October 2008


We´ve made it to South America! We arrived in Cali Columbia this afternoon. I know, we said we wouldn´t go to Columbia but they couldn´t ship the bikes to Ecuador until the end of November. Cali isn´t too far from the Ecuador border. Maybe two days ride. We expect the bikes to arrive on Friday afternoon and we should be on the road by Saturday morning.

So far two great things have come from shipping via Copa Air to Columbia:

One is that we met John and Jamie in shipping warehouse. Jamie is from the north of Spain and was acting as a sort of guide for John who, in his early 70´s is making this trip alone. Jamie´s mother is sick so he is returning to Spain and we are now traveling with John for a while.  He´s a tough old bird, barrel-chested with laughing blue-grey eyes, he speaks with a German / Canadian accent that makes me laugh when he curses. Here´s Jamies website: http://lavueltaalmundodesarto.com/sarto.html It all in Spanish, but he´s got some pics for you unilinguals.

The other is the hotel we´ve found in Cali. This place has to be the seediest hotel yet. To get in you ring a buzzer and the Madam, er, attendant comes out from behind her cage and pulls the pipe from between the door handles to unlock them and lets you in. Your room is small and (thankfully) smells of Clorox, but after you get used to the dark blue light you start to notice things… things like the bathroom door is clear glass with an etching of a naked woman on it, or that there is a box on the wall with a small door, open the door and there is another small door that opens onto the hall. I´m pretty sure I don´t want to know what this thing is for…. Then theres the art. The place is called the Hard Rock and there are big cement relief painting / sculpture things of J Lo, Britteny, Elvis and a Lenny Kravits with tits… Yes, I have pictures, but you´re kidding yourself if you think they have internet there. I´m in a combo convenience store /  copy center / internet cafe about four blocks from the hotel writing this. When I can log in on my machine I´ll post the pics. You won´t believe them.

I can´t wait to see what goes on there after dark. 

Costa Rica is a country that relies heavily on the revenue from eco-tourism. While having lunch with Julio, the manager of the KTM motorcycle dealership in Santa Ana, we found out just how deep this revenue stream is.

Julio asked if we’d paid our eco-Tax yet. Shannon and I were confused so Julio took out a 5000 Colone note, about $10, and showed us the Toucan pictured on the bill. He then asked if we’d seen the police that stand roadside wearing white gloves.  Instead of driving around in cars and stopping law breakers with flashing lights, these cops stand at traffic circles and intersections. When they see an infraction, they point at you and motion you to pull to the curb. They threaten with confiscation of your license, towing your car, and a court date a month out. Its all a game and what they’re working towards is getting you to pay a little something so you can drive away, or as Julio explained, they put their finger out, hoping a Toucan will land on it – the  Eco Tax.

Well, we hadn’t paid our tax in CR, but on our way to Grenada we were pointed to the curb at a traffic circle. The cop asked to see our licenses and explained that we hadn’t signaled our turn as we entered the circle. No, I’m sure we didn’t. Those things are nuts with traffic across four lanes of a two lane road, cars both stopped and flying through, no road signs and us about lost, I probably didn’t signal that I was going to exercise my only option and turn right into the circle. So, the cop had our DL’s in hand and explained that he would need to keep them until our court date a month out. And he would need to write us a ticket for $40 each. And it was Sunday and we couldn’t pay it till Monday so he would need to tow the bikes. (This guy was good)

After his speech he just kind of stood around waiting. We did too. This frustrated him, so he explained to us again just how dire our predicament was. And then we stood around some more.  To move things along, he went to his car and got out some papers and a pen, shuffled them a bit and then walked back over. We obviously didn’t understand what was happening, so he explained it a third time. Yeah, we got it. What he didn’t understand was that he had laminated photocopies of our licenses and that we had two more to give away in our luggage. We didn’t care.

What I did care about was time. It was late and I was tired and hungry and after about 15 minutes I was ready to go. I asked if there wasn’t some tax that I could pay to take care of the problem now. He lit up like Christmas morning. I opened my wallet and showed him that I had 120 in Nicaraguan currency – just under $6. His face fell like he opened his present and found underwear inside. He asked if my friend had any money. I asked, and Shannon said “yes, but no.” Ok, so we play some more.

Back to the car and more theatrical shuffling of papers.  Then a conference with the other cops. He walked back over and said – “OK, 120 and you have no more problem” So, there in the middle of traffic I get out my wallet and without looking at me he says “esperae,  esperae!” Wait, Wait! He doesn’t want the cars to see what hes doing. When theres no traffic he holds out some papers and motions for me to put the money between the pages.

So I do, and we drive away having negotiated our “tax” from $80 down to $6.

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This is one of my favorite shots so far. We were on our way to a hot springs outside of Boquete Panama. About a mile down a dirt road we came to this bridge over a crystal blue class IV river. From here, up to the left, the road turned class V with steep, slick clay. After both of us gave up fighting the hill, we walked to the hot springs. Arriving at dusk , sweating through knee deep swamps, we were WAY too hot to appreciate warm water. So it was back to the hotel and the comfort cold showers for us.

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Plug #1 – The Hands of Sean Perry: These are the folks that are helping me with maintenance on the house while I’m gone. I had a leak in the roof and they got on it without multiple emails and did it for a great price. If you need renovations or repairs done in the Asheville area, Seans your man.

Plug #2 – Hotel Lusiana: We’ve been in San Jose, CR trying to get Shannons oil leak fixed. The KTM dealer is in a suburb called Santa Ana and about a mile away is Hotel Lusiana. Its under construction and the owners, an Itialian couple, have given us a discount. Last night they even made us dinner in their kitchen. The owner of the hotel, Ivan Sala, was a World Superbike competitor and was Costa Rica’s 2007 Supermoto champion so he’s been great. Last night he took us downtown for a street bike get together. I followed him through pot hole filled, dark streets, weaving through traffic and ignoring all good sense. It was a classV ride of a different ilk that I’ll not soon forget.

Ivan steams

Ivan steams us clams in white wine, mmmmm.

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Ivans wife Elena and two rosy Gringos

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Shannon rides bitch while his bikes in the shop

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Costa Rican Super Moto meeting

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Plug #3 – Todo Moto: This is the Kawasaki dealer in San Jose. They had a lot of KLR parts in stock and while hard to find, worth the effort.

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*Note that since our SPOT was stolen I have created a map using Google maps. Click the”Our Progress” button in the top navigation menu to check it out.

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While in Huehuetenango I shot this little video.

Click for video

I got my computer running again, so here’s some photos from our beloved Patulul, Guatemala.

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Guatemalans love their guns. Some gringos are OK with that, some, not so much. From left to right: Jamie, Cokey, Shannon, Neto, me and the owner of the restaurant.

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Our hotel in Patulul. We were treated like family, invited to their grandsons first communion and the Dona even did my laundry.

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The local whore house complete with passed out patron and dog on the way out the door.

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Neto and Shannon enjoying a repast of iguana. Note Netos hip.

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The iguana.

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Delivering fresh bread

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My new clutch installed, the old burnt discs in hand

My clutch parts arrived on Wed. morning and I was able to get the bike back on the road. Shannon and I left our little home away from home early Thursday morning after a really sweet going away party at the restaurant up the street. As going away presents Neto gave me his sons ID card from kindergarten and Cokey gave me a $3 bill from Cuba. They might sound like small gifts but the depth of the gesture is deeply touching.

We crossed into El Salvador with little problem and spent the night on the black volcanic beaches of the Pacific coast. Friday we crossed into Honduras through the most horrific and chaotic border crossing to date. Arriving on the El Salvador side Termitadores, the people that make their living by helping people navigate the confusion of the border, came running en masse at us. They crowded around Shannon and were yelling for attention. We had met one at a gas station before arriving and had “contracted” to work with him, so I yelled at everyone to back-off! We were working with Nelson – no one else, so go the hell away. There is two sides to the way it works. You check out of one place and into the next, and you need a different Termitadore for each half. Nelson got us out of El Salvador and we followed him trough a chaotic town that exists between the borders. There were people everywhere running up to us trying to exchange money, sell us everything from oranges to ceramic statues of the Virgin, vans with loudspeakers blaring political messages, kids begging and skeletal dogs.

Nelson dumped us into Rudys hands on the Honduras side. We were shuffled from office to office paying fees and making copy of receipts. The whole time I felt like a wounded cow in parana infested river. But we made it through, spent the night and crossed into Nicaragua mid-morning on Saturday.

By contrast, the crossing into Nicaragua was heaven. The border was a rope across the road and a stop sign. The Termitadore was peaceful and efficient and our entry was smooth. Maybe this colored my opinion of the country, but so far I love this country. The roads have been great and the sky clear. Its been raining on us hard since Patulul, but in Nicaragua we’ve had sun! And the greens of the hills is so varried and deep under the blue of the sky that I just ride and grin.

We’re now in Granada, a really nice tourist town on the lake. We haven’t had time to explore much, but there’s lots of restaurants, hotels and cigar shops in this colonial village. I think we’ll spend the day kicking around and head to Costa Rica tomorrow.

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First, thanks everyone for the help with FedEx. I still don’t have my clutch, but the info comming from yall is more than I can get here. Now I have to figure out if I need to take a bus to Guatemala City and pay some taxes to get it.

I have been able to get the computer fixed while kicking around town, so thats a bright spot, and we’ve met a few locals that are really friendly folks. With the computer fixed, heres some photos of Guatemala.

Click for the full gallery

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The road to Semuc Champey

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The pools at Semuc

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Taken in the town square in Salola near Lake Atitlan

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Lake Atitlan as seen from our $13 hotel

I don´t know if the folks at Dennis Kirk didn´t understand me when I said “everything is secondary to getting my part by Monday”, or if they shipped it as fast as they could but, when I first talked with them they told me Guatemala is a two day delivery point. When they sent me my tracking number, it says that my clutch won’t arrive till the 16th… Anyone have any pull with FedEx?

Here’s the tracking info.

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