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Old 09-07-2010, 03:59 PM   #1
PlasticSun OP
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Location: Guanajuato, Mexico
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A Year of Summer (2up to South America)

My girlfriend Sabrina and I are headed down to South America, we're hoping to learn Spanish and see parts of the world that we’ve only known about through books.

We don’t know how long we’ll be gone for, with our trip savings being the only constraint on the duration of the trip. We’ve budgeted $50 dollars a day for the two of us, which while it may sound like a fair bit for living south of the boarder, this needs to cover our remaining bills, so we’ll be trying to live on the cheap.

We don’t have much of a route planned, just a general direction with a large collection of places we’d like to see along the way. If we get to a place that we like we’ll stay there until we feel like moving on. We plan to cross near Juarez, head down to Mex 16 and follow that to the coast and then travel to Mazatlan, Durango and Zacatecas where we’ll spend some time taking spanish lessons. After that we don’t really know what our plans are, we’ll likely meet up with some friend of ours backpacking in central Mexico, and some friends of ours would like us to photograph a resort for them in Belize.

I guess some introductions are needed:


I’m PlasticSun or Eric, before this I worked as a Web Designer/Developer and as a Photographer in Denver, CO. I’ve been riding for the better part of 7 years now, and also spend a lot of time backpacking, climbing mountains, riding motorcycles, and dreaming about places to go to so I can do all of that.


Sabrina is an Elementary School teacher who just finished her master’s degree before we left. She’s an accomplished cyclist and completed the Triple Bypass Ride this summer. Sabrina likes tending her garden, climbing mountain passes on her bicycle, and finding ways to simplify her life.

Our goals for the trip are
- Return home, healthy and well.
- Become fluent in spoken Spanish.
- See the Andes and determine if they can steal our love for the Rockies.
- See penguins.
- Slow down our pace of life, spend more evenings together, enjoy more long meals, exercise more, and improve ourselves overall.

We’ll be taking the Old Grey Mare our aged 2003 F650 GS Dakar, it’s got 57K on the clocks so far and due to a fiddly front ABS sensor likely has a few more miles on top of that.



We didn’t do much to the bike for the start of the trip, basic maintenance, valve adjustment, fresh tires, and added a chain guide as I expect with our combined weight and gear we’ll be putting some additional strain on the chain and sprockets and will want to stretch the life of the chain as far as possible.

The original engine in the dakar died last year when the bearings around the counter shaft failed and the counter shaft developed about a 1/4” of play in four directions. Not feeling capable of splitting the cases myself and putting the thing back together in any semblance of working condition I got a fellow ADVrider to run up to Canada and bring down an engine that I had located in a salvage yard up there. The upside to all of this is I have a whole mess of spares being stored for me by Spoilsport in case they’re needed.

We’re bringing with us a spare clutch cable, sprockets, levers, and a handful of tools for simple fixes but otherwise we’ll rely on local mechanics and a pdf of the service manual.

The bike is pretty modified at this point the full list is pretty long but it’s got:

Touratech (TT) 39 liter fuel tank system - This is pretty cool looking at does add some additional protection for the bike but despite the 550 mile range I find myself running out from time to time. With such a long range you can forget to fill up from time to time or mis calculate the milage that you’re getting over varied terrain. Fortunately, I’ve been able to salvage the dregs out of the side tanks in most cases and get to a fill station.
TT Bar Risers - These provide a more natural position when standing on the pegs.
TT Seat - This is awesome, it’s a bit hard at first but does allow us to travel the full 550 mile range without getting off the bike in comfort.
TT Chain Guard - Better than the original guard that BMW puts on there but I’ve managed to bust a few of the mounting points before. This is one of the items we needed to repair in Cederedge.
TT Footpegs, brake lever and shifter - I like these and they’ve held up well over many rocky spills in the past.
TT Zega cases - I had a pair of Jesse bags long ago, while I loved their capacity they crowd the rear passenger pegs quite a bit and after a few spills they got heavily damaged and the rack was twisted. I like the Zega system better and so far I’ve found the bags to be stronger despite the thinner stock used to make them.
TT Locking Rear Plate with a Pelican 1550 top case - This carries our laptop, camera gear and recording equipment, it’s a solid setup and combined with a cable lock means that we can securely lock up our most valuable possessions in hotels. It also makes for a nice low profile backrest for Sabrina.
TT Tail Brace and Fork Brace - For additional strength
Progressive Front Fork Springs - We’ve also added a bit of fork oil to keep the front end stiff and a good match for the Ohilns shock.
Ohlins Shock - Setup for our combined weight plus gear. We also added a pair of Kouba 1” lowering links to give Eric a bit more purchase in the case of low speed paddling.
Gel Battery - Not fully tested yet but I’ve had enough trouble with wet cell batteries in the past that I opted for this hoping we’d get fewer electrical gremlins out of the bike.
TT locking GPS mount and hard wired power supply. - Stocked with SmellyBiker’s Wonderlust maps. We’ve heard good things about these and plan to use them as our main navigation source and also purchase paper maps for the countries we travel to locally.
Spot Messenger - This was something that was purchased to appease our families. It’s a small thing, I just wish I could find a way to hard wire it’s power supply to the bike. I get the feeling that over the course of the trip it’s going to eat up a lot of AAA batteries. It is nice though to others to be able to check in on us and having a breadcrumb trail of our trip will also be a cool thing to have after the trip is over.
Wolfman Expedition Tank Panniers - These carry our sleeping bags, bug net and overflow clothes. It’s a nice design and I’m eager to see how waterproof they are.

Week 1 - Leaving is the Hardest Part

As with all plans ours were dashed before the trip began. We were hoping to finish packing and be out of the house by Aug 25th so we could head to the Horizons Unlimited gathering in Silverton, CO on the 26th and depart for Mexico after that. Instead we were packing late into the hours of the night every day until Sept 2 when we finally managed to load up a minivan of the possessions we decided to keep and head off to the Western Slope of Colorado to a small town called Cedaredge where Sabrina is from.

Leaving was far more difficult that I imagined, between numerous obligations with friends, work, a company I had started with a friend 8 months ago, arranging to sell vehicles, rent our condo, pack, and clean etc getting out of town was a hectic and stressful event. More than a couple of times Sabrina and I considered just giving everything we owned to the Goodwill and doing without it.

Cedaredge is a nice place to recover from the move and perform some last minute maintenance on the bike. It has dark skies, quiet creeks, and fantastic roads leading up over the Grand Mesa, Colorado’s largest flat top mountain. It's nice to be able to practice long exposure photography without having to sit outside in the cold for hours on end.



We relax for a few days and visit with her parents. Distressingly, our last bills and day to day minor expenses seem to eat up at least half of or daily budget even with food and lodging covered, this is something we’re going to have to keep close watch over.

One of Sabrina’s parents neighbors named Greg is a Harley rider and does a lot of his own custom work. He’s a great craftsman and agrees to fix my busted welds on the swingarm. He does some very high quality work and when he’s done it’s stronger than ever.



Sabrina gets her hair cut short to try and make a life lived under a helmet a bit easier, her sister went to cosmetology school and does a nice job. We visit with her nephews who desptie being late teens are really great kids. I can remember being a bit of a materialistic little shit during the boom of the late 90s as were most of the kids around me. Her nephews seem to strongly value minimalism and forego cars, their own rooms and many personal effects in an effort to keep their lives simple. Perhaps we’re products of the times we grew up in, or perhaps it’s all personal choice but either way I think the kids are going to be all right.

Tomorrow we leave for Mancos in southern Colorado and then we'll head down to White Sands and cross near Juarez into Mexico then head for the coast.

We'll be posting roughly once a week with updates to our travels.

See you on the road!
Eric + Sabrina

PlasticSun screwed with this post 09-12-2010 at 08:41 PM
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Old 09-07-2010, 04:41 PM   #2
yamalama
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Sounds great!
Take your time.
Savor every minute of it!!!
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Old 09-07-2010, 08:23 PM   #3
Rochesterue
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Subscribed!

Subscribed! Looking forward to hearing of your shared adventure.
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Old 09-07-2010, 10:37 PM   #4
springbokla
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Good luck guys, will be watching as you go
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Old 09-10-2010, 08:35 PM   #5
spoilsport
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Looking forward to the first ride report and pics, Eric! All the best..
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Old 09-10-2010, 08:44 PM   #6
Rashnak
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should be great! I'm jealous.

Can you tell me about the camera equipment you are bringing?
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Old 09-10-2010, 09:16 PM   #7
wvdeuce
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I wish you a safe trip. I am glad you listed all you had to do to get ready to go on the trip. That made me tired just thinking about doing all those things to get ready for a trip. I am rooting for you on a $50.00 a day budget. Most folks on here never give a clue as what their adventures are costing them and all of us reading about it are wondering and saying can I afford something like this. LOL
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Old 09-12-2010, 11:54 AM   #8
chelo5sur
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welcome to south america

Bienvenidos a sudamerica , hermoso continente..!!!!!!!!

And you will love and nerver forget the Andes Range, so you ´ll share your love
between The rocks and the andes, will be like love mom and dad...

If you need some advice about CHile , contact me at amoa2003@hotmail.com

Ride safe and take care
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Old 09-12-2010, 09:14 PM   #9
PlasticSun OP
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Location: Guanajuato, Mexico
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We've had a bit of bad mojo at the start of the trip, our rear ABS sensor is still freaking out and even after replacing the sensor it's still pretty intermittent, we're using the GPS to keep track of milage and speed. I also threw my back out moving a shed while staying with Sabrina's parents in Cedaredge, it was pretty rough for a couple of days but after being on the bike for a couple of days it seems pretty recovered.

We made it to Alamogordo, NM, and found a nice campground in town with a pool which was nice to cool off in after a hot 550 mile day on the bike. We're looking to cross into Mexico tomorrow and may just skip over White Sands in an effort to get to the Sea of Cortez sooner.

Budget is working out pretty well but today with all the miles covered we went over. We could have kept it to 50 but it would have meant spending more time in the US and we're anxious to get to Mexico and cheaper living.

More photos and a detailed update coming this week.

Eric + Sabrina
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Old 09-12-2010, 09:16 PM   #10
PlasticSun OP
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Talking

Quote:
Originally Posted by chelo5sur
Bienvenidos a sudamerica , hermoso continente..!!!!!!!!

And you will love and nerver forget the Andes Range, so you ´ll share your love
between The rocks and the andes, will be like love mom and dad...

If you need some advice about CHile , contact me at amoa2003@hotmail.com

Ride safe and take care
Thanks Chelo! We'll definitely hit you up as we get further south!
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Old 09-12-2010, 09:29 PM   #11
Kodanja
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Have Great and Safe Trip! Looking forward to your report.
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Old 09-13-2010, 06:10 AM   #12
Mullet
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Im in. Good luck !
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Old 09-14-2010, 06:20 PM   #13
Kinjari
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Word!!!

Ha! Found yer thread!

Glad to hear things are somewhat smoothing out. Im bummed we couldnt do the ride out but I totally understand.

Dude! Quit trying to lift sheds by yourself! The universe tends to step in and remind you that you only exist inside a mortal coil

Seriously though, totally stoked for you guys! Hurry up and get to CR!!! I needs mah vacation!!!

My family wishes you both all the best...I got my Pops an iPad so he is following along as well.

Cant wait for the next update - saving my miles for that ticket so let me know

Be well and all my best to Sabrina as well (btw I'm loving my new Stumpy but you are still maddog insane hardcore busting out the triple bypass - serious props!!!)

MJ
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Old 09-17-2010, 09:57 AM   #14
PlasticSun OP
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From the Border to the Sea

We had some difficulty leaving Cederedge. First our temperamental ABS sensor decided it was done being temperamental and just up and quit. I checked the gap and the connection, and couldn’t find a problem so we journeyed to one of the more expensive places on earth, the BMW dealership. They found a place where the cable had fallen out of the clamps routing it and had rubbed between the subframe and the tank causing the cable to break. With a new cable installed we were hoping for no problems but something else is also amiss as we’ve just improved the situation back to temperamental. There must be something going wrong with the connection from the ABS cable through a couple of other electrical connectors into the computer which logs the speed, milage etc.

While all of this was going on I helped Sabrina’s dad move a shed. I worked the pry bar and levered the thing up onto a barrel so we could move it a couple of yards, I felt my back get a bit ornery as we were doing it and sure enough I crippled myself pretty good for a few days. Sabrina took good care of me and after and adjustment at a chiropractor I’m back on my feet.

We left Friday the 11th and headed to Mancos, a small town in Southern Colorado. Mancos is a great place and we had a fantastic cheap meal for two at the local natural foods grocery store for 16 bucks and slept in the state park for a staggering 22 dollars. Even camping with no services (save a water hydrant which was a half mile away,) is expensive in the US. It was pretty though.


We left Mancos the following morning with a plan to get to White Sands down in Southern New Mexico.

New Mexico was painfully dull, long straight roads, headwinds, and nothing to look at, no mountains, animals, or anything. At one point Sabrina asked me “Old Mexico isn’t like New Mexico right?”

We didn’t quite make it all the way to white sands and out of fear of the prices in National Parks we camped in an RV park in Alamogordo. There we bathed in the decadence of a swimming pool, hot showers, potable water, and internet all for 20 bucks. We were still eating cheap fast food and gas station fare but felt we were living pretty high on the hog. We stayed up late at our picnic table checking in with family via email.



We woke up feeling pretty refreshed and decided to just get into Mexico. I had some trouble at the border that was entirely my own fault, I failed to check out of Mexico the last time I left and forgot about it, that was close to 3 years ago. This is a problem as my visa at the time was only 180 days. Well I still had my receipt so I hoped that would smooth the process over, and I figured that I’d pay a fine of 30-40 bucks. Nope, instead it’s a typical fine of 5 dollars per day, which would have been well up in the multiple of thousands of dollars. The border officials appreciated my honesty and lowered the fine to the lowest possible for a year long delinquency which was 250. That hurt but not nearly as much as not being able to get into Mexico would have hurt. All of this negotiating had through the flexible language of charades as they didn’t speak much of any English and my Spanish is still terrible. They also didn’t charge me anything for failing to check out the bike. Sabrina had a much easier time getting in. For all the talk about how bad things are in Juarez and El Paso the Santa Teresa and MEX 45 highway were safe, secure and well patrolled by many teenagers with assault rifles. I think things could be pretty bad in the city of Juarez itself as we saw some large convoys of trucks loaded with military personal headed for the city.

I was feeling a bit low about my fine even though it could have been much worse, but we gassed up in Villa Ahumanda and hopped onto MEX !0 which winds up into the mountains to a small town called Buenaventura. We left behind the dusty desert and entered a nice temperate climate not unlike Colorado. The fields were green, and groves of apple trees and vineyards were scattered about.



In Buenaventura we found a small cheap hotel for about $15, and walked around in the cool evening enjoying the fact that everyone in small mexican country towns “cruises” the same way they do in small country towns in America. People drive up and down the main drag playing music, looking at girls, and meeting friends.

The next day we get up and continue heading south. We hit the larger town of Chultemoc and get lost trying to head into the center of town. We had a pricey restaurant lunch that was tasty but we felt really bad for the Tarahumara indians that were begging outside. The children were looking at us with well practiced eyes and pressing themselves up against the windows. We gave them what we could when we left and headed west dodging thunderstorms across the endless apple orchards in central Chihuahua. San Juanito is a small town about 80 km down a series of twisty roads. I was hungering for a bit of tilted motorcycle riding and headed off that way enjoying the smooth pavement and green carpeted canyons.

San Juanito is a logging town towards the Copper Canyon. Most of the buildings are still heated by wood and the town has a smokey atmosphere that’s pretty unique. We walked around still feeling like outsiders due to our poor Spanish, but we enjoyed the cool mountain air.







We stayed in another cheap place for about 12 bucks, it had a bed, a room with a toilet and a shower head directly above it, and hot water for 2 hours a day when the wood-fired boiler was fueled. Sabrina was looking forward to the coast so I decided we’d do a “push” day to get there.

We woke up early and headed back down the twisty road and got onto MEX 16. For those riders in the know MEX 16 is like taking all the best parts of the North Rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and all the best parts of UT-12 and stringing them together for non-stop curves for 200 miles. This is not a joke, there are 20-40mph curves for 200 miles in almost complete unbroken succession. There were maybe 5-6 sections of road that were straight for more than 500 meters the rest was curves. The first three hours was some of the best riding I’ve ever done, the remaining 7 hours were not as good of a time. The road is paved but it’s got to be hard work keeping that road in passable condition. We had several potholes that were more than 12” deep and 30”+ wide. The bike did well but the rear sprocket and I expect the front sprocket are wearing faster with the weight of 2 riders and all our gear. By the end we were so exasperated with the endless road that we dragged the center stand 5-6 times trying to get to the coast quicker.

We shot some video on this route and we're working at compiling it into a short clip but the internet here is slow so it may be up tomorrow.

We made it but only just, we got to Guaymas a little after sundown and ran right into the melee of September 15th 2010 the bicentennial of “El Grito”. This celebration marks the day that a priest sparked the revolution of Mexico urging the Mexicans to rebel against the foreign invading Spanish who were living rich off the land. Feeling pretty foreign ourselves (hell at least the Spanish could speak Spanish), we tried to find a hotel. Half the streets downtown were closed and finding a hotel was a nightmare, flashing lights, horns, everyone trying to get everywhere at once and a town full of 50,000 people and all of them in the streets. With the help of a few police we were able to find a hotel, get the bike into the lobby, watch some fireworks which were were backlit by heat lightning, and sacked out for the night. We thought about heading out into the festival but the nightwatchman warned us against it saying that there’s little telling what people would do this night when they were drunk on beer and nationalism.

The next morning we were woken to a drumroll and saw a large parade going on down the main avenue. The heat was giving us both a full on flop sweat within minutes but the kids in the parade barely seemed affected by the heat.





We bought about a kilo of freshly chopped fruit from a stand for less than $2 and watched the parade go by. The city seemed much nicer in the daylight.

We hit up the ATM as we headed north a short ways to gringo land in San Carlos, where we are now. San Carlos is nice, clean, and expensive. We’ve gotten a room at the Gringo Pete hotel which overlooks the beaches and are enjoying a clean bathroom for the first time in a few days.

The sea feels wonderful and the saltwater seems to do a good job cleaning off all of the grime from the road.









We plan to stay here for a couple of days to rest up after our long ride to the coast. After a few days here we’ll head down to Mazatlan and back into the mountains towards Durango and Zacatecas where we hope to find cheaper lodging and food. We should have internet for the next few days so we’ll try to answer any questions that people have.
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Old 09-17-2010, 09:58 AM   #15
PlasticSun OP
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Location: Guanajuato, Mexico
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kinjari
Ha! Found yer thread!

Glad to hear things are somewhat smoothing out. Im bummed we couldnt do the ride out but I totally understand.

Dude! Quit trying to lift sheds by yourself! The universe tends to step in and remind you that you only exist inside a mortal coil

Seriously though, totally stoked for you guys! Hurry up and get to CR!!! I needs mah vacation!!!

My family wishes you both all the best...I got my Pops an iPad so he is following along as well.

Cant wait for the next update - saving my miles for that ticket so let me know

Be well and all my best to Sabrina as well (btw I'm loving my new Stumpy but you are still maddog insane hardcore busting out the triple bypass - serious props!!!)

MJ
Sweet! We'll see you down there, prices up here are pretty high so we're looking forward to getting south to some larger cities where there are cheaper hostels.

It's going to be hard to leave the sea though, we all come from the sea and it's difficult to leave her again.
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