Sunsets from the road…

North slope of Alaska, 200 or so miles above the Arctic Circle

Homer, Alaska

Whistler, BC

Baja, Mexico

Calvario, Mexico

Monterrico, Guatemala

Pacaya Volcano, Guatemala

Caye Caulker, Belize

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Celendin, Peru

Valparaiso, Chile

Valle Nevado, Chile

Valle Nevado, Chile

Paso Roballos, Patagonia, Chile

Paso Roballos, Patagonia, Chile

Caleta Olivia, Argentina

Puerto Madryn, Argentina

Tornquist, Argentina

Santa Tereza do Oeste, Brazil

Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Fortaleza, Brazil

Amazon River, Brazil

Amazon River, Brazil

Amazon River, Brazil

Bucaramanga, Colombia

Knight Key, Florida Keys, FL

Blue Ridge Parkway, Asheville, NC

Blue Ridge Parkway, Asheville, NC

Blue Ridge Parkway, Asheville, NC

Day 315 – Shenandoah National Park, VA to Lambertville, NJ

Day 315 – Shenandoah National Park, VA to Lambertville, NJ      07/02/2011      Mileage: 342

Morning came on the Blue Ridge and I broke camp one last time. It is hard to believe this will be my last day on the road after all this time and miles under my wheels. It will be bittersweet to finish this journey, as I am sad to see it end, but excited to get home to see my sister and friends. So after packing the bike, I pointed her north one final time.

The weather was perfect and rivaled only by the scenery, so I was savoring every bit of it.

The bike was running great as usual, but the drive sprockets and chain were now totally shot and the chain was bouncing all over the place and eating the swingarm slider. I adjusted the chain as best as I could…and simply hoped it would make it the last few hundred miles without flying off! I came down out of the Blue Ridge at the north end near Front Royal, VA and stopped off at a Starbucks to get some WiFi and make some plans to meet up with friends later today. Erik and Bob, friends and fellow moto heads, are going to ride out into Pennsylvania to meet up with me on the road and join me for the home stretch into Lambertville, NJ where I will officially end my journey. Back on the road, I had to stop and check the chain a few times so that was slowing my progress…but I finally made it to the rendezvous point. A short time later, Bob, on his Suzuki DR650 and Erik astride his KTM 640 Adventure, rolled up…it was so good to see them! Like true moto heads, they immediately started grilling me about the bike…how many oil changes, how man flats (None! More on that in another post) carb adjustments, mechanical problems…and then of course, the women…in that order! Ha! So after talking a little shop, we pointed our bikes to Lambertville to meet up with the rest of the gang.

I am a sushi addict and I didn’t have much opportunity to eat sushi along the way. So, I was craving sushi and my favorite sushi bar called Ota’Ya just so happens to be in Lambertville…needles to say it was a forgone conclusion where we were going to eat dinner! But first, some tequila!

…and another…

…and another…

Sushi and Jagermeister? These are the choices you make after tequila shots…

That is a boatload of sushi!

So, I guess that’s it…a little over 10 months and 42,000+ miles later it has come to an end. To say it has been a rewarding journey would of course only scratch the surface. I have learned much about the world around me and the spirit within me. I have slept out under the haunting glow of the Northern Lights, and guiding light of the Southern Cross. I think back to all the experiences I had and people I met along the way and I am, and always will be, forever grateful for having had the opportunity to do this trip. I have come away with many valuable life lessons which I will cherish and carry with me forever.

Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.   -Sydney J. Harris

It’s been over two years now since I returned home…

It’s been over two years now since I returned home, and what started out as a conscious decision to not write the last blog post until I had time to reflect and gain some perspective, quickly turned into the time consuming task of starting my life and career again. I’m back working in New York City which feels a million miles away from my journey, yet in many ways it still feels as close as yesterday. I finally “found” the time to finish the blog by sequestering myself alone for a few days at my buddy Mick’s cabin in Vermont, well away from the hectic pace of my day-to-day life and the leash of my smartphone. So what follows are some long overdue updates to my journey.

Day 314 – Asheville, NC to Shenandoah National Park, VA

Day 314 – Asheville, NC to Shenandoah National Park, VA       07/01/2011       Mileage: 396

Morning came over the Blue Ridge Mountains and I was up, packed and on the road before 9. The air was cool and crisp and carried the fresh scents of the surrounding forest.

The views from the road were as spectacular as it was to ride. The speed limit is low on the Blue Ridge Parkway and for once I was happy to comply so I could enjoy the amazing scenery a bit longer. I stopped and lingered at so many scenic overlooks along the way that I lost count.

If you own a motorcycle or a convertible, you simply must take a long weekend when there is good weather and drive the Blue Ridge Parkway…’s that good….and trust me, I’ve ridden some good roads on this trip.

Dusk caught up to me in Shenandoah National Park, and after stopping off for some malted hops provisions, I found a campsite for the night. This was to be my last night on the road and it will be bittersweet for sure.

The glow from  my MSR WhisperLite International stove to keep me company….along with the faint hum of the generator in the camper across the way!

It’s hard even for me to look back at all the places I’ve been and people I have met along the way….it has been a long and rewarding journey for sure. Tomorrow, it’s back on the road north one last time…

Day 313 – Macon, GA to Asheville, NC

Day 313 – Macon, GA to Asheville, NC       06/30/11       Mileage: 489

I was up and on the road fairly early as I had a long day in the saddle planned. My goal was to ride from Macon up to and over the Cherohala Skyway, then over to ride the famous “Tail of the Dragon” and finally make my way to the Blue Ridge Parkway to find a campsite for the night. Fortunately the weather was cooperating and the roads kept getting better with each passing mile. Rural Georgia has some fantastic country roads and I was enjoying every turn of the KLR’s wheels. My route brought me through the Chattahoochee National Forest before crossing into the mountains of western North Carolina. The roads in this area are a motorcyclist’s dream come true and it’s proving to be fitting and enjoyable end to this journey.

Continuing on into Tennessee I rolled into Tellico Plains to pick up the Cherohala Skyway back into North Carolina towards the beginning of the “Tail of the Dragon”….a road that has 319 turns in only 11 miles!

Enjoying the curves on The Dragon…

After making my run on the Dragon, I stopped into the Deal’s Gap Motorcycle Resort for the requisite souvenir and a, um, beverage.

Back on the bike I headed east towards Ashville and the beginning of the Blue Ridge Parkway and the roads were as good as the Dragon, and in some ways maybe even better.

Arriving at the Blue Ridge Parkway around dusk I immediately headed north and began to look for a place to camp. I ended up finding a great campsite in Mt Mitchell State Park which has some great sites perched high on the mountain over 6,000 ft.

The air was crisp and cool and made for a great sleeping. Tomorrow it’s back on the Blue Ridge Parkway north towards Virginia…and one more state closer to home……


Day 312 – Miami, Florida to Macon, Georgia

Day 312 – Miami, Florida to Macon, Georgia        06/29/11        Mileage: 577

This morning was rough after last night’s drunken debauchery, so I was in no rush to get on the bike. John, Sabine and I met for breakfast and Sabine helped me fill in some of the blanks from last night. Damn the bottle, I’m not drinking ever again….or, well….at least until later. After breakfast I bid farewell to my dear friends as they left for the airport for the final leg of the journey to their new home in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Sabine was taking a regular commercial flight and John was flying with their dogs Lua and Simba on the cargo plane. I will miss them immensely. After lingering a bit to use the wifi and shake off the hangover, I packed the bike and hit the road north.

I dodged thunder storms most of the day….but this one caught me so I took shelter under in abandoned gas station…

I decided to head toward the Blue Ridge so I took the less traveled road through the middle of Florida up into central Georgia and ended up in Macon. The scenery was nice but not super inspiring so I didn’t stop for many pictures.

A little taste of the South…Waffle House!

Tomorrow it’s back on the road north towards the Blue Ridge Mountains and the famous “Tail of the Dragon”.

Day 311 – Miami, Florida

Day 311 – Miami, Florida        06/28/11        Mileage: 18

Today I would say goodbye to my cousins Barbara and Murray who have been wonderful and accommodating hosts. But, I would also be saying hello to my friends John and Sabine whom I met in Brazil almost 2 months ago. They are moving to Brazil and will be literally flying out of Miami tomorrow to Sao Paulo with their two dogs Lua and Simba…so I’m so glad I was able to catch them before they left for good! I met them at their hotel and after a few quick beers we headed out for lunch at The Field Irish pub up in Fort Lauderdale.

Well, The Field is an awesome pub with great atmosphere…and our lunch quickly spiraled down the rabbit hole…especially after the double Patron’s and Guinness started flying. What started out as an innocent lunch was now an all out booze fest. Thankfully Sabine is a saint and was doing a good job corralling the two drunken idiots. The rest of the night was a blur with many gaps in the memory record, but I did apparently order ravioli (ps: I can’t even tell you when the last time I order $%#@ ravioli!?) at an Italian restaurant that I scantly remember being at.

Why are these pictures dark and out of focus? Well, I assure you there was nothing wrong with the camera, and everything wrong with the photographer!

Back at the hotel I tried to hold it together long enough to get a room after which I promptly went to bed….and by that I mean pass out cold.

Day 310 – Knight Key to Miami, Florida

Day 310 – Knight Key to Miami, Florida        06/27/11        Mileage: 116

It was hard to leave paradise but it was time to get back on the road north. I found a new rear sub-frame and sidecase rack for the bike and had them shipped to Miami. They were both damaged in the accident back in Venezuela and although the bike is clearly able to be ridden as is, I wanted to swap out those parts as soon as possible The parts were due to arrive at my cousins house back in Miami so that was my destination. As luck would have it I pulled up just as the UPS truck was making the delivery….sweet! So with the new rack and sub-frame in hand, I set about swapping them out. Unfortunately this was no small feat as I had to take the back end of the bike almost completely apart.

Vespa parking only?

Luckily it all went better than I expected and with a quick trip to the hardware store for some replacement bolts, I had the bike back together in around 6 hours. Tomorrow I’m going to meet up with my friends John and Sabine who are on their way to Miami in route to Sao Paulo, Brazil….I can’t wait to see them!

Day 309 – Knight Key, Florida

Day 309 – Knight Key, Florida         06/26/11         Mileage: 0

The beer at the Sunset Grill was so cold and the camping at Knight Key was so good I decided to stay another day. Well, to be honest…the campsite was just OK…but the beer and food at the Sunset Grill was fantastic…and they had good wifi so I could get caught up on the blog and my beer drinking all at once. Maybe I am a good multitasker after all?

Today is my last day on the road…

Today is my last day on the road….

I’ve been putting in some long days in the saddle and I’m currently in northern Virginia. To sum up the last few days since leaving the Florida Keys, I met my friends John and Sabine in Miami just before they caught their flight to Brazil…we had a great time! I rode through Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia and took the Blue Ridge Parkway which is nothing short of spectacular! Today I’ll be arriving back in NJ to see many the friends I haven’t seen in ten months. Like all good things, this trip too must end…

More posts to follow soon…

Day 308 – Key West to Knight Key, Florida

Day 308 – Key West to Knight Key, Florida        06/25/11        Mileage: 53

I was a little slow out of the chute this morning no thanks to the beer and Jagger last night I’m sure. I lingered in the comfort of my air-conditioned and immaculately clean room that came complete with a flush toilet, hot and cold running water and a TV with English channels….luxury. But soon it was time to pack the bike and hit the road north. I made my way up to Knight Key where I found a nice RV/campground right on the water.

But what sold it was a cool little tiki bar walking distance away. So, after I setup camp I wandered over to the Sunset Grill for dinner and some drinks.

It is a cool place right on the water, the food is great and it’s a good spot to watch the sunset over the water.

This is not going to make my transition back into the “real” world any easier…that’s fro sure…

Day 307 – Miami to Key West, Florida

Day 307 – Miami to Key West, Florida         06/24/11        Mileage: 166

It was only 160 or so miles from Miami down to Key West and the southernmost point in the continental US, so that seemed like something too good to pass up. Or, maybe it was Duval St that beckoned, but either way I packed the bike and hit the road south for one last time. The riding was hot but the scenery was more than making up for it.

I had a great lunch overlooking the water…

Once I arrived in Key West I made my way down to the southernmost point in the US for the requisite photo.

Got the requisite picture at the southernmost point in the continental USA…

….and in front of Capt. Tony’s Saloon!

Even though it was supposedly the off season, there was quite a crowd in town and I had a hell of a time finding a room in Key West, but did eventually track one down for $180…making it the most expensive hotel room on this trip so far…ouch. But, there was no time to dwell on that fact when Duval St. and it’s many famous bars beckon. So after quickly unpacking, I made my way downtown to commence a Duval Crawl.

My first stop was Capt. Tony’s made famous in part by Jimmy Buffett.

Next I stopped into Sloppy Joe’s which had 2 hilarious guys on stage singing songs you knew by heart, but with dirty lyrics…it was hysterical!

Instead of “I Have Friends in Low PLaces” by Garth Brooks…they sang “I Lick Girls in Low PLaces”…and that’s all I can say on the “G” rated blog!

I stayed to the end of their act and then made my way over to the Hogs Breath Saloon for a beer.

Straight to the point. And they did have good pizza…

Next I headed down Duval St. to Fogarty’s and then on the Jimmy Buffett’s Margaretville.

Next up was Willie T’s followed by The Bull and Whistle Bar, but ended up spending most of the rest of the night in Durty Harry’s. 

Inside Durty Harry’s….

For me and my buddy Erik…me an ex-Coastie…and Erik an ex-Naval aviator…

They had a great cover band, ice cold Jagger and PBR’s….nuff said….

Day 302-306 – Bogota, Colombia to Miami, Florida

Day 302-306 – Bogota, Colombia to Miami, Florida         06/19-23/11        Mileage: Local miles

I had an early flight out of Bogotá to Panama City where I caught my flight to Miami. It’s been 8 months since I left the US and it was great to be back…though they speak still speak mostly Spanish here…so that wasn’t much of a change. lol I stayed the next 5 days visiting with family in the area and with my parents who flew down from NJ.

From L to R: My Aunt Helen, Cousin Barbara, my mother, father and me…

My cousins Barbara and Murray were great hosts and staying at their place was like a vacation within a vacation!

The great view from my cousins house….

Barbara also helped me get the bike out of customs which was a big help, and gladly went really smooth.

Unwrap it and ride away…it doesn’t get any easier…..thanks Barabara for your help!

I also took some time to work on the bike and get her ready for the final leg of my journey home to NJ…

Day 300-301 – Bogota, Colombia 06/17-18/11 Mileage: 0

Day 300-301 – Bogota, Colombia        06/17-18/11         Mileage: 0

The last two days I spent getting caught up with blog and walking around downtown Bogotá.

I made it a point to stop by the street stand I got the hotdog from the other day to try out her burger….and it did not disappoint. It probably tripled my cholesterol, but whatever…it was freakin good!

Tomorrow it’s back to the good ‘ol USA after 8 months out of the country…

Day 299 – 300 – Bogota, Colombia

Day 299 – 300 – Bogota, Colombia       06/16 – 17/11       Mileage: 0

I met the Lyncargo representative at the airfreight terminal at 8:30am along with a handler from the airline, but not before making a D&D run!

I must be getting closer to home….

…..though the signs were still in Spanish…

The national police were also there and they went through my bag and side cases, presumably looking for drugs or other contraband. They even made me start the bike while one of the officers had his nose in my tailpipe….whatever floats your boat, fella! I tried to take a picture of him but he gave me the wave off which was too bad….it would have been a funny picture. So with that complete and signatures all around, the bike was cleared for export.

That done I made my way back to the hotel where I hunkered down to update the blog which was now over 2 weeks behind way back in Manaus, Brazil! That night I walked around downtown Bogotá and had the best hotdog…maybe ever.

It goes like this….put onions on the grill, smothered in ketchup, mustard and mayo, then put a big fat hotdog in a bun huge bun, cover it with said grilled onions, then a healthy (or unhealthy as the case me be) layer of crushed potato chips, then 3 more unidentified sauces, followed by diced tomatoes and relish, smother it with a big layer of mozzarella, steam it for a minute to melt the cheese, then top the whole thing off with pineapple sauce. I didn’t make it up folks…that ‘s just how I watched it being made! 

The following day was more of the same…walked around the downtown, more writing and updating the blog,…

The police here ride Suzuki V-Strom650’s…pretty cool!

Day 298 – Bucaramanga to Bogota, Colombia

Day 298 – Bucaramanga to Bogotá, Colombia        06/15/11        Mileage: 257

Today was all business on the mountainous road down to Bogotá and despite the great scenery, I didn’t even stop for a picture…sorry folks. I arrived at the outskirts of Bogotá mid-afternoon and made my way straight to the Lyncargo office near the airport.

Fortunately they were still there and got right on finalizing my export paperwork for the bike. Once done I followed one of the Lyncargo staff over to the airfreight terminal at the airport where I prepped the bike for its flight home to the US.

No girl likes to get weighed…..    😉

The ‘ol girl weighed in at 247 kilo’s, or just under 550 pounds….lock, stock, barrel, boots…everything right down to my Aerostitch gear…

I handed the bike over, but will have to come back tomorrow morning for a final police inspection and to finish the paperwork. That done I hopped in a cab to the El Cafeceito hostal where I got a room and some dinner.

Tomorrow it’s back to the airport to finish processing the KLR for export…

Day 297 – San Cristobal, Venezuela to Bucaramanga, Colombia

Day 297 – San Cristobal, Venezuela to Bucaramanga, Colombia       06/14/11       Mileage: 173

It was supposed to be a short run to the border, only 22 or so miles, but it took over an hour as the road was mountainous, full of slow moving trucks and largely in disrepair. Thankfully I had Silviu’s GPS waypoint for the immigration office that was buried in the border town maze of streets instead of being on somewhere on the road like usual. After getting stamped out I made my way to the border but had to wait for the aduana (customs) officials to return from siesta in order to cancel my import permit for the bike.

I paid this cute kid to watch my bike while I was in the aduana office….he got a kick out of sitting on the bike…

Once that was done, I crossed back into Colombia for the second time on this journey. The immigration office for Colombia was right at the border, and I had my entrance stamp in under 15 minutes, but the Colombian aduana office was 10 miles away in a small city called Cucuta and it would have been impossible to find had I not once again had Silviu’s GPS waypoint for it. (Thanks again bro!)

The aduana process was painfully slow and took over two hours…..and what made it worse was sitting there watching helpless bureaucrats chit-chat, drink coffee, flirt…pretty much anything but actual work…while me and the rest of the people waiting in line were losing our f–ing minds! By the time that was done it was mid afternoon and I still had many miles to ride if I had any hopes of dropping the bike of at the freight terminal tomorrow in Bogotá, so I got on the gas. The road was twisty and great fun to ride, but very slow going which was not helping me make progress.

I had it in my mind that I wanted to at least get as far as Bucaramanga, which I did eventually do…but not without 4 hours of riding in the dark on twisty and foggy mountain roads…a calculated risk for sure. Tomorrow will be my last day on the road in South America which is kind of hard to grasp…a sure sign that this journey is nearing it’s inevitable end.

Day 295 – 296 – Tinaquilo to San Cristobal, Venezuela

Day 295 – 296 – Tinaquilo to San Cristobal, Venezuela       06/12 – 13/11       Mileage: 331

Today was all business getting down to San Cristobal, so I didn’t take many pictures, and by not many I mean none. The good news is the JB-Weld worked like magic on the radiator, not a single drop leaked all day. I found a nice room in a little posada that had decent wifi, so I spent the rest of the night getting caught up with email and doing some writing for the blog.

This little posada was so nice and relaxing in fact, I decided to stay an extra day so that I could continue to finalize my plans for me and the bike to get to Miami. Tomorrow, I’ll cross the border back into Colombia for the 2 day run down to Bogota.

Day 294 – Caracas to Tinaquilo, Venezuela

Day 294 – Caracas to Tinaquilo, Venezuela        06/11/11       Mileage: 135

This morning I would say adios to Ian who was off to Cartagena to rendezvous with John and from where they had arranged to put their bikes on a cargo ship home. I would head southwest through the Andes mountains towards Bogota where my bike had an airplane reservation to Miami. Like John, Ian is a fun and easy guy to travel with and I hope this will not be the last time we share some miles.

Adios mi amigo, buen viaje…

But, I wasn’t back on my own just yet, Silviu and Nelson came by on their bikes to take me around a bit and show me the way to the highway. So, shortly after 9 they showed up and they took me up to a great overlook not too far from Silviu’s house.

Nelson, me and Silviu with the skyline of Caracas…

We took the requisite photo’s after which we went to a local bike shop where and found a cheap taillight lens until I can get a proper replacement back in the US. We swung by Silviu’s house where they helped me fit the new lens with the help of some duct tape and an empty Motul bottle.

Silviu, being the prankster that he is, also picked me up a Mack truck sticker in honor of my wreck. Bastard.  lol

We also sat down with the map and he gave me more great information and waypoints for the various Venezuelan and Colombian border offices…something that will save me tons of time crossing the border. So with that done, we got back on the bikes and after a nice little ride on some twisty mountain roads, showed me the on ramp for the highway west. Muchas gracias mi amigos!

Silviu and Nelson waving goodby, ADV style…   lol

On the highway I ran the bike up to speed and it felt fine…which is hard to believe given the hit that it took. The only thing I had noticed is a small antifreeze leak after the accident, which was now slowly getting worse. I kept an eye on it as I made my way west but soon it became apparent that I could not put it off any longer. It was mid afternoon so I figured I would stop now and find a hotel while I still had daylight to fix the bike.

Once settled into the room, I stripped the left side fairing off and loosened the radiator mount to get a better look. It appeared the leak was coming from between two cooling fins…so not easy to pinpoint exactly. So, it seemed there was only one fix…JB-Weld to the rescue!

It’s steal reinforced two part epoxy that you just knead and apply….presto, job done! I carry two sticks of it…and it is the greatest thing since duct tape. Tomorrow will be the true test to see if it holds, but so far it looks good…

Day 293 – Piritu to Caracas, Venezuela

Day 293 – Piritu to Caracas, Venezuela        06/10/11       Mileage: 169

I felt like I was run over by a truck this morning, perhaps because of all the beer I drank, or maybe it was because I was actually run over by a truck? Either way, I was slow out of the gate but luckily we only had a short run to Caracas ahead of us. Ian gave me a hand bending my handlebar back as best we could, and after giving the bike the once over and tightening the chain, we hit the road.

The Peruvian flag took a bit of a beating….

The bike ran great and aside from the visible damage and the side racks being all bent to shit, you wouldn’t know it got rear ended by a semi truck the day before.

We made it to Caracas and made our way to a hostal that a fellow motorcyclist had recommended. His name is Silviu (ADV name: SS in Vzla) and he has been a great help with information about Venezuela and even helped my track down a flight for my KLR to get back to the US. Silviu swung by the hostal that night with his friend (and fellow motorcyclist) Nelson and they took us to a great pizza joint.

Afterwards we went to a hopping outside bar where we gorged on beer and smoked a few of Silviu’s fine Cuban cigars (one of the perks of living in Venezuela, besides the cheap gas!).

Me and Silviu smoking one of Fidel’s finest…or is it Raul now?

L to R: Ian, Nelson, Silviu and me….

We had a great night and to top it all, Silviu and Nelson wouldn’t let Ian and I pay. I’ve been humbled several times on this trip by people’s boundless generosity towards what nearly amounts to a perfect stranger…Scott, Becki and Glenn in Alaska…Santiago, Pablo and their family in Medellin…Gustavo and Helena in Buenos Aires to name a few…and to that list you can add Silviu and Nelson. Muchas gracias mi amigos! I hope one day I’ll be able to return the generosity….