gave her a frantic wave, and got a flapping arm and hand in return, but her speed never flagged, and on she went. David, bringing up the rear waved madly, but to no avail, so he did a quick one-eighty and flashed his lights until she pulled up to see what was up.

When we all reached the gas station, it was fun to point out that even after 25 years of marriage, she could not recognize her hubby. They are a nice couple, and all was forgiven in no time, and we finished the ride into town and started the nightly quest for rooms. David found us a triple again, in a nice little hotel. The rooms are a bit larger than a cell in San Quentin, clean, and the good news it they have wireless! So here we are, blogging like mad, fat and happy.

New Topic

There is an interesting phenomenon in these southern countries, and that includes everywhere from Mexico south. Motorcycles, at least the ones for sale in the USA, for the last 20 or more years, have no headlight on-off switch. When you start the bike, the headlight is on along with the ignition switch. This  was for safety reasons, because you need all the help you need in being seen. I usually ride with my headlight on high beam, as it does not blind other drivers in the daylight when the iris is stopped down against the ambient light. Cage drivers are well-known to have problems seeing an object as small as a man (or woman) on a motorcycle. Their imaging is set for at least automobile-sized objects, and you need all the help you can get in making yourself visible.

The phenom is this: about 1 car, bus, or truck in 5 flashes his lights at you as you approach. The question  is, why? There are several possibilities:

1) He is flashing to tell you your high beams are on.

    Fine, except I get flashed when I am on low beams as well.

2 ) He is flashing to say, "Hello! I am a biker too, but I am stuck in this cage right now, and wish I were riding along with you.

     This surely is cause for some of the flashing, but that many wanna-be bikers? Not likely.

  3) He is telling you that your lights are on, and it is broad daylight, and you have forgotten to turn them off, and you are wasting energy, and why are they on.

      This is my best guess, and should I have the opportunity to explain to said light-flasher,  I would say, "Yes, my lights are on, but you saw me, didn't you? That's the idea, Buster!" But, alas, I cannot communicate, so I wave as they pass, giving them the glad-hand, and they continue on, wondering why that idiot on the motorbike is riding with his lights on.

They continue flashing, and I wear my left arm out waving, giving the "Vee" sign, and occasionally merely ignoring the whole thing. 

5:40 pm mst 

Friday, February 9, 2007

...And Blows, And Blows, And Blows...
Friday, February 9, 2007 Day 89 CALETA OLIVIA TO TRELEW, ARGENTINA
The wind never seems to stop. We left El Calafate on Thursday morning, riding with mostly a quartering tailwind, which was some help, and headed back, still on pavement, toward Rio Gallegos, turning north on the main highway that runs north-south along the coast of Argentina. We made it to a small town called Caleta Olivia just about dark, and discovered that nearly all the hotels and hostals were full. We finally had to settle for a "triple," which means a larger cell than normal, but with three little beds, side by side, a lot like the Three Bears. Which one I am, I leave to you to decide, but as I have these two riding partners by about 15 years, it looks like Papa Bear is the right call.
Ian went blogging, and David and I repaired to the best hotel in town, where we took on dinner, and had a nice conversation with three Mexicans who were riding south on a brace plus one  R1200GS BMWs. We chatted them up for several hours and hit the sack a bit after midnight. After our 580 mile ride that day, I slept like a brick, and did not rise once during the night to pit-a-pat into the bathroom. Cannot remember when that last happened.
On the road at 0910, we cruised up the coast, hop-scotching with a trio of Brazilians that Ian and David first encountered way back in Mendoza, their first stop after leaving Santiago, Chile and the climb over the Andes.
Weall took a 135 mile side trip out to the beach and a national park and preserve, where there is a huge penguin rookery. We gravelled our way through another 20 or so miles (one-way) and spent an hour or two taking pictures of Magellan Penguins, Guanaco (the local name for the regional llama), and some Rhea (the South American version of Emu). The penguins are almost completely without fear of humans, and you almost have to nudge them out of the way, as they camp on the path, soaking up the sunshine. Oh yes, there was plenty of sunshine to ameliorate the wind, and believe me, the psychological effect of the sun is great as one hurls one`s warm pink body down the highway, leaning into the crosswind at an angle that exceeds ten degrees, bracing for the blast sent out by oncoming trucks (when they are on the upwind side of the highway). But, we were favored again by tailwinds at least part of the time, and cranked the speedo up to 85 MPH for most of the day.
We have been exceedingly fortunate in the weather, as we have had almost no rain, and the temperatures are warming as we head north. The coolish temps down south now seem not so bad, looked at in retrospect, and those "What the Hell am I doing here" moments fade along with the memories, as reality  is difficult to capture. The memory banks are kind if one lets them be and does not stir them constantly with negative thoughts and horror stories.
I have an appointment with the American Consulate on Tuesday to see about renewing my passport, as it expires on 30 April, and I hear that the Brazilians and/or Venezuelans may not grant me a visa if my passport expires before the term of the visa. The receptionist at the US Embassy informed me that it takes 10 days (TEN DAYS!) to renew a passport, unless the consul grants an emergency one, so I am trying to concoct a good story. If my dear old Mum were on here deathbed, I would be flying home, so that one is out, and besides, Mummy has been gone for 44 years...I am thinking...
Will try to load some pics tonight, but this computer is slow, and I still have a camera-load that I have not stored on flash-cube, so it may be a few more days.
5:28 pm mst 

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Thar She Blows, And Blows, And Blows, And Blows!
Wednesday, February 7, 2007 Day 87 EL CALAFATE, ARGENTINA
El Calafate is famous for being close to the famous glacier, Perito Moreno. We saw it today, and took many average photos, which I shall post at a more opportune time for your pleasure.
We left Ushuaia in rain and wind on Tuesday, making it all the way to Rio Gallegos for the night, and departed there this morning in sunny (for the most part) skies, and lots more wind. The wind never really seems to stop here. It blew all day yesterday on the long ride to Rio G., and this morning was still practically gale force as we wove our way to El Calafate, a ride of only 300 odd kilometers. It took us nearly 4 hours though, and we were leaned over at some pretty steep angles as we moved down the highway fighting the crosswinds. It was cold and dry, and the sun helped the attitudes noticeably.
We got here about noon, found a nice little cabaña, and took off over the mostly paved road into the park and the site of P. M. Glacier. It is truly spectacular. Nearly 5 Km wide, it towers over the lake up to 60 meters, and stretches back for ten or more kilometers. We took a boat ride up to the site itself, and were treated to a huge slab of ice breaking off and hitting the water with a smack not at all unlike the sound railroad cars make when connecting. This "calving" of ice into the water is not at all unusual, and happens on an average of every 15 minutes or so. The glacier is said to move at a rate of a couple of meters a day, so the falls are frequent.
We left the boat, and rode a few more clicks to the end of the road and viewed the scene from a high point where one can see the ice stretching back into the distance, and watch the falls from a high vantage point.
Just before we left for the glacier tour, we gassed up, and as I was turning out of the station, I passed a bike going in the opposite direction, and it turned out to be Bonnie and Mark, whom I had met in Antigua just before John and I departed. We have been communicating by e-mail the whole way down, but never could connect before this chance encounter today. Very nice to see them, and we had a nice dinner down town after I returned from the ice field. They are still southbound, and will make for Rio Gallegos and points south tomorrow.
We will depart also for Rio G., but will make a left turn there and head up the coast toward Buenos Aires and warmer climes, if not less wind.
The wind here is relentless. It does not blow all day every day, but it blows every day. and seems always to be adverse. Tailwinds are nice, but we seem to always be fighting a cross or a head wind, and it really eats up the gas, and keeps one slowed down and definitely on one´s toes lest a gust sweep you off the road or into the oncoming lane. It is a constant buffeting, and creates some strain, but, I must say, you do not become bored. We have learned not to pass up a gas station, even though my big tank carries me considerably farther than the R1200GS my two Canadian compatriots ride. They get about 200 miles to a tank without reserve, and I consistently get a hundred miles more than that. I have gone as far as 365 miles without running out, and it is comfy not to be on the bottom half of the tank, but coasting on the upper half, regardless of wind or sparsely located gas stations.
We hope for calming in the morning, but that is probably not in the forecast, and if it is, it may well be forecast in error. The bloody wind doth blow!

7:21 pm mst 

Monday, February 5, 2007

It Is Pronounced Ooh-shoo-Y-Uh (Ushuaia)! And We Are Here!
Monday, February 5, 2007 Day 85 USHUAIA, ARGENTINA
We made it! No damage, no injuries, no errors (well, nothing big). On Sunday, we made a run for it, leaving Rio Gallegos at 0815, and succeeded in crossing the two borders, with the concomitant 4 (four) border posts, the ferry ride across the Straits of Magellan, the 60 Plus miles of gravel, Garibaldi Pass, and down into Ushuaia by 2000, for a total of about 435 miles. It was a good ride, and the weather, incredibly, cooperated splendidly. We had no rain, although it threatened on and off all day, very little adverse wind; as a matter of fact, it was a good tailwind for most of the ride. It was coolish, but I was comfy and toasty in my `Lectric vest and gloves, and enjoyed the whole trip, even the hellish gravel.
A few facts, and some maybes about TdF and environs. TdF is the largest island in South America. It was named by Ferdinand Magellan, who said, upon first seeing the smoke from the fires of the local indians, "Holy Crap, look at all the mist!" No, really, he remarked that this was the "land of smoke," or, "Tierra del humo." That was later changed to a more melliflous "Tierra del Fuego," or, "Land of Fire." And so it is called to day.
Another little known factoid (factoids are truisms that may or may not bear up to scrutiny), is that the self-same Magellan, upon seeing the first indians here said, "Hey! Have you ever seen such big feet?" This, the Spanish idiom "Patagones," or "big feet." This is the story, and I will stick with it, and let the facts be damned, whatever they are.
For some reason, I expected Pampas here, but Ushuaia is amidst some towering peaks, and quite similar to Valdez, Alaska, should you be familiar with that charming little port. U. is much larger, and a great deal more tourist-oriented, reminiscent of Skagway, but without the perfection that Skagway seems to exude of late. There was a large Princess Line cruise ship here this morning, having anchored during the night, and the town is full of other tourists, mostly old folks like yours truly.
We inquired regarding local cruise excursions, but there are none suitable, so we spent the day washing bikes, washing my riding suit, which has become filthy, and drinking coffee and strolling the town. It is summer here, but summer is relative hereabouts, and the temperatures struggle to get out of the 60s mid-day, and are in the 40s during the night. Brisk indeed for midsummer.
Excursions out of the picture, we shall launch back the way we came in the morning, ride north to the highway toward El Calafate, and take in the Perito Moreno Glacier there. We hope to make it to Puerto Natales during our peregrinations, and then will break for Buenos Aires, where we will get new rear tires, and I will get my right turn signal, which has been inop for 8,000 miles, fixed, the fork seals replaced, and we shall be on our way north.
We have discovered that the Brazil East Coast is recommended, and I think we will head for Belen, at the mouth of the Amazon, then take a boat up river to Manaus, debarking into Venezuela, then Columbia for the return to the North American Continent.
Sounds adventuresome, and we eagerly anticipate the ride to come.
11:32 am mst 

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Well, Blow Me Down!
Saturday, February 3, 2007 Day 83 RIO GALLEGOS, ARGENTINA
We awoke to gray skies and an intermittent rain. On the road by 0815, we rode smartly south, and the weather slowly improved. By 0930, we were entertained by broken clouds and occasional sunshine, although the wind out of the northwest was significant. We arrived in Rio Gallegos, some 180 miles south of Puerto San Julien about 1300, and gassed up, then found a nice restaurant for lunch.
Bellies full, we saddled up and started south again, but the wind was up, and I do mean up. We started into a quartering headwind that I estimate was at least 40 knots, and gusting higher. Keeping even a big heavy bike on a straight path is not easy, and the danger of being blown off the road, or into oncoming traffic is real. We were making about 45 miles an hour in the good stretches, and finally pulled over for a confab. The next significant town is Rio Grande, some 300 Km down the road, and that includes two (2) border crossings. You have to leave Argentina, enter Chile, and then, in a few miles, leave Chile and re-enter Argentina. The crossings are pretty easy nowadays, but they do take at least 30 minutes each, and then too, there is a ferry to be caught, and I hear that they sometimes suspend service when the wind is too high. I do not know what "too high" means hereabouts, but what we experienced this afternoon qualifies in my book.
Tomorrow is another day, and we are not in a race, so we turned around after about 10 miles of bucking the wind and retreated the nearest hotel for some wind-less relaxation.
Earlier in the day, I was briefly caught in a hailstorm and viscious cross-wind that threatened to blow the bike off the side-stand while I was parked, struggling to get the rain cover on my tank bag and wriggling my way into my rain mitts. It was some fierce, and I had to brace the bike to make sure it didn`t get dumped on the side of the road. I have experienced some wind before on a bike, but nothing like this. It is beastly, and there is no point in fighting it, as it doesn`t care how hard you fight, it will beat you.
Do not fight the elements. It is basic, and I am learning to cope with realities like this. I have, in the past, hurled great imprecations at the wind on occasions when it removed my hat and sent me chasing after it, but the wind never howls back. It just howls, and beating it is out of the question. A fool puts his hat back on and screams at the wind, while a wise man folds up the hat and goes indoors for a cup of coffee. The wind will leave in good time, and only when it is ready. You can`t fight it. I am relaxed...
What might tomorrow bring? There are darned few curves in the road here, so not much wondering as to what might come around the next one, but plenty of wondering as to what the next day, hour, or minute might bring.
1:28 pm mst 

Friday, February 2, 2007

Let`s See Now, Where Was I?
Friday, February 2, 2007 Day 82 PUERTO SAN JULIEN, ARGENTINA
I think I was in Bariloche, Argentina, about to head south on Argentine Route 40. And, so we did. We rode to Esquel, then took the road toward Chile and the Carretera Austral. This was a road of about 250 miles of mostly gravel and dirt. It took us most of the day to negotiate, and we crashed for the night in Futaluefu (accent on the last vowel), where we had a very nice salmon dinner, and stayed in a hostal for a minimal fee.
The next day, we attacked the road again, and headed for the junction with the Austral at a little settlement called Santa Lucia.
The Astral is mostly a single lane of hard-packed dirt, liberally covered with lots of loose gravel. There are spots where it is bare and smooth, allowing for speeds approaching highway velocities, but for the most part, it is fairly slow going, even on a bike, where one can avoid a lot of the potholes and skim over the washboard. In many spots, there is large gravel, sometimes a couple of inches in diameter, and it is very hard to negotiate safely. Other times there is rock that has been gathered from stream beds, and resembles tiny river rock, making the ride something like driving on marbles or ball bearings. It is squirrely, to say the least, and one finds he holds onto the handlebars with a death-grip, chews furiously on the lower lip, and gets shoulder aches from the tension. It is anybody`s guess as to which challenge will cause a spill, and the strain is heavy.
My two partners are pretty good riders, but Ian is a bit spooked by loose stuff, and I certainly sympathize. We were going along pretty well, but poor Ian had the bad luck day, and managed to spill three (3) times in the space of about 75 miles, hurting his ankle the first time, and then again a bit more on the last one. We got into the town of Coyahaique about 2100, and went immediately to the emergency room at the hospital, where they were very solicitous, and took him right in for X-Rays. They turned out to be negative, as well as  indicating no severe tendon damage. It was a bad sprain, and they gave him some wrap and a prescription for some pain pills, and sent him on his way. The bill was $50, US, and one of the doctors even got him a coke and a sandwich while he waited.
We decided that we should head for pavement rather than go back and pick up Route 40, which is unpaved almost all the way to El Calafate, with some reported stretches of mud and rutted road, along with long stretches of deep (described as 4 or 5 inches) of "marble" gravel. I was somewhat relieved, as the thought of deep stuff sends me into anxiety attacks and very clammy palms.
So, we left the clime of Coyahaique and headed south down the Astral toward the turn-off for Chile Chico, a border town on the road back into Argentina and the town there called Perito Moreno (not to be confused with the famous glacier of the same name).
The ride to Chile C. was more gravel, about 275 miles of it, but it was worth the trip, because we saw some of the best scenery in Patagonia. South of Coyahaique is Cerro Castillo, a very famous crag that juts up from the surrounding mountains with crennelated snags and vertical towers that clearly resemble the castle for which it was named.
Then, the road to Chile C. borders Lago General Carrerra (known in Argentina as Lago Buenos Aires, thank you very much). It provides spectacular scenery for the motorist who is able to take his eyes off the road long enough to drink it all in. The lake is sparkling green, almost emerald-colored, and in the distance are snow-capped peaks, with beautiful crisp cumulus clouds wreathing the entire picture. The road climbs several hundred feet above the lake in many spots, and the scenery is breath-taking. Ian says he knows of no other road in the Northland that has such views, and I am inclined to agree with him. It is Banff-Lake Louise and then some.
We made it to Chile Chico by about 2100, arriving on the last rays of daylight, and made camp in a couple of local hotels, then supped in a nice restaurant on beef and chicken, with a very good clam and onion salad as an appetizer.
This morning, we launched for Argentina, and crossed the border in near-record time, gaining once again the pavement, where we beat it at high speed for the Atlantic Coast. We had decided that Ian`s ankle could stand some smooth riding, and avoided the infamous Ruta Cuarenta (Route 40), at least for the time being.
Der Klunkenschiffter sprung a leak at the right front fork seal, and fork oil is streaming, or rather dribbling all over things. We called Big Twin Beemer shop in Boise (used Skype, 2 cents a minute, a very good deal on the road), and Fred, the service manager there told me not to worry about it, as the suspension is in the shock and the forks are not significant in the ride. I will get both seals replaced in Buenos Aires, as the left one has been weeping oil all day today. This poor bike has taken a real beating since I first boarded her in October of 2004. She now has 81,400 miles, and is still going strong, although the hard miles are beginning to wear her down. We came down the road this afternoon from just south of Comodoro Rivadavia at a pretty good clip, and the old bike was strong and steady, despite the strong crosswind and the walls of air pushed by oncoming semis. A very good bike!
Ian`s ankle is a bit stiff, and he hobbles around, but he rides OK, and we are bound for Ushuaia, expecting to get there in a couple of days. We might make it tomorrow, but rather than arrive late and have trouble finding a room (it is high season), we will lolly-gag, and probably only go the the coastal town of Rio Grande tomorrow, a few hundred clicks down the road.
It looks like my estimate of February 5th, made a month or so ago, will be good.
5:28 pm mst 


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For future use

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Our New Best Friend, TRES

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

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