May 19, 2011

Looking Back

We’ve been home for a couple of months, so it’s time to take a look back at our Latin American adventure.  This journey was our longest to date and probably will not be surpassed, at least in the near future.
The numbers from the trip say a lot:
166 days
3 continents
15 countries
23 border crossings
26,033 miles
(bikes-18256, air-4892, cruise-1890, side trips by bus, van, taxi, train, subway, ferry-995)
One of the hardest parts about this trip, due to its length, was the pre-trip planning and preparation: buying and outfitting the bikes, organizing spare parts and tools, selecting clothing/riding gear and packing it, procuring paper/GPS maps and guide books, getting vaccinations, taking care of money matters (credit cards, bill paying, etc.)  It was almost a relief to get on the road so we could stop worrying and wondering if we had all the loose ends tied up.  We believe that our pre-trip organization paid off in spades with very few surprises along the way.  The only date set in stone was 12-29-10, (cruise departure) so we had great latitude as to where we went, how long we stayed in various locations, and how many miles we had to cover each day.
Jean, in her last post, summed up things quite nicely, but sold herself a little short.  She is a lady with incredible energy and drive and as a result was our hotel front person, usually off her bike first at the hotel and in the door to arrange accommodations while the rest of us were still dismounting or still sitting on our bikes.  She also was the  leader in border crossings charging from one bureaucratic office to another.  As the trip progressed and living on the road became a routine, the synergism in the group was quite obvious.
One of the unique highlights of the trip was the cruise to Antarctica, a very interesting and “different” kind of excursion.  The beauty of southern Chile/Argentina along with Patagonia will remain with us forever.  Our host at the Residencial El Rincon near Los Angeles, Chile, said that Patagonia, to many people, was more of a state of mind than a physical place and I tend to agree with him.  Many of our more vivid memories emanate from that time of our journey.
We are all back into the routine of our domestic existence at this time.  Next winter?  Jean and Ross will be on the high seas again while RA and I are contemplating a return to SAm to see a few things that are still on the bucket list:  Rio de Janeiro, Easter Island, Lake Titicaca, and the Galapagos Islands.  We are becoming quite fond of  avoiding the depths of Wisconsin winters and still enjoy the lure of far away and intriguing locales.  The language on a t-shirt seen at a motorcycle rally sums it up quite nicely: So Many Roads So Little Time!
Many thanks to Jean and Ross for inviting us on this adventure and then waiting a year while we went Down Under for a couple of months during the winter of 2009/2010.
Thanks for coming along--we’ll be back!!

April 14, 2011


On February 16, the four of us crammed ourselves and our luggage into a small cab for the 21 mile ride to Aeropuerto Internacional Ministro Pistarini Ezeiza (EZE).  We were fashionably early for our flights (we were scheduled to leave about four hours after Jean and Ross) so we sat down and had a late lunch.  After rehashing bits and pieces of our now ending adventure, we said our good-byes and wandered off in different directions for our flights to North America.

Our nine hour flight to Miami was uneventful; after clearing customs and immigration, we went to the shipping office to start the process of retrieving our bikes.  It only took about an hour to get all the paperwork done with customs and the shipping company and about two hours to unpack the bikes, hook up the batteries, and reload the saddlebags.   Off we went to visit a friend for a few days in Jupiter, noting how “easy” it was to navigate and ride in the moderate expressway traffic.  I guess all those miles in Central and South  America prepared us well!

We spent the next three weeks visiting friends and family in Florida as we slowly worked our way north enjoying the warm temperatures and watching for a “weather window” that would allow us to ride the bikes all the way back to Wisconsin.  We were able to witness the last launch of the space shuttle Discovery on February 24th; an impressive sight!  Don’t ask about the crush of traffic getting to and away from Titusville--yuk.  We met up with Jean and Ross in Jacksonville, FL, at the Iron Butt Association Daytona Dinner.  It was fun to see them again, and we spent several hours yakking about our time in South America.  Bob Higdon, a well known moto journalist and million mile BMW rider, saw us at breakfast and wondered how it was that we were still talking to each other after our several month journey together.  I guess it was a statement that indicates the friendship that we have with Jean and Ross that Jean wrote about in her last post.

We left the Jacksonville area on March 12th  and headed north for home.  We waited out a twelve hour rain in Birmingham, AL, after visiting the incredible Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum.  New rear tires in Nashville, TN, allowed us to stop worrying about running down the interstate at 70 mph.

We pulled into our  moto driveway mid-afternoon on March 17, riding between the snow banks to the garage.  Home safe and sound with a little over 18000 miles on the bikes since we left on October 3rd, 2010.  We gave each other a long hug and then unpacked the bikes, started sorting through 5 ½ months of mail, and started to settle into the routine of living in our own home.  The cats came back a few days later, just before we were buried under 18” of snow!!  As I write this, RuthAnn is in New York retrieving Francis, our beloved Corgi.  In a couple of weeks I will ride RuthAnn’s bike to Erie, PA, to deliver it to its new owner (one of RA’s former students and new rider) and catch a ride home in the Volvo. 

I’ll be publishing a “looking back” post in the near future before the warm weather and riding season get into full swing.

February 23, 2011

Last Post

We arrived home in Tweed on February 17th to cold and snow but the warmth of home after almost five months away. After a marathon of unpacking, washing clothes, opening mail, and getting caught up with family and friends, its time for the reflection I promised. So here goes.

What went well? Everything! All the bikes performed almost flawlessly with only a few bolts lost on the rough roads and the one flat early on. We never felt we were missing anything we needed and the only things we didn’t use were the First Aid kit and most of the tools-definitely a good thing! One bike fell over while stopped and the rest managed to keep the rubber side down for which we are very grateful.

What didn’t go well? Finding decent, cheap hotels in Central America; gravel roads and construction; Patagonian WIND, gas shortages in Argentina; and lack of toilet paper.

But I’m sure the big question you’re all asking is “How did two couples (four very independent people) get along for such an extended period of time?” And the answer is “Great!” Firstly, we didn’t spend every waking moment together. The beauty of the bike is that you are alone while riding so it’s nice to have some company and conversation when you stop for gas or meals. Secondly, we were together as a team fighting against the elements, the obstacles, and the objectives. But probably the biggest factor is that we all had roles to play and jobs to do and everybody did them well: Ross was our leader, scout and maintenance man for the KLRs; Steve was the IT guy, blogger, route planner, and researcher and of course, maintenance for the BMWs: RuthAnn was the interpreter, customs clearer, and accommodation locator and negotiator; and I blogged and flashed my badge occasionally. The best photographs you see on the blog are Steve’s and the rest are mine. Ross and RuthAnn are able to enjoy the moments without having to document every detail while Steve and I made copious notes as if we were on an expedition to an uncharted land. For the record: we crossed 22 borders, rode 25,898 kms., visited 16 countries, 3 continents over 142 days. Cost-?-don’t really want to know.

The Reynens are currently riding their Beemers through Florida on a protracted route back to Green Bay and our KLRs are tucked in storage in Heidelberg, Germany. And so the journey comes to an end. We hope you’ve enjoyed the ‘ride’ as much as we did and we really appreciate all the responses we received along the way.

Special thanks to Roger, Joanne and Wayne for the GPS maps; Ken O’Malley for information and place to work on the bikes; Harold Brooks for shipping and routing information; Norm Myers and Hubert Laurin for helping set up the KLRs; Norm and Linda Babcock for suggesting the ride and of course, Steve and RuthAnn who help make our dreams a reality. Sniff.

February 14, 2011

It's a Dog's Life in BA

Dear Francis (aka Frannie and FP),

Since we are about to return to North America, I thought you should know something about a dog's life here in Buenos Aires. When we first arrived in the suburb of Palermo, we saw a man walking seven or eight dogs (there were so many we couldn't be sure). Jean managed to get a picture because we wanted to show people how to walk lots of dogs at once. He had a handle with a loop, and from this loop the leashes were attached. The leashes were short so the dogs didn't tangle them. Apparently the dog walker had an agreement of sorts with the dogs (treats, perhaps?) because the dogs walked--no stopping to smell or pass messages to other dogs.

And, Francis, the dogs were of all different breeds and, of course, their sizes varied greatly. So your Jack Russell friend Parker kept up with your Collie friend Caesar and your Lab friend Gracie. Needless to say, the dogs did take over the sidewalks and people--as should be done--moved to the side to let the kennel/pack--not the Packers--pass. We saw these walkers out several times a day with their same charges. The dogs and their walkers were very serious about their walks and we never saw any squabbling nor did we hear any complaining barks or howls. We did see some dogs walking with their people, and some of the people were responsible
about keeping the sidewalks picked up. Others were not inclined to consider other walkers. We did notice that the building superintendents scrubbed the sidewalks in front of their buildings
every morning. Generally speaking, then, in Palermo, the sidewalks were clean for everyone.
You would really like seeing all the dogs since you are so social--but you'd have to remember that dogs here have to be serious about walking.

The weather would probably be a bit more difficult for you. It's been warm here and you have that triple coat which could make you a bit uncomfortable on the days that have been in the 80's.
We'd want to be in the air-conditioning or on breezy terraces.

There are veterinary clinics all over, so it appears your medical health would not be a problem.
All the dogs seem to be well-groomed, and while it wouldn't be Denise at Golrusk, we could undoubtedly find someone to keep you spic 'n' span.

Now as for the rest of Argentina, you'd be on your own. Many dogs have collars but run the streets with no people attached. They manage, but I don't think you'd like that too much. You prefer to have the comforts of home with clean sheets and two good, well-prepared meals a day--not to mention the odd snack and a kong treat ;-)

So, Francis, I'm glad you've been able to stay with Jeannie, Caesar, and Bob as well as see all your other friends in the Rochester area. Jeannie says you've been a very good house guest; we have to thank Cheryl for your Emily Post manners. Well, except for the time you and Caesar took the bread off the counter. Was that your idea?

Oh, and one compliment from our friend Geno. He called us on Thursday night to tell us he was going to get a Corgi because he liked you from the first day he met you. He had chosen Ernie, a
handsome Corgi from Missouri--Geno emailed us pictures. You remember Geno wasn't feeling well and we never got you the side-car ride with him. Yesterday, Geno passed away. We'll miss
seeing him when we go to Nick's.

So there is the dog's life here in BA. Tell Jeannie we'll be home soon. Meanwhile, make life easy for Jeannie, Caesar, and Bob--stay off the bread truck--too many carbs.

See you soon. Stay well.


Winding Down

Part III of our journey ended on our return to BA from Iguazu Falls.  We have been here a week now, the bikes have flown to different continents and we are about to do the same; Part IV was short and a little bittersweet.  We crossed into Argentina for the first time on December 1st and aside from our Antarctic cruise and two nights in Chile on Tierra del Fuego, have been here ever since; the Argentine economy loves us!

Last Friday we took a day trip to Uruguay to visit the old town of Colonia (two more border crossings!).  The "fast vessel" SeaCat made the crossing of the Rio de la Plata in a little over an hour when we then started our 90 minute bus/walking city tour.  The weather was perfect for a step back in time in the laid-back old town.  A sidewalk table for lunch followed by a cup of sorbet (there was a 1947 Studebaker for sale parked next to us) in a small umbrellaed heladeria took care of our empty stomachs.  There was time left for a stroll around the back streets, a sit in the park, and a climb to the top of the lighthouse to get a bird's-eye view.  The trip back to BA was uneventful (we all slept) and after the 30 minute walk were back in our little apartment.

Sunday is the big market day in  San Telmo and Calle Defensa is lined with vendors, musicians, mimes, puppeteers, cafes, tango demos, you name it, for about a mile from Plaza de Mayo to Plaza Dorrego.  Defensa is a half block from the apartment so access to the happening was easy; RA had  a good time shopping and I found some interesting photo ops.

We have two days left in BA to finalize our packing and to say our good-byes.  RA and I will spend at least two weeks in Florida visiting family and friends before heading north either by bike, car, or airplane--watch SPOT!  Jean and Ross will inject themselves into the northern climes after a one stop (Chile) flight to Toronto.

As with previous blogs, I will do a "look back" once we have settled in back home in De Pere,  Stay tuned......

February 9, 2011

The Final Frontier

On February 3rd , we crossed our twentieth and final frontera at Foz do Iguazu, Brazil. The purpose of the visit was to see one of the largest waterfalls in the world. Iguazu means 'big water' and it was with over 275 separate cascades, the largest of which is a horseshoe named the Devil's Throat. The Falls are actually in Argentina and we had gone there the day before to hike the trails on top and take a jet boat ride around and into the Falls. The trip to Brazil was to see a panoramic view from across the river and give Steve a chance to take a helicopter ride to see them from above. Having seen them from every possible angle, there is only one word to describe this world famous site-spectacular!

During our three day trip north, we experienced the most rain we have had on this trip. It rained all the way up but it was actually a mixed blessing because it reduced the heat to a more bearable level. I won't taunt you snow-struck northerners with tales of heat, suffice it to say its tropical. We did have two glorious sunny days for viewing the Falls before heading back in the rain to B.A.

And so we have returned to our final destination. This past Monday, we visited Dakar Motos to finalize the paper work for shipping the bikes. Sandra had everything ready to go and we delivered the bikes to the cargo terminal on Wednesday where the two Beemers will fly to Miami to meet up with Steve and RuthAnn and our Kawis are on their way to Heidelberg, Germany where we hope to hop back on in another year or so and continue to work on the bucket list.

We have some final things we'd like to share so we'll pour a glass or two and compose our thoughts, remembrances and feelings. Someone get me a hanky, its getting mushy!

January 29, 2011

The Big Apple

They call Buenos Aires (B.A.) the Big Apple with good cause. It's the largest city in Argentina with a population of 13 million bustling, friendly PorteƱos. The architecture is very European and so is the lifestyle with small, corner fruit and vegetable kiosks and lots of public transportation. Their excellent subway system costs about thirty cents a ride and the rail train to the outskirts is less.

To acclimatise ourselves to the city, we hopped on the HopOn-HopOff bus for a two hour tour of the down town, harbour front, historic and general points of interest. The first thing that stuck us was the number of beautiful parks spread around the city, each one dedicated to some military campaign or important personage and at the centre-a grand statue. One park, where we later had a picnic lunch, was dedicated to literature and contained statues of poets, writers and their subjects. The must-see attractions were:

Casa Rosada, the pink presidential palace where Evita spoke from the balcony.
Avenida Florida, a pedestrian street full of tourists and schlock sellers.
Puerto Madero, beautiful docklands where we boarded an 1899 three masted schooner .
Plaza de Mayo, where the “Mothers of the Missing” have demonstrated weekly for the past 30 years.
Recoleta Cemetary, final resting place of Evita and other famous Argentinians in their huge, marble mausoleums ornamented with unbelievably beautiful European statuary.

While the people and places look well cared for, there is an undercurrent of poverty and we were constantly warned about pick-pockets. On our first ride on the subway, Steve found out first hand when he had his wallet lifted but fortunately he noticed it immediately and made a dive for the thief as he was about to get off. Panicked, the thief threw the wallet onto the floor and ran up the stairs. On our rail train ride back from Dakar Motos, we saw a large shanty town beside the tracks-further proof of their on-going economic challenges. One of the fun parts of riding the rails was subway shopping. A pedlar would come through the cars and leave whatever he was selling on each person's lap. Then he would make his way back collecting either the unsold product or the money. Or we would be entertained by musicians playing beautiful Latin music or perhaps lectured by a preacher, politico or pauper in Spanish, of course. They too would make their way back through gathering their centavos from generous passengers.

We've been staying in a two bedroom, fully furnished and equipped apartment in the Palermo area which is close to shopping and subways. Its been a nice break to eat what and when we want and get a way from the steady diet of ham and cheese and bread. We've also been able to find a great Indian restaurant where we met Shawn and Crista, from the Polar Star, for a nice evening of travel talk.

We have been advised that Buenos Aires is the best place for shipping the bikes so we are working with Dakar Motos to that end. Ross and I will be flying the KLRs to Heidelberg, Germany and Steve and RuthAnn's Beemers are going to Miami, Florida. The shipping cost is not much different between air and sea but the preparation and paperwork is easier by air so RA and I are all for that!

The current plan is to ride up to Iguazu Falls for the week then return to B.A. where we and the bikes will ship out. We have decided to cut out Brazil due to the heavy rains and flooding and save it and the Amazon for another trip.

And to answer that burning question: No we haven't tangoed yet. But we're not out of here yet either!