South America and Beyond on Another Minimalist Adventure

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by JDowns, Nov 3, 2015.

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  1. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Hi OdyBandit,

    Super Sherpa is a great bike. Alas, it is going up in price as it's reputation has become more widespread. I can't afford Sherpa used prices and have had to move on to the less expensive used KLX250S that I took to Big Bend last week. It is my new North American bike. I can't afford AAA towing coverage so I carry it with me everywhere in case my work truck breaks down. Just kidding, it's parked for the winter at my sister's place in Arizona:

    [​IMG]
    #61
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  2. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    So you land at the airport safely in South America and make your way downtown to a reasonably priced youth hostel or hotel and get ready to charge up your laptop that was drained on the flight in and you come across something nobody mentions in their travel reports:

    [​IMG]


    WTF? The upper plug is what you will see in Santiago Chile and the lower plug is what you’ll see in Buenos Aires Argentina. Immediately you are realizing square peg, round hole, no bueno.

    Sure you can find adapters for U.S. straight prong plugs in most ferreterías (hardware stores), but why not get a couple delivered from Amazon.com while you are sitting around goofing off before you leave.

    Here is what they look like:

    [​IMG]


    I like to bring a dirt brown (doesn’t show the dirt) 6 foot extension cord to plug my laptop and battery recharger into since outlets can be far away from your bunk in a hostel and it’s nice to be able to come prepared to plug in a few items without hogging too many outlets. Here is what it looks like plugged into the Chilean adapter:
    [​IMG]


    And the Argentina/Uruguay adapter ready for action:

    [​IMG]


    more later…
    #62
  3. staticPort

    staticPort Meditrider

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    Hola amigo Juan, so good to see you out and about and headed South! Like so many others I'll be ridin' along, savoring every day.
    Clif
    #63
  4. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Hola Señor Clif !!!

    Wow!!! Can you believe it? It is the least I can do to entertain you this winter. I can't thank you enough for all the great stories you typed up and mailed to me in jail this summer. It is like a dream now, but laying in a bunk in a Texas county jail reading about your exploits back in the day flying around the Amazon jungle in your Piper Cub was highly entertaining.

    I think it is safe to say we have led interesting lives. You can't ask for more than that.

    Siempre su amigo,
    Tio Juan
    #64
  5. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    U.S. Passports are only good for 10 years so you’ll have a pile of them by the time you get old like me. Here are my last 3 going back to the previous century:

    [​IMG]


    Mine is running out so I had to send in for a new one since I need to go to Brazil and they require that your passport is valid for at least 6 months and mine expires in March. The passport service sends your old one back with the new one and put a couple hole punches through the front cover of the old one to indicate that it has expired. Old passports are like old friends. Who doesn’t like looking at the visa stamps in their old passports from time to time.

    You send your old passport in as proof of who you are along with an application for a new passport, a postal money order and some 2x2 passport pictures that you can get at any Fedex/Kinkos. I got a couple extra photos for my Brazil visa as well. Here is what they look like:

    [​IMG]


    They tell you not to smile, but I try to crack a slight smile in passports, visas, drivers licenses and mug shots. The world is serious enough without me adding to it.

    For an extra 20 bucks you can get the fatboy 52 page passport. Here is my new bubba passport:

    [​IMG]


    You have to specifically ask for the 52 pager or you will get the weeny 24 page anorexic passport. I got the 24 pager last time and had to go to the U.S. Embassy in Panama a few years back and have them add another 24 pages for $90 when I ran out of space. The U.S. embassy was quick about it with same day while-you-wait service which was such a change from the Latin American way. But it was nice to have all those blank pages added. Heck, you use up 6 pages just getting to Panama and back with a bike through stamp-happy Centro America.

    Last year I had to get a Tasa de Reciprocidad to get into Argentina. What is that you might be wondering. It is a reciprocity fee. Huh? Yeah, I know. They charge us 160.00 to enter Argentina because we charge them 160.00 for a U.S.Visa. Tit for tat. Sheesh. Oh well, there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s good for 10 years. But I’m not sure how it transfers to a new passport, so I am taking my old passport along as well as the receipt I printed out for the border last year:

    [​IMG]


    When traveling overland from Chile to Argentina I had to pay this online with a credit card. You can’t pay it at the border. Nobody tells you this. And then you have to print out this receipt.

    In my case, I was so fortunate to be staying at ADVrider Rick E.’s house in Concepción Chile and he let me use his computer and printer to pay the 160.00 reciprocity fee and print this out.

    Although the Argentina reciprocity fee is good for 10 years it is on my old passport, so I will have to bring the old passport along and hope it transfers to the new passport. I’ll let you know how it goes.
    #65
  6. Slickrick

    Slickrick Adventurer

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    Great to see you back! Mucho Appreciated
    #66
  7. jkam

    jkam Marijuana Farmer

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    Hola mi hermano Juan.

    It is nice to see you are about to head out again for our entertainment.

    I am currently down in Tucson if you have nothing to do before you go, ride on down
    and I'll buy you lunch.
    Your Sherpa is going to rejoice at being turned loose again upon the world.

    Buen viaje.

    Jota.

    P.S. Thanks for the reminder on the passport, mine is due in April.
    #67
  8. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Hola Jota,

    I am totally down for a road trip to Tucson this weekend for lunch. PM me a time and place and I'll be there. I have nothing but free time for the next 6 days. Would love to finally meet you in person and shoot the breeze with a fellow nomad.

    Your ADVpal,
    John
    #68
  9. daveburton

    daveburton Been here awhile

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    Be careful with that crossing as it was the most strict one on the border with Brazil that I found and I crossed at least 4 times, I found the easiest ones were in land. One of them has no border, just a town with places to get the paperwork done. The risk is you end up riding out without the correct papers which might suite your situation.

    You need to get the planning right or you could end up losing the bike. I had a close call in Argentina with the wrong paperwork and couldn't find any way to be able to register my bike in SA even after paying the taxes.

    All OK in the end but I had to export the bike in the end.

    Have a good trip, cheers dave
    #69
  10. gasandasphalt

    gasandasphalt Been here awhile

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    Damn it John,,,, I had several projects lined up for the cold winter, now you come along and mess up all those plans.....Glad to see you back...

    Hope all goes well for you, SS check will help a bunch and will be there every month....
    #70
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  11. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Hi Dave,

    Hey thanks for the heads up. Forget Chuy Uruguay. Check chief. I will head inland to Rivera Uruguay instead. That is the town that has no border, just one side of the main street is Uruguay and the other is Brazil. I know I can't go back through Argentina because there are just controlled bridges or ferries across the boundary river where you can't sneak across. I am fortunate that I just got a fresh passport and my Uruguayan import permit for the bike is stamped in my old passport. They tie your bike to your passport number so all I need to do is ride across to Brazil and walk back to Rivera to get a Brazilian visa and stamp my new passport out. Brazil doesn't require a bike temporary import permit as the bike is legal as long as your visa is valid which is 6 months. So all I have to do is stamp my passport into Brazil and ride off to Iguazu Falls. Stay tuned to see if this plan works out. It did when I left Colombia with an expired bike permit. Time will tell.

    The fee for overstaying your permit 6 months in Uruguay is 20 dollars a day. Roughly 3600.00 Way more than the bike is worth. Worst case scenario they confiscate the bike and I take a bus to Santiago and buy a little Honda. The Chilean Peso has plummeted against a strong dollar and the little Honda Cargo that cost 699,000 chilean pesos or 1500.00 in U.S. currency brand new last year is still 699,000 pesos which is now only 998.00 U.S. dollars since the Chilean peso has dropped from 450 to the dollar to 700 to the dollar. It will be cheap to travel in Chile this year.

    Cheers,
    John
    #71
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  12. Cmnthead

    Cmnthead Adventurer

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    #72
  13. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Hey thanks for the link Phil!

    That's some great poetic prose you got going there. Good stuff.

    I still remember riding the Azuero Peninsula with you and Canadian Phil Numero Dos. And hanging out in the hammock on your lanai at Playa Uverito. Fun times amigo!

    Look forward to seeing you down the road again someday. In the meantime I am just a click away.

    Your ADVpal,
    Tio Juan
    #73
  14. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    I don’t really have much to do now for the next four days until my flight leaves for South America, so headed down to visit jkam outside Tucson. He treated me to lunch and I thoroughly enjoyed his company as we caught up on life stories. Well I caught up on Jays life story since my life story is pretty much online in ride reports for the last many years and he has read it so no need to bore him with more. We had a lot more in common than I would have imagined. Same bikes, same minimalist take on life that sort of thing. Jay has been around since ADVrider started nearly 15 years ago. He is a private kind of guy so no pics of the jkam man in this write up. But take it from me, he is ADV royalty if there is such a thing. Heck he has his own ADVrider smiley named after himself:
    :jkam

    Jay has ridden from Alaska to Argentina and all around North America and Europe. Never put up a ride report because that just isn’t his style. But what a great guy. So glad I got a chance to meet up.

    And really, that is what is so great about ADVrider. Just a bunch of folks loosely associated with a common love of riding around on dual sport bikes goofing off and having fun. I have met so many fine folks over the years through this website. And go out of my way to meet up with people when they contact me.

    In fact I just got home and got a message from Caroline and Evan who are heading down to South America on V-stroms and will be coming to stay with me here on Monday. Their ride report is here:

    http://advrider.com/index.php?threads/out-from-under-the-dome.1089896

    Caroline sent me a lovely letter from the U.K. while I was in jail. She has the most perfect cursive handwriting I have ever seen. It looked like caligraphy. Can you imagine being in a large dormitory with 64 other inmates and I am getting letters from around the world? Most of those guys had never been out of Texas. That’s the beauty of ADVrider. When the chips are down you find out who you can count on in life. The brotherhood and sisterhood of the traveling dual sport that is ADVrider is a great community to fall back on when times get tough.

    more later…..
    #74
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  15. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Here is a list of things that are difficult to find or expensive in Latin America:

    Valve shims.

    If your bike has screw adjusters then this isn’t an issue. But if you have shim under bucket valve adjusters you will have an impossible time finding valve shims in Latin America. Everywhere I checked from Colombia to Uruguay even in major cities these are an expensive special order item with long multi-week wait times. It is therefor wise to check and adjust your valves before you leave and take several shims with you even if you have a mechanic do the valve adjustment. They take up almost no space and when you need slightly thinner sizes as your valves tighten up after many thousands of miles you will be glad you brought them.

    Battery.

    Quality bike batteries are expensive and surprisingly difficult to find in Latin America. Replacing your battery even if it’s only a couple years old is a wise idea before leaving on a multi month trip south of the border.

    Quality rechargeable AA batteries for camera, GPS, flashlight etc. are expensive and hard to find in Latin America. I try to only use devices that use AA’s so I can bring a 4 battery wall charger to take care of everything.

    Large size tubes.

    Most bikes in Latin America are 125cc that use weeny inner tubes. Finding large size tubes in Latin America is nearly impossible everywhere except large cities where rich folks live who ride larger bikes. Even with a 250 Kawasaki it was sometimes a hassle to find tubes in smaller cities. I always carry a spare front and rear tube and carry the punctured tube as a spare until I can find a replacement down the road. Because glue on patches tend to peel off in the tropical heat, I prefer to just replace the tube and look for another spare tube down the road. I do carry a tube patch kit for emergencies though. There are plenty of vulcanizadora shops that will hot patch your holed tube and that is the way to go if you are on a budget.

    Tires.

    I don’t carry tires with me since small size tires for 250cc bikes are cheap and easy to find in Latin America. I do leave with a fresh set of tires though. I do understand why some folks on bigger bikes carry spare tires with them since tires for big bikes are really expensive south of the border. Like five hundred bucks for a set of TKC80s in some countries. And most Americans are needing tires somewhere in the boonies of Central America before they get to South America. Larger size tires are only available in bigger cities and really a hassle to find, especially in fat 17 inch sizes. Plus larger tires cost way more than tires for my bike which typically run 40 to 50 each. Which is why seasoned travelers on bigger bikes will buy a set and strap them on the back when they chance upon a good deal and carry them while they wear out the set they are running. One of the many reasons I prefer a smaller bike.

    Paper maps.

    The Guia Roja is quite good and available in Mexico and will get you down through northern Guatemala, but you won’t be finding paper maps in Central America so it’s a good idea to bring one along even if just as a backup to a GPS. I found a vague map of Colombia in a bookstore in Medellin but it just had the major paved roads and larger cities. Bookstores in Quito have a decent map of Ecuador. I didn’t find any good paper maps of Peru on the road. Chile has a good set of maps that are available at gas station convenience stores. I never found a decent map of Argentina or Uruguay and I understand that Bolivia and Paraguay are difficult as well although I haven’t been there yet. I give my maps away as I go to lighten my load and look for them on the road, but if you have room, they are nice to bring from home where you can order them online from IDG maps or others. Now mind you, paper maps are not essential these days if you have a GPS or smart phone, but they are fun to mark up and look at to get the big picture. Since I didn’t have a map in South America once I crossed the Andes into Argentina, I resorted to taking screen shots of google.maps on my laptop when on wifi at a hostel or café and refering to those out in the boonies. Since coming home, I have downloaded a very useful app on my iPad mini called Maps.me that allows you to download an entire country to view offline when you’re out in the sticks. It has all the gas stations, grocery stores and banks and looks to be just the ticket for Latin American travel. You can zoom in to see all the little minor tracks as well as zoom out to see the entire country. And it is free.

    cables.

    If your throttle and clutch cables are a few years old I recommend replacing them and zip tying the old cables to the frame under your seat to use as spares.

    filters

    Oil filters are difficult to find for bigger bikes. I have found that my Sherpa uses the same oil filter as the Honda XR250 and 650 as well as the KLX250S, so they are easier to find and I only carry three spares to get me down the road 18,000 miles. I change my oil every 3,000 miles and filter every other oil change and buy more when I find them. Others use stainless mesh reuseable oil filters.

    As far as air filters go, mine are foam and cleanable. I have one in the bike and a spare in a baggie in the top box that is clean and oiled. I wrap panty hose around mine to act as a pre-filter and it catches a lot of the grime and makes the foam filter easier to clean.

    Sprockets.

    Unless your bike has a driveshaft, you will be needing new sprockets and chain along the road at some point if you ride far enough. These are another item that is a hassle to locate for bigger bikes even in big cities. Even if your sprockets have life, I recommend replacing them and carrying the old sprockets as spares if they are lightly worn. A neat trick that I learned from fellow Sherpa rider Hektoglider down in South America is to bolt the spare rear sprocket underneath my rear rack to save space and keep it from abrading my soft bags. A couple spare front sprockets and a spare rear sprocket should get you to Tierra del Fuego on most bikes. O-ring or X-ring chains in good brands are very difficult to find in South America and all of these things are quite expensive due to high import taxes. I don’t carry a spare chain, but if I had a big bike that used a 525 chain, I would probably pack a spare.

    Bearings.

    You can find decent bearings in larger cities if you have the time, but a spare set of wheel bearings and steering head bearings that fit your bike are another nice thing to have out in the sticks.

    Tire pump.

    This is another essential item to get you down the road to the next gas station. If you have the room, a Walmart battery powered tire pump is nice to have. Removing the plastic shell and just carrying the guts in a baggy will save space although I had to re-solder the leads when they broke off from being bounced around so much. I now just carry a high performance bicycle hand pump I got at R.E.I. It is foolproof and doesn’t take long to pump up the tire to 15 or 20 psi to get me to an air compressor down the road. Of course I have tube tires and this wouldn’t work for seating the bead on a tubeless tire. You may have to carry CO2 cartridges to seat the bead on a tubeless tire. Or carry a spare tube and valve stems for emergencies.

    Brake pads.

    These are another wear item that are expensive and difficult to find for bigger bikes. On a smaller lightly loaded bike they last longer than on bigger heavier bikes. But eventually they all wear out. I was watching a video put out by Helge Pedersen of “Ten Years on Two Wheels” fame and noticed that he bolts a set of brake pads to the rear of his license plate frame to save space. Spare brake pads for disc brakes come in mighty handy when you change a flat in the middle of nowhere on a steep mountain road in the Andes and notice your pads are paper thin.

    Tools and spare parts.

    Many tools are available in Latin America. Yes they may be cheap Chinese, but generally they will get the job done if you lose a tool along the way. Things that are hardest to find are feeler gauges for checking valve clearance and chain breaking and riveting tools as well as 2 part epoxy, JB weld, blue loctite threadlocker in the chapstick twist up stick form, so try not to lose those. Other things like zip ties, duct tape, wire and the like are easier to find to replace used up items so you don’t have to pack too many. You should pack a few spare weird bulbs or fuses if you have any of those on your bike. Some spare fuel line, fuel filters and small hose clamps don’t take up much space and can be tough to find when you need them. As well as a water pump repair kit and some spare radiator hose and clamps if your bike is water cooled.

    Fork Seals.

    Another common item to need replacing especially on bigger heavier bikes. Don’t leave home without a spare set.

    Boots in large sizes.

    If you wear larger than a size 9 shoe it will be nearly impossible to find any kind of footwear in Latin America. I take a new pair of riding boots every year and wear them out by the time I run out of money and have to come home six months later. I don’t have space for spare shoes, so one pair of boots is all I wear and they get thrashed.

    Camera

    I take a couple three older point and shoot cameras preferably that use AA rechargeable batteries with me each trip. I have found good deals in pawn shops in the states. You can find a decent older Canon or Nikon 5 or 8 megapixel for 20 or 30 bucks. You don’t need anything super fancy to take shots for ride reports or posting on the internet which is all I do. Electronic goods have high tariffs and are surprisingly expensive in Latin America. A waterproof camera would be a plus, but they all eventually fail or get lost when you are spaced out on the roads less traveled. I would hate losing or damaging an expensive camera, so don’t bring one.

    Computer

    I have been using a MacBook Air laptop as my main computer for the last 4 years. It takes a licking and keeps on ticking. It has tumbled down the highway a couple times when my topbox popped off and has a solid state drive that is more impervious to damage than a spinning hard drive. The aluminum case is dented on all four corners where it hit the floor after I fell asleep watching netflix movies on wifi in youth hostels. It is my main home entertainment center when I’m on the road (which is pretty much all the time these days). It’s what I’m typing this up on. I traded work for it and wouldn’t spend the big bucks to buy another one though. There are cheaper alternatives. I noticed last year that the backpacker youth hostel crowd has largely replaced their netbooks and laptops with small iPads and large smartphones. I prefer a nice keyboard and trackpad for typing up ride reports and emails, but have found that the iPad mini that my sister recently bought me does everything I need. In fact it has a decent camera and is quick to upload pics to smugmug.com where I link to photos on my ride reports. It is all I really need and is much more compact. And with a bluetooth keyboard/case to protect the screen it is really more like a small netbook. I will take it along with my laptop on this trip as a backup computer/camera. The nice thing about IOS and Android phones and tablets is that a lot of the innovative new software is coming out for mobile devices rather than Windows or Mac.

    GPS.

    This is another item that is much cheaper to buy at home. I have a basic hand held unit that I leave in my topbox and bring out to find out the elevation at a pass or co-ordinates for good places to camp for sharing on my ride reports.

    I normally fly with carry-on luggage with a laptop and helmet and wear my motorcycle gear on the plane. But this year I need to bring a decent chain and factory sprockets for the Super Sherpa along with some various small bits, valve shims, gas filters that sort of thing. I don’t think sprockets will make it through the TSA. They look a bit like ninja stars. Or a motorcycle chain for that matter. Would hate to have that confiscated. So I have to check a bag this year.

    more later…
    #75
  16. Tewster2

    Tewster2 Long timer

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    Now those are the kind of things I find really interesting. Very few ride reports have that sort of detail about things to know about travel in other countries (or here in the US for that matter). Keep it up, thanks.
    #76
  17. O'B

    O'B Long timer

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    Right on! When you say large bikes are you referring to anything larger than 250 including 650 or GS size bikes?:y0!
    #77
  18. ONandOFF

    ONandOFF more off than on

    Joined:
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    I'm thrilled to see you posting and preparing to roll in south America again. Que Dios lo acompañe! It's been a joy to keep up with Junyah's travels since you introduced him to us. I was bummed to read about your letter invitation too late to get in on it, but pleased to hear what a great success it was. What a great idea! And way to stick to your guns; it served to promote a portion of the "if some is good, more is better" erroneous culture of our otherwise great nation. I think it would be a great advantage to us as a whole if all our legislators were required to travel around Latin America enough to study their way of life and learn something of their attitudes in order to be gain a more practical and efficient balance here. We count our blessings to include the freedom to travel, not only throughout our vast and impressive country itself, but throughout the vast and impressive continents of all America and beyond. Traveling beyond our borders is always an eye-opener, and although not all we see is admirable, a lot is, and it's always an adventure. A lot of us have portions of our hearts that yearn to travel and experience the joys and tribulations of such adventure, and yet much of our lives' adventure revolves around our families, friends, and communities. It is those of us who truly relish your reports of experiences and perspectives as you follow your heart and passions in pursuit of discovery and happiness on the move, especially in places which bring thoughts of pleasurable experiences, be they remembrances of past events, hope for future events, or both. Best wishes and blessings to you as you venture into the unknown arena of freeing your bike from the encumbrances of travel limitation, and looking forward to learning yet more of your thrilling discoveries and very useful detailed information handy for traveling, especially moto-related.
    Gusto de verlo de nuevo. Que le vaya bien. Cuidate Tio!
    #78
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  19. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Hi O'B,

    Yes, parts for a 125cc bike are easy to find in even small villages in South America. Parts for a 250cc bike you have to ride to a slightly larger village. For instance when I needed new front brake pads for my Chinese caliper that was grafted on the Sherpa or tires and tubes in 4.10 x 18 and 3.00 x 21 sizes I needed to stop in a town of say a few thousand since those are large sizes by Latin American standards. But for folks with a KLR 650 or DR 650 there is nothing until you get to a town of 1 million or more where people with money and large bikes live. Out in the boonies there is nothing.

    And for someone on a GS12, imagine someone coming into Bassett Nebraska or say a small rural ranch town on a county road in the middle of Wyoming and looking for brake pads and tires. The guy in the gas station would point towards the horizon and indicate with his arms outstretched as far as they could go to the side in crucifixion pose to indicate how far it is until you can maybe find something like that.

    It's the same in South America.
    #79
  20. jkam

    jkam Marijuana Farmer

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    Buenos Dias mi hermano Juan.

    It was such a pleasure to meet you and spend some quality time with a fellow nomad.
    Thanks for the kind words, ADV has saved my life and I am forever humbled by camaraderie here.

    Safe travels and I will chime in from time to time when something catches my attention.

    Su hermano jota :jkam
    #80
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