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Old 10-17-2010, 04:51 PM   #1
JGBrown OP
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Don't think twice, it's alright. Vancouver-Argentina on a 1979 cx500 custom

This is my first big motorcycle trip, leaving I'd had my license for 4 months, ridden Aurora around the block a few times, and ridden another bike a bit in the summer. It's also my first trip report

So any tips or advice will be much appreciated.
Currently in: Merida, MX.

To follow me via Spot tracker, go here.

http://share.findmespot.com/shared/f...IW8e9l5Sh6rGM8

To skip to Mexico, go to page 8.




To skip to Guatemala, go to page 14






The bike: Aurora is a 1979 CX500 custom

I know very little about her, I got her for free a couple years ago from someone I gave a ride to while driving across BC. He had three parts to the deal, I had to ride her, I couldn't part her out or sell her, and she kept her name. I think I'm living up to all three finally. She stayed in my uncles garage for a year and a bit, I never rode her.

About me I only got my license in April, never really rode much because after sitting for 10 years, Aurora didn't run fantastically, and plus she wasn't actually insured. So back into the garage after a few trips around the block she went.

During the summer I worked in the prairies(SK), during the biggest flood and rains in 70 years, I bought a GS400 for 700$ there and tried to ride it around as best I could through all the mud and gravel, then rode back to BC, and went to a Horizons Unlimited meeting, something I'd heard of only a week or so before it happened. I had no plans to travel anytime soon, I planned to do so after high-school, but I never seemed to earn enough and life always got in the way. I went back to school, and ended up at Emily Carr University in Vancouver for the past year. Although I've wanted to travel all my life, I expected to do it after University By chance, I'd met a couple of riders at the Horizons Unlimited meeting, and when I was whining about wishing I could do what they were doing, they pointed out the obvious, I was already doing it, so why not go farther. I didn't think much of it, but a month later we met in Vancouver again, and after talking to them, I decided to go for it. I left shortly thereafter.

I'm 22 years old, a photography student from Vancouver, BC

I'm doing the writing and photography for credit at school as well by starting a blog.


Me and Aurora before getting ready, and before buying a used DSLR and lens.



In the couple weeks before I left she got racks, and a large number of bags added, the racks cost a couple dollars worth of metal stock, and allow me to clip bicycling panniers on. I got a bunch of new equipment, a haircut and was invited to Sacramento, CA to build her up, which is where we are headed now. I even started packing 2 days in advance, a new record in planning ahead for me though I didn't finish until about an hour before leaving.


Aurora on the road, this picture contains the story of this trip so far, Aurora loves to go, but she hasn't got much stamina, after an hour of riding she needs a drink.



Here's how she looks now, after a month of hard work with a brilliant mechanic(Larry Cargill) in Sacramento, California.



To read the entire story of the build, go here
There's about 70 pictures and a couple thousand words.
http://jgblog.ca/?page_id=61




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Old 10-19-2010, 08:51 AM   #2
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My dad called and told me not to ride at night to visit them. Spray paint can in hand, I was just about finished painting the racks, so I was really just about ready to go. Didn't want to hang around past the day I'd said I'd go yet again.
I was the only bike on the 9pm ferry from Vancouver to Victoria, BC. The ferry takes 90 minutes so I pulled in around 10:30 at night. After a series of mix ups and dead cell phones I ended up at a gas station in Victoria with no place to crash at. I decided to camp since I'll be doing that for months to come it should be good practice to start in a place I know.
As it turned out the place I thought I knew well had changed a fair bit, all the parks and beaches had new gates, and signs advertising all the fines and penalties for daring to exist there between the hours of 11pm and 6am. Victoria is a no fun place now, I remember going to all those places at night on a pedal bike or later in my jeep with friends. now there's a fine for stopping there. I wonder what the high school kids will do now, sit in cars at the walmart parking lot?
Finally risked sleeping up on Mt Doug, rode my capable off-road machine up the foot path and back onto the road past the gates, then rolled out a sleeping bag after a nice long ride up. Cold night so I wasn't sleeping much. I relocated to the lee of a nice warm stone wall to sleep, just as I drifted off, I heard a radio acknowledgment and somebody with a light having a good look around. High-tailed it out of there, I didn't know I could pack so fast. By this point it was 3am, I was tired, frustrated and getting sloppy. I rode back out the Pat bay highway to try out a trick I read on ADVrider about sleeping up beside the exits/overpasses since that no one ever looks there.
I took the first one that looked good, ignoring the foot high wet grass's effect on the traction of my old Spitfire street tires. Found a perfect spot to sleep in, so I rode down into it, intending to park the bike on the far side and sleep there. For some reason I still can't figure out I stopped sideways on the slope and turned the bike off, dropping my damn keys in the process. Reaching around uphill for them, I started to slip, and leaned over to keep the bike upright, forgetting the downhill side wasn't going to have any footing. We fell over into the bush. No amount of cursing and heaving would convince Aurora to budge, I couldn't get traction for my feet on the wet grass, and the bush was preventing the bike from getting clear even if I could have lifted her more than a few inches. I realized later she'd dug in so well that the kick stand, mirror, and left cylinder were all pretty well stuck, and the tires were right up in the air.
After a few failed attempts to drag the back end around to avoid lifting uphill I was about ready to throw in the towel call my parents and get a car jack to push the bike up. I pulled off all the bags, unbolted the gas tank and seat, and just dug in and lifted, dropped her on the uphill side, bolted back on the gas tank, reattached all my bags and only dropped her once more getting out. Took about three hours, I was so tired I just parked on the top of the hill and went to sleep as the sun came up.
Lost almost all my gas before I took the tank off, and burned blue from all the oil in the cylinders later that morning.

looking down the hill, gas tank already off.


Finally over lying on the uphill side so I can clean off the dirt and load my bags again.



It was about a half an hour before I got Aurora to budge that I realized that this trip is where I belong. I wasn't miserable, I was frustrated with myself, but I found that same peace kneeling in the mud in that bush trying to move a bike that got me hooked in the first place while riding an out of oil GS400 with a slipping clutch from SK to BC. I would rather be here than living in quiet desperation in my comfortable suite at home.

JGBrown screwed with this post 02-14-2011 at 03:37 PM
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Old 10-19-2010, 08:54 AM   #3
MacNoob
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That looks like a CX500 napping under a bush.


I prefer seeing full size pics rather than clickable thumbnails. In your post, click the 'image' icon (yellow square, mountains in it) and enter the url of your image.


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Old 10-19-2010, 08:58 AM   #4
JGBrown OP
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Fixed.

JGBrown screwed with this post 10-19-2010 at 10:55 AM
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Old 10-19-2010, 10:24 AM   #5
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Follow the Pan-Am

Quote:
Originally Posted by JGBrown

In between and after that I haven't a clue, I tried to plan my route but google maps can't find a route to Buenos Aeires. Must be broken today or something

Greetings from a fellow Vancouverite, best of luck!

Remember: just follow the Pan-Am! But, that said, may I make a minor little insignificant suggestion...

Buy a map.

Other than that, have a blast. Keep your tank full and your rubber grounded.

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Old 10-19-2010, 11:48 AM   #6
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Vaccinated.
|Again.
I'm writing this, sitting in a clinic waiting for my last round of vaccinations, before I get on the bike tomorrow, to ride south to the tip of Argentina and back, or as close to it as I can get. No minutely organized and scheduled plans with places to stay and organized logistics; just a very good reason to go, a need to sort myself out again and a rapidly developing addiction to my helmet. So far only the yellow fever inoculation yesterday has made me really regret letting a doctor anywhere near me with those needles of infectious liquid.
It's still surreal to me that the idea for this specific trip appeared under two months ago thanks to a pair of riders at the Horizons Unlimited West meet.
I was originally leaving earlier, but I didn't want to ruin my parent’s vacation by telling them before they left in September. Now that they are back and I've told them they have been amazingly supportive, a result I'm thankful for at the same time as I'm surprised by it. I expected a much different result, and I do feel bad about the worrying I'm sure they'll do. So, a lot of things have had to come together at just the right time to get me to this point - good and bad I'm thankful for all of them now.
All my life I've expected to travel, and so far I've always managed to keep from facing up to the idea with a limitless supply of reasons, always just putting it off a little longer. I've spent many years back-packing, but always short trips. When I graduated from high school, I never suspected that I might still be here almost 5 years later, never having left British Columbia and still feeling out of place. I stepped into the “real world” early, by starting to work at 14 as a wood-turner. Once I graduated, it seemed natural to stay there, working far more than full time, always telling myself it was just a means to getting on the road, with the feeling I didn't quite belong wherever I was. Whether I never fit in anywhere because my leaving was just around the corner, or whether the need to go came from the poor fit, I don't think I'll ever know. This resulted in many failed projects, from sinking my money into building up a Jeep to travel in, to preparing for backpacking in Europe while never quite getting out the door. When I first moved to the big city to work, my mother gave me a copy of Jupiter's travels; Ted Simon's amazing journey on a motorbike around the world. This lead my dad to joke that this trip was her fault. That book led me into reading more and more online blogs and trip reports, but I probably would have ended up on the road this way eventually one way or another. After the work excuse wore a bit thin, as I still didn't have any money to show for it, and wasn't any closer to traveling I started going back to school, with everyone telling me once I finished that then I could really close the door and go. Happy with another excuse to avoid actually having to do anything I once again buried the travel idea under a long list of things to do first, still never ready to stay put. Throughout all of this time I read many travelogues, but the only ones that ever really got to me were those on the sea or on a motorbike. Not that I didn't enjoy the amazing ingenuity people show in finding bizarre ways to travel, but the draw just wasn't there for me like with the stories of bikes and boats. I can't afford a sailboat, and motorbikes don't sink so the choice in the end was pretty easy.

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Old 10-20-2010, 11:40 AM   #7
JGBrown OP
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Nex couple day's ride.



I picked up a Pentax K-7 I had shipped to my friend's house in Tumwater, buying used in the USA rocks, less than 1/2 what I'd pay in Canada.

I've had a Pentax Optio P&S for about 5 years now, it's getting a bit tired. Considering the abuse I've heaped on it from dropping down rocks to washing it in the ocean, it's a damn good travel camera.

Here's one of the first pictures with the new camera, not ride report related but a good test. now to figure out how to shoot on the bike.

JGBrown screwed with this post 10-20-2010 at 12:13 PM Reason: Google map links suck.
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Old 10-20-2010, 12:46 PM   #8
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Ah, warms my heart, this

I can somewhat empathise with a flipped over in a ditch CX500...


I did something similar with my '82 CX500Turbo, on a Texas trip, once.

All fully loaded up with several metric tons of luggage, (going from Vancouver BC to Galveston), I stopped near the booth leading into Nasa space centre for a picture of the cute girl security guard.

Went to heave the bike up on the centrestand, and the right side leg sunk into the soft shoulder, toppling over and away from me, down into the ditch.

I hung on like grim death, willing the bike not to tumble down.

Didn't work. I got catapulted up over the seat and went down into the ditch with the overloaded beast as well.

Keep up the good work and great pics, beast wishes, mate!
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Old 10-20-2010, 02:37 PM   #9
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Great stuff man. Definitely one of the more interesting bikes i've seen doing this trip! I'm sure you'll have a great time.
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Old 11-09-2010, 02:23 AM   #10
JGBrown OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by L.B.S.
Ah, warms my heart, this

I can somewhat empathise with a flipped over in a ditch CX500...


I did something similar with my '82 CX500Turbo, on a Texas trip, once.

All fully loaded up with several metric tons of luggage, (going from Vancouver BC to Galveston), I stopped near the booth leading into Nasa space centre for a picture of the cute girl security guard.

Went to heave the bike up on the centrestand, and the right side leg sunk into the soft shoulder, toppling over and away from me, down into the ditch.

I hung on like grim death, willing the bike not to tumble down.

Didn't work. I got catapulted up over the seat and went down into the ditch with the overloaded beast as well.

Keep up the good work and great pics, beast wishes, mate!
Ouch, and I thought Aurora needed a diet, those turbo ones weigh even more!
Always wanted to try riding one of those turbos, sweet bikes.

If you aren't already there, check out choppercharles.com, great dedicated forum for CX's with a turbo section as well.
Thanks, beast wishes indeed.


Quote:
Originally Posted by lukeman
Great stuff man. Definitely one of the more interesting bikes i've seen doing this trip! I'm sure you'll have a great time.
I'm sure we will, Aurora is getting tired of sitting, we've been in Sacramento almost 3 weeks, working till 1am a lot of nights, just about ready for a road test.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mad Kiwi
Where are you at the moment Jeremy?
How many miles do you get out of a gallon because it sounds a bit thirsty! Can't wait to read your next instalment. We have four weeks till we leave. In LAX on the 25th of November. Talk soon
D & C
I get about 40. Aurora can't hold her drink, only takes a gallon and a bit when run dry.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Look Mom No Hands!
Great start man. I'm doing a similar trip myself (minus the "and back" part). I'm currently sitting in my friend's apartment in San Diego getting ready to cross the border tomorrow to ride down Baja. Maybe I'll see you out on the road sometime?
Ride safe.
Cool, I hope so, I'm planning to cross in Texas, although the current issues around the border there are making me rethink skipping Baja. I want to hit Merida, MX as well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AirborneAndy
What's up J? Where are you at? I'm headed across the US/Mexican boarder today thru Nogalas. Will PM you my cell in case you want to ride with us for a while.
Sorry, still in Sacramento, Honda lost my damn cam chain, so we were very delayed on the bike, on top of some strange injuries working on it. Did you know you can fill your thumb with air from a compressor? I'd never seen anyone do that before.


Quote:
Originally Posted by fishkens
Great report. So nice to see that you didn't wait until you had the "right" bike with all the stoopid "correct" farkles.

Your bike is the the right bike (no need for quote marks on that).

Enjoy.
Thank you, although she is pretty farkled up now, I almost feel like I'm not adventuring anymore without my 10 year old street tires.

I went so far as to blow 35$ on heated grips, felt a bit guilty, but as the missing chunk of report will show once I'm done writing it, riding straight through the night including enough hours below freezing riding with my left hand on the throttle and my right warming up on the jug, the rest of the time with my left on the left jug convinced me for safety reasons at the very least.
The rebuild has eaten all of my money(2500$ incl parts ) But Aurora's a brand new ride now, quite literally even though she looks older and ready to quit. The only thing not completely torn down and worked on was the rear drive. We wouldn't have made it much past the border without it, the cam chain tensioner was about 1mm away from snapping completely, and the chain had eaten into the aluminum and a bolt in the motor. The exhaust was rusted right through inside.

http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=635210
Is the start of the build thread.
And also the reason I'm not going anywhere right now!

Credit cards from here on, and my parents have decided to help out from here until I get some more of my own money in January(student loans) which I never expected but am incredibly grateful for.


Thanks for all the good wishes from everyone, it really means a lot, and I hope we bring a worthwhile read to you all.

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Old 10-24-2010, 01:49 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JGBrown
...I tried to plan my route but google maps can't find a route to Buenos Aeires. Must be broken or something

Ah... this reminds me of my first big moto adventure. Good luck and be carefull. Im heading down to SA myself in about a week. I'll watch this thread and maybe we will cross paths.

Btw, the reason you couldn't find a route is because there isn't one. Do a search on the Darien Gap.

Again, good luck and be careful.
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Old 10-24-2010, 04:32 PM   #12
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Also, google maps actually won't do any routing south of the US/MX border, even with obvious towns I find. I'll be taking a boat around the Darien gap.

I'm in Sacramento for a week or two, hope to see you on the road.
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Old 10-25-2010, 01:02 PM   #13
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What a hell of a day three.
Left Tumwater pretty late and then, running south on I-5 somewhere between Tumwater and Hwy 12, my credit card and driver’s license vanished. The clip on my wallet came undone and they simply flew away. Good thing I was carrying a 2nd wallet with secondary ID, and my other card. There was lots of traffic and some construction along the way so I was starting to get a bit fed up with a long straight interstate and too much time with my thoughts. I even got to the point where I just felt like turning around since there was no point continuing the trip. If I'm not getting any excitement out of it and I'm not coming up with any good answers to my questions, then maybe I am just happiest when I've got something external to be miserable about. I hope that's not the case and I just enjoy the energy rush and the thinking that comes with getting dropped in the shit. A couple hours into Hwy-12 and the road fixed all my problems. Absolutely gorgeous riding! I cranked some nice Irish tunes, and rolled through a mix of nice sweeping turns, beautiful smooth new asphalt and nice scenery. The sky was clear blue, the valley floors looked up to some nice passes coming down around lakes with all the trees changing colour. The unsigned tightening turns gave me enough challenge to keep me on my toes. Lots of temperature changes made for a decent test of the rest of my gear - I definitely need some more warm clothing before Argentina. The arrow headed snake signs every few miles through a national park kept me smiling all the way; occasional sections of rough road with a “Motorcycles use extreme caution” sign and tight turns gave me a bit of variety when I got bored with the views and needed a challenge. Hardly any traffic at all except for the occasional big truck. I wonder if it's because Google maps steadfastly refuses to route anything this way unless you set it town to town manually dragging the lines, even with the highway avoidance turned on.


First day wearing Sidi Discovery boots but not sure if I'm a fan yet. The inside ankle plate on the right boot digs in something fierce when walking. I cut my leg in the few times I got off to take photos, and I'm marinating in them despite the reasonably cool day.
I wish I'd stopped for more photos but I was worried a bit by the coolness in the passes, and with my late start I needed to make some miles. This one, however, I had to stop for, after the best 2 hours of riding I've had yet. The road opened up into this valley, with the sun setting behind me and the moon rising over the ridge at the same time.




Best of all, not a single damn deer in sight but there are lots of dead raccoons. I'm beginning to wonder if people are running them over on purpose.
I had forgotten from my last ride (Sk to BC on a GS400) how much smell plays a part in the ride. The feeling of being there from hot and cold is one thing; but to me it's the smell that makes the biggest change from being in a car. Seems like most of the smell, good and bad comes from death, the unpleasant ones like the large slaughterhouse and cattle area I rode past, the deep peaceful earth smell of rotting vegetation in the forest, the delicious smell of all the dead trees on the backs of trucks as I pass. I can always smell the lumber trucks before I see them. Towns and States/Provinces have smells as well, over and above the smells of laundry and cooking you get close in. BC smelled sharp. So far one town has smelled like dill, another like pine sawdust, and the last, very strongly like black tea.

That afternoon of riding has solidified my resolve, I'm over the day three hump, and with such a great ride I'm looking forward to more. I'm so thankful to be out on this trip. This is where I belong. Time to do some more homework - I wrote about 2000 words yesterday but with midterm papers and a photo assignment to finish up by Friday I need some downtime, so yet again I'm back at McDonald’s for the free internet.



Here's a photo of a fellow working at a gas station who helped me sort out air for my bike, it's hard to find a compressor at the gas stations that fit into my rear wheel. We had a long visit as well while I warmed up.


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Old 10-25-2010, 02:31 PM   #14
WildsideRider
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I'm in!! I love RR's using different (see non dual purpose) types of bikes. Good luck man, stay safe, have fun!!
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Old 10-25-2010, 04:19 PM   #15
AirborneAndy
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Hey Jeremy... be very cautious around animals, especially larger ones. If you see a deer, cow or some other large animal on the side of the road, SLOW DOWN. Animals do not know that they should not run in front of you. They just know that they should run. And the clearest path is often across the road. Also, they will often wait until you are right up on them before they bolt.

There use to be a "sticky" thread here about a young man who was doing almost the identical ride you are doing. And, it ended very tragically when he rode passed a bunch of donkeys on the side of the road - instead of slowing down he gassed it and one ran in front of him.

Have fun and be safe.
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