Moto Adventures

Monday, April 23, 2007

Miami to Tennesse

Ken and I with motorcycle buddy and Miami tour guide extraodinair Martin.

A common site in the Everglades

Alligator Alley is right beside the highway, yes these alligators are wild!

Seven mile bridge in The Keys as seen in the movie "True Lies".

South Beach, lindisimo!

Miami, cruise ship head quarters.

Friendly people here in Southern Florida.

Sunset over the Keys.

At O'Leno State Park in Alabama swimming was definitely not on our minds.

Waiting on dinner at the Catfish Hotel, home of the all-you-can-eat catfish and hushpuppy dinner. It is a very popular spot in Savanna, Tennessee.

Here we are back in the States starting the return leg of our great America adventure. After a two hour delay sitting on the tarmac in Buenos Aires we survived the red-eye flight landing in Miami at 8:00 am Friday April 20th. Martin our Argentinian friend who we met last year in the Baja, he was on his BMW 650 riding from California to Buenos Aires at the time, met us at the airport in Miami and between the three of us we had the battery reconnected, the windshield and the mirrors put back on the bike, and customs finished in less than three hours. Thank you Martin! Martin took us on the condensed super tour of Southern Florida, we took a ride every day we were in Miami, the everglades and alligator alley, Key West and Key Largo, and a tour of the city that included South Beach where anyone and everyone must be seen.

Miami was a must stop for Suzie, she needed an oil change and a new front sprocket, Ken changed the sprocket from a 15 to 16 tooth to gear it up for the interstates we would be riding on the way home. Do you believe it 31,000 miles and the original chain (hopefully it will make it all the way home) and sprocket, Ken is the Chainmaster.

After our goodbye to Martin we headed northwest toward Tennessee. The weather has been pretty good so we camped in state parks along the way and did a couple of small hikes. We arrived in Counce Tennessee at Jean and Elaines place in time for the weekend which means happy hour down at the Baitshop, where the local boy meet for $1.25 beers everyday after 4:00. Elaine has been cooking up a storm while we have been here, some good home cooking, southern style, that we haven't had for a long while. A stop in Tennessee just would not be complete with out going to the Catfish Hotel, all-you-can-eat fried catfish and hushpuppies along with all the other southern greats.

People here in the south are real nice but many haven't left their home county so they just can't believe what Ken and I have done in the last year or so. We have to move on soon, the longer Ken stays here and tells his stories the more he is starting to talk with that southern drawl. I reckin I won't be understandn' him soon!

Bye fur now...Y'all come back now, ya hear!!!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Good, The Bad, and The Wild

Big rain in Buenos Aires

Suzie is wrapped up and ready to go.

While travelling you can learn many things from people from all over the world

The Good:
Yeh, we´ve got Suzie off to the U.S.A. As a matter of fact she left last night on American Airlines, exactly 24 hours before us on the exact same flight. Shipping out of Buenos Aires was a breeze thanks to Sandra and Javier at Dakar Motos. Javier let us store Suzie at the the shop the whole time we were in B.A., which saved us a whole lot of money on parking fees down town, so we didn´t have to worry about her (a big relief). Sandra helped us out with getting the crate and all the paperwork done without a hitch, which is a major thing down here when you can´t really speak the language. We just showed up at the airport, Ken took off the windshield, mirrors and topcase, the airport guy zapstrapped Suzie to the crate and wrapped her up nice and tight with shrinkwrap. Off we went with big smiles on our faces and a big weight off our shoulders. I have to say we are more than a little sad to see this part of our trip come to an end, we will both miss South America a lot (maybe not the drivers). In the end our bill in B.A. came to $1217 US for Suzie´s flight to Miami there may be charges at the other end but nothing too drastic (we hope).

The Bad:
Sunday we are walking down the street when all of a sudden we are covered with mustard! Two people who were walking behind us pointed to an open window above us and said someone had sprayed us from there. Luckily, they had napkins and helped us clean up the mess on our clothes and we were able to return to our hotel (which was close by) to change our clothes. What nice people here in B.A.! Well, as Ken was changing he noticed his wallet was gone, with Visa card, debit card and drivers licence! As it turned out these nice people were cleaning us out not cleaning us up! Shit!!! We reported the Visa stolen immediately and found out "our nice people" had already tried to use the cards but had been refused, this couple was slick. The rest of the day was spent at the police station where they said this was a classic case, boy did we feel stupid. Oh well, a new card is on the way and it should be here before we leave for the States, Ken has an international drivers licence, and I still have my Visa and debit card. The school of hard knocks teaches us a lesson....

The Wild:
Tuesday April 17th, 6:00 pm. Nasty, nasty storm for about 1 hour maybe 1 1/2. 4 inches of rain. Water was running down the streets like a river. The subway was closed in B.A. for the first time in 23 years. A lighting show better than any we have ever seen. Half of the city looses power. Alas, ever more excitement for the Gassmans in the big city.....

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Brazil and Beyond

Lots of fields ready for harvest, makes me feel a little melancholy.

Ivo and Shirei, what great friends you meet on the road. See you in Canada!

Fabio and Patricia, great ambassadors to Brazil.
Way too generous!
Yeh, swimming in the beautiful, warm Atlantic waters.

Life's a beach!

Getting ready for a hard day at the beach, with rental chairs, umbrellas, portable showers and cold drinks.

Cristo Redenter

Rio de Janiero
Day and Night

Rio de Janiero, dazzling city that still has the old time pastimes of fishing off the rocks but also the modern day problems of people living without homes on the beach.

Magnificent views of green islands amidst blue ocean.

Ken likes it when he gets special treatment and can park in the restaurant.

It is harvest fall harvest time. Squash, garlic ropes, bags of onions and potatoes.

If you ask me I´d say our start into Brazil was a little rocky. With the trouble we had in Buenos Aires trying to get our visas and then having everyone we talked to say we were crazy to go to Rio De Janiero because it was way to dangerous. But after finally getting over the border into Brazil we found the countryside stunning, dramatic, and vast also the people warm and very enthusiastic. The cost of living in Brazil is pretty high, relatively speaking, everything is 1/3 to1/2 more than in Argentina. The gas is double the price and that is one of the reasons we decided to throw our budget out the window for the time we were in the country.
On our first night in Brazil Ken and I found ourselves deliberating over the prices of the hotel rooms when we heard a voice behind us in an accent that was anything but Portuguese (did I mention we don´t know a word of Portuguese) ¨You are here from Canada? Either you are crazy or I am crazy¨. Ivo, a big Bulgarian guy who, as we found out later, had lived in the States and is now married and living in Brazil with a very nice Brazilian lady. Both are trying to get visas to move to Canada. Ivo was so excited to see us he invited us to stay with him, Sirlei, and her parents in a suite they have in their home. How could we refuse? That night Ivo introduced us to a Churrascaria Rodizo and we talked and laughed about his life , ours and Canada all evening long. Chirrascaria Rodizo; a buffet salad bar with many side dishes from which to fill your plate, then the waiters constantly stroll the dinning room with swords containing every variety and cut of beef and pork you could ever imagine. We ended up staying two nights with Ivo and Sirlei and waved goodbye vowing to see each other again in Canada.
The first couple of days of driving in Brazil were through miles of farmland. Big farms that are as big as many we have in Canada, co-ops. The fields were golden brown and ready for harvest. After a night in the quiet farming town of Itapetininga (you really have to love these names) Ken checked the mileage and decided it was time to do an oil change. We found ourselves a moto shop, Ita Moto Honda/Yamaha, and what a shop it turned out to be. Fabio and Patricia Carrea and their staff welcomed us and were more than helpful. As it turns out Fabio was the South American 125 motocross champion 6 years in a row and now had his shop, and with this parents, and a clothing line that he makes in a building next door (they also make a lot of other shirts, jackets etc for a lot of other company's). After spending about four hours and having lunch with them we left with our arms full of shirts, jackets, and t-shirts all embroidered with the Brazil flag and our names. Another day full of people we won´t forget soon. It was big day, the day we met Fabio and Patricia. After leaving them waving goodbye in front of their van we headed off to face the big city of Sao Paulo, 18 million people. We drove through this city for over an hour and a half, splitting traffic and going over and under passes. An hour and a half of skyscrapers and sweaty palms, we were in awe of this city.
Well, now it was off to Rio De Janiero. We had a few reservations about going to this city. You know the stories...robberies....they would rather shoot than ask for your money twice, motorbikes stolen from right under your seat if you stopped at a red light...¨just go right through without stopping¨they said....holdups at the front desk of hotel than the robbers would go room to room robbing whoever was in the hotel...whole buses being robbed as they drove down the street. Oh the stories!!! None the less I had to see the city, how could we be so close and not go? (I think Ken could have gone without, but again he is the one who has to do the driving) We were both blown away (bad choice of words), I mean Rio is by far the most beautiful city we have ever seen and beaches there are astonishing. The city sits at the bottom of Corcovada (Hunchback Mt.) where Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) stands arms outstretched overlooking the city. On the water other side of the city stands Pao de Acucar (Sugarloaf Mt) a virtual chunk of rock standing 396 meters high. We took the two gondola rides to the topto see a view like we have never seen before, green carpeted mountains plunging down into the city and on to beaches lined with aqua blue, our luck would have it that a full moon was rising which made the view all that much more impressive. We stayed on top oh Sugarloaf for a few hours waiting for the sun to set behind Cristo and the lights of the city to start sparkling for miles on end.
Our time was short in Rio, after only a couple of days we decided it was time start our trek south along the coast, our return trip to Buenos Aires or Montevideo or from wherever it was we were hoping to ship the bike home. We could help ourselves, on the way down the coast we had to stop at a few more beaches, Florianopolis and Catarina Island, to soak up a few more rays and enjoy the heat. We booked our flights for April 19th to Miami and from there we will ride home with a few stops along the way to visit our friends ¨The Hillbillys¨in Tennessee and Shari, Kens sister in Denver. That should put us home around the middle of May!!! But first Martin and Miami ¨here we come¨.
Meanwhile the ride down the Brazilian coast just doesn´t let us down, beautiful beyond compare. If it was a little cheaper I could stay here for a very long time.
As we reached the Uruguay border from the north the weather starts to change and the rain starts, we were just saying how luck we had been with the weather. That´s the way it goes I guess, we end up getting good and wet while we are looking for a hotel in Chuy, a small but busy tax free shopping zone border town on the Saturday of Easter weekend. Chui Brazil or Chuy Uruguay, one side of main street is Brazil and the other side is Uruguay. We got settled and set out on foot to see the sights and get a little dinner. It just so happened there was a bike rally in town over the weekend and the Factory Honda Stunt Team was there is put on a show. Thank goodness the rain stopped because they put on quite a show with brake stands(5 men on one bike), wheelies (5 men on one bike, figure 8´s on one wheel), pyramids, riding backwards, no hands-no feet, and lots of squealing tires. Man those guys had control! Wouldn´t you know that it was the one night I forgot to bring my camera with me. The next day, as the rain continues, we set off down into Uruguay. Easter Sunday, lots and lots of traffic. I guess that the Easter Bunny must have got stuck in all the traffic because it didn´t find us here.....