South America and back on a 250 Super Sherpa Minimalist Adventure

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

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  1. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Hi Ray,

    People are welcome to hijack this thread anytime they want. Great ideas about audio books and radio shows. I used an iPod touch last trip for emailing and checking ADV. But you are right it is small. I think the new iPad mini that came out this week might be the best tool. Decent camera, thin and light, lots of apps for it, 7 inch screen is portable yet not so small as the touch, twice the battery life of a netbook.

    But this trip I am using cheap digital cameras and this 11" Macbook Air laptop. It works well so far. Smaller is better though.

    The nice thing about shoestring moto camping is that it opens your eyes to all the creative free possible camping spots out there.

    Best,
    John Downs
  2. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Woke up this morning and looked out the tent:

    [​IMG]

    The temps had dropped from the 80s yesterday to the 40s this morning. The north winds that blew all night brought in a cold front and the camping spot looked like somewhere in Scotland this morning, with gray skies and spitting rain:

    [​IMG]

    I headed down the way to the Roll the Bones rally near Hamilton Texas where I signed up and paid the 25 dollar entry fee to Ghost Rider. I was told to look for the 375 lb big dude. He wasn't hard to find:

    [​IMG]

    Went over to the nice hotel across the way and helped UlyBrad unload his KTM. He brought it as a spare bike for someone to ride in case they biffed. As you can see, a fishing accident has taken out his left arm so he and his lovely wife were riding in the sag truck behind the dirt riders on today's ride. Here is Brad:

    [​IMG]

    Nice guy. The riders assembled in the parking lot getting ready to take off out around rural Texas:

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    Slowoldguy is in the center with the goatee at a riders meeting for the dirt riders. Actually I removed this picture since I was informed Slowloldguy doesn't like his picture on the internet. I respect his wishes. Nothing wrong with that. He is a nice tall guy who rides like he means it. And that is all we need to know.


    I dropped in behind Slowoldguy, since I just arrived and didn't have the maps that had been handed out to pre-registered folks. Slowoldguy wheelied out of the parking lot and took off. He isn't that old and if he's slow I'd like to see fast. He kept losing all the riders in the back. I stayed behind him and found that when he lifted the front tire and his pipe started barking it was time to whack the Sherpa throttle and keep it pinned in order to keep up. He was going freeway fast down the straight flat dirt sections. This guy can ride. After 20 miles he would stop and wait for the others to show up. I followed him for much of the 100 mile ride to the ribs. Between the creek crossings followed by Slowoldguy whacking the throttle and kicking up a dust storm my riding pants and boots looked like I had been through a war.

    We were moving too fast for pictures. Sorry. Well okay, I got this shot of Sam from Houston who stopped to say hi while we were waiting for Slowoldguy to ride back and find the stragglers. Sam had read this ride report and got a picture with me:

    [​IMG]

    Finally arrived at the rib shack and parked under the trees:

    [​IMG]

    These Texas boys have some nice bikes. I think this is an HP3 but don't quote me:

    [​IMG]

    They even gave me a TexasADV sticker with a tiretread running over it. Nice design. I put it on the gas tank:

    [​IMG]

    I split a rib dinner with Becky. She was the only woman rider on the dirt ride. She was riding her friends KTM450. She is going to Colorado to get the metal removed from her left arm soon so this will be her last riding for a while. Great rider. Sweet and tough. She is planning on going to South America in 2013 with her friend Andrea on a couple DRZ's. Those guys are going to have a blast! Here's a pic of Becky:

    [​IMG]

    Hoofed it back 50 miles to the rally where I am now writing this up quickly so I can head over to the bonfire and meet more ADVriders. This is my office for the evening over in the hotel in front of the fire:

    [​IMG]

    Reporting in from the Roll the Bones rally in central Texas where people are still streaming in this evening. Quite a few more riders than I was thinking would be here. This is quite a big shindig. Have to run. More tomorrow when the fun really gets started...

    Best,
    John Downs
  3. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Yesterday I bought a knit cap to keep my head warm. I noticed Throttlemeister was wearing one camping in Oklahoma and after sleeping last night with a cold head I can see why. I also bought a screw-in light bulb socket that has two outlets. I could have unscrewed the lightbulb in the park bathroom and screwed this in to allow me to charge AA batteries on one side and the laptop on the other. It will come in handy in cheap hotels in Latin America as well. There are lots of places that don't have outlets. They all have some sort of light though. Just screw this bad boy between the lightbulb and socket and you have power and light. I like it.

    So I spent 4.23 on those and 15.64 on gas, 25.00 on the rally fee and 10.00 for my share of the ribs. For a total of 54.87. I'm living high on the hog.

    Instead of eating dust today flogging my bike with a pack of dirt riders I think I'll just ride around and take pictures and enjoy the back country here. It really is a beautiful part of the state. There is a thin line that seperates fearless from foolish and I was dancing with the foolish line yesterday. Better cool it since I am not just out for the weekend like some of these boys.

    It is 37º at 7am this morning so no hurry to go out riding really. I miss San Antonio and hanging out with Tricepilot. It was 85º down there day before yesterday. I think the Nomad Godess is trying to show me the folly of riding north to go south.

    So far no shotguns around this campground. What's up with that? These Texas ADVriders need to get up to Oklahoma more.

    Kindest regards,
    John Downs
  4. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Shortly after sunrise went over to the parking lot where riders were assembling to go out:

    [​IMG]

    Met this nice couple who liked the idea of heading off to South America when the kids get out of college. I can see Gail and Derrick heading down the road. Gail had that look in her eye. There is no cure but riding. Here's a pic of Derrick and Gail:

    [​IMG]

    Wandered around the parking lot looking at bikes. This KTM is locked and loaded. Imagine how much fun that bike would be in the Colombian mountains:

    [​IMG]

    Nice Triumph:

    [​IMG]

    This KTM sounded like adventure when it left. Love the sound of that motor:

    [​IMG]

    This fellow unloaded his plated KLX400 off the bumper rack on his Porsche Cayenne in the background. Must be nice:

    [​IMG]

    I'd rather be riding than working and making payments. But that's just me.

    This KLX 250S would be a sweet bike in Latin America:

    [​IMG]

    I could see taking a WR with a Safari tank around the world. Great bike:

    [​IMG]

    I'll head out when it warms up in a couple hours. More pictures of Texas hill country when I get back.

    Kindest regards,
    John Downs
  5. TUCKERS

    TUCKERS the famous james

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    Good idea on the light socket.

    I've been carrying various connectors for a few years,

    I have one for MotorHome park hookups that converts to regular plug in also.

    On Amazon you can get a converter that plugs in a cigarette lighter to convert to USB for 99c! Charge your Laptop when on the go.
  6. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    After all the riders left this morning it was very peaceful in the camping area behind the rodeo arena:

    [​IMG]

    It turned out to be a beautiful day in Texas for riding. Warmed up into the 60s. The nice thing about riding in the dust is that it shows little oil leaks on the motor. I noticed the timing inspection cover was seeping as well as the oil filter cover. It is easy to strip small bolt threads in aluminum motors, so I just snug them. If they seep I snug them a tad more. Which I did. The bike has only gone 2500 miles but it seemed like a nice place for an oil change so I rode into town and got a quart and came back to the campground. Dropped the oil in a styrofoam dinner tray from the trash and poured it into the empty oil bottle for recycling. Noticed my riding pants had a seam coming unstiched so sewed it up. Cleaned and oiled the air filter. Throttlemeister had given me some pantyhose to put over the stock foam filter to act as a pre-filter. I had heard about that trick but never tried it. It works. Much of the dust from yesterday's ride was on the surface of the pantyhose. Washed it out. Nice.

    Went out for a ride through the back country gravel ranch roads. I believe this is the edge of Texas hill country. Rode over winding hills down through tree tunnels of scrub oaks:

    [​IMG]


    Past rusting abandoned farm equipment and old outbuildings:

    [​IMG]


    You don't get as dusty going down the straight sections when you're not following someone kicking up dust with the throttle pinned. At this point I was keeping my shadow on my left since it was afternoon and I wanted to head south. Left the GPS back in the tent and I don't have a map:

    [​IMG]

    Eventually came to a sign that said road closed 1 mile ahead. Great. It's always worth checking out. Closed usually doesn't mean closed if you're riding a little dirt bike:

    [​IMG]

    Up over the berm it looked good to me:

    [​IMG]


    Sort of a baby version of the Sixaola railroad bridge going across the border on the Carribean side between Costa Rica and Panama.

    Very relaxing day of riding. Tomorrow it's off towards the Mexican border. A nice man had been reading this ride report and handed me a folded paper. Inside were two folded twenties. A donation for gas. I went over and grabbed him and had him sign the gas tank. It is very humbling accepting generosity like this. But I consider this trip research and development for young riders who follow in the future. Is it possible to ride to South America and give back by writing a ride report and send back pictures and stories? Who knows? We'll find out. Today I didn't buy gas since I only went maybe 120 miles wandering. $7.12 for oil and food.

    Best,
    John Downs
  7. Panama

    Panama Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    JDowns,
    Thanks for keeping up and doing such a great job on this report. I check it everyday!
    I am curious about your larger tank and your experience with gas availability south of the boarder.

    Myself and two other friends and trying to plan a ride from the USA to Panama. I have a KLR650 so I feel like gas wont be an issue, but one of the guys has a 2009 BMW G Xcountry 650 with a little tank and about 150 mile travel distance (at best).

    On your ride to Panama last year was gas ever an issue?

    - Thanks for any tips
  8. fastredbike

    fastredbike out riding

    Joined:
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    Hi John,
    thanks for the excellent RR. It's one of the best I've seen in quite a while in the way you blend travel tips, philosophy and commentary/photos of your travels. It's been interesting to follow your "diversions" when you spend time with ADVriders along the route. Your photos are great, too, glad you weren't camera-less for long.

    I seem always to have more trip than time and reports like this remind me how much I miss as I "iron-butt" it through. Someday I'm going to have the time for some extended trips and I'm going to do it more like you.

    BTW, I hope you don't mind me lifting a line from one of your early posts to quote in my sig. I totally share that sentiment and love that feeling just as a new trip gets going.
    :clap:clap
  9. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Hi Panama,

    My Sherpa came with a factory 2ish gallon tank. Hit reserve at 100ish miles. It was a pain stopping all the time for gas. So I saw a pictorial how-to that a kid did on the Super Sherpa thread over in the Thumper ADV section. He put an XR650 aftermarket 4 gallon tank on his Sherpa. So I found a 4 gallon aftermarket Clarke XR650 tank on Craigslist for 100 bucks and enlarged the front pucks and padding like he did to adapt it to the Sherpa. It looks dorky, but gives me a longer range.

    Now, as far as your friend's X-country I don't think I'd worry about it too much. That fuel injected 650 motor gets excellent fuel economy if you stay off whacking the throttle. Sure it would be nice to have more fuel capacity. But with fuel injection and fuel pumps it's a hassle and would cost him beaucoup bucks to change. Plus he probably doesn't want to have a dorky looking bike. Me, I don't care. Function over form.

    But here's the thing. You will be the tanker on your KLR. If your buddy runs out of gas, just empty the water out of a water bottle, shake it out, fill it with gas from your petcock, dump it in his tank and you're good to go to keep heading to the nearest gas station.

    That's the beauty of riding with buddies. Teamwork. You guys are going to have a blast!

    On the way to Panama and back I only hit reserve maybe once. I would fill up every 100 miles. Even in the boonies you can find gas from private individuals who sell it out of jugs and barrels.

    Would it be nice to have a bigger tank? Sure. But if you're just traveling to Panama and back on a smallish budget, there are cheaper options than a honkin' aftermarket tank.

    Some folks stop to pick up a small gas can or fill up some bottles with gas if they are traveling solo through unknown areas. It is always cheaper than an aftermarket tank for the few times you think you might need it.

    Hope this helps.

    Best,
    John Downs
  10. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Hi Fastredbike,

    Glad you are enjoying the ride. Anyone can lift pics, quotes or tips from this ride report. That's what its for. It is free for the taking.

    I know what you mean about jetting down the road with white line fever. I used to ride like that when I was younger. It was fun. I had more money than time. Didn't really have time to PM folks or take the time to stop too long on the way to meet people and check things out. There is usually about twenty years there when work and family make it tough to take the time for big rides and dawdling.

    Have faith. Your time will come. There will be a day when you can take the time to visit ADVriders and goof off and have fun when you get older. And if you're ever jetting through northern Nebraska you have a free place to stay at my bachelor house. Hope to see you down the road.

    Kindest regards,
    John Downs
  11. OldPete

    OldPete Be aware

    Joined:
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    I'm not a youngster, probably older than you JDowns :lol3 but will be following your RR with my full attention.
    Truly enjoying it to the point I will be opening a PP account. I'm a comp n00b. :wink:

    A tip of sorts.
    I raced outboards in my teens and we would filter gasoline through felt at refill.
    Once wetted with gas... water will not pass through it. A piece of felt over a make-shift funnel is all it takes.
    Alot cheaper than the $25+ nylon socks that fit inside the tank fill port.

    The R2 pictured above is in my sights. Got looong legs.

    theagaveprince does not blog and is not a forum guy but offered this short report about S.A. on a 250.
    http://wr250rforum.forumotion.com/t4763-wr250r-to-south-america

    My Best Regards,

    OldPete aka John
  12. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Hi OldPete,

    That's a good tip about the felt. That's a new one to me. I'll keep my eyes out for a piece of felt. Good thing to have in a baggy for filtering fuel out in the boonies in Baja, Bolivia or somesuch when you're dumping gas from a 55 gallon drum into your gas tank.

    I will check out agaveprince's ride report later when I get a chance. Thanks!

    Glad to have you along. I'll sign OldPete on the old gas tank along with all my other corporate gas fund sponsors.

    I'll give a monthly report on how this paypal thing is working out. I am new to this and it will be interesting to see where this ride report goes.

    Kindest regards,
    John Downs
  13. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    There was live music last night but most people were hanging around the bonfire where it was warm. This picture is before they started throwing Barcaloungers and easy chairs on. Not sure if that is an annual ritual or what. Like a Texas version of burning man:

    [​IMG]

    Anyway the night ended with door prize drawings and a raffle to benefit Wounded Warriors, a private foundation that helps returning wounded vets. Great cause. I bought ten dollars worth of tickets and gave them to SchizzMan since I didn't want any of the helmets, riding gear etc. that they were raffling off. Later I got back to my tent and realized I should have bought more tickets. It's a really good cause. Oh well. Next time.

    Got up this morning early and there was frost on the bike and tent. It was 31º. Time to head south. But not until the sun rises in an hour and the day warms up and evaporates the frost. So I'm over at the hotel next door warming up by the fire. The nice lady in the breakfast buffet asked me if I wanted a cup of complimentary Starbucks coffee. Why yes. Yes I do. But I explained that I was tent camping and not staying at the hotel. Didn't matter. Nice.

    So I PMed Tricepilot last night and he offered a place to stay the night tonight on the way to the border. I like the Tricefamily. Top notch folks in my book. Trice is doing a distance bicycle ride this morning, so I'll drift slowly south to San Antonio on backroads.

    Really enjoyed camping up here for a couple nights and meeting friendly ADVriders. Sam from Houston who I met out in the sticks the day before yesterday offered to give me his tent since he wants a bigger one. Hmmmm. That's a tough offer to refuse. It is not much bigger than my ice blue Walmart tent. When you're traveling minimalist it is a constant battle to trim your load. But in this case my thinking is I will switch for the slightly larger dark green stealth color tent so I don't stick out like a sore thumb south of the border. Plus it has a forest green rain fly that can double as a bike cover. I know that Throttlemeister was telling me that it isn't a bad idea to have your bike covered at night when parked. Out of sight, out of mind and all that.

    So I gave my ice blue Ozark Trail tent to a nice guy who was packing up. He thought his grandaughter might get a kick out of it. So long tent. You served me well. Hopefully you'll make it back to the Ozarks someday. That was a nice place to camp.

    At least now Sam can watch at least his tent make it to South America. Maybe he'll come down in the future. Who knows? Sam left so quick this morning that I forgot to have him sign my tank. So I'll sign Sam Houston on the tank. Even though he's originally from Biloxi. Sam Houson has a nice ring to it.

    Thanks!

    Best,
    John Downs
  14. Scooter_Junkie_Girl

    Scooter_Junkie_Girl Get some. Get a lot. Get it all.

    Joined:
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    Wow! What a wonderful adventure! I am fully subscribed and waiting for your next post with great excitement. :clap

    You are an awesome and motivational dude, you get the "mad respect, yo", your kind words are much needed. I hear so much of how I should settle down, save money, go to school, how I should fit someone else's idea of a successful adult....not nearly enough encouragement to just LIVE. None, actualy. :huh

    Good choice on the 250 as well. Drop that and a GS1200 a couple times, and I guarantee most people will be looking at the Sherpa with fond eyes. :lol3'

    Can't wait to read the next entry! Keep it up!


    p.s.

    I'm sending you gas money, because GD it, good people deserve good things. You da man. :)
    If you're in Costa Rica come November-December, send me a message and I'll be glad to get you a hostel room on me. Hot shower and free breakfast might be looking mighty nice around then!
  15. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Hi Scooter_Junkie_Girl,

    It gave me great pleasure to write your name on the side of my gas tank as my latest corporate sponsor. Scooter_Junkie_Girl looks awesome right next to VoodooDaddy and Zombie Apocalypse Training Camp Riders. This tank is getting some real flair. Thanks so much for the kind words and gas money. I appreciate it.

    And yes, I'm with you on the settling down and striving for the American Dream is over-rated thing. Not that its bad for everyone. Its just that some people are generally nomadic and footloose while others like staying home in a cozy nest and hanging out on the couch while others like a little of both. Some people like saving money for the future, others like me find money spent on travel a good investment. No way is better. Different strokes and all.

    I think it is important to get out and see the world and get a different perspective on life by seeing how other cultures do things. It gives you a lens to look at your own life and see what parts of our social expectations make sense for you. This is partly why I am doing this ride report. To show people that the world isn't the bad scary place you see in the news. And you don't need a pile of money to head out to find out how the world lives for yourself.

    Nobody reports back on the vast 99% majority of decent kind people out there. Only the sensational gory stuff sells newspapers. And it gives people a warped paranoid sense of reality.

    And yes, I'll be in Costa Rica after the rainy season tails off in November. I'll keep in touch and drop by just to say hi and thanks in person if you are around at that time. I have a free place to stay in Uvita at the lady's house where I tiled her kitchen counter on my last trip if she's there, but thanks for the kind offer.

    Look forward to meeting you down the road.

    Kindest regards,
    John Downs
  16. Grits&Gravy

    Grits&Gravy Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    John, I hope the tent serves you well and that you have an Epic journey!! It was a pleasure meeting you and a great weekend to boot.

    Looking back on our encounter, it was quite funny..... When we met, you were telling me about where you were staying and had come from, and I realized you must be on a trip. When I asked where you were going and you said South America it didn't register at all, but when you started talking to one of the other guys our conversation processed and I realized who you were and that I had been reading your ride report. So I turn around and see the Sherpa and it all clicked. Cool moment!!! Small World!!! :deal

    How often do you run into a "famous" guy on a gravel road West of Waco, Tx on his way to South America???? :lol3 Good Luck and I'll be keeping up with this report. Safe travels......

    [​IMG]
  17. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Hi grneggz,

    If I find a green permanent marker I'll draw some grneggz and ham under Sam Houston on the tank.

    Thanks so much for the tent. It will be put to the test. Stay tuned for shots of your tent from here to God only knows where.

    Famous schmamous. I'm just a guy riding a bike. Tell me I don't look like a dusty balding hobo after chasing Slowoldguy all day. You're the famous and generous one in my memory.

    Take care,
    John Downs
  18. Idahosam

    Idahosam Set Adrift

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    Hola JD!

    Just came across your RR, and I must say I think you definitely have the right approach.... psychologically. I see you have some good amigos, Throttlemiester and Crash Master; They too give great inspiration. (Hi Guys)

    Funny, as I have been pouring over my Mexico maps as I so miss heading south, been toying with another trip down to roam around. Anyway, if you not on a timeline you should give some consideration to hitting the Yucatan and Quintana Roo. And hit Guatemala via Belize. I so want to go back...

    I am already planning on another trip, but I think I'll ride my DRZ next time. I love my big 990, and aside from passing power I think the smaller lighter ride will suffice. Many times while riding down there I kept thinking I wish I was on a smaller bike (easier to pickup, splitting, turn around, parking, fuel consumption, etc) but I will admit passing power to is nice.

    So, needless to say I am in! that is until I head out again.


    BTW, I found this invaluable
    [​IMG]
  19. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Hi Idahosam,

    Really enjoyed reading your last ride report. And yes, I'll head out to the Yucatan if for no other reason than to shake SSinVenezuelas hand if he's still working out there when I pass through. Throttlemeister speaks highly of him.

    I wish I had your DRZ or 990 problem. I'd probably take the 990 if I was rich and handsome like you.:rofl
    Hey, its getting cold in Idaho. Eeny meeny miny moe, grab a bike, pack up and go. That is my advice. And yes I agree, Guia Roji is a useful atlas of Mexico.

    Best,
    John Downs
  20. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Finally left the Roll the Bones Rally after everyone left and the temp warmed up around 11.

    Stopped for a break and this guy ran all the way across the parking lot to say hi and get some pets. He has a hitch in his giddyup and his right front leg doesn't work too well so he hoofed it on three legs. Tough old guy. Kindred spirit:

    [​IMG]

    They have nice roadside rest stops in Texas even on minor roads:

    [​IMG]

    Stopped to get gas and met these folks. Dave and I believe Karen. Didn't write their names down dang it. Anyway she had a beemer with sidecar and got all three wheels off the ground yesterday. She likes riding dirt. He likes street riding on his R1100R. Opposites attract they say. Nice couple. :

    [​IMG]

    Finally made it down to Casa Tricepilot where I am living in the lap of luxury in an actual house. Today I bought gas for 5.99, food was 9.20 and the 10 I spent on raffle tickets late last night for 25.19.

    Tomorrow I head down to the border and visit some folks from Bassett who winter near there. Probably hit Reynosa the next day and then it is ¡Viva Mexico!

    ¡Andale muchachos!
    Su amigo Juanito
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