Friday, October 21, 2016

The Ultimate Road Trip: Riding to Ushuaia

"A challenge for those who go, a dream for those who stay behind." That's how I explained my dream--or plan, really--of riding from San Diego to Ushuaia on a motorcycle to some friends over drinks recently.

It'll be Baja and mainland Mexico through Central America via the Pan-American Highway to Panama, a short hop over the Darien Gap to Colombia, then down, down, down to Patagonia and the tip of South America.

Once that's completed, I'll decide whether to ride home via another route or sell my bike and fly home.

Easy peasy.

Or not.

And that's the gist of it, really.

The preliminary planning has begun. I just need to fill in a few gaps in the agenda: When and with whom.

As of today, the answers would be: Ushuaia by New Year's Day 2018/2019 per a very loose schedule and solo or with a good friend or two. Oh...then there was the matter of what to do about my current job and the financing of this adventure.

So I refilled their drinks and we stared at the rough map...

Pan-American Highway: The Ultimate Road Trip: Stuff to consider:

Research: Ride reports, recent experiences, weather, etc.
Bikes: All the same kind? (KLR, etc.)
Pre-ride (US, Canada) to shake down gear, bikes, personalities?
Route: Most direct or certain sites/cities along the way?
Final mechanical inspection: Bikes gone through thoroughly
Cost and finances: Daily/per country
Time: 3-6 months (each way)
Problem areas to be aware of:
Mechanic skills: Rider with repair abilities
Crucial bike parts: Tires, chains, sprockets, tubes, oil.
Tools: Tire changing, compressor.
Gear: Camping equipment, clothing, protective equipment.
Tracking: SPOT GPS, DeLorme InReach.
Givens: Not riding at night, flexibility.
Planned route vs. changes:
Lodging: Hotel, camping, couch surfing, hostels.
Major decisions en route: Injuries, mechanical difficulties calling it quits, return: sell bike/fly back or ride back different route.
Emergency situations: Robbery, injury, bike loss/damage, splitting up, getting lost.
Documents: Passport (validity, expiration), ID, "dummy" wallet, registration, insurance, title, copies.
Medical/evacuation insurance:
Vaccinations: Mandatory, recommended.
Info cards/ride logo decals:

Things to know about the Pan-American Highway:

1. The PanAm is the longest motorable road in the world.

2. It goes through Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Chile.

3. It ends in Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost point of South America.

4. There is just one point that is impassable by road: the 100-mile Darien Gap between Panama and Colombia (undeveloped swampland, impenetrable rainforest, Colombian guerrillas and all sorts of bad, bad people).

5. The two main ways to traverse this portion of the journey are air or sea (possible ferry and sailboat to ship bikes from Panama to Colombia) or a short flight.

6. The distance between San Diego, CA, USA and Ushuaia is approximately 10k miles. Riding an average of eight hours a day, it would take about 70 days to get to Argentina.

7. Crossing borders is an art and requires research and patience to do it right. The time it takes to cross a border can vary between 45 minutes and 8 hours.

8. Then, after reaching the tip of South America (Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia), there are options for returning: Riding the same route back, taking a different (northeasterly) route back or flying back (with our without shipping the some sell the bike in Ushuaia).

BONUS: Pan-American Highway: The Ultimate Road Trip

Encompassing some of the world’s most spectacular landscapes and almost 30,000 miles of open road across North, Central and South America, the legendary Pan-American Highway is the ultimate road trip. Listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest motorable road in the world, the highway officially takes in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Chile. Although it does not officially include routes through the United States and Canada, many people begin in Alaska and drive or cycle all the way to Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost point of South America.

There is just one point that is impassable by road: the 80 to 100-mile Darien Gap between Panama and Colombia, which consists of undeveloped swampland and impenetrable rainforest inhabited by indigenous tribes, Colombian guerrillas and an array of exotic wildlife. This portion of the journey must be bypassed by air or sea, with ferries available to ship vehicles from Panama to Colombia and vice versa (more information available here:

While one of the most popular driving routes in the world, the Pan-American Highway is not just for those who move on four wheels. Every year many determined enthusiasts complete the journey by motorcycle. We recommend stopping off at the Mayan ruins of Palenque before crossing from Mexico into Guatemala.

Leave Normal Life Behind

If it’s escapism you’re after then what could be better than spending months on the open road with only a digitalized record collection, a copy of Jack Kerouac’s seminal beat novel On the Road and thousands of miles of amazing scenery for entertainment? From the snow-covered Alaskan tundra and the rugged peaks of the Rockies to the sun-baked deserts of northern Mexico and the tropical beachside jungles of Central America, the road just keeps on winding south through the towering Andes and Chile’s surrealist Atacama desert toward the penguin colonies of Patagonia. Aside from admiring natural beauty, a big part of traveling involves meeting new people and learning about foreign cultures, and there is an almost endless stream of stop-off points along the highway that allow for all kinds of interactions and new experiences with the diverse inhabitants of the Americas.

There are many different routes than you can choose to take through the United States but once you reach Mexico if you’re happy to diverge from the official route, we recommend avoiding the more lawless parts of the north by descending through the cactus-lined highways of Baja California and then catching the ferry from the charming seaside town of La Paz to the Pacific port of Mazatlan. From there you can stop off at big cities like Guadalajara and Mexico City before moving southeast to the culturally rich states of Oaxaca and Chiapas which are home to dozens of Mayan archaeological sites such as the stunning Palenque.

There are fewer route options in Central America where there are not as many roads going north to south, but upon reaching Panama’s Darien Gap we recommend chartering a boat to the colonial city of Cartagena where you can enjoy the best of Colombia’s lush Caribbean coastline. Moving down into Peru, few would pass up the opportunity to hike the legendary Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Further south, you can stop off at Lake Titicaca before taking in the unmissable salt flats that straddle Chile and Bolivia. If you have time for a detour then refuel with the continent’s finest steak and red wine in Buenos Aires before continuing south to the immense glaciers in the Tierra del Fuego region.

Driving an average of eight hours a day, it would take approximately three months to get from Alaska to Argentina, although most travelers take much longer (anywhere from six to 18 months) in order to make regular detours and stop-offs. Costs vary dramatically depending on your choices of accommodation, extra activities and how long you take to complete the journey, but one solo driver spent 22 months on the road for $27,300 US (see his budgeting info here: while another three-person team completed the journey in 20 months for a total of $88,000 US (see their breakdowns per country here:

When planning and executing your journey we recommend you heed the following advice:

* Don’t forget to bring any important travel documents, including your passport and driving license, and – depending on your nationality – make any necessary visa arrangements in advance.
* Consider any vaccinations you might need depending on your route. These may include shots or pills to prevent malaria, yellow fever, hepatitis A & B, typhoid fever, rabies, tetanus and diphtheria.
* Pack clothes for all climates as any trip across the Americas will mean braving both summer and winter and traveling from the icy extremes of Alaska to Patagonia via the sticky heat of the equator.
* Avoid driving at night and always seek out the U.S. State Department’s most recent travel advisories (available here) before entering a country in order to avoid any areas that are threatened by criminal elements or political unrest.
* For more recommendations on travel gear, vehicle modifications, medications, theft prevention, specific border crossing procedures, information on each country, and a full list of online resources, check out The Essential Guide to Driving North, Central and South America, available here:

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

My new KLR: Eagle Mike Special Edition KLR 685 (Gen 1)

Well, I'm back in the saddle again...the KLR saddle! Just bought a Super sweet Gen 1 with lots of history and even more goodies. This Bike was custom made for a very cool local San Diego guy named Tommy Gomes. If you know Tommy (BlueFin2na), you know he's a super cool guy. He now rides a custom KLR with a 705 kit.

The bottom line is, this bike is fully custom built from the frame up, fully built motor and is one sweet ride. I call it the Eagle Mike Special Edition. Here it is:

685 kit installed by EM
Carey Aspy Stage 2 Big Valve head (stainless valves, slightly oversized and ported for good flow)
EM custom built and powder coated front forks
Upgrade suspension
Custom Big Gun Exhaust
19" front wheel (Excel)
Super sized front brake disk (320 mm kit)
Stainless steel brake lines
Heated grips
EM front fork brace
EM Shark Fins on everything
6.6 gallon desert tank
Modulating front headlight
LED rear brake system
GIVI rear rack
Anit-Vibration mirror system
Seargent seat
EM choke system.
Assorted switches and other EM mods
And likely some other stuff I've forgotten.

The year is....get ready: 2001 frame, 2006 top end, 2004 lower end. All personally re-built 100% by Eagle Mike and his crew.

This bike has so many great things going for it, I'm a fortunate guy to get it.

I hope to be on this bike and out on the trails very soon.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A hillbilly interlude: CA, OR & WA on street bikes (July 2016)

My usual partner, Dan, and I were recently planning ride possibilities over hot wings and beers.

Yes, we wanted to do the New Mexico Backcountry Discovery Route (NMBDR) but we 1. Didn't have the time required to do it right and 2. Didn't want to ride in extreme heat. Yeah, we may be getting old.

"What about Oregon?" he asked.

"What about it?" I responded.

We both agreed that a ride in the Pacific Northwest and down the coast would be enjoyable.

And so it began...

Dan was tasked with putting together the California portion, and he has some great ideas. My only job was to find somewhere cool to ride in Oregon and Washington. I chose Whidby Island, the Columbia Gorge and Eastern Oregon via the 395 or 97.

There will be a "brief" hillbilly interlude....not extensive banjo I stop to see friends outside of Dallas. I always have a good time with those guys who were born 200 years too late. Shouldn't be too wild and/or wooly, but there will be goats and beer and ammo, oh my. We plan to toss our tents out at his place when we pass through and enjoy some interesting times.

I'm not sure you'll believe the photos I's a different world up there, to be sure. I may or may not be kidding when I say that he's one of the guys who found DB Cooper's stuff...

So, to summarize our ride plan thus far: We have no real destination except for Whidby Island in Washington. We also plan to explore the California and Oregon coasts, as well as some of Eastern Oregon/Washington and the Columbia Gorge.

That's it. Ideas?

Troubadour and Trobairitz?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Dans Take the Leisurely Way Eastbound: Picacho, AZ Camp/Ride

Pancho and Lefty Play the hits of Charley and Ewan: The Dans take the Leisurely Way Eastbound

”Man, I gotta get away. This job has been sucking lately.”

“I hear ya, brother. Where to?”

“I’ll think of something. Be at my place at noon tomorrow.”

And so on Saturday I headed to my good friend Dan's place in Escondido for a mystery ride, thinking about where we might ride/camp. Big Bear? Idyllwild? The Hillbilly Haven north of Lake Henshaw? My only caveats were: Limited highway and back by noon on Sunday.

Pulling up to Dan’s place, I could see he was ready to ride.

“Yuma,” he said.

“No slab!” said I.

He nodded, hit the throttle and we were off.

The route was Valley Center, Rincon, the 76 to San Felipe Road, the 78 to Ocotillo Wells (where we stopped for a cold one at the Iron Door), Westmoreland to El Centro via the 111.

Then the I-8 to Winterhaven where we stopped for Mexican chow before fueling up and heading to Picacho Road. It was 18 miles of a fun gravel/sand road to the Picacho State Recreation Area. There are quite a few burros in the area and I saw a mother burro and little burrito along the way. At the end of the road was a well-maintained campground right on the pretty Colorado River.

There was only one other occupied campsite so we paid the fee and chose a place near the water and the showers (yes, there are HOT solar showers).

We set up camp, broke out the stogies and tequila and commenced to relaxin’. We quickly dispatched Dan’s tequila (the last of the Frida Kahlo) and started on my Patron.

The sun went down and the full moon came up, lighting up the campground like a streetlamp. We sat and talked about bike stuff and work and retirement and other Very Important Subjects. After solving the world’s problems, we retired to our tents, like Old Guys are prone to do. Neither of us had put up a rain fly and I drifted off looking at the starlight display.

On a related side note, I recently bought a compact cot and I’ve used it twice now. (OutAd Ultralight Camp Cot, a Chinese knock-off of the ThermaRest one: See my Amazon review here: -- yes, it IS that purple)

I gotta say, it’s quite an addition to my camping kit. Could I live without it? Sure. But I’m at that age where comfort takes a back seat to minimalist camping. I slept so well that I’ve pretty much made up my mind to keep using it.

We were up and having coffee by 6:30. As we sipped on the java, there were some vultures eagerly eying the chubbier rider in our group. Nuff said.

A nice park employee stopped by to chat with us as we were enjoying the cool morning and she recommended that we take an alternate route back.

Pointing to our bikes, she asked, “Those things have 4-wheel drive, right? Cuz’ you’ll need it to get to the really good places…like Taylor Lake).”

That sounded like a fun challenge, but, alas, it was not to be. I had to get home by noon for a family function and couldn’t do any more exploring this weekend. That’s OK, it’ll be our next 2 or 3-day ride…

We packed up and headed home riding quite a bit faster on Picacho Road on our way out. We hit the I-8 and slabbed it all the way back through some blowing wind. Good for green energy, not great for ADV bikes…

Of note, I waved at a group of bikers coming up fast on my left. They waved back as they passed us and it was only then that I saw it was a 6 pack of Hell’s Angels. Shortly after, a much larger group of them passed us…and they waved, too. Interesting. Maybe I’ll join up. Start an outlaw dual sport club. Yeah, I can see it now: OMG indeed.

Dan peeled off at the 67 and I was home right at noon. Nice, quick camp/ride. Already making plans to head back and see the rest of the area.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

My first motorcycle friend (ADV post)

Just saw this on ADV and it really hit home.

I'm certain some of us can relate to the post.


I first met Robert at a small hotel in a ski resort. I had just graduated college and he was a concierge and I was a front desk employee. Even though he was 35 years older than me he was a cool dude. He had funny stories to tell and he rode a 1985 BMW GS. Robert got me into motorcycles.

One of my first rallies was Sipapu in New Mexico. We sat around the campfire drank his whiskey and just BS'ed.

Robert liked to travel. He had the adventure spirit.

To me Robert was a badass. Robert was a great travel partner. Yeah being older he was stuck in old ways and a bit stubborn as well but he always had a tale to tell or a song to sing around the campfire. Robert was a like an uncle I never had.

Sometimes we dreamed big. We dreamed of cross country trips together.

Monday, May 2, 2016

San Diego Coast Ride: Torrey Pines to Dana Point and the Del Dios Highway

My friend Dan, who lives right up the street from me, rides a 1984 Honda Nighthawk 700. He uses that bike mainly for commuting to work (less than a mile total both ways) 5 days a week. But a couple of times a year he uses that old Bird for the reason it was designed.

Our last few rides were to Puerto Nuevo for some Baja lobster, Sunrise Highway to Julian for pie and old Highway 94 to Tecate and Jacumba Hot Springs for BBQ and beer.

Today's ride was simply a rough plan to cruise as much of the coast as we could from Pt. Loma/La Jolla to Dana Point, riding up Historic 101. That's about it.

If you're familiar with those parts of San Diego and Orange County, you'll know that there's no real "coast highway" that's easy to ride, per se. The coast road goes through small towns -- and many, many stop signs -- along the way.

But that's no problem, we had the entire day to just enjoy the nice weather.

He rolled up on his dusty old bird after 9am and we discussed our plan. Here's how it went:

Hey, great to see you.
Yeah, you, too.
Need gas?
No, you?
No I'm ready.
OK, let's roll.

And we were off.

We'd hooked up an intercom system in his helmet so we could talk as we rode...and we talked the entire frickin' time.

So we started the ride at Torrey Pines, the view of the coast looked so nice I could tell right then that it was gonna be a great ride.

We rolled rough Del Mar, Encinitas, Carlsbad, and Oceanside. The traffic wasn't bad at all. We stopped at O Side and walked the pier then hit the I-5 for about 15 miles until we reached San Clemente. From there we got back on the coast route to Dana Point. After a quick lunch at the marina, we headed back down the I-5 to Del Mar...and that's where we picked up the Del Dios highway.

Now the Del Dios is a cool little road between the I-5 and the I-15. The road is rough in some spots, but the smells of the eucalyptus trees and jasmine as the road winds eastward make this a most excellent bike ride. There's a hidden little gem of a place (Hernandez HideAway) that offers San Diego County's best margaritas. But we couldn't stop for margaritas today. The road follows Lake Hodges for a while then ends at the I-15. What a great little highway.

We rode southbound the last few miles into San Diego, finishing the very fun little ride right before 5pm.

And doesn't everything look better in slo-mo? Yeah, it sure does.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

21 Days Under the Sky (biker documentary)

Just watched 21 Days Under The Sky. If you enjoy motorcycle flicks, and I'm guessing you do, you'll like this very cool documentary.

Available on Netflix, This 1:10 minute flick goes back and forth between a recent cross-country ride on the Lincoln Highway ( by 4 friends on their way to a New Jersey chopper rally and old video of the El Forastero Motorcycle Club doing the same thing in the 60's.

Worth watching...unless you really don't like watching hipsters doing their thing...

Sunday, April 17, 2016

East County San Diego day ride to the Wisteria Candy Cottage

Two of our friends just bought bikes--he bought a big Ultra Classic and she bought a very cute Sportster. Last week we were planning a ride. Since none of us had been there, we decided to ride to the Wisteria Candy Cottage out on Highway 94, about 65 miles east of San Diego. We also planned to stop for lunch at a new BBQ joint in Jacumba Hot Springs.

Todays weather was perfect: 79 with a breeze. We met at Starbucks for some caffeine and left at 10am with Theresa leading on her blinged-out pink Sporty. And I must say, my wife was looking Ultra Cute in her riding boots and new gloves.

Even though a few sport bikes passed us early on, there was hardly any car or bike traffic at all. We rode leisurely along the old 2-lane highway, paralleling the Mexican border fence, just enjoying a perfect day.

We arrived to the candy store at 11:30 and each selected a 1/2 pound of goodies. Peanut brittle, turtles, black licorice, salted caramel, toasted coconut bites, giant malted milk balls, etc. OK, maybe we got more than a 1/2 lb each!

We spoke with some other motorcycle enthusiasts there who'd ridden in from Yuma. They said the winds on I-8 were brutal. We'd been feeling some wind, as well, but nothing too crazy.

We left for the BBQ place a few miles down the road only to discover it was closed on Sunday. Dang! No worries, there was a place nearby. We stopped into the Jacumba Spa and Restaurant where we all found something agreeable.

While there I ran into my friend, Ken (The Kug) who was bicycle camping.

We decided to take a different route home and skip the interstate and Old Highway 80 was a perfect choice. We kept the throttle at about 50 the entire way just soaking in the sights and smells of pine, sage, new-cut grass and wildflowers.

In just about an hour we'd ridden on Japatul Valley Road through Pine Valley, Guatay and Alpine. Al and Theresa split off toward their home and we motored the last few miles on the I-8. Our 135-mile ride took about 5 hours.

What a great time riding San Diego's east county.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

4th Annual Arizona Spring Ride/Grand Canyon (April 9-10)

One of these things doesnt belong: A big orange bike in KLR territory: An Unforgettable Grand Canyon Adventure (4th Annual Arizona Spring Ride: April 9-10)

There I was, a KTM owner among dusty, angry KLRistas, riding where no motorcycle had been allowed for almost 2 decades. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

For the past 4 days, I've been riding with my (mostly) KLR-riding friends in Arizona as part of an Annual Spring Ride hosted by my friend, Jon.

On the 1st ride in 2013, I actually owned a KLR. Then I showed up on an Orange bike for the 3rd annual ride, and was pretty much welcomed anyhow. Pretty much

So, Jon hinted a couple of months back that he might be able to arrange a group motorcycle ride through the Grand Canyon, with camping right on the Colorado River. I was intrigued, of course. There's only one place that I know of that this can be accomplished. Regardless of where we were going to ride, I made plans to be at Jon's place near Paulden, AZ, on the afternoon of April 8.

So, on Friday, April 8th, I packed up my big KTM and left San Diego in the drizzling rain. So, thats the kind of weather I should expect, eh?

Joining me this year on his BMW 800GS was my favorite riding partner and drinking buddy DanRider (soon to be re-named DanRoughRider...but that's another story)

After miles and miles of asphalt, we met up with a couple of friends--Dave and his son, Clay, who I'd ridden in Baja with recently- in Prescott's Whiskey Row in the early afternoon. Very cool place. Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp used to hang out there and we did what they did...except for all the prostitution and killing.

The 4 of us then mounted up and headed to the Gunsite facility where we'd arranged to camp. The place was buzzing with KLRs (not a Doohickey problem) and KLR riders. While reconnecting with old friends and soaking in the festival atmosphere, I could tell it was going to be a great time.

Some of my favorite people ever where there. Among others, there were the Corey's from Deming, Craig, Jeff from Napa, Chuck B and his wife Sondra, Phil, Mikey, James, Robert, Darrell and prolly a few others I've forgotten. (I've taken the liberty of using their names vs their ADV figure it out.)

Jon and his lovely bride Kayla (and son Sean) provided brats and all the fixings and we stayed up swapping stories around the campfire. I remarked to Chuck that I came out to AZ every year for the fantastic riding opportunities but truly enjoyed some even better camaraderie around the campfire. Because it was raining intermittently, we were worried that road conditions might keep us from riding some of the off-road portions, especially the Grand Canyon ride.

The next morning it was KSU at 8:30 where I counted 19 bikes and 20 riders...almost all on KLRs. Jon provided the ride briefing and we broke into 3 groups of riders.

First off was Williamson Valley Road between Prescott and Seligman. From Prescott up to about the Chino Valley turn-off, it's a well-maintained, paved road. There's a lot of suburban development around Granite Mountain and is actually more scenic than Highway 89. However, that all changes just to the north where the pavement ends and the scenery begins. This is just what I was hoping for. The rain had packed the dirt down a bit and left puddles and muddy stretches in parts. But overall, the 65-mile dirt road was very rideable and very scenic.

We stopped along the way for a quick break and were pleasantly surprised to be buzzed by a small airplane. Hey, thats not a KLR!

We reached Highway 40/Route 66 before noon and headed right to Westside Lilo's for chow where Jon had arranged a lunch deal with the owner so they were ready for us.

After a nice break where another KLR showed up, we were off to Peach Springs for fuel, last minute snack items and (hopefully) our permits.

As we were waiting at the general store there, Jon rode over triumphantly waving the permit. He'd done what other riders had tried and failed to do for years: Secure permission from the Hualapai Tribe for a motorcycle ride through the Grand Canyon to the Colorado River. I never doubted Jon's ability! We were set to go.

The road from Peach Springs to the river was 18 miles of hardpack dirt with a few water crossings ...some about a foot deep and 50 yards or so long. But no one had an issue, even with the stretches of sand that we passed through. The ride through the canyons was as picturesque as it gets: Just incredibly stunning. I cant come up with enough adjectives to describe it.

Reaching the Diamond Creek area on the mighty Colorado was exciting. We rode our bikes right to the river and hopped into the brisk water. It felt great to soak in the cool Colorado after a hot day's ride. We all took photos of ourselves at the waters edge as we high-fived one another. What a great ride.

After enjoying the river, we stripped off our riding gear and set up camp. The mood was light as everyone shared stories of things they'd seen along the way. Quite a few photos were taken. I walked back to the water with some others and just soaked in the beauty.

Jon had asked a driver to bring a truck with a grill and more chow for us. We ate well and told stories until the stars came out.

That night, the sky couldnt have put on a better show for us. One by one we turned in and slept with the sound of the rapids lulling us to sleep.

I awoke the next day to a brisk morning before the sun was up. When the sun hit the surrounding hills, they lit up like someone had poured gold all over them. Just stunning.

Once again, Jon had a meal ready and prepared breakfast burritos for everyone. The riders began packing up and leaving in small groups. Dan and I stopped in Peach Springs where we said goodbye to the other riders and headed back toward San Diego.

But thats another, boring story involving lots and lots of cold, black asphalt.

Ride photos in no particular order: