Bob L's SOUTH AMERICA TRIP

DECEMBER 2005 TO JANUARY 2006

This is both a story and a journal of my trip. For those of you new to my travel stories, let me explain. I started writing personal journals with facts and such as a way to remind myself what I did, where I went and how much I liked the places. I shared some of these journals with other travelers and they really like some of them. I also wrote a couple of articles, some of which got published, which people liked. Eventually these stories took on a life of their own after listening to the things people liked about them. Now they are a combination of my personal journal, interesting stories, and ever so slightly exaggerated versions of my experiences. Read what you want and enjoy but don't take my ramblings too seriously. If you have advice or criticism, I will read it. I might not listen, but I will read it.

PHOTOS with Captions

PHOTOS - ALL

SLIDESHOW

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PRE-TRIP

-Yep! I am off on another motorcycle trip. This one is to South America.

-Late last winter I read a story by Dr. Gregory W. Frazier, one of my favorite authors. Greg is currently on his 5th trip around the world by motorcycle. Normally a Lone-Wolf rider, his first four trips around the world were solo. This time he is riding with Donna-Rae Polk. Donna Rae had a dream to make an around the world motorcycle trip as the driver of a bike, but her Parkinson’s Disease is too advanced for that. Donna-Rae is an over 60 year old Grandmother. Greg is a famous international motorcycle adventurer. Together they make one very adventurous team.

Donna Rae's web site is:
www.ultimategloberide.com

Greg's site is:
www.horizonsunlimited.com/gregfrazier

On this trip, the two adventurers buy a bike in each area they go to and sell it afterwards. There first bike, for North America, was a Kawasaki KLR 650. A very good adventure bike. The second bike, for Central and South America, was a 1983 Honda GL650. This is sort of a miniature Honda Goldwing. A small touring bike. Greg had this bike set up for a world adventure by adding a set of aluminum panniers (saddle bags). This is definitely not your typical adventure bike.

The Bike:
www.ultimategloberide.com/pages/buenosaires/buenosaires5.html

You may notice on the picture of the bike the sign "Vendo". I noticed it too. When Donna and Greg were finished with South America, Greg put the "For Sale" sign on it. The bike was sitting in Buenos Aires, Argentina. After much deliberation and a couple of E-Mails back and forth, I ended up making an impulse purchase. I am now the owner of a 1983 Honda.

I was able to find a number of bikes for sale in South America that had US titles. Also, buying a local bike is an option. Shipping a bike down there for a short trip is not a good option since it would cost as much to ship the bike down and back as the little Honda costs, maybe twice as much. Some of my other options actually made more sense than this bike, but there is something about this one. There is something about riding a bike that is over 20 years old, was never imported into South America and is not the typical adventure touring bike that appealed to me. I chose this option.

The sale went well. The first snag was when I tried to get a title. If you are traveling in foreign countries you REALLY need a title. In New Hampshire, they do not issue titles to vehicles over 10 years old. Before buying the bike, I spoke with the Motor Vehicle Title Division and was told they would send me a form since I REALLY need a title. After I bought the bike, I tried to get that form. NH apparently never heard of answering machines or putting people on hold. After many tries, I put the number on speed dial. After a zillion tries, I gave up and tried the Director of Motor Vehicles office. Still nothing but busy signals. Then I decided to go almost to the top, The Commissioner of Safety. If this guy didn't answer, I was going to the Governor. Then Bush!!!!. Well, the Commissioner's office answered, they said someone would get back to me. Low and behold, someone called me within minutes. She didn't know the correct answer, but at lest she tried. She had someone else call me. Guess what? They have no way of issuing a title for my bike. Damn. I solved that problem, but it was not easy.

The second snag I hit was when I contacted the shop where my bike is stored with my arrival dates. The shop will be closed for vacation at that time. There was no way I could change my flights, and no way they could change their vacation dates. This could have been a problem. Javier Kaper at www.dakarmotos.com works extremely hard to accommodate travelers. He arranged for someone to open the shop for me when I get there. If you are ever thinking of traveling by bike in this area, he can sell a bike to you and help you make quite a trip. He has a great reputation with the 'Round the World' travelers.

Another minor snag was when I ordered my travel books from Amazon.com. I checked on line and they had what I wanted. After waiting 3 weeks for delivery, I checked the status of my order and found they would not be delivered until long after Christmas. Possibly just in time for my return home. I cancelled my order and spent 30% more at the book store next to my office.

The final snag, more a scare than a snag, was when I went to register the bike. I had been told that all I needed was a bill of sale. I had a title but did not want to use it since I was afraid they would keep it and I thought it could come in handy, even though it did not have my name on it. When I got there to register it, I was handed a form to fill out, then told the Police would come to my house in a couple of days to look at the bike and confirm the Vehicle Identification Number. I wonder if you can read it off the picture I have of the bike? In the end I went and got the title that the previous owner sent me, no inspection required if you have a title and I was able to keep it.

So far so good.

ITINERARY:

-NONE. Ok, not none. I leave Boston on December 15th to fly to Buenos Aires, Argentina. I am scheduled to fly back on January 16th. Other than that I have no real itinerary. I don't like to plan. I spend some time before a trip looking up things that are worth doing. Then I just go. If I make a plan in the morning, I am usually no longer following it by mid afternoon. My goal on this trip is to just wander. If something happens to the bike making it not worth repairing, I will sell it and find another form of transportation. If I have time, I prefer this way of travel.

I have often considered getting rid of my Harley and just getting a low budget used bike. Then, if something happens to my bike on a trip I can just call Greyhound. If it is early in the trip, I can just buy another bike and continue on. Although, so far, my luck has held out. I have never had a big problem while on the road. A few times I have changed tires because the ones I had wore out faster than anticipated and twice I had to change the cam and lifters. The first time I was in Canada near a friend's house. I was forced to stay at his house and have a great weekend while a dealer fixed my bike under warrantee. I even made a profit when the warrantee company paid me for the fix but converted the currency the wrong way. The other second time I lost my lifters I found an aftermarket shop that had the parts and was open just long enough for me to make it there. This was Sunday afternoon. I changed the cam and lifters on the side of the road on main street and I was off, until that evening when my riding partner's bike broke for good. Ended up riding home in a truck. But that was not MY bike that stranded us.

COMMUNICATION

-I will attempt to e-mail frequently with a story, or at least a quick note on where I am. This trip is being taken during the South America Summer so there will be plenty of light, therefore less downtime in Hotel rooms. I also plan on doing a lot of miles, so don't be surprised if the only e-mails you get are after I get home.

The plan had been to use a Palm Pilot type of PDA to edit my story at Hotels, save the story on a memory card, then copy to a computer at internet cafe's. As it turns out, the Palm has occasionally caused corrupted files. This is a hassle I do not want to deal with. I bought this thing for the sole purpose of traveling, but this piece of crap will stay home.

DISCUSSION

-Yes, I will be gone during Christmas. I do this so that I do not have to buy Irene a Christmas present. Yes, I am that cheap.

-No, I do not really know where I am going or what I am going to do. Probably head south once all the paper work is done and try to hit the most southern (farthest) places since I have four weeks to travel this time and may not have that much time on my next trip. I will probably see at least a portion of Chile and a good bit of Argentina. But who knows.

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THINGS TO THINK ABOUT:

"Even though I don't have all the things I want, I'm really grateful for all the things I don't have that I don't want."
--ZITS

"Half of all the humans that have ever existed are alive today!"

"Sometimes low self esteem is just good common sense."

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SOUTH AMERICA 2005-12-19

From New Hampshire to some place in Patagonia

Just a quick note, I stopped at a roadside internet site to check a ferry schedule and figured I should check in.

I got here safe and sound. Flight was fine, no problem with the tire. Airport security checked my bags and left me a note. Nice people, they left me a Christmas present of my favorite chocolate, all wrapped up and rather soft from the heat. Makes me wonder how they knew what my favorite chocolate is, but hey, they ARE the government. Later I found a Christmas card from Irene, but she didn't leave me a present. That's what I get for leaving during Christmas.

Over New Years I was thinking about taking the ferry from near the southern tip of Chile and up through the glaciers, fiords etc. Supposed to be a great trip but the thought of spending three days and 4 nights on a boat sharing a room with 21 other people just made me shudder. So I will just head to the southern tip of SA, Christmas maybe in Chile, then up RT 40 to the parks etc. Possibly over into Chile but not sure yet.

Weathers been great yadda yadda etc. Will write more when I can.

Gotta go, lots a miles to cover today.

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THINGS TO THINK ABOUT:

"Adults are obsolete children."
--Dr. Seuss

"There's nothing wrong with Florida that a force-five hurricane wouldn't fix"
--Carl Hiaasen

"We spend our time and effort creating exciting new communications technologies, yet half the world does not have access to a telephone. We use the internet to order the latest novel, yet many people in the world don't have access to books. We are now discussing embedded processors to connect our refrigerators to bathroom scales and the grocery store, yet many children in the world go hungry at night."
--Bill Robinson

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SOUTH AMERICA - 2005-12-23-B

To the "End of the World"

In the Southern Most City in the World

Just a quick note.

I Made it to Ushuaia at the southern tip of Argentina. Great scenery and some great roads getting here. I got here late on Thursday (yesterday). I was going to head out this morning and try to make it to Calafate for Christmas Eve but decided that was unreasonable. Although there is not really much I want to do in this city, other than do get here, I will stay until very early Christmas Morning, at which time I will head towards Calafate. I don't know if I will make it there late on Christmas or mid day on Monday. From there I will head north, possibly up Route 40.

The borders (there are a lot of them to cross) have been fine. Even had fun at the last one, although their computer crapped out and it took almost 20 minutes to get through that one.

The roads are fine, although Chile had some gravel roads that when combined with the VERY strong gusty wind made for slow going in parts. Patagonia is famous for it's high winds, but on this trip I would have to say Tierra Del Fuego has Patagonia beat. The Ferry was so bad that I had to hold the bike up, and don my helmet to keep the waves off of me.

The people here are fantastic. Very friendly and helpful. Very few speak any English, yet I have an easier time communicating with some of them than I had with people in Mexico who DO speak English.

The bike is fine, great choice for the roads I have been riding. Rt 3 is straight, in great condition and, although the scenery is wonderful, it is almost 2,000 miles with not a lot of change for the most part. A lot like driving through the American Southwest.

All in all, getting a lot of riding in (3,000 miles so far). Gas is priced similar to the US and for the most part things are fairly cheap. I have been staying at nice places and eating at expensive restaurants for the most part. Hotels running $10-15 and a great steak with dessert and a full bottle of wine is around $11 with tip.

May write more tomorrow if I get bored in this town. 3 nights in the same town, what is the world coming to?

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There is a story of engineers applying for a job at IBM.
The question they were asked was, how does a toilet work?
Answers they gave included all kinds of forces and spin of earth on the axis.
Correct answer: You push the handle and the shit goes away.

"History is mostly guessing, the rest is prejudice."
--Will Durant

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SOUTH AMERICA - 2005-12-24

Snow For Christmas

Still in Ushuaia

Christmas Eve

Yep, Bored. Well not really. There were some things I was going to do today but it is cold and rainy so I decided to duck into an internet cafe, have some good coffee and catch up on some of my writing. Really not a lot to add since yesterday. Met some round the world bikers from Poland Yesterday. www.wimdookolaswiata.pl In English and Polish. There is snow on the hills, it is cold and it feels more like Christmas than it should since there are almost no decorations and no carols playing and no real signs of Christmas.

Here is my first round of Daily Journal Entries, along with other comments and stories as I go along.

15DEC05 Thu

-Left home (New Boston, New Hampshire, USA) at 2pm. Airport was busy. It had not occurred to me before that this was the time that college students finish with their exams and head home, wherever that might be.

-The baggage rules on the web said max weight 62 pounds each bag. I knew I had some margin. When I got there, the rules were max of 50 pounds. My heavy bag weighed in at 48 pounds. Tools etc.

-There was a bad ice storm coming towards New England but fortunately it did not affect my flight. They changed my flight times and I just had time to switch planes in Miami.

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16DEC05 Fri Colón, Argentina
Day Miles = 206 Trip miles = 206

-Got to Buenos Aires, Argentina no problem. I already mentioned the present the TSA people left me.

-The Son of the owner of the shop where the bike is met me at the shop. The bike was ready along with a huge assortment of tools, parts, and other stuff. The bags on this bike are smaller than the ones on my KLR, so I did not have as much room as I thought I would. Plus, all this spare stuff took up one side. I paired some of it down, and just piled my stuff on the back seat. Later in the trip I stored a bunch of it in the fairing and repacked in such a way that there was plenty of room. The only things packed on the outside of the bags are my camping gear and whatever oil, water etc I pick up during the day.

-My real welcome into the country came later in the day. I had already passed through a few traffic checks where they check your paperwork. No problems. Remember, I don't have all the necessary paper work yet. Then, one of these stops they said I was speeding and passed on a double yellow. I DID NOT. I played dumb, spoke a lot of gibberish etc. The cops wore me down and basically said that I could pay 200 pesos cash to him or 400 to the bank and I get a receipt. They had a sheet with all these numbers on it and used that to show me what I owed for my infraction. Foolishly I paid him. As I was leaving he got on his radio and radioed to someone what he had charged me with.

-10 or 15 miles down the road I hit another one of these stops. This time the cop showed me the list of numbers and said he was giving me a discount. The numbers were different from the last cop's sheet, but otherwise looked the same. Also, the infractions I was claimed to have committed were the same. I held firm. He said that if I did not pay cash NOW, he would lock me and the bike up. I held firm, until it looked like he was really going to carry out the threat. He almost had me convinced I was speeding. I asked for and got a receipt. Here I was in the country for only 5 hours and I have already paid $160 worth of bribes err, I mean fines. That's like 10 days of very nice accommodations. This is going to be an expensive trip.

-Camped and ate a great meal and beers for about $7

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17DEC05 Sat Las Flores, Argentina
Day Miles = 391 Trip miles = 597

-Tried crossing into Uruguay so that I could get my paperwork straightened out. The bike had entered the country under a different owner name. It had been in the country for longer than it was supposed to. There were a few other issues also. After my earlier experience with the cops I knew this was going to be fun.

-I told them I lost my paperwork. As bad as my Spanish is, I pretended it was worse. They asked me where and when I crossed into the country. They looked at my passport saying I flew in yesterday, yet I was on a bike. They were all VERY friendly and helpful. They found someone who spoke as much English as I spoke Spanish. A lot a waving papers and acting dumb, one of the guards started looking closely at my title. He did a scratch and sniff. He tried to make the ink run with his spit. He liked the impression from the notary stamp. He brought the title into the back room to consult with his friends. He asked if it was a photo copy, I explained that it was a duplicate given to me by my state department of transportation since I lost the original, or something like that. No one could find my name or the bike on the computer. They were very confused as to how I got here with a bike, and started looking at my passport very quickly. I have a bike with stickers from all over south America, including Patagonia and Tierra Del Fuego, yet the records show that this is my first trip into the country. Finally, I pull out my lonely planet guidebook that has about 3 words in Spanish in it. I point at the word April, which is 8 months earlier. He counts on his fingers and realizes that the bike supposedly has been here for 8 out of the maximum 9 months. His face brightens, he grabs all my paperwork and leaves for about 2 minutes, then comes back and brings my passport to Immigration and says I am finished, good bye and have a nice trip. Uruguay immigration was quick, and everyone was very friendly. I was offered Mate, which is a local tea like drink. I declined, as hanging around a border is never a good idea. Total time for the entire crossing was under an hour.

-I rode south through Uruguay through some nice farm country and crossed back into Argentina. 10 minutes for the entire crossing. Total time in Uruguay, under 3 hours including border crossings. Cost ZERO. These people are great down here. In the first 24 hours I have dealt with 5 sets of border guards/immigration, ALL were nice.

-Rode until dark and got a very nice hotel room and an unbelievably good steak with a whole bottle of good wine for about $20, room, food and all. When ordering food, you can be surprised. You order steak and you get steak, only steak. If you want a salad or potato it is extra and you have to ask for it. Fortunately the people here are easy to understand. Very few people speak English, but for some reason it is easy to get them to understand what you want. The only funny thing, is that if they are not getting through to you, instead of speaking slowly and using simple words, they talk faster and use more words. Kind of like how some Americans speak louder, as if volume would make the person understand.

-Most tolls here are free for bikes. I love this country.

-The town I stayed in was a nice little town that does not get many tourists anymore. They do have a biker event every year and an assortment of other events, but mostly for Argentineans. This town is not mentioned in the Lonely Planet Guide, which is probably why it is still so nice.

-All the people here are friendly and proud of it. Any time I meet someone who speaks English he asks me if the people are being friendly to me. One even said she thought English was a beautiful language. Not something I have ever heard before.

-Stopped at a gas station and they had a bunch of canned food for sale. Pickled Rabbit. Pickled Rodent. Not sure what they are called, but the jar had a picture of it and I have seen this rodent on the road, looks like a small ground hog. Must taste good.

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18DEC05 Sun La Gruto, Argentina
Day Miles = 622 Trip miles = 1,219

-It's like riding in Texas or the American South West, but with a Kansas wind. An unrelenting Kansas wind. Always from the right side. Going down Rt. 3. Straight and excellent condition. At 70 to 75 I am the slowest vehicle on the road except for loaded trucks.

-Ended up in a weird little resort town called La Gruto? Sort of like Hampton Beach, NH in the off season. Not much happening here, prices are a bit high, but the food was good. Getting into town very late in the day I end up settling for more expensive places than I would otherwise. I need secure parking for the bike, and convenience to food etc. Of course, an expensive hotel is $15 to $20. A lot of money if you are traveling around the world on a budget, but if you are zipping through a country for a month it is worth occasionally splurging on these.

-The mix of cars is similar to much of the US. Pickups, SUV's, small cars, etc. Not a lot of beat up vehicles, not many crappy smoky trucks, and the buses are nice. Actually, I have been told that the buses are excellent, with seats that lean back and are easy to sleep in. They all look fairly new. The only oddball thing is the 1960´s looking Ford Falcon. There are a lot of them, and many look new. I mean, brand new. I wonder if there is still a factory some where putting these things out.

-During dinner, I was eating my fruit and ice cream dessert. Bit down on a grape and heard a CRUNCH! Really loud. Started spitting out pieces of a bloody crown. Looked like it must have come off my tooth and I bit down on it so hard that it broke into a couple of pieces. Damn. But it looked odd, and I could not find which tooth it was. Finally I realized it was the biggest damned grape seed I have ever seen. And the blood was the grape juice. Whew.

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19DEC05 Mon Los Piramides, Argentina
Day Miles = 219 Trip miles = 1,438

-Rather desolate here, sometimes seeing a car every 10 to 15 miles. Roads are very clean, no litter and no broken down vehicles. In fact, up through Christmas I have only seen one broken vehicle. I will talk about that one later.

-There is very little obvious poverty here, unlike Mexico etc.

-Found a hotel early at Los Piramides, Argentina. This is a good stop if exploring Peninsula Valdès. I went to the first place on the Lonely Planet Guide List. I should know better. Once a place makes it to the list, the price goes up and the service goes down. It was an OK place and all, although they ran out of water around midnight and I could not take a shower in the morning. I gave myself a big discount when I paid the next morning and did not get any complaints from the owner.

-I ended up changing the rear tire today, which made my gear 15 pounds lighter. It turned out to be extremely easy, even with one tire iron, although I cheated and went to a gas station to inflate the tire.

-Right Whales come here every year to, uhhh, frolic. Unfortunately I was 10 days too late. I knew I was, but I was still hoping. There are lots of sea lions, sea elephants, penguins and other wild life here as well. There are also Orcas here, also known as Killer Whales they are actually VERY large Dolphins. This is one of only two groups in the world that practice an unusual way of catching seals and sea lions. Two or more will work together. One will swim around on one end of the beach, showing his fin, making the seals bunch up on the other end of the beach. The other Orca will deliberately beach himself, catching a seal ON LAND. If you are a seal, it is not safe to go in the water, but land is not much better. This technique has to be taught, and therefore is in danger of disappearing due to the small numbers that do the trick.

-People don't eat here until late. I find that if I am eating at 10pm, the dinner crowd is just arriving and many places. Had dinner with a guy from Holland who is living in New York, just graduated law school and is wandering around South America for a year before going to work. He was in his 20´s I suppose and the waitress who was easily in her 40´s slipped him a note. Apparently propositioning him. He said that happens to him a lot. Hmmmmm.

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20DEC05 Tue Camarones, Argentina
Day Miles = 420 Trip miles = 1,858

-Toured the Peninsula on the gravel roads. This bike works well on them, even fully loaded. Saw Sea Lions, Sea Elephants, Penguins, Birds, Ostriches (spell?), Llama or something that looks like them etc. Those Ostriches are FAST. Running around with their young, I was glad they were too smart to run in the road. Considering how much they must eat, I was glad they don't fly, if you know what I mean. The Llamas or whatever, were mostly smart, but there was one dumb one that ran across my bow. Had I not hit the brakes, I might have been able to have canned llama for dinner. Unfortunately I did not see any beaching Orcas, or any Orcas or whales. By the way, in the photos, the Sea Elephants are the grey ones and the Sea Lions are the brown ones.

-Back at the bike, the ignition switch finally gave up. I knew it was flaky, but the gravel roads killed it. It would not stay on when I hit bumps. I disassembled it and now use the connector as a switch. Put the connector on and the bike runs, remove it and it stops. I will fix this properly later.

-While working on the bike a couple of Armadillos (very tasty I might add) started begging for food from me and others. Never saw that before. There is a little known fact about them that I was trying to remember. Then it hit me, Armadillos are the only animal besides humans that can catch leprosy. Hmmm, that one suddenly did not look too healthy. Hey, get away from me.

-Heading down to Patagonia. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid used to have a large ranch down here, until they were falsely accused of robbing a bank and had to leave.

-The farther south I go the more desolate the land becomes.

-Stopped in Camarones, the Argentinean Salmon Capitol. Had some salmon not like ours at all. The meat was white, not red and not nearly as good. Of course, that is assuming that what I got was actually salmon.

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21DEC05 Wed Santa Cruz, Argentina
Day Miles = 420 Trip miles = 1,858

-Today is the Winter Solstice (summer solstice?), shortest day of the year. The sun is setting around 9:30 pm and rising about 5:30am.

-Gas stations are getting fewer and fewer. At first, any town on the map had a gas station, maybe nothing else, but it had a gas station. I had planned on getting an extra fuel container for the ride up rt 40, now I am thinking I might want one earlier, but can't find one. I stopped at a town and checked the internet for a ferry schedule I was thinking about. I came up with a great plan, but it would require me to stick close to it for it to work, and I hate plans. Anyway, I got gas in that town. The attendant filled the tank near the top, but I insisted he fill it right up to the top. That's only about an extra cup of fuel, but it could help. About 30 miles later hit a town called Olivia. Since I just got gas I did not stop. On the map there was a town called Fitz Roy. Every 10 or 20 miles there was a sign saying how far away Fitz Roy was. I got to Fitz Roy and found it had a Restaurant. Unfortunately, that was all it had. I continued on and saw a truck on the side of the road pouring diesel in his tank. NOT a good sign. I stopped and asked him where their is gas. He confirmed that the last gas was in Olivia. The next gas was, as best I could understand, 30 kilometers away. That made me happy, until I saw the sign for Tres Cerros, 100 km. You see, three zero is pronounced Tres Cero. The trucker was telling me this was where the next gas stop was. That would put it at 180 miles on my odometer. The best I could figure, I could get 175 miles out of a tank of gas at these speeds and conditions. Traffic was getting lighter also. Now I could go for many miles without seeing another vehicle. I slowed to the 50´s, tucked behind the windshield and thought good thoughts. I swear I went 100 kilometers without seeing another vehicle. The only consolation was that the trucker that I talked to was still behind me and as long as he did not run out of fuel he would probably help me. I kept watching the miles rack up on the odometer. I see a sign for a town a little ahead. I get there and the ONLY thing there is an abandoned building that might have once been a gas station. At 159 miles I hit reserve. Finally, I see the gas station WAY ahead, at the TOP of a hill. Why at the TOP? Anyway, I limp into the gas station, and check my tank. I would estimate that I had a half cup of gas left, maybe another 2 miles. This station had no gas cans either. That was about 140 miles between stations.

-At the next town I spent a half hour finding a store with a gas can. They only had one 5 liter one left. Between there and the next town I needed that gas, I would not have made it between stations without it.

-Met 3 crazy Germans on BMW´s. They are here for a month to see Argentina, doing even more miles than me. Of course they were staying off the gravel roads. One of them was telling me how his wide front tire made gravel roads too tough. I think it was more the front and the rear tire piled on top of the bag from hell on the back seat, along with the side bags and large tubes bolted to the bike as storage and the huge tank bag and tank panniers etc. This guy had 6 times as much stuff as me, much of it piled high. They had no camping gear either. I don't know how this bike could make it down the paved roads much less gravel roads.

-A little later I met a large group of guys on Vespa Motor Scooters going from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia and back. Now THAT is crazy.

-Everyone flashes their headlights to say hi. Of course, with so few vehicles on the road this flashing does not happen often.

-They have a great system for phones here, gas stations and stores etc. have large sit down in them booths. You tell the guy at the counter you want the phone then go in and use it as much as you want. A meter racks up the pesos. When done you pay. It costs about 35 cents US per minute, not bad.

-Road signs are pretty good around here, although different. You really need to know which town is next on the map because they do not use north and south. And sometime the signs are a picture of a rotary, which goes by very fast. A few times I had to turn around after going through the rotary to be sure I was going the right way.

-There is almost NO Christmas Decorations or any sign of Christmas here.

-I still can't get over how a good bottle of red wine costs about as much as a liter of beer.

-They have a great way of doing lamb (and maybe other meat, not sure). They string the whole carcass up on racks next to the fire. I will try to get pictures of it. It is excellent.

-The people in this part of Argentina seem to think and act very much like the American Southwest. Friendly, hard working, etc. That may be part of why they are so easy to communicate with.

-The only place I could find with Hotels was Santa Cruz, about 45 kilometers off the main road. When I got there, the cheaper hotels that I could find were either full or did not have safe parking. I went to the place the Germans told me about. VERY expensive at 70 pesos. Uhh, that's about $23US. This place had two bedrooms, 3 beds, safe parking kitchen etc. Rather fancy. The towels were folded to look like a goose or something with leaves stuck in places for accent. I went out for dinner (at 10:30 PM). The restaurant and the internet was still going strong when I left at midnight. Again, a great meal, steak, bottle wine, dessert for about $11 US. When I got back to the hotel, the TV was on and the lights were on. I pulled my knife and searched the apartment. Understand that the only place without carpets was the kitchen I piled up my metal bags and dry bag their since they were covered with dirt. I did not want to mess up the carpet. The place was a disaster area, someone could have been hiding under my pile of gear and I would not have known it. I could find do sign of anyone there, then I saw it. One of the things that a poor slob like me fears most. My bed was turned down and there were candies on the pillow. Nothing like making a good impression as a slobby American.

...................................

22DEC05 Thu Ushuaia, Argentina
The End Of The Earth
Day Miles = 420 Trip miles = 1,858

-Up and out at 6am. I was the only person at the hotel and the owner had to wake up early just to let me out the gate.

-It's a little confusing driving south with the sun behind you.

-I now have 3 gas cans, 5 liters each.

-Much of the day was very cold with occasional light rain and that damned Patagonian Wind.

-Today was Border Day. Crossed the border on Rt 3 into Chile. Very Friendly. Both Argentina and Chile was quick, maybe 10 minutes each. Then down to the Ferry to get to the Island of Tierra del Fuego. It was seriously windy (there's a surprise) and the boat was rocking like mad. I actually had to hold my bike up while still in port. I donned my helmet and kept my riding gear zipped up to keep from getting soaked by the sea spray. Stopped for gas in Chile, they did not take Argentinean money. They did take American Money though. Actually gave me a rate better than the bank rate. Down through Chile the wind was stronger and gustier than it was in Patagonia. This was especially annoying since the road here is gravel. The goal is to ride in the tracks where the gravel was gone and only a hard surface remained. The wind kept blowing me into the piles of gravel between these paths. In some places I had trouble maintaining 35 mph. Crossed the border yet again into Argentina. The computer on the Argentina side screwed up so I was there for almost 20 minutes. Had a lot of fun though, laughing with the crazy Immigration people. Again, the border was easy. The roads in Argentina were mostly paved and the gravel sections were great. There was also a lot less wind but it was getting cooler, it was around 9pm after all.

-About 50 miles outside Ushuaia a German in a Volkswagen Bus stopped me and asked me if I could help. He had a broken axle. He gave me a note written in German, told me his friends were in a campground there and asked me to give the note to any German I could find and they would help. Ummmm, OK.

-Got to Ushuaia, the Southern Most city in the world about 9:30 pm. Also known as the ends of the earth. There are towns farther south, in fact right nearby, but they are not cities. The ride into here has truly stunning scenery and great roads.

-At this hour, it was tough to find a place. It is very busy here and every place I found either was full or did not have parking. After stopping and starting the bike so many times, the battery finally ran out of juice, right near a so called Hostel. This was a very fancy place with a fancy restaurant. It was now after 10 pm. The guy gave me the off season rate of 140 pesos (about $45 US), about half of the normal rate. I was stuck and took it. It was an apartment with a kitchen, bedroom, sitting room with fold out couch etc. VERY nice and the restaurant had great food for what turned out to be a reasonable price for Ushuaia, at least in the tourist areas.

-Oh, Yeah, the German. I was NOT going out driving with the dead battery. I found some Germans who translated the letter and said the guy was very frantic. I don't know how long he was stuck there. I could find no Germans with cars, so there was nothing they could do. Well, he did say he had enough food for 4 days.

...................................

23DEC05 Fri Ushuaia, Argentina

-Had my complimentary breakfast and headed out to see the Glacier and other sites here. Was thinking I would head out and make it as far as possible so I could be in El Calafate for Christmas Eve. But first the German. I rode out to the various campgrounds that I could find. No Germans. I tried one last one and there was a German guy in a Mad Max kind of Travel Camper. This looked like something you would use to blaze a trail in the jungle. The guy said he would take care of it. The guy with the VW was right, find a German and they will help.

-Seeing what I wanted to see took a little longer than I thought. I decided I should stay in Ushuaia for Christmas Eve. A German recommended a nice place to stay. A bed and breakfast for 50 pesos. Very clean. There was only one other guest there.

-A lot of round the world bikers meet here for Christmas and New Years. I met a couple from Poland, and their Polish friend from Florida.

-----------------------------------------------------------

QUOTES

"Anything worth doing is a lot more difficult than it's worth."

"It's good to have an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out."
Anonymous

"the cost of a thing is the amount of what I call 'life' which is required to be exchanged for it immediately or in the long run."
Henry David Thoreau

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SOUTH AMERICA - 2005-12-30

Summary only

Last time I wrote I was in Ushuaia, the southern tip of Argentina. I had decided to stay for Christmas Eve. Stopped by the campground where Round the World Motorcycle travelers gather. Had a Christmas Eve Dinner that could not be beat. Home made salmon and all kinds of fixings with great wine and conversations. Left them at 2 am saying a quick good bye and said that I would probably see them the next day for Christmas dinner. When I woke at 5:30 am I decided to get out of town, as I had been there for too long already. Sorry that I missed Christmas Dinner, but I needed to keep moving.

I went to Calafate for two nights to see the very cool Perito Merino Glacier, which is not to be confused with the Perito Merino National Park or the Perito Merino town. At the Glacier I met a friend of the previous owner of my Honda. Small world.

From there I went up the infamous Route 40 up to the town of Perito Merino. A mostly dirt road known to be one of the worst in Argentina. I did not find it all that bad, as far as dirt roads go. It is awful long though. I missed a turn after Perito Merino and ended up taking paved roads to Rt 3 and up to Esquel. Riding in town trying to find a hotel my bike started overheating, then, just as I was parking it the bike started getting VERY cool, according to the temp gauge. Note to self, pay attention to this.

Hmmm. While I write this I am listening to A Whiter Shade of Pale, IN SPANISH. Very weird.

The scenery down here is AWESOME. The only problem is there is so much of it. Like Texas, Nevada, Utah, Alaska, Colorado, Aridzon etc but multiplied by four. Not a lot of people and the awesome scenery goes on forever.

The bike has been great. I did a light tip over on some gravel. I was in some desert like environment and was distracted by some Flamingos. I drifted into some loose gravel and when my speed went to zero I tipped over onto the bags, not even a light scratch. On one of the good roads, I was surprised by some unpaved part and bent an exhaust clamp, and this morning in the parking lot of the hotel the bike fell over. The only real damage of the trip. The bags were off, the bike fell into a depression in the dirt parking lot and I could not keep it straight. It fell with the fairing in a hole so nothing hit there, but the mirror hit hard and broke the internal bolt and I snapped off the end of the clutch lever, right where I would have cut it off had I prepared the bike for dirt roads. So all is right with the world, except now I need to fix the mirror.

I lost a bolt on the saddle bag. Not sure when, it was gone for a while I think. I wasted a morning trying to get one and ended up jury rigging it. That time waster convinced me to skip going into Chile where a long delay could become complicated. I decided to head up north then over to Iguaçu Falls.

When I die, if I behave, I will come to Argentina, for the steaks. All are great, although I have had a few surprises. Today I almost got internal organs. Fortunately we finally communicated well enough to stop that.

My feet feel like I have walked 500 miles. That makes no sense since I really only stood 500 miles. When you ride in crappy dirt roads, it is best to stand on the pegs. I have been doing a lot of that on this trip.

Did I mention how good the steaks are here? Many of the cuts are very different from we get back home.

Anyway, as I said, the bike has been great. Great for the many miles of good roads, light enough to handle the dirt roads. Early on I had to bypass the ignition switch, but that was no surprise. I knew it was flaky and figured it would go eventually. Right from the start I had to occasionally rock the bike in gear to get the starter to properly engage. Sometimes I would just push start it to save time. I have had similar problems with my Harley and believe me, the Honda is easier to push. These things tend to get worse over time and this one did. It is the starter clutch. It is a pain to replace on the Harley, and easier on the Honda, if you can find one. You have to drop the engine, but that is not too hard from what I can tell. I may fix it for the next trip. Maybe.

So, yesterday, riding into town the bike was getting hot then the gauge said it was cold. Assumed the fan switch was getting flaky, forgot about it. Today I rode to the park and the temp gauge was at zero after going slow for a while, then coolant started pouring out. Checked my volts and they were down to about 5. Did some tearing apart and investigating. Thought it might be that the cooling fan had a stone in it jamming it causing high amps (just one of the many possibilities) Everything else checked out as far as the volt meter was concerned, yet it was not charging. I headed for town, figuring I would be fine until the Fan came on and then I would be pushing. No reason for the fan to come on until I hit traffic. Sure enough, a half block from my hotel the fan came on and there was not enough volts to run the engine.

I will be in this town for New Years eve and probably New Years Day. Still not sure what exactly is wrong, will replace the voltage regulator just for the hell of it since I have one. There is supposedly a motorcycle mechanic in town and there is a known good one about 90 miles away. with a charged battery, if it was in prime condition, I could possibly make it. If I bought a car battery, I could definitely make it.

So far, I have done everything I set out to do except the national park I am so close to. I have done it in half the time. I made much better time than I ever thought possible. The only big attraction in Argentina that I want to see is the Iguaçu Falls (and Buenos Aires). I can do those by bus or plane or next trip if I had to. I had not expected to have time on this trip anyway. The bike has served me well and I have almost gotten my moneys worth. I think the bike is fixable, although I do not know if it is fixable without a parts search in the US. My next trip is currently looking like Bolivia and Peru.

For this trip, my options are:

1) to fix the bike here or in the next town by myself or with a mechanic.

2) Leave the bike at a mechanic here or in BA and fix it when I get back or have them do it.

3) Sell the bike, kinda hard to do if it needs repairs. Besides, I really like the bike and want to do more trips on it.

Assuming I fix it in a reasonable time, I will drive to the falls before BA. If not quickly fixable, I will try to visit the falls after taking care of the bike in whatever way I need to.

Maybe I will take some Spanish classes so I will not say I am pregnant when I mean I am embarrassed. Of course, all this steak and wine is making me look pregnant, but I really am just embarrassed.

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SOUTH AMERICA - 2005-12-31

Keeping you all up to date on the continuing adventure. Today, Dec 31, I tried to do some trouble shooting, but there was insufficient battery juice to even start the bike. Last night I met an Argentinean from this area who is living with his wife in Holland or something ( I had just finished a $1.50 bottle of wine at the restaurant so my memory is hazy). Had a great talk, but the main thing is he found out for me where there is a Motorcycle Mechanic. Not sure if this was the only guy in town, but it looks like it. Today I went over there. They work mostly on small bikes, ATV´s and generators. Two of the young guys that worked there went with me to the hotel with a jump starter. I tried to explain to them that that would not work, but never got through. My first experience with driving in a city with no traffic signs when I was not in control. Very smooth.

Anyway, the jump starter did not work but they said they would push me to start me. From what they said, I believed that they wanted me to ride back to the shop and that they would follow. I knew I did not have enough battery juice to get there, but I figured they would push me the last few blocks. I got to within 3 car lengths before she quit, I had to ride fast to even make it that far. They eventually figured out where I was and through someone who spoke a little English explained that I was supposed to follow them to an electrical mechanic two blocks from my hotel. They towed me there with an ATV, rather exciting. Remember, no traffic signs, lights or rules.

When we got to the electric shop, the guys from the bike shop told me to wait there and then headed out. Never asked for money, did not seem to want any. Just helping out a traveler. Did I mention how great the people are here?

Anyway, the Electrical guy tried to help, but with a flat battery, we really could not do a good diagnosis. He had the O-Scope at the ready, but the bike only ran for a short bit after a short charge. He came to the same basic conclusions as me. I asked where I could get a battery charger and he took me in his van to get one. Is seat was on a spring like one of those old rocking horsed kids used to get maimed on at the park. At least that is what it felt like. The seat spun around and rocked in all directions. Hell of a fun ride in town. I got a charger. I had a choice between one too tiny to do anything other than maybe maintain a charged battery in storage or one that was almost the same size as the battery. I chose that one. Much more expensive than in the states. Prices down here are much less than the USA until you get into things that are imported. Imported things (China etc) are as much as the USA or even double. Import taxes and all. These things must be prohibitively expensive for the locals. That could explain why many things are hard to find, too expensive for many people to want.

We finally gave up trying to diagnose the bike until the battery is fully charged. I will buy a Car battery this afternoon. I would get it now but all the stores are closed. People live by a different schedule around here. I have trouble finding a restaurant that is open for dinner because it is too early and many don't open until after 7pm. Many shops are open for a little while in the morning, then close until late afternoon. When I am going to bed at 10 or 11 pm, people are just getting out. I assume businesses are closed in the afternoon so that the people can take naps.

I am having a great time. Had this happened in the first week of the trip it would have been a disaster, but being at the halfway point and with having done so much already, it is almost adding to the adventure. Damned these foreign bikes, not reliable like my Harleys. Hell, it's only 23 years old!

Anyway, I will head out either January 1 or 2 with a car battery strapped to the seat. I should have no problem getting there with the car battery, as long as I do not need my fan much, and I should not unless I get stuck in a traffic jam. Not much chance of that happening. Will search out a friend of the guy who is going to store my bike. From there, nothing is certain, but it never is.

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SOUTH AMERICA - 2006-01-01

Decided not to keep you all in suspense. Yesterday, as I said I was helped by a small MC/ATV shop and an electrical guy. The kids at the MC shop push started my bike then towed me etc. They were exhausted by the time we were through as the bike would not run for long, due to the dead battery I thought. Later, at the electrical shop, the guy and his father pushed me up and down the street, until I finally got the bike going. I rode back to the shop and by the time the guy and his father got back the bike was ready to die. He confirmed what I knew, that the bike was not charging, but there was nothing else to be done without a way to keep the bike running. Normally I would have charged the battery and then tried again, but it was new years eve and no one wanted to work in the afternoon. I figured once I had a charged battery I could diagnose the problem as well as he could. Just that I do not have much for spare parts in that area. I had wired up the spare voltage regulator at one point but with the dead batter I just did a quick test which seemed to say it was still no good.

The electrical guy said to meet him at 4pm to go get a battery, because all the shops close from around noon to around 4. This being New Years eve, most did not open in the afternoon so we wandered all over town looking for a battery. Ended up finding one at a gas station almost next door to the electrical shop. They only had one size, extra large, with two capacities, 3 and 4 times the capacity of my regular bike battery. For a few extra dollars I decided to super size. Should be able to ride 10 hours or more on the car battery alone. Even if I never fix the alternator, I can continue my trip. Now I have a HUGE battery and a charger that is almost as large as the normal bike battery.

Had a great time hanging around the electrical shop. Trying to talk in Spanish and watching the guy work on all kinds of different cars. The guy really wanted to help, but there is a point where it becomes too much of a pain to let someone help you. I said my goodbyes and walked the two blocks to my hotel.

This morning, New Years Day, I got a late start due to some celebrating last night. I pushed the bike, and pushed, and pushed. Could not seem to get it to fire. All packed up with all my gear on and it getting very hot. I finally gave up and waited for someone to walk by. This being New Years day there were not many people out. Eventually a guy helped and pushed me a couple times until I got it going. He was pretty tired too. I got about a mile down the road and the bike petered out. Felt like it ran out of gas. Son of a bitch! I knew just what it was, the vacuum line to the fuel valve. If this is off, you get no fuel. I felt for it and it sure felt like it was there. It turns out that I had attached it to the end of a bolt rather than the fitting it was supposed to go to. That would explain why we could not get it to keep running yesterday. It actually makes me wonder why it was going at all. I will have to check it for leaks.

Anyway, now there was no fuel in the carburetors. You need to get the engine to spin to get the valve to open to get fuel to flow. I drafted some poor chap who was walking by. By the time I got the bike to fire he was ready to go back to bed. I think he was hung over.

So I rode here on the bike battery alone to see how it would hold up. I rode for about 2.5 hours and the volts did not change. They stayed at 12.5 for the whole time. This is on the spare Voltage Regulator. I changed it before I left. I do not know what the original voltage regulator was doing, but this one is putting out a few volts, possibly enough to maintain the battery if I do not use much power. A couple of times the volts went up to 14 volts, it really should be 14.5 to 15 volts. The stator is putting out some juice, but not enough. Not sure why, I have some ideas, but none of them are fixable on this trip. I will ride up to Iguaçu Falls north of BA and then back to BA.

So, my New Years Eve Celebration. I was having a beer at an outside table watching the girls and wondering why there were so few people in town. There was a radio station or something with some cute girls selling tickets to something across the street. I ordered another beer and the waiter looked at me weird and then said OK. He came back with the beer and started folding up the tables. It was getting cool and windy so I figured they were just shutting down the outside tables. It turns out the restaurant was closing. Most of the town had never opened up today. I was getting used to restaurants not opening until 7 or 8pm, but this was crazy. The entire town was closed. No restaurants, no anything. I asked the girls at the radio station and they said there was a party at the end of town that I had to go to as it was the only thing happening in town and it was great. Sounded good to me. I looked at the tickets and saw a time that made no sense. From what the girls told me the party starts at midnight and really does not get going until 12:30 or 1am. I told them I was an American and I would be in bed at that time. They looked at me like I was a Martian.

I found the last open store in town just as they were closing and got a bottle of wine. Then searched the town. The only place that was open for food was right next to my hotel. It had one meal and one price for New Years. I sat down with two former marines from Montana and Texas who were here fly-fishing and had dinner. There were only foreigners in the place. And it was not full!!! To think, this is all the people in town that did not go to the party? Anyway, that was my celebration, dinner with some foreigners. Even the Marines packed it in early so they could rest up for fishing.

Since I set out late and was heading for El Bolson to find a mechanic, I decided to stay there. I will not need the mechanic after all, at least not now. This is a small town a little touristy, but back packer type touristy. I hit the only real rain of the trip today, just as I was rolling the bike into the garage of the hotel.

Anyway, I will keep you all informed if the situation changes for the bike or otherwise. This is such a great bike I really do hope it can be fixed.

................................................................................

QUOTES

"Think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?"
--The Sundance Kid to Butch Cassidy in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

"When in doubt, Duck"
--Malcolm Forbes

"The more we learn the more we realize how little we know."
--R. Buckminster Fuller

"The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them."
--Albert Einstein

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SOUTH AMERICA - 2006-01-16

Here is the final installment of my Argentina Story. As a quick summary, I stopped in El Bolson as planned, but decided to continue with the bike as it was. I had a nice ride up through the Pampas and other areas on the way up to Iguaçu Falls in the north east corner of Argentina. The falls were magnificent. Then I went back to Buenos Aires (BA) to store the bike and fly home. All in all the trip was great. The bike was perfect, and even the assorted problems I had were not a real problem. The only significant problem since the last installment is that the clutch cable broke and my spare was too short so I had to jury rig it. In some ways, the problems and the solutions enhanced the experience. I currently plan on going back there next year and take the bike to the western side of Argentina, then up through Bolivia and into Peru, possibly leaving the bike in Bolivia for my next adventure.

The following is just a day to day journal. There are some funny stories embedded in this mess.

...................................

24Dec05 Sat Ushuaia
end 45062 Day Miles = 12 Trip miles = 2960

-Here in Ushuaia, there are many camping and trekking opportunities, also tour boats to penguin colonies, sea lions etc. Also some eco-tours to see the wildlife. Along with the native species there is the European Hare and the North American Beaver, both introduced species that have been raising havoc on the environment for years. I am told that some of these "Eco-Tours" concentrate on the introduced species since they are so easy to find. I did none of these things. This is a Motorcycle Tour. If it does not involve the motorcycle, I probably will not be doing it.

-Had Christmas eve dinner with the Round the World bikers.

-My only regret is that I did not take any pictures. There were so many cameras going that I just never got around to taking mine out.

-One conversation with a German was interesting. We were discussing whether a person, specifically me, who was fairly conservative could just quit everything and up and leave. He said of course, that he was conservative and he did it. I just had to set my mind to it and just go. I talked about health insurance, etc. etc, etc. He was adamant, that I could just give it all up and go, like him. Later I found out that he had a guaranteed job when he gets home, and that there is no way he would have done this trip unless he had the guaranteed job.

...................................

25Dec05 Sun Calafate
end 45645 Day Miles = 583 Trip miles = 3543

-Up fairly early and on the road. Wheels in Motion at 7:45 am. Felt great despite having gotten in at 2am

-Roads and town were empty. The RTW bikers were going to take a trip out to some southernmost point you can drive to and have a group photo taken. I chose to leave town as I just can not stay in one place too long.

-To get back to Patagonia I had to travel on great roads through some of the most incredible scenery. Then cross the border into Chile for some horrible roads with no real scenery. Cross a short Ferry and then another border back into Argentina.

-At the Ferry, while waiting, I saw a sign saying "Caution, Mine Field." Not sure why there would be mines here, or if in fact there were still mines there. I decided not to go for a stroll of the road.

-At the border back into Argentina it was quick and easy, as are most borders here. They did not even give me papers for the bike. I insisted, and eventually got them to make some up. I didn't want to go through that whole missing paper thing again.

-The Ferry south was free. This one, when I got on, I was told to go inside and get buy a ticket. I did not want to leave my bike alone running, I did not want to shut it off as I was in front of all the other vehicles at the bottom of a ramp, and my starter was iffy at this point. I shut the bike off, went in and waited in line hoping my bike would not fall over as it did on the crossing south. When I finally got to the window I was told I did not need a ticket. Back at the bike, ready to dock, I tried the starter. It fired right up. The entire trip it was like this, the only time it really worked, was when it really needed to work.

-The ride to Calafate was uneventful. Just putting on the miles.

-Calafate is a tourist town. That makes it horrible in my book. It is there as a base for people exploring the Perito Merino Glacier. Things are expensive, relatively. I found a very nice hostel, but to have my own room I had to get a double, paying $35 for the pleasure. It was nice, with back packers, including a group from Vermont.

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26Dec05 Mon Clafate
end 45748 Day Miles = 103 Trip miles = 3646

-Met someone who had been in Ushuaia about the same time as I was. They met the frantic German with the Volkswagen. He was still having trouble finding his friends. Still Frantic. Somehow I had the feeling his "friends" were franticly avoiding him.

-Rode up to the Glacier. Met, yet again, a Brazilian who had the same bike as mine, in the 500cc version, back in Brazil. He and his wife are on tour on a BMW.

-Took the boat tour up to the glacier. VERY impressive. There are two lakes, one on each side. Every few years the glacier blocks the flow of water from one to the other. One side gets higher until it finally breaks through in a most dramatic fashion. It will probably be breaking through this year. Would love to see that. There are a lot of walkways that you can take to view the glacier from different angles. The best thing to do is just stand and watch and listen. The cracks and pops from the glacier break the silence and sometimes huge chunks break off and fall into the water. This glacier is moving 5 feet a day.

-Back in Calafate, I ran into a guy with an AJS British motorcycle. He wanted to trade his bike for mine. At that moment, if I could have figured out a way to get it home and registered, I just might have made the trade.

-Met a friend of Gregory's that recommended a place in Bolivia where I can store the bike on my next trip.

...................................

27Dec05 Tue Perito Merino
end 46154 Day Miles = 406 Trip miles = 4052

-Left on Rt. 40 north. The road was pretty good, the scenery was similar to different parts of the USA all jumbled together. Mountains, Glacial Lakes, Jagged Snow Covered Peaks, New Mexico/Arizona/Utah and a little Texas like landscapes. All kinds of scenery. There were times I saw NO cars for up to an hour. Long distances between gas stations, really was a good thing I had the extra gas.

-The gas cans that I found here are crap. They are made out of the same material as a milk jug back home, just a bit thicker. They eventually leak. That is why I had three. If one leaked, I would still have two left. As it turns out, one good one would have been enough, but more just makes you feel better.

-Although RT 40 is supposed to be a really bad road, I did not find it to be. It turns out that the real problem is the wind, which for some reason I did not hit much of. The only parts that I found were especially bad were they were paving the road. There would be this new ribbon of asphalt, next to the horrible dirt road we were forced to ride on.

-Argentina has some truly incredible landscapes, but they go on forever. This is not the kind of place for those that do not like riding long distances.

-Got to Perito Merino, the town, not the park or the glacier, at a reasonable hour. This was a nice small town. Nothing to offer the traveler but a few decent hotels and a few decent restaurants.

...................................

28Dec05 Wed Sarmiento
end 46504 Day Miles = 350 Trip miles = 4402

-Woke up fairly early and headed out. The offices in the hotel were closed, as was the restaurant.

-On the way out of town I saw a mechanic, and remembered my broken/lost bolt on my panniers. I asked, and he sent me elsewhere. After a number of stops asking people and passing back and forth through town I found the places that I could buy bolts, but they were not open yet. I stayed and had breakfast. I went to one place which did not have what I wanted. A lady comes out to me and starts talking fast to me in Spanish. It took quite some time for me to get here to slow down. Finally I recognized the word for bill (la quinta). And eventually it dawned on me that I had not paid for the hotel. I went back and apologized and paid. In Argentina, most places expect you to pay when you leave. I tend to leave early before anyone is up, and I never think about paying. Although the only place I stiffed was the campground where I could find no one to pay, I came close a number of times. Get up, pack the bike, drop the key off then start to leave before I remembered. I am going to have to start putting in a fake passport number in the book when I check in.

-Sarmiento had no hotels with private baths, which is not a problem. Frankly, many times shared baths are in better repair and possibly even cleaner. The streets were mostly dirt. Cops on the corner did not seem to be necessary. When communicating with people who do not speak English, sometimes the hardest words to understand are the English words. For example, I was looking for a restaurant that was open, two police recommended a place who's name was not pronounceable by me. I walked around the area where they said it was, but could not find it, until I looked at the sign for Heidi's. There actually was an extra Y in the name somewhere. They pronounced every letter, as you would in Spanish, I am still not sure what they did with the apostrophe. It did not even sound like a word. I have run into this before.

-Some trips I stop at all historic sites and museums. Some trips I just ride. This is a just ride kind of trip.

-Another interesting experience with words. I needed the bolt, so I thought I would use my small Spanish/English dictionary to find the right words. I looked up Bolt and got "the horse bolts from the barn", I tried Nut and got "Loco". I tried washer and got "woman who washes cloths". I tried screw. Let's just say that I did not want to walk into a hardware store and ask the guy to give me a screw!

-Banks are pretty much everywhere. I even saw the "Bank of Boston, Argentina"

...................................

29Dec05 Thu Esquel
end 46825 Day Miles = 321 Trip miles = 4723

-Stopped at the Petrified Forest near Sarmiento. Felt like I was in Utah. Very nice walk through the logs with the small chips of wood making a musical sound as you walk on them. Of course, there was no information in English. Although this would be an easy thing to do, I agree with them to not cater to other languages. I was talking with an American woman, from California I think, that was trying to convince me that America should compromise and go fully bilingual. I was trying to see how this could be a compromise. I guess it is like a marriage where one party says to the other party, lets compromise. You get rid of your motorcycle. That's a compromise?

-By now the bike is starting less than half the time. I just push start it most of the time.

-The town of Esquel has lots of camping, fly fishing and other outdoor activities that one could do. My original plan, before I had my problems with the bike, was to head up into the park and camp and possibly even rent a pole and fish. Never happened.

...................................

30Dec05 Fri Esquel
end 46890 Day Miles = 65 Trip miles = 4788

-This was the day I went up into the park and had my bike overheat, then realized I had a problem with the charging system.

-In most towns, even Buenos Aires, there are few stop signs or traffic lights. Intersections have no controls, and no rules that I can discern. Surprisingly, there are no accidents. People just know what to do. They even are able to avoid hitting lost people on big bikes. They also throw kids in ATV's into the mix. As I said, no real rules as far as I can tell.

-Renault's are very popular here. One type of Citroen that I see a lot of yet I never got a picture of one looks like a flattened out Volkswagen Bug. These are all old, probably from the 60's. Some are in great shape, some are in terrible shape. These things are so simple, they rival a Ford Model T in simplicity, and reparability. People just keep these things going forever. Maybe a better way to describe them would be like a lunchbox. The engine is about the size of a lunchbox.

...................................

31Dec05 Sat Esquel
end 46895 Day Miles = 5 Trip miles = 4793

-People in Argentina are Welsch, German, Polish, Italian, Spanish, Native Indian etc. Very American type melting pot.

-Carlos and his Father were the ones that helped me out with the bike.

-It's a little confusing looking at the night sky. Orion is there, but he is upside down. I was concerned that he might lose his sword. Traveling north with the sun in your eyes is confusing, but worse is when you are heading northwest or whatever and try to figure out if you are heading the right way. A couple times I had to stop and think and twist my brain around to convince myself I was not lost.

-The internet cafe's are inexpensive at around $.50/hour. Telephone calls to the US are not bad and very clear. Coffee is pretty good, but rather expensive. The espresso like strong coffee, regular coffee like strong coffee, gas stations have machines that make good, strong coffee, even their instant is like pretty good strong coffee. I had few bad cups of coffee, only a couple really great cups.

-A lot of people drink Maté, a tea like drink that takes some getting used to. It is very strong and a little bitter. Some drink it with sugar. To drink Maté a special cup or gourd is filled with the ground up Maté. A metal straw is placed in the cup. This straw has a bulb on the end with holes in it to filter out the grounds. The mug is filled with hot water, then the hot tea is drank through the straw until it is gone. This is very hot, which I found the hardest part of getting used to it. The mug is filled with hot water again and passed to the next person. You usually drink this stuff in groups. I liked it, but only had one chance to drink it.

-My talks with the Marines was interesting. One wants to be an outfitter, taking people on fishing and hunting expeditions. He did not have a lot to say, but I got the feeling he does not yet have the patience to be a good outfitter. The other, had some schooling in economics and had bad things to say about how Argentina is run. He thought the people had a poor work ethic and were inefficient etc etc etc. Everyone of the things he said I have found completely the opposite. There is a very good work ethic here, although the hours are very different than in the US. I found them to be very efficient. The infrastructure is somewhat lacking, but that is the Government, not the people. On a different note, they had served in Iraq. Others, mostly older soldiers I have met felt that we were doing good in Iraq and that we need to continue. That the people were mostly good and although is was going to be a long road, that we should continue. These two marines felt that we were doing good but that the people were not worth saving. That we should get out of there and let the country collapse on it's own since the people are not worth it. I am surprised to see such pessimism, but from what they said, they served in some backwater area and already seem to have a pessimistic view of things not American, such as Argentineans.

-Liter of beer $1.60, bottle of wine $1.60 Tough Choice. Spaghetti 18 Peso, Big, thick juicy steak 12 peso. Tough choice.

...................................

01Jan06 Sun El Bolsón
end 46997 Day Miles = 102 Trip miles = 4895

-Rode up to El Bolsón where there was a bike mechanic that I was told would take care of me if I needed it. Great scenery on the way up there. The town is a little bit hippie, a little bit fishing, a little bit back packer. Nothing special, but an OK place to stop. If I had left earlier I might have gone to Bariloche, which is a nice town set in some incredible mountains.

-I decided I could get away with the bike the way it was for the rest of the trip. I could not tell for sure if the alternator was putting anything out at all. The battery voltage would stay at 12.5 volts, but then the battery was big enough for a truck. I could continue forever like this.

...................................

02Jan06 Mon Nuequen
end 47375 Day Miles = 378 Trip miles = 5273

-More great scenery up past Bariloche. From there it went Utah. I even went to Villa El Chocòn in Patagonia on the way to Neuquén to see Dinosaurs. This is where the big bad dinosaur from Jurasic Park came from. Nice museum and display, but all in Spanish. There was a woman giving tours that helped me on the few questions, but since it is science, most of the words I could understand. This is also the place where there is a HUGE dam and power plant. Kinda like Lake Powel in the US.

-Coming into town, busy roads and lots of traffic, my bike was getting hot, overheating. I decided to find the first hotel I could see. I stopped to ask an old guy and he just looked up. I looked up, and there was a banner over my head that said HOTEL in VERY large letters. I stopped the bike and it turned out to be the Lonely Planet Guides recommended place. It turned out to be pretty good anyway. I checked the bike and found the fan switch for the radiator had not been put back on properly by me. I went and had the special of the day at a small restaurant with a bottle of wine for a total of $5 with tip.

-I discovered there is some confusion with my using the term "Backpackers". In traveling, a backpacker is some one traveling with a back pack. The same kind of pack someone would use for long hikes in the woods, only many of these people don't even have a tent. With public transportation, a back pack is often the easiest way to carry your luggage. Long walks from bus stations to Hostels are a lot easier with your luggage on your back instead of in your hand. And dragging a suitcase, even with wheels, down a crowded street possibly filled with dog s**t is not attractive either. Some of these BPs do actually hit the trail and camp. I have met guys with small back packs that said they have a tent, sleeping bag and cooking gear etc and that they sometimes hit the trail for weeks. I have also met backpackers that had packs bigger and heavier than me that said they did not even have a sleeping bag. To each his own. When I left the last hostel with all my gear for the flight home, I looked at what I had. Even with all the riding gear, tools, etc I had only a little more stuff than some of the back packers that were not even camping. Many of these BP's are young, just out of college. From all over the world on all kinds of trips, from one year in Argentina to 6 months around the world to the complete unknown.

-The other confusing term is "Hostel". A hostel, also sometimes known as Youth Hostel or International Hostel, is a hotel. Most stay in the dorm rooms, which can have anywhere from two beds to rows of bunk beds. Most rooms have two or three bunk beds for a total of 4 to 6 beds. The rooms are often co-ed. The baths are shared by all. They usually have a common area to socialize and a kitchen to cook your own food. They are great places to stay if you are going to be someplace for a while. They often have private rooms, sometimes with private baths, but these tend to be as expensive or even more than local hotel rooms. Especially if you are a single and they only have double rooms. They are my preferred place to stay if I will be somewhere for a number of days mainly because of the socializing. Most of the people there are young. Being a liberal/conservative (Massachusetts would consider me a conservative, Colorado might consider me a liberal) or better, a Libertarian, I can engage these kids in some interesting conversations if the right amount of alcohol is poured. My preference is to disagree with whatever view they have, since many of these kids seem to never have anyone disagree strongly with them. Hostels can be a lot of fun. What I found out though, is that a Hostél?? is NOT a Hostel. I got sucked into a few of these, which turned out to be relatively expensive hotels.

...................................

03Jan06 Tue Santa Rosa
end 4797 Day Miles = 422 Trip miles = 5695

-Santa Rosa is a nice enough little city. Not cheap, but convenient enough for the day and lots of pretty girls. Nothing special to offer but my hotel had a view of one of the ugliest government? buildings I have ever seen. I thought it was a building that was condemned before it was finished, but in the morning I saw there was a lot of activity at it. Weird place.

...................................

04Jan06 Wed Rosario
end 48190 Day Miles = 393 Trip miles = 6088

-"Dear Diary, I just crossed Kansas" I don't know if Argentina gets tornados, but I know if I was a tornado on vacation, THIS is where I would go. A part of the trip today was through a very Kansas like landscape, complete with dark clouds and wind.

-Rosario is just another ugly city. OK, it actually is rather nice with a large tourist area with shops, restaurants etc. Also a very impressive monument to the Flag, a nice waterfront, parks etc. What makes it ugly was the ride in. I came from the west on a two lane highway which became a miserable, crowded, speed bump laden road. This is often my first view of any city, which is partly responsible for my poor initial view of most cities and even some larger towns. It always takes a while for this view to wear off. The Guide says that Rosario is the favorite stop of many tourists. That may be a stretch, unless they just like to shop, but there is a large area that is very nice, especially for a city. Actually, one area is like a "Supersized" Fanuel Hall of Boston. Actually not a bad city, just don't drive in from the west. ( are you getting that I don't particularly like cities?)

-Che Guevara the revolutionary lived here, for about a minute. There are no monuments to him that I could find.

-If you are passing through, it is worth stopping, if for no other reason than to see the flag monument. This is a monument dedicated to the flag, or the guy that designed the flag, it was never clear to me. Lots of statues (mostly naked and anatomically correct) and dramatically lit at night. If you are here, stop at the flag monument at night. Unfortunately I left my camera at the hotel. There are many words about Liberty, a very serious place that the Argentineans consider very important. They take their freedom very seriously. This monument is huge and takes up a lot of real-estate. For some reason it reminded me of that monument we have to the inventor of the penny, the Lincoln Monument. Except the Lincoln Monument does not have a lot of naked statues.

-While looking for a place to stay a biker stopped to talk/help. I asked for a Hotel that did not cost too much, he brought me to the Presidential. This was the best hotel in town, I guess. it had a 4 star rating. OK, the lobby was 4 star. Expensive places offer AC, other than that, no big advantage. Often the bike is farther from the rooms, and the check in/out is much slower. Like they don't trust you to not steal the towels or something. The biker was a friend of the people here and it looked like he was going to get me an extra special price. They told me the price, around $50 plus parking, I gasped. I said no thanks and started to walk out. Then, I stood there in the A/C looking out at the bike that I was going to have to push start, in the 95 degree heat. The concierge came over and convinced me to come back, he wanted to show me the price in US$. I must have heard the price wrong because it turned out to be $35 with the parking. I caved. It had A/C and a 4 star lobby. What more could I ask for.

-Sitting near the water having lunch I watched ships laden with cargo and Fireflies from hell. These things were HUGE, very bright and none of this blinking crap like ours do here. They stayed lit and just flew around. The men were fishing from the walkway and catching some really ugly looking fish. This was in contrast to the VERY pretty girls walking around.

-As I have said, Argentina is very European in ancestry so it is easy for most of us of European descent to fit in. Well, not me in my wrinkled travel cloths or full riding suit, but most of us fit in. Most people of Asian descent would also fit in well.

-I got gas and lunch at one place today. When I was done, I could not remember which direction I had come from and the sun was no help. There were no signs. I actually had to go down the road the way I thought I had come from, then turn around and come back towards the gas station to remind myself. These gas stations are all starting to look the same.

-Is wine a vegetable?

...................................

05Jan06 Thu Paso De Libres
end 48584 Day Miles = 394 Trip miles = 6482

-I saw two practical routes to get up to Iguaçu Falls. I asked about which was best. I was given detailed instructions for both. A lot of help that was. I asked the guys where my bike was parked. They started asking all kinds of people. I eventually got some good advice, with directions to take a very impressive bridge that was not on my map. The ride was OK and I got even better advice later on in the day by someone that rides and has taken the different routes before. That is one of the hardest things, even if you understand the language, is finding someone who has actually traveled where you are going by different routes so that he actually knows which is better. Getting the fastest route is often easiest, but the best route can be tough. Getting out of Rosario was simple and nice. I no longer think of this area as third world.

-My definition of third world is not the same as the United Nations. I categorize a place third world by what I see and by place I mean a town, city, province, or area. Sometimes I rate entire countries, but usually it is only areas and my view can change. For example, coming into Rosario yesterday, I considered the area a third world country. Main highways turned into, at every small town, two lane potholed roads with speed bumps, cops, security checkpoints, slow speeds through school zones etc. That, to me is third world. But the city was very modern, and getting out of it to the east was very quick and modern. There were many spots in Argentina that I considered third world. There are many spots in the USA that I consider third world. Parts of New York City, all of Los Angeles, anything within 50 miles of Chicago. To me, infrastructure, like main roads, determine the status. That and crime. One natural progression for an area that is growing is to start out Rural and nice, then become more crowded eventually becoming third world, then modernizing then growing then getting super crowded with traffic jams and crime and back to the third world. Most of the big cities in the US fall under this definition, having past modern and gone to overcrowded, crime ridden traffic jams.

-Most of the road today was very hot, dry and boring. Like much of South Dakota. Some day I want to take a trip where I stop to smell the sunflowers, rather than just watch them zip by in a blur.

-Paso De Libres is a border town with some decent hotels and restaurants. Easy in, easy out. I stayed at the Las Vegas Hotel. Not much else to say.

...................................

06Jan06 Fri Iguaçu
end 48990 Day Miles = 406 Trip miles = 6888

-Leaving Paso Del Libres I ran into a Security Checkpoint. This was the first officer yet to actually check my bikes license plate. He made a great big show of being official and efficient. Carefully folded up my papers and then stood there holding my passport etc. Then he mentioned that he had not had his coffee yet this morning and said something about Pesos. When I figured out what he was doing, it seamed so pathetic I could not help but laugh, rather loud I guess. I think he thought I was laughing with him, not at him. He smiled, I have him a buck and he gave me my passport. I probably could have gotten my passport back without the buck, but I had a feeling that the dollar would ensure safe passage out of there. A few days later I came back through there and met the same officer. He was exceedingly friendly, smiled and waved me on, even though he was stopping almost all the other cars. All this for a buck?

-People here really love my bike, and love that I am still driving it even with it's problems. It actually seems to attract more attention than some of the big, typical adventure touring bikes.

-I have been seeing bicycle tourists everywhere. Not sure where they are from, but I saw them in the middle of the desert, I saw them on the bad parts of Rout 40, places where many would be afraid to ride their motorcycles, there are people on bicycles pedaling along, alone or in small groups.

-Just when things are going wrong and you think you deserve a break, something breaks. The latch that allows my helmet to flip up broke so it is now just a typical full face helmet. Minor inconvenience, but just add this to the others.

-Met an older couple on a 225 CC motorcycle. They were fully loaded for touring. With my limited Spanish we determined that they were going from Puerto Rico down to Buenos Aires. They wondered why I was so impressed. Then the guy realized I was thinking of the Island of Puerto Rico, not the Town just 200 miles north of where I met them. Still, it is a long ride on that bike, two up. And the bike was only a few months old and already had almost 4,000 kilometers on it. I was still impressed.

-At the town near Iguaçu Falls, I decided to stay at the Hostel. They did not have single rooms, but a double, with a good air conditioner was less than $30/night. The daytime temps were around 110'F. I think this place used to be a casino. There is a big common area, a large pool, chairs and tables near the pool. A great place to hang out for a few days.

-Tonight there was a barbeque. Really great meat and salads etc. It also came with buckets of some evil drink with lots of limes in it. I drank WAY too much of this stuff while hanging out with the kids. I say kids, but most of these people were recent graduates of college. These kids adopted me, as a father or grandfather figure, a voice of age and wisdom. OK, maybe it was more like the weird uncle that shows up on holidays for free food and beer, but we had a good time anyway. I got to bed at 5:30 in the morning. These damned kids are going to kill me.

...................................

07Jan06 Sat Iguaçu

-Got to Breakfast at 9:59, just in time to get a cup of coffee and a couple of rolls before they put everything away. The damned kids that kept me up so late were up and feeling fine. I decided that the falls could wait another day, as it was already very hot and my air-conditioned room and the pool were both looking very nice.

-Basically just rested and hung around the pool talking with young people. Some interesting people at these places. Met some very nice people, some of which I will maintain contact with.

-did not stay up too late, stayed away from the buckets of alcohol. There was a pretty good buffet, for a reasonable price. I liked this place, although the high temperatures kept me from doing much in the day.

...................................

08Jan06 Sun Iguaçu

-Went to the falls early. Incredible scenery. There are many walkways that get you very close to the falls. Much more impressive than Niagara. If I remember right, more water falls over these than Niagara, but Niagara is taller. There is a boat that brings you to get a different perspective of the falls, and then actually drives right into one section. The water is cool and there is a LOT of it. A lot of fun. Walking around you see Coati, which are related to the raccoon and are very inquisitive. They also can pass on rabies so don't feed them. Later in the day the tourists become a bit of a problem, especially on the upper section which is an easy walk. There is a Sheraton Hotel on the grounds with a great view of the entire falls, but it is way too expensive and stuffy for me.

-There is a free boat that goes across the river to an island that you can swim at or climb to the top and walk around. I got in line for this, but there were a small number of extremely rude tourists that were pushing and shoving and cutting the lines to get to the front. After getting jabbed and pushed enough times that I was calculating the trajectory the woman in front of me was going to take when I threw her into the river, I decided to leave.

-Back at the Hostel I hung out some more with the people there and got to bed at a reasonable hour (3 am is reasonable?)

...................................

09Jan06 Mon Paso De Libres
end 49418 Day Miles = 428 Trip miles = 7316

-On the way back towards Buenos Aires I met three bikers from Brazil on BMW's. They had to stop and take a real good look at my bike. A few miles down the road I saw a bunch of cars on the side of the road pointing into the woods, it looked like a vehicle of some kind went off the road, but I could not see one. Then a few more miles down the road I saw what looked like 2 of the 3 Brazilians coming back up the road. I thought maybe one of them had gone off the road and they were coming back for him. I got very worried. I caught up with the Brazilians down the road, it was not them.

-I started asking gas stations if there was a place to change my oil and was directed into Puerto Rico. I found the Motorcycle shop at 11:45. The shop closes at noon for lunch/siesta. I finished the oil change quickly and was invited to lunch at the owners house. He ran home to let his wife know there would be one more for dinner and after I put away my tools his son walked me down there. A beautiful house set in a wonderful farm country. No one spoke English and I speak little Spanish but we got by. Dinner was great. Alexander, Sandra, their son and daughter were very entertaining as we struggled with the language. They are of German Ancestry. When invited into someone's home, it is often difficult to tell when it is time to leave. There were offers of a place to stay, a shower, the pool etc, but I was beginning to feel that it was time to leave. This was the time they would normally take a siesta to have enough energy for the second half of their work day. I figured it was time to leave so they could rest. Wonderful people these Argentineans.

-This is vacation season for Argentina. The towns and cities are very busy. I got back to Paso De Libres and none of the hotels had singe rooms. I was getting tired of push starting the bike when I thought to ask about a double. Yep, had a double, not a lot more than the single. A/C and everything.

...................................

10Jan06 Tue Colon
end 49645 Day Miles = 227 Trip miles = 7543

-Kept Going through these passing rain showers. Cold rain, wind. Nothing much really though.

-Most tolls are free for bikes. They often have a path for the bikes to go around. At one I went where I thought the path was and it turned out to be a dead end. As I was turning around the clutch cable on the bike broke. I knew it was frayed but I had a spare so I was not concerned. It should have been a 5 minute repair but the spare was too short by about 10 inches. I tried various things, ending up jury rigging it using the original cable, vice grips and part of the old cable. While working on it I was offered a ride to Buenos Aires. I had the idea that the ride was free, but I don't know if there was room in the back for the bike. Everyone was very nice, offering tools, parts and advice. Lots of talking about the bike etc. None of this sped the repair up any, but it made for a pleasant time. Toll attendants, police, military, truckers, all great people. They were all worried about me, until I showed them the huge roll of duct tape, then they relaxed.

-In Colon, there were lots of hotels, but none had rooms. I finally found one attached to someone's house. Cheap, but still overpriced. It had running water, so I had to keep my bags up off the ground. I was a little nervous when I plugged my battery charger in that something might explode, but it didn't. The town was kind of dirty. Although the streets are paved with cobblestone, the streets in and out and near the river are dirt, so with the rain a lot of dirt and mud was brought into town. The campground looked like it might be nice if this was not peak tourist season. The town was rather touristy, and very crowded for a small town. I had been through this town on my second day and thought it looked really nice, but now there are too many people.

-While walking in town and checking out the street vendors etc, a Doberman adopted me. He came up to me and I patted his head. I guess that was the signal that I was now his for as I walked through town he walked right by my side, leaving it only to crap in the middle of the sidewalk. This made me lots of friends in town. Then he fought with someone's little dog and I had to snap my fingers to stop it. He behaved pretty well after that, until he saw a poodle and forgot he owned me.

...................................

11Jan06 Wed Buenos Aires
end 49900 Day Miles = 255 Trip miles = 7798

-More in and out of rain, nothing much.

-In gas stations, they often don't have change and have to go scrambling to get enough. Strange since all transactions are done in cash.

-I got to Buenos Aires (BA) early, stopping at Dakar Motos to talk about storing the bike. What great people Sandra and Javier are. I knew from the moment I met them that I would like them. Some bikers from Germany were there working on their bikes, and Javier was helping them. I hung around the shop for a long time talking to them and watching the bike repairs. I was also hanging out waiting for the rain to stop. It was coming down pretty good.

-I had my only taste of Maté there. I like it, but never did buy a bag for home.

-I got to the Hostel and found they had lost my booking. I had made reservations in Iguaçu for a single room here. They had none available. They put me in a dorm room for free. They were afraid I would want it quiet so they put me in with some girls. They made sure I would have reservations the next day for my own room. I really did not mind the dorm room scenario, but needed at least one night where I could really spread out my gear to pack.

-I found my camera was broken. Possibly it got wet in the rain. I really wanted to take a picture of my jury rigging of the clutch and of these old Citroen cars I kept seeing. As it turns out, I really did not miss carrying a camera around with me.

-Some of these damned kids kept me up until 5:30 am again. They just kept feeding me beer.

...................................

12Jan06 Thu Buenos Aires

-No private room today either, the room is free again. Today the room was full with me, another guy and 4 girls. Very quiet, but everyone slept late. Let me tell you about the normal schedule here in BA. The young people get up sometime around 10 or 11am, have breakfast, do whatever it is they need to do and eventually make it back to bed. They are up anywhere from 10pm to 1am to get some food then get ready to go out. The real partying starts between 1 and 2am. One day I has having breakfast at 8:30 am and a group of girls were just coming in, having finished off the night at the bar across the street, only leaving when they closed for cleaning. Not my kind of life, but the young people love it.

-Buenos Aires is a typical modern city for the most part. At this point in my trip it had very little that I wanted to see. I prepped the bike for storage. I found a place to wash the bike. I chose this place because I saw no high pressure hose. As it turns out, they had that off to the side. The guy was very careful of bearings and sensitive areas of the bike, which was what I was worried about. He did get water down the spark plug holes, which made it run like crap until he blew the water out. He suffered for his mistake though, as he had to push start my bike twice.

-More great times at Dakar Motos. Talked with Javier about how best to fix the bike. To tell you the truth, if I could be sure there was not some internal problem that was going to make the bike explode, I would just leave it like it is using a car battery and having to push start it. To repair the charging system and the starter requires engine removal. A big job due to fairing etc and everything else that needs to be removed to work on it.

-Took the train back and then hung out at the Hostel and in the area of the Hostel for the rest of the day, talking with interesting people there.

...................................

13Jan06 Fri Buenos Aires

-Finally have my private room, right next to the street. Rather loud, but the street quiets down at night and I had no trouble sleeping.

-Buenos Aires is a very dangerous city to walk around in. You see, people have dogs, lots of them. There are also a lot of strays and professional dog walkers. There are some nice buildings to look at here, but you are advised to keep an eye on the sidewalk, otherwise.....

-I only used my camping gear once. For this trip it was not worth taking, but there were times I should have camped and things could have changed in such a way to require it, so I think I will take it again next time.

-A new twist on food, some places in BA charge 1.5 Peso for knife and fork. I wondered, what if I brought my own? Can I keep the utensils? It is a strange custom, but I understand it is also a way of paying for the bread etc.

-I have not seen much obvious poverty in most of the places I was in, but in BA and a few other areas there are the Shanty Towns and some in-your face kind of poverty. Maybe it's just me but even the most down trodden people here somehow looked better off than some I have seen in other parts of the world, including some in the USA.

-In Las Flores, early in the trip I stopped on the way into town to look at map and guide. Some kids wanted to help and one on a bicycle, another running, brought me all over through town to the best hotel in town. They were going to leave right away but I stopped them and gave them money. They did not know what to do with it. There is no grab for money here as I have seen elsewhere. For the most part they do not see tourists as bags of money. Even in hotels when someone carried my bags or helped me with the bike, they did not pause long enough for a tip. I hope Argentina stays this way, it is very refreshing.

-One of the few things I wanted to do here was go to the Arms Museum. The Lonely Planet Guide said a lot about it but never actually said it was good, which is usually a good sign. They also used it to make a nasty comment about Bush. I had to go. It was great. A good display of weapons and armor from swords all the way up through modern times. Some interesting muzzle loaders and early revolvers. Some of the examples were like none I had ever seen. There were also displays of grenades etc sectioned off so you can see how they are put together. Cannons, one of the best Gattling Guns I have ever seen, Japanese Samurai weapons, you name it.

-I went to the Ricoletto Cemetery, where Eva Perone (Evita) is buried. This is in a posh part of town and only the very rich get buried here. The entire cemetery is Mausoleums, some old, some new, all elaborate. You could spend hours wandering around in here. I did.

-Today was on and off rain, but it never was a problem.

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14Jan06 Sat Buenos Aires

-Wandered around the city a little. It was on and off rain, but I managed to avoid any real downpours. It is only raining in BA, elsewhere it is sunny and hot.

-Eventually went with some of the more mature guests at the hostel to an English pub and had English beer, before going out for dinner for my last steak dinner of the trip.

15Jan06 Sun Flying home

-Today was nothing but rain. My plain was scheduled to leave at 9:45pm so I had all day to hang out at the Hostel. Had a good steak lunch and hung out with some of the guests.

-At the airport, after getting your ticket and checking your luggage you go and stand in line to pay your airport tax of $18 US. I don't really mind paying a tax, but WHY do you have to stand in line? Why can't it just be part of the ticket price?

-The only bad meal I had on the entire trip was here at the airport.

-The flight out was fine, I sat next to an American who works for the US government bringing deported people back to their home country. Had some interesting conversations, he gets an interesting view of the world in his job.

-Sleeping was not really an option, I had an aisle seat and could not get comfortable without spreading out into the aisle, at which point I would get bumped and woken up.

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16Jan06 Mon Home

-My flight was to leave Miami at 4:30am. The pilot said "the weather in Boston is windy and 11 degrees" I was really hoping that was Celsius. When the pilot said "Fahrenheit" I yelled "Maybe the plane will break down!". That did not go over well.

-Flight was fine but stepping into the cold was a severe shock after having been in a hot climate for so long.

MILEAGE
Trip average = 38 MPG
High = 50 MPG
low = 28 MPG
Gas mostly running either around $1.60 or around $2.50 depending on whether it was north or south.

Average Hotel $20.28/day
Average Food $11.49/day

Total Hotel $608.52
Total Food $344.52

TOTAL TRIP COSTS

Flight Cost: $1,499.70
Bike: $2,841.58 - Includes all parts and all costs associated with the bike
Other Costs: 2,439.56
Total Trip Cost = $ $6,780.84

Bike costs included insurances, entry taxes, parking, etc, etc, etc. Anything having to do with the bike except for gas.

Had I rented a modern dual sport bike, the costs would have been about the same, but with less hassle. But the trip would not have been as interesting. And I would not have had a bike at the end of the trip. Of course, I ended up not having a bike anyway, as I never went back to claim my bike. Such is traveling.

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