Saturday, December 22, 2007

Getting Closer!!

Honda ST 1300

Kawasaki Concours
Suzuki VStrom - Oh baby!!

As of this morning we're now officially less than three weeks until we leave - only 20 more sleeps until I head to Spokane!!

I'm heading down to Spokane early in the evening of Jan 11th and I fly to Phoenix the next morning. The good news is I'm not too excited at all. Unless you count waking up at 5:00 each morning because checklists, gear lists and the myriad things that can go wrong, are all flying around in my head. I initially tried to fight it but now I just get up and surf my new porn sites: E-Bay Motors, Motor-Cycle Superstore, Adventure Rider and Horizons Unlimited. Rosi says there's only so many times I can read comparisons between a VStrom and an ST1300 and that I'm entering obsession territory. Entering? I passed entering long ago! I'm now fully into obsession and closly approaching neurosis. I'm already planning the next bike and the next ride! At this point I'm leaning towards the VStrom as an excellent all-rounder, or maybe the Versys, but I have to admit I have just a wee bit of speed demon in me and a Concours or ST has a certain appeal. No rough road capably but they both go like a raped ape and they're oh, so sexy! Nothing like an old short hairy fat guy on a nice bike. Hey, I can at least pretend it's me and not the bike people are looking at :-)

Rosi and I once walked past an Ex-Officio store in an airport in the US and their slogan was that they were a store for those travellers that were already planning the next trip before they got on the plane to leave on this one. It spoke to me - I'm that guy!

Anyway, I have to run to do some last minute shopping. Here are pictures of my current dream bikes. Enjoy and have a fantastic Christmas.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

My "best" friend

A few pictures of my best friend, Dexter.
OK Kevan, my other best friend....

One Month to Go!!

Not much new to report but we're now at the one month mark!
My Dad spent four hours working on Brad's bike installing the replacement windshield for us. It's one more thing out of the way. This is a huge weight off our shoulders because now we don't have to spend time dicking around with it on before we leave. We all arrive on Saturday evening and we want to leave first thing Monday morning so the less we have to do to get the bikes ready the better.
Dad and Carol - you're both officially associate members of Team Panama 2008!

Pretty much everything is done at this end. Brad and I both have our new BC Licenses - and Kevan is going to make colour copies for us and laminate them so we'll have "spares" to hand over at road blocks. It's a trick we read in some of the other blogs etc. If a Guatemalan police officer demands your license and then refuses to give it back unless you pay some trumped up fine, you agree to come in to the police station to pay and retrieve your license - and then carry on because it was just a copy. It sounds good in theory - only time and experience will show if it actually works.

Other than that we're pretty much done. I still have to pick up Rosi and I's Malaria tablets at the pharmacy but they should be ready this afternoon. I also have to call our credit card carriers and let them know which countries we'll be in and confirm with my out of country medical through work that everything is a go. All this is just fine tuning though - we're all just waiting for the "go" date now.

And not that anyone is counting but for me there's 29 sleeps!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

E-Bay and the Internet - Gotta Love it!

Last night, sitting at my computer in Summerland BC, I was able to buy a windshield in Arkansas and have it shipped to Apache Junction AZ. I can't even imagine how we made out with things like this 20 years ago! Even with SPAM, scams and other issues the Internet certainly makes a lot of things MUCH easier and more convenient.
Soooo........hopefully, through miracle of UPS, the replacement windshield should arrive at my Dad's sometime late next week.
Once there my Dad has graciously volunteered to pull the damaged one and install the replacement.

Dad, if you're able to pull this off you're the newest official associate member of Team Panama 2008! And carol - for allowing all four of us to crash at your condo for the two nights before we leave - and for all your help in picking us up at the Airport etc - you're the second official associate member of Team Panama 2008.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Wild Hogs - Not!

“Wild Hogs”
I am going to freaking scream if one more person asks if the trip is going to be like the movie.

Yes I have seen the movie. No we are not like the fictional characters in the movie. No we are not riding Harleys. No we are not wearing black leather. Yes it is a funny movie.

Think of this trip more like “Long Way Round” on a budget. A small budget. We are not riding BMW’s, we are riding 25 year old cheap Honda’s. We do not have a support crew, corporate sponsors or cameramen following our every move. We don’t even really have a budget unless you call our credit card limits a budget. What we do have is four friends heading out on an adventure of a lifetime. Our adventure, our way (cheap), to see part of the world we are really interested in. So if you want to compare us to someone, or something, think “Long Way Round” and not “Road Hogs”. BTW if you have not seen “Long Way Round” rent it. It may change your life as well.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A couple more pictures

Unloaded and put away in Apache Junction!

We unloaded all the bikes without any problems yesterday morning. It went MUCH more smoothly than the process of loading. No fallen bikes, no broken windshields and no personal injuries!

I then spent an hour in my own personal Nirvana - a local motorcycle clothing/gear store. I was able to find a great deal on rain gear and a nice Firstgear mesh riding jacket. I'll now leave my Firstgear all weather jacket behind. It has some venting for warm weather riding but when we get south of Guatemala we'll be into some fairly hot and humid territory. If it gets cold due to altitude I can always put on a high-tech jacket liner under the mesh jacket and even put on my rain gear as a second layer.

I was thaaaaat close to new boots but I drew the line after new jacket and mesh riding pants.

Here are a couple of final pictures.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Apache Junction

We made it!

1,700 miles, and more than a few truck stop lunches, and we pulled into Apache Junction at 4:00 this afternoon. All in all it was a fairly uneventful trip. It really did open our eyes though, and we're already planning on doing the trip again but at a much more leisurely pace. Some of the scenery through Utah and Arizona was simply incredible.

Can you spell future bike trip anyone??

Anyway - no problems with the bikes. Other than the accident loading them of course. All the tie downs held right up to the end. We checked every morning, every evening, and least once during the day. When we arrived one strap had actually broken but the bike had only shifted a little and it doesn't appear that was any damage at all. I'll know more when I unload in the morning.

Kevan - our used clutch assembly is here in Apache Junction

My warm weather riding gear arrived as well but apparently the sizes down here are small. It must be the foreign manufacturing - it can't possibly be me.

Oh well, I'm off to the MC shop tomorrow to buy what must be a very tight fitting XXL. Damn!

I have to admit though - that pants look very good as is - and who needs to breath anyway?

Anyway - now that I have access to a computer I'll try to add a few pictures.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

750 miles later.........Idaho Falls, Idaho

We hit the road out of Summerland at 5:00 on Friday night, with our first stop an hour later being the US border crossing at Oroville Wash. WooHoo!! We sailed through with out any problems. I had already drafted a permission letter for each of the guys that outlined the dates the bikes will be in the US, all the ins and reg info and a detailed summary of any personal gear. Stapled to each letter was a copy of their license, passport, and the reg for the bike. The border guard was a little overwhelmed but the whole thing was quick, efficient and painless. At the end of the inspection he went so far as to thank me for being so organized. Go figure.
The rest of the trip was uneventful and we eventually arrived in Spokane around 10:00 - tired, but safe and sound.
250 miles down
This morning we got up a little later than planned, had breakfast and were on the road around 8:30. We immediately hit the Interstate and I learned several things:
The US interstate system is FANTASTIC!. Yes it's a little less scenic than a secondary road but wow, are they ever well maintained. It's easy to average 65 - 75 miles per hour.
Which brings me to another thing I learned - a 17" U-Haul uses copious amounts of fuel after 60 miles per hour. So much for the 10 mpg indicated on the website - we're burning though at least half as much again. Oh well, we're making good time.
Finally, again thinking of fuel, I come to my third lesson. Love them hate them, one thing you can't fault the Americans for is their generous hospitality.
I'm having a tough time getting my head wrapped around miles again. I see 45 to the next town and think it's half as far as it is. Add to this a high burn rate with the fuel and you have a recipe for disaster. And when Rosi looks at me and says though clenched teeth.."next time you'll have to pay more attention" it's really "wife talk" for you idiot!
You have to drive though Montana and Idaho to truly appreciate how large and how empty it is. Desolate comes to mind but I'm sure the ranchers that lives in the odd house every 20 miles or so like it. So....I left Spokane with a rough idea of when I'd need gas and knowing that Butte was where I'd turn off to I15. The problem was, the junction turned out to be 8 miles THIS SIDE of Butte. No problem I said, how far can it be to the next little town. Apparently, quite far. This place makes Northern Manitoba look crowded. No problem I said again, just as the low gas light came on - there's a turn off to a town - let's take it. The "town" turned out to be one tavern and the closed remains of the only gas station with in 20 miles. Too far for me to chance it at this point.
And that's where American Hospitality comes into play. Two HUGE pick ups pull in with quads on the back, and out step three very young, very big, local boys all decked out for hunting. They said hi and asked how we were doing (probably thinking WTF are you doing here?) and I told them of our problem. One (Greg?) immediately says he knows a friend that may have gas and he jumps in his truck and off he goes down the road. 5 minutes he's later he's back, with the good news that his friend (John?) is on the way. Sure enough, another guy arrives with another huge truck and the biggest, brightest, most beautiful Jerry can of gas you've ever seen.
Thanks VERY much guys!
After that it was more uneventful miles and miles of miles and miles. Roughly 500 since this morning.
Which brought us to Idaho Falls around 6:30 this evening.
Onward and upward........

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Whoops - here are the pictures

Our first mishap

We had our first mishap this evening.
Memo to self….never, EVER attempt to drive a 500 lb motorcycle up a ramp into the back of a U-Haul truck without LOT’S of people standing by to catch you.
I was thaaaaaaat close to making it. Actually, I was doing great but at the top, just as the front tire crossed the threshold I hesitated. Ooops….now the bike is unsteady I said. Self I said, no problem, I’ll just put my foot down…….DAMN!…. I forgot I’m four feet up on a two-foot wide ramp. And yes, you guessed it. I MISSED! Me and the bike tumbled. Luckily the bikes front wheel hung up on the threshold which stopped it from falling on to me – sprawled face up on the pavement looking up, oh so worried, at the spinning tire of a 500 hundred pound instrument of my impending death!
So…… the good news is a rear tail light and new windshield shouldn't be too hard to replace. Everything else seems fine. Well, as fine as a wrenched neck and swollen elbow can be before a 1,500 mile drive.
Here’s some pictures of how smooth it went AFTER we decided to push them on manually rather than driving them on.

Jim, I promise – I’ll be at work in the morning.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Ouch! I feel like a pin cushion

Yesterday we visited the Travel Medicine Clinic in Penticton and had the oh, so unpleasant task of updating our vaccinations for the upcoming trip. Rosi and I have always kept our shots current because we’ve been to Central America twice before, and even in Mexico we get fairly far of the beaten track. Our Hep A and Hep B are up to date and good for life because of this. Likewise, our PDT vaccinations (polio/diphtheria/tetanus) are still good for another few years. What we had to update for this trip was our Typhoid vaccination, Yellow Fever because we’ll be going past the Canal Zone into the Darien and Malaria. For the Malaria we have to visit our Dr and get him to give us prescriptions. Rosi will be able to use the standard Chloroquine, but because I’m going further into the Darien I have to look at two alternates. One is cheap and easy but may have some nasty side effects. The other is more expensive but may be easier on my system. I’ll just have to wait for the Dr.’s advice. The only other thing we’ll need is to get a prescription for Cipro – an antibiotic to take with us just in case we get Travelers Diarrhea and it turns into something worse, like dysentery.
Ah the joys of third world travel!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Journey Begins

The journey begins: well, not quite but we’re definitely making progress. Kevan and Karen drove up from Nanaimo and arrived at our house late yesterday afternoon. They hauled two more of the bikes on Kevan’s flat deck trailer - Kevan and Brad’s Silerwings. Kevan also brought several boxes of assorted parts, tools and some of his personal gear. The plan is for Steve to bring his KLR down on the 8th and for him to help me load everything into a U-Haul truck and take all four bikes and any personal gear etc., to Apache Junction in two weeks. This way we’ll avoid having to ride through the US in the winter, plus it gives us one more week we can spend on the trip.
There’s lots more stuff to do but it’s starting to feel very real. Kevan and I spent hours pouring over maps, looking at different itineraries and generally nailing down the myriad details that a trip like this entails.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


We decided to move the date up to January 2008 in August. Since then it’s been a whirlwind of preparation and activity.
In no particular order…
Both Steve and Brad had to buy bikes since neither had one when the go/no go decision was made. Brad had to take it a step further and acquire his MC license. We all had to buy new hot weather riding gear and equip the bikes for the trip. No small task for three 26 year old Honda’s
Trying to arrange shipping was a nightmare. Yes, there are lots of professional companies doing it but it’s VERY expensive, and none would take any of our personal gear. So……..Rosi and I are renting a u-haul and taking all four bikes to Apache Junction in two weeks.
Then there’s the usual stuff for a MC trip through Central America:
Parts and tools for the bikes in case of a break down
First aid kits
International Drivers licenses
Vaccinations etc from the travel clinic
Out of Country medical Insurance
Special MC Insurance to be able to cross over into Mexico
U-Haul arrangements
Hotel reservations
Route Maps and planning (OK, I love that part. I’m sorry, I can’t help it)

Oh, and did I mention that our wives are flying to Costa Rica, bussing to Panama
and will be waiting for us when we arrive. That will be the end to a lonnng dry spell.
Viva la Panama!

We’re all pretty much finished but the bikes still have to get to Phoenix.. US Customs has said all I need is a letter from the other three owners giving me permission to haul them down but it sounds too easy. I’ll believe it when I see it!

Team Panama 2008

The team....

Myself..I had a Honda Trail 90 (didn't we all?) more than 27 years ago, followed by a Kawasaki 250 Enduro shortly after, Since then I haven't ridden a MC for > 25 years, let alone ever had a license. So I took lessons in Kelowna this spring and passed the road test in August. Kevan picked up my bike for me in January and I started riding in May. Since then I've racked up 6,000klm and I feel fairly confident.
I’m a 27 year career banker currently working as a senior manager for a large credit union in headquartered in the Okanagan. And please, let me use this as an opportunity to thank the credit union in general and my boss Kelly, and his boss Paulette specifically, for allowing me to take five weeks off in Jan/Feb for this trip. This much time is unheard of for a senior manager in my position and VERY much appreciated.
I’ve traveled extensively through Mexico, and Rosi and I backpacked on two occasions through Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. I think I’ll be able to help the team with logistics, organization and just enough Spanish to get us into trouble.

My stepson Brad, with the VERY generous support of his new girlfriend, Joyce, is joining us for this little adventure. Brad is a service manager for a large marina and fleet management company located in Sidney. Brad has a love of travel and has rented a car and driven solo through much of Mexico on two different trips. He brings to the team a sense of adventure and youthful exuberance. I somehow suspect it’ll be Brad urging us on when we get up at 5:00 to hit the road early.

My best friend for over twenty years. Kevan is a mortgage broker extraordinaire out of Nanaimo and is probably the most intelligent self-taught professional I know. It’s not his business sense though, that we’ll count on. Kevan has a VERY eclectic background, including, in no particular order, fireman, racecar driver, motorcycle rider and, did I mention MECHANIC! Kevan’s ridden bikes his whole life, much of it on Honda’s – and he’s forgotten more than most mechanics’ know. Oh yes, we’ve already come to depend on Kevan for a lot
BUFF, we can’t thank you enough!

My brother-in-law Steve is our KLR rider. Steve brings an incredible strength to the team. He’s virtually a professional mountain bike rider and he’s up for any challenge. But when the rest of us get frazzled I suspect it’ll be Steve's calm demeanor and thoughtful approach that will save our bacon. Or at least keep us grounded when things get frustrating.

So there you have it.....Team Panama 2008!

The Bikes

Three of us have matching 1981 Honda GL500 Silverwing’s. They’re not much to look at, and the technology is REALLY old by today’s standards, but they’re in great shape and pretty much bullet proof. They all have around 60,000 klm or so. They didn’t catch on in North America because of our obsession with bigger displacement bikes but in the UK they were very popular as courier bikes. Over there, with proper maintenance, 200,000 miles wasn’t uncommon. They’re shaft drive and liquid cooled and we hope, all up to the challenge. And, because they match, we only have to take one set of tools and spare parts. The other aspect that we found appealing is we paid so little they’re literally disposable. If we run into a major problem we can cut our losses and walk away.
The fourth bike is one of the most rugged and endurable duel-sport bikes made; the Kawasaki 650 KLR. This bike was chosen for it’s fantastic reputation and the established dealer network Kawasaki has in Central America. So, no matter what, one of us will look really cool. The other three; either really cool or real dorks. Only time will tell.

The Route

The route is still fairly flexible but tentatively we think it will look something like this…
Ship the bikes to Apache Junction in November and store them in a short-term storage locker. My Dad’s a “snowbird” and winters in his condo in AJ so he can keep an eye on things and his place will be ground zero when we start the trip.
From Phoenix we’ll travel due south and cross into Mexico at Nogales, with our first stop being Hermsillo. From there we’ll continue south stopping in Los Mochis and Mazatlan. We figure we can do 1,500klm in the first three days, if for no other reason than there’s jack to see between Nogales and Mazatlan.
From Mazatlan we’ll continue on, following Hwy 200 along the coast the whole way through Mexico. We’ll overnight in Rincon de Guayabitos, Colima, Playa Azul, Acapulco and Puerto Escondido. Knock on wood we think we can make the Guatemalan border in two weeks.
At that point things become fluid. We want to touch every county but Belize so we’ll probably stick to the Pan American Hwy whenever possible.
We leave AJ on Jan 14th and hope to arrive in Panama around Feb 10th. Our return flights are all scheduled for Feb 14th.

The Trip

For longer than I can remember I’ve wanted to take an extended motorcycle trip. And for some reason, probably just because I like the sound of the name, the destination in mind has always been Tierra del Fuego.
Sometime around three years ago, our very good friends, Marita and Kyle, let us know that they were building a home in Panama and that they were going to live there as ex-pat’s for at least six months a year. I didn’t give it much thought at the time but it must have planted a seed, because over the next year or so a plan slowly emerged. At first Rosi and I thought of just flying down to visit them but that evolved into me riding a motorcycle down and her joining me there. So, in Oct of 06, Rosi and I joined my best friend Kevan and his wife Karen for dinner in Duncan. For this to work I needed someone as adventurous (or as crazy) as me and Kevan naturally came to mind. I agonized over asking because I was so worried he’s say no. Instead, before I could talk about the trip, one of those weird coincidences happened that really do make you sit back and consider. Kevan pulls out of a bag the DVD series Long Way Round. He says he watched it from start to finish and thought I just HAD to see it – after cautioning me that it was a very dangerous video for a middle aged man to watch because of the craze idea’s it would put in your head. By the time dinner was over the plan was hatched. Kevan and I would ride to Panama in Jan 2009 and Rosi and Karen would fly down to join us. Since then the plan has morphed into four of us going this Jan (08) We’re going to ship the bikes to Phoenix next month and we’ll fly down in January to pick them up and start from there. We figure it’ll take us four weeks as long as we don’t have any mechanical problems, but we’ve given ourselves five just in case. In Panama we’re not sure what we’ll do with the bikes – sell them or maybe store them for a return trip later on – and we’ll then all fly home.