Thursday, October 11, 2012
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Link= South America and back on a 250 Super Sherpa Minimalist Adventure
I have started interviewing fellow adventure riders I meet on the roads less travelled. Following is the first in this series which is a conversation this morning with DaveG who currently lives in Kansas City. Here is our hero:
TJ: You rode down to South America in?
TJ: What bike did you take?
TJ: And how did that work out for you?
DG: No problems mechanically. Should I do it again I would choose the bike that you did. A little 250 if I could get all my stuff on it. Subsequently after South America I traveled for two years on a 400.
TJ: Oh yeah, you were on a DRZ. I remember now. What was that ride report called?
DG: DaveG travels was the blog, I don’t remember what the ride report was called. My ride report and blog are really shitty. (laughs) I was just having too much fun.
TJ: Nothing wrong with that.
DG: My South America trip was a little bit grueling.
TJ: So what was grueling about it?
DG: I was frickin” terrified the whole time.
DG: I got robbed in Guatemala.
TJ: Oh I remember, you got robbed while you were going around Lago Atitlan.
DG: Yeah, after that I was totally fucked. Like mentally. Before that I was travelling solo, free spirit, totally just enjoying life. Then after that I was freaked out. Like psychologically paranoid.
TJ: So mentally difficult.
DG: Yeah, I did the riding just to sort of keep my head straight.
TJ: What were some of your favorite areas?
DG: In South America? Medellin (Colombia) and Mendoza (Argentina). I wasn’t really a wine drinker before but after Mendoza I now love wine. And I also like doing hiking. I climbed up part of Acancagua.
TJ: Oh yeah, Aconcagua is just right up in the pass. You can’t really see it from down on the plains.
DG: You can’t see shit down there. It actually took me two days to be able to see the mountain. So I did an expedition up that. I didn’t go all the way.
TJ: Yeah, well so what. I bet that was awesome.
DG: That was really cool.
TJ: Now did you camp much?
DG: In Central America I only recreationaly camped. You know like it’s a friend, “hey let’s go camping.” I did that a few times and that was fun. But then in South America it was almost exclusive camping because it was so freaking expensive.
TJ: Especially Chile.
DG: Well like Chile and Argentina. The other ones I didn’t camp. I’m frugal but not cheap.
TJ: Yeah, kind of like me.
DG: Like I’ll spend money for a hotel, but if it’s like 60 bucks and I’m trying to live off thirty bucks a day that ain’t gonna happen.
TJ: What was you daily budget that you tried to stick to?
DG: Somewhere between 30 and 50 a day.
TJ: Yeah it seems like a thousand to 1500 a month is about as cheap as you can go really. What were your major expenses?
DG: Umm. Getting robbed.
TJ: How much did you lose?
DG: About 800 bucks total. Passport. Passport expedite. Fedex shipping credit cards, Fedex shipping camera.
TJ: What kind of camera did you use?
DG: I had a point and shoot.
TJ: And that worked out for you?
DG: No, I ended up upgrading in Panama or Costa Rica and I upgraded to a DSLR.
TJ: So if you went back to Latin America what kind of camera would you take?
DG: An intermediate one plus a cell phone.
TJ: Cell phone cameras are getting good.
DG: And even that might be a bit of lie. I might just use a cellphone. If I was really into photography and publishing and that. You know I had published photographs from that trip.
TJ: You did publish photographs? Where at?
DG: Mostly corportate catalogs. Schubert the helmet company. Bridgestone.
TJ: Was that through a photo service?
DG: I traveled with a guy who was sponsored by all these people.
TJ: Oh yeah, I met people like that. I am always impressed with people who can do that.
DG: I was just shooting photos. Actually I was originally shooting photos with his awesome camera beore I got my awesome camera. So I have super awesome photos of this other guy. And he was a good photographer. So there were some beautiful photos.
TJ: Did you learn a lot from him?
DG: Oh yeah. The second trip was you know the riding I did was way harder. Like 1000 times harder.
TJ: Didn’t you go through like Mongolia?
DG: No I started in the states, shipped to Asia and rode around Asia for a long time. Just Southeast Asia though.
TJ: So Thailand,Cambodia…..
DG: Yeah, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia and then I went over to Singapore.
TJ: I ike Singapore. What did you think about Singapore?
DG: Do you know GoMC? I had a really good friend there from the motorcycle community. SingaporeDream is his blog.
TJ: Oh yes, okay.
DG: He stayed in my house in Texas for like two months. Like totally rebuilt his bike there.
TJ: Is he an ex-pat?
DG: No, he is Singaporean. And they treated me like an honored guest. I mean it was frickin’ amazing. We went everywhere and saw everything in Singapore and drank beers all over the country. Had a really good time.
TJ: So from Singapore where’d you go.
DG: I was in Southeast Asia for a long time. I had a lot of problems with shipping my bike. Getting it there. So I ended up pretty much sitting around waiting. Next week. Next week. Next week.
TJ: Now was it coming in air or shipping?
DG: Ocean cargo. RoRo (roll on, roll off) from Tacoma to Bangkok.
TJ: If you had to do it over again how would you ship your bike?
DG: My new policy is Airfreight only. I don’t give a damn how much it costs. Because I’m not sitting around ever again.
TJ: For three months.
DG: It was horrible. It was like torture.
TJ: Maybe tomorrow.
DG: And that’s the thing. There were this whole bullshit culture of optimism. Because they don’t want to disappoint you.
TJ: Exactly, you know I missed sarcasm. Just people pulling your leg and giving you shit. They were just so polite, they never joked around like that.
TJ: I got to the point where I liked to hang out with Brits or Aussies. Anybody to give me a little shit.
DG: I traveled with Australians and it was a constant pile of shit. It was hilarious. Then I went over to Europe and traveled around Europe for several months. The plan was to travel from Europe to Magadan.
TJ: So you flew from Southeast Asia over to Europe?
DG: Yup, and I was going to ride all the way over, but then I got involved in a lawsuit.
TJ: Oh, at home?
DG: Yeah, ended up going home and it was just supposed to be for a little time and then my brother convinced me to come invest in the cabinet business.
TJ: Well, you’re still young, you still have your whole life in front of you.
DG: Well you know I was really enjoying my pre-retirement though.
TJ: Yeah, I understand.
DG: Like what you have. I had sort of a niche cut out where I was working the whole time. I literally spent nothing in savings the whole time I was traveling.
TJ: So how did you finance your travels?
DG: Programmer. I used to be a programmer. And I would do contracts. Whether it was contracts for the United States, or contracts for a shitty hotel.
TJ: So that was websites?
DG: For the hotels I was making websites. I wrote a couple apps for IOS.
TJ: How’d that work out?
DG: Worked out pretty good. It was a living.
TJ: So you made enough money to live on. That’s impressive.
DG: Well I was kind of lucky with the skillset.
TJ: Yup, it’s one that transfers well to travel.
TJ: So on your second trip you cut down on your gear selection.
DG: Yeah, not so many tools. Before I could totally rebuild the motorcycle.
TJ: You don’t need all that shit. People have tools on the road.
DG: Everyone has a lot more tools than they have here.
TJ: Did you contact other ADVriders and meet up with them?
DG: In SE Asia I only met one guy from ADVrider. And then in Europe I basically went from couch to couch to couch.
TJ: Did you do couchsurfing.org?
DG: No I didn’t do couchsurfing, but I had met so many people traveling.
TJ: Oh. So you met people like from HU and ….
DG: From all over. And then, you know, all travelers know other travelers. And so it was just from couch to couch to couch. I ended up in a lot of weird places, you know.
TJ: How’d that work out?
DG: It was awesome.I don’t know how many weeks in some random tiny village in Switzerland.
DG: Hanging out with like minded people and their generosity.
Another interview with NataHarli in September 2014. A 73 year old young ADVrider. Here he is lounging with his hyperactive dog Max this afternoon:
Following is an interview with NataHarli:
TJ: So what bike do you take to Latin America?
NH: 1150GS and I bought an R100GS down in Panama and rode it home. My 1150 was the one I made most of my trips on. I’ve only been to Central America once. I don’t have any desire to go back there. You know, you can get everything in Mexico that you do in Central America and you don’t have to put up with those fucking borders. Man those things were a pain in the ass. Some of them were real simple, but at least I’ve ridden through there, seen it, got that out of the way.
TJ: What bike would you take back if you wanted to go to Mexico?
NH: Probably my 1200.
NH: Yeah. I’m not a good off-road rider. So I’d probably, you know, not ride off road unless I have to. I just started too late in life. I wish I would have grown up riding dirt bikes.
TJ: Do you normally travel solo?
NH: Yeah. You always meet people on the way. I’ve gone to Mexico twice with people I knew. Once was a good time and the other was with a guy that just drove me nuts. We were on our way actually to Nicaragua to visit his daughter. By the time we got to Oaxaca I just could not take the guy any more.
TJ: Did you leave on good terms?
NH: Well he came back with me. The problem was it was in the middle of winter so we had trailered our bikes down to Matamoros and then hopped on our bikes there. And we used his truck and my trailer, so to get back I would have had to leave the trailer. I was ready to do it. You know, ride through the snow to get home and figure out how to get my trailer home later. I told him, you know, I’m running out of money. That was the best excuse I could come up with. I think I’m gonna have to turn back. He said. That’s okay, I’ll go with you. So I had to ride back with him all the way. And then drive his truck all the way back through snow storms. Once we hooked the trailer up in Matamoros I drove all the way back to Kansas City while he slept. Which is fine with me. But he didn’t tell me his damn gas gauge didn’t work. So we’re south of Norman Oklahoma in a blinding snowstorm and we ran out of gas on the side of the road. And my bike was the one that was easiest to get to. And I had basically no winter clothes with me, so I got on my bike threw my helmet on, cause there was an exit up there, and I rode up to the exit and no gas station and this highway patrolman stopped and I said I was looking for a gas station and he said the next exit. So I rode up to the next exit and there was a gas station but it was closed, so I had to ride up to the next exit and there was gas. So somehow I got gas back to where the truck had been parked and the stupid fucker had decided, well I’ll try to start the truck and see how far I can get. So the truck wasn’t there anymore when I came back.
TJ: Holy cow. So what did you do?
NH: I just had to start riding around and finally found him about two miles north of where the truck had been. He got two miles on what little vapor was left in there. And I said, “ what the fuck were you thinking?” We’re out of gas. You’re not going to go anywhere. So I got gas in there and we gassed up and he went back to sleep and I got home. He was a really strange character.
TJ: Ah, the trials and tribulations of being on the road.
NH: It’s a good story now.
TJ: Isn’t that something how these situations that you get yourself into that seem just horrible at the time make some of the best stories around the campfire.
TJ: What are some of your favorite places in Mexico to ride?
NH: I like the central highlands. You know, where it’s nice and cool. Guanajuato was a really cool place. I went there on my first trip with a friend of mine. I liked Oaxaca. I’m not a beach person, per se. I like different kinds of scenery. And I definitely try to avoid the tourist spots like the plague, but I think Guanajuato is my favorite of the places I’ve been down there. Oh, we also, with this guy that I had such a hell of a time with, he had a business appointment in Mexico City. So of course we entered Mexico City on the complete opposite end of where his appointment was and rode through Mexico City. Holy shit. I mean five feet stop, five feet stop. Then all of a sudden he started weaving in and out of traffic which is you know fine when you’re by yourself, but when you’ve got other people with you, they don’t have the same opennings you do and I finally caught up with him and said, “I have no idea where the fuck I am or where you’re going so let’s just do it together.” There was a time when I thought, you know, losing him wouldn’t be the worst thing but we had that trailer and truck thing to work out and so I was pretty much stuck with him. If it had been different I would have just let him go on and I would have figured out how to get out of Mexico City on my own.
I went to Tehotihuacan. That was interesting. I got Montezumas revenge in Oaxaca. And he took good care of me for a couple days. Went and got fluids and medicine.
TJ: What is the best medicine for Montezumas revenge?
NH: I didn’t find one. He just kept me hydrated. He bought this kid’s pediatric solution. It tasted like shit. You know, cause it was coming out of both ends. There was the medication they always tell you to take with you.
NH: Yeah, I took that. I mean maybe it would have lasted 4 days instead of 2 if I hadn’t taken any of that, but I took some of that. He went to a pharmacy and got some of that. Their version. He took pretty good care of me and the hotel staff was great.
TJ: It’s no fun being sick in Latin America.
NH: It’s the only time it’s happened to me fortunately. Have you had it?
TJ: No. One time in Mazatlan I ate something that gave me food poisoning at a sit down restaurant but I chucked it up and was over it by morning. That’s the only time I’ve been deathly ill. And it’s miserable. And the next day I got up with the sun and rode 750 miles from Mazatlan up into Arizona. Just hauled ass on my BMW. This was back long ago in the previous century.
NH: Well I rode from San Cristobal de las Casas to the border in one day.
TJ: That’s something.
NH: I took the cuota freeways all the way. Hauled ass.
TJ: How fast were you going.
NH: Fast. I was on my R100GS then. Probably going 90 to 100 the whole time.
TJ: Did you have to stop for gas a lot?
TJ: How much did the cuotas cost? Do you think you spent 200 bucks on tolls?
NH: Yeah.v vTJ: It’s not cheap. And back then motorcycles had to pay full price. Now it’s half price.
NH: Yup. And you had to stop frequently. And then there would be a section where it was just regular road. I had broken my ankle in Guatemala and I had come back and had surgery and then I went back to pick up my bike and I met some people who kept my bike for me and by the time I got to the border I had overstayed my paperwork.
TJ: 90 days?
NH: Yeah. I had to pay 350.00
NH: Not really, it wasn’t. Because I had a kid with me that I met who was a Spanish school instructor along with a friend who had to go to the border to get his paperwork renewed. So this kid rode with us and they were asking me the size of my bike and I was giving them a 1000cc’s. Well they were looking for it in some other section. Well anyway I had to go to the bank to pay the fine.
TJ: So it wasn’t him pocketing it.
NH: Oh no, and he was really trying to help me. I mean it started out at 3000.00.
NH: Yeah, and I said wow, no way. We’ve gotta do something about this. So he’d go back and he’d do some stuff with his computer. Other than that it would have been a five minute deal. I mean I turned in my paperwork and paid the five bucks or whatever it was and I thought, wow that was too easy. And I got about ten feet away and he said, “ Señor, señor”.
NH: And he had checked the date on it and…..
TJ: You couldn’t have just kept going?
NH: Well I probably could have, you know, probably could have ridden out into Mexio without ever stopping in Guatemala. It’s nice to know that now, but it didn’t help me then. I didn’t want to take a chance. And then I met this Israeli couple when I got into Mexico and they were spraying my bike down. They were on bicycles and they had started out in Alaska and they were heading to Ushuaia. I met several people like that. And they said they had spent two or three months riding through Mexico. And they said they had never paid for a meal, and they had never paid for a place to stay. They’d ride into some small town and ask, “is there a place to stay here?” And they said invariably someone would say, “stay with me.” People are so nice. I mean you get away from the big cities around real people in any country in the world and they are all nice.
TJ: That’s remarkable.
NH: Yeah. Anyway that was the easiest border crossing I did. But by that time I was just wanting to get home. I’d gone back to Guatemala to San Pedro de la Laguna and I stayed there about a month. My paperwork was already expired so it was a moot point going to the border and trying to get it renewed. By then I’d had enough and I just wanted to get home. And so I hit San Cristobal and then I just said okay, I’m gonna haul ass home. Probably 900 miles. There was no traffic.
TJ: And you were just heading to the toe of Texas. The shortest way from Guatemala to the U.S.
NH: Yup. And never saw a cop. So I just opened it up. Stopped for gas and that’s about it. No, I tell you what, I didn’t make it to the border. I stopped at a town about 50 miles south of the border close to the gulf. Anyway I made it that far and I spent the night there at a cheap motel. Basically I’d had it by then.
TJ: That’s a long ride.