South Dakota to South America, and south on the Continental Divide

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by SturgisChick, Jun 24, 2014.

  1. SturgisChick

    SturgisChick Born and Raised

    Joined:
    May 26, 2012
    Oddometer:
    305
    Location:
    Black Hills, South Dakota
    Last summer I rode out of South Dakota on my way to eastern Canada to ride the Trans-Labrador Highway and then head south down the eastern United States, across the southern states and head into Mexico...bound for Argentina.

    While I've ridden bikes for years, I was mainly a street rider and had only owned a dual sport bike for a couple of years. I was inspired to combine my two loves, travel and motorcycles, into one big adventure by my boyfriend who would be with me on this trip. He'd already done the Ushuaia/Alaska run and I'm grateful he was willing to go back and cover some of those same miles again with me. I left my executive job of more than 20 years, sold my house, put my things in storage and hit the road.

    At first I hadn't planned to do a ride report, and instead chose to publish a blog which I've kept up with. But I've started thinking that maybe I have something to share with other riders. I'm no mechanic, and I'm not an off-road rider either, as you will soon see. So this may not be everyone's style of ride report, and I can appreciate that.

    As I write this I'm in Cartagena, Colombia, and heading out for the road again tomorrow. Hoping to get a lot of ground covered in a few posts to get you up to speed.

    Wishing everyone safe and happy riding!
    M
    #1
    Boxall and UKbri like this.
  2. Scubalong

    Scubalong Long timer

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,042
    Location:
    So Cal
    :eek1Wow, must be Epic
    Please keep the RR coming:deal
    Ride safe and have a great journey:p3rry
    #2
  3. SturgisChick

    SturgisChick Born and Raised

    Joined:
    May 26, 2012
    Oddometer:
    305
    Location:
    Black Hills, South Dakota
    I'm riding a 2011 KLR 650 that I had lowered 1" and made some other changes/additions to - added a Corbin seat, Barkbusters, a taller windscreen, a SW-Motech skid plate, center stand and crash bars (all SW-Motech), Jesse Luggage 82 liter boxes and frames, a Wolfman Explorer Lite tank bag and more. I had to change (well Brian did) the rear turn signals because of where the boxes sat after I added them. Loaded up on spares - filters, tubes, hand tire pump as well as a Slime mini air compressor, and loaded toolkit, etc.
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    I replaced the original suspension with a Hyperpro/YSS combination rear spring and shock when it was time, and replaced my sprockets with JT Sprockets and added a DID chain.

    My boyfriend Brian has done a number of mods to the bike, including - the 10 or 22 cent carb mod, the "L mod" where you cut holes in the air box, removed the snorkel, drilled out the exhaust and put an end cap on it, added a thumb screw carb adjuster, added a K&N filter...hmm, might be forgetting something but that seems like most of it. Needless to say, he keeps my bike running well and spoils me with his mechanic-ing skills.
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    I left home with a Rukka Armiina jacket and Rukka Air Pro pants, BMW Santiago boots, Gerbing heated gear, a Shoei Hornet DS helmet, Five gloves, and all kinds of goodies in an Ortleib waterproof gear bag I strapped onto the top rack. That included a Alps Mountaineering Marada 4 tent which was big enough for two of us and all our stuff, a MSR Whisperlite International stove, Primus mess kit, Garmin 62s GPS, ipad loaded with travel/guide books and moto-travel books.

    Loaded up on a years worth of meds, OTC and prescriptions, bug sprays, sunscreen, two cameras and a video camera and an old laptop (chose it because it wouldn't be the end of the world if it didn't come home).

    Ok....off we go.
    #3
  4. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2005
    Oddometer:
    3,156
    Location:
    Bassett, NE
    Keep up the good work! I love South America. Especially Colombia. From the heat and history of Cartagena to the springlike cool Medellin and salsa of Cali, you and your boyfriend are in for some fun!

    Look forward to your updates. My bike is parked in Uruguay. Will be heading back in 5months. Just working this summer in the states for more gas money. Hope to see you down the road!

    P.S. I am typing this on an iPad mini. Mapswithme is a great free offline mapping app. Just download a country at a time and delete it when you hit the next country. Really handy with all the gas stations, mercados and banks with ATMs listed. I used to take screenshots with Google.maps last year in South America when heading offline, but with Mapswithme I just whip out the iPad and check out where the hell I am with no cell or wifi needed. Just a helpfull hint.

    PPS. Just remembered. I met so many nice ADVriders in South America this year who contacted me through my live regularly updated ride report. Offers of great places to stay. Places to buy tires, great obscure roads to ride. You get the idea. Plus writing a ride report gets you out of yourself and forces you to slow down and whip around and take that killer sunset pic that you know your buddies back in South Dakota and folks like me would appreciate.

    Can you tell I'm stoked about you and Brian's trip?

    Kindest regards
    John Downs ( Sturgis is just down the road)
    #4
  5. roberts

    roberts GS'er

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2002
    Oddometer:
    452
    Location:
    Texas
    Thank you for sharing your trip report .:clap I am also going to start looking through your blog. Last month I spent a week in South Dakota (the Pine Ridge reservation area) and it sure is beautiful. I wish you the best on your trip.
    #5
  6. SturgisChick

    SturgisChick Born and Raised

    Joined:
    May 26, 2012
    Oddometer:
    305
    Location:
    Black Hills, South Dakota
    Not much to share for photos for the first 2,600 miles - largely because it was all asphalt. We were working under a deadline and headed east on bikes as quickly as we could to get to the TLH. I left western South Dakota and headed to Sioux Falls, down to Council Bluffs, IA and then east to Des Moines and on to Chicago and then Schenectady, NY and then north toward Ottawa, ON and then to Montreal and Quebec City, QC. It was beautiful, don't get me wrong, but not worth details here.

    Once we rode east from Quebec City we stayed along the St. Lawrence riverway until Baie-Comeau.

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    At Baie-Comeau we camped before turning north toward the Manic 5 dam across the Manicouagan River about 120 miles up from Baie-Comeau. We stopped to see the dam and then headed out on the gravel road toward Relais-Gabriel.

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    The road is starting to get pretty desolate here. There are lots of trucks on the road, constantly leaving me in clouds of their dust as I meet them. S.O.S. phones are stationed about every 50-100 miles along the road, showing how desolate it is and how rugged the land can be, especially in winter.

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    The last gas station on the road up from Baie-Comeau is at Manic 5's work camp 120 miles north. Then there is fuel again at Relais-Gabriel, a relay on this haul road, another 65 miles into the dust. The smoke is crazy these days as fires burn in northern Quebec. It adds another plague to the mosquitoes and black flies and heat...

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    The road has a few stretches of pavement in it until we get to Labrador City, randomly parked in the middle of nowhere. We cross a lot of rivers and see a lot of skinny pines.

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    And finally we make it to Labrador!

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    The fires up north aren't the only ones in this part of the world. There are fires in Labrador as well and the road is closed from Labrador City east to Churchill Falls. So we stay the night and get in line for a possible convoy the next morning, and sit in the rain. Eventually we are allowed to follow the escort through the danger area and continue on toward Churchill Falls.

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    The TLH is famous as a rugged unpaved road for adventurers, but it's being paved as we speak and each year the amount of traffic increases. So we see lots of new blacktop in parts of the journey.

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    We cross over the Churchill River, which is now a trickle after the building of a hydro-electric plant which the river was diverted to.

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    We make it to Churchill Falls in the early afternoon and stop at the only fueling point in the last or future 150 miles or more and luckily get fuel. Just a few minutes after we fill up the station announces it's out of gas and they don't know when the next fuel truck will be able to make it in because the highway is closed in both directions from this town.

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    So we stay the night in Churchill Falls and are able to head east the next morning to reach Happy Valley-Goose Bay. There are lots of wrecks along the way, testimonials to the rugged road.

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    Miles and miles of either long flat and straight roads...

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    Or miles and miles of rolling, tree-covered slopes...

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    We picked up a free loaner satellite phone at Churchill Falls. The emergency service departments of the area provide them for free (you leave a credit card number as a deposit and will be charged if you don't turn it in at the other end of the road).

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    And finally, after nearly 700 miles since we left Baie-Comeau we arrive in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, and get to food and fuel. I'm ready for a beer, a shower and a nap.

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    #6
  7. SturgisChick

    SturgisChick Born and Raised

    Joined:
    May 26, 2012
    Oddometer:
    305
    Location:
    Black Hills, South Dakota
    We leave Churchill Falls in the morning once the road has been opened. It had been closed because of fires and smoke. We head east on the Trans-Lab to Happy Valley-Goose Bay and stop for some lunch and to stock up on water before we head out on the next leg of the road, turning south toward Port Hope Simpson.

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    We cross over the bridge of the Churchill River and then head south on the 510 S south. No services, no fuel, no nothing for 240 miles until we get to Port Hope Simpson. It's a hot and dusty day on the road but it's still beautiful.

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    About 40-45 miles out I top a hill and as the weight shifts slightly to the front wheel on this downhill leg I can feel I have a flat front tire.

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    But at least it's a pretty place for one.

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    A guy pulls up and tells us he has just seen a bit black bear just around the corner so we pump the tire a little faster. Brian patches the tube for me and we decide to go back to HVGB to camp instead of staying out here as we had planned. It's nearing 4 and we are both hot and tired.

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    We try again the next day after getting stocked up. It's a windy and cooler day today, and there are lots of dark clouds sliding by quickly overhead. Back over the bridge out onto the highway.

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    We pass a grader at some point and have to maneuver over a one foot tall ridge of gravel to pass him and this road is wearing me down. The surface changes all the time. It's gusty today and that mixed with sometimes deep gravel and crushed rock makes for some squirrely sections. 107 miles in, I hit a patch of squirrely gravel and I'm not going that fast. But down I go.

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    I go to get up but when I do my left leg isn't working right and I know it's broken. And less than a minute after going down a man walks up behind me. He is RCMP and wants to help. Man, I'm a lucky girl. He calls for an ambulance and then a couple of minutes later, on this normally empty road, a cargo van pulls up coming from the other direction. The driver is an EMT. Did I say I'm a lucky girl? HE has room to haul the bike back to town and he and the officer move my bike to the side of the road. Brian comes back and two Fisheries and Oceans officers arrive and they all build a wind break around me. The wind is at least good fro one thing, it keeps the flies away.

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    I wait two hours for an ambulance to come out from HVGB and then ride two hours back. I have a broken left tib-fib and need surgery at the closest hospital which is 1000 miles by road away. So I stay overnight and wait for an air ambulance the next day.

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    A tibial nail made of titanium and some crews to hold it permanently in place in my ankle and knee and 5 days in the hospital and I'm ready to go.

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    Brian was amazing. He had to take care of my bike, pack additional gear of mine on his bike, and ride 1000 miles and catch the ferry to Newfoundland without knowing what kind of hot mess he was gonna find at the hospital.....

    To be continued...
    #7
  8. JoeFab

    JoeFab Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2011
    Oddometer:
    686
    Location:
    niagara falls, canada eh!
    Wow !!! Hope you're o.k....j.f.
    #8
  9. HJHickey

    HJHickey Adventurer

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2014
    Oddometer:
    33
    Location:
    Midwest
    I hope you heal fast & can get back out on the road soon! I enjoyed the pics until the painful drop!
    #9
  10. B50Paul

    B50Paul Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2010
    Oddometer:
    204
    Location:
    Salt spring Island the Hawaii of Canada
    Heal fast and enjoy the new adventure .
    Kudo's to everyone for being so helpful. When you are in the middle of nowhere everyone helps:D
    #10
  11. SturgisChick

    SturgisChick Born and Raised

    Joined:
    May 26, 2012
    Oddometer:
    305
    Location:
    Black Hills, South Dakota
    Thanks so much guys....all better now and have been back on the road for a while...playing catch up with this ride report from last fall. Wishing you all safe and happy riding!
    #11
  12. Hipster

    Hipster Long timer

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Oddometer:
    2,174
    Location:
    Mpls, Mn.
    Hi SturgisChick,

    I met you about 1 year ago one Sunday morning in the Rapid City McDonald's parking lot, just before you left on your adventure. I was on my way back home from the Dakota Dual Sport rally. Glad to see your living your dream.

    Sorry to hear about your mishap, hope you fully recovered by now.
    #12
  13. Sleddog

    Sleddog Ridin, again:)

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Oddometer:
    926
    Location:
    SE South Dakota
    Great to be following along with a neighbor! I met the Aussies, Billy & Trish, you met in Mexico. They'll be stopping by here in a few weeks!

    Safe travels
    #13
  14. SturgisChick

    SturgisChick Born and Raised

    Joined:
    May 26, 2012
    Oddometer:
    305
    Location:
    Black Hills, South Dakota
    Great to hear from you! So did you go back out for the DDSR meeting again this year? I think it was just this past weekend in the Black Hills. I'm fully recovered and kept riding after my leg mended and am now in Columbia and headed toward Ushuaia this coming winter if all goes well. Hope to be home for next summer's Dakota Dual Sport Riders event. Wishing you well.

    M



    #14
  15. SturgisChick

    SturgisChick Born and Raised

    Joined:
    May 26, 2012
    Oddometer:
    305
    Location:
    Black Hills, South Dakota
    Awww! Yeah! They'll love it and I'm so happy they're coming through the Black Hills. I've been singing its praises all over Central America. Just wish I was home to buy them a beer. Have fun sharing stories and have a great summer of riding.

    M


    #15
  16. Lav1200

    Lav1200 Pig Pen

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2004
    Oddometer:
    1,496
    Location:
    Calgary, Canada
    Sorry to hear about the mishap with your left leg. Just curious - what caused the break... the side bag hitting it or did you catch your foot/leg in a rut?
    #16
  17. SturgisChick

    SturgisChick Born and Raised

    Joined:
    May 26, 2012
    Oddometer:
    305
    Location:
    Black Hills, South Dakota
    I dropped my bike on its left side as it fishtailed down the road and my left leg was caught under the crash bar, so the bike essentially rode my left leg down the road. And since I was still sitting astride the bike my femur and main part of the leg was sitting straight and the foot was forced left so it caused a spiral break in both the tib and the fib. Not caught under anything but the weight of the bike.
    #17
  18. SturgisChick

    SturgisChick Born and Raised

    Joined:
    May 26, 2012
    Oddometer:
    305
    Location:
    Black Hills, South Dakota
    After getting flown to St. John's Newfoundland for surgery to fix my leg, I was advised not to put any weight on the leg for 6 weeks. After that I was finally able to get off crutches, start using it again and work to get back on the bike about 4 and a half weeks later. Brian had to help me lift the bike off the kickstand at first since my left leg was still so weak. We were aiming to catch the last high-speed ferry from the east side of Newfoundland to Sydney, Nova Scotia. And we made it, riding onto the ferry on the last weekend of September. <?xml:namespace prefix = "o" ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
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    Brian put over 5000 miles on his bike in Newfoundland, and I WISH I had been able to ride too. We did rent a car and those same rockin' ADVRider people (who are now dear friends) spoiled me rotten by taking me all over Newfoundland to see that beautiful place. And if you ever get the chance - go ride it. You won’t be disappointed. <o:p></o:p>
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    We left Argentia, Newfoundland and arrived the next day in Sydney, Nova Scotia. We rode the Cabot Trail as the colors were peaking. We rode south to Peggy’s Cove and around the edge of the Bay of Fundy and watched a tidal bore. <o:p></o:p>
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    Then we headed for the ferry to Prince Edward Island to take a spin around it. The cheapest way to do it, we were told, was to take the ferry to the island and ride the Confederation Bridge off the island into New Brunswick, so that’s what we did. PEI was story book pretty.<o:p></o:p>
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    Then along the northern shore of New Brunswick and into Moncton for new tires, then on south toward Maine where we crossed back into my country in early October. We camped at the easternmost point in the U.S. and then headed south to ride along the coast and then ducked inland to stay with a newly made friend near Cornish, Maine. She drew us a map one morning lining out some back road riding that included stops by a covered bridge, Whitehorse Gear just over the line in New Hampshire and a ride up Evans Notch when the golden colors of autumn were at their best.<o:p></o:p>
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    Then south riding the crest of the foliage wave as it ran south ahead of us, through New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, etc. We rode some back roads in search of a Mason-Dixon line marker and found a local woman who confirmed we were in the right spot but the marker had been stolen a year or two before. We crossed into Maryland and then Virginia and stayed with my family. Then we rode out to Harper’s Ferry, the traditional midpoint of the Appalachian Trail, before riding south along the Skyline Drive more than 100 miles through the Shenandoah National Forest. <o:p></o:p>
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    At the far end of Skyline Drive you can cross onto the Blue Ridge Parkway and coast slowly along it all the way south to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We rode part of it, but not all of it. Then we crossed over the mountains into the edge of Tennessee and doubled back on the Tail of the Dragon as we made our way to North Carolina. <o:p></o:p>
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    After stopping to see friends in NC, we headed out to the coast and rode through Charleston and Savannah, GA and then south through GA to get to the panhandle of Florida. I had been to 49 of the 50 US states but was missing Alabama. So we rode into AL from the Florida panhandle and stopped by a cotton field for a photo.<o:p></o:p>
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    We then rode up through it and toward the northeast corner of Mississippi and then on to Memphis. After stopping to see friends we rode toward Paducah, KY and then went west across Missouri to Kansas and Oklahoma and stopped to find an out of the way 3-state marker at the corner of MO, KS and OK. <o:p></o:p>
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    Then south to Arkansas just staying ahead of some winter weather that was coming in and on south to Louisiana to spend Thanksgiving in the Big Easy. We rode Louisiana’s Outback, the Creole Nature Trail, along the southern coast toward Texas. <o:p></o:p>
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    We spent a couple of weeks wandering through Texas, riding through the east Texas back country and then across the metropolitan middle toward Hill Country and across through oil field country and on to Big Bend National Park. <o:p></o:p>
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    And somewhere out in southwest Texas we met up with two fellow riders, Ara and Spirit, man and dog, who were camping out for the winter. Ara and his rescued pitbull, Spirit, have been on the road something like eight years or more. Great blog going at www.oasisofmysoul.com if you’re interested.<o:p></o:p>
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    Leaving Texas we rode north and crossed into the mountains of southern New Mexico and then crossed over. We got to see some snow before dropping down into the next valley where we stopped at White Sands.<o:p></o:p>
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    We spent the holidays off the bikes and prepped for the next leg of the journey, crossing south of the border into Mexico.<o:p></o:p>
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    Note:
    I owe a huge debt of gratitude to so many people for all their help after my accident. The RCMP officer, Fisheries and Oceans officers and the man named Scott who stopped right after my spill were incredible. <o:p></o:p>
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    Many of the others who helped me were fellow riders from ADVRider.com. Brian posted a message on a regional board while he was in Labrador and a local rider from Happy Valley-Goose Bay offered to haul my bike (which was being stored by the great guy who hauled it in from the accident site for me) more than 1000 miles to St. John's to catch it up with me. Another rider down in Newfoundland offered to store it there when it arrived and allow Brian to work on it in his shop. Still another rider offered to help us find a place to stay, and put us in touch with a local woman rider who welcomed us into her home for more than two months while I recovered. The outpouring of support was overwhelming and I will always be grateful to the ADVRider.com community and to the half dozen incredible people who helped me so much. Thank you Brian, Murph and Danielle, Lee, Tammy, and Mike...you guys are amazing.<o:p></o:p>
    #18
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  19. jerdog53

    jerdog53 Crop Dusting Everywhere

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2007
    Oddometer:
    8,082
    Location:
    80112
    Glad your back up and riding!
    #19
  20. SturgisChick

    SturgisChick Born and Raised

    Joined:
    May 26, 2012
    Oddometer:
    305
    Location:
    Black Hills, South Dakota
    Thanks for the well wishes. Wishing you safe and happy riding!
    #20