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Posts Tagged ‘ volunteering abroad ’

September 23rd, 2011 - The bees, trees, and a dead cow

When I find a road that is not on the map, my first reaction is to always roll on the throttle and ride straight for it. This time I found a road that was not charted, was reasonably short, and from the GPS Topo maps, it seemed to be passing through some beautiful landscape. Little did I know that this 50km section would prove to be one of the most isolated, hottest, and sandiest roads in entire Argentina. Read the rest of the story…

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September 22nd, 2011 - Canada Video

Hey everyone, Check out the video of our travels throughout Canada. Erin and I really enjoyed traveling Canada and it feels great to see our home country before traveling the world. If anyone has any questions about where any footage was filmed feel free to email us, we would love to talk to you. I apologize for any imperfections in the video, I had problems with the compatibility between my footage and the editing program. I have solved the problem for future videos. Enjoy

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September 18th, 2011 - Boston By Blacks

Boston has been one of my favourite cities so far on our journey. It is also one of the few cities where we put the effort into exploring it. Having all our possessions strapped to the back of the bike requires that the bikes be in view at all times if not securely parked somewhere, so parking and walking around a city isn’t really on option. We needed a base camp and tried to find a campground in the Boston area but after half a day on the internet we found there is no such thing. Campgrounds ranged from 25 to 50 miles outside Boston with ridiculous rates from $26 to $42 a night. We settled at 30 miles away for $30 a night which is over half of our daily budget but I was determined to explore Boston.

We picked out a great spot in the back woods of Cape Ann Campground and felt it was a safe and comfortable spot to leave our gear. Originally we had planned to ride one bike empty into the city but after talking to the owners of the campground we had another option. There is a passenger train only 5 minutes away from the campground and would apparently equal the cost of parking in downtown Boston. It turned out after paying for parking at the train station we were out an extra $5 but we did enjoy our train experience. All the trains in the greater Boston area converge on North Station and it being such a big station we figured it would have lockers available for rent that we could store our helmets in.  This was not the case and after a little bit of a goose chase in the area we managed to find a place that would hold our helmets… for $20. No way we were paying that…  So for the first 2 hours of our time in Boston I was a big grumpy baby lugging my helmet around. I eventually got over it knowing that my $20 could be spent on something amazing like a tank of gas in the Andes Mountains or a cold beer in the Sahara.

Boston is a great city for people on a tight budget like Erin and I because there is so much to see for free. Many cities have “things to do” but from a travellers point of view that means “things to spend money on”, so we often look for “things to see”. Boston offers The Freedom Trail, well marked with bricks or red paint, that leads you around the historic downtown showcasing the history of the American Revolution. The first stop for us was the USS Constitution, the oldest floating commissioned naval vessel  which was originally launched in 1797. The ship is stored in a naval yard and after passing through security we were treated to a free guided tour. I enjoyed the whole experience, even with my helmet, and would recommend it to anyone looking for free things to see.

As we continued on the trail it led us down beautiful old cobble stone streets surrounded by ancient building and monuments of distinguished revolutionary figures. Although the city is one of the oldest in the United States, I started to notice the overwhelming amount of youth in its current culture. Young business men fresh out of collage walked the street in abundance, along with students and artists from every ethnic background. It was a cultural mosaic thriving on a very active and modern lifestyle. Bicycle lanes and recycling programs were apparent throughout the city and people seemed to enjoy their green lifestyle as the streets were packed with people walking, running and cycling. I don’t consider myself to be a city person but I could picture myself living in Boston even if only for a short time. Although it had its hustle and bustle it seemed to have a very relaxed feel and I look forward to one day experiencing it again.

Erin and I are now enjoying our first Couch Surfing experience in Middle Haddam, Connecticut. Our hosts Richard and Linda were very quick to respond to our very short notice Couch Surfing request and kindly opened their home to us. For those of you who don’t know what Couch Surfing is, take a moment and look it up, it’s a fantastic community of people. Not only is it a free place to stay but you get to meet great people and get true local insight to the area you are traveling through. I’ve enjoyed the relaxing few days we have spent here and find joy in such simple things like taking their dog for a walk around the neighbourhood. Come tomorrow we will trade these simple pleasures for the city of all cities… New York City!

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September 14th, 2011 - Lady Luck Smiles Three Times By GP

I spent a couple of days in Reno with my new friend Doug and his wife Sara, where I visited Lake Tahoe, enjoyed great conversation and received great tips and advice from Doug who is also planning a trip to Ushuaia Argentina. Doug and Sara are great people; I continue to be impressed with the kindness of people I met during my adventure. (More on this later, today was an eventful day.)

This morning I set out early with the intention of reaching Death Valley. Heading along highway 395 north, the road was perfect, traffic was light and the scenery was amazing. I could see desert mountains, a few lakes and clear skies. I have not been in such desert conditions before on my motorcycle and was in my own world enjoying the view. I took and nice corner on the 395 and suddenly the view changed, I saw only red and blue flashing lights on top of a Nevada State Trooper patrol car. I pulled over and a rather large but smiling Trooper approached. I rarely get out of speeding tickets and was not expecting to this time, here is how it unfolded.

Lady Luck Smiles – the First Time

Trooper: Sir you took that corner back there a little fast. I had you at 85mph and this is a 70mph highway.

Me: 85mph really?

Trooper: Where are you going in such a hurry? Is this your map? (looking at the map on my tank bag).

Me: I am going to Argentina.

Trooper: Really? You’re going to ride this motorcycle to Argentina?

Me: Yes Sir

Trooper: All the way to Argentina?

Me: Yes Sir, All the way to Argentina.

Trooper: I would like to see you get there in one piece, slow down a little.

Me. Yes sir, good idea.

Trooper: Have a nice day.

I couldn’t believe it; I just got off a speeding ticket! I carefully merged back on the highway and watched my speed while continuing to enjoy the scenery. Soon I noticed the signs for highway 50 (the loneliest road in America) and got off the 395 to head east on 50. I passed through a small town and was soon on a long stretch of highway. With no cars in sight, alone on the highway I started to accelerate, enjoying the desert view, the rush of motorcycling and excited to reach Death Valley. Again my view was interrupted by red and blue flashing lights on top of a Nevada State Trooper patrol car. I pulled over, took my helmet off and waited for the Trooper to approach.

Lady Luck Smiles – The Second Time

Trooper: Sir, can I please ask you to stand on the other side of the motorcycle.

Me: Ok

Trooper: Do you have any weapons?

Me: No sir.

Trooper: Do you know why I stopped you? Divers license please.

Me: I’m sure you stopped me for going a bit too fast.

Trooper: Do you know what the speed limit is on this highway.

Me: Well it’s a major highway so it should be 70.

Trooper: At this part it is 50, just ahead it is 70. (pointing down the road)

Me: Oh I see

Trooper: How long have you been travelling?

Me: Almost 2 months.

Trooper: Wow! Really? And what is the best thing that happened to you so far?

I told him about my stop back in Oregon for coffee and pie where the charming woman let me ride her horse. I mentioned about how nice everyone has been to me and how much I am enjoying the people here in the western US.

Trooper: Where are you going from here? (handing me back my license).

Me: Argentina.

Trooper: Really? You’re going to ride this motorcycle to Argentina?

Me: Yes Sir

Trooper: All the way to Argentina?

Me: Yes Sir, All the way to Argentina.

Trooper: Be careful. And have a nice time in the US.

I can’t believe it! I just got off my second speeding ticket and only 1 hour apart. I decided not to push my luck and made a real effort to watch my speed. In a state where gambling and prostitution is legal, the least I could do is slow down.

I continued along highway 50, enjoying the desert with its hard flat fields, rock covered mountains and long straight highway. Suddenly off to my right appeared a very large sand dune. It was out of place, everything else was brown and there to my right was a large white sand dune. I had to check it out. I entered what turned out to be “Sand Mountain Recreation Area”. The place was almost isolated, except for a few people on ATV’s enjoying the sand dune.

Lady Luck Smiles – The Third Time

I was watching the ATV’s on the sand dune when suddenly the front of my bike began to fish tail. I had not been watching the road and was now in deep loose sand. I attempted to control the bike with steering, no luck, it continued to jerk around. I released the throttle and the bike began to tip, so I gave it more throttle and the bike went upright. Wow that was close, or so I thought! Suddenly the back of the bike was fish tailing, followed by the front again. I started to go down, could not control the bike and knew I was going over. I hit the engine kill switch. It then felt like I giant had reached out of the sand and grabbed the bike, pulling it upright. I on the other hand, kept going flying through the air. All I could see at first was white sand, then clear blue sky and my black motorcycle boot. The boot was high in the air. Hitting the sand shoulder first, I flipped completely over and ended up in soft white sand on my stomach. I felt no pain, checked myself over and found no injuries, just sand down my pants. I looked over at the bike and it was almost perfectly upright, buried up to the foot pegs in sand. The sand was acting like a center stand.
A quick inspection of the bike revealed no visible damage. I moved some sand away, got back on the bike and was able to slowly drive it out of this mini dune, to more solid ground. I did a closer inspection of the bike and found nothing wrong. So I went in search of lunch, which I found at a small ghost town on highway 50.

The bike preformed as it always has been as I continued towards Death Valley. Construction delays prevented me from making great time and I am now in the town of Beatty Nevada, waiting until tomorrow before entering Death Valley. I hope Lady Luck continues to follow me.

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September 14th, 2011 - Entering the United States By Blacks

Erin and I have entered the United States and as to be expected we got stopped at the border. I tried to keep it simple at first just saying we were heading down to Amarillo, Texas to visit my dad but I guess it’s kind of weird to be from the west coast and enter the States on the east coast. We parked and went inside and although they never really searched the bikes we were there for 20 minutes. As our story unfolded inside the customs building I think it was more just general curiosity from the officers that kept us there. After the straight faced formalities were out of the way the officers offered some kind advice and on the way out I gave them a business card so they could follow our adventures online. We spent the next 4 days at Keene’s Lake Family Campground where the hospitality of people was outstanding and we spent the evenings with new friends playing games and even rocking a little karaoke. I tried to get away with only singing one song but our new friends wouldn’t have it and by the end of the night I had sang almost the entire Johnny Cash Greatest Hits.

I was spending the days working on a video showcasing our travels throughout Canada. It was a slow process at first as I am just learning how to use the program and had a lot of technical difficulties to work out over the phone with my friend Matt. I’m happy to say now that the video is complete and only now needs to be rendered (finalized), a process that can take a long time. I will no doubt need a plug to power this operation as my battery on the laptop won’t last the process. As soon as I get the video ready I will have it up on our Youtube channel and our website.

Throughout our travels in Canada I had little faith in my GPS and used it more as a map and a way of tracking where we had gone and not as a navigator. Now riding in the United States I have really come to appreciate the navigation of the GPS. I set the GPS to avoid “Interstate” as they are too fast and often tolled and this has worked perfectly. We have been riding some of the greatest roads all within our 90km/hr speed limit. Every road has had that Sunday ride kind of feel, winding their way through beautiful farmlands and state forests. We pass through tons of small towns with beautiful American Colonial style houses all proudly displaying the American flag.

New Hampshire has a huge motorcycle community most of which are Harley Davidson riders. Erin and I noticed right away the lack of helmets and although we think it’s crazy, almost everyone riding in New Hampshire is helmet free. They are also not required to have insurance on any of their vehicles and seat belts are only mandatory if you are under 18. It truly is the “Live free or Die” State. We have now entered Massachusetts with the plan of exploring Boston.

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September 11th, 2011 - A turn of events – Yosemite, CA By GP

I woke up this morning to beautiful sunshine ready to hit the road and make it to Yosemite National Park. I grabbed breakfast at a fast food place, a fried ham and cheese sandwich. The morning ride was hot but not uncomfortable and offered lots of twists and turns, great for motorcycling. I watched my odometer turn to 40,000km while on a great twisty hill and was able to celebrate this event on a restaurant patio right at the top.  What a great morning!

The menu was limited and I ended up ordering a ham and cheese sandwich, forgetting that I had that for breakfast. As soon as the food arrived a very beautiful Latina woman sat at the table next to me and asked if that was my motorcycle? She expressed great interest in my trip and was surprised at how far I have already travelled. I was thoroughly enjoying the conversation and so far it had been a perfect day. Being a gentleman I offered her a ride. The disapproving look from her husband put a quick end to that idea. It was fun and I finished my lunch in high spirits.

Back at the bike I needed to apply more sunscreen as the sun was still beating down. I tried to sneak another look at the Latina lady and while doing so put a glob of sunscreen right in my eye. Wow did it sting! It was like a bee was in my eye.

Making it to Yosemite was easy and after paying my $10 entrance fee I stopped to review the park map. My eye was feeling better but stomach started feel a bit upset. I was not too concerned; it did not feel that bad. Yosemite was a nice park but not as exciting as the others I have been in this journey. Dark clouds started to move in and photo opportunities were not as frequent. I stopped just before the Tioga Pass to put my rain gear on as it was obviously raining further in the mountains. Tioga Pass is 11,526 feet and I could feel the air getting thinner and it was affecting my breathing. The rain gear was almost on when the rain started, and then it started to hail! The hail was coming down fast and was hitting the top of my head, hard, and it hurt, so I decided to put my on helmet.

When I stood up to get my helmet I felt lightheaded and the world started to spin. I caught my balance, grabbed my bike and then violently threw up. I didn’t see that coming. I was shocked but happy I missed the bike.  Then I heard a woman’s voice “Oh my, are you Ok, let me look at you I am a nurse”. Oh man, how embarrassing, I don’t need a nurse and I had no idea how full the parking lot was until that moment. She had a gentle touch, asked a thousand questions and after making me promise to relax there awhile, she pronounced me healthy.  Once she was out of sight, I was back on my bike.

I was pelted with more rain and hail over the Tioga Pass but eventually made it through and continued on to Carson City, Nevada and called it a night. I am going to get some food soon, something that does not have ham or cheese and maybe I should eat alone.

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September 10th, 2011 - San Francisco By Gp

Continuing south on highway 101 towards San Francisco I decided to turn onto highway 1 and stay close to the shoreline. It was much colder and foggier than I had imagined, not really much to see except the car in front of me. Patches of clear sky would sometimes appear and reveal an amazing scene, high cliffs and waves smashing into the shore. Highway 1 was full of twists and turns and was lots of fun to drive.

Getting back on the 101, head to San Francisco was a bit of a shock. The heat hit me like a punch to the face. Unbelievable how much hotter it was once I moved away from the shore line. I unzipped my jacket to allow air to pass through, but it was of little help, it was hot. The next thing I knew, I was on the Golden Gate Bridge! The bridge came up with little warning, down a hill, a bit of a curve and then you’re on the bridge, I moved into the slow lane to enjoy the moment.

I arrived at Dennis and Dominic’s garage easily enough. (These were the guys I met in the Yukon on the classic bikes). I think they were surprised to see me but very welcoming. I was given a tour of their amazing collection of bikes and was later treated to dinner and gave me a great tour of the city at night. I spent the night in their workshop sleeping among some really cool classic motorcycles. I guess if I can’t sleep nest to a beautiful woman classic motorcycles make a good second choice (I can’t believe I just typed that, I am heading straight to Las Vegas).

I spent an entire day being a tourist in San Francisco. Unfortunately Alcatraz tours were booked until Sunday, but there were many other things to see and I kept myself entertained, it’s a beautiful and interesting city. Another dinner with my new friends, more interesting conversation and I slept among the classic motorcycles.

I have been thinking about how amazing it is that you can meet someone very briefly and form a friendship from something you have in common. I talked to Dennis and Dominic at a gas station in the middle of the Yukon for only 20 minutes and was invited to meet them again in San Francisco if I passed that way. We became good friends and share more in common than motorcycles. This type of friendship keeps happening to me on this journey.

Back on the road again heading for Yosemite National Park and I am really noticing the heat.

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