South America and back on a 250 Super Sherpa Minimalist Adventure

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by JDowns, Oct 2, 2012.

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  1. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    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:

    [​IMG]

    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:

    [​IMG]

    and riding in the mountains of Costa Rica:

    [​IMG]

    and Panama after crossing the mountain border at Rio Sereno:

    [​IMG]

    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
    #1
  2. Chip Seal

    Chip Seal Long timer

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    Yaay John, keep us up to date.
    Looking forward to your trip. :evil
    #2
  3. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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

    Best,
    John Downs
    #3
  4. Klay

    Klay dreaming adventurer

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

    Panama Been here awhile

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    JDOWNS,
    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
    #5
  6. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    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.

    Best,
    John Downs
    #6
  7. Panama

    Panama Been here awhile

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    Hey JDOWNS,
    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
    #7
  8. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    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:

    [​IMG]

    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:

    http://micapeak.com/checklists/

    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
    Lock
    Battery tricklecharger
    Saddlebags
    Top box
    2 Rok strap bungees
    Spare key(s)
    Tire patch kit
    Helmet
    Toolkit
    Riding Jacket
    Riding Pants
    Riding gloves
    Riding boots
    Spare Tubes
    *PersonalStuff-
    Reading glasses
    Soap
    Toothbrush & toothpaste

    Clothing

    1 Pair Socks
    Pair of black Jeans
    Down vest
    Polypro long underwear
    T-shirt
    *Information-

    Bike title/registration
    Camera & accessories
    Passport/ID
    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

    Misc.-
    Freezer bags (for packing)
    Zip ties
    Cash
    Moneybelt
    Credit cards
    Duct tape
    Needle and thread
    Extra batteries
    Superglue
    2 part epoxy
    crank powered Flashlight
    *
    Camping stuff

    Cord
    Steri pen
    lighter
    Tent
    2 compression sacks
    Toilet paper
    Sleeping bag
    Thermarest

    *Cooking stuff

    spoon
    Water bottle

    I also found this bike maintenance checklist helpful:

    http://www.gadgetjq.com/motorcylemaintenancelist.htm

    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.

    Cheers,
    John Downs
    #8
  9. Cal

    Cal Been here awhile

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    John
    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.
    #9
  10. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    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 chileautos.cl 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.

    Best,
    John Downs
    #10
  11. Cal

    Cal Been here awhile

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    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.
    Cheers
    #11
  12. Misery Goat

    Misery Goat Positating the negative Super Moderator

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

    Suerte, amigo!

    :lurk
    #12
  13. Free Radical

    Free Radical High speed drifter

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    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!
    #13
  14. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    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:

    http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=615832

    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!

    Best,
    John Downs
    #14
  15. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Hola SeƱor 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
    #15
  16. VooDooDaddy

    VooDooDaddy Been here awhile

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    Hey JD,

    Cheers to you my friend. I'd be happy to give you a couple dineros once you get a paypal link going. I know what it's like doing everything on a limited budget. With three growing kids roaming the house, there's not a lot of spare change to be found. I'll be doing my SA trip in hopefully 2018 or 2019 when my kids are out of high school.

    Until then is a long wait, but believe it or not, I already have most of my gear ready to go, and my bike of choice will be my lowly DR350. Everyone thinks I'm nuts. "Oh, you can't go to SA,...it's too dangerous. You'll get kidnapped by a narco-trafficing, thug" Or,..."you can't ride a little 350 to SA, you need a bike with at least a million cc's"

    And I continue to be absolutely dumbfounded by the great people here at the ADV nut-factory who are riding 800lbs behemouths with enough luggage and misc. gear to outfit four people let alone themselves.

    It's really, really refreshing to see someone do their SA dream trip without a million dollars, a GS1200, and spending the entire trip in a hotel/hostel/resort.

    Good on ya!
    #16
  17. dankatz

    dankatz Been here awhile

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    Subscribed! Good luck on your trip! Me jealous...
    #17
  18. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Hi VooDooDaddy.

    This rides for you! I remember following my friend Gene through the woods. He was on a DR 350. What a sweet bike. No way I could keep up with him. Well okay, Gene can ride circles around me. But that little Suzuki is a good one. Continue ignoring the naysayers and follow your dreams. The older I get the faster time flies. Your kids will be in college before you know it. I look forward to reading your ride reports in the not so distant future.

    I really enjoy writing ride reports. And yes, I will figure out how to put up a paypal donate button if I run low on funds and people are enjoying reading along and would like to help keep this ride report going a tad longer.

    I have nothing against people who ride big bikes and live large. It's fun to read their ride reports. And yes I know their rear shock cost more than my bike. Nothing wrong with that. I just can't afford to do it. Anyway, I have been through Mexico and Central America many times and it pounds the crap out of your bike. I would hate to have a lot of expensive stuff to keep an eye on really. And living in rural Nebraska, I actually enjoy seeing how far I can go on a limited budget. Its not for everyone though. But if nothing else, I hope to inspire some of the younger folks out there to see that yes they can ride long and far for less than they might imagine.

    Anyway, thanks for the kind words. Now get back out and finish picking corn before the next storm rolls through! And feel free to drop by for a free place to stay if you're ever through the Sandhills of Northern Nebraska. We're practically neighbors. I imagine we have a lot in common.

    Best,
    John Downs
    #18
  19. Paulutions

    Paulutions Adventurer

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    You, sir, are the real deal. You are an inspiration to working guys everywhere. Making the most out of the least is what adventure is all about. I live near Gallup, N.M where our local bike shop has a Sherpa sitting out back. If you wind up needing parts sent to you, pm me & I will see what I can do. Looking forward to reading your posts. :1drink
    #19
  20. Paulutions

    Paulutions Adventurer

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    By the way, I am rather new to off-road adventure riding. But, I've done a lot of backpacking. When I got on the Appalachian Trail in Virginia in June, I had $300.00 and had to work along the way. I made it to Vermont by fall, found work on a farm where I wound up returning to work for 3 seasons & am good friends with that family to this day. Anyway, there are lots of inspiring people who do the A.T. on a limited budget, while there are also many who spend thousands on expensive gear and are so obsessed with conquering the trail that they burn themselves out and forget to have a good time. I could go on and on with stories, but I'll just say that I quickly learned that the people who tended to have the best time & go the furthest were the ones who spent the least amount of money and carried the smallest amount of weight. On the AT, you were almost never more than a week away from your next opportunity to get supplies. You could carry a week's worth of good plus your necessary gear & realistically keep your pack to between 25 & 35lbs, depending on how extreme you got about weight. Some guys even cut the handles off their toothbrushes. At any rate, I have often wondered why the same sort of ultralite philosophie wasn't more present in adventure riding. Nor have I yet figured out why I would need a huge, heavy pannier system on a motorcycle when, on the trail, I learned to keep my load down to a pack not much bigger than a day pack. However, Iwill say that' when I started hiking the AT, I had a very large, expensive backpack that I had bought used & believed that I just wouldn't carry as much in it. I eventually had to come to the realization that the more I could carry, the more I would carry and traded down for a smaller pack. I also bought a very expensive pair of hiking boots that, within 300 miles started to crumble apart. I was happy to in cheap, $20 running shoes from Kmart for the rest of my trip. It may just turn out that you pioneer a movement of minimalist motorcyclists. Call it a school of thought, write a book, & charge big money to give seminars on how to travel light & cheap.
    #20
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