Thursday, June 3, 2010

23,000 miles and 20 lessons learned

[Editor's note: our buddy Ben (Jetboil engineer and part of the New England based network of outdoor companies) recently got back from a 6 month, 23,000 mile motorcycle journey from New Hampshire to the southernmost tip of South America. We gave him one of the first prototypes of Morpho 1P for his journey. I think it is safe to say that he has spent more nights in this tent than anyone else in the world now, combined.]

I spent 6 months riding 23,000 miles through 15 countries. I was often been asked "What's your favorite place." It was such a hard question to answer and people stared wide eyed with anticipation. At the beginning of this journey I envisioned seeing some of the world's most spectacular landscapes. It's true, the land I saw was simply breathtaking. However the moments lived and the lessons learned were the real treasures. Here are just a few:

1. I've done a lot of camping in bear country and I'm confident in my ability to stay safe. On the other hand, I've never camped in gator country. I realized this while setting up my tent near a waterway in South Carolina. Are they attracted to the smell of humans? Will one stare at me while others attack from the flanks (Thanks, Jurassic Park). I didn't sleep much that night...

2. I was intensely terrified and extremely excited when I crossed the US/Mexico border. A new language, driving style, and culture awaited. Friends, family and the US State Department warned me of Mexican hostility, muggings, and drug cartels. I was so nervous that I rode 200 miles, without stopping, from the border to the international rock climbing destination of El Potrero Chico.

3. Not long after devouring some delicious roadside tacos in rural Mexico, I was struck by Montezuma's Revenge. Fortunately, a gas station appeared out of nowhere. Thank you!!! That day I learned that Mexico is like one delicious party, but remember to BYOTP.

4. Think twice before peeing out of your tents zipper when camping in the jungle. Did you check for fire ants? That stinging pain on your private parts isn't from brushing against the tent's zipper...

5. That overly friendly and slightly unattractive woman who randomly started talking with me in the park wasn't looking for conversation when she asked "Where are you from? What hotel are you staying at? Are you married? Do you have any cash on you?"

6. Banditos aren't your main threat while riding at night. Animals, unmarked speed bumps, cars with no lights, entire sections of missing road, dangling electrical wires, and giant boulders are the real dangers.

7. Climbing active volcanos is AMAZING. One girl learned the hard way that standing on a loose rock pile perched above flowing lava with no safety rails was a recipe for disaster. The rocks gave way and she went tumbling down towards the red hot magma. Luckily another traveler (and motorcyclist) was nearby. He reached over instinctively quick and pulled her to safety. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

8. It wasn't the best idea to touch wires together after my bike blew over in the wind and smashed the ignition switch. The downside was a $500 repair, a new CDI, and 6 days without riding. The upside was learning 10 ways how not to fix my bike, making friends with the locals, and being invited to stay at their beach house.

9. With scorching temperatures, the Central American Border crossings are time consuming, inefficient, illogical, and utterly exhausting. I could have spent the 4 hours yelling at all the officials, standing pissed off in a quarter-mile long line, and being generally frustrated. Instead I chose to spend the 4 hours talking with a local who walked from Honduras to Texas, dancing to reggaeton, and thinking about all my friends back home who were stuck in the office.

10. Next time I charter a sailboat from Panama to Colombia I'll be sure to look for a captain who is not addicted to cocaine, working safety equipment, mattresses that are not covered in mold, pressurized gas lines that are not made from water hose and hose clamps, a cook and first mate who will not quit on the second day, and food and water to last longer than day 3 of a 6 day journey.

11. Passing traffic on blind curves was a great way to keep things moving. I always stayed on my toes for that oncoming traffic and several time I had to swerve onto the opposite shoulder to avoid a collision.

12. I saw a bird out of the corner of my eye. It was darting low and fast across the road. It didn't seem matter if I slowed down, sped up, or maintained my speed. There was a collision. A three pound bird packs a punch when riding at 60 mph. This happened twice... (and once with a cat).

13. Colombian salsa clubs were intimidating. Being a wallflower was an option but dancing like a fool until 5am was way more fun.

14. When I was invited to a family party in Ecuador during Carnival I had no idea just how amazing the night would be (and how terrible the hangover would feel the next morning).

15. Soccer games were a way of life. I learned to run quickly through a crowd when I saw tear gas, riot police, and dynamite.

16. There was a bus coming at me head on while riding offroad in Peru through a quarter-mile long one-lane tunnel with no lights. I Hugged the tunnel's sidewall and started praying.

17. Bolivia - 15,000 feet. Altitude sickness sucked.

18. Bolivian road blocks didn't mean that I was stuck. It meant that it was time to get creative with my route. Sidewalks, irrigation canals, downed telephone polls, and squeezing in between parked buses were all fair game (and encouraged by the locals who set up the blockades).

19. A Chilean earthquake at 4 in the morning was unsettling to say the least.

20. I thought I'd ridden in windy conditions before. Then I rode through Patagonia... I found that screaming out loud in my helmet gave me strength to carry on. "Is that all you got! AHHHHH!!!!"


1 comment:

Moon Art Design said...

That's Effin' badass!!
Looks like one sweeeeet trip!