Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Home Again

On my way home I stopped in Hendersonville, NC, and hung out with Kevin & Karilea. I made a simple repairs to the soft luggage, replacing nylon cords that had been pressed into service when a tie down strap broke, due to chaffing and vibrations. I bought another dog leash and cut off the collar clip, thus fabricating a replacement tie down. I had to do this in Costa Rica as several straps went missing. We had several home cooked meals and watched the first DVD disc of "Long Way Down." I envy McGregor and Boorman for the trips they are able to take and am even more jealous of their support crew. On the other hand, I enjoyed the simplicity of my trip logistics. Hey, who wants all those support crew hanging around when hitting the open road?

I ordered a EXO heated jacket liner and had it shipped to Houston, so I was ready for chilly, but not frigid weather. Kevin & Karilea are old friends and the owners of Olympia Moto Sports. They hooked me up with a Phantom one piece riding suit, so I could navigate cold weather in comfort. The one piece suit made the trip home a pleasure. [Kevin making final adjustments to the suit.]

Crossing North Carolina, east to west, I stopped at had a long conversation with Brian Lord in Durham, NC, about the comings and goings of the VistA healthcare information software community.There is never enough time to catch-up with Brian, but we covered as much as we could and said goodbye.

I pressed on to visit Wayne & Suzanne in Enfield where they are renovating a house and will open the restored house as a B&B. We enjoyed the remaining George T. Stagg (bourbon) that I had been carrying since Ingrid brought the fine elixir to me in Panama.

Monday morning I saw a weather window and a chance of rain the following day, so said goodbye to Wayne & Suzanne and hit the road. It was about 70 degrees when I left Enfield and the forecast reviled that the temperature will drop with each hour as I rode north. As Washington DC faded in my rear view mirror and Baltimore approached, the sun started to set. I could almost watch the thermometer needle drop as the last rays of light were lost behind the horizon. It is startling how much the cooler it gets immediately after sunset. Motorcyclists understand that the chill factor is significant on riding down the highway. In simple words, it feels a lot colder riding a motorcycle at speed, then it does standing still outside. Wind chill is a #%@!

As darkness set in my feet and finger tips begin feeling the nip of old man winter. I straighten my fingers across the levers, seeking shelter of small plastic rain guards. Getting my fingers out of the wind helps considerably. At a rest stop on the NJ Turnpike and add another pair to socks to ward of the cold. A small gap in the stitching of my right boot had developed a few weeks ago, which I cover with cloth tape to keep stop a draft on my right foot. When I arrived home to temperature had dropped to 37 degrees.

Traveling up the east coast and closer to home, the excitement increased with each milestone. Counting the exits on the New Jersey Turnpike, watching the decreasing number of miles to go on the GPS, and finally turning down my street. Home at last. Three months, three weeks, three oils changes, a new back tire (due to wear), miscellaneous part replacements (nothing major) -- AMIGA has served me well. The trip was amazing, the experiences, new friends and visits with old friends, advancement of VistA awareness in Central America...priceless. As Kevin would say, "The trip of a life time", I can only agree. Soon I will get the itch to venture out again, perhaps to South America, but for now it's great to be home.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Houston / Lafayette / Atmore

After spending the night in Riviera, TX I headed east to Houston. Texas near the Gulf Coast is incredibly flat. When the rain falls I imagine that someone has to tell the water which way to drain off, it's that flat.

Arrived in Houston during the afternoon and headed directly for Gulf Coast BMW for an over due oil change and a new back tire. The folks at Gulf Coast had been great on my way south. I called from the road and paid for oil and a spare head light bulb, and they agreed to leave the parts out back. This time they squeezed me into their tight schedule. Greg the owner checked to make sure everything was attended to, Rick the service manager and Chris the technician were all great. I had problems getting on their wireless network. No problem, a USB network card was offer by a clerk. That didn't work, so she let me plug directly into their network. If you are passing through Houston, this is the place to stop for service. I had been carrying spare rear wheel brake pads with me during the whole trip. With the rear wheel off I thought it would be a good time to replace the brake pads. When Chris tried to install my parts it turned out that the pads I bought months ago were the wrong size. I will make it home with the brake pads, but it kills me to know that I have have been packing the wrong part for ~10,000 miles.

I stayed in Houston with my WorldVistA colleague and friend, David Whitten, had a tasty Itailian dinner, then we visited Ignacio Valdez, where we talked about new developments in the VistA community late into the eventing. The next morning, after a teleconference with Rob Tweed in England and K.S. Bhaskar in Malvern, PA, I hit the road for Lafayette, LA.

As I crossed the state line in Louisiana the temperature dropped 10 degree in a matter of minutes. I not exactly sure how cold it was, but by the time I reached my friend Adrian's I was shivering. I was hoping to cover more miles that day, but when he offered to put me up for the night, to which I gladly agreed. Adrian and his wife Danielle are the pinicale of southern hospitality. He has openned his home to me twice on my trip. This time I got me meet their sons, Dominic and Julian.
Thursday I reached Atmore, AL, (about 1.5 hours south of Montgomery, Al) and had to stop for the night to join the WorldVistA leadership tele-conference call. It was dark and getting cold, so stopping at 7:00 PM wasn't such a bad idea. I'm now waiting for the frost to melt on the motorcycle and will head to Hendersonville, NC to visit Kevin and Karilea.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

US/Mexico Border

John, Tom and I rode hard for over a week, from northern Costa Rica to the US/Mexico border. Monday afternoon John and Tom split off to head to Austin, TX and I headed towards Houston, TX. I crossed the border into Brownsville, TX Monday night. After a night of rest I will pack up and head to Houston to see David Whitten, then start working my way east.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Heading North Thru Mexico

I linked up with two gringo riders, John and Tom, in northern Costa Rica, just south of the Nicaraguan border, and have been riding with them since. Each day we have ridden as much as we could. We are now two days from the US/Mexico border.

I was very fortunate to ride with Tom and John. There are the practical matters like of having someone to watch your bike while you go to the bathroom, but more so they have been great fun to travel with and I have learned a lot from these riders.

By final tally we covered ~2000 miles in 8 days, which breaks down to roughly 250 miles per day. On the surface that does not appear to be impressive in terms of miles logged per day. Bare in mind that effort includes crossing the following frontiers: Costa Rica/Nicaragua, Nicaragua/Honduras, Honduras/El Salvador, El Salvador/Guatemala, and Guatemala/Mexico. The countries are shown twice and in pairs because with each border crossing you must process the paperwork to checkout of one country and complete the paperwork for the next. Also consider we were up and on the road (most days) near dawn and for safety stopped before sunset to find lodging.

Sorry for getting behind on the postings. My schedule has been insane, between riding, meetings and, yes, having fun. I may be home as early as 2/8, but weather is the great unknown.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Southern Mexico

The three amigos having lunch after crossing the border from Guatemala into Mexico. Crossing borders is an insane process in Latin America. Each time it is over you feel spent and never want to do it again. It typically takes at least two hours to clear customs on both sides and work out the permits for the motorcycles. The process was much easier with a small group.

Tom got the nickname, "the Captain" for his navigation skills. He has ridden over 250,000 accident free miles, and has used GPS devices since more than a few riders riders got out of their diapers. As we headed north he pushed us to put miles behind us and kept on schedule. His riding skills are impressive and he give me helpful tips that could keep a rider out of trouble. Tom is headed to Indiana and will return to Central America as soon as he can.

John was touring around Central America for a few months and needed to head back to Colorado. He connected with Tom via an international rider website. Tom was getting ready to ship his bike back at some expense, so it was good luck that they were both in Costa Rica and ready to travel at the same time. John is planning return to Central America in a month and then ride through South America. I am so jealous, but for now I am looking forward to getting home.


John spent a few days in Chapis with Zapatistas, touring a school, etc. His balaclava on a foggy, rainy day inspired the nickname "Subcommander Dos", which is a corruption of Zapatistas leader "Subcommander Zero." Note the striking similarities between Tom and Marcos, uncanny isn't it.

As we left San Cristobal and headed to Minatitlan we rode in and out of fog and rain all day, which was unusual for the dry season. At the end of the day we were all soaked, or at least partially, and in great need of hot showers.