Saturday, June 13, 2009

Adv #7 Continued: HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO ME! One year on the road...

My “anniversary” I guess we could call it?

Yep, it was 1 year earlier on June 13th that I closed the door to my garage and headed out for the motorcycle trip to California. It sure does put a smile on my face to think that those initial plans to work for Suntrek have turned into a much larger adventure. The work I did as a tour guide across Canada and the U.S. really set the stage for what has become a much greater indulgence into my desire to travel, and quite a few of you out there have been comparing me to Forrest Gump with all the places I’m seeing and things I’m doing. (Well…at least that’s why I think you’re comparing me to Forrest…. : ) ????

Since most of these blog posts have been about motorcycle riding, partying and people I’ve met along the way, I thought for this post it’d be nice to point out a bit of a deep, dark secret I’ve been keeping.

What I mean is….did you ever have a strange thought or impulse that…no matter how embarrassing it would be to reveal it, ya just have to share it anyway? Well, I’m about to reveal an embarrassing part of me no matter how sick you might think I am as a result. I should explain that this “impulse” revolves around two things: Dogs and rubber-bands.

First, I need to make it clear that I absolutely love dogs, and it’s tough to think that I don’t have one for myself. The wagging of the tail, that little hip-shake that develops when the tail-wagging gets out of control, and the way they appear to almost “smile” when they’re panting and bursting with energy just because they’re near you. A good pooch is always up for whatever you want to do, especially if it means an adventure outside your home. But at the same time, you can arrive back home after what might have been the worst day of your life, and your pal is always waiting there for you, often seeming that he’s just about to say something out loud with all the gestures of affection being displayed. He’s so happy to see you, and it’s always time to play. Let’s face it: He’s such a good boy….and he doesn’t even know it.

Dogs are everywhere in Latin America. They run the streets freely sometimes in a pack, but often just alone searching for food. Obviously the lack of control over spaying and neutering surely is a factor in this, but they also thrive because they’ve developed the “street smarts” that Fluffy and Scruffy never are forced to develop while they slumber on your couch and eat the food you put before them every day. For example, the dogs here in Chile actually stay on the sidewalk to the street corner and wait for the “WALK” signal to flash in their favor before crossing an intersection. Even without a group of people to walk along with for safety, they must have learned what that flashing light means, having spent so much time in the streets. Of the thousands and thousands of dogs I’ve seen along this trip, I’ve never yet seen one get hit by a car. Oh, they come close…..but they seem to really understand just how close they can get to that car before it means trouble to them.

Because they’re so adapted to street-life, they slumber in the sun often in the strangest of places. Like right in the middle of a busy bus-stop, or in the middle of a sidewalk during rush-hour while pedestrians have to step all around them. Some of them have the smarts to rest off to the side under a bench or something, but many just lie in the middle of all the action like they don’t have a care in the world.

It’s this incredible “comfort” they seem to have that brings me back to this impulse that I just can’t seem to shake. Lying there so relaxed and sleeping while the hustle of the city surrounds them. Maybe I’m just a little jealous that they are so relaxed in a situation I certainly don’t get comfortable in.


It never fails: Every time I walk past one of these pooches resting so peacefully, I think about how much fun it would be if I had a rubber band. I think: "There’s another pooch…..basking in the sun, with not a care in his mind," and I want so much just to sneak up behind him, reach down with a rubber band & pull back and give him a quick “snap” just to let him know he’s not alone. Not with full-strength or enough to do any damage or anything. Just enough for him to feel a quick sting, jump up from his sleep, and let out a little “yip!” And where would I snap him?


Then when he realizes he’s not really in danger, that it only stung a little and he’s done dancing around to shake it off, I just want to look him right in the eye and say “SURPRISE!”

So now you know the deepest and darkest thoughts that make up Eric. Hold it against me all you want, cause that’s the worst of me. Well, unless I actually carry out this impulse….then I guess that’s the worst of me….

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Adv #7 Continued: More Orange, a bit of karting, and parties around Santiago

I’m still here in Santiago, but very, very close to heading north to see other areas and maybe stumble across some work. A few things are being shipped to me from my parents, and if I don’t have a job here by the time the package arrives…..I’ll start working my way up north and see more of this beautiful country. It'll be tough to leave some friends I've made behind, but I really want to find some work and see some more of Chile (and possibly Peru.)

About the pictures below:

The next few were from a random Tuesday night when Mario (owner of Hostal Providencia) and I joined some of his buddies for a little go-karting! Yea, some go kart tracks are pretty slow and tame, but there are also the ones like we rode this night in Santiago. Huge wide tires, an extremely low center of gravity, and a pretty powerful little engine all combined for some really great racing competition between us. These things corner so fast! With such tight steering and turns at all times, it was a real test of forearm strength the entire race.

Below: Enough with the Orange already? Never.
My motorcycle has not only been the ultimate travel companion, but it’s also helped me meet so many great people along this journey. So about 3 weeks ago,the KTM Adventure Club had another Saturday ride out past the Cajon de Maipo area east of Santiago, and up into the foothills of the Andes to visit some thermal hot springs. A bonus to this trip was that Carlo de Gavardo was leading us out there (see Carlo mentioned in the April 20th posting) and he’d be putting on a brief clinic on riding technique, bike maintenance, and dealing with different riding situations.

See Carlo below arriving with his two sons on the same 990 Adventure bike that was presented to him at that press conference I stumbled across 2 months earlier. Meeting up at the shop that morning were about 30 riders and some familiar faces I’d known from my first ride to Argentina with them. Tommy, Luis, Sebastian, Roland……great to see everyone again! Carlo’s sons actually stayed on the bike and rode all the way with him.
I thought this was a funny shot I caught below….considering the sporty little mustache Carlo had chosen for himself. Guys were teasing him all day for it, walking/marching around, clicking their heels and of course, calling him "Adolf."

Finally! Two pictures that show the kind of traffic we'd all like to see !!! Just down the street from the KTM shop, we're trying to get out of the Santiago traffic.

After a couple of hours riding up into the mountains and along the dirt path, a rock slide stopped us just short of the hot springs we were trying to get to. It actually made for a perfect spot for Carlo to run through his motorcycle clinic with us, so we all gathered around for a lesson from the pro. Bit of a struggle for me still to understand what he was saying, but definitely worth sticking around for.

With or without the clinic, it sure was some great scenery and riding with these guys again. Chile is such a neat country in that you have ocean and mountains about 80 miles from each other…..for a stretch the entire length of the country. Lakes, rivers, ocean, mountains….bit of a paradise if you ask me!

Finishing the day off with a feast on the way home, it was another great day with Adventure Club.
Other things happening:
Don't forget, Lucho is still out there riding, too! I got a call the day after the KTM trip from Lucho and was invited to join himself and Max Dollmann for a quick day trip up north. We met up with some of their other friends for lunch (below) and had a beautfiul clear day for a ride.The week after that, an MX3 motocross championship was being held at Laguna Caren, just west of Santiago. This gave me a chance to hang out around the KTM team tent a bit and meet the teams and riders. Because there was such a language barrier between the Dutch team and KTM-Chile….I was able to help with a little translating, along with helping Elias and Pato and everyone get the bikes ready in between races. Above: Patrick Roos was the pro from Holland, and Jens below was the team mechanic.

With about 15,000 Chilean motocross fans gathered for this championship, some kind of a celebrity must show up to enhance the show, right? Of course it was Carlo de Gavardo, an absolute hero in the eye of Chile and still one of the top professional racers in the world. Carlo rode his big Rally bike (the one he uses for races like the Dakar Rally) around the track once slowly while the crowd went absolutely nuts. The place was starting to feel like the football stadium when he led the crowd in another “CHI CHI CHI!!! LE LE LE!!!! VI-VA CHI – LE!!!!!”

Back at the hostal I’m meeting new people all the time. One day, Lotta from Sweden and I took a walk through Mercado Central to check out all the action in that buzzing atmosphere. Good thing is, La Piojera is just around the corner from that, making the perfect opportunity to stop in for a quick terremoto to add a little color to our afternoon. (The bar was already packed at 12:15 on a Saturday afternoon! Thought I was back in Wisconsin again….)

Then as we’re walking back to the hostal I told Lotta to pinch the butt of this statue so I could take a picture. Maybe it was the terromoto’s fault, but she was completely startled when the statue turned around to confront her as she reached out for the pinch. Quite a laugh….I thought you knew it was a real guy, Lotta! How many terremotos did you have ???

(Above, these llamas stopped by the hostal to help Mario and Max with meditation and a ceremony. This place has quite a checkered past, as it's not in the best neighborhood and they had alot of problems with drugs, prostitution, and other fun things before Mario took over. Below was just another party on the hostal patio.)

More photos below show the party that developed one night here in the streets of Providencia. “La Fiesta del Patrimonio” is an annual celebration here, helping Chileans celebrate their national heritage, so all museums and historical sites are free of charge, and parties and bands pop up all over the city. Along with Mario and Lisette from the Hostal, Jessica (from Austin, Texas!) and Lotta and I headed out into the streets for a night out on the town and to watch a fast-rising local band called “Juana Fe.” Lotta, seriously… gave the homeless guy your email address? You’re acting like you’re resisting him, but we could all see the sparks flying between you two…. : )

So how’s this for a follow-up story:
Go back this blog’s posting from December 24, 2008. A large part of that posting focuses on the “little piece of plastic” that was dropped into Peter’s engine accidentally and gave us the chance to spend a bit more time in Juan Cajiga’s workshop in Oaxaca, Mexico.

We were in a pretty serious quandary back then about whether to just leave the plastic in the engine, or to further dismantle the engine and get it out. Just starting the engine could have been a very expensive and time consuming mistake, but fortunately, it worked out such that we started it up without ever getting the piece out, and Peter and I were able to finish our without any noticable issues in his bike.

But I just got an email from Peter now that he’s been back to Germany and is now visiting his girlfriend in Italy. The news is, he did an oil change on his bike recently, and after all those miles and countries, and shipping the bike all the way back to Germany, that "little piece of plastic" came out with the oil! Check out the pic, and some pretty good fortune. I’m sure Juan and The Maestro back in Oaxaca will laugh about this one, too. Especially since Peter says he mailed it to them.....HA!

Anyway, that’s all for now, but I’m just a week away from hitting that “1-year” mark where I first left my home in Atlanta. Guess this will call for a special episode of Travels With Eric, so I’ll start thinking up something good…