December 28, 2010


We've been in Ushuaia for about ten days now and feel quite at home here. We spent the first four nights in a very nice hostel that was more like a hotel than a hostel.  We were about a 35-45 minute walk from downtown which gave us some needed exercise, especially on the return as a good part of the walk was uphill!  Our second home away from home is a cabana with a small kitchen that allows us to cook some of our own meals.  We will stay here for at least one night after we return from Antarctica.

Ushuaia bills itself as the southern most city in the world:  "Fin del Mundo" (The End of the Earth) and has a population of approximately 60,000.  The downtown area is laid out in an orderly grid-work pattern, but the rest of the city sprawls into the foothills of the snow covered 1500m mountains that back drop three side of the town.  The south side is where the harbor is located on the Beagle Channel.  The setting is quite beautiful and has been a very pleasant place to stay in the run-up to Christmas and our cruise departure date.

Christmas was low key here, but there were enough decorations around to remind us of the season.  The grocery store  was very crowded on Christmas Eve day as we jostled with the other customers buying our last minute items before the big holiday.  The small kitchen (with no oven) dictated what we could prepare for Christmas dinner, but RA did a great job rustling up some tasty chicken soup.
The hostel staff left us a nice gift of a small chocolate Christmas tree and a bottle of bubbly--much appreciated.  We had a great time opening our presents (most of which have been consumed) around the kitchen table while the wind blew and the rain came and went and came again.

The Polar Star sails at 1800 tomorrow and we will be out of contact until January 7.  During that time I'll try to send some SPOT messages even though we will be out of satellite coverage according to the SPOT website.  The Polar Star link to the left will probably only give you intermittent hits on our location; the site is a bit flaky, but is the best free one that I have found. 

All the best in the New Year to all of our followers and friends; we'll raise a glass to you from The White Continent!!

December 20, 2010

Mission Accomplished!

Well in spite of Mother Nature's best efforts, we made it through the winds of Patagonia to the 'end of the world'! Since my last posting from El Calafate, we have been letting the weather dictate where and how far we travel. tells us when the winds will be down, so we can leave early and dash a couple of hundred kilometers before they start picking up in the afternoon. RuthAnn and I had been dreading the 85 miles of gravel, a ferry crossing over the Straits of Magellan, and two border crossings that lay in our path between Rio Gallegos and Ushuaia, but, as the 'esposos' keep telling us, its never as bad as we imagine it.

There is no paved road all the way to Ushuaia, and all along the route we had heard horror stories about the gravel stretch from other motorcyclists that had been beaten by wind, rain, and grading. We may be riding dirt bikes and look dirty, but we are not dirt riders! So we stayed in a beautiful estancia right where the pavement ended and made the trek on a lovely, dry, sunny day without incident. Then it was the ferry over the Straits, another rough, windy waterway. But the sun god smiled again, and we zipped up the ramp and sailed smoothly over to the other side. And as if we haven't had enough borders to cross, we had to go into Chile and then back into Argentina because of the way the 'frontera' is drawn. Oh well, it was a chance to warm up from the very brisk temperatures that we are now experiencing. By the way, that made border crossing number 15!

Upon arriving in Ushuaia, we headed the further 20 kms to Tierra Del Fuego National Park where Ruta 3 ends. This is considered the 'end of the world' and is marked by a monument where everyone heads for their photo op. We had traveled for 83 days and covered 19,929 kms! Several buses had preceded our arrival and their passengers greeted us like celebrities, taking our pictures and asking questions. Many of the wives appeared grateful considering that they were traveling with their couch-potatoes on a nice warm bus instead of being us!

So now we wait for the next leg of our journey – Antarctica! Our ship, the Polar Star, a Swedish icebreaker in its former life, sails December 29th.  RuthAnn and I are planning for the worst and stocking up on Dramamine for the crossing but hope to be well enough to bring in the New Year kissing a penguin!

Merry Christmas everybody!

December 19, 2010

Part I Accomplished

We've been to the end of the road; Part I has been achieved!! We now have until the 29th when we will begin Part II--our cruise to Antarctica on the Polar Star.

December 15, 2010

Gas (nafta)

In the dark of the night two YPF (Argentina's largest energy company) tankers delivered gas to their station in El Calafate and we were able to fill up the bikes. We also got fuel in La Esperanza on the way to Rio Gallegos only to find a shortage here in RG as well. A little research tells us there is a labor dispute and some of the oil production facilities have shut down restricting the flow of crude to the refineries. This all gets curiouser and'd better stay tuned a little longer!

Four hours later: After lunch Ross and I walked down to the YPF station and saw a tanker there. We were soon in a queue for fuel for the second time today; 50 minutes later we were back in our rooms preparing for tomorrow's ride to Cerro Sombrero, Chile.

December 14, 2010

Windy Defeat

Wind is a very interesting phenomena and we have been experiencing it in spades.  Yesterday we planned a little excursion up to El Chalten to look at another Andean gem--the Fitz Roy massif.  A short 200+ km putt up, overnight in a nice hostel, and then back to El Calafate today.

The wind howled most of Sunday night, but eased up by dawn.  We were on the road a little after eight and headed east out of town with a good tailwind.  All hell broke loose when we made the left turn north on to Ruta 40.  We now had a direct, gusty crosswind of at least40-50 mph (60+ was forecast). We hugged the center line of the road in order to have an empty lane to use when the strong gusts hit us.  After about 5 km, Ross pulled over in the wind shadow of a small hill to consult with the rest of us; it was unanimous--we turn around and head back to El Calafate.  A big 4WD tour vehicle pulled up next to us and offered to drive in the left lane and protect us from the wind, but we declined the offer, got ourselves turned around and headed for the barn. 

Once back at the hostel we regrouped and decided to take the bus which left at 1300.  We eventually boarded a very nice motor coach and left right on time.  All went well until we got to the police check point on the edge of town.  The road to El Chalten was closed due to the high winds!!  Back to the station, fares refunded, rooms procured at the hostel and El Chalten abandoned for this trip.

What’s next?  No gas in town now due to the lack of tankers that were also stopped by the road closures.  We used 70 km worth of gas on our outing yesterday; there might be gas 160 km down the road, or we may have to go all the way to Rio Gallegos……  If we drive about 50 mph, we think we can stretch the fuel and make it all the way.  We may have a quartering tailwind which will help--stay tuned!!

PS  I'm working on a Top Ten List of Things You Always Wanted to Know About Wind and Motorcycles--I already have 15 things :-)

Ice on the Rocks

El Calafate is another tourist town and the center for trekking, climbing,and sightseeing for this part of Patagonia hard by the border with Chile.  As Jean mentioned in the previous post we used El Calafate as a base to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier and Torres del Paine.  The pictures to the right give you an idea of the incredible scenery Patagonia has to offer.
We needed a bike break so let the bus drivers do the driving while we relaxed in the back.
The glacier trip included taking the older gravel road into the park, a one hour hike, two hours at the viewing  platforms and a one hour boat trip to see the glacier from the water.  We had a wonderful day for this outing with blue skies, comfortable temps, and very little wind.  The glacier is very impressive and the almost constant booming and crackling as ice breaks off and falls into the water makes it come alive.  We brought our own lunch of bread, cheese, ham, and olives which we enjoyed while looking at and listening to the glacier.
 The next day we were away by 0730 on our 4WD Mercedes truck/bus for a fourteen hour journey to Chile and Torres del Paine National Park and back. The Torres del Paine Massif is quite unique and we saw it from all angles.   We had some strong, cold winds on this outing, but our picnic area by a waterfall was sheltered and warm with a picture postcard view of the imposing Massif.  The trip ended with a 90 minute hike to see a lake, waterfall, and more views of the mountains. We saw a lot of wild life on the trip including guanacos, condors, rheas, rabbits, fox, and many different birds.

December 9, 2010

Blown Away

Well the winds down here are frightful!
But the scenery is so delightful!
So no matter how hard it blows,
We've got to go, got to go, got to go!

Patagonia is know for its tremendous winds which are no wonder when you see how close the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are at this narrow point of South America. Cold winds blow across the Andes from the Pacific side and then are pushed back by gusts from the Atlantic. In the middle are four very small motorcycles being tossed around like pinballs! But in answer to that frequently asked question-yes we are having fun yet.

Every country has its own unique characteristics and Argentina immediately struck us with the awesome beauty of its snow capped mountains reflected in bright blue lakes. We crossed over from Chile into the Lakes District where its Spring and the flowers are in bloom everywhere. Purple, mauve and pink lupins line the roads and contrast with a verdant yellow bush similar to our forsythia, that has taken over the countryside. On a tour to the Black Glacier, I asked our guide the name of the bush and he said “plague”! Seems its the gift that keeps on giving. Crossing over the border through a national park, we saw the monkey trees for the first time. They have the size and shape of a pine but the branches look like monkey's tails and are very sharp like cactus. We took a time-out for some sight seeing in Bariloche, a bustling tourist town that looks like it was transplanted from an Austrian village with its chalet style architecture and window boxes.

Then it was on to Patagonia. They call it “mystical” and it truly is, firstly for its vast wilderness and secondly for its variety of wildlife. Picture land stretching as far as the eye can see with only short scrub and all of a sudden a herd of guanacos appears. They look like llamas with dirty faces but in fact are a cousin of the vicuña. This is followed by what at first appeared to be miniature ostrich but turn out to be rheas. Condors once again make a brief appearance and we pass a lake full of pink flamingos. The occasional gaucho, wearing a 'Zorro' hat, can be seen riding horseback with his dogs following behind as he inspects his estansia.

Ok, you motorcycle enthusiasts ask, what about the riding, the bikes, Ruta Cuarenta? Well the riding is fantastic! Great roads, well signed, little traffic. The bikes are performing admirably with nothing more than chain lubing and periodic tightening. Ruta Cuarenta, the longest road in Argentina with over 5,000 kms and one of the longest in the world, is also one of the most challenging in parts where it is not paved and is buffeted by the aforementioned winds. So we blew that off and only rode the paved sections which we believe still qualifies us to display the “I rode R40” stickers.

We are now back near the Chilean border to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier and Torres del Paine before continuing the trek south. They're calling for 120 km winds for Sunday-think I'll go to church!

December 5, 2010

Argentina at Last

The past week has been a very interesting one--fun places to stay and the best scenery of our trip to date. 

We spent two nights at the Residencial Rincon just north of Los Angeles, Chile.  We were only a couple of kilometers off the toll road, but felt that we were alone in the country miles from anyone else.  It is a small hostal run by a German couple who emigrated to Chile twenty years ago, bought some land and built a very nice place  for travelers to stay.  The accommodations were rustic, the beer was cold, and the three plate dinners superb.

Our last night in Chile was spent in Pucon on Lake Villarrica at the foot of Volcan Villarrica, a beautiful, snow covered active volcano.

When we left the next morning it was cool and misting for our ride to the Paso Mamull Malal and the frontera between Chile and Argentina.  It was cold and windy at the border with the mist starting to freeze on the mirrors of the bikes! Unfortunately three tour buses were clearing the border as well and this slowed our crossing which took a little over two hours. 

It was cold in Junin de los Andes where we spent the night at the Hosteria Chimechuin, apparently a mecca for trout fishermen.  The walls of the lobby and dining room were covered with pictures of men and their prized catches.

The ride to San Carlos de Bariloche was a cool and windy one, but the scenery kept getting better and better.  Beautiful mountain lakes (some complete with trout fishermen up to their armpits in the cold water) back dropped by snow covered peaks told us that we had indeed arrived in Patagonia.

Bariloche is a tourist town pure and simple, but what a setting:  lakes and snow covered mountain peaks.  Cerro (Mount) Catedral boasts the largest ski complex in the southern hemisphere and we decided to take a look see.   A thirty minute city bus ride took us to the base of the mountain where we then rode the cable car and chair lift to the summit (approximately 7500 feet above sea level).  It was a beautiful day with bright sun, blue sky, and just a light breeze.  The snow laced mountains stretched to the horizon and we were quite pleased with ourselves for spending a few hours in such a beautiful place. 

Yesterday we boarded a minibus for the ten hour round-trip excursion to Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi and home to Cerro Tronador (Thunder Mountain) and Ventisquero Negro (Black Glacier); we also visited the impressive Cascada Los Alerces.  The glacier really is black (the color comes from the dirt and sediment it picks up; another glacier that intersects it adds to the mix).  Tronador lived up to its name when we heard a loud boom and saw a huge avalanche come cascading down the side of the mountain!  It was a fitting end to a very enjoyable outing. 

We are spending tonight in Esquel, a sleepy  Patagonian town--especially on a Sunday.  It appears that many of the 1960 era Ford Falcons and 1970s Renaults, Fiats, and Peugeots have a home here!

December 1, 2010

Back to the Future

We knew things were going to be different right from the border. A beautiful, Chilean policewoman beckoned us to park our bikes near the administration building and promptly brought us the forms to complete for our immigration which we accomplished in record time.

Staying on the Pan American Highway, we rode down through the continuing coastal desert, similar to Peru but right away noticed the changes. The drivers were more courteous, the roadsides cleaner and there were road and street signs. Even the roadside shrines were more elaborate with staircases and pavilions covering them. A Swiss national we had met in Columbia had said he thought Chile felt more like Europe and we found that too. Our guide book claims this sense of discipline and order is a left over from the regimentation of the past dictatorships. Whatever, we're glad to find clean, well stocked rest rooms, modern accommodations and great restaurants.

Our first big adventure was crossing the Atacama Desert. This is one of the driest places on earth with one area not having received rain in over 400 years! It has a beauty all its own with its incredible vistas as far as the eye can see of only sand. Just south of Antofagasta, we came to “The Hand of the Desert”, a giant sculpture 11 meters high done by a Chilean sculptor in the 1980s. An obvious photo op! The topography includes rolling hills and distant mountains rich in copper which has protected this country from the economic downturn affecting the rest of the world. We passed through Copiapo where the 33 miners had been trapped for over a month but they were visiting the US and we didn't see any sign of the recent notoriety. With long stretches of barren land and not carrying extra fuel, planning our food and fuel stops was vital. It also resulted in some short days when accommodations were too far apart. Crossing the Tropic of Capricorn, the road turned west to the coast and we encountered foggy mornings and cooler temperatures but spectacular scenery!

Santiago, the capital, was our destination for major servicing of the bikes. We spent three days getting fresh rubber, oil, new chain and sprockets for me, speedo cable for Ross, valve checks for all, etc. An added bonus was bike baths all around thrown in by both the Kawi and BMW dealers. It was probably because they didn't want to touch them in their filthy condition. All of this plus a great afternoon in a pub was facilitated by Rick Stephan, one of Mo's far-flung relatives who got things set up and made our life easy.

You probably remember there was a huge earthquake, the largest ever recorded in Chile, earlier this year and we stayed just north of the area in a place called Talca. They are still working on replacing some bridges and road surfaces but other than that, there is not much sign of the recent devastation. We enjoyed a lovely evening, dinner on a patio, retired to our room, the bed started shaking and then the earth moved! No not that, at 5:30AM, we awoke to two different tremors. Steve and RuthAnn had plaster falling around them so they dressed and went outside. Ross rolled over and went back to sleep.

We've just spent a day off relaxing in a lovely country hostel on the bank of a river, reading books and sampling the local Chilean vino and cerveza. It's a tough ride but we're managing!

November 20, 2010


Sue from Meaford asked a question on our Spot about accommodations so I thought I'd post a quick overview of how we do it.

It took awhile, but we've finally got it. Our biggest challenge was finding a suitable room and then getting to it at night and away in the morning. A suitable room has: wi fi, hot water, secure parking, breakfast included, and a toilet seat. In the beginning, we relied on signs or riding through town. This resulted in a lot of frustration when hotels were found to be: full, expensive, dirty or too remote.

So RuthAnn started using “Footprint", similar to “Lonely Planet” and we have been very pleased with the results. Many are hostels, which means they are very basic but very good value for money - ok cheap. One such was a place called “Chill Out” in Huanchao, Peru that was owned by a Scottish ex-pat and his Peruvian wife. She cooked a wonderful curry dinner and he made an English breakfast the next morning and the bill for the room, two meals with beer and wine was under $30.

Getting in and out of cities was another challenge as we didn't have room for individual maps so we just brought country maps which lack fine detail. There weren't GPS maps available for any countries other than Chile and Argentina so we just have very high level electronic maps. Asking directions usually results in the response “directo” and a wave of the hand which I think loosely translates into “piss off and stop bothering me!”. So we are now using the Google map on our Spot which Steve pulls in on his iPhone and Ross is able to lead us in and out of even the biggest cities.

Our Spot gives the co-ordinates of all the hotels where we have stayed if anyone is interested. All have been great with one exception-a '24 hour' place in Central America that catered to an hourly clientèle that kept RA up most of the night increasing her Spanish vocabulary!

November 19, 2010


We will be leaving Peru tomorrow after twelve very interesting days exploring this diverse country and riding some fantastic roads--many of them at high altitude.  Jean has done a great job of summarizing our time here, but there is one day that has not been discussed yet.  That is Tuesday, November 16, the day we tried to ride to Puno from where we would visit the floating islands on Lake Titicaca

Ross did his usual good job of leading us out of town (Cusco in this case) to the road to Puno.  It was a nice spring day and the first two-thirds of the ride took us through a rich agricultural area.  The fresh green of new crops poking up through the hand tilled soil was a pleasant sight and reminded us a bit of the springs we experienced in northern Algeria many years ago.

The road was fast and high--11000 to 13000 feet; the G650s get 75-80 mpg at these altitudes!  When we were about 15 kilometers out of Puno, we saw long lines of transports parked along the side of the road.  Soon, ahead of us was a solid line of trucks and buses at a standstill on the road.  We also saw lots of rocks on the road; the common way here to halt all traffic.

We stopped and soon learned that there was a transit strike and the road to Puno was blocked.  We could try to pick our way through the blockade or take one of two dirt tracks; we decided to stick to the pavement and slowly advanced past the stopped traffic.  No one seemed to mind us doing this and some even moved rocks out of our way.  Many people were walking in both directions carrying their luggage; those going in our direction asked for a lift!  We soon encountered another obstacle: broken glass on the road!  To be sure, we slowly picked our way through this mess for about 6-7 kilometers until both lanes were blocked.  Enterprising young men were ferrying people back and forth on small motorcycles and from one of them we learned that even they could  not reach Puno.

Staying on the road at 13000+ feet was not an option so we decided to turn around and head back to the last town we had passed, Juliaca, about 35 kilometers away.  We again picked our through the rocks and glass without any punctures and eventually found a decent hotel for the evening.  We have since met a few people who were trapped in Puno and taxis were able to get them past the blockade (on one of the dirt roads) in 2-5 hours at very inflated prices.

Not knowing when the strike would end and what the road surface would be like, we headed for Arequipa the next morning (after carefully checking our tires for embedded glass and correct tire pressures); another high road reaching nearly 15000 feet in altitude.  Along the way we saw flamingos in the high altitude lakes, llamas, alpacas, and more vicunas.

Lake Titicaca will be saved for another time; Chile and Argentina, here we come!

November 18, 2010

Re-visiting Peru

This is our third trip to Peru and every time we have seen something different. The first was by ship to Lima where we explored a city rich in Spanish culture and history but modern and vibrant. We came back to see Machu Picchu, truly one of the wonders of the world and spent two weeks in Cusco surrounded with an odd mix of international tourists and indigenous people. We enjoyed both visits immensely and looked forward to coming back.

On this trip, we discovered a whole new Peru. First, riding in from the north, we encountered the endless desert that runs along the entire coast inland as far as the eye can see. Massive sand dunes have been formed over the centuries but not much else. No vegetation exists so we were surprised to find shanties dotting the landscape as we approached Lima. These turned into full blown slums spread high up the dunes and eventually became the suburbs of the capital city. Getting into Lima was a nightmare! Peruvian drivers must get their training in India because the don't give an inch and have no patience with lost tourists. We finally hired a taxi to take us to the hostel in Miraflores we had stayed in on our last visit. There we changed oil, brake pads and had our laundry done for $3.00-bonus!

Leaving Lima, we started off on what will be one of the high points of this trip. First we went to Nasca to see the famous lines carved in the desert almost two thousand years ago. Steve and RA had been before so Ross and I took the plane ride over this vast expanse to see these curious images of a monkey, spider, condor, hummingbird, 'space man', and various straight lines that look like runways.

The road from Nasca to Cusco climbs to 4500 meters and the views are almost beyond description. First, the high, barren landscape of the coast where nothing grows or lives. Then it gradually evolves into high desert with scrub and LLAMAS! Well that's what we first thought but it turns out they are vicuña, a rare relative of the llama. Soon we found herds of llama and their much cuter cousins, the alpaca with their beautiful big eyes and plump, furry bodies. All of this along the most amazing, twisty tarmac we have encountered since Columbia.

We skipped Machu Picchu because we had all been there within the last two years and instead took another fabulous road to Arequipa where we took a tour to the Colca Canyon, home of the Andean condor. This canyon is the deepest in the world and the condor is one of the largest birds in the world with a wing span of three meters! We left our hotel at 3:00AM in order to see the condors at daybreak and we did-having five sightings. One large male flew so close we could see his eyes and wing detail.

A funny thing happened on the way back. We stopped in a town square and two little girls spotted us and started dragging their alpaca over to have us take their picture, for a small sum. They appeared to be about 3 and 5 years old and were dressed in traditional garb. I got them posed with the alpaca, whose name was Maria, but it looked away as I was about to shoot so I called “Maria” and with that, the three year old hauled off and slugged Maria on the side of the head! The poor alpaca dutifully faced the camera and both girls said “cheese”. Another Kodak moment!

November 16, 2010

Sights from the Saddle

Often times, you're riding down the road and you see something interesting but there is nowhere to pull over safely to take a picture so you just have to store the scene in your memory bank. Here are some I was able to retrieve:

-Sign in Mexico: Better to be a minute late than have a minute's silence.
-Coffin on top of SUV
-Donkey pulling a cart and baby donkey walking alongside while his mom worked.
-Trucks so loaded down with hay that all you see is a moving haystack
-Sand dunes of Peru as far as the eye can see.
-Deep mud road crossing from San Augustan to Popayan, Columbia (took all day to go 146kms)
-Drop off’s into valleys that are thousands of feet down with no guard rail or divider.
-Half the road washed down the mountain with only some branches on the road as a warning.
-Whole families on small motorcycles. Dad wears the helmet, mom and kids don't.
-In Columbia, there were billboards saying “No more stars in the road”. They paint stars -on the road as a memorial to people killed in road accidents. It took me a while to put the two together.
-In Ecuador, they had the same idea but used winged hearts instead. In one particularly bad corner, there were about a dozen hearts! Needless to say, it slows you down!
-Hundreds of roadside shrines for accident victims ranging from wooden crosses to little houses containing religious icons, candles and flowers.
-Shanty towns in northern Peru consisting of shacks no bigger than the average storage shed.
-Construction workers in coveralls, balaclavas, sunglasses and hard-hats looking like terrorists. Some wear breathing devices to keep out the dust and sand.
-First sight of the Pacific Ocean as we came up over a hill.
-Signs telling people to use their seat belts but most people travel in open trucks where they all stand in the back like cattle on their way to market.
-Pairs of shoes hanging by their laces strung over hydro lines.
-And always, always big waves and smiles or thumbs-up when they see the bikes.

November 10, 2010

Prepping the G650GSs

We bought our 2009 G650GSs this past February shortly after we returned from New Zealand where we  rented F650GSs (singles) for four weeks.  BMW was offering $1000 in accessories at the time which was quite welcome.  RuthAnn’s red bike (factory lowered) was on the showroom floor; I  had to order my black one. 

I’ll start at the front of the bikes and work my way back ; the bikes were set up exactly the same.

Stock low front fender removed
Stock fork brace removed and replaced with Wunderlich fork brace/fork gaiter kit
PIAA 510 lights (fog on right/driving on left) controlled by Autoswitch with the high beam flasher
Peel and stick headlight protector
Touratech wire rock guard headlight protector
High fender rear extension from Dakar  650GS
Heated grips
BMW hand guards with Touratech spoilers
Round rotating wide angle mirrors mounted on both mirrors
Kaoko throttle lock
Additional electric outlet on instrument panel--provides power for my GPS
Touratech oil filler cap with dipstick/aluminum replacing plastic/opens with 45 Torx wrench
BMW engine guards
Tool tube made from 3” PVC pipe/painted black/attached to engine guard
Touratech shifter and rear brake levers
Touratech rear brake master cylinder guard
High seat for me/low seat for RuthAnn
Center stands
Jesse Odyssey II panniers with lid loops and red and white reflective tape
Flashing halogen brake light
Signalminder which gives us self-cancelling signal lights, front and rear running lights, and flashes signal lights when brakes appled
Coiled bicycle cable locks attached to rear rack--used to tie down helmets or tie bikes together at night
New chains and sprockets mounted before leaving home
Metzeler Tourance tires and new tubes mounted in San Antonio

When we bought the motos we got top boxes for both bikes and a tank bag for my bike, but left them at home.  RA bought a very small Cortech tank bag and I bought a small waterproof backpack by Ortlieb that I tie down to the rear rack with small Rok Straps; both can be quickly removed and carried if we are worried about security. 

I am using a Garmin 660 Zumo GPS and a SPOT satellite tracking device; both are mounted on the the handle bars with RAM mounts.

That’s about it--if you have any questions please ask.

November 6, 2010

Riding High

No, we're not sampling the Columbian 'white gold', we're riding on top of the world! The Panamerican Highway weaves its way through the Andes Mountains at altitudes reaching almost 12,000 feet. The scenery is breathtaking! In Columbia, it was mainly natural habitat but here in Ecuador, the land is almost fully planted. The checker board squares of fields reach right up to the summits and are so steep you wonder how they ever harvest the crops.

Yesterday, we crossed the Equator and stopped for the obligatory photos and listened to a lecture on the earth's position and rotation. It was interesting to see the GPS reading of 00 000 017.

Last night, we stayed in Riobamba at the foot of Volcan Chimborazo which is the highest mountain in Ecuador at 6,310 meters. What an amazing sight with it's snow-capped peak.

Back to the riding. Cars are much more prevalent here than in Columbia where bikes ruled. The drivers are extremely aggressive and very fast. When we crossed through Quito yesterday, RuthAnn named it the Quito 500. Quito is at 2,850 meters and it 1.5 million population stretches down a deep valley which we could see from the elevated roadway. Its an impressive sight! The roads have been excellent probably due to the frequent tolls that are collected. Bikes were free in Columbia but here we have to pay 20 cents, a small price for such great grins!

November 1, 2010

Drug Dealing in Colombia

As our friend, Lynda Carlson, wrote “who would have guessed that it would be a relief to hear that you made it to COLOMBIA!” After years of hearing about drug cartels, Pablo Escobar, kidnappings, etc. we had heard that things had changed and it was now safe to travel and explore this beautiful country. And so we reclaimed our bikes from Colombian Customs without too much effort, just the usual bureaucratic paperwork, and rode into Bogota.

We had pre-booked a hostel about ten miles from the airport and arrived after dark feeling not too great, partially due to the elevation (2,546 meters) and an on-coming bout of the flu. This resulted in our first and only drug deal-buying Neocitran at the local farmicia! I needed an extra day to get back on my feet, so we didn't leave right away and RuthAnn took the opportunity to do our laundry in a washing machine! What a treat after hand washing our clothes every night in a bathroom sink.

Our first pleasant surprise was the quality of the roads and the drivers. While they are fairly aggressive, it's not hard to fall into the pattern and feel quite safe. There are tons of bikes, mostly 125ccs, and their riders wear helmets and protective clothing. And they LOVE our bikes! Everywhere we go, crowds form around them and us, asking questions and taking pictures. RuthAnn is singled out for special attention due to her small stature in proportion to her bike.

The second surprise was just how friendly everyone is. People lean out of cars at stop lights to chat, wave and give thumbs up as they pass and always, always, big smiles greet us everywhere. This is a real family-oriented country where children accompanied by both parents and are well-behaved and out-going. They welcome us taking their pictures, especially of their kids and are very proud we have come all this way to visit their country. We get to practice our Spanish and learn what we can about local routes and roads.

The scenery is everything the guidebooks say as we found out on our second day riding through the mountains. Its lush, tropical climate means there are flowers everywhere, bamboo and palms grow thick at the roadside and fields are full of crops. Today, we visited an archaeological site dating back to the 6th century containing numerous statues, reminiscent of Easter Island, that were used as grave markers. It was interesting to read that their graves were far more ornate than the homes they lived in while alive. Guess you can take it with you!

Hola SAm

Our three hour tour of the Miraflores Locks and museum at the Panama Canal was made interesting and enjoyable by our guide Tio, a fourth generation Jamaican whose great-grandfather came to work on the construction of the canal.

On Thursday morning (10-28), we took a taxi to the Tocumen Airport in Panama City for our flight on Copa Airlines to Bogota.  The 90 minute flight on a Brazilian built Embraer 190 (comparable to a Boeing 737) was on time and uneventful. We kept our shoes on through the security check and were served snacks, a sandwich, and sodas during the one and a half hour flight.

We took a bus to Girag to find our bikes and soon were on our way with a handful of paper work to clear them through customs.  The fancy new building gave us hope until we actually got inside where, after being shunted from floor to floor, we finally landed in front an official’s desk.  We soon had two people working on our paperwork which took about two hours to complete.  We then walked in the rain the several blocks back to Girag.  The very nice lady there re-did the whole paper work package for each bike with all of the correct photocopies--we hope!

The bikes were quickly inspected in the waning daylight and after gearing up and riding down the temporary ramp from the loading dock, we were on our way to Hostel La Pinta.  We stopped to gas up the bikes and then hired a taxi to lead us to our lodging; we had done this in Panama City and it worked well as it did here. 

Jean was fighting a cold/flu and headed right to bed; the rest of us snacked a bit in the lounge and then adjourned to our rooms.  We were all fighting colds and the 9000’ altitude was affecting us a bit as well. 

After two nights in Bogota, it felt good to get on the bikes and ride again.  We ended up in a hostel in Neiva on Saturday night that we figured out (the next morning) was the equivalent to the motor hotels found in Mexico, CAm, and SAm that rent rooms by the hour!  I guess the porn channels on the tv should have tipped us off…

The ride to San Agustin was the best of the trip so far.  Good roads, spectacular mountain scenery, and a wonderful lunch at a road side restaurant made for a very good day.  Halloween is alive and well here and we enjoyed witnessing the hustle and bustle of the evening in downtown San Agustin as we dined on roasted chicken, papas fritas, and Poker cerveza at Super Pollo.   Trick-or-treaters accompanied by their parents made the rounds of the shops to collect a piece of candy, and masked motorcyclists let us take their pictures.  A parade down the main street about 2100 made for a fun and memorable end to the evening.

This morning we visited an archeological park just a few kilometers from our hotel.  Many statues and burial grounds dating back to about 3500 BC make up this park.  The area was first excavated by the Spanish in 1758--there was a lot going on down here while our North American homelands were but a thought.

October 27, 2010

The Long and Winding Road

We reached the end of our rope and the end of the road in Panama. First the rope: We found Central America to be a real chore with the constant border crossings, police and military stops, heat and humidity, and poor road conditions. In fairness, we didn't spend much time sightseeing as we had decided to spend the majority of our time and resources in South America. We can come back to Central America some time in the future but it won't be on bikes!
So we were glad to reach Panama where the road ends just south of Panama City and we are flying the bikes over the Darien Gap to Bogota, Columbia. The road from the boarder was excellent and we spent the first night in David eating at a great outdoor patio and watching a torrential rain storm. Panama City is quite 'Americanized' due to the canal and the previous military presence and even uses US currency. Ross was able to replace his stolen New Balance shoes and clothing so I have mine back! It took a full day to get the bikes to the shipper and complete the paper work then book flights for ourselves. We have taken a few days off to explore the city and visit the canal which Ross and I sailed through in 2007.
Some general notes:
Food has been great and no one is suffering from eating salads or drinking ice water. As Wayne says "Hooray for Dukoral!"
Spanish really is an asset to make life easier and interact with people. We are managing pretty well. Steve & RuthAnn lived in Guatemala and have French and Latin and I took Spanish lessons before we left. By using it constantly, we are increasing our vocabulary and improving our grammar. In Nicraragua, we had dinner with a Peruvian philospher and a Cuban lawyer, both Red Cross volunteers.
Gas is about the same price as home with the exception of Mexico where it was a little less.
Tomorrow morning, we're off to the next continent on our airline, Copa Air-really!

Adios CAm

We left the bikes with the shipper (Girag) yesterday and they should be in Bogota; we fly there tomorrow afternoon.  The prices have gone up for shipping and airfare: $901/bike (paid in cash!) and $395/person for the 90 minute flight.  We’ve had several days in Panama City to recharge after the quick run through Central America.  A few thoughts about that…………..

Did you ever wonder where old schools buses go?  They are alive and well in Central America.  One bus we saw in Guatemala was from the Albuquerque school district (they didn’t even bother to remove or paint over the name). Paint a few flames of the hood and sides, add a couple of chrome air horns on the roof and you are in business.  The flashing red and yellow lights still function and gave us all a start when we first saw the buses stop to pick up and drop off passengers.

Potholes are dangerous.  I think we all hit a few of the smaller ones, but there were many that would have ended our trip.  This is where the communicators that we use (Cardo Scala Rider G4) have come in very useful--we can warn each other where the potholes are in the lane and the best way to get around them.  We keep the mikes open so don’t have to use the vox to activate them as the time lag is just too great. 

The road from San Jose to San Isidro would be beautiful on a sunny day,  but we had rain and periods of dense fog as we climbed to nearly 11000’!  It wasn’t just up and over--we ran along at 2500 meters for many miles before slowly climbing to 3000 meters and then “leveling off” again.  RA and I had “big white truck” behind us most of the way; his jake brake and headlights in our mirrors kept us on our toes.

So off to another continent tomorrow, but not before taking a tour of the canal this afternoon. One of my favorite palindromes:  “A man, a plan, a canal, Panama.”

For the BMW 650 thumper riders (Evie in particular) I am working on a post detailing what we did to our G650GSs for this trip--stay tuned.

October 23, 2010

Cops & Robbers

We had been warned about crooked cops and their attempts to shake down tourists. The most common scenario was stopping people, asking for their driver's licence and advising them they were being charged and couldn't get their licence back until they paid the fine. To prepare for this possibility, we had photocopied and laminated both our driver's licences and International Driver's Licences and put them in “throw away” wallets filled with plastic cards (Good Sam, Rewards programs, etc.) to be given over if held up. Our first experience came in Honduras when we were stopped by a small group in police uniforms. Steve was leading and they asked him if he had a fire extinguisher on the bike. When he replied in the negative, they pulled out a ticket book and were going to write us all tickets for 100 Limpera (approx. $5.00). None of our protests had any effect until I pulled out my OPP Auxiliary badge and pen and paper and asked to see his ID and speak to his chief. After some hesitation and a nod from their chief, they waved us through. After that, whenever we were stopped, and it happened three more times, I immediately introduced myself as a police officer from Canada and said we were on our way to a police convention in Panama City. This resulted in big smiles and handshakes all around and no more talk of papers or tickets.

Our next experience was in the most unlikely place, Costa Rica. We had heard such good things about this country and our first impressions were very positive. The country-side was cleaner and more prosperous, roads were in relatively good condition, and the people were friendly. All that changed when we arrived in San Isidro for the night. As we were taking things into the hotel, two young boys grabbed Ross' shoes and one of his cubes out of his bag and took off. Calls to the police were fruitless and we spent the next few hours trying to get somebody to do something. A local store worker saw them with the stuff and knew where they lived but said it was “peligros” (dangerous) to go there so we didn't. This presented a real problem because Ross wears a special running shoe that won't be available here. Plus he has lost all his socks and underwear. I can help with sharing socks but I don't think he's going to look good in pink!

The adventure continues.........

October 22, 2010

Borders, Borders, Borders

We are in David, Panama, and if you have been following SPOT, you know that in the past five days we have been in five countries and crossed four international borders.  Potholes in the road and border crossings have slowed our forward progress.  The crossings have taken anywhere from two to four hours and take a big chunk out of the twelve hours of daylight that we have for traveling. 

To enter each country we must import ourselves (immigracion) and our bikes (aduana); the reverse takes place when we depart.  The immigration (passport) usually takes less than 30 minutes while the bike paperwork takes much longer.  Jean and RuthAnn have been tasked with pursuing the paper chase while Ross and I look tough and guard the bikes.  With paperwork in hand (passport, International Driver’s License, bike registration/title, and any other papers issued on entry) the ladies bounce from one office to another getting the proper forms filled out, photocopied, stamped, fees paid, etc.  Eventually the VINs are checked, the bikes fumigated and we are on our way.  There are usually two check points within a few kilometers to check papers or pay a road tax and then we are free to roam until we reach the next border. 

At each border there are “helpers” who say they will expedite the process (for a fee), but we have only paid once (entering Honduras).  Getting four bikes and riders through each border tests our patience, but it eventually is accomplished and we can continue on our way.

The money changers also haunt the borders, and we have used them several times as the banks at the border often will not deal in the local currencies! 

At times it all seems like a bad dream full of petty bureaucrats not doing their jobs very well, but that is what it is and we must smile and be pleasant throughout the process.  The countries in South America are much larger than those here in Central America so the crossings will not be as frequent; 7/8 down, six countries to go before reaching Ushuaia.

October 18, 2010

People, Places and Parties

After leaving Vera Cruz, we headed south east through Mexico enjoying good roads and weather all the way to San Cristobal de las Casas where we stayed at the aptly-named Rossco Backpackers Hostel. Hostels are always fun because you meet fellow travellers in the common area where you can share stories and get tips and information. This one had a Korean, a Kiwi, a Brit and two Irish, all young people who entertained us with their travels and checked out the bikes. Price was right at about $30 for king bed, private bath, balcony, internet, secure courtyard and breakfast!

Crossing out of Mexico and into Guatemala was uneventful and was a home-coming for Steve and Ruth Ann who had lived there in 1977. Here we had our first, and hopefully last, flat. It happened about an hour out and Ross was able to pull off into a small pueblo to do the work. No sooner did he have the tools out then along came all the kids to check out the gringos. So while Ross and Steve worked and Ruth Ann helped, I pulled out Mr. Happy to entertain and keep them out of the way. It was a great opportunity to practice my Spanish, which they thoroughly enjoyed correcting, and to teach them a few words of English. I'm still trying to figure out what conjugation of the verb 'to know' sent them into hysterical laughter and stifled giggles.

Guatemala certainly is full of spectacular scenery with the many volcanoes and beautiful lakes but the roads were horrific due to the recent heavy rains. At one point, the road was washed out and we had to do a river crossing-hopefully the last. The guys were perfect gentlemen and rode our bikes across while we provided moral support.

El Salvador was our next border and again we were able to cross unassisted although we did meet a young man on his way home to Costa Rica who helped expedite the process. And here is where we took some time out of the saddle. First we were invited to visit a former student of Ruth Ann's, Emily Boland, who is a Peace Corps worker here and then the Country Head, Jamie Kuklinski, invited us to his home in San Salvador. Jamie is a fascinating person who has worked all over the world and, as Country Head of El Salvador has 147 Peace Corps workers spread throughout the country. We spent a wonderful evening hearing about the Corps and visiting with Richard and Rosemary, friends of his from Wisconsin!

The next day, we headed north to Emily's pueblo, Neuvo Esparta, in the north east. Our arrival in this small town created quite a stir and we were invited to the Mayor's home for dinner followed by he and his wife serenading us with local music. Everyone loves Emily! Everywhere we go, people stop to chat and kids run up to give her a hug. She's been here two years and has been instrumental in helping the residents incorporate constituencies that will allow them to apply for municipal development incentives and has organized 'food festivals' to draw tourists and raise funds. This morning we had breakfast in the town square comprised of papusas, a tortia filled with beans, cheese and pork, a local speciality. We've been invited to a birthday party this afternoon so Ross is going to have to force himself to drink some local cerveza, just to be polite you understand!

October 14, 2010

Mexico to Guatemala

We had a good ride on a couple of toll roads from Minatitlan to San Cristobal de las Casas with a hot slog through Tuxtla Gutierrez before climbing into the mountains and cooler temps.  The scenery began to change with tall, tree covered mountains making themselves evident.

San Cristobal brought us some luck!  We pulled into a parking lot to talk about finding a hotel when a man on a scooter pulled up.  He was an American who has lived in Guatemala/Mexico for over 20 years and after a little small talk we asked him about a hotel.  He suggested the Backpacker Hostel and offered to lead us there.  It was a good stay with private rooms for each couple and a fire pit and conversations with the younger crowd when we returned from dinner.  We were able to park the bikes in the large garden area of the courtyard along side the resident cats and dogs.

The run to the border on Columbus Day (10-12) was not without incident.  When we entered Comitan, Mexico, we were greeted with a beautiful wide boulevard with a median full of trees, flowers and sculptures.  But something was wrong--no moving traffic on the street and literally hundreds of taxis, buses, and trucks blocking all major intersections and side streets.  We putted along slowly and were able to work our way through the blockages.  No one seemed upset with us, so we just kept going.  Turned out to be a protest against gasoline prices.  At the border we learned that the same thing was happening in some cities in Guatemala and the man we talked to seemed a little surprised that we had been able to get through.

We were a little concerned about crossing the Mexican/Guatemala border on a national holiday, but it actually worked in our favor as we did not have to wait in line at either border post.  We had to check ourselves and bikes out of Mexico, then into Guatemala.  The whole process took about two hours and we were able to do it all by ourselves without hiring anyone to help us.  Two/three down--eleven borders to go!

We spent our first night in Guatemala in Huehuetenango.  The 50 odd miles took us through some beautiful mountain scenery and innumerable land side areas with partially blocked roads with shallow water running across the road at places.  Guatemala experienced very heavy rain fall late in the summer and many were killed by mudslides; some roads were blocked for weeks.

About twenty miles out of Huehue, Ross had a flat tire.  He put some air in it and was able to get a few hundred yards up the road and into a small village where we replaced the tube; we were on our way in about 90 minutes. 

Last night was spent in Panajachel on the shore of beautiful Lago de Atitlan, a beautiful mountain lake guarded by three volcanoes.  Our dinner at a restaurant overlooking the lake was most pleasant and sent us to bed ready for the short ride to Escuintla.

We got totally lost coming out of Panajachel this morning, but saw some beautiful scenery on narrow mountain roads.  We did have a water crossing before finding our way back to a major road and on to Escuintla where we’ve had a chance to catch up on a few things and swim in the hotel pool--temps in the 90s with humidity to match made the pool very inviting.

Tomorrow will bring on  borders #3/4: Guatemala/El Salvador.  We will be visiting one of RuthAnn’s former students who is a Peace Corps Volunteer in El Salvador while we are in that small Central American country.

October 11, 2010

Mexico Day 3: Topes, Detours, and Hurrricane Karl

Today (10-10-10) was supposed to be an easy 190 mile run, mostly on toll roads, from Veracruz to Minatitlan.  We easily made our way out of Veracruz, but soon discovered that the toll road we wanted to use was closed due to the destructive forces of hurricane Karl which hit the state of Veracruz hard in mid-September.

We soon found ourselves on a two lane road that ran south of and roughly parallel to the toll road.  Even though we did not have to pay a monetary toll, this road soon took its toll in time and energy spent fighting the heavy truck traffic, bouncing over topes (Mexican speed bumps), and learning to pass long lines of truck traffic.  The Mexicans are very good at making a two lane road serve as a three lane road and sometimes even a four lane highway.  This is easily done when slower traffic moves to the edge of the road surface and the faster traffic uses the middle of the road to pass.  This really works well with bikes and allows us to get past the many heavy trucks on the highway,

The evidence of Hurricane Karl was quite obvious today.  Lots of water still standing in fields, river banks sporting high water, the smell of rotting vegetation in the air, and two bridges either damaged or destroyed.  The bridge situation turned into quite an incredible journey.  At our last rest stop (having covered a whopping 55 miles in two hours!) we noticed the traffic starting to back up on the road.  As we joined the line we realized that this was a major and serious problem for us if we wanted to make Minatitlan today. 

The oncoming lane was void of traffic so we pulled out and slowly proceeded along the line of stopped or slowly moving trucks.  Six miles later we came to the reason for the backup:  a bridge was damaged and a temporary  crossing was being alternately used the by the motorists and truckers.  Another bridge and about six miles later we were out of the mess and on our way again.  By our rough estimation there were over 1000 trucks and vehicles in this traffic nightmare and if we hadn’t used the bikes the way we did we would still be out there in line. 

  A long, hard, dusty, hot day in heavy traffic--we deserved a break, right?  Once into our hotel and cleaned up we could not find a restaurant open for dinner within walking distance.  A little hole in the wall taco place (tripe seemed be popular, but we opted for pork) took the edge off--breakfast will taste good in the morning!

October 10, 2010

Buenas Dias Mexico

To everyone's relief, we crossed into Mexico without incident-almost. We were feeling pretty confident about finding Customs (it is not right at the border as in the US and Canada) and getting processed because we had done it several times before on our way to the Mexican National Rally. So imagine our surprise when we found it but the gates were locked and on closer examination, the entire parking lot was under water! This was the first evidence we saw of the recent storms that have flooded the countryside.

So it was off to find another Customs office and we didn't have to go far to find it ten miles east in Phar. The processing went relatively quickly and we were soon on our way south with both bikes and people documented for travel.

Not long after, we came upon our first military checkpoint and found with a woman leading and a cheery “Hola!”, inspections were cursory and quick. At least two were. At the third checkpoint, they lined all the bikes up nose to tail and a soldier held what looked like a 'witching stick' and walked down the line. He did this several times and each time the stick turned and pointed at Ross. The officer who stopped us explained they were searching for ammunition or drugs and I assured him we had neither. Just as I said that, they pulled out Ross' bulging medicine bag so I tried to explain that we had malaria medicine for six months and that Ross was an old, sick man and had other medicines for various aliments in sundry parts of the body which I didn't have Spanish words for so I pointed them out. By this time, they were convinced we were harmless hypochondriacs and waved us on.

We spent the first night in Manuel, at a wonderful hotel recommended by Ken O'Malley and Wayne Dougherty and the second day rode through the countryside in beautiful sunshine to Vera Cruz where we spent Saturday night dinning on the old town square, drinking cervecas and listening to Latino music. This travel business is hard work

October 6, 2010

On the move,,,,,finally!

Now that we are all on he road and not so busy planning and packing, the blog is alive again.  SPOT has plotted our course from Wisconsin to Texas and tomorrow all four of us will meet up  in McAllen to start this new adventure.

RuthAnn and I have had four sunny, but cool, days of travel and arrived in San Antonio this afternoon.  We will have new tires mounted at the local BMW dealer in the morning, then head south. 

The planning and preparation for this trip has far exceeded any other motorcycle journey that we have taken to date.  Hopefully we have covered all of the bases and not forgotten too many things. 

The “cube system” mentioned by Jean in the previous post has served us well for several years now.  The cubes we use are made by Eagle Creek and come in several shapes and sizes and many different colors; two our favorite sources for them are REI and

Packing 101

Ross has told you all about the mechanical considerations for this trip and so I'm going to tell you about the really important stuff-clothes!

This has been an enormous packing challenge as we are dealing with huge temperature extremes from the heat of Central America to the cold of Antarctica. Space is limited because we don't want to have anything that doesn't fit in our locked, aluminium panniers.

We have allocated one pannier each for clothes, shoes, toiletries and other personal things. The pannier bag measures 20" x 12" x 6". Steve and Ruth Ann have taught us their packing system which is based on 'cubes' for each type of clothing such as pants, shirts and underwear and socks. Realistically, three pieces of each type of clothing is sufficient if they are made of fabrics that wash and dry overnight. So we have taken our three pairs of convertible pants (zip off legs) and rolled them tightly and packed them in a cube. A shirt cube contains microfibre t-shirts and first layer long sleeve shirts and the sock cube has socks, underwear and long johns. Toiletries are also in special cubes that can also accommodate medicines, jewellery, sewing kit, etc. The beauty of the cubes is that the clothes don't shift and stay reasonably uncreased. Some cubes are double sided so we have used one to put in a dress shirt for Ross and an outfit for Jean to be worn as the occasions arise such as the New Year's Eve party on the ship to Antarctica or should we be invited to some presidential palace.

The bag also contains a clothes line and bar soap so we can wash out our clothes by hand and be ready to go in the morning. A woman's work is never done! In our other pannier, we have fleece sweaters for the colder climes or to be worn as a first layer when the mornings are cool or the altitude is high. Riding gloves will also double as mittens later on and we have balaclavas and 'cool snakes' (neck ties you wet to stay cool) to deal with changes in temperature.

So we think we've got things covered. With such few things to choose from, it won't take long to decide what to wear!

October 5, 2010

In the beginning....

In the beginning, there were two Kawasaki KLR 650 motorcycles-one new (Ross'), one used (Jean's). To prepare them for our journey south we added or adjusted the following:
Progressive Suspension fork springs
Fork braces
Swmotech crash bars
Bash plates (engine guards)
Avon Gripsters tires
Taller windsheilds
Heated grips
Zumo 550 GPS units
Peel and stick headlight protectors
Lowering kit or shorter rear shock
Raised front forks in the triple clamps to lower the front end
Shortened side stand
Bill Mayer seat or another seat
Chain oiler (a Norm Myers custom special) The chain oiler will use whatever oil we are carrying. ( Engine oil ) This eliminates having to carry a can of chainlube.
Jesse bags. Pricey, but seem to be the best COMPROMISE between width and size. Most capacity for the width
Do hickey replacement (primary chain tensioner )
Added a tool tube across the front of the engine made from 4" plumbing pipe.
ABS jackleg to get the rear wheel off the ground.( no center stand )Scala Rider bike to bike communicators
Scala Rider Bluetooth bike-to-bike communicators were installed on our helmets.
Runway Power Sports, Trenton performed some last minute recall work.

In addition, we are carrying the following:
Spare tubes, spare chains,master links,sprockets, levers cables bulbs brake pads patch kits, tire irons, etc. The tubes are the biggest space user. Each bike will carry 2 tubes, 1 front, 1 rear.
Tools, tape.wire, fuses, etc
Electronics, charger for this, charger for that, etc
Lap top computer
Air compressor
Also the ever present spare quart of oil as these bikes use some. Not like the Beemers which don't seem to.

We have managed to get all this into the two Jesse Bags as we did not want to have anything on the bike that was not locked on.
We are going with heavy duty locking bicycle cables to secure helmets and jackets at rest stops.

I have had to re-learn how to do tires since these bikes have tube type tires and we are dealing with the issue of oiling chains.
Jean has opted for a Bill Meyer custom seat as the stock seats are painfull after about 100Km. I on the other hand, I have reached back into my vast store of used BMW junk to find an old, modified Ironbutt seat and have piggybacked it onto the stock seat pan. Not pretty but it works and is about $400 cheaper.
We have done tires all round and oil and filter with the help of Ken at the O'Malley's home in Louisiana. That should take us well down into South America before we need to look at them again. The chain oilers are undergoing a revamp as we progress.

September 8, 2010

The Long Ride South

As a reprise of their trip to India in 2008, Jean and Ross Copas and RuthAnn and Steve Reynen  will point their motorcycles south to ride to Ushuaia, Argentina, prior to boarding the Polar Star for a ten day cruise to Antarctica.

We will meet in McAllen, TX, on October 7th prior to crossing into Mexico the following day to begin the long ride south.  The plan is to ride through Central America, fly around the Darien Gap from Panama City, Panama, to Bogota, Colombia, before hopping on the bikes again. After spending New Year's Day in Antarctica we will start up the east side of the continent  to Brazil.  At that point the plan is a little hazy; we may do a trip on the Amazon River before shipping the bikes someplace.  That someplace could be Europe or South Africa............we just don't know at this point.  Carnival in Rio takes place in early March and that may also figure into our plans--stay tuned.  

On the left side of the page you will see SPOT; click on it and you will be able to see where we are.  The orange dots will show our route and the green dots will indicate where we are spending the night.  Use the drop down menus in the "Adjustments" panel to view some or all of the SPOT way points and one day, one week, or all of the trip.  There is a place for comments there as well as on the blog itself.  We encourage you to comment as hearing from you while we are on the road is very welcome. 

Come along with us on this long journey south; it should be fun.