Monday, April 27, 2015

“There are map people whose joy is to lavish more attention on the sheets of colored paper than on the colored land rolling by.”

“Another kind of traveler requires to know in terms of maps exactly where he is pinpointed every moment, as though there were some kind of safety in black and red lines, in dotted indications and squirming blue of lakes and the shadings that indicate mountains. It is not so with me. I was born lost and take no pleasure in being found.”

—John Steinbeck

“Travels With Charley: In Search of America.”

Thursday, April 23, 2015

People often ask me where my favorite place on the planet is. Or more specifically, where I think the best place in the world is to live. If you travel a great deal, you too will be asked this question. The notion of a utopia. A perfect, egalitarian, and harmonious paradise on Earth has been a recurring theme in literature and storytelling for hundreds of years. I think this comes from a basic human need from time immemorial to search out greener pastures.

The thing is, there is no perfect place on this planet. Some places are nicer than others. No place is perfect. The outer Hawaiian islands had great year round weather when I lived there for several years. But day after day of nice weather comes with the difficulty of making enough money to afford the high cost of living and the transitory nature of a tourism based economy.

Shangri-la is a state of mind. It is something each person finds within themselves. It is not a place on earth.

Standing on a beach in Thailand watching a perfect sunset reflecting golden light off the waves is an easier place to experience that state of mind than horizontal snow in the upper midwest I have found. Which is one reason I migrate like the birds and live a nomadic existence.

Friday, April 17, 2015

I have led an interesting life. Reflecting back on it, as one does when they get older and have time, some stories have been coming back to me. The memories are haziest from the 1970’s. I had to do a google search to find out when the first Rainbow Festival was in Colorado. 1972 it was. That was the year that I hitch-hiked down to Mexico and lost all my money and had to make it back to Oregon from central Mexico with my thumb and the kindness of strangers. But that is another story. It was the year before that I was trying to remember.

In 1971 shortly after finishing spring term of college I had the summer off. My first car had a blown engine so I was back to a bicycle. I had graduated from high school early when I was 17 in 1970, so this meant that my friends Craig and Larry had just graduated from high school. We decided it would be fun to ride our bicycles to Canada.

more later….

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Last year in April of 2014 I had just parked my bike in Uruguay and flown back to the U.S. to do my taxes.

I always do my taxes on April 15th. Don’t ask me why. Maybe I have a problem with authority telling me what to do and when to do it. Who knows? At least now in the “occupation” box I can put “retired”.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

You wouldn’t think that a movie about a woman who goes on a walkabout 1700 miles across the Australian outback from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean with some camels carrying her gear would be very interesting. Images of a lady walking 20 miles a day with some camels across the desert come to mind. How do you make a compelling film out of that story? And yet I thoroughly enjoyed the movie “Tracks”.

It became available on Netflix streaming yesterday. It didn’t have much dialog but it really spoke to me. The desert imagery and vastness of the outback were stunning. I remember reading the story in National Geographic years ago. I might have to get the book now. Stories like this always get my imagination going.

When I was in middle school an Australian anthropologist lived in the basement apartment under the house my parents were renting. He was a visiting professor at the college my father taught at. I used to love going down into his apartment to listen to his stories of life in the Australian outback. He did his PHD dissertation on the aborigines and lived with them in remote Western Austalia back in the 1960's. He had slides and would give me a private slide show of life with the aborigines. I saw that he was listed as a consultant on the film credits of "Tracks." What a coincidence. He is living in Perth now. I haven't seen him in 40 years. Good to see he is still doing well.

I learned today that my trial in Texas for the drunk driving arrest back in October will be May 7th. It took them over 6 months to get around to it so I’ll be heading back to Texas next month. So much for a speedy trial.

Ah well, in the U.S. drunk drivers lose their license for a time generally. I imagine I will too. So I have been looking at bicycle touring sites. The thing is, you can learn a lot about great roads and routes from long distance bicyclists even if you ride a motorcycle. Especially the folks on mountain bikes traveling the back roads.

These guys are tough and determined. The folks riding solo are generally very interesting people. They tend to be fiercely independent. My kind of people. Like this fellow I met in Southern Mexico who had started in Alaska and was heading to Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of South America:

Or this Japanese cyclist I met out in the middle of the Atacama desert in Chile last year:

He was a physics professor on sabbatical. Out in the middle of nowhere. Mind you, the Atacama desert is the driest place on the planet. There is nothing out here. No plants, no animals, no birds, no trees, no water, no insects. Just a ribbon of asphalt for 1000 miles with nothing but rocks and sand. I would ride off on a side road to take a siesta in the shade of my bike and there was nothing but the silence of the desert.

And this Japanese cyclist had a bum knee. He was hurting. There hadn’t been any signs of civilization for the last 100 miles and here he was out in the middle of the desert pumping those pedals. What are you going to do? I gave him all my water and food since neither he nor I knew for sure when the next place to get anything was.

I often wonder how that fellow made out. Of course you can always flag down a passing motorist. But he was one determined traveler. I assume his thinking was, “By God, I’ll get to the end of the earth on this bicycle if it kills me.” I liked his style.

The worse the roads are, the nicer the people tend to be. A similar corollary to backpacking where the further you hike off the main trail and into the wilderness the nicer and more physically fit the people tend to be that you meet on the trail.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Argentina and Venezuela are the two countries in South America where they give an “official rate” for exchanging money at banks and ATMs and there is a better black market rate done informally with cash. What this means is that you are penalized for using ATMs at banks or paying for anything with a credit card in those two countries.

If you google “Argentina blue dollar” you will get a full explanation of the benefits of exchanging money on the black market in Argentina.

What this means to you is that ATM and credit cards will give you the official exchange rate of 8.85 Argentine pesos to the dollar, but if you have U.S. crisp hundred dollar bills, you can exchange them for 12.40 Argentine pesos to the dollar from a private money changer.

So say you go to an ATM in Buenos Aires and use your debit or credit card to get out 200 dollars worth of Pesos. The cash machine will spit out 1770 pesos. But if you go to the money changer dude on the corner near the central square and hand him 2 hundred dollar bills he will give you 2480 Argentine pesos. A much better deal. They prefer crisp hundred dollar bills. The exchange for 20s and 50s is slightly less. Don’t ask me why.

One other thing that many first time travelers don’t hear about is the importance of bringing crisp bills from your home bank to exchange in Latin America. No slight imperfections or tiny tears. They won’t take them.

Funny story, Albert the Scotsman who owns the hostel in Medellin where I stayed last year had a ripped 100 dollar bill that he hadn’t been able to use for years. I exchanged a fresh one and took his ripped one home where of course any bank in the States will exchange for a fresh one free of charge.

When I was in Argentina last year I exclusively used cash since your money goes 50% further. Where do you find black market money changers? Usually they hang out near the town square in the city center of medium to large towns. Or you can stop in at a hostel and ask the gringo backpackers on a budget where the nearest good money changer is. They will know. Small towns off the gringo trail won’t have them.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Sitting in a café people watching is a great pastime around the world. Watching the people walk by with varying emotions written across their faces. People will say that situational awareness is an important skill for travelers to develop. Being able to read people’s faces is part of that.

Check out this website if you want to test your ability to read people’s emotions. See how many emotions you have to click on before you get the right one.

By clicking on the faces a short video plays and offers you emotions to choose to describe what the people in the videos are feeling. It won’t continue until you click on the correct emotion. Pretty fun. Here is a pic of the splash page on their website:

I try to maintain my personal hygiene while traveling so I don't get the look from the lady in the lower right.:-)

Quite often you can spot an older tourist from the States a block away down in a big South America city. Bright white running shoes, quite often with a Nike swish. Shorts with pale legs and white socks tells you they just got off the plane. You can’t get a tan overnight. Tee shirt often with an American team logo. Camera and fanny pack. You can walk up and ask them if they are from the capitol of the state of their team logo and they’ll think you’re psychic.

Even in the tropics, older urban Latin American men generally wear black shoes with square or poiinted toes. They never wear shorts. Usually dark slacks or jeans, light colored short sleeve button down shirt with square cut worn out. Often with thin vertical stripes. Out in the countryside dress is regional.

The uniform of the younger gringo backpacker in city centers in Latin America down near the bus station is shorts, Teva sandals, a large backpack worn on the back with a smaller day pack worn backwards on their chest.

If you want to blend in with the locals and not stick out like a sore thumb, my advice is to dress more like the locals and less like a tourist.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

I see that Junyah made it safely across the Darien gap from Panama to Colombia. He has taken up the challenge to attempt to break my record descendimg the 740 stair switchback staircase down the face of El Penol south of Medellin. Dinner's on me if he makes it down in under 3 minutes 42 seconds to break the Gringo motorcyclist world record. Here is a pic I took last year from off in the distance. You can see the switchback staircase that clings to the cliff face:

Beautiful views around the countryside from the top. The picture below is taken from the top of the three story tower on top of the monolith in the above picture:

One of the nice things about testing your limits is the inner strength it gives you. When I was younger I spent 28 days on an Outward Bound moutaineering course. The first day we were taught how to rappel. This involved clipping a carabiner into a rope, hooking into a safety belay line, standing on a 100 foot cliff and dropping off backwards.

We were supplied with minimal food and I lost 26 pounds that month. At one point we were set out in the wilderness for three days with no food. It was called soloing. You were given 10 matches, a notebook, pencil, and they gave us a poncho since it looked like rain. It took seven matches to get a fire started and I didn’t let it go out for three days. I was put next to a glacial lake just below snowline on Mt. Jefferson. I slept during the day and shivered all night huddling around the fire. The warmth of sunrise was a blissful time. After 3 days of no food I was a bit weak when the patrol leader came back to pick me up. But ever since then I have never worried about being stuck out in the middle of nowhere with a broken down motorcycle.

When you are travelling through life and the chips are down it is the remembrance of past difficult experiences that can hold you up and give you perspective. Like the time my bike conked out one night in a driving rainstorm in the Colombian mountains. I remember thinking to myself, this isn't too bad as I pushed my bike back a few miles in the dark up a hill and coasted down to a village. Not as bad as Outward Bound that's for sure.

Most motorcyclists that head off traveling load their bikes down with way more than they need. They think to themselves, hmmmmm, this might come in handy. Yeah, right. And if I take 10 pairs of underwear it will mean longer between laundry stops. It is a slippery slope:

That’s okay. I used to do the same. Over the years I have found that less is more when travelling. Less to pack and unpack. Less you have to find space for. Less to worry about. Easier to find things quickly when you need them.

Everyone finds a balance. You can always donate unused items along the way or mail them back home if they are expensive.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

There is a really fun road called the Sky Island Scenic Byway that winds up to the top of the Catalina Mountains in southern Arizona. Nothing but curves up into the mountains over 8000 feet. It was getting late in the day yesterday and the afternoon shadows kind of obscure the winding road carved into the rocky cliffs in this picture:

At one point there were some skateboarders flying down the hill. At least they had on crash helmets. Up towards the top there were some interesting rock formations. This fellow had a deformed ear and big lips. Kind of an Easter Island suave look to him. Okay, I have an active imagination:

Up at the top there were beautiful views looking out over the desert at sunset:

A couple on the trail off in the distance watching the sunset from the cliffs at the Windy Ridge Overlook. What a great way to end a day of exploring backcountry Arizona.

Saguaro (sa-wa-ro) National Park is just east of Tucson Arizona. It is full of Saguaro cactus. If you’ve never seen a forest of cactus it is worth a look:

Plenty of hiking trails with beautiful desert vistas. Plus a nice covered picnic area where I stopped to make some sandwiches:

That large 20 foot tall skinny cactus in the foreground with the bright orange flowers on top is called an Ocotillo (Oh-ko-tee-o)

There is a winding loop road that wanders through the ridgelines and down to the flats. If you like the desert with blooming cactus April is a good time to visit:

It’s springtime in the desert Southwest and the cactus are blooming. I stopped on the side of the road yesterday and took some pictures. Here is a Hedgehog cactus with striking flowers:

Or how about a prickly pear cactus with pale yellow flowers:

Once the prickly pear flowers drop, this cactus makes big fat prickly pear fruit about the size of a fig. When I was down in Chile last year I stayed with a fellow traveller. She fed me prickly pear fruit. They are full of seeds, so kind of hard to eat. But they weren’t bad really. In Mexico they scrape the needles off the prickly pear pads, slice up the pads and cook them. Good to know if you’re stuck out in the desert with nothing to eat. Here is another picture I took yesterday out in the desert. it is a prickly pear in the foreground with a Cholla (cho-ya) cactus with red flowers behind it:

Looking closely at the thorns on this cactus you can easily see why it is called a Fish Hook Cactus:

Some of the cactus out in the desert yesterday were making rather rude hand gestures:

Okay, this Saguaro cactus was a mutant with seven fingers. But it still might make a nice postcard to send to your mother-in-law. Just kidding.

Went wandering around backcountry Arizona. It’s a beautiful State.

Several years ago I spent some time in Tuscon building a flagstone patio for Ann and Don. They are friends of my sister. Ann showed me a purse she bought at the State Prison gift shop made out of license plates. Hmmm. I had never heard of a Prison gift shop.

Yesterday my sister and I were traveling the back road to Tuscon and sure enough, right across the street from the razor wire fences and guard towers of the State Penitentiary north of Florence Arizona was this place:

The prisoners make arts and crafts that they sell in their gift shop. You can buy original oil paintings painted by prisoners for $20 or $30. I liked this prisoners western art:

Really quite good. If I wasn’t a nomad I would have bought it. Or maybe some Indian theme oil paintings by this prisoner:

The prison metal shop makes metal garden ornaments. They are welded together and powder coated. My sister bought a howling coyote, a road runner and some quail:

I thought the purses like Ann had showed me made from Arizona license plates looked pretty cool.

License plates folded sort of like origami and riveted together. With a nice leather strap coiled inside that hooks to two D-rings riveted to the side so you can sling it over your shoulder. Plus it has a good story to go with it. Who doesn't want a purse lovingly made by a convicted felon?:

Man purses aren't my style, but a couple of these bolted to the sides of my rear motorcycle top box would be pretty handy.

Pretty clever those prisoners. Maybe like me they are too clever for their own good. :-)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

.Pat from Canada was looking to fly down from Alberta Canada to Mexico and buy a small bike to travel on. He ended up taking buses to Guatemala and buying a bike there. I asked him how hard it was for a foreigner to buy a bike in Guatemala and this is what he had to say:

I got a 2010 for 1200$ used. Actually got it registered in Antigua with the help of Jose Rivas at CATours (he can show you beautiful roads also) . He was a massive help. You need to go to the SAT (motor vehicle registration) office in Antigua (kind of a hole in the wall) to get your NIT number. If they ask you if you're buying a Moto, say no here to avoid wait times. There is a lawyers office close to SAT, they can let you know where exactly. You pay 200 quezales ($26 U.S.) for the transfer then go back to SAT with your passport and paperwork and it's done. You don't need a liscense , just passport.

El Salvadorroads for me were dead, felt like I was the only one on the road, which I loved. Nicaragua seems to have lots of crosswinds this time a year, a little freaky in some heavy traffic.

This website taught me a lot and showed me that it's possible. Thank you!

Full conversation over at:

Guatemala is a wonderful country. So it looks like a foreigner could fly in from say Australia, Europe or the U.S. and buy a bike pretty easily. Not a bad way to go.

Flights to Guatemala are cheap from the U.S. I could see flying down for the winter and buying a little bike to tool around the mountains on.

Just an idea.

Someone asked if you can go on a surfing safari on a motorcycle in South America. Sure, why not?

Last year I met Matt from Australia. Here he is standing in the rain outside the place we were staying in Medellin, Colombia:

He had graduated from a bicycle to a little XT225 which he had ridden down to South America from British Colombia Canada. Super nice guy. I walked around one evening for hours looking for a particular Colombian soda pop that he was fond of. I can’t remember the name of it, but it tasted like bubblegum. Yuck. But he liked it.

He wrote a ride report:

Pretty entertaining.

I just checked his personal blog over at:

and see that he has gone back to riding mountain bikes in Nepal this year.

You meet some pretty interesting folks on the roads less traveled.

My friends Jim and Ann are avid birders. They sent me a link to a fellow Oregonian, Noah Stryker, who is traveling the world for the year trying to see if he can spot 5000 birds. He is currently in Colombia traveling backroads that bring back fond memories of last year when I was down there.

I was checking out his minimalist gear on his blog and it is surprisingly similar to mine:

Here is a picture from his blog in case you don't want to click on that link and get distracted for a few hours:

substitute the spotting scope and binoculars for some inner tubes, a hand pump and some spare motorcycle parts and this is about all you need to take for a motorcycle trip around the world. Well okay, I take a small tent, thermarest and down bag for camping. And of course good motorcycle pants, jacket helmet and boots, but you're wearing those.

It is harder than you think to cut your travel gear to the bone though. Most people take way more stuff than they need. In fact I see that Noah takes too many shirts as well. You only need two. One to wear, one to wash. But that marmot lightweight down jacket is the bomb. It crushes down to nothing in your luggage. But when you get up in the Andes and the temperature drops, just whip it out and put it under your riding jacket and it poofs up and keeps your body core warm as toast even in the howling mountain winds.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

I would like to personally thank my latest sponsors 1man2wheels and Nina B. I will be writing their names on the Sherpa gas tank when I get back to Uruguay.

I have appointed 1man2Wheels Executive Vice President in charge of Real Estate Aquisition in rural America here at Vagabond Incorporated. I will be assisting him in any way possible to find affordable relocation to a rural residence so he can spend his money on travel instead of a mortgage.

His benefits package includes glowing written references to any of his future employers .

And Nina has been unanimously elected to serve as Executive Vice President in charge of European travel logistics. As well she will be overseeing the Corporate Curling team from her headquarters in the frozen north.

Her benefits package includes glowing references on official Vagabond International stationary if so needed as well.

1man2wheels wrote me yesterday. He had been reading a story of my travels to Panama back a few years ago;

In it I mentioned the house I bought in Nebraska for 7500.00:

He wanted to know more about living a minimalist lifestyle in the northern plains. And how to go about finding a cheap house. It’s hard to beat rural Nebraska for cheap housing. I chose a small county seat of around 700 people. The smaller towns far from the big cities are still cheap. I bought my house 8 years ago for 7500.00. Taxes are 160.00/year. I haven’t seen anything that can touch that anywhere in even the third world. It was cheaper than buying a used truck.

Initially I rode out to Nebraska to build a brick wall on my Aunt’s ranch house addition back in 2006. She lives out in the sticks on a ranch and nobody around there does brickwork. So her room addition had been sitting with building paper covering the outside for years waiting for the final brickwork. I told her I could do it and rode my BMW motorcycle out, shipped my tools out UPS and used her ranch truck to get supplies in town. Small ranch towns are a dying breed in rural Nebraska and I saw lots of empty houses. I found out that people practically give them away once the owner dies, because none of their kids or grandkids want to live out in the sticks. Lots of them sell for under 10,000 dollars.

The thing is, houses that are move in ready are probably more like 20 or 30K. And of course there are really nice McMansions around that are 100K. My house had been sitting empty for over 10 years and I needed to replace the plumbing and update the wiring over the first couple years. No big deal for me. I’m a contractor. It was just a few hundred bucks in parts. I was just buying it as a hobby house because it was so cheap. But people kept knocking on the door once they found out I was a contractor and asking me to fix this and that and I never ended up leaving. After several years, I started shutting off the electricity, draining the water lines and letting the house freeze over the winter while I headed south. First to help my sister remodel her house in Arizona, then to Panama and a couple winters of riding to South America.

So far it’s worked out great for me. But here’s another thing. I don’t have pets, a wife or kids to think about. Where I live is the furthest place in the lower 48 from a Walmart. There isn’t any kind of shopping other than for basic necessities. There’s a lumber yard, hardware store, grocery and gas station and that’s about it. For me it works out, because I’m on the road most of the time. But if you have a wife or family, they would have to be minimalist and not too materialistic for it to work long term. Unless you shop online or on Amazon I guess.

My advice is to try out some rural places. Rents are cheap. 3 bedroom houses in Bassett rent for 300 to 400 a month. Go down to the local cafe in the mornings and hang out with the locals and find out who is doing what to who and who just died and contact their kids. Drive around and look at empty houses and ask the gal at the courthouse who owns them. That’s what I did. Linda up at the courthouse knew everything about all the houses. Who had lived in them. When they died. What was wrong with them. That sort of thing. And she gave me phone numbers off the tax rolls. I called the owners of the empty houses that looked decent and offered them 5000 bucks cash. I called quite a few until the one old lady said she’d sell my house to me for 7500.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Got a note from Junyah yesterday. He’s from New Hamshuh and they pronounce Junior a little different up there. He visited me in Texas a few months back. Here he is:

He was heading down south on his WR250R. His ride report is over on ADVrider at:

Some great pictures and stories. Worth a look. He’s a super nice guy and an ace mechanic. He fixed my carb with used parts in a box in veriest1’s garage while he stayed with me in Texas. He is currently in Panama getting ready to head across the Darien on the ferry to Colombia.

I occasionally put up a paypal button because people keep asking me to so they can send money. Believe me, this site is free for everyone. I will continue writing no matter what. And I hate those scammy flashing ads that google would like to put up here so it will always be ad free. Being a motorcycling minimalist means that nobody would sponsor my riding anyway. I buy all of my gear on Craigslist. The only sponsors I need are the folks who like to read my travel tales and send me gas money from time to time.

Ron was wondering in the comments what I was doing with myself hanging out in Arizona. The short answer is not much. Lately I took a look at the front of my sister’s house and decided that it was floating in a sea of gravel:

So with her permission, I painted the front planter a deep terra cotta to anchor the house so it looks more grounded. And this is what it looks like this evening:

It blends with the terra cotta tile roof and gravel and contrasts nicely with the stylized glass block saguaro cactus that the previous owner put in the entry to let light in.

There you have it.

Back in the previous century there weren’t many people writing about motorcycle travel in foreign lands. One book that inspired me was “Jupiter Travels” by Ted Simon. He took off around the world back in the 70’s and wrote a book about it. It’s a great read if you get the chance. Ted is a fairly shy man. I met him at a BMW rally 10 or 15 years ago back when I was riding bigger BMWs. He had just ridden around the world a second time retracing his original route. He was old enough to be my father, and it was encouraging to see that I too could be exploring the world for a few more decades. Today I found an interview with Ted on YouTube: Motolombia flew him down for a tour in Colombia. He is now 84. Wow! Cool.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

People around the world have heard about national parks in the United States like the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Yosemite

Scootard brought to my attention in the comments that there are 58 in total. So I checked out what is around here in Arizona to go check out with my new Golden Eagle Passport. Plus there are 113 National Monuments. I visited Chiracahua National Monument last month down in Southeast Arizona. It was an Apache hideout back in the day. Up through a canyon to a mountaintop. Here are a couple pics from the hiking trail.

I’d never heard of it before. Arizona alone has a lot of hidden treasures to check out. Like sunset on the cliffs behind Sedona on that same weekend of wandering

Saturday, April 4, 2015

I just came across this indiegogo campaign. It is over now but I thought it was such an inventive way to help fund a ride to South America:

Always inspiring to see how lateral thinking people can come up with unusual and creative ideas. She embroiders interesting collages of motorcycles, moto part schematics and maps. She hides smaller ones in caches for people to find. Can't say I've seen that done before. If I had to make a quilt I would definitely go with her hand stitched moto theme. Although instead of a Triumph it would have to be a Sherpa. Cool beans:

Her website on blogger looks way better than mine. She is currently in Southern Mexico heading south on her 250:

Same blogger website so I guess I have to go read up on how to get this here blog better looking like hers.

I will be turning 62 next month. Can’t wait. You can buy one of these for ten bucks when you turn 62:

The Golden Eagle Passport is good for life and allows any U.S. citizen over 62 years old free entry to any National Park or National Monument. Whoo doggies!!! The nice thing about it is that anyone traveling with you gets in free as well. In fact when I was riding into Crater Lake National Park with my friends Jim and Ann a while back, Jim flashed this pass and got us all in even though we were on 3 different motorcycles.

The last time I rode througn Yellowstone Park they charged me 20 bucks. Same as the carload of folks in front of me. And I was on a motorcycle. Didn’t seem fair.

Might have to make a National Park Tour with my new free pass to make up for it.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Do you remember when you were young and time expanded and the days were longer?

The last week before Christmas took forever! And the last week of school before the holidays dragged out to eternity. I can still see the round black clock on the classroom wall. That hour hand sometimes took half a day to go from 2 to 3. And then the blessed bell would ring and we were free at last!!!!!!!

Time expands when you travel as well. It’s like when you were a kid. I’ve been wondering why that is. Maybe because everything is new again. So much of what you normally block out since you’ve seen it a thousand times in your day to day existence suddenly isn’t there. Everything is different.

You cross over a border and the people are different, the money is different, the food is different. You have to pay attention to a whole new set of rules. Even in countries that speak the same language the words are different, the accent is different, the slang is different.

Now that I think about it maybe that is what I enjoy about living a nomadic life. It keeps you on your toes. Even here in the United States where I am sitting typing this you would think that it is one large country. And it is on the one hand. But Texas is not the same as Maine or Arizona.

You don’t find roadside stands in Texas serving lobster sandwiches. And I never saw Texas barbeque joints in Maine. Not to mention great Mexican food. In the northern plains where I come from there is no decent Mexican food anywhere. In Texas I got an excellent breakfast burrito from a junk truck parked in the parking lot at a Home Depot home improvement center. And it can be hard for a Texan and Mainer to carry on a conversation since their version of English is quite different

You would think that English is the common language of the United States. Well sort of. But when riding the tail of the dragon in North Carolina and stopping for gas, the store keepers might ask, “Wayull, whayr yawl frum?” If you’re from Nebraska you might have to say pardon me and have them repeat the question.

Even in New Zealand where you’ve read in books that they speak English you might be surprised when you stop in the southern mountains outside Dunedin where the Scots settled and they speak Kiwi English with Scottish overtones. I went into a little grocery store which they call dairies down there. The lady said, “tis a bit weet outside.” I stared blankly. It was raining cats and dogs outside and I finally realized that she was saying it was wet outside. Yes, yes it was.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

AussieAlex sent some pics of how he uses a universal ram mount and a waterproof case for his iPad Mini to use as a big-ass GPS to mount to the handlebars on his TTR-250:

What a cool setup. It’s a little hard to see in the picture so he sent a pic of the ram mount from Australian e-bay:

I checked amazon and they have it here in the U.S. as well:

Google emailed me. They sent a link to a free analytics tool for this blog. It turns out that thousands of people read it. Who knew? I thought it was just a couple of relatives and friends at best. This week the readers are coming from the United States, Canada, a ton of Swiss, Poland, France, the U.K., a bunch of Aussies, Mexico, Argentina, Germany, Panama, New Zealand and France.

I”d better step up my game and start posting more often. Who doesn’t need more free travel entertainment? I’m your man.

In case you don’t read the comments, I went over to read a commenter’s blog at:

He is currently on the Oaxacan coast heading south traveling two up on a GS with a couple fishing poles and a beautiful wife. Who doesn’t think that is a great idea? Go check it out.

Here is the better half of the expedition accompanying the GS in a truck to go get a new valve cover gasket. You meet the nicest people in Mexico when your bike starts spewing oil all over the place. Been there. The Sherpa had a leaky valve cover gasket for a few thousand miles. I looked at it as a feature to help waterproof my boots. Well okay, the waterproofing was only on my right boot.

If you aren’t familiar with a leatherman, it is an extremely useful tool to carry in your pocket:

Sort of a Swiss army knife for travelers. Folding out into needlenose pliers for removing cotter pins when removing wheels for a flat repair, screw drivers for quickly fixing things without having to get out your tools that are packed away. Knife, bottle opener, file, scissors. It comes in handy for a multitude of things and is great to have in your pocket where you can quickly get to it. You'll use it on a trip more than any other tool.

Alas, I lost my leatherman. And here is the problem. When I fly back to South America I don’t have checked luggage. I wear my riding pants and jacket, and have a small carry-on with my helmet and laptop. That’s it. No way I can get a leatherman through airport security.

The owner of leatherman had a similar problem. They wouldn't let him through security at Disneyland. No knives. Bummer. So he came up with a useful leatherman tool disguised as a wristband or watchband that he takes on trips:

It is approved for airport security but contains screwdrivers, allen wrenches and box wrenches within the band itself. Just take it off, fold it to the proper size tool and use the stiff band as a handle. What a great idea! Plus it will be harder to lose if it is actually on your wrist instead of in a pocket where it can fall out and become lost like mine did. It doesn't have the needle nose pliers and knife, but hey, it has box wrenches and screwdrivers which is what you need most of the time. And when you're too cheap to pay for checked luggage this is just the ticket. I can see that mat black one on my wrist. Not sure if it would work with my cheap Casio watch. But if not, I'll just wear it as a wristband on the other hand I guess.

There are better pictures and explanations of the Leatherman Tread bracelet over on the website I was reading:

Your ADVpal,


When leaving home for unknown lands there is a point where familiar roads recede into the rear view mirror and new horizons present themselves. That is when the journey gets real. Similar to sailors losing sight of land as they set off into uncharted waters I suppose.

Many people ask me, “why do you travel?” You will face the same questions the next time you return to the familiar after a long journey. For me it is the excitement that comes with sailing into uncharted waters. I have always dreamed of far off lands. Perhaps it started early on in life. The nice thing about getting old is that it gives you an opportunity to revisit the books you read in your youth. When I was young, before the age of the internet, I used to read books about adventure and the high seas. I prefered first person biographical accounts of early sailors and explorers like “Two Years Before The Mast.”

I am re-reading that book. It is like a ride report. Recounting the details of day to day life on an 1836 Clipper ship voyage around South America and up to California. Only this time I have been to the places and can see the images in my mind of the lands he visited nearly two centuries ago. I can remember the smells and hear the birds and see the dolphins shimmering just beneath the surface of the water as they race the ship and leap for joy. I have seen it first hand when traveling by boat with my motorcycle across the Caribbean from Panama to Colombia.

There is no substitute for travel. Books and ride reports are necessarily abridged versions of the experience. To really get to know the world it is necessary to travel there and see it for yourself.

Money comes and goes. Travel memories live with you forever and can bring a smile to your face as an old man. That is why I encourage people to get out and explore the world. I get messages from around the world of people thanking me for encouraging them through my stories to get out and explore the world. It is my job, and I will continue to do it for as long as I am able.