Dale Thornton » Motorcycle travel story

Motorcycle travel story by Dale Thornton
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From Omaha to Santiago

 PUBLISH TRAVEL STORY PUBLISH TRAVEL STORY

Dale Thornton is 63 years old and lives in Omaha, Nebraska, USA. He is between the first that gratuitously supported our "Travel stories" rubric. Besides the passion for motorcycles, he is an avid billiard player - plays in three leagues, and bicyclist. His favorite motorcycle is a Kawasaki Vulcan Nomad for cruising and KLR 650 for touring. He is retired but working part-time, selling for fun. Married, of course to Kath, who rides a BMW F650. Dale and Kath plan to ride to Alaska in June, year 2003. We wish them safe ride and great new adventures.

Today

We climbed to the top of the mountain and floated among the clouds, hwy good (sparse traffic) & we glided, floated, drifted ...surreal. And then we descended; the curves got tighter but concentric, loved the sound of my KLR purring, coasting, and carving the mountain. It was a dreamy 265 miles.

12/21/01

I left Omaha NE with Frank and Kevin at 9 a.m.; temperature 29 degrees. Kevin Naser was traveling with us for just the first part of our journey through Mexico and Guatemala.

12/25/01

We left on Friday, December 21st and we scooted along because we were concerned about beating the cold front and snow due to arrive Saturday, the 22nd. When I talked to Kath (wife), a few days later, she said we barely made it out of town...rain Friday night turned to snow on Saturday; winds picked up Saturday p.m.

Frank says that I am disorganized - 'I don't get his point' - but I did forget to bring my writing pad, and somehow I've lost my pink registration for my MC; hope I won't need it.

It was great talking to Kath, she sounded so perky and wonderful. I really miss her every quiet moment.

Tuesday p.m. about 2 or 3, I almost met my 'waterloo'; got brushed by a car doing probably 100 mph and went down. I feel blessed that I escaped.

Frank, Kevin, and I were traveling on the right shoulder of a 4 lane interstate in Southern Mexico, wanting to get turned around to go South; Frank went across first, then Kevin, I looked back to see if it was clear for me go. There was a bank of cars coming at me about mile back so I knew I had time to get across safely. I traversed across 3 lanes and was about to enter the 4th lane when I was struck a mighty blow on my left. It didn't hurt, it was just a solid impact. I awoke on the shoulder with Kevin talking to me. I said, "I'm aLRight."

My motorcycle was still on the highway on its side. Some people were trying to get it up and out of harms way. A young man kept saying, "I'm with the Red Cross; I have a medical van with me, do you want anything?" "Are you OK?"

I was still sitting on the roadside, trying to think what had happened. After a couple of minutes, I think...I did get up and went immediately to my side pack to get some ibuprophen, took 2 and said, "lets go."

Later at a roadside restaurant, Frank and Kevin said a red car sped away from the scene doing at least 100 miles an hour. Kevin said that when he raced toward me, he was horrified to see me face down, and what appeared to be blood all over my face, but it was just that the sun was shining through my sunglasses to make it look like blood. My face was bloody, but nothing serious.

The damage was: very skinned up side panels, shredded side packs and panniers, broken windshield, banged up knee, and some road rash. Not only was I in some mild pain, but now had to deal with riding without a windshield, which made me have to stiffen my neck to the wind, and of course, achieved a sore neck at days end, making it more difficult to get myself to sleep.

12/27/01

Great ride again today, spent much time on our tire edges, about 5 solid hours of twisties & switchbacks. It was so smooth and exhilarating that I was saying to myself 'I'm so glad to be able to do this, and I feel thrilled to be going south, south, south.'

12/28/01

6 p.m. Great dinner last night, showered again, shaved, and shaved my head. Temp outside about 75 degrees. Slept wonderfully with overhead fan all night (dried all our clothes on the clothesline Frank rigged). We plan to get to Esquintla, Guatemala today. We're a little frustrated with our charge cards, can get only 1 of 4 cards - oh well. Frank finally talked to Sandy last night (talked a long time), meanwhile I met and visited with 'Rigo' from Idaho Falls, ID - a potato patch worker down here to see family for 2 months, (he was very well dressed and much gold in his mouth) .. hmmm. Also ran into international couple, Bill from Spain and Dedro from Sweden.

12/28/02

I'm in a lot of pain tonight (in Esquintla, Guatemala). Bumped a VW on the rear bumper and went down hard (details later).

Getting across the border into Guatemala was lengthy, and frustrating. We got sent back 30 miles to get a stamp on our paper... unbelievable that the needed stamp wouldn't be right there for travelers. - It's an insult! I watched the bikes while Frank negotiated for 2 hours.

Anyway, it put us in position to have to drive 120 miles at night to Esquintla, worst ride of my life, 3 hours of torture; my mask was fouled by insects so had to leave it up, which fouled my glasses. There was constant awful traffic with terrible glaring lights, cane trucks, 5 mph almost every hill. Then I met a man walking towards me in the middle of my lane. I clipped him with my mirror at 55 mph and almost went down again. I'm really glad to get to Esquintla - great room, shower & dinner.

Tomorrow will be a better day. Thought we might meet up with Kevin at the 'Texas' Hotel, but no.

Thought a lot about my Kath today - hope she's doing well on the road to Tennessee. I'm anxious to talk with her again on the 31st.

12/29/01

Woke this a.m. (6:00) feeling wonderful and relieved to have slept, except for a blast of loud music about midnight for 3 songs - amazingly rude, it was thunderous, Frank said he didn't hear it. We had our typical breakfast of oatmeal & coffee, heavy on the powdered cream...and everyone was mesmerized by Frank's 'whisper light' stove.

People would gather around us while we cooked and while we ate.

12/29 - 12:00 p.m. Traveling the highway thru this jungle, the road is lined here and there with big stones painted white on our side; interesting and pleasant feeling.

My bike switched to reserve at 235 miles as I was passing a truck. Been about 2 hours now (at the border again), trying to get out of Guatemala and into El Salvador. Frank keeps coming back to the bikes to get for more 'copies'. We've been following a surprisingly pleasant schedule of eating... oatmeal pack & coffee for breakfast, and late evening dinner.

Yesterday, while waiting for Frank (at the border), I was approached by a skinny, dirty lady with child (guess about 8 or 10 months old - crawling). She came to me, I figured out, because she observed my attempting to put my medicine pack back in a zippered pocket. She sat the baby down by me and the baby started crying loudly and clawing at the pocket while mother spoke frantically. I went to my trunk, un-bungeed it and pulled out some crackers (baby still crying), she bit open one end of packet and gave the baby a cracker... what a scene... as she walked away.

Within 5 min, grown men and others came to me requesting, 'a coo-kee, me hombre'.

It's been a couple hours since I saw Frank (in border check office), very 'calor' (hot). I'm a sweaty mess, can't wait to hit the open road. Finally, we're off at 2:00.

El Salvador - people were on the road this a.m. picking up sugar cane stalks that were dropped in the night by trucks. Lots of animals on the road - pigs, lots of Brahma's, chicken, women and young girls with loads on their heads. Most of the road was wonderful, winding down the seacoast.

12/29/01

This wasn't a good day. We were doing our normal thing, traveling the curved highways of Nicaragua, about 50 or 60 miles per hour, Frank leading. We were both taking chances, .passing with questionable circumstances, and getting away with it, (like passing on hills and around curves). It was a long slow curve to the left, maybe a dozen cars to pass. Frank went and I followed, .. prepared to dive back into the right lane if something was coming. Well, something was coming, .a bus, blowing his deep sounding horn. No problem, I'll just move over to the right here between these 2 cars, and to my surprise and horror, that 15 foot gap that was there just closed, as the car beside me moved up; .no room for me.

The bus was now 25 feet in front of me, coming fast, and still blowing his horn. What a terrifying moment. My choice was to stay in the bus lane and be smashed, or move over anyway, where there was no room. Of course, I moved over, gently bumping the car next to me, and those of you who ride bikes or motos know what happens then. You go down hard, and I did. I remember hitting the pavement, hard on my knee, and skidding on my face, (thank God for my helmet). I skidded off the concrete and into the ditch, the weeds and dirt were much more hospitable. I jumped up quickly, in the middle of the great traffic jam I caused, and with help from others, up righted my bike.

I couldn't walk now without limping. There was a very sharp pain in my knee. I didn't want to look at it. Frank and I drove up a ways, where there was a pull off, and I tried to walk off the pain. No way! So we continued our journey; .Frank mentioned he thought I was a tough SOB, though he didn't say anything about how smart I was.

What I learned from this: the person riding the motorcycle ahead of me has a different set of conditions to make his decision to pass or not to pass, and I can't do what he does, because my timing will always be different. So I made a vow to me and to my sweet wife, that I am solely responsible for my safety and therefore I will only pass when I am certain it's safe for me, .and to hell with any other thoughts. Don't pass or take chances to keep up just because someone else does it.

We stopped (one of our rare instances) for a light lunch by the sea. I took Frank's picture. Tonight we stopped in Zacatecoluca. Hotel was great with a pool - we indulged -- $20.38 - almost cheaper than camping.

Central America

12/30/01

6 a.m. - shaved, brushed teeth, tended my bike - 80 degrees. No sign of dysentery or stomach disorders. Yesterday, we saw many sections of the shoulder where people spread their grain to dry and tended with a hoe.

Many beautiful cottage-looking abodes with many flowers, but they consisted of boards and sticks with a tin roof. Today, Frank and I came in off the road with blackened faces. What a scary sight in the mirror! At the Honduran border 11:50 a.m., snapped a picture of Frank being besieged by boys again (they try to get you to hire them to assist in paperwork).

3:00 - finally left border. The treatment at the border is insulting, especially El Salvador to Honduras. The officials have all these arbitrary charges, and constantly 'pulling rank.' We met Jim Donaldson from N. Carolina - he was very frustrated and angry at everyone including his 2 riding buddies. 'Now I know why they say when you do a trip like this, buddies don't speak to one another for a year or more'. Jim drove a R1000, bent his wheel on chuck holes, and was admiring our KLR's; said next time he's going to get a KLR.

12/31/01

Beautiful ride from hotel to border - really feeling great, no prostate problem, no sinus infection, sleeping well, getting along with Frank, sort of. Frank knows everything about these KLR's - taking good care of us. We saw kids at the roadside holding up dead lizards for sale. Took picture of a bonita 10 year old girl -' Lini '- selling apples, then of Frank refreshing @ roadside, then a village fruit market. First 30 miles of the road into Nicaragua was the worst I've seen since we left. Met 3 the guys from N. Carolina again (w/Jim D) not getting along, separating. We left at 8:10 am.

We really made headway today, but I am exhausted. 3 hours to get out of Honduras and into Nicaragua, We drove across and checked out, and into Costa Rica. Arrived about 9:30 p.m., washed clothes and listened to the fireworks and loud bands 'playing' in the New Year. I hurt my mouth on the 25th (side swipe), and it hasn't gotten better ... gotten a lot worse. Doctoring it, hope I can get it taken care of so I can enjoy eating and other things. Really miss Kath. Talked to her briefly tonight, maybe try to call again tomorrow.

1/1/02

Leon, Costa Rica. A shoeshine waif approached me to solicit me. I said 'no comprende'; 'Boleo sus zapatuz', he repeated himself, but a little slower. I said 'no comprende', he moved round in front of me, pointed to his eyes with 2 fingers, as if to say, 'now pay attention' and said 'Senor, (I was sitting in a chair), he repeated the syllables very slowly; 'bo-lay-o sus za-pot-os'. I burst out laughing, he smiled for a moment, but then shrugged his shoulders helplessly, and walked away, but not without giving me a parting shot of disgust over his shoulder.

We stopped in San Jose and did a successful update at the Internet Caf, but leaving there was now my latest worst ride ever. It started bad because I went on reserve a mile out of town - then it started raining on the mountain, and the worst part, a thick fog... driving in low gear and picking our way was nerve-wracking, took about 2 hours of this when we came upon a quaint hotel, thank God! We were told gasalina is 70 K, about 40 miles, Oh Boy! We got really cold at the hotel, no heat, just thick blankets, To park our motos, there was an elevated carport with the owner's car parked at the entrance with 3' wide opening to get by without hitting a steel rail, it was raining, very precarious. After we negotiated this, the owner pulled his car in behind us so we couldn't leave without paying.

Next a.m., we drove about 10 miles, my clutch broke, 5 seconds later, ran out of gas. Frank emptied contents of his gasoline cooker in my tank, replaced the clutch cable, and we were going again in 15 minutes. We went about 15 miles to the top of a mountain, ran out of gas again, I coasted over 7 miles down the mountain and rolled right into a Texaco station - WOW! Frank and I agree this a.m. ride was the most beautiful (100 mi to Panama); arrived here at 2:10 p.m. On the shoulder, saw an iguana entwined with a snake, neither of them moving.

1/3/02

It was markedly different conditions entering Costa Rica and more so Panama. Roads were marked, there were 'curve' signs, very few pedestrians. Saw some Hwy State Patrol vehicles. Even saw a pickup pulling a ski boat. We saw skinny- tired road bikes instead of the scruffy mountain bikes. We stayed at a wonderful hotel last night (Galleria, in David, I think). The ride into Panama City was glorious, wide wonderfully marked roads, sparse traffic, we found a spectacular roadside lunch place. Took some pictures - waitress 'Moctie'. As we entered Panama City, it down poured, complicating our effort to find our way to the Aero Puerto. We got soaked, but it was a warm rain. First place we tried said it will be $473 for both bikes, but not leave til Thursday, a week.

Second place, boss not here, back at 8:00 (it's now 4:50). They have flights every day but tomorrow is booked. We will wait right.

Colombia my favorite country!

It's 4:05 a.m. on January 5th

I'm wide-awake and I feel rested. We're in one of those sex by the hour motels; very nice, just one bed. I found Frank down in the garage sleeping on his mattress, very thoughtful of him. We are 200 mi. SW of Bogota. Our tires are still holding up - wow. Took a great picture of Frank going toward a mountain in the middle of the road (it seemed). Really miss my Kath... about 6 thousand miles to go, can only do 200 or 300 a day. I think Frank & I both are weaker than when we started (road weary).

Mr. Romero did show up at the cargo company (Girog) and finalized our bike shipment - $250 cash each; we now are broke. We'll have to find an ATM. Hotel took VISA, $142,000 pesos = $71 U.S. Our taxi driver (Ernesto) is most anxious to help us. He came to our hotel 45 minutes early to pick us up to take us to our bikes. Couple hours of paperwork, on the road at noon, traffic was unbelievable. We went around an 'open' manhole in the street. What a trip stopper that could have been! We saw a total of 3 open manholes. Traffic was bumper to bumper for about 60 miles. We passed 100's of vehicles on the right and left to make progress, & so as not to have to sit in the 104-degree temp. We stopped at a pig roast on the highway, was scrumptious. My knee is finally better this a.m. - still a little feverish, but better. Think we have about 350 miles to Ecuador, won't make that today. So many of these roadside restaurants have no menus, just their meal of the day.

It was beautiful, when we finally got out of Bogot�, lush green mountains and valleys, great roads, well marked, nice shoulder for passing when jammed up. We see great numbers of 'girls' on bikes & motorcycles now - didn't see that in Central America. Traveling is much better now. Don't care much for Central America.

1/7/02

To get back on the Pan American, we had to cross over a mountain. What a chore, 80 miles of rock, blocked roads, shear drop offs, harrowing trip...rarely out of 1st & 2nd gear - stunningly beautiful though. We are only about 50 miles from Ecuador, seems like we are doing pretty well. Staying at Hotel Impero de Los Incas, still in Colombia.

Colombia is my favorite country, Pasto is my favorite city, enchanting, ...how beautiful. We stopped to have cafe con leche and sweet cake (not very sweet), 70 miles from Ecuador border (on top of a mountain overlooking Pasto). Saw a guy yesterday (a painter), on a moto with his paint buckets and 8-foot ladder. When we traveled on that terrible rock road, we encountered kids with a rope across the road to stop us for pesos, but more threatening was a roadblock with a big bamboo log across. Frank talked with the leader a moment and they opened a little for him to pass, but stopped me and demanded pesos. I glared at him and gunned my MC thru the opening.

Then, almost as maddening, we met 25 or 30 groups of kids with water barrels ready to douse us as we passed pails of water & garden hoses. It was chilly riding in these mountains, and that made it miserable. Some kids had white and other colored powder to throw on us. It was a most uncomfortable experience. Sometimes we would pass under an over-hanging cliff and get doused from above. Turns out, we learned later, that we happened to passing through on the last day of a religious holiday, and we were the recipients of their baptismal.

Had to get used to going down 2-lane highways with oncoming traffic and commonly, someone pulls into your lane to pass...you just move over.

Saw a sedan pulled over on hwy, hazard lights blinking, 6 men standing taking a leak. Don't remember seeing any of that in America.

Really slept well last night, think it must have rained several inches.
Next a.m., couldn't help but feel like celebrities. People were all over our bikes, and us, taking pictures of each child on the seat (with sunglasses). It is noon and we are at the Ecuadorian border; Frank went inside to do his thing! He was out in a few minutes.

Now to Ecuador... arrived 12:00 noon, out to lunch till 2:00 p.m. This typical arrogant asshole is like we experienced in Central America. He comes to see our bikes (to inspect). We try to show him the serial # that he asked for; he will not be shown anything. He stops to talk with a young girl, laughs, visits, while we wait. After several minutes, he ok's the document without looking at our bikes further. During our wait for him, I ventured uptown, Frank stayed with the bikes, and was taken with the kids (teenagers), on lunch break, walking arm in arm everywhere. I brought back a large container of fresh blackberries for us, ...50 cents. They were so scrumptious!

Peru over the mountain side

1/8/02

Stayed in Quito last night, nice hotel - cost $11 for the use of the phones. Talked to my Kath, she was wonderful. Today was hectic and great. Started out with my rear tire going flat 1 mile from the hotel. Fixed it, we thought, went flat again, drove slowly about a mile or so, found a tire shop, lost about 3 � hours, but the experience was good. Enjoyed Louis (Lou ees). After leaving Quito, we climbed to the top of the world, it seemed.

We drove in and out of the clouds, it was cold, wet, and the scenery was astonishingly beautiful. Saw pastures that were almost vertical, people tending their animals everywhere. Saw one lady with 3 sheep on a tether with a baby on her back. Saw men plowing with oxen.

Flashback: My windshield broke off about 3rd day, and my MC cover disappeared 2nd night on the road. We are staying tonight at a Hosterie in Biblica near Cuenca on Pan Am #35.

1/9/02

7:05 a.m. Frank still sleeping. All of our hotels have been clean, cheap (with 2 or 3 exceptions) & friendly. People seem to be in awe of us - wish I could read their minds or visit with them. Our days are long now, dark after 7.

Today, we climbed to the top of the mountain and floated among the clouds, hwy good (sparse traffic) & we glided, floated, drifted...surreal. And then we descended; the curves got tighter but concentric, loved the sound of my KLR purring, coasting, and carving the mountain. It was a dreamy 265 miles. Now we are entering Peru @ 6:00 p.m. Kathy would love riding in Colombia and Ecuador, especially today's ride. The policia and military have been polite & gracious to us.

We are in Sullana (soo-yana), the pace here is dizzying - with the hundreds of 3 wheel motos w/multi colored canvas tops (taxis) running around (constant beeping, whistles & honking). As we left Sullana, we entered a desert w/terrific winds from the side. It blew my great gauntlet gloves out of the canvas wrap that was bungeed down with my grapple. I hate losing them; don't know if I can find others in Lima. The wind was dangerous to ride in, especially when passing trucks... and the sand was blinding at times. We are staying in a hostel near the ocean, 1st time I've had my own room ($5 a night). It's miles from nowhere, so no supper, TV, or conversation. Wouldn't like much of this, but sure gives me time to think. This darn knee, it's been 11 days since the accident, and it's still hurting as much as the 1st day. It gets feverish and swollen, keeps me awake. Guess I'll take the rest of my Cipro. Found my 3rd camera today and took some 'moving' pictures of Frank in a sandstorm south of Sullana.

1/11/02

Had breakfast at seaside, saw many fish being caught plus couple of manta rays, an octopus, and larger fish. I have mixed emotion with such a beautiful road along the sea, and the great dangerous wind and blowing sand.

Saw a new huge John Deere tractor in the middle of the desert, appeared to be abandoned ... then further on saw an old man miles from nowhere pushing a primitive wheelbarrow (wooden wheel). What in the world could he be doing out here?

Entering Chimbotte, 2 policia motioned us over, said our paperwork was improper and that we were speeding. One of them went to his radio and said something (I think he was faking). He pulled out a ticket book and pointed to 'infracion'. Frank exploded, said, 'We weren't speeding - take us to jail'. Both officers now sitting in their vehicle said, 'We want money'. Frank said 'Mordita?' (Bribe). 'No, take us to jail'. Both men looked startled and both started saying 'Freen' and extended their hands. Frank said 'Amigo?' They said 'Si'.

One said, 'We want gaseous cola' and smiled - Frank said 'No - you give us money for a gaseous cola'. They said 'no - Freen'. 'OK' 'Can we go?' 'Si'. 'OK - bye'.

On the road today, we came upon a huge sand dune across the hwy... a bulldozer was removing it but only had one lane open, we could scoot through before the rest of the cars and buses. I think the people here are glad Pepsi and Coca Cola came here ... their bill-boarding makes good huts and lean-tos, we see them everywhere.

Frank is uncanny the way he senses which way to go in these towns, when all I can see is obscure alleyways. He really startles me when he yells at guards or policia, when they are inspecting our papers and raising preguntas, (questions). 'Give me back my papers so I can go'.

Every time he has done that, it has worked. They treat him like he's having a bad day, and just get out of his way. They motion with their arm usually, and say, 'Go'.

While passing through a small village in Peru, we turned onto a street, thinking it was the way out of town. Some of these are marked obscurely, or not marked at all, so you often have to guess. As we progressed, the foot and animal traffic was getting heavier. It got to a point where people trying to squeeze by were nudging us constantly.

After several minutes of this in 100 degree heat, we finally were approaching an intersection where there had been a trench dug across the street, about 4 feet deep and 2 feet wide, not real conducive for motos, especially with the mound of dirt that was created along side of this trench. We were stopped. We noticed just a few feet to our right, was a place where it appeared a vehicle or something had crossed and had caved in the side of the trench and filled it partially; it was only about 8 or 10 inches deep. Frank tried it first, down into the trench, and then a sharp upgrade to the top of a huge mound and then down; .it was like riding a bucking bronco. It made me nervous to have to do that, but it was exhilarating to have done it. Wow!

Tonight we are in a small town just north of Lima; cute and clean hotel for 30 sols each (about $8.00). Interestingly, Frank w/his larger front sprocket has been getting better gas mileage than me, but the last couple of days in this wind, I've been leaning forward to cut down wind resistance and doing better than Frank's, slightly. Yesterday, we got 65 mpg, but today only 45 mpg. I feel so lucky to be able to do ...

Recuperating, running obstacle course to cusco,  Peru

1/14/02

We've been in Chincheros 2 days now, not much to do. It's been raining for some time now, kind of cold in my walking shorts. I left Frank at desayuno, (breakfast), writing in his ledger. He thinks we can leave tomorrow for Cusco, I doubt it. X-ray showed a fracture of the collarbone, but no separation...swelled up though. Spent the day yesterday washing clothes (and Frank's) and trying to clean & put my bike back together, pretty beat up. It started heating badly when we arrived here after our mishap, but after cleaning mud out of the radiator, appears to be okay now.

It's quite beautiful here, but wish we could go - I'm anxious to be home and see my Kath.

There are 2 crazy parrots here that scoot around sideways, bickering and screeching constantly; pretty comical. Rosa says they are sisters, Lolita and lumas. We've been eating all our meals at this one family's place, Letoya (Mom), Herlinda (college student), Emerson, Leyla, & Eli.

They are warm, engaging, and wonderful. Though I'm ready to leave here, I dread the 120 miles of the same rock & rutted mountain road till we hit asphalt. Was hoping to talk with my Kath today, but probably tomorrow if we can make it to Cusco. They did have a phone here in Chincheros, but it was programmed only for about 20 cities in the US, and Omaha wasn't one of them.

1/15/02

Wednesday. Can't leave today, as planned. Seems there's a sort of 'political strike', and villagers are blocking the roadways to all traffic for this day (damn!)

1/16/02

Yesterday, the sun shone on the mountain across the way and rained on us all day. Today, the obverse, so far (9:30 a.m.) Just got back from visiting Latoya's family casa. She is so proud of their orchard, mostly hard peaches (but good), on a grassy bank. When they knock down the fruit with a stick, it drops and rolls and they laugh and chase. Example of a meal cost: Desayuno (breakfast), plate of rice, covered with large scrambled eggs (huevos), rolls & butter and 2 cups of cafe con leche (latte) cost 8 sols for Frank & I together, about $2.50 U.S. This is Wednesday and we've nothing to do but wait till the 24-hour strike is 'total' (finished)...8 a.m. tomorrow. Frank can lift his right arm up a little today. I gave him my Tylenol PM capsules last night and he slept a lot, he says. We eat every meal with our Peruvian family and try to converse mucho.

I'm really missing Kath, want her here, she's a part of me, and I love her.

The world has come to a standstill for Frank and me. All shops are closed, and roads...we were invited to eat with another family in the 'centro' (knowing we couldn't buy anything), we declined, saying we were dining with Latoya & family. They were inquisitive and doubtful, saying she was closed w/penalty for doing business. We told them we were 'amigos'. (So they dropped it). It's 2:30 p.m. and time is dragging, can't think of anything else to clean. Been sleeping at least 12 hours a day. Frank sleeps more, and he needs it. He just went to unlock the garage to get his MC manual to have something to read.

I find myself thinking of Kathy constantly...I see me seeing her and kissing her.

Almost everyday, I witness some bizarre scene that I say I'm going to record, most of the time, I forget. I recall in a busy city in Nicaragua, there was a man on a moto hauling a full size box spring on back... one carrying an 8 foot ladder & buckets, one family with papa, mama, and teenager on the back holding a 5 gallon bucket in each hand. Frank saw the same and said mama was holding a baby.

In Lima, on a 4-lane fast moving street at rush hour, we were in the right hand lane, suddenly the traffic slowed to 2 mi per hour. The traffic whizzed by on our left. It took several minutes for each vehicle to bail out of the lane...and when the last one made it, we saw the hold up was a man pushing a wooden cart down the middle of the lane, not even our MC's could pass. I beeped him to let us by, but he ignored us, we just had to wait to get around him.

In Chincheros, where we were kind of marooned, I noticed early on our first morning an incessant honking of one of those squeeze ball bicycle horns. I figured it was a kid trying to annoy people or entertain himself. But everyday, at different times, it would start up again. Then I saw the culprit...about a 10-year-old girl walking along honking. Frank found out later that she was notifying the community that the fresh bread was done at the bakery. I thought for sure that the townspeople were being tolerant of a deranged little girl.

1/19/02

Cusco. We left Chincheros 7:00 a.m., climbed from 8600 feet to above tree line, 11,000 plus. We rode 120 miles of rock and dirt, hard to appreciate the wonderful scenery. Had to watch intensely where your tires were rolling.

At 9:00, Frank's front tire went flat. It was quite a challenge to repair with Frank's bad shoulder.

On this road to Cusco, we encountered many obstacles that were put there by the strikers; we could get through though, because they weren't being manned. Also had to cross many shallow streams, deepest about 12', and it rained on us. Also encountered 100's of cattle and sheep on the road We hit pavement and went 4 more hours to Cusco (8:00 p.m.,..very long day).

The city was spectacular, loved the lights and the feel. Police pulled us over right away, we played dumb for the infraction (wrong turn, I think), and he got frustrated and waved us on. Found a nice hotel right away (dark though). Went to Machu Picchu @ 6:30 a.m. on Friday (exhausting train ride) and back in Cusco at 8 p.m.

Chile - the desert hand and condor sighting

1/20/02

Sunday. Had pretty primitive quarters last night in Pamato. Yesterday a.m. leaving Cusco, I said, 'Frank, we've driven over 7,000 miles' and tried to give him a high five, but with his bad shoulder, had to settle for a low five.

When we left Cusco, we went south & up to about 7 or 8,000 feet for 300 miles on a high plains plateau road... 42 to 60 degrees. We got pelted with sleet, and later drove thru some shallow wet snow. Saw thousands of adobe and straw homes, saw a big white rock (about 12') in the middle of the lane where it had been dragged under a vehicle for 150 yards before dislodging...left a white chalk mark... must have created quite a scare. But the stone was left there, of course, ...for someone else to hit, ...and drag.

Frank & I were in a quandary; we came to the end of the road (pavement) and suspected the rock road that continued went into Bolivia (illegally). We had to do that or go north.

We did the rock road... for about 9 miles and changed our minds...came back and went the long way around. Lots of (100's) llamas & alpacas, they tend to get in the road and are erratic when we get close. Frank passed up eating at a 'Subway' in Cusco - WOW!

Saw thousands of 1-room dwellings today constructed of basket weave panels. When we dropped down off the high plateau, we experienced massive sand piles thousands of feet tall, (they were majestic), lots of wind again, but appears we may finally be out of the rain.

Officially - we've been 1 calendar month on the road - 10 countries achieved, 2 to go. We are in Arica, Chile, and it is wonderful weather...shorts and short sleeves. Got up @ 6:00 a.m. and the streets were being swept by hand everywhere, never saw a cleaner town.

Frank and I really enjoyed the 'walking' streets (no motor traffic), outdoor vending everywhere, some of the cafe's tables and chairs extended into the street, nice feeling,...very modern with Internet cafes in abundance...we got our clothes washed...feels great!

Met Stephen and Victor on bicycles, stopped to talk a little. Stephen was from Mexico, near Puebla, and Victor was from Germany. They had left Ushuaia over 2 months ago. We gave them big fresh plums that they devoured.

As we entered another province of Chile, we were stopped and the 4 plums we had left were to be confiscated, or we could consume them...we consumed them. It's the first time I can ever remember being forced to eat lunch. Frank said, as we were leaving 'I wonder if they will want to know where we defecate so they can check for contamination We went about 200 miles out of Arica to the coastal city of Iquique;...beautiful, was like Highway 1 on the California coast. Stopped at a seaside restaurant, had wonderful pascada and cafe con leche.

About 20 miles south of the city we kept entering what the signs said were 'Zona de Neblina' (fog). Traveling on this road was dreamy...massive sand piles, thousands of feet tall.

I'm dreaming about Kath giving me a haircut (with electric shaver) and I'm putting my arms around her. I'm dreaming of having breakfast on our deck, ..it's summertime. Hmmmm.

I think back about the 'sideswipe' incident. And then I start to think about perching on that cliff that rainy dark night...how terrified I was getting, observing the car headlights far below me. The beams would sweep across below me, as vehicles wound along the mountain road below me (gives me the heebie jeebies again!).

Lots of tent campers along the seashore, most of them bunched up...would be groups of 6 or up to 20 tents huddling together...for security, I suppose.

We stopped at the giant hand in the desert, a huge concrete hand, raising straight up about 200 yards off the road. We were taking some pictures and eating a donut, when Frank said, 'Well, here comes one of our compadres...on a KLR.' It was Mariola Cichon. She was heading for Ushuaia also, then up through Brazil, Uruguay, then over to New Zealand, India, and maybe Africa.

With Mariola, we traveled about 350 miles today, the last 72k was rock and dirt...rough.

Mariola took us to a resort beach area, Pan El Azucar (sugar loaf)...this was gorgeous. We had pascada, rice, salada (tomatoes and onions), and latte.

1/23/02

It's getting light...about 3:45 Omaha time. Good sleeping...by the sea, with the waves gently hitting the beach. There are 3 of us in separate tents. We're supposed to have breakfast with Mariola, but I doubt that will happen, because I don't think the restaurant will be open.

Frank and I are ready to hit the road. My knee kept me awake for a while last night...I'm disappointed that it's hurting still; it's been a month and it's swollen and feverish. I bought some more 'Cipro' in Arica, in case the swelling started moving down my leg again. I think we're about 500 miles north of Santiago. Well, the restaurant was open, great daysayuno.

Note from Mariola:
"It is amazing how we, members of one big family, find each other in the strangest circumstances. I had a great time with you and Frank. Thanks for sharing stories and your time with me. I hope your journey will take you to many wonderful places, without any unpleasant surprises. Wish you the best of luck...and hope to see you on the road!' Mariola Cichon www.rideoftheheart.com mariolacichon@hotmail.com"

Saw my first condor yesterday...he was soaring toward me and when he turned away from me, I saw his distinctive head...those expansive wings...magnifico!

About 12 or 15 miles N or La Sarena, yesterday, we were inland just a little, but riding a few thousand feet up, and 'my gosh' off to our right, on a mountain range between us and the sea...there were white, heavy-looking clouds pouring over the mountain like a waterfall, and coming down the mountainside toward us. What a sight and feeling. Right then, I realized I was getting cold...the temperature was dropping rapidly, about 25 degrees in just 6 to 8 minutes.

We had a nice dinner last night, carne and arroz (beef and rice) with fresh tomatoes and cucumbers. Frank was in more pain than usual...asked if I minded if he rested longer, and to leave later tomorrow (Thursday).

And Thursday is our malaria pill day. We haven't had the slightest threat by the so-called prevalent maladies and diseases or infections; just lucky, I guess. Traveling through the villages, we look for correos (post offices), none...and no carriers or delivery vehicles.

Well, we did it again...went on reserve, and worried for 30 miles, and out of the desert, a mirage, a gas station...no, it's a trick...yes!! A gas pump! I'll be damned!

I am so excited, and we're here, about to enter Santiago. Like Frank says, we're about to enter our 3rd and final phase. The ride today, and getting this far, is euphoria for me. I feel energetic and excited to continue to Ushuaia.

Bad endings in Santiago

01/24/02

THE TRIP ENDS FOR ME. My adventure ended in Santiago, Chile.

My KLR was in bad shape, tires shot, both sprockets shot, chain stretched beyond saving, and etc. It was also very pavement-worn from being down so much, (darn). I took hwy 68 out of Santiago to Valparaiso and arrived there at dusk, too late to get anything done to get my bike shipped to the states. So I checked into a hotel and didn't get much sleep because I was so upset that I wouldn't be completing my trip to Ushuaia.

Next morning, I started the process of arranging passage for my bike (a nightmare). I found a policeman who was wonderful and willing to help, but after 2 hours of following him around, (and my bike was in bad shape, and on reserve), we finally located a shipping company, Flamingo, ....talked with, 'Claudia', on the phone, with much difficulty. She and the policeman agreed that I couldn't negotiate anything unless I had a domicile,...meaning I had to return to the hotel I had checked out of. So the policeman helped find the hotel from my receipt. Claudia was to call me there in 10 'meenits'.

After an hour and a half, I got the hotel lady to call Claudia; this resulted in Claudia calling me back about 20 times, (maddening). She said I had to get my bike to the aduana in San Antonio, about 2 hrs away. I told her my bike was disabled and wouldn't make it. She said she would call me back.

She called back and said she would have my bike picked up in about a week.

'What am I supposed to do in the meantime?

She said, 'You can make the shipping arrangements then.'

I had been at this for about 5 hours now. When I hung up the phone, I was depressed. I started adding up the dollars. About $1,000 for shipping, $200 or $300 to pick it up in Houston in a couple of months, the necessary repairs, the hotel expense to stay to make the arrangements; I started questioning the effort.

I asked the hotel lady, as best I could, 'Adonde moto vendor?'

She understood, and picked up the phone and called, handed me the phone to try to talk to another lady, at the moto vendor. This took 15 or 20 call backs before I finally got the idea that the vendor was only 2 blocks away, and that they wanted me to bring it over there.

I drove my beloved KLR over there and parked on the sidewalk in front of this awful looking place. A young man approached me, and said 'Quantas?'

(How much do you want?) I said $500 US dollars. He went into conference with some of his associates, returned to me and said, 'Ok, but you have take to the aduana in San Antonio to get the paper.'

I said: 'I want to leave today, and I don't want to go to the aduana's office.'

He said: 'Dis a beeg a prublem.'

After awhile, he approached me and said, 'Sell for parts.'

I said, 'Ok, how much?'

$300 american dollares. He then said, 'Un moment, par pavor.' After some more discussion with assoc., 'Beeg prublem, legal prublem.' 'Eeets eemposible.'

Ater several minutes of doing nothing but standing and fretting, I started unloading my bike with things I thought I could carry to the bus station 4 blocks away (so frustrated, I was ready to just leave it).

He approached me again, 'Maybee solution, un momento.'

'Otre hombre say he,....200 american dolla'ers, and 100 euro.'

I said, 'Fine, and took the money.'

I gave them the title, and walked away from my wonderful KLR, parked in front of this awful place, to be cannibalized.

I caught a bus to Santiago, booked a flight for that midnight, and was home in Omaha at 11:00 next day.

Back Home

My KLR didn't deserve the ending it received! The engine still ran great, always started, such a reliable friend. If it had gotten the maintenance, the tires, the proper chain lube (Frank told me it was the wrong lube).

I slept well last night and am happy to be home with my Kath. My right knee is still giving me pain and I suspect I'll have to get an x-ray to see what needs to be done.

I loved the ride and experiencing the people and the scenery. It was an exhilarating experience! I'm glad I did it and I wish my friend Frank success and good health to his Ushuaia goal.

   Story by Dale Thornton

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