Chicago to Panamá y Más Allá - A Staged Journey Through Latin America

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Parcero, Nov 21, 2011.

  1. TATARИN

    TATARИN n00b

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    Hello my fellow Chicagoan. You and I also have the same tires. I think your BMW bike is basic :). I shall follow in your footsteps.
  2. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial Supporter

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    Yeah, should have known, but this is the first time in umpteen border crossings where they didn’t have a half dozen kiosks selling insurance on the spot, or at least allowed me to pass without it with the warning that “you better buy it in the next town.” I’ll get it done tonight or tomorrow, hopefully, and be rolling again.


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  3. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial Supporter

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    They’re great tires but with so much pavement on the last stage and on this stage I see they will be toast by the time I arrive in Buenos Aires.

    Good luck on your trip! We should ride some in Chicago.


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  4. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial Supporter

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    I Spent a Week in Yacuiba One Day

    Man, does time stand still when you’re stuck between an international border and the entrance to a border town all day long.

    After spending some time walking around (but not wanting to wander too far from the bike), trying to find some decent food (not possible), chatting with both locals and other travelers (which is always fun) I just flat out ran out of things to do.

    I made lots of attempts to get insurance, either online or locally, but being Sunday, no place that sold insurance in person was open. Online failed because of slow or non-existent internet. I could sometimes get as far as the payment page, and then would get redirected to a secure site, and the authentication process seems to require more bandwidth or something because eventually the connection times out.

    It was also super hot. I drank four liters of water throughout the day.
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    I was entertaining myself people watching. This guy was friendly, harmless, and very drunk. He was pretty gone in the morning, and then somehow scored two bottles of vino in the early afternoon.
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    It was a good day for a siesta.
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    The snoozing cop, combined with the heat, was making me tired so I made a pillow out of my jacket and took a 45-minute nap in the shade right in front of the police station, right under their sign. Probably couldn’t have picked a safer spot. The sun eventually woke me up.

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    The bridge and river that separate Bolivia and Argentina. First looking toward Bolivia.
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    Now toward Argentina. Looks like the scenery’s about to change.
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    The Arroyo Yacuiba, where Bolivia becomes Argentina in this part of the country.
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    I loved the old-fashioned signs.
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    The last hour was a killer and when the buses started to que up, I moved my bike forward to make sure I was the first one out.
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    Back at the Hotel Paris.
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    The streets had yet to fill up with real cars so this kid was having fun.
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    My usual routine of heading to the plaza paid off. It was a beautiful, well-groomed, and lively place, and I found some good dinner there.

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    Dessert!
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    When your chain jumps the sprocket, just jump right in and fix it.
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    Yacuiba is a very nice city once you get away from the seedy border area. The area’s economy is driven by farming and large and growing oil and gas operations, and this area seems to be enjoying the benefits of all of that.

    Tomorrow it’s off to the insurance agency, and then a run for the border.
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  5. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial Supporter

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    I knew I couldn’t get anything accomplished on the insurance front until the businesses opened. Even so, I woke up early and had breakfast at the hotel.

    While all of Bolivia awaited the fate of their claim against Chile for direct ocean access in the International Court of Justice at The Hague, I was busily searching for insurance agencies.
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    There were three agencies within a five-block radius of the hotel. I walked past all of them to scope them out and verify their opening times. All opened at 8:30.

    I had a little more than an hour to kill so I took a a walk around the neighborhood and explored a little more. Yacuiba was growing on me. It’s really a vibrant little town, and well kept.

    El Parque del Estudiante.
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    Sweeping the park with a palm branch. Don’t laugh—I watched her working and it’s way more efficient than a regular broom.
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    The local market.
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    San Pedro Church.
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    I came across this juicing store on the way back to the hotel.
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    It smelled like the freshest fruits and vegetables in the world in there.
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    The juice was delicious, and only 8Bs, or US $1.15. Chicago price—$8.
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    Not as many indigenous people here, but still there are some.
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    Back to the hotel to grab my paperwork and head over the the agencies.
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    The first agency didn’t offer any insurance for motos. The second one, just a block away from the first, just opened and the agent said they could get me set up by noon. That seemed like a long wait but I figured I’d give it a go. Together we filled out five forms, then she scanned and sent them to the insurance carrier. After that, they called her and sent two more forms to fill out. Once those were sent in, they called back with the green light, and the agent told me it would cost $30 payable in U.S. dollar. Cool—I whipped out two 20s. Turns out it had to be paid at the bank. So she gave me an account number and directed me to the bank about two blocks away. I made the deposit, brought back the receipt, and told her to call me when the policy was ready.

    There was only one other person in the lobby, but I still had to take a number.
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    On the way to the bank, I passed this group of schoolchildren cheering for a successful verdict on the ocean access.
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    Next stop, lunch!
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    When I got back to the hotel, the agent WhatsApp’d me that the policy was ready. I suited up, packed up the bike and went right over.

    What great service. She presented me with the policy in a nice folder, and included a letter to the aduanas agents stating unequivocally that this policy meets Argentina’s requirements and to call her on her personal phone should they have any questions. She worked on this all morning and provided the same excellent service as she probably would have on a much larger purchase.

    I really wanted to just take the paperwork out of the folder since it would be easier to pack when folded up with my other documents, but she did such a nice job I kept it all intact. Off to the border I went.

    There were no tour buses but the line of semis was blocks long. It was already 98 degrees. The line was moving slowly through the narrow streets, and I was pushing the bike with the engine off rather than have it overheat. Finally there was an opening along the right side of the trucks, between the street vendors. I started the bike and squeezed past everything.

    Despite the truck traffic, the border was not busy at all. I was stamped out of Bolivia and into Argentina in short order, cancelled my Bolivian TVIP, and the only wrinkle was no one was immediately available to write up my Argentinian TVIP. I waited in the sweltering heat for about 15 minutes before a young woman arrived. I handed her my passport and she flipped through the pages cover to cover twice. “You’re going to need a new passport,” she said, pointing out that I have only one page left. Up to that point it was all Spanish and then she asked if we could speak English so she could practice. Yeah, sure thing. I gave her the insurance folder and she read the cover letter, and then closed the folder and said everything is in order. Didn’t even bother to look at the actual policy document. Then she said she “probably” should look at the moto. So we walked outside and she took a look. Just kind of a cursory look. Then said ok, you’re all set. That was easy—finally.

    By the time I left the border it was 1:40PM. It was later than I expected but it was good to be in Argentina again.
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    One hour into Argentina the temperature was climbing. Above a hundred degrees Fahrenheit for an hour and a half. 106 was the highest reading I saw. It was hotter than riding through the Beni in Bolivia, but thankfully, without the humidity.

    I stopped for gas and a coffee break somewhere along Ruta 34. I ran into a group of guys from Buenos Aires heading toward Bolivia. From the looks of there bikes they must have taken a few dirt roads.

    Over coffee I decided to ride about two more hours, which would be about an hour if riding after sunset. I found a hotel online in San José de Metán.

    The road quality was excellent and the scenery great. It was now in the 70s and very comfortable.
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    About an hour into the ride, it began to rain. That continued, mixed with patchy fog, for the rest of the trip. The temperature had dropped to 42 degrees, a 64-degree drop from the day’s high. I could not have arrived at the hotel any sooner.

    The La Delfina Hotel is a nice, new, hotel, and the reception staff was very welcoming. After a hot shower, I went down for dinner, served by the owner’s daughter, who was the same one who checked me in. She was probably also the cook. Later, she brought over her niece, Delfina, who wanted to practice her English. Her grandfather named the hotel after her. After a nice conversation, and I went up to plan the next day’s ride and get some sleep.




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  6. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial Supporter

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    Location:
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    I checked my maps and Buenos Aires was closer than I thought. Córdoba is about the halfway point, so I set that as my target for the day. It mapped out to about 450 miles, which I didn’t anticipate being that difficult to achieve given the road quality in these parts of Argentina. So no need for a super early start. I left after breakfast and was on the road a little after 8 AM—with thermal layers on. It was 52 degrees when I left and never got above 71. A little chilly in the morning but a welcome change from the previous two days.!

    Sure enough, the road was flat, straight. Some sections were down right desolate through desert scrub, kind of like Ruta 40 but paved perfectly. Those sections were kind of enjoyable because of that, until I was getting low on fuel and was a little worried wondering just where the next YPF or Axion station would be. I grabbed some video—hope I captured something to edit later.

    I stopped at a turnoff to see the Cerro Colorado, which was about a 15-mile detour off of Ruta 9, about 90 miles north of Córdoba. It’s a natural preserve surrounded by red stone formations on which indigenous tribes painted historical scenes dating back to the Spanish conquests. I didn’t stop at the museum, but enjoyed riding in and around the little town and through the dirt roads along the river. The town itself is pretty touristy, a bit like a Hollywood set if you ask me.

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    The little chapel.
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    If I had a nutritionist, they would be very disappointed at my eating habits on the road. When I’m on the road, if I can’t buy it at a gas station, I’m not eating it.

    YPF has the best coffee and medialunas.
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    Sometimes just a candy fix is all I need.
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    I got into Córdoba at about 6:30, changed , and took a walk around it’s Plaza de San Martin. It’s pretty spectacular at night. I’ll have time to check it out in the daylight tomorrow before I leave for Buenos Aires.

    The Cathedral of Cordoba.
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    The Church & Convent of St. Joseph.
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    The Royal Theater.
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    The Church of St. Francis of Assisi, right across from my hotel.
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    The Bank of the Providence of Córdoba.
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    Many of these buildings date back to the 1700 and 1800s. If you like beautifully restored Baroque architecture, Córdoba is for you.


    I love Cordoba!
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    I decided to make up for the bad eating on the road and have a decent dinner. Plus, tomorrow night will be spent packing and getting the bike ready for shipping.
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  7. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial Supporter

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    Buenos Aires being just a six-hour ride away and last night’s dinner being so spectacular, I thought I would stick around for a breakfast at the hotel that was sure to be good, check out a little more of Córdoba, and leave at 1 PM or so to put me into Buenos Aires after rush hour.

    I had everything packed up and went down for breakfast, which was really nothing more than bread and pastries. They were good if you like that kind of thing, but I was hoping for something a little more substantial. That, bad coffee, and a case of get-me-home-itis forced me to suit up and get on the road. I could definitely score a better breakfast and coffee at a YPF gas station. I rolled out of the hotel at 8 AM.

    Since I had to bring the bike to the cargo terminal at Ezeiza with an empty tank, I planned accordingly. The GPS said 432 miles. I gassed up on the way out of Córdoba, and planned at some point to stop and dump the two gallons of Bolivian fuel that I was still carrying into my tank, and then make sure I filled up when I had 150 miles to go. That would insure that I roll into the airport on fumes. Of course, with a broken fuel gauge, it might not be an issue but I don’t want to have to drain fuel if they actually look in the tank.

    Right after this Shell station, Ruta Nacional 9 turned into a divided autopista with a posted speed limit of 130 kph, or about 81 mph. This was going to be a quick, albeit boring trip.
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    I spent a few minutes looking for a more interesting route to get me to Buenos Aires, but in the end I just wanted to make time. The weather was a perfect 70 and sunny, and cruising down a perfectly-paved and mostly traffic-free road at 80 mph really didn’t feel so bad.

    My last YPF for awhile.
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    Gonna miss getting coffee at Full.
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    As gas station food shops go, this is one of the best. Nowhere near AutoGrill in Italy, of course, but it’s always excellent.
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    After a couple of gas stops, I got into BsAs about 4 PM and to the hotel at about 4:30. I picked a place right next to the airport to be close by for the bike drop off. It’s surprisingly quiet.
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    I didn’t waste anytime packing up my filthy riding gear. Next step was cleaning out the panniers on the bike. I had a whole bunch of stuff in there, including tools, that I never touched much at all despite riding through 17 countries over six years. I would rather have them and not have to use them than the other way around. Other than the tools, most of the stuff I trashed, like a ridiculously large assortment of mostly mis-matched tie down straps and bungee cords, old rags, a long-forgotten and broken Garmin Zumo.

    The panniers themselves are pretty beat. Slightly bent, loose in their mounts, and no longer waterproof nor lockable. Even some of the stickers are fading. Perhaps they’ll become decorations for my office now.

    I also noticed this.
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    It’s good thing the roads were smooth and I was lightly loaded. A rebuild will be a winter project. I’m actually surprised that the rear shock lasted as long as it did given the amount of use and abuse that bike has seen, especially those gnarly dirt roads in Bolivia last March with the potholes and ruts that could be measured in feet.

    Now to have some chow, relax, and locate the proper Torx bit to get my windshield off tomorrow before meeting with Javier from DakarMotos.


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  8. Nateman

    Nateman Adventurer

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    Wow, I’m glad that rear suspension held on until the end. I’ve seen a lot of rear suspension failures in ride reports. It does seem that those failures might be related to overloaded bikes, at least what I can tell from the photos.
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  9. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial Supporter

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    Yeah, me too!

    Overloading is definitely a factor, but it could also be age, or rough service. Also, my bike sat idle for four years in Chile, which I’m sure didn’t do it any good.


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  10. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial Supporter

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    Today’s the day.

    Since my hotel is within a five-minute drive from the airport, I had plenty of time to rummage through my tools to have just the right ones handy to remove the windshield, mirrors, GPS mount, and disconnect the battery when I meet Javier and Sandra at 10 AM.

    Amazingly, I found the proper torx bit for the windshield.
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    I also noticed that based on the oil covering the right side of the center stand, that rear shock leak was worse than I thought.
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    Once all my tools were in order, I took a walk around the neighborhood. It’s a quiet little town with a few restaurants and shops that turned out not to be a bad place to chill out while waiting to ship a bike and for a flight.

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    I would highly recommend the Posada de las Aguilas hotel for any moto travelers shipping a bike from Buenos Aires.
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    I arrived at the cargo terminal and readied the bike for receiving.[​IMG]

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    Javier and Sandra of DakarMotos arrived at the stroke of 10 AM and quickly explained the process. Sandra took my TVIP and passport for copies and to have the customs paperwork prepared. Once that was done about ten minutes later, I was able to ride into the secure area. First stop was the scale to weigh the bike. After that, I rode it onto the shipping pallet, where I was asked to deflate the tires a bit and disconnect the battery before the airport workers began securing and wrapping the moto. Bikes do not have to be washed before shipping to the U.S.A., so it will arrive with some character and Bolivian dirt.

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    My helmet’s in there, too, all wrapped and secured to the pallet. Only bike-related gear can be shipped with the moto—no other personal items or luggage.
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    If it ain’t Boeing not even my bike’s going. United B777 service to Houston, then on to Chicago O’Hare.
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    Ciao, moto. See you in Chicago! It’s off to be scanned and x-rayed before loading.
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    After all of that, we walked over to a nearly Petrobras gas station where we met with Javier and Sandra’s partners to complete the payment. Easily done by PayPal in minutes. We had some coffee while we waited for confirmation that the bike passed the final check and would be shipped out today. Once that was confirmed, we were done and Javier arranged for his partners to drive me back to my hotel. The whole process took only two hours. Thanks, Javier and Sandra for the excellent service!


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  11. Juan Cruz

    Juan Cruz Just riding

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    Buenos Aires - Argentina
    Hi Parcero

    I'm from Buenos Aires and, if you want to, I can show you the city! I'd love to hear some of your stories.
    Loving this RR so far.


    Un abrazo!
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  12. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial Supporter

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    Gracias, ArgenRider! I would love to take you up on your offer, but I’m already at Ezeiza waiting for my flight home.

    I’ll be back! Argentina is an amazing country to ride! It’s hard to get enough of it.


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  13. Juan Cruz

    Juan Cruz Just riding

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    Buenos Aires - Argentina

    Have a nice flight and ride safe!
    Looking forward for the next update.
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  14. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial Supporter

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    United Cargo - Chicago O’Hare

    I went out to O’Hare on Sunday afternoon thinking that it would be a good time to pick up the bike since there probably would not be as much activity.

    The place was pretty dead, with only three truckers in line ahead of me. One of them told me they had all been waiting for more than a hour. There were three employees behind the glass. One was taking care of the truckers, another was collating and stapling stacks of documents, and the other—I’m not really sure what her purpose was. When I motioned for her to open her window because I had a question, she waved me off, despite having nothing on her desk.

    About an hour later it was my turn. The employee didn’t seem to know anything about motos, so she called the supervisor. He told me that I needed a customs clearance document from Argentina. That seemed a bit ridiculous since the bike would have never left Buenos Aires if aduanas there hadn’t cleared it.

    I immediately contacted Javier at DakarMotors and he said no way—all I need is a clearance from U.S. Customs and with that United will release the bike. He surmised that I had gotten the “Sunday Crew” at the airport, who didn’t really know what they needed to know. The “Sunday Crew” didn’t seem to know if there was a customs officer on site, or if the local field office was open, or even where it was.

    So I came back today, after the Columbus Day holiday. I went straight to customs, and I had my clearance stamp on my copy of the air way bill moments after they figured out that it wasn’t really an “import,” just my own U.S.-registered moto coming home. With a hearty “Welcome home!” I was handed my documents.

    Unites States Department of Customs and Border Protection, Chicago port office.

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    Now off to United Cargo, again.
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    This part of O’Hare field is pretty spectacular. The access roads get you closer to the field than the passenger side, and the sheer number of cargo warehouses and enormous air freighters coming and going and being loaded and unloaded is really amazing.

    I bypassed the line at the United Cargo Imports counter and handed my stamped way bill to a clerk. She said there was a $60 terminal fee. I paid that and had the bike ten minutes later. Now to unwrap, install the windscreen and mirrors, connect the battery and go. The crew today was fast, professional, courteous, and efficient.

    Waiting for the forklift in the Hazardous Goods section.
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    Here it comes.
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    I packed a knife in the tank bag so I just had to get to that and then the rest was easy.

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    First the windshield then the mirrors.

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    Ready to go!
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    Wait! One more installation. I had been carrying my new personalized plate for a year. I wanted to install it en route, but that could only have been done in just the right, desolate, no-man’s land between borders, and even that depended on the exact border crossing protocol. I had one such opportunity on the way to Ushuaia, but took a pass because the weather was so miserable. I never got another chance on the trip.

    Better late than never.
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    After almost seven years in Latin America, the moto’s finally back in Chicago.


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  15. kaspilo

    kaspilo Been here awhile

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    Jun 26, 2011
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    NW Arkansas
    Yeahhh... she is back home now and you too. Great journey Parcero....! I don't how to send you a PM, but give me a call once you get rested, maybe we can get together and ride the TAT (or portions of) sometime.
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  16. Nateman

    Nateman Adventurer

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    Terre Haute, Indiana
    The end of an era, and of a great ride! I hope you’ve already started planning the next adventure!

    Speaking of overland travel, will you be at the Overland Expo - East next month?
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  17. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial Supporter

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    I always have a few ideas simmering, but no solid plans as of yet. As for the OX-East, not sure yet. If I don't have a conflict, I'll go, although it will likely be a last-minute decision. It's just a day's ride from Chicago.
  18. NumberCruncher

    NumberCruncher Long timer

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    Spokane, WA
    Fantastic trip. I echo all the positive comments everyone else has already made.

    1) What size Rotopax did you have on your bike?

    2) For the "Ushuai" leg of your journey, did you ever need to use the Rotopax or did you manage to find fuel every 200 miles or so?

    My Africa Twin, like every STUPID ADV bike EXCEPT the GSA and ATAS has about a 200 to 220 mile range, max, which is really pushing matters. All these bikes should have an extra gallon larger fuel tank but that is a topic for another day.

    I'll finish you're report tomorrow or Friday.

    NC

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  19. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial Supporter

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    Number Cruncher,

    I carried two one-gallon Rotopax containers on the bike, tied down by nearly-foolproof velcro straps by Best Rest Products. Not sure if they sell them anymore. The extra two gallons give me a 7.2 gallon, or about 288 mile range. I only had to tap into the extra fuel in Mexico, Peru, and Argentina.

    From Buenos Aires to Ushuaia I was able to find fuel stations and didn't have to tap into the Rotopax reserves.
  20. Rubinski

    Rubinski Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2016
    Oddometer:
    210
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    Phoenix AZ
    Awesome posts!! Getting excited for my trip. How much did it cost you for shipping your bike to Chicago? I leave Phoenix October 7th and plan on making it to Colombia. Not sure after that, but would hate to have to ride back to Phoenix again.
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