I suspect that everyone’s first real international adventure ride where you venture far from your home turf overturns a lot of the initial expectations we set out with.
The biggest one, for us, has been the camping thing. This is probably no surprise to anyone reading this but… We obviously expected to camp a lot more. Neither of us really wanted to be in a hotel every night, and we’re still hoping, but I fear it may not be until Bolivia, or Peru that that actually happens (assuming we have enough funds left to get there).
My thoughts on it so far are as follows:
Hideycamping in Mexico and Central America is more difficult, and more work, than expected. There are far fewer random dirt roads available than I anticipated, and many of them are behind locked gates. I suspect that at least half of the potential ones we’ve seen lead to someone’s house too. Yes, you can totally go up to someone’s house and say “Hey, can we camp here for the night?” But honestly, we don’t want to. It’s not that we expect problems with that, we just don’t feel comfortable with the idea, especially when our grasp of the language is so poor. Also, where do you go to the bathroom when you’re camped in someone’s yard?
So, you’ve got to start looking at least an hour and a half before sunset in order to find a potential road (assuming you’re far enough from any major town) and you have to be willing to just stop when you do. Plus then there’s the issue of dinner. If you want to cook dinner yourself you have to carry dinner supplies. Hunting down fresh meat and veggies is certainly possible, but that’s going to be a pain to do every day and require spending a fair amount of time driving around in towns. Freeze-dried foods are getting pretty tasty these days, but they take up a lot of space.
So, for us, that means buying food from whatever tiny ( or not so tiny ) roadside vendors we encounter, which means that the stove isn’t going to get a lot of use, but also has an effect on hideycamping because where you stop is dictated by the very limited availability of small roads, the question arises of how to deal with dinner? Do you set up camp, wait until dinner time, and then send one person off to find and retrieve food for the other(s)? Lots of the roadside places aren’t really equipped to give you good packaging to keep the more fluid aspects of anything from sloshing around, and who knows how long it’ll take the person to find something, and then come back with it. Will the food be cold by the time they return?
If you say “fuck it” to camping things become a lot easier. You ride all day and then around sunset you get either dinner, or a hotel. If there’s a hotel then you’re probably in, or near, some sort of town and dinner shouldn’t be hard to track down on foot once you drop off your stuff. If you get dinner, then you’re all set for the night when you find a hotel, hopefully slightly before sunset.
So far, finding a hotel hasn’t been a problem, and for the most part, neither has food. It’s finding a damn place to camp. Now, my expectations may still be way off for Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina, but if they’re not, then there will be portions of these countries with wide open spaces, where finding a place to pitch the tent won’t be an issue… in which case, drive, find food, eat, drive a little, and pitch the tent. I will not be at all surprised to find that I am horribly wrong about this and that humans have spread far beyond my expectations.
Charlie and Ewan
Somehow the topic of Long Way Round came up when we were eating dinner with The german Riders near Palenque and their response was… unexpected. Now, I realize that many in the adventure riding community are rather opposed to Charlie and Ewan’s adventure, feeling that what they did didn’t really count because they had a support crew and helpers. All three of the germans were very strongly in that camp, and Frank was especially frustrated by having repeatedly encountered people in the US who, when told of their adventure, said something to the effect of “Oh, like Long Way Round…”
This conversation with them has been going round and round in my head for a while now. I tried to argue that even if you don’t approve of how Charlie and Ewan went about their adventure a lot of good has come out of the series. People now have a context in which to frame what we do. Before LWR you could expect essentially three responses when you told someone about your trip: 1) warnings and fear of the unknown 2) excited support 3) a total lack of comprehension
Three was the most mind boggling for us. People would give some noncommittal response as if we’d just suggested that we were going to pop round to the store to pick up some bread. The best we can figure is that these people simply don’t have any appropriate context in their head into which they can frame such an idea.
LWR gives people that context. Furthermore, it has removed some of the fear of the unknown and helped show people that there are kind and helpful individuals the world ’round.
I’d also say that it has given some people the impetus to get off their asses and go on an adventure. Sure, it’s spurned a lot of daydreamers who buy BMWs that then sit in their garages unridden. Frank argued that anyone who wanted to do a ride like this would have done it without them. I think, that there are a lot of people with adventure in their bones, who don’t know how to express it. Sometimes it really helps to have someone show you a possibility.
And then there’s the disconnection between Americans and explorers. Once upon a time America was filled with people going off into unknown lands filled with “savages” and finding a life for themselves. But America has long since lost its fascination with exploration. We want to stay in our comfortable sofas and be entertained by the box. Europe, England especially, has not lost this fascination. Want some simple proof? Compare the selection of books of motorcycle adventures available on Amazon.com vs Amazon.co.uk Then look at all the other adventure books and videos available there, and fear for your wallet.
In the end the Germans felt that absolutely no good, and much bad, had come out of the Long Way adventures.
Honestly if I could afford to hire people to deal with all the annoying aspects like Carne’s, visas, border crossings, and leave me to ride with as little hinderance as possible I’d be all for it. I’m not saying I want someone to fix my flats for me and remove every obstacle. Encountering and overcoming obstacles is what makes a journey memorable. Without them it’s just a really long ride. But, overcoming repeated bouts of bureaucratic bullshit and paperwork? I don’t mind someone else doing that for me. Oh, and the tires. The fucking spare tires. I would happily throw those on a “support” truck. We are so sick of dealing with them every time we stop for the night.