When you go into Ride Reports you think almost all of what you’ll read is sunshine and roses..but that’s not always the case.
A life-changing trip in more ways than one, Dan and I talk online often and one thing you quickly understand about him he is a RIDER and a very motivated one at that. You’ll see in the interview that something happened that would make most riders settle into their LazyBoy and not get out of it, not Dan! He had good motivation before now he is extremely motivated, a life goal needs to achieved and I expect it to come to fruition very very soon.
Tell me first about the motivation to leave, what did you do to make it happen, what did you stop doing, what did you sell?
My motivation for this trip was multi-faceted. I’ve been riding motorcycles since 1976, and by that time had already viewed an 8mm film copy of the 1971 indie movie “Cycles South”, a story of three friends from Denver Colorado who decide to ride their bike down to Panama. It’s a budget movie, but has countless scenes depicting not only what we now call “adventure” riding, but also had some mild nudity and sex scenes, something appealing to a young teenage boy!
A decade of being glued to my computer reading ride reports on Adventure Rider and Horizons Unlimited also fueled the desire to drop everything and go someday. Riding as far South in the America’s as possible always looked like my target, and even as a young man I loved Latin culture.
Also, the corrosive political environment in the United States played a big part in my final decision as to when I would leave. I literally gave my notice at work (a 12-year corporate purchasing job) the day after the last Presidential election. I really wanted to ride and see Latin America before relationships with those countries soured any further.
To make this trip happen, I decided to cash in the 401K plan at the company I left. Because of the “55 Rule”, I was able to access the entire amount without paying penalties for early withdrawal. I did, of course, have to pay taxes on the total, but that should leave me with just enough to make it there and back!
On the financial end, it’s worth mentioning that I had suffered through a painful, costly divorce and custody battle just over a decade earlier, leaving me homeless and saddled with over $100,000 in debt. Even with a decent salary, it seemed to take forever to pay that debt off. As I got closer and closer to zero debt, it also seemed fitting that the position of being debt free would also mesh nicely into the plan.
Lastly, I have suffered from a neurological disorder for many years known as “cluster headaches”. This is, when happening, completely debilitating. I was, at the time the decision was made to go, in remission from this painful affliction for over a year. I am still pain-free as I write this!
What did I stop doing? I stopped working!! Seriously, I tried to start exercising more, going on long difficult hikes multiple times a week in the nearby Cuyahoga Valley National Park. I also tried to improve my health by starting a low-carb diet, which dropped 18 lbs from my frame, but the last few months before departure were filled with many “going away” parties, and I really let my diet slip….more on that later.
To help raise additional funds, I started selling all my hobby items. Radio controlled airplanes and equipment. Drones, motorcycle parts, my car, extra motorcycle clothing I had, you name it. As much as I could within reason was sold.
Why did this itch of travel needed to be scratched?
I’ve always ridden more than most folks I know or even my riding friends. All the years on Sport Touring bikes, flying around the USA, I averaged close to 20,000 miles each season, and this is in Northeast Ohio! With my Father now over 80 years old, and reasonably healthy, and my son Spencer now in Graduate School at Boston University and doing well, I determined that I deserved this trip finally, especially after so many years of hard work spent just to get back to zero financially.
It seemed like the time was right, right now!
How long had you been on the road?
On this journey, I was on the road right about five months. I just returned home to Ohio recently, cutting my trip short by over 6 months, and not achieving my goal of Tierra del Fuego, sadly
How many miles have you traveled since you left home?
Just over 22,000 miles total on the trip.
Do you feel other riders had an influence on you good or bad about the direction of your ride, more in a metaphoric sense than anything else?
Yes, definitely! Yourself included Paul, as well as Egle’s trip on the little Chinese bike. Others who had a direct impact were (not in any particular order) Glen and Neda, Graham, Infinity Jelly (Royce), Canuck Charlie, Donnie, Lonestar, Radioman, amongst many others.
And the influence was far more than metaphorically. It was literal. And as far as anything bad I may have picked up? Nahhhh lol.
You are on a DR650’s what do you love or hate about it for overland travel, do you have a mental list of things you’d change now you have more experience?
Hmmm, good questions. I am not a DR650 aficionado, but picked this bike to build based upon other’s experiences, determining reliability, ease of maintenance and parts availability South of the border. Using the bike build write up that you yourself posted, along with Moto-Phil’s, I started buying the parts needed. As I got such a good deal on the bike (2011 with 62 miles on it for $4000 out the door) I went all in and built my dream RTW bike, modifying nearly every aspect, leaving only the motor stock (for reliability/MPG)
Never rode a DR650 stock much, so it’s hard to compare, but with the 30L Safari tank mated to the Yenkro rally fairing, fitted with the Corbin saddle, she’s a very comfortable mount, and a wonderful place to spend the day watching things pass by!
I do have a few ideas for changes/improvements I’ll be making before my next attempt at the tip of South America.
One would be a custom tool/spare parts box to fit behind the left pannier. This would free up my left pannier for other things, reducing load size.
Another will be to go lighter on my rear rack/top box. Having the big aluminum Givi Trecker Outback was too much weight up high, making the bike a beast to pick up when dropped offroad.
Aside from that, the time I spent detailing the DR was time well spent, as I truly feel she’s one of the nicest prepped DR’s out there for this kind of travel.
Do you have a dream bike that isn’t your current bike – if you had an unlimited budget?
I’m excited by the Yamaha T7 Tenere. Too bad it’s delayed longer. Aside from that, the AJP PR7 checks all my boxes. If I were to go bigger/heavier, I think I would trust a Honda Africa Twin
Where is your favorite area to ride and why?
So far that would have to be Colorado. Stunning scenery everywhere. Incredible pavement as well as off roads options. Of course, I haven’t seen areas in South America that I have a feeling might be equally as impressive.
Is there one particular road or track that stands out above all the rest?
Yes. Woody, owner of Woody’s Wheel Works took me to the top of Mt. Evans. Truly spectacular at over 14,000 feet, and numerous times we had to stop to let mountain goats pass by! I’ll never forget that day.
A dream location to ride to that you have yet to visit?
Yes, all points South from Colombia. I am not terribly excited about riding through Central America. Perhaps it’s the civil unrest, or the repeated border crossings, but am really looking forward to South America.
Scariest moment on your travels?
The scariest moment of my trip was waking up in a hospital in Salina Cruz Oaxaca and seeing three different IV’s jutting out of my arm, and not being able to sit up, and being too weak to even talk. My Spanish skills are poor, and no one at the hospital spoke English initially. I did not have my cell phone (it was back at the apartment where I was staying through Airbnb), not my wallet. They were asking for payment for this test and that test and I was terrified. Before I even understood what was happening to me, I heard Doctors trying to tell me I needed surgery, and that I was close to death when brought in.
And Salina Cruz started out ok! Arrived in town, found the apartment located on a crazy steep hillside. Checked in during a 98-degree heatwave. The apartment was newish and had great AC, so I hung out that first day, and just consumed supplies I was carrying.
The next day I decided to walk to the town street market and get food and beer and see the town. After a brutally hot hike down steep hills, I then wandered several hours through the city streets that were closed off daily for the market. There was shade from overhead red and orange colorful tarps which helped with the heat somewhat. Afraid to drink street vendor lemonade and such, and not seeing bottled water, I picked out a big bag of grapes that looked delicious.
Wanting chicken to cook for dinner along with some type of veggies, I became frustrated as I couldn’t find anyone to sell me a small amount. The standard seemed to be a 2kg minimum. Far too much to be carrying around unrefrigerated in such heat.
Finally, giving up, and deciding that I still had enough food for another meal, I started back to the apt., now hiking uphill.
Of course, I started eating those grapes. Without washing them.
By mid-afternoon, I had a low-grade fever.
The next day when the woman who owned the apartment came to visit (Teresa) she could see I was distressed. She insisted I see a doctor. I refused.
The next day Teresa brought me food and over the counter constipation meds (it had been several days without a bowel movement and I was in pain), knowing I hadn’t gone out. I was worse. Being a big manly man, I again refused, telling her I would be better soon.
That night, around 1 am, for some unknown reason Teresa climbed the steep staircase leading to the apartments to check on me.
She found me naked, in a fetal position, laying on the tile floor of the kitchen, soaked in sweat, in a deep fever, and having muscle convulsions.
She didn’t ask this time….nor would I have been able to reply. With the help of her son Freddy, I was carried nearly unconscious to the hospital. I was passed out before I hit the bed.
Fast forward to waking up a few days later, unable to move and terrified.
In the end, I was in the hospital more than two weeks, and barely escaped needing surgery for a severe colon infection. Apparently, I had two areas of scar tissue so thick and infected it completely blocked my ability defecate.
Teresa saved my life. I have no doubt about that. I would really like to see her again, if anything just for another hug. She gave great hugs.
Part of the reason the doctor did finally agree to release me was that I would spend two more weeks recuperation in San Miguel while staying with friends there, and would have the follow-up tests being done by a doctor the hospital recommended there in San Miguel.
After the two weeks ended, and I started feeling better (I had lost 24 lbs in the hospital) I made the decision to head back to the United States.
Once back across the border, and as my strength continued, I added two more month’s riding in the USA, going first to the West coast, up the coast, and then heading East across the country on the TAT (Trans America Trail)
The most memorable day of the trip you wish you could live over?
That would be the first day leaving Oaxaca City, heading into the mountains, where I ended up spending a week at San Jose del Pacifico, my favorite stop in the trip.
Do you think more people should travel and why?
Certainly. As Mark Twain inferred, it’s hard to embrace any kind of prejudice once you have seen how other’s live and love. True understanding is made through learning through personal experience. I have something I used to use as my taglines on forums. Something I came up with long ago. “The only thing between want and did is do”. I think it says it all!
Top 3 tips for a new rider?
- Wear quality gear, especially your helmet.
- Ride at your own pace.
- Stop and smell the roses.
When you aren’t riding what do you do for a job or used to do for a job?
Before I left I was the Senior Buyer / Sourcing Specialist for a large bio-pharmaceutical company. I have also been involved in purchasing in the automotive industry as well.
What does the word ‘adventure’ mean to you?
To me, it simply means riding to places that are new to you, and meeting new people and cultures.
What is your one favorite photo ever from all your travels?
It’s a picture another rider took of me right after we finished a walking tour of the oldest winery in the America’s, Casa Madero. Casa Madero, formally established as long ago as 1597, is located in Parras de la Fuente, a small town in the northern Mexico state of Coahuila.
After the tour, we went to an area with some shade to rest before riding to our motel for the day. There was a dog wandering around the winery that no doubt belonged to the winery. He was healthy and well fed. It didn’t stop him however from sniffing around the folks sitting there taste testing wine, looking for a handout.
I gave him a cracker and scratched his ears, apparently in the right manner, as he climbed up into my lap and started licking my face.
I love dogs, having lost mine not long ago, and this one struck a chord. I wasn’t too emotional, but the true joy in playing with that dog was deeply needed, and it showed in the picture.
Is there a fun fact that we don’t know about you?
I mentioned it in my Ride Report on ADV, but I am a person who has experienced several fairly close encounters with a UFO, as had my parents when I was young. My first experience, when I was 13, lasted well over an hour, and had multiple witnesses besides myself.
Not sure if that qualifies as “fun” though.
Now you are home I know there is an itch to do it all over again, what do you have planned for the future?
For the immediate future, my plans are:
- Complete several articles I am writing about the journey and submit them to various publications, looking to get something going there.
- Tear down and refresh Sunny (my DR650) as it needs a few things taken care of, Most of the parts needed have already been ordered. I want her ready in 8 weeks
- Get a car (ughhh) that will be reliable enough for 6-8 month’s use.
- Get a job (I already may have an offer working for a prior Boss whom I respect and would enjoy working for again)
- Stash cash as much as possible. As it stands right now I need about $20,000 added back to my nest egg to make me feel comfortable taking another crack at it.
- Look for more Sponsors. I have a few already, but could always use more!
Cycle South, the name of your ride report is also the name of a motorcycle movie from 1971, was the movie a motivating factor?
Yes! A friend’s older brother had a copy on 8mm film, and we watched that movie so many times we wore it out. Now mind you this was in the mid-1970s, long before “adventure” riding was a thing.
I even had custom decals made for my trip that were directly spoofing the original movie poster from 1971
For more interviews and a small look into the life of some inmates make sure you check out the Interview Series in the forum that has been running since 2007 – you can find it here