The “PLAN”

SOUTH AMERICA HEADERAt the point of this writing, early December ’09, it’s suddenly hit that we’re less than two months out. “The Plan” still has holes, but is coming together, and if you consider “Get Ready, Get Set, GO!” to be a plan, then the plan is a good one…

Get Ready:

This topic will grow over time, because there is as much to do to get ready as there is time before launch. Could you just fire up your scooter and go, and work out the details along the path? Sure – and it’s been done. But there is an argument that says the more time you invest, the better prepared you can be and that’s what’ll fill the weeks and months before the launch.

It’s probably no coincidence that the first page to go up on this blog deals with motorcycles, and that page is undoubtedly fiercely boring to all but a few. But bike stuff, and a whole lot of reading and web research have been the primary activities to this point. As more stuff gets done, this section will grow and describe the other myriad details that lead to lift-off.

Even now, it hasn’t all been motorbikes. Obtaining International Drivers licenses was a “get ready” activity, and was as easy as a visit to AAA in Chicago, where a very nice lady dispensed the required docs for a small fee. She added her personal warm wishes for happy travels for free, dispelling the myth that all big city people suck. She was an absolute delight.

We also got immunizations in Chicago, and malaria pills, and had a few good laughs with the nurse lady. I think she was a bit amazed that we’d already had rabies shots and hep shots and such. But we’re refreshed on the tetanus and typhus and yellow fever, so all bacteria should now fear us!

Biggest remaining chore is to move Heather’s stuff and her car to New Mexico. Arrangements have been concluded to ship “Nancy” (her bike) from Chicago to New Mexico, and delivery is promised for December 4th. Once the bike makes its way south, it has maybe a week or two of wrenching in store.

Research – For such a task as this, the internet is wonderful (THANKS, Al Gore! ;-)) There are two notable sites for folks who want to make long journeys, or have made long journeys, or only wish to dream about long journeys on motorcycles. They are: — This site is enormous, and worth visiting if only for the opening photos sent in by posters. While primarily focused on the motorcycles themselves, this site covers virtually ANY activity you can perform on two wheels with a motor. You will find tons of good info there. Word of Warning: people have opened “Jo momma” (weird, inane, funny, moronic, brilliant)– it’s all there) and never been heard from again. Check it out – but have a friend nearby to pull you off the computer if you start drifting in… — This is THE definitive site for international motorcycle travelers. Based out of Canada, and heavily populated by Brits and folks from the commonwealth, this site is NOT confused about its focus – it is all about traveling the world on two wheels. The how-to stuff covers it all, no matter how esoteric (as in “how the heck do you get across the Darien Gap from Panama to Colombia?”). There are folks posting here who have done it, who are planning it, and most notably – who are doing it right now, and have the very freshest counsel, offered up free. And they are literally ALL over the world.

Recent additions from the folks at Horizons Unlimited are DVDs covering topics of interest. These are especially valuable when you’re having those “this is too big for mere mortals, what the heck were we thinking??” moments, because they include plenty of interviews with regular folks, sans super-powers, who just chucked it all and hit the road. One especially powerful interview in “Ladies on the Loose” stuck with me. This gal, at the age of 60 and having been recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s, made the jump and is circling the globe on her bike, and having a ball. So if she’s got the hair to do this, with her challenges, why would able-bodied younger folk shrink at the chance??

Guide Books: so far, “Lonely Planet”. These folks do a great job. They’re the “bucks down” traveler’s bible, and with internet supplement for the occasional “how about a little nicer hotel tonight?” splurge, they’ll do. I have a feeling this section will grow, though — there are LOTS of people traveling these days, and lots of guidebooks and maps and web sites and on and on…

Insight Guides are far less detailed but much more encouraging, and probably the current favorite.

A word about Bing on-line maps: Located at — these folks do the familiar mapquest or google maps thing all the way to Tierra del Fuego. No, they’re not the only one, but a good one.

The Route (“Get Set!”):

map_saIt’s not really a “route” yet, and likely won’t be for a while, and will only be fully known on completion. A better description would be that it’s currently a sequential list of countries with a couple of stops pre-planned, spanning three months. Dang – so much to see…only three months…dang!

The origin point will be Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the departure date is on/about the 26th of January. The current country list is as follows:

Mexico (quick run to get into the balmy south)

Guatamala (must see Atitlan and Antigua, maybe Chichicastenango)

El Salvador (stopping to see an old friend)

Honduras (just a sliver, maybe 120 miles or so, but adds two border crossings)

Nicaragua (sunny beaches in February — LOVEly!)

Costa Rica (see stopover info below)

Panama (Bill Eaton provided great “must see” info we’ll be using)

Colombia (first on-the-road bike service)

Ecuador (see stopover info below)

Peru (Machu Pichu?)

Bolivia? (still under debate)

Chile (Valparaiso, the lakes, and so much more)

Argentina (Malbec and Maipu and on and on…and BA!)

Stopover info:

el Salvador: Recently reconnected with an old friend (Rafael) who lives in el Salvador. He has generously offered to meet us in Guatemala and travel with us to San Salvador, whe’re we’ll meet his family. Haven’t seen Rafael for twenty years — so REALLY looking forward to this. Rafael says, that as it is said in the tango (“Volver”), “Veinte anos no es nada”…

Costa Rica: There is a REAL plan to meet James (son), Becky (daughter in law) and Molly (grand-daughter) at a resort in northwestern Costa Rica in mid-February. Details of this will follow when nailed down, but this is a delightful development.

Ecuador: Good friends Ken and Ligia Keller (some readers know them) built a retirement home just outside Quito, and stopping there for a visit has been on the A-list of destinations from the start. Can’t wait. For those who don’t know, we were posted in Bolivia together, and they are truly remarkable people.

Bolivia: Bolivia is caught in the following quandary – Do you return to a fascinating place that you used to live, for the reminiscence and the chance to see the things you missed while you were there (like the salt flats of Uyuni)? Or, if on a limited time-budget, do you spend that week or so visiting some previously unseen piece of the lake district in Chile?? This decision is currently showing no signs of resolution, and may be made somewhere on the side of the road in Peru…

tangoArgentina: The expected end of the road is Buenos Aires, with intent to ship the bikes back (probably by air) and fly home. Some most-excellent friends have shown interest in meeting in BA for a kind of “Fiesta del Fin”, and I think that’s a great idea. They’ll all be the fresh, frisky folk, and we’ll be the road warriors wearing the dust of 20k or so miles. But should be a legendary celebration, and I’m all for it. Rumors that this will actually be a capture party armed with nets to bring us back are likely unfounded…

So…that’s all that can be revealed for now! This plan may gain better resolution over time, and there’ll be much more on preps, but if next week was departure time, a quick scramble would result in a successful departure.

This seems like the right spot for a semi-sappy inspirational Teddy Roosevelt quote about coming off the bench and getting in/on the game/ring/arena/stage — so if you have a favorite that speaks to YOU, please insert here < >.

“t” minus four two weeks and counting — mr


12 responses to “The “PLAN”

  1. Gaston Etchart

    Good to hear about your plans. To let you know, that I am moving from Miami to Lima in November and shipping a container with home stuff and bike. Your are mre than welcome to visit us in Lima wher I can arrange whatever you need. It is possible that I can ride with you some portions of the trip after March 2010 , time when my container will be shipped. Also, I am offering on ADV to any rider with SA plans to share my container for a few $$. As an alternative or plans change.

    I’ll be in Lima from November 1st to Dec 10. then until March 2010.

    Best regards

    Gaston Etchart , Miami

  2. Gaston Etchart

    I would highly recomending to cross Bolivia, via Cusco, Puno and sdwon south. Why?, because it is one of the most beutifull counrtries on its own, volcanos, roads, salts lakes etc.. beside, the gas is cheaper than Chile, we are talking $2 (Bol) against $5.50 a gallon (Chile). Then you can navigate along the Uyuni salt lake, and cross to San Pedro Atacama in Chile or follow further south through Argentina and then cross to Copiapo (Chile). The Atacama desert along Chile is boring and long (1500 Km) then becoming greener and nice after Serena about 500 km north of Santiago.
    If you consider Chile anyway, I would recommend to take the route along the shore after Iquique and Antofagasta, it is slower but then you will discover nice places along the pacific shore.
    I have maps and route books than I will PDF you if you want.

    See you in Lima-Peru in 2010. Keep me informed.

  3. Excellent counsel, Gaston — as I mentioned in PM sent to you direct, the problem with South America is NOT finding good things to see, it is deciding which to give up! Since we lived in Bolivia for three years, we might decide to pass it by on this trip…or not! Never got to see the salt flats, and sure would like to cruise the Chapare on a moto, and would be fun to see if there’s anyone around La Paz that still remembers us. My best guess right now is that we’ll probably make several optional routes, and just see what we feel like doing when we get down into the region.

    But thanks for the excellent advice, Gaston — hope to see you in Lima!

  4. Todd Triplett

    Wow, this is quite the plan. I can’t wait to see how it turns out. Don’t forget to call if there’s any assistance I can give while you’re on the road.

    Todd Triplett
    Master Tech
    Santa Fe BMW
    (505) 474-0066

  5. Sounds like the trip 0f a lifetime. If you get stuck in Argentina, I have friends and family that maybe able to help.

    Good Luck

    nice meeting you guys

    • heathermikael

      Nice meeting you too, Santiago! I think we may try to get lost in Argentina for a while, so we might take you up on your offer! Lemme know how you like the book.

  6. Alfonso


    I live in Toronto, but Im originally from Cordoba Argentina. I ride a V-Strom 650. If you go by Cordoba let me know so I can and try to find you accomodations. Best of luck. Safe riding.

  7. Camilo

    Introducing myself via Josephine (Los Alamos beer fest).
    Your trip sounds so exciting! I ll keep checking in for more news…


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