You're here for a good time, not for a long time.

You're here for a good time, not a long time.

November 28, 2011

By Land, by Sea...

Today Mom and I got back from Pichilemu and the first thing I did was run to Suzuki and pick up my best friend.  It had been nearly two weeks since we'd last held each other and I was getting antsy.  I rocked up to find my bike sitting where I last saw it, clean as a whistle.  The chain looked brand new, the cables slid smoothly, the shock actually absorbed.  My mechanic had me start it up; like always it puffed to life on the fourth turn, this time with a healthier ring to it.  We went through all the work that was done to it and they managed to fix everything but the horn, which needs a replacement.  I've been riding without a horn since Mexico.  Stupid, I know, but hey... I made it.  The horn is in stock and they just needed my approval to install it so I'm bringing it back tomorrow to have it replaced.  The total bill was $250.  It stings a little, but it was time and when I pulled out of the lot I knew it was money well spent.  My engine finally rolls on and off just as my throttle dictates.  All the creaks and groans are gone.  Most of all, it has that seal of a professional mechanic's approval that makes me sleep easy at night.  I know there's a bunch of gearheads out there pulling their hair out thinking I just wasted a quarter grand, but I didn't have the tools, time, or patience to do what the dealership did.  It's money spent, and I'm a satisfied customer.

Then this evening I got online and bought myself a one-way plane ticket to Tierra del Fuego.  All that talk and fretting about Patagonia and riding solo and how to get there vanished the second I chatted with Charlie online.  The Hamersley brothers and Greg are in Torres del Paine National Park and they're heading for Ushuaia, the southernmost city in South America.  Charlie told me that the last two weeks heading south in the Hilux had been rainy and windy all the way down.  And then he told me that his brother Andrew wanted to pay half my flight to come join them for the ride back up.  This trip has toughened me, but I'm no glutton for punishment.  And after last winter driving truck in Fairbanks, AK I've got nothing to prove.  I know what cold and wet is like; it sucks. 

So with very little deliberation I booked a flight to Punta Arenas, Chile for Thursday afternoon.  The boys will pick me up in the Hilux, which is fully equiped with heating, air conditioning, radio, windshield wipers and a locking waterproof cab.  Australians know how to travel.  From what I've gathered we'll head south to Ushuaia and then make our way back up through Patagonia on the Argentina side hitting El Bolson and Bariloche as well as the HU meeting in Viedma.  Basically I get to see everything I've regretted doubting without the hassel of 5,000 more tough miles on the bike. 

At the start of the trip I would have scoffed at the idea of getting on a plane.  On this trip you get the mindset that it doesn't count if you didn't ride there.  Now, though, I could care less.  Like I said, I've got nothing to prove anymore.  I still love the ride, but there's no reason to make it difficult.  Alex rode thirty miles on a flat tire the other day.  I'm sure he's somehow better off for it, but that kind of adventure just doesn't sound fun anymore after eight months.  I've pushed my luck through plenty since Seattle; continuing this break from the bike is a welcome opportunity.  The DR will rest two more weeks while I take the plush ride back north in the Hilux.  From there Charlie and I will have a little more time to ride together before figuring out the next step.

The last few days I've been watching 'Long Way Round' with Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman.  I used to diss these guys and their film since they beat us to it and stole our thunder.  Now that I've seen it though, it turns out they're just badasses who blazed the trail and went through a lot of the same hardship I've seen.  I recommend the show to anyone after the impact it's had on me in the last few days.  It made me a lot more appreciative to be out here where I am; excited to meet the guys at this big HU meeting too.  It's nice to see other people change their plans and end up just as satisfied in the end.

Ideally I would have made it to Ushuaia on the bike.  Ideally I'd go around the world on the bike; that was the original plan anyway.  But this is an adventure and ideals don't count for much.  As I see it I'm lucky to have made it this far and even luckier to have mates who want to pick me up in a 4x4 down there.  Not to mention bombing around Patagonia with three Western Australians will be an absolute riot.  That's the news.  Thursday I take to the skies. 

November 24, 2011

Good Winds

Things are really shaking out and shaping up these days.  Mom and I knocked off Mendoza and Buenos Aires and are now settled back in Uspallata for the next two nights.  She's got under one week left down here and after that I will be on my own for the foreseeable future. 

Two nights in Mendoza was plenty, especially after I had slouched around there for most of a week already.  Friday we took a tour through the wine region visiting two wineries and one olive oil factory.  The wine was good, I even appreciated it, but I'll still take a micro brew any day.  That evening we came back, had a meal, and hit the sack.  Saturday was mostly stuck in limbo.  Our overnight bus to Buenos Aires didn't leave until 7:00pm and the hotel kicked us out at 10:00am.  We spent most of the morning wandering around town looking at ski shops and touring the big shopping centers.  In the afternoon we walked out to Mendoza's massive park on the northern side of town.  It was a fantastic spot with a lake, a zoo, and plenty of green trails.  When our feet finally gave out we wandered back to town for McDonald's and then hopped in a cab to the bus station.

I had dreaded riding the bus up until this point.  Stepping onto a bus feels like getting neutered after eight months on a motorcycle.  Worst of all is being on someone else' schedule.  I remember some jerk at a hostel giving Charlie and me shit for leaving late one morning after we said we'd be gone before sunrise.  Charlie looked at him smiling and said 'that's the beauty of bringing your own transportation... it leaves when you're ready!'  And vroom, we left him in the dust. 

Saturday's bus turned out to be quite a plush ride, though.  Mom and I had the front seats on the second floor.  Perfect for viewing the driver's insanity.  They were leather recliners, bigger than airline first class.  We were also the only people on the second floor.  There were probably five passengers total the whole night.  The waitress served us a hot meal, two cups of wine, and then a nightcap of whiskey on the rocks.  I put my feet up on the window and watched the miles tick by, indulging in someone else finally doing the driving.  Sunday morning I woke up still pretty tired, but finally in Buenos Aires. 

I knew the city was big.  At thirteen million souls it's the second biggest in South America.  Buenos Aires is huge, though.  Not only is the entire metropolis expansive, the downtown itself must be the size of Seattle.  The 'tourist area' stretches for miles in every direction.  Mom and I ended up in the San Telmo bohemian district.  Lot's of old architecture for her to crane over and plenty of entertainment to go around.  Of course our hotel couldn't check us in at 8:00am on Sunday so the first thing we did was to go Plaza de Mayo, the biggest plaza in town.  Each side of Plaza de Mayo is adorned with monstrous buildings that look like they belong in Rome or Florence or Barcelona.  I walked into Casa Rosada and marveled at it's art collection and looming ceilings.  The National Bank building was bigger than a stadium.  And the Catholic church was greater than any I'd seen in Europe.  Columns, arches, statues, gargoyles, it's all there.  The streets jut out from the plaza in a spoke and hub formation so looking West from the plaza you can look down two at the same time.  The magnificent buildings continue as far as the eye can see, each one trumping the next.  It looked like a movie set; like I'd get a block down the street and then walk into a big blue wall with clouds painted on it.  After coming through Quito, Lima, Cusco, and La Paz (all of which were built of cinder block and rebar), Buenos Aires is heaven on earth.

As soon as the room was ready I checked in and took a nap.  Mom still had tourist exuberance, but I've been doing this eight months and I needed my beauty sleep.  She went to a flea market while I took a nap.  That night we drank plenty of wine over a nice steak dinner and got to bed pretty late; we're on local time now.  Monday we were determined to see the city so we hired another bus tour.  This tour was cheaper and more reliable.  Still not my favorite activity being at the mercy of a bus company, but it wasn't too bad.  We saw all the neighborhoods, most notably La Boca and Palermo.  La Boca is cute and antique looking, but very touristy.  After ten minutes of sleazy street solicitors I was ready to leave.  Palermo was a good distance away and has a distinct feel to it.  A little more upscale and clean than San Telmo, but not overrun with business either.  I liked it over there and never got to see enough of it.  At the end of the tour we were exhausted.  We probably walked five miles that day skipping the bus ride between certain stops.  Another steak and a few more bottles of wine did us in.

Tuesday I was tired of the tourist sprint.  I went out with mom to visit the last of the 'must-sees' in the morning.  These were congress, the theater, and the subway.  Congress and the theater were both inspiring.  Buenos Aires is unique in that there are plazas every few blocks and each one has an architectural masterpiece presiding over it.  And the surrounding buildings are impressive in their own right with intricate balconies and stonework leading eight stories up.  It's desensitizing.  With those out of the way I had seen enough.  Eddie and Lizzie were coming into town that evening and I didn't want to crash beforehand.  I went home and took a nap while Mom took a Tango lesson.  She loved it.

That evening we both went over to Eddie and Lizzie's hostel and together we all put down some drinks.  Then Mom and I went out for steak; we finished dinner around 11:30pm so she went to bed and I went back to the hostel.  This was my last night with Eddie and Lizzie.  Mom and I were scheduled to bus back to Mendoza the next evening and within two weeks the Aussies will be off touring Europe.  So I had to make it count... and I did.  It was a great sendoff from those guys and I'll miss their company.  Regardless, I'll be seeing them again soon somewhere around the globe.  I wandered back to my hotel at 5:00am and crashed hard until 10:00am for checkout.  I managed to wake up with the shits and a crook stomach much to my own undoing.  Luckily the hotel gave us a very extended checkout and a few hours later I was able to walk normal and hold liquids.  Part of it was obviously a hangover, but Mom was crook all day too, so I was apparently waging war on two fronts.

Wednesday the only thing I got done was dropping off Al's shock at a nearby hostel for him to pickup and getting us to the bus station.  Alex won't be to BA until Saturday, so sadly we won't be seeing each other again until we're both stateside.  He's selling his bike to a committed buyer in Buenos Aires and then shipping out early December.  Meanwhile Charlie still has three weeks with Andrew and Greg; he also has made plans with his mom to meed in LA early January.  I haven't gotten details out of him yet, but I would imagine he'll start the shipping process real quick once he gets back to Santiago if he plans to leave the continent three weeks after in the height of Christmas season.  Ty and Jill are out of the picture and living happily ever after.  So that leaves me and my bike and a whole lot of opportunity down here. 

There's a Horizons Unlimited meeting in Viedma, Argentina starting December 8th.  Horizons Unlimited is the most respected adventure travel website around.  At this meeting I would find scores of bikers heading in all directions.  Plenty of stories and inspiration.  Viedma is 1,000 miles from Santiago and I'd have one week to get there.  It's well within the realm of possibility and is starting to look like a brilliant option for me.  Before I commit to anything I want to hear Charlie's plans though.  We've been on the road for months now and it would be blast to knock out one last leg together.  I might even link up with him and his mates depending on where they are.

Like the last eight months my future's all up in the air right now, although it's finally starting to come into focus.  I've decided I'll be coming home in January, the earlier the better.  I want to give it just three more weeks and see Patagonia before I go home, but with Christmas prices eliminating the prospect of air travel for me, I'll just ride a little further and kill some time in my tent down there.  One last push on a well-tuned bike in the decency of Argentina and Chile under one of the world's most amazing backdrops.  I'm expecting a lot of distance and solitude.  However it unfolds, it will be enlightening, a solid end to such a liberating adventure.

November 17, 2011

Family Reunion

The trip was instantly jammed back into fifth gear with Mom's arrival on Tuesday.  The past two or three weeks in Argentina and Chile I had worked myself into a very leisurely 2:00am to 11:00am sleep schedule with nothing but coffee and calories during the daytime.  I was getting nothing done and loving it.  Tuesday morning that all changed; now I'm trying to keep up with her bright-eyed bushy-tail enthusiasm for travel for the next two weeks, something Charlie and I gave up long ago.  It's not a bad change, just a lot more to take in.

Monday night I convinced Charlie to come out for 'a beer' at the Irish pub in Santiago's Bellavista district.  The Packers were playing the Vikings; enough said.  My eyes were glued to the screen the entire evening while Charlie practiced his Tony Soprano accent on a girl from New York.  'A beer' turned into several pitchers and by the time the game ended at 2:00am we reluctantly decided to turn in. 

It's a good thing we did; at 7:30am we were awoken by the local car rental company.  Charlie had hired a Toyota Hilux 4x4 the day before and they decided to deliver it and have us fill out paperwork at the ass crack of dawn the next day.  By the time it was all filled out we barely made it to the airport for my mom's arrival.  Nevertheless, we were there, nursing coffees at the international arrival gate at 10:00am.  After an hour's wait Mom finally popped through the exit and gave me a big hug.  Neither of us got emotional, but I was sure glad to see her.  We all hopped in the Hilux and Charlie drove us home. 

Back at the hostel we dropped Mom's luggage and immediately went out for lunch.  It was a greasy meal, just what we all needed.  Afterward she and I checked into our rented apartment and Charlie drove off for a much-needed nap.  Tuesday afternoon Mom and I walked around Bellavista and took the Funicular (tram) up to the top of the hill to get a 360 degree view of Santiago.  It's a beautiful city from any angle.  On top is a religious sanctuary celebrating the city's 450 years of existence.

We took a break after that for the afternoon but in the meantime I rode my bike over to the Suzuki dealership just two blocks away and pulled out my laundry list of repairs: clean gas tank, clean carb, clean chain, clean the rest of it, lubricate cables, lubricate swing arm, lubricate all other moving parts, new fuel filter, new air filter molding, replace shock, replace leaking hoses, replace anything else broken, missing, or failing.  And while you're at it, fix my horn.  I think there was even more, but that was the meat of the work order.  The technician looked at the 25,000 miles on the odometer and understood.  In the end I said I wanted it to be like new again, and he nodded and smiled.  I was confident in him; when I pulled up he was in the middle of putting together a brand new DR650 right out of the crate.  There were three others still boxed up beside it.  Finally a professional!

That evening Mom and I went downtown to see Santiago's Plaza de Armas in the evening.  It was all pretty mundane to me, but she had the camera on quick draw the entire time.  Around 9:00pm we both got real tired so we smashed some Chinese food, boxed the leftovers, and walked back to the apartment.  We both slept about ten hours that night and were up late morning on Wednesday to see the rest of the city.  We had picked up some groceries and did a brunch in the apartment before leaving. 

Since before she arrived Mom wanted to take a bus tour of the city, so the first thing we did was buy tickets and hop on.  The Turistik bus line was a good way to see the whole city, but in hindsight it was a complete ripoff.  The draw of the scam is that the loop route has thirteen stops and you can hop off whenever you want.  You tour the stop on your own and then wait for the next Turistik bus to come along, guaranteed every thirty minutes.  What I didn't realize until we got on was that the first seven stops are all within a half hour's walk of each other.  And that the other six were gems such as the mall, the shittier mall, and even the Sheraton Hotel.  Of course the buses didn't show up on time once either.  I could have done the entire route on foot with a pair of cab rides in half the time.  Having come all this way via motorcycle, it was very hard for me to resign my schedule to a tourism trap.  But Mom enjoyed it and I'll admit there were some cool things out there that I wouldn't have seen otherwise. 

By the time we completed the loop we were both beat and went back to the apartment for a siesta.  On the way I stopped at the mechanic's shop to check out his progress.  It was all good news; he was halfway done and everything was coming along very well.  While cleaning the carb he found a big blockage on the interior filter of my main fuel intake.  I know that's actually bad news, but it's great to hear that it's gone.  He didn't seem to worried about it and was pretty positive about the rest of the bike's condition.  When I left he was pressure washing the engine with a soapy mixture.  They're taking 'like-new' very seriously.  This stop in the garage might cost me a bit, but it's money well-spent.  The garage is also going to park it for free for the next two weeks while I'm out of town.

Charlie spent Wednesday picking up his brother Andrew and friend Greg at the airport and helping them settle in.  That night we all met at the Irish pub and the Hamersley's put on a show with the help of a lot of red wine.  It was another 2:00am performance and at the end it was me dragging my mother out of the bar.  Charlie, Andrew and Greg were all heading south in the Hilux Thursday morning at it was agreed that we'd catch up again soon before the trip is over.  With that we shook hands and went our separate ways.  Since the Aussie boys are here for an entire month, I hope to catch up with them once Mom flies out and get in on some of the shenanigans.  Judging by their stories from Thailand together, it will be raucous.

Today Mom and I got up, checked out, and hopped on a bus for Mendoza.  It was seven hours including a lengthy stop at customs.  Mom enjoyed it a lot more given that I've done most of that ride twice already.  Still, crossing the Andes, is always pretty cool.  We got a five second window where Aconcagua was in perfect view and the rest of the time just marveled at the ski lifts and cliff faces everywhere.  Now we're in Mendoza with bellies full of steak.  Booked in for two nights here and on Saturday the plan is to overnight to Buenos Aires.  With luck the reunion will continue in BA with Alex as the headliner.  He's finally free and probably in La Paz right now.  Expect some high fives.

November 12, 2011

Looking Forward

I talked to my friend Ryan via Skype the other day and he asked me a good question.  'So you're in Chile right, I mean you've pretty much made it all the way.'  It's a good point, something that I haven't been able to really wrap my head around for the last month.  All that time in Central America and even down through Peru almost seems like a different life now.  I've been living in the moment for so long that it's hard to look back and take in how far I've come.  Or to look forward and figure out what's next.  At least for the next two weeks it's pretty simple: vacation with Mom. 

Charlie and I are back on our own.  We arrived in Santaigo last night with a great sense of relief.  The plan was to meet Allerick and Jina for a farewell dinner, but facebook failed us and they are probably touching down in LA at this moment to continue their trip.  Eddie and Lizzie went south and I'll probably catch up in Buenos Aires in late November.  It was great fun traveling as a gang of six, but the tandem team has its advantages too.  Charlie and I have a lot of motorcycle specific needs when it comes to travel and accomadation.  And spending the last two weeks with two sets of lovers was starting to feel like a lesson in couples therapy.  Charlie and I were the lovable bad boys constantly distracting the doting Allerick and Eddie.  Great fun.

The six of us spent the last three nights in Pichilemu, a small coastal surf town south of Valparaiso.  We rented a cabin on the beach for $100/night and drank and ate way too much the entire time.  There are rolling waves coming into the Pichilemu bay and a constant strong wind.  Pro-quality windsurfers were out every day riding up and down the waves, surfing harder than I've ever imagined.  All the windusrfing I've done has been on flatter water or rocky chop.  Never long rolling waves that you can work up and down as they come in.  It looked amazing.  Knowing there's a reef right under the surface, though, I decided to hold out until I find conditions better suited for me.  Buenos Aires is rumored to be amazing.  I've waited a long time for wind, a little longer won't hurt.

Pichilemu was a blast.  There wasn't much to do, but that allowed us to unwind without the stress of wasting days.  We've been on the run for a long time now trying to find a place we really liked.  Argentina was awesome, but so much so that I couldn't relax; I tried to get too much out of every day.  There was a false hurry built up and finally after Pichilemu it's gone.  I'm back on vacation, wandering around however I please.

Santiago is the best big city I've seen since San Francisco on this trip.  It's expansive, green, spacious, and modern.  On the way in there were no slums.  There are no bums.  No garbage.  It rivals most American cities as far as I'm concerned.  Pedestrians have plenty of space and comfort walking along the avenues, with no holes or jagged rebar as obstacles.  There's a subway connecting all ends of the city.  In the next three days Sonic Youth, Stone Temple Pilots, Primus, Pepper, Damion Marley, and even Pearl Jam are playing.  Charlie and I have been chasing Pearl Jam all over this continent.  First we missed them in Lima, then they were just out of reach in Buenos Aires last week, and now we have a chance here in Santiago.  If I can find tickets I'm going.  A legendary Seattle band 20,000 miles from home would be a fun divergence for a night. 

Chile in general has been better than expected.  I always had my mind set on Argentina as a place to live for a while, but Chile's on my radar now as well.  I don't know that I'm ready to work here yet, but I see myself returning to this part of the continent for another extended trip sometime in the future after I've gone home, recharged, and restocked my bank account.  So far there are three places in the world that I know of that have ample skiing and winsurfing both within an hour's drive: Hood River, New Zealand, and Chile.  My options are limited.

My mom arrives on Tuesday and from then on I will be like everybody else riding busses.  The plan is to spend two nights in Santiago (hopefully see Pearl Jam) and then head east for Buenos Aires via Mendoza and whatever else fits in.  She flies out of Santiago as well so it will be a round trip.  Charlie's brother and friend are flying in on Tuesday as well.  Those two will be here for a month.  They plan to hire a 4X4 and hit Patagonia.  Given the wind and weather down there, I might catch up with them and hop in the cab for that section.  It was nice seeing the unforgiving Atacama from the Land Cruiser.  Patagonia from a Toyota Hilux might also be the way to do it. 

Aside from the still blown suspension the bike is running well.  Up until yesterday I was very concerned about my engine.  It was bogging down and dying when I held it at low throttle.  When I cracked it wide open it roared and held the RPM just fine.  The freeway was fine, but around town had me stalling out.  I got my hands dirty in Pichimelu and ended up cleaning my two airfilters.  That didn't help.  Then I pulled the carb out, disassembled it, and soaked all the components in gasoline to clean them out.  It was dirty in there.  Probably because some mechanic back in Peru or Colombia removed a piece of stripping around my air fliter and essentially broke the seal (I realized that on Thursday).  That's going to haunt me as long as I ride this bike.  Cleaning the carb still didn't do anything so I called out to the ADV community on Alex's blog.  The responses poured in and the next day I figured it out.  Back in Bolivia I had turned my idle screw as tight as it would go so the bike would start up in the cold mornings at altitude.  When I came back to sea level and opened up the fuel mixture screw, I started flooding my carb every time it idled.  And that's why it was bogging out off the line.  I turned it the idle screw back down and it runs like new.  I feel stupid for that one, but on the bright side my carb is way cleaner than it was. 

I've come to the conclusion that I'm not done riding once my mom leaves (a lot has changed since Peru).  When my grandma Bitsey passed away this year she left me a generous four-figure inheritance.  It's allowed me to live a little more lavishly in South America and now gives me innumerable options on how to finish out.  Within the next six weeks I will have spent all the money I left with.  That's an average of just under $2,000/month including every expense incurred since I left Lake Stevens.  There's a figure for all the backpackers who ask me how much money traveling on bike saves me.

I don't want to go much longer, but I'd like to finish strong on a functioning suspension at sea level.  A two or three week trip down into Northern Patagonia would be perfect.  Unfortunately that has me heading home right when all the flight prices spike for Christmas.  That being the case, I wouldn't be able to ship out until early January.  Charlie's in the same mindset and together we're plotting these next couple months.  Brazil is on the table to kill time.  We've also considered shipping to Houston and riding home from there... except it's January and most of the states I want to see are covered in snow and ice.  We'll see; I could still come home as early as mid-December.  But the enchanting mystery of the trip is back, and it's about time.

November 7, 2011


I´m finally in Chile, well ahead of schedule.  The six of us agreed to head to Valparaiso after three nights in Uspallata.  Chile is about 100 miles wide so the port city wasn´t far away.  Charlie and I took off before the bus riders.  On the way to the border we stopped off at a viewpoint for Aconcagua, the highest mountain in South America at 6,900+ meters.  It was a quick stop.  We didn´t want to leave the bikes in their vulnerability and on top of that we were lazy.  We walked about 100 feet for the first view we could see.  In the distance Aconcagua didn´t look as grand as some of the other stuff we saw back in Peru.  When you consider that the mountains surrounding us in the foreground were all 6,000 meters, though, the perspective was warped.  

We hit the border by 11:00am.  It was well-laid out.  Argentine and Chilean immigration and customs work together, making it a one stop shop.  It was still at South American border crossing, though, so it took two hours.  The ride down from the mountains towards the coast revealed what we´ve heard for months.  Chile is the class of South America.  On the road it´s hard to tell you´re not at home.  The gas stations are even better than we have.  Drivers follow the speed limits; you can´t bribe the cops here.  

Since then we´ve spent two nights in Valparaiso.  It´s a nice coastal town with good weather and a huge art influence.  There´s grafitti everywhere, but it´s tasteful, part of the city.  We had a big night out Saturday.  Cover charges of $10 had everyone balking.  Sunday I must have walked a few miles down to the beach and back.  I got lost on my way back and ended up on the wrong hill.  Santiago is a series of hills leading down to the water.  Cerro (mount) Concepcion is the tourist area where we´re staying.  

Today Charlie and I took a cab to the recommended motorcycle shipping agent here in Santiago.  Turns out it would cost around $1,500 U.S. to ship to the United States from here.  I was looking forward to the opportunity to offload the bike, but not for that price.  Now I´m thinking about screwing around down here through Christmas and trying again from Buenos Aires.  Possibly shipping to Miami or Texas and riding home.  It´s not the right time to be motorcycling the states, but weather hasn´t stopped me yet.  Selling is an option too, but I really don´t feel like coordinating with another person while stranded in South America.  

Whatever happens I plan to come back to a like-new bike after my mom comes down.  With a new (used) shock and a full service, it should be more enjoyable than the last 1,000 miles.  With my mom nearly a week away the future is getting bright down here.  She´s bringing underwear, a newer pair of sneakers, and possibly a new computer to replace my currently failing hard drive.  Chile is expensive so I won´t be here longer than I have to.  It´s a good place to find a job, but not great for budget travel.  If I do end up sticking around for a couple more months, it will be in my tent eating steak in Argentina.  I have a hard time writing much down here.  It´s just not as shocking and really nice.  I´ve been sleeping in and eating as much as possible for about two weeks.  Not much is going on, but it´s the break I needed.  I don´t plan to do much in the next nine days either.  Tomorrow we´re all going south a few hours to see something new before heading into Santiago for the family reunion.

Also, congratulations to Ty and Jill who announced their engagement from Ushuaia, Argentina at the bottom of the world.  What an amazing highlight to a life-changing trip.

November 2, 2011

Siesta Time

Catamarca to Mendoza was a long day.  We started late, got lost on the way out, but made it 750 kilometers by 8:00pm.  Argentina is another hour forward, four ahead of home.  The sun stays up well into the evening.  On the way there we met two Argentine brothers on BMW’s.  One of them spoke perfect English and it turned out he had played pro basketball for the San Antonio Spurs.  He was at least 6’8” with hair to his shoulders towering over us.  The R1200 looked normal sized on him.

They said we could make it to Mendoza so we went for it.  We pulled in late, but had a relatively easy time finding our hostel.  It was owned by an older couple who made their money in the U.S.  We parked the bikes, unloaded, and went to McDonald’s.  The next morning Eddie and Lizzie arrived.  Together we went out and chose a new place to stay.  We ended up all four in a dorm outside of downtown in an overpriced, but convenient hostel. 

We stayed in that room four nights, but didn’t do much.  Argentina has turned into a trip completely based around food.  We drank a lot of good coffee, ate out daily, and cooked cheap feasts every night.  It’s nice to get a big weekend in every once in a while.  Argentina is also a ‘siesta’ country.  The whole place shuts down for a nap between 3:00pm and 7:00.  You can’t buy anything, so you take a nap.  It’s brilliant.  One day we skipped the nap and took Eddie and Lizzie as passengers up into the mountains for a picnic to a place called Uspallata.  The little ski town was a great break from Mendoza and we’ve ended up there again tonight.

Mendoza is a great city, but after Cafayate the wine town feel was lost in this city of over 100,000 people.  Mendoza’s easily the best big city I’ve been to since Cali, Colombia.  It’s clean, bright, and colorful.  Full of life all day long with lots of pretty girls.  But after five days of sloth we had to leave.  So this morning we all got up and moved to a cabin in Uspallata.  For $18/night we have a full kitchen, couch, satellite TV, internet, and Eddie and Lizzie finally have a private room.

We met a Californian named Andrew while buying dinner tonight.  He came over for Charlie and Lizzie’s big roast cook.  It was a full meal with plenty of great food.  Tomorrow’s menu is already in the works and it will include sweets from the bakery. 

I haven’t taken a single picture in Argentina.  It’s been such an entertaining place to be on vacation that I can’t be distracted with a camera.  People watching and eating are plenty.  After waiting for so long for this atmosphere, it’s very rewarding.  We’ll spend at least another night here and then head into Chile to explore.  Then I plan to arrive in Santiago by the 10th to start sorting a bunch of stuff out.  Bus schedules, bike shipping, bike selling, and when I want to go home.  I could see myself hanging around a bit longer and getting all I can out of this part.  Getting home for ski season with a little spare cash and starting a routine would be a good change of pace too.  I don’t have a plan, but it’s becoming clear that the trip can’t go on forever.  My mom is bringing down a new shock and bar risers, though.  I’ll have to test them out.