BackpackerMoto: ADV Noob vs. Patagonia

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by BackpackerMoto, Mar 10, 2014.

  1. BackpackerMoto

    BackpackerMoto Outcast

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2014
    Oddometer:
    195
    Location:
    The Teton Range
    It's 1939.

    In a small industrial town in the southeast of Germany, my grandfather is about to die. Cornered by Nazi soldiers, his outbursts and protests against the Third Reich are going to come to a bloody, violent end. He will leave behind a wife, twin daughters, and an eight year old son.

    For his trangressions and refusal to cooperate with the war effort, all holdings of my grandfather's family are seized by the Nazi regime.

    + + + +

    It's 1950.

    My father is 19 years old. For him, for the people of eastern Germany, and indeed for the millions trapped behind the Iron Curtain, the end of World War II heralds the beginning of what will be 40 years of occupation. Holdings and properties that had been seized by the Nazis were subsequently grabbed by Soviet forces who occupied the region, which were then seamlessly transitioned into the control of the puppet East German government formed in 1949.

    My teenaged father, along with many of his compatriots, has seen enough of Soviet-style communism and oppression. Farewells are made to his twin sisters, their husbands, his mother, and his aunts and uncles, who all have been living under a single roof since the war. Determinedly, he attempts to make the potentially deadly escape from East Germany and cross the heavily guarded border into the freedom of the west.

    He fails.

    After a month of subsequent imprisonment, he agrees to the terms of his release, which include a signed oath to never again make such an attempt, at the threat of further incarceration for himself and, additionally, his family.

    Three weeks later, my father tries once more. This time he is successful, and he escapes into West Germany. He won't see his family again for over 15 years.

    I won't pretend that there's any correlation between my forefathers determined courage, and anything I've encountered in my life, let alone how it might remotely relate to a 5000 mile motorcycle ride through parts of South America. Its significance is only this; I most definitely descend from a long line of stubborn, unwavering, sometimes obstinate authority-questioning Teutonic ancestors, at our best when swimming upstream. Unlike my forefathers, I can claim no righteous stand against oppression and tyranny. But as any solo adventurer can certainly attest, a certain personal obstinance is required if you wish to succeed.

    Because, firstly, you need to confidently make your stand against the naysayers who have, amazingly always at the ready, a mountain of reasons why you shouldn't go, as they beg of you to reconsider.

    Secondly, in those dark moments during the adventure when those people are possibly, remotely, in some small way, correct; you will need some stubborness and willfulness to see you through.

    Nevertheless, let's examine the Top 15 reasons as to why this solo ride is ill-advised:

    1) Motorcycles are dangerous.
    2) The only Spanish you speak is from the menu at Señor Fish.
    3) You might get hit by a banana truck on some desolate Patagonian dirt road.
    4) You might get hit by a banana truck in the middle of Santiago.
    5) You don't know the region very well.
    6) You don't know the region at all.
    7) Local banditos/revolutionaries will steal your stuff and hack you to pieces with a machete(s).
    8) You won't be prepared for the wind/cold/rain/snow.
    9) You don't have a daily itinerary.
    10) You're completely unprepared.
    11) You can't rebuild a motorcycle engine.
    12) South America has jungles. Jungles are dangerous.
    13) Your loved ones will worry about you (note: they worry anyway).
    14) Verizon doesn't have cell towers in Tierra del Fuego.
    15) There are less lethal ways to enjoy solitude.

    There are two things in common with every single person who contributed to The List.

    - None of them ride a motorcycle.
    - None of them have ever been to South America.

    Long, uncomfortable silence. Somewhere in the distance, a dog barks.

    Okay; I know their concerns come from the right place, that they care and want to keep me out of harm's way. Their love does not go unnoticed, nor unappreciated. Nevertheless, I will arm myself with little more than my lifelong dedication to unprepared preparedness, and the absolutism that riders and explorers know instinctively, intuitively:

    Certainty is the natural enemy of adventure.
    #1
  2. Migolito

    Migolito Adventurer

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2011
    Oddometer:
    68
    I can only say that you will most certainly not be alone. Ride on and keep us updated.

    M
    #2
  3. TUCKERS

    TUCKERS the famous james

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2005
    Oddometer:
    14,941
    Location:
    Villa Maria Sanitarium, Claremont, CA. USA
    You'll be fine.

    Take along Band Aids and Aleeve.
    #3
  4. Dieselboy

    Dieselboy Journey not Destination

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2003
    Oddometer:
    1,595
    Location:
    Port of the Gasparilla
    Very interesting first post. Welcome!

    I look forward to seeing your adventure unfold.


    :lurk
    #4
  5. antipode

    antipode Wanderer

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2007
    Oddometer:
    579
    Location:
    Berowra, Australia
    Got my attention from the start.
    Looking forward to see how it unfolds.
    Good luck!
    #5
  6. 805gregg

    805gregg Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2006
    Oddometer:
    1,653
    Location:
    Ojai, Ca
    No bananas that far south
    #6
  7. lakota

    lakota Geeser

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2007
    Oddometer:
    3,602
    Location:
    Annapolis MD
    Outstanding first post. Your introduction will have a lot of us following along. Ride safe and have fun
    #7
  8. BackpackerMoto

    BackpackerMoto Outcast

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2014
    Oddometer:
    195
    Location:
    The Teton Range
    Lakota, antipode, dieselboy, Migolito, the Tuckers (when in SoCal, I'm 20 minutes from Claremont), thanks much for the kind words and encouragement!

    I chuckled, because Fearmongerers (panicus sapien), when doing their fearmongering, aren't going to let agricultural realities get in the way of their sermons!
    #8
  9. BackpackerMoto

    BackpackerMoto Outcast

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2014
    Oddometer:
    195
    Location:
    The Teton Range
    Got the trip website up and running, where I'll unload extra photos, bonus windbag commentary, and gear reviews.

    Backpackermoto.com
    Photos Past

    And... let the self-loathing begin... I created a Facebook page. I weep.
    #9
  10. BackpackerMoto

    BackpackerMoto Outcast

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2014
    Oddometer:
    195
    Location:
    The Teton Range
    It's 1981.

    "What is it?" I ask, disinterested, pushing the glasses higher up my 12 year-old nose. "A motorized tricycle?"

    "Noooo," my best friend, Billy Hunsacker (real name) replies with appropriate condescension. "It's called a Honda ATC 250. It hauls ass."

    "Show me!" I respond, with indignance to match his disdain.

    He does. It does. Then he lets me ride it.

    Okay, so it's not the typical "I've been riding dirt bikes since I was 5" genesis story. There's no glorious history of youth championships, nor club championships as an adult, or a career cut short by some accident not of my own making.

    I can be quietly smug, however, for having won the Baja 1000 almost every weekend during 7th and 8th grade. Somehow someway, I survived almost two years of riding that 60 Minutes-certified deathtrap ATC around Billy's backyard dirt track, a long-kept secret my mother is learning as she reads this.

    That Honda was the first motorized vehicle I ever operated. Hauled ass in it. Launched it off jumps. Leaned it on two wheels, wheelied it. Helmets? Parental supervision? Hah. How dangerous could it actually be if a skinny four-eyed 7th grade twerp like me could learn to ride it, and keep riding it for a couple of years while avoiding serious injury, paralysis, or death.

    After eighth grade, my buddy went to a different high school, we drifted apart, and my riding 'career' was put on hold for about ten years.

    But my imagination wasn't. It was captured the same year I said goodbye to the ATC, when I learned about some insane race, on the other side of the world.... that somehow, completely inexplicably...

    Covered two continents.
    #10
  11. twflybum

    twflybum Prodigal Biker

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2011
    Oddometer:
    165
    Location:
    Colorado
    Brilliant intro! Godspeed!
    #11
  12. Comrade Art

    Comrade Art Working stiff

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2006
    Oddometer:
    708
    Location:
    Oregon
    :lurk
    #12
  13. DyrWolf

    DyrWolf Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2012
    Oddometer:
    580
    Location:
    RICHMOND VA
    In.
    #13
  14. FotoTEX

    FotoTEX Long timer

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2007
    Oddometer:
    2,907
    Location:
    Granbury Texas
    It will be a great adventure with alot less stress than your grandfather had escaping the Nazis. Guaranteed. And yes, there is cell reception in Tierra del Fuego, at least my AT&T phone worked there.
    #14
  15. Travelbugblues

    Travelbugblues Teacher on the road

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2013
    Oddometer:
    495
    Location:
    Home: Seattle. Current mission: the world!
    Hahaha! Or "Jajajaja" as they say in Espanol. You'll have a great time! I'm here in Patagonia as I type this, having started my own trip on January 1st. My dad's main reasons were as follows:

    1) You are a GIRL! Girls shouldn't travel around Latin America alone!

    2) The Andes are notorious for causing flat tires! FLAT TIRES ON TWO WHEELS IS BAD!

    3) The Argentine drivers are the worst, most aggressive in the world (note, he's married to an Argentine, so he knows :)

    On another note, when you end up in the Tierra del Fuego national park, be very, very wary of this Fat Fox, who ate my motorcycle bag and I had to run around in the pitch black, half naked, trying to get it back!

    [​IMG]


    Have fun! Maybe see you on the road! I'm reeeeeal slow on a 125cc Honda :)
    #15
  16. BackpackerMoto

    BackpackerMoto Outcast

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2014
    Oddometer:
    195
    Location:
    The Teton Range
    It's 1983.

    As we have every year since 1975, my father, brother and I are at the Long Beach Grand Prix. And much to my dismay, this will be the last time that it hosts the Formula 1 circus.

    Strolling by myself through the packed Vendor Row, I am handed a free issue of some magazine called On Track. It has a cool photo of Niki Lauda on the cover, and since he's one of my faves, I start flipping through the pages.

    Towards the back, after all the articles on F1, IndyCar, Le Mans, Sebring etc., there is a single page article with two photos; one that shows a rally car jumping a sand dune, and the other of a solo motorcycle rider blazing across a dusty, barren plain. The complete, utter solitude of the rider catches my eye. For a looong moment, I stare hard at the photo, envisioning his isolation, before I finally glance at the article title.

    "Paris to Dakar Rally, Week 2 Report".

    My imagination races. Paris... France? Dakar..... in Africa? How is that possible? Around the Med? Ferries? Week 2? How many weeks is the race? And damn it all, where's the Week 1 report?

    Mind spinning, I walk back to my grandstand seat in time for the start of the grand prix, and I'm enthralled with a thrilling race as Watson and Lauda carve the field en route to a stunning 1-2 finish. The car ride back home is filled with discussion of Michelin superiority, the impressive McLaren chassis, and Lauda's title chances.

    But that night in bed, I'm looking at that photo of the solo rider.


    Standing curbside at the Santiago airport, one duffel in my hand, the other on my back, I gazed wistfully to the north where The Dakar now finishes its route. This is as close as I'll get to it. This time.

    I glanced to my right and saw the fellow who sat next to me on the plane. He shoots me a dose of stink eye. "He must still be sore," I muttered to myself. With three hours remaining on the flight, I was returning from the head when a jolt of turbulence threw me off-balance, and I fell into my aisle seat with hand outstretched to catch myself on the center armrest. In the darkness of the cabin, my hand slid off the armrest and, palm open, into the guy´s crotch. Unsure which of us was more horrified, I collapsed the rest of the way into my seat, and let a long moment pass.

    "Anything I can say to apologize and, simultaneously convince you that was an accident?" I joked weakly.

    Silence.

    Two minutes later, the stewardess rolled up with the beverage cart. "Drinks or snacks, gentlemen?" she queried. The dude fired his salvo. Pointing at me, he deadpanned, "He'll have the nuts."

    Back curbside at the airport, I gave my seat buddy a hearty wave before I dove into into a cab that took me to the bike. I had spent many hours on the Motorcycle Issue. Ship my own? Rent? Purchase locally?

    With just a few weeks at my disposal, I opted to spin the wheel of fortune and rent from a company that specialized in very low mileage adventure-prepped bikes (we'll put that reputation to the test, eh?). A Kawasaki KLR 650, the AK-47 of the adventure world, was waiting for me upon arrival.

    I spent about 40 minutes going over the bike, utilizing my meager mechanical skills to check the chain, tires, pressures, hoses, fluids, included tools and spares, and finally, the odometer. I had it packed within another hour and by noon local time, my South American adventure was underway.

    Having just finished 16 hours of travel, yet juiced with adrenaline, my only goal was to make it out of the city and get a few miles south. I wanted to put Santiago behind me; I came to see mountains and rain forests and open plains, not some sprawling metropolis with the usual blend of high rises surrounded by hovels. We got all that back home in Los Angeles.

    Using 8000 year-old technology perfected by the ancient Greeks, I used a map to find Ruta 5 South, aka the Pan American Highway. A two hour ride was interrupted only by a stop for lunch, which got me re-energized and I made 190 miles that day, stopping in the small town of Linares.

    Per my established roadtrip routine, I just rode around until I found a hotel that passed the Eyeball Test. The owner was a charming woman who welcomed me and the bike into a secured locked carport. A quick meal, a quick online chat with my girl, and I turned in for the night, eager to get my normal 6-7 hours of sleep.

    [​IMG]

    I awoke 10 hours later.

    Day 2 and my goal was to reach Puerto Montt, a further 450 miles south. I knew going in that these first two days were just slogs, gateways to the stunning Al Sur. And they were... Ruta 5 south of Santiago is like Interstate 5 north of Bakersfield. Nothing to see here, folks.

    Closer to Puerto Montt and wide open agriculture was a welcome sight, soon giving way to new growth forests. I pulled into Puerto Montt just before twilight with a slight drizzle coming down. With rain and darkness looming, I spotted a Holiday Inn Express right on the water's edge and, better yet, the headwater of the Carretera Austral, the famed Chilean road and half the reason for coming here.

    With the ugly highway behind me, tomorrow will be the true start of this misadventure.

    More photos at backpackermoto.com
    #16
  17. BackpackerMoto

    BackpackerMoto Outcast

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2014
    Oddometer:
    195
    Location:
    The Teton Range
    Well then, good thing I'm on Verizon. :evil

    Can't imagine there are too many solo girl travelers who don't get that reason from one parent or the other.

    If I get that far south, I'll probably feed that fox. I'm a sucker for the wildlife.
    #17
  18. BackpackerMoto

    BackpackerMoto Outcast

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2014
    Oddometer:
    195
    Location:
    The Teton Range
    It's 1978.

    "Mechanical sympathy," my father explains, carefully lubing the chain on my bicycle. "Take care of the machine, it takes care of you," he further preaches, the mechanic in him unable to cease the sermon to a ten year old boy.

    "Yah yah yah," I think to myself. " I just want to RIDE it already!"

    Dawn.

    I roll out of the hotel underground parking, backlit by subterranean garage lighting and into the morning fog. Like Maverick and Goose, I'm on an F14 being hoisted onto the deck of the Nimitz.

    It's an inspired moment. Early morning light struggles to pierce the fog and rain, but the blue glow illuminates the bay to my right as I work my way down this coastal highway. This is the Carratera Austral, one of the most stunning and challenging roads in the world, a glorious mix of billiard table asphalt and pot-hole washboard incisor-breaking gravel.

    Miles 5 and 6 roll by. This early, the smooth road is barren of traffic, mine to enjoy as the sky gets a little brighter. Mile 7, I am Joy personified. One of those experiences that already surpasses the expectations you envisoned when you gazed at the wall map, Mile 8---

    SNAP TWANG GRRRRR.

    No drive. Something dragging. I coast to a halt in front of a farmhouse, where two dogs start barking at me before I can even dismount.

    Putting down the KLR's cruel hoax of a kickstand, I climb off and glance down. Chain is off.... but not broken. Headlamp in side pocket of tank bag comes out, and I inspect the rear sprocket. No damage I can spot. I get half of the chain back on, roll the bike backwards, and the chain eases into place. The dogs cheer.

    However, the chain is much looser than when I did my inspection that morning. And this is the triple ferry day, where the goal is to ride 25 miles to La Arena, catch the ferry to Puelche, then 35 miles to Hornopiren for the once-daily 11 am ferry to Leptepu, then a short 6 mile hop to Fjordo Largo and the final boat to Caleta Gonzalo.

    I baby the bike onto the highway and play things conservatively, easing my way slowly to a max of 30-35 mph. All seems fine. I roll up to a backlog of trucks and vans at what appears to be road construction, so I roll past them to see what's the hold up. Turns out, I've reached the first dock! And the boat has just dropped its ramp!

    The euphoria of success sweeps over me. I slap the KLR on the tank , the deckhand waves me forward with a flourish, and I putt onto the ferry. Rain still falls, harder, but I'm all grins.

    The ferry pulls out for its short 30 minute voyage, and I take the opportunity to look at the chain again.Seems the same as when I got it back on, and rear wheel seems tight. I have two and a half hours to ride the 35 miles to Hornopiren, so I decide that when this boat docks, I'll look for a mechanic immediately.

    That search proves fruitless. If I miss the Hornopiren ferry, I'll be stuck until the next day, so I opt to gamble the ride. If I break down, I miss it. If I don't try, I'll miss it.

    I chug slowly out of Puelche..... at least the road is paved...

    To be continued....
    #18
  19. Hawk62cj5

    Hawk62cj5 2 Cheap 4 a KLR

    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2010
    Oddometer:
    752
    Location:
    Southern Va
    Interesting wrote report . Have fun
    #19
  20. BackpackerMoto

    BackpackerMoto Outcast

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2014
    Oddometer:
    195
    Location:
    The Teton Range
    BP pegged it. Me = ADV Noob > writer!
    #20