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Old 10-17-2010, 03:51 PM   #1
JGBrown OP
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Location: Vancouver, Canada
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Don't think twice, it's alright. Vancouver-Argentina on a 1979 cx500 custom

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

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

To follow me via Spot tracker, go here.

To skip to Mexico, go to page 8.

To skip to Guatemala, go to page 14

The bike: Aurora is a 1979 CX500 custom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To read the entire story of the build, go here
There's about 70 pictures and a couple thousand words.

JGBrown screwed with this post 03-15-2011 at 12:09 PM
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Old 10-19-2010, 07:51 AM   #2
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My dad called and told me not to ride at night to visit them. Spray paint can in hand, I was just about finished painting the racks, so I was really just about ready to go. Didn't want to hang around past the day I'd said I'd go yet again.
I was the only bike on the 9pm ferry from Vancouver to Victoria, BC. The ferry takes 90 minutes so I pulled in around 10:30 at night. After a series of mix ups and dead cell phones I ended up at a gas station in Victoria with no place to crash at. I decided to camp since I'll be doing that for months to come it should be good practice to start in a place I know.
As it turned out the place I thought I knew well had changed a fair bit, all the parks and beaches had new gates, and signs advertising all the fines and penalties for daring to exist there between the hours of 11pm and 6am. Victoria is a no fun place now, I remember going to all those places at night on a pedal bike or later in my jeep with friends. now there's a fine for stopping there. I wonder what the high school kids will do now, sit in cars at the walmart parking lot?
Finally risked sleeping up on Mt Doug, rode my capable off-road machine up the foot path and back onto the road past the gates, then rolled out a sleeping bag after a nice long ride up. Cold night so I wasn't sleeping much. I relocated to the lee of a nice warm stone wall to sleep, just as I drifted off, I heard a radio acknowledgment and somebody with a light having a good look around. High-tailed it out of there, I didn't know I could pack so fast. By this point it was 3am, I was tired, frustrated and getting sloppy. I rode back out the Pat bay highway to try out a trick I read on ADVrider about sleeping up beside the exits/overpasses since that no one ever looks there.
I took the first one that looked good, ignoring the foot high wet grass's effect on the traction of my old Spitfire street tires. Found a perfect spot to sleep in, so I rode down into it, intending to park the bike on the far side and sleep there. For some reason I still can't figure out I stopped sideways on the slope and turned the bike off, dropping my damn keys in the process. Reaching around uphill for them, I started to slip, and leaned over to keep the bike upright, forgetting the downhill side wasn't going to have any footing. We fell over into the bush. No amount of cursing and heaving would convince Aurora to budge, I couldn't get traction for my feet on the wet grass, and the bush was preventing the bike from getting clear even if I could have lifted her more than a few inches. I realized later she'd dug in so well that the kick stand, mirror, and left cylinder were all pretty well stuck, and the tires were right up in the air.
After a few failed attempts to drag the back end around to avoid lifting uphill I was about ready to throw in the towel call my parents and get a car jack to push the bike up. I pulled off all the bags, unbolted the gas tank and seat, and just dug in and lifted, dropped her on the uphill side, bolted back on the gas tank, reattached all my bags and only dropped her once more getting out. Took about three hours, I was so tired I just parked on the top of the hill and went to sleep as the sun came up.
Lost almost all my gas before I took the tank off, and burned blue from all the oil in the cylinders later that morning.

looking down the hill, gas tank already off.

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

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

JGBrown screwed with this post 02-14-2011 at 02:37 PM
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Old 10-19-2010, 07:54 AM   #3
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That looks like a CX500 napping under a bush.

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

MacNoob screwed with this post 10-19-2010 at 09:58 AM
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Old 10-19-2010, 07:58 AM   #4
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JGBrown screwed with this post 10-19-2010 at 09:55 AM
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Old 10-19-2010, 09:24 AM   #5
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Follow the Pan-Am

Originally Posted by JGBrown

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

Greetings from a fellow Vancouverite, best of luck!

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

Buy a map.

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

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

JGBrown screwed with this post 02-17-2011 at 11:36 AM
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Old 10-20-2010, 10:40 AM   #7
JGBrown OP
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Nex couple day's ride.

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

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

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

JGBrown screwed with this post 10-20-2010 at 11:13 AM Reason: Google map links suck.
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Old 10-20-2010, 11:46 AM   #8
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Ah, warms my heart, this

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep up the good work and great pics, beast wishes, mate!
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Old 10-20-2010, 01:37 PM   #9
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Great stuff man. Definitely one of the more interesting bikes i've seen doing this trip! I'm sure you'll have a great time.
2010 - DC to Gaspé, QC
2008 - DC to Panamá
Currently: 04 Tiger 955i | 85 BMW K100RT stripped
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Old 10-20-2010, 02:28 PM   #10
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Good luck!

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Old 10-21-2010, 07:23 PM   #11
Mad Kiwi
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Thumb Nice trip alright

Go for it M8 we'll catch up down in SA somewhere good talking to ya the other nite. D
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Old 10-24-2010, 12:53 AM   #12
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Thumb Hola from Dunedin, New Zealand

Where are you at the moment Jeremy?
How many miles do you get out of a gallon because it sounds a bit thirsty! Can't wait to read your next instalment. We have four weeks till we leave. In LAX on the 25th of November. Talk soon
D & C
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Old 10-24-2010, 05:59 AM   #13
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Old 10-24-2010, 12:02 PM   #14
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Great start man. I'm doing a similar trip myself (minus the "and back" part). I'm currently sitting in my friend's apartment in San Diego getting ready to cross the border tomorrow to ride down Baja. Maybe I'll see you out on the road sometime?
Ride safe.
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Old 10-24-2010, 12:37 PM   #15
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Very cool. I look forward to reading the rest.

Ride Report: Canada North to South 2008 here
Drive Report: Ice Road Trucking 2005-2014 here

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