Saturday, December 29, 2012


We had a good day motorcycling and witnessed some amazing skills. There was a small boy on a BMX style bike who grabbed the back if a semi trailer as it went by. He held on to the back as the semi sped up to 35 mph! He didn't let go for miles! The cars behind the semi followed him so close they would have run him over for sure if he had let go. The truck went up into the mountains and he finally dropped off smiling only to ride down the hill and do it again! Amazing! The road turned to shit, it was like riding on a rough dirt road, only it was paved. We made it to just over 10k feet when we were passed by a group of 6 adventure bikers like we were standing still. The road was twisty and full of cars, but these guys didn't seem to care. They flew down the mountain at well over twice the speed limit. We followed them closely for a while just for the sport of it, but the anxiety and stress of it all caused us to drop back. We saw them stopped at a gas station a while later putting on their rain gear. We flew by and beat them to the border of Ecuador. Things were pretty straight forward. Got our exit stuff done in 40 minutes, but the line for the immigration into Ecuador was hours long. The whole process took 1/2 a day! We ended up making friends with some other long distance bikers from Canada, China, and Colombia. We followed them into the border town and ended up staying at the same cheap, read horrible, hotel. There was a discoteca downstairs and we were treated to the sounds of bass and yelling until the wee hours of the morning, followed by the police dispersing the crowd. The upside was the nice people we met!

The next day we woke up to a church bell bonanza at 5 am. It sure is hard to get away from noise of any kind in these countries that we travel through. We walked the streets before anything was open to get our bearings for the days ride south. We had to wait for some people to wake up as our bikes were parked in the secure lot and it was jammed with other cars so we couldn't get out. We ended up finding a cool bakery for breakfast and then we got out of the lot and headed out of town. We rolled on until we needed gas and when we stopped we met another group of motos headed our way. They warned us of the automatic radar police ahead. We thanked them and went back to checking the map for our route to come when a couple on a GSA rode up and said hi. They were from Bolivia and they are headed our way so we chose to follow them. They were quick and we ended up getting caught speeding by the very system we were warned about but the nice cops let us off with a warning. The couple that we were following ended up making about a hundred wrong turns in Quito but we eventually made it out of town and decided to just go it on our own. We didn't have a map with any sufficient amount of detail or a GPS of Ecuador so the navigation was quite interesting. The equator went by today without even so much as a sign... We thought it would be more of a major event, but we just rolled trough it like any other mile. The miles flew by and the scenery was like a patchwork quilt of green laid over the mountains. We ended up with a nice campsite at a posh hotel and crashed for the night at 9500 feet.

Today we awoke to the hotel feeding its pigs which lived in the field next to us. They were hungry suckers! We rode through clouds and the temperatures dropped to the low 40's as we crested 12000 feet. The clouds were so thick as we rode the side of the mountains that we could only see 20 feet ahead of us! We soldiered on into the mist and finally started to descend to the sea. Once we came down out of the mountains the towns got poorer and there were tons of men dressed as women with ropes strung across the highway begging for money. Maybe a New Years thing? The miles flew by and we ended up at the border for Peru. Things were as screwed up as usual at the border, paperwork wise, but the difference was there was no one else there. We finished up in a couple of hours and headed into Peru. An hour down the road we saw a camping sign on the beach and here we are listening to the surf scrub the beach. I am laying in a hammock beneath two palm trees as get caught up on the blog tonight. We had homemade vegetable chicken soup for dinner tonight and we plan on ringing in the new year Peru style as we have been invited to a party at a local house just up the beach. Here's to not wasting a minute of the time we have here. Live each day. Happy new year!

Lost in translation

When we were getting ready to eat breakfast this morning, a woman was trying to explain something to some English speaking tourists and they couldn't understand her. She came over to me and asked if I could do her a favor and translate for her! I guess my Spanish is getting better. It really gave me some confidence to keep trying. Today was full of Spanish speaking confidence. When we were looking for an ATM we stopped at a gas station to get directions and I was able to drive right to it after talking with the attendant for a while! Who knows maybe I will even get better at talking soon. We started the mornings ride by following the gps for about 20 miles to a dead end where the road was closed for construction, so we had to back track and find a new route. The dead end was worth it though because of the views and the small, out of the way town we got to see. The small town was full of old jeep willys. There was even a shiny red one in the town square with a story on a plaque under it. After the detour we hit the main highway. Wow! It was the first real two lane highway we have been on in what seems like forever. We hauled ass at 80+ for most of the morning. We rolled into Cali and had to do the usual gridlock shuffle, which slowed us down quite a bit. We ended up seeing two motorcycle accidents on the road today. Everybody appeared to have walked away unscathed though. We think that it was a simple case of an avoided head on collision, due to semi trucks taking switchback corners too wide. We saw one that had happened a while ago and one that was so fresh the guy was still pulling his leg out from under the bike. The motorcycles out number the cars here 3 to 1, but I am not sure who wins the crappiest driver award. People pass whenever they feel like it, whether they can see or not! Once we had gotten south of Popayan the nice highway morphed into tight twisties that rolled up and down green grass blanketed foothills. The color green has really become richer after seeing it cover the otherworldly landscape here. When the sun hits it just right it looks like the hills are so soft and fuzzy and so full of life and water that you could wring it out of them like a sponge. Winding through small mountain towns brought our speed down but it was worth it for the view and the people. Kids in every little town were throwing water balloons and buckets of water at passing cars for the holidays. My dad took a bucket to the chest! We laughed and put our visors down in every little town. There was also a seemingly endless number of military checkpoints today, and all of them gave us a big smile and a thumbs up as we went by! I loved it! So many cars and trucks and motorcycles have overheated in the climbing roads. It seems like the buses burn straight coal because there is so much black smoke rolling out of them as they climb. 300+ miles into the day we rolled into a fine campsite for only 5 bucks. We cooked up some dinner and set up the tent next to a babbling brook and watched the stars come out. I saw my third shooting star of the trip and I made the same wish each time. I'll let you all know when it comes true! Camping is so much better than nasty hotels, I sure wish it had been easier to find up until now, but hopefully that has changed. The border is 4 hours away to Ecuador! We hope to make our first South American crossing tomorrow. Getting excited for the equator!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Parking lot or highway?

We were up early this morning due to the extremely strong smell of chemicals in our hotel room from the staff waxing the floors in the middle of the night. We had to get the heck out of there so we packed up and went down to the basement parking lot to find a crowd checking out the bikes. The usual photo shoot ensued. The same questions were asked... How much did the bike cost, how fast does it go, where are you from and where are you going, how long will it take, are we crazy? Once we had satisfied the masses we headed out of town. Almost two hours later we had cleared the city limits of Bogotá. Traffic was horrendous, we had to weave in and out of lanes and do a lot of trick riding to get out as fast as we did. We stopped to put on rain gear as the sky looked like it weighed a ton and it was a dark shade of gloom. It never rained on us though, after we put on the gear, but of course that's how it goes. We got pretty hot in the stop and go traffic and then we came to the mountain passes. We stopped to remove some layers and let the bikes cool down a bit before struggling to pass about a million cars and semis on the twistiest road ever littered with construction, tolls and donkeys carrying loads of coffee up the steepest of hills. The hillsides were all being farmed for this and that at what seemed like impossible angles. We finally crested the pass at about 11k feet and the view almost made it all worth it. The clouds were below us and above us and all around us and the mountains seemed to disappear into them. Following the ridges down the canyons covered in green and flowers we seemed to go down further than we thought possible. It was like coming down out of the heavens into the jungle and then going further down until we reached the level where people lived again, all the while battling trucks and cars and other bikes for the right to keep going. We knew that the traffic was bad when the caution sign that we saw repeated the most often was a warning of a head on collision with a picture of two cars smashing into each other! It was a shame that the traffic was so bad because when the spectacular view came into sight we dared not stop to take a picture for the thought of loosing all the progress we had just made passing trucks. We needed to get to somewhere so that we could pull of the road and sleep. The day was a stress ball sprinkled with adrenaline and euphoria from the vistas! Camping spots were non existent and people lived in small tin huts on the side of the road the whole day until we got down from mountains and found a place to spend the night in the first real city in 8 hours. We managed to squeeze out about 200 miles today. It sure would be nice if we could average a bit higher mileage but we need some real highway and a lot less traffic to even think about that happening. I wonder what the heck we are doing all this for sometimes. It's hard riding through depressing poverty everyday. It's also hard to be away from home and to spend all this money to ride when I could be using some of it to help some of these people somehow. I just don't know how or where to even start. I find it difficult to haggle for the cost of things even though I am sure they expect it. Often times I just pay their price because I can't bring myself to offer less. Maybe tomorrow will be easier, although today was overload for the senses and emotions it was still one that we didn't waste. Here's to making the best of what's around, which is what all these people do everyday!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

On the road again

After 5 days off of the motorcycles in Bogotá Colombia, we are about to pick the bikes up from the dealership and start moving south again. We spent most of the time here seeing the sights. The views from the top of Cerros de Monserratè were outstanding. The top of the mountain is about 10,400 feet and we got there on the funicular - a train-like thing that goes straight up the side of the mountain was pulled by a steel cable at an alarming angle. The ride down was via the teleferico which was like a large cable car. It hung from the cable and reminded me of Jackson Hole.  Man I miss snowboarding this winter, I hope there is some snow left when I get back to Colorado!

There were street vendors all over the place when we got down from the mountain selling donuts in long plastic bags. We spent some time walking through the parks in the city and we were by ourselves for most of the day as it was raining outside. The city is massive and it was wild how everyone, almost 8 million people, was at home for the holidays. The next day we picked up the motorcycles on-time just as expected. They were in the same condition that they were in when we dropped them off.  Before we could be reunited with our machines we spent the better part of 4 hours filling out paperwork and going between offices talking to people trying to satisfy the amazing amount of red tape required.  After we had used about a sequoia each in the customs office we were told to wait outside doors three and four for the bikes. When we went outside, all the doors were numbered 100 or higher. So we went back into the office to find out what was going on and spent the better part of two hours sitting in the hallway while they looked for motorcycles in the warehouse. Once they had been found we were invited to inspect them and ride them away. The only way out of the warehouse was through the loading bay doors. The height of the bottom of the door from the ground was setup for a semi to unload and load by backing up to the door, ~4.5 feet. I figured they would lift the bikes out with a fork truck or something, but instead a guy showed up with a homemade ramp. They used the loading lift to pin the ramp to the doorway and looked at us to ride the bikes down! Where the lift met the ramp there was about a foot long drop between the end of the lift and the beginning of the ramp. I was pretty thankful that we had the adventures with the extra ground clearance and higher suspension travel when we launched off the loading dock. We made it down the ramp without incident and headed into town to find the dealership as it was time for service and some new rubber. We probably could have ridden another thousand miles or so on the tires we had, but they were getting thin. On the way to the dealership we were riding through traffic which was getting pretty thick and we started to split lanes, so the bikes wouldn't overheat, when a very enthusiastic Colombian began to yell at us and fist pump out his window. He had seen our license plates and seemed to be more amped about the trip than we were. He told us how jealous he was and how much he would like to be going with us as we all ripped through rush hour traffic. He even gave us some recommendations for places to, and I quote, get wasted for Christmas! We eventually made it to the dealership and it was open so they said that they would have our bikes finished the day after Christmas. Great news as we were worried about the holidays holding us back. We found another place to stay and looked for some more sights to see. Bogotá for Christmas was pretty much like a ghost town, we had a relaxing day and had some excellent food at Club Colombia where they make their own beer. We walked through streets decorated with Xmas lights on a scale that I have rarely seen. The next day we saw a movie as we passed the time without the bikes. It was hard to be off the road for 5 days straight! Time seemed to stand still a bit and we both really missed our families. We discovered that McDonald's has the best WiFi in town and we were able to FaceTime with some of the people that we missed the most (read, our wives). We hit the Museo del Oro as a last tourist stop and checked out the gold artifacts from ancient times before having an amazing steak and some ravioli for lunch. Back at the dealership the bikes were all polished up and ready to go. They had them all tuned up and they are running like new. Not that there was anything wrong with them, but there is something about a brand new set of tires and a cleaning that always just makes it feel like its running better to me. Speaking of feelings, I didn't realize how much I missed the bike. Having it back gives me back a feeling that I had lost. I didn't realize what exactly was bothering me the past few days, but I think it was the immobility. The feeling of independent freedom that I get when I am in the saddle is one if the biggest reasons why I ride motorcycles. The sense of adventure has returned, look out South America - here we come!