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.