About 3 years ago, I had the chance to meet Veronica Vall while she was dating a good friend, Dan Ritter in Miami. Vero is from Santiago and still keeps in touch with Dan, so when she heard I was living here she quickly reached out so we could meet up. She’s a busy girl, running her fashion design business http://www.veronicavall.com/ and being a single mom, but we’ve had time for lunches and dinners and such, and a few occasions to ride my motorcycle around town and check things out.
Stopping by the KTM shop one day to pick up a couple of things, Vero and I stumbled across a press conference where Roland Spaarwater (owner of KTM Chile) was doing a publicity presentation of the new KTM bikes to Carlo de Gavardo. If you’re not a racing fan, you might not recognize his name, but Carlo is a very highly world-ranked rider/driver/pilot in a variety of off-road racing categories, and it was just a neat piece of timing to stumble across this occasion with the press there and everything. Quite a few of the local KTM Adventure Club riders were there as well, and we’ll be seeing more of them later in this post.
There are two major sporting events I've wanted to see for a long time: 1) a Formula 1 race, and 2) a major football match in Europe or Latin America. So my buddy Mark Griffin from England had been staying with us at the hostal for a few weeks, and he came across the chance to buy some tickets for the World Cup qualifying match between Chile and Uruguay! Granted, they’re not exactly to “powerhouse” teams in the world of football, but that doesn’t stop the fans from turning up the electricity and making one incredible atmosphere.
The final score was 0-0, and it sure would have been great to see a goal or two. Either way…this occasion helped me confirm that when there’s only one single sport that even matters in your country…the fan following is absolutely incredible. Sure, we have great fan support in the U.S., but with so many important sports going on every day of the week, I think the enthusiasm has been diluted a bit compared to football in Latin America. As one of the pictures below is showing, Mark had been studying all the important words that you’d need to scream in Spanish at such an event, words that might help things get out of control. And just in case Mark’s heckling got out of control, you can also see the Forces Speciales fully padded in their riot gear, and sneaking the chance to watch the game while everything was okay.
On the morning of April 3rd, nine of us riders met in Santiago, and proceeded to cut through traffic breaking virtually every traffic law on our way to meet the other 9 riders about 150 miles south in Romeral. Stopped by the police for speeding as a group? No problem. One of the riders just showed his identification as volunteer/donor to the local policeman’s society, and we were on our way without a problem. Roland (mentioned previously) was waiting there to make the morning announcements and introduce me as the lone gringo to join the ride before we headed out to Argentina.
We arrived in the small town of Malargue, Argentina much later than we’d hoped, and as the group rejoined there at the hotel, we were told yet ANOTHER of the most amazing stories I’ve ever heard.
Just about 10 miles from the hotel, Roland hit and killed a cow with his motorcycle, but he rode through it just fine and didn't even get hurt! We were finishing the ride with only the moonlight, and he says this black cow ran out in front of him coming out of a turn while he was going about 80 miles per hour. Roland's instincts must be good in these situations, because instead of hitting the brakes, he twisted the throttle and just blasted through the back half of the cow, killing it there on the spot and ripping the left half of his bike apart. The collision knocked him out of control briefly, but with some quick hand-work he was able to straighten himself up without even falling.
So if you’ve honestly read this entire posting, believe me…I’m flattered beyond words. I do get emails and notes all the time from different people, some of whom I haven’t spoken with in years, but somehow heard about this blog. The common theme of encouragement I seem to get is to “Run, Forrest, Run!!” and just to keep going. Believe me, it’s my intention to do so. I’m very happy about my decision to travel like this, too, and if things turn out the way I want them to, this blog has much more to show you….