Tuesday, October 1, 2013

TransCanada Loop

This October 2013 trip is the first leg of a Round the World moto adventure. This portion begins in Bethesda, MD then aims north to Saratoga Springs, NY, and Montreal.  Thence west through Ottowa,  to Wawa, Ontario, up over Lake Superior. Then SW to Santa Barbara and finally back east through Boulder, CO, the Great Plains and home to Maryland.

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

Last Tango in Buenos Aires

Did this man just finish an epic journey or lose a bar brawl?
Our final group dinner was at a Tango Dinner Theater. Buenos Aires is the center of the Tango Universe. The show was fantastic.
These two could dance the Tango.
Tango in Buenos Aires!

Sierra de la Ventana to Buenos Aires – 370 milesThis was our last ride. Kevin asked everyone to meet at a restaurant 80 miles shy of BA so we could all ride into the big city as a group. This rarely works because big city folks squeeze into any space they can and very soon the 21 motorcycle group is completely split up.Mac and I left Sierra de la Ventana at 6AM and reached the town the restaurant was supposed to be in by 1PM. Unfortunately the route notes were wrong and we waited in Los Flores for over an hour until Kevin arrived with the others and told us where the restaurant was really located. It was 50 miles further north. During the hour we waited the rain we had been ahead of caught us and stayed with us the rest of the day. I parked my bike on a sidewalk in front of a closed store that had an awning. That kept the rain off while I was at lunch. When I came out I found that others had parked their bikes behind mine and I couldn’t get out of my place correctly. I swung my leg over the bike and put down my right foot. The problem was that my boots were wet on slippery concrete. The momentum of my leg swinging over the bike started it to keel over on the right side and my wet boot slipped out from under me. The bike threw me down hard onto my face on the concrete (I hadn't put on my helmet). I am, therefore, coming home with cuts and bruises on my face and head that appear to have come from losing a bar brawl.
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

Buenos Aires

The only menu I've ever seen that proudly offers 'Entrails'
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

A rare shot of Jeff on my Suzuki. He'd just fixed my chain and was test riding it.
Sierra de la Ventana - Sunset at El Mirador hotel and restaurant. This hotel is 370 miles from Buenos Aires and is a remarkably tranquil place. It is an area of farms and cattle ranches amid a mid-size rocky mountain area. I spoke with the grandson of the man that built the hotel/restaurant. He will eventually inherit the place. I asked this good looking 19 year old if he knew how fortunate he was. He looked me square in the eye and said 'I certainly do'.
Sierra de la Ventana

Sierra de la Ventana

Part of the El Mirador property at Sierra de la Ventana

Mac at El Mirador

At Viedma you take a tiny waer ferry across the Rio Negro. It takes 8 minutes and costs about 50 cents. Many people commute to the other side of town on the ferry as the river bisects the city.

A wind mill along the pampas between Viedma and Buenos Aires

I drove 100 miles roundtrip to see whales and sea lions here. Note the lack of both.

These kids were about to get on a whale watching boat. I wish them luck.

Comodoro Rivadavia, to Puerto Madryn, to Viedma – 600 miles.

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

Penguins the Musical

From my trip to Punta Tombo this morning:

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.

Usuaia to Comodoro Rivadavia

Crossing the strait of Magellan. We had a much easier time than Ferdinand, though I did get a bit of salt spray on my boots.
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.

Ushuaia to Cerro Sombrero – 360 miles, Cerro Sombrero to Comodoro Rivadavia - 520 miles

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.
[During the 50 mile trip I got the strange notion that a vacuna tail would make a great souvenir. When I came across a recently road-killed specimen i stopped and took off his tail with my Leatherman knife. It seemed to be a recent kill but it smelled terribly. I tied it to my bike and kept riding. At the hotel I smuggled it in and tried to clean it. It had a large bloddy bone down the middle that was rotting and stunk too. I filled the bidet with soapy water and tried to salvage as much as I could. Once the rotten parts were removed I was left with a clump of dirty fur. I left it in a glass of water and shampoo outside my window. I now must go upstairs and see if there is enough to smuggle back home.]

Friday, November 27, 2009

Random thoughts and photos

Wef ound this tiny and very old lady carrying a bundle of sticks up a mountain. People carrying bundles of sticks is commonplace, but this vieja could only go a few steps before she had to rest. When I tried to photograph her wizzened old face she protested and would not allow it.
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 the nigfht before Ushuaia
Lake at hotel before Ushuaia

Rock Star status coming to an end. This girl begged to have her picture taken with me at the end of the world - Fin del Mundo

Kiwi Jeff and me. We each brought a stone from Dead Horse, Alaska which we exchanged for a stone in the Beagle Channel here in Ushuaia.

A tremendous peak in Ushuaia

Waiting for the ferry to Tierra del Fuego

I've located some photos from earlier in the trip and thought I'd post them. Today we rest, celebrate Mac's 60th birthday and start our trek north in the morning. At our group dinner the other night Kevin gave a talk about our accomplishment. He singled me out for my dogged determination to continue despite the fact that I can't walk ten steps without doubling over in pain. Good ole Kevin - he got us all here!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Fin Del Mundo!! - We Made It to the end

Group photo at the end of the road.
Dining room view the night before Ushuaia

Random animal

Group photo at the end of the road

Cerro Sombrero to Ushuaia – 300 miles

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 cafĂ© 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

Magic Argentine Horses

Most of the wild horse herd
Complete Sow pillow covers
At the Chile/Argentina border crossing I gave this little girl and her brother a cookie

These race cars are part of the Asociadad Argentina de Volares (AAV). The head of the AAV gave Mac and I honorary membership, including an AAV sticker when we met all the racers at a town called '28 de Noviembre'

In the late afternoon an Argentine caballero asked if I'd like to ride his horse! He helped me mount, said he could see I knew what I was doing and just let me go. If my back didn't hurt I could have ridden up the mountain in the background. There are no fences all the way to Torres del Paine. As it was I had a slow romp with 'Regalito' for a half hour and then cantered him back to the house. IT WAS A PERFECT DAY!

One of the four foxes that crossed our path today.
Sunset from my porch this evening

Mac, Orlando and Orlando's hotel

Peak in the backyard

Orlando and his fish pictures
I wish I could have taken a photo as the entire wilds herd galloped alongside me for a quarter mile!

El Calafate, Argentina to Torres Del Paine, Chile – 155 miles (Mac and I took a shortcut that turned out to be 385 miles).

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

Perito Moreno Glacier with Music Video

Sorry, I can't help myself. Took a superb 100 mile round trip to the big blue ice glacier here with bunch of the guys. Made the slide show for fun. Music by Dan Reeder a reclusive hermit who writes, sings and plays everything himself. He's a nut but I love his stuff.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bleak town to Lovely town

Same car over cliff as seen below. This shot sort of shows how far down he's gone
Approaching El Calafate

The bus is coming up the road we'll be going down
This car went down the road, literally. When we stopped to take photos of the scenery we noticed it way down the slope. I think it has been there a while, we saw no bodies.

An Emu, as promised earlier. He is between the road and the sheep fence. He can't seem to figure out where to run and hide.

Rio Gallegos to El Calafate - 190 miles
Mac and I rode to El Calafate this morning to rejoin the group. They were all tired and a littlew busted up after 5 days of rough off-road riding. One bike damaged beyond repair, several other falls, two sprained ankles and one sprained knee.

Our hotel here is directly in front of a modern hospital. I got another anti-inflamatory shot and have two more scheduled for tomorrow. They seem to be helping somewhat.

El Calafate is a tourist town, done tastefully. It has spectacular blue ice glaciers as a backdrop and they lure travellers from around the world. I'll probably do a day long boat expedition the day after tomorrow. Then its off to Torres del Paine in Chile.

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