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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by chip8150, Nov 12, 2017.
Thank you! No rush, anytime it is convenient!
To start off this Thanksgiving day post, Id like to list a couple things that I'm thankful for,
-A loving and supportive wife who lets me do things like motorcycle trips to the end of the world
-A friend who will go along on said trips
-Motorcycles to take me to explore far off places
-A good life on the farm, which can be adapted to allow such trips
-And God, who guides and protects me in all aspects of this crazy life
So, Happy Thanksgiving from El Salvador, last night was one of the most beautiful settings we've had on this trip, watching the sunset over the ocean from the elevated deck at our hotel area. After a very restful night preceded by spotlighting for turtles, I woke up and went out to take a walk down the beach. There were some surfers out in waves, most of them were not having much luck as I watched a couple monstrous waves break right on top of them. Chip joined me for a leisurely breakfast overlooking the beach, we knew we didn't have too far to go today, just wanted to get within reach of the Honduras border for tomorrow. After all, it would be foolish to try to cross a border on Thanksgiving Day, with all the extra holiday traffic, and all the senior border guards being let go early to go home to eat turkey and watch football. Right?? It was just before noon we rode out of the gate, a real late start for us. A fuel stop later on revealed that I have reached a personal best of 60mpg, Chip's bike is matching fuel economy, but has been experiencing some pinging at lower elevations. Might end up opening the carburetor once more to try to adjust the fuel curve, again. I think I could rejet that carb blindfolded now after the practice Ive had. On our trip around the world three years ago, the fuel injected BMWs never gave as much as a single hiccup through every elevation and temperature we crossed. We got spoiled by the so called "problem prone over complicated bikes" the only problem that could have been blamed on BMW was a bad headlight switch, solved quickly with a wire nut, and later fixed at my home shop. A flat tire, and a blown rear shock (not a factory part) were the only others.
Back to the Suzukis at hand. An easy ride just inland from the coast eventually led us up across the mountains next to a volcano. The cooler air was welcomed as we wound up through the trees, passing cows, trucks, dogs, and motorcycles as is the norm. A couple bouts of traffic in some smaller towns had us finally back out onto open road. Our stop for the night is a hotel in Santa Rosa de Lima, about 10 miles from the border. Secure parking, air conditioning, and beautiful rooms are a bit unexpected. We've grown accustomed to slightly more 3rd world accommodations lately. In fact, this room could be confused with a nice hotel in the US, except that the shower only has one valve, for water, no temperature control, you get what you get.
Tomorrow will be a fun day, and by fun, I mean it will be like black Friday shopping. A lot of waiting in lines, hoping to be told that the one thing you want, will be available. For us, that "one thing" is entry into their country, and we might even be a bit on the greedy side, because we want it from both Honduras and Nicaragua, in the same day. Its like trying to get the big sale item at two different stores, but unfortunately the two "stores" are separated by a hundred miles of questionable road. So it will be extra portions of patience at breakfast, and que up a couple good songs in the brain to keep you from losing your melon and screaming at someone in a language they probably don't understand, or even care to when presented at them in such a manner.
If the day goes fairly well tomorrow, we will be spending the night in a hotel somewhere in northern Nicaragua. If it goes poorly, we'll be spending the night in a jail in Honduras. I'm putting my money on the first option. Our plan after that is to go visit some missionary friends of mine who run New Day Ministries outside of Managua. Its been a couple years since Ive been there and I'm
anxious to see the changes they've made (and maybe do some laundry).
So once again, Happy Thanksgiving, be thankful for what you have, because there are a lot of people in this part of the world, and many others, who have far less.
Still have room for more
Morning walk on the beach
Heading towards another volcano
Well said sir.
Thank you for sharing your adventure with us.
Lord be with you.
I didn't realize the Thanksgiving holiday had become a thing in central America.
Turtle ventures - my wife has accompanied groups of jmu students on alternative spring break to:
Short update today. We are in Nicaragua. After two border crossings in 95+ degree heat, neither of is felt like updating the blog. It's on the to do list for tomorrow.
Let us know if you need help in Ecuador. We hope to see you in Quito.
Border Crossing X 2
We got a 7:30am start as we normally do when we have a crossing and headed to the El Salvador/Honduras border. Today was going to be a bit different as we were planning to attempt two crossings in one day. The goal was to be in Nicaragura by nightfall - a bit of a challenge but doable.
The morning was already heating up - daytime highs in the mid 90's with high humidity, and we arrived to the normal chaos of helpers, money changers, etc. swarming us as we got off the bikes. We again decided to employ the services of a helper since it usually speeds things up and with two crossings we potentially needed to save some time. Exiting El Salvador was fairly straightforward and went quickly with no issues. Entering Honduras was a different matter. The stamps required for Honduras are huge, take up almost an entire passport page and two are needed - one for entering and one for exiting. My passport only has one page that is stamp free and it was going to be a big problem (so they said) because I didn't have another blank page for the exit stamp on the way out. Country officials are not really very considerate when stamping passports and don't try to use pages that have been started or even keep the stamps tight. I have some where the country official put a stamp crosswise right in the middle of a fresh page, when other space was available. Oh well, what can you do.
I kept showing the official my passport and trying to show that the stamp could fit in several locations (albeit tight), but he kept pointing to the pages borders and stating that it must fit within these areas and not overlap any other stamps. Possible solutions started with going to the US embassy in San Salvador to get a new passport - terrible idea as it is 250k in the opposite direction to maybe a "propina" could fix the issue. A tip (bribe) seemed to be the reasonable solution so I was to give the official $40 US and he would call ahead to the other border we planned to cross that afternoon and they would skip the other stamp.
After that was settled we were on our way in Honduras and riding across new tarmac to the southern Nicaraguan border. We are not at sea level so the temps are stupid hot and humid. The breeze created by keeping moving made it bearable, but when traffic jams, construction stops, etc. slowed things down it got pretty hot and sweaty in a hurry. The road also went from new tarmac to nasty potholed crap for the last 50 or 60k. I slowed it way down quickly after a bus veered into my lane to dodge potholes and ran me through a giant crater and off onto the shoulder. I came too close for my liking to crashing - barley saving it with a foot stab at the last second before going over.
We arrived at the Honduras/Nicaragua border right around lunch time - when all but one or two officials are on lunch break. The line to get stamped out was 50 people long so we knew this wasn't going to be quick. We once again procured the services of a helper and started the unpleasant but necessary process of getting it done. Each step of the process the helper kept extracting money from us - road tax fees, insurance, bike import fees, immigration fees, etc. and of course his cut on top of it. This turned out to be the most expensive border of the trip and has us rethinking using any helpers in the future. It also turned out I was scammed out of the $40 at the last border as there was plenty of room for the exit stamp out of Honduras - corrupt bastards! We plan to just attempt the Nicaragua/Costa Rica border on our own since we are no longer in a hurry and can slow things down a bit. We still have until December 6 to get to Panama City.
The most stressful part of the process for me was at the end when entering Nicaragua. There was a final inspection that included an x-ray machine that you had to run your bags through. I am carrying a drone that is illegal in Nicaragua and they are notorious for finding and confiscating them in airports. I hadn't read any reports of x-rays or searches - only agents asking travelers if they have drones with them at the land borders so thought I would be fine. Ken quickly de-rigged his bike of the luggage while I was slowly doing the same contemplating my move. I figured that if I run the side cases (where the drone was stored) through they would surely find it. I also was watching them also randomly opening luggage of other travelers even after the going through the machine. I decided to bank on the security agents outside not noticing I didn't take all the bags off my bike and only entered with my duffel and some small roll bags that strap to the side bags - then play dumb "no entiendo espanol" if they catch me. The process took over 45 minutes as after the x-ray you had your immigration form stamped by the attendant and had to go to another window to have final processing done. I was sweating bullets - literally. It worked! The outside security guards and inside security guards at the x-ray machine did not really coordinate what was coming and going so they never noticed I failed to bring the side cases in to be x-rayed. I will chalk that up to being incredibly lucky and it took all the early sting away of getting fleeced at their every opportunity up to that point. After getting through at the border exit I seized the opportunity - launched the drone and took a victory lap with it around the customs/immigration compound. Wait, no, that didn't happen : )
We were exhausted after the double crossing and found a hotel in a town about 60 or 70k down the road, ate some chicken and retired for the night. Saturday we will head to a town just outside Managua where we will stay with Ken's friend from Virginia. He is there working at a mission that Ken visited a couple of years ago to help build some structures in a remote village near the Honduran border.
Secured parking once again.
Typical look of our hotel rooms with the mess of gear taking up all the available space,
Yesterday we started out in Chinandega, a town in north west Nicaragua. Moved our bikes out of the secure parking we had to convince the hotel person to let us use. She kept saying they had security guard and we could leave our bikes on the street. We kept insisting on the gated spot, and finally either we won, or they gave up. Either way, it worked, which made me smile, as I walked outside for the last look at the bikes before going to bed, and found the security guard, soundly asleep in his chair on the sidewalk, gentle Spanish music playing on the nearby radio. It my sound like were overprotective of the motorcycles, since they're the last thing I check before going to bed, and the first thing I check when I get up, but with this being a motorcycle trip, the motorcycle is 3rd in line of importance, behind Passport and Wallet. After fresh tanks of their finest gas, we were happily on our way south through the beautiful countryside of Nicaragua, passing volcanoes and sugar cane fields. The roads here are some of the nicest we've had yet, but with that luxury comes a price, police enforcement of speed and passing zones. Luckily we have not had first hand experience of either of these infractions, but we are trying to be on our "better" behavior. Roadsides are much more green, being manicured by large groups of workers with weedeaters, and horses tied to fencelines with just enough rope to keep their heads out of the main traffic lanes. There is still some trash present, but very little compared to previous areas, it seems that in a couple of the countries north of here, standard waste disposal procedure is to throw all your trash in a pile along the side of the road, toss a lit match at the pile, then drive away. I'll admit that Ive never been a big fan of vehicle emission regulations and EPA pollution control measures, but I'm starting to warm up to them now after some of the smoke clouds and practices Ive seen.
We arrived at New Day Ministries around lunch time. Its a Christian outreach to the schools and people around the community of Los Cedros, about 45 minutes outside of the capitol city of Managua. Glen and Janna Kauffman, who are originally from the U.S. have been here for about 6 years so far, working in the communities in the area. As a good habit to develop as a traveler, show up around meal times. After a warm welcome from our hosts, we settled in to our new surroundings, and were presented with a Thanksgiving casserole. It gives you an idea of how long you've been gone when you're eating a wonderful meal after the holiday, all your surrounds are green and lush, and its warm. Being served homecooked meals is a great experience, after almost a month of living on the road we have eaten many things, but these have been some of the best meals yet.
Today we are relaxing and tinkering with some small projects. Chip is filling out forms and doing pictures to attempt to get another passport in the near future, Since we have about 8 more countries to go, and his passport only has about 7 available spaces. Some countries use large stamps, for both entry and exit of their country, so its very likely he won't be able to finish the trip without a new passport, or lots of "extra cash payments". We also did a little work on the bikes yesterday, I modified my shift lever to allow it to clamp down tighter on the shaft (which is slightly bent from previous owner), I'm hoping to avoid the next step, which would be to weld them both together, a great fix, until you need to remove the shifter, or disassemble the engine. In the never ending quest for running perfection in Chip's bike, we adjusted the fuel float height to richen up the fuel curve slightly. Its a tough fight for fine tuning, when a riding day can take you from sea level, to over 10,000ft. We then replaced a leaky seal with the spare that had been brought along. And finally washed our complete riding gear yesterday, the black water we dumped out of the wash bin was a bit scary, and probably toxic to small animals. I removed the BMW Roundel from my jacket sleeves in an attempt to keep a little more money in my pockets at borders, worth a shot anyways. Tomorrow we will probably head south again in an attempt to cross the border into Costa Rica, where we plan to hang out for a bit, and start looking at our next moves south. Not much of a actual ride report today, since we'll have only ridden about 60 miles this weekend. But anyways, here are some pictures.
Lots of Volcanoes in this part of the world
Chip being the fashion statement he is
Fresh laundry!! Appreciated greatly by us, and even more by those downwind of us.
This house was just a shell the last time I was here.
Thank you for the very interesting report and pictures.
Did you get a pic of chip "literally" sweating bullets? I'll bet that was quite a sight. Never seen that in person.
I enjoy reading about your trip with nice colorful depictions from you both. I'm having a little trouble mustering up pity for you in regards to the heat, seeing as how things are a bit chilly here back home in the valley where you guys left from. Wish i were there soaking in the heat!
I'm sure you know, but one way to get the shift lever to clamp on the shaft is to mash the gap shut in a vice and run a hacksaw through it.
That's pretty much what I did. Made sure to cut on the non threaded side of the clamp. Preserve the precious few threads there are.
And it's still a bit warm down here even at 10pm. Guess we'll have to head to yet another beach tomorrow.
Cool. Longer screw and nut if it comes to it. That's what I told myself the last one that needed tightening.
another beach... oh no...
Tough jobs... but somebody's gotta do it!
My Passport run out of space on the way to Panama and back a few years ago. I went on line and got an appointment in Panama City a day ahead of time. Went in and within an hour left with 26 pages added to my passport for about $90. I have read that they will no longer do this, but I do not know if that only applies to new Passports or if it also included older/existing Passports. I just replaced my Passport due to its age and requested a 52 page Passport instead of the normal 26 page Passport at no additional cost. If you can get a new Passport, be sure to request a 52 page Passport. A new 52 page empty Passport would be better than adding 26 pages to your existing Passport, because the price is almost the same.
Great advice. That's room for tons of stamps! I don't get a lot of stamps but i have a Cuba stamp.
San Juan del Sur
Yesterday we rode from Glen and Janna's just outside Managua down to the famous Nica surf town San Juan del Sur. The short 150k ride took us up in elevation past some smoking volcanos and then down past Lago Cocibolca where there were two more impressive volcanos - one out in the middle of the lake. The pictures just don't do the firsthand view justice - quite impressive. We arrived to our hotel, just 2 blocks off the beach, just before sunset - perfect timing! We checked in, walked down to the beach for a Tona still wearing pants and boots riding gear. The sunset was spectacular, the ocean breeze refreshing and the vibe of the town encouraging. While enjoying our second Tona we had already decided we were going to stay a second night.
This morning we got up early for some delicious Nicaraguan coffee and breakfast on the beach (and maybe a Bloody Mary or two. Much cooler here than when we were about 20 miles inland and Glen and Janna's. Speaking of Glen and Janna, I can't say enough how much we enjoyed our two days at their mission compound. They are more than gracious hosts and treated us and fed us like kings! It was great to be off the bikes, relax and get some needed things done - laundry, carb adjustments (again), and research for me on how to deal with my shrinking visa page space. Another cool thing happened just before we left yesterday afternoon - 43 brand new bicycles arrived that were donated by Ken's church back in Virginia. We had the pleasure of helping to unload the bikes from the delivery truck. The bikes will be given to a graduating middle school class - the bikes will be needed to ride to the high school which is much further away from their homes. The mission has been donating bikes for several years now to the school - great mission work being done here!
Back to this morning... After adjusting my carb yet again (the previous adjustments did not fix the pinging I'm still getting) we noticed my front wheel bearings are pretty much shot. So much for spending the day doing nothing but lounging around the beach. We found a motorcycle shop down the street to get some better tools and began the task of replacing the bearings. It's insane the amount of work we have had to do on this bike along the trip. It just never ends. Chris owns the motorcycle rental/repair shop and was great letting us use a shaded area, stand and tools. He's been in Nic for 6 years with his wife and loves it. Thanks for the assist Chris!
It's now "beer o'clock" so time to finish this up, post some pics and get to the reason for a layover day - relax and lime!
Glen, Jenna and the new bikes.
Sunset in San Juan del Sur.
Twin volcanos at the lake.
Tostones con queso...yum!
Not a bad spot for breakfast.
Unfortunately adding pages is no longer an option. I will need to apply for an entirely new passport which can take up to three week as they are sent to the US to be produced. Ive read about a limited validity passport option usually reserved for lost or stolen passports when traveling internationally. It is a temporary passport that can get your through your trip and must be turned in for a new passport when returning to the states. Doesn't sound like they will do something like this for my situation but I plan to call the embassy for some direction. You also have to make an appointment to get anything done - the Costa Rica embassy is booked for the next three weeks straight and we need to be in Panama by Dec. 6 to start the paperwork process for the Wild Card sail trip. I don't want to sit around and burn time waiting three weeks somewhere so hoping for some mercy from a kind govt. official. I probably have enough room for 7 or 8 more "normal" sized stamps. No room whatsoever for anymore page eating Honduras size stamps. Hoping to be able to deal with it at the embassy in Ecuador where we have already planned to be hanging around for a couple of weeks.
Smart move taking care of the passport in Ecuador. If anywhere they'll be amenable to helping you, there should be. It'll be around the holidays, though, which could mean delays. I suggest you contact them now to get the wheels in motion for a solution rather than show up looking for one. A plus is that it gets you into Guayaquil, which most bike travelers circumvent, but there's cool stuff to see and do there.
The holiday season is great in Ecuador. Lots of celebrations all over. Christmas and New year's are non-trivial. I recommend scheduling to be in Guayaquil new year's eve and witnessing the quemando de los años viejos at midnight. It's incredible.
Kudos to Ken's church for supporting the mission. What a blessing. When you guys were in Europe, I came across someone from Ken's church who told me about him riding around over there. I just can't remember who/where nor which church (pretty bizarre: getting old, i guess).
As to the insane amount of work you had to do to the bike along the trip, now you know why people go over their bikes with a fine-tooth comb prior to embarking. Luckily it's been stuff you've been able to take care of relatively easily out there. Hopefully you've seen the worst of it already.
Ok, so maybe I skipped a day. We started out in San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua, actually got a fairly decent start. Had about a 45 minute ride to the border, skipping the one and only gas station along the way because the lines were too long. Arriving at the border, we were greeted by the usual crowd of "border flies", several of which knew us by name already. Its quite entertaining at times to see how these guys operate. Some of them are pretty good guys and earn their pay. Others are just crooks, teaming up with official crooks, in effort to relieve you of your money. On this day, we knew we weren't pushed for time, and had a real good idea of what the "official costs" were. We proceeded to draw a pretty hard line in the sand, and most of our crowd slowly drifted away. The one that was left agreed to our terms, and went to work getting our paperwork passed in and out of various windows, signed, stamped, copied, and so forth. The only hiccup this time was that our bike import papers were somehow tagged as only going to a hotel in Managua, that wed never heard of. He said that we would have to go back to the capitol city to straighten it out before we could leave the country. Chip and I glanced at each other with the 'here it comes" look. Actually turned out not too bad, our guy said he could bribe the border worker sitting outside the food stand to stamp and sign our papers anyway. In the end, we payed what we expected to pay, and were riding down the road into Costa Rica.
Our goal for the day was to make it to Lake Arenal, a large lake next to one of the more active volcanoes in the region. I remember almost 18 years ago, sitting on the deck of the Arenal Lodge, with my now wife, and our good friends Ann and Jim, playing cards, an watching glowing red rocks roll down the side of the volcano. Originally I had thought it would be cool to go back there and see how things have changed. Well, they have, a lot. The price of a room there was about 3 times what we usually pay, and to top it off, clouds and rain have socked in the area, so the top of the volcano was hidden the entire time. That just makes us glad we opted for the $20 room further up the lake, where we could see the same clouds that were hiding the volcano, and hear the same rain.
Today is still considered a milestone day for us. Not because of distance, but that today is the first day we have been rained on since leaving the United States several weeks ago. Yesterdays ride had us on many miles of rough dirt road, covered in clouds, and threatening to rain most of the afternoon. We met the rain today, on paved roads luckily. Once we dropped out of the mountains after the lake, we could see clouds lifting off the valley below. A lunch stop allowed us to find a hotel to our tastes, and we settled in for the rest of the day. Hanging our wet riding gear over the railings of the upper deck. Doing our best to trash up the place. Walking around the town of La Fortuna, we found a couple places to eat a light supper, and gawk at the prices here. This is the most expensive country we've been in yet, and you really notice it after some of the countries we've been through. Tomorrow we are taking a zip line canopy tour near the volcano before we head out of town towards the coast. Were setup to take a 2 day rafting trip on the Pacuare river starting on Saturday. That's our last bit of free time for a few days. As soon at that trip is over we need to make some serious miles towards Panama City to start the paperwork process for shipping us and the bikes to South America, by sailboat. If things go really well, Chip may be able to visit the US embassy in Panama City to try to remedy his passport situation. Other than the 5 day cruse in the middle of it, we are running on a pretty tight schedule for a while. Hopefully the customs and paperwork side of things go smoothly, because as soon as the boat lands in Columbia, we need to be making tracks towards Ecuador to meet my wife for our trip to the Galapagos Islands.
There is so much more I could write, but its honestly not that thrilling to be sitting here staring at a computer screen tonight, so I think I'll wrap it up for now. With pictures of course.
Costa Rica, paved road
Costa Rica, not so paved road
Catching a glimpse under the clouds
Actually you will see us there. My wife is renting a bike from you, and hopefully you'll be keeping watch over ours while we go to the islands
I went through my bike thoroughly, Chips bike was rebuilt (so we were told)and fully prepped for a trip that didn't happen for the previous owner. Harvest season and getting things in order around the farm limited my time on the bike. Had to focus on luggage systems and auxiliary electrical. But its running good now.