Monday, January 25, 2016

PERU, CHICKEN HEAD SOUP, UNDIES ON THE ROAD



Livermore made some new adventure riding friends during a Peru pit stop. The Peru riders traded travel information and wanted to be photographed with “Motorista Global” as Livermore’s freshly printed business card read, or translated to English, “Globe Rider,” which he was far from being but liked people to think he was.


Peru, laundry and chicken and more Zen teachings.


Exiting Ecuador and entering Peru was the third border crossing for Dr. G and Livermore.  The paperwork process on the Ecuador side of the border was quick and painless.  However, on the Peru side the duo learned to be patient as they watched the Customs employees enter painfully and slowly handwritten details in a thick paper notebook. Added to the patience learning curve was having a family move to the front of the line ignoring those already waiting, a test of Dr. G’s friendly nature given the hot sun and waiting for 30 minutes wearing his hot riding gear.
 A car wash worker carefully gave the motorcycles and engines a cleaning and refused any cash payment, wanting to contribute to the rally adventure, but did gladly accepted a rally sticker from Dr. G. To him, the rally sticker was worth more than the cash he would have to turn over to his boss.
 
While attending to the washing of the mud covered motorcycles, Livermore expressed need to attend to his personal hygiene, that being to have his clothing washed. Dr. G shared with him a “Zen motorcycle traveler secret” he had learned from the Irish riders who had joined them on The Clancy Centenary Ride as they crossed the USA.


“You can avoid your underwear washing time, usually taking a day of downtime, by hand washing them during the shower you take each night, and then drying them the next morning after affixing them under your luggage tie down straps.”


Livermore was not Zen or adventurous enough to thrive on seeing his tiddy-whitties underwear blowing in the wind, sand, dust and truck fumes using this option.  That left what Dr. G called the “five day au natural Irish trick."

“On Day 1, wear the fresh undies.  On Day 2 wear the Fruit of the Looms turned around. On Day 3 flip them inside out, wear them front to back. On Day 4 rotate them back to front. After washing them in your shower or sink on the evening of Day 4 hang them in your room to begin to dry. They will take two nights to dry, and when done you can start the cycle over again.


“Where does the au natural part come in?” Livermore asked.


“Ah, that’s on Day 5, when you have your semi-wet underwear wrapped inside a dirty T-shirt in your regular clothes bag.  That day, Day 5, you don’t wear any undies, you ride au natural.”

Peru was many seemingly endless miles of desert riding with reasonably good paved roads and time to reflect passing through what Dr. G called “The Big Empty.” An occasional pot hole or animal crossing the road would keep the riders awake.  Any ventures off the pavement into the deep soft sand resulted in immediate bogging down of the heavily laden motorcycles and was avoided if at all possible
.

Livermore had prepared both 1983 Honda GL650s prior to the South American stage of the pair’s adventure.  At the end of each riding day, while Dr. G self-medicated claimed arthritic joints and former broken bones with a cool swill and pills, Livermore could be found for a few minutes checking his oil levels, tire and suspension pressures and attending to any mechanical parts that may have worked loose during the day of hard driving.

The 1983 Honda GL650 engines ran cool in the heat of the Peruvian desert. Once in a while, when stuck in thick traffic passing through towns, the radiator fans would automatically turn or for 10-20 seconds.
 

Adjusting their diets while traveling found Livermore and Dr. G comfortable with skipping lunch and snacking at  gas stations during the day.  Chicken was the primary meat on dinner menus, and part of their adventure included trying to order non-chicken items for their main course.  Sometimes what was served was a mystery meat but by the time they had reached Peru neither had mistakenly ordered chicken foot or chicken head soup.

Typical of taxis in Peru were moto taxis, a three wheel vehicle with a small motorcycle engine as the power plant, usually in the 125 cc range. In thick city traffic they could be likened to errant bugs, zipping in and out of stopped cars, trucks and buses. Often they would swerve right and then make a quick left or U turn.  This one was not typical in design and deserved a photograph.
 
At Nasca a routing decision was made, similar to the many made during the running of the Dakar race just days before, to shorten the route.  Livermore wanted the straight, easy road and the warm weather route along the coast of Peru versus the possible cold and wet of  Dr. G's suggested twisty route through the mountains and into Bolivia.  Further weighing the decision was Livermore not wanting to visit Machu Picchu alone (Dr. G had said, "Been there, done the hike up and back, still remember the pain in my bad knee") or spend time in the quaint town of Cusco, having heard the roads into the mountains could be a challenge.  Some political tensions between Bolivia and the United States of America also played a factor in Livermore's trepidation, as did the pair admitting to not being dedicated to tourism simply following the Gringo Trail and published tourist guide books and more to their lives as motorheads on the road.  They agreed to continue down the west coast of South America, entering Chile next and opting for the possible challenge of high mountain riding in Southern Chile.


As the pair approached Chile, Dr. G offered his epicurean experience on Chile from his two previous adventures through the country, saying, “Less chicken guts and parts for dinner in Chile and a higher probability of a Big Mac with some good medication mixed with the fruit of the vine or local brew along the way.” 

Part of Dr. G's 'Patience Learning Curve' had been the discovery of a mix of swill and medicinals at the end of each riding day, and opting to dine away from the more particular Livermore's choice of hotel restaurants. Dr. G said, "I dislike only dining in hotel restaurants, prefer getting outside of the compounds and mixing with the locals.  However, after eating local foods while looping the globe day-after-day, I've never met a Big Mac I didn't like."   

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

ECUADOR TEACHES RALLY RIDERS SOME LESSONS



The two 1983 Honda GL650 motorcycles were so old they often did not appear on the lists of motorcycles in computer files at borders, confusing the government officials.  At this entry point the official decided the 33 year-old Honda was close enough to the many BMWs he had processed before, so he declared its value in the computer at $45,000.00 USD!


Ecuador, Paperwork, The Middle of the Earth and some Zen teachings. 

Exiting Colombia and entering Ecuador was a test that began at the border with a paperwork and mental exercise.  On the Colombia side of the border the passports had to be presented to Immigration officials to cancel the entry permits obtained when entering Colombia at Bogota. It was a quick and simple process, taking less than five minutes.  Then a short walk to the Customs office where the motorcycle Temporary Vehicle Import Permits were handed through a window where the information was to be imputed into a computer canceling permission to bring the motorcycles into Colombia without paying the high import tax.
 

All went well until the computer crashed.  Rather than wait for a computer fix, the Customs official decided to close the office for an early lunch.  The documents were left on top of a pile of other unprocessed paperwork. Livermore and Dr. G were told, “It’s nothing. Go on over to the Ecuador side. The highly efficient Colombian government Customs bureaucracy will take care of your vehicle exit paperwork later.”


As Livermore walked away, he asked, “Do you think it will be OK, leaving the paperwork undone like that?”


Dr. G replied, “Possibly, or possibly not. If not, you can start singing that old Johnny Cash song WANTED MAN for not paying the government import tax. Let’s deal with the Ecuador side and get on down the road before the Colombian tax man starts looking for you.”


Entering Ecuador took much longer due to language barriers.  With Livermore’s rapidly expanding use of his only two learned Spanish words (“Americano" and “bano,” pronounced by Livermore as "banjo") and Dr. G’s mixed use of his poor Spanish, Thai, German, French, Italian and English, the two travelers confused government officials so badly that finally out of frustration their passports were stamped allowing them entry into Ecuador and their Vehicle Import Permits were processed after an hour. Possibly the border officials were hoping the need for an “Americano banjo” said with a Michigan accent and goofy smile in the offices would not become their need for fresh air and a good floor mopping.

Livermore celebrated his having reached the Equator, marked by this cement globe. The rain and cold of the day did not dampen his enthusiasm for having crossed The Middle Of The Earth, even though he had touched Mother Earth (crashed his motorcycle) three times the previous day.

Livermore's use of Americano perplexed those who would ask where he was from.  His reply was Americano, not United States. The South Americans and Central Americans did not see any difference between the residents of those Americas and North Americans.  His habits would not die, even after it was explained to him he should say "United States" or Estados Unidos (Spanish for United States).  He steadfastly stuck to his two Spanish word dictionary and use, leaving a trail of perplexed bureaucrats, gas station attendants, restaurants service staff and hotel employees.

When asked about Livermore's two word Spanish cranial dictionary and use, Dr. G said, "It entertaining to a degree, watching the Spanish speaking people we meet get their perplexed look, the WTF look, especially when he asks where is the 'banjo.' At the same time it's frustrating trying to clean-up or make clear what he is saying.  It really becomes fun when he answers the 'Where are you from' question by saying, in English, Michigan.  Sometimes he'll realize they have no idea where Michigan is, so will add, 'Near Chicago.' Many know of or have heard of Chicago. A really fun time is trying to explain what he means when he says, 'I'm from Michigan, and where is the banjo?'  That adventure in language pushes my Spanish envelope towards the edge, but is funny enough to keep me and the Spanish speaker laughing after he wanders off in any direction looking for a sign that says WC."    
 

Ricardo Rocco Paz from Quito, joined the two Honda riders with his much newer and more powerful BMW GS.  As an official entrant in The Great Around The World Motorcycle Adventure Rally, his motorcycle was the rapid hare of the trio compared to the two smaller displacement and less powerful tortoise-like Hondas.
Ricardo Rocco Paz became a welcomed entrant because with his entry he brought the fluent use of English and Spanish to the rally. He also brought his great depth of knowledge of South American adventure motorcycling.
The BMW GS of Ricardo Rocco Paz was sponsored by the ESCULA DE MOTOS, the only motorcycle rider training school in Ecuador as well as a motorcycle mechanic school, both highly professional and well respected.



Piloting motorcycles in Ecuador was a chance to test the riders and their machines with modifications.  Opting for a side route over the mountains versus the main road used by most travelers, the Hondas bounced over nearly 100 miles of bad roads, which included mud, loose gravel, deep pot holes and sand while thick cloud cover and rain masked the treacherous section. Dr. G called it a test, to see how the motorcycles and Livermore could handle road conditions expected further south.  Livermore called it a different four letter English word far away from a test or riding motorcycles across Kansas.


The learning curve for Livermore was still in a steep upward swing as they traveled through Ecuador.  However, Frazier was also learning, learning to be patient with Livermore’s newness to riding away from Kansas in South America.

After watching Livermore crash when entering a gas station, Rocco said to Dr. G, "Your buddy seems to have a problem riding a moto. You know I have the training school in Quito.  It's closed now because we're moving, but I could arrange for some private learning lessons for your buddy."

"He's got a reverse learning ability.  I don't believe your motorcycle trainers could teach him anything."

Rocco, who spoke very good American English, said, "You mean he has a learning disability?"

"No, he can learn, but at his own Indiana farm boy speed and with a severe reversal of adventure riding priorities.  It seems his daily number one priority is to stay tethered to the Internet.  In Colombia I concluded his number two priority was not to be kidnapped, taken into the jungle and used as a boy toy bent over a log in the jungle or held for ransom.  He's not been focused on driving or the environments around him.  He wants to quickly get to the next safe harbor, or hotel, and lock himself in his room while being connected to the Internet."

Rocco pondered this response for a few seconds, and then asked, "So why is he trying to ride around the world?"

"He got bitten by the 'adventure' riding bug, read a book and watched some film, thinks he can fit into the adventure motorcyclist definition."

"So he's a new rider?"

Dr. G smiled and replied, "No, he says he's been riding motorcycles since he grew up on the farm, has a collection of 12-15 of these Honda GL650's, and claims to have raced motorcycles, although not successfully."

"Dr. G, you've the patience of Job to be dragging him around.  Last time you came through here you had a grandmother with Parkinsons on the back or your moto.  This wannabe you're with now may be a bigger challenge than the Parkinsons lady."

"The Parkinsons lady was taking a cocktail of drugs to make it through each day.  This time it's me taking my doctor's prescribed mood enhancers mixed with a bit to swill to keep the patience of Job."    

Livermore was adding no Spanish words to his two word communication skills, depending upon Dr. G's cranial Spanish dictionary, and both were learning to travel with another person, adjust to their way of thinking and doing things, better described as their individual Zen ways of motorcycle travel.

After one frustrating matter dealing with a bellman at a hotel Dr. G said to Livermore, " What do you call a person who speaks three languages?" Livermore answered, "Trilingual."   And Dr. G then asked, "So what do you call a person who speaks two languages?" Livermore answered, "Why, bilingual, of course."  And then Dr. G asked, "And then what do you think that bellman calls you when you yell and point at him in only one language?"  Livermore had no answer.  Frazier offered "North American asshole gringo," to which Livermore replied, "Well, if these wet backs want to get to America so much, they should at least learn to speak American." 


One morning Livermore set his motorcycle helmet on the ground next to his motorcycle while he went on an errand.  Several minutes later Dr. G saw the helmet on the ground and noticed a line of small ants or similar Ecuadorian bugs crawling up to and on top of the helmet.  Dr. G made an assumption, that being that after the many years of piloting motorcycles, Livermore knew, and for some reason ignored, the adage about never setting a motorcycle helmet on the ground because that was how small animals and insects could crawl into the helmet innards and onto to outer surface and into crevices to be found once the helmet was placed on the owners head.
Livermore’s motorcycle helmet was photographed here setting on the ground, in the gutter, in Cuenca, Ecuador.
 

Dr. G thought about picking the helmet up, scraping off the bugs and affixing it to Livermore’s motorcycle well above the ground, but then, rightly or wrongly, concluded Livermore had possibly placed his helmet on the ground for a Livermore Zen reason.  While Dr. G was pondering the conundrum, a street dog padded up to the Livermore’s motorcycle and sniffed the front and rear wheels.  When it spotted Livermore’s motorcycle helmet the boy dog did its boy dog thing, lifting its left rear leg and watering the helmet, and then padded away.


A passing tourist, having seen the dog sprinkling the helmet, said in perfect English, “Don’t you think the owner of that helmet might be upset?”


“Nah, he placed his helmet on the ground for some experienced reason and the dog just washed off or killed all the ants. By the time the owner returns from wherever he went the helmet will be dry, so unless you or I say anything the experienced owner’s motorcycle adventure will remain in a cosmic balance, that being The Zen Of The Great Unknown.”      

Thursday, January 7, 2016

COLOMBIA AND THE RALLY CONTINUES SOUTH TOWARDS ECUADOR



Hello Colombia!  

The two motorcycles arrived at their Colombian destination in crates constructed so well that they could have carried glass statues.  The wooden boxes were built in Miami at a small side street shop that specialized in crating.  At the crating location none of the workers spoke English, so there was considerable trepidation for the non-Spanish speaking Livermore about whether or not the motorcycles would reach Colombia 15 days later and a couple of thousand dollars after paying for the crate construction, associated air cargo costs and handing over the original ownership papers to unknown third parties.  Each crated motorcycle passed through several inspections, like the US Customs checking the Vehicle Identification Numbers, and therefore the boxes needed to be open enough for inspectors to see what was inside, so the tops were a see-through plastic film supported by a strong frame.

Pictured above, the crated motorcycles were being given a final inspection in Colombia before they could be uncrated, batteries reconnected, and for Livermore to find a container and gasoline station to add gasoline from his fully drained tank, his having ignored instructions in Miami to "leave 1/8th of a tank."  All went OK except for the final step, the purchase the Colombian third party vehicle insurance. Livermore's gasoline adventure ate into the final hours of the day prohibiting the purchase of liability insurance before the sales offices closed. The last bit of paperwork was done on the morning of the second day of what Frazier called the “get-the-motorcycles-out-of-jail-paperwork-adventure,” also known as clearing Customs.

An indicator of the cultural bumps in the roads ahead was when the air cargo person (Veronica) processing the pair's paperwork volunteered to drive Livermore to a gas station for his needed gas.  Once Livermore filled his gas tank with the 2-3 liters of gas, she then drove her personal car through the Cuustom's gate for the pair to follow, deposit their Customs clearance documents and then on to a local insurance office to leave their papers for collection the next day.  When Dr. G suggested a "tip" for the help, Livermore asked, "What for?"  Dr. G said, "For her help."  Livermore replied, "It's her job, why give her a tip?"  Dr. G then said, "No, her job stopped when you rolled your motorcycle out of the air cargo company warehouse doors.  Anything she did after that was her kindness to you for not having gas, and to us to make sure we found the insurance office before the day ended.  She was off the company clock and on her own time, using her own car and gas to get us here. I'd tip her but all I've got is $100.00 bills, a bit much.  You've got your stash of Colombian money, give her a bit."  The exchange ended with Veronica leading the pair out of the parking lot to the booked Marriott Hotel and waving goodbye, without a tip for her kindness.  Dr. G wrote her boss the next day, offering high praise for her work and additional praise for going "above and beyond," with a promise to recommend the air cargo company to future travelers.   
 
Both motorcycles are 1983 Honda GL650 models, so each was 33 years old.  As one motorcycle journalist wrote, “Any Tom, Martin or Wolfgang can purchase a new motorcycle, send or drive it to South America and ride them around.  1’000’s of motorcyclists have done it before and 100’s are doing it now. It’s really pushing the true envelope of motorcycling adventure to use a pair of 33 year-old motorcycles, models which were never imported to South America. For Livermore and Frazier there is no “safety net” of spare parts at motorcycle dealers or repair shops familiar with this model of motorcycle for the next 10,000-12,000 miles.”


Livermore made a disappointing discovery for him on Day 1, that being Frazier’s (known as “Dr. G”) Spanish was not as good as Livermore had assumed it would be after Dr. G’s two previous motorcycle rides through South America.  In Frazier’s defense, it had been 10 years since he last used his Spanish, and he entertainingly defended himself by saying, “Hey, I remember how to say "hello, thank you, beer, toilet, money, motorcycle and pretty lady, plus a few swear words. The rest of my spoken Spanish will come back in time as I need it. Meanwhile, you need to at least learn how to speak and use at least one Spanish word, maybe 'yes' or 'thank you.'"

The official Start of the second leg, or stage, of The Great Around The World Motorcycle Adventure Rally was from Bogota.  Livermore displayed the cloth banner that was a gift from the Irish Team that did the Clancy Centenary Ride, celebrating 100 years after the first motorcyclist circumnavigated the globe in 1912-1913.  The banner will be carried around the world, again. There was 150 lbs. of luggage on #7's motorcycle at this photo.


Both Livermore and Dr. G made another enlightening discovery after the first days of traveling in Colombia: Livermore had far too much luggage = weight.  The weight (equaling, as Dr. G said, that of a circus fat lady on the back) made handling the overloaded motorcycle through tight curves a maddening test of Livermore's motorcycle piloting skills, resulting in several crashes by Livermore.  They spent one evening cutting down weight by giving away items or consuming what they felt was not absolutely necessary, or transferring some items to Dr. G's motorcycle.  Frazier quit carrying a liter of vodka, which he claimed was for medicinal purposes, purportedly being his bad knee, bad back, and previously broken arm, wrist, fingers, shoulder, collar bone, big toe and right leg, but kept a pint. Livermore was not willing to give up on carrying four rolls of toilet paper, but decided ten pair of pants were too cumbersome as was a sports coat, second sleeping sac, several dress shirts and one pair of long underwear. He started to investigate shipping the excess home, and expensive option.

  
A scurrilous rumor, spread by jealous motorcycle riders stuck in their office cubicles or at home finger pecking nightly on their keyboards, needed to be dispelled.  The Internet rumor mongers expressed their out-house specialists opinion that one of the two adventurers had done so much Internet research and book reading prior to leaving for South America that he was carrying a toilet seat in his motorcycle luggage. "Not true," laughingly replied Dr. G, "and I suspect these trolls and toolboxes also know where Elvis is living and how deep Jimmy Hoffa is buried."

Road carnage.  On the second day Livermore saw three motorcycle accidents and several automobile and truck crashes. Earlier he was lightly tapped by a car behind him when the car was making a lane change in slow moving traffic and he was wobbling for excess weight through traffic on his heavily loaded and awkward handling motorcycle.
  
At a gas stop Livermore verbally expressed his having fearfully thought was what he thought was the aggressiveness of the Colombian car, truck and motorcycle drivers seen on their way south towards Ecuador.

Dr. G stopped what he was doing, looked skyward and pondered for a few seconds about Midwestern USA native Livermore’s observations regarding motorcycle riding, road carnage, and traffic in South America.

Then, as he strapped on his helmet for the next 150 miles of motorcycling, Dr. G said to Livermore, “If you were Toto, I would say 'We aren’t driving these 33 year-old motorcycles across Kansas.' You need to buck up, lighten your load and put social media well behind thinking about driving, as well as less about what you're going to post on Facebook."