Monday, March 5, 2007

An interview with the press

We were interviewed by TV, radio, newspapers, and this guy. I have decided to write a book about the trip, and will keep this site posted as to my progress.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Little Things

Today was spent getting the shifters put on my bike, riding it and getting used to the pattern being completely opposite what it was before, and cleaning then oiling the chain. I spent a lot of time yesterday gathering information as to the best way to maintain the chain and other things on the bicycles, and have come to the conclusion that when it comes to maintenance serious bicyclists are even more fanatical than most motorcyclists. I found out I should soak it in diesel or kerosene, or boil it in hot water, then either put it in a bath of paraffin and let it dry overnight, or use motor oil, or chainsaw oil, or a special oil made for chains, or a mixture of oil and paraffin or a mixture of oil and kerosene. There were several different motor oils I could use and some I should avoid. I should take the chain off the bike and vigorously swing it around to dry, but carefully so as not to damage it. So I washed it down with gasoline, sprayed it with WD-40, and used a wadded up plastic bag to slather on some motor oil from my motorcycle. It's still dripping out on the balcony.

When I was having dinner with my friend Cherie, we got to talking about countries we had visited and our impressions. She had a good time in Ecuador, and it was one of the worst places I have ever traveled through. She flew there and went to a friend's house and had her itinerary sorted pretty well, and I showed up at the border and asked to be let in. She saw really neat stuff. I saw corrupt official after corrupt official, miles and miles of garbage and plastic banana bags on the road and banana plantations and banana pickers throwing bananas at me from the backs of banana trucks. I think when you show up unannounced and have to find your way through, you develop a very different sense of the place.

Uruguay fascinates me. It is one of the most overlooked countries in South America. Most people who make the trip via motorcycle don't consider visiting Uruguay. It occupies a strange part of the Southern Cone, where it isn't between two more interesting places to see. So nobody passes through on their way somewhere else.

Right now Uruguay is having a conflict with Argentina over a papermill the Uruguayans are constructing on the river between Uruguay and Argentina. It is being build by a company from Finland, and will be one of the cleanest in the world when it starts operating. The Argentines claim they are worried it will pollute the river between the two countries. They knew the plant was going to be built three years ago, and didn't complain. In fact they actively sought to have it put in Entre Rios province, across the river from where it is now.

When the company that is building the plant decided to put it in Uruguay instead, the Argentines decided it is a source of pollution. So they block the bridges between the two countries, depriving the Uruguayans of tourist revenue from Argentines that want to visit Punte del Este. They also claim Argentina would be a better place for the plant, because they have a better record of taking care of the environment. In my travels, I have noticed that the parts of Argentina that are well maintained and taken care of are very far from most Argentinians. They can't get to their natural resources, that's why Patagonia is so pristine and unpolluted. The parts where they actually live are quite polluted and filthy.

Fortunately, we will be traveling through Uruguay when the Argentines who were able to get in are back at work, and the Chileans are on vacation. Because they drive, most of them will not be able to cross the bridges into Uruguay. So we should have the entire country almost to ourselves.

In Entre Rios they are planting trees like crazy, for the new papermill in Uruguay.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Getting closer

Marcia and I just spent a week in Uspallata, Argentina, up in the Andes. We discussed the trip we will be taking, and here are some of her thoughts:

1. She doesn't need to practice before we go, because she has a secret way of getting in shape fast.

2. We will probably find a place we like and spend the whole month there.

3. Instead of writing her own blog, she wants to post on this one. Most of my entries will be about how wonderful she is and hers will be about how difficult it is to travel with me.

4. Instead of helmets, we should wear big sombreros.

Last night I had dinner with my friend Cherie and her boyfriend Gonzalo. They were kind enough to bring me a new Sram 3.0 comp shifter with extra long cables for my bike, and a rearview mirror for Marcia's down from New York. It looks like I may be able to put the bike in all 21 gears again after all.

On Monday I am going to go look for rear racks for the bikes. I can hang the tent and small bag we will be taking on the backs of the seats, but don't know how well the seat frames will take that weight and ours for a month.

Our trip starts next Sunday.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Last year, as I was crossing Uruguay on my motorcycle, I realized I was going too fast to see anything. Anybody else would have slowed down and enjoyed the view, but I can't. When I am on a motorcycle, I have to go fast enough that I am in front of everyone else. I hate to follow anyone, and can't go slow. "Go fast, see nothing," is how my friend Pete described my travel style after a ride we did from San Diego to Guadalajara and back.

As I rode across Uruguay at about 80 mph, and came to the realization that I was not seeing anything, and will ride until I am exhausted, check into a hotel and drink beer until I relax enough to go to sleep, it hit me that the way to see the country is to do it on a bicycle. I haven't ridden one in 20 years, am fat and out of shape, and will have to go slow.

When I got back to Ohio, I started looking on the internet and found recumbent bicycles. I found a deal on Craigslist for a late model BikeE CT, and bought it.

I started to ride every day, and noticed that when I went up hills, the front wheel would rise up off the ground. Back on the internet, and I realized I am too heavy for the bike. So I found a XL frame BikeE CT on ebay, and that's what I'm riding now. My friend Marcia, from Santiago, Chile, will be riding with me on the standard frame CT.

I have been riding in Santiago two to four times a week since the bikes arrived in early November 2006. I am up to 20 miles at a time, in an urban environment. Marcia has ridden three times, and fell once. This should be interesting.