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.