Friday, November 28, 2008

On the road.

The bike arrived on Sunday (Nov 23) and customs/unpacking went almost perfectly – the clutch fluid all leaked out (bad) and we refilled it with tap water which works just as well. We’ll replace it later with proper fluid. Roadside ingenuity in its simplest form!

We headed out on Monday afternoon, got 35 miles out of Santiago, and Paul’s rear tire went flat. We broke out the tools and an hour later we were rolling again. The ride was fantastic – some 30+ switchbacks up over 10,000 feet. We exited Chilean immigration/customs, but could not get Paul’s bike thru Argentine customs due to a paperwork snafu (borrowed bike). 11:30pm we rolled back into Santiago, dead tired.

Video from Paul's HD camcorder, attached to his helmet...

Erin's first attempt at video footage from our digital camera...

Tuesday (Nov 25) we went to dept of justice then dept of ministry to get Paul's paperwork legalized, then to Argentine embassy to get legalized paperwork translated onto Argentina letterhead - Long story… Back on the bikes at 3pm for another late start to the 200 mile ride back up the curves (video coming soon), over the pass, past Aconcagua Mountain (22,825 ft), across the border, down one of the prettiest road/canyons, and into Mendoza. We pulled in to the main plaza just as darkness settled in. There was a hostel close by, and as we pulled through the gate we spotted several other travel bikes. “Hello Chris, hello Erin”. Huh??? It was Rich Humphreys, a traveler friend we had met in New Zealand back in 2001 after he road from the UK to NZ. Small world, and great to see fellow travelers again! Rich had become a fireman in NZ and was taking a year off to travel SA. We decided to turn in just before dawn, after solving many of the world's problems, with the help of inexpensive Malbec and a few reflective ales.

Wednesday morning we had breakfast with our Spanish teacher (2 weeks back in 2002) at her nearby home. In the afternoon we rode 140 miles through the pampa to San Rafael. Back in 2002 we spent several weeks here rebuilding both our bikes in one of the local bike shops. The small city has grown immensely, and it was great to pull into the bike shop to surpise everyone. The guys were shocked and their faces changed instantly from confussion to warm recognition and we were swarmed with big hugs and kisses.

In the evening we rode 10 miles to meet John & Annette at their finca (farm). They had also traveled around the world on two motorbikes. When they went back to England, they needed something different so returned to Argentina to buy a vineyard. The 35-acre farm was in foreclosure, and most of the agriculture was dead/dying. It’s taken nearly 3 years for them to get the grapes, plums, olives, peaches, walnuts and other plants healthy. It's hard work creating a working farm, and in 2 more years they will decide if they will stay or move on to another project.

We woke Thanksgiving Thursday to a rooster’s call then spent the afternoon in the shop making adjustments to the bikes. Parts were fabricated from scratch, and lots of mate (form of herb/tea) was shared. At 10pm there were 3 long tables that were brought into the work area and 25 of us shared an amazing asado dinner. More wine, more chatter, more laughs – life is good.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Photos around Santiago

The shipment is delayed and customs is now on strike, so who knows when we'll get on the bike. In the meantime we have some time to try out new looks (notice the Quaker look!).
We're also taking in Santiago and Vina del Mar, on the Pacific coast. See the photo album here

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Off to Santiago de Chile

Of course, the last few days leading up to our departure were action-packed. Andre, the agent who will be looking after our business was away in Hawaii enjoying a vacation with his family, and we were covering his business. Several of his clients wanted to see properties and we negotiated a great deal closing in 3 weeks - welcome home! Andre returned on Friday. Sunday, the night before our departure 2 of our own clients wanted to write offers --- fortunately our local real estate market is not following the national news!

We arrived at the airport around the same time as Paul, who decided back in September to join us for the first couple of weeks of our trip. One day he had said' "you know, I must admit I'm a bit jealous about your trip." To which I answered, "don't be jealous, join us!" Since he didn't have a good excuse, he did!
Denver airport was nearly empty so we enjoyed the fastest trip through security, ever! Our first leg was a twilight flight to Dallas. We hitched a ride through the Dallas terminals in one of those golf cart type security buggies, and after an hour layover it was time to turn off the Blackberry as it would not work in South America. No, not by binky! 10-hours later we would land in Santiago de Chile.

The last hour of the flight was amazing - we skimmed along the top of the Andes mountains, and although we live in the Rocky Mountains, this was an impressive site. While the flight landed early in Santiago, we were of course delayed at customs for a little while. See, as our bags went through the customs declaration X-ray machine, we realised we had a large bag of fruit and nut mix in one of our bags - a clear violation punishable by about an $80 fine. While the inspector caught it on the screen, he thought it was in a different bag. We tucked the malicious bag under others on our cart, played the dumb Americans (my specialty!), and after awhile we were free to go with our bags.

The shuttle company wanted $10/person to cram 3 of us into a crowded van. Instead, we wandered outside and negotiated a $25 flat fee for the 30-minute private taxi ride into town. As we were exiting the airport, the police stopped to check our driver's taxi license, and of course it had expired. While this was another delay, we were in no rush and used the opportunity to syncronize our GPS and SPOT devices, and update our new positions (see the locator on the right panel of this blog). The police were very friendly to us and I got to practice my spanish, but our unlucky driver would be hit with about a $600 fine.

We arrived at our B&B around 11am -- -- a terrific little place in the city center, surrounded by parks and quaint streets. It feels more European here than one might imagine, so we knew we were in another place, it didn't quite "feel" like South America. OK, into travel mode I'm striving for and although $40/nt is above our normal budget, we wanted a good place to get ourselves organized. The little old lady who owns the place said we could catch the WiFi from the fancy hotel next door!, although she didn't understand what that meant. The hospedaje is also across the street from the French Embassy and down the street from the Homicide Detective's Precint.

Ater a simple meal in a local lunch place, we spent the afternoon wandering around the busy streets and climbed a mountain fort/castle that over-looks the city. In the evening we headed to an eclectic part of town for a huge dinner accompanied by a couple of local refreshments. It was a good finish to the start of our trip!
Unfortunately, the bike has been delayed again for some document problems, but Lufthansa promise it will start its own journey tomorrow -- at this rate we'll be here through the weekend. Not to worry though, we'll do a tour of the local vineyards and probably hit the beaches in Vina del Mar....

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Crating the Bikes

It took most of the day, but with the help of our friends Paul and Jon, we got the bike onto a Honda crate that was donated by a local bike shop.

While the crate wasn't made specifically for the KTM, Paul's sawzall and Jon's scientific knowledge made the job seem easy - thanks guys!

Although Erin & I have shipped our bikes in the past, this time it was a little different as we were using a metal pallet instead of wood. It added some challenges that required a bit of thought.

What's the big challenge? Air cargo is based on the weight or volume (space) the crate takes up, whichever is greater. The crated weight is about 235kg, typically the volume is greater. So, while the bike is about 36" wide and 47" high, the crate is only 30"W x 39"H (and 90" long), or about 300kg by volume.

So how did we do it? Well, we were able to get the front down low by removing the front wheel. The back, however, was sticking up a few inches too high. In the past we would use tie-downs to pull the rear end to the wood pallet, however doing the same thing with thin metal would bend the pallet. We contemplated removing the wheel and or shock, then discovered a way to pull the rear rack down to the rear tire, and the clearence was met.

The sides and top were added, along with some additional struts for added support. But first, we had to:

- Remove most of the fuel
- Remove the battery (attached to pallet)
- Remove front wheel
- Remove panniers
- Remove windshield
- Remove mirrors
- Remove rear rack
- Unbolt handlebars (too wide)
- Pack as much as possible into the crate

We'll load the bike onto our, yes, we own a 16' moving truck; and take it down to DIA later this week. Don, Nick, and Jon already volunteered to help load the bike onto the truck. Once at the airport they'll use a fork-lift to bring it to customs for final inspection, then the bike begins its long journey.
After Sept 11, "dangerous goods" by "unkown shippers" can not fly on commercial/passenger planes. Instead, they need to go on cargo planes. My oldest friend, Jens, has worked for Lufthansa cargo for over 20 years and is helping us get a great deal. However, the bike will go to more countries than we will. It will go by truck to Chicago, then fly to Frankfurt (Germany), Sao Paulo (Brazil), and finally to Santiago de Chile.
Believe it or not, this was the cheapest option! :-)