I met John a couple years ago through other riding buddies and we immediately became like brothers. We'd ride here and there together and went to bike rallies and events, meeting up and hanging out with all our mutual friends. I introduced him to two wonderful friends of mine, who were 2 months into their own trip to South America, Claudia and Mirko Nagler of 2AR.eu. John wound up riding with them for over a month in the U.S. and then down through Mexico to join them on their journey south to Central and South America. That's where the funny dizzy spins first started.
So after coming back to Canada and dealing with some legal bits and doctor checkups, and popping over to spend a few hangout days at my place, Johnny was planning to head back down and continue his journey. He had reorganized some gear for the bike and was set to launch on the second phase of the trip, when he was given some devastating news. The doctor diagnosed our Johnny with a brain aneurysm. He called and the news was stifling. It scared the shit out of me, and I could tell, him too. The doctor told him no riding, no flying, no biking, no big trips, no small trips, no nothing... And that the surgery would be scheduled ASAP. Devastating news to have been given, and a scary next few months to look forward to for the poor guy. But there was also another stressful predicament to have to deal with. His bike couldn't stay in Mexico to wait for him.
The temporary vehicle import permit in Mexico, or "Banjercito" as it's known, is essentially a traveller's visa for your motorcycle. It has a fee that you pay, and a specified period for which you're allowed to have the vehicle in the country. The document has to be processed at a Banjercito office in person, upon entering and exiting Mexico. If you miss the deadline or forget to return it or process the paperwork, you'll lose your deposit (in this case about $600), and the freedom to ever bring a vehicle back into Mexico. This deadline was quickly closing and John's motorcycle needed to leave the country. We also learned that it may be very difficult to have another person close out the paperwork on his behalf. But I wasn't swayed.
I had to do what any good friend would do. I had to take care of my brother. I told him I'd get his bike out of Mexico, and make sure the Banjercito was handed in on time.
So with John researching the rules and having a lawyer draw up a permission/consent form for me to present at the Banjercito office at the border. And me juggling shows and fill-in technicians to book the time off work, (I'm a professional sound engineer for touring bands and concerts) we quickly came up with a plan, and within a day or so, I was set to fly to Cancun.
I had been doing some research on shipping options early on, and had managed to get ahold of an old friend who used to work for WestJet Airlines. I was curious to know if they (or anyone flying out of Cancun for that matter) had any kind of air cargo big enough for a motorcycle, my friend wasn't sure but when she found out why I was curious she, on behalf of Westjet, offered to cover the air fair for the entire mission. I was speechless. Turns out she isn't just a flight attendant any more! Thanks Lennie! :)
And off I went. Landing in Cancun, I was quickly reacquainted with that mind numbing heat that is so common for that time of year. I made my way to Puerto Aventuras where John's bike was parked at his friend's place. A very cool guy, with a very hot home! Jim's A/C was out and it was about 35°C (95°F) that night.
Working well past midnight and into the wee hours, wearing nothing more than my underwear, I unloaded the bike, sorted all John's gear, packed it up in duffle bags and road cases and readied it for cargo shipping. Jim offered to take it by car, back to WestJet Cargo in Cancun for me, essentially saving me multiple gruelling trips by bike and a whole day of precious travel time. Thanks again Jim!!
By 7am the following morning, it was already 37°C (99°F) and as I departed Jim's, I began the 4200km trip across Mexico and up to Phoenix USA, planning to maintain at least 600km per day.
The first couple days were murderously hot and took some serious getting used to. I fell in love with the bike instantly, and I think it might have fallen in love with me a little too! Or maybe we were both just happy to be traveling again, because I distinctly remember us both grinning a lot those first few days. It sure does like wheelies!! ;)
My route took me south from Cancun through the gorgeous rugged Chetumal area before heading west to Escácega for the night. I was on a pretty tight timeline but couldn't resist a couple stops and a few off-road excursions to check out some Mayan ruins and ancient pyramids. Beautiful interesting places to stop for a break.
I pushed on through the heat, beginning day 2 with an early start. First through the state of Tabasco then Veracruz, arriving at the beautiful beachfront city of Coatzacoalcos, on the Gulf of Mexico.
The temps were in the low 40°s Celsius, about 105° to 113° Fahrenheit. Man that's hot! Especially in full riding gear. I was drinking about 6 or 7 litres of water per day.
The next day was a bit of an adventure. I had planned to make it to Mexico City, but was held up in what turned out to be a 200km traffic jam on the main highway. It was mid afternoon and the trucks and traffic were at a complete standstill on this lovely double lane highway. The shoulders had a very sharp concrete gutter and it became tricky to maneuver around cars and trucks using the shoulder. In Mexico any thing you need to do to pass someone in front of you, or get to where you're going is completely fair game. Motorcycles weave through traffic, ride shoulders and split lanes with delicious efficiency, and I was all for that! However when it became challenging to keep moving, especially with the heat wave temperatures we were having, and all the gear that I had on, stopping for any amount of time started to become a serious concern for my own health and a dangerous situation.
I weaved, split, and shouldered, until the trucks became 3-wide on the 2-lane highway. Then I took to the ditch! It is a GS after all isn't it? That lasted another 10 kilometres until I came to a river. The bridge was jam packed with tractor traillers so I turned around and headed back. I needed to get off of that goddamn highway, and find a smaller secondary road. If not, it was likely I would have to spend the night out there with all those trucks.
I had backtracked about 20 km, and was able to find a spot a while back to make it across that deep sharp gutter out of the ditch, but the trucks had moved in tighter now and I was stuck on the road again. This time with my only option being a 3 foot gap and a good foot or so drop-off to the ditch below. No way to get past the trucks, forward or back. To add insult to injury, a trucker had told me that just a few km back there was an overpass that could get me to a secondary road that would bypass the traffic jam. That sounds great! But I'm stuck here! Shit!
So I did what any self respecting GS'er would do. I jumped the bike!
With the help of my newfound trucker friend and to the interest of a few dozen onlookers, I built a jump. Filling the gutter with rocks, logs, and chunks of concrete that were in the ditch I built up a jump to clear the 3 foot gap to freedom.
It worked! And with the cheering section of a dozen or so truckers, pointing me on in the direction of the overpass I was freakin' outa' there!
It took me until almost dark to find my way up over and around the worst part of the traffic on the highway. Over 100 km of zigzagging through rural back roads and villages just to skirt around the City of Córdoba and find the highway still packed. The police said it would be shut down for most of the night. I had to admit defeat. I wasn't going anywhere fast and there was a storm on the way. I found a super sweet hotel in the neighbouring town Fortín de las Flores, and spent the night.
The hotel was absolutely gorgeous! With a beautiful massive fountain in the lobby, huge marble walls and polished floors. It had swimming pools inside and out, activity rooms, promenades, and galleries all over the place. The restaurant lounge was welcoming, classy and very romantic. This place was really nice! So it was only appropriate that I should park my giant motorcycle in the lobby. Adjacent that beautiful fountain. -amazing what 300 Pesos gets you in some places.
Glad I did because just as I got to the room it began pouring rain, and it continued for the rest of the night. All I could think about was how glad I was to not be stuck out on that highway.
The next morning was cool and humid with beautiful blue skies. The highway was wide open and the ride to Mexico City was breathtaking. No really, I actually had to put an extra sweater on. It was lush green, cool and felt like a dream riding through those mountains.
I met a friend for an early lunch in Mexico City and toured around the city for a few hours before traffic got nuts. Mexico City is known for having the most epicly psychotic traffic in the world, and today being Friday, it was getting crazy fast! I blasted out of there and headed for Guadalajara.
Amazed with how easy it was to crank out the miles when it wasn't 40°C, that day ended with beers, good food and good friends at a biker bar in beautiful Guadalajara. 860km and one fantastic day in Mexico!
And so the trip continued.
To Mazatlan the next day, and the groovy, bad-ass city of Los Mochis the next. Each day brought a new adventure and it was almost becoming normal to not speak English any more. Pushing the miles to keep to the schedule was difficult and I became very aware of how much I'm looking forward to coming back and spending lots of time traveling with no schedule or deadlines. I was also falling in love again with the people. This is a topic for a whole other blog, but I'll say this: It's a very different thing to experience cultures and people and geography from the inside; adapting, integrating and living within the society. Eating, sleeping and breathing day to day life, as part of the world you're in. Rather than viewing and exploiting the contrasts, and consuming the novelty of the experience from the closed observant or vacationer's perspective. It's something that fuels my desire for travel, and it's an enlightening and humbling experience.
The following days brought fast hot highways along the coast. Stunning countryside, wow! Then through Hermosillo, and on to Nogales, Tucson and finally to Phoenix.
The border crossing was a blip in time. I had researched and discovered a drive-through lane a few miles south of the border that had a Banjercito office. I had punched it into the GPS and before I knew it I was there. Unzipping the tank bag and opening my passport/lisence/documents pouch, the girl nearly snatched the grey Banjercito paperwork right out of my wallet! I was all ready with my rehearsed explanation of who I am and why I have this bike and why I'm bringing back the paperwork for somebody else... and here's my permission slip... She had already disappeared into the little tollbooth style office. I didn't even have a chance to get off the bike, let alone open the pannier and get the important lawyer's documents ready. She emerged again with a camera and went straight for the serial number on the headstock of the bike. I practiced my Spanish in my head again with my explanations of who, what, when, where... When she disappeared again into the office.
It was hot and I couldn't stop drinking the last of my warm camelback water. I thought about stopping to refill maybe before the U.S. Border lineup, it might be busy and I don't want to get caught in a lineup without water. Hmm.
I must have been daydreaming because I snapped back to her handing me a receipt and "gracias, la devolución está en su tarjeta." Or basically, -thank you, the refund was put back on your visa.
And that was that! Done! She even gave me a candy.
The U.S. Border a couple miles later was just as quick, with the guard more interested in the bike, and where in Canada I'm from, and how badly he wants to get posted to the Sweetgrass border crossing...
It was an easy day and the paperwork in the pannier didn't move.
I rolled into a cute little historical heritage themed town a couple miles later, and got a coffee and a piece of apple pie, (how American) and messaged John that all was well. Actually I told him that I had been arrested at the border, and the bike was impounded and they were accusing me of theft and forging the documents. The poor guy nearly had a heart attack! But that's what friends are for right?
It was a lazy fast highway up to Phoenix and a very nice dinner that night with great friends Tom and Mel. That's where I dropped the bike off. I had to fly out the next morning first thing to get back, to work a show the following night. John's friend Sharon would fly in a few days later and pick up the bike to zip it the rest of the way up to Calgary. I had hoped to be able to drive it the whole way home but John had arranged for a Sharon to do a tour on it and come for a visit in Calgary.
All in all, it was a hot fast Mexican whirlwind of a trip. The goal was to get the bike out of Mexico and hand in the import documents. I did my best to enjoy the ride along the way but with so many miles in such a short time, the purpose of the mission took priority.
Johnny is well on his way to continuing his trip south some day soon. With his surgery scheduled for a couple days from now, and the recovery looking smooth and brief. He should be back on the bike in as little as a few weeks and ready to hit the road for longer trips in a couple months. Godspeed. He's a sweet soul and a dear friend and deserves to be out there spreading his kindness to people he meets on the road. We're all lucky to have him, especially when he's at his best, on a motorcycle.
Well today marks and interesting milestone for me.
As of today I have had my motorcycle license for four years. Nothing super important, but a neat little mile marker, and an excuse to pause for a sec and take stock.
I write this as I embark upon the next major chapter in my life. A 2year+ journey down through Central and South America. I'm headlong into the planning and preparation stages of the trip, scheduled to leave Canada in a year's time. Definitely lots of hard work, earning, saving, planning and dedication ahead of me. But for the moment I'm glancing back in the rearview mirror.
As a kid I had a dirt bike on the farm. That was almost 30years ago, and although it planted the seed way back then, it took until recently for the little bugger to sprout. But oh boy, sprout it did...
In the four years now that I've been riding I've purchased 2 bikes, logged over 85000km and have been all over North America. Including Prudhoe Bay Alaska, Inuvik North West Territories, across Canada, USA, and Baja California, Mexico.
That works out to something like 59km per day since I've had my license. Not bad if you consider there was a life and a full time job in there as well. But peanuts compared to some of the travelers I know who are out there living it.
None the less though, it's been an exciting and addicting adventure.
Traveling and discovery is fuel for your soul and it inspires curiosity, independence and fulfillment. It breaks down complacency in day to day routine and replaces it with excitement, filling us with anticipation and tolerance for whatever may be around the next corner.
We meet people that enlighten us, and inspire us, and it feeds our love for the human spirit. Interesting and random connections with strangers turn into sometimes lifelong friendships.
The kindness and curiosity of people on the road is totally amazing to me. One second you're oiling your chain or grabbing a quick sandwich at a gas station, the next you're engaged in a full on conversation with someone about who knows what. It's the connections and human touch of the people we meet along the way that make the long paved highways or sketchy gravel mountain passes so much more beautiful. More often than not, a breakdown or a flat tire is more of a good thing than a bad.
It's been a fun four years behinds the bars of a motorcycle. I'm in it for the long haul now that's for sure. And as I head south, the next four are sure to be some of the best of my life. Who knows where that road leads... I can only imagine.
Pretty sure I'll need some more tire patches and chain oil though.
Daver's Adventure Travels
Stopped for fuel coffee and a sandwich in Teslin. The longest steel grate bridge I've ever seen is there and it's a bloody nightmare I've been less than looking forward to for the last few hundred miles. I have new tires on the bike, with deep knobies! Crossing a bridge like that makes the tires of any vehicle sway back and forth to where ever the steel wants. Bad enough in a car. But on a bike it's a puckering experience! And worse if you have knobies.
Thankfully I'd have to tackle the bridge after stopping for gas and lunch. :)
Met a couple dudes heading north.
Scott Haskins, who's heading up to Prudhoe to start his Pan-American trip south to Ushuaia and his buddy Ralf Bendjebar who's riding with him for the Canadian/US portion. Good guys. I'll post a link when I find it.
Got into Watson Lake and dropped in on my Scottish friend at the RV Park.
He doesn't accommodate tent camping anymore since having an issue with some mushroom pickers in the area. But made an exception for me and gave me some awesome bumper stickers to boot!
"EAT MOOSE! 12,000 wolves can't be wrong!"
Nothing says "The North" like that. Lol
Classic Yukon humor.
Did some laundry and asked the bike nicely to not leak any more fork oil.
Staying at the Robert Service Campground. I knew I shoulda just pitched it behind the Yukon Arts Centre with Andrew (the house tech at YAC).
They want $25 here. Then charge you $10 for wifi. And $1per 5min for the shower. Not even gonna mention laundry. Maybe I'm being cheep but... C'mon. Oh and I got in late so there's no wifi. Oh and I don't have loonies for the shower. So ya, awesome. If I wasn't already set up I think I'd leave. Oh well maybe they'll bring coffee right to the tent tomorrow or something. (Not holding my breath ;)
On a good note though:
Ran into some great guys on their way north today. From Calgary no less!!
Both on BMW 650s. One, a new G650GS Sertao. And the other dude on an X-Challenge -with a rally conversion!
God I love that bike. And he did a nice job on the rally fairing too! Looking forward to hearing how their trip turns out. Dempster highway, and D2D (Dust To Dawson motorcycle gathering)
I gave them my spare clutch and break levers. Its not likely I'll need them, and attempting that highway without those little spare parts can ruin a trip. Happy to offer the help fellas, ride safe. Call me when you're back in Calgary.
There's something to be said for setting off on a journey or pushing on to continue an adventure after recharging and regrouping. The feeling of independence, self reliance and complete wonder is totally engulfing.
I'm heading north. Names like Chicken, Dawson, Tok, Fairbanks, Valdez and Prudhoe Bay are just fantasies. Like New York City to many people. They are far off places that are soaked with history, myth and fantasy. Legendary, timeless places from books and maps and 4am google-athons.
It feels like there's a tailwind. The lust for everything that ADV sticker stands for is in full spring-fever heat. And I'm just along for the ride.
Running into more and more guys on bikes, with that same fire in their eyes.
Beemers, Stroms, Teneres, KLRs, Harleys, Wings. Even a few sweet side-cars. Still not sure where a trike sits though. Rides like a bike, but steers like a car. Same goes for side cars too I guess, but some how they're still cool. Jury's out on the damn trikes though. Especially the (eyes rolling) blown out tricked out gusshy FLH Electra-glide, soft, fluffy, wide tail, too old and fat to get on a real bike kinda guy, trikes. Seriously guys?
God I love my little Beemer-thumper. Snotty, tall, quick and light. With all-you-wanna-cary panniers and 60MPG... Just not sure what to think of those Alabama-RV Harley trikes with pop trailers.
I'll need some more helmet time to ponder it. Haha