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JDowns 10-02-2012 11:31 AM

South America and back on a 250 Super Sherpa Minimalist Adventure
I am stoked!!!! You know the feeling. You've been thinking about taking a long ride. As the day grows closer and reality sets in, I don't care how jaded a person is or how many miles they've ridden, it is next to impossible not to feel the excitement build.

South America or bust. I tell people I'm heading out on a 250 dirt bike and they think I'm nuts. I don't care. It's what I've got and I'm riding the wheels off it while I still can. This ride report is for all those people who have dreamed of riding long and far but aren't sure if it's possible. I'm here to tell you, yes it is. I don't have a lot of money and I'm not too bright. If I can do it anyone can. You just have to set a date, save as much money as you can and GO!!!!!

There is no better feeling than taking off on a long ride. Well maybe crossing the border back into the U.S. after riding to Panama is a close second. I still remember how happy I was to be back safely after the last long trip I took a couple years ago:

Woohoo!!!! The thrill of victory after crossing the border and stopping at a friends house in Tucson.

But I long for the curvalicious roads of Mexico with stunning vistas:

and riding in the mountains of Costa Rica:

and Panama after crossing the mountain border at Rio Sereno:

until I hit the end of the road in Yaviza and could almost smell Colombia off in the distance. So close and yet so far. The waiting is almost over. It's time for another long ride. As I often say, there is no better feeling than hitting the road with a good bike and a vague plan.

So ride along and watch the adventure unfold and see if its possible to ride a little bike to South America and back with limited funds. Perhaps you will see that it is something you can do sooner than you thought possible.I only have 5000 bucks which is a lot for me but not much compared to more fortunate folks. I may have to eat ramen and do a lot of camping. But I am determined to make it there and back.

I am taking along a laptop and camera and camping gear, so this ride is less minimalist than some rides I have taken. But I intend to send back stories and pictures your way on a regular basis. I know how much I enjoy reading ride reports even to places I've already been. It brings back the memories.

If I run short of funds I will figure out how to set up a paypal account and beg for money. But I'm not there yet. Plus I don't know how. Anyway, I write these ride reports for me as much as anyone. I enjoy reading them later and remembering all the wonderful people and great roads.

I do hope to visit other ADVriders on the tentspace list though. And have them sign my gastank. You guys are the only sponsors I need. Several people have already offered places to stay and I intend to meet as many ADVriders as possible on the road south. I know I enjoy it when folks stay at my place. It should be fun!

I was sitting out on the back porch last night looking at the fullish moon and listening to the coyotes howling and realized that I will be leaving on the next full moon. Gotta get back out to the garage and finish servicing the bike!!!

Kindest regards,
John Downs

Chip Seal 10-02-2012 11:55 AM

Yaay John, keep us up to date.
Looking forward to your trip. :evil

JDowns 10-02-2012 12:04 PM


Originally Posted by Chip Seal (Post 19729073)
Yaay John, keep us up to date.
Looking forward to your trip. :evil

Hey Roger!
Glad to have you along for the ride. I get a feeling this is going to be a wild one.

John Downs

Klay 10-02-2012 12:46 PM

Happy travels. I'll be listening to your story.

Panama 10-02-2012 02:10 PM

Glad to see your doing another bigger trip. your last report was my favorite and I use it as a reference for planning my trip to Panama in May. It is a great help because I am also poor and will be eating ramen. When do you leave?

- thanks

JDowns 10-02-2012 02:32 PM

Hola Panama,

A name like yours instantly has me remembering Van Halen belting out PANAMA in the earbuds. I think that is my new theme song for the first 5000 miles of this upcoming ride.

In fact I can't get it out of my head now.

What was the question? Oh yes, I'm leaving on the next full moon right before Halloween.

So glad that you were able to put the info in that last ride report to good use. Poverty riders need to know that there is light at the end of the Darien. I will try to report back more helpful tips on traveling on a limited budget without being a creepy user mooch kind of person.

Colombia here I come!!!!

Hope to see you down the road.

John Downs

Panama 10-02-2012 02:45 PM

Your Kit
Are you altering your kit at all? You mentioned camping gear, and I guess cooking gear as well.
I would be interested in the different bags/cases you are taking as well as any different tools, gps and such.

October/November through Mexico should be cold right?

- Blake

JDowns 10-02-2012 03:40 PM

Hi Blake,

Lets see, I am taking a few more things this time. A small tent that my sister gave me. A laptop that I traded some work for so I can upload photos and ride reports from the road when I hit a wifi hotspot. I gave my sister the iPod touch that I used to tap out emails last trip and it worked fine and was pocketable. But since I intend to upload photos and ride reports this time from the road I am lugging along the laptop. A spare set of sprockets. A steripen to sterilize water that Tricepilot pointed to in a thread on water purifiers since bottled water costs almost as much as beer in Latin America. And a locking topbox that I got in Arizona to carry my tools home on the Sherpa when my car broke down coming home from my last adventure. It is in this picture if you can make it out:

I normally don't travel with anything I care if I lose too much, but I plan on camping a fair bit this time and figure its probably prudent to have a place to lock stuff up. And if the top box flies off going over speed bumps in Mexico I will be the first to tell you what a crap idea that was. I intend to put tent, sleeping bag, thermarest laptop and camera in it and put the heavy stuff in the bottom of the saddlebags.

I'm not taking cooking stuff. Too much volume and weight. I might buy a small pot to boil water on a campfire if I feel the need on the road , but other than that plan to eat out of grocery stores and roadside food vendors like last time.

The older I get the weaker my memory is so I found this packing list helpful:

I whittled it down and deleted the feminine hygiene products and half the other stuff. This was the list I downloaded from that tool:

Motorcycle Camping Checklist
Created: 30-Sep-2012

Motorcycle stuff-
Cut down Walmart battery powered Air pump
Battery tricklecharger
Top box
2 Rok strap bungees
Spare key(s)
Tire patch kit
Riding Jacket
Riding Pants
Riding gloves
Riding boots
Spare Tubes
Reading glasses
Toothbrush & toothpaste


1 Pair Socks
Pair of black Jeans
Down vest
Polypro long underwear

Bike title/registration
Camera & accessories
Small Notebook/pen
Driver's License
Dummy wallet/licenses/expired CCs
Photocopies of docs
non mapping older GPS
Laptop computer
ITMB Mexico and Central America Maps

Freezer bags (for packing)
Zip ties
Credit cards
Duct tape
Needle and thread
Extra batteries
2 part epoxy
crank powered Flashlight
Camping stuff

Steri pen
2 compression sacks
Toilet paper
Sleeping bag

*Cooking stuff

Water bottle

I also found this bike maintenance checklist helpful:

I would have forgotten the swingarm bearing re-grease and a bunch of other things. Going down this list is easier than sitting and staring at the bike out in the garage. Although I have done plenty of that while I bide my time waiting to take off.

Hope this is helpful.

John Downs

Cal 10-02-2012 03:52 PM

I'll be following along, as I too would like to use a 250 for travelling S.A. Is this the same bike you used for the C.A. trip?
Did you go to Guate. for dental work?
Always appreciate your thoughtful replys to other posters.

JDowns 10-02-2012 04:07 PM

Hi Cal,

Yes its the same Sherpa. It keeps on keeping on. Great little bike. Yes I went to the dentist in Guatemala last trip. Mario Recinos in Quetzaltenango (locals call this town Shayla). The GPS co-ordinates are in my last ride report. I am indebted to Drrrags who listed them in his ride report. Mario did a great job on my teeth for a fraction of the costs of North American dentists. I hadn't been in 20 years. Top work. I intend to drop by and say hi on my way through and get my teeth cleaned again. Third world dentists rule.

While I find a 250 great for third world travel others think I'm wacko. Who cares? It's easy on gas, lightweight to lift up and perfect for rough backroads.

I had thought about flying down to Chile and buying a 250 until I looked at and saw how much bikes costs down there. 1500 bucks for a Honda CG125 which I would have to sell at the end of the trip or a cheap Chinese 250 was all I could afford. And then 800 or so airfare there and back. So I decided to just ride down what I have and take the slow cheap cargo scow and launchas around the Darien. The Stahlratte saiboat sounds divine, and if I were better off I would go that route. But 900 bucks each way? Yikes. And if I won the lottery I would fly my bike over on Girag for 900 and 350 for me each way from Panama City to Bogota.

In my dreams. Alas, it is the high seas and puking over the starboard bow for me.

John Downs

Cal 10-02-2012 04:23 PM

I too am on the Mexican Dental Plan, Nogales was my last visit and I am happy! been to Xela 3 times and also had dental work there, also in Mazatlan.

Misery Goat 10-02-2012 04:32 PM

I expect that Super Sherpa will keep things exciting for you. :freaky

Suerte, amigo!


Free Radical 10-02-2012 04:36 PM

Hey JD. Looking forward to following along with you. SA is in my sights for November 2013, also on a 250!

Looking forward to hearing how you bridge the Darien. I thought I'd read that the Stahlratte had sunk, and that Colombia is denying entry of inbound motorcycles by sea. Hope that's not the case!

Really enjoyed your previous report!

JDowns 10-02-2012 04:52 PM

Hi Freeradical,

It was another sailboat called Fritz the Cat that sank. The Stahlratte is still sailing and has posted on the Latin America Regional Forum to reassure everyone that it is still able to make the trip. Here's the link:

Not a bad way to go. Just a bit over my budget. I will report back what I find when I get there about other less expensive options. Where there's a will there's a way. Believe me, if I had the money I'd sail on the Rat. Looks like a total blast!

John Downs

JDowns 10-02-2012 05:10 PM


Originally Posted by Misery Goat (Post 19731131)
I expect that Super Sherpa will keep things exciting for you. :freaky

Suerte, amigo!


Hola Seņor Misery Goat!

Believe me I would love to be riding that big Orange bike of yours. Just watching your videos brings back fond memories of splitting lanes Latin American style on the centerline moto lane.

I certainly enjoy reading your ride reports. I noticed a picture of your bike at Rancho DiAndrew down in CR in the valley of Toucans and waterfalls. I look forward to dropping by there again. That place was mighty fine.

Kindest regards,
John Downs

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