|10-18-2011, 11:27 AM||#1322|
With the Redhead on Back!
Joined: Jul 2004
Hey guys........ Just maybe someday ---- we can resume the exciting life again! Maybe a 2 bike ride?
It was soooo neat seeing you guys in La Paz and Wisconsin!
Had short trip to Bolivia with Grandson... rode the road of death on bicycles.... but not the same as having the old R100GS to get around!
"I am in California, but my brain spends 90% of it's time in South America"
Over 27,000 miles in South America -- which is NOT enough!
Here is a link to the South American Ride Report...
Trip Index Page.... If you are interested in one spot in South America, you can click on this link http://www.ploung.com/south_america.htm and go directly to your point of interest.
|10-18-2011, 01:45 PM||#1323|
Joined: Jul 2007
Location: Moran Nation, SE PA Chapter
Wonderful story telling and great photos to go with it. Sad to see it come to an end, but all stories do. Thanks so much for sharing your story with us.
|10-18-2011, 01:59 PM||#1324|
Joined: Oct 2007
Location: Waukesha, Wisconsin
It was my pleasure meeting you both at the first ADV Central rally. Best wishes to both of you.
It is better to have less thunder in the mouth and more lightning in the hand.
|07-22-2012, 04:30 AM||#1326|
Old School Adventurer
Joined: Jan 2004
Location: Hayward, WI
Hey! We miss all our ADV inmates, it has been a long time, one year in fact when No Return Ticket ended after I scored my dream job.
Anyway, this is not a personal blog, so I’m not gonna fill ya in on what we have been up to, except to say we did successfully escape from the big city and are now living large in the nort’ woods.
This is what I come home to every day
(oh, and cavegirl of course :)
The reason for this post is because I cannot get that last ride out of my head, The Border with Haiti. That was one cool seven-day ride. I tried to write about it but the more I wrote the less enjoyable the report was. Looking back at all the pics of that ride made me realize the pics are what make the report (da).
So, just for the fun of it (and inmate pay-back), I am re-posting -The Border with Haiti - ride report, with the ‘whole enchilada’ of pics. This is gonna be fun, enjoy!
- The Border with Haiti -
(cavebiker) - A Motorcycle Ride Report -
- The Border with Haiti - Early in the twentieth century, the US military had built a stone road between Haiti and the Dominican Republic in an attempt to better define the border. No maps I’ve ever seen show the entire route. I read that most of this road or trail is unpaved and rarely used, covered with jagged tire gouging rocks, pockets of mud, and areas washed away from heavy rains. Also, it’s rumored that areas along the border are haunted by the wailing ghosts of dead Haitians who had fled there during the colonial era in order to escape slavery.
That all sounds good to me. I have been living on this island with my wife for the past 5 months, exploring the country by motorcycle. Before my old and abused motorcycle completely falls apart, I need to attempt the Haiti border run. The time is now. I have no excuses.
This is not an 'all-inclusive' Dominican Republic report.
Motorcycle adventuring is serious business, for the Haiti border run I need to be very serious. Heidi is my solid partner in every adventure I do, solo or 2-up with her. While getting ready we talk about my gear, its a mental shakeout; camping gear, survival gear, safety gear, first aid supplies, motorcycle tools, world-phone. Check.
The motorcycle is a 1984 Yamaha DT-125, a one cylinder, two-cycle enduro, striped down and painted black. This is a small but serious off-road bike, it has disk breaks and is water cooled. My only concern is the rough shape the bike was in when I picked it up five months ago and all the hard riding we have done on it. Wrenching on motorcycles has always been a joy of mine, but lately I have had too much joy.––broken shift lever, break linkage, radiator twice, headlight, flat tires, and a blown head gasket. I hope the problems are done.
This ride starts at a village called Cabarete Beach, once a small fishing village on the north coast of the island. Heidi and I lived here back in the 90’s and it’s a great base camp for exploring the island.
Only six miles into the ride and my new shift lever is loose again. Luckily there are motorcycles repair shops everywhere in the Dominican Republic. Out of 2.1 million registered vehicles, over 1.3 million are motorcycles. With all these motorcycles there appears to be a strong brotherhood among the bikers. As a solo foreigner motorcycle traveler, I am 'one' with this brotherhood. Riders look out for fellow riders here making it an enjoyable place for motorcycle adventure travel. I never feel alone, and that’s a good thing especially in the more remote areas.
Dominican Republic motorcycle repairs happen out on the streets, the sidewalk or anywhere where there is a spot to do it, tire change to new piston rings. And best of all, 'while you wait' service. I have been to a lot of shops here and all but once I received immediate service, absolutely incredible. My bill this time is only 50 pesos, a dollar forty US. With a 50 pesos tip, everyone is happy.
The shift lever seems good, all right! My goal today is the extreme northwest corner of the country, the village Monte Cristi. This is great off the beaten path route through real Dominican Republic. However, the route is not new to me, so today riding hard and fast feels good.
Monte Cristi is the end of the Dominican Republic and the start of Haiti on the Atlantic side, the start of the border run. Monte Cristi was once an important trading port used for shipping sugar and valuable lumber. Today the village is dusty and feels a little run down. The town supports farming, fishing and salt mining today.
|07-22-2012, 04:34 AM||#1327|
Old School Adventurer
Joined: Jan 2004
Location: Hayward, WI
South along the border are scattered farms on flat arid land. The gravel road is rough and passes through small border villages.
Soon the gravel road improves and runs into a greener region with roadside stands selling fruit.
A motorcycle is parked along the side of the road with a rider working on it. I ask if he would like to use my tools (?querers herramientas?) With my wrench he takes off his chain guard and throws it off into the weeds saying “!no neccesato!” (I don’t need it!) What a great feeling helping out a fellow rider, and around here, it is simply part of the culture. People help each other.
In the Dominican Republic, if you ride off the main freeway at all, you can expect to see cows or horses at any time.
Only a half an hour down the border road and my shift lever is loose again and I am having a hard time shifting. In the next village at a motorcycle shop, I explain my concern. The mechanic is on it in seconds and confidently starts hacking on the shift lever with a hacksaw. He is trying to widen the gap where it clamps, making the lever clamp better, or at least that’s what I think he is doing.
Riding further the traffic increases with trucks loaded down with huge sacks of potatoes and there are coconuts sold roadside. I am always amized as to how fast the scenary changes here, you never have a chgance to get boared.
In a small village a women is frying empanadas on an open fires on the outside of a small store. An empanada is a meat, cheese or egg filled pastry found everywhere in the rural countryside and can be bought for between 30 and 60 cents.
There’s a group of men playing dominoes in the shade behind the store. The atmosphere is like some of the small farming communities in Northern Wisconsin I ride through, a familiar feeling.
Pineapple quartered and bagged for 20 pesos.
Pineapple is great road food packed with active enzymes and ‘go’ fuel. ---motorcycle adventurer paradise---
A train passes. I did not think there were any still in operation. This train is carrying sugarcane looking like long sticks.
The border city Dajabon
At the largest of the border cities, Dajabon, my plan is to buy some packaged cookies for passing out to kids in the rural areas. The delight on their faces is priceless. Oddly, while stopping for gas, a man on crutches is waiting to sell me cookies. I couldn’t believe the coincidence. I buy all the cookies he has while I’m injected with a feeling of magic.
Gas stations are a fun place to practice Spanish, and I rarely pass up an opportunity for that.
In town, it is hot, several Haitians are walking with overflowing bucket of stuff they hope to sell, all of it effortlessly balanced on top of their heads, (at least appearing effortless) this gives the city an exotic look and feel. In Dajabon, Haitians cross the border to sell wares of knock-offs; shoes, clothes, or almost anything. Dominican entrepreneurs travel to Dajabon with truckloads of food used to trade for these Haitian wares.
|07-22-2012, 04:42 AM||#1328|
Old School Adventurer
Joined: Jan 2004
Location: Hayward, WI
The Border with Haiti continued
After Dajabon, the border road quickly rises in altitude twisting past small farms and tropical forest.
My time machine is a motorcycle.
It is getting late. The border road continues to climb into the mountains passing homes selling tropical nuts and fruits.
A modern looking fire engine at a crossroads village in the mountains.
Another small village on the Haitian border, Loma de Cabrera. Stopping at places like this to check out the street food is often a highlight of my day.
Seeing motoconcho riders parked around street food is frequently a sign of a good place to eat, this time is no exception.
Practicing my Spanish with the motoconcho dudes, always a pleasure.
I say “el mundo total verá la foto en mi sitio Web” (The whole world can see the photos on my website)
The border road continues to climb yielding a noticeably changing climate. The palm trees look different here with pine tree forests and wooden homes.
Homes are noticably more primitive and basic the higher the road climbs
The road continues up. While stopping to oil my chain near a river, a teenage local walks over and strikes up a conversation. Strangely, he asks for soap “?tiena habon?” motioning washing his armpits. No problem--- what a refreshing change compared to the kids pestering for pesos in the tourist areas.
There are more small villages along the border with nice clean streets lined with palm trees and mountain views.
With only an hour of daylight to spare, I pull into the village Restauracion, the last village before the carretera internacional. Restauracion is a small but beautiful mountain village with churches and a large central park.
The village Restauracion is located just before a rough section of border road known as the ‘carretera internacional’. The carretera internacional is said to be lined with Haitian villages and huts painted with symbols of voodoo deities and is noted to be an extremely isolated section of road. I am spending the night in Restauracion so I can start this section of road early.
Looking for the Central Park after entering a new village is good protocol. Experience drives my inner voice “Look for a place to chill and get your bearings first Tom”
I check into an $8.00 hotel where I’m told I can park my motorcycle down a stairway next to my room.
Halfway down the stairway with my motorcycle a police officer starts holler at me in Spanish from behind. He asks how long I’ll be staying in town. Only one night “solo una noche”. After telling him my ride plan and solo status, he gives me a very serious look. I ask the dumb question “?es carretera seguridad?” is the road safe? He says “si” but continues his serious concerned look. ‘What the heck was that all about?’…!
|07-22-2012, 05:25 AM||#1329|
Old School Adventurer
Joined: Jan 2004
Location: Hayward, WI
It’s fun riding up the narrow steps the next morning.
Overnight, the street in front of the hotel exploded into a market that stretches for blocks in both directions.
In no time, half a dozen kids offer to shine my boots. I make eye contact with one kid and point “Lo sento, est mi numeral uno amigo…” (Sorry, this is my number one friend and he will be doing my boots). They all like my moto (motorcycle) and have fun hanging around me while I practice Spanish.
I ask one kid, “¿Vive en Restauracion?” (Do you live in Restauracion?)
He tells me “si” he lives here, but then teases his friend and says that he’s from Haiti. Everyone laughs, but the kid.
Restauracion has a military fort and a large military presence. A mile out town is a military roadblock and checkpoint at the start of the section of road that leads into Haiti. I tell the two military dude’s on site who I am and where I plan to ride. Of course the first thing they ask is, am I alone “?solo?” “si, solo” Yes, alone. Their eyebrows rise. They tell me to go back in town and get a permit from the police. Back in town the police tell me that I need my original passport to get this permit, my photocopy isn’t cutting it.
Panic sets in for just a second before a new plan is developed; ride back north around the central mountains, then south to the other end of the island where the border starts on the Caribbean side. This is a huge detour indeed but hey, that is adventure. I will take as long as it takes for this ride, the only way to do it right. (Heidi and I always engage in post-ride discussions about safety and how number-one, we vow to never be in a hurry, even if things don’t go as planned.) Having ‘no schedule’ is motorcycle adventure euphoria …
The detour brings me through more lush and tropical mountain scenery which only adds to the ride. I push on all day long and finally at the south end of the island my route turns off the paved highway and onto another rough mountain dirt road. This will lead me up and over the southern Central Mountains range and toward Haiti again.
I am in a hurry but I know the importance in proper nutrition and hydration. I constantly look for road food while in route.
At times, the road turns to nice pavement, but that never lasts long.
I pass many mountain streams
My road passes primitive wood homes along mountain streams and people fishing.
I am surprised to see a logging truck.
Sensing the gain in altitude and thickening vegetation feels cool.
It is starting to get late and I need to find a place to stay. The next small village has one weird pink hotel, I keep riding. It soon is apparent that my daylight is almost gone. A personal rule of mine is to ‘not ride after dark’. If there are no hotels in the next village, I will be sleeping on a park bench or behind a gas station tonight––not a great plan.
Passing over a high bridge spanning a river gorge I spy a trail leading out onto the flood plane of a river. The trail is very rugged and twisty, just the way I like it.
Down the twisty trail I burry the motorcycle straight into some weeds along the river. After a survey I’m confident the bike is hidden from the road. I have food, water, shelter and two beers--- I am good for the night.
I make a mattress by gathering a pile of large green leaves and covering them with my camouflage plastic tarp. The sounds of the rushing river fills the gorge as I study my maps, soon a cloak of a billion stars fill in above me. This is good primitive camping.
Its a rough morning that started at 2:00AM when the temperatures quickly dropped. I get a campfire going and put on more cloths. That does the trick some but it is still cold. Some of my earliest memories are of my father stressing the importance of being able to start a campfire if caught out in the wild. I eat, hydrate and study my maps while waiting for the sun.
This is my favorite type of camping, primitive. Heidi thinks I'm weird...
|07-22-2012, 06:42 AM||#1330|
Joined: Nov 2006
I'll take Heidi's word for it as I am sure she is right...but it's a good weird
Thanks for the update & hope you are both well.
2008 Suzuki DL 650....Wee Strom
|07-22-2012, 10:10 AM||#1332|
Joined: Oct 2004
Location: KC, Palm Springs
Tom, good to see you posting again. Missed you.
Where are you living now?
"picking up hookers, instead of a pen, the words of my youth slipped away" Waylon Jennings
MX '06 http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=176637
|07-22-2012, 05:33 PM||#1334|
Old School Adventurer
Joined: Jan 2004
Location: Hayward, WI
The Border with Haiti
The ride out next morning
Still high altitude, even with the sun out it’s still cold. Sometimes its hard to believe this is a Caribbean Island.
It doesn’t take long before it feels warm and tropical again.
I never get tired of driving rural roads here
There are surprises every day.
Tooling along, my shift lever loosens again making it hard to shift. This is not good, but at least the problem is now and not in the remote mountains. Its easy to locate a repair shop. I explain the severity of my situation and that this is the third time in four days with the same problem. The mechanic seems to understand whatever the heck came out of my mouth and assures me he has a solution. He adds a piece of shim material to the shift lever, then proceeds to pound the lever onto the shaft using a vice grips to transfer the force of the pounding.
While watching him its obvious he has done this before and is confident of the repair. The cost is again very cheap: only 50 pesos, ($1.30) plus 50 for the tip, another enjoyable Dominican Republic motorcycle shop experience.
Some villages are surprisingly busy
There is a Lamar mine close to here. At a gas station, someone came up to me with a handkerchief filled with raw uncut Lamar stones. This is the only place in the world with Lamar, a semi-precious stone used in jewelry.
Fresh pineapple and cashews sold roadside.
Cashews are great motorcycle road food.
Three bikes, all carrying propane cylinders
The smell of salt air and a feeling of lower altitude.
Riding toward the Caribbean coast then on toward Haiti. The rolling hills, arid terrain, cactus, and seaside cliffs resemble the California coastline, perfect for riding.
At the south end of the island, the road skirts west along the Caribbean Sea. It’s nothing but warm air, seaside cliffs and turquoise waters.
The most beautiful white sand beaches are on this side of the island. Nevertheless, for some reason, tourists rarely visit.
The roads here are above average most of the time, but in the DR, a good rider assumes a road hazard around every corner.
Having a great time flying along the Caribbean coast toward the Haitian border, is all-good. My hope is that there will be a motel or two in the border village Pedernales, what kind of motel is the question. Pedernales is the southern start of the border trail not found on any maps. My only account is a few sentences in a guidebook mentioning “an extremely steep and rocky remote trail” That is what I’m looking for, I can feel it. More thought goes into my route now, contingencies plans are a constant part of my being, supplies, personal presentation, packing. Scenarios and solution play out in my head. This is what I call living.
The nicest hotel in town, $11, not great but it has secure parking and a restaurant.
Pedernales sits on the Caribbean Sea at the Haitian border
With a motorcycle or jeep, you can get to some of the most remote beaches on the island from here.
The motorcycle is packed and ready to go early. The hotel has great breakfast and strong coffee, a great way to start the day while studying the maps. Today the ride starts with 50 miles of unknown then 30 miles of road that is on my map. The thought is to allow 3 or 4 hours for the ride but the conditions are unknown and navigation could be a challenge. The ride today starts at sea level, then leads up and over the Sierra de Bahoruco mountain range, the second highest in the Caribbean. My guidebook says the Sierra de Bahoruco area is an uninhabited place and it is very inaccessible. I like the way that sounds and at the same time, it sends shivers up my spine. The map I am using indicates a couple villages in the area, just no roads leading to them, that is a main ingredient to adventure.
|07-22-2012, 06:01 PM||#1335|
Old School Adventurer
Joined: Jan 2004
Location: Hayward, WI
The Border with Haiti Continued:
I push the motorcycle out onto the street. There is a flatbed truck bulging at the seams with items for sale, plastic buckets, mops, shoes, TP and who knows what. I assume the items came across the border from Haiti and can be purchased for pennies.
Yesterday, both filling stations in town were out of gasoline. Today they have gas, and big crowds of motorcycles trying to fill up. You just have to be aggressive and keep pushing your motorcycle closer to the pump when there is any movement. It is surprisingly how smooth this works. It is like an orderly mayhem.
My gas tank is full, I stop at a fruit stand to fill my tank with bananas.
There are no road signs anywhere in Pedernales so I ride to the end of town and follow the only route out. I waited a few times for road construction. Large dump trucks are dumping loads of gravel and sand. Armies of workers are building drainage ditches by hand using picks, axes and barrels of water for making cement.
The road quickly turns steep. There are breathtaking views of steep ravines, gorges, rivers and dense forest.
It isn't long before the road turns very steep and rough. The riding is a technical slow speed balancing act while closly looking for the best line of travel. This is real ‘dirt biking’.
Climb, climb, and climb often in first gear for long stretches. While taking a rest break I notice a hissing sound coming from the radiator. After a few minutes to cool the bike down I look at the fluid level, no coolant in sight. My mind works a hundred mile an hour, 'could the coolant problem be from a leak in the tank?' It has to be the long secessions of steep climbing and hammering it in first gear is overheating the engine, boiling off the coolant. My backpack has several 12-ounce bottles of purified water. The radiator needs a bottle and a half to fill it, so glad the motor did not get fried. At the same time my new focus turns to finding a new water supply to refill my bottles. Carrying water purification tablets has been my protocol for as long as I can remember so any water collected can also be used for emergency drinking water, if needed. That is a good feeling indeed.
It has been well over an hour into the ride as I pull into a small village that has a simple cemetery near the entrance. Most graves are wood crosses. Few are stone.
Entering a new village, Its fun to photograph flowers and plants around people’s homes, especially in the isolated villages. People sometimes go all-out.
This village is a dead end. I chat with a couple motorcycles riders who are sitting at a street corner under a shade tree. I ask them how I get to Lago Enriquillo, a huge saltwater lake where I plan to spend the night. The lake is a landmark, I think everyone would know it. They tell me I need to ride back, back down the hill, and then turn right somewhere. I am not sure if they were telling me I need to go all the way back to Pedernales or if there is a turnoff somewhere that I missed. I did not remember any turnoff I missed. I am afraid I need to ride all the way back. Not good, my spirits sink low. I am already fatigued from the tough climb and now I have to go back down the steep trail I just rode up. This was all for naught.
I ride back down the steep hill I just rode up. It is not as difficult to ride down steep hills but it is still fun. I was concerned that I did not I miss a turnoff. I am determined to find the correct road, even if it takes all day. I still hope I don’t have to ride all the way back to Pedernales.
I pass a party of people–– four adults, a young girl and a mule––walking out of town toward Pedernales, almost two hours by motorcycle. The adults each carry a bucket or large sack on their head. The mule carries a saddlebag. This is a big hike, and I wonder what they’re carrying and what they hope to do when they get to town. I wonder what their journey will be like. I’m in a different world here.
What is my problem, feeling sorry for myself having to ride my MOTOTCYCLE back down the mountain!
I feels like I rode all the way down the mountain when I see a fork in the road. I can see why I did not take that route. That direction looks much less used and not like the main route. I turn onto this road. It seems like a legitimate road.
Soon, I ride across a military outpost building, a small faded light green brick building. There are two people sitting in plastic chairs in front. One is wearing camouflage pants and a cutoff T-shirt. The other wears a polo shirt and tan pants. I stop, greet them and ask if I am riding toward Lago Enriquillo. I receive a strong affirmation. I am going the correct way. It is hard to describe the relived feeling knowing that I am now on the right road and am no longer ‘lost’. It is a lightheaded feeling, a rush. Again, these guys are surprised when I told them where I started and where I am going, solo. They got a kick when I said
“Sí, pero mi reverso está roto” (Yes, but my ass is broken)
The new road is very steep and littered with large rocks, crushed rocks and washouts. I call it ‘gnarly’. I am having a great time. I am riding the perfect machine for this and I am riding it well. Up and up and up, I am running in first or second gear only, nothing but fun.
Soon the road turns into more of a trail and the riding is more technical. The motorcycle performs like it was born for these conditions but I know it has to be taking a beating and probably is again overheating. I need to cool off the bike and inspect the coolant level, maybe add water. As long as I keep water in the bike, I am confident I will not ‘blow’ the engine.
While waiting for the engine to cool, I block up the motorcycle’s rear wheel to oil the chain. I am using STP oil treatment to oil the chain. I am a freak about oiling my chain. I never broke a motorcycle chain and I never want to.
The radiator again needs almost 12 ounces of water, ouch. I knew it. I need to find another water supply before I have no more water.
The road continues to turn bad, very bad, boulders, contorted hard pack, and slippery rocks. At least the trail was less steep. I do not think the radiator is boiling over anymore, even with the slow speed at which I was riding. I can sense the strain on the engine is much less.
Finally, I ride cross a river. I stop and fill up all my empty water bottles and again check the fluid level in the radiator. Having water on hand speeds up the radiator inspection process to a fraction. I pour the entire bottle of water onto the cap and cooling fins of the radiator. I do that three times. After, I can immediately open the cap and add water, if necessary. I need less then a half a bottle of water this time, I feel good about that. As long as I keep my water bottles full and continue checking the coolant level, all will be fine. But at the same time, I just want to reach the top of this mountain range. I know the bike will have no problem once I reach the top.
I ride up to another ranger station. There is only one person there. He is dressed in full military camouflage. Like always, I attempted to strike up a small conversation after I answered all his questions. After, he asks me if I have any food. He says he is hungry but I had none to spare. I am only carrying emergency supplies. This outpost is so isolated they don’t even have food for their soldiers guarding the border, wow! He is a nice young kid and helped me confirm I was still riding the correct direction.
I am in the middle of the Sierra de Bahoruco national park. This area has the highest environment diversity and ecological gradients of the country. The combinations of very complex geological elements starting at below sea level to high elevations results in 27 different climate zones here, and I am riding through all of them. I ride through areas of pine forest that were half covered with what looked like giant snowflakes. I figure it is some type of ground moss. The vegetation continues to turn greener and greener. The contrasts I saw and felt in the different microclimates are startling.
The trail continued to point up and continued to produce more large rocks and difficult terrain. The trail did not get any steeper, just more technical. I feel I could ride faster but I remind myself to be nice to the motorcycle. I am not to the top yet and I am a long way from anywhere. My mind likes to play through ‘recovery operation’ scenarios. I think about what it would be like if I had a flat tire, what it would be like if I broke a chain or the engine quits. At my present location, a motorcycle problem could put me spending 2 or 3 nights up here in the wild. It is a calming sensation knowing I have a plan, knowing I gave it a dry run. To me, being solo, this ‘far out’ while beating on and depending on a little motorcycle, puts a lump in my throat. It is like getting a shot of survival adrenalin that can last the entire ride. Sometimes I am concerned that I am addicted to it. I have to remind myself that this is serious. I should not put myself into more danger then I already have. ‘Be cool cavebiker’
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