Shrinking The Planet – One Ride At A Time

Archive for July, 2012

Ride To The End Of The World – Fin del Mundo (Part 1)

New Hampshire’s winter snows make for fine skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling, but not exceptionally good motorcycling.  With autumn over and the real winter rapidly settling in, our motorcycling would be relegated to our anxious dreams awaiting the spring.  It is always a funny feeling knowing that our thoughts would be similar in nature to those of the hibernating wild animals tucked away in their dens awaiting the new growth fresh berries with the coming thaw of spring.  Each year, to both of us spring couldn’t come too soon.

But this year would be different.  We were traveling to a place where at this time of year it would be warm and there would be no snow except very high in the mountains.  It was time for me to bone up on my Spanish because this winter we were going to ride to the Fin del Mundo, or translated into English, to the “end of the earth”.

We were flying from Boston, Massachusetts into Santiago, Chile where the following day we’d hop a short flight to Pucon, Chile to start our riding adventure.   Our route would ultimately take us from Pucon, Chile a ski resort with its own volcano to Ushuaia, Argentina at the very tip of South America.  In fact, it’s the furthest south you can get on any land mass on the planet.  Antarctica is composed entirely of ice, so it does not count.

So as the days of November increased, instead of padding around in small circles worrying that the NH snow would soon blanket the roads and trails ending riding for another season, we were actually quite spry, gathering all our riding gear and stashing it in our luggage for the flight to Chile.  No sitting about for us this year, we were ready to ride!

So when the appointed day came in mid November, we boarded our flight in Boston and after a quick stop in Dallas for a bowl of some rather spicy chile and nachos, we once again boarded another plane, our destination once again Chile, this time the country, not the kind you eat.  The flight was crowded, loud and the lavatory on the aircraft overflowed, but other than that, the flight was uneventful.  Upon landing, we cleared customs and grabbed a cab to our hotel which was quite nice.

It was warm and sunny outside so we decided that since we only had an overnight in Santiago, we’d better make the best of it and we went for a walk to take in the sights and grab a quick lunch.  It immediately became clear that Santiago was an alive and bustling city.  Traffic moved chaotically, people walked on the sidewalks and went about their business, while others sat at the sidewalk cafe’s enjoying lunch, espresso or just good conversation.

But as we walked around, we found that we weren’t apparently all that far from home.  As we rounded a corner, we came to none other than a Dunkin’ Donuts shop.  Complete with a sign in Spanish that read “Energiza tu vida!” or Energize your life!  Jeez, I didn’t know that Dunkin’ Donuts did that.  I wonder what different stuff they put in the donuts in South America?  We continued walking around for a couple of hours, bought dinner and returned to our hotel to get ready for tomorrow’s flight to Pucon where our journey to the end of the earth would start in earnest.

When we awoke the following morning the weather was excellent and after breakfast we headed to the airport for our hour long flight to Pucon.  That flight was indeed uneventful and we arrived rested and ready to go.  We were picked up by a van for the brief ride from the airport to our hotel.  Immediately we began to see signs for the ski resort there as well as Pucon’s own volcano.  Ultimately, we were dropped at another hotel at the edge of town with an excellent view of Pucon’s own volcano, Villarica.  It is indeed a majestic peak, with smoke slowly but consistently puffing from its crest.  Villarica is in fact an active volcano and a fairly active one at that.  With all that molten roiling fury below, you can just imagine the strength and power that an eruption would unleash.  It would be a disaster as the town of Pucon sits almost directly below the towering dragon that is Pucon.

Wiped out would the quaint town in which we now ate gigantic steaks and drank local beverages like Pisco Sours.  Gone would be the vendors that sold their hand made wares and the restaurants that serviced all the visitors.  There’d only be empty streets to show for all that man had accomplished in that area for years to come.  But for now, we were content to watch the sun go down on Villarica and enjoy the increasingly bright and magnificent glow that was now emanating from its face and sides.  So as the sun went down, it was time for some Chilean beef.  We ordered steak and a platter arrived which could feed an army.  One thing that Chilean and Argentine people do not do is skimp on the beef and when our beef arrived for inspection prior to being cooked, it looked as though 3/4th of a cow had been brought to the table for early dinner.  In any event, we ended up scarfing down a gigantic meal for dinner and we were ultimately chauffeured back to the hotel for a bright and early start of the journey on the following morning.

We’ll tell you about the beginning of the real journey in the next part.


Glen Heggstad

It seems almost fitting that we start off with a rider, world traveler, motivational speaker and one of the most amazingly strong hearted individuals I have ever met; Glen Heggstad.  Glen has led a life of significant twists and turns that could have led him down a patch of destruction.  However, Glen was able to convert all of this adversity into positive influences for himself and the people he met as he circumnavigated the world.

Two separate books, Two Wheels Through Terror (a title he dislikes but was demanded by his publisher) in which his motorcycle trip from California to the tip of South America was interrupted when he was kidnapped and held hostage, and his second book One More Day Everywhere, chronicle his motorcycle circumnavigation of the planet.  Both books will hold you spellbound for different reasons.

Two Wheels Through Terror for Glen’s ability to deal with adversity and his will to continue and One More Day Everywhere for the excitement of navigating the entire planet on a motorcycle and visiting people and places that some would not dare.  All in the quest to meet the people of the planet.

Glen has been so touched by the people and places he’s visited, he donates 100% of his book royalties to charitable organizations.  You can puchase Glen’s books from the Ride2ADV Gear Store by clicking HERE or at his website directly.

From Glen’s website @ www.strikingviking.net:

For half a century, it’s been a rocky road of contrasting lifestyles for Glen Heggstad. Growing up in San Francisco and influenced by Jack Keroauc’s novel On The Road led to hitchhiking across the US at the age of sixteen. Toggling between living in the streets and foster homes, a rebellious Glen followed the sentiments of his high school teachers who warned of winding up behind bars—he did: handlebars. And then into life of an outlaw biker.  By age twenty-seven he had retired from the Hells Angels motorcycle club.

In 1979, Heggstad committed to full time martial arts training, eventually earning Black Belt teaching credentials in: Chinese Kung Fu, Shotokan Karate, Japanese Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. During thirty-three years of devoted practice, he’s earned numerous titles in International championships while training troubled youths to believe in themselves via similar paths in martial spiritual development. But because of his Norwegian heritage, a lust for travel runs deep in his Viking blood.

Looping the planet four times over the last three decades, Heggstad has sought unique adventures wandering through fifty-seven developing countries via chicken buses, riverboats, by foot and even by elephants. From twice trekking the Himalayas to the jungles of South America where he was taken prisoner in the Colombian civil war, Heggstad’s crowning achievement became a multi-year solo motorcycle odyssey around the earth as chronicled in his second book One More Day Everywhere. From the wilds of Siberia and the Mongolian Gobi Desert to zigzagging the Middle East through the West Bank, Israel, Pakistan and India, to the length of Africa, Heggstad rode into one challenging experience after another.

Glen has encountered generous hospitality on nearly every level imaginable from Gobi Desert Nomads, to the cannibals of Indonesia and Middle Eastern Bedouin tribes, to later surviving for weeks on cows blood mixed with honey on the Ethiopian savannah. Being equally at home with city folk, simple villagers and primitive tribesmen, enhanced his empathy for those still struggling. This compelled him to donate 100% of his book royalties to international aid organizations committed to building schools in the developing world.

Now channeling energies into motivational speaking about achievement and goal orientation, he uses lessons gleaned from the martial arts competition arena and adventure travel to encourage others to better their lives and enhance their careers.


Books

We’ve found that books nourish the mind and spirit.  They can inspire you, give you courage, thrill and frighten you.  Skillful writers can convey sights, sounds and experiences while transporting you to places that you might never have the opportunity to visit.   While your physical being may not have arrived, your mind has and you are a more fulfilled person for it.  In this section, we’ll offer a few words about books and authors whose writing skills and abilities will bring you to new places or teach you a thing or two about yourself or others.

Enjoy!


Stuff I’ve Learnt from Motorcycles

Just read an interesting little article about lessons learned from motorcycling.  Take a look and see what you think.  This is a pretty extensive list of learning, but I think you will be able to add to it.

Thanks to David at Observations of a Perpetual Motorcyclist

Enjoy!

Stuff I’ve Learnt from Motorcycles.


Spirit & Soul

Here you’ll find all sorts of things that Kim and I have found to enriches our riding experiences either on or off the bike.  We’re not talking about gear to use while your riding, but things you might enjoy while you are riding, or perhaps while you are taking a break from riding.

In any event, we hope that all of the things you’ll find listed in this section will be food for your riding brain, enriches your adventure soul and increases your riding pleasure.

We hope you enjoy.

Mike and Kim


Alaska – Gravel, Grandeur & Goofy Grins (Final Chapter)

Seward’s spectacular ocean beauty and sea life had left us slack jawed with amazement. It seemed that each time we went to a new location in Alaska, there was another gorgeous scene ready to unfold directly in front of us. But this day, there was another reason for our slack jaws and now droopy pouts. Today, we were to head back to Anchorage to end our Alaskan and Canadian Yukon adventure.

We had seen so much and met so many wonderful people, that we were indeed quite sad to be beginning the end of our journey. So with really heavy hearts and quite furrowed brows, we packed the bikes and headed northwest towards Anchorage. I can honestly say that the pace was purposely slow and the bike to bike communications between Kim and I were at an all time low; each of us lost in our thoughts and remembrances of the journey we had just experienced.

As we made our way to Anchorage, we took a meandering route to extend our time a bit more. The roads slowly and quietly hissed under our tires, interrupted only by the crunch of gravel and slight wobble of handlebars as we made our way over several sections of road under construction. Each time I was almost immediately returned to the hundreds of miles of gravel we had just covered. Soaring mountains capped with snow, glaciers creaking, groaning and calving new icebergs into a churning sea, wild animals roaming free and unafraid of man, soaring birds and amazing scenery could have conspired to effortlessly lift me from the bike and forever transform me from an itinerant observer to a permanent part of the landscape. I’d just become another part of what is the amazing natural life force that is Alaska. And if it had, I would have welcomed it.

But Alaska did not reach out and grab either Kim or me and we rolled into Anchorage late in the evening, very tired and each upset that our adventure was over. We’d get up leisurely in the morning, grab breakfast and ride over to the shipping agent. There we would unload our gear from the bikes and pack it in our suitcases for the plane ride home. We’d grab a cab back to the hotel and the following afternoon, catch a flight back to Boston and then drive home to NH. The agent would then crate the bikes up and send them home to NH.

The following morning dawned with decent weather and we walked to the Golden Corral near the hotel for breakfast. Believe it or not, Kim loves Golden Corral. Really! She had a hearty breakfast and I enjoyed seeing her enjoy it so that brightened the morning a bit. Well I thought to myself, that’s going to be the highlight of the day.

We walked back to the hotel and jumped on the bikes for the ride over to the shipping agent. We offloaded the bikes and took a few moments to take stock of our situation. Our two little trusty steeds had indeed done an excellent job and performed admirably. Kim’s Suzuki DR650 and my KTM 640A never missed a beat in over 2,400 miles of pavement and gravel riding. To be precise, they covered 2,430.1 miles with over 900 (almost 1,000) of that being on gravel. They hauled a pretty heavy load including the riders, their riding gear, survival equipment and camping equipment.

Not once did they sputter, stall or break down. They carried us through torrential rains, deep mud, asteroid sized gravel and did not so much as cough. The were filthy, covered in dust, mud, and the Denali and Dempster Highway’s calcium chloride.  If you are not familiar with it, calcium chloride, is sprayed on dirt roads as a dust preventative.  It is slippery as snot when wet and almost impossible to remove once dried. In fact, years later, there’s still traces of it on Kim’s DR’s exhaust.

Nonetheless, these two trusty machines carried on without complaint.  The least we could do was give them a quick wash before boxing them up for the long journey home.  So we did.  The cleansing process helped ameliorate some of my dour mood and washed away some of my angst.  The physical contact with the machine and the slow rubbing, scrubbing and rinsing that was necessary to remove only the top layers of grime was like a balm to my raw feelings of having to leave; and in some way, I got the feeling that the bikes felt better too.

Rinsed and ready for crating, we rode the bikes back to the agents and got a taxi to the hotel.  There we sat in the room wondering what to do with ourselves until the following afternoon.  It was not more than twenty minutes when the phone rang.  It was Tracy, the gent who sought us out in Dawson City and whose acquaintance we had made only as a result of a conversation we had with a couple we met in front of Mt. McKinley.

Tracy lived in Eagle River. a town just outside of Anchorage.  He knew we were headed out of town the following day, but wondered if we would like to go for a ride with him and his wife MaryLee today.  Damn!  We had just dropped the bikes off at the shipping agents and they were probably already well on their way to being crated I told him.  I think Tracy could hear the despair in my voice because he immediately said, “That’s not a problem, my brother Chuck has plenty of bikes and he can lend you both one!”

Well I don’t smile with my teeth showing much, but in this case Kim immediately knew something was up and asked what was making me smile so much.  I told her and almost immediately her expression matched mine.  Two Cheshire Cat grins coming right up!  We immediately jumped into the rental car and drove to Tracy’s house.  We got the nickel tour and headed over to his brother Chuck’s house.  He had a fine collection of bikes.  Chuck said, “Choose one.”  Yikes!  It was difficult to choose, but ultimately, I chose his R100RS PD and Kim chose his R/65GS.  They  were great machines.

Before we knew it we were off and riding as a group.  We rode through beautiful mountain scenery and some awesome horse country in the Matanuska Valley.  Then we headed over to Hatchers Pass where we took a brief ride into the pass but were forced to turn back due to poor road conditions.  We then headed over to a most unusual Alaskan farm.   What’s unusual about an Alaskan farm you may ask?  Well how about if the farm grows musk oxen?  They are indeed unusual creatures.  Raised for their fur which is very warm, they are quite large, sound like tigers when they vocalize and can be quite aggressive when provoked.  They were very interesting animals.

We spent an excellent day just wandering around Alaska and before we knew it, it was time to return the bikes to Chuck.  Little did we know it, but he had one more surprise waiting for us.  When he arrived he showed us his beautiful Ural sidecar rig and literally insisted that we take it for a ride.  Who were we to argue?  So we jumped on with me as the “driver” and Kim as the passenger.  It was a blast for me.  As for Kim, I don’t think she was as amused as I was.  I had never piloted a sidecar rig and with changes in power, the bike changed direction somewhat.  So as we made our way down the road, we also made away across the road.  While I had the huge grin, Kim had the worried, I hope I survive fake smile on.  But she is a trooper and came through with flying colors (and uninjured I might add).

More quickly that we could imagine, the riding day was over and we had to say goodbye to Tracy, MaryLee and Chuck.  They had made our last full day in Alaska a wonderful day instead of a downer.  We still cherish our friendship with Tracy and MaryLee to this day and even went on another trip with them which you’ll hear about in another article.  After many goodbyes, we got into the rental and drove back to the hotel to catch some sleep and get ready for the next day’s flight.

When the following morning dawned, we had reconciled ourselves to the fact that we were leaving Alaska.  We grabbed breakfast and Kim was once again in her glory at the Golden Corral.  Tracy and MaryLee knew that I was a pilot and mentioned that there was a seaplane base and an aircraft museum next to the airport that we could visit if we wanted to kill some time before our flight home.  So off we went and we watched seaplanes taking off and landing for a while.  While I have several “ratings”, I do not have a seaplane rating and watching them only increased my desire to get one.  Watching the bird get up on the sponsons and then break contact with the water was exciting as was watching them glide easily and smoothly onto the water’s surface, some more smoothly than others.

We then walked over to the museum and learned a bit about Alaskan aviation history and how much a role aviation plays in Alaska.  Not only did they have historic displays, they also had static displays of various aircraft from fully restored and flying to in need of restoration and in pieces.  It was all very interesting and a great way to spend the morning and early afternoon.

But before we knew it it was time to head to the international airport for the flight home.  We had spent the morning with small aircraft which do the day to day job of ferrying everyday Alaskans and their goods from point to point.  These aircraft are literally the lifeblood to many remote Alaskan communities.  It was similar to our small bikes on our journey.  They had carried us and our gear from point to point and provided us with the marvelous opportunity to observe some of Alaska and the Canadian Yukon.  We hope that someday we will be able to once again journey to Alaska and the Canadian Yukon and like Alaska’s small aircraft travel all over Alaska on our little motorcycles that can.


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