It was decided. Pavement was the way to go. From Perito Moreno we could cut east to the coast, then down Route 3 (the Panamerican). There’s a hundred kilometers or so of dirt towards the end that there’s no getting around but Dachary was willing to do that.
Before going out though we head to the hotel restaurant for “breadfast” They call it breakfast but no. Argentina doesn’t have breakfast as far as we can tell. The waiter brought us a basket of breads some jelly, some butter (this has been surprisingly rare) some coffee and tea. I thought when he went away that maybe he’d return with eggs, but no. Not even in the Hotel Americano.
While we eat they’re playing footage from last nights earthquake and tsunami in Japan on the TV. Dachary intentionally avoids watching it. I can’t not. It really affects me. As I commented on ADVRider when we got back to the room:
There’s something… *more* about seeing something like this when you too are far from home. When you’re home it’s happening “over there” but you’re safe “here”. Except, we’re not home at our safe “here” were “over there” too. Maybe not the same over there… maybe it’s “out here” but we’re out in the world, far from home where everything always feels so much safer than it really is. Anything can happen “out here”. We don’t have a clue what today holds for us… accidents, smiles, frustration, laughter, hardship?
I was almost crying reading the details of what happened… Everything’s so much more “out here”.
Bundled up like sausages, Dachary even put her thermal liners in her legs, but neither of us deemed to put on our winter gloves. Not far down the road we saw rain ahead, pulled over, put the rain covers on our tank bags and reached for the winter gloves. So glad we did.
The next couple hours were wet, cold, more wet, and more cold. It was about 40 deg F when we started but the wet gear just sucked the heat from us. When we finally got to the next town we tracked down the gas station pull up to the pumps, and wait… and wait… wtf are those guys doing? Finally a guy comes out. No gas. Only diesel. Why they didn’t block of the lanes to the gas only pumps is beyond me. “Where is a gas station with gas?” they gave us directions to another one which we found, with a long line… Lines mean gas. We like gas. We get into line and sit there for about forty minutes getting soaked.
Afterwards we go back to the first gasless station because it’s got a nice eating/seating area and hopefully food. We get in and disrobe as much as possible. Dachary goes and changes her shirt because she’d neglected to tuck in her t-shirt and the soaking wet bottom of it is slowly sending water upwards.
We find some empanadas, microwave them, thank the gods for hot food, and decide that this whole Hydrotex / GoreTex thing is fucking bullshit. We’ve been good about keeping them clean, which seems to be the key. And they do keep us dry for a little while, but eventually they always reach their saturation point, and we end up damp. Our legs, which in riding position are pressed against the GoreTex and it against the shell, are soaked.
Fuck this noize. Fuck it in the ear.
It sucks to put them in and we just keep getting wet. Get yourselves some Frog Togs.
We also decide that while we totally respect Joe, and know that he’s done the pass before Ushuaia in the snow without electric gear, his claims that others can do so must take into account the fact that he is a motorcycle riding alien who never eats, drinks, or pees and obviously has a different metabolism. His kind is just more impervious to the cold than us humans.
If it weren’t for our electrics (and the huge help from Revzilla in getting Dachary a replacement) we would be shivering uncontrollably. As it is, we’re just cold. Dachary’s thermal skivvies are wet (under the Hydratex). My wet pants are sucking what warmth I can maintain out of me and we are NOT looking forward to going back out there.
Earlier in the morning I had pondered what the cars passing us must think, “… and they do this for fun?!” That bit kept going through my head. Just as we were about to head out Dachary started in with another bout of shivering and we found her some hot cocoa which helped.
We had a few minutes of simply overcast before catching up with the rain again. And then… oh bliss. Oh Joy. Dry skies! Without the rain we started to dry out, and while the temperature hadn’t increased, our moods had.
After a while we came to a curious desvio (detour). The curious thing about it was that the road continued forwards with brand new pavement, but they’d made a dirt mound in front of it and the desvio sign told you to go left OR right…. left was next to town, but right looked wider and flatter, although just as wet. So, we go right. About 100 meters in my back end starts fishtailing, I let off the gas to let it chill but no. I’m in the slickest mud I’ve ever encountered and there’s nothing for it. It’s going down.
I hit the kill switch, get up, and look around. My left pannier is about four feet behind the bike. Shit. Oh well. Dachary has stopped way behind me, having barely gotten onto the road and not into the real mud yet.
This isn’t normal mud. This is wet clay. It is caking itself around the bottom of my boots. Each one is at least two pounds heavier by the time I’ve finished moving the pannier that ripped off to the side of the road. Dachary comes over and we try to lift the bike but we’ve got no traction with our feet and the bike is just too heavy without any. I remove the second pannier, but leave the yellow bag over the back of the seat.
Second try it starts to budge but… no wait. Have to adjust my position. Ok. Try again. It starts lifting… half way… heading back down… keep going …. three quarterrrrssss… my feet are slipping out from under me. It’s that last bit, going up past the tipping point. I’m lifting as hard as I can and my feet just keep sliding out from under me. It starts to go back down. I think about letting it and trying again, but it’s not going to get any better… “keep going” I say… and we’re both pulling as hard as we can. I’m seriously worried that one, or both, of us is going to fuck up their back muscles doing this, and then…. past the tipping point… up to the…. shit I need to put the kick stand out, but holding it up is really hard even though it’s almost vertical.
I get it out, and we lean it down where our wonderful “big fat foot” takes the weight and doesn’t go plunging down into the mud like the factory designed foot would. Seriously, WTF is it with all these “dirt” bikes with skinny little feet on the kick stand? Is there any manufacturer out there who makes a dirt bike with a fat enough foot do handle real sand or mud?
I decide that fucking with the panniers here in the mud isn’t a brilliant idea so I walk them back to the part of the road where it was just wet gravel. Dachary stays with the bike while I get on and turn it around, very, very slowly. This stuff is horrible. The big problem is that even when you’re stopped totally still, there is a very good chance you’ll drop it because as soon as it starts leaning one way you’ll put pressure on your foot and it’ll start sliding out from under you.
Also, my rear tire sucks for this. Back at Lima BMW I asked them for a dual sport tire. They said “how about a Metzler Tourance?” Now, while it’s not my first choice, it IS the first choice of a lot of riders, and it’s good enough that there’s real debate about it. So I said sure.
The next day they have got the Tourance in and hand it to me… “huh” I think, “I don’t remember the Tourance having that tread, but it says ‘Metzler Tourance’ on it so I guess I must have been misremembering.” It’s not a tire I’ve done a lot of research on. But, a couple days ago we stayed in a hotel and when we went back to our bikes and there was a Dakar sitting next to us with a Tourance on the back tire. But that Tourance doesn’t look anything like my Tourance. THAT tourance looks like I remember the Tourance looking. I look at mine again. Metzler Tourance EXP. I’ve just looked it up and this thing IS marketed as a “dual sport” tire but it so isn’t. It’s got big fat patches of rubber with skinny little ditches in between. It’s like a “oh someday I may go on dirt” kind of tire. Fucking BMW Lima. They were nice enough, but they are NOT riders there. Better than BMW Santiago though…
Anyways… I get sidetracked this much in real life too….
I get the bike turned around without falling, and backtrack over a part Dachary has discovered is a bit firmer than the rest. Plus it all gets better as we head towards her.
Back on firm ground I find a large block of concrete to scrape off a couple pounds of mud from each boot, and a smaller piece of concrete which I then use to beat the part of the pucks that hang onto the panniers. The pucks are ok, they don’t need bending. It’s the aluminum sides of the pannier itself that have been bent so that the L shaped thing now comes out at an angle.
*Wham* *Wham* *Wham* *Wham* *Wham* *Wham* *Wham* *Wham*
*Wham* *Wham* *Wham*
*Wham* *Wham* *Wham* *Wham* *Wham*
I’ve beaten the top two into submission. The bottom two are still angled out more than they should be, but they’re still firm and even if they rattle the weight of the pannier will keep them in place. I start screwing it back on. The bottom two don’t move around really (yay) but only one of the top two actually pulls close enough to engage the frame. The other one is all “I’m tight! I’m good! I can do it!” but isn’t actually touching anything but the pannier itself.
Dachary thinks it needs more banging. I think back to the many days we’ve gone to take the pannier off and found that one of the top two had come unscrewed while riding. I KNOW I’ve screwed the one that made contact quite tightly and decide “fuck it. One has been enough on many other days.” Mostly I don’t want to deal with taking the fucker back off, with everything covered with mud and whacking it with concrete, putting it back on, and repeating as many times as are necessary to get it mostly flat. “I’ll deal with it later.”
Dachary is skeptical but says “It’s your pannier…” I think she’s convinced it’s going to rattle off the bike at 100kph and strew the contents across the road. She may be right about the rattling off, but I think it’d keep the contents in…
We come to the conclusion that it’s fucking stupid to deal with this mud OR the other mud when theres nothing between us and that beautiful new pavement except a little dirt burm, especially when part of it has obviously been ridden over by others. So we go for it. We ride up onto the beautiful new pavement that the desvio is avoiding. It’s glorious.
We watch trucks go past us in the mud we’re now avoiding. Haha WE ARE MOTO!
The road goes around most of the town. Eventually there’s a desvio on it… on the road you’re not supposed to be on in the first place. We go around it. They didn’t make the dirt pile big enough. Just past this, in a part we’re pretty sure cars aren’t allowed on, is an old gray bearded hitchhiker who jokingly pulls up his pant leg to show me some leg whilst giving me the hitchhiking thumb. I pull up and smile. I totally thought he was a tanned American hitchhiker and started speaking English, but no, he’s a local. “Where you going?… Ahh… where you from? ahh..” Same questions back at him. Then because we’re unsure about which way we’re supposed to go here we asked him which way and yup, keep going…
Then we come to a place where there’s a significant pile of dirt with road signs and other debris shoved in it. There’s a spot in the dirt that we might be able to get over but it’s a bit high in the middle and there’s mud on the far side. To the left is a road that goes down a ten foot wet clay / mud slope to about 100 feet of more wet clay shite then up to the road we’re on on the other side of the pile of dirt. To the right it goes nice and gradual down over what looks like wet semi-packed gravel, around a ditch thing, then back up the other side… That looked like the way for me, and I said as much and proceeded to walk that way to show just how nice this gravelly stuff was and watched my feet squish down through the gravel into more mud… at least it wasn’t clay mud.
We pondered. By this point we could have definitely just gone through the mud and up the other side, but, with it as slippery as it was there’s a pretty good chance that either, or both, of us would have dropped each bike twenty times.
Over.. yeah, over looks good. I go first and have Dachary stand close to see what I do, or fail to do, in my attempt. Up and …. stuck. The mound was high enough that the bike is now just sitting on the engine on a pile of dirt. I start rocking it back and forth sideways to flatten things out a bit, but the wheel’s just spinning. Dachary offers to push, and I’m afraid a rock is going to go shooting out from under the tire and hit her leg at 30mph, but what choice do we have? She pushes and uppppp over I go, front tire into the slippy clay shit on the other side.
I feel like I’m in one of those cartoons where the character is all “whoa… whooah” tipping back and forth carrying something absurdly heavy across a beam that’s curiously suspended over a ravine. I have to turn about 60 degrees with the front tire as soon as it hits the clay and then up a little incline to the road again.
This all sounds much more dramatic than it is. Really it was a small mound and a tiny bit of mud.
I hop off, come back, kick at the dirt that I got stuck on to make it lower and wider. Hop up and down on it. Kick it some more, and gave Dachary’s bike a go. Hmm. I haven’t sat on this bike in a while. She’s mentioned that she thought it was lower. I thought it was just one of those “is this lower or is it me” kinda things, but no her bike is definitely lower. I can totally flat foot it now and we weren’t able to when we stared this trip.
Last time I looked at her rear shock (when the gasket was going) it didn’t look like it was particularly compressed so I don’t know what’s going on with that.
But, this time going over the mound was much easier. I guess my kicking did some good. Wasn’t sure if I was wasting my time or not.
At the gas stop earlier we were all “we may want to stop early.” because… well… we were cold, wet, and miserable, but now, with the glorious weather we were all “stopping early?!” Nah, we can totally make the next town before dark. I’m fine! We pull into the “stopping early town” and there’s a minor problem: no gas.
We had to decide. Go on, and possibly get stranded at the very end of the day, or stay here at the hospidaje across the street, hope they got gas in the morning and if not take the same chance but at least do so in the day. We decided to go on now.
It worked out for us. We were running on fumes when we got into the station (still had our spare 1.5 gallon tanks though) and the station had gas, and there was a hotel… but I think it was the wrong decision. Better to stick with a known place to sleep then potentially having to be forced to camp in near freezing weather with pouring rain, because… on our way to the next town, that’s what we got. Ok it was probably 40 degrees out, but it felt like near freezing the way we were soaked.
But, there was gas. And a hotel. We went for the gas first, because we weren’t going to risk there not being any in the morning, and as we’re in line an adventure bicyclist pulls in. We love the adventure bicyclists because they’re the most bad-ass of all, but we were all “That fucker better not be going to the hotel and get the last room.” We fill up, and pull into the hotel ASAP. I go in, can’t figure out where the reception is, and can’t understand a thing anyone is trying to tell me because of the helmet, earplugs, and balaclava (Cyclone Buff). I take it all off, and try again. Ohhh… wait here for someone. Ok.
I do. My teeth start chattering uncontrollably, then stop, then start up again. Dachary’s pacing outside, probably just as cold as me. Eventually a woman is summoned, who tells me the outrageous price (270 pesos about $48 US), informs me that there are only rooms with twin beds, but they do have internet and “breadfast” is included. Before coming in I’d said to Dachary “we’re taking it whatever it is right?” “Oh yes”
So, I took it.
We came in, unpacked, each hopped in the very warm shower and just sat in the beds twiddling things, poking the net, and mostly just warming up before heading to the restaurant for dinner.
We asked for the menu and were told they had carne (beef) with rice. …. Ok We’ll take that. Now, it should be noted here that it’s not at all uncommon for us to come to places with one fucking item available and no actual menu to speak of. We thought it a bit odd here but… whatever.
The carne was essentially a big roast beef meatball in a pile of saffron rice, both of which tasted odd. Some other folks came in and were served soup. Hey… how come we didn’t get offered soup?! We’d totally have taken soup. The bread, in the bread basket (ubiquitous down here) was at least a day old and had been sitting out on a table somewhere since its birth.
Dachary didn’t finish her weird rice and went to the gas station store to find something to supplement dinner. The cold had obviously affected her brain because she chose more gas station sandwiches. I tried to suggest anything other than them, even a variety bag of cookies, because I was convinced we’d be spending far too many of our future days eating ham and cheese gas station sandwiches. She didn’t listen.
The sandwiches were worse than the weird rice.
We spent a good amount of time experimenting with two bodies and discovered that that these really were the smallest “twin” beds we’d ever seen.