Wednesday, February 27, 2013

An incredible journey was just about to begin...

Two years ago I embarked on an incredible motorcycle journey.  Little did I know at the time, that 6 months after my arrival home, another journey was about to begin.  A journey that I had been seeking for a long, long time, and one that has changed my life forever in the most amazing way.

On February 2011, I traveled from British Columbia south through California into the Baja, over to mainland Mexico by ferry and then south through Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and into Panama.  Once arriving to the Panama Canal, I turned my motorcycle around and headed north, heading back home.  I traveled 20,054 kms in 90 days solo, on my own, with my trusty Kawasaki KLR 650 named 'Rojo', and a surfboard. 

When I began this journey I was seeking adventure, but I was also craving a challenge which put me out of my comfort zone.  The travel part of the journey wasn't what made me nervous, it was the travel via motorcycle that was the unknown.  I knew very little about motorcycles before this trip but I decided that I needed a challenge of this magnitude.  

This adventure proved to be more incredible that I could have ever imagined in many ways.  My experiences which are now fond memories sit tightly beside me, tickling me from time to time providing me with smiles, laughs and overall feelings of success after achieving this goal.

A few folks have asked me in the past while about this trip which now seems like a distant blur, and right now, 2 years ago to the day, I was about 3 days into this incredible adventure.  I have decided to post a few pictures (some repeats) and dust-off this old, rusty blog.  For those that are interested in reading about a motorcycle trip - have a look.  Also, dig deep in the 2011 archives (tab to the right) and have a read back.  I wrote this blog while I was on the road (Feb, March, April and May 2011), mainly for myself and for close friends and family.  It was truly enjoyable documenting this trip while on the road and I have to thank my sister for encouraging me to do so.

... the journey IS the destination... 

Petaluma, California.

Petaluma, California.
San Francisco

San Francisco


Huntington Beach

Baja, Mexico

Baja, Mexico

'Fill 'er-up Amigo' - Baja, Mexico.

San Jose del Cabo, Baja.

Tacos al pastor - San Jose del Cabo, Baja
Feeling Lost - Baja nowhere

Scorpion Bay, Baja, Mexico


Sayulita, Mexico

Saladita, Mexico

Roadside comida - Mainland Mexico

Views from the cockpit - Mexico


Lago Atitlan - Guatemala


Xela, Guatemala

Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

El Tunco, El Salvador

El Tunco, El Salvador

'Chicos' - El Tunco, El Salvador

Flores, El Salvador

'A money making bribe' - Honduras


Costa Rica

Costa Rica - Panama Border


Panama City

Co-pilot.  Panama.

Boquete, Panama

San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico

Veracruz, Mexico

San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico

en route to Durango, Mexico

Mazatlan tourist-times

Mazatlan, Mexico

Mazatlan, Mexico

Las Vegas, Nevada.

Almost home - Idaho


The Best Place on Earth.  Home. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Last Chapter

 Home and back to skiing!  Hold on, I'm getting ahead of myself here...

After being home for 2 days I headed out on a quick afternoon ski tour with friends.  Crazy how much snow is still in the mountains.

OK, let me rewind a week.  After the blur of Vegas which I included in my last post, I worked my way north through Nevada.  I had an appointment booked at Happy Trails in Boise, Idaho to get my front shocks looked at in addition to picking up some new rubber for my arrival home.  Happy Trails was where I purchased my luggage in addition to a variety of add-ons for the KLR.  They specialize in adventure touring and are a really great bunch of guys.  

The line-up of bikes at the Happy Trails shop in Boise, Idaho (most of these were owned by folks who work there.)

Patiently waiting for Rojo while his shocks were ripped apart
There are a few photos on this trip that I kick myself for not taking.  I wish I had taken a photo of the outcome of my repairs at Happy Trails, but the idea was lost in the surprise I had.  Upon taking my shocks apart, the mechanic took both springs out and one was broken right in half!  They were obviously still working as the shocks are a spring/air/oil combo, but I had noticed that something was up much earlier on in the trip.  The broken spring was also wearing my front tire down in a very unique manner, giving my bike a slight bounce at low speeds on pavement, something I had been noticing for a while as well.  I am more than certain I had been riding on a broken spring from about Costa Rica north - more than 7000kms.  Once fixed, I also had the mechanic install the new rubber I was planning to pack home as my front tire was pretty much done because of the weird wear.  

A few more ADV bikes at Happy Trails, my mechanic owned the BMW on the left. 

A pit-stop beside the Middle Fork of the Payette River, Idaho.

Finally packing a spare tire in true ADV style
Riding north through Idaho proved to be quite the challenge.  The roads were fantastic, but the weather crapped out.  The rain started bucketing down and I had a really difficult time keeping my hands warm.  I have been wearing a thin, leather glove for the duration of my trip and once wet and cold it was really challenging to warm my hands back up again, especially my left hand after my 2 surgeries.  Once my hands were done, I was done, I had to stop and head inside to a warm location and it would usually take at least an hour + to warm back up again. 

My final morning waking up in Grangeville, Idaho it was pouring rain again.  I was sure I could push home in one day but needed to keep my hands warm.  I headed to the local supermarket before leaving and bought a pair of heavy duty dish gloves.  I figured I could put them on over my riding gloves and be golden and warm for my final push home.  This didn't work.  Unfortunately, the gloves were too tight and they just cut the circulation off in my hands.  The first few hours of riding north were wet and miserable, and then my core body temperature started dropping... I was very cold.  I knew I only had 2 options and one I wasn't even willing to consider, I wanted to get home. 

My strategy for warm hands in Idaho... which didn't work. 

I was lucky as the sun came out, it warmed up and I was staying dry on my final push home.

As I pulled into Lewiston, Idaho, I began looking for a hunting store.  I knew I could get warmer gloves and thermal underwear at a local outdoor - hunting shop.  I HAD thermals on my way south, but I sent them back from the Baja after meeting up my Dad figuring I wouldn't need them for the rest of the trip.  

I'm sure I had an internal radar on loud and clear as the minute I rolled into Lewiston I looked to my right and saw Black Sheep Sporting Goods.  Perfect timing as I was wet and cold and needed some help to push on.  I hopped off my bike which ended up being more of a stumble and immediately through the front doors of the Black Sheep.  Once opening the door, my eyes focused on a younger clerk behind the back gun-counter of the store.  He was cocking a shotgun and he said, 'I just love the action on this bad-boy!'  Seriously.  I had to give my head a minor shake to begin focusing on my thermal search.  Upon being asked for some assistance I was told that most of the thermals had been put away for the summer but they gladly went to the back to get something for me that would work.  I was a little upset when the head-to-toe 'cammo' underwear ended up being too big, but we managed to find some that worked.  A couple pair of gloves - thin inserts and larger ones, my new long thermal underwear, $31 on the Visa and I was out the door and all warmed up for my final stint on the road home.   

British Columbia - the best place on earth
Crossing over the border from the US into Canada was a pretty funny story in itself.  I pulled up to a border crossing I'm quite familiar with as it is a 50min drive from my house.  As I approached the red light, green light, I stopped like a good little traveler, following all directions and waited to proceed.  I figured this would be a good time to pull off my gloves and dive into my tank-bag to pull out my passport and get sorted before I pulled up to the window.  The green light was immediately turned on, so I pulled up to the window, turned off my bike  and fumbled with my stuff, dropping my gloves to the ground and barley holding on to my passport.  As I sorted myself out and looked up at the window I hear... 'BA Belton, how the heck are you doing?'.  Turns out I'm looking right at Mike, a family friend who grew up on the same street as me.  He has been working at this border for years, but the chances of getting him are quite slim.  We had a good chat as cars loaded up behind me and I was grateful it was a smooth, easy experience getting back into the motherland.  'Thanks Mike!'  

Nelson, BC - my home

A nice tail-gate reunion with my pooch upon arrival home, we were pretty happy to see one another.
I knew I would have a transition to work through once arriving home, but I wasn't really prepped for how it would all pan out.  The first few days were busy, speedy and non-stop, somewhat like the roads in Guatemala.  I was visiting friends and family, hitting the coffee shop for catch-ups, I went skiing one afternoon which was incredible and then hit a weekend wedding!  The true challenge has been being off my motorcycle and dealing with the norm of life at home.  Banking, grocery shopping, networking for work, driving my truck with x4 wheels have all been very difficult.

I don't think one can ever understand this unless you've been there, unless you've tasted it for yourself.  It is tough. 

Double thumbs-up to a fun afternoon ski 2 days after my return home
Loving my new long underwear thermals purchased at a hunting shop in Idaho - (which saved my bacon on my final push home.) 

Haircut, shave and my bikes back in the shop where I started this surreal journey

Nelson, BC - (I took this photo yesterday on a quick hike with my dog)

Overlooking Nelson, BC

I know it'll take time being home and getting back into the swing of things.  Just the other day someone asked me if I'd do it again... and without hesitation I said yes.  Half of me wants to pack up today and to continue heading north to Alaska.  I'm sure this will happen one day, but for now I need to focus on working my way back into my community, getting back to work and keeping my 'stick on the ice' as we say here in Canada.   

Final Thoughts:

It was surprising how many people I met on my trip thought I was completely nuts for traveling solo throughout Mexico and Central America.  A question I was hearing over and over again was, 'Isn't Mexico dangerous?'.  My answer would always be 'No, it is great'.  My advice is to 'turn off your TV', in the loose sense.  We live in a day and age where this would be extremely difficult due to our connectedness, but it is truly amazing how the media plugs the fear in people.  Dangerous, unfortunate things happen to humans on a daily basis, all over the world, regardless of where you are at.  I had countless challenges on my motorcycle trip, but 99% of the people I met were really interested in me and in helping me in any way possible.  Sure, I had to be very aware, alert, 'on my game', but it is truly surprising what a positive attitude, a smile, some basic communication, and a simple laugh... can create.  It is amazing.

I read a quote once years ago that really stuck with me, and it goes something like this:

"The World is like a book, and those that stay at home never leave the first page."

My advice to you...

Get Out There!  

Thank-you SO much for all of the support, encouragement and positive energy sent my way... it aided me to my destination and back thus accomplishing my goal and I'm still in one piece... so thank-you again and again.

My next trip?  Who knows... for now, I'm sticking around, but stay-tuned, I'm sure something will start bubbling and brewing.

Until next time...