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Old 04-01-2013, 09:20 AM   #1
Tengai In Toronto OP
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20,000KM Solo, a Wild Ride to Panama and Back

I'm finally putting together a proper ride report of my trip from Toronto to Panama city and back. With the weather dropping back down to freezing up here even though it's spring, all I can do is relive my trip with words and pictures.

This past year has been tough for me. I spent it in the wonderful world of marketing, touring the province to represent a large corporation. Oh, and I also tore both my left and right rotator cuffs.

My job and my inability to flap my wings led to a reassessment of my short term goals, and my values in general. I felt stuck; stagnant; sterile.

With all the time I had to reflect on this, (mainly in hotel rooms, with my injured arm[s] by my side) I realized how badly I wanted to stray from the distractions and the standardized lifestyle that I felt I was falling into.

There is a path. Many of us follow it, as I believe it is an easy one to follow. It is also the path that we are socialized to follow. This path was boring the shit out of me and I wanted to get off of it. How would I do this? What vehicle could be use to make my “escape” a tangible thing? What medium embodied my idea of freedom? My motorcycle. Duh.





It feels a bit forced trying to outline a route, as I had already mentally committed myself to not really having a plan – other than a final destination.

I depart from my home on February 1, in a pickup with my bike on the back. Gotta love rideshares. If I hadn’t found Joe, who’s heading to the Southwest with a Harley on the back of his GMC Sierra, I would have had to either ride the Canadian winter, or pay to ship my bike south.

The idea is to skip the cold. I figure there’s a good 1500km between me and the warmth that inspired this exodus in the first place.

As soon as it’s warm enough to ride – probably Tennessee, Arkansas, or Oklahoma – I’ll part ways with Joe, and head straight south for the Matamoros border crossing into Mexico.
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Old 04-01-2013, 10:00 AM   #2
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Day 1





And we’re off! My amazing girlfriend drove me to Joe’s (the guy who’s trailering my bike) house. We loaded my luggage into his truck, and were on the road by 11:30.

First, we had to say goodbye to his girlfriend. Well….one of his girlfriends. At age 70, Joe has 5 girlfriends. He requests that I do not mention to her the fact that he’s meeting a female down south. She gives him a cooler full of sandwiches, and we’re off!

We make it to Detroit, where the border agent proceeds to give me a hard time: “Something’s not adding up” she says, “you quit your job just for a motorcycle trip? You don’t plan on working here?” I want to say “Relax lady, the only reason I want to get into your country is because it’s between me and Mexico.”

After the border is when Joe informed me that we were meeting his second girlfriend, who was driving herself down south as well! “Don’t tell her where we got the sandwiches – if she asks, you made them for us” he says in a somewhat panicked voice. Sure enough, first question out of her mouth: “Where’d you get the sandwiches?”

A couple more hours on the road and we made it to Findlay, Ohio. That’s where we’re sleeping. It’s essentially a food/gas hole for people on I-75. I’m typing this in a sweet motel room. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll make it Little Rock! That is where, weather permitting, I’ll unload the bike from the truck, and take off for the border.

Day 2 - Findlay, Ohio - Kingston Springs, Tennessee

If i had to give this post a title, it would be “A Test of Patience,” or maybe “Weekend at Bernie’s 3,″ just because I like that movie. Unless there were already 3 Weekend at Bernie’s. Then I dont know what I’d call it.

We didn't leave until 9:45 this morning. Since Joe’s 2nd favourite girlfriend joined our convoy, we’ve been quite slow moving. By now we should have made it to Little Rock, where I would disembark on my own.

However, WE LITERALLY STOP AT EVERY REST STOP TO MAKE SURE SHE’S OK. That means that in the past 2 full days of driving, we’ve made it a measely…..measly? measley……. Uhh.. We’ve made it a mere 1400km from Toronto. I could have done that on my own, on my bike.

There is also the fact that I periodically get wrongfully accused of taking the wrong exit, and that every minor decision takes 15 minutes of deliberation, usually on the side of the highway. I offer my usual sound advice, it just seems to take the happy couple an additional 10 minutes to come to the same conclusion as me.

I’ve made the executive decision to shove off from said couple tomorrow morning. It’ll either be one super long day, or two sort of long days to get to the Texas/Mexico border at Matamoros. I don’t mind this, as the temperature has risen from 4 degrees in Ohio to 17 degrees just south of Nashville. That's celsius...

That’s pretty much it for today. Uneventful freeway driving, with a ten minute break every 60km.
This is it, I’m finally hitting the road on my own. The real adventure is about to begin!



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Old 04-01-2013, 10:17 AM   #3
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Day 3 - Kingston Springs, Tennessee - Hazlehurst, Mississippi

Question: What’s the point of a camouflage hat? I mean, if it does what it’s intended to do, you just look like a guy with no hat on.

Last night I packed all my gear and laid out what I’d be wearing so that I’d be able to take off right away in the morning. And that’s exactly what I did! After saying goodbye to Joe, I hit the road.

It felt great to be on my own, not being held back nor doing any holding back.

With no headphones, my own voice was my only mean of entertainment. It wasn’t long before I was singing the lyrics to songs I barely know. Unfortunately, with no way for the sound to escape my helmet, it all went into my ears.

It was a little colder in the morning than I had expected. Then, it happened: Rain. I had made it no more than 100km when it started to pour.

My waterproof jacket had lied on it’s resume. And my waterproof pants left the liner that allows them to call themselves waterproof back in Toronto. Damn. I froze my rear off today. It was cold, it was windy, and it was thunderstormy from start to finish.

By the end of the day, I had gone just over 700km. I went south at Memphis, hoping it would at least get warmer but it didn’t seem to help.
I met a lot of really nice people today.

I was chatting with an older gentleman at a rest stop just inside the Mississippi border. I mentioned how friendly everyone was down here, and he looked at me as if I was a moron: “You don’t know? Mississippi is the Hospitality State!”

Talk about people living up to their state motto. Let’s see if I remember Ontario’s…. Sassy n’ Classy? No, nevermind, that’s not it.

Anyway, I’m now in Hazlehurst Mississippi, just south of Jackson, and soaking wet. My goal for tomorrow is Houston, as it’s supposed to rain again. Thanks for reading
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Old 04-01-2013, 10:29 AM   #4
manshoon
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awesome start
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Old 04-01-2013, 10:43 AM   #5
Tengai In Toronto OP
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I'm kind of a hero, no big deal.

Not sure where to begin regarding today. Had something kinda crazy happen a few hours ago.

All through Louisiana it poured some of the most intense rain I’ve ever seen. I spent probably three hours total at rest stops, trying to warm up and wait out the worst of it, but to no avail.

My plan was to make it to Houston today, but again due to the weather I wasn’t successful. I still have another hour and a half to Houston. I’m in Beaumont Texas, and I hate it.

I was in a motel lobby, inquiring about the price for a room. “How many hours?” the guy asked. Ah shit, it’s that kind of place.

On my way out the door, a pickup hopped the curb and then rolled three time before hitting a tree, ending up on it’s side. A woman and I ran over to it, and saw that the driver was trapped inside.



One door was jammed, and it was resting on the other door. it was also on fire.

Our only option was to break the windshield. By this point, another guy had shown up. He picked up a small block of wood but it didn’t do a thing to the windshield. I got him out of the way so I could try.

I alternated between body-checking and kicking the windshield until there was a hole in the middle of it. I stuck my hands through the hole and pulled it open, while the other guy reached in and grabbed the driver. Thank god for my leather gloves.

We pulled him out and far enough from the truck. He seemed okay, although dazed and a bit bloody. He just kept repeating “they were shooting at me.” I don’t know what the fuck that was all about.

At this point a crowd had gathered, and I remembered that I had left my tankbag/bike unattended in the sketchy motel lot. The police were now pulling up so I figured there was nothing more I could do to help and I took off.

Last night’s motel is like one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces compared to where I am now. There’s more rain in the forecast. We’ll see how far I get tomorrow. I need to change my mindset. These two days of uncomfortable riding have really gotten to me, when I know they shouldn’t have. Also there’s broken glass in my hair, gloves, pants, and jacket.
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Old 04-01-2013, 11:39 AM   #6
Gale B.T.
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With a beginning like this , I can truthfully say "IN" and as wifee reads over my shoulder , she says "glad he is on his on after GF # 2 and counting"

hope your trip was as much fun as the first few days, weather is nice here just in case the rain drives you more west than south:)
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Old 04-01-2013, 02:32 PM   #7
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I am in

It is snowing here (Ottawa) right now... NoooooooooooPlease make me dream...
Let's go start the engine...
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Old 04-01-2013, 02:41 PM   #8
Tengai In Toronto OP
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Haha yeah, its brutal. Longest winter ever. Just to clarify, this trip was a year ago. I'm sitting here freezing my buns off in Toronto reminiscing about this trip, turning my blog into a ride report, to try to remember what warmth feels like.
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Old 04-01-2013, 02:50 PM   #9
Rutabaga
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At least the guy in the truck was having a worse day than you. You get to leave Beaumont; he still has the pistoleros trying to shoot his ass.
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Old 04-01-2013, 03:04 PM   #10
Halen
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Love the start, I'm in for this RR -- looking forward to the future adventures.
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Old 04-01-2013, 03:10 PM   #11
Free Radical
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I'm liking this! Looking forward to more!
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Old 04-01-2013, 03:20 PM   #12
jkdwings
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An absolutely fantastic start! Your writing style and humor are top notch; I'm definitely in for this one!

Regards,

Jason
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Old 04-01-2013, 05:04 PM   #13
Tengai In Toronto OP
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Thanks for the support! Good to see people are reading this.

Day 5 - Beaumont, Texas - Riviera, Texas

Glad to see my bike was still there this morning. (That's a veiled jab at the sketchiness of Beaumont) I'm no french-ologist but I'm pretty sure Beaumont translates to "Pretty Mountain". More like Pretty Big (garbage) Heap. Zing!

Surprise surprise, it was raining again. I picked up a rainsuit at a sporting goods store, on sale for $20! I thought this was too good to be true, and it was. After about 50km of highway riding, the legs shredded themselves in the wind. I wrapped duct tape around them, and continued down the road looking like a bum.

In Houston I found a motorcycle shop. I Hulk Hogan’ed my way out of the tattered suit in the parking lot and went to see what they had. No luck replacing the rear tire. Nothing in my size.

Got a real rain suit and left. Made it to Riviera Texas. Nothing good, nothing bad to say about that place. I brought my bike into the room and finally installed my K&N air filter.

I thought the owner would be mad if he found out my bike was in the room. Instead he came by to MAKE SURE I brought my bike in. I thought I only needed to be worried about theft south of the border, but I guess not!

I ate half a chicken and went to sleep.



Day 6 - Riviera, Texas - Browsville, Texas

I felt like absolute garbage this morning. I got a much later start than I had hoped. There was no hot water at the hotel so I just gave myself the old Mexican shower in the sink and took off.

Found a motel in Brownsville run by a man who went to school in Canada. We chatted about my home country for a while, and then I hit the hay. Tomorrow I'm crossing the border if it's the last thing I do!
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Old 04-01-2013, 05:15 PM   #14
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IN! I'm enjoying your writing style. Keep it up!

When did you take this trip?
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Old 04-01-2013, 05:25 PM   #15
Tengai In Toronto OP
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The motel owner in Brownsville asked where I was headed. When I told him, he and the Mexican guy selling him food both freaked the fuck out. “Oh no…. Why would you want to do a thing like that?" I sort of laughed it off, even though they both insisted that I would get my bike stolen at gunpoint on the first day unless i followed a military convoy all the way to my destination.

Convoy?? I'm as big an Ernest Borgnine fan as the next guy, but I'm sure as hell not riding in a convoy! (Amazed that I know about the movie Convoy even though it was made 6 years before I was born? Get used to it)

I got to the border, where I completely passed the office where I was supposed to get my tourist visa etc. After joking around with the border guards about my horrible Spanish, they pointed me in the right direction. In all, it took an hour and a half to cross the border.

Not bad at all! I was now ready to start the official adventure! Within 5 minutes of driving in Mexico it became apparent I wasn’t in the U.S.A. anymore.

People were welding without masks, riding in the back of garbage trucks, and a man was standing under a tree shooting birds out of it with a slingshot.

I’m not the most travelled person, but (after this trip) I've been to 30 other countries. It seems to me that the less affluent the area, or country, the more “alive” it is. Maybe it’s cliche to say that, but I don’t care. Everywhere you look, people’s actions serve a purpose, if that makes sense.

After passing through Matamoros, I hopped on Mex 180, and headed south. Fairly quickly, the urban area ends and there’s nothing but ranch-land as far as the eye can see. I made it event free to La Pesca, on the gulf coast. However, due to the rain (which was still falling) the town was somewhat flooded. Since it was pouring I figured I really wasn’t missing much by not seeing the beach.



I got an overpriced hotel room with no internet or even phone reception and called it quits for the day, feeling kinda bummed about the weather. It’s been nothing but rain since I got on my motorcycle. I was too tired to even look for dinner, so i just ate some peanuts and read. I’m reading Outer Dark by Cormac McCarthy. Anyone who’s read his work knows how dark, drab and dire the lives and situations he depicts are.

A combination of this, the weather, my hunger, and not being able to contact anyone, while being the only guest at this hotel, had me feeling a little rough. Oh well, what can you do. Time for sleep.



I promise pictures will get much better from here on....
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