Riding the Dominican Republic

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by wegster, Sep 7, 2008.

  1. wegster

    wegster Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2007
    Oddometer:
    68
    Location:
    Southeastern US
    I just got back from riding the DR with one of 'my other forum' (SVRider) sponsors, MotoCaribe , on a DL650.

    Warning - it's gonna be long, skip to the pictures if you don't like to read ;D

    July 25th, Another Trip Coming Up!
    ----------------------------------

    The place I work was bought by a much larger company some time back, and it's been frustrating for a number of reasons. When we were purchased, the new company paid out most of our vacation time, when I had nearly 7 weeks saved up that I planned on taking.

    Coincidentally, a new sponsor on the SVRider forum had posted they were doing discounted trip rates for the next few months, just as I was remembering I needed to confirm my vacation balance, and what was going to happen to it at the end of the year..

    It turns out that the vacation payout was a one time occurrence, and now each year at year end, any vacation balance we have over 2 weeks we simply..lose! I thought this was paid out, but after confirming this to not be the case, I realized I really needed to take some vacation!

    Well...I'm single at the moment, so no one to 'negotiate' a destination with, and while I generally prefer to do my own thing on a trip, schedule and activity-wise, the idea was sort of appealing. I've had a few miserable trips by taking someone I did not mesh with well for vacations (a last minute trip to HI, a few others), so while I'd rather go on a vacation by myself over someone that turns into an annoyance, there are times that vacationing solo isn't what I feel like.

    The trip in question was riding across the Dominican Republic on DL650s, AKA Wee-Stroms. The DL650s are pretty similar overall to my BMW F650, which I've road-tripped on and done some off-road with as well...the DL650 is a bit quicker, and shares the same basic engine as my SV650, but with different cams and tune, while the F650 is a bit more off-road worthy. My F650 is in the process of being 'replaced' by the DRZ400S for off-road, and my new to me SV650 for on the road, but is a great bike. I haven't ridden a DL650 yet, and they are sort of funky looking, and while I suspect I'd much rather have my F off-road, it seems like a fine bike for general riding, and perhaps some hard dirt roads or riding along the beach on.

    So, I was seriously thinking about it. I checked out the website for MotoCaribe, and got some general info (Ed was great at responding to emails), as well as a few alternatives.

    Of course, I had to check pricing for Australia and New Zealand again, but that's still a wash - way too expensive for me right now. I did find some very cool trips to Honduras and Guatemala (Mayan ruins, among other things to see), and neither are exactly a 'tourist hotspot,' so that was pretty appealing, but it looks like I'm off-season for when they're offered. Pricing is somewhat comparable, including airfare, for a longer period of time, plus more off-road, so I think one of these may well be the trip after this one!

    Maya Moto Tours

    http://www.infohub.com/TRAVEL/SIT/sit_pages/19207.html
    http://www.infohub.com/TRAVEL/SIT/sit_pages/13409.html
    Also, this is a very cool page with some interesting links to third party tour vendors.. < $1k USD to do Vietnam for nearly 2 weeks..tempting!

    http://www.infohub.com/TRAVEL/SIT/sit_pages/motorcycle_tours.html

    Decision Made
    ----------------
    I did some research on DR via the US Government Travel Pages, and the US Embassy DR website , wikipedia, and the like, and found out in no real order:

    - Yep, DR is quite poor, but generally likes tourists
    - I really should have taken Spanish!
    - There are outbreaks of Malaria and Dengue on occasion, I guess I should go get some shots or something.. :-/ And bring along bug repellent!
    - The usual thefts, armed robberies and impersonation of cops occurs there on occasion (seems to be the case for most countries in Central/South America)
    - Apparently, pot is illegal in DR. Minimum offense for carrying is something like 6 months in a Dominican prison and 1500RD fines (something like $150USD or so). http://www.usemb.gov.do/Consular/ACS/narcotics_arrest_in_DR-e.htm


    Ok, no partying of that type, I'll pass on a DR prison, thanks!

    - Sousa seems to be worse in general crimes and other things than elsewhere. Prostitution is legal in DR, apparently quite 'evident' in Sousa, and sometimes involving way underage girls, yech. We won't be going there, but I'll be watching what I might inadvertently say in my terribly broken Spanish! (we will have a native guide/interpreter, yay for that!)
    There's some more information here, http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1103.html , which goes on about identity theft, not suggesting the use of debit, credit, or ATM cards, as well as using only official taxis and the official bus line. Again, fairly typical - walking outside the airport in Costa Rica was similar to what I've heard of the taxis etc in DR.

    While I really would have loved to gone to Honduras (I almost married someone from there, and it just seems less 'touristy'), I think the DR trip came along at the right time, at a reasonable price, and MotoCaribe had good communication, new bikes, a support vehicle, and the itinerary looked pretty good, outside of waking up entirely too early when on vacation. Plus, I'll stop off for a day or two and visit Mom in FL en route, so it'll work out well, and I'm looking forward to it!

    Stuff Left to Do
    -----------------
    I'm not so sure, really. It sounds like at a minimum, I need to investigate if I need any vaccinations or shots before going.

    It's going to be weird, going on a trip that has a support vehicle to carry stuff, has tools, etc. I'm going to have to re-think what to bring compared to going somewhere solo. Ed offered to let me carry some of their tools, but I expect I'll pass on that one! :-)
    #1
  2. wegster

    wegster Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2007
    Oddometer:
    68
    Location:
    Southeastern US
    THE JOYS OF FLYING, AND FORGETTING STUFF - Aug 22nd
    -----------------------------------------------------------------
    I'm usually pretty good at trip planning, but not always so great at doing packing and the little details that should 'only take a few minutes' in advance. This trip was of course, no exception.

    I did price my tickets even before deciding I was going to DR, but didn't book all of them until a week later. As much as it irks me to use a Microsoft owned product or company, I generally wind up using either Expedia (MS owned) or Travelocity to book my flights, hotels/motels, and cars nowadays. I used to scour the web checking with a myriad of other sites, but nowadays things are basically on parity price-wise, and Expedia and Travelocity have really taken over between the two of them.

    I'd decided I was going to stop in FL for a few days prior to going to DR, to visit with my Mom for a few, but annoyingly, neither site made it easy to fly from NC to Fort Lauderdale, then on to DR, then back to NC...so I got the bright idea of booking a pair of one way tickets, then a round-trip from Miami to DR and back..it worked out cheaper than the closest I could get what I wanted through Expedia, so I booked it...except for the last leg back, as I hadn't yet decided if I was going to hang out in Miami for a day or two post DR.

    What I didn't think of was whether or not I'd be able to have my luggage jump seamlessly from DR to Miami, then on to whatever connecting flight I decided to take, if I didn't stay over in Miami...oops. I guess we'll see what happens there, as I'm really not too fond of the idea of going to baggage claim, grabbing my bags, then going back through baggage check-in and security yet another time, but...we'll see.

    I wound up postponing the trip to FL by a day,because a friend was sick, and I thought we might be winding up at the emergency room or urgent care..plus, the day came and I hadn't packed, was still working on things for work, so I figured the lower stress was worth it, as well.

    Of course, that meant I managed to NOT pack for another day..followed by running around like a headless chicken for a bit while attempting to pack 'everything I needed for 9 days' in about an hour. All in all, I did pretty well, and made it to the airport with some time (a relative amount, in this case, around 30 minutes to spare after security check..) to spare. I managed to not be able to find my Airhawk, which I'd wanted to bring in the event the seats on the Wee-Strom were as bad as well, vurtually any OE seat out there...Airhawks look pretty dorky, but hey, if they save my butt during a week of riding, who cares?

    I also managed to forget to grab a pullover or light rain jacket, but not the end of the world, I figure I'll find one somewhere if I wind up needing one, and I felt sort of overpacked as it was. Socks for the duration, some LDComfort underwear and a few normal ones, I 'splurged' and grabbed two pairs of jeans, some UnderArmour shirts, my riding gear, and a few wicking compressible, wrinkle-proof 'convertible' pants (they unzip into shorts), and a pair of wicking pullover polo type shirts that at least look presentable, and I can wash on the way if need be. I'm not a big fan of Dick's sporting goods, but the pants and wicking polo shirts rock.

    My riding gear filled my big Cabellas backpack with my CamelBak, and all the clothes stuffed nicely into a large compression dry sack. stuffed into my tailbag, along with a few absorbent camp towels, and a microfiber or two, plus my toiletries.

    Sadly, my new mesh kevlar jacket from Motoport wasn't to make it for the trip. I love the gear, but it sounded like it wouldn't be ready in time, then I found out it had shipped..if I'd gotten a heads up, I could have had it shipped to FL and would have second day aired it, instead it's on it's way to NC to get the the day after I left...ahh well, hopefully it'll fit perfectly and be a nice surprise when I get back home.

    Re-booking my ticket to FL was a nightmare. Even 'non-refundable' tickets are usually transferrable for a fee, and while Expedia customer service was very nice (even English speaking!), they just didn't seem to get that for a $105 ticket when purchased, paying them another $150 transfer fee, to then credit $100 of it towards another ticket....really wasn't the best idea I'd ever heard. :-/ So basically, I threw the first one way ticket out, and booked online while being frustrated on the phone with them. I'd meant to fly into Ft Lauderdale, and thought I'd gotten the identical flight a day later, but...again, oops. I'd booked flying into Miami, instead, which meant either an $80 taxi or limo, or..screw it, a $60 car rental for a few days...not the end of the world.

    So, most of the travel stuff dealt with, I really only had one thing remaining - to actually get there! Which meant it was time for flight delays. I was flying into Charlotte, then connecting through to Miami 45 minutes later, which meant we were delayed for around an hour sitting on the tarmac waiting to take off. Surprisingly I made the connecting flight without issue though, as we made the time up in the air, and the flight to Miami was also delayed a bit as well, so I got into Miami a few hours later than expected.

    I picked the rental car up..I figure when I'm renting a car they're not going to give me something entertaining, like a Miata or an Elise, so I just get whatever the cheapest thing they have is...which in this case, apparently didn't include electric windows, something I'll admit I have kinda gotten used to having. But hey, it had 4 wheels, and air conditioning, so all good.

    Driving out of Miami was somewhat entertaining; a mixture of people that shouldn't be driving for a variety of reasons - old age, with some incompetent yet fast drivers thrown into the mixture for good measure, while I passed through a few torrential downpours. I'm not so sure I'd be thrilled about riding a bike on I-95 around Miami, yet I made it to my destination without incident, regardless. Talked with Mom for a few then got some sleep after reading a few more chapters in the random Michael Crighton book I picked up at the airport for the trip.

    The next day was spent mostly spending time with my Mom, and getting my health insurance info over the phone to find out that in the event I did need to see a doctor in DR, I'd have to pay cash, then submit back to the insurance company. Nice.. :-/ AT&T once again made me so happy I'm a customer when I inquired to find out about temporarily going onto an International phone plan, which turned out to be just short of rape - $1.69/minute on the plan, or $1.99/minute if just using my normal plan. Utter waste of time, and they didn't even catch the phone sex comment I made once I was done choking after hearing the rates.

    Last time I was in Boca, all I remembered was a ton of old people in small congregations, who had obviously lost their spouses, and it was depressing as Hell...so when Mom took a nap, I figured it was worth taking a drive to give the place one more chance, plus I had to pick up a few things anyways.

    I'd left the GPS at home, figuring as it's nearly useless in DR anyways, but it turns out I could have used it. I managed to get a bit lost, and apparently AT&T cell service is as questionable in FL as it is elsewhere - when I was trying to find my way back, my phone was on the passenger seat, and never rang, yet at some point told me I had voicemail, to find out apparently there was some unspoken rule that my Mom had to eat by 6:30 PM or something...oops. Called her back but got voicemail, and as she has no cell, she went and got takeout while I was less than 5 minutes away. Ahh well...we still had dinner, then when she went to sleep around 10, I decided to go and look around some more, thinking I'd find somewhere to shoot some pool for a bit or something. Note to AT&T and Apple (iPhone) - what good is pseudo GPS ability via Google Maps and 'use current location' when half the time you can find the right starting location yet continually give 'unable to route' as a response, even when you can find each point individually? :-/ This happened over a dozen times when trying to use my iPhone to get me back to my Moms..

    I wound up meeting a former flight attendant, and we bar hopped for a few, which was good, as the first place I'd gone to wasn't so ideal..it was entertaining, but I'm sort of picky when it comes to beer, and the choices were right out of Nowhereville, USA - Bud, Heineken, or Coors. Yech. We hung out for a while, then I headed in to get some sleep for the flight in the am.
    #2
  3. wegster

    wegster Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2007
    Oddometer:
    68
    Location:
    Southeastern US
    A LONG DAY TRYING TO GET TO THE DR - Aug 23rd
    ----------------------------------------------------------
    Warning: This was sort of a big suck day, I was getting really stressed out, and I'm sure it shows. If you don't like it, well, too bad, skip to the next day :-)

    I woke up in the am, mildly hungover, and with not quite enough sleep. The phone rang, from some random unknown 800#, so I promptly ignored it, and let it go to voicemail so I could half-sleep for another 5 minutes. I figured it was some annoying spam call, but they actually left voicemail, as it turns out, to let me know my flight was delayed, and moved back a few hours leaving Miami.

    Well, OK, I could use a few hours more sleep, anyways. It seemed like it was 45 minutes or so to Miami, and I left with what should have been enough time, but....

    I realized on the way that it was taking longer than I remembered, and kept eyeing the clock in the rental car (which I'd had to set, as apparently the rental place only sets the clock on 'premium' vehicles? :-) ), and realized the car rental place was off airport, and I wasn't entirely sure where I had to deliver it to. I managed to call them, and get directions, but the directions made me realize the airport was further away than I thought, so I dropped the car off without filling the gas tank, to find out they get $7.99/gallon for unfilled cars. ****it. Ahh well, gotta make the flight...

    I dropped the car off and jumped on the airport shuttle, and walked in an hour and 25 minutes before flight departure to DR, though, and figured no problem. Well, not quite. A friend had some car issues, so we'd rented a rental car back in NC, and figured we'd be able to just extend it without issue, or she'd be able to. Yeah, no. Thank you, Dollar. I tried to reach them while trying to figure out which of the many unlabeled terminals was the right one for international flights, until I got so annoyed with them telling me basically there's no way to extend a car rental, and I had to hung up on them. I found a counter labelled International Flights, but..it was closed. Walked around a bit, then found someone to ask at an open terminal, and they gave some vague 'down there' motion..how helpful. I managed to find the right one (again, no signs, but asking more employees), and had to wait in line to do the self service kiosk. Ok, I had an hour left. The first kiosk system was borked, so I waited for the next one. Swipe my card, and punch in the destination code, and..chug, chug, chug. A card spits out saying, "I'm sorry, you must see an attendant, you must check in 60 minutes prior to departure." Great...Ok, NOW where? I ask an airline employee standing around, and he waves to this long line. I groan and get on it, expecting someone to be going up and down the line checking to see which of us had imminent flights. Great, except...no one ever came, and the line was slower than a Wal-Mart checkout line.

    I finally get to the counter and am told I can't get on my flight. Excuse me?!? I'm not overly happy, and the attendant is totally unyielding and unapologetic. We finally get a supervisor who was, well, worse. She went so far as to tell me that I was lying when I told her I'd been trying to find out where and how to check in for the past 80 minutes. That didn't go over too well. Suffice it to say, America Airlines - kiss my ass, I won't be flying with you again.

    Next flight? Only FIVE HOURS AWAY. Ok, now I'm fairly tired, kinda ****** off, and have to sit in an airport for five hours. While it's an interesting place to people watch at times, something I do enjoy, the thought of spending five hours waiting just really wasn't thrilling me, even less so now that I had no car and effectively couldn't leave the airport, to come back later. Ahh yes, I was then pointed to some random unmarked line to hand my luggage to, instead of them checking it. I was really curious as to why, but I pretty much no longer cared, and just hope my stuff showed up. Organization at it's best..or something.

    So, I went outside for a smoke, to find it had heated up nicely...it felt like 100*F, and high humidity. I emailed MotoCaribe to let them know I'd be in later, then called them, to find out their sales guy, Chris, was in the airport on the same flight as I was, so at least I'd have some company in the airport suckage. Ed texted me Chris' cell #, and I tried to sort out the rental car stupidity again.

    That went about as well as the first time. They wouldn't take cash from my friend, and the price was jacked up for extending. I'd given them one of my 'emergency cards' with a low credit limit on it when we booked it, and they weren't able to process the same card against their exorbant jacked up extension rate. Nor would they take another credit card over the phone, in my name, after giving them the contract number for the rental. The fact that I was about to leave the country, and telling them, "ok, so, we're keeping the car, and I'm leaving the country, would you like to actually get paid for that, or not?" just seemed to fall on deaf ears. The only way to change the payment arrangements to a different card was literally to show up in person at a Dollar rental agency. The day was just getting better by the minute.

    Ok, I'm thinking, I just need an employee in the flesh, not the agency, and surely there's at least a counter at Miami International, right? I hook up with Chris from MotoCaribe, and tell him I'll be back after dealing with this, then head off to find the rental car section of the airport. Ok, there's Hertz, and others, and a line of employees. There's the Dollar counter...what's that, a sign? You got it, "I'm sorry, this desk is unattended, please go to the rental facility for assistance." I'll just leave it at many four letter words and bad thoughts crossed my mind for a bit.

    Ok, time check...should be ok yet. My phone is normally pretty quiet, but of course, today, I'm getting a lot of phone calls, and am pretty much at the point I really was ready to be in DR without phone reception for a while, and would be pretty happy doing nothing for a bit. So, I head out to find the shuttle to Dollar car rental, and stand in line for a while while thinking about being pretty much anywhere else, and noting the fact that I should have been in DR already. I get to the counter finally, and replay what the phone agent had told me, to of course be told, 'Sorry, we can't do that' (give them my card and have them update and extend the contract). The four letter mental words I had previously mutated into some very bad thoughts for a few, so I took a deep breath and asked for a supervisor, while I called Dollar on the phone yet again, in preparation for stupidity. Thankfully, the supervisor understood what I was asking for, and we got through it (boo Dollar, but yay for at least a single Dollar manager in Miami, thank you!), and I headed back outside to wait for an airport shuttle.

    I had the start of a migraine coming on about now, and I swear those shuttles have locomotive engines hidden away in them somewhere, as the single noisiest vehicles per pound short of construction equipment. I'm pretty sure it's their air lifts, raising and lowering the body when the doors open, but knowing what it is doesn't make it any quieter when you're getting a huge headache. The first one filled up and I wasn't able to get on, I took another phone call, and tried futilely to find some small corner somewhere that wasn't being blasted by the sounds of the shuttles so I could hear the other end of the conversation.

    I'll leave it at I did make it a shuttle or two later, it very thankfully had air conditioning, and the security checkpoint was a piece of cake. The whole removal of shoes thing is nasty though. I don't care so much, always having socks on, but I saw a few women that had been wearing heels or flats without socks or stockings, and wondered how many nasty feet had crossed those spots even just minutes before. one of these days, I'm sure someone's going to figure out there's some sort of health badness happening there, but, thankful for my socks, I happily went through, had time to grab an interesting Cuban baguette sandwich and a large Coke that I must have emptied within 30 seconds of getting it into my hands.

    Once on the plane, it was sort of a relief to shut off my cell phone, sort of a mental or emotional acknowledgement I was finally really on my way, and time to leave the annoyance and BS behind. The flight was uneventful, other than the amusement of everyone having to fill out visitor or immigration paperwork, yet seemingly no one having a pen. The Santa Domingo airport was small, but fast. By the time we'd walked over to pay the $10USD for a 'visitor pass,' then the 30 feet in the other direction to hand the same pass to someone else (!!?), the bags were coming down the carousel, and surprisingly (but happily) at this point, mine among them.

    We grabbed our bags and were greeted by the MotoCaribe crowd:
    [​IMG]

    Ed on the left (Lead Rider/Business Dev, lives in the US and 'commutes' to DR), Alida (Tour Manager/Cultural Liason/Translator, lives in Jarabacoa), and Robert(Operations and 'Van Driver Extraordinaire'), lives in Jarabacoa) on the right. We said our hellos, and got on our way to the hotel in Jarabacoa, the Gran Jimenoa, and managed to grab some late dinner. As a few people can tell you, I'm a somewhat 'picky' eater, but can usually manage to find something to eat nearly anywhere, and I had a very good garlic chicken breast, 'Pollo Al Ajillo,' followed by some pretty welcome drinks.

    The hotel was more upscale than I expected - it had air conditioning, as well as a TV, and the room was quite nice..overall the hotel was more spa like than I'd expected. And ironically, while real wood furniture in the US is quite expensive, just like Costa Rica, all of the furnishings were real wood. The largest bag below is actually my gear (blue waterproof backpack, Cabellas rocks), the tankbag in the middle only having bug repellant, sunblock and my jacket outer liner, with my clothes enough for 10 days or more (I actually overpacked on clothes for some reason, I blame packing in an hour..) in a bag around the same size as the tank bag.
    [​IMG]

    Sleep, helped along by some good doses of house white wine, came quickly that night, after a brief attempt of searching for an English speaking TV station to drift asleep to.
    #3
  4. GB

    GB . Administrator

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2002
    Oddometer:
    66,690
    We haven't seen many, if any ride reports from the Dominican Republic, so thanks for the detailed intro and report :thumb

    :lurk
    #4
  5. wegster

    wegster Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2007
    Oddometer:
    68
    Location:
    Southeastern US
    DR Day 1: FINALLY HERE! - Aug 24th
    -----------------------------------------
    I woke up around 9, although I'm guessing somewhat as I'm writing this a few days later, and time tends to not have as much meaning when your life isn't occupied by cell phones, email, and work. Hot water was in theory available, but it coincidentally took as long as I was willing to wait, plus however long it took me to shower, so just after I rinsed off, I got some warm water. To be fair, the hotel's pretty empty right now, and apparently they have a switching system of some sort in place, effectively meaning they need to enable hot water to your section of the hotel. It was still cold, though!

    Breakfast was a pretty standard tropical fare buffet - coffee, freshly squeezed juice, eggs, and other things for the more adventurous eaters, all of it good. There's a river that runs alongside the back of the hotel/resort, with the restaurant right next to it, and stairs going down to the water for those inclined to take a swim in it. There had been a storm recently, so the water was flowing pretty well - the brown water caused by the recent rising of the water against the rocks and shoreline.
    [​IMG]

    A suspended bridge led across the river to what I at first assumed was a private residence, or possibly the hotel owners, but turns out to be a secondary bar for karaoke in the evenings.
    [​IMG]

    After my conversation with AT&T, and giving in on at least paying them for an 'international data plan,' thinking I'd at least occasionally check email from my phone, I saw I had a carrier showing, "Claro," along with the 'E' symbol which in theory says I can get a data connection to check mail over the Edge network. So, that theory was quickly disproven, as any attempt at data/network access failed miserably. I had asked AT&T for a number to reach them from DR, but was told AT&T can not be reached from DR...not that I believed them, but...for the best I suppose. At least it can still play music, and I'll check mail if and when wireless access is available somewhere (the hotel has no Internet access).

    As I'd showed up for the trip early, today was sort of an ad-hoc day. We headed into town for a few, which was sort of unexpected as well. I've travelled a fair amount, most recently to Costa Rica, and I suppose I was expecting it to be similar, and while it was in some ways, in others..not so much. The town was larger than anything I'd passed through in CR except for Arenal, which in CR was a seriously typical touristy strip. Here, there weren't any of the giveaway signs of tourism - no souvenir shops, no clothing and 'authentic natively made' hyped goods being sold. I'd certainly seen those in CR as well, but none as large, so it was interesting to see just what looked like a relatively large town with no tourist influence.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Ironically, there were a few places marked as Pizzeria and such, and I have no idea if that's a 'natural event' in that the goodness of pizza is taking over the world, one small town at a time, or if it existed based on non Dominican influence or ownership.

    The center of the town was a small park, with a giant tree in the center, that spanned a block in width. It was obviously quite old, and while random trash could be seen floating in the river behind the hotel, the park area itself was quite clean, without litter.

    We saw far more motorcycles, or 'motos,' than cars. Ed said roughly 50-60% of all vehicles in DR are motos, ranging from mopeds or small scooters, to tiny (to us) 100-125cc motorcycles, with a very small number of larger bikes or cruisers in existence. It was like they took all the old bikes from the 70s and 80s, and manufactured them new just for here and outside of the US. That's not terribly surprising, as different parts of the world often see vehicles they don't see everywhere else, and with gas apparently at $6 a gallon, inexpensive and good gas mileage, combined with high unemployment (up to ~20%) and low wages, smaller motos make sense.

    Some things also became immediately apparent - while only a relatively small segment of people in the US and most 'first world countries' ride motorcycles (although the scooter population is on the rise..), usually men, here it was a basic form of transportation, not just for the sons and fathers, but for mothers, daughters, grandmothers..everyone. Per usual, nearly no one with any gear, or even helmets, although technically DR does have a helmet law in effect, apparently it's not actively enforced. People were carrying all sorts of things on the motos, and riding 2 or 3 up on these tiny bikes.

    We found a restaurant for lunch, Restaurante La Lena, and we split a salad and some very good but slightly unusual hard sliced bread with garlic on it. I opted for a seasoned steak, churassco, along with Ed, while Chris took his first step towards becoming known as Goat Boy (Chivo), as he had his first taste of goat in a sort of stew. I gave the goat a try and have to admit, while it wasn't the orgasmic experience it was for Chris, it wasn't bad...I'd have it again. The ketchup bottle was rather amusing to us:
    [​IMG]

    Surprisingly, while we were eating in the open air restaurant, we saw a small handful of super sport bikes trickle in to pull into the park entrance. A few CBRs, and a couple of other mixed sport bikes. These guys were wearing helmets and riding jackets, the first I'd seen so far. We're guessing they weren't local, but were either the sons of relatively well off Dominicans, or part of what I'm told is a growing (establishing?) middle class in DR.

    We'd also see a quad zip up and down the road now and then, along with a mixture of dual sports, or bikes that wouldn't be road legal in the US - dirt bikes. I saw a few XT225s, a Serow, Honda XR or XLs, all generally small displacement, and a single 'baby chopper' - something that looked like a Rebel or GZ 250, and a trio of Dominican girls on a small bike, the one in back giving a dazzling smile as they rode by. We also saw a handful of well, what I'd call in the states a 'ricer car,' or 'tuner' if you're feeling more politically correct - basically, clean cars with stickers, but no noticeable or real performance improvements evident, with a high wattage stereo thumping out the local music, sometimes setting off what must have been the sole alarmed car in the immediate area. Other market unique vehicles went by, most tiny and obviously aimed at fuel economy, along with a Toyota that looked like a Honda Ridgeline with it's half pickup bed in back, and a 2 door Land Rover.

    We finished up lunch, and took a walk around the park to take a look at the tree, where Chris suffered a minor accident involving some steps with particularly narrow treads, then headed out to the Moto Caribbe headquarters, a really cool place on an acre, sitting behind a gated entrance in front and back. DR like many places hasn't quite grasped the use of asphalt or cement for driveways, so it was a very nice, but also very slippery terracotta looking tiled surface. We pulled in and immediately saw the fleet of new Wee Stroms under an open overhang. The bikes are all new, but they make sure they're kept up, so Ed wanted us to go ahead and get some time in on them, so we geared up to run them in a loop for a few miles on each of them, and to get my first taste of riding in the DR...not to mention, I'm sure, to have Ed and Robert make sure I wasn't a likely candidate to dump it pulling out of their driveway :-)

    First impressions on the Wee Strom were interesting, as I've owned a BMW F650, which I might as well just go ahead and say...Suzuki and others basically cloned the original F for their own 650 'dual sport like bikes.' That's not necessarily a negative, and I like Suzukis, and have been recommending the DL650s to others where it might be a good fit for them..I also happen to own two Suzukis at the moment, a DRZ400S, and an SV650 naked, which shares the same engine but in a different state of tune, with the DL650.

    The bike felt very much like my F650 - the ergonomics, the height, the width and handlebars. The engine...it feels slightly more powerful than my F650, but isn't the 'torque monster' the SV is. I think the peak engine output is similar, although perhaps 10HP and a similar number of ft/lbs lower than the SV, but the DL is also a heavier bike than the SV. This isn't a bad thing, just...different, and I was very curious as to how the DL engine/cams/tune would feel compared to my SV. The seat, especially for an OE seat, felt comfortable, which was a huge relief, as I'd forgotten to bring along my Airhawk. The clutch felt, well, normal - nothing odd there, no instant engagement, and I was able to do low speed friction zone, rear brake dragging U-turns pretty easily..everything worked as it should, and they bikes started right up and ran well. Likewise, the brakes were OK..they felt a bit less grabby than my SV, which aren't anything special by sport bike standards, and while one finger braking didn't seem a great idea on the DL, it certainly felt able to stop itself.

    We headed off down the road, doing an immediate u-turn then down a few miles to turn around. A local baseball game was going on, so lots of motos and a few cars lined the street on one side. Ed had mentioned something to the effect of because of the size of the bikes, locals often mistaking them for local Police (La Policia), and sometimes even saluting. I didn't get any salutes, but it was immediately obvious within a mile that we were 'noticeable' and better than half of everyone we passed was doing a double take or longer, checking out the bikes, and the weird people wearing motorcycle gear coming down the street.

    The DL really felt pretty good overall. Slower than the SV, but a bit less, well, twitchy, and while I disagree with some about the SVs broad torque range (I do believe it has one, but I also feel most comfortable riding around 7k RPM on the SV if I might need some power on tap), the DL pulled pretty well from 3k RPM or so on up. DR uses the metric system for speed limits, and while there are very few signs posted, the DLs speedo registered only in Km/Hour, versus the dual gauges I'm so used to seeing. Certainly not the end of the world, as I very rarely look at my speedo while riding, but interesting to see no miles per hour reading on the gauge cluster. I found out later this is due to MotoCaribe purchasing the bikes locally, and they were manufactured in Columbia then shipped on to them. They also gained a few HP through the 'loss' of the catalytic converter.

    The roads in DR...at least in this small section of it..were OK. In general, they felt like they'd been maintained more than the roads I'd travelled in Costa Rica, and wider. No sewer system and drain grates meant water had to run off somehow, so sections of road had relatively shallow but deep cement drainage trenches on the side of the road, which looked to be highly bike unfriendly. Ed had mentioned these, and after seeing them, yep, mental note made - do not ride into these. There was some amount of rubbish in the road we'd run up and down - some sticks, and a few places it looks like a recent storm had 'helped' the roadside encroach onto the road a bit, or deposited clumps of leaves in a place or two, but not terribly removed from what you might see in a more rural or agricultural section of the US in a less populated area. Not many side roads exist, which is nice - one less possible 'surprise' of having someone cut you off when you're coming up on a side street.

    People also generally seemed more aware of the motos and riders, likely at least in a large part due to the percentage of motos in the country, but also because things were generally slowed down. Costa Rica has the slogan 'Pura Vida!,' which is along the lines of 'Seize Life!', and the feeling here was similar - everyone wasn't in such a permanent rush over trivial things, always having to be somewhere 10 minutes ago, and that extended to driving speeds, as well. People on motos would ride alongside you randomly, or come around you from behind, or cross the center line in the road, which has a sort of chaotic feel to it, these things we'd be ticketed for immediately in the States for, while crowds of SUV drivers would condemn us with their glares assuming they even noticed, while ignoring the chaos most SUV drivers create by simply existing at all. But, people were generally aware, and accidents weren't happening at every block. While it's still sort of chaotic, it's more of an organized, aware chaos, which isn't so bad.

    Horses also shared the road, including every now and then, the horses sharing a 'part of themselves' in the middle of the road, but they all looked well cared for and fed, and they were quite used to seeing and hearing motos on the road, so give them their proper space when passing, and all is well.

    We went back to the HQ/house, and took a picture of the tiny puppy Alida and Robert had taken in off the streets. Very cute, although dwarfed by their Great Dane puppy, and needed a little prompting to look at the camera:
    [​IMG]

    Chris (don't worry, he's not the guide!) hadn't ridden before, so we prompted him to jump onto on of the DLs while we were there.
    [​IMG]

    We headed back to the hotel after checking email on my phone via the house wireless, and I walked around for a bit to get some more pictures. Electrical outside the US can be interesting at times...at least they're not fuses! (And Costa Rica 'hot water on demand shower head' wiring still takes the cake to this day!)
    [​IMG]

    Some private houses right across the river beside the hotel, very nice..
    [​IMG]

    And a better shot of the suspension bridge going across the water:
    [​IMG]

    It turns out right below the restaurant are more tables out on the patio, but also a pair of large built-in bird cages of sorts, one of which had a resident today:
    [​IMG]

    I went for a swim for a bit, and generally lounged around for a while, then we all met up for dinner at some point, again, that time thing...I guess it was around 8pm or so. While on the tour, we're on a plan where everything's covered, meals and drinks included. However, apparently all the wine we'd drank the night before was not supposed to be on that list...or they realized just how much wine we'd managed to drink over the span of several hours the night before, so we were presented with 'the list.' Anything/everything was still available for dinner, but vino was verboten without extra charge, so we 'settled' on choosing among several vodka, rum, and other drinks which would ironically in the US cost more than the house wine we'd drank previously. The food was great. I tried a spicy steak, and Chris had what can only be called 'the mound of meat' - I'm not sure exactly what was there, but I think it at the very least included sausage, beef, and chicken, and Chris was unsuccessful in his attempt to clear his plate...I'm guessing there was at least several pounds of meat there!

    Robert and Alida left us after dinner, and we proceeded again to determine that ok, yeah, so we all drink..so what? :-D At some point, Ed had mentioned some sort of 'rhino bug' that I couldn't imagine what it was...until Dana woke the table up with a shriek later, and we all got to see what looked like the largest beetle we'd ever seen. The picture doesn't do it justice - those are 2'x2' square tiles it's sitting on, and it's around the size of two golf balls in length.
    [​IMG]

    Dana entertained us with showing us, uhh, 'the various faces of Dana.' I'm unsure this one has a name, but it's apparently the 'I'm embarrassed or so don't want to hear this expression':
    [​IMG]

    We'd thought Chris was going to entertain us at the karaoke bar, but as it's a Sunday in a fairly Catholic country, the karaoke bar closed early on Sunday, so instead we shut down the restaurant around midnight, and got some sleep before the 'official tour start' in the morning.
    #5
  6. wegster

    wegster Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2007
    Oddometer:
    68
    Location:
    Southeastern US
    DR DAY 2: FIRST REAL RIDE - Aug 25th
    ------------------------------------
    For this trip, they'd been fully booked, but the others were part of a group that couldn't get their schedules sorted, so wound up re-scheduling somewhat last minute, which meant the group for this week was basically...me! No complaints here, less schedule arguing and more flexibility in activities. I had been somewhat concerned going into the trip when I'd booked it, but thanks to Ed and MotoCaribe - it would have been impossible for me to re-schedule with booked tickets and time off of work already.

    Ed said he'd call us in the morning if we didn't show up, for a 9am-ish breakfast. I expect that 9am might have been earlier if we were in a full group, so another bonus for me, the so not a morning person that I am. Ironically, with no alarm clock, I woke up at 7:30am, followed by the discovery that the phones were down, so even if Ed were to call, it was pretty unlikely I'd be hearing ringing noises unless it was via telepathy or a bad hangover.
    Don't get me wrong here. The lack of a phone in a hotel room is so not a concern. I expect they'd turn them on if we'd asked, but we simply didn't. Power is roughly triple the cost versus in the US, and I choke monthly at my own power bill as it is, so if it means you need to ask for things like hot water and phones...so be it. Nearly all of the bulbs everywhere, inside and out, were of the high energy efficiency coiled halogen type, which I've put throughout my own house trying to keep the power cost insanity at bay. And while I'm sure there are a few Hiltons or more 'traditional American resort hotels' somewhere to be found, this place was more of an occasional getaway for wealthier Dominicans, versus yet another cookie cutter American tourist trap. The majority of the Staff spoke minimal English, but Alida is the official translator, Chris speaks some Spanish, and every now and then some random Spanish words and phrases would stumble from my mouth, so it's all good. If you want Burger King or yet another beach with overpriced drinks at the tiki bar, you might want to go elsewhere. Not to mention, simply having air conditioning was a huge improvement over most of the places I'd stayed in Costa Rica, so I was already 'splurging.'

    So, as it turns out, the 'wake up call' never came, not so surprisingly once we realized the phones were turned off. No buffet for today, but a decent menu including eggs, fresh juice, fruits, pancakes, and others, so I tried a Dominican ham and cheese sandwich, which was interesting. Costa Rica had this amazing fluffy sort of cheese that I'd love to see in the states, and DR had their own 'style' of cheese as well - pretty good, mild, and light colored like mozzarella, and the juice and fruit was great.

    Alida and Robert came out, and they got the orientation set up in the karaoke room for us to wander in to after breakfast. Orientation was painless, and covered the number of motos in DR, the general lack of side roads, and some other good info, like the fact that some roads may have storm damage, and the warning about the roadside drainage ditches.

    Once finished, we grabbed our stuff and headed to the house by mini SUV, 3Km or so away. The SUV was converted to be able to run off of either propane or gas, which is pretty cool when you think about it. I've worked on vehicles forever, but never did a propane or other gas conversion, and figured it had to do with adjusting for proper mixture via jets or injector on times, but didn't realize they could be switched back and forth at will via a single switch. Cool stuff.

    We geared up, and I found out my magnetic tank bag doesn't quite fit the DL as well as it fits my SV and other metal tanked bikes - the DL has a plastic shroud towards the front of the tank, and I just couldn't get all four magnets to grab metal in a confidence inspiring fashion, so I strapped it onto the back of the bike with a few bungees instead. I normally use a 'CrampBuster' on the throttle grip of most bikes, along with a pair of ProGrip Gel grips, to minimize hand cramping or numbness when doing longer rides, and had brought it with me, but Robert pulled out something I hadn't seen before - 'Grip Puppies.' A simple but good idea, they're simply foam tube 'wrappers' for the grips, that turn the relatively small grips on the DL into a foam padded set of grips that feels more like a cruiser, with an 1/8th inch thick or so piece of foam all the way around...so, I gave them a try instead, and they worked pretty well, may be a good candidate for longer trips on my own bikes back home.

    The plan was to head out, with Ed and I riding, and everyone else in the MotoCaribe van, meeting us at a waterfall later on. It looked like it was going to rain, but hey, it is a tropical climate, and we figured it would burn off in the afternoon, so headed out after picking up the bikes from the house.

    The scenery is gorgeous, nice and lush, and the bike was fine. Some bikes you get on for the first time, and just know they're going to have some quirks or surprises, or just take some getting used to, but the DL is a good choice for riding here, and a stable ride. We rode through town, like running a slow speed obstacle course, in a fun way, while the locals reinforced what was already expected - traffics 'laws' are more like 'traffic suggestions,' yet in a not entirely unsafe fashion. When in Rome...so we passed other motos on the single lane road, and weaved around and in and out of the local traffic, then headed up towards the mountains and the falls, with Ed doing a good job of signaling to let me know if something unusual or unexpected was coming up..which for this part of the ride, was mainly an occasional pothole, or the road narrowing a bit, being encroached by something blown around in a storm, or just a scenic view.

    We made it to a gravel parking lot, just before Salto Jimenoa, where the van was waiting for us (they'd headed out before us), and we grabbed some fluids and walked down to the waterfall. There was a pair of small turnstiles going in, under the roof of a tiny entrance booth, and a local said he was going to be our guide. That didn't last long, as I'm not sure where he went, but after crossing a few cable bridges, he managed to disappear. The bridges were fine, but in general, you didn't want to look too closely at some of the construction.
    [​IMG]

    There's a small hydro-electric plant on the river, which is pretty neat..nice to see people using what they have to provide power.
    [​IMG]

    We made it to the falls and took a few mandatory pictures..
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    This is from the falls looking back.
    Note the amount of rock in the riverbed, and the steel beams bent over. Apparently the last big hurricane moved a fair amount of rock, as well as ones before it, and the beams were part of a walkway that got taken out by trees and other debris coming down over the falls!
    [​IMG]

    The old bridge near the entrance had also been taken out at some point by a storm, leaving the debris pushed downstream.
    [​IMG]

    It started to rain on us, and Robert and Alida had pulled the van up near the entrance to the falls, so we jumped in and went back to the bikes. We figured the rain was warm enough, so I just swapped out for my rain gloves, and left the rest of the rain gear in the van, and headed out up the mountain.

    We stopped for lunch at a local place that was pretty cool, with a small river passing beside it.

    Apparently, these are water lines spanning the river!
    [​IMG]

    There was another suspension bridge walkway going across the water, to another part of the restaurant's property.
    [​IMG]

    The river was pretty calm, but a few sections had some small sections of whitewater, and soon enough, we saw a few rafts full of rafters coming downstream towards us.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    I had some spicy chicken, I think, and Goat Boy again got his fix for chivo/goat. ;D
    [​IMG]

    We had something whose name I can't recall, but it was like a cracker made from rice, tasted like a stiff grainy cracker, and was good with pico de gayo, and learned that there's a difference in plantains - either mature or not, with the mature ones being more close to 'ripe' as we'd expect, but often both types appearing on the menus.

    I still haven't quite put my finger on Dominican service in restaurants. They're certainly not considered quick, and they're not rude, but also not like what you'd expect going into an expensive restaurant in the US - I guess they're almost indifferent, like it's 'just a job,' basically..not unpleasant at all, just not 'overly pleasant or accommodating' either. That's not a bad thing in ad of itself, it's just a bit different somehow. And I think most places will give you tap water unless you stop them, probably not a great idea in general in DR :-)

    After lunch, we jumped back on the bikes. The roads were interesting. They felt more substantial or maintained than those in Costa Rica and some others, but also suffered some level of severe storm damage that wasn't fixed immediately, nor marked in general. A third of one lane up the mountain was simply no longer there, washed out and slid down the mountain, and there was some more road debris here and there, butt he roads also had shoulders in most places, which was very rare in Costa Rica. Sections of the road would turn into unpaved gravel and dirt or large potholes for brief periods at a time, but the bikes rode over them fine. It continued to rain, and we passed through another small town, where the road basically ended, so we turned back around, and rode to a small overlook with a small waterfall fed pool, with a single typical DR moto parked under the roof.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Mandatory goofing around pic showing the fountain :-) And hey, *I* didn't start it! (Blame Robert, first pic ;D )
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Note the bullet hole in the twisty sign...looks like signs are universally used for occasional target practice!
    [​IMG]

    The fountain area was fenced off, but I managed to get my favorite picture so far squeezing the camera around the fence links.
    [​IMG]

    It became obvious the rain wasn't going to let up as we had expected, and started to turn colder, so we decided to head back to the house, and would meet the van there, and head back out if it did wind up clearing up. Ed and I rode to the back entrance and waited for the van to come and open the gates. While waiting, a handful of local kids came by asking for money. We didn't give them any this time (I'm unsure either of us actually had any, with our stuff minus gear in the van regardless), they didn't speak any English, and eventually wandered off with each of them saying, 'Thank you' as they walked off. I still have no idea if that was a guilt trip, sarcasm, or the only English they knew..ahh well.

    We waited a while longer then decided we must have mis-communicated, and that the van must have gone on back to the hotel, so we rode back, and sure enough, passed the van almost at the gate. It was getting to be within a few hours of dinner, so we split to happily get out of wet gear, take showers and relax for a bit before dinner. Hot water was supposed to be 'enabled' again, but no luck in my room at least. I could have gone down to the desk and had it dealt with, but just took a coldish shower instead.

    Next I was about to find out something else that I could have sworn I packed, as in, even remember putting my hands on it as I was packing up and leaving the house, inside my toiletry bag, as well as it being on my bike trip packing list - my camera's battery charger. Sadly, manufacturing companies really don't generally care overly much about convenience to the customer, unless it's required to make a sale. Sony does it with their inane Memory Sticks no one wants, Apple and Microsoft do it, and Olympus does it in a few annoying ways - proprietary camera storage, although to their credit, they include an SD card adapter with the 1030SW I picked up after losing my 720SW, a 'special' USB cord that not only will not charge the cameras battery via USB (duh, WHY?! Everyone else is capable of this one..), and also won't let you use a normal mini USB cord to even connect to the camera (solution - $10 USB multi-card reader, and throw out the annoying Olympus 'special' cable), and yet another proprietary rechargeable battery and battery charger. Of course, were they sane and had convenience as a priority, you'd always be able to at least charge the battery via USB.. Regardless, somehow my battery charger had gone missing, and I only had the single battery for the camera. SO not a great time to be unable to use my camera!

    That night we had another excellent dinner, and our friend, the 'rhino bug from hell,' made another appearance, this time we caught him temporarily (we later 'helped him' out of the restaurant..).
    [​IMG]

    Things were sort of up in the air for the next day, as the weather was questionable, with us getting the tail end of Gustav, so I headed back to the room to search for my charger one more time, then settled in for the night.

    Got some somewhat warm water from the shower, which was a bathtub with a tile sitting area behind it, so converted the sitting area into a clothes washer/scrubber, and washed some of my clothes with shampoo, scrubbing them on the tile, and hung out to dry. Of course, I found out they had a washing machine at the house the next day, but..ahh well.. :-)
    #6
  7. wegster

    wegster Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2007
    Oddometer:
    68
    Location:
    Southeastern US
    DR DAY 3: SANTIAGO, CIGARS, AND THE ELUSIVE BATTERY CHARGER.. - Aug 26th
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The next morning the weather hadn't improved much, and was likely to rain through until evening, and apparently it had rained quite a bit in the mountains, something evidenced by our 'tableside river,' the Rio Jimenoa. It was flowing fast again, and I laughed when I saw several rafts coming downstream. The water was definitely in the Class IV range and was raised probably at least 15'-20' over normal. Perfect for rafting!
    [​IMG]

    We decided to call it a non riding day, and headed into Santiago to spend some time, and I'd try to locate my missing battery charger along the way, so we all piled into the van and got on the road after breakfast.

    There wasn't any single delineating mark along the way, but at some point, the goats and other livestock on the side of the road gave way and turned into a small number of billboards, and with it raining, more cars than motos were seen for the first time. Once we approached the city of Santiago, locals were hocking their various wares going from car to car at lights. We bought some 'limonceda' (I very likely spelled this one wrong), which was..interesting. You bite into it to split the outer skin, pull off the skin, then suck on the contents until you reached the largish pit. It was citrusy, but with a weird texture..eventually I felt like I had a hairball in the back of my mouth, so I decided that was enough of them! ;D
    [​IMG]

    We tried Radio Shack first...ironically, inside a mall. The mall was quite 'normal' and American-like, food court and all, with several 'boutique' type of shops. I'd also wanted to pick up a hat, for when we stopped in the heat somewhere, as well as a waterproof thin windbreaker. Radio Shack sent us on our way to a 'specialty camera store,' and after a brief look around the rest of the mall, I decided it was likely better, and cheaper, to find the hat and windbreaker elsewhere. I did stop at a small vendor selling electronic stuff, as I'd been meaning to pick up an iPod/iPhone small dockable speaker set, but at $60 USD or so, I decided I could wait until I was back in the US. DR labor is cheap, and things made from local labor, but not so much on imported goods.

    On the way out of the mall, we were reminded to not bring in guns, dogs, drinks, or...machetes?
    [​IMG]

    We went off to the 'specialty camera store,' to find out, surprise..no charger for me. Bummer. So we headed to the equivalent of a Dominican Wal-Mart instead. Think two story Super Wal-Mart, but clean, and with a food court, and that's pretty close. The first floor is all food, and the second, sort of 'everything else,' except not quite as easy to find stuff in. We asked about a rain jacket, and initially I was led to a pair of jackets that looked like a pimp's warmup suit, or a Members Only reject...I passed. Further questioning did indeed turn up a 'rain coat.' Hi visibility 3mm thick yellow rubber coated, and all...think the skipper from Gilligans Island...I just had to pass on that one, as styling as it was. I did find a hat, though...and after several milliseconds of heart-wrenching thought, I bought a New York hat, as a former native...felt sorta funny to buy it in DR, but...worked for me!

    Paying for this stuff was an experience. If we were to take the 'speed demons' of Wal-Mart checkout, and in some warped world, rate them a '10' on a scale of 1 to 10 for efficiency...the cashiers at this place were a 1. Somehow they didn't have change, so she sort of wandered off for a while. Worse, the locals in line with us were used to it. Ok, things are definitely slower, which is mostly a good thing, but there are limits. Leaving the store, we realized there's a guar din a raised tower in the middle of the store's parking lot. I'm guessing you do not want to be caught running out of the store or causing problems in DR!

    Interestingly, while the rain did it's part in limiting somewhat the number of motos out and about, we saw a fair number of SUVs on the way to lunch..seems like the one-upmanship on the neighbors does exist in DR as well, with gas $6 a gallon. The traffic lights in Santiago were very cool..such a simple idea, all traffic lights should have this. If a light was green, it had a digital readout next to it telling how long the light would stay green for, counting down, and likewise when the light was red. Very neat, although I'm not sure if, or how, traffic patterns played into the mix.

    We ate lunch at Kukara Macara, across the street from a monument of the revolution, or 'restoration,' as it was worded.
    [​IMG]

    Oddly to me, the place was 'western' themed, with the waters dressed as cowboys with toys guns and all, and we were greeted by a movie poster of 'The Duke' as we walked in. We grabbed a few handfuls of peanuts on the way upstairs to our tables, but after opening one and finding a bug had beat me to it, then biting into a chewy peanut from the second one, we decided the peanuts were for show, and not for consumption!

    The food in DR was more varied than in Costa Rica - beef was available and generally good, as well as chicken and pork chops. Even passing by livestock next to the road, they looked better cared for and fed by comparison. I settled on a kebab sort of thing, although I didn't realize 'all the meats' were on a single kebob when I ordered my meat 'Mixta,' but it was very good.
    [​IMG]

    Potatoes were also common, either french fries/papas fritas, or sauteed/papas salteadus, which I generally got.

    After lunch, we headed to the combo museum and cigar factory, Centro Leon, which was apparently owned or sponsored by the makers of El Presidente beer, aka cervuesa, and also the makers of La Aurora cigars.
    [​IMG]

    There were two sections to the museum, one was more cultural and with historical elements about the Dominican people, which as pretty neat, although towards the end a bit bizarre, with various electronics such a Compaq laptop sitting behind glass..walking in I was quickly told no photos allowed, but only after capturing this super secret prehistoric motorcycle encased in amber on film :-)
    [​IMG]

    The 'modern art' exhibit was, umm...different. A few of the exhibits were LCD screens playing cartoons or similar to clay-mation. No pictures, but I'll just leave it at apparently I just don't 'get' some types of modern 'art.'

    The cigar factory/shop was pretty cool. I've never been big on cigars, but it was neat watching them being made, by hand. Apparently during the normal working day, someone reads the news and other things to the workers to break some of the monotony, from a raised chair at the front of the room. Watching them roll cigars, it took them a minute or less per cigar. We got to smell some 8 year old tobacco, which was pretty neat, and got complimentary cigars they rolled in front of us. ironically, this was right after being told there different sizes of cigars are generally based on how long they take to smoke, and you should never not finish a cigar in one sitting. Hopefully they'll forgive me that I put mine out after futzing with it for 10 minutes or so :-)
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    I bought a small box of cigars (not inexpensive) to give a few to friends back home, then we sampled the cafe there. Normally, they gave out free El Presidente beer, but for some reason that wasn't happening, so we bought a few lattes instead. Very nice La Cimbala espresso machine and grinder, but apparently no one ever showed the Barista how to tamp it, or basically, make espresso...something I've gotten a crash course in since swearing off Starbucks and making my own. It was still drinkable though, and hit the spot, even if it blonded way too early. :-)

    We headed back to the hotel, had dinner, this time 'plate of many meats' for me, and settled in for the longish ride tomorrow, heading towards Samana and the beach, where we'd be staying for a few days.
    #7
  8. wegster

    wegster Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2007
    Oddometer:
    68
    Location:
    Southeastern US
    DR DAY 4: In SEARCH OF THE SUN - Aug 27th
    -----------------------------------------
    The next day we packed up and headed out towards Samana, up through 'Tail of the Iguana,' and through some cool roads. We rode to the Moto Caribe HQ to get the trailer and van packed out as our support vehicle. It was cloudy and misty out, but we figured it would burn off.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    I've got to say, the trailer's a pretty nice setup. They packed a spare bike 'just in case,' although I don't expect the DLs to have any serious issues for some time, but it's nice to have..along with bins full of beach gear, snacks, and other stuff, plus our luggage.

    We headed through town on the way out, something that was to become among my most favorite rides, and rode along the Autopista Duarte, the major highway for a bit, then headed off towards Moca. The Autopista is interesting, in that you'd almost believe you're on a 'normal highway somewhere,' with vehicles zipping along at a decent clip, until you see someone going the wrong way on either side of the road on a small moto. It's faster than a lot of riding elsewhere, especially through towns, and has some neat scenery and local signs along the way, but I wouldn't want to stay on it all day, either, and merging onto it from one of the roads adjoining it is a bit more challenging than using a typical on ramp..

    Starting to enter Moca..
    [​IMG]

    We'd stop every hour or so to hydrate, and wait for the van to catch up..I expect as a safety check or net, and the timing was usually fine, as we'd stop at a local place for a Coke while waiting, or to take some pictures. The above picture is the busiest place we'd see on the trip, as well as the most 'traditional' roads, with pavement actually making it to curbs on each side :-)

    We had some minor excitement when the van and trailer locked the brakes in front of us, passing through town..I think Robert said some kid had run out in front of them, and the trailer brakes needed some minor adjustments which were later done. I locked the rear wheel a bit, but no harm, no foul, we both got to practice our 'emergency stops' as we'd been following a bit close at that moment, something you almost have to do in DR or someone will swoop in to fill the gap before you realize it.

    The 'Tail of the Iguana' was a pretty fun road. It's mostly decently paved, but not as tight as Deal's Gap/The 'Dragon.' By comparison, most of The Dragon is generally 1st and 2nd gear, and 'The Tail' is mostly 2nd and 3rd. We stopped off around halfway for a drink and to let the van catch up, at 'Rancho La Gumbre.' Not such a bad view..
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    It was still overcast, but it was time to lose the awful cottonball feeling, sort of waterproof Joe Rocket gloves for my RevIts, so I could actually feel the controls again. The rest of that section was some good riding..some blind turns, which I'll admit I'm sort of a wuss on, and some higher speed ones. I mostly was getting used to the bike, and trying to not push it..following someone's always odd - sometimes you wind up focusing on their line, to the detriment of seeing or feeling your own, but Ed set a decent pace, mostly not too fast and not too slow..he does a good job as lead rider.

    We made it out of the Iguana, onto a somewhat traversed road, with locals waving occasionally, then pulling off to get our first glipse of...the ocean! People that haven't grown up or lived a long time near an ocean may think it's pretty, or like doing water type things, but growing up right next to it, I've always loved the ocean - whether swimming in it, boating or jet-skis, just watching it, or even in the winter, having dinner at a place on the ocean and just listening to the waves..is special, and it weaves a calming effect on me.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]


    You can't see it in the pictures, but erosion from storms and runoff water is a serious force in DR. There were large cement blocks dumped down over the side in an attempt to slow the erosion here, I'd wager both from the waves at high tide in storms, as well as water running off the road from above.

    A pair of local Dominas pulled over in a car, right as the van pulled up, and one finally asked to take a picture with the 'motos.' We obliged, then headed on our way again. The next stop was nicknamed 'The Big Chicken,' as they had formerly had a very large chicken free roaming around the restaurant, as in 'the largest I've ever seen' type large. We made it safely there..
    [​IMG]

    However, after a quick look around, Senor Chicken was nowhere to be found. Asking about him, we found out that he was indeed a tasty meal for someone, so no more Big Chicken :-( Robert and company waited for the food, while Ed and I headed out, our destination being the beach at La Entrada for lunchtime.

    The beach was very nice, and the trailer proved it's usefulness. Tables and chairs were brought out, and the trailer actually has an adjustable awning that pulls out to provide shade...very cool, and very welcome, as the coconut and palm trees, while prevalent on all the beaches, simply don't provide much respite from the sun.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    The puppy was with us, and was highly amusing as she tried to jump down the small sand ledge going closer to the water..she'd almost make it, and then sort of tumble.
    [​IMG]

    I went for a walk down the beach, and had to see what the water felt like. Oh, my - it was perfect, like bathwater. I was seriously tempted to jump in for a swim, but we'd be heading out soon, and the idea of sandy underwear while riding somehow wasn't so appealing to me at the moment...but it was still a tough call.

    The roads immediately in and out of the beach were optimistically called roads, but mostly a mixture of hard dirt, clay, sand, gravel and some occasional dark spot saying that perhaps at one time asphalt may have once resided on some section of it.
    [​IMG]

    Getting ready to leave, I got a minor reminder about a few things - while I love my F650, which is very similar to the DL650s we were on, for flickability and versatility, it's heavier than you expect when riding 'sort of off-road,' and the joys of Trailwing tires, the tires everyone seems to love to hate..I'd had a set on my first DRZ, and honestly, I thought they were totally competent on road, as well as light off-road, but they freaked me out on the DRZ the first time I rode through heavy sand and mud. Can you tell where I'm going with this one yet? No? No pic, but the sand was softer than I expected, I cut the front wheel a bit too far pulling the bike out of where it sits above, and had a very nice zero MPH drop. How embarrassing. :-/ Once we picked it up, I didn't feel so bad, as even trying to take off slowly the tires were spinning and digging a small trench in seconds. I got her out of there, and we got off of the sand onto the 'sort of roads,' kinda like a Jeep trail, but not before noticing something I don't quite get.
    [​IMG]

    Trash! Now, I'm not going to say I've never littered in my life, but nowadays, I very rarely do, to the point of putting out a cigarette and putting the butts into a pocket when I'm on the road - there's just no cause to do it if it can so easily be avoided..we picked up all of our stuff for later disposal..the pile shown is very likely from locals..the beach itself was gorgeous, but I don't get why people would litter such a nice, secluded beach of all things.

    We rode across the hard packed dirt for a while, which is always fun, even without jumps. We got to pass through another town or two, again becoming a favorite of mine - the sort of roads, mixed with speed bumps or large 'reverse speed bumps' across the road, add in a healthy doze of locals on small motos weaving in and out, and around everything, while cars, a few SUVs and work trucks come from behind and oncoming, all trying to avoid the potholes and staying on the 5 or 6' or so of actual asphalt. I don't think I can describe it, and I probably wouldn't advise an inexperienced or nervous rider to do it, as you're not riding in a straight line here very often, nor picking a single line and sticking to it; instead, you're taking in as much as you can visually, weaving through the mixture of potholes, gravel, dirt and locals, often finding yourself on 'the wrong side of the road,' and calculating your next immediate route through the next set of 'obstacles' as you're passing through the current one...all the while also looking out for local children or livestock that may turn up in your path at nearly any time. It's relatively slow, ranging from 1st to 3rd gear usually, again, like semi-organized chaos..it's sublime, and just a whole lot of fun, in a form you just don't get in the States. Oh yeah, and there's stuff to look at while you're doing all of the above, as well! :-)

    After a stop for refreshment, we headed on towards where we'd be staying for the next few days, just past Samana. As much fun as the little towns were to pass through, Samana was moreso, at least on a bike. They've been working on a water system, to bring fresh water into the houses in the area, so there were large chunks cut out of the road every couple of hundred to couple of thousand feet or so, spanning 1/3 to 2/3rds of the width of the road, in addition to the normal Dominican road 'character' and traffic, so we were weaving even more dodging the man made obstacle course the DR had been so kind to present to us...loved it!
    After going through Nagua, Sanchez, Santa Barbara de Samana during the day, we arrived at the hotel, La Tambora. It was pretty nice, very resort like, with a small swimming pool, open air restaurant with thatched roof, and with a small refrigerator in the rooms. Somewhat amusingly, the power was out when we arrived..something about a problem with the main line going back to the road, but they were effectively 'jumpering' it with a temporary cable, so we hung out at the pool for a bit. The pool was too inviting to stay out of, so I went for a swim, and just like the ocean, it was nearly the perfect temperature, as we had a few drinks brought out to us while waiting for the power to return. The power came back on, thankfully, within 30 minutes or so, so we eventually wandered in for dinner and drinks. Dinner was buffet style, and quite good...we had a similar arrangement here as the Gran Jimenoa back in Jaracaboa, all meals, drinks and rooms included, but no wine..so Cuba Libre (Rum and Coke with lime) and Cokes was the ticket.

    It had been a fairly long ride for the day, 170 miles or so, which isn't very far by anyone's touring standards, but Ed made a good comment about it feeling like double here, which was certainly the case in Costa Rica, and here at times as well - some great and fun riding, but you're using a lot of mental concentration, moreso than normal riding, as well as taking in some new sights, and it does manage to wear you out at times....the next day was going to be fairly active, so I retired to the room earlyish, after trying to get an email out by sitting next to reception (single wireless access point..), and writing a days' worth for the trip blog.
    #8
  9. wegster

    wegster Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2007
    Oddometer:
    68
    Location:
    Southeastern US
    DR DAY 5: HORSES, DIRT, WATER AND THE MOUTH OF THE DEVIL - WHAT COULD BE BETTER? - Aug 28th

    Today was a pretty active and interesting day. Breakfast was buffet, but with omelets to order, and with fresh OJ/naranja, always welcome, plus I've started having coffee in the mornings while here, or 'kaffe con leche' and they heat the milk up..it's pretty good.

    We got to ride through town again and play in the obstacle course, and it was turning out to be a sunny, warm day. We passed through the small coastal town of Las Galaras and stopped off at the beach for a quick stop, and waited for the van, while checking out the small beach. A single place that roofed combination restaurant/refreshment stand/bar adorned the entrance, and the beach was nearly vacant. A few small boats were anchored close to the shore, used often for what I was later to find out about - taking people to the even more secluded Playa Rincone, which could be reached by a 15 minute boat ride, or a single 'non road' less road-like than most.

    This area, unlike many of the others we'd see, was a bit touristy - rental small motos were to be found, along with a few signs for things like kite boarding (I so have to try that sometime!), and it certainly had a touristy feel to it...apparently, cruise ships pulled in nearby, and this was one of the beaches and areas they brought the cruise customers to. Indeed, we ran into a handful of Americans on the beach, hailing from New Jersey...although they were nearly the only ones there, outside of a few locals..apparently we're not 'in season' right now, although I can't imagine why not.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    We headed out, rode for a bit, then turned off into a single lane wide 'road,' heading towards the water again. This pretty much amounted to a small, likely unnamed, semi-paved path, with large potholes and missing asphalt in places, again, great fun. We saw a few locals on motos, and a very few walking, and passed a few Dominican houses along the path, then heard some noises off to the right, where through the foliage we saw some cows or steer, followed soon after by a half dozen in the path, a few steer with horns included!

    They were walking away from us, and I tried to get the camera out to take a picture, but they started to trot, and turned off of the road, so I only caught one on film off in the distance (a few hundred feet).
    [​IMG]

    Thirty seconds later, random cow noises were accompanied by the herd of cows trotting out of where they'd gone off the road, right towards us, in a mini stampede! That was pretty wild..they were coming down the right side of the road, with Ed on the left, and me pretty much in their path on the right. Nearly all of the animals, either loose or tethered on the side of roads, seemed to pay the motos and even people no mind, but looking at the horns on one of the steer, I really didn't want to rev the engine and move as they closed in on us, lest they do something unexpected, like attacking the 'big noisy cow,' AKA us on the motorcycles.
    [​IMG]

    The picture doesn't do justice..they passed within a few feet of me off to the right, where they entered into the bushes, presumably to a field on the other side.

    The path clear once again, we laughed and rode on, to come to a bit of dirt, which here meant some DR red clay-like dirt, with some mud puddles thrown in for good measure.
    [​IMG]

    Riding through it wasn't much of a problem, although on the Trailwings and the DLs, it was often better to go straight through the puddles under throttle where they were across most of the path, versus trying to navigate through the mud at the sides. We pulled off and walked a bit to a very cool sight.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Just gorgeous..this was the stuff greeting card pictures are made of, and used for travel ads..it's much more fun being there, versus glancing at pictures, obviously! :-) There was an underwater cave somewhere below, as when the waves came in, we could hear the roar from a blowhole below.

    After a quick game of 'launch the coconut into the water,' we walked back to the bikes. This was not a well kept tourist area - look at the number of untouched fallen coconuts below this tree!
    [​IMG]

    Riding further on, I passed a small herd of what I at first thought were deer, Bambi sized fawns, but turned out to be some wandering goat/chivos, one of which you can make out in the center of the picture.
    [​IMG]

    We pulled off into a small circular area off the main trail, and amazingly, the van made it in (sans trailer) later, and we were at Boca del Diablo ("mouth of the devil"). A single small family of a Mom and two kids were there, with a small stand of trinkets, including half coconut shells with carvings, and the usual assortment of myriad semi-junk but interesting stuff. There was a large blowhole out in the middle of what looked and felt like sharp coral, with a weird hatching pattern on it, cut over time by running water or other forces, and you could walk out to right next to it, over the sharp mystery 'ground.' This was not stuff you wanted to fall on, at all! The waves would come in, and a hole in the ground, like a miniature cave entrance, a 4-5' across or so, would roar, and bellow out with a huge gust of wind...which I wasn't quite prepared for, as I got a nice shock when I stood in front of it, and had my hat blown off my head, several feet into the air!

    One of the little kids came out, and 'fed' some palm or coconut leaves/fronds into the maw of the blowhole, to watch them come shooting out minutes later with the next big 'eruption.' A cool sight, but sadly, one I wasn't able to capture with a picture.
    [​IMG]

    Walking further out on the sharp ground gave a pretty spectacular view of a section that somehow had been formed into a neatly cut rectangle, with a long, and likely painful, drop down to the water.
    [​IMG]

    Getting ready to leave, another pair of locals came in on a burro, and looking around a bit further, a bathroom (banya), of sorts, was also seen, although we were all pretty hesitant to use it. Note the 'garage' with a single small moto in it behind the burro.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    We rode back through the red dirt and mud, with the next stop being a large waterfall at El Limon, which had to be reached via horseback. Ok, it didn't have to be, but I'd expect there are very few people that would want to walk a few miles in loose, rocky, sloped terrain, as well as the hike down to the base of the waterfall, let alone all the way back up as well.

    The restaurant on site at the start of the trek showed us what to expect, with a bit of artistic license..
    [​IMG]

    We all saddled up, and were led by guides, who actually did walk it, and kept the somewhat tired horses moving forward, down some pretty rough, rocky, terrain.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    The ride was around 30 minutes or so, down rocky, muddy hills, that if I owned a horse, I likely wouldn't put them through, but the horses knew the way and were pretty sure footed. I've ridden a lot before, and was hoping for a few stretches of open land, to do some cantering or galloping, but it wasn't to be - the horses might as well have been mules, and the terrain was pretty rough. At the end of the line with the horses, we hiked down some fairly slippery dirt and cement steps, until the falls came into view, an amazing sight, with four individual streams pouring down from the cliffs above. Gorgeous!

    At the base was a small freshwater pond, with a handful of people swimming in it. Ed had mentioned bringing throwaway shoes, and I suppose I didn't pay it too much mind..it's hard to find comfortable sneakers or shoes that fit me well, so I brought a pair of Rockports that fit me as well as any sneakers I've had in recent years, but...made for mud hiking, they were not, and now I saw how sharp the entry and exit into the waterfalls outlet pond was...if you do this, bring water shoes with a thick sole, or a real pair of hiking boots...most people wore their shoes into the pond with good reason! I took them off, as the only pair of shoes I had on the trip besides my riding boots, and very carefully walked my bare footed self into the water...that was cold! Ed and Chris made it all the way in, and I bailed at waist level, mostly due to it taking me way too long of a time to make it that far without tearing my feet up, the freezing cold water helping a bit as the deciding factor as well. Ahh well, next time, a pair of water shoes and I'm there. :-)
    [​IMG]

    Note the people up in the falls in the second stream from the left? Local kids were climbing up, and jumping off into the water. I waited a bit, and managed to capture 'the dive' in action.
    [​IMG]

    The hike back up the steps was...surprisingly tough. Not difficult like climbing a rock face difficult, but enough so between wearing a pair of casual dress shoes, slippery mud, and smoking, I was happy when we made it back to the top, to jump back onto the horses, and get a late lunch at the restaurant.
    [​IMG]

    We had lunch back at the sole building at the start of the trail, a good big lunch of what had become 'standard fare' - fresh fish and chicken in some form, along with them cutting down a fresh coconut. I'm not a fan of coconut, mostly thinking of the 'coconut slices' often found on cakes and such, but the coconut milks wasn't too bad fresh from the coconut itself.

    A few random chickens and roosters roamed around while we ate..
    [​IMG]

    We were told a few locals had 'heard the big bikes were here,' so they'd stopped off to check out the DLs while we'd been at the falls, which is pretty amusing..but there really are very few larger bikes in DR, with many of the small DR mopeds, scooters and bikes costing under $1k USD or so, versus the $11k or so each DL650 cost in DR, so it's the equivalent of seeing a Countach pull up in the middle of a small country town..once we finished lunch, a few local kids were looking at the bikes, so we put them on the bikes for a few, note the smile in the first picture!
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    After gearing back up, we rode through Las Terrenas, and through a mountain road to Sanchez.

    Somewhere along the way, we stopped at another beach, although I don't recall which one.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    We stopped off at the 'Multi-Brenda' for a Coke, on the way back to Samana, and saw someone we assumed was Brenda, while trying to figure out the 'multi' part. The best non sexist comment we came up with was that it was a restaurant, bar, and supermercado/supermarket, thus 'multi'! :-)

    Coming back through Samana on the way back to La Tambora, we had an interesting experience. We were doing the usual 'dart and weave' around locals and road hazards, when suddenly the road in front of us was full of cars and motos, all stopped or going quite slow. There is some traffic going through the area regularly, but nothing like this, it was like a roadblock. It seemed to be some sort of celebration - people were happy, just not moving down the road normally, with some 80-100 vehicles sitting still or moving at < 5MPH. We sort of looked at each other, wondering if either of us could sort what was going on, shrugged and I took off doing the dart and weave along the right side of the 'almost road' (this wasn't in Samana proper along the water, which is decent pavement, but the section being ripped up..the fun part :-) ), figuring Ed would follow. I saw him start off along the left, so went on for a mile or so, alternating between pavement, dirt, gravel, and the occasional 6" strip of pavement, around the cars and motos, then pulled off as I didn't see him any longer. Just when I started to wonder if something bad might have happened, there he went, on the left, right by me, so I took off again, and caught up to ride in our 'sorta formation,' staggered and normally trying to not let too many locals zip in between us.
    We came to the head of the 'procession,' still clueless as to what it was, and saw that an ambulance was leading it, and there were two policemen (La Policia) on the side of the road at the front. Police in the DR seem to be a lot more 'on their own recognizance' and hmm...questionable, usually openly armed, so we slowed way down and sort of took them in for a second..they didn't seem to be stopping anyone, or looking at us funny, so we then zipped past them and onto the relatively open road, and enjoyed the regular dart and weave the rest of the way to the hotel.

    We asked Alida when we saw them again later, they said there was a lot of traffic, but not stopped like it was for us, and it was possibly a political demonstration/celebration - in the DR, when a new president is elected, it's not just the immediate staff that's replaced, but all officials, down to post office, Dept of Transportation equivalent, everyone. Sadly, that seems to lead to even more corruption, with no sense of continuity of plans; instead of thinking how they can help the people, it seems some take it as 'how can I make myself rich in the next few years?' instead. :-(

    La Tambora had more people there than at Gran Jimenoa, but still, very few. Apparently, there was a largish party coming the following week, but it was relatively unpopulated for the moment. We saw an older (50s? Early 60s perhaps?) guy at dinner, with what I could only guess was his 'special Dominican niece,' a pretty stunning early 20s (at best) light skinned Dominican girl. We're all quite sure she was uhh, 'paid for,' probably the equivalent of $25-$50 USD/day or so. More power to them, I guess, as long as no one's getting hurt..and she gave us some more 'scenery' to occasionally look at during dinners. :-)
    We ate, drank, and chatted, with Robert and Alida being the 'early to bed' ones among us consistently, the rest of us usually staying up anywhere from 10pm-1am depending on the night, before retiring off to our rooms.

    The next day was supposed to be the 'early morning ride,' which for them, was the ungodly hour of 6am departure or so, doing a few hours of riding, then taking the van to a beach that's rather difficult to get to, either off-road and over sand, or taking a 15 minute boat trip to reach it. I'm still amazed where the van managed to go to. In this case, with the trip re-scheduling for the other group, we had some flexibility, and decided that 6am just really wasn't for me, but we could ride out instead, do a bit of riding in the am-ish, then just meet them at the beach later on..which would mean no drinking at the beach, but so be it.

    I went up to reception and managed to get an email off, sitting next to the Spanish speaking security guard, and realizing my Skype subscription expired while on the trip, before turning in for the night.
    #9
  10. wegster

    wegster Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2007
    Oddometer:
    68
    Location:
    Southeastern US
    DR DAY 6: BEACH DAY! - Aug 29th
    -------------------------------

    We headed out after breakfast for 'the beach day,' with us deciding to ride it, and not worrying so much when we got to the beach, but I wanted to get some souvenirs, and a special souvenir for someone, so we headed into Samana in the van before hitting the beach. The road I loved to ride on the bike, by van, was, well..ok, it sucked. That van made it to a lot of places, but it was certainly not a luxury ride through that section of road! Robert, Alida, Chris and myself went in the van, while Ed and Dana hung out back at La Tambora awaiting our return so we could jump on the bikes.

    The 'tourist experience' was interesting. Just like in the Dominican Wal-Mart, some vendors seemed totally unprepared to make change. There was a strip of stores across from the water, and a local sort of tried to 'be our guide,' directing us into some store, then finding change for us, but we were pretty comfortable with Alida with us, to make sure we weren't ripped off. I grabbed my mandatory pair of shot glasses, then tried like hell to find two things for someone back home - a non touristy vase, and some small piece of jewelry with the local stone in it, preferably something that wouldn't make her neck or wrist turn green...that was a more difficult task than it should have been, and I'd been looking throughout the trip when the opportunity presented itself, so I wound up going into most of the stores.

    I finally did find a suitable vase, but the jewelry was a no-go, with most of it being junk, except for one interesting piece made from some sort of 'lava stone,' but without the local turqoise-ish colored stone in it. I finally found a 'fine jewelry' store, and got excited for a few, as I saw some very nice things, seemingly just what I'd been looking for, and the jeweler spoke English to boot. However, that was short-lived, as when I asked about the price of a set of earrings, he punched what seemed to be entirely too many numbers into a calculator, then tried to sell me the entire set (necklace, earrings, bracelet), for the 'small' sum of $2,000USD. I tried for a bit to find something, as they had some very nice pieces, but when he was punching in 47 different keystrokes to give me a price on a single item, I just wasn't feeling like there was any reasonable purchase to be had there, so finally left, sans jewelry.

    We got back to La Tambora, in what I was wishing would be my last ride on that road in the van, then headed out on the bikes, and rode some typical DR roads for a bit. I'm not sure what we passed through, but saw a cemetery on the side of the road, with a big wired off field with cows in it directly across from it.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Now, look at the picture above with the bikes in it...we noticed a small 'chunk' near the kickstand of my bike (on the left), that we'd been oblivious of when we stopped and got off the bikes. It turned out to be a desiccated huge frog, one that hadn't fared so well in the DR heat...tongue hanging out and stuck to the road. Nasty but curious and unusual...
    [​IMG]

    We headed back towards the beach at Las Galeras, one of the more touristy places, where you can rent small motos or quads, and stopped off at the beach. One of the locals tried to convince us to rent his boat to go to Playa Rincone, but we eventually managed to make him understand we're riding the motos to Playa Rincone, so..no thanks.

    They were setting up for a carnival of some sort at Las Galeras, but instead of hauling things in assembled, they assemble in place..
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    We saw a pair of bikes that were somewhat unusual for the area..the one on the right is a Honda NX, which is a pretty cool smaller dual sport, I'd seen them in 250cc before in Costa Rica, this one was a 125, along with a Yamaha XTC, but couldn't figure out the difference versus an XT..
    [​IMG]

    We drank 1/3rd or so of our Cokes, then gave them to a local disabled guy that you can barely see in the pic above..may have been MS or similar, not sure. but at least, 'Amigo, here you go' and handing him the Cokes was understandable, regardless of language..

    The ride to Playa Rincone was pretty cool. Besides seeing Senor Frog, and the stop at Las Galeras, we got to do the dart and weave through Samana, not so many people out this time, but still always fun, then a mixture of almost decent to worse (in amount of pavement, not fun factor!) scenic roads, before turning off on to some mostly hard packed dirt.

    This was one of the roads, not the hard packed, and is similar to 'the fun part' of the Samana ride with the dart and weave.
    [​IMG]

    The hard packed went on for a couple of miles, with some mud and puddles mixed in, and some attempt at 'leveling' being done by someone, by filling in with baseball sized...rocks. They didn't make for the best traction ever, but it was a relatively easy, fun ride, just no huge throttle and speed corrections or hard braking..ok, except when it would be fun!

    The hard packed opened up onto the beach, with a 'sort of path' that had been worn into the small amount of vegetation, leaving a sandy path of sorts. As we'd taken our time and done some riding before heading to the beach, the van was already there, with a tent, tables and chairs set up, about a mile from where we'd come out onto the beach, so off we went.

    I'd started out going pretty well through the sand at a good clip, Trailwings notwithstanding, weight all the way back on the bike, and gently aiming for what looked like the harder packed sections, but no matter where we were riding, I'd inevitably hit a section of very loosely packed sand, and keep the bike straight while the front wheel did 'the sand dance,' wobbling it's way through the soft spots. I made it most of the way there in second at a good speed, before a particularly soft section made my butt clench a bit more than I'd like, so slowed down a bit and pulled alongside the van.

    It was nice to de-gear, as it had turned out into a quite warm day, and the temperatures were already generally 15* F or so higher around Samana and the beaches versus back in the higher elevations we'd been in back around Jarabacoa and the mountain roads.

    The beach was quite nice...maybe a dozen other people in total besides a few locals peddling cigars, snacks and massages. I grabbed a GatorAde from the stocked MotoCaribe cooler, and plopped my butt down in a chair to relax and take in the view for a few.
    [​IMG]

    The water was nearly perfectly calm, and just gorgeous. We were in a cove of sorts, with land directly across from us as well.
    [​IMG]

    A few buildings were around, seemingly abandoned, or simply not used..when we initially pulled up, I thought maybe there was a resort there due to the buildings, and the local vendors all worse a similar white shirt saying, 'Playa Rincone' on it, yet this building and one more were basically unused, perhaps in speculation that at some point, access to this beach would become easier..?
    [​IMG]

    We had lunch at a smaller building off to the left of the picture above, where we got the largest glass bottles of Coke I'd seen in a while, like 1 Liter glass bottles, and the puppy, 'Pupita or Poopita' as we'd been nicknaming her, probably not to the amusement of Robert and Alida, who had since named her 'Perla,' got to see some of the native wildlife, and start yapping at it, and following it around. (It's a crab)
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Perla seemed to really like the beach, and is a digger...she spent ages rolling around in the sand, digging holes, and just laying there happily with a mouthful of sand. It didn't look like much fun to us, but she was having a blast!

    The beach had a small peninsula jutting out on the right side, and the place we ate for lunch was on the peninsula, with no power as far as I'm aware - the chicken and fish was cooked on a large grill, and the drinks came from a big cooler full of ice and/or ice water. Robert and I went for a walk along 'the other beach' on the other side of the peninsula for a bit, and took a few pictures.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Someone's horse was tied out..bet he was a bit on the warm side (no shade!).
    [​IMG]


    Tried to pet him, and he wasn't afraid or mean, just not super friendly, so I moved on back to the tent and chairs to let lunch digest.
    We had a few 'visitors' while at the beach...this is one huge pig!
    [​IMG]

    A pair of his smaller friends were also wandering around the beach, walking within a few feet of us, like most of the animals we'd seen so far, generally paying us humans no mind in their travels.
    [​IMG]

    With lunch digested, I was reminded they'd brought snorkeling gear in the stash of beach goodies (also had footballs and misc other stuff, pretty prepared :-) ). I grew up 10-15 minutes from the beach, as well as going on vacations with my parents where I'd spend the day in the water, preferably at the beach, but at least a pool always, and the water looked great, so I grabbed a pair of fins and mask and jumped in. The water was perfect temperature, just walked right in, and was relatively shallow for a good ways out. I swam over towards Ed and Dana, who were looking at fish off towards the side of the peninsula, where there was a mixture of coral and sea plants, and more than a few tropical fish.

    Of course, one of the deciding factors in me liking Olympus SW cameras...while they have an annoying proprietary USB cable, which does NOT charge the camera(!!), and a lack of fully manual controls mode, being both shockproof and waterproof (not water resistant, waterproof to 30+ feet or so), really makes it an awesome 'adventure pocket camera.' My last one had been stolen, but I replaced it with the newer 1030SW right before the trip, and it was time to try for some underwater shots.

    The shots did come out, but...I later was reminded that I really need to work on how to take decent underwater shots..I was usually paddling water to hold myself in place, or chasing the fish, which was churning the water with bubbles, which didn't always make for great pictures in the end..ahh well, next time!
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    There was a single fish, a white one with a yellow stripe along it's top, that I realize had been following me for literally 30 minutes, as I'd been swimming around, so of course, I tried to get a picture of the little guy, but every time I'd roll over or turn, he'd swim in close to me, so sadly, this is the closest I got to capturing him on film :-/ (Look carefully, at the bottom..I swear, he knew I was trying to get a picture or something..)
    [​IMG]


    I did, however, manage to capture a few fish in movie mode with the camera...not great, but it is sort of cool, sound included. It's my first attempt at underwater video, and like taking shots of moving fish underwater, I think I need to stay in one place versus moving around and 'chasing shots.' Sadly, it seems imageshack doesn't want to host videos, so..hrmph.

    The snorkeling was great, but while I'd coated myself with sunblock on my face and neck for the morning's ride, I kidded myself about 'I'm only going in for a little while,' followed an hour or two later by 'Uh oh, I can feel myself burning!' Which turned out to be pretty true, I got some serious sunburn on my back, for some reason almost in a cross shape - stripe across shoulder blades, and a strip down my back somehow..oh well, it was worth it, and I think Chris got it even worse.

    We packed up around 4 or 5, again time being mostly irrelevant, as long as we made it back by sunset (around 7-7:30pm). We took it a bit slower across the sand portion heading back, then were ripping up the 'roads' once more :-)
    [​IMG]

    We headed back towards Las Galeras, for a hydration stop and stretch, and were surprised to see the ferris wheel was now completed.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Our disabled friend from the morning was still there, immediately recognizing us, so Ed gave him a PowerBar before we jumped back onto the bikes.

    DR doesn't have very many side streets, which is nice, but an adjustment - once you realize the likelihood of someone turning into your path of travel is lowered versus nearly anywhere in the States, you can ride with a bit more speed and confidence in some areas. There was a small side street off the main 'strip' in Las Galenas, and we had some time left, so decided basically, 'Let's ride!' until it got dark, so we headed off the side street to see where it might take us.

    We had pavement for a while, then 'sort of pavement,' and passed what looked like an active resort/hotel of some kind..
    [​IMG]

    A few dirt paths intersected, one with a sign to another beach..we didn't have time to explore it all, and came to what I thought was a driveway of sorts, but Ed said is the base for them to eventually build a road, possibly leading all the way to another beach area. Of course, there's really no way to tell if that project will be started this month, this year, next year, or ever...but someone had started it, at least.
    [​IMG]

    So, we turned back around and headed back. I wasn't able to capture the downhill section, but be assured, it's going downhill over the slight crest shown below.
    [​IMG]

    We made it back into Samana proper just before dark, the bikes looking like a pair of filthy whores, well 'used' for the day.
    [​IMG]

    The Samana waterfront, with a mixture of local working type boats, and a small number of pleasure-craft, either the small handful of rich locals, or non Dominicans..
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    The road shown below is much better than 'the fun parts,' but it's relatively smooth pavement going through the town itself, including a nifty traffic circle or two towards the 'end' of the town..
    [​IMG]

    We made it back to La Tambora around dusk, after another session of dart and weave which I wish could go on forever, and settled into the pool and drinks routine, which was quite welcome - it felt like it had been a pretty long day, and it was now relaxation time. The 'Uncle' and 'niece' were there for dinner again, and dinner was very good as usual. There was a small black cat that had shown some interest in the puppy when we'd been out near the pool, and he/she was out making rounds of the tables with guests, where everyone just 'had to feed the poor kitty.' I bet that cat ate better than all of us, although I have no idea how she stayed so small! If I didn't mention it yet, all food and drinks were included at both places, with a full dinner menu, but a slightly limited drink selection. By limited, that really meant just no wine, something the first place didn't realize or worry about the first night at the Gran Jimenoa, until they realized we were draining their wine cellar the first night! :-) Cuba Libres (Free Cuba?) were the drink of choice off the drink menu (DR Rum, soda and lime), although the other choices were fine as well.

    We all turned in fairly early that night, with the somewhat long trip back to Jarabacoa coming up the next day. Of course, it being the last night, I found out the wireless almost reached my room..it actually did reach the door to my room, but I lost it by the time I made it inside to somewhere I could set the laptop down. So, at least this night, I didn't sit with the security guard, and spent 30 minutes or so dealing with emails, read for a while, then called it a night. Today had been a really good riding day, one of those where you're nearly totally comfortable on the bike, had gotten comfortable with the different surroundings, and was just sort of in a good groove for riding, which we got a decent amount in, even if the pictures aren't showing it. A really good day! :-)
    #10
  11. Chanderjeet

    Chanderjeet IndiYeah !!

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2006
    Oddometer:
    6,067
    Location:
    Stockholm, Sweden
    Great detailed RR. First on from Dominican republic that i have seen. Great pics mate. Thanks for sharing such vivid perspective of such a beautiful country.
    #11
  12. irishdec

    irishdec Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2006
    Oddometer:
    746
    Location:
    Toronto ,Canada
    Thanks for sharing,great pic's ,and a great report.
    I have often wondered where in the D.R. I can rent out the bike that you had.I have a vstrom 1000 ,but would love to do some D.R. riding if only I could get to rent a good bike.
    Regards
    irishdec
    :freaky :freaky :freaky
    #12
  13. wegster

    wegster Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2007
    Oddometer:
    68
    Location:
    Southeastern US
    You can contact MotoCaribe, although I'm unsure if they're willing to just rent the bikes out. http://www.motocaribe.com

    The few rental places I'd seen were all for bikes much smaller, along the lines of up to 175cc or so. There are few places you're likely to be doing triple digits, if at all..including the autopista/few highways we were on. A DR350 would really 'do it all' in DR, and might be able to be found.

    Still have a few days left to finish up, probably knock out another day tonight.
    #13
  14. Thor Hiney

    Thor Hiney Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2007
    Oddometer:
    227
    Location:
    Southwest Washington state
    #14
  15. the darth peach

    the darth peach eats crackers in bed

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2006
    Oddometer:
    11,400
    Location:
    N.California
    WOW!! Great water pics!!!
    #15
  16. wegster

    wegster Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2007
    Oddometer:
    68
    Location:
    Southeastern US
    Hi Thor - yeah, I read your report on stromtroopers, didn't see the one on advrider, but the decision was made relatively rapidly (from ok, this could be fun, to 'ok, going' within like 3 days or so) - checked out your report, checked out general DR info, then said, 'Ok, I'm going.' :-)

    The weather really wasn't bad - one day of real rain, in the tropics..not exactly unexpected!

    Some of your pics certainly look 'more familiar' now :D
    I'd gladly go back..
    #16
  17. wegster

    wegster Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2007
    Oddometer:
    68
    Location:
    Southeastern US
    DR DAY 7: BACK TO GRAN JIMENOA - Aug 30th
    -----------------------------------------------------

    I woke in the morning relatively early for me, and realized I'd gone to sleep before really packing up much of anything for the trip back, so threw some of my stuff together, remembering to collect my clothes off the back patio that had gotten another improvised washing in the shower a day or two before, and grabbed an omelet, some fresh fruit and OJ for breakfast. The OJ in DR is a bit odd...very good, but apparently they like sweet things, so even though it's fresh squeezed, they add some small amount of sugar to it as well, which is fine by me!

    I realized I hadn't really taken a single picture of La Tambora, so took a few, starting with a rooster walking around the grounds..
    [​IMG]

    La Tambora also is ocean-front, with a very nice beach easily walked to from the rooms..I wish I'd gotten a few pictures there, but the only one I did take came out blurry (was a night shot).

    A view of the pool..
    [​IMG]

    The grounds and rooms..
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    And our covered parking for the bikes :-)
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Today's path was going to take us westward away from Samana (which is on the eastern peninsula), to Lago Azul, a natural spring, Rio San Juan, and back over/through the 'Tail of the Iguana,' before heading on back into Jarabacoa.

    I packed up, with the usual concern about being sure I must have been leaving something behind in the room, but at least fairly confident that I didn't...and threw everything in the van minus gear, camera, wallet, hat and a Gatorade, and off we went. The weather was calling for rain more than likely, but there was a chance we'd manage to avoid most of it if we were lucky..

    We rode out thrown the dart and weave with the locals and the roads, and through another small town, before winding up on the closest thing to the Autopista I'd seen yet - on the way out, we rode criss cross a bit, but were now on a strip of Dominican highway, where a handful of Mack trucks/semis and a few busses were barreling down on the slower local motos. It wasn't a highway by any means, just one lane each direction, but the traffic through there made it feel more like one than elsewhere, and indeed was called the Autopista del Norte, or The North Highway.
    [​IMG]

    Still, no accidents occurred, and we stopped off at one of the small buildings/shacks selling fruit and other miscellaneous stuff that dotted the roadside here and there.
    [​IMG]

    Note - Different countries and cultures have different views on taking their picture, always ask someone if it's ok to take their picture. We did, and managed to mostly get across to the fruit vendor that we were riding across the DR, 'homed' in Jarabacoa, and we had an amusing half conversation when his friend walked over and we all wrote down our ages on a piece of paper so we could understand each other. This guy's 53YO friend looked great for his age, as was riding a little Super Cub. After buying a few bananas, and our attempted conversation, Ed tried to let him know they'd be back in the future, and we said our goodbyes to get back on the road.

    We stopped along the way at another small bar/open restaurant, with a fair number of locals hanging out, at least one of which spoke English, as he saw Chris' tattoo of Alice Cooper, and asked who it was, then told us he plays guitar. I'm not sure where exactly we were then, but it was surprising to see Dominicans speaking English in general, at least outside of a larger city like Santiago, or one of the few tourist areas we'd passed through.

    A house behind the place had it's livestock wandering around, as was the norm..
    [​IMG]

    A younger kid was out, with shoe shine kit in hand, something we'd also seen back in Jarabacoa, and looking down at my boots, seeing them the color of the red Dominican mud, I figured it wasn't a bad idea to let him go to town on them.
    [​IMG]

    He did a good job, for roughly a dollar or two, which of course served to make the rest of my gear look completely filthy by comparison, but hey, it's not a fashion show! :-)

    We arrived at Lago Azul not much later, after turning off and riding a bit of hard pack, which had a single large, open but covered patio, that looked like it could be used for dancing or picnics. The hike down to the water was a no-brainer compared to hiking back up from the waterfalls days earlier, and the place had a really cool feel to it, almost like some small slice of untouched prehistoric jungle..
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    The water was crystal clear, and had some smaller fish swimming in it. It was also cold as hell, but Ed and I jumped in regardless, after a bit of hesitation, and the cold shock on jumping in made it obvious there just wouldn't have been any way to 'ease into it.' Some seriously cold water...will leave it at 'the tortoise retracted into his shell.' :-) But, it was a very welcome respite from the warm day. We lounged in the water for a few and took a few more pictures before heading back up towards the bikes and van, a few of which are among my favorite pictures from the trip.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    I'd been in the habit of mostly ignoring the fact I brought a bathing suit, and as it was on the warm side, figured it wouldn't be bad to ride out in wet clothes - an UnderArmour t-shirt, riding underwear and a pair of thin shorts, so we got back on the road pretty quickly, on our way to our next stop.

    Beaches, shacks, nicer homes, and pens for livestock, along with untouched raw land, intermingled nearly everywhere on our coastal rides, except for when a small town would pop up now and then. One of several beaches we passed on our way to Rio San Juan, completely deserted as many of them were..
    [​IMG]

    We pulled in to Rio San Juan, to eat at a French(!!) restaurant across from Laguna Gri Gri, where locals were renting out glass bottom boat rides to the small number of tourists passing through. The restaurants food was pretty surprising..while most DR restaurant food had enough 'American like' food that eating was no problem, here they brought out salad, fish, chicken, and...lasagna! With a helping of Papas Fritas (french fries), of course, and they had the only 'competing beer' to El Presidente, along with Budweiser..I think the 'other beer' was El Brahma, or similar...we were riding, so the beer wasn't of much consequence, but it was the first time I'd seen someone offer a competing local beer so far, as El Presidente has quite the market share of 90% or so.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    We'd been meaning to get both Dana and Chris some riding time in, so Dana threw on her gear and jumped on the back of Ed's bike for the next stretch. Ed offered a few times to let me lead, which I enjoyed doing through the towns, but I was all good at the pace we were doing, especially back through the mountains.

    The Iguana was fun..I was feeling good on the bike, and we were taking turns faster than I'd been doing on the way out to Samana..not excessively or dangerously so, but comfortably. The road had it's usual 'obstacles' and uniqueness, beeping twice as we'd enter into blind turns, to notify people coming the other way, some small amount of road obstacles, and occasionally someone wanting to pass or coming from the other direction, but a really good ride. You could feel 'pockets' of temperature changes as we'd go up and down in elevation, spanning a good 15-20*F temperature change within minutes at times, very cool!

    At one point, we passed a pair of La Policia, in fatigues and armed, on the side of the road, looking like they were looking for someone, and the few cars and motos slowed down as they passed, so we did likewise, and waved as we passed. We later found out that Robert had also waved, but they decided to stop him and the van..we're still no sure what they were looking for, but, no harm, no foul..

    Unfortunately, while it had felt like my clothes had nearly flash dried on leaving Lago Azul, this was apparently not the case, as I started to get the first case of serious monkey butt on the entire trip...I was squirming like my butt was on fire towards the last leg of the ride before stopping off at Rancho La Cumbre once more, and quite glad to stretch for a bit, and uhh, air things out!

    It was much clearer out today going through the mountains, at least at Rancho La Cumbre, so I got to re-attempt a few shots that had been a bit cloudy on the way out.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    I really liked the natural candelabra on the left, made from a bush or small tree, similar to the 'chandelier' in the second picture..
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    As we were going to finish down the mountain, then get back on the Autopista, Dana was relegated back to 'van duty,' but at least she'd gotten in a good ride on the mountain roads..the Autopista isn't somewhere most would want to ride with a pillion..it's not really bad, but traffic is significantly faster than elsewhere, and getting on and off can certainly be a challenge, needing to really roll on the throttle to merge from a standstill.

    With my monkey butt feeling a bit better (we did a longer stop than usual, and I was glad for it at the time!), we rode down the rest of the mountain road, then got onto the Autopista, Ed warning me to go when comfortable and not to follow him if I wasn't sure, but we jumped on the throttle together and all was well, and fun in it's own way, before turning off back towards Jarabacoa. Ironically, we'd gone through changing altitudes, and a few sections that felt like it was going to rain, but had escaped it all day, so of course, the skies opened up on us hard just before making it to town for 15 minutes or so...we rode through it and ignored rain gear, as I think we were both soaked pretty good pretty quickly, rode through town which was fun...more 'complete' roads than Samana, but still the 'cluster of bees' swarming around you in the form of local motos and traffic, then pulled into the gated MotoCaribe HQ, to find there was a local power outage. Not the end of the wordl..I'd wanted to check email quickly on my phone, but we really didn't need power for anything, and the gates were on battery or generator backup power, so we de-geared and waited for the van to catch up.

    Toby, Robert and Alidas Great Dane, was quite happy to see us, and I wondered how the puppy would fare once they got back - she'd been a good travel dog, and had gone from the submissive undernourished puppy from a week ago, into much more of a normal puppy with personality...maybe she'd wind up being the alpha dog over time?
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    The trailer and van were partially unloaded, and I gathered my stuff together to throw into the SUV for the few mile drive back to Gran Jimenoa.

    After checking in, ensuring we had hot water (we did, yay!) and grabbing a shower, we were going to head into Jarabacoa for dinner tonight, and spend a little bit of time in town. We jumped in the van, and went back to the place we'd had lunch at previously, Restaurante La Lena ("wood stick"), right in the town square of Jarabacoa, where I had the churrasco again, which was as tasty as it was the first time.
    [​IMG]

    Downtown Jarabacoa on a weekend night was interesting..the locals passed in and out, riding their motos down the street, or driving cars with seriously loud stereos, while others hung out around the central park with the huge tree in the middle.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    When we were finishing up dinner, a trio of trucks pulled in, and stopped on the main street right below us, with a few people in the back of one pickup, who turned out to be busts, or prisoners, of the DNCD, roughly the equivalent of the US Drug Enforcement Agency/DEA. A minute later, a dozen or more armed and kevlar vested officers came walking down the other street, to converge on the trucks. Nothing much changed in the demeanor of the locals, although they gave them a wider berth than normal traffic, and it appeared to be a 'display of power' or a reminder to the locals to 'Just Say No To Drugs!' It was different, from an American perspective, so much so that while I had my camera ready, I wasn't sure I wanted a camera flash to go off with 20 or so armed DNCD agents within 20-30' of us, although I highly doubt there was any real danger, short of being stupid. I did try to get a picture as they were pulling away, but unfortunately, I 'missed' the group of trucks in the shot...so much for my stealthy picture taking skills at night! :-(
    [​IMG]

    Once they left, we did a walk around the square, then headed back to the Gran Jimenoa, a few drinks at the bar, then eventually wandering off to sleep, for my last night in the DR..
    #17
  18. wegster

    wegster Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2007
    Oddometer:
    68
    Location:
    Southeastern US
    DR DAY 8: HEADING HOME - Aug 31st
    ----------------------------------
    I woke in the morning, remembering that I had to fly out today, and while I'd printed out my itinerary for each of the various flights, and the car rental in FL, somehow I'd managed to lose the details for the flight from DR back to Miami. I'd realized it the night before, and figured at some point, we might head back to the MotoCaribe house so I could check my emailed flight details, as trying once again to get a data connection proved to be fruitless.

    I'd mostly packed up my stuff back in 'airline mode,' which meant moving any chemicals like conditioner, bug spray, and the ibuprofen and immodium out of my tank bag which I'd be carrying on, into my luggage to be checked, pulling out my sole remaining clean pants and a mostly clean shirt (hand washed, I don't think it smelled..?), and stuffing my now nasty dirty clothes back into the compression sack to be packed away and checked.

    I packed away my laptop and phone chargers, and did my usual check - wallet, check. Passport, check. Phone and smokes, check. I packed my helmet into my carry-on helmet case, along with my souvenirs minus the cigars, and stuff the rest of my bike gear into my Cabella's backpack...with packing out of the way, breakfast was calling, so I headed down with a twinge of melancholy, knowing this was my last day here...

    Ed called Robert, to confirm flight times, as I knew my flight out of Miami was around 7pm, so was pretty sure my flight leaving DR was around 2pm, but really didn't want to miss it! Ok, there was some thought of faking an ear infection and staying for a few more days, telling my boss that I can't fly back with an ear infection, but...it really was time to make it home, sadly.

    Out front was a curious vehicle, the first time I'd seen one so far..
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    "Policia De Tourismo" = Tourist Police. A brief though about trying to photograph the DNCD flashed through my head, but no armed men with handcuffs and weapons were forthcoming, so we figured it was a routine stop for coffee or lunch, or at least had nothing to do with us.

    Robert came to pick us up in the van to head to the Santiago airport (Aeropuerto), which was mostly outside.
    [​IMG]

    Note the big fan in the upper center of the picture? The center of the fan gives the company's name, 'Big Ass Fans'...very appropriately named! :-)

    Ed, Robert and Chris walked me through checkin and customs, which was helpful, but by comparison to my experience at Miami International coming to DR, this was a breeze. Show passport at the counter, fill out a declarations and customs form, hand it in going through the entry into security, and then on towards the plane. We said our goodbyes, and I headed off through security after buying a book to read, and glancing through the few shops in the event something I 'really had to have' popped up (it didn't).

    The flight was uneventful, until of course, reaching Miami International. I'd been concerned, luggage-wise, about not having a single trip booked, meaning from DR back to my end destination, regardless of the number of flights involved, but it turned out not to matter, as any International flights landing in Miami first still have to have any checked luggage retrieved manually, then gone through customs, before being checked back in to any future connecting flight.

    Once the bags are collected, which was fun in and of itself, as they changed which conveyor our flight's luggage was coming through to, seemingly without notifying anyone in any form that I had seen or heard, you get to get on the longish line through customs, where a few of us were given a lecture of how, while there's no indication whatsoever of this, there are imaginary discrete lines in front of each of the customs booths, and we were officially 'no in line,' although there were only 6 of us waiting on the end 3 booths at that point. Wow, I want that job, to be a total ass while people are already confused..not. :-/

    After passing through that section and showing my passport and declaration form, the bags are checked through again, then you're 'aimed' at a specific color of dotted circles on the floor, while they don't tell you why you're following a certain color. As it turns out, mine was the, 'ok, you're probably not a terrorist, go home' line..yay for me. However, I had a connecting flight...somewhere, so I doubled back to get attitude from some airport employee, when I simply wanted to know how to find my connecting flight. I thanked her for nothing, walked outside as I did have some time yet, had a smoke, and called my friend to make sure she remembered she was picking me up and to say hello...which apparently I wasn't in the best place to call from, as a small ton of loud trucks and shuttles were passing by.

    Eventually, I made it onto the connecting flight, and was greeted with this 'reminder' of being what some people call 'home,' yet somehow I just can't. :-/ (Yes, that is indeed a NASCAR shop, in an airport!)
    [​IMG]

    I made it home fairly late, but at least 'gained' a day by it being Labor Day, so got to put off 'the real world' for one more day...
    #18
  19. wegster

    wegster Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2007
    Oddometer:
    68
    Location:
    Southeastern US
    DR TRIP PROLOGUE/MISC
    ---------------------
    This is sort of a random collection of thoughts, on different subjects, about the trip, in no real order...basically, things I thought about or meant to fit in somewhere, but they didn't really fit elsewhere in the trip blog.

    MotoCaribe

    No regrets there. They did a good job of planning, brought boxes of snacks, beach stuff, and other essentials, and it was all pretty enjoyable, without any surprises. Literally everything was paid for, minus souvenirs, Ed did a great job of leading the ride, and much fun was had.

    Ed, Robert, Alida, Chris and Dana are all personable, and pretty laid back people, and definitely gave the impression of 'a real business' versus some random fly by night - the bikes were nearly brand new, little touches like the trailer awning, and a constant supply of drinks and snacks on hand were very welcome, and some good conversation was had. With the rest of this tours group re-scheduling, I could have been stuck with a trip to DR with nothing to do once I arrived (a tour group of 1, without a bike or destinations), but they still went through with it, like it was a full tour, except allowing of course, for some variances on the schedule, which were nice, such as riding down to the beach, starting a bit later on some days, and riding more before to get there later, etc.

    Probably as a result of the 'tour of 1,' the 'group dynamics' were a little bit odd now and then, as Ed, Chris, and Dana have known each other for ages, as well as Ed and Chris formerly working together for years, and Robert and Alida only marginally less, but overall, it was really a great trip, and I enjoyed each of their company. Good people.

    While I might have made some small changes (see below for specifics), a big thumbs up, and look forward to riding with them again in the future.

    What Would I have Done Differently?

    Actually, not a whole lot. Planning a trip for people you 'know' only by common ground of riding motorcycles, with a possible wide variety of skill levels, comfort levels, personalities, and interests...can never be an easy, nor 'perfect' achievement. I think MotoCaribe did an excellent job with planning the routes and stops, but of course, there are a few things I might like to see slightly differently.

    First up...I've got to take Spanish, seriously. Why I decided to take French way back when, especially when the French can so often be well, annoying, is beyond me. I know a small bit of Spanish, but I wouldn't go so far as to call it 'conversational,' and I can easily see doing more riding trips and vacations in Spanish speaking countries. Alida was very useful to have with us from that standpoint, and Chris managed to get by fairly well there as well, but it's not quite the same as speaking for yourself, in a conversation with some locals.

    This one's likely highly seasonal, as well as somewhat dependent on a tour's mix of people, but I would have liked to have spent a night out in Jarabacoa or elsewhere, plus a night out in Samana. Note that I could have done this one, and we did spend the last night in Jarabacoa for a bit, but with my non-level of Spanish, doing it solo wasn't quite so appealing. Elsewhere in DR, near more touristy spots, I expect it would be less of an issue, but going out for a night of local nightlife in each place would have been welcome. Likewise, neither hotel had very many people at it when we were there..I'm not sure if it's seasonal, or just spotty/random as to when people are there..it was certainly nice for the peace and quiet, but neither was exactly full of local nightlife :-)

    I think I'd have liked to stop at a few more 'random local places,' whether for food or snacks..like the small fruit stand made of wood we stopped for bananas, versus some of the more 'solid' or 'comfortable' stops. I did mention this to Ed, and think it's slated to be worked into the schedule, or at the very least, the fruit stand stop...sort of a bit more 'real local culture,' if you will.

    The only other thing that stands out would be perhaps a pair of relatively short 'tourist stops.' Note that we did work in my 'souvenir stop' in at Samana, but perhaps one hour or so stop in Las Galenas, and a scheduled one around Samana somewhere..

    That's all I can think of, really...which, all things considered, is really a pretty small list!


    Favorite Parts of the Trip

    The first one's easy, and I've tried to describe it elsewhere...you'll either 'get it' or not. Riding through Samana with the locals, avoiding moving and road obstacles, was just truly awesome, you just sort of get in your groove and have a blast. I've called it 'dart and weave,' or 'semi organized chaos,' and Ed likes, 'vehicular anarchy.' All are pretty accurate, but it's just not the same describing it, it's just a whole lot of fun.

    There was another moment, I *wish* we'd gotten video of. It was one of the days we were at La Tambora, but I'm not sure when. There were more motos than usual for our rides out, in one of the towns, and after watching them swarm around us for a bit, and standing off a bit from them, we said screw it, and nudged into the middle of them for a while. People talk about 'swimming with dolphins,' and this was our version- 'riding in a swarm of locals'...it was simply excellent, with motos surrounding us in all directions, sometimes coming within inches of banging handlebars..a very cool experience.

    The day at Playa Rincon was also great, as well as having fun on the sections of off-road going to the Mouth of the Devil as well as the beach just before there, having the cows 'stampede' us, the off-road section leading to Playa Rincon (ok, not including the sand so much :-) ), sections of road on the Iguana and the Samana mountains..really, too hard to pick more specifics, so much of it was great!


    Random thoughts on the Dominican Republic

    I'm not sure where to begin on this one! The weather was generally very nice, as expected of a tropical climate, and bugs generally weren't a problem, although it's obviously better to be safe than sorry on that count. While bottled water was available most places, and the van always had a refilled supply, I mostly stopped worrying about it a day or so after arrival, as we were often getting warm drinks and a glass full of ice, showering with local water, etc...this may have been down to luck, our locations, or whatever, but thankfully, no issues for me with the water.

    The food, and eating well, was completely a non-issue, even for a picky eater like me. Actually, I may have eaten too well on this trip :-)

    The roads were completely random in their composition and seeming maintenance. We hadn't seen a single 'construction sign' before leaving Jarabacoa as a base, while some roads bordered on dirt trails, and seemed very unlikely to be repaired in the near future. Other roads were reasonably well maintained, but it seemed nearly random, or up to each town if they would touch the roads or not, perhaps due to the way elections and 'elected officials' work in the DR. Meanwhile, the timers on stoplights in Santiago were pretty cool. Everywhere, traffic 'laws' were mere suggestions, but there, it mostly worked, and was at least reasonably safe (and fun!), somehow.

    La Policia - I can't speak authoritatively on this one, and we didn't see all that many of them, one pair that seemed to be looking for someone, pulling random people over, the DNCD 'invasion' in Jarabacoa, and very few elsewhere...but I'd say it's best to avoid them at all. I'm not saying they're corrupt, or out of control, just that I'd rather avoid finding out up close and personal, but...it's also seemingly easy enough to avoid problems, which is good.

    The pace of life is certainly slower, ranging from reactions of 'this is great!' through mild annoyance, when waiting for service or at the Dominican Wal-Mart.. In general, most Dominicans seemed to range from somewhat indifferent, curious, to overtly friendly, and even when we were riding or driving around in the rain, we still often saw smiling faces, so if not happy, they generally seem at least content with their lot.

    The few times I actually ran across someone giving off a 'shady' vibe, like if looks could kill, it turned out to be a Haitian, on at least one or two of the few times I saw anyone 'off' during the entire trip. Apparently, Dominicans have a sort of informal 'caste system,' and most Dominicans are mulattos, with fewer features typically seen in those with direct African heritage - the noses, lips, and head shapes of most Dominicans is different, and their 'informal caste system' apparently puts some level of weight to those with lighter features, while Haitians, in general, are of more 'pure' African descent. Either way, the few Haitians we saw didn't seem to look at us too kindly, while most others were pretty friendly.

    Seeing the vehicles being used was interesting, as well. Not only for the non US market vehicles and small motorcycles, but also with gas at over $6 USD per gallon, the fact that some were indeed driving small to 'regular sized'(sic) SUVs around Santiago..which was quite the shock after driving and riding around Jarabacoa, which was mostly all small motos, with an occasional tiny SUV or car, although even then, often with quite loud stereos.

    It really made it hard to tell from the 'sampling' of the demographics of the country. We saw plenty of small motos, which presumably are the 'poor person's transportation,' sometimes a small 100cc moto loaded with 3 people, or 2 people, plus a huge propane tank, or anything else imaginable, and used for 'conchos' or taxis in some areas (jump on the seat and off you go), converted into sort of 'rickshaw like taxis' pulling a small platform...alongside shacks as well as smaller but reasonably ok looking open air houses, through tiny SUVs or normal trucks that seem to make sense for the area, on up to some full sized SUVs, LandRovers, and such, or the few modern import cars and the half dozen modern sportbikes we saw. I guess it's not just America that wants to 'keep up with the neighbors,' or worse, thinks an SUV is some sort of bizarre, wasteful status symbol. Robert and Ed said there's a growing middle class in the country, which certainly seems possible, although I'm not sure specifically how to tell (nor is it of great import to me how much someone may make, just curiosity due to being there..). The mall really confused things a bit further in that respect...Santiago seems much like any other random smaller city, but the mall could have been a smaller mall at nearly anywhere in America, except for the prices, as they seem to have some stiff taxes on bringing goods into the country. An iPod/iPhone speaker doc was roughly double that in the US, while Marlboro Lights were just over $2 a pack, quite good compared to elsewhere, and as I believe the tobaccos was grown and packaged in the DR, that would make sense - local labor is cheap, but imported goods are not.

    The difference in geography for such a relatively small area was pretty amazing, as well. We covered a fair amount of territory, including both mountains and beach, and apparently there's also a desert area within the DR. Thinking about it, there are few places in the US within the same or similar distance having both mountains and the beach, perhaps CA, WA state, and a handful of states around NC and VA..very cool!


    Solo Versus Group or Tour Riding

    This one I spent some time thinking about, before doing the trip. I'm not used to riding in large groups, and am generally not a fan of even group rides with more than 2 or 3 people in them, and sort of really like to 'pick my own destination, on the fly,' so to speak, even though some of the choices may be preceded by a whole lot of research on my behalf in some cases. Planned or group trips also seem to be less introspective, and just, well, different.

    While I expect to do many more solo trips in the future, though, this was really a good trip. I know there was no way that I could have come up with the collection of places, routes and sights that MotoCaribe did, let alone lodging, and it was sort of nice to be able to travel without tools and emergency gear with me for a change.

    Would I do it again?
    Yeah, most definitely. MotoCaribe is apparently in the planning stages of offering a 'desert tour,' covering the other parts of DR in the future, and that seems like a likely candidate, assuming I can get off work. Very few to no regrets on this trip, and would ride with them again any time!

    Misc Gear Comments - Did I bring what I need, and how did it work?

    Besides the camera charger which turned out I had taken out of my shower bag at home, and left on the counter, and forgetting to bring a hat and thin raincoat/windbreaker, everything worked pretty well.

    The camera, my Olympus 1030SW, was great overall. Most shots worked just fine in auto mode, versus specific scene settings, and while a small handful of shots came out blurry, and I forgot the charger, I still managed to get some 200+ pictures spanning 8 days.

    My boots (Oxtar Matrix) kept me dry through the few bouts of rain we had, my Motoport mesh pants were fine in this level of heat, often not taking them off even for longer stops, and my caberg helmet's internal sun visor was awesome, often riding with visor up but sun shade down in warmer spots.

    I still love my RevIt gloves, just wish they were waterproof, and the UnderArmour gear was just the ticket to keep relatively cool, or at least not overheated.

    My Teknic jacket did well enough - it's mesh, and breathes pretty well. It was hot a day or two like when starting on the way to Playa Rincone, but cools down quickly once moving, and I've ridden in it at temps up over 100*F.

    I wound up not using my CamelBak, but it was nice to have, and I could well have if it turned hotter, but we had enough frequency of hydration and brief rest stops that I probably didn't need it for this particular trip.

    I'd thought about bringing my GPS, but decided against it, as I didn't have usable map data, and as it turned out, besides having some sort of route to review post-trip, it really wasn't necessary..although I would have taken it if doing the trip entirely solo, without a doubt!

    My Joe Rocket 'waterproof gloves,' well, they are Joe Rocket...which means they usually look OK, but I'd prefer not to count on their gear much, as unsurprisingly, their waterproof gloves were 'sort of waterproof, for a while.' No real surprise, they've done it to me before..they're ok for a while, which is welcome, then at some point they just bleed the water through. it's time to dump them and just go to waterproof outer glove covers/liners, methinks.

    I'd meant to bring along my RAM mount camera mount, but didn't, in the rush of packing. As it turns out, MotoCaribe did have a gas tank mount that might have worked, but I forgot to ask about it before we headed out, so I think it was on one of the other bikes..I thought about finally giving in and doing a lipstick video camera or video camera mount, but I think my camera would do 'well enough' with a decent mount. Coulda, woulda, shoulda, on that one, I guess - the only video I'd love to have had was around Samana one day, when Ed I were enveloped by a ton of local motos, riding in the middle of them.

    My Icon Urban Assault tankbag..has done pretty well for me on my SV, with it's magnetic base, but didn't quite fit the DL650, as the front set of magnets sat on plastic fairing, versus the gas tank. With the windshield on the DLs, it's possible it would have held just fine, but really, I didn't need it when riding, as the loaded van was never more than 15-30 minutes behind any individual stop, although a single smaller tankbag would have been good, just for camera, Gatorade, and a snack. Also, something managed to melt/deform the plastic map pocket on the Icon...I'm guessing it was likely the bug repellent, with an effect like styrofoam lightly brushed with gasoline, slightly deformed and melted. Still usable, and don't know when or how that one happened, but I'll chalk it up as user error and not paying attention, and it was still a good travel bag.

    My Cabellas waterproof backpack rocked, as usual..I love that thing, even if for this trip, it simply served as a gear carrier when not riding, or for checking in with the airlines. Likewise, my Cabellas compression dry sack is awesome at filling with clothes, and compressing to a much smaller size, in this case, to fit into the main compartment of my tailbag.

    I also brought a few Cabellas camp towels, which are sort of like 'The Absorber' material you see in AutoZone, like fake chamois that absorbs a ton of water, dries relatively quickly, and again, compresses down to almost nothing for packing. I think I may need to buy stock in Cabellas, great stuff! :-)

    I have a small number of Field And Stream or similar branded super thin pants, that can have the pants legs removed, and a single shirt of the same material, plus a pair of Columbia polo short sleeve semi-wicking shirts. While most of it's non wicking, the pants are awesome gear for hot weather - the pants and shirt all compress into near nothingness for packing, they look almost business casual when worn, and air blows right through the pants. This stuff is great, and no wrinkles, ever.

    Overall, I don't think I much overpacked, nor underpacked, excepting a few 'forgotten' items like my camera charger, hat and light raincoat. I probably should have left the outer liner for my riding jacket at home, as it is waterproof but simply too heavy for the temperature, but other than that, my packout was pretty close to on the money. I did, however, not pay enough attention to Ed's note about 'throwaway hiking sneakers,' for the waterfalls - my Rockports just weren't made for mud, no matter how comfortable they are in normal walking around...Oops! Besides that one, another pair of the thin convertible pants, and another short sleeve pullover, and I'd probably be good for 10+ days easily.

    The Few Thumbs Down Awards

    Ironically, none of these had to do with MotoCaribe/the tour, and only one with the DR.

    Miami Airport gets the #1 spot for pure suckage, disorganization, and annoyance factor. I'll fly through elsewhere if able to in the future. Followed closely was American Airlines staff at Miami International. Thanks ever so much, you have no idea how much I really was wanting to sit around that obnoxious airport for another 5 hours. Ick.

    AT&T follows with their wonderful 'international plan' that I'd inquired about getting on for a month prior to the trip. I was informed that without an international plan, my ates would be $1.99 a minute, or if on their international plan, it would still be a whopping $1.69 a minute. Uhh..do people actually use phones there? I know they do, but I'm guessing the local carriers are more sane, and even Skype only gets a max of 15 cents a minute. For the double whammy, AT&T also told me I'd have Edge data access, for a fee of $25 for the month, for up to 20MB of traffic. Care to guess how often Edge worked in DR? You got it..never. Can't wait for that phone call to AT&T for a refund... ;-/

    Internet access was, well, bizarre, or basically, the lack of it. It's obvious it's at least available in the more populated areas, as there were a handful of Internet Cafes as we passed through a few of the touristy towns, but apparently, it's just not a priority for guests at either hotel. I'd love to see that one changed, and maybe it will, but likely at 'Dominican speed,' which may not be soon. Not a huge grievance, but it would have been nice to have.


    Conclusion

    A great trip with a few minor annoyances, mostly unrelated to once I actually made it there. Hopefully I'll see the DR again sometime. :-)

    [​IMG]
    #19
  20. motococoloco

    motococoloco Adventurer

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2008
    Oddometer:
    12
    Location:
    NJ and DomRep
    C'mon and take a free ride!​


    MotoCaribe is giving away a free ride on any of it's upcoming 7 day Dominican Republic motorcycle tours.

    It's the all-inclusive adventure you've been waiting for and it's simple to enter. Just fill out the form at www.motocaribe.com with the code "freeride" and you'll be entered into a drawing for a seven day motorcycle excursion through the beautiful Dominican Republic. It's one of the most amazing riding spots on the planet, and no one knows it like we do.

    Pick a date (based on availability), fly into Santiago International Airport, and we'll do the rest. 7 days of amazing riding on a V-Strom 650 (the perfect bike for DR riding), three meals a day, luxury hotel; you just twist the wick and have the time of your life. There's also a 2nd prize of $200 off any of our upcoming 7 or 4 day rides, so what do you have to lose?

    For more information on the tours, go to http://www.motocaribe.com/7daytour.html. The adventure of a lifetime is waiting (and free, for the love of God!), and all that's missing is you!





    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    #20