trip prep madness

Are motocross boots overkill for your adventure?

The short answer is, yes. The long answer is, opinions may vary.

Chances are if you disagree with me, you are a more hard-core rider than I am. I ride big-bore BMWs off-road in rocky terrain, in the mud and sand when I have to, and on forest service roads that get me away from the main highway. But I leave demanding single-track and boulder hopping to the lighter bikes and the skilled riders who can maneuver a heavy, big cc motorcycle in technical terrain like it was an extension of their limbs. Read more →

A quiet good-bye to Los Angeles

As I prepared in the final week before my departure, I couldn’t help but think this was the last time I would be driving around these streets of North East Los Angeles that I have come to know in my 9-year residence.  There was a fondness to the idea, not so much in what I will be missing, but what I had experienced in those neighborhoods.  Each time I drove around, I was ready to say good-bye. Then I would forget one more item and have to drive them again.

The city itself, I have been ready to say good-bye to for a long time.  It’s the people I have come to know were the hardest to part from.  Even though my last days were filled with paperwork for me and the bike as well as organization of packing my bike and my life, I couldn’t say no to seeing any of my friends.


It was not as easy as I thought it would be to wave goodbye to what was once my daily routine, but there was a consensus amongst the group: Alison, it is time to go.  When I planned the actual day of my departure, I imagined a grand send off with lots of people riding in my wake.  But it was a quiet send off with just me riding off quietly in the night.  So as have watched a final sun set over downtown Los Angeles, so has my time spent there. With no attachments to return to, the open road becomes my home.

Letting loose in the dirt: a day at MotoVentures

The idea was to throw around some light dirt bikes, ones we weren’t afraid to fall off of nor were hard to pick up.  Here we could learn the proper stance, then apply it to our larger, heavier dual sports. Basically, we wanted to learn a new body language for riding in the dirt.  What I learned was that I was taught some bad habits from other riders, which made more proficient maneuvering difficult.  I had to override what I knew and start on the basics to get that solid foundation I never built correctly.

We lucked out and it was only two of us with Gary LaPlante, the instructor at MotoVentures.  It had rained the night before so the dirt was still moist and had lots of traction.  The perfect setting for a closed course and ability to practice prescribed maneuvers.  We set out on new Yamahas, a WR250F for me and a WR450F for my partner.  He worked with us individually, requesting repetition or progressing as seen capable.  My riding partner proved worthy of much more advanced skills, where as I had a hard time trusting myself in pushing the limits of even the basics:  Counterbalancing… key.  Throttle… ok.  Picking lines… ugh!.  Sand…forget it.  At least the bike was light to pick up all those times.

It may seem like I am being hard on myself, but the bottom line is that I had fun challenging myself and would go back for a second round if I had more time before my departure. I know in my head what I should be doing, now just to get my body to do it.  What Gary prescribed for me: to let loose a little more. Given the approaching amount of seat time (or really peg time) in my near future, I’m sure I will have many occasions to practice.

Besides, when the day ends like this… how could it be bad…

Giant Loop tank bag : looks good and works even better

It arrives…and the moment I put the tank bag on my beat up KLR, I new I needed to give it a make over.  The bag just looked so good. Read more →

Packing right begins with cases: an easy Seahorse Mounting project

Seahorse brand makes great cases that served me well during my trip to Alaska last summer… they are waterproof, provides solid protection and happens to be lighter than Pelican cases. In my preparation to head south for the winter, I was thrilled to be able to mount new SE-720 cases on the sides and a SE-540 on the rear of my KLR.

Read more →

My Moto Parts Guys

The men of Cycle Depot… sounds like it should be a pin-up calendar, but it’s just a shop full of great guys who have helped me out over the years with not only parts, but teaching me how to change my tires, pick up a bike (yes, I accidentally dropped it in the parking lot, so it was a good lesson to learn,) a little help now and then solving a mechanical problem, but above all, amusement every time I walk through the door. So a big cheers and thanks, guys!

I recently found, which also deserves a shout out, Scott’s Performance.  A thanks to James for letting me pick his brain on everything from riding gear, to video cameras, to steering stabilizers to anything moto related.  This guy knows his stuff and is just a joy to talk to.

“Hablas Espanol?”

Response to a common question: “Do I speak Spanish?”

When you have some time to kill at the airport (LAX in particular) it can reveal odd things… I watched this young girl wearing the highest heels I have seen all day, scurry across the sealed concrete floor.  She is lost and looking around for other dark skinned patrons.  She walks up to a guard and asks, “Hablas Espanol?” But he doesn’t speak Spanish, he is not even Latin, he’s Filipino.  He points in the direction of the bathroom, but that’s not what she’s looking for. No luck.  Her heels clack on…

I realized I will be that girl soon (minus the high heels) and I better learn better Spanish.  I keep joking that I am relying on my 2 years of high school language course will come back to me, but the reality is I need more than that.  I have been listening to audio tracks in the car, I am watching Spanish movies, but I’m not practicing conversation.  So I signed up for a travellers course once I get to Antigua, Guatemala.  I will spend a week being tutored one on one in Spanish and living with a host family for a full immersion experience.  It has been suggested time and time again for a better experiences, it’s best to know the language.  I am lucky to be trekking throughout such extensive distances and able to get away with just one language (it wouldn’t be as easy to do this in Europe.)



The Darien Gap: a learning curve

When I was first entertaining the idea of riding my motorcycle all the way down to the tip, I was asked, “What are you going to do about the Darien Gap?”  (It’s funny to think of how little I knew when I set out to take on this adventure.)  The Darien Gap is the only missing link of the Pan-American Highway… that means there is no constructed road, between Panama and Columbia, only jungle.  I had no idea what it was let alone how to get across.

This is where my learning curve begins.

Option 1: Air-freight the moto and fly. (cha-ching)

Option 2: Take a boat. (also cha-ching, but way more fun)

So I opted for the boat.  There are many boats that take passengers, but there are only two that will passage motorcycles as well:  (there were three, but Fritz the Cat sank this summer – moms and dads – please don’t worry.)   a new boat Independence and the tried and true Stahlratte.   It is a three-day journey from San Blas, Panama to Cartegena, Colombia including a brief tour of the islands and its surrounding crystal blue waters.  I have heard wonderful things about Stahlratte and decided to ask for passage with them.

There should be a sign warning tight curves ahead…

I had this idea in my head to spend Christmas in Colombia.  It had a nice ring to it.  I figured two months was plenty of time to ride through Mexico and Central America, about 4,000 miles.  (Perspective check: I did twice the miles in the same amount of time last summer to AK and back.)

Upon further research, the Stahlratte’s last voyage of 2012 departs Panama on Dec. 8th and does not resume service until Jan 14th giving the crew time off to celebrate the holidays. And when I called about it, there was one spot left. I contacted the other boat, but still have not heard back from them.

Here is where my learning curve took a sharp turn and I had to figure it out how to lean into it quickly.

With my original departure date in mind, that would now give me 5 weeks to ride, well, 4 really because of a week in Antigua to learn Spanish (see next post.)  So I had a minor freak out that morning wondering how I was going to manage it since I don’t have a month to spare in Panama if I realistically need to make it down to the tip (about 13,000 miles) by April 2013 because temperatures start dropping by then.

My dilemma… can I leave earlier than Nov. 3? Can I accelerate my preparation with the idea of being ready to leave after the Horizons Unlimited meeting in Cambria, CA on Oct. 21st ? (yes, only two weeks away!)

By default of limited options, it seems like the most logical progression to accept what is laid out before me…  I reserved the last passage on the Stahlratte.

Seat Concepts : comfort for the many miles ahead!

Seat Concepts  isa small company based out of San Jacinto, CA.  It was well worth the trek to watch Lendon build a new seat for my KLR.  A man whose initially constructed seats to restore old motocross racing bikes, he has made a booming business for himself recovering dual sport seats. Read more →

Prep: Packing – the Spare Parts list:

For Tires:

–       21” front tube

–       17” rear tube

–       tube patch kit

–       valve stem & puller

–       valve covers

–       baby powder

–       Slime 12V air pump

For Wheels

–       Wheel bearings (set of 5)

–       15 tooth front sprocket

–       43 tooth rear sprocket

–       Front brake pads

For Controls:

–       Clutch cable

–       Clutch lever

–       Brake lever

For Safety:

–       First aid kit (items discussed laster)

–       50ft. nylon parachute chord

–       poncho

–       hand warmers

Chassis and Engine:

–       Oil filter

–       Qt of oil

–       Chain lube (tri-flo)

–       JB weld

–       Electrical tape

–       Duct Tape

–       Lithium grease

–       Turtle Wax

–       1 ft ¼” tubing

–       Loc-tite

–       Assorted Bolts, nuts & washers

–       Spark plug & spanner

–       Chain link

–       Bailing wire

–       Zip Ties (favorite KLR accessory)

For Electrical:

–       Fuses: assorted sizes

–       Wire + connectors

–       Photocopy of wiring diagram and KLR specs

Not an exciting post, but necessary part of packing.