It was June 13th, 2008 at about this time of day. I had just closed the garage door to my townhome in Atlanta and was about to begin my motorcycle journey to California. My friend and neighbor, Carolyn, caught me in time for a few quick photos marking the start of it all, and after 13 countries and over 80,000 miles by motorcycle, van, and steamship, I haven't been back home since.
So this calls for a more traditional blog post, maybe one where I describe a little better what's been going on in my life. A few suggestions have been made friends and readers of this blog that, while all the pictures of travel are great, an explanation of what's going on in my "life" is important to write about, too.
MOTO RIDER RENTAL, LTDA., and my status with work:
I've been working since August of 2009 for Moto Rider, trying to make a successful motorcycle renting and touring business here in Chile. Looks like 3 of my last 4 blog posts actually detailed "route planning missions" I was on for work, (Bolivia, Argentina, the Dakar Rally, and through Patagonia to Ushuaia.) In total, I've spent about 3 of the last 10 months out there on our new BMW motorcycles, checking routes, recording GPS coordinates, making notes, and visiting hotels and places that would all be good for making tours. It's been absolutely INCREDIBLE!
Despite all my tour-planning efforts during these last 10 months, Moto Rider was never quite committed to making tours. The owner (Daniel) has been in the car rental business before, and really wanted us to focus on renting motorcycles instead of selling tours. His instincts were right, and we were growing strongly just by renting our motorcycles by reservation to people from all over the world. Renting has been our "niche" while the other companies here in Chile are always so focused on just organizing guided tours. (It's actually gotten to the point where the other touring-focused companies are renting motorcycles from us in times where they are short a motorcycle or two.) Right through the summer months here, we were extremely busy, and everything seemed to be going right.
As you probably heard, there was a disasterous 8.8 earthquake in Central Chile back on February 27 of this year. Not just one earthquake, but a series of them struck the country causing very significant damages, nationwide panic, the loss of over 200 lives, and of course the ensuing media frenzy over-blowing the chaos to its fullest. (I don't want to get off on a rant here, but once or twice in the history of the "free press," things have been exaggerated a little bit. Hey, whatever it takes to get attention, sell advertising space, and make money, right?)
Sadly though, since the news about the earthquake, Moto Rider's reservations for motorcycle rentals have dropped rapidly. Especially with the peak summer months being over, now heading into winter, we have truly suffered in terms of "sales."
So why not focus on selling tours like our competition is still successfully doing? Well, their businesses have been hurt by the earthquake news as well, but the thing is..........tour reservations are typically made 6-9 months ahead of time. If we are going to start selling tours.....we actually have quite a time gap to get through before realizing the cash flow, not to mention the significant cash outlays we'd still have to make in before operating a tour. So the long-story-short is: Moto Rider is up for sale.
Daniel announced to me about a week ago that he wants to separate himself from this business for now, and focus on his construction businesses. Despite the incredible investment made thus far in websites, motorcycles, all the equipment, tools, route-planning missions, etc., he just feels it's best to separate himself from the whole thing now.
So for my task right now is helping him organize the company and make a presentation for sale, along with finding prospective buyers. This puts me in a pretty interesting situation, as Daniel is helping remind me that "I am" Moto Rider right now. Sure, Daniel is the owner.....and we've had other employees. But as things have changed in past months, and we've said goodbye to previous employees, it's just a fact that I am really the only one that is marketing, operating, and running the business. I'm the one that knows the tour routes, the maintenance schedules of the motorcycles, how our new website works, (in fact, I'm the only person writing on the http://www.motorider.com/ blog as well.) I don't want to sound arrogant or like it's anything special that I'm doing, but Daniel himself has reminded me that the company does not exist without me.
What will become of it, and will we sell Moto Rider? Too early to say, but I'm sure the next blog post will give the answer. Either way though, with the contacts I've made and continue to make, all the new experiences I've gained since leaving my home 2 years ago, and continued love and passion for working amongst topics like "motorcycles, touring, and adventures," I think I'll be just fine for work no matter what the outcome. In fact, a couple of informal job offers already await me, should it turn out that Moto Rider is simply closed-down instead of sold and still functioning with me involved.
So it's "exciting times" still for me! I should explain also that I'm now living in the north of Chile in the city of Antofagasta. It's considered the "mining capitol of the world" with seemingly everyone here being involved in the huge copper mining industry in northern Chile. Antofagasta has about 300,000 people, is right on the Pacific Ocean and on the edge of the Atacama Desert, and has rain about once every 5 years. I like it for the most part as I tend to lean toward smaller cities with fewer traffic issues. The downside to this smaller town would probably be that I don't "blend" as well as I did in big Santiago. Folks here are much more stunned and likely to just flat-out stare at me here in Antofagasta. Something I can understand and shrug-off, but it also gets pretty annoying sometimes.
Folks are constantly asking me when I'm going to return to the U.S. Honestly, I just have to see what lies ahead with the job situation over the next few weeks before I can answer that. I sure do miss many things about the U.S. on a daily basis, not to mention the great friends and family I have there. But I'm still reminded by those friends and family that just having a good, well-paying job is something to be pretty thankful for right now. So as Moto Rider goes through this transition, maintaining a forward direction with my career remains of the utmost importance to me.
More news soon when I have it. It's neat to think that, whatever the next stage is in all of this.....it'll be fun and interesting for sure!