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Old 01-14-2014, 09:43 PM   #1
gaahrdner OP
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Location: Austin, TX
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Eek Phileas Abroad: Austin, TX to Tierra del Fuego

So, I'm going to ride this mofuggin' mighty DR650 that I've spent the last few months rebuilding and upgrading to the swing-low-sweet-chariot nether regions of the Americas, Tierra del Fuego.


That's me leaving Austin, TX this morning.

Firstly, and thusly, my website where I'll be updating mostly and cross-posting from is http://phileasabroad.com, it's a bit, er, light on content right now but I shall rectify that very soon. I'm here to give back to ADVRider because this site is badass and has helped me a ton on my journey so far, reading other ride reports, figuring out DR650 issues, and checking out gear and what not. Also I want to meet some of you crazy bastards and get some great ideas of what I roads I should ride and sites I should see. I probably won't post gear reviews and such in this thread because you smart dudes and dudettes already know about most of that, so it'll just be ride reports.

Quick background:
  • DR650 is my third bike, first dual sport
  • solo trip
  • cash reserves are bueno
  • no real plan
  • no time limit
  • no real off-road experience

I started planning this trip back in May, quit my job of 8 years at the end of June and got to work. I was pretty ready to go in November, and then, of course, shit hit the fan. Four year relationship ends, moved out so I have no house. So sad for me.

Except, wait, no job, no girl, no apartment...holy fuck I have zero responsibilities! This is INCREDIBLE. So I spent the last two months or so getting rid of everything, crashing at a buddy's and finishing up the bike. Hell I even worked out a bit but, you know, beer.

Left Austin this morning (ok, at noon), and I'm in Ozona, TX right now, yeah, you probably haven't heard of it, neither had I.

General plan is to cruise west, check out Big Bend and some of the sites, enter Mexico through Baja and get some offroad experience, ferry across to mainland Mexico at Topolobampobambinohowmanymorevowels or Maztalan, and head south. I've set up a map of points of interest so you can get a general lowdown of my route, but I'm essentially winging it.

I hope to both entertain and delight you all!

P.S. No one told me west Texas was so damn windy.

gaahrdner screwed with this post 01-20-2014 at 05:42 AM
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Old 01-14-2014, 09:53 PM   #2
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Have a safe trip
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Old 01-14-2014, 10:19 PM   #3
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Shaka!

Have fun!
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Old 01-15-2014, 03:24 PM   #4
gaahrdner OP
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I can say with some experience that riding along I-10 at 80mph with 40mph crosswinds among long haul truckers is something to be avoided if possible.

After a late start on Monday, in no part due to meeting my friend Jameson and Russell the previous evening it was time to get on up out of Austin. I had to repack and pare down my belongings (again) as the panniers weren’t closing up, so clearly I have too much crap. Shedding of gear is an absolute must at this point, but I’m just not sure what to get rid of; do I ditch one of my jackets? Workout clothes? Do I need all those tools? I’ll struggle on for now, until it becomes unbearable. It’s getting damn close.

Out of Austin I took 290W, passing through Fredricksburg and Junction before hopping on I-10. Fredricksburg was pretty for the short time I jolted through it, and of course I-10 was straight miserable. It was a straight shot though, and I was pretty sure I could make my destination. Then the winds really picked up. Those “Strong Cross Wind” signs are no joke.

The DR gets insanely “buzzy” above 70MPH, and extremely touchy in a terrifying way; add some strong cross winds and, well, let’s just say it’s exciting. At one point, immediately after leaving Junction I ran out of gas, the GPS indicating I was a mere 6.3 miles away from the nearest Phillips-Conoco fill-up station. With a quick prayer and flick of the petcock to the reserve setting, I coasted into the station on fumes and then proceeded on towards Balmorhea.

Which was not to be. The light was dying fast, the wind had picked up heavily but I was determined to make it, until I couldn’t. Sadly I have no pictures of these moments as I left my camera on by accident and drained the battery, and my grip was far too tight as I battled sudden crosswinds almost forcing me into the other lane to turn on the GoPro. Every few minutes I’d hold my hand up to horizon to estimate how much daylight I had left. Sonora whizzed by and I had 45 minutes left, and I definitely wasn’t riding at night on my first night out.

Exhausted, I pulled into a small town called Ozona, and rented a decent (if not pricey) room at the Travelodge by a bearded woman (no shit) with the largest German shepherd I have ever seen, proceeded to eat the largest chicken fried steak I’ve ever seen at the Hitchin’ Post and passed out, 230 miles under my belt.

The next day I put on my pants, ate some free rehydrated eggs and headed towards Alpine TX.

I-10 again, and mostly boring. After about an hour I saw my first wind farm. Oh shit. Luckily, due to the time of day, the crosswinds were manageable, but I did have a few dicey moments. Again, I ran out of gas, but this time on purpose; I wanted to see how far I could go on one tank. The answer? 169 miles, give or take. Far below the 350-400 I had initially estimated, though perhaps I was confused and meant kilometers? Who knows. Add on about 10 more miles for the reserve and I have around a 180 mile range. Not bad I suppose, not great either.

Anyway. Pulled into Alpine, had a late lunch and checked the town out, before heading to Marfa, where I am staying the night at a little place called El Cosmico. The staff is super nice, they have teepees, and you can camp out for $15 bucks a night, so what’s not too like? I’ll try and check out the Marfa Lights tonight as well, and then tomorrow it’s off to Big Bend.

Sadly I've been a right douchebag and not taken any pictures as of yet, mostly because it's not readily available. Gonna leave it in my tank bag from now on instead of my backpack. Also, riding with a backpack sucks, so I have stopped doing that.

Mechanically, I've noticed the cam chain tensioner bolt seems pretty loose and I'm leaking a bit of oil. Not sure how bad this could be to be honest, any suggestions? I suppose I can take it off, put the engine in TDC and retighten it, though I only have a screwdriver, no CCT tool. Might try and wing it to El Paso after Big Bend tomorrow and find a mechanic who can help me out, if it'll last.

gaahrdner screwed with this post 01-20-2014 at 05:42 AM
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Old 01-15-2014, 04:04 PM   #5
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I don't even know how to answer this, but I am not going to follow this RR good luck
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Old 01-15-2014, 08:00 PM   #6
gaahrdner OP
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Originally Posted by mashrider View Post
I don't even know how to answer this, but I am not going to follow this RR good luck
Uh thanks, I guess?

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Old 01-19-2014, 08:49 PM   #7
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4K The Hard Way In Marfa

Right, so, where was I.

So, there I am in Marfa, eating some Italian food (because, I mean, why wouldn’t there be an Italian joint in Marfa) and planning on a pretty early night, maybe a beer or two at Lost Horse, as was recommended by the lovely Lauren at El Cosmico (who incidentally was also from Austin).


Lauren of El Cosmico (and Austin)

Out of no where, headlights flash in front of the restaurant. A bunch of Harley’s I think, and pretty soon they are gone. So I pay out, suit up, and head back to the glampsite.

There is quite a bit of commotion at El Cosmico, and as I pull into the gravel parking lot I can see why; eight Vespas are parked, festooned with all manners of banners and camping gear on their tiny frames. I’m parking when the guys come out of the office.


Festooned

“What are you guys, riding these things across America?” I ask.

“Hell yeah! That your bike?” the mid-twenties Vespa rider says.

“Yep.”

“Where you going, east?”

“No, I’m going to South America.”

“Holy shit, really? Where?”

“All of it man.”

“No way. Hey Sean! We gotta interview this guy! Come here man, sit down and let me ask you some questions.”

And that is how I’m introduced to 4K The Hard Way, eight friends riding Vespas from L.A. to Key West over the course of three weeks. There’s a few rules, as there always are; no highways, you can’t pay for lodging, and of course you must ride a Vespa.

Alex Westmore is the man asking questions, and his buddy Sean Hill mans the camera. They mostly just want to know why anyone would go on such a trip (for the same reason they are, we come to find out, obviously, because you can) and are making a documentary (maybe) about their journey. These lucky bastards are sponsored by Vespa, Alpinestars and have a chase truck, so I’m a bit envious.


Many scoots.

Also riding, and apparently the ring leaders of these merry madmen are Armie Hammer and Tyler Ramsey, which meant nothing to me until we actually left Marfa the next day, when a local asks Armie, “You’re in the movies right?”, and he whispers “Yeah.” Seriously, I thought it was a bit pompous to nick name yourself after the branch of the military you served in when I first met the guy. What’s that they say about assumptions?


You just need some gas Armie, those things have a 17 mile range.

Anyway, they went to dinner, came back, we drank some beer, and partied until about 3AM, the only people camping out in 22 weather there in Marfa. It was as good as times can get!


Ashton filming Jeremy giving Lauren a ride; Jordan probably wondering if he’s going to have repair another scooter.

The next day, we wake up early (11AM) and decide to grab some breakfast. The 4K guys somehow order 24 burritos for the eight of them, I’m good with my one; either way they were delicious, thanks Mama.


Marfa Burrito


Tyler Ramsey’s scooter ; Armie’s looked similar by that afternoon.

Alright, so it was finally time to go, but not before stopping at Wrong Marfa, a local art gallery/shop. Check out these amazing pieces:


Stands about 3 feet tall, and is an armoire.


Costs $100,000, and each chamber holds a bottle of liquor, and the cylinder spins. Oh, and it took 7 months to carve. The barrel flops down so you can store your tumblers, and there is a hidden drawer for…well, use your imagination.
The artist is definitely a talented individual, I sure hope he sells some pieces, alas, I can not afford any of them. With the 4K The Hard Way’s political debts paid to the Marfa significants (yes, sponsorship has its costs), it was time to hit the road. Except some people had to get some gas.


Damn it can we go already.

I was headed to Big Bend, and the boys were headed to San Antonio. That is some 400 miles away, and what with us leaving at noon, I had no idea how they hell they were going to make it. I rode out with them until Marathon and then headed south to Big Bend.

To the 4K Gentlemen; rock on, I hope you make it to Key West, and it was a pleasure riding with y’all!

You can follow those guys here if you want: https://www.facebook.com/thevespaadventure

gaahrdner screwed with this post 01-20-2014 at 05:43 AM
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Old 01-19-2014, 09:54 PM   #8
Tex76
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Get it!

Absolutely in!! Keep representing the greatest country in the world (Texas!). I will be doing a trip like yours on my DR650 one of these damn days so get ready to be ripped off! Best of luck brother, if you need anything shipped to you while you're out, you got a resource here. Damnit, I'm so jealous.

Edit: about the CCT bolt, tighten and see if that fixes the leak, if it doesn't it is probably your CCT gasket. Very common problem and not to hard to fix, though you do need to pop off the oil lines. Best to take care of that now though and get an extra CCT gasket to bring along or some RTV sealant at least. Via con Dios!
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Old 01-19-2014, 10:04 PM   #9
surg7498
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Thumb Cool thread thus far!!

Good luck, I spend lots of time in Austin and live in San Antonio

Keep that oil level checked and ride safe!
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Old 01-20-2014, 12:16 AM   #10
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following

Following along, hopefully you can get JDowns on here, he's on a Sherpa in Columbia. He has a bunch of good experiences and advice.

My one piece would be get your vehicle importation and visa at the border, LaPaz is a madhouse if you don't. Also try Otay Mesa to cross. There's a fairly new cutoff road that will bypass all the TJ traffic pain and dump out in Rosarito.

Malirimo in GN is a good place. Recardos Rice n Beans in Ignacio even better. Casa Buena in LaPaz is great.

safe trip!
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Old 01-20-2014, 05:45 AM   #11
gaahrdner OP
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Location: Austin, TX
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tex76 View Post
Absolutely in!! Keep representing the greatest country in the world (Texas!). I will be doing a trip like yours on my DR650 one of these damn days so get ready to be ripped off! Best of luck brother, if you need anything shipped to you while you're out, you got a resource here. Damnit, I'm so jealous.

Edit: about the CCT bolt, tighten and see if that fixes the leak, if it doesn't it is probably your CCT gasket. Very common problem and not to hard to fix, though you do need to pop off the oil lines. Best to take care of that now though and get an extra CCT gasket to bring along or some RTV sealant at least. Via con Dios!
Hey thanks man, I just might take you up on that shipping offer.

I got the CCT fixed, but it was much worse than what you thought; I'll post more about it in my next update. I'll definitely look into getting an extra gasket though!
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Old 01-20-2014, 05:46 AM   #12
gaahrdner OP
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Originally Posted by CGgunner View Post
Following along, hopefully you can get JDowns on here, he's on a Sherpa in Columbia. He has a bunch of good experiences and advice.

My one piece would be get your vehicle importation and visa at the border, LaPaz is a madhouse if you don't. Also try Otay Mesa to cross. There's a fairly new cutoff road that will bypass all the TJ traffic pain and dump out in Rosarito.

Malirimo in GN is a good place. Recardos Rice n Beans in Ignacio even better. Casa Buena in LaPaz is great.

safe trip!
Dude, excellent suggestions, thanks so much! I'll check em out and add them to the Baja list of things to see/eat/do!
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Old 01-20-2014, 06:18 AM   #13
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All the best for s safe and unforgettable journey!




Cheers,

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Old 01-20-2014, 09:00 AM   #14
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I'm in

Haven't subscribed to a trip for a while but this one looks like a weener. I used to travel in Baja lots back in the 90's (before I moved to San Antonio) and crossed at Tecate. Stay away from TJ! There are several Rice and Beans, all good. You could also cross at Calexico and go south to San Felipe and cross over through Coco's Corner. Road is probably rough (was 15 years ago...) but a good DR road. Anyway, ride well and keep us entertained!
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Old 01-20-2014, 09:30 PM   #15
gaahrdner OP
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Big Bend

Big Bend, the jewel of the west. Ok, I may have made that part up.

Either way, I've always heard great things about this national park, but being a 10 hour drive from Austin it's not something you just up and decide to visit on a Friday after work. I rolled into the park right as the sun started to set, and managed to snap a few photos (though Ansel Adams I'm not while wearing motorcycle gloves).




Spent the night in Chiso's Basin, not much to report, but luckily it was 30+ degrees that night. Unluckily I spilled water all over my sleeping bag, so, yeah.



Next day, I was up bright and early and rode on down to the Santa Elena Canyon, before heading up my first non-paved road, Old Maverick Road.


This is where the Eye of Sauron used to sit before Aragorn defeated the Dark Lord, now affectionally called "Mule Ears."



Luna's Jacal, a house made of dirt, stone and plants this guy built and raised 18 kids in. How many kids do you think I could have if I can convince a woman to live with me on a motorcycle?

So yeah, Big Bend was beautiful but my bike was not really happy with me. Remember that cam chain tensioner issue I mentioned? I was sure this was the cause of oil leaking all over the engine, and I was keen to push it to El Paso and get some repairs done at the Suzuki dealership there in town.


You should not be loose Mr. CCT bolt.


I hauled ass out of Big Bend and headed north on 118, before realizing I had zero power left on my gadgets. Not a huge deal, but I would have no way of finding the damn dealership since I didn't have a map of Texas (who needs maps of the state they live in, am I right?). Luckily I have a 12v cigarette charger, so while gassing up in Terlingua, I plugged in my USB charger and my phone and...nothing. Damn thing must have been broken. Well this wouldn't do, so I pulled off to the side, ripped off the front fairing and set out to repair it, but, alas it was fried. While doing so, a friendly dude with a southern drawl asked me if I needed any help, and, while I didn't, I explained my concern about the CCT bolt and what not. He ran a dual sport rental shop right next to the gas station, said his name was Dan Dickie, and if I needed anything else to come find him. Of course I didn't though, right? I mean, I was going to El Paso to get some repairs.

And that's when the wheels fell off.

As you go north on 118 from the Alon gas station there, you climb a pretty steep hill, with Bee Mountain to your left. POP POP POP and the bike dies as I barely climb the hill. Startled, I start it up again (reluctantly), nudge it into second, hit about 30 mph and POP POP dead. Oh man, I am fucked I thought. There was no way I could make it to El Paso, every time I hit some higher RPMs the bike would backfire insanely and then die. After a few minutes of cursing and generally behaving insanely (why wouldn't I expect the 6th time to be different), I turned around and coasted down the hill to get Dan's help.

The man was a saint and, while he couldn't do anything for me, he knew a guy in town who he said was a "motorcycle genius, and he's only 5 miles away, but he knocks off at 3:30 sharp so get moving," and off I went. I eventually found the entrance Dan had described, crawled up a few dirt roads and ended up at Cycletek, where a man in shorts impatiently motioned me over, and as I pulled up, exclaimed "God damn your bike sounds loud as shit."

This was how I met Ralph Delmar.





It was immediately apparent to me that Ralph knew what the fuck he was talking about, and had zero time for games, bullshit, and general malarkey, so we got to work. Or rather, he and his employee Darren got to work, while I sat around feeling generally useless snapping a few photos.



Ralph determined that the CCT, while not broken, had no more threads left so the bolt had popped loose, so he installed a helicoil and a replacement seal and reset the cam chain.


Ralph fixing my CCT.

The leaking oil was due to a missing washer on each banjo bolt on the oil line. Yeah, not sure how I missed that one. And the noise? Well, that was due to the exhaust valves being insanely out of adjustment, so much so (yet so exact) that the local shop I took it to must have confused inches and millimeters when setting the clearances. Luckily, no major damage (so far).

Everything was finally sorted, and Ralph offered to let me camp out at his place that night, as there was no way I was getting out of Terlingua that night. The amount of stars you can see on his property is ridiculous, I've never seen that many, and sadly my poor astrophotograpy skills do not do the sight justice.


Seriously there were so many stars, that light is from the moon rising.


But, let's back up a bit, because Ralph suggested a local place called La Kiva, which turned out to be a bar/restaurant built into the dirt, decorated with fossils and local knickknacks, and a giant copper kettle to piss in. It was, and is, completely awesome, and I know a number of friends back in Austin who would absolutely love the place and make it their local. And of course, the beers were on me.





And so, while finishing up my brisket calzone (it's no Franklin's) and a Big Bend Porter, I meet these two dudes, Curt and Bob a.k.a. Waldo and we get to chatting about Riding, specifically, Riding In Big Bend.



Bob's from Illinois (an Illinoisian?) and comes down to Big Bend every winter, and this is Curt's second (maybe third?) time in the area, but he rode with Bob last year. He's a farmer from Iowa who has a badass Harley he uses for Iron Butt Association challenges when he's not getting dirty in Big Bend.

Bob's a bit of a local legend in the area, and has a motorcycle related story for every possible situation. He also rides something like 30,000 miles a year. Yeah, that's a shit ton of miles.

They like my trip, and Curt was even down in Ushuaia many years ago, but rode north to Santiago. I tell them all about my plans, and my fears, about Baja and how I'm a bit nervous offroad and right then and there it's decided that Bob and Curt are taking me riding the very next day, and damnit if we're not doing River Road west to east (and some other roads I have forgotten the name of).

Anyway, not to ramble on, but here's the GoPro outcome of my first forays into off-roading under the tutelage of Waldo, with Curt riding sweeper and generally helping me pick up my bike.



I could write a lot more about my new found love for Big Bend, Terlingua, and it's residents, but we're over 1200 words here on this blog post and most of you probably have skimmed past. If you're ever in the area and need someone to ride with, find Waldo (he rides a KLX250). If you need to rent a bike, find the gracious Mr. Dan Dickie (and find him in Tennessee when it's not winter). And if you need an honest and smart mechanic who also knows the backroads, talk to Ralph Delmar at Cycletek.

Thank you gentlemen, I still owe you one, and I surely can not wait to get back to that area of Texas again.

gaahrdner screwed with this post 01-20-2014 at 09:35 PM
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