Sunday, December 18, 2011


Its interesting how far away this jouney we have been on seemed as we did whatever it took to gather the money to catch our return flight.  At times one can even forget that you are actually living a completely different life.  Neither of us had bikes or even houses for that matter.  Our friends housed us as we bounced from sofa to sofa, never unpacking our bags that still carried South American dirt.  This day on our friend´s bikes renewed our spirits and gave meaning to the last months of work.   
Fresh inspirations roars to life here in Knoxville, Tennessee as we pull out 2 bikes exactly like ours from a friend´s garage and hit the town like only a couple of old dirt bike can.  Zooming down railroad tracks and under bridges waking up the homeless tent village, a liberating feeling returned.  On our ride from here to South America on our 1974  Honda XL250 and 350´s, we made it to Colombia before our wallets broke and the dust poured out.  At least for once it wasn´t our bikes.  Well, that´s not entirely the case.  Mike hobbled into our bikes´resting place bouncing on both ends from blown forks and rear shocks, terribly eroded front tire, and a broken subframe, again.  I went to Ecuador for a 3 month gig at a horse expedition company and then returned to Medellin, Colombia to house my bike with Mike´s.  I crept in with a another broken subframe and oil pouring out of an engine that gave out a redlining scream when in neutral.  That´s amongst some of  the problems that we left behind as we hopped a plane and returnd to the United States to work for more gas money.  

Many things came to pass in those months; birthdays, Thanksgiving, even some cross country road trips slipped into the schedule.    

CHRIS:  A righteous brother that will come in later in the story.  

Some sexy new parts for some dirty old bikes.  If you could only have seen the calamity trying to get things like this through the airport.  Security let me through with a huge metal kickstarter but took my fingernail clippers.  

Saying goodbye to the family as we part to return to our normal life,  the one that exists on the road.  

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Falling off the Wagon...that is, the Bike

The rain falls outside from the overcast clouds onto the fading colors of the leaves that shone so brightly just a few weeks ago.  Autumn lingers here in the Appalachian mountains of East Tennessee, where Mike and I have retreated to work up a little money to get some more gas in our tanks.  Our iron horses are resting in Medellin, Colombia in the care of some wonderful friends and are gathering their strength for the next chapter, South America.  We will be returning in just a couple weeks to fall into the arms of a Colombia that waits with smiling friends that dot the map.  Getting out of Colombia will be a pinball game until we get to the border and into Ecuador.  I, Tank, have all of 5 days to get through Ecuador and into Peru since I used almost all of my allotted 90 days.  A good friend has a ticket to meet us in Peru on January 16, giving us a plan of sorts for a large canyon, tall mountains, Machu Picchu, and Lake Titicaca.  A month and a half to get from middle Colombia to the middle of Peru through the 15,000ft Andes mountains on old coughing motos... 

This next chapter will bring new challenges.  Huge mountain passes skirting around glacier topped peaks, high elevation headaches, sloooww running bikes, the famously bad Peruvian drivers, the Bolivian roads of death, and the Chile and Argentina that will try to steal our future and keep them as its own.  I can hear it now, "Welcome to heaven, there's a $10 cover".  And I then say, "Awe, I've only got $5 left, and I still need a plane ticket home".

...and so the scramble to return to a life on the long road is coming to and end, for all too soon, we will be stuffed into a long metal flying tube bound for the deep south and our cobwebbed steeds.  

Friday, September 9, 2011

On Tour, Sneaking a Ride

A VIP tour began and the work had long been started.  I run the support vehicle, hauling around in the ol' Land Rover with a trailer.  I ended up all over the place, trailer half falling off and secretly fixing a million things.
There are beautiful old Spanish haciendas hidden throughout Ecuador.  These are anywhere from quaint to lavish.  I'm in and out of the kitchens and stables, hanging with the workers behind the scene, laughing eating sneaky meals and drinking coffee into the night.
With my beloved, half broken headphones crammed in my ear, I made my way between haciendas on a tour of my own.

To make things more interesting, I somehow left all the hand drawn maps at the house when I embarked on this week long support run.  I was alone, winging it on one of the most important tours of the year.  It all worked out great.

Monkey Puzzle Tree, a nice tree from the Chilean region.

In the midst of running around taking care of horses, gear, luggage, and picnics, I got asked to take the clients to see the condors.  It so happened that they hang out in this valley.  I was sent in with no information.

What I was not told is that there is a breeding refuge hidden deep in the valley.  We got the chance to walk right up to the cage where they kept the Andean Condors.

At the base of the hills, you might notice the flat top pyramids.  These are some ancient contructions from compressed ash.  They were used in ceremonies.

A female condor and her red eyes

Male Andean Condor.  There were seveal wild condors flying around and one landed on top of the cage right next to us.  These birds have about a 12ft wingspan.

Each person has their steed.

The wild horses of Cotopaxi.

One day, I was surprised when Sally told me to saddle up an extra horse and told me I was riding.
Jeff, an American cowboy from Montana--and excellent rider and good fella.

By the lifelong riders, I was told that what we were on some tricky terrain.  I felt at ease in my naivity even though at points, it got STEEP.  

I found the whole thing more funny than scarey to be honest, especially when on one particularly tricky part, an updraft suddenly blew my poncho over my head.

Patricio was out chagra guide. He, Cesar, and I had bunked in a small room in the back of the hacienda for 2 nights bumpin the hand held FM radio. 

Steep.  The lifelong riders had bug eyes at many points.  It didn't help that the guide and his horse almost fell.  A couple of the clients had a couple skips of the heart as well.  My horse decided to traverse across a couple of steps instead of listening to my "go straight down" command that I was half-assing since I was really trying to take a picture.  He slipped down about 4ft.  The horses are actually incredibly skilled though; for, while rounding up cattle and the fighting bulls, the chagras canter, or full on run on these slopes trying to lasso the runaways.

Is Cesar short, or are there a lot of saddles in a small wheelbarrow?  It was a trick getting this load to the shed.