Mas Caminos, Mas Amigos - Chicago to Ushuaia on a KLR650

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by sasper, Aug 10, 2010.

  1. sasper

    sasper Just call me Sper

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2010
    Oddometer:
    118
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    My name is Stephen, but you can call me Sper (pronounced spear). I'm 25 years old and have called Chicago home for the last 3 years. Before that, I went to undergrad at Taylor University in central Indiana and grew up outside Grand Rapids, MI. I'm a nerd by training and career, with a degree in Computer Science and a few years doing consulting and custom web application development (that's making websites to all you non-techie folks).


    I started riding motorcycles when I moved to Chicago and have found a new passion in my life. I started taking more long weekend tours on bikes and found a lot of pleasure in doing so, with the only problem being that I didn't have enough time to see and do everything I wanted. What was the best way to remedy that? I found my answer -- quit the great job I have and leave for 6+ months!


    So that's what I did. My last day at work was 7/15/10. The next few weeks were spent relaxing, prepping my KLR650 (his name is Oscar -- the grouch), seeing friends, taking a couple of extended camping test rides on the bike to situate all of my gear, and procrastinating on leaving to start my trip.


    The plan for the trip is to head to the Northwest US for a couple of weeks to see the sights, then to Colorado for an HU meeting, then down to Mexico and Central America the first or second week of September. If I'm still loving the trip in Guatemala, I'll start considering going to South America, but I don't want to commit to that just yet.


    After delaying my start date a 3rd time, this time because a replacement part for my GPS was shipped incorrectly, I finally decided I was done waiting around. After some great customer service from Garmin in Chicago, I was able to find the part I needed, which I installed right away, packed the bike, and hit the road.

    #1
  2. sasper

    sasper Just call me Sper

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2010
    Oddometer:
    118
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    I finally finish packing my bike for the next 6 months outside my apartment. My room mate is there to see me off (and take some photos), and as I'm about to take off, my bike decides not to start. This is the first time this has ever happened. I give it a few minutes to relax, then try again. Nothing.

    [​IMG]
    Ready to take off


    [​IMG]
    Or not...


    Ok -- maybe it's out of gas. Or the carb is funked up (I've been playing with the tuning). Or the repairs I made earlier this week were wrong. I check a few things and nothing jumps out, but I'm able to get it started and get to the gas station down the block.


    Come to find out, I had kinked the vacuum hose of the gas tank and it was causing the carbs to not receive fuel correctly. It was caused by my tank bag pressing down on the tank. Problem solved, now officially on the road.


    I only spend an hour on the first leg of my trip. I head from downtown Chicago to see my friend from college, Greg, in Aurora, IL.


    [​IMG]
    Greg's not too happy having to wait for food at Culvers


    While I want to see my good friend before I take off, I also want to get out of my familiar environment and make sure that I don't get lazy and stay home for a few more days. It's been really easy to do, and I'm sure I could stick around living in Chicago on couches for a few more weeks (ask my sister -- as long as I would promise to manny for her cat).


    I spend the night with Greg and his friends, having a great time and celebrating the start of my trip. They all think I should introduce myself to everyone as Sper for the entirety of my trip, which I think is a fantastic idea.


    Hello. I'm Sper.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    Adios!

    #2
  3. RobBD

    RobBD Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2007
    Oddometer:
    330
    Location:
    Perth Australia
    Good luck Sper, have fun and post regularly for those of us are not able to wander at the moment!
    #3
  4. sasper

    sasper Just call me Sper

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2010
    Oddometer:
    118
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    I head towards to Twin Cities in Minnesota to stay with Greg and Elizabeth from AdvRider. They were the best hosts at the Annual Latin America Riders Ralley a couple of weeks ago, and invited me to stay with them in their home for the night.

    I head northwest from Chicago and try to stay south of a huge storm that rolls through Madison and central Wisconsin. I was caught camping in a tornado outside Madison a few weeks ago and would like to avoid that experience again if possible! While I miss most of the storm, I do run into rain for a few hours.

    [​IMG]
    It's really wet, and now my helmet is leaking water into the visor. Need to fix that!

    [​IMG]
    Zoidberg's waterproof claw hands say "Even when it's wet, ya gotta stay hydrated. Woowoowooowoo". Sorry... I thought of that caption in my helmet and it made me laugh when I tried to make the noise.

    I have to admit something -- I get easily bored riding on highways and freeways for more than an hour or 2. I'll start to see dirt roads of all kinds winding through corn fields, tracks left by farmers, or ATV and snomobile trails. Well, I guess that now I have all the time in the world to travel, I'll take some of these interesting trails to stem the boredom!

    [​IMG]
    This is more like it!

    I continue down dirt roads, trails, and the roads on the Stagecoach trail for a couple of hours, and then am stopped by this:

    [​IMG]
    Yeah. It's about 1/8 mile long, has 2 different 90 degree turns, some of the road further along has washed away, it's *deep* on the sides and it's flowing decently fast.

    [​IMG]
    Oscar awaits his fate

    I walk through the water to the end of the crossing, turn back and debate -- do I cross this or not? No, I shouldn't. I'm here by myself, there's no one here to help if I fall. What if I fall? All of my stuff will get wet. It's my *first day*. I can't fall and get everything wet on my first day! And I don't want to hike both side cases and my duffel bag across the water before or after riding the bike across.

    I get back on Oscar, turn him around, and ride away from the water crossing. I'm debating the entire time... I'm proud of my decision at first. It's the smart thing to do. Then, about 1/4 mile away, I start to second guess myself -- is this what I'll do in 5 months when I'm in Costa Rica driving through the rain forests? What if turning around then means driving back 100 miles? It wasn't that deep... I could walk the whole thing. These bikes are made to cross rivers. I even installed a t-mod on my carburetor so it doesn't get clogged in river crossings, a common problem Oscar's. Besides, I've done deeper water in MUD and I was fine. This one is just long. And has 2 curves. And is flowing fast.

    I turn back around. I've gotta do it! But not before setting up my video camera.
    <object height="385" width="480">

    <embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/Pq8s8UDdyAQ&hl=en_US&fs=1" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" height="385" width="480"></object>


    <object width="425" height="344"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/4zJToJawTvA&hl=en&fs=1"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/4zJToJawTvA&hl=en&fs=1" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"></embed></object>[​IMG]
    A tunnel overflowing with flood water. I decide to turn around on this one.


    [​IMG]
    I make it to Dubuque, which is a very beautiful town right on the Mississippi river.


    I ride the streets of the city to find a cafe for lunch. I check out a few places and end grabbing a chicken salad sandwich and eat on the main street in Dubuque, people watching.


    [​IMG]
    Great chicken salad and homemade bread and salsa. Can't remember the name of the place though.


    I follow the Mississippi as far as I can towards the Twin Cities. The ride is beautiful as I ride between Minnesota and Wisconsin. I arrive at Greg and Elizabeth's house at dusk and am greeted by friends and shown a great guest room, all this on 10 hours notice!


    [​IMG]
    I sleep very well here.


    [​IMG]
    Carhart, the best dog in the world and also half cat


    After driving through the Twin Cities and heading west for a couple hours, I notice that my bike is vibrating much more than before. Oscar always vibrates, but this was a new more intense vibration. I look down while riding and notice that the chain is very loose. I slow down and look for a place to pull over in the shade, since it's 95 degrees outside already.


    I tighten up the chain and decide to throw some lube on it while I'm at it.While I'm lubing the chain, I notice that it's being stressed near the master link and is not seating correctly in the rear sproket. That's bad news.


    Here's why. 3 rollers were sheered off the chain and it was causing the chain to bind and stress. I sigh, go inside the restaurant who's parking lot I was in to get some water, and came out to figure out what to do. I have a chain tool but have only used it once. I wind up having to get another chain from a motorcycle dealership a few miles away, but haven't been able to get it installed yet. I'll work on that tomorrow.


    While i was in the parking lot, a couple named Dwight and Kim said hello to me and after they ate, came to chat. I told them a little about myself and my trip, and the problems I was having with the bike. I asked them if they knew any where in the immediate area where I could pitch a tent and camp for the night. Kim made a couple of phone calls to no avail. However, Dwight offered to pay for a motel room down the street which I happily accepted, after being stuck in the sun and heat all day long working on the bike.


    [​IMG]
    Come to find out, it's their first date tonight.


    I pushed the bike to the motel, showered, grabbed some microwave food from the gas station and got to work writing emails and trip reports. It's now 4am and I'm still writing!
    #4
  5. RobBD

    RobBD Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2007
    Oddometer:
    330
    Location:
    Perth Australia
    The Adventure has started- water crossings( did you cut the part where you trudged back to get your camera:D ), and the generosity of total strangers.:clap :clap
    #5
  6. jetjackson

    jetjackson Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 4, 2009
    Oddometer:
    490
    Location:
    Somewhere in Europe on a Motorbike :)
    Sweet! Im in! You had me at Vagabonding...
    #6
  7. RobBD

    RobBD Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2007
    Oddometer:
    330
    Location:
    Perth Australia
    Ha Ha you didnt cut it!! I must've caught the thread while the second clip was still uploading!!
    #7
  8. JJMSP

    JJMSP Cervicalgia

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2006
    Oddometer:
    1,552
    Location:
    on the horns of a dilemma
    :lurk

    Got any more popcorn? :D

    :lurk
    #8
  9. GSdiablo

    GSdiablo cubical farmer

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2007
    Oddometer:
    700
    Location:
    On the wrong side of the river
    Might as well get the breakdowns out of your way now:evil. When you told me Sunday eve you were heading to Sturgis, I thought "wow" thats a pretty good ride across the plains in mid August on a 650.
    Have a great trip!. Greg/Elizabeth
    #9
  10. emohn

    emohn Adventurer

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2009
    Oddometer:
    62
    Location:
    Louisville, KY
    Subscribed. Have an awesome trip!
    #10
  11. bananaman

    bananaman transcontimental

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2007
    Oddometer:
    8,177
    Location:
    Madison, Wisconsin and/or Panama, Panama
    :clap
    #11
  12. sonicapollo

    sonicapollo Adventure Addict

    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2009
    Oddometer:
    175
    Location:
    Ohio
    How well do those beads work?
    #12
  13. sasper

    sasper Just call me Sper

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2010
    Oddometer:
    118
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    The anal beads have been comfortable. Helps eliminate the hot spots, but after 10 hours or so it starts to get sore.
    #13
  14. Foflappy

    Foflappy Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2009
    Oddometer:
    62
    Location:
    Central Illinois
    Great so far! Ill be following your trip. :clap
    #14
  15. Doogle

    Doogle Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 25, 2009
    Oddometer:
    550
    Location:
    Ohio-Cincinnati


    After driving through the Twin Cities and heading west for a couple hours, I notice that my bike is vibrating much more than before. Oscar always vibrates, but this was a new more intense vibration. I look down while riding and notice that the chain is very loose. I slow down and look for a place to pull over in the shade, since it's 95 degrees outside already.


    I tighten up the chain and decide to throw some lube on it while I'm at it.While I'm lubing the chain, I notice that it's being stressed near the master link and is not seating correctly in the rear sproket. That's bad news.


    Here's why. 3 rollers were sheered off the chain and it was causing the chain to bind and stress. I sigh, go inside the restaurant who's parking lot I was in to get some water, and came out to figure out what to do. I have a chain tool but have only used it once. I wind up having to get another chain from a motorcycle dealership a few miles away, but haven't been able to get it installed yet. I'll work on that tomorrow.


    I pushed the bike to the motel, showered, grabbed some microwave food from the gas station and got to work writing emails and trip reports. It's now 4am and I'm still writing![/quote]
    -----------------------------------------------------------
    Sasper,always start a long trip with new chain and sprockets.If the old ones are decent,take them as your backup.
    Don't over tighten that chain,or you will be replacing it again.And possibly other things.

    Best of luck
    #15
  16. lukeman

    lukeman Cool Hand

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2008
    Oddometer:
    459
    Location:
    Washington DC
    Well at least you're working the kinks out early right? :wink:

    Congrats on starting the trip, I did a similar thing in quitting a software job and made for central america. Best decision i've made. Enjoy yourself and drink plenty of tequila and rum south of the border.

    Carry around small bills and a backup color license copy laminated for dealing with cops south of the boarder.

    Cheers!
    #16
  17. Uglyprimate

    Uglyprimate UglyPirate

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2006
    Oddometer:
    6,944
    Location:
    Fort Whine Indiana
    subscribed
    #17
  18. aidriu

    aidriu n00b

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2010
    Oddometer:
    7
    Location:
    Dallas, Tx
    If you end up in Dallas, look me up if you need a place to stay.
    #18
  19. Celtazon

    Celtazon Enigma

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2009
    Oddometer:
    428
    Location:
    Tulsa OK
    :rayof Yaaaaaaay!!! :ricky
    #19
  20. sasper

    sasper Just call me Sper

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2010
    Oddometer:
    118
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    I decided to get some chores done while I had some down time and a motel room, so the first thing to do was laundry. I washed all of my gear and clothes in the bathtub and hung it to dry.

    [​IMG]

    All of my clothes and riding gear drying after washing in the bathtub

    I passed my bike off to Yamaha Motorsports in Hutchinson, MN to have the chain and front and rear sprockets replaced, and was finally ready to roll after hanging out in Minnesota another day.


    [​IMG]

    Yamaha Motorsports mechanic finishing up the work

    [​IMG]

    I had to stop at this gas station just to get a picture

    [​IMG]

    A gigantic field of sunflowers in SD

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    Yours truly. Thank God for tripods and camera timers

    I headed West, and decided to camp out for the first time on the trip. I love camping, and I spent a lot of time shopping for the perfect camping gear, so I definitely want to be using it on this trip.


    [​IMG]

    Camping somewhere in eastern South Dakota

    After a fine night of camping, I rode West for the day and camped just outside of the Badlands near an Indian Reservation. I stealth camped after following some dirt trails back into the plains, and saw some beautiful wildlife.


    [​IMG]

    My first stealth camp site in the Buffalo Gap National Grassland

    [​IMG]

    Pheasants and deer just outside my campsite. I also saw wild horses

    The next morning I got to the Badlands, which I have never seen but have heard that they are a treat. Let me tell you, they really are. Ragged and beautiful. After passing through the Badlands, I made for the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore.


    [​IMG]
    At the Badass Badlands

    [​IMG]

    How many different faces can you make? I need some new ones for the trip


    [​IMG]

    Driving through the Black Hills

    I got tired of riding the roads in the Black Hills and wanted to do some exploring, so I took some of the dirt trails that I found. There were no fences on these trails, so the wildlife was free to roam. I was in search of a bison (or buffalo) as I have never seen one. Well, I got what I was looking for. Here he is.


    [​IMG]

    Finally... a bison!

    I guess the bison didn't like to get his picture taken, as just after I shot this, he started to act annoyed and walk towards me. I got a little nervous after hearing that Bison can run 35mph, so I threw the camera into my pocket and got ready to ride just in time... he started to chase me! The bike roared and I sent the biggest dirt cloud into the air as I took off.


    [​IMG]

    Glad I didn't turn into this guy

    I wanted to swing by Mount Rushmore since I was right next to it, but everyone I've talked to said it was cheesy and the only thing to do is to see it, so I rode by and did just that.

    [​IMG]
    I fit right in with these guys



    Now onto Bozeman, MT!
    #20