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Old 09-25-2012, 08:43 PM   #151
peteFoulkes OP
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Some low res riding footage.

Example from the Canol road in the Yukoon. It's a fast paced loose gravel road with awesome views. The only fear is on-coming traffic:



Hunter Dave asked us if we mind crossing a few streams. We had no idea where he was taking us or what was coming next but we followed to see if we could witness any moose hunting action...

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Old 09-28-2012, 12:28 PM   #152
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Just discovered your ride report yesterday, and "couldn't put it down." What a great read and great pictures. Totally envious and exactly the type of ride I'd like to do some day. Love that you're doing it on the DRZ - great choice!
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Old 09-30-2012, 10:35 AM   #153
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Quote:
Originally Posted by peteFoulkes View Post
Hi guys,

The new clutch basket is due to arrive today so we hope to have that fitted and ready as soon as it does. In the meantime, the second bike is pretty much ready to go so I thought I would stick a quick picture up for you to take a look.
It just needs a little dirt now....

Have you done the stainless output seal spacer ?
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Old 10-06-2012, 10:40 PM   #154
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Bummer about those Kenda's, I've worn out few of them and been impressed with their long life and good performance, and I've never seen'em toss knobs like that. I wonder if they're old.

Anyway, love the report!
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Old 10-19-2012, 03:29 PM   #155
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NitroRoo View Post
Just discovered your ride report yesterday, and "couldn't put it down." What a great read and great pictures. Totally envious and exactly the type of ride I'd like to do some day. Love that you're doing it on the DRZ - great choice!
Hi Nitro,

Great to hear you enjoyed the read. We recently rode for a few days through Guatemala with a couple of people of Holland. They were on BMW's. One 800 the other 1000. We were quickly reminded why the DRz is such a good choice for this trip.
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Old 10-19-2012, 03:30 PM   #156
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Originally Posted by FloorPoor View Post
Bummer about those Kenda's, I've worn out few of them and been impressed with their long life and good performance, and I've never seen'em toss knobs like that. I wonder if they're old.

Anyway, love the report!
Yeah, who knows. We're now running on a set of Mefo Explorers. We're now in Costa Rica after fitting them in Oceanside, California and so far so good. They seem to be the perfect balance on and off road although we are yet to really test them in any really thick mud.
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Old 10-19-2012, 03:34 PM   #157
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Have you done the stainless output seal spacer ?
Hey Packman,

Yep, we did that mod. No idea if it was necessary but we've not had any issues since doing it.

Pete
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Old 10-19-2012, 03:43 PM   #158
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Whistler to Seattle

Returning to a place for the second time on the same trip is the closest we get to the feeling of returning home. With the exceptional hospitality on offer at Jo’s place in Whistler, this experience was not going to be an exception to the rule. Our last visit to Whistler was all too rushed and this time there were a couple of things we wanted to achive from our stay.

Priority one was to meet up with a distant cousin of mine who is now based in Whistler. I was too young to even remember the last interaction I had with Jockey so I was a little nervous about not knowing perhaps as much as I really ought to about him and his family. It was time to enroll the help of my Old Chap. In no time at all, I had Jockeys last 5 years documented in a well presented email. After memorising what I could, I was good to go and arranged to meet up with Jockey and his two boys, Indy and Nate, the following day. Jockey spent many years in London and Tokyo in the Finance sector before knocking it all on the head and setting up base in Whistler. Anyone who has been there before will understand why he picked such a destination. In the winter he works as a ski instructor and the summer, as a downhill mountain bike guide. When I realised that was the case, I was confident we were going to get along just fine. Upon arrival at his place, the boys couldn’t contain their excitement at seeing the dirty DRz and within minutes I was taking them out for a quick ride around the block.



As I hoped it would, after a few minutes relaxing in Jockeys kitchen, it felt like I’d had known him for years and we were joking about shared family history. Before leaving him and the boys that evening we agreed to meet the following day after his shift in the hills at 3.30pm to fulfill Whistler priority number two; downhill mountain biking.

Realistically, the last thing we should be doing is throwing ourselves down a mountain at high-speed on bikes we are not familiar with wearing minimal protection. We still had over 10,000 miles to ride at that point and any broken bones would have had a major impact on this trip but people travel from all over the world to ride downhill here and the opportunity to try it for ourselves had landed in our lap. We were never going to say no.
As we sat at the bottom of the bike runs watching the pro’s pulling of jumps on the GLC drop, the day dragged on and on and I was searching for anything that could contain both my apprehension and excitement about boarding a lift and hitting the slopes. Knowing how competitive Jon and I can be against each other, I knew all too well wouldn’t be leaving that mountain without feeling like we really tested our ability of riding a downhill mountain bike.



Jockey didn’t let us down and right on time, he had us on the lift up to try out our first couple of runs. Our exposure to riding dirt bikes seemed to have got us off to a good start and by the end of the session, once the trails had quietened down, we decided it was time to hit what is known as the ‘A-line black run. It was easily one of the most exciting things I have ever done and we left the mountain that day eager to get back up there and do it all over again.



Time for me was regrettably too short in Whistler. We had by this stage agreed a date with Daryl back at Aurora Suzuki in Seattle for some more servicing for the bikes and before that I was keen to check out Vancouver and meet up with Krystle, a friend I met whilst on my first bike trip in India some 3 years ago. Jon was keen to stick with his friends in Whistler for as long as possible so I was packing up for a short solo ride down the 99 to get back to Vancouver. It’s a nice road and I was looking forward to a ride without him rabbiting on over the intercom. I was alone in Jo’s house when frantically trying to pack up to make it down there in good time for a drink that night when I accidentally picked up Jon’s top bag thinking it was mine. Immediately after realising it was his I put it back down when something fired out and hit me straight in the face. I had no idea what it was but whatever just hit me had my skin burning, my eyes watering and I was struggling to breath. It completely took me down. Gasping for air, my eyes were streaming so badly that I couldn’t even look back in the bag to see what the hell it was. I could only assume a bottle of chain lube or something equally as nasty had split and fired out at me. All I could do was sit on the floor, weeping like a lost child until the pain started to die down.

20 minutes or so later when my eyes finally started to dry out, it was all too clear what had happened. I was furious. To date he’s been a solid wingman on this trip and there has been little if any tension between us but I can confidently say if he was in the house at that point in time I would have smacked him. Jon’s paranoia of wildlife wasn’t left with the critters in Mongolia and after seeing numerous bears on the side of the road on our ride through northern Canada, he upped his game in the world of creature self-defense and bought himself a bottle of bear spray. Yeah, it was that bastard thing that had me in agony!



Despite my skin still burning an hour or so later, time was running short so I jumped on the bike and headed south bound. Upon arrival in Vancouver, I jumped straight in the shower to try to get the left overs of the spray off me. Little did I know that the water would re-activate the it and in addition to that, spread the freaking thing all over my body. Half an hour of lying flat on my bed trying not to move, I was ready to get out and after a lengthy dispute with a copper outside regarding the parking of my bike, I was finally en-route for a well deserved beer. This isn’t however the end to the bear spray carnage. For the rest of the story, I’ll invite Jon in to explain what then happened at his end.

Jon here:
After a spot of lunch in the village, Jo and I arrived back at her condo in the afternoon. Much to my surprise Pete had actually managed to pack up and was seemingly on a solo mission down to Vancouver. He had thoughtfully left me a departure note scribbled on the back of a piece of card.



The thought of him being taken down by the ‘dreaded bear spray’ made me almost wet myself. I could only imagine how angry he was at being hit in the face during a stressful pack up, blinded and rolling around the floor in his motorbike gear. Admittidely i was also a little annoyed he had been rummaging through my luggage, plus the fact he had wasted my new camping ammo! At this point I picked up my now empty bag and proceeded to wipe the inside with my hand and jumper. There was no trace of any spray remains, so I thought little more of the incident.

Before heading out for some downhill mountain biking I went to the bathroom for a quick pee, and what happened next was pretty distressing! Shortly after going to the toilet I began to feel an intense burning sensation around my crown jewels. No joke, the pain was excruciating! Washing myself didn’t seem to help either, and my agony just worsened. Not having linked this embarrassing problem to the bear spray accident, I tried my best to hide my distress and continued to catch a bus into town with Jo. Whilst on the bus Jo was nudging me and asking if I was excited about going biking, but all I could think about was whether I should jump off at the next stop and seek some kind of urgent medical assistance! As I wiped my eye my face began to sting, and at this point it suddenly occurred to me that i had become the latest victim of the ‘dreaded bear spray’. Ha, that little can of whoop-ass got us real bad.
Back to Pete…

By the time he came to meet me in Vancouver the following day, I’d had time to calm down and we laughed for hours about the whole situation before jumping on the bikes and heading south to cross the border back to the U.S. Canada had been one hell of an experience and I left there questioning why I would want to live anywhere else.

Before arriving back in Seattle to spend more time with the Suzuki boys, we made a quick one night de-tour to meet up with Miikka, a fellow adventure rider we first bumped in to in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. He was on his own mission at the time with his mate Janni on 2 BMW F800GS’s. They both fly planes and we often joked about how it must feel like they are back in the cockpit with the amount of mod-cons those posh BMW’s had on offer. These boys were so well equpped they made us look like a couple of travelling peasants. Have a read about their trip here.

Miikka is originally from Finland but has taken time off work to spend some time with his wife and two children in Bellingham his wife is originally from.



Another outstanding example of hospitality this time found us at his in-laws place in a luxury house on the side of a peacefull lake. Our time with Miikka in Mongolia was clearly sufficient for him to know how to keep us happy and we kicked back enjoying beers and home cooked goodness for an afternoon catch up with him and his family. A great guy who we genuinely hope to meet again one day soon.

Next stop; back to Seattle for some Suzuki TLC before riding the West Coast of the U.S. Home is on the bike and quite honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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Old 10-19-2012, 03:57 PM   #159
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Seattle to San Fran

The first 3 weeks of September saw us ride the West Coast of the U.S. and what an outstanding few weeks it was. It was burgers, fries and copious amounts of beer for the duration and and our time in the U.S left us feeling grossly overweight and out of shape for our crossing in to Mexico.

The West Coast of the States, a ride I’d dreamed about since I was a child was finally about to happen. After leaving Miikka and his family in Bellingham we headed back to see the Suzuki boys at Suzuki Aurora. It was clear they were well and truly ready to maintain the outstanding support we received during our first stop here and within minutes of our arrival, Darrell and his team pointed us in the direction of the work space they had cleared for us to unload the luggage and strip down the bikes. It felt good to be back. Darrell was all too aware that the U.S customs issues we had whilst shipping the bikes from South Korea meant we were in Seattle for much longer than we had ever anticipated during our first stop here and he was eager to do his best to get us on the road as soon as possible to crack on with the Tough Miles mission.

Once the bikes we stripped, the results of a compression check on my bike proved is was a good time to consider a new piston, rings and cylinder before heading in to the depths of Central and South America where spares were likely to be sparse. Mitch the mechanic stepped up to the challenge and in no time had the top end in pieces. This was by no means a small job but the commitment of Darrell and his team was more than we could ever have hoped for. It even saw a couple of the guys in the workshop during a national holiday. What had we done to receive this service? In all honesty, we couldn't believe the exceptional hospitality. Darrell runs a tight ship in that workshop which evidently returns good results. Jon and I were proud to have him on board as part of this mission.



On the 3rd September, day 137 of the trip, we put the new engine components through a few heat cycles to ensure everything was seated as it should be before saying our goodbyes to the guys and finally hitting the 101 southbound and getting the next chapter underway. Thanks to the incredible support we have received from Suzuki GB, despite all the work which had taken place over those few days in Seattle plus the standard servicing work during our first stop at Aurora, we were not a single penny lighter. I’ll never be able to express my appreciation for their incredible support on this trip and knowing that Michael, our main contact at the HQ in Milton Keynes is always on the end of a phone line should we require him makes entering rural parts of Latin America so much less of a mental strain.

We didn’t at that point know where we would be aiming for that evening but the huge quantity of camp grounds along this coast meant that finding somewhere to sleep was unlikely to ever be a cause for concern. The relatively slow speed limits of the 101 and Highway 1 would offer an ideal ride to run the bike after the recent engine work and make sure that everything felt as expected. The bike felt brand new. Before arriving here, my dreams of riding the West coast of the States involved countless surf towns, girls in bikinis, late night beach parties and some of the best motorcycling roads the world had to offer. Well, for the first few days of this ride, excluding the great motorcycling roads part, I couldn’t have been any further from the truth. The weather during our ride through Washington and the northern parts of Oregan made it feel more like a ride to Bognor Regis. Despite passing though some nice towns and villages, we found ourselves riding through thick patches of coastal mist and fog more often than not. The waterproofs hadn’t seen this much action in a long time. The mist started to clear just in time for an awesome sunset on Cape Devastation where we decided to call it a night.



The next couple of days saw us pitch up next to an eerie feeling misty lake in Florence before crossing the State border of California and camping in Del Norte set in the awesome Red Wood National park. Despite neither of us being huge wine fans, it seemed inappropriate to spend our first night in a Californian camp without a couple of bottles of locally produced red. We’re not overly familiar with our way round a supermarket’s wine department so the bottle on the left got the job simply because it had a motorcycle on the front. Any wine connoisseurs out there take note; the tinned vegetable noodles really emphasises the deep flavors of the red and drinking from the shared Tough Miles plastic mug can really heighten the experience.



Day 140 for me was hands down, one of the most memorable riding experiences of the trip to date. The first hour or so had us riding through the mammoth Red Wood trees of the national park before we reached the town of Eureeka where the change in weather was so dramatic we pulled over to loose all the riding gear and take it down to a t-shirt. It was starting to feel more like the California I’d previously imagined. Two other riders pulled over on immaculate looking sports bikes, one was riding CBR Fireblade with the full Repsol colours, the other on an R6. These boys were clearly not there to mess around. They advised that we dropped off the 101 to join Highway 1 just 10 miles or so later. This was easily the best riding tip we had received to date and we continued to spend the next couple of hours rolling the DRz’s round what felt like hundreds of twists and turns the road has to offer. The road began by taking us through a dense green forest where, between gaps in the trees to the west we could see the Californian coast line unfolding. Once clearing the forest section it brought us out directly on to the coast itself where the views of the ocean and the road ahead is sufficient to bring an immediate smile to any motorcycle enthusiasts face.



We didn’t see the boys on the sports bikes again. We can only assume they had difficulties keeping up with our cornering abilities on the DRz’s

We camped up in Fort Bragg before continuing south bound on the same incredible standard of road before our arrival in San Francisco. After a few nights in camp sights, we always seem to fall in to the same trap upon arrival in a big city. As a rule of thumb we arrive around late afternoon, locate a lively hostel full of other backpackers, unload the luggage and stink out our dorm room with overused motorcycle clothing before heading out for what feels like a well deserved beer. The following day is generally spent hung over unable to move anywhere further than the nearest McDonald’s. We then proceed to spend the day feeling guilty that we are not out and about visiting the tourist attractions on offer before the sun begins to set and we feel ready for another beer. Well, San Fran wasn’t going to be any different to any other of the big cities and before I knew it, I was heavily under the influence, chirpsing up a stunner from L.A, Victoria, and promising her a lift on the back of the bike back to her home town the following day. When I heard the knock at the door in the morning, I knew it was either going to be the hostel staff complaining about our late check out or the girl I had promised the world to the previous evening. In this case it was the latter. It was going to be hard explaining that carrying the spare tyre we had on the back of the dirt bike at that time was enough to make carrying a pillion passenger a definite impossibility. When she came out to see the bike and realised the lack of space, her exact words were
“So where do I sit?” I paused, she continued,
“Or where you just sweet talking me last night?”

In the corner of my eye I could see Brookbanks cracking up. He knew as well as I did that it would be difficult to talk my way out of this one. The hang over smacked me round the face and the guilt for promising something that clearly wasn't possible that day was a heavy hit. It was a relief when she accepted my apology gracefully and agreed to meet on our arrival in L.A. a few days later.

Next stop, Los Angeles for a visit to the American Suzuki H.Q. after riding the dirt trails of Big Sur. I have no complaints right now.
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Old 10-19-2012, 03:58 PM   #160
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More pics

We have loads more pics on our Facebook page here: www.facebook.com/toughmiles
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Old 11-20-2012, 01:48 PM   #161
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San Fran to San Diego

After leaving San Fran, Los Angeles was the next major stop but not before a nights camp in Big Sur. We’d heard rumors of there being some decent off road tracks around this region so we spoke to everybody we could trying to plan the best route for the following day. Everybody had hyped up the South Coast Ridge Trail and promised it would offer 38 miles of off road action with mountain views on one side and the Big Sur coast line on the other. After turning off Highway 1 on to the trail we were sliding the back ends out on the loose gravel gravel surface whilst climbing in altitude. Our tyres were pretty shot by this time so handling the bikes on the dusty surface proved a little trickier than normal adding to the excitement. Within minutes, as standard, we found ourselves racing each other up to the first pass.



Unfortunately, when we arrived at the beginning of the path to take us right to the top, the forestry commission had sealed it shut for a reason unknown to us. We were clearly not the only guys a little disappointing to discover this…



We continued round the loop enjoying the lose surface before rejoining Highway one to continue south bound hugging the coast and pushed on southbound making it to Hollywood just in time for sunset. After checking in to a hostel on Hollywood Boulevard and paying the extortionate parking fee to keep the bikes safe for a couple of days, we kicked back and checked out the sights, bars and restaurants and awaited our meeting at the Suzuki U.S.A. headquarters, a moment both of us had been excited about since we realised it was really happening. Hollywood is a massively popular tourist spot comparable to Leicester Square only with blistering heat and the legendary Hooters restaurants. As we sat relaxing in our hostel that night, look what the cat dragged in…



You may remember Junior Skipper for his performance at the Koran BBQ a couple of months ago in Seoul. Well, he was back in the U.S. awaiting the start of his next semester at Uni and we thought it was only fair for us to give him a second chance in selecting the restaurant for that evening. Well, he certainly lived up to his reputation and had us walking the streets of Hollywood for close to an hour trying to locate a damn hot dog store. Bearing in mind there are hot dog vendors every 10 meters on Hollywood Boulevard, once finally arriving at ‘Pinks’ hot dog store, we couldn’t contain our disappointment when we realised it was quite literally just a hot dog stall, identical to the countless other fast food joints we passed on route. He’d done it again! Despite it being an absolute pleasure having him back on board, without any haste, Junior Skipper was stripped of his title with immediate effect.

Unfortunately the drinking age restrictions in the U.S. prevented Matt from coming out to a bar that evening so we headed off to meet some other backpackers from the hostel in a bar called ‘Rainbow’. Given it’s name I started to question whether the lads from the hostel had got the wrong end of the stick and had invited us to a gay bar but it turned out to be a local hang out for the celebrities of Hollywood. My lack of celebrity knowledge preventing me from recognising the stars everybody was pointing out however, the one Jon and I did recognise was Ron Jeremy propping up the bar. Inspired by the big man himself, Brookbanks didn’t waste any time and after a couple of Cuba Libres took the opportunity to work on the other, not so famous punters.



Although we still had a few days to kill before our meeting with Suzuki, Hollywood’s tourist scene and fierce heat all got too much us after a couple of days so we headed further south to Venice for some beach time. Wearing motorcycle gear generally keeps us out of the sun so you can picture the scene when two pasty English men who have spent the previous few weeks eating burgers and fried food strip down to a pair of board shorts on the infamous muscle beach. The ladies couldn’t keep away. It was nice to have a few days off the bikes and offered an opportunity to meet up with Victoria, the girl I mentioned in the previous blog. Whilst in Venice, we were also lucky enough to meet up with a chap called Mike Praise, the author of the excellent series of guide books, The Surfers Guide. Mike’s experience of riding the Baja California peninsular made him the perfect aid in assisting us to plan the best route down the Mexican peninsular.

On day 156, 20th September we were packed up and ready to head over to Brea, for our visit to the Suzuki H.Q. We didn’t know what really expect from our meeting with the guys there but within minutes the cameras were rolling and the probing questions were extracting tales from our trip to date. The clip below offers a closer look at the modifications we made to the bikes.



We both felt genuinely privileged to have been invited to the Suzuki H.Q. and the guys took care of us well by insisting we joined them for lunch. We were fed like kings whilst sharing our experiences over the course of a couple of hours.

We’d been lucky enough to use the Suzuki H.Q. as an address to have new tyres, Mefo Explorers, shipped to so that afternoon we continued south along the coast to Oceanside where we had arranged to stop in to visit the guys at the Just Gas Tanks office. Typically we’ve fitted tyres ourselves throughout this trip but for a change we weren’t out in the middle of nowhere so we decided to treat ourselves and get some assistance from someone with more adequate equipment. As we stood there chatting to the mechanic, out walked the owner of the shop, English Tony. Unbelievably we had stumbled across a workshop run by a guy originally from no more than a few miles from where we live in London. Another stroke of Tough Miles good fortune. Hearing his accent made us feel right at home and once he’d heard our story he insisted we stopped in with him overnight. Tony is a straight up wheeler dealer geezer. He’s a no bull s*** kind of guy and we knew he genuinely meant it when he offered up a trailer camper he was selling in his shops forecourt as a base for the night. Incredible hospitality. We all went out that evening for a decent session on the sauce. Here is Tony and Fred testing out a Harley.



The following day, we stopped in to meet the guys at Just Gas Tanks, the U.S. distributor of the Safari 28 liter fuel tank we’ve been using on this trip. Core Racing, the U.K. distributor of the tanks proved an awesome knowledge-base for us during the preparation stage of this trip so we were keen to stop in and meet their American equivalent. The tanks have been critical to date and have held up seriously well despite the bikes being dropped off road on numerous occasions. It was excellent to meet the guys there and take a look around the shop. On return to English Tony’s place, his hospitality had another little treat in store for us. He had a couple of Harley’s lined up for us to have a ride on. Neither of us had ever ridden a Harley before so it was an exciting moment for both of us.



After saying our good byes to everybody at English Tony’s place, we headed slightly further south to camp up in a place called Chula Vista. After all the horror stories we had heard about this border crossing, we wanted to be as close to the Mexico border as we possibly could be to allow us to cross at first light.

Next stop Central America.
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Old 11-20-2012, 02:13 PM   #162
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Mexico’s Baja Peninsula.

Thanks to Jon for writing this update from the Baja peninsula...

Our journey through Central America was about to begin, and whilst camping just outside of San Diego the dreaded border crossing into Mexico was looming over us like a dark cloud. Through out the west coast of America countless people had warned us about the dangers of the surrounding towns. Neither of us knew what to expect. Carrying two laptops, an SLR camera, Sat Nav equipment, and various other expensive electronic devices, we decided this wasn’t a day to be wearing the Go Pro.

On Monday the 24th September we set the alarm for 6.15am, packed up camp and hit the road by 7. Our plan was to cross into Mexico at Tijuana and head straight down the Baja peninsula. A quick google search didn’t exactly make me feel any better: “Tijuana is well known for being the birthplace and base of the Tijuana Cartel, with a high level of violent crime related to gang violence, in part derived from the Mexican drug war and human trafficking”. Neverthless, there was no turning back now, and we are both well aware that this kind of activity is often over-hyped by the media.

On route we stopped at a bank to withdraw some dollars. With little idea of what lay ahead, and not knowing when we would next have the opportunity to source an ATM, we decided to each carry $600 dollars and load up on fuel. Paranoid about being mugged I cunningly stashed $400 inside my boot, $160 in my motorcycle jacket, and $40 in my wallet for any potential bribes. Unsurprisingly Pete seemed a little more careless and wedged the whole lot in his money belt, tucked in his pocket.

Much to my amazement, upon reaching the border there was no delay, and we didn’t even have to stop to show our passports! There was not even a luggage check as we were casualy waved through by an armed official. This is clearly not the process when heading in the opposite driection, evident by a huge queue at 8am. Directly after the border we pulled into a layby with various tourist offices. Neither of us were particularly impressed with the look of these make shift shacks, so we made a decision to push on a little further with the hope of finding a more legit looking operation. When entering Mexico it is entirely your responsibility to purchase a tourist visa and motor insurance. At this particular border corssing there is no-one to guide you or make sure you have the necessary paperwork for travelling through the country.

Needless to say before long we found ourselves on route to Ensenada, having seemingly missed our chance to organise the required documentation. It was a tense time over the intercom as we discussed the option of turning around, and feeling tired added to my anxiety. Everyone had told us “don’t stop, just keep riding”, and here we were looking for the next availabale opportunity to do a u-turn and fight our way through the chaotic rush hour traffic. Fortunately we narrowly avoided the queue heading back into the States, and finally found the vehicle ‘Temporary Importation Office’. Thankfully with Petes Spanish skills we were able to fumble our way through the process, each paying a $300 deposit for the bike, a $50 admin fee, and $24 for a tourist visa. Struggling to find somehwere to buy insurance, we located the nearest McDonalds and used their wi-fi to organise a policy online through a company called ‘Discover Baja Club’, costing us another $110 each. A stressful and expensive morning, but a very nice breakfast.

The change in scenery as you cross the border is incredible. Suddenly you have landed in a developing 3rd world country, with many rough looking cars, makeshift houses, hectic traffic and street vendors. Heading directly east towards Ensenada, the road follows a huge border fence, offset by a steep embankment and then a deep valley. This makes for quite a dramatic view, especially with the eerie morning mist.

The ride towards El Rosario was fairly uneventful, and soon the weather became so hot that riding in just a t-shirt was the only option. This makes for a cracking riding tan, and the trademark two-tone arm of an adventure rider. Punta Baja, a small fishing village on the west coast, recommended by Mike Parise during our meeting in Venice, was the planned destination for our first night in Mexico.



Reaching this remote spot was a fairly tricky ride through some deep sand and muddy pools, and soon made us wonder whether we had time to risk any off-road routes whilst travelling down the Baja. It seemed a shame to stick to the highways, but with 10 countries still to cover, the Panama crossing, less than 3 months to complete the trip, and news of Hurricane Miriam coming in from the Pacific, we reluctantly agreed to stick to the tarmac from here on. In any case, we’d had our fair share of tackling deep sand in Mongolia.




Highway 1 runs from top to bottom of the Baja, and besides a few boring stretches many parts are without doubt some of the best roads I have ever ridden. The surface quality is generally excellent, and sections of tight twisty bends feel more like a race track with white painted curbs guiding you from apex to apex. The Mefo Explorers we had fitted in Oceanside certainly proved a great road tyre, giving plenty of grip and confidence when leaning into a corner. Some of the scenery is spectacular, with huge boulder formations, and vast hills of sand and dry earth that stretch for miles with little sign of life besides desert Cacti.

Although now ‘only’ a tropical storm, 40km outside of La Paz Hurricane Miriam hit hard. The sky turned a dark menacing grey, almost black, and shortly after a military check point the heavens opened.



A flash flood formed deep rivers crossing the road, and we had no option but to wait for the rain to ease and the water levels to drop. Despite being completely drenched, it was funny to watch family cars attempt to drive through the deep streams, only to get stuck in the middle, having to then open their doors and push the car out! It was amazing to see how quickly a tropical flash flood could disable the road network, and we were both glad not to have taken an off-road route! Despite the floods we pushed on as soon as we could, eager to reach La Paz before it got any worse.



Upon arriving in La Paz, the final destination before catching the Baja ferry across to the mainland, we stumbled across Dave, a fellow adventure rider on a yet another BMW 800 GS kitted up to the max. Dave is 65, retired, and on a solo mission from Canada to Argentina. Brave, or Stupid? Either way an incredible character and a top bloke! Carrying more luggage than a local minibus, he was in admiration of our light load and tidy pack up. He stood there and watched as we unloaded into the hotel, shaking his head saying “I’ve got to give it to you boys, the pack up is an art, one that you’ve certainly mastered”. Despite having ditched his camping gear and having large hard panniers, his bike was fully loaded. Pete and I never did work out what he was carrying, although it soon became clear he wasn’t shy of collecting a souvenir or two along the way. By the end of his trip I’m guessing his bike will look more like a world tour Christmas tree.



On one particular ride Dave was in his usual position at the back, acting as the Tough Miles sweeper. Upon approaching a small village Pete and I spotted a copper up ahead, so waited in line with the rest of the traffic. Dave on the other hand swerved to the inside and blasted straight up the verge directly towards the policeman! God knows how he got away with that one, but from there on we named the old boy ‘MadDog Dave’. A title he was more than happy to adopt even on his own blog! Little did we know that MadDog would become our new riding partner from La Paz, Mexico, to the border of Guatemala. His surprising past and mis-spent youth travelling the world as a hippie made for some interesting stories, and we shared many enjoyable evenings discussing our plans over dinner.

After one night in La Paz, obviously treating ourselves to a few beers, we didn’t waste any time and managed to book ourselves onto the next ferry over to Mazatlan. Leaving this to the last minute meant there were no cabins left, but we were grateful to even get a ticket. The crossing was expected to take 16 hours, but due to unfavourable weather conditions the ship was unable to enter the dock as scheduled, resulting in an 8 hour delay out at sea. Things soon got worse, as shortly after settling into our designated seats MadDog decided to remove his riding boots, and within minutes the smell cleared the room, with people at the back even spraying cans of deodrant. I retreated to the canteen and spent the night sleeping on the deck, using my hoody as a blanket and a travel guide as a pillow. Despite a rough night and very little sleep, in the morning we found ourselves sinking a few of the good ones with two Irish lads named James and Colly, placing bets on how long we would be stuck on this stinking ferry!



After finally managing to disembark, it was a great relief to see the bikes were still upright, and within minutes we were checked in to the nearest hotel. The evening was young, so that night we hit the main plaza for a skin full with the Irish boys and another guy named Stither. Stither is a small Indian lad riding an air-cooled Suzuki 250cc, also heading towards South America. Drinking litre glasses of the local beer and sinking copious amounts of tequila shots soon had James and Colly tearing up the dancefloor, with some hilarious moves seeming to attract a lot of attention from the locals. It would have been fun to spend some more time with these guys, but the Tough Miles schedule is tight, so despite a savage hangover Pete and I loaded the bikes whilst dripping in sweat and hit the road the following morning.

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Old 11-22-2012, 12:12 AM   #163
Doogle
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What I found to be a good place to hide money was in my riding pants where the pads were.I took the pads out because they were too tight.I also stored backup credit cards and drivers license there.Always with me,and always safe.

I found going through Central America to be the most uncomfortable,as far as feeling safety.I was never robbed.But I was concerned a lot.Especially in Honduras.Good luck with the rest of your trip. 6 months from now you will be reading others ride reports-wishing you were back on the road.
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Old 12-29-2012, 05:24 AM   #164
peteFoulkes OP
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Jon here:

For our route through Mainland Mexico we decided to head inland from Mazatlan, stopping at San Blas, Guanajuato, Teotihuacan, Minatitlan and finally San Cristobal. The 250km ride down the coast from Mazatlan to San Blas should have been a straight forward afternoon, but 20km down the road I realised I was missing my headphones and a hoody, yet another loss. I guess that’s the result of packing up on a hangover, and sleeping somewhere different almost everyday! Recently I have been listening to music whilst riding, so the thought of not having any tunes during long days on the bike was a big hit. It was a tough decision, but I decided to leave Pete in a petrol station cafe and head back to the hotel. Fortunately the solo mission was a success, and my mood was lifted for the ride ahead. After my morning recovery, the afternoon dealt me with another misfortune. My collection of caps, purchased and carefully carried from California had fallen off the back of my bike. This may not sound like a big deal, but maintaining a cap on a biking trip is a tricky task, and a decent new one could be hard to come by as we head through Latin America. Hopefully they will go to a good home, and some local Mexican kids will be donning Volcom flat peaks.

There’s not much to report from San Blas, it’s a small colonial fishing village with a relaxed vibe and some nice restaurants on the edge of a vibrant square. The road in and out is quite spectacular, winding through dense jungle and local farm land. It was here I saw my first tarantula, so I now take more care checking my boots before getting dressed for a ride!

The main cities of Mexico are well connected via Toll-roads, but these can get very expensive even on a motorbike. For our ride to Guanajuato we decided to pick our way through the free-roads, or ‘Libre’ as they are labelled out here. This adds a huge amount of time onto the journey, as the speed limits are much lower, and the route passes through countless small villages. Despite the use of Sat Nav and intercom, having to navigate our way through Guadalajara was tough, and we soon found ourselves stuck in heavy traffic heading in the wrong direction. It was a long day, but we managed to reach Guanajauto by sunset.

Guanajauto is a fairly large colonial city located in a deep valley. The streets are extremely narrow and winding, and it has an amazing network of underground tunnels connecting the different areas. These can be a nightmare for a motorcyclist, as they are poorly lit with very slippery wet cobbles. Both Dave and I nearly dropped the bikes whilst navigating our way through the maze! Colourful buildings cover the mountainsides for miles around, and using the motorbikes we were able to reach a stunning view point.



After a night in Guanajauto our next stop was San Juan Teotihuacan, just north of Mexico city. After realising how tricky and time consuming the free-roads are to navigate, we decided to break the bank and stick to the Toll-roads. Despite this decision we found ourselves behind schedule, and towards the end of our ride the sun had gone down. One of the main rules of travelling through Mexico is to never ride at night, and here we were limping along a busy pot-hole road in the pitch black, with no idea of where we would be staying. The DRZ headlight seems worse than the ‘Cat Eye’ battery torch I have on my bicycle, so finding our way was a difficult task. It was quite a relief to finally reach our destination, and after finding a hotel, nailing a few street tacos, it was time to hit the hay.

Teotihaucan is famous for its Pyramids, so in the morning we climbed the largest one named ‘the Sun’.



To be honest, I must admit pyramids or ruins don’t particularly excite me, especially when all you can do is climb the outside. I would have more incentive to struggle up 250 steps if there was a giant water slide on the other side, or a base jump down the center! Nevertheless, it was a nice day off the bikes, and MadDog Dave had me in stitches walking around blowing his eagle whistle. God knows what other tat he would have bought if it wasn’t for me and Pete dragging him away from all the market stalls.



The bus journey back into town was probably the most exciting part of the day. As we hurtled down a hill on the wrong side of the road towards on coming traffic, it became apparent that we no longer had any brakes. Pete and I could see what was happening, and both braced ourselves for impact. Dave on the other hand was facing the opposite direction, and with a look of confusion he began to panic. As the driver crunched down the gears, the front seat passenger was lent over his lap pumping the brake pedal with her hand! Thankfully we somehow avoided a collision, and eventually rolled to a stop. Needless to say we decided to bail out and walk the remainder of the distance.



With the tourist attractions out of the way it was time to drop the hammer and aim for San Cristobal, the final stop in Mexico before crossing into Guatemala. The distance from Teotihaucan to San Cris was too great to complete in one day. To split the journey we chose to spend a night in Minatitlan, roughly the halfway point on the east coast. It was here we found an excellent ‘Love Hotel’, where each room has a private garage, perfect for the motorbikes! Oh, and I forgot to mention the shower, which conveniently has a large window into the bedroom, not so ideal when sharing a room with Pete. The staff looked over and laughed as we each waited outside for the other to freshen up before heading out for a few beers. Tough Miles, that’s for sure.



You might have also noticed the tissue dispenser above the bed, and the ‘wipe clean’ leather sofa, classy. The bedroom wall even has a small metal rotunda for paying without showing your face, with the option of either 5 hours or 1 night. Admittedly the time options seem a bit limited, but all in all this place seemed well thought out for a night of passion. It certainly didn’t feel right sharing a room with Pete in such an establishment, but the budget is tight so needs must!

The following day we had a cracking end to our ride through Mexico. For the last 60km we followed a twisty mountain road, climbing 3000m into the clouds of Chiapas. The bikes struggle for power at this kind of altitude, but the lack of visibilty, and the risk of a stray animal running into our path should be the limiting factor for our pace.



Upon reaching San Cristobal the typical afternoon tropical shower caught us out yet again as we battled our way through heavy traffic, a hectic one way system, and flooded streets, whilst trying to find a suitable hotel. Finally settling on one with a nice courtyard, it soon became clear that the entrance was slightly too narrow for MadDog Daves wide load. After almost dropping the bike, he planned to do a lap of the block and unload before reattempting to get through the gate. Unsurprisingly he never made it back, and we later heard he had opted for a different hotel elsewhere in the area.

Our evening in San Cristobal was spent drinking Cuba Libres with a local Mexican, which funnily enough eventually led us to a dubstep/reggae club. Pete headed home before me that night, and when I finally made tracks back to the hotel I found myself completely locked out of the premises. Despite my best efforts to wake anyone, I eventually admitted defeat and found a nearby after party. At 6am I decided to call it a night and attempted to make my way home for a second time. This seemed slightly more complicated than I first anticipated, and I subsequently spent 3 hours wandering the narrow cobble lanes from one end of the city to the other. Every street looked the same, I can’t speak Spanish, and I couldn’t for the life of me remember the name of the hotel. It was 9am by the time I finally made it to bed. Needless to say the rest of the day was a write-off. These things happen though, and the following day it was business as usual. Sunday the 7th October, we had an early start and made our way to the border of Guatemala.

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Old 12-29-2012, 05:32 AM   #165
peteFoulkes OP
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Guatemala- A definite highlight.

Day 169, the 7th October had us up at the crack of dawn knowing we had our second of many Central American border crossings in store. Due to his lack of Spanish at the time, Mad Dog Dave was keen to stick with us for the crossing. After all the horror stories we had read online about crossing Central American borders with a motorcycle, it was nice for us knowing we were going in 3 strong to what had been described by some as utter carnage. We knew we would eventually shake the old boy off when he settled in Guatemala for a week or so of language school so happily obliged.

Approaching the border post at La Mesilla, I was all set to be fighting off the ‘fixers’ so many people had warned us about and I was rehearsing our story in my basic Spanish over and over in my helmet hoping it would be sufficient to clear customs. We’d previously been warned that the ‘fixers’ are talented scam artists that mange to have you over in one way or another should you accept their assistance. Between the stories of those guys and the heavy bribes we had been told to expect to be charged by the customs officials, the entire situation was quite a menacing thought. Add 35 degree heat into the mixer whilst dressed in full riding gear and you start to wonder why the hell you’re bothering dealing with all this shit and you’re not spending all this free time you have out of the office getting off your nut in Ibiza.

The reality of this crossing, at least for us, was very different to the horror stories we’d read from other riders online. The young guys we did come across seemed quite happy to walk away when I insisted we didn’t need any assistance and the border officials seemed as straight as an arrow. Exiting Mexico was over with in less than 20 mins and we found ourselves about to enter Guatemala where we had the opportunity to change up the remainder of our Mexican Pesos at a competitive rate. The first step whilst entering Guatemala is to have the bikes sprayed down with some sort of disinfectant solution in order to prevent the spread of disease. Very effective I’m sure. If only they knew how bad Mad Dog’s boots smelt by this stage they may have made him leave them at the border as well. Once sprayed down and we had acquired the necessary customs documents we were on our merry way. All in all, the entry process cost us just short of $20 U.S.D a piece and less than 40 minutes. No complaints there.

Whilst on the Mexican side, we bumped into two riders from Holland, Marj and Chris or, for the purpose of this blog, Team BMW. They were on two beefy 1000cc Beamers both built in 1992. Chris would later adopt the name of ‘Big Dog’ for no other reason than he hit a rather big stray dog. It felt good to be riding in a crew, the sunshine was out and we were all headed in the direction of Lago Atitlan. It didn’t take long for the weather to turn and before we knew it we were searching for a small town next to the lake in the pitch black whilst in the depths of a tropical downpour and riding on a loose gravel country back lane. We’d lost Mad Dog on route as he sensibly decided to skip having a bite to eat to avoid the downpour so we were now down to four and the GPS had it’s head firmly planted somewhere up it’s own arse. When we finally did arrive, the only hotel we could find was on the lake side itself meaning we had to cart all the luggage down what must have been 250 moss-covered steps. A few cheeky beers that evening and waking to a view of the lake’s volcano made everything seem all fine and dandy again until I remembered we had to cart the luggage up those moss-covered steps again before donning the soaking wet riding gear. I’m not moaning, merely supplying an honest account.



We rode on the following morning to the town of Antigua. A nice little colonial spot ideal to kick back and take some Spanish lessons. Unfortunately the Tough Miles mission wasn’t giving way for that. We were here for a purpose and that was to visit the active Volcano Payaca. When I realised the jokes of this not being a riding an experience where in fact not jokes at all and I had to physically climb the damn thing I started to think twice.



It turned out to be a unique day trip to an errie volcanic environment and thankfully the pace of the 3 miserable Israeli girls at the back meant that it wasn’t me and Brookbanks holding up the athletic group kitted out with Lycra and walking boots. Although the lava we had been promised at the top wasn’t actually present, we did manage to bake some Marshmallows on the hot rocks at the top. Big Dog couldn’t contain his excitement and was wondering off in all sorts of directions.



The Cuba Libres we sunk that evening didn’t stop another early rise the following morning and all four of us headed north to a place called Semuc Chapmey, famous for its limestone pools and caving experience. We’d sourced some local maps from a bookshop in Antigua but they threw us well off course and instead of heading northbound on the relatively decent highways of Guatemala, we found ourselves on a muddy off-road trail.



Team BMW found themselves ill-equipped for such terrain and with minimal grip from their road tyres, the Tough Miles boys found themselves getting dirty picking their very posh, very heavy BMW’s out of the mud. Another fine reminder of why the light weight Suzuki DRz is an excellent choice for such an expedition.



Once clearing the mud stage we managed to re-join what felt like the main highway again. We’d been told to expect a rough road for the 30km or so leading into Semuc Champey itself and the exposure we had earlier in the day was sufficient to make Team BMW think twice about taking it on. We parted ways after stopping for fuel in Coban by which stage it was already late afternoon and the daily downpours were well on their way. We had no more than two hours before sunset and thick black clouds were rolling in. We both questioned if we’d made the right call but there was no turning back now. The trail started off relatively well, loose rocks and gravel but within minutes both of us were struggling for grip. I was cursing the tyre choice swearing at myself in my helmet for choosing such a hard compound of rubber but we later came to realise it had nothing to do with the Mefo Exploeres and was in fact the responsibility of the wet limestone rocks we were riding over. The bikes were literally all over the place. It was like riding on ice. Despite crossing remote parts of Siberia, Mongolia and clearing the BAM road, we’d found ourselves riding one of the most challenging trails to date. The hill climbs were so steep it was literally a case of getting up on the pegs, keeping the throttle pinned open and picking the best route. I was leading on this trail and a good 20 or so minutes into it, Brookbanks disappeared from behind me. You inevitably fear the worst when you no longer see your mate behind you. I had to turn back but the trail was so steep and so slippery there was no way I’d be able to stop where I was never mind even consider turning around. I pushed on until a flatter patch where I could stand the bike up right and sprinted back down the hill. Running on this surface in a pair of motocross boots proved even more challenging than riding on the damn thing and I managed to fall flat on my arse twice before turning a corner and seeing Brookbanks struggling to pick up his bike. He’d managed to plant his bike awkwardly in a ditch where his wheels were higher than his bars making it a tricky one to pull out. Despite both of us slipping all over the place we managed to eventually get the bike upright to asses any damage. Thankfully it was a slow speed off which caused no obvious damage.

That evening we had a drink with the boys from the hostel partly in celebration that we had made it into Semuc without any damage to us and the bikes but mainly in an attempt to forget our concerns of having to ride the same bastard trail out again. These boys were not shy of a rum and coke.



The morning after that heavy session began nicely with a gentle trek through the humid jungle to a view-point to see the stunning limestone pools we would later be swimming around in. I’m by no means a writer so I’m not going to attempt to describe the beauty of this place with words but we genuinely did feel like we’d stumbled across paradise.



I’ve done my fair share of backpacking before this trip and seen some shoddy operations running tours without any health and safety concerns but what took place that afternoon in Semuc Champey is something that is likely to stick with me for quite some time. When I knew we were about to walk into a cave I was looking forward to donning my helmet, head torch and whistle. I didn’t realise I’d be doggy paddling in the pitch black trying my hardest to keep my right arm out the water to keep my candle, my only light source alight. There was no sign of the helmets and certainly no sign of any battery operated light instruments. The lunatic guide took us into the depths of a cave, had us climbing up ropes, sliding down naturally formed limestone flumes and jumping off huge rocks in an attempt to, ‘get the adrenalin pumping’. You quite frankly have no way of finding your way out if you don’t keep up with the group and not a hope in hell of being able to abort the mission if the fear gets too much for you. There was only one way in and one way out and it was your responsibility to keep up with the guy in front of you. It was awesome! One of the most exciting tours we’ve done on this trip to date.

Despite the fact that Jon and I have more interest in Latin Americas rum than its archaeological ruins, it’s important to occasionally step back from this round the world bar crawl and appreciate the foundations of the countries we are visiting. The ruins of Tikal in northern Guatemala are described as Central Americas finest and as they were conveniently located on the main highway out of Guatemala we decided to head on up there to see what all the fuss was about.



We managed to clear that nasty limestone trail with nothing worse than a slow speed drop of my bike before finding ourselves on a very long, very straight, very humid road up to Tikal. We stopped for a bite to eat in the town of Sayaxche where we managed to locate a street vendor selling plates of fries. When you stop in remote areas dressed like you are ready for a mission to mars riding a bike that looks like it’s been pulled from a Mad Max set, it’s inevitable that you attract the attention of the locals. By the time we’d finished eating and were packed up for departure we had a full crowd waiting to wave us off. As I looked in my mirror I noticed Brookbanks drop his bike as he tried to turn on a steep hill. I felt his pain as the street vendors rushed over to help him pick it up. When the locals are riding past 4 up on a 125cc all in shorts and t-shirts and your bike is on the floor, it’s moments like that you feel like a couple of over-equipped gringos that have no idea what you are doing. Still, it’s the nature of the beast and further south we later came to realise why we bother donning all this protective gear every time we board the bikes. More on that later.

Still drifting south bound. Next stop, Honduras.

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