Thursday, January 17, 2013

As you already know, I am falling way behind on these updates but in the meantime here is where the chatter is about the Ride.
http://www.st-owners.com/forums/showthread.php?121719-Ride-For-Cambodia/page58
and pics here:
https://picasaweb.google.com/108925451229006651142

Packing for the flight to Phnom Penh now. Should be over there tonight and ready to talk turkey on a motorcycle purchase in the morning.

Bangkok was fun.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Thailand/Cambodia/Laos let's take a look see

Time's come for a another major adventure,  a three month exploration of SE Asia.
Arriving in Bangkok on Air China at 11:45 PM Wednesday 1/9/13, same time as my riding buddy, Joe who is flying United. George and Dace get to our hotel a few days later.

Now, back to sorting through all my riding gear, selecting only the bare bones necessities, remembering that all the luggage on the plane will need to go on a small motorcycle.

 We'll get everything else when we get there sans the infectious diseases.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Back in Moonshine

After kissing the ground, I am safely in the care of a few hundred riders here at Moonshine, Illinois. Posting from McDonald's here in Casey, IL.
The crowd here is very welcoming and jovial, growing too.
The memory of Terry Hammond is celebrated with BBQ, rides, Campfire stories, and motorcycle maintenance.
Terry's personal motorcycle items are being sold. There are walls full of this equipment to select from.
Plenty of opportunities to donate cash for the food and for charities.

The SPOT locator is no longer with me as it was returned to Joe Norris, who insisted I bring it with me on this long ride to Panama and back.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Leaving Boquete

It was a leisurely start to a day I was anxiously looking forward to for over a month. I would meet my riding partners, Gary and Jennifer, at noon at a restaurant in David, Panama. This gave me an opportunity in the morning, to stop by a few places to say goodbye to some of the friends I made,

 including Neil’s shop. I particularly wanted to thank him again for all that he has done to get me up and running again. Unfortunately Neil was not there but I did get my appreciation across to his son who helped on the repair job. He smile and bid wished for my safe return to the USA.
Everything was moving along as planned and I was enjoying riding to the David meeting point which was a bit further down the slope of Vulcan Baru so higher temperatures were expected at the lower elevations.
Gary met me at noon as planned but still had a few errands to run and Jennifer was still doing some packing. We had to stop off at the cable office to get the internet turned off in downtown David. The three of us on the two bike ready to roll outside the cable office waiting to get this last detail squared away. About 40 minutes later Jennifer came out needing to catch a cab back to the house to get the actual cable box to turn in in order to complete the deal. Gary and I sweat a bit longer.

At about 2:30 PM we finally got rolling toward the Costa Rica border. Feeling good to be moving we sailed right along for the 40 minutes it took to get to the border. Good weather and riding a motorcycle who has it better than us?
We got our passports punched out of Panama pretty quickly but Gary didn’t have a plate on his motorcycle yet since it was a new purchase so I figured he would have more difficulty getting through the Aduana paperwork. His process was very involved as he walked back and forth from one office to another window and back again several times, while I waited what seemed an eternity at the Aduana window.
I watched the lady behind the window check her computer monitor intently then disappear behind another room for maybe ten minutes then back again to the computer all the while indicating to me a confident signal that I should wait a little bit longer.
Finally, to my relief, she came out from behind her booth to check the bike numbers after which she talked to another Aduana fellow who checked my papers and showed me the problem. My vehicle permit had expired during the month I was stranded in Boquete. I indicated that I would be happy to extend it at this time but he indicated it is not possible and that I need to surrender the motorcycle keys.
Feeling about as anxious as I did when the stator burned out, I couldn’t believe he was serious about impounding my motorcycle. I could not bring myself to hand over the key to my WEE. He insisted that I must indicated the consequences with a gesture of handcuffs. I refused insisting there must be another way to handle this and that I would not give my bike away not knowing where they would take it. The situation became a standoff for a time, during which I consulted a few people about my options. Jennifer translating what she could, all the while Gary, still in a mire of bureaucracy of his own, tried to talk in my defense.
At one point I had about eight people all talking at me at the same time all with different answers to my problem. One man said I should just jump on the bike a run to the Costa Rica side of the border. That didn’t look like an option since there was a border guard three feet from my bike.
Another woman said I can call a number that she gave me and talk to the “fixer”, and woman who can “handle” these situations and get the fine reduced for a $50 fee. I took the number just in case it became necessary to utilize her services.
Overwhelmed at all the attention I was getting and yet not any closer to freedom, I began to feel faint and loose my peripheral vision. My field of view paired down to a tunnel, I slowly dropped half conscious to the ground in an attempt to protect myself from falling hard. With what was left of my consciousness I thought it best to just stay down even with the Aduana goon in my face trying to say something. It was when I heard Gary tell them I had a heart condition that things took a slight turn for the better. I finally got up but still feeling and probably looking unsteady, the Aduana goon gave me one other option as I came to understand there was no way around the impound for the expired permit.

Still dazed and amazed at the consequences of an expired permit, I was allowed to ride with the bike in the back of a small pickup truck to the David Aduana impound yard. Gary and I looked at the truck and agreed it was much to small to handle the bike as it would need to hang over the edge precariously to be carried. I said it is not possible to transport this bike in this truck even if we could get it up into the back. More standoff, eventually he compromised further and let me ride the bike following two Aduana agents in the truck back to the David impound yard. I had no choice but to take this last offer since Panamanian policy is very strict, and requires an impound when the permit expires. There is no way around it, not even cash offers.
Gary had to take Jennifer to San Jose airport for a flight to Miami for a conference and were unable to stay with me but the plan was to meet in San Jose in 24 hours as she would be back the next day. We were scheduled to leave San Jose after a three day stay anyway so it looks like it is possible to meet up again.

With strict instructions to ride slowly as I followed, we rode back the 40 minutes to David near dusk. I don’t think they wanted a foreigner having a heart attack on their watch. Too much paperwork even for these mega-bureaucrats I suppose.

The Aduana agents I was following were much more amenable and even offered to take me to a hotel of my choosing with all my gear. I only had to tell them how much I wanted to spend. They told me to be at the Aduana office in David at 9:00 AM the next day for the hearing and such.

It was a acrid feeling checking into a strange hotel in a strange city alone with all my MC gear and no motorcycle. It was all I could do to get myself out to find something to eat. It turned out I was one block from the Central Park in David so I walked around the colorfully illuminated fountain and landscaping of the square. I even chatted with three Germans who were at the border during all the drama. They were looking to ship their bikes to Colombia for a ride through South America.

I called a few friends to see what I could come up with as far as a defense for the next day when I face whoever needs to be faced. I called Anya first since she’s been such a good support during the repair. She said call Ibu, and Ibu said he would call Neil for me since he spoke better Spanish to explain the situation. Ibu also called the “fixer” from the number I had been given for her.
Ibu called me back from Panama City where he was at the time and said the fixer would make a call to the Aduana to try to smooth it over a bit but she could not show up for the 9 AM appointment.
Neil volunteered to show up at 9 AM and it turns out he knows people in the Aduana office. I felt there was hope.
To say I was concerned about the bike being in the impound yard would be too much understatement. I imagined my WEE on death row as I tried my best to get some sleep that night with little success.

The next day, I decided to leave all my gear at the hotel except the valuables while I go try to get this thing settled. I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered the bike had not been touched overnight and the staff at the Aduana was friendly. Neil showed up on time

 and the process began…but didn’t end until four hours later. Much paperwork, signing, sitting with the big man behind the big desk, who Neil happened to know, then the long wait for it to go through the legal department. It seemed interminably long but Neil stayed and was poised like he was there through it before. Neil explained to the desk man

 that the reason the bike permit expired was because of the breakdown and wait for the parts. This seemed to work pretty well since the normal fine for such heinous acts is $500 but I got off with only a $100 fine and a “don’t do it again”.
Proceedure apparently required me to surrender the key to the bike, although it was not going to be used for anything more than the paperwork process. I did this, then Neil and I went to get the gear from the hotel and were packed up and ready to roll whenever the legal department was done with my paperwork. Neil had his son bring his Honda Magna to the Aduana so he could ride with me to the border to make sure that crossing goes well the second time.
Panama procedure requires another escort to the border since I had no current vehicle permit and I had already checked out of Panama on my passport. That Aduana agent also was a friend of Neil’s and opted to escort me out of Panama via the back of Neil’s bike. That was a ride that I wish I got a picture of. We stopped at a police check point where they just waved as they knew each other and tossed a few words and a laugh as if to say “We are throwing this foreigner out”…………..
I didn’t feel up to laughing with them, not yet…..I did manage a smile J

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Csta Rica to Nicaragua

Gary, Jen, Ricardo and me rolled out of Ricardo's place in San Jose, CR at about 5:20 this morning. We had the city as a virgin day began anew. Ricardo rode with us until about 11 am through the hills and mountains of Central Costa Rica then he broke off to join with another group of riding friends.
We got to the Nic border at about 11am and took a grueling 2 hours to get into Nicaragua. I used a "helper" and Gary didn't. I had to wait an additional 20 minutes for Gary and Jen. It was a good study as to whether or not they actually speed up the process or just slow it down and make it more expensive.
The helper did try to get me for a $10 fee that was not legit so that put a black mark on his otherwise perfect performance. I gave him seven dollars total for about an hour and a half work. Pretty good pay for a Nico kid. We talked about sharing a helper for future border crossings but Gary doesn't like them because there try to take what they can get from people.

We stopped at the landing for the ferry to the twin Volcano island of Ometepe in Lago Nicaragua. Took pics ..aet mangoes and another fruit the Jen found that tastes just like honey but not as thick. Didn't get the name.

Took a wrong road heading to Leon in an attempt to avoid Managua and ended up doing some dirt riding for about a half hour at dusk.
Got to Leon at night and immediately started the hunt for accommodations.
Secure parking for the bikes is rare so it took a while to find Via Via near the center of town where they asked us to hop two curb/steps up into the restaurant where many people were eating. We rode right through a large colonial dinning area, making a few sharp turns past candle lite tables with lovers staring into our lights like deer.

The hostal has only dorm rooms at $6 per person. It is nice enough to stay an additional night but I'll have to check that with the group in the morning.
Plan was to get another pre-dawn departure to try to get into El Salvador tomorrow.  
I am beat and will sleep very soon.
Funny thing... I am not getting any more of those "I wish I were riding with you" responses that were popular on the outbound portion.
Understandable....

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Waiting For Parts

Boquete has got to have one of the highest ratio of pool tables to population of any town I’ve been to, and even though I enjoy shooting a few games of nine ball now and then, I somehow never found time to play.

I’ve been here over a month now, three weeks of which were spent waiting for parts to come so I could get my machine running for the long ride home. All the while I wondered whether they would ever come or if they would be the right parts when they do.
I met dozens of folks here, mostly Ex-Pats from the USA and Canada, who have a very similar reply when I describe my situation, “…Plenty of worse places you could be stuck…” I can’t argue the point at all since it has just about everything a person waiting for motorcycle parts could ask for….except the parts. Always a fly in the ointment.

I have not met anyone here who didn’t express joy about living in Boquete. With such free floating feelings of contentment comes the inevitable expansion of the town population, real estate values, prices and construction. The only thing I saw for the first few days of being stuck here was the road we took to get to Mickey and Sharons house just outside town. This road is being widened to four lanes from the current two and presented no visible redeeming qualities until I moved my base of operations into the center of town after the parts were ordered. Sharon and Mickey need their privacy after a long visit by the previous guest. It was the best thing all around to get with new people, but at the time I just didn’t know that Boquete was such a travelers Mecca and that I would meet the people I need to complete a rudimentary social network.

Given that I was under the stress of dealing with a broken vehicle and an unknown quantity in Alberto Volio, who works at the San Jose Suzuki dealership, my overall experience is very similar to the showers here. They run cold, then very hot, then cold again repeatedly. I always need to make adjustment in my attitude and thinking process in order to cope with being absolutely powerless in a pretty cool place.

Along those lines, when in Rome, do as the Roman do. I talked to as many folks as possible, now and then feigning joy in their company but mostly very grateful to have people to spend time with. As you might gather from viewing the Picasa pictures, I have been surviving on keeping busy and getting with people as is becomes possible. 

The diversity of personalities and background is pretty amazing for a town of about 20,000 people.
I met a group of cruiser riders who connected me to Gary and Jennifer who are riding their Yamaha Tenere to Boston starting tomorrow. It’s quite a coincidence that the Tenere is the same bike that Terry Hammond had on order when he suddenly died back in November just after the Moonshine Rally.

I was able to take nice check out ride up to the Rio Sereno border crossing yesterday. On that ride I met more riders who live in David and talked about a couple who were riding to Boston soon. It turned out to be Gary and Jen who I am riding with. “The world is small…” he said.
I’ll ride out of Boquete tomorrow and meet Gary and Jennifer at noon. We’ll cross into Costa Rica and spend the night with their friends in San Jose. Jennifer needs to fly to a seminar in Florida and will be back in 24 hours.

I am on the edge of my seat with anticipation as to how this will turn out. Thanks to all the positive energy coming from you folks back home, and the STOC TAG book inscriptions, it is turning out well so far.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

OK, I'm getting calls from some folks wondering what's up. I was holding off until I had some good news to report.
Neil installed the new stator in the WEE and the voltage is 14.5.
This is what I should be seeing  so there it is...some GOOD NEWS!

More good news is I now have riding partners who are heading to Boston two up on a Yamaha Tenere 1200.
Gary and Jennifer are traveling north with a similar itinerary and we agree it looks like we'll have fun hanging together.

pics are updated here:

https://picasaweb.google.com/Digiamo

More soon!