I had forgotten just how high my F650GS Dakar (Doc) sits, especially sans luggage. Dhery held the garage door open while the butterflies in my stomach metamorphosed into fear and doubt, I inched doc on my “tip toes” closer to the cobbled stone street. Already warmed up Doc started on command when I pushed the familiar orange button on the handlebars. Stretching my hands in my gloves, pulling down the face-shield of my helmet I buzzed onto the street. Now I was caught in the chaotic frenzy of a South American city during morning rush hour: horns honking, whistles blowing, taxis playing toro toro with me and doc. At once it felt all too comfortable and then at alien buzzing a spaceship around a different planet. Within seconds I was dodging the cars and taxis and making my way to the first gas station. With barely 20 pounds of pressure in each of my tires — I lowered the pressure in January before tackling the “off-road” to Uyuni – and stale nine month old gas, there were a few things to cross off my list before I’d whir the 100 mile tarmac journey back to Sucre. The biggest challenge of the day? I had no side stand. So getting on and off Doc challenged the old leg and the new.
Last night Jeremy landed in Sucre after a nearly three week odyssey from Rio de Janeiro to Sucre via Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and finally Bolivia. Road warn, exhausted and excited we celebrated the reunion we long planned for and eagerly anticipated. The last time I saw Jeremiah was next to my hospital bed a day before my long return to the United States. Nine months later we’re back in Bolivia. For those of you who’ve followed my journey and blog and for those who haven’t, Jeremiah and I rode together for two weeks in Mexico last October. In January we connected again in Cuzco and together made the trek to Bolivia so we could tackle the Salar de Uyuni in tandem. Just hours from the town of Uyuni I met the fate that separated Doc and I for nine long months. Jeremiah continued his journey and sometime in March made it to the bottom of the world. He spent a couple more months in South America before leaving his bike “El Viento” in Rio and returned to the States only to fly back to Rio in late September and make the journey that would culminate in this reunion.
Over several cold beers and and an amazing meal we caught up and discussed just how much time we’d ride together in Bolivia and elsewhere. I convinced Jeremiah to lend me his battery for the day so I could retrieve Doc from the dizzying altitude of Potosi so that I could tackle the long list of things required to make Doc road ready again. So with Jeremiah’s battery under my arm, So at 7-am the next morning Dhery once again took me back to his former home in Potosi where we combined the power of two batteries to beat the cold and altitude of Potosi. With some prodding Doc fired up.
In Bolivia and elsewhere in South America you’d be hard pressed to find “air” at a gas station so after our second stop at a dark, dirty and dreary road side tire repair shed I was on my way. The nine months of non-riding disappeared after the first time I shifted into 4th gear. Like an old friend I hadn’t seen in years, soon it felt as if I’d last ridden days before. I sunk into my riding position, tuned my senses to the road, the surroundings, the purr of Doc’s single cylinder engine and I blazed down the road. Carefully, I negotiated the plethora of South American road hazards: potholes, rocks, yelping and chasing dogs, cars and trucks passing in blind corners. Yep. It was all there. And so was I.
So I acquiesced with the rhythm of the winding road through the arrid highlands of the Bolivian campo feeling good with all of my journey coming back to me. Cruising down a steep incline toward the Potosi and Sucre departmental border a strange vehicle in the opposite direction caught my eye. A bright swath of yellow punctuated a profile that could only be one thing: a motorcycle and a sidecar. As a dropped the gears and we approached each other my instinct was correct. It was Andy and Maya from U.K and Holland but before embarkign on a year long journey of South America had relocated to Scotland. I met them a couple nights before at Joy Rides in Sucre but this was the first time I saw their bike. I thought I was carrying a load, this couple boasted a fishing pole, winch, massive storage cases and an attitude akin to no other I’ve found on my journey. Suffice to say, they don’t let anything get in the way of riding the most remote, tough and challenging terrain. Somewhere betweeen Brazil and Bolivia they blew the shock on the old R100GS. Instead of waiting for DHL to ship a new one, Andy found a shock from an old Toyota Corolla and welded it to his frame. The old BMW now sported two shocks. Relentless firing up smokes we swapped even more stories road side until it was time. They’re headed south to the HU meeting in Argentina, so there’s a chance I might run into them somewhere else on my journey south.
Soon I was in Sucre. And in one piece. Fear? Doubt? Gone. But caution, vigilance and defense joined in company as once again I was thrust into another South American city. Following the lead of my friend Dhery we made our way through the maze of streets and colonial architecture to the shop of Nicky Strombol. A friend of Jorge Morato, the fellow ride who I met online in the Horizons Unlimited bulletin board who was responsible for connecting with Dhery to arrange the storage of my motorcycle for nine months, Nicky could possibly the best motorcycle mechanic I’ve met on this long journey. Working in a non descript workshop that is primarily outside shielded only by a plastic tarp with motorcycles in various stages of repair sitting on stands under the tarp, Nicky greeted me in jeans, t-shirt and a charming smile and oil stained hands. Within a few moments I was convinced and impressed. I’d work with Nicky on the necessary repairs and maintenance required before I’d be truly confident to take on the harsh Bolivian frontier.
We discussed the project at hand:
– replace the side stand that broke in the lettuce truck the transported my bike six hours on a rocky dirt road from the site of my accident in Tica Tica to Potosi
– fit the Jesse side stand extender – an absolute necessity on RTW bikes loaded with gear
– replace fork seals – nine months in dry weather at 13,000 feet took toll on the original seals
– repack the Adventure Pipe exhaust system – In December I had arrange with Roger Pioszak of Adventure Motorcycle Equipment to have a friend bring a repack kit to Chile. It obviously never made it.
– replace the front tire
– change the oil
– inspect brake pads, cables, hoses etc.
– repair and/or replace broken signal lights
Unlike any BMW dealer I’ve ever visited for service, Nicky dropped what he was doing and took inventory and started working on my bike. Even before I could finish with the list. Though he spoke very little English, I was amazed at his knowledge — especially of my bike. We’d have most things repaired by the next morning. And after doing what little I could offer in the way of help, I took off in search of the long lost battery and other miscellaneous maintenance items.
I still had yet to fit the new Jesse hardware to my bags, adhere one of the front fork reflector lights and the handlebar on/off switch for my PIAA lights. Seems the dry climate, chilly air and rough lettuce truck ride caused problems here, too. Plus, I had to take the battery back to Jeremiah so he could tend to his bike. For me it was a bit pathetic, but yet a comedy show at the same time. Here were two bros hanging in Bolivia with the same bikes but only one battery. Thanks to Jeremiah and his battery I got a taste of riding Doc again. And much kudos to my brother Jon back in the States who’s at work getting my own shipped here pronto.
So I wait patiently — in Sucre, Bolivia.