Travelin' Light - Riding 2up through the Americas
We left Denver, CO, USA on May 1st 2011. Our route so far includes the SW USA, Mexico, Central America, Colombia, Venezuela, northern Brazil (Transamazonica and BR-319), the Guyanas, and points further south as we get there...
INDEX for this RR:
Trip Planning - just scroll down
TOOLS & SPARES LIST + EQUIPMENT REVIEW - 187
SW USA - 11
Mexico - 46
Guatemala - 116
El Salvador - 132
Honduras - 133
Nicaragua - 134 (entered at end of Post #133)
Costa Rica - 142
Panama - 145
CENTRAL AMERICA SUMMARY - 151
Colombia Part I - 153
Venezuela Part I - 155
Brazil Part I - 162 (entered at end of Post #161)
Guyana - 163 (entered at end of Post #162)
Suriname - 165
French Guiana - 196
Brazil Part II - 199
Venezuela Part II - 229
NORTHERN SOUTH AMERICA (THE GUYANAS) SUMMARY - (coming soon...)
Colombia Part II - 231
Ecuador - 246
Peru - 252
Bolivia - 280
more to follow...
Route Map -
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</code> The Plan:
We left Denver, Colorado, USA on May 1st, 2011 to head south, destination unspecified - we'll know it when we're there. Our ultimate goal is to get to Ushuaia, Argentina, commonly considered the southernmost city in the world. Along the way, we are both hoping to pick up random jobs that will allow us to stay in one spot for awhile and get to know people. Jill is also looking forward to taking Spanish classes somewhere as her Spanish is not quite up to par (Mike's is much better). Other highlights we are looking forward to are visiting friends in El Salvador and Panama, visiting the community Jill lived in for Peace Corps in Suriname, visiting the community that Mike worked with through Engineers Without Borders in Peru, and going back to Buenos Aires where Mike studied abroad. Oh, and we are also looking forward to the beach, jungle, mountains, bugs, stomach issues, awkward cultural exchanges, street food, motorcycle repairs, and everything else we are going to see on a daily basis.
A 1989 Honda Transalp with just over 20k miles on it will take us on this journey. We had owned a fancy BMW 1150GS before, but it was a huge beast and she seemed a little stuck up. This TA feels better. She is going to fit in well in Central and South America. And hopefully repairs will not be hard to come by. The final modifications on the bike included installing a new HyperPro progressive rear spring, as well as chain, sprockets, and sliders.
A new (retrofitted) muffler went on so it she'll have a growl (Jill's excited because she thinks loud motorcycles are cool and Mike's hoping fewer people may try to hit us if they hear us... and please don't start a debate about loud pipes vs safe riding here... we all know the right answer, and besides this pipe isn't even that loud, it's DOT/EPA approved...).
Corbin seat, GIVI trunk, taller windscreen, 12V power outlet, heated grips (all previous owner)
GIVI crash (engine) guards
Lenac Big Brake kit (larger front rotor)
Braided stainless brake line
Eastern Beaver H4 headlight kit
HyperPro progressive fork springs
HyperPro progressive rear spring
Titanium Suzuki GSXR-1000 exhaust
CigarMike prototype centerstand
Wolfman tank bag
el cheapo ATV tank bags
We are not traveling with a computer, so our updates will be irregular, but hopefully fairly frequent. Excited to be on the road, and will keep you posted!
Mike & Jill
Packing it up
After running around the midwest to visit family in Iowa and Missouri and to drop off a few important possessions (we sold the house and most everything inside of it), we are finally ready to hit the road!
Our Packing List includes:
1 pair of jeans (Gap)MIKE
1 pair khakis (Royal Robbin)Mike's sister and brother in law gave us some awesome Marmot compression bags we are going to pack all our clothes in and put in the saddle bags.
We are planning on doing as much camping as possible on our trip partly to save money and partly because we enjoy it. Here are the things we are going to bring to camp with:
1 Big Agnes 0 degree bag (Jill)http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5227/...0c550d4ae8.jpg
Somehow, we got most all of it to fit in the case that will go on the back of the bike.
We didn't get a good list of the spare parts and tools (mostly because Mike was in charge of this aspect instead of Jill), but in the engine guard bags and 2 tool tubes we have a limited assortment of tools, an extra tube, JB Weld, loctite, spare clutch cable, spare CDI unit, straps, zip ties, tire pump, etc. I'm sure you, will learn more about what we do have, and more about what we don't have but should have as we get down the road...
EDIT: Updated list of tools and spares, along with equipment thoughts/review can be found at post #187
Have a great trip!
Kewl, I'm in.
nice man thats awesome- LIVING life for sure! great moto choice too :)
Glad to have a few inmates already following along! Thanks for your interest, and we are stoked with our bike choice, too.
We are trying to catch a tour in Mesa Verde this afternoon, but once we make Zion on Sunday, a major update will happen with details of our first week of riding. Stay tuned....
Mike & Jill
looking forward to following you guys....via ADVRIDER
Looks like a great trip ahead of you.
Jill, if you get a chance, checkout Corporate Runaways Ride Report, if you haven't already. They have lots of good info on what they brought, gear and clothes and what worked or did not work. That is obviously at the end of their report. This might sound weird coming from a guy but I remember Dachary said (in the Corp Runaway thread) that 3 bras is much better than 2. At the end of a long hot or wet riding day, after showering, it's nice to have a fresh one since todays is no longer fresh and unless you did laundry last night, the 2nd one is also not fresh. Gives you an extra day between washings in the sink which could add up over the length of the trip.
Have a great trip and travel safe!
Sounds like an awesome adventure! Looking forward to your RR.
This sounds exciting :clap
Looking forward to reading more - Thread Subscribed ! :lurk
i'm in! wish i were going too!
On the Road...Day 1
The first day on the bike felt like such a long time coming, took a whirlwind of activity to actually make happen, and then was such a relief to actually set out on the trip! Our target date of departure was May 1, we ended up leaving May 2nd about noon, and that turned out to be the best slip in schedule ever...
Ready to go:
One of the benefits of sticking that extra day was that we got to spend one last evening with our good friends and gracious hosts Kyle and Janelle. They cooked us some amazing fried tacos for our final meal before departure, which deserved a celebratory sip of tequila as well. They also saved us a major hassle by volunteering (whether they knew it or not) to help us out with a couple of final errands so we didn't have to try to coordinate those on the Transalp. Thank you guys!
We met up with Mike Williams for a last good bye on our way through Denver, but it was a short stop as the clouds were already building.
Just south of Denver, over Monument hill, snow flurries hit us but luckily didn't stick to the road. But they sure kept us cold. We pushed through past the Springs on down to Pueblo where we thought we were free from weather for awhile so had a taco for lunch. That route took us straight down I-25, far from the best road to ride, but the alternate route down 285 showed highs in the 30's and snow the whole way. So at least we made progress. As we finished lunch, clouds were building again, so off we went. Heading west over La Veda pass, the snow was still piled up along the roadside, temps were just above freezing. We did not stop for photos because our hands would not have been able to work the camera.
Due to that cold weather, and snow on the mountains where we planned on camping, we opted for a room that night. There was a nice little old motel in Antonito, CO that gave us a screaming deal for their winter rate. That was the best $37 I've spent! The hotelier was nice, and informed us that they got hammered with 6 inches of snow the day before, so it was good that we didn't end up leaving on the 1st.
Had a celebratory dinner in town, and then got some rest. Tomorrow we start focusing on our planned budget of $50 or less per day. Today we focused on staying warm.
Destination: Warmth (or, How I Traveled to Cuba by Motorcycle)
We rolled out of Antonito a bit later than hoped, but man, there was still a harsh chill in the air. We rode south into New Mexico taking Hwy 64 to the west across Carson National Forest. It was a beautiful ride (one Mike had ridden in August before and loved) but the theme continued - cold and snowy.
We took a break in Tierra Amarilla for gas and found our way west past el Vado on towards Chaco Culture National Historic Park, our destination this evening. On the way Cuba, NM served up some fine lunch with amazing green chile we were hoping for (alas, no ropa vieja in the Cuban Cafe).
We entered Chaco Canyon from the south, where there is not much happening. The towns are small and sleepy. And by sleepy I don't mean slow/tranquil, I mean kind of drab. Luckily we didn't miss the one sign for the turn north into the park.
The road wasn't that bad. The worst parts were the washboard sections that shook all the plastic pieces on the TA, as well as our brains. Only one short uphill section took standing up on the pegs and some finesse to get through. It was a fun ride on into the park.
We absolutely lucked out to show up on a Tuesday and caught a night sky archaeoastronomy talk along with some telescopes out for star gazing. The talk was excellent for giving us an introduction to how the Chacoan culture may have viewed, respected, and interpreted the (day and) night skies. It was also refreshing how the information was presented. The ranger made an effort to explain that any theories on how buildings aligned with stars, or markers showed shadows by day, were simply that - theories. There is no way to fully understand these artifacts, but just a number of guesses (some better than others) as to what their use was. One example he used was of a sculpture in the desert designed specifically to have interactions with light at specific times of day and at specific times of year. A group studied the sculpture and found around twice as many interactions as the artist intended, showing that if you are looking for some correlation, you can find it. Who knows if the Chacoan people really used ALL of the markers that we find today?
Either way, the pictographs, petroglyphs, ruins, and artifacts were fascinating to see and were a sweet beginning to our ruins tours across the Americas.
On top of all that, the campsite we had in the park was beautiful!
Gimme my 10 dollars!
We spent Wednesday hiking through Chaco Culture National Historic Park and absolutely loved it! The weather was gorgeous and the park has a lot of really cool ruins to see. We took a tour of the Pueblo Bonito and were able to learn a bit more about the ruins, again the ranger had the humble approach of explaining the difference between facts ("that is a wall built by the ancestral Puebloans") and theories ("they may have used this room for storage"). There were many differences in masonry, some from different timeframe, others from different craftsman. These ruins were mostly occupied from ~850 - 1200 AD and are decent shape considering.
There was also a lot of discussion about the importance of that canyon to the native people to that area and to the Chacoan culture. Whether it's because of the centuries of importance to these people, or perhaps this is part of the reason for the canyon's importance to them, Chaco canyon has a very warm feeling to it. It's an absolutely desolate place, in a rather inhospitable environment, but the feel there is just overwhelmingly comfortable. It's almost hard to know how much of a negative impact settlers had on the way of life there. In fact, there was a massive rock named Threatening Rock by the Euros that existed above the major greathouse, Pueblo Bonito. It was larger than this example, but something like:
Sometime in the 40's or so the rock crashed down, taking out much of the back rooms of the greathouse. The sole reason the rock fell was due to the CCC removing a restraining wall that had been in place for centuries. Apparently, they thought that since the masonry wasn't the same quality as the walls of the ruins that the wall wasn't worth as much. Oooops. Here's the aftermath:
There is an impressive amount of structure still in place. Even the original roofs have survived in some rooms.
Surprisingly, many of the rooms in these greathouses would have been difficult to access, and would have been completely dark. Sunlight was not a problem for most of them today.
Some of the ruins even had evidence of corner windows, which is a testament to their structural confidence.
We then hiked up to Pueblo Alto. There was an overlook of Pueblo Bonito along the way.
On our way back down the trail, just as Jill started talking about rattlesnakes, this little fella was directly next to Mike's foot, about a foot away. given the timing of the conversation, and Mike's general dislike of snakes, some Monty Python-esque, high steppin', fast dancin' took place for a few paces.
We also hustled out the trail to see the pictograph of what may or may not have been a super nova from around 1100AD. It seems like it definitely could have been a record of that, and the timing is right and matches with other records (Chinese included). But you can decide for yourself.
We were able to see some other outlying ruins along the way, but jammed back down the trail to the visitor's center before it closed at 5.
We got to the visitor's center around 3:30 to try to get change back from our self service camping envelope from the night before. We put $20 in the envelope, and wanted our 10 bucks in change. That's almost a full tank of gas! Apparently, no one working at the park has ever given change for camping before, and insisted on calling our request a Request for Refund. So now we've got some beauracratic forms filled out, have tracked down our camping receipt, and will send the request to some accounting office in North Carolina who may or may not decide to send us a check for 10 bucks. I found it incredibly ironic that the preferred method of refund (not change, mind you) was to wire us the money. That's economical and efficient and all, but seriously, we put $20 in a post in the middle of the desert and we have to send paperwork across the country and have money WIRED back to us? Really? We'll see what happens...
We headed north out of the canyon towards Farmington, where we had a place to stay thanks to hosts from couchsurfing. First of all, it felt great to get a shower. But once cleaned up, we had great conversation with our hosts Cecilia and Monica. They knew Farmington well, steered us towards the couple of errands that we had to run in the morning, and were fantastic hosts! Hopefully we didn't rile Patrick up too much, but Jill and I are both fans of playing with pupppies.
It was nice to stay in a bed instead of sleeping on the ground, especially since we have some more camping ahead.
Sacred Clowns - Myth or Reality?
Cecilia delivered on her promise to make us smoothies in the morning, and it was truly delicious, flax seed and all. After leaving our couchsurfing house, we decided to run some errands since we were in the 'big city'. We went to the Farmington Public Library to use the internet, Wal-Mart to buy food for camping, Big 5 Sporting Goods to try and find some more socks for Jill, and the most ghetto copying center we have ever seen (photo unfortunately not attached). Then we headed to Aztec, NM to check out some more ruins. There was only 1 ruin with about 16 or so rooms and a few kivas. The architecure was pretty similar to the later architecture at Chaco but there were more keyhole doorways than at Chaco.
We also learned that Sacred Clowns are a part of their creation story, which is really quite a wonderful thing.
Since the site was misinterpreted as an Aztec site when it really wasn't, we don't know how much stock you should give to the Sacred Clown concept, but we are thinking about starting our own church. This is our preacher here.
Anyway, the Aztec site was pretty cool and was a nice side trip on our way to Mesa Verde. After leaving Aztec, our goal was to get to Delores, CO to camp. Both Delores and Mancos were nice little towns and you should stop in at Basin Motorcycle Works in Mancos if you get a chance. The owner there suggested a sweet ride to a camping spot north of Delores in the San Juan National Forest.
Dinner wasn't half bad either. I have a feeling we will be eating this a lot.
Near Death Experience #1
We got an early start to the day, as we had a long day of riding and sightseeing ahead of us. We took Highway 95 to 24 to 12. If you are ever in the area, we would strongly taking this route because most all of it was quite spectacular. Our first sightseeing stop was at Natural Bridges National Park about 40 miles outside of Blanding, UT. There are several hikes you can do to get closer to the bridges, but if you are on a crunch for time, there is a 9 mile loop you can drive that enables you to see all 3 bridges.
After that, you will hit Glen Canyon National Recreation Area where you can access Lake Powell. Also quite beautiful.
This is the Colorado River.
Eventually, we ended up at Hanksville, UT. We stopped at this sweet convenience store that was built into a rock.
Capital Reef National Park was next. We just drove through a portion of the park, but it seems like it would be a nice place to spend a day or two.
Then we hit Highway 12 and ended up camping outside of Boulder, UT on Burr Trail, in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. This was the road - an absolutely blast to ride, highly recommended!
The Transalp looks so good in the canyons.
We ended up finding a good campsite.
Which leads us to Jill's 1st near death experience of the trip. Please keep in mind that we were in flip flops, Jill is somewhat terrified of heights and especially uncomfortable with climbing. So, we decided to climb the large rock in front of our tent. It was no problem going up, as the rock was pretty striated. We had a nice view of the entire area for awhile from the top. Coming down, we decided to take the more difficult side of the rock that was significantly steeper. At first it was ok, but then it started getting steep and Jill decided to start crab walking down, thinking that would keep her from falling. Mike decided to try one way and Jill thought he told her to walk to a lower tree. So, she took off towards the tree and ended up trapped on the rock face holding onto the rock with her right hand and no other grips in sight. She had water and the camera in her other hand. Mike had to come over from the top of the rock and physically help her to the next safe place to stand. It was actually a pretty close call to at least Jill sliding down the rock face and seriously hurting herself. But, everything ended up fine, with no casualites, including the camera or water, so no worries, and actually an adrenaline filled end to a great riding day.
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