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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Parcero, Nov 21, 2011.
You sure have a lot of vacation
Have a good trip...hopefully no stories from the customs this time
Not compared to a guy who can take off 365 days in a row.
Kinda makes me a little jealous...
I returned to Buenos Aires to pick up the bike on Monday. After a very long flight and a very late (or early AM) arrival I didn’t get to the motel until 3 AM. I knew it wasn’t going to be an early start on Tuesday. At least no issues this time with customs this time.
I slept in a little and walked outside to hit an ATM to load up on Argentinian pesos and grab breakfast.
Gonna miss Buenos Aires.
I was seriously considering doing a pre-ride rest day but call of the road got the best of me. I took a short walk down a lilac-lined Street to the garage to pick up the bike.
All packed up and ready. Again.
My late start at about 12:30 PM put me right in the middle of the midday rush. Crawled through the traffic for an hour before getting on the toll road south. Saw the highest engine temperature reading ever on my GS. A little scary but it cooled down quickly once I got moving.
First gas stop. Still seeing some red dirt on the bike left over from Brazil. Gonna wash this bike someday.
ADV cuisine. Not bad.
A rare sunny moment on the first day.
Shortly after gassing up it began to rain. Steady and getting harder. It was at a gas station that I️ discovered that my Gore-Tex Pro gear had lost it’s waterproofness. I️ was wet and cold so I️ called it a day early and checked into a little hotel. Took a hot shower, hung my gear to dry, and then met a couple of other riders heading back from Ushuaia. Made it only as far as Tres Arroyos, 346 miles, well short of my intended destination of Bahia Blanca.
I spent some time in the room hair dryering my riding jacket and pants. My RevIt Dominator GTX gear is my go-to gear and gets tons of use. I️ wash it regularly, but have always hung it to dry. With Gore-Tex a 20-minute spin in the dryer is necessary re-activate the water repellency. I have done this with ski gear, but never had an issue with riding gear. Not having a clothes dryer handy, and not wanting to ask the hotel if they would put my dirty gear in their dryer, I️ simply blasted my jacket and pants with the hairdryer in the room.
Courtyard parking at the Elegance Hotel in Tres Arroyos, Argentina.
On Wednesday I was intent on making it to Comodoro Rivadavia, a long haul of 799 miles. The roads were straight and flat so it was just a matter of getting up early and getting it done. The good thing about this part of the world at this time of the year is that there are almost 16 hours of daylight, so you can ride a long time and not have to ride after dark. Another good thing was it wasn’t raining. I wouldn’t have a chance to test out my hair dryer work.
Met these riders from Venezuela who were completing a tour of every county in South America. Gave me some food insight on travel in their country. Totally doable.
It seems that every gas station in Argentina has stickers commemorating rides from travelers from all over the world stuck all over their windows. Even the customs and immigration offices at borders were stickered up. I️ recognized some stickers at several stops.
Another reason I️ prefer hard luggage.
Officially in Patagonia.
Fabian and Gonzalo are from Mendoza and rode every centimeter of Ruta 40, and then went to Ushuaia. They had enough of gravel and were taking the fast route home.
Even though the roads were relatively flat and straight, they were largely traffic-free and there is definitely something very enjoyable about a long, lonely road with a big open sky above. Much of Ruta 3 hugs the Atlantic coast, and the cross winds can be brutal at times. The land is pretty desolate, other than oil and gas operations.
I rolled into Comodoro Rivadavia at 8:45 PM after a long but enjoyable day in the saddle. Seems the hotel Lucania was overbooked for the cheapest room class that I reserved, so they upgraded me to a ridiculously large suite for the same rate. Nice, but after a quick shower and dinner, I was fast asleep.
On Thursday I had time for a proper breakfast at the hotel. Rio Gallegos, my planned stopover for the night Googled out at just 484 miles, and Ruta 3 south was going to be the same high-speed highway. I met some people from Chicago in the restaurant who where on a business trip. They seemed amazed that I came from the same place, but on a motorcycle. I explained that I did it in many stages and that really, there are tons of riders from all over the world making similar trips, and also a large number of bicyclists riding to Ushuaia from the same distances. I saw many on the road. Most solo, some in pairs, all very loaded-up including one with a trailer.
The weather was great if not a little chilly for most of the morning. Nice views even from gas stations.
I met his group from Paraguay and Uruguay. I was in both countries last month and we shared some stories and laughs.
The number of Petrobras stations seem to diminish rapidly as one heads farther south in Argentina, and YPF becomes one of the dominant players. Clean and modern, large clean bathrooms, and their brand name convenience stores, Full, serve up some great coffee from real Italian machines accompanied by excellent empanadas, medialunas, and other good food.
Looks like a little rain coming.
The rain started in earnest and in the afternoon I rode through a steady rain all the way to Rio Gallegos. The good news was that my hair dryer operation seem to have worked, and I arrived at the Patagonia Hotel warm and dry at about 6:30 PM. While not expensive, the hotel seemed to be a popular spot They had an excellent coffee bar in the lobby, a very good restaurant, and a great lounge that was being used for a couple of quinceañera photo shoots during dinner.
The hotel clearly put the money into the common areas. The rooms were clean and comfortable, but very dated and the decor didn’t match at all with the rest of the hotel. But whatever, I was only there to sleep. I had a big day coming up tomorrow.
Friday was going to be a big day. While only 360 miles to Ushuaia, along the way there were two border crossings, a ferry crossing, and many miles of twisties. Like a kid on Christmas morning I was up very early, packed up the bike and was rolling at 5:14 AM in a light rain. Rio Gallegos was about 45 miles to the border, and it was a quick trafficless trip.
I arrived at the border crossing at about 6:15 AM, and already there was a long line of people waiting in the first line for migración. When I got through that line, I waited in another long line for aduanas, that snakes out of a door to another room. When I finally passed that door, I saw that the line continued to snake through the room. When I finally was all stamped out and ready to leave, it was 8:45. Two and a half hours. The good news was that that one stop covers both the Argentina exit and Chile entrance. After passing a “no mans land” between there and the official Chile border station, I merely had to hand Chile a stamped paper from the Argentina side.
After that it was about another 70 mikes to the Punta Delgada, the narrowest point of the Straits of Magellan, where I boarded the Pionero ferry for the short ride accords the Straits.
Yes, more stickers, this time at the little tienda at the ferry crossing.
Waiting to board.
All set to board.
Sailing across the Straits of Magellan.
Enjoying the view.
Spotted a baby orca playing.
The inside of the ferry, where I paid for the trip (4,500 Argentinian pesos) and bought breakfast (coffee and hot dog.)
Another short trip along Isla Grande in Chile to cross back into Argentina.
There was a 42 kilometer stretch of dirt road before the crossing, and then the “no mans land” until the Argentinian border office was another probably 5 miles of wet dirt road. The bike was getting dirty, although for some reason iPhone photos always make everything look cleaner.
It continued to rain all day until Tolhuín, about 65 miles from Ushuaia. I stopped there for coffee and to warm up before continuing on.
When I left the gas station in Tulhuín, the rain was coming to an end. The road was beautiful and the scenery more spectacular around every turn.
Nearing Garibaldi Pass
Finally! I was starting to wonder if I would ever see this sight.
I arrived in time to have a short walk around the city after checking into he Hotel Mil810. Hard to imagine that I started this trip so long ago and finally got to The End of the World.
Surrounded by mountains.
Everyone needs a picture next to this famous and elusive sign.
Congratulations, buddy! I figured you either made it or were on the way.
After blasting 2,000 miles south from Buenos Aires in three and a half days, I was happy to take a day on Sunday in Ushuaia to relax. The Hotel Mil810 wasn’t able to extend my reservation for another night, so I booked a night at the Hotel Alto Andino, just two blocks alway. It was a much nicer place and with a great view from the fourth-floor cafe. The hotel didn’t have parking, but the desk clerk assured me that the moto would be secure on the street in front. I was cool with that.
I took a short walk around the downtown area and decided to take a boat tour of the Beagle Canal that runs east-west south of Ushuaia.
Lots of great overland vehicles here and on the way down, and like the bikes, with license plates from all over the world.
Ushuaia from the bay.
The Beagle Channel is flanked on both sides by dramatic mountains. The south side is Chile and the north side is Argentina.
A little chilly out here.
The Lighthouse at the End of the World, inspiration for the 1905 Jules Verne novel of the same title. Well, actually Verne was French so the original title was Le Phare Du Bout Du Monde. The book was also made into a movie in 1971 starring Kirk Dougas and Yul Brynner.
Back to Ushuaia and then back to the hotel to grab a coffee.
Great views from the hotel cafe.
My friend in Buenos Aires who arranged my bike storage there is originally from France, and he recommended that I eat at Chez Manu, one of the best restaurants in Ushuaia. When a French guy recommends a restaurant, I go. It’s located about a ten-minute cab ride up a winding road with views of the entire city and bay. I arrived at 7:30 for an early dinner before the place filled up. Beautiful place and the food was amazing. It was a good place to celebrate getting to The End of the World.
Monday morning it was time to fire up the moto and begin the trek back north. While I would be following the same route, I was confident that I would enjoy it even more since the weather was much better, sunny and warmer, and I knew the route, the gas stops, and the border crossing procedures.
I packed up the bike, suited up, and grabbed a quick breakfast when the hotel cafe opened up at 6 AM. I was rolling at 6:15.
On the way down I passed lots of roadside memorials, typical in Latin America, but the majority of the ones I saw in Argentina were red and were decorated with solid red flags and banners. They’re memorials to Gauchito Gil, a legendary character in Argentinian popular culture. He is regarded as a patron folk saint of many things, and when one asks a favor of him, a shrine is later erected if the wish is fulfilled. Gauchito Gil isn’t recognized by the Catholic Church as a saint, although church leaders in Argentina have promoted him for canonization for years. Maybe with the Argentinian Pope it will happen.
I never stopped to check out the shrines earlier since it had been raining, but when I came across a large collection of them along Ruta 3 in Argentina, not far from the Chilean border I had to stop to take a look.
This door was begging to be opened.
What a treasure trove of devotions and offerings to behold.
Time to get on the road. One of Gauchito Gil’s patronages is safe passage, so I was glad to have paid my respects and asked for that as I left.
Uneventful ride back to the border. Passage was swift. I was the only one at the border, and was in and out in under five minutes. The dirt road in “no mans land” was much faster dry.
On the Chilean side, about five other riders from Brazil. They gave me a sticker to commemorate their ride, the Expedição Fim do Mundo. Get a load of the distance on this one!
I was rolling in Chile in less than 15 minutes, and I took a slightly different route to avoid the 42 kms of dirt. There would be enough of that on Ruta 40. I arrived at the ferry in Punto Delgado and had to wait a bit longer for the ferry to arrive. Had a chance to check out more stickers.
There’s one from Jim Hyde’s Expedition 65 trip last year. Ran into them in Colombia while riding there in September 2017.
My ship’s come in.
I ordered “the usual.” Café con leche and a panchito.
Steaming across the Straits.
Old school navigation.
Stopped at another Gauchito Gil Sanctuary just outside of Rio Gallegos.
Stopped for fuel, a coffee, and two medialunas at the local YPF so I would be gassed and ready in the morning.
I landed at the Hotel Patagonia plenty early. I regretted not taking a slight detour through Punta Arenas, but not a huge deal. Had time to stop by an ATM and stock up on Argentinian pesos for the Ruta 40 trek, in case credit cards were not accepted. Even seemingly ready to go, I still had my reservations. I sat down with the map at the coffee shop and was considering taking the fast route to Mendoza. Frankly, as much as I wanted to do Ruta 40, I heard so many stories from other riders along the way of how long it takes to complete that route, and how difficult some sections were to ride. I was solo, and if something happened, the result could be a profound delay or worse. I could always do it another time.
Except that I was here now. After carefully re-planning gas stops and stopovers, I decided to give it a go. Google was using an average speed of 45 mph in calculating travel times of between 13 and 15 hours a day It would be three long days, although I knew that many sections were paved which would boost my average speed. I also confirmed gas availability with another inmate who did the same route a week or so earlier and that instilled confidence.
I booked the first night’s hotel in Rio Mayo, 547 miles north, and decided to go for it. If need be, there was a bail out point that would put me on a higher speed highway. Early dinner and early to bed for a super early start the next day.
Congrats on making another milestone! Ushuaia gives me the vibe of a North American ski resort...
You gotta make your own sticker: "Miles in Style"
Any reason why you always put the bike on center stand?
Maybe “Too Many Miles.”
I prefer the center stand mainly because my side stand is either bent or loose and while it supports the bike, it puts it at such an obscene lean angle that I don’t trust it and it can be difficult to stand the bike up when heavily loaded. The other reason is that when on the center stand, everything is nice and level and can be used to place helmet, gloves, coffee, and hot dogs on safely.
I also live in Chicago and will be doing the same ride three years from now. I will watch and learn. By the way, we have a group called the Chicago adventure riders. Check us out. We do a lot of riding lot throughout the year and you might enjoy hanging with us.
I would love to learn more about your group. Sounds like fun. I’ll PM you for more info.
On Tuesday morning, I woke up early ready to start the ride north on Ruta 40. Ruta 40 has been on my short list of dream rides for many years. The legendary route runs roughly parallel to the Andes in western Argentina, and runs from Punta Loyola southeast of Rio Gallegos to La Quiaca near the Bolivian border.
It’s the longest route in Argentina and one of the longest in the world at more than 3,100 miles long, crossing 20 national parks, 18 major rivers, (and countless little streams) and has 27 passes in the Andes, the highest being the 16,404-foot pass in Abra del Acay in Salta Province. Can’t wait for that one!
I was anxious to get started. One thing I hadn’t counted on was rain. That surely would slow me down, and I knew that there were unpaved sections of the route that would be much more difficult when wet. I suited up and left, but elected on the fly to cut off the southern most portion of the route, which really runs south and west of Rio Gallegos and then north very close to the Chilean border. Instead, I chose Ruta 5, that runs northwest and hooks up with Ruta 40 in Esperanza. This looked like it would cut off about 120 miles, saving maybe two and a half hours of riding time. I had read in other ride reports that the scenery on that portion of the route is nothing to write home about anyway.
I suited up and left Rio Gallegos. It was a cold, wet ride for a long way. My hair-dryered Gore-Tex was holding strong, but it was cold, and I stopped for gas in Esperanza I stayed for a coffee. A tour bus pulled in just before me and the place was crowded with tourists, many of which seemed to gravitate toward me and began asking about riding in the cold rain. One older gentleman told me that he had a Royal Enfield. I told him that I also had one and we exchanged stories. I had assumed he had an old model and two my surprise, he told me that his was a 2016 Classic 500 just like mine. I ordered another coffee and didn’t mind hanging around for more conversation—I was standing next to the gas heater and thawing our nicely.
The tour bus finally left and I continued a conversation with the store clerk, this time in English since he was happy to have a native speaker to practice with. Finally thoroughly warmed up, I left and embarked on Ruta 40.
About the time I passed the tour bus, the skies were beginning to clear.
Fifteen or so minutes after that it was getting downright nice.
The first mirador.
So far the road quality was disappointingly excellent. I had thought, and even hoped, that it would be a little more adventurous. Even so,I was moving along nicely and enjoying every inch of the road and the scenery just the same.
A bit before Tres Lagos is the La Leona Hotel, an historic lodge and roadhouse built in the late 1800s. Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid hid out there in 1905 after robbing a bank in Rio Gallegos.
It’s all renovated, has a restaurant, and nice rooms are available but to me it just seemed like a major tourist trap. Right after I got there, about five tourist busses arrived and the place was swamped with people pushing and shoving to get a look inside and by some junky souvenirs. I had a cup of coffee and then got out of there fast.
Closing in on Tres Lagos. Smooth road and rock star weather.
I had originally planned to stay in Tres Lagos. I had a room reserved and everything. In the end, being just 271 miles from Rio Gallegos even taking Ruta 40 the whole way, it was just too close and too short of a distance for a one day ride. I cancelled the room and would stop there only for gas. I made sure, like I always did on this trip, that the attendant filled the tank right to the very top. I would be entering one of the most remote parts of the route.
Enough already with the stickers!
Well, that didn’t take long. A few clicks out of Tres Lagos there was a 72-kilometer section of ripio, or gravel.
It looks a whole lot tamer in the photo. I entered that section thinking, “this is 70-mph gravel” like the kind we have in Kane and Dekalb Counties outside of Chicago.
Boy, was I wrong. Many parts were freshly graded, loose, and deep. I almost dumped the bike when I hit a patch of really deep stuff, and somehow succeeded in keeping the bike upright. After that I slowed it way down. Too far from home to risk a broken bike, or worse.
Lots of animals can be seen along the route.
It was starting to feel authentic, like the Ruta 40 of my dreams.
The scenery and the colors seemed to change around every turn.
The ripio was now mixed with dirt and sand, and more hard packed. At times, it was loose with packed down tracks where trucks tires had smoothed it out. These sections were pretty hairy. In the tracks it was easy. If you rode out of the track, it could spell trouble.
I saw a bike down on its side in the distance. As I got closer, a rider jumped up from the side of the road and waved me down. I stopped to see what happened and to see if he was OK. Turns out he was riding two up with his wife who was sitting on the side of the road. He was following a track on his F850GS and leaning into the wind when a gust blew him out of the track. That knocked him over. He said they were both unhurt but he could not lift his bike. I helped him get the bike up and we discovered that his right pannier would no longer lock into the bike. He was trying to secure it with a bungee cord but to no avail. I gave him an extra Velcro Gotcha Strap. That did the trick. Those straps are amazing and I always carry extras in varying lengths. They are light and hardly take up any space. The couple was from Brazil and he thanked me saying, “you just appeared to us out of the sky and saved us.” I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Maybe Gauchito Gil had planned it that way.
As beautiful in the rear view mirror as it is through the windshield.
That 72-kilometer section took close to two hours to pass, including the stop to help the downed riders. When the road opened up, it was high-speed sailing to the next gas stop.
More gas pumps covered in stickers, this time in Baja Caracoles, an outpost with a population of about 100.
If this view doesn’t explain why I love the open road, nothing will.
I gassed up again in Perito Moreno, a small dusty town that riding through was an obstacle course of stray dogs.
It was a long day on the bike. It was nearly 8 PM although still light when I saw the sign for Rio Mayo. I arrived in the little town, and after a few blocks down the main drag maps.me had me heading out of town, past what looked like the local garbage dump, and down a rocky and rutted road leading out of town. I stopped to double check the address and my map and, sure enough, the Estancia Don Jose GuenGuel, basically a B & B, is located about 3 kms outside of the town.
I arrived to a nice pastoral setting and when I got off the bike, the woman who owned the estancia came out of the main house and explained that they had tried to contact me earlier to let me know that there would be no dinner that night because her daughter who ran the place was sick. She said that there were some good restaurants in the town. I didn’t really care about dinner, I just wanted a shower and a bed. I definitely didn’t want to have to ride to town and back on that rocky road in the dark.
She gave me the key to my cabana, which was nice and clean, and very large—a bedroom, living room, large kitchen, and bathroom—heated by gas wall heaters and wood burning stoves, with real, high-speed WiFi. Very cool! The living room had two sofa beds, and with other rooms available around the estancia and ample secure parking for bikes, I thought that the place would be a great spot for a small group of riders.
I parked and unloaded the bike and was in for the night. The woman asked if I wanted breakfast. I said sure, what time? She said she could have it ready at 8 AM. I gave that about three seconds of thought and declined. It was a long way to Zapala and by 8 AM I wanted to have at least 120 miles behind me.
Good thing I packed some snacks. This was my dinner.
The estancia easily had the best bed of the trip and I slept well, and morning came fast. I located some instant coffee in the kitchen and had “breakfast.”
The bike was packed up. First light—time to go.
I left the estancia and gassed up at the run-down YPF station in town. I didn’t gas up the night before and was glad that the station was open so early in the morning. I guess if it wasn’t I could have had a real breakfast while I waited. That might have been nice.
The road was smooth and the scenery spectacular. A little on the cool side but warming up fast. The next gas stop was 140 miles north in Gobernador Costa. Another inmate had warned me that there wasn’t any gas until Tecka, and that his friend had to buy gas from someone selling it out of a gerry can along the way. Despite this, Gobernador Costa, despite being a small town, had not one--but two--gas stations. I stopped at the first one on the main drag, which is Ruta 40, that runs right through town. A new Axion station with great coffee and food.
On the other end of town was an older YPF station.
One of the newer, sort of touristy branding signs along Ruta 40 near Tecka.
Nobody out here but me.
I rode just 60 miles north and saw a PCH gas station in Esquel. I wondered what route the other inmate’s friend had taken to Tecka. I stopped to top off. Out here, you stop for gas at every station, because the next one might be out of range.
A very clean and modern gas station with good coffee and food, and high speed WiFi. I had a nice break, a couple of coffees and medialunas, and caught up on some business at home while I rested and enjoyed the view of the mountains.
The road from Esquel to Bariloche was paved and fast, although since Bariloche is a larger city and major tourist destination, there was more traffic, especially the closer I got to the city. In a way, it was nice to be back in civilization for awhile.
The mountain twisties were amazing. Instead of staying on Ruta 40, took RN254 from El Maitén to Bariloche, and then RN237 from Bariloche which turns into RN40 at Alicurá to the north.
This route runs through the Parque Nacíonal Nahuel Haups and is all mountain twisties.
Even though I had just gassed up in Bariloche, I stopped at this little ACA station. I was glad I did because, unless I missed a gas stop, the next gas station wouldn’t be found until my destination for the night in Zapala, 225 miles north. That was pretty much the bitter end of my fuel range.
The road was paved the rest of the way to Zapala, and it seemed like the town just kept getting farther and farther away. I finally reached the town and arrived at the only lodging that was available that night, the Hotel Casino Hue Melen. Just as I was parking the bike out front, a group of four riders from Brazil pulled up.
They were on a huge tour which included Ruta 40 north. We chatted a bit, checked in, and then went up to shower and change for dinner. While the hotel was a bit tired, it was clean and the restaurant was actually very good. It filled up fast with locals.
The riders from Brazil asked me to ride with them in the morning, since they also had the same destination of Mendoza in mind. They said that they planned to start at 8 AM after breakfast, and I politely declined since I prefer much earlier starts, especially when I wasn’t entirely familiar with road conditions.
After a quick dinner, I was in bed for the night.
I was up early as usual and left Zapala at 6:30 AM to begin the ride to Mendoza. Ruta 40 was all paved and relatively straight and flat past Las Lajas and continuing on to Chos Malal, the next known gas stop 134 miles to the north. There either wasn’t a big gas station on the main route or, if there was one, it was located after the turnoff into the town. I took the turnoff and rode into Chos Malal.
I arrived a an older YPF station and the line to get gas wrapped around the block. I got into que. The line was moving steadily, but it was still almost an hour wait for gas.
Almost there, gas station in sight!
I asked the attendant if this was the only gas station in town. He said no, but it was the only one with gas, hence the long line.
The next section of Ruta 40 was remote and scenic.
I stopped again just 55 miles north in Buta Ranquil, a dusty little outpost with a gas station with just one working pump. There was a restaurant and hotel next door.
I rode the 100 feet over to the restaurant and had coffee and some pastries at a table outside and watched the dust blow around in the wind.
The weather was now quite warm and enjoyable, a far cry from the cold and damp weather that was now 1,700 miles behind me.
The Mythical Route, north of Buta Ranquil, Neuquen Province, Argentina, on the way to the next gas stop, wherever that might be.
I was cruising through mountain curves when I was passed by four riders going north, and they were flying. It was the guys from Brazil, who left Zapala two hours after I did. I followed them for awhile, and had my old Garmin VIRB video camera running. I hope I got some good footage to send to them.
Shortly after the paved twisties, the road turned to classic Ruta 40 once again.
While this section looked similar to my first encounter with Ruta 40’s legendary ripio, I was moving along a little faster. Either it was harder packed or I had become more confident. Either way, I thought I should slow it down anyway. I was enjoying the scenery, wasn’t in a particular hurry, and surely didn’t want any mishaps. As an aside, the Michelin Anakee IIIs we’re doing great in the ripio. Only wished for TKC-80s once!
La Cuarenta--Beautiful, desolate, legendary.
I came around a bend and saw the Brazilian riders stopped on the side of the road. Turned out that one of them had gotten a flat tire.
Next to them was this.
Luckily the driver and passenger were OK. They had plenty ofwater and were waiting for help to arrive. The ripio on this section of the route was harder packed, but had some deep, looser packed ruts in some parts. The car had apparently come around a turn and got out of the grooves, and the driver lost control. There is a surprising number of abandoned cars off the road along Ruta 40, many old, rusted, burned and more often than not, upside down.
As for the Brazilian rider with the flat, his rear tire was worn so thin that it had about a one-inch wide strip of threads showing around the whole tire. Scary. He had put a tire plug in a hole right in the middle of that thin, threadbare section, and was now inflating the tire with an electric air pump.
I waited until we knew that the tire was holding air, and we all left together. After a few kilometers, the Brazilian riders got on the gas and left me in the dust, literally.
The road went on like this for close to 80 miles, and then went from ripio to construction zone—which just meant looser-packed ripio mixed with dirt and sand and some patches of bad asphalt. It was slow going, dusty, and difficult in places. I was at the “praying for pavement” stage.
Even so, it was a dream ride—remote, with desolate and stunning desert beauty around every turn.
When the ripio finally ended and the road surface changed to mere severely potholed pavement, I stopped and practically kissed the ground.
I got off the bike to rest, stretch my legs, and take a look at the Rio Grande.
I wasn’t going to walk across this bridge.
Only a few kilometers from where I stopped, the road surface went south again, a mix of short sections of pothole obstacle courses and rough, cracked asphalt to graded ripio through construction zones.
After another 45 miles of ripio, I arrived in Bardas Blancas and considered detouring west at an intersection there through Rio Chico, Argentina to Talca, Chile. That thought lasted all of about two seconds. I can’t leave Ruta 40 now! I continued on, and several miles down the road I spotted the Brazilians again, stopped and working on the tire.
They were now repairing what they told me was a fourth hole in the bald tire, and were filling it with fix-a-flat, which was leaking out in a few places. I also noticed that one of the other rider's bike had a turn signal broken off, a cracked windshield, and several fresh scapes and scratches that it had obviously acquired since I saw them last just a short time before. They were all OK though, just working on the tire. Those guys ride hard.
The next stop was Marlargue, 155 miles from the last gas stop in Buta Ranquil. Marlargue was a larger town and had plenty of gas stations and places to eat and stay. I stopped at the first YPF that saw. I gassed up and sadly, their 'Full' convenience store was not yet finished and open for business. I left the gas station and headed into town to find a restaurant. As I was leaving the gas station the guys from Brazil were just pulling in. Amazing.
I stopped and had a milanesa, basically a breaded and fried (or sometimes baked) piece of boneless chicken very popular in Argentina. I was eating at a table outside, and saw one of the Brazilians speeding past, probably looking for a tire shop.
After a relaxing lunch I got back on the bike to start the final stretch into Mendoza. The road was now all paved. I arrived in El Sosneado not far from Marlargue, where the road forks into RN40 and RN144, which is also marked as RN144/RN40. Somehow I missed the pure RN40 turnoff and took RN144, a flat, straight, and very fast highway running northeast to San Rafael.
As I was flying along this road I was amazed to see the four Brazilians passing me yet again. They must have either found a new tire in Marlargue or found a gomeria (a tire repairman) who could work magic. That was the last time I would see those four guys, that nothing seemed to be able to stop.
I got gas in San Rafael and got back on the road. About 50 miles from Mendoza, there was an intersection where I could have picked up Ruta 40 again to Mendoza. I stopped to make that turn. That section looked to be all deep ripio, and Fabian who I met along the way said that the section of ripio just south of Mendoza was one of the more difficult sections of the route. I elected to take a pass. I prefer to do that type of road early in the day, as opposed to the end, when I am not well-rested and ready for anything.
I arrived at the Barnarda Hotel in Mendoza about 8 PM. I chose that hotel because it looked easy to get to and and was located close to Godoy Cruz, where I would store the bike until the next stage in January.
I was happy to arrive and unpack the bike. I showered up and had dinner at the hotel. I could explore Mendoza tomorrow.
I was glad to be able to sleep in until after the sun was up. I opened the window shade to get a glimpse of Mendoza from my fourth floor perch. It was a sunny day in Mendoza and I thought it was fitting that my hotel room overlooked Ruta 40.
Ruta 40 sure doesn’t look intimidating here.
I spent an hour organizing my things into two groups—stuff that I would take home and stuff that I would leave with the bike. I packed up my home stuff in my duffle, then went down to the parking lot to pack what would remain with the bike.
The bike’s due for service and I’ll get that done when I get back to Mendoza. I rolled on just over 4,100 miles since leaving Buenos Aires nine days earlier.
After about 6,100 miles, the tires seem to have lots of life left, despite being noticeably more chewed up than they were pre-ripio.
Geeez! Is that a little nail I see in the rear? I’ll have to yank that out and have the plug kit ready. For now, it’s holding air.
I rode the short distance to the mini storage in Goday Cruz where I would leave my bike. Walter, the owner, whom I had contacted well in advance of my arrival, is an ADV rider himself. He’s also a great guy and after taking care of business we had a nice chat over the course of a couple of hours. He’s getting ready for a ride of his own, from Mendoza to Iguazú, and part of Brazil and maybe Paraguay. I parked the bike and left my boots, camping gear, tankbag and its contents, and helmet with it. What a relief to not have to lug it all back home this time! Riding jacket and pants will come home of course for a thorough washing, drying, and reapplying DWR treatment.
Walter suggested that when I return, he take me on a day trip to Villavicencio and then took me on a little tour of the center of Mendoza before dropping me off for lunch.
After lunch I walked around the center of Mendoza.
Plaza Internaciónal, the main plaza, under renovation.
One of the entrances to the main plaza.
The Park Hyatt - Mendoza.
Banco Galicia, Plaza San Martin.
Basilica San Francisco, Plaza San Martin.
I was keeping in contact with Fabian, whom I had met along the ride, and he was anxious to get together before I left Mendoza. Unfortunately, he got tied up at work but suggested that I join him later in the afternoon when he takes his son for ciclocross practice. I agreed, and he picked me up a bit later at the hotel. We went to the Parque General San Martin, where the ciclocross course was. Ciclocross is pretty amazing to watch. It’s all about speed and smoothness, and the riders practicing that night ranged in age from seven to 18.
While we watched, Fabian pulled out a traditional calabash gourd and silver straw, and prepared some mate tea. After drinking the traditional first batch, he made another and passed the gourd to me. I drank it, and he made another and passed it to another friend, and then another. Drinking mate among friends and family is an old ritual dating back centuries. I was glad to have been invited to participate.
Fabian took me on a short tour of this very large park. First stop, the ornate Portones del Parque, or Park Gates, which were a gift from France.
Next up was the Fuente de los Continentes, or Fountain of the Continents.
Then on to the man-made lake, were they have sailing and rowing.
Just outside the park gates on Avenida Liberador are rows of old mansions, some used as restaurants or bodegas.
After the ciclocross practice, Fabian suggested that I join him and his family for dinner. I didn’t think that there would be time, but he insisted and said he would drive me to the airport later. We arrived at his house a little late so in order to save time and ensure that I made my flight, rather than cook a meal his wife ran out to get some pizzas. We had a great time and will get together again in January. All that from a chance encounter of ADV riders at a gas stop. The close-knit camaraderie of the ADV community never fails to amaze me. Walter and Fabian both made me feel right at home in Mendoza.
After dinner Fabian and his son drove me to the airport, where I arrived on time. I was both ready to get home and excited to start planning the next stage of the trip.
So all motels this stage? I know you mentioned camping bringing gear.
Yes, all hotels this time. As it turned out, they were plentiful, or at least they were located in places that worked for my planned stops. I brought the camping gear along more as insurance in case I couldn’t find lodging or ran into a problem in the middle of nowhere.
Congrats on completing Ruta 40, especially riding solo! I will have to seriously consider it when the time comes...
How much spare gas do you think it's wise to be carrying on Ruta 40?
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Thanks, although I still have another third of it to go, north of Mendoza to La Quiaca on the Bolivian border. That 1,000 mile stretch I'll do in January.
I had an extra two gallons of fuel at all times in two one-gallon RotoPax containers strapped onto my rack. I tapped into them twice on the way down to Ushuaia, but never on Ruta 40. This was probably due to the higher speeds/RPMs decreasing my mileage on Ruta 3 going south. I would still recommend bringing along a couple of gallons just the same, in case some of those smaller towns don't have fuel. If that gas station in Buta Ranquil was out of fuel, those two gallons would have saved me.
I would highly recommend Ruta 40. The northern part in the Jujuy Province is supposed to be spectacular. The canyon there, the Quebradas de Humahuaca, is where the famous seven-colored hills are located and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Not sure what your route plan is, but since you're heading south, maybe pick up Ruta 40 in the far north out of Bolivia or even Chile and then you could cross over into Chile south of Mendoza and ride the Carretera Austral down to TDF. I rode that as far south as Chiloé, but south of that it's supposed to be quite amazing.