So we are here in Lazaro Cardenas, Mexico about 3000 miles into our trip from Virginia to Ushuaia on Suzuki DR350's. My name is Chip and my traveling companion is Ken. We left his farm in Virginia on October 28th and have been on the road for 15 days. Not bad time so far on 350's. Especially since one has been acting up and slowing us down a bit. I quit my job in Breckenridge, Colorado to do this trip. I plan to head up to Prudhoe Bay, AK next summer to complete my year (or maybe more) off work. Ken is a farmer and has a cool wife so taking 3+ months off at a time is easier for him. We did a big trip together in 2014 (I quit my job for that one too) - 18,000 miles around the northern hemisphere. Kind of a Long Way Round in reverse. It can be seen here: www.rtweastwest.blogspot.com. I had been posting a blog and decided to add a trip report on Adventure Rider in hopes we can meet fellow inmates - those on the road as well as those who live on the countries we visit. I added a few bog post to catch everyone up and plan to post regularly her as well moving forward. If you want to see the full blog to get caught up it is here at www.rtwnorthsouth.blogspot.com. In the meantime here are a few posts below. The Game Plan - September 27, 2017 So we did RTW East to West in 2014. You might say inspiration for this trip was born a day after we returned from that trip around the world - 18,000 miles through 23 countries (24 if you count the overnight in Dublin to have a celebratory pint of Guinness on the way home) and 95 days on the road. There is something special about traveling by motorcycle - the exposure, the vulnerability, the openness to meeting people every day while passing through town to town. You can read about that 2014 trip here: www.rtweastwest.blogspot.com. The first trip was certainly an experience of a lifetime for me. I'm humbled and thankful that I am going on my second similar trip in the same lifetime. Although the number of counties we will pass through will be less, the time on the road and mileage will be similar (South America is pretty big). We will again carry full on off-grid camping gear, but expect to find cheap beds to good to pass up through Mexico and Central America. The camping gear will likely come into play while passing through Patagonia. We will leave from Virginia towards the end of October. The first leg will take us through the southern US, then through Mexico and Central America. This trip has only one real deadline to meet - we need to catch a sailboat in Panama that sails on December 11. That is our transportation between Panama and Columbia, two countries separated by the Darien Gap - a dense mountainous jungle with no roads. The choices to transport motorcycles are boat or plane so we chose boat. The 5 day sail stops off on a couple of small islands for overnights on the way to Cartagena. The outfit is called Wild Card Sailing. From the looks of their website, it should be a hoot. We will also have a few days in Panama City as we need to arrive early to complete customs paperwork to export the bikes. I would do the canal tour again - very interesting story of how it came to be. From there we plan to meet Marybeth (who will fly in from Virginia and rent a bike) in Quito to do some exploring of Ecuador for a week or so (and hopefully a side trip to the Galapagos Islands). From there we will just make our way south, ultimately to Ushuaia, Argentina at our own pace while experiencing the amazing places and people we encounter along the way. About a month from departure...it's starting to get real. Some images below of the rough (very) routing from Virginia to Tierra del Fuego. First leg to Panama... South American leg... Final Bike Prep - October 20, 2017 In the past few days my dr350 has received a new chain and sprockets, heated gear controller, GPS hard wire kit, LED headlight bulb and various mounts for the electronics. There is a leak coming from my top end that needs to be addressed while at the same time checking the valve clearances. Starting to tackle that job today. We also hope to have some fresh tires waiting for us at a shop in Brownsville, TX - need to make that call today too. Outside of that, both bikes should be ready to go. Ken's bike has been pretty much ready to go for a while. We are planning to leave Virginia sometime between Thursday and Saturday of next week. Can't really believe the day is almost here after months of anticipation. I'm sure it will take a couple of weeks, as it went in 2014, for things to slow down to the enjoyable pace of day by day life on the road. You don't get to experience this on a typical 2-week vacation - at least I never have - where perception of time moves at the perfect pace. If we end up leaving at the later end of our target window on Saturday, that will give us 40 days to get to Panama City. We have to arrive on December 6th to complete the necessary export and customs paperwork before the weekend when the government offices are closed. Our boat to Columbia sails on Monday, December 11th so it must be completed by the Friday before. We did end up booking a 4 day boat cruise in the Galapagos Islands over Christmas. The boat is fairly small and only sleeps 16. Marybeth is meeting us in Quito on December 23rd for the boat cruise and will be renting a motorcycle for another 5 days of moto-cruising with us around Ecuador after returning from the Galapagos. Should be a fun 10 days exploring Ecuador! Leaky, leaky. New chain and sprockets. Ken's bike ready to go. The dr650 ready for Alaska. Ken heading out to combine the next field of beans. Slight Setback - Sunday, October 22, 2017 We experienced a small setback yesterday afternoon while addressing a known problem with the dr350's - thrust washers at the clutch. With the case off the lower part of cam chain is exposed and Ken noticed a couple of parts missing - a chain tensioner on one side and a glide on the other. We had just had the valve covers open to set the valves and found two missing screws inside. It now is glaringly apparent the mechanic who rebuilt the engine for the previous owner was a hack or extremely sloppy or both. Ken posts an SOS on ADVrider and within a few hours we get a hit from a guy in Seattle who has the parts and can ship them out on Monday. Hoping to have the parts in Virginia by Tuesday or Wednesday. Still hoping to leave on Friday or Saturday. Trying not to lose any parts. No glides on the left or the right of the chain. Open heart surgery less than a week before leaving - Sheesh! Cool fog this morning on the Showalter Farm melting away. The cows are posing for this one. Mexico Boarder and Monterrey - Friday, November 3, 2017 We got a bit of a late start for the border this morning mostly due to me moving like a slug. I have the full blown flu and am struggling to just get out of bed - much less loading up the motorcycle and riding in hot humid conditions. I felt a bit better once we got moving, but had ejected my breakfast just before we left so had little energy. The border crossing was smooth and took us about an hour to complete the necessary paperwork and payments for us and the bikes. We took a toll highway straight to Monterrey and arrived in the early afternoon. Monterrey is Mexico's third largest city so there was lots of traffic and careless drivers to watch out for. We got to the city center and found a nice little restaurant where we could park the bikes on the street out front and enjoy some lunch w/o worrying about security of all the gear on the bikes. That also gave us time to research a place to sleep and we found a decent hotel for $40 US just down the street. The bellman even walked down the street with us to guide us into the secured parking area for the bikes. After we got settled in the room, Ken went out to get a haircut and shave while I took a nap in the air conditioned room. My energy level is quite low and laying down for a bit perked me up. We then walked around to find a beer and some dinner. We ended up at a brewpub and enjoyed a couple of their house brews and some Chicken Quesadillas. We walked around the mall a bit - which was quite like the 16th Street mall area of Denver. Lots of shops, restaurants, etc. - nothing very exciting. This will probably be the last large city we stay in for awhile. Tomorrow we are heading into the mountains with hope of staying in an old mining town on Sunday night. All the places to stay are booked solid Saturday night so we plan to get to the foothills tomorrow and then enjoy a relatively short two hour ride to 9000ft. on Sunday morning. From there? Who knows, but we are thinking of heading to the west coast to hit some beaches. Maybe Sayulita? We know a good taco stand there with excellent tacos al pastor - and beach camping! Changing money at the boarder. Aguascalientes - Sunday, November 5 Matehuala turned out to be a great authentic town - not at all a tourist town. In fact we were most likely the only Gringos there. We found a hotel across from the town center and secure parking for the bikes in a gated courtyard. The price was right at around $24US. We found a delicious cafe called Sante Fe for dinner and hoped to get some rest before leaving for Aguascalientes in the morning. We noticed a party set up in the function room below the hotel rooms and assumed it was a wedding. It turned out to be a Quinceanera, which is the celebration of a girls 15th birthday, for about 300 or so teenagers. The speakers for the event were stacked concert style and looked like they could shake the whole town - and they did. From 9pm until 3am the music was non-stop - pretty much shaking the hotel off it's foundation. Needless to say I got no sleep at all that night - my 5th in a row with little to none. Uggggh. In the morning we grabbed some delicious Gordita's for breakfast at the cafe next door and hit the road for Aguascalientes - about 350km to the southwest. Our plan was to stay just outside Aguascalientes at a hostel called Amigomoto run by Elena and Marco who rent out rooms in their spacious home. We had read about them hosting motorcycle travelers through Horizons Unlimited, the adventure motorcycle travel group we are associated with. We were hoping to do a two day layover there and swap out my crippled clutch in the comfort and cover of a garage. Shortly after we coming into San Luis Potosi, I discovered my bike was no longer able to down shift. I was stuck in 5th gear trying to negociate a string of topes (Mexican speed bumps from hell) constantly stalling out as 5th gear doesn't work well at 10mph. There was no shoulder or place to pull over so had to keep re-starting, stalling, repeat. We finally found a gas station to pull over and by that time the ability to downshift had returned - but it still felt wonky and neutral was nearly impossible to find. Ken took it for a quick ride to confirm that there was an issue and we decided it would be unwise to continue on without opening it up to see what was going on. This was a different issue than what had been going on since we left Virginia. We found a AutoZone about 5km away where we knew we needed to pick up a 27mm socket to get the main bolt on the clutch off. We spread out in a corner of the parking lot in a shaded area and Ken proceed to crack it open for the 4th time in two weeks. He immediately identified the reason it wasn't downshifting - the shift drum bolt had worked it's way loose. We went ahead and put in the clutch I was carrying since Pharr, TX as well since we had it open. Ken is getting really efficient at this with all the practice - had it broken down, installed and put back together in just over an hour! After that we were rewarded with the best road of the trip so far. It was a toll road through the high desert mountains with lush varieties of cacti everywhere. We topped out at 7,300ft and the views were tremendous. Temps in the 60's so couldn't have asked for better - and my clutch was working great for the first time since we left! We had been trying to contact Amigomoto since Saturday but still hadn't heard back so we just decided to get to Aguascalientes and try to give them a call. We rolled in around 5pm, called and got in touch with Marco right away who gave us directions to meet him in Jesus Maria at a OXXO near his house. He showed up with a sidecar rig with his black dog Sunny in the sidecar - classic! We followed him to a little food truck court where he and Elena were having dinner and drinks. We grabbed some dinner there and followed them back to his house. They have a great set up with lots of outdoor space - the "bird house" is super cool with a fire pit and high ceiling to keep dry if it rains. We enjoyed beers, bonfire and shared travel/moto stories until 3am. Monday night they are hosting a Carne Asada BBQ and inviting some of their friends. Can't wait for dinner! Good people and good times! Ken with a selfie. High desert. On the road. Amigomoto - Monday, November 6, 2017 We got up late on Monday morning (well, we were up with Elena and Marco chatting until 3am) and were able to catch up on some much needed sleep. First good sleep for me in a week. Marco has a welder friend Antonio and Ken and I both wanted to have our kick stands shortened so the bikes would sit better when parked. The loaded bikes compress the suspension and make them very upright and unstable on the kickstand. I usually have to find an area that slopes to my left to even be able to get off the bike without it falling over. Antonio's shop is in Aguascalientes so we all hopped on bike and headed out. Right away I noticed something different with the idle on my bike. It wasn't firing consistently. When accelerating, it felt like it was running out of gas, sputtering and struggling to gain speed. I got to Antonio's in one piece, but the whole ride was extremely stressful. Riding in heavy traffic, trying to follow Marco since we had no idea where we were going was a challenge for me. To top it off the idle kept rising and falling and I was having to constantly try to adjust the screw to keep the thing running at every stoplight. Just when we get the clutch fixed, this now starts happening. I begin to think this bike is cursed. Antonio made quick work of our kickstands and now we have happy perfect leans when parked on the stand. His shop was outfitted for serious metal work - in fact this is where Marco built his side car rig. We have been blessed with so much generosity from strangers when we travel - he charged us nothing to do the work. Thanks Antonio!!! And thanks to Marco for setting everything up and taking us over there! Marco has been so generous and helpful during our stay here. He is also well connected and a very good friend to have. He gave us his number and we are to call him if we need anything during our time in Mexico and he will make a call and get it handled for us. What an awesome guy! After leaving the shop we went a short way and grabbed some delicious lunch. I was a stress basket the whole way there - even tho it was only a short distance. The problem seems to be getting worse. While at a light, with my had off the throttle, the bike revved up to over 7,000 rpm's on its own! Freaking crazy! At the cafeteria style restaurant I had the chicken mole which was delicious. Ken's pork verde was crazy good as well. I am in food heaven here in Mexico! The ride back to Amigomoto was stressful the whole way. I could not wait to get off that bike. Ken is baffled at this point as well as to what the problem is. Once we got back we tore the bike down once again checking carburetor, air-box, etc. Once it got dark and it didn't look like we were leaving anytime soon, we committed to another night at Amigomoto. We had planned to leave in the morning but with my bike misfiring the way it was there was no chance. Tuesday we plan to strip down the electrical system to see if that is causing the issue. We had a mellow night of ordering food out and watching Borak the movie. Ken had never seen it so Elena insisted - lots of laughs and a good relaxing night. Hopefully we will find the issue in the morning but until then, we are going nowhere. Going to be unsure of when we will be back on the road again. Antonio modifying our kickstands. The birdhouse and fire pit. Back view at Amigomoto. Marco's supercool rig. Elena and Marco. Sayulita - Friday, November 10, 2017 Unfortunately Sayulita was not all R&R as planned. As Ken mentioned in yesterday's update, my bike went into full electrical shut down as we were coming into Puerto Vallarta. The 45 minute stretch between PV and Sayulita had power coming on and off randomly. By the time I hit Sayulita, there was nothing. No lights, starter, etc. So Friday after a delicious breakfast and Bloody Mary's, we spent about 5 hours re-wiring the electrical system to bypass the faulty key switch (which we think was causing the problem) and fiddling with the carburetor. The key is now just a decoration on my bike as it has been bypassed with some switches we found in a hardware store. Hopefully Saturday will be a trouble free for my bike. Something that hasn't really happened yet. I believe the thing is actually cursed. Probably not going to be sad to dump it in South America at the end. We'll see. The late afternoon consisted of delicous ceviche, guacomole and cold beers with an ocean view. I could easily spend a week here, but we need to keep moving. Saturday morning we will head down the pacific coastline and explore some more beach towns. Hopefully the food will be just a good as Sayulita - which is exceptional. For dinner it was fish tacos and of course Ivan's al Pastor tacos, topped off with a Wakika coconut cream popsicle. Chao for now Sayulita. Our hostel. Not bad at all. My new starting switches. No key necessary. Ken not happy to be spending a perfect beach day wrenching the bike. Checking all connections. We finally got to the beach. Running Down the Coast - Sunday, November 12, 2017 We continued down the coast today and ended up in Lazaro Cardenas - a fairly good sized port city. It appears lots of container ships come in and out of here. The day consisted of hot and humid temps, twisty roads and lush mountain vistas. These were the most curvy roads so far - and lots of them. The road ran though the lush forest and occasionally peeked out to the ocean - sometimes from 3-400 feet up. Stunning views all day long. Unfortunately all the pics and video I took were ruined by a grime covered lens. Apparently I need to clean it off more often. Today we also passed the 3000 mile mark for the trip. At day 15 that has us averaging 200 miles a day - well on pace. Right now a good day for us is between 300 and 350k. It is hot and muggy as I sit outside our room and type. Luckily the air conditioner in the room is really good - unlike the one last night. We have been averaging about $20-25 US dollars a night for hotels. Tonights was $449 Pesos - about $24 US. We are trying to keep an average of $50 per day each for all expenses - fuel, room, food, water, beer, etc. We started out in the US a bit more than that but things are evening out a bit in Mexico. It will get even more favorable in Central America. Ken had the bike issues today. First his headlight low beam went out, then later on he hit a tope too fast and his rear wheel slammed up under the fender ripping out his tail light wires. A quick stop at AutoZone on the way to the hotel and all parts needed purchased and lights fixed. I had my second day in a row with no issues - amazing! Tomorrow we are heading inland to try to escape the heat. It has been in the high 80's and humid during the day and in the high 70's and also humid at night. Our short term goal is Oaxaca - which we should reach on Wednesday as it is about 1000k away. I am looking so forward to visiting the food capital of Mexico - and the real deal mole sauces. The area was hit with an 8.1 earthquake a month or so ago so should see some interesting road damage and construction areas as we get closer. Pics were ruined so not much to show for today.