Avoiding seasonal depression when faced with the “Dark Months” - Portland to Panama!
[This intro is a copy/paste from the Planning section]
The goal: Get out of the Pacific Northwest for the winter so as not to get depressed and kill myself.
The man: Me. (I don't have dreads anymore...)
The bike: Fully farkled out 2002 KLR650.
More on the goal: I want to leave the depressing rains of the PNW and head south to warmer, sunnier climes. I think it would be fun to ride down to Panama and then back up (unless I leave the bike there to continue to S. America next winter). I have about four months, a reasonable budget of ~$25 a day, a good running bike (so far) and a desire to see more of the world. This will be more than just a ride, as I usually backpack foreign lands and want to see places that can sometimes only be reached on foot. The bike will get me to the general area, and feet will get me to the more remote destinations.
More on the man: I'm 37 years old, an American via political refuge from the ol' USSR, have traveled most of my life; have lived in the same place for no more than 7 years, no more than 3 since high school. I've been to somewhere near 20 countries all in the northern hemisphere (including some of the ones I'll be seeing this trip), but only 5 on a motorbike. I work seasonally for the USFS from May to October. Generally I save up enough money during the summer to live in the winter if I go somewhere 3rd world (read: cheap). Previously I have taken 3 long distance trips on motorbikes: San Diego to Vermont (and back) on a Honda Magna 750, again San Diego to Vermont (and mostly back) but on a Honda VFR750, and Southeast Asia on a Honda Bonus 125 (and some Honda CB400), including Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. SEA is the first time I ever rode dirt and I'm not very good at it (but I made it through several “roads from hell” in Laos and Cambodia). I practiced some this summer on the KLR, but mostly stuck to forest service roads. I don't think I'll do too much (if any) single track this trip. In conclusion: I'm fairly well educated, in pretty good shape and I like to expand on ideas in sentences with parentheses (see above and below).
More on the bike: Last year I bought a fully farkled out KLR from an inmate here. This is the first time I have more than one bike in the stable. This bike has had almost EVERYTHING done to it. Seat, armor, suspension and so on. I will probably eventually remove some armor and get an IMS tank. I'd like to get Britannia Composites fairing, the 685 kit and a blinker cancel switch, but other than that the bike is complete. The only things I've done to the bike since purchase other than routine maintenance is the t-mod, a tool tube,the Thermo-bob and the drill-through subframe upgrade.
Okay, on to the plan: This is where it gets a little vague... I plan to leave somewhere in late Nov. (the 27th). The first leg (legs can and will be multi-day) will be to southern California to see an old USMC friend. Then I'll ride over to Phoenix AZ to see a college friend and maybe do some riding around the area. Then I'll head on south into Mexico. I plan on spending close to a month in Mexico then continue south and ride through each country in Central America until I reach Panama. I've never been to Belize, have spent less time in El Salvador than is worth mentioning and never to Panama. I've backpacked (and worked with sea turtles) in the rest.
So, assuming you've made it this far through the post, thanks! I would love company along the way if you're heading along a similar route. I'm all for company, but am very comfortable traveling alone too. We can ride together for as long as we both want, but expect that we'll split up as soon us either one of us wants to do something different. No need to compromise your trip for me and vice versa. I know from the “Trip Planning” section that a bunch of people are doing a similar ride at similar times. Hope to see you on the road!
If anyone has route advice, and especially “Places Not To Be Missed” I'm all for hearing about them!
I have been scouring the net looking for places to not miss on my way south. So far I'm pretty good for Mexico and Guatemala, but draw a complete blank on Belize. Looks like most people don't spend more than a few days there. That's fine, but my original plan was to spend several weeks in each country. Leaving more time for countries that (potentially) have more to offer doesn't bother me at all, but I want to make sure I'm not overlooking something amazing.
I packed my gear up into 3 Givi boxes, a tank bag and a tool roll. I have a e45 case on the left, a e36 case on the right (for symmetry) and a e45NJ case for a top box. That is a lot of space!! Not one of the cases is full and I can see right now I need smaller cases for future rides. I though about buys some Caribou cases to replace the Givis because they would decrease the width of my loaded bike by almost 8 inches (without reducing capacity a great deal)! But... they're $500 (for just the sides) and that is NOT in the (gear) budget. So now I have lots of room for beer and spirits.
I think I'm taking way too much stuff with me, but I guess only time will tell. I make a packing list in excel and without entirely itemizing each individual item, I'm bringing something on the order of 190 items with me!! It seems like a lot since I usually just travel with a (slightly smaller than) carry-on sized bag for any indefinitely length trip. Most of these items are spare parts and tools, as well as bike specific clothing and gear.
I made a pretty detailed plan of my lodgings in the US. I was planning on not planning too specifically, but got caught up in the excitement of the "Tent Space" thread and it's only polite to give inmates a (as close as I can) specific date for when I'll be passing through. So tentative plan (now pretty set in stone) is this:
Nov. 27 Leave Portland Or and camp in the Six Rivers NF off of Rt. 199
Nov. 28 Ride down to Mendocino CA and tent space with Medodave (thanks!)
Nov. 29 Ride down South of San Jose and tent space/join Mognox (thanks!) for camping and a Cali ADVride on the 1st of Dec.
Nov. 30 Visit with a friend in Santa Barbara
Dec. 3(?) Cruise to Slab City CA and spend the night there.
Dec. 4 Get to Phoenix and visit with a great friend.
Dec. 6 or 7 Mexico!
This is much more detailed than I like to travel, but once I'm in Mexico and hosteling it, it's wide open! I'm definitely open to meeting up with riders as they exit the ferry from Baja... Any amazing spots I should know about between Phoenix and Mazatlan?
Okay, enough rehashing the planning thread. From here on out it's all new all the time.
Let's go :thumb this should be great... safe journey :lurk
Bike looks awful lot like Jeremy Kroekers Middle East KLR........good luck on your trip...!
I'm taking my 2002 KLR on a similar trip starting in mid January. $25 a day is something I have not been able to do unless I camp often and as I age (63) I like more creature comforts.
I look forward to following you and perhaps will meet up with you down the road.
Safe Travels :thumb
I have just done the same route. I did spend a week in Belize, but only because some friends of mine live there. The best part of eastern Belize is under water. Belize City and Ladyville are like the slums and full of L.A. gangster type people. That being said, stay out of the populated areas and see the nature!
Hit the road, Jack!
Good onya mate, will be looking fwd to your reports - best of luck and stay upright!
Looking forward to following along!
Read Mendodave's heads up in the West Regional forum. I hope you don't get too much rain and wind on your way down the coast! I'm actually headed north on pretty much the same route, planning on alternating between the inland forests and the coast, depending on weather. Maybe we'll run into each other!
The first day.
The first day of riding made me reflect on how other people go for “shake out” rides before hitting the road for the big one. To those people I say: “You are smarter than me!” :huh
With the bike packed, I got dressed up in all my “fancy” riding gear and within the first 40 seconds, a plastic buckle on my Cortech Flex pants (I've tried them on but never rode in them) ceased functioning (read: tore off). No big deal... I'm not too skinny and not too fat, so they stayed on just fine without the buckle. Will be getting a new pair sent to Phoenix and returning the “old” pair there.
I left Portland full of coffee and little else and made pretty good time to the coast. Yes, it's cold, but at least it ain't raining!! It IS Portland. I made my way slowly down the coast, very much regretting that I didn't install the grip warmers, but otherwise very much enjoying the ride. Made it down as far as Lakeside (much less progress than I anticipated) and discovered that I'm leaking a minor amount of oil from “somewhere” (there is some on top of the skid plate, but none drips down on the ground) and that I already blew one of my fork seals. Luckily it's the one NOT on the same side as the break caliper (so I'm good). The leak is slow so I'll let it go for a bit since I plan to do all kinds of services in Phoenix (to the detriment of my wallet).
I only took one photo today as the area is familiar to me, not too interesting (again, to me) and it was COLD. I have this problem where once I get going it's hard for me to stop for anything. I miss a lot of good photo opportunities and usually run the tank dry (generally to the point where I get nervous that I'll run out). I hope over the course of the next few months I can re-train myself to stop more.
I ended up pulling into some campground (looked it up: Spinreel) as it was getting dark. The camp host quoted me $20 for a tent space at which I politely balked. In response to my query, he showed me where I could camp for free but it required crossing ½ mile stretch of deep, soft sand. He was going to show me where it was on his 4-wheeler, but luckily his headlights didn't work (luckily as I'm not a fan of riding on sand with full luggage [or without for that matter]) so he let me stay in the regular camp area for free as long as I cleared out by 7:00am... DEAL!!
So now I'm sitting here in the pitch black (except for the laptop screen light) and it's only 6pm... Looking forward to longer, warmer days. Alas, this is what the future holds:
"Wind gusts could reach as high as 70 mph in coastal areas." :eek1
Thanks for the replies!
Pete_Tallahassee - Nice, maybe we'll run into each other. I'm taking it pretty slow. In the interest of full disclosure: $25 is not something I am yet able to do :) Hopefully further south it'll be more of a reality...
donniemac - Thanks for the tip. I'm scuba certified so maybe if the budget allows I'll get to see the best part of Belize after all.
muskeg - Thanks, got a PM from mendodave about it (that's the only reason I know). Didn't think to actually check the weather :huh Maybe I'll see you on the road!
You're doing great. The oil is probably just a seal leaking. I am down in southern Mexico right now and my bike has been seeping for the last 4000 miles since I didn't think to change the oil filter cover O-ring and brought oil filters but no O-ring. I look at it as a feature since the oil blows off the back of the bashplate and oils the chain. Sort of a redneck scottoiler I like to think. Oil is cheap and a few teaspoons is more of a nuisance than anything.
I had good luck with freecampsites.net when traveling in the U.S. down to the border. Public libraries have free wifi if you need a quick check of the weather or a place to camp for free.
It's cold at night in the mountains for camping in Northern Mexico in December. The mountains are a refreshing break from the coastal heat further south. 25 bucks a day means you'll be camping a lot.
I used to get gas in Ukiah on the way out 244 to the Hardy Souls campout out at Lehman Hot Springs in the late fall for a few years when I lived in Oregon.
Enjoying your report so far. Looks like you may experience what the weather men are calling an "atmospheric river". Hope you can get through without too much trouble.
That means a good deal of rain. You could escape it by moving east and entering MX at a different point.
Still not very interesting. Day 2.
Got up while it was still dark to clear out of the free camping as agreed upon. It's not even raining!! (although it did rain on and off during the night giving me anticipatory reluctance to the morning) Continued down the coast on a pleasant ride until suddenly... The WIND arrived in all it's glory. Its buddy, the RAIN, decided to tag along just for fun.
Now I've ridden in winds before and it's not that big of a deal. In the mid 90's (oh here we go... reminisce time) I rode through some crazy hurricane in N. Carolina that was dropping brick walls and trees in my path. This wasn't much in comparison, but I was in my 20s then and “immortal”. The wind was only frightening through southern Oregon, and once I entered California, things settled down to some drizzle and occasional gusts (okay enough about the weather, it's like I have nothing else to talk [complain?] about).
Quick “Joe Rocket Ballistic 7.0” Jacket review: Had it a couple of years. Fits great, comfortable, lots of vents. Waterproof: NO (which is kinda a bummer right now).
Quick “Cortech Flex” Pants review: 1st time riding in them. Fit great, comfortable, good protection. Possible craftsmanship flaws (buckle). Waterproof: NO, not really (also a bummer).
I guess this could be due to excessive wind blowing from all kinds of different directions. But the bottom line is: I did not stay dry. To be fair, I stayed pretty warm and would recommend the pants and jacket combo to anyone (take this with a grain of salt as these are my first “real” riding clothes. It was always just jeans and a sweatshirt before).
Quick AFX FX-39 Helmet review: Had it about 6 months. Fits well, good vents, kept my head dry in the storm. The “bill” vibrates at 55mph+. It sounds like there is a loose washer in there somewhere, but there isn't. Sometimes the wind makes a “snapping” noise making me think the engine on the bike is eating itself! It's noisy and that's something I need to look into. Overall I like it though. Maybe it's the way the windshield is set up on the bike (not stock).
Gratuitous self-portait (to illustrate reviewed gear):
I stopped in Arcata for lunch and coffee (something like 25% of my budget gets spent on coffee) and as I was drying out, the SUN actually came out to brighten my spirits.
After putting in some time on the net in Arcata, I continued south and to my dismay (nay, disappointment) the sun was quickly replaced my more rain. I finally reached the Hwy101/Rt. 1 split and turned right towards Rt. 1 and the coast. What a great road for riding! The first and main thing to grab my attention was the multitude of curves (read: hairpins!). These babies came in the 25, 15 and even 10 mph variety. I haven't seen a road with this many quality curves since I rode the Chiang Mai to Pai Loop (that road is famous for having something like 762 sharp curves in less than 100 miles). Some of the other properties Rt. 1 possessed include: dark, wet, foggy, slippery with wet conifer needles down the center of each lane and the occasional (but not exceptionally rare) skittish large mammal.
Needless to say (but I will:) the experience would have been exponentially better in daylight (not to mention dry, but that's asking a little much). I highly recommend this road if anyone is in the area.
I made my way down Rt. 1 along the coast and finally arrived at Mendodave's house. He very generously to let me sleep in his trailer where I was able to rest and dry out. Thank you Mendodave!!
Ah, the "atmospheric river"...
JDowns - Thanks for the kind words. My primary research as to where to go and what to see came from mining your ride reports :evil I'm very interested in the dentist you went to visit in Guatemala. I haven't been to the dentist now in 15 years and it may be time. Can you please PM me his details?
So far I've managed to avoid the worst of the "atmospheric river" (through no fault of my own). Looks like I'm staying just ahead of it.
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