Monday, August 31, 2009

Riding the Americas, Top to Bottom…

On Sunday, September 13th, I launch on my 4 month long trip to explore Central and South America. Having been all the way to the Artic on my ’07 R1200GS Adventure, when complete, this trip will mean that I will have journeyed from the Northern most point in North America to the Southern most point in South America, riding every bit of the way that is accessible by bike (the Darien gap between Panama and Columbia being the only impassible point inbetween).

Here is a map of the route I followed on my Alaska/ Canada trip late summer ’07. It was about 7,000 miles long and I covered that distance in a little over two weeks, taking several days off in Fairbanks. Miles come easy in Alaska and Canada, I know they will not come so easy on this coming trip.

On the trip through Central and South America I will be traveling with my riding buddy Arno. Arno also did the trip to arctic and back, but that was before we met... thank goodness!

Brrrr... Yesss sir, that's the now world famous Arno Arctic pic, that one is, LOL!

Arno and I are a bit like the odd couple. I would be Felix and he would be Oscar:

You know, I am just a wee bit of the anal BMW owner type (clean bike looks like new after 25,000 miles – no stickers... while he could simply care less – covered in stickers and tattoos!). But hey, to each their own, we’re actually both a lot alike in the way we think about the world, about economics, about money, about riding, and about bikes.

In fact, when we ride together we both have a very similar riding style that most would tend to call a tiny bit “aggressive.” But that’s why I ride, it’s my substitute for flying as I don’t do that any more and am retired. Now I spend my time managing my retirement, writing my economic blog,, and riding (riding and writing!).

I’m very proud of that blog, it has grown into a top 20 economic site in terms of traffic in just one year. It will be hard for me to neglect it for 4 months, but I do have a very competent stand in for the time that I’ll be gone.


I have been riding bikes my entire life since I was about 6 years old – a gold Honda 70 was my first. I owned several dirt bikes as I got older and eventually raced motocross as a teenager on my YZ-125. Many years, and bikes, later I find myself loving my BMW Adventure, simply the best bike I have ever owned.

While I’ve ridden bikes my entire life, it was actually flying that was my life long passion. I grew up with a model airplane in my hands and have spent my entire life flying until my recent retirement. Adventure riding is a great way to fly low and to see the world from a completely different perspective. The wind and the smell, it’s a great way to travel, a ton of fun!


Below is a picture of me picking up my bike new from the dealer:

My ’07 BMW Adventure is a kick. It’s terrific on road, yet still very competent off road. It is mostly stock, the most major modification is the custom made Russell “Daylong” seat (heated of course!).

My bike as it sits currently - Arno sneaking up for a semi-pro shot:

It does have most of the options including heated grips, fog lights, trip computer, tire pressure monitor, ABS, etc., and I added the side and tank bags. The only other luggage I’ll carry will be a waterproof Ortlieb roll top bag that will ride behind me instead of the passenger seat.

Naturally I have a Zumo GPS and plenty of gear for the trip, but otherwise the luggage and bike are mostly stock. I’m going to write some technical articles as the urge strikes – I’ll cover tires and such at a later time.

This bike has about 23,000 miles on it, Arno and I went through the bike completely, adjusted the valves, synched the throttle bodies, changed every fluid on the bike, new plugs, etc. It is running smoother and better than at anytime it ever has. I’ll be running synthetic oil and I’ll write about tire choice in an article that’s coming up soon. The bike is ready to go and do what it is designed to do - travel the world.

At about 100 horsepower, the 1170cc motor is DERATED, just like a jet engine generally is. This means that the engine is capable of producing more power, but the designers trade off power production in exchange for LONGEVITY. This engine is just broken in at 25,000 miles and should not require major maintenance for quite some time (knock on wood, fingers and toes crossed!).

Of course the compromise there is money! It’s an expensive bike, for sure, and to take it out of North America requires title in hand, meaning that it must be paid for. No banker wants their collateral to leave the country, thus I was forced to pay off my low interest loan to make this trip work. It is always a good thing to retire debt and it’s my goal not to have to eat into retirement to pay for the trip.


I have a beautiful wife, Connie, who I’ll miss! She is the main reason for the trip not being planned longer than four months. I also have two grown children, one who graduated college last year and our youngest who is entering college this year. Oh, and I also have the world’s best puppy at home, Apollo, a black standard poodle. It’s possible that Connie may join me for a small portion of the trip around Christmas time if we can make it come together.


I’ll be departing solo with the intention of meeting Arno somewhere near the Mexican border. This trip is NOT about the U.S., so I’m going to put big distance behind right off the bat and plan on making Ogden or Salt Lake City, Utah my first night. The second night I’ll do an equally long distance following secondary roads to the Albuquerque area, and on the third day I’ll make Marfa, TX where I’ll spend the night prior to crossing the border on my 4th day at Presidio, TX.

Once I meet up with Arno we are going to head to Creel, Mexico and will use Creel as a launching point to explore Copper Canyon.

After we explore Copper Canyon we plan on making our way to Mazatlan. Then we are going to simply take our time and work our way south to Panama City. We have to be on the Stahlratte (, a large sailboat, NLT the 22nd of October for their 23rd sailing to Cartagena, Columbia. Our goal is to be at the Columbia Libre International Rider’s Rally that begins on October 31st in Medellin (big party, see you there!

That is really the only time limitation we have. Neither of us are excited about the border crossings in Central America, but we’re going to try to keep a positive outlook about it. When approaching a border I’m going to remind myself, and Arno, that we expect it to take ALL DAY and that we know it’s a hassle, but we’re just going to tolerate it and be happy if it takes anything less than ALL DAY! Hey, set your expectations for governments REAL LOW and that way you won’t be disappointed, and you might even be pleasantly surprised!

This leads me to our general philosophy about this trip. We have no firm itinerary other than the sailing and the party, so everything else is variable depending upon what we want to see and how we feel at the time. Our goal is to make Ushuaia and that’s it. Of course we have people and things we’d like to see along the way and we’ll do what we have the time, money, and patience to do.

We are very interested in experiencing the culture of the people and the nature along the way. Thus we are putting out a call for HELP! If you are reading this and live anywhere near our general track, please TAKE US IN for a night or two and show us around! We’ll buy the cerveza! Our email addresses can be found in the right hand column at our site

After Medillin, Columbia, our route progresses south through Ecuador and along the west cost sightseeing along the way to Ushuaia.

Obviously the trip south is what dictates the time of year for our departure as it will be summer about the time we arrive that far south. We’ll head back up via the east coast and work our way to Rio De Janeiro. From there, we have several options available, the highest probability for me is to work my way across Brazil and back through Bolivia. If I had more time I would head to the Amazon and north, but I just don’t think I’ll have it. So I’ll probably get to Lima, Peru or even back to Columbia and then fly home from there. That’s a rough plan for me, Arno may have other ideas by the time we get that far into it and we’ll just go with the flow in that regard. It could be that he wants to stay out, and maybe I’ll just fly home for awhile and come back later!

That’s the plan, or lack of it anyway! Of course another limiting factor is money!


In regards to money, my biggest goal is not to shoot a giant sized hole in my ability to stay retired! Arno, as he mentioned, was recently laid off from his computer programming position (entire department axed), and thus he spent his severance on his bike and otherwise has limited income to stay on the road. Thus I’ve decided to help us both out while were on the trip and maybe set in motion something that can keep Arno on the road a little longer after I return. That’s why I am starting what we call the “Click” for a “Klick” campaign (“Click” for a “Klick”).

They say the cost to travel by bike is roughly a dollar per mile (we hope to do it for less). My experience with my economic blog has taught me that Google ad revenue can really add up fast. The more people who visit the site and the more who click on the sponsor’s ads, the more money per “click” the site’s owners are paid. They can range from less than a nickel per click all the way to as much as a dollar per “click.”

Thus the idea is to provide a good quality trip report and high quality photography in exchange, not directly for money, but for “clicks” instead! Thus they only cost you a little of your time and you might actually find a sponsor you want to patronage regardless! At any rate, your support by visiting the Twisted Edge site and then visiting our sponsors is greatly appreciated and will help keep us on the road longer.


As we progress we’ll try to bring you stories about our journey… Arno and I have decided that everything is fair game and thus we get to pick on one another and have fun in public. Yes, I have a camera and will use it to bring you the best and most embarrassing Arno pictures ever!

Arno Drool:

Oh no, that drool wiping shot is definitely just a warm-up…

I took that pic of Arno while on a warm up trip through Idaho. While I take some pretty good pictures…

Bike Heaven “On the Edge:"

ARNO considers himself to be more of an “arteeest…” and he has the camera and skills to back up his claim to artistic fame:

Arnos “DAS BOOT:”

Arno around the campsite:

Nate & Arno trip planning at Nate’s:

Arno’s favorite position:

I like to report and have fun with what I write. For example, I recently wrote a couple of fun economic articles for the Twisted Edge that you can find here:

And here:

At any rate, it’s going to be a great trip, one that I’m sure will have its ups and downs and I’ll do my best to bring stories and pics to you…


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sleeping Preparations

I doubt I'll use the hammock in the Andes, but I'll bet it'll be nice in Central America!

And for places I need a tent, I'll use my proven Marmot tent :-)

Friday, August 21, 2009

On the Edge Again

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Preparations for South of the Border So Far

The time for heading out is approaching. Here, I want to list some of the preparations I'm making, for myself, and for the bike, and for documentation.

An international drivers license - $25 at the local AAA office which includes the photos

A Yellow Fever immunization. I also got immunized for Hepatitis A. I would like to have gotten more, but without medical insurance, the cost of all the shots starts to add up

A passport, of course

The original, and copies of my motorcycle title.

Copies of all of these documents also reside in a thumbdrive hanging around my neck.

Oh yeah, and learn Spanish. I'm using Pimsleurs audio CD's. I make much better progress and retention than my attempts at software tools. I am at a level where I can do basic communications - How far to the next gas, We're going to eat now, etc.

Research: Read what others have done and gone through doing the same trip. is rich with ride reports and travel stories. Same goes for horizons unlimited.

My bike, the F800GS:
I know I will drop the bike, probably more than once, so with that in mind I got the Wild@Heart crash bar set from South Africa. I like these because the protect the radiator, but are far forward enough so my knees don't hit them.

For the same reason, I decided on the Caribou Case system. The rack is very solid and the plastic cases are really durable and waterproof. I've used aluminum cases before, but they are a pain to lock and not really all that waterproof. I had an inch of water in my Zega cases in Alaska.

And to protect the expensive headlight I got a headlight protector. It's far enough away from the lens to protect it in case of a large rock hit and also, it's easy to get behind to wash it. The black rubber flap keeps the reflection out of my eyes at night.

Finally, I have mounted two POV.1 video cameras - one facing the front and one facing the rear. These work great in that they can record in "clip" mode. What this means is, you set a clip length, say 5 minutes. The camera will continue to record over a 5 minute loop. If something interesting happens, I just click the Record button on the remote and those last 5 minutes are saved and a new loop will start. In this way, I can record all day long and never worry about running out of room on the SD card.

Right now I'm running a Karoo on the front, but I'll also carry a D606. On the rear I'm running an Avon Distanza that is getting great mileage. I've got 3,000 miles on the one that's on there now and you can hardly tell it from new.

Finding a dirt/mud worthy rear tire for a 17" rim is more of a challenge though. In the end I'll be packing a TKC-80. The mileage you get from these is not steller by any means, but it will be good to have for the few gnarly roads I want to explore. It will spend most of its time strapped to the topcase. Otherwise, a 90/10 (street/dirt) tire on the back and a knobby on the front will get me through all of the blacktop, sandy roads and dirt and gravel roads.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sometimes it takes 3 wheels... get you to the edge, or even over it!

And another

More from Colorado!

On the Egde in Colorado!