Wedding Vows in Action: Riding South from Seattle

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by ADVegan, Nov 14, 2018.

  1. ADVegan

    ADVegan Been here awhile

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    Jungle Panama.jpeg
    The two of us in the jungle in Norther Panama- island of Bocas del Toro, on the northern undeveloped end.

    I keep finding myself falling behind and having too much to catch up on.. that just makes me procrastinate more.

    We started planning our race through Panama and Rachel reminded us there was really no rush. Since she rejoined me in San Jose Costa Rica we have felt like we are moving a little faster than we'd like. Probably just lingering attitude from when I cruised through a few countries quickly. It was a good reminder so we decided to check out Boquete Panama. It was a nice town in a green valley- a wonderful respite from the 100° temps we rode through to get there.

    We stayed two nights and when packing up Rachel plugged her phone into a receptacle bank at the front desk. An older guy came in selling knives and some other stuff from a tray to support his dialysis treatments. He showed me his diabetic foot and bandages and his diagnosis paperwork from the hospital. I told him I didn't want any knives but I handed him $5. Then he stole Rachel's iPhone X. Fuuuuck that pissed me off.

    It was our only navigation tool since I dropped and subsequently lost my Pixel phone in Costa Rica. The hostel said they'd never had any issues in 5 years, and the cops said the guy was from out of town (they knew him) but a police report would take 3 days. We went to buy a burner phone and the Chinese couple running the cellphone store said a younger guy had come in earlier trying to sell them Rachel's iPhone. Im not a phone snob, my pixel I bought used and it's a couple generations old- but this new phone is a pain to type on! (Give me some credit for typing this post on it, Rachel hogs the laptop. Ok, hogs HER laptop)

    We rode through central Panama towards Panama City. It was a couple days of trials. I've been posting about Rachel's digestion issues, but its really not food poisoning. In fact its the opposite of traditional food poisoning symptoms. I won't get into details, but her symptoms are too close to the ovarian cancer that runs in her family to not take things seriously. We've scheduled testing in Medellin. Bottom line, that plus the heat, plus the lack of interesting towns made for some of our toughest days yet.

    But we did get rained on for the first time on our ride! It's rained plenty of times where we've been, but somehow without really trying to avoid it, we haven't ridden in the rain one single time! We got caught in a downpour and I pulled over under a pedestrian overpass to wait it out. It stopped, but we caught back up with it and got soaked. The following hour was back up to 100 and dry so we quickly dried out.
    Rain Ride.jpg
  2. ADVegan

    ADVegan Been here awhile

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    When we made it to Panama City, we were stunned at its modernity. Well, let me back up- before we laid eyes on the city we crossed the Bridge of the Americas over the Panama Canal. And I started crying in my helmet! Very unexpected! I hadn't really been building up Panama in my mind but when we crossed the bridge I felt like I had achieved what I set out to do- ride a motorcycle to South America. It was an awesome feeling to know that I had actually taken action on my dream trip and we had made it happen. Emotions abound!

    Then we pulled into the Casco Viejo neighborhood of Panama City which is quickly gentrifying and quite beautiful. Our modern Airbnb (just opened, we were the second guests) had a view across the water to the downtown skyline and it felt like the hot, dry section of central Panama was behind us. We enjoyed out time in Panama City and had some wonderful nights chatting about life the trip and everything else.

    Awesome Airbnb in Panama City:
    _MG_3131.jpg

    I was to drop the bike off at the airport a day before we flew, and Veronica with Cargo Riders had her people on the Panama side come pick me up. They were scheduled for 10am, but texted us at 8:20 saying they were outside. We'd had a late night drinking wine and had procrastinated on the packing so we arranged for them to come back at 11. They arrived at noon, and were wonderful people. After we got the bike stuff handled I asked if I needed a cab. We'd driven to the Tocumen Airport on the other side of the city through traffic for about an hour. They said they'd drive me back and I asked their daughter who was with us if they lived near Casco Viejo. No, she said- they lived by Tocumen airport. So I protested and told them not to wait in two hours of traffic on my behalf. Instead they took me to their house and gave me some water and we chatted and I met their children. Fun experience.

    Rachel in Casco Viejo Panama City:
    _MG_3261.jpg

    The bike flight got delayed one day, but Veronica was very communicative. I was happy to have her help and I can be added to the list of many happy Cargoriders customers here on ADVrider.

    We landed in Bogota and Rachel and I both felt reinvigorated. We'd visited Colombia in 2015 and absolutely loved it, but I wasn't sure if it had been a fluke. It was not, we love it here! The weather here is much more similar to Seattle, the people are incredibly friendly and overall it just has a great vibe. Getting the bike out of the airport took longer than I expected, and by the time the bike and I were being lowered off a loading dock by a forklift it was dark. Hopefully the Argentinian couple I was with got some photos I can share, it was a unique experience! I was a little nervous for my first ride in Colombia, in a giant city and also at night but I didn't have any issues.

    We hiked an hour and a half up to Monserrate and tried to recreate a photo we took in 2015:
    _JKH0014.jpg

    We booked a flight out of Quito on May 24th, so we have about 6 weeks to make our way there. Instead of hurrying there we might stop in Medellin for a bit and check out a lot of the small towns north of Bogota. Then Rachel might get on a bus while I make some long days. Who knows, right now we are just very happy to be in Colombia and enjoying every minute!

    I finally had to get a couple new clothes to keep up with Rachel's burgeoning wardrobe..
    _JKH0024.jpg
  3. 1stgenfarmboy

    1stgenfarmboy The Sherpa Man

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    Good thoughts for the little woman's upcoming test.

    Oh and great RR.
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  4. LateToTheGame

    LateToTheGame Been here awhile Supporter

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    First off, I just want you to know that as I write this it's raining and 47 degrees outside, and the bike is stuck in the garage. You two are living the dream. Just sayin'...

    I do have a question: how do you manage to stay sort of comfortable in rider gear at those temperatures? If I get into the 80s, the armored jacket and pants start to feel desperately hot. 'Course I'm living in a temperate zone - as I said, 47 degrees and wet - so I might adapt with time, but it always feels like I might just melt inside the moto suit.

    Rachel seems to be handling all this really well. Maybe in a couple years you do it all again, only this time put her on her own bike? She reminds me of my wife - if I don't regularly get Jan out on an adventure of some sort she starts to get cranky and irritable.
  5. ADVegan

    ADVegan Been here awhile

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    In regards to the gear, great question! I think it's just impossible. Before we left I tried to find out what the weather was going to be like in certain places and found it hard to nail down. I went back and forth a million times on mesh gear vs full goretex Klim suits. In the end I got mesh pants and kept my regular jacket. Rachel has regular armored pants and jacket and that has just been too hot.

    We've had single-day rides that varied by 35+ degrees (because of elevation, not time of day) so you just can't be that ready for everything. If I was doing it again, I don't even know what I'd go with. The temps through Central America were high enough they say it's bad to use mesh because it just dries you out. I did find that when it was hitting 100+ and I closed my vents I had less dehydration. More sweat though. Now we are in Colombia and it's dumping rain regularly so..

    We basically know we are going to sweat like crazy on ride days and take showers upon arrival. The best thing we did is get some merino base layers. They're a little too hot, but you can sweat like a pig and they don't smell for several ride days!

    Rachel is doing great, thanks for mentioning it. She is a trooper, and warming to the idea of her own bike now that she sees how small they make them...
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  6. ADVegan

    ADVegan Been here awhile

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    Alright I have neglected this RR long enough! I think a certain point of lull comes on every Ride Report, hopefully I can gain momentum again. We'e been in Colombia about a month now, our route is below and I'll post some more chronological details and pictures in posts below. First, I just wanted to talk about Colombia in general- specifically the riding here.

    When we visited Colombia four years ago I remember thinking, "these roads are perfect for riding motorcycles, but because of the other drivers, you'd have to be crazy to ride here." Well, here we are and I was right on both accounts! There are two road signs featured very prominently in Colombia. The first is a white circle surrounded by a red border with two smaller circles inside. The smaller circles are black on the top and white on the bottom. The sign looks like a blinking smiley face without a mouth, and I have absolutely no idea what it means. The other sign that pops up at least once a mile is much clearer. It's a classic yellow diamond sign showing two cars slamming into one another head-on. It doesn't offer a whole lot of new information, it just kind of says "Hey it would suck if you crashed head-on into another car wouldn't it? That can happen, you know." Thank you for the consistent reminder, but it's not necessary. The friendliest word to describe how Colombian drivers treat passing one another would be "optimistic". Their lane usage is "collaborative". But the scenery makes up for it and then some. After leaving Bogota we rode over mountain ranges and under foreboding rainclouds. We rode beneath massive cliff faces, across valley floors, and alongside swollen rivers. Very few sections of road were straight and fewer were flat. It's ideal.

    On top of that, the views are spectacular. We're from Seattle, the Emerald City, in WA, the Evergreen State, so we're used to green. But Colombia is verdant! I haven't been anywhere else in the world that justifies using "verdant". The terrain and roads are so incredible that over the course of a few weeks I realized I was getting used to epic green mountains and twisty roads winding through them. If someone else was setting out on an "Epic Ride" of their own and was solely concerned with good riding, I would probably recommend just shipping your bike from wherever you are in North America straight to Colombia. There is something great about riding out of your own driveway all the way here, but the riding through Central America cannot compare to what we've ridden in Colombia. It's that much better!

    Second, if you're riding in Colombia and the internet tells you it's Colombia's rainy season.. It is not playing around. We have had rain almost everyday in the afternoon and it can be torrential. We've been able to ride our rides just fine, always watching the skies and doing our best to be at our next lodging by 2pm.

    Here is our route so far in Colombia:
    Screen Shot 2019-05-15 at 11.13.57 AM.png
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  7. ADVegan

    ADVegan Been here awhile

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    We wanted to slow down in Colombia and not rush toward Ecuador so we decided to head north out of Bogota toward some small colonial towns. Good to learn that the bike works when pointed North too. Our first stop was Ville de Lleyva. It was a short ride out of Bogota, but I was happy to be back on the bike and leaving the city. It didn't take long to be cruising through twisty roads and green mountains. I felt like- ahh this is what I was imagining! This is new. It felt great. Villa de Leyva is beautiful in it's colonialism and at the risk of sounding jaded I will say we have seen a ton of colonial towns! We did do a wine tasting and check out a house made entirely of clay. That was cool! I'm really fascinated by alternative construction methods, and this was definitely alternative!

    Clay house:
    Villa De Lleva.jpg

    We rode North still to Barichara, another small colonial town. On the way out of VdL, I decided to use Waze to navigate because I like the voice directions in my helmet better. Partly because they are more consistent- they always tell me 200m before a turn. Google seems to just pick random distances to inform me about. And also because I made the voice in Waze "boyband" and they sing the directions to me. Unbeknownst to me, Waze rerouted us and added an hour and a half to the already long ride day. I promptly deleted the boyband app upon arrival.. We spent Easter in Barichara and watched them celebrate with their processional and music. We also made a couple friends from the states, a male and female pair of platonic travel buddies who got together once a year to take international trips. We went out to dinner with them one night and were inspired by their commitment to travel and their unconventional way of thinking about life and relationships.

    Cool lookout in Barichara over a neighboring valley:
    Barichara.jpg

    After Barichara things got a little interesting... We wanted to head to Medellin where Rachel had doctor's appointment scheduled. We had three days to get there for the appointment which meant we'd ride three long days in a row. That has never worked out well for us. First day went fine, we wound up in Bucaramanga which was a bigger town than I expected and we got a cheap and basic hostel. The next stop was halfway to Medellin in a town called Puerto Berrio. We dropped down from the mountains and the heat picked up. By the time we arrived it was well over 90 degrees and the town lacked anything we might be interested in doing. Luckily we had A/C in our hotel room, unfortunately we did not have any windows or wall decorations so it was a bit like a prison cell albeit a cold one. Rachel felt trapped in the room, and we didn't really have options for food besides rice, beans and fried plantains which we'd been eating for a few days. It was a hard day and I could tell Rachel's attitude was breaking down. But we were prepared to get to Medellin the following day by 2pm so we could make the appointment.

    I woke up at 6am and it was absolutely dumping rain. After looking at the forecast, I made an executive decision to delay our departure. Even with that being the right choice, Rachel was pissed when we left. We stopped for a gas an hour into the ride and didn't really exchange any words besides "want a water?" "no." - I could tell she was mad at me but I knew I'd done the right thing so we both dug in. I passed up several restaurants an hour later even though I knew we needed to stop soon. Finally after the twistiest road down a mountainside I've ever ridden, I saw a tienda (tiny convenience store) on the side of the road and I pulled into the only three feet of space available on the side of the road. I got us waters and we sat down to try to talk, but it didn't go well. I yelled, which I very very rarely do, and Rachel slammed her helmet shut and dropped her visor so I couldn't see her. This caused me to yell more even though I knew it wasn't doing any good, and she took her helmet off and threw it at me. We both heatedly decided not to continue talking at that time and rode the rest of the way to Medellin. Our shitty burner phone wouldn't allow Google maps to navigate so I rode into Medellin and tried to remember how to get to El Poblado neighborhood based on what I remembered from our visit in 2015. Traffic was bad and my nerves were about fried. By the time we got to the hostel, I just got off the bike and sat down on the curb for about 10 minutes to figure my shit out while Rachel checked us into the hostel.

    We made up that evening, but not after some of the heaviest conversations of our relationship. We decided to really commit to slowing down and spent about 8 days in Medellin. We went to a local soccer game which was a blast and generally just played tourist, without the pressure of seeing everything we were "supposed to" because we'd done that on our last visit. I really like Medellin, and I have no idea why. There's nothing that I can point to that would make me say you have to go because of "X". I just really like the feeling I get in the city, and the people are as friendly as anywhere in Colombia. The only negative of our time in town was the doctor's appointment because the doctor said "well, you look healthy", from across his desk and that was that. It was very invalidating and pissed me off enough that I ended up going back to the hospital the following day to get a refund.

    Medellin.jpg

    After Medellin, we rode down to Jardin which is GUESS WHAT?! A beautiful colonial town in the mountains! Here we hiked up to a lookout and enjoyed a couple days hanging out and spending time at a vegetarian restaurant run by three incredibly kind women.

    Jardin.jpg

    Attached Files:

  8. engineman

    engineman Been here awhile Supporter

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    I've always thought it would be pretty tough to take a long trip like that with a significant other. Not much space for cool-down when you're sharing a motorcycle. I've been married almost 30 years and FWIW I don't think we'd last more than a couple of days on a trip like that
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  9. CharlestonADV

    CharlestonADV I do my own stunts. Supporter

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    I've always thought it would take extraordinary patience to sit on the back of a motorcycle for extended journeys. It would seem reasonable that undertaking such an endeavor would put immense stress on any relationship.
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  10. ADVegan

    ADVegan Been here awhile

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    Haha yea it can definitely be challenging! A lot of times you just need that cool off space, but you've got nowhere to go!

    Great point, that came up in our conversations. She expressed that it can be harder to enjoy the ride days just sitting in the back. I sometimes forget.. Personally, I don't think I could handle riding ten miles on the back of someone else's motorcycle across highway 50 in Nevada let alone passing semitrucks in the rain on these Colombian twisties with a mile deep canyon on either side.. Ok, Rachel gets another outfit!
  11. CROSSBOLT

    CROSSBOLT Been here awhile

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    Just remember, it makes no difference, women in general will complain about something and will make it your fault!
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  12. 1suffolkmare

    1suffolkmare Adventurer

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    Don't believe everything you read on the internet.
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  13. Lostmike

    Lostmike Cruising

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    Better not say that to my missus she would definitely give you something to complain about haha.
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  14. CROSSBOLT

    CROSSBOLT Been here awhile

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    I am on #3 so I know of what I speak! I also know from personal experience that "fellow" naval officers do the same thing!
  15. ADVegan

    ADVegan Been here awhile

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    Been meaning to get this up for awhile, but we've been moving a lot!

    After Jardin we rode to Salento a small town in the coffee growing region of Colombia. We visited on our last trip to Colombia and loved it. It was familiar and more or less the same albeit with many more hostels. The highlight of this visit had to be the dinner we had a Venezuelan restaurant in town. The food was phenomenal and we chatted for a long time with the owner. She said her two employees had only been in Colombia for a couple months and the situation in Venezuela was very bad, worse than the news. It was a great experience and we appreciated the conversation (and wine!) We also went on a coffee tour with a guide who was funny, laid back and very honest. He told us that the coffee wasn't all that profitable unless you also did tours (like his) and that many people were turning to avocados.

    CoffeeSalento.jpg


    We stayed in the coffee region and rode a short ride over to Filandia. We had heard this was the "next Salento" but it was actually already a larger town. I think we set expectations a little bit too high, the town was fine but we preferred Salento. We packed up the bike and realized we needed some more cash to pay for the hostel. I went back to the ATM we had used once before but it was out of service. Then I went to the only other two in town which didn't work either. I called my bank, which said that there was no lock on the card but while we were on the phone we did identify $865 of charges in India. We got that rectified and realized one of the ATMs was actually working, it just didn't have at the amount of cash we were requesting.
    Filandia Hills.jpg
    All told this took a couple hours, which turned out to be important. We were only going about 30 minutes down the road to a cabin AirBnb we were trading photos to stay in. It had been sunny all morning. About 10 minutes into the ride, it started raining harder than I have ever ridden in. We got absolutely soaked through and through. 30minutes earlier, or later and we would have been dry but that wasn't to be. We stayed three nights at the cabin and it rained most of the time and the last day we lost power. A nice break for the finances, but with the rain and remote location of the cabin we felt a little stuck. We both romanticize remote Airbnb opportunities, but in reality they aren't the most convenient and it's nice to be around other people.

    With our sights set on Quito, we rode south to Cali and spent some non-descript time in the big city. Popayan was next, and we felt like as the Southern part of Colombia opens up more to tourism and backpackers, Popayan will be a part of the circuit. At one point on the way there, we pulled off the highway to get lunch, and there was a police checkpoint with a lot more activity that usual and they were stopping all cars. We both just got a feeling of "we are in the wrong place", and I looked at a cop and made a "we are turning around!" motion and he nodded like that was a wise move.

    Cali City.jpg

    We headed further South down the Pan-Am highway to Pasto. People have told us to stay off the Pan-Am because the cool roads are smaller etc etc. I get that, but the last hour and a half of this day was the most incredible combination of riding and scenery I've ever ridden. We were in a valley that must have dropped off 4k ft to our right side, and peering down to the river below was vertigo inducing. Just on the other side of the river another mountain climbed just as steeply. I really don't think I can do it justice with words, just go check it out.

    Drone Roadside.jpg
    We had seen pictures of a church near the border of Ecuador so we booked a night right near by. Our hostel owner in Pasto looked at us funny and said we shouldn't stay in the town of Ipales because it was a dump. But that's where the church was so we did it anyway. We were not disappointed! The hotel was right by the church, and was over-priced for Colombia, but very modern and nice and didn't give any "border town vibes". The church was built over a river deep down in a massive gorge- I'll let the pictures do the talking, it was spectacular. After seeing a lot of churches on this trip, this one was my favorite by a good margin.

    Church Ipales.jpg
    We made it all the way to Quito after a breezy border crossing and several hours climbing and descending mountains. We parked the bike for storage with Freedom Riders bike rentals in Quito. It was fun talking shop with the guys there, they are really well set up for adventure. If you want to drop into Ecuador and grab an ADV bike with all the best gear I would highly recommend their shop.

    We flew Quito -> Houston ->Seattle where we stayed one night with Rachel's dad and then hopped a plane to Taipei and then Bali. The one day in Seattle was totally surreal. Everything was so familiar, and it felt like I'd simply woken up from a dream. None of the last six months felt real. Seriously mind-melty. Then we landed in Bali and I went back to dreaming. We are filming a wedding here this weekend, staying another week and then heading back to Seattle for a couple days. Then we'll spend a week in Hawaii on another photography gig, and then be in Seattle until the end of July. A quick trip to Montreal for a family reunion and it'll be back to Quito to pick up the bike and keep riding South. I plan to put this on hold until then, but I might add some of my experiences with different gear to help others heading down South in the future.


    NOT IN KANSAS ANYMORE!
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    I am happy to answer any questions about motorcyle gear or logistics or weather or whatever! So even if someone stumbles on this post in 2025, shoot me a DM or ask away here. Thanks to everyone who has read along so far, even without a ton of offroad/ breakdown / ADV stories- we've been minding my Dad's instructions to "stay out of the news" and I'm quite content with that!