Sunday, April 26, 2009

Going Home

We said our goodbyes to the Dakar Moto crowd. I was again reminded and sadden to be leaving these kindred spirits that have a burning desire to see the world in a way that most people find peculiar. The flight home was uneventful. That’s always a plus when you are 30 thousand feet in the air, strapped in an aluminum tube sitting on top of tons of jet fuel. Retrieving the motorcycles from the shipping company was also uneventful. We decided to take them directly to Southeast Michigan BMW for much needed maintenance and repairs…and cleaning…yes cleaning.
I’m happy to say neither motorcycle bare any indication that they have been on such an adventure except for the cracked headlight cover on my motorcycle. Maybe I will leave it for a while as my reminder of the experience.
It is good to be home. Three months is a long time to be away from my wife. And you best believe I appreciate having a relationship that allowed me to do a trip like this. I know I’m very fortunate. Phew…trip report done! at least for now. After taking a little break I’ll add some more thoughts on the trip, the motorcycles and equipment. Maybe I’ll even have the courage to figure out the total trip cost….or maybe not. Thanks for everyone’s positive comments and encouragement. It means a lot.

Buenos Aires - more fun

Dakar Moto’s hostel was full so we headed to the nearby Munro Hotel. The hotel is a 5 minute ride from the shop and is a real bargain for Buenos Aires. Our daily routine evolved in to working on getting the shipping arranged, hanging out at Dakar Moto trading travel and life stores, and sight seeing in the city. While at Dakar Motors one afternoon a couple show up and start pouring over a well used army green KLR. I realized I’ve seen that bike before, ahhg, its one of the Seguin brother’s road warriors. And it turns out the buyer is Motoxxman, who posts on Advrider. What a small world. He was buying the bike to take a motorcycle trip with his girlfriend while they were traveling through South America. On two different evenings we had an Asado at Dakar Motos. What is an Asado? In the states we call it a cookout, in Australia it is called a barby and in Germany its …not clear what they call it. Actually an Asado turned out to be much more elaborate than a simple firing up the grill and cooking some meat. First it involves specific cuts of meat as well as varies types of sausages. In Argentina you seldom see anything green with your meal. At a traditional Asado it seems that the variety comes in the various meats you consume and some bread. Of course our non-Argentines slipped in some salads, bell peppers and cream cheese. The Asado is a distinct cooking process that involves metering in hot charcoal or wood embers so the flame never touches the meat. For more details you can Google it or buy a book. It is really an art form, if done right. In addition to the meat preparation the tradition seems to require the presents of friends or extended family. I don’t sense it would be considered an Asado if didn’t involve a large number of participants.
Leo from Germany, and Javier, both demonstrated they had mastered the art of preparing the meat for the asado.
I can’t remember if I already commented on the wonderful tasting Argentine beef. I normally don’t eat a lot of red meat but while in Argentina I was compelled to do as the locals.
The downtown area of Buenos Aires was a lot of fun to visit. It is diverse, colorful and easy to get around on public transportation. Here are some pictures from our tourist time.
On Sunday we went with Ken and Carolyn to the San Telmo neighborhood to poke around. On Sunday’s the neighborhood features a large, high end, Antique market on the square, street performers and food vendors. This is the area where you can watch the Tango dances perform in the streets.
The weather was perfect, sunny and warm. The streets were packed but not overcrowded. It turned out t be a perfect day.
A nice old Merc
A motorhome?
We had an early dinner (they would call it lunch in Argentina) and finished it off with coffee and desert at the famous al Gran Café Tortoni. This place has been around since 1858 and has a lot of history and is very popular. We had a short wait in line outside before getting a table.
So which one is alive?
We had a great day but as evening arrived we had to head back to the hotel.

Buenos Aires

We approached Buenos Aires with the expectation of the shipping drudgery and killing time until our flight home. Our experience in Buenos Aires turned out just the opposite. We had a great week and thoroughly enjoyed the city. Dakar Motos was a big part of the joy, notably the warm welcome we got from Javier and Sandra, the owners, his friends and the travelers staying at the shop’s Hostel. In my opinion, and broadly speaking, Dakar Motos is the South American haven for motorcycle travelers. It is a repair shop, hostel, and hang-out all under one roof. More significantly it’s one of those rare places where motorcycle travelers feel “normal” and the reason for the trip is completely “understood”. The front of Dakar Motors
Pictured from the left are Javier, Ken, Carolyn, Andi and Sigrid.
Javier is one of those people that instantly befriends and makes you feel like you’ve known each other for years. He and Sandra, his wife, don’t seem to treat the shop as a business. It seems to be their life and Javier is quick to invite you in to it. Sandra, not pictured, helped us organize shipping the motorcycles. Sandra is one of those people you rarely met and remember forever. She is full of energy, always upbeat and has a genuine concern for helping other people.
Just to give more texture to the Dakar Moto experience I’ll describe the guest a bit more. Carolyn and Ken are from Australia. They are on the second leg of there round the world trip and have been travelling around South America since 2007. Ken and Javier had some great Dakar Race stories. I was green with envy. Of all things they kept mentioning Ricardo and his antics as they chased the race around Argentina. Sure enough it was Ricardo, from Ecuador we met in Lima and who joined us for diner. Small world. Andi and Sigrid are from Austria. They are traveling on 2 KLRs with bad shocks. They had to leave the motorcycles about 200 miles south of Buenos Aires, come to the shop to get replacement shocks and then bus back south to resume their trip. There was another guy, forgot his name, from Israel trying to sell his KLR so he could return home after touring around South America.
Leo, pictured above, from Germany shipped his African Twin from Germany to Fairbanks Alaska and rode it to Buenos Aires. He was hanging out in Buenos Aires doing odd jobs to make some money. We later found out he was a pretty good Asado cook, tango dancer, stand up comedian and chased by a numerous Argentine women. Also not pictured was Heinz from Germany. He arrived the day before we left. He was in amazingly good spirits given that he experienced the nightmare we all worry about. Sadly, he crashed in Chile destroying his motorcycle and cutting his trip short by two months. Fortunately he was not seriously injured.
No surprise, Javier and Sandra’s son Julian, has his own motorcycle.
Ken's pretty Dakar getting readied for the next leg of their adventure.

On The Way to Buenos Aires

Our next destination is Buenos Aires, 2000 miles up the east coast of the continent. On the way to Buenos Aires we stopped for the night in Rio Grande, Comodoro Rivadavia and Bahia Blanco. It was an uneventful segment of the trip but here are highlight along the way.
We started with backtracking up TDF’s Ruta 3 to Rio Grande. Rio Grande is the self proclaimed Trout Capital of the World. We decided not to challenge their claim. Here was another photo opportunity of yet another superlative.
We also needed our tires changed before the long stretches of high speed asphalt on Route 3 through the Pampa to Buenos Aires. For those keeping track I replaced the worn out Metzler Karoo with the TKC80 I’ve been carrying along since Santiago. Chris also replaced his Karoo with the Anakee he had been carrying. We were both disappointed in how quickly the Metzler Karoo Knobbies wore out. We got maybe 2700 miles out of the rear and the fronts were starting to cup. So for the trip we will have run thru 3 sets of tires. At the tire shop were found that Santiago BMW gave us yet another surprise. The rear wheel bolts might well have been welded in place. Our expert tire guys in Rio Grande considered every trick in their play book to get the bolts loose. They ended up using wd40 and tapping the bolts with a hammer.
A Carnival parade was underway in town.
TDF is actually is the land of fire.
Most of Ruta 3 was boring except when it ran along the Atlantic Ocean.
We met this group of travelers from Buenos Aires at one of our stops. They were off to Ushuaia.
A major conflict the government and large farmers was underway because of increasing assessments. The farmers were on strike. We crossed some of the protesters along the highway. Many of the farmers use shocking displays to get their point across. One really gruesome display (no worries. no photo) was a number of dead cows piled up next to the highway.
This is another display of their displeasure. Fortunately for us they didn’t block the highway on our route as they have done in other areas.
On the way I discovered the inner seal on my final drive developed a small leak. Fortunately I had a replacement seal but would prefer to not do the repair until returning to Michigan. So I, of course, watched it very closely and it turned out to be a non event.