Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Route

Well, we've decided on a route.

We looked at a lot of options and weighed the variables. First and foremost, we want a trip that will be enjoyable for Rosi on her first major multi-day ride. We considered heading inland because I'd like to see Lake Chapala and we both would like to visit Uruapan but we don't think this is the trip to do it. The roads inland are much busier and it can be cold this time of year due to the elevation. We also thought of a circle route taking us down the coast and back through Guadalajara, but again, we ruled it out for the same reasons.

What we've settled on is the simplest and easiest - a straight run down the Pacific Coast as far as Zihuatanejo, and back. The roads are excellent, there isn't any complicated navigation and it'll range from warm to hot for most of the trip.

When we leave Apache Junction it's a long cold three-day run to Mazatlan. From there we plan to hop-scotch down the coast: Rincon, Barra, Playa Azul and Zihuatanejo. Coming back it'll be close to the reverse, with one change because we hope to hook up with Atillio in PV: Zihuatanejo, Barra, PV, Mazatlan and then the three-day run to home. Total mileage is estimated at 5,400 klm (plus side trips) over 13 days, which allows for 10 days downtime and side trips. Our average mileage will be 413 klm, with the longest day being 553 klm and the shortest day being 125 klm.

The bike and our gear is on it's way and everything else is falling into place. It's still more than four weeks away but it'll come quick and then we'll know for sure if it's Rosi's cup of tea. If not, at least we'll be in Mexico and if it means staying in Mazatlan for the whole three weeks we'll just have to suffer through! Awwww.....

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Flurry II heads south

Today I met Bonnie and Ward at their house in Osoyoos and loaded my bike into the U-Haul trailer they rented just for this purpose. Two months ago Ward graciously agreed to trailer my bike down to Phoenix for me when he and Bonnie head down to their second home in Mesa. They've been away in Alberta but now that Christmas is over they're packed up and heading south - with Flurry II firmly ensconced in the back.

Bonnie, Ward; thanks VERY much. Without your help with this part of the logistics we wouldn't be able to make the trip.

Rosi and I will fly down on January 24th and my bike will be there already waiting for us. I'll have a day to prep the bike and iron out any wrinkles and, if all goes according to plan, we hope to hit the raod by 7:00am on the 25th.

WooHoo - only 28 more sleeps!

On a different note - this time around we'll be able to maintain the blog a little more consistently and downloading pictures shouldn't be a problem either. I just came home from Staples, the proud owner of a new Acer Aspire One netbook, a really small laptop specially designed for travellers. I also bought a new, much smaller, Canon digital camera. When we're on the road Rosi will be in charge of stills and I'll handle the video camera ( as best I can ) and we'll try to keep friends and family current on where we are in the journey.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Finally Finished

For the past three years I've been taking classes through Vancouver Community College's School of Instructor Education for the BC Provincial Instructor Diploma. It's basically the equivalent of a two-year diploma in basic adult education and with it, I can teach in any community college in BC. I've been doing some contract corporate facilitation work off and on over the past six years and this certificate will also add some credibility to what I'm already doing.
After three-years of part time classes in Kelowna and on-line, and two months to complete my practicum, I'm finished. I sent my completed practicum down to VCC for marking yesterday. Now I just have to wait for it to be graded in January and hopefully, knock on wood, receive my diploma before we leave on vacation.
Speaking of which, I've been corresponding with an adventure-motorcycle tour company in Mazatlan and we may use them to take us on a tour over the Devil's Backbone. It's so high though, that weather is a major factor in Jan/Feb so it's not certain at this point. Should be exciting if we go!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Gotta love the internet - more trip prep

Just a short update for anyone looking on "how to" advice for preparing for a motorcycle trip into Mexico. The Internet makes things soooo much easier. Not only can you use sites like trip adviser, allmexicohotels and travelocity to make all your arrangements but now you can do most of the paperwork online as well. A case in point: I was able to buy my mandatory motorcycle insurance online from Sanborns in Nogales. No fuss, no muss. And now even the Mexican government has embraced the web. When you drive into Mexico there's an extra step. Anyone that's flown will be familiar with the tourist visa that you fill out on the plane. When you drive you have to fill out the same card and get your passport stamps. This is the "immigration" part of the equation and allows you in for 180 days as a tourist - and it's easy. But if you drive you have to also "import" your vehicle, which entails permits and fees from customs. And it's this part that takes the extra time. In Mexico it's all very efficient and professional but it still can take up to an hour of standing in line etc, especially since we'll be hitting the border late in the morning, rather than really early like my last trip. you can do the whole thing online in advance! Muy Bueno! So, through the modern marvel of the Internet, and the oh so convenience of Mastercard, I've taken care of two of the major headaches of driving into Mexico. Both from the comfort of my own home. Gotta love it!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Good news and a slight change of plans

Good news - Brad and Joyce have picked a date! The wedding is scheduled for the August long week-end in Victoria. WooHoo!! It's sure to be a great time and we're looking forward to officially welcoming Joyce into the family.

As for the change of plans - we've decided to go for a full month to Mexico instead of just three weeks. It's quite a bit to ship the bike down and ride south for just three weeks - actually two and a half because we want to get back in time to spend a few days with Dad and Carol. So now we'll have a full three and a half weeks in Mexico. Our very loose plan is to burn down to Mazatlan for sure and then Playa Azul if Rosi is OK with the whole motorcycle thing. From there, knock on wood, I'd like to swing inland to Lake Chapala and then maybe north to Chijuajua before heading home.

Other than that not much new to report. Rosi's mum is doing as well as can be expected and I'm busy completing my practicum for my degree. Pretty much same ol same ol.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Trip Preparation

If anyone is interested I'm starting to think about what to pack for our trip to Mexico. It's still three months away but Ward will be taking the bike and gear down with him so I have to get everything together and down to his place in just a couple of weeks.

We'll of course take all of our own personal gear, riding equipt. and rain gear but here's what we have to take from a maintenance/repair stand point;

Tools - what I did was start with the factory kit as a baseline. The tools in it are crap but its a good indication of sizes etc. With this in mind I swapped out everything I could for store bought tools with the exception of the few specialty items that are specific to the bike. My kit now includes:

Wrenches / Basic Socket Set / Screw Driver Set / Vice Grips / Pliers / Special Allen head for the front axle / Crescent Wrench / Spark Plug Socket / Leatherman Tool / Allen Wrench pocket kit

Misc items include; tire repair kit (plugs, worms, patches, glue, reamer tools etc) / CO2 canisters as an emergency fill / slime brand air pump / as a last resort a tube to use in an emergency (only the larger rear size is necessary because in a pinch it will work in both tires) / electrical tape / duct tape / WD40 / epoxy / lock tight / fuses / jumper cables / small size tire irons / air pressure gauge / supply of misc metric sized nuts, bolts and fasteners / zip ties and wire / flashlight and batteries / first aid kit / siphon hose / jumper cables

What's not shown is the tool tube I installed on the bike; inside this I carry POL items that I want to keep separate from my luggage: chain lube / oil / kerosene to clean the chain / rags , rubber gloves and handy wipes.

We're lucky - the storage room under the seat is huge and I can store just about all the actual tools there. The larger bulky items like the spare tube, jumper cables and pump can all go in two tank pannier's I install for long trips. This leaves the larger pannier's and the top box for our actual luggage.

The irony of course is I don't know what to do with half of this stuff but better safe than sorry. I'll have a laptop with a downloaded PDF of an entire DL650 repair manual and necessity is the mother of invention so I'm sure we'll be fine.

More to come as we continue to prepare

Ride Report

Well, it's been a full week since I rode back and I'm pretty much recovered. It was a long, tiring and cold trip.

I flew out to Victoria on Friday evening and picked up the bike at Jef'f''s as soon as arrived. From there it was a short ride to Brad's - he, Joyce and I had a lovely dinner but the night was a little rough because I slept on his couch - VERY comfortable for sitting and entertaining - not so much for sleeping. Oh well, beggars can't be choosers.

The next morning after a hearty breakfast at a cool funky place they know - and I had to buy because I'm a man of my word and I lost a legitimate bet to Joyce the evening before - I hit the road around 10:00. I rode up Island to Nanaimo, where I joined Kevan and we continued on to Courtenay and then across to Powell River. The forecast was for clear and sunny but by the time I hit Duncan it was heavy overcast and cold - no rain but really dark and cold.

We spent the night in Powell River and had dinner at the pub attached to the hotel. After several double scotches,' sambucca with my coffee and a few beer we were able to solve all the world's problems before I went to sleep early - AKA passed out - no later than 9:30.

We're both early risers so we were up the next morning by 5:45 and on the road at 6:30. It was still dark but even then we could tell it was a fantastic road. We had to take it a little easy because of the fear of hitting a deer but it was still a great ride to the Ferry terminal. We caught the 7:25 boat to Earl's Cove and continued on down the Sunshine Coast. And true to it's name the sun came out in full force and we had a great ride down all the way to Horseshoe Bay.

Once there, Kevan pulled a u-turn to catch the Ferry back to Nanaimo and I headed on home. I was in Hope by 3:00, Merritt by 4:30 and I pulled into home just before 6:00. It was a cold ride but no rain and little traffic so all it all it was a great week-end.

Two pictures attached - before and after 800 klm in two days

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Tickets to Phoenix!!

Some good news; Ward has agreed to trailer my bike down to Phoenix and back so our trip to Mexico - albeit, a little shorter with Brad's news - is definitely on for January. Ward & Bonnie, thanks VERY much!.
So, my vacation time at work is approved for the last week of Jan and the first two weeks of Feb and last night I bought tickets on-line through US Airways. Not the greatest airline but no worse than most. They're a discount carrier affiliated with Northwest and part of the Star Alliance so I can collect aeromiles as well. Return tickets from Spokane to Phoenix - all taxes in - were only $279 each. Not too bad!
I'd normally say there's now lots of planning to do now but after getting ready for a much longer trip last year this will be a breeze. I'll post updates as we go along but it won't be the all consuming obsession it was last time.
Before that though, I have to get through this week-end which is flying down to Victoria tomorrow evening and picking up Flurry II and riding her with Kevan up to Courtenay, over to Powell River and down the Sunshine Coast, before heading home. According to Google Maps it's 850 klm so it'll be another great week-end ride. The forecast is for good weather so it should be smooth sailing, but things can change fast this time of year so my fingers are crossed. If I run into snow I'm screwed!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Great News!!

We received a call last night from Brad letting us know that he and Joyce have decided to get married! Excellent news and we couldn't be happier for them both.
He popped the question last night so it's all fairly new and way too early for them to have any real plans. They're tentatively looking at Sept next year as a date though, so our plans may have to change as far as a trip to Mexico this winter. And given a choice we'd much sooner have lots of vacation time saved up to be able to spend time on the Island before the wedding anyway. Viva la amour!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

New Bike

For a while now Rosi and I have thought about a GoldWing as a second bike for longer-distance cruising. Not for adventure travel - my VStrom will be perfect for that - but for week-end trips here in BC and maybe a cruise down the Oregon Coast etc.

A second bike is expensive though, especially to insure, so we had to come up with a viable game plan. What we settled on was finding a well maintained but at least 25 year old GL1100. This would serve three different but closely related purposes; allow us to try a Wing without breaking the bank, keep insurance low because of collector status and finally, expose me to riding a larger cruiser without stepping immediately up to a GL 1800.

After two months of searching the Internet and web-based research we found a bike as close to perfect for our needs as one could hope. In Sidney I found a 1981 GL1100 that's been owned by the second owner for 12 years. In that time he maintained the bike meticulously, has all the service records and kept the bike in showroom condition.

With Brad's help I bought it two weeks ago and the owner agreed to store it for me until I can get down in Oct to pick it up. I've already submitted for the collectors plates so I'll be able to insure it year round and once I get it here I'm going to arrange for heated storage until Spring. Wrapped or not, there's no way I'll leave it in the carport over the winter.

Say hello to Flurry II !
May she run straight and true and live up to the very high bar set by her namesake.


Update and trip report

Hi Everyone

First, an apology for not keeping things current.

As friends and family will all know, Rosi was diagnosed with an inter cranial but non-cancerous and non-malignant tumour this spring and it gave us quite a scare. The good news is we paid for a private MRI, which really speeded up the diagnosis process and we've now been able to consult with a fantastic neurosurgeon at St. Paul's. The very good news is the preferred option at this point is to wait and see. It's small enough - and slow growing enough - that the risk of surgery outweighs the benefits. Why good news? Because he told us not to worry and to get out and live, and to NOT let this stop us from doing things.

So........Mexico this winter is now definitely on!

We're tentatively planning for four weeks on the bike from mid-January to mid-February with no real firm itinerary at this point other than hoping to get to Veracruz. Now comes the planning and preparation, something that takes a lot more work that just hopping on a plane and flying to a resort. We'll keep things current on this blog as we progress.

Now the trip report. Last week-end I did my first major high-mileage trip on the V-Strom. I left Penticton right after work and went as far as Omak. From there I continued on to Wenatchee, over the Stevens Pass and up I5 to Birch Bay. On Sunday I went back down I5 to highway 20, over the North Cascade Hwty to Winthrop and Omak and then up Hwy 97 to home. All in all I covered 1,190 klm over two days. The weather was perfect, the roads were perfect and the traffic was light.

Muy Bueno!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Rosi's New Gear

We just arrived home from a great week-end down in Spokane. We were able to find a dealer that carried a fairly good assortment of women's sizes ( something that's harder than it should be - don't they know more and more women are riding?!) in Firstgear riding apparel. Why Firstgear? Why not? Actually, it's fairly simple. Just by co-incidence most of my gear is Firstgear and I really like it. It gets great reviews, is reasonably priced but not low-end entry level stuff, and looks and feels good. So, going with what we know, we decided to get Rosi gear made by the same company.

We were really successful. We got her a complete set of Meshtex hot weather gear and a Kilimanjaro touring jacket and matching HT Overpants.

All she needs now is a good set of boots and she'll be all set.

The first pictures are obviously Rosi.

The second set is the Kilamanjaro jacket from their website. The jacket and pants are on order and won't be here for another week .

Monday, June 30, 2008

The bike - 2005 Suzuki DL650 "VStrom"

When I returned from my last trip I was Sans motorcycle for the first time in a year and I didn’t like it one bit. Even though it was WAY too early to think about riding there was just no way my obsessive-compulsive personality would allow me to take my time to find a replacement. Lucky for me though, we now have the internet.
Through the modern marvel of Ebay and Kijiji I was able to find the perfect (for me anyhow) motorcycle. In Vancouver I found a 2005 Suzuki DL650 “VStrom.” It’s an Adventure Sport-Touring bike and is the perfect combination of street-bike as well as having excellent dirt road capability. It’s only a 650 but it has plenty of power for two-up adventure touring but is still small and light enough for Mexican back roads and for exploring off of the beaten track. And better yet, it was in almost new condition. It only had 9,000 klm when I bought it and it has a veritable cornucopia of adventure add-on’s already installed: touring windshield, engine guards, skid-plate, hand guards, centre stand, ignition advancer, stainless-steel exhaust, a full set of Givi panniers, Progressive Springs in front and a heavy duty spring in the rear. Since buying the bike I’ve installed a 12 volt power outlet and I’m now just waiting for bar risers from the US. When they arrive I’ll have them professionally installed in the shop and I’ll install driving lights and a 16-tooth counter sprocket at the same time. I’ve also added soft bag-liners for the Givi’s and I’m just waiting for tank pannier’s from the US for added storage on long trips.

The Trip (s)

Our next trip is going to be a trial run for an even longer trip in two years. Our long-term goal is a three-month (or longer) trip from Columbia to Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of South America and back up to Buenos Aires. This won't be until 2010/2011 at the earliest though. In the mean time we'll need to get at least one good month-long trip under our belts to iron out the bugs and make sure we're up to the challenge a long two-up journey.

When I got back from the last trip Rosi was VERY impressed with how well Sheri did two-up on the back of Steve's KLR and pleasantly surprised to hear how much Sheri enjoyed riding. With this in mind she was willing to give it her best try. This was very brave on her part and I was really appreciative that she'd at least give it a try, because prior to this her only experience on the back of a bike was as a teenager and the only memories she has are bad ones. Back then she took a very nasty spill and she still has the scars to remind her that it's a potentially dangerous sport.

This time around though, there's no way I will even consider riding without proper protective gear. My new motto is ATGATT - All The Gear All The Time. So...long story short, she gave it a try and it turns out she loves it! We started with a couple of short rides around town so we could both get used to two on a bike and since then we've done two long day-trips. The last was 7 hours/350 klm, which is a very good indicator that we'll be fine on a long trip.

So far Rosi has been borrowing my second set of gear but now that we know she likes it we'll be making a trip to Spokane to get her all of her own gear.

For now we'll keep doing day trips while we both gain experience but our goal is to ship the bike to Phoenix sometime this fall for a month-long trip in Mexico; either this winter or late spring, early next year. We'll either head back into the Copper Canyon or make our way down the Gulf Coast to Veracruz.

Here we go again!

Well, here we go again. We invite friends an family to follow along as we prepare for our next great adventure.

I completed my first "trip of a lifetime" in February and learned two important lessons: First, it wasn't the trip of a lifetime. Instead, it was an eye-opening experience that confirmed for me that there's a big beautiful world out there and the best way to explore it is from the seat of a motorcycle. Rather than a one time trip it's turned out to be the first of many more to come. The second lesson, and by far the most valuable, is that the ONLY way I'll truly appreciate the journey is if Rosi is along to share it with me.

So, with that in mind I'm once again using this blog to keep a running diary of where we are in the planning stages and as a venue to record my thoughts as we make progress with Dale & Rosi's Motorcycle Adventures, part deux.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Final Pictures - 2 (thx to Brad)

One of our border handlers
New friends along the way
Typical mountain road
Panama City skyline

Some final pictures

Changing a tire in 35 degrees and no shade
The local elementary school lets out for recess
Morning coffee in Granada

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


Leaving San Jose


Border Crossings - They don't seem that bad looking back now

Thursday, February 28, 2008


Saying good-by to Kevan, lunch in Mexico, stopping for the strong winds

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A few final thoughts - Feb 17th

"Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory or defeat."
Well it’s all over now and it feels just a little odd. It’s almost anti-climatic, and certainly more than a little surreal.

For the past 18 months we’ve all worked hard: we had to buy and prep the bikes, make all kinds of travel arrangements, buy extra parts in case of a break down and complete any inoculations and other travel medicine requirements for travel in the Third World. We had to each in our own way, come to grips with being away from friends and family for over a month as well as making arrangements for the necessary time off from work. If you say it quick it doesn’t sound like much now but at the time it was a huge endeavor and took a lot of our time and energy as we approached our departure date.

I can’t speak for Steve, Brad or Kevan but I was bordering on obsession during the last 90 days. The trip was all I could think about and all I could talk about, and I know there were more than a few people I work with that were very fed up with hearing about it before I left.

And then there was the trip itself. In was much harder and much different than I imagined, and in other ways it was much easier.

I had a leisurely itinerary in my mind before we left, that would see us leaving at 7:00, riding for 400 – 500 klm by 1:00 or 2:00 and then spending our afternoons lounging by the pool or frolicking in the waves at some small beachside resort. I was sure we could complete the trip in 20 days and still have lots of down time for site seeing and relaxing.

The reality was vastly different. Up at 5:30 for a 6:30 start, breakfast at a roadside taco stand or scarf down a donut at a gas station, a quick break for lunch and ride until 3:00 – 5:00, then search madly for a decent hotel with the all important and overriding factor of secure parking. Instead of rum and cokes and playing cards each evening we dealt with whatever maintenance issues rose during the day and collapsed into bed by 8:30. Our average overland speed, including stops, maintenance, fuel and lunch was never any better than 50 KPH and often as slow as 40 KPH. 400 klm meant an 8 – 10 hour day, plus whatever time was lost due to border crossings or the inevitable getting lost while leaving town syndrome.

But in some ways it was easy. Easy in the sense that we all got along well given the circumstances, we had no major mechanical issues, no one got hurt (even Kevan made it home safely), no one got arrested and not one of us, not one single one of us, would have traded it for the world.

It’s had a profound impact on my perspective and it’s affected me more than I thought it would.

I tried to go into work today to catch up on things and I found myself having a very difficult time dealing with all the e-mails and correspondence of the past five weeks. As I caught up on my reading, and learned about the latest sales targets, or newest product offering, I couldn’t help thinking of the past five weeks; and that brought me back to the young girl on the side of a Honduran road, waiving at a surprise parade her grandfather held her aloft to see. Did she sleep in a warn bed last night? Eat a decent meal? Have an opportunity to play or go to school? These things are what’s truly important, not whether or not Walmart chooses Blueray over HDV or how much Canadians can put away in RRSP’s this year.

I had to do some running around to take care of a few things before going back to work and I couldn’t help but overhear people talking to each other and complaining about this or that – all minor stuff in the big scheme of things – and I wanted to grab them and shake them and try to make them understand what I’d just seen and experienced. An act that would only get me arrested rather than imparting any kind of profound enlightenment. So I had to content myself with shaking my head and feeling pity for their limited understanding of a much larger world.

Tomorrow I go back to work and none of this will matter. By 9:00 no one will know I’ve been gone, nor care, and I’ll be right back on the treadmill with the rest of the world. But at least I’ll have a small understanding of what’s really out there and memories to keep me company until I can do it all again.

And for those of you that say I’d love to do something like this, but……

I just completed a 7,000 klm journey on a 26 year old used Honda and a VERY tight budget. You may not go but it’s not because you can’t. It’s because you won’t.

Or, as Johnny Depp would say… Are you a Mexi-can, or a Mexi-can’t?

Tierra del Fuego – only 2 ½ years to go – I’d better start my planning right away

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Flurry's new home

Last night Brad and I delivered Flurry and his bike to their new home here in Panama.

We put the word out to some of the taxi drivers here at the hotel that we had two bikes to sell. One immediatly passed on the word to a local Panamanian that was parked nearby because he was picking up a work associate at our hotel.

We started to chat with him and it was an immediate sale. Tito is a Panamanain photo-journalist working for the Associated Press. He´s married to a very nice girl from New York, has a 3 year old son and lives in a lovely new housing developement that was a former US Army Base. It has apartments, four-plexes, duplexes, single homes and large executive homes, all on about 100 acres of green space. Tito and his wife live in a four-plex, and an area of the development that he calls the UN because of the diversity of the residents. Anyway, Tito just sold his previous bike but regrets it because they´re on a budget and the gas bill for his Jeep is kiling them. He´s a devout Christian and he´s convinced me selling him Flurry for $500 out of the blue is a gift from God.

He looked at both bikes with a friend who´s a mechanic but he initially said he only wanted to buy Flurry. I told him it was a package deal so he eventualy brought over his neighbout to look at them too. It turns out his neighbour is his good friend and about the same age. His father had a Silverwing when he was a child and used to take him for rides so he jumped all over the chance to buy Brads´s bike so he can restore it and give it to his dad as a surprise present. Tito had to lend him some money to cement the deal but eventualy, after handshakes and final arrangements we agreed to sell both bikes for $1,000.

Brad and I drove the bikes over to their house last night and met their wives, kids and neighbours and were the talk of the town. We had a brief scare when we received an admonishment from a local Policia Naciaonal to slow down through the development but all´s well that end´s well.

Flurry is happy to be able to live out the rest of her days providing much needed support to a great Panamanaim family and she told me she loves the warmer weather. She never liked having to use her choke to start and says she´s much happier in this climate. She´ll also have Brad´s bike to keep her company and allow her to talk to someone in English whenever she gets homesick.

So, a sad day and a happy day all at once.

Adios old girl - you did good, really really good!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Day 27 - the final push to the Canal!!

We made it!!!!!

Day 27, our last travel day, was a day to remember. We left San Jose and arrived in David, the first large city in Panama, the afternoon before. By perservering, and crossing the border late in the day rather than waiting for morning like we usually do, we were able to cut our travel time to the Canal down to two days from three. We forgot about the time zone change though, so we actually started the day at 7:30, not 6:30 like we planed.

The roads in Panama are great and Panama itself is much like Costa Rica with a few differences. The countryside in the western half is as lush, green and beautiful as Costa Rica. There´s no litter to be seen and a noticible lack of tourists. My kind of place! I have friends that have bought property here and I now see the appeal. I certainly had visions of a large Finca for myself - hey, we can all dream.

Our first stop was a little roadside restaurant that we pulled into for breakfast. Parked out front were a dozen different motorcycles of various types and sizes. It turns out this was the Saturday morning ride for the Black Hawks, a local motorcycle club. Before we could even dismount, they were up and out of the restaurant, all wanting to introduce themselves and welcome us to Panama. And unlike Canada, sport bike riders, cruisers, Chinese Harley wannabe´s and everything in between all rode together. It´s the ride that matters, not the motorcycle. We had a great time, exchanged e-mail addresses and made many new friends.

We hit the road again but as we headed east we dropped into the lowlands. The temperature climbed and the countryside became drier. Our next stop was another little roadside place where we pulled into for a Coke. From a distance we saw bikes parked out front and assumed it was our new friends from breakfast. It wasn´t. It was another motorcycle club out for a ride - but the reception was just as as warm and friendly. This time the bikes were bigger, newer and MUCH better than our Silverwings but instead of looking down their noses at us we were immediatley part of the rider fraternity. Thanks Rudy, we loved talking to you and meeting you and your friends. Cheers!

From there it was time to knuckle down, suck it up and put on miles. The temperature was now in the mid 30´s, and we were hot, sweaty and tired, and at the point where we´d normally stop, but with only a few more klm to go we pushed on.

And then it happened: we followed the signage to Panama City and eventually crossed the Bridge of the America´s! It´s a HUGE bridge that spans the bay leading to the Panama Canal and from it´s highest point we could see the Pacific, the Canal, the locks and Panama City itself! We were there! We´d done it! Horns honking, fists raised, eyes blury with manly tears we managed to give each other high fives at 60 KPH without killing ourselves and rode into Panama City!!

Waiting for us were Sheri and Rosi, very much the worse for wear. The poor girls had ridden an overnight bus from Costa Rica in order to meet us at the end. They planned a huge welcome, but like all things Central American, it didn´t go completley as planned. The Hotel I had booked on the internet was an absolute dive! They arrived at 4:30 in the morning, after 12 hours on the bus, only to find a room that was probably rented by the hour and a hotel you would´t put your dog in. So, guide book in hand, they had to scramble to find a room for all of us, with parking, all with no sleep and in 30 degree temperatures. When we eventually arrived at the original hotel though, they were sitting on the road waiting for us! They grabbed a cab and took lots of pictures while we followed them to a MUCH nicer hotel. All´s well that ends well.

The final day was another 448 klm, bringing the total to 6,968! We traveled through eight different countries, crossed difficult borders, dealt with cold, heat, traffic, smoke, smog and wayward animals on the road, and throughout it all WE LOVED IT!

Team Panama 08 made it! And that includes ALL OF US! There was a little piece of Kevan´s spirit in Steve, Brad and I and he as much made this journey happen as any of us.

Congratulations BUFF - you did it!

Team Panama also includes Dad and Carol, for all their help, especially when we arived with the truck in November, and for seeing us off at the outset. And most importantly, Karen, Joyce, Rosi and Sheri - without their love, support and faith none of this would have been possible.

So now it´s done. It´s almost a little sureal and I´m not sure what the future will hold but for now we´ll savour the memories and play tourist for a few final days in Panama. I also have to make final arangements for Flurry :-(

Adios Mi Amigos Y Familia!!

Saturday, February 9, 2008


When Kevan picked up my bike last January he drove it home over the Malahat in a blinding snowstorm. He dumped it for the first time that day while trying to pull into a gas station in six inches of fresh snow. Later in the Spring, after a stretch of excellent weather, he offered to drive it up to Penticton for me. Again, he hit snow, sleet and everything in between, and he was near frozen when he finally arrived. From that point on his name of Flurry for my motorcycle stuck.

I write this with very mixed emotions - or more accurately, with emotions I shouldn´t have. I purposely bought Flurry with the intent of leaving her here in Central America. She was cheap, but with an excellent reputation for reliability, and this strategy allowed me the freedom of not having to worry about shipping etc., at completion.


During the last four weeks Flurry has become much more than just a motorcycle. She´s been my closest friend and my biggest supporter. She´s greeted me each morning with a cough and a roar, and filled each day with the purr of a finely tuned engine - even after 26 years. She´s held up well, and has stood up to the abuse of more than 6,000 klm of the worst that Central Amercia could throw at her. The tire problems weren´t her fault and I have forgiven her completley.

In all this time I´ve never asked for more than she had to give and she´s never given any less than all that I´ve asked. And now I have to leave her.

I know she´s ''just'' a motorcycle but she must be more. A grown man wouldn´t cry when it comes time to say good-by to a ''just'' a motorcycle: would he?

When you´re thinking of us on this trip please give a little thought to Flurry too - she deserves it. She´s MUCH more than ''just'' a motorcycle.

Vaya Con Dios Mi Amigo
God Speed!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Days 24, 25 and 26

Wed and Thursday were the first time since we started that we had two consecutive days off. It was fantastic! We were able to sleep in both days and generally play tourist in ways we haven`t been able to up until now. We also had a great surprise/treat but it also had it´s sad part.

On Wednesday, Brad, Steve and I, Lonely Planet in hand, set out for a self-guided walking tour of some of the hi-lights of San Jose. We toured some amazing museums and took a guided tour of the Principal Theatre, an amazing place from the 1800's that would put any opera house in Italy to shame. We enjoyed more than a few creveza´s on the main square and I took in a first run movie at a local cinima.

On Thursday we were finally able to hook up with Rosi and Sheri! They´ve been in the country since the 30th but our paths didn´t cross until now. It was a great reunion. We did some shopping, drank even more cerveza and had a lovely dinner out to celebrate the journey thus far. The only low note was the fact that Brad was by himself. He´s in a new relationship and missing his significant other desperately. Having Rosi and Sheri join Steve and I only added to his lonliness and drove home the point that he won´t have this opportunity for a few more days. It was still great nonetheless and gave us all a much needed boost to complete the journey.

I have to say that having Rosi by my side again, even if only for a short while, was exactly what I needed to put things into perspective. She´s much more than my wife. She´s the ying to my yang and all that is good in my world, and doing this without her blessing and involvement just wouldn´t have been possible. Thanks Sweety - I love you so very much.

Today, Friday was one of the best! I say this, choosing to concentrate on the majority of the day and deliberatly not remembering the border crossing into Panama. It was typical; 3 hours of hell. Numerous different clerks, copies of copies, stamps and bribes. Some so blatent that it makes you shake your head in either resignation or disgust. This though, was just a small part of a much larger picture.

The rest of the day - and by far that which outweighs anything else - was the ride out of San Jose. We left at 6:30, our usual early morning start time, and had no issues leaving the city. Immediatley after leaving the city proper the road climbed through incredible scenery high into the mountains dividing the country. San Jose is at roughly 3,600 feet and at our highest point we hit close to 10,000 feet, except this time the road was great, the way was smooth and the sun and wind were at our back, both literally and figuratively. When we started to climb we had to stop and gear up because the temperature dropped quickly. We were also shrouded in thick mist, sometimes so thick visability was down to mere feet. But, as the sun rose and started to burn off the cloud cover, it opened absolutely incredible vista´s as far as the eys could see. We rose through thick jungle, rain forrest, cloud forrest and everything in between. The greens were beyond anything I´ve ever seen and I had to think: if there ever was an Eden, it must have looked like this. If you were to give Michelangelo the greatest, largest box of Crayola Crayons -the biggest box you´d ever see - the one we all wanted but our mum´s would never buy - the box with thousands of different shades and textures of green - and asked him to draw this landscape he wouldn´t be able to do it justice. It´s simply beyond mortal man to capture this beauty. And then, just when I thought it couldn´t get any better, the suns heat started to burn off the cloud cover and created wind currents and convection that moved the clouds up the mountain sides like a torrent of white water unlike anything I´ve ever seen. At one point, as we rounded a corner, the mist spilled up and over the road like a cascading waterfall in reverse, only more beautiful and far more surreal.

From the summit we started down the other side and slowly dropped back to realty - and MUCH hotter weather. Sweeping curves, long straightaways and tightly engineered switchbacks brought us down to the Costa Rica lowlands and a stretch of road that quite litteraly brought tears to my eyes. Up until now we modified our riding pattern to to match the conditions and more importantly , the traffic. We rode with large gaps between each rider in order to give passing cars room to get in and out. This day though, there was no other traffic and we were riding in a tight pattern. I was at the back but in close formation behind Brad and Steve as were leaned into curves so tight our footpegs threatened to drag. On my left was a wide crystal clear tourqoise river, on my right a mountain slope hugging the rode and rising steeply beyond sight. In my ears, Gypsy Kings. As we roared down this perfect stretch of road in tight formation it hit me: this was it. This was the ''the'' day and this was ''the'' moment. On each trip, as it nears completion, I always try to focus on one perfect moment. A moment I can burn into my memory so that I can focus on it later, when I´m back at work or up to my knees in snow. This was that day and this was that moment. Incredible!

As they say in Costa Rica, Pura Vida!!

Mileage, including the border crossing from hell - 435 klm

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A few pictures

Leaving Granada in the morning and crossing the border from Nicaragua into Costa Rica

Days 22 and 23

I have to start by saying how bitterly disapointed I was in Granada. Rosi and I spent a month in Nicaragua in 2002 and at least four days of that in Granada soaking up the sites, feeling the very cool vibe and partaking in a volcano and canapy tour. Back then it`s tourist scene was still in it`s infancy and we were just as apt to be mistaken for aid workers as for tourists. There were lots of VERY budget hippy backpacker types but very few others. Not so much now. Now it`s become a hot bed for Euro Trash and Sex Tourism. We were able to take in the lovely experience of young German soccer hoodlems showing their prowess by drinking beer for breakfast and sharing their favourite toast and college fight songs with the rest of the restaurant, followed in the evening by middle aged and older, single male tourists with young (in some cases VERY young) Chicita`s on their arm. I guess it`s what happens when new dollars flow into an area with no infrastructure to deal with it and no experience on the dark side of capitalism.

The good news though, is once we left Granada and headed to the border on the morning of Day 22 things changed - dramtically and quickly. It very soon became the Nicaragua I remembered. Smiling faces, a level of civility and calmness unseen in Honduras and Guatemala and a sense of renewal and vibrancy. We chatted with locals when we asked for directions - because once again we got lost trying to leave town - and even had a great conversation with a new member of the Policia Nacional, who only wanted to practice his English. I have to say, it`s still one of my favourite places, Granada excepted, and I`d go back in a minute.

The day continued with a great run to the border.

Ah, the border. My nemisis. This time though it was a little different. Yes, it was chaotic and tested out patience but we were able to make our way through without handles and without bribes or fees. OK, one attempt at a bribe but it back-fired. The first step is to get your passport stamped at immigration but this is a major trans-migration bus route and at any time there are litterly hundreds trying to get through. The process to get out of Nicaragua wasn`t too bad - only an hour or so but when we got to the Costa Rica side the line up was at least 160 people long. Yikes! As we stood there with a WTF look on our faces a handler approached and said for $5.00 each he could get us to the front of the line. What the heck, for $5.00 we were in - but no money would be paid until we were stamped. He proceeded to give us preliminary forms to fill out and then very underhandedly had me collect all three passports and he hussled me to the back of the building where he tried to sneak me into the outgoing line. Of course I got caught by the customs police and had a VERY worried moment but all she did was kick me out of the building making sure that every other person in the place knew who I was and what I`d done. Soooooo, we fired the handler and stood in line for 45 minutes until we received our legitimate entry stamp.

Now here`s the kicker. Costa Rica is just as bad as any other country with the exception that the fees were legitimate and there were no bribes. It still took 2 more hours, numerous different customs agents, piles of paperwork and copies of copies. The irony is the rest of the country is well organized, professional and a bastion of efficiency. All I can figure is they keep the border the way it is in order to maintain their standing in some weird ``Third World`` club.

The rest of the drive was almost surreal after what we`ve seen and done. The road was a silky-smooth velvety black ribbon of perfection that gently caressed our tires with a gentle hum. Narry a pot hole or tope to be seen. The road was overhung with tall thick trees giving everything an ambient glow and the coutryside was clean lush, geen and exceedingly clean.
We passed through two small towns that were clean and well laid out and eventually stopped at the first town of size called Liberia.

It was fantastic. Most of the signs were bi-lingual, everything was clean and organized and
we booked into a Best Western. So how come I wasn`t ecstatic? I should be loving this but I wasn`t. And then that`s when it hit me: Costa Rica isn`t Central America, it`s Central America Lite. It`s what the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce would design in a joint venture with Disney if they were going to design a country for tourists. Liberia looked more like Tempe or Scottsdale than any place else, right down to the strip mall with Churches Chicken, Burger King and Poppa Johns Pizza. I was only out of Nicaragua a day and already I missed it desperately. Is it possible to have two mistresses? Is there room in my heart for more than Mexico. Of course, because after all, this IS Latin America. Viva La Amor!
Mileage 241 - not much but it was still a long day with a border crossing factored in.

Day 23 - Today
Costa Rica lived up to it`s reputation well today and even I have to admit I can certainly see the appeal. First the road: it was excellent the whole way. There were a few times we got stuck behind a transport because there are no passing lanes but nothing worse than the Hope Princeton Hwy. The scenery was beyond fantastic. Cool mountain air, lush greenery, manacured lawns and well kept and organized huge ranches along the way. The gas stations are staffed by clerks that speak some English and we saw lots of tourists in rental cars making their way to one beach resort or another. It may not be my usual thing but I coped as best I could!

We`re now in San Jose for two and a half days of R&R. We`re going to leave the bikes locked up tomorrow and the day after and explore the city on foot. There are some great museums and a couple of day tours we can book right here at the hotel. Viva La Tourista!

Mileage Today - 225
Total Mileage - 6,106

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Days 19, 20 and 21

The last two days included two seperate border crossings. Three, if you count the process of leaving one country before entering another. It´s a demanding difficult process that has gotten harder, not easier, as we´ve travelled south. It´s a necessary evil however, in order to enter the country and finally be able to experience all the positives. And thank goodness for the positives. Without them all you´d have to remember is the border, and that´s NOT the mental picture you want to carry from the journey.

Day 19 La libertad, El Salvador - Choluteca, Honduas

Honduras is a difficult country to like - and I really tried to like it. But......

The early morning run from La libertad to the border was great. Beautiful sunrise, morning mist, good roads: ah, this is going to go well!

And then we arrived at the border.

Or should I say, a junction about a klm short of the border. Where, as we started to slow down to make the turn, ``handlers´´appeared out of the woodwork and ran up to us and along side of us shouting and waiving quasi-official name tags. (Like we don´t know that a copy machine and a laminator is all you need) They converged on us as if we had a baton to pass in some surreal relay race. What they were really trying to do was beat the rush down the road and hold us to some wordless contract based on eye contact alone, whereby they could claim the prize rather than a handler further along. Like it or not, we finally had to stop as we neared the border, and we were litterally desended on by a shouting mass of in your face, look at my card, I saw you first, pick me, PICK ME, desperate handlers. In it´s own weird way it´s almost humerous, unless of course like me, you have a slight bout of tourista, a pounding headache and you´re sweating like a pig at only 10:00 in the morning. I left this go around to Steve and Brad and anyone that approached me got an earfull of angry gringo using language that would put any self-respecting trucker to shame. This time they soon learned to leave El Loco alone.

We eventually settled on a pair of handlers that claimed to be brothers but at least one spoke English. I can´t stress enough the emotional and physical toll this whole process takes. All along we knew we were being taken, which adds anger to the mix, which is not only useless and pointless but decidedly unhealthy, but there´s quite literally nothing you can do about it. The Honduran system is as chaotic as the rest but also has an added layer of difficulty and seems designed to confuse. At this crossing we had to pay our first bribes (twice) trust our handlers with money, and generally had to be willing to be put our trust in people we absolutley knew to be untrustworthy. It´s compounded by the fact that you just know the officials are in on the action. By keeping you on the defensive and by avoiding any signage or instructions whatsoever they´re able to take advantage of you at every step of the way. Oh yes, I was SUCH a happy camper! But at the end of the day, it really doesn´t matter what a couple of Gringos think. It is what it is - and in this this case it was our first reality check where we were definitely faced with the Third World. All in all it took 3 1/2 hours, $50 each in actual fee´s, $50 each in ´´unofficial´´fee´s and another $20 each in handler fee´s. All to get into a country we were leaving the next day.

Once this whole ordeal was over we were spent. We did our best to put on some miles but we called it a day in Choluteka - total klm = 336

So yes, it´s a difficult place to like.

But, as well left Choluteca the next morning it was like a postcard. Beautiful lush green countryside, children walking to school, dappled sunshine filtering through tree´s completley overhanging the road and farmers hearding goats and cattle on the way to the fields. And then the moment that put it all into perspective. As we came around a corner an old man stood at the side of the road. In his arms was a young girl of no more than 3 or 4 years old. He was
stooped with age but proudly held her aloft with the pride that only a gradfather can feel. And she, dressed in her finest, waived madly at each of us as we passed one at a time. For her it was the parade she seldom sees. And as I waived back I wondered; what will her future hold? Will she get the education she needs to break the cycle of poverty she´s trapped in? Will she be able to get a job that will take raise her above this place? I hoped so - but then I realized. In twenty years she could be the next bitch I have to deal with behind a Honduran customs and immigration counter!

Yes, it´s a VERY difficult place to like - but I tried. I really tried!

Day 20

Day 20 started out great - especially the young girl waiving as we went past at 90kph. An early start got us to the Honduras-Nicaragua border by 8:00, where we had to pay even more money to the Honduran Govt, to process our exit paperwork. The good news though, other than some street urchin steeling the brand new watch I purchased in San Salvador the day before, was the speed that the Nicaraguan Govt processed our intake documents. The whole crossing this time couldn´t have taken any more than 2 1/2 hours. (hard to believe I´d ever get to a point where a 2 1/2 hour border crossing would be seen as good news)

Once we crossed into the Nicaraguan side our eyses were really opened to just how bad road conditions could get. We were hit with two things at once. First the road - or lack there of - was incredibly bad. In many cases the pot holes were larger than the road itself and just as I said no pavement would be an improvement over this, the pavement ended and we went to dirt track for at least five klm. I was wrong, the pavement, even such as it was, was better than nothing at all. Brad and I had a few very worrisome moments because we were both thinking the same thing: If this was the state of the road we´d NEVER make any progress and, there was no way our Honda´s could take much more of this pounding. Luckily though, this all ended after about ten klm and we hit brand new pavement - part of new highway construction - and the next 100 klm os so were fantastic.

The other interesting thing we however, was a HUGE trafic jam just inside the Nicaraguan border. Trucks of every size and description were jammd into each other at all angles. Imagine a 50 vehicle pile up on a foggy US interstate and you´ll have an idea of the situation, just without the pile up portion. We waited for a bit but no one moved and we couldn´t make out any rhyme nor reason to who or what was going to sort it out. This is where being on a bike paid off. With some help from the locals and different truck drivers we were able to weave our way through the maze and eventually got spit out the other side.

Which brings me to another point about riding vs. driving a car. I´m fairly new to this so I didn´t know what to expect but it´s completly different from driving a car. It´s fanastic! I think it´s best described as organic. You´re one with the environment as opposed to simply passing through it. I now this sounds way to Zen for me but it´s true. On a bike you feel every temperature change, hear every sound and smell every smell. Your field of vision is much better and because you always have to be in the moment you have a much better sense of where you´re at and what you´re doing. In a car you adjust the AC, roll up the windows to keep it quiet and set the cruise control. On a bike you cough when it´s smoky, sweat when it´s hot, shiver when it´s cold and shoot dirty looks at cars that cut you off. Viva La Motorcycle!

Day 20 continued with great roads and good time until we made the mistake of simply ´´popping´´ into a town we passd so we could get some local currency at an ATM. Us and towns don´t mix and five wrong turns later, the last of which lead us directly to the busiest market street in town, we eventually hit the road again a full hour and a half behind schedule.Oh well, we arrived into Granada with lots of daylight to spare. At least a full ten minutes! Yikes!

We found a very nice hotel though, and today, day 21 has been a good down day. Cold cervaca, multiple cuba libre´s and some great meals - followed by a well deserved nap as soon as I´m finished here.
Day 20 mileage - 312 klm
Total mileage including stops, starts, short cuts and wrong turns etc = 5,640 klm

Tomorrow the journey continues. I just wish there was some way to enter Costa Rica with out another freak´n border crossing!
Adios Mi Amigos

More pictures from the road

Pictures on the road:
Pacific Coast
Border crossing
Me - yes, I know it´s posed but I
think the outfit is soooo cool!