Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Monday, August 29, 2011

The trip continues.

    Following a 24 hour, 1,200 mile marathon finish of a Latin American journey I found myself boarding my flight with only minutes to spare, leaving the BMW wrapped with a tarp in the airport parking lot . What had spanned 2 months and covered 13,000 miles was at an end and I was ambivalent in my emotional response. What was I leaving and to what exactly was I returning? These questions still weigh heavy in my mind as I scurry around the campus of UTC attempting to meet with professors and straighten out schedule conflicts. The precipitous shift in setting is somewhat overwhelming and I'm uncertain whether I am happy or discouraged to be back home. Though I wrestle with my current state of reality in these familiar but somehow alien surroundings, it's clear that this place hasn't changed at all, I, however, surely have. 
    Maintaining this blog has been a great source of comfort for me during the course of my trip. Seeing the followers and hits grow helped reinforce belief in myself, a belief which at times in my life has faltered. So, being as there is still much yet to say and show of my trip, over the coming days I will carry on sharing parts of it with you. I hope you will continue following my exploits, for although my nearest motorcycle is 8,000 miles removed, my uncertain ride continues.

Friday, August 26, 2011

In too big a hurry to elaborate

My trip is ending with a bang, several actually. Argentinian police fired several shots at me yesterday for crossing the border without proper insurance. It was all on camera but alas after I got away and stopped they took the SD card and erased it.
This is a long story which must be told at a later date. I am in the midst of covering 1,200 miles over 27 hours in order to catch my flight home. 350 down 850 to go.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Bolivian Death Road

   After arriving in La Paz, a city with a serious lack of signs, on Saturday, I struggled to reach the Northeast side of town and the route which leads to the infamous Bolivian Death Road. Following two hours of navigating city traffic, which was heavily constricted do to the vendors which had encroached onto the streets (often 3 lanes had been narrowed to 1), I was out of town and heading in the correct direction. It was getting late, but I thought I might be able to finish my ride by nightfall.
   As has oftentimes been the case during this trip, fate held alternate ideas than my own. I drove off the Altiplano and the clear weather gave way to thick mist as I descended into heavy clouds. The moisture was dense and though it wasn't really raining I was soaked. In wet darkness I saw some heavy road equipment parked to the side of an abandoned school. This seemed to be a good spot to set camp. There is always a security guard for the valuable equipment in Latin America, and the school, with its busted front doors, offered sanctuary from the abysmal weather.
    The following morning I was a bit dismayed to find that the dense cloud cover hadn´t subsided in the least. I packed up my motorcycle in a rather lethargic manner and headed out into the haze. In departing, I communicated with the fellow guarding the Caterpillars and found that the entrance to the death road was a further 10K. The fog was thick, and the going slow, but after 15 minutes of following a poorly tuned diesel truck I found a precipitously sloped road branching off to my right. It was marked "Cola del Diablo" which isn't Death Road, but Tale of the Devil was close enough.
   The path down was obscured by clouds, however, the foggy conditions had subsided for the return. This offered a better view of the deep abyss lingering beneath the road's edge. The winding route is indeed deadly if you fall. Fortunately, remaining on the road is quite easy. Overall its condition, though unpaved, was pretty good. The only tricky part was passing large vehicles.
 The remainder of the day was rather fruitful and my return trip through La Paz was more orderly than the first. Eventually, I found myself 150 miles south of the Capital with a suitable place to camp, once again amongst construction equipment.
  I have 5 days to reach Buenos Aries, about 2000 miles away. 400 miles a day isn't that much, however, there will be lots of sandy paths between here and there. East Bound and Down is playing in my head. I'm always ready for a challenge.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Into Bolivia

  Following a prolonged fix for the bike I departed Arequipa late in the afternoon, just in time to catch a desert sunset. The stretch between Arequipa and Puno is about 200 miles. The bike still possessed a slight vibration which I found disconcerting, however, it seemed to me that stopping to check it was no longer an option so I continued across the desert. The cold night eventually saw me make it to Puno but in reaching the town it was was impossible not to notice how run down and filthy it was, so I kept riding. As I curled southwest along the edge of lake Titicaca I periodically passed through little resort towns, each more decrepit than the last, and my search for a safe place to stay was a difficult one.
   After a total of seven freezing hours on the bike I found myself in yet another desolate town on the Peru/Bolivia border. High pressure sodium bulbs were casting a dingy orange light on the deserted streets. The only thing preventing me from getting into Bolivia were two lengths of chain stretching across the road, both of which I could have easily bypassed. The first of these was mounted out front of a very abandoned looking National Police Station which a black lab had claimed as his. The perro negro barked in protest as I dug through my luggage, as if to say, "I'm the only stray sleeping here tonight". I imagine his dismay was great as I produced a tent from my left side pannier. Overwhelmed with sadness he rose and lumbered slowly down the road while offering up a couple of half-hearted howls. I made camp and at 3AM I was asleep in front of a police station on the Bolivian border.

There is video of the marching band which awoke me but the posting will come later

Monday, August 15, 2011

Illumination in a Desert Night

   I awoke yesterday morning wrestling with a conundrum, go back, go forward, or stay put. All
options posed problems that there didn't seem to be answers for. My, perhaps slightly overladen, BMW had once again pulverized a set of wheel bearings (I suspect the replacements used back in Costa Rica were of the, cheap, weak, Chinese variety).
Returning to Lima added 1,400 miles of tough roads to my trip, and there was no guarantee that once I reached the BMW dealer there, if I made it at all, that they would have the parts needed. Staying put would mean waiting for parts from the States and the time and expense of this would have been great. DHL wanted $300 dollars to ship a bag to Cuzco from Bogota in a week. All this was in addition to the fact that I had nowhere to make the repairs once I got the wheel bearings. The motorcycle repair shops in Cuzco were not acquainted with shaft driven motorcycles so I wouldn't let them touch my bike. Going forward (the only real option if I was to reach Argentina in time for my flight) was still somewhat silly. Though La Paz was only 300 miles away all the (drug) money
and dealerships are in the eastern part of Bolivia in Santa Cruz. That's over 1000 miles away (connected by what I'm sure are only the finest roads), and finding a mechanic familiar with BMW's along my route seemed less likely than experiencing complete bearing failure followed by a precipitous plunge from a Bolivian escapement (a la Butch Cassidy). So, as I prepared to pack my bags and head to Lima I saw a reply to my plea for help on advrider.com from a Canadian fellow who gave me the address and phone number of a motorcycle tour and rental business in the city of Arequipa, only slightly off my path to Bolivia (four hours total). They have a few BMW's in there fleet of 35 bikes and after talking the owner, a Dutch fellow named Lars, who seemed to think he could help, I hastily departed South.
    A full day of riding, with elevations over 12,000', gave way to riding in the desert night with absolute darkness and temperature plunging into the 20's. After an hour or so of painfully cold riding, on a road unknown to the GPS's map, I
began to see a light on my tail in the rear view mirror. No matter how hard I pushed the incandescent glow only strengthened. With the ground around me visible I pulled to the side of the road to allow the pesky car by. I waited, but nothing passed or overpower the auditory charm of the clickity klack emanating from my Beemer's horizontally opposed engine. I turned to see what had happened to the tailgater to find the brightest Moon I had ever witnessed. Where had it come from? Only moments before, in a cloudless sky, there was nothing but stars. It had quite literally sneaked up behind me to cast light on a barren desert. I'd never seen anything quite like it. I stopped to take a picture and suddenly it didn't feel so cold anymore. The desert gleamed in a very welcoming fashion and any peril that I had been feeling slipped from my mind.
     Sometimes you don't see the answers coming, and the outlook is bleak, however, the light is there behind you, hidden just out of sight. Keep looking. Whether you are rising with the sun, or riding through the night, there is nothing quite like the surprise of a full desert moon.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

What to do?

Here is a post I made on the adventure rider website a few minutes ago
-I'm in Cuzco, 700 miles from Lima (the closest bmw shop that I'm aware of) and the wheel bearings which I replaced in Costa Rica are failing. I am/was on my way to Bolivia and don't wish to return to Lima but my attempt to locate the bearings here today didn't pan out and I don't know what to do. Even if I decide to backtrack there are long desolate stretches between here and Lima which would be awful to break down in. I'm tired, frustrated and in need of help.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A falcon, a frenchman and Israel Eugene Gillette

Here is another video with some music. It documents my accent up the mountain overlooking Quito and has some good footage of a rare bird. Enjoy.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Above the clouds till tire service brought me down.

   It's always interesting to look down and see clouds, especially while on the road. This was taken yesterday before the day took a turn for the worse.
   Time to get caught up. My friend Hilary met me in Colombia and has joined me for a leg of my journey (to Peru). Being a Spanish profesora (quit helpful on this trip) her schedule is much less flexible than mine and she flies from Lima on the 12th of August. With the setbacks along the way, there is now a long way to go and a short time to get there and the BMW maintenance department in Quito did little to alleviate this problem. I'd asked for tires when I dropped the bike for service but when I returned the following day they told me that if I wanted them that they would have to be ordered, perhaps taking till Monday to arrive(far too long). They did mention where the distributor was located though (roughly 350 miles to the south), and it was on our way. So in passing through we stopped in Cuenca and after a prolonged search found the Continental tire distributor. They said  they had just the ones I needed (knobbies) for heading into Bolivia and told us to wait 15 minutes. 15 minutes turned to an hour and finally the tires arrived without the afore mentioned knobs.  I found this disconcerting but decided, amid much persuasion, that these were the tires I really needed anyway, that there was little other choice and took the damn things. They then directed me to a motorcycle shop to mount the tires which due to the long wait was in the process of closing. I begged them to mount the tires for me, but to no avail. They sent me to to a small tire shop down the way 2 blocks. The rubber stained tire monkey running the establishment leaped into action and I watched as he swiftly changed and then mount the front tire. Having gained some confidence in the primate's abilities I left in search of a red bull to ready myself for another 200 or so miles. Upon returning, full of caffeine, I saw that the rapscallion was having some difficulty remounting the rear wheel. He was aggressively attacking the new $95 brake pads in the rear caliper with two screwdrivers and yet he couldn't get them around the disk. While he swung away for a moment I put on my headlamp, looked at the caliper and immediately saw the problem, one of the pads was slightly out of it's keeper. After fixing this the caliper slid right on, but unfortunately the damage done by the prying screwdrivers went beyond the substantial marring of the pads and once I started the bike I saw this

There are those times in life when something happens that leaves a sour and empty feeling inside of you. You know that things could have easily been different and yet then, through no serious fault of your own, you are powerless to change what has transpired and things will never be the same. Maybe it's finding yourself in jail on $22,000 bond for pissing off some asshole cop, or losing the favor of a lovely girl for being an embarrassment after the local paper publishes a fallacious story about you, but yesterday I had the same sort of hole etched into my soul by paying $8 to watch a scamp destroy my ABS.

In adding insult to injury, about 10 miles out of town, in the foggy night, my mudguard came loose(it was taken off for the tire change, then poorly replaced) and lodged itself in the rear caliper and I experienced complete rear brake failure(which has persisted).
No knobs, no rear brakes, Incan ruins here we come.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Israeli graffiti at the top of Ecuador

This was quite a hiking trip, the thin air had me a bit loopy but overall it was an amazing time.Once I have a bit more time with a good internet connection I'll post video of the accent and descent (It's good stuff).