January 22nd, 2011 - To the North
I checked very connection, every bolt, every cable, but I just wasn’t ready to push the start button. I lit up a cigarette and stared at the bike for the longest time. It was 45 days since the last time I road this bike, and 44 days that I was stuck in the village of Otamendi in Argentina. The whole world went above and beyond to get a new engine to me down here, so it felt surreal to be only a push of a thumb away from freedom. That’s how prisoners must feel I suppose.
When the engine got here, I immediately got to work and retracted a million drywall screws out of the crate to free the engine. It was so well packed (thanks to Jared’s hard work) that the airliner could have just air dropped it at the farm, and it would have survived. By the time I got the engine out it started to rain, and it didn’t stop for the next two days. But I could care less if concrete blocks came down from the sky let alone a little water. It was like Christmas. There was a complete motor, lots of shiny new parts from Z1 Enterprises, and a replacement final drive to swap out the battered leaky unit. With the help of Juan (my very helpful neighbor at the farm) we pushed and shoved the entire block on the frame, and fastened it tight.
For the next two days I scavenged everything I could from the old motor that was in a better shape, and installed it on the new motor. I swapped the drive shaft, final drive, stator cover, ignition cover, bolts and even the oil pan with all new seals and gaskets, and proceeded to time the engine, adjust the valves, replace the air filter, and installed new plug wires on the coils. Then I fired up the soldering iron and soldered every connection. It looked greasy and dirty, but beautiful.
It was time. I poured a gallon of fresh gas in the tank, filled up the crankcase, final drive and transmission with oil, flipped the petcock to prime and pulled the choke. Finally I pushed the start button. The motor turned a few times and it roared to life. My eyes were wet and I couldn’t believe that I was free at last. Hearing the perfect sound of the new machine was like a lullaby, and I listened to it like a good song. The job was done. I turned off the engine and fell asleep as the skies outside poured their hearts out with rain.
I woke up the next day to take out my baby for a ride. As I pulled out of the driveway the front tire slipped on the mud and I went down. I was baffled. A deep slippery mud covered the driveway, and I hit the ground no more than twenty feet from my room. I picked up the bike and mounted again. Mud or no mud, I was going out for a ride. The road from the farm to Otamendi is 3km long, and the rains turned the soft-dirt road to chocolate pudding with standing water in every pothole. In the first 500 feet I fell three times and I finally gave up. The tires were covered with sticky mud to the point that the front fender was scarping on the mud. With much difficulty, I picked up the bike for the last time, slipping and sliding in the process, and headed back to the farm defeated.
There was nothing I could do but to wait for the sun to dry up the road. I had better luck the next day and I finally hit the tarmac with no fall. I took the bike straight to a carwash and for six dollars; two guys washed the bike for 45 minutes. (I needed it clean so I could spot oil leaks.) Then I went out for a 100 miles test run. It ran great, and to my delight, there was no oil leak, except a little sip from the clutch shaft seal which wasn’t a big deal. (I’ll replace it in Buenos Aires). I checked the spark plugs, and they were all black and whitish with no excessive carbon, no caked white stuff, and no oil. She was ready to roll. I took my time to organize my stuff, fix little things here and there, and wash my cloths before getting back on the road. I said my goodbyes to Tati and his family in Mar del Plata, and threw a thank you BBQ party for Juan’s family which helped me immensely during my stay at the farm.
I’m leaving tomorrow morning for Buenos Aires. The route is set to go north for Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, and in western Peru load the bike on a dinghy and float the whole length of the Amazon River to the Atlantic Ocean. From there finishing up Venezuela, Surinam, New Guinea… and finally jump the big pond for Africa.
I can never thank those who helped me get back on the road enough. My gratitude goes to Jorge (Tati) Zmud for putting me up in his mom’s house and his place for 48 days free of charge, and for showing such generosity and hospitality to a complete stranger. I made a friend for life. I also like to thank Juan de Martin and his family for feeding me countless home cooked meals and the much needed help with fixing the bike.
I’m indebted to the GSR community for all their troubles as they literally put together a complete motorcycle in one month, and shipped it down here. It’s inspiring to know that I have so many brothers that I’ve never met, but with a single line, they come to my aid at the time of need. I’m honored and humbled to be a part of this great fraternity for I know that they are as selfless as they come.
I’m also indebted to Z1 Enterprises for sponsoring this expedition and delivering the much needed parts with such short notice. Jeff Saunders went above and beyond the call of duty to order everything he didn’t have in stock from Suzuki, and ship them to Jared for the engine makeover. They are great folks who know our bikes inside out, and serve us with care.
I would be remiss not to thank Matt Hanscom for donating the engine, Cliff Saunders for donating the final drive, Sean Pringle for his magnanimous donation which covered the biggest portion of the shipping cost, and those who covered the rest: Jared Williams, Gregory Quinn, Gib Acuna, Barron Fujimoto, Lynn Minthorne, James south, Tom Kent, Joshua Russo, Brandon turner, Robert Hayward, Eric bang, Merrill Oates, Richard Stiver, Dale Dunn, Howard Fairfield, and Daniel Provencher. Forgive me if I’m missing any names here, I don’t have the updated list.
And last but not least, I’d like to thank Jared Williams for his diligent and attentive service to this organization. Time and time again, he has proved to be a blessing, and he continues to impress us all.
Thank you guys for everything. Stay tuned as I hash through the Amazon jungles.