May 2009 Archives

Wind-sign

Wind – EPIC Wind.

We got a reasonably early start after a virtually non-existent breakfast at the crappy little YPF gastation/hotel we stayed at (sorry Wes).

The road heading north was pretty uneventful – just a nice two lane asphalt road with too many trucks and busses on it.

Things were decently warm and going well until we got to the coast just south Comodoro Rivadavia. We had some wind but it was just the lightweight stuff – like 20 mph with gusts to 30 or so (and of course it was always a crosswind no matter which way the road turned).

Maybe 20 miles south of Comodoro we were hit by the legendary winds of Patagonia and Southern Argentina. We fought them all the way into Comodoro – blowing at 50mph with gusts over that to something like 250 mph… who knows how hard the gusts were? We figured out that the steady wind was around 50 mph because when we had the infrequent (and very short) times when the wind was at your back, we could go 50mph with ZERO wind in your face… it was very wierd.

The effect on us was amazing – we all would lean heavily into the wind and wait in fear for the gusts to come and try to blow you off the road or into the oncoming trucks. When the gusts came, you would have to react fast and lean the bike even more into the wind and try to keep the thing from going off track.

We finally made it to Comodoro Rivadavia and pulled into the first YPF we saw for some gas. That’s the other thing about the wind, your fuel economy goes way down. We normally would get about 180 to 200 miles on our tanks before we would be on reserve – with this wind we were seeing 120 miles and then the reserve light would be on.

After filling the tank, we sat inside for a bit and talked. We all were amazed at the power of the wind and hopeful that we’d seen the last of it. The worst is over and all that sort of thing….

We set off out of the YPF and about 1/2 a mile out of town the road ran along the ocean – and then the real wind hit us! WOW! The stuff coming into town was just a warm up. This was the real deal and was even more gusty. Looking out at the ocean you could see the waves rolling into the beaches were being flattened by the wind and the tops of them were foaming and streaking back out to see. We fought this for only a few miles before Wes made a radical break across traffic to stop under an overhang which would break the wind. John and I weren’t able to make the same move because of oncoming traffic and we fought on. We were literally going about 20 mph and being blown all over the road. It seemed the slower you went the worse it was because the bike had little forward momentum.

I tried to take pictures with one hand and ride behind John with the other – not the best idea in the conditions – but his lean angle was incredible. I was blown to the edge of the road and onto the shoulder where I stopped. As soon as I stopped the bike the wind was on me – blowing hard as ever and my feet were on pebbly ground and the wind kept the pressure on – I let the bike go. No point in fighting it. Tough to get it picked up with the wind on it.

The three of us stopped on a ridge overlooking the ocean and talked about how terrifying the wind was but I think we all enjoyed the challenge.

We pressed on for maybe another 25 miles of difficult wind - and then we were inland off the ocean. The run up to Trelew went smoothly and compared to the wind challenges of the morning was a piece of cake!

Sorry but I scanned through all the pictures and we just didn’t take many today… the ones that were taken are blurry and very forgettable.

Cheers!

Sunset

After a tough day of riding the wind – we slept well in yet another moderately crappy hotel (MCH).

Today may have been one of the most boring days of the entire trip. Flat, straight, good asphalt roads with virtually no scenery. No trees to speak of, no ocean, not much of anything. The best part of the day was the noticable warming in the weather. Yesterday we were fighting the wind but the wind was warm. We are in full mesh gear (and happy about that!) and it’s getting warmer. Definitely in the 70’s and sunny.

Hard to blog about stuff that didn’t happen – all the bikes ran fine and we blasted our way up to Bahia Blanca with only the usual gas stops, mate stops, and nary a bike problem to deal with.

We had some trouble finding a hotel in Bahia Blanca – its a medium sized town and we arrived there a bit late and of course its Easter weekend. After 3 or 4 tries we ended up in one that was pretty decent with secure parking down the street.

We headed out into the night in search of Parrilla (grilled meat) – found a place that hand been around for about 80 years. We ordered their specialty which turned out to be a steak with some mushroom sauce on it. John didn’t want the sauce and the food was pretty darn tasty. Not quite the steak we had in Ushuaia but it was damn good.

We’re about a days ride from Buenos Aires – kind of a bittersweet thing at this point. We’re tired of grinding out the last 2 or 3 weeks – riding every day for long distances – but we also know the trip is coming to a close.

Cheers !

We got a decent start today, relatively early after the usually unsatisfying Argentinian breakfast.

This is one gripe I think we all have about Argentina – one of very few. The breakfasts here are so lame it’s just hard to imagine. It’s like every hotel took their que from the Super 8 Motels in the US… they serve some pastries that are probably a week old (and even then, they were probably pulled from a box that sat on a shelf for maybe a month before that), some Tang that was mixed at about 1/2 strength, and if you’re lucky, you might see a slice or two of some not so good cheese, and if you’re really lucky, you could see a slice or two of some unidentified meat substance that is probably all the leftover lips, hoofs, and snouts ground up and pressed into little flat slices of delightful happiness. But I digress…

We got out of Bahia without too much fuss – a couple wrong turns and back onto the main road out of town. Maybe 10 miles out of town Wes pulls over and I came up beside him. He said he felt like his chain was “slipping” and wanted to have a look and maybe tighten it up. We got off the bikes and he dug out his tools. I took a look at his counter shaft sprocket (this is the sprocket that is attached to the engine and pulls the chain so the rear wheel pushes the bike) – well, there were no teeth left on the sprocket. Wes had busted them all off. He did a couple boosts (wheelies) in Bahia that morning and one of them was a little too much for the old sprocket.Here we go again with the chain problems – and we are literally about 400 miles from being done! John was out in the lead and he returned a few minutes into our discovery. This didn’t look good, it was Easter Sunday and there would be ZERO parts stores open today. Wes didn’t have a spare counter shaft sprocket. We set about taking things apart to have a better look at the sprocket.

Wes-sprocketOnce the sprocket was off we could see that it was definitely cleaned of all teeth – at least Wes did the job right. Why leave a couple teeth on there to limp into the next town with?

 For those of you who don’t know what a sprocket is supposed to look like – imagine the one in the picture only all those nubbed off things are longer and pointier.

So, we worked through our options and eventually we decided the best thing to do was tighten the chain up as tight as we could so that that the little nubbins of the sprocket that were left would be able to engage the sprocket and maybe we could get it into town…. but it’s not possible to tighten a chain that tight on a bike with rear suspension because the rear wheel needs to go up and down and the chain needs to be semi-loose to accommodate this movement. So, we had to disable the rear suspension. We found some tiedown straps that Wes had and set about cinching down the rear end of the bike.

 

Dan-wes-rocksWe manage to modify the strap hooks to fit over the axle and sub frame – using some available custom made concrete and rocks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Klr-strapWith Wes and John jumping and pushing on the rear subframe – I was able to get the strap super tight and it would hold the rear suspension solid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Klr-strap1We wrapped the strap several times around the hooks for added strength, tied up the loose ends with cable ties, and then tightened the chain up super tight. We had to double, triple, quadruple (and all the other uples that come after that…) the strap up to make it strong enough and keep it out of the chain and sprockets.

 

 

 

 

 

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After Wes’ bike was ready we moved some of the heavy stuff to Dan and John’s bike (clearly a simple plot by Wes to un burden his bike of the heavy stuff…) and set off. Wes’ mission was to not spin that front sprocket against the chain as it would wear off the nubbins that were left and we would be done.

 

 

 

 

 

Img_1857We took off and it was working great! Even if we had created a bit of a lowrider KLR – Wes was able to do 50, 60, 70 even and he could even pass a few cars here and there without so much as a chirp from the sprocket/chain. The downside was that he had ZERO suspension in the rear! This meant that ever single little bump in the road was transmitted very efficiently directly into Wes’ ass and up his back… and of course, Dan and John were looking for the best line of riding to hit the bumps, railroad tracks, and everything we could to drive a little payback for having to carry his heavy stuff.

 

 

The bike was doing great and we made it to the next gas stop without any troubles. We were keeping the speed down in the 60 mph range but that’s better than zero or waiting for parts.

After that gas stop the traffic heading back into Buenos Aires on Easter Sunday began to build. We were on a two lane road and it was getting dangerous. The aggressive drivers would begin to pass us and just pull out beside us to go the same speed for a while – not sure why they do this – then when they figured out they couldn’t get the full pass in, they would just start to move over into our lane. Pushing us to the side or expecting us to just get out of the way. Then there were the super aggressive guys who would fly up the left lane trying to pass as much as they could and when they saw the bikes they would just push into the bikes to get out of the way of oncoming traffic. Normally, the best way to handle all of this on a bike is to be traveling faster than the cars are and “work” the traffic. That way you are in control of things – not the maniacal drivers. But we were limited by Wes’ bike problems and he couldn’t push the bike much.

At one point, we were riding behind a row of cars, there were numerous cars in the oncoming lane and people behind us were frustrated. One of these guys pulls out from behind us (he’s got his wife and kids in the car and she looks terrified) – he pulls all the way to the other side of the road and onto the shoulder of the oncoming lane and he floors it! – so he is passing us and the row of cars in front of him while on the shoulder of the oncoming traffic and the oncoming traffic is going between us!!! Pretty scary stuff.

We spotted a YPF and decided to break for gas and try to regain our sanity. We had a very hard time pulling into the station because as we slowed to turn left across the road it was the signal for everyone behind us to pass – and pass at very high speed. So after dodging several cars we finally got into the station. Filled the bikes up and pulled over to the side in the shade to just let our nerves down a bit.

 

 

Gals-dogsAt this point – it seemed like a signal for every one of the Argentinians to come over and talk to us – in English! – These were the very same people who were literally out to kill us on the road coming in here – so it was a challenge to have a civil conversation with them! We did meet this very nice gal with her daughter and dog on her bike. I’m sorry but her name escapes me right now. But she was enthusiastic about our trip and they looked great on the bike!

 

 

 

 

 

We decided to cut the run into Buenos Aires short because of the traffic and the dangerous drivers. We would hit the next town of Canuelas and find a hotel. That would put us about an hour out of Buenos Aires in the morning – but that same distance tonight would take us several hours of scary/dangerous riding tonight.

We made it to the town and road the shoulder along several miles of backup – crossed into the main town area and eventually found a nice hotel. We ordered some beers and booze, celebrated Wes’ bike actually making it there, ordered some pizza and watched yet another crappy movie (YACM) on the TV!

Tomorrow we ride into Buenos Aires!

Cheers!

 

We had yet another crappy breakfast (YACB) and hit the bikes. We were excited to get into Buenos Aires but wary of navigating the place without a real map or GPS maps.

Last night we got the GPS coordinates of the hostel we were going to stay at – Dakar Motos – they have the GPS directions on thier site which is nice. Hopefully they are correct!

We set off and the run into BA was short – maybe 15 miles on the motorway before we started hitting the beginning of the sprawl. And of course, the toll booths…

Img_1881ok, here is another gripe about Argentina (yes, pretty minor – before you email me!!! I love this place and I realize this is a very minor issue!!!) – they require motorcycles to pay tolls. Of course you say “that sounds fair, why should they go for free?”. Most of the other countries in South America let motos go toll free – in fact they have little express lanes to let the motos skirt the toll booths and fly on thru. Why? – because the motos cause traffic jams at the toll booths. When the biker pulls up there, he has to stop the bike, take his gloves off, dig for some money, hand it to the attendent, wait for changes, put the change away, take a ticket, do something with the ticket, put his gloves back on, then ride off. That takes time and the people behind are honking and not happy…

There must have been 10 toll booths on the way into BA – each collecting the equivalent of 20 cents per bike – hardly seemed worth the hassle.

 

Ba-dan-wes

 

 

We rode right into downtown – got onto the Avenida 9 de Julio (Independence day in Argentina) – down the big 9 lanes (in each direction!) street – past the Obelisk – back onto some other semi-highways and weaved our way up north towards Dakar Motos. We had to circle back once after we passed an exit but otherwise we arrived at the hostel without so much as a wrong turn or an argument.

 

 

Javier greated us and we got off the bikes to rest and take it easy.

We spent the afternoon setting up our tents in the backyard, talking to some of the other travelers there and getting things organized to go home.

Had a nice Parrilla with the other travelers that night and hit the sack realatively early.

We made it to Buenos Aires – in one piece and without any real lasting damage! Tomorrow we start working on getting the bikes shipped back home!

Cheers!

Quick update

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Hey Everyone –

Well – I finally managed to get the blogs updated into Buenos Aires. There are 3 or 4 of them here with a few good tidbits to read about.

I’m going to work on finishing the blogs thru our time in Buenos Aires – several of you have sent emails about whether we made it home, what’s happened with this or that – so I’d like to tie up the loose ends. Thanks again for your patience.

A short update on Pete – Hopefully you all remember Pete – we met him in La Paz and bumped into him again down in Southern Chile.

Well – Pete crashed his bike on the return trip north to Buenos Aires. In the same area where we hit the huge winds. I’ve received a few updates from him but the news is fairly sparse. He got a little banged up but is physically ok. His bike was pretty well totalled I guess. There was some debate whether he should repair it and ship it home or just leave/sell it in Argentina.

Argentina (as with most countries) don’t want you leaving vehicles in the country. It’s basically to avoid having people import vehicles without paying all the proper fees (and bribes I suppose). When you enter the country they record your passport number, vehicle details and so forth. Then if you try to leave without your bike – they say “Where is your moto?”.

So Pete has/had a bit of a problem. He had some folks who wanted to buy the bike from him but he couldn’t sell it because then he would be leaving it there illegally. Although the people in Argentina probably don’t care – the bike would also not be legal for them to ride/license. He was told that he could “give” it to Argentina (which would ultimatley end up being to the customs agent I suppose) – but this didn’t look good either. On top of this, Pete was in some town about 500 miles away from Buenos Aires.

The last email I received from Pete indicated that he was going to truck the bike up to Buenos Aires and contact Sandra at Dakar Motos to see if he could figure out some solution to the problem.

At any rate, I hope Pete is home by now – but when I hear something I will post it here as well.

Thanks for reading –
Dan

 

We arrived into BA on a Monday – April 13th, 2009. We enjoyed the day Monday just catching up with folks back home, talking to other travelers at Dakar Motos, and casually unpacking, repacking, and going through our gear.

Tuesday was all business – Sandra from Dakar Motos came over in the morning to discuss the various options for shipping our bikes back home. By plane or by boat. Lots of questions to answer and figure out.

My friend Carlos back home had done quite a bit of leg work on shipping by boat – he had found several brokers who could crate the bikes for us and the prices were running in the $1000 per bike. In my experience – anytime you ship something by boat, the receiving end of the shipment usually gets a pound of flesh out of you when you try to pick up the goods. There are always some “additional fees” – like: a fee for the receiving broker to get his fat ass out of his chair and walk out to the warehouse – or – a fee for the customs guy to come over and look at the outside of the box before you open it up. Etc… also, we have read quite a bit of info on shipping bikes into various countries by boat. Typically, the ports where the ships dock are not accustomed to dealing with the issues about bikes – licenses, temporary permits, etc. Carlos had indicated that there might be some customs issues because we had not told US Customs that we were taking the bikes out of the country…

So armed with the info that Carlos had found for us – we talked with Sandra mostly about shipping by air freight.

As expected – the cost of shipping the bike is largely by the volume of the shipment. So, the smaller you can make the overall package the less expensive it is. Within some limitations that seemed to be a bit of a mystery.

Sandra gave me the formula and I did a little spreadsheet up to allow us to calculate things quickly – like: if we take these parts off will it save us money – or if we can get it more narrow but taller is it better.

We ended up thinking we could get the bikes compressed down to about 200cm long, 110cm high, and about 75cm wide. – roughly 79” long by 43.5” high by 29.5” wide. This would require us to remove the front wheel, the windshield (and its hardware), take off the handlebar guards (bark busters), take off the side bags, and maybe some footpeg/misc stuff.

The cost would be roughly $1,200 total for each bike and each bike would be on its own pallet. The bikes would ship approximately on Thursday or Friday (April 16 or 17) and would be in Portland in a few days after that having gone through Houston, TX.

So – this was about $200 a bike more expensive than by boat. Boat would have taken about a month to get to Portland – and – I would be willing to bet that we would spend more than $200 per bike in extra fees when the bikes arrived in Portland.

We opted to ship by air and ordered pallets up thru Sandra to be made for the sizes we figured would work. The pallets would be ready on Thursday morning – so we had the rest of the day Tuesday and Wednesday to get things ready.

Wes was fooling around with his bike – and he had the same challenges we did about getting the bike home, making it small, etc…. he decided to completely disassemble his bike at Dakar Motos and make sure it would fit in the size he thought it would –

 

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With all of us helping (sort of, mostly encouraging him to just throw the thing in the trash…) – he managed to get it compressed into a pretty small package –

 

 

 

Wes also was worried about how he would get the thing home after he got to LA… Home is a loose term as Wes would be couch surfing at a friends house in Santa Barbara and was having trouble talking a friend into coming and picking him up at the airport (a full day round trip through LA traffic)… so we talked about getting him a new countershaft sprocket in town. After talking to Javier of Dakar Motos and digging through his used parts bins – we determined there wasn’t a KLR countershaft sprocket in the shop and Javier told us how to get downtown on the trains/subways… I went along with Wes because it was something to do and I could see some of the city.

Well – it turned out to be a long journey – we took a train south to the subway station – 1/2 hour there, then switched to the Red Line and took that to the Blue line and that to a particular station. About 1 hour of travel to get to the station and when we came up to the street it was chaos… tons of shoe stores, pharmacies, jewelry stores, fashion shops, ice cream vendors, people selling watches – but not ONE moto shop to be found. We walked for several blocks dodging cars, busses and taxi cabs looking for moto shops… nothing. At one point I was walking behind Wes weaving through the people on the sidewalk and saw a guy that I thought would know where the shops were – so I slowed down and started to call out to Wes – when someone behind me started banging on my right leg – hard, with some kind of stick or something… I started to turn around and was saying “What is your problem? are you f*cking blind?” – and Wes was turning around to see what I wanted – when I turned around to see what the deal was it was a blind woman who was banging on my leg with her cane… We helped her on her way and had a good laugh about it.

We found a moto shop about 1/2 hour later and they had a sprocket that would fit – although it was a 14 tooth and he had a 15 tooth on there – it would work fine but his bike would have more low speed power (good for wheelies/boosting) and less top speed which was fine with Wes.

So we set about reversing our course home – take the blue line to the red line to the train etc. Well, by now it was rush hour and the trains were full. We got onto the above ground train and it was pretty full – then more people packed on. Wes and I found seats facing each other and mine was against the back wall of the train – right next to the door between cars. A young man ended up standing between the seats right next to me and as the train began moving there were lots of people who were moving from car to car looking for seats. Well, this guy turns to face me – putting his crotch area right next to my head. And he was loving it – Wes was laughing and there was little I could do. I leaned forward and the guy just sort of eased his crotch area towards my shoulder – it was very comical and Wes got great pleasure from it – I laughed too but I think this just egged the guy on.

Of course, while on the train heading northbound, I spotted no less than 4 or 5 large moto shops about 2 miles from Dakar Motos – they surely would have had the sprocket. Wes and I concluded that Javier just wanted us to be out of his hair for a few hours so he sent us as far away as possible.

We managed to make it back to Dakar Motos without being molested by the guy and we set about fixing Wes’ bike – again. I dug through the old parts bins and found Wes a used rear sprocket that was better than what he had on there - so Wes was pretty well setup.

Tomorrow we meet up with John’s wife Lynn and move to a nice hotel!

Cheers
Dan