Tuesday, October 1, 2013
The assumption going into this expedition is that it can be accomplished before the snows come. I don't mind squalls, but blankets of snow make road travel dicey.. I hope to avoid spending the winter holed-up in a truck stop outside Thunder Bay.
Follow me if you like. You can even take bets on my chances of success. Currently the Vegas bookies have me as 3 to 1 against. Take the odds with your entire 401K. I'm a lock!
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
These two could dance the Tango.
Tango in Buenos Aires!
The final 80 miles was not really as a group. In the rain, with 21 motorcycles riding into a huge city there was never a chance of staying together. At one point on a fast expressway I realized that 10 bikes were no longer behind me and I waited on the exit ramp so they could find their way. By the time they arrived the group ahead was gone. We found them eventually near the hotel. The parking was underground, down a steep, narrow and wet ramp. I nearly lost it on the slippy concrete. The guy behind me did lose control and his bike slid 40 feet down the curved ramp, bumping the walls all the way down. A Classic finish!
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Part of the gentrified Barrio Boca. Pre-revolutionary Che lived here while at the university.
Fowers line the main Avenida in BA. It is said to be the widest road in the world. It is a challenge to cross.
Accomplished street jugglers provide stellar entertainment at traffic lights in 28 second increments, for tips.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Sierra de la Ventana
Sierra de la Ventana
Wind was the essence of the trip to Puerto Madryn. I actually thought I might be blown off the road by winds reaching near-gale force. The roads here have only a narrow gravel shoulder. It is usually steeply banked in order to drain the roads. To be forced onto the shoulder doing 60 to 75 mph would guarantee a high speed ‘get-off’ and would most likely involve death or something close. We treat the gravel shoulders as if they were mountain ledges.
The ride from Puerto Madryn to Viedma was our first warm ride in nearly a month. The roads were boring but smooth and the sun shone all day. Mac and I followed the GPS which added 50 miles to the day. Viedma is a lovely and wealthy tourist town built on both sides of the River Negro. A water taxi brings you across.
Everyone is meloncholy because there are only two rides left!
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
These are Magellan Penguins. They mate for life, and breed here in Punto Tombo and then return to the sea. There are over a half million penguins on this Patagonian point near Puerto Madryn, Argentina.
I took a hundred mile side trip today on our final day off in order to see sea lions and possibly whales. Unfortunately I saw neither.
When Patagonia puts up a wind warning you had better take defensive measures!
One of the many dolphins that followed our ferry across the Strait of Magellan.
This was our first trip north since we began five months ago. It marks the beginning of the end. We’ve about 2000 miles to Buenos Aires to put the bikes on a boat and return home. From Cerro Sombrero to Comodoro Rivadavia yesterday was one of the most physically demanding of the trip. Not only was it over 500 miles but it was cold and WINDY too. I've got the cold solved. My heated jacket keeps me comfortable and a variety of ski-type neck gators keeps the cold from getting in. Th only force that rattles us is the Patagonian wind. Literally hundreds of times today I had to ride leaned over from 5 to 20 degrees just to ride in a straight line. That wouldn't be too hard if it was a constant wind velocity. But it wasn't. The gusts could come at any time and the mainwind force varied from moment to moment. Sometimes you could guess when the wind would change by the proximity of a mountain, gorge or the sea. But you were never sure. The worst and scariest part was when leaning over 20 degrees toward the centerline to offset a strong wind from the left, while timing the approach of a semi coming at you doing 75 mph. That 75 plus your own 70 mph provides a blast of tremendous force at the instant we pass. The only strategy that seems to work is to grip the handlebars as tight as possible,lay your chest on the tank and lean into the blast of air for a millisecond, then come back quickly to avoid entering the trucks lane and slamming into whatever is behind it. A tricky, nerve racking operation. I was completely spent when I finally reached my hotel.
Cerro Sombrero is the only place we stay in a hotel again. We were here on the way down. The road options are reduced to one because you must catch the ferry across the Straits of Magellan. The great man himself discovered this passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific in 1520 while looking for a route to the riches of the Spice Islands.
This strait separates the continent of South America from the large island of Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire). The vast importance of this discovery was known only later. Ferdinand Magellan’s enduring fame came after his death.
In this passage to the Pacific live four species of dolphin that were first observed scientifically by Charles Darwin on his maiden voyage to sea. He shipped out aboard the Beagle under Captain Robert FitzRoy. FitzRoy was the best sailor and navigator of his time. His genius for sailing was offset by a mental imbalance that caused him problems his entire life, until the evening he said goodnight to his wife and daughters and then slit his throat quietly in the bathroom.
The entire vast island of Tierra del Fuego is full of remarkable characters doing things that made history; Magellan, FitzRoy, Drake, Darwin.
The natives here were wiped out due to contact with white men. The Yahgan people were wild, naked, canoe people. They had no permanent homes, written language, leaders, or crops. See photos.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Pink Flamingoes - Surprisingly we found pink flamingoes in the high elevations of the Andes from Peru south. They were in flocks in marshy areas. We presume they were migrating.
This was our first view of the Andes. It was in Columbia and the best example of a saw-tooth mountain we saw all trip.
Swimming naked in the warm waters of Costa Rica's Pacific side
Lake at hotel before Ushuaia
Thursday, November 26, 2009
We left Cerro Sombrero, Chile for a town on a lake that is 60 miles north of Ushuaia. We stopped here to assemble, celebrate, and then ride as a group to Ushuaia in the morning.
Mac and I stopped after today's border crossing in a town called Rio Grande. We finally found a bank so we could get money and I then went to an Internet café so that I could find out how my Dad is doing (He’s been in the hospital for five days now). After the Internet I went for a long ride by myself (Mac didn’t want to use the Internet). I got back to the hotel on a lake only to find out that Jeff and Mac had been out looking for me. Not only that but Jeff got a call that his sister died. She lived in Australia and may have had a drug problem. I think Jeff may be the best guy on the trip. I’ve enjoyed all of my time with him. He is a charming, humorous, and provocative character. He’s a Kiwi, has a house in Australia, and travels 52 weeks a year. He has cat-like balance, climbs, hang-glides, and rides motorcycles like no one else. I’ll miss him the most.
Tonight we had dinner as a group in a dining room overlooking a mountain rimmed lake. Utterly magnificent!
This morning was our last ride south. As agreed, we left as a group for the sixty mile trip to Ushuaia. It was an emotional morning. We’ve all finally come to the realization that this fairy tale existence is going to come to an end. I very much want to get back to my family and am looking forward to my Dec. 9th flight. However, there has been something completely captivating about this lifestyle for the past five months. All of us love motorcycling and travel. We have arisen each morning to a full breakfast, fastened on our helmets and ridden between 150 and 400 miles to a new city in a foreign country. Once there we got our room, a shower and went out to dinner. Along the way we met and interacted with people we didn’t know. Whenever we chose Mac and I modified that plan to accommodate our mood. We will all miss that freedom.
Those returning to the job they had beforehand will suffer the most. For them the adventure will end in early December. For myself I have the luxury of being jobless. Once home I can concentrate on finding new employment, hopefully in a place where I can be challenged daily.
The ride in was stunning. I had always assumed that Ushuaia was a destination only because of its status as the southernmost city. During the ride today it became quite clear that it became a destination because it is a glorious place. It is at the end of the island Tierra del Fuego. Think of this island as an enormous diamond tiara. Eighty percent of it is flat and featureless. Then you reach the bottom of the world and this end of the island is covered with dozens of snow-capped mountains and the Beagle Channel (named by Captain Fitzroy after his boat on an early expedition. Charles Darwin was aboard for his first time at sea). The island is like a tiara in that both have their beauty concentrated on one end.
We rode 20 miles past Ushuaia to the Tierra del Fuego park and its sign at the end of the road. We all hugged and took photos for two hours. Any and all gripes and grudges were forgotten. As I’ve said before this five-month trip is a Cosmic Petrie Dish. It throws together total strangers in a complex environment, adds stress from travel and shakes liberally. One could easily do a psychology doctoral dissertation based on this experiment. We had Champagne and chocolate before we left for a group dinner near the waterfront.
All that's left is a 2000 mile ride up to Buenos Aires to ship the bikes home. I'm sure there will be adventures along the way.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Complete Sow pillow covers
At the Chile/Argentina border crossing I gave this little girl and her brother a cookie
Mac and I tried to avoid 65 miles of unpaved Ruta Cuarenta and instead added 24 hours to the trip including 200 miles of unpaved Ruta Cuarenta. We exited Argentina at Laurita rather than Cerro Castillo. The border guard told us to go back into Argentina and go up to Cero Castillo. Instead we went 100 miles down Ruta Cuarenta to Bella Vista and stayed in a tiny hotel owned by a salmon fishing guide. We were his only customers last night and he and his lovely wife cooked us a tasty meal. In the morning (this morning) we had perhaps the best ride ever. Sunny but cold and windy conditions on a rutted stretch of Ruta 40. It was so remote that it was open prairie. There were no fences along the sides of the road to keep livestock out. We left the hotel at 8AM and drove at 35 mph for 90 minutes before we saw the first other car on the road. It is Sunday and the animals have nobody to bother them. I’ve never seen so much wildlife in this 45 mile ride. Foxes leapt across the road, large black ducks always in pairs took off every time we rounded a curve. Perhaps a thousand sheep were grazing peacefully on the Pampas until I came along, standing on my footpegs and blowing my horn. The little lambs ran frantically to their mothers and each herd would then bolt for cover. We scattered two dozen groups before lunch.
The emu’s we’ve been seeing lately were well represented this morning. They are particularly amusing when startled by my motorcycle. They already look like Dr. Suess characters, but once upset they start running in circles frantically and very comically.
But the most wonderful point in the day was when I rounded a bend and came upon a large herd of wild horses. They surprised me as much I was surprised them. There were 25 beautifully free horses running along side me as I stood on my pegs and kept pace with them at 30 mph. We were about 80 feet apart and I watched in awe as the lead stallion’s long black mane and tail streamed behind it as he galloped his followers in a poetic display of animal intensity, against a vast and sparkling Patagonian landscape. It unfolded in a sort of surreal slow motion. I glanced down at my GPS and we were going 30 mph but it seemed to be in another dimension. After about a quarter mile of riding neck and neck with the stallion and his mares I pulled ahead in the hope of getting a picture of the muscular galloping beasts, but by the time I got the bike stopped and camera out they had crossed the road behind me and were running over the ridge. It probably only lasted 30 seconds but was too magic to ever forget!!
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
The bus is coming up the road we'll be going down