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RedDog
Retired SportBike Bum



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Total Posts : 13635
 
   Posted 7/19/2010 1:24 PM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Good shots and nice write ups, Chris!

On the "Wall of Fame" here, there's a picture of me and Momma Hen crossing the Rockies in a blizzard back in 1981. I know how snow feels on a MC in the cool of the mountains. But, it's a life long memory. Few of the nice and sunny days get there.


RedDog
Think Ahead! Travel Light & Leave Your Fears Behind You!
Normal People Scare me! Travel Light and Leave Your Fears Behind You!

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Chris Sorbi
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   Posted 7/31/2010 12:05 AM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Thank you guys for the comments, it's always good to see someone is reading my gibberish idea Keep'em coming.
RedDog,

You're right, i don't feel the cold anymore, it's just memories that last.


The Expedition's website: www.motorcyclememoir.com

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Chris Sorbi
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   Posted 7/31/2010 12:06 AM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Hello friends! Our latest blog post comes to us courtesy of our organization’s Public Relations Director, Jared Williams. We are inspired by his recent trip to Haiti and his work there and hope you will be too. -Chris Sorbi

It’s been a week now since I returned home from an 8 day missionary trip to Haiti. What I saw in that time has clearly changed me and helped me to grow and coming home has been surprisingly hard. I long to be back in Haiti where I can see myself helping people directly and can see the faces of those receiving my gifts. However as I contemplate my trip and my contribution, I have wondered if that is truly the case, would I really help those in need more in Haiti or more back home?

I do not have that answer and perhaps it is not one answer for my entire life, but I will try to share with you some of what I experienced in Haiti. Each aspect perhaps reflects a lot on who I am and my personal story. For you to really fully understand the situation in Haiti and how it reflects on you and your life can not be done through my pictures, my videos or my stories. It would only happen with taking a trip to Haiti yourself and experiencing it in person.

My fulltime job involves large-scale planning and tracking for road and bridge projects for a 3 billion dollar 8 year program. I am used to looking at single projects and seeing how that interacts with hundreds of other projects working together as part of one large infrastructure program. My mind has been trained for years to break down huge construction projects to smaller and smaller pieces until they are manageable work activities then link them back together in a sequence and order to calculate how long it will take with a given effort to get to the eventual completion of the project. A simplification would be to say the greater the effort the less time it takes, and the smaller the effort the longer it takes.
While many on the trip saw the volume of destruction as insurmountable, I saw work activities that needed to be done. After temporary shelters, the road and transportation infrastructure immediately stood out as the first area needing focus in Haiti. This would help with the physical rebuilding of homes and businesses, but also aide the eventual economic rebuilding required to one day lift the country out of the immense poverty it is in. Unfortunately, throughout my stay I saw very little progress with a few curbs being made with hand-mixed mortar and stone and a stretch of roadway being placed with the only concrete mixer I saw, all ¼ yards of it. I even saw a single backhoe and loader along with a handful of dump trucks. The scale of reconstruction ahead of Haiti demands fleets of vehicles, massive transfer stations to break down the rubble into reusable aggregate, concrete mix plants and so much more that just isn’t present or available. Needless to say it was easy to see no end in sight for the cleanup let alone reconstruction with the current effort on the ground six months after the earthquake.

Once we got to the work sites, my trade experience as a carpenter kicked back in, and I felt good to be actively helping the people around me in a physical way. I got to meet the 26 children in Leogon using the orphanage we were putting walls up on; I got to see the 400 children in Laquil using the school that had no roof when we came benefit from finishing the roof over them, I got to see the 200 children in Foe Shea who would benefit from our trenching and wall building to keep their school above the flood level during the rainy season. It might be a postage stamp effort in a country that needs so much, but I could finally dig in and do work that was helping those in need.

Everyone we met in these villages was so thankful for us and our help but working alongside some Haitian workers I felt a sense of selfishness as what I spent to come to Haiti could pay for a crew of them to work for a month, helping both the schools in need and the workers and their families. This feeling was short-lived as they were so receptive and thankful, even the concrete crew I helped would say, “Merci Jared” after each pail of mortar I mixed and shoveled for them. The resounding message they all told me was simple, to not forget them and to share their story. They did not see me as taking their work but helping them as an equal and a brother that could take their story home to all of you reading this.





























Now what touched me the most during my trip relates to my role as a father of three wonderful children. I saw so much faith and hope in these kids. They grew up in these surroundings and even with losing the little they had with the earthquake they retained a bright outlook on life when the rest of the world sees little to no hope for them. The faith they had reminded me of a Bible verse that has stuck with me for a while but came to new life in Haiti. In Mathew 18:1-6 it reads:

“1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3 And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 “And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. 6 But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

We can learn a lot from these children and I saw the schools MissionE4 run as a direct and real tool being used in God’s name to support and further the faith these children have for their future. My personal sponsorship of Falonne is not just helping to feed, educate, and clothe her but is helping her to remain a child just a bit longer. This little gift by my standards is everything to her and directly helps her maintain that humility and faith through giving her a chance at a future in a country with so little.

As I was in Haiti and even coming home, I have struggled with how I can help best: is it being in Haiti and doing work on the ground, is it “sacrificing” a few luxuries I really don’t need to give a onetime gift towards rebuilding homes, or is it making a longer commitment to one of the many children still in need of a $30 a month sponsor? So as I ponder how best can I help my brothers and sisters in Haiti, I simply ask you to consider the same question. Do not let guilt guide you but only give what and how you are comfortable with. Is it a commitment to come on a future trip, or to give a onetime donation to the rebuilding effort, or to sponsor a child, or maybe all of the above?

Now in closing I ask you to consider the many options of who to donate to and where the money goes when you donate. While millions of donations are filtering through the government and other large aid groups its use and impact is hard to see on the ground right now. I pray it will be seen and real change will come but as I pray for that, I see smaller groups like MissionE4 as a direct and immediate channel to help the people in the most need. My reason for choosing to continue supporting MissionE4 is that they were in Haiti helping before the earthquake, they have the people and infrastructure on the ground to immediately put your dollars to work now, and when the rebuilding is complete, the sponsorship program ensures they will be funded to continue helping long into the future. I urge you all to consider the options, pray about it, and give cheerfully where and how you feel God will best use the gifts he has bestowed upon you to share with those in need.

Information on going on a future trip to Haiti:
http://www.missione4.com/expeditions.htm
General information and rebuilding donations: http://www.missione4.com/index.html
Child Sponsorship information: http://www.missione4.com/sponsorachild.htm
As a volunteer for the child sponsorship program you can also contact me directly at JaredNWilliams@gmail.com with questions or information on children looking for sponsors.


The Expedition's website: www.motorcyclememoir.com

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jon
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   Posted 7/31/2010 6:23 AM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
cool, good job. a disaster any where is bad but to happen in a country like haiti just multiplies it.
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Chris Sorbi
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   Posted 8/29/2010 10:02 PM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
DASH TO USHUAIA ARGENTINA

The torrential tropical rain of Honduras abated for the first time in five hours and the pitch black darkness descended for yet another night on the road in Central America. The SRZero electric car was in front and the support van following closely as they decided to pass the semi-truck ahead of us on the continuous yellow line. Passing cars on curves has become our favorite and routine pastime, so we don’t even second guess our actions, but this time turned out to be the inevitable.

The SRZero passed with no problem and the van followed, so I swerved to the left, picking up speed when suddenly, there it was, a giant pot-hole (more like a crevasse, to be honest) the whole width of the lane and 8 to 10 inches deep. There was nowhere to go and as I hit the brakes frantically, we hit the hole with full force. The horrible noise of bottoming out was one thing and the realization that the bike wasn’t able to accelerate anymore because of jammed front brake was another. The low headlight beam went out, the brake jammed and a flat tire capped off the festivity.

Two weeks ago, Cynthia and I made a connection with Claudio Von Planta, the famous documentary filmmaker and producer, popularly known for his work with Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman on BBC television series Long Way Round and Long Way Down, the motorcycle trips around the world on BMW GS’s.

Cynthia had been busy with doing social networking online to get the word out about Transcontinental Humanitarian Expedition and our ride around the world to raise awareness for world hunger. In the process of linking and spreading the word, she ran across the twitter profile for Claudio and within two days of following Claudio on twitter, she saw that he put out a tweet about needing to ride pillion to Mexico. It seemed like a great idea to join forces since we were going the same direction as we could help him out and in return we would benefit from his expertise with international travel and the margin of safety traveling with a group offers. We contacted him via email that night and by late afternoon of the next day, Friday, August 6, had settled that we would join him and a team of young Imperial College engineering students, Racing Green Endurance (or the RGE team for short), traveling from Mexico to Argentina with a Battery Electric Supercar, the SRZero, and filming a documentary series about the record-breaking journey of the electric supercar.

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The plan was for me to ride the motorcycle while Claudio films the electric car on the back of the bike. Cynthia would ride in the support van and switch to the bike when Claudio isn’t filming and assist with Spanish translation and photography. The team had actually already started their journey on July 4, 2010 in Alaska as their mission is to take the car on the Pan-American Hwy from Alaska to Argentina.

It was such a short notice that I couldn’t even say goodbye to my closest friends in person and in 7 hours, we packed everything for the trip, did some last minute maintenance to the bike and by 6 a.m. Saturday morning, we left for a jaunt of 1800 miles from Helena, MT to the border town of Eagle Pass, TX to join the team in an exhausting two 900 miles days. Within the first five minutes of leaving, the clutch cable broke. As I had previously routed a second cable next to the original just for occasions like this, all I had to do was to connect it and continue on. Thankfully it broke close to my friends and expedition sponsors, Debbie and Tom Matte of Batteries Plus, and they provided the tools to fix the job along with fresh batteries for my camera.

We started our trip down to Mexico on Saturday, August 7 on pretty much no sleep which made the first day a challenge to cover ground as I was seriously sleepy. I kept having to stop to wake myself up and finally opted to try to get some sleep somewhere in Wyoming around 8 pm instead of pushing on. We were apparently the only motorcycle on the road NOT heading to Sturgis. We must have seen thousands of bikers on the road decked out in their leathers. Every gas station looked like a Harley Davidson showroom.

We were really hoping to make it to Eagle Pass, Texas for the border crossing with the team on Monday morning, but the miles were stretching endlessly before us. I was relieved when Claudio updated us that they delayed their crossing until Tuesday morning due to some breakdowns. He also assured us that we could meet up with them somewhere on the road in Mexico if we couldn’t make the border crossing, but I still wanted to try my best to cross the border with them.

Sunday morning we headed out on the road, but stopped to get more malaria medication and supplies. I desperately tried to order a set of tires to have an extra set in case of a flat. The tires on the bike already had a lot of miles and would need changing soon anyway. However, despite calling a million places, I had no luck getting anything en route or shipped in time to the border. We stopped before Denver to pick up a new camera for our trip, and then stopped again at Tom and J’Amy Kent’s house in Littleton, CO. Tom was my hero again and supplied me with a spare clutch cable and fed us sandwiches and drinks. We debated spending the night there, but I was still quite awake and knew that we needed to cover more ground. So we bid farewell to our pit-stop lifesavers again and headed towards Oklahoma.

With lightening dancing directly overhead we drove straight into a pouring rainstorm. I had only six hours of sleep in two days and there was nothing I could do to keep myself awake anymore. My eyelids closed every 5 seconds, and I honestly have no recollection of the scenery or the road for that section. My rescue came in the form of caffeine pills called NoDoz. These little pills are godsends as they made me jitter like a monkey on coke and bought us two more hours of riding before crashing like logs in Lamar, on the border of Oklahoma. Coming up next: Lamar, CO to Eagle Pass, TX in a heroic (Stupid if you ask me) push. Stay Tuned…

Here’s the trailer for RGE as a teaser. Visit www.electric-adventures.com for more videos and to pre order the DVD.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=wa2c4NLXQ64


The Expedition's website: www.motorcyclememoir.com

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Chris Sorbi
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   Posted 9/6/2010 8:47 PM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
AUG, 10TH. RACE TO THE MEXICAN BORDER

We eventually had to stop for a few hours of sleep from around 4 to 8 a.m on Monday morning. But this stop did little to refresh us as in an effort to get a cheap deal on a hotel, we ended up in a rather questionable establishment that had apparently never seen a vacuum cleaner. Not only was the floor beyond filthy, we had to spray the bed and ourselves with 100% deet bug spray as we were welcomed by some not too friendly pests. Apparently, we weren’t quick enough on the draw as we managed to acquire some bedbug bites as souvenirs.

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As Monday dawned, we knew we were in for near-to iron butts with endless miles looming before us. We started out in a light drizzle and met up with every road construction roadblock possible in the state of Oklahoma which succeeded in delaying us for 30 minutes to an hour with each stop. Eventually we crossed Oklahoma into Texas where the bugs got bigger and the heat magnified.

The hours passed and we knew we had to keep riding on into the night. We were hoping against hope to find a sympathetic truck driver to haul us with him and that we could get a few hours of sleep while still pushing on, but to no avail. I kept taking energy shots and NoDoz until my heart felt like it was going a million beats a minute.

We debated stopping to sleep but knew there was simply no way we’d get to Eagle Pass by Tuesday morning if we stopped. Of course, we already realized that even if we did make it, we’d arrived completely shot due to not sleeping. Despite our massive effort, we only got to Del Rio, Texas by 6:30 a.m. We called Claudio to let him know to go ahead with the border crossing, and that we’d catch up later.

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We decided to push on to Eagle Pass but finally stopped at a picnic table rest stop unable to stay awake anymore. While Cynthia watched the bike and our gear, I took an hour nap. We were out of water, exhausted and out of gas, but somehow we made it to Eagle Pass.

We tried to find a park to crash for a few hours but couldn’t find a spot in the shade without the ubiquitous red and black ants that dominate the Texas soil camping out as well. We figured we could cross the border and then find a place to crash and that would put us closer to the team. However it was late in the afternoon and in theory it is better to do the border crossing early and get away from the border. Our heads and ears had been filled with ominous warnings about the dangers of traveling in Mexico, especially around the border. What to do?! Find out how our border crossing went in the next post.


The Expedition's website: www.motorcyclememoir.com

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Chris Sorbi
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   Posted 9/9/2010 9:59 AM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Aug, 11th. Bienvenidos A Mexico

Despite not crossing into the Mexican border town of Piedras Negras until mid-afternoon, we had a remarkably uneventful border crossing. No passport check, no search and a big smile from the border patrol made our day. Wanting to keep things that way, I decided to get out of the border town straight away and do our customs and registration paperwork somewhere else but Cynthia kept yelling out of her full face helmet that we had to stop to do the paperwork in town. She was nervous and kept on relaying all the information she ever heard from anyone regarding Mexico and the dangers of travelling there and I was getting really annoyed. I was tired, hungry, and had virtually no sleep for 3 days, so I told her she can walk if she doesn’t calm down and stay quiet. That did the trick. We rode out of town without stopping for at least 20 miles and stopped to ask some policemen where to go and they joked that we actually came to them instead of them stopping us and gave us directions to La Garita, the custom and vehicle control office to take care of our paperwork.

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From the very start of our time in Mexico we met friendly and helpful people. At the La Garita, a local, Dr. Luis Farias approached us to ask about our trip. He turned out to be a part of Amoden, one of the largest motorcycle clubs in Northern Mexico and kindly offered to arrange accommodations for us in Saltillo and show us around. We explained that we had to be on the same travel schedule as the rest of the Racing Green Endurance team, but were grateful for such a friendly welcome and his kind offer. We also met Rodolfo Velz and his family who recommended that due to the time, we would do better to shoot for Monclova instead of Saltillo to avoid traveling after dark. They also kindly offered to put us up for the night if we couldn’t find a place. There was no boogie man in México, no gun toting gang and no one who treated us with anything but respect and friendliness.

We knew that the team was planning to stop in Saltillo, Coahuila for the night but that stopping in Monclova by dark would be safer. Besides we were completely spent from being on the go for two days with no sleep and little water. The heat was killing us to boot. Temperatures were in 100’s and we were beyond dripping with sweat. It felt like we were shrink-wrapped and stuck in a sauna. All of our clothes and motorcycle gear were damp and sticking to us. Time to rest.

Mexico is a beautiful country. We decided to go on toll roads (Cuotas) as we were warned that the free roads (Libre) were ungodly dangerous and if we ever dared to go on them, we would suffer an agonizing death! So $8 later, we were cruising along on the toll road to Monclova but one gas stop and a drink later, somehow we ended up on the regular highways of Coahuila. To be frank, the toll roads are no different than the regular roads. They are all excellent and beside, venturing off the toll roads gives the opportunity to see the real México since it goes through the little town and villages along the way.

Speed bumps in México are legendary. They are called Topez and they are a mile high and hard hitting. They are mostly well signed or if there’s no sign, you can see them coming as everyone else slow down to a crawl to go over these giants. The biggest road problem is the potholes and they are not just native to free highways, they are on the toll roads as well with no warning. The Mexican drivers are excellent drivers. And courteous too. I don’t remember a time that a slow moving vehicle didn’t go out of his way to give us room to pass. Even the cars on the other lane would go to the shoulder to make room for us. I’m loving it here.

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At 7:30 pm, we finally reached Monclova and wandered around trying to find a hotel where most importantly the bike would be safe. The first place we encountered was a ritzy hotel that was completely sold out. The manager, Gorge Carballal came out and helped us with some directions. In the meantime, some friendly guests started talking to us and taking pictures. We eventually settled into a hotel around the corner from the main strip which surprisingly had about every American brand store and restaurant you could imagine: Auto Zone, Burger King, Chili’s, you name it, it was there. I was starving and upon the recommendation of the hotel, was pleased to end up with one of the best burgers in my life. They assisted with ordering from one of the few places that was still open, and although I almost never get take-out, was so exhausted from riding for two days on no sleep, that this called for an exception. As I walked out of my room, I saw to Mexican guys hovering around the bike and long story short, we got to talk and drank beer out of a cooler in the back of their truck to cap of the amazing welcome. We like México. Don’t believe a word you hear on the news, it’s no Baghdad. Next: Monclova to Saltillo and meeting the rest of the gang.


The Expedition's website: www.motorcyclememoir.com

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Chris Sorbi
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   Posted 9/12/2010 5:34 PM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Aug, 12th. Monclova to San Luis Potosi, Mexico

We set the alarm clock to get out of Monclova early in the morning but my body wasn’t cooperating. Cynthia dragged me out of the bed around 10 am and when I called the guys, it turned out that a shock absorber on the SRzero electric car has broken off and so the team wasn’t leaving until around 2:00 p.m. from Mario’s Inn just outside of Saltillo. We packed up and set off down the road to find the team. Thankfully the weather was milder today but still hot, and the dry deserts of México were giving way to more tropical landscape. 200km later, we found the electric car and RGE guys waiting for us at the hotel. The RGE team is comprised of Claudio Von Planta (documentary filmmaker), Jonathan Richards (cameraman/editor) and the five engineering students from imperial college of London: Toby Schulz, Andy Hadland, Alex Schey, Clemens Lorf, and Nick Sauer. Two guys usually sit in the SRzero, Cynthia and Claudio would take turns riding with me, and the rest would follow in an E-350 Ford Van for support and to haul the rest of the gear and tools. You can see more about the RGE project at www.racinggreenendurance.com

We rode over 3200km from Northern Montana to middle of México to catch up with them and we succeeded at last. Introductions were made all around amidst video cameras filming our arrival, and then we loaded some of our gear into the van to make room for Claudio on back of the bike so he can start filming.

I could call myself an experienced motorcyclists after thousands of miles of riding in virtually any weather and road condition, but I was still quite apprehensive of the task ahead of me: riding an 800 pound motorcycle with 300+lbs of human cargo on it down the not-too motorcycle friendly roads of Latin America. Riding two-up is challenging at best but manageable as long as your pillion is not moving too much and follows the rhythm of the ride.

Riding with Claudio would automatically cancel out all the cardinal rules of riding as he planned to film the SRzero from the bike with a handheld video camera (5lb professional camera) mounted on a tripod. He would be hanging down from the side and back with no prior warning and my job was to ride close to the subject and maintain a steady speed while he filmed. No easy task by any means.

Without further ado, Claudio and I got set up on the bike and the whole convoy headed out for the 467 kilometer long journey to San Luis Potosi in the heart of México.

As I anticipated, riding two up and filming was hard work. I soon realized that I have to counterbalance every move and be ready for anything. It was scary at first seeing Claudio hanging down from the side on the curves but I learned not to look down and keep my eyes on the road. A couple of hours of practicing different methods finally put my mind at ease and the weird configuration soon became a natural rhythm.

The routine practice is that we pass the car and Claudio turns back as I slow down and let the car overtake us. Then I ride as close as possible and let him take the close-up shots on either side. Finally, we set off and leave the car behind to find a high section of the road or a bridge to take some tri-pod shots. Once we get all these shots, we look for interesting landscapes, people, dead animals…

Getting to know Claudio von Planta himself was worth the trip alone. At age 48 Claudio is arguably the most talented and respected adventure (for lack of better words) videographer and documentary filmmaker of our time. Educated in Zurich on Political Science, he has spent over 20 years pursuing his passion, investigative journalism and filming. From the mountains of Afghanistan to tropical rainforests of New Guinea, he has a story with footage to back it up.

He has spent most of his professional life in conflicts zones around the world, bringing hard-to-beat footage to major TV stations including the first ever televised interview with Osama Bin Laden, and producing many award-winning documentaries on global issues such as Rape Trade and Aids. He speaks German, French and English fluently, and other languages such as Brazilian Portuguese. The ever-popular TV series of Long Way Round and Long Way Down are excellent works, but to judge Claudio’s talent and determination based on these two series alone is an underestimation.

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It took us all day to cover the miles and before we knew it, I had the firsthand experience of driving in México after dark. The highways are generally good, but what’s on the highways is the main concern. There are thousands of stray dogs everywhere with nothing better to do than to chase motorcycles. The locals tie up their livestock to the side of the road to graze on the green grass, and it’s not unusual for the cows and donkeys to be crossing the road unattended. Due to these circumstances, driving at night is not advisable, but we had no choice and had to make our destination at San Luis Potosi.

After getting lost a few times in the SLP city center, we finally reunited with the rest of the crew at the hotel. There was a bit of a problem getting the electric car into the parking garage as it didn’t have enough clearance for the grade of the entryway ramp. Despite multiple attempts at makeshift adjustments the car was not able to go down the steep ramp of the garage. Finally they found another parking garage to park in where they could charge the car overnight and we settled in for the night. Next: Journey to Mexico City, the second largest city in the world (at night of course)!


The Expedition's website: www.motorcyclememoir.com

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Chris Sorbi
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Date Joined Oct 2009
Total Posts : 106
 
   Posted 9/21/2010 2:08 AM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Aug 14th. How not to travel in Mexico!

Today Mr. Murphy had another plan for us as everything that could go wrong, went wrong! We didn’t head out of San Luis Potosi until around 3 pm as the electric car apparently didn’t get fully charged as one of the circuit breakers had switched off at some point during the night so the car had to charge more during the day to make the trip to Mexico City. As we were caravanning out of the city, the support van made a left turn into an alley and indicated for the electric car and our motorcycle to do a U-turn. As I followed the electric car, I didn’t realize that there was a Federal Police sitting behind me at the stoplight. He turned on his lights and started to scream in the bullhorn in Spanish to pull me over (like I knew what the hell he was saying) and promptly started reading me the riot act! Thankfully Cynthia’s fast-talking in Spanish got me off with just an evil eye and stern warning to “Respect the signs!”

Afternoon rains came again without fail, and somehow when we stopped to put on rain gear and switch helmets so that I could wear Cynthia’s full-face helmet, we didn’t see whether or not the van and electric car passed us. We stayed by the roadside waiting a good 30 minutes and then decided to go on. By then it was dark. No sooner were we back on the road than we encountered another toll station. This is where things got interesting. When we crossed into México, I didn’t bother to bring any cash with me, and all I had was about a $100. I figured I would get money out of ATM in México but the past few days were so hectic that I completely forgot to do so. The toll was 5 dollars but all I had was $1.50 in cold hard cash. Cynthia begged for the guy to let us go through and promised we would wait by the road for the electric car and the van to come through so that they could pay for the rest of our toll. We pulled off by the roadside to wait as huge trucks careened on by. After another 30 minutes or so it was apparent that either the rest of the caravan had already gone on through or they were broken down somewhere behind us.

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It was pitch black, cold, raining in sheets, and we were still about 100 miles from Mexico City. I wasn’t relishing driving aimlessly in the dark not knowing where we were going. My plan was to find the closest hotel and stop for the night, but first we had to pay the toll if we wanted to move another inch as they were watching us like hawks. We started digging in every pocket and every box to scrape up just enough change in US pennies, nickels and dimes to pay the rest of the toll but we were still short a full dollar. I have a lucky silver dollar that I’ve had for 17 years which I take with me everywhere. With much regret, I handed it to Cynthia to pay up the man as that was our only salvation. Cynthia paid the toll and we continued on our way. As we were running out of fuel, we stopped at the next gas station to find team hanging out there! Apparently, the electric car had run out of charge again and so for the next 4-6 hours we sat around in the gas station while the car charged up. Thankfully they had a deli counter where they made delicious Tortas (Mexican sandwich) to order. After a full belly and a beer or two at the station, Cynthia surprised me by procuring my lucky silver dollar. Somehow she managed to get us through without giving up my silver dollar after all. That was enough to put a smile on my face for the rest of the night.

At 3 a.m. the car was charged enough to continue so we packed up once more to enter the biggest city in the Americas in a torrential rain and pitch black skies. You can see the lights of México City from miles away and the traffic starts long before reaching the city itself. Struggling to stay awake, we rode into the city at 5 a.m. as the local food vendors were preparing breakfast on the roadside. The rain stopped, the sun started to come out and we were safe at last.


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Chris Sorbi
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   Posted 9/21/2010 6:02 PM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Is anyone even reading these posts? I haven’t seen a comment in months. Believe it or not, there’s a lot of work that goes in the writing, editing and posting these blogs and quite frankly, if there is no audience for it, I have no reason to walk around every town in south America to find internet café to post these stories. If there are few of you lurkers around, come out for air once in a while. It encourages me to keep this thing going.

Chris


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Rich_S
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   Posted 9/22/2010 8:33 AM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Chris Sorbi said...
Is anyone even reading these posts? I haven’t seen a comment in months. Believe it or not, there’s a lot of work that goes in the writing, editing and posting these blogs and quite frankly, if there is no audience for it, I have no reason to walk around every town in south America to find internet café to post these stories. If there are few of you lurkers around, come out for air once in a while. It encourages me to keep this thing going.

Chris

I check them out from time to time.  Your stories seem really good, we're always looking for stories for our weekly fan report. If you are interested you're welcome to email them to us and they'll get posted on the main site.
 
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Chris Sorbi
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   Posted 9/24/2010 4:58 PM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Rich,

Thanks. I've never noticed that section, it seems very cool. I'll send the best ones your way as they come out.

Cheers,

Chris


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Chris Sorbi
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   Posted 9/24/2010 5:00 PM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Aug 16th. Tire hunt in Mexico City, and getting rear-ended by a bus!

We finally settled in Mexico City (at least for the next 3 days). Our mission for today was simple, in theory. Find spare front and rear tires for the bike. Searching online didn’t really help much, so we called the hotel and they gave us 3 places somewhat nearby to try. One place didn’t answer, another only had one of the tires. And the other didn’t have any.

Cynthia was manning the phone making the calls as my Spanish is more like Arnold Schwarzenegger trying to speak Japanese (maybe even worse). After making endless calls to businesses in the phone book, she found one place that had both the front and rear tire and a Honda dealership that had the rear tire at a better price and another dealer that had the front tire at a better price but not the rear. Aside from one Bridgestone tire, the only matching front and rear tires available in the right sizes for the Suzuki GS850 were Pirelli MT66.

I have always run dual sport tires on this bike because we simply have no idea what roads we’re going to encounter, and I personally like to go off the beaten path if possible. MT66 tires are just bland road tires which I wasn’t hoping for, but we had no choice. I figured if we can’t find a decent tire in the biggest city in the continent, we’re probably not going to have too much luck further South. (Well, I was wrong. As I write this, we’ve found much better prices and selections in practically every country in Central America but Mexico.)

We got directions and headed out on our tire hunt. When we arrived at Motos De Calidad, our first American stunt was to tell the dealer, Carmelo Ruiz Garcia, about the competitors’ prices. Mr. Garcia ended up reducing the prices to match his competitors. Score!

You would think that purchasing tires would be a relatively straightforward task. However, we waited and waited and waited while the employees took phone calls and served customers in between looking for our tires. After all, it turned out that they didn’t have the rear tires as they had told us on the phone. We finally decided we would buy the front tires from them and go to the Honda dealer for the rear tires. I also decided to buy two sets of tires as I would need to change the current pair in about another 1000 miles, somewhere after getting past Guatemala. The dealer offered to call Honda and see if they had the tires and upon confirming that they did, offered to arrange for them to be delivered for us to the dealer. This was great for us as that meant that we only had to drive to one more location, the bank, to get cash for our better rate on the tires. They told us to be back in an hour and a half.

We headed off to the bank down the road to get some cash. Once there, I was told that I had to belong to the bank to withdraw cash inside and could only get cash from the cash machine. The ATM machine was inside a little room with a glass door and you have to slide your bank card in the door to open it. It took me three tries to withdraw the pesos as apparently, you have to take cash out of your checking account and not the saving. With money in hand, we headed back to the dealer to wait for the tires to be delivered.

On the last traffic light, a city bus rear-ended us while we were completely stopped. I managed to keep the bike upright and thank god the damage was minimal. It hit us right on the corner of the right aluminum pannier and broke the mount. Luckily the stove fuel bottle was inside the hotel that day otherwise it would have blown up the pressurized can. Since then I relocated the fuel bottle to the front.

While waiting at the dealer I tried on nearly every helmet they had in the store. I wear an open-face helmet and I love it. I love the freedom it gives me, the taste of the bugs, the sharp needlelike sensation of cold rain, the frozen cheeks in snow… actually I don’t even know why I wear an open face helmet. It’s the rainy season here and it rains and rains and rains… and then it rains some more. I decided that I was tired of getting rain on my face, and Cynthia was tired of me borrowing her full-face helmet at the first sign of rain. So I ended up getting a nice Italian Flip-Up modular helmet made by Nolan Group. It’s not available in the States, but it’s a very nice helmet. Better yet, it was only $140. I’m protected for the next city bus who tries to run us over.

By the end of the day we had two sets of tires and a helmet. I have to say that the dealer who helped us went above and beyond with reducing the price for the tires and then arranging their delivery to us. All told, our mission took from 11 am to 7:30 p.m. Thank God we had a “free” day from traveling on the road to take care of this important little bit of housekeeping.

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TNSV650S
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   Posted 9/26/2010 3:35 PM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
WOW don't think there's much more to say to that really.


skin grows back......paint is another story

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RedDog
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   Posted 9/26/2010 7:59 PM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Oh I read your stories, I love fascinating riding stories - and then I dream and ride there with you. Then wife gets me onto the Honey-Do-Now-List" so I leave the "trip" without comments.

But trust me, it's fascinating - and appreciated.


RedDog
Think Ahead! Travel Light & Leave Your Fears Behind You!
Normal People Scare me! Travel Light and Leave Your Fears Behind You!

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oletimer
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   Posted 9/27/2010 7:23 AM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Hi Chris,
Just a note to let you know we are following you on your trip.  I know you are wondering if anyone is watching and reading your notes.  I am and I know that there are others also, but I guess we are too quite.
I believe it is for a good cause. I also liked the piece you posted on Haiti.  We lost one of our Missionaries in the earthquake.
I look forward to your next post.  I am a new member of the Motorcycleusa.com There are many questions I would like to ask.  Maybe another time.
Oletimer
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Chris Sorbi
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   Posted 10/10/2010 12:13 PM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Finally I moved servers. The internet connection was so bad here that I didn't even check my emails for 8 days. I gotta catch up with thing so here we go again.


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Chris Sorbi
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   Posted 10/10/2010 12:14 PM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
AUG 18TH. RETRACING HERNAN CORTÉS’ FOOTSTEPS IN MÉXICO

In two years, from 1519 to 1521, an ambitious, cruel, intelligent, determined and above all, gold hungry Spaniard named Hernan Cortés, took México by storm. Cortés did not only change North American history as we know it, he destroyed and demolished one of the most sophisticated civilizations, the Aztec empire or as I like to call them, the Mexica. (Mexica was the name they called themselves and was used for centuries. The Aztec name was made popular in the 18th century by Jesuit scholar, Francisco Javier Clavijero, and then by the single minded account of the conquest of México by William H. Prescott.)

The phrase that best describes Cortés’ conquest is “audacity”. It contains a hint of imagination, impudence, a capacity to perform the unexpected which differentiates it from mere bravery. He was an ordinary man, from a lesser nobility class, but he was decisive, flexible, quick in talk, skillful, daring in execution and full of threats in war.

The conquest of México is interesting to me not because a small group of adventurers won battles against a large static army. It’s interesting because it was a clash of two empires, equally powerful. They both were imaginative and inventive. Though different, they held many things sacred, they loved ceremonials, and they had conquered others. They both were cruel by any modern standards, but cultivated.

The 15th century Mexicans were well organized, well feared by their neighbors and hated by the same. Old México was very much like a state. Many conquistadors believed that their houses were superior to those of Spain. The upper class wore embroidered cloths. Their jewelry astonished the Europeans for years, and they provided universal education to boys. In the sixteen century, the Spaniards still used the roman system of numbering, but Mexicans used the decimal system. The Mexicans used the vigesimal method, as well as the Zero which made the calculation more accurate than it was possible in Europe. But they had one flaw: they believed in gods and that’s what Cortés used to break them down.

Charles V, the Emperor of Spain, was called the “Most Reliable Sword of Christianity” but as many scholars agree, he wasn’t a true believer, nor was Cortés. He used his Christianity as a tool to climb the ladders of hypocrisy, and he did it very well. He held many sermons and he preached the Lord like he was a chosen one. But he only wanted one thing, gold. The Spaniards had unbounded confidence in their own qualities, in the political wisdom of their imperial mission and spiritual superiority of the Catholic Church.

It is true that the Mexicans practiced in human sacrifices, but to justify the Spaniards actions who called the Mexican barbarians is preposterous. “O what great good fortune for the Indians is the coming of Spaniards,” the historian Cervantes de Salazar would write in 1554, “since they have passed from this unhappiness to their present blessed state.”

By 1521 Teotihuacán, the capital of the magnificent Mexica Empire fell under the sword of Cortés, and México today is as we know it. Yet again, thousands of lives were lost in the name of the good Lord and the fate of Montezuma is known by every school kid in the world.

After the conquest, Cortés sent a model silver canon to Charles V of Spain as a present. He named it “The Phoenix”. On it he had inscribed:

This was born without equal
I am without a second in serving you
You are without an equal in the world.

The visit to these temples was our farewell to México City. We’re leaving tomorrow for Oaxaca on the same road Cortés’ men traveled. Will it look remotely the same as they saw it? I doubt it.

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Chris Sorbi
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   Posted 10/11/2010 6:01 PM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
We departed México City around 6 a.m. trying to beat the city traffic and hoping to arrive early in the afternoon to our destination in Oaxaca, almost 300 miles to the south. Leaving the city, there was an endless sea of concrete homes stretching as far as the eye could see into the hills on either side of the road. As we drove on, the concrete homes gave way into lush green hills blanketed in the cold mist. The sun finally came out and we made our way higher into the mountains on the Pan-American Hwy. The terrain in Mexico is varied. In less than two hours, we traveled through cactus-covered hills to high pine-covered ridges and back into tropical trees. We were making good time and everyone was in good spirits about covering the 292 miles stretch to Oaxaca with spare time to explore the city.

But it’s been a never missing ritual that every time we get an early start, something goes wrong. We arrived in Oaxaca around 4:00 p.m to find the only road to the town shut down. The local bus companies were on strike and blocked off all the major streets of Oaxaca to protest the low bus fares. No amount of sweet talking and begging would persuade them move the buses, and we had no choice but to wait. Getting around the buses on the motorcycle was manageable, but the electric car and the van couldn’t move an inch. We decided to stay together and wait out the protest. For a long time, people were really civilized but as the rush hour neared, more and more angry voices came out and it got to a point that people were coming out with machetes in their hands and started to throw rocks and kicking the cars.

Things quickly got out of hands and the angry mob started to shake the buses and finally the bus drivers started to move one bus at a time. The tropical rain didn’t fail again, and as we sat somewhat patiently, we got soaked. From 4 o’clock to 7:30, we moved maybe a mile and we were no were near our reserved hotel.

I suggested to the RGE team to forget the Holiday Inn and just settle in a different hotel as all the roads were still closed to the city center, but they decided to push on. Oaxaca is a hilly city and with all the rains, and traffic, it was the last place I wanted to ride at night. At some point with all the rain, something on the bike shorted out and the tail light, brake light and signals went out completely. The constant idling in the traffic heated the motor to a point that shifting gears became almost impossible. I could feel the clutch cable snapping every time I pulled in the clutch, but the RGE team wouldn’t change course. We searched for the elusive Holiday Inn and drove in circles in dark for another 2 hours with no luck.

I had only met the RGE team less than ten days before, but I was so mad and tired that I started shouting at the stupid situation. We had passed over 20 hotels in the past two hours, driving in rain, on 45 degrees hills and sleek cobblestone roads of Oaxaca, but they were determined to stay at the Holiday Inn and no place else. To me, there is a fine line between stupidity and persistence and we were crossing that line deliberately.

I finally asked for directions and luckily a kid who spoke English led us in his truck to our hotel. I was so pissed that Cynthia stayed a few feet away from me the rest of the night. The last thing I remember is the dinner with Claudio and Cynthia in a little Italian bistro and the rest is out of my conscious memory.

As I write this, it’s worth mentioning that Oaxaca was flooded under water because of the very same torrential rains 10 days after we passed through. Over 40 people died due to the floods and many are without homes now. So when I say it was raining, I don’t mean a drizzle, it was like the showerhead was on.

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Chris Sorbi
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   Posted 10/13/2010 3:07 PM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
AUG 22ND. SURVIVING MEXICO

Unfortunately all the idling and putting along for hours in the rain the night before didn’t sit well with the bike, and it protested in the form of electrical problems with the brake lights, marker lights and signals being completely out. Originally we were supposed to be on the road early to cover the 305 kilometers to La Ventosa, a wind farm near Juchitan, Oaxaca, but the electric car didn’t get sufficient charge overnight at the hotel. As the car had to be charged longer, this delayed our departure to La Ventosa, which was fortuitous for me as I had a date with the bike.

From about 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. I worked on getting the electrical short sorted out. And it turned out to be a wild goose chase. Voltmeter in hand, I tested every possible connection from rear to front, but the damn short was always one step ahead of me. I finally traced the short to one piece of wire in the after-market marker lights and nailed it down. The wire was fine, no cuts, no kink or any dis-figuration but it was shorted internally. I sent Cynthia out to find fuses (I blew over 10 fuses testing different setups) and some small light bulbs for the dash indicators. Luckily, she had a friendly taxi driver with 30 years experience driving in Oaxaca, and he knew just the right shops to take her to.

As we are traveling with RGE for the time being, we are on a set schedule so depending on how things go, we don’t usually have much time in each area. With the delay, Cynthia was able to walk around the city admiring the beautiful architecture and taking pictures. Oaxaca is a colorful city, rich in indigenous culture and traditions and is declared Humanity’s Cultural Patrimony by UNESCO. Everywhere you look; there is something interesting to see from the architecture to the brightly colored clothing of the local Oaxacians. We have never seen so many bugs (VW bugs) as in México. They are like brightly colored skittles sprinkled on the streets, but one especially made a statement as you can see in the photo. So far, we have enjoyed México immensely. The varied terrain, the culture, the color, the people, the flavors have all made for a very enjoyable experience. Our only wish would be to have more time to soak in the richness of it all.

We finally departed Oaxaca around 8 p.m. for Juchitan de Zaragoza which is a town about 10 km from La Ventosa wind farm. Nearly 10 miles into our journey, I heard a knock when I grabbed the front brake and again when I tried to brake again. I crouched forward to see what was happening and to my horror, the right front brake caliper was hanging by one bolt and flapping in the wind. I stopped the bike under a street light and it happened to be right in front of a mechanic shop. I needed a 10mm bolt and they had one! I couldn’t believe how these bolts came loose as I’m a pretty heavy-handed guy. My buddy Joe always curses at me for over-tightening bolts and nuts, but this time I was puzzled. I put Lock-Tight on all the caliper bolts and got back on the road again. Thank God I needed a metric bolt as finding SAE bolts anywhere outside of US is nearly impossible (Harley Davidson people listen here).

Traveling in the dark prevented us from seeing the scenery, but the road was as twisty as it gets. The van and the SRzero were absolutely hopeless when it came to passing on curves so once again the GS850 proved to be invaluable. Radio in hand, I passed slow trucks on blind double lines and signaled back to the rest of the caravan to pass when it was safe. This went on well into the night as when we came out of the canyon, it was already three in the morning.

Everyone was tired so we split into two groups. One group went to the hotel to get some rest and the other group was supposed to carry on another 40km to the wind farm to put the car on charge. I ended up with the second group as Claudio wanted to film a little bit more. Just barely 10km out of town, the clutch cable broke again! I couldn’t believe my luck. Three breakdowns in less than 24 hours! I had a spare cable with me, but I was so exhausted that I didn’t even bother with changing it there. I put the bike in first gear, pulled in the clutch lever and started the bike. It jerked and rolled for a few seconds and fired right up. For the next hour and half, I rode the bike without clutch and no stopping (mostly going in circles) as we searched for the wind farm. After four dead-end roads, we finally found the place, and I parked the bike next to the car and crashed in the van. We didn’t get to the hotel until 6 a.m., and I started feeling very sick. High fever, runny nose and aching muscles capped off the festivity. Cynthia will take over from here as I got so sick I could barely move. Stay tuned.

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Chris Sorbi
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   Posted 10/16/2010 11:56 PM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
AUG 24TH. LA VENTOSA WIND FARM

Somehow I woke up without an alarm at 8:40 a.m. I jumped in the shower, got dressed, and went downstairs to see if the departure time was still 9 a.m. Knowing that Chris had just gone to sleep at 7:00 am or so and that some of the team was sleeping as well, just Alex, Andy, and I rode in the van to La Ventosa. Claudio had spent the night at La Ventosa in hopes of getting more sleep by eliminating the commuting time.

I wasn’t exactly sure what made me wake up early and go along but I was interested in the possibility of a tour of the wind farm. Amazingly we got better than that! The staff arranged for us to climb a wind turbine. They asked if we wanted to climb the shorter one or the taller one. We all said the taller one which is 44 meters high. They gave us white jumpsuits to put on over our clothing to protect us from the grease. We went down a dirt road in a truck to the designated turbine. Alex and I got suited up and put on the protective harnesses and got hooked onto the cable running up the turbine. I naively thought that we were going to walk up actual stairs. I gulped when I looked up and realized instead I would be climbing a ladder reaching up to the sky. “Ok, that’s tall,” I thought. “But no sweat, I can do this,” I gave myself a pep talk. The no sweat part wasn’t literal as already with my two feet planted firmly on the ground, I was sweating quite a bit thanks to the full-body jumpsuit and wishing that I had drank more water. I started up the ladder after the engineer who was leading us, and Alex, who was scampering up like a monkey up a tree. I was toting the camera, and by a third of the way up, was thoroughly spent. I should mention that I can’t do a pull-up to save my life as I have always had a pitiful lack of upper-body strength. I handed off the camera to Alex to carry at the halfway point and dragged myself up the rest of the way. Once at the top, I was hoping I didn’t stupidly pass out as I was hot and dehydrated.

The day was already gorgeous. I’m talking blue skies painted with fluffy white clouds and lush green all around as it is the rainy season. But from the top of a wind turbine, the 360 degree views were absolutely spectacular. I didn’t want to come down at all. Alex and I snapped some photos and then reluctantly headed down.

We went back to the hotel to get the rest of the guys. By the time we got there it was past 3 p.m., and the guys were waiting in the lobby. Poor Chris was feeling very sick. None of us had eaten yet, so we started to eat at a restaurant by the gas station while Chris started to put in a new clutch cable (Many thanks to Tom Kent for that spare cable! That came in handy sooner than expected!). The second he started fixing the cable, surprise, it started pouring again!

We headed out at near dusk for Tapachula, Chiapas, México, our last stop before crossing the border to Guatemala. We had 180 miles before us and the rain was not going to let us travel unaccompanied. If we were on our own, we would be much more reticent about driving at night as it is safer to travel by day for a number of reasons. However due to unavoidable factors, at times it becomes a necessity. We drove into the night, sadly missing all the scenery on our last night in Mexico. Chris was sick and the rain pretty much put him over the edge of what he could bear. We arrived in Tapachula at 3 am, and we got to bed around 4:00 a.m. We are crossing the border to Guatemala tomorrow morning if everything goes well.

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Chris Sorbi
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   Posted 10/24/2010 9:23 PM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
ENTERING GUATEMALA

We arrived at the Guatemalan border to find out that we should have gone to the customs 40 minutes back in Talachupa to process the cancellation of the Mexican registration/import permit. Apparently, if you don’t cancel this permit before leaving the country and don’t came back into the country before it expires, you will be charged $500.00, plus a fine if you try to enter into the Mexico again with a vehicle. We tried to see if we could sort this out by email or phone but were told that no, each car had to go back to La Garita or else potentially be charged $500.00. The RGE guys contacted the British embassy to see how negative the ramifications would be if we didn’t go back. They said it would mostly likely be ok and that they would call the custom for us from the British embassy.

We barely went a few meters out of the border queue and ended up mobbed by a crowd and unable to move. The police were quick to respond, and they guarded us guns in hand and offered to escort us all the way to our destination at Guatemala City. We had a long delay at that juncture as we worked on sorting out the temporary importation status of the vehicles. Apparently, we had gone to a different place to cross the border than where we had originally planned to cross which is partly why things didn’t go as smoothly.

With a throng of people around us, we waited around and made conversations with the locals. All the tropical rain had washed off my shoe polish so I got the best shoeshine of my life from a little boy who worked on my shoes as if I was the president. For one dollar, my combat boots were as shiny as any General’s. A lady gave Cynthia a Rombego (a local fruit) to try for free as we didn’t have any cash, and later a girl approached us and gave us a whole bag of the spiny red fruits. On the inside they look like a large peeled grape and turned out to be succulent and delicious. We shared some with the kids and the police, and the girl invited us to her mother’s store and they gave us a picture to remember our time there and gave Cynthia a keychain. Once again, we have been impressed by the kindness of people to complete strangers.

Finally around 6 p.m, the border ordeal was over, and we started out on the road to Guatemala City. The road was lined by palm trees, banana plants, and many other lush plants. We passed grazing cows, chickens, muddy rivers, and many people walking along the road or riding in bike-cart taxis. After a gas station stop to fuel up for the bike, it was a bit surreal to see how the police with their guns stopped traffic for us to merge back onto our route for no apparent reason other than they could! By now it was dark. Almost immediately we started to encounter potholes of a size and frequency that made me feel like I was trapped in a video game. Trying to avoid them and radio back to the SRZero was quite a feat and took all my concentration. It was pouring as well, naturally. The hours of riding in the rain didn’t help. When we arrived to Guatemala City around 4 a.m., I was more sick, hypothermic, tired and ready for the bed.

Our stay in Guatemala didn’t turn out to be what I envisioned. I wanted to stay at least a month in Guatemala since this country is in the grip of a protracted food insecurity crisis, and the current situation of food insecurity is worsening what is already one of the highest rates of chronic malnutrition in the world (affecting 43% of children below five years of age). We highlighted a malnutrition clinic in Guatemala a few post back. While it was our wish to visit this clinic personally, we were disappointed that the strict schedule of the RGE team prevented us from being able to visit there or other clinics. Needless to say, this is a country with tremendous needs.

I also had a few contacts and a motorcycle club I wanted to visit while there which we had to skip as well. We stayed in Guatemala for 2 days and I honestly don’t remember a minute of it. I was down with high fever and the next thing I remember is getting back on the bike heading fast for El Salvador.

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The Expedition's website: www.motorcyclememoir.com

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OldCoot
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   Posted 10/27/2010 12:55 AM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Ok, I'm a newb.... so forgive me if I sound like one.... but I'm really impressed. You've really found a way to focus on your calling and purpose in life -- and enjoy it. Great job.


2008 Black Suzuki Boulevard S50
 
 
 

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Chris Sorbi
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   Posted 10/30/2010 8:21 AM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Old coot,

Welcome to the forum and thanks for tuning in. It's been a blast doing what i do and it's not even close to being done. 4 more continents to go.


The Expedition's website: www.motorcyclememoir.com

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Chris Sorbi
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   Posted 10/30/2010 10:25 AM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
EL SALVADOR, THE MOST DANGEROUS COUNTRY

I was still in recovery mode so Claudio took on the riding task with Cynthia going as pillion. I got lucky as the second they took off, the monstrous rain started again, and this time it rained so hard that small rivers started forming on the road. We left Guatemala prematurely and headed flying for the border of El Salvador. The border was pretty impressive. One side was Guatemala, other side El Salvador, and a raging river separated the two land masses. The border ordeal was a typical one lasting several hours. A million signatures, 200 copies of every document and at the end getting a license plate number wrong and having to do it all over again.

El Salvador is a different country and you can tell the second you pass over the border. Every house and I mean, literally, every house is protected with a tall fence plus broken glass and barbwire on top. Armed guards are everywhere, from gas stations to even a simple doctor’s office or pharmacy. Our hotel in San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador, had a guard with a chopped-off shotgun and a Glock, and this was a very good neighborhood to begin with. The capital city looked like an American colony with the only difference being the language. From Wal-Mart to Pizza Hut and Starbucks to Subway, the streets are filled with American brands and American- made cars. The currency is even the US dollar, and the government is rightly accused of being an American puppet.

El Salvador has one of the biggest gang problems in Latin America which is not surprising, and is home to the notorious Mara Salvatrucha (the MS-13 gang). It came out of a bloody civil war which took 13 years and left more than 75,000 dead on both sides of the conflict. Many families fled the country and the majority landed in the United States. Many El Salvadorians kids grew up in the US during the war and when they returned home (in most cases deported because of their criminal acts), they had nothing in common with the locals. These very same young men started their own US influenced gangs and started killing each other for lack of better things to do. Most of these gang members speak perfect English with an American accent and not so much Spanish and are covered in fierce tattoos from head to toe.

El Salvador, like Guatemala, struggles with food security and has one of the highest rates of chronic malnutrition in Central America. The problem starts with poverty and combined with a lack of education, creates a horrific result. To compound the situation, Latin Americans are mostly devout Catholic, and one thing the Catholic Church promotes and never condemns is having more babies.

In rural El Salvador the men are typically found passed out on hammocks outside of the shacks, while the women do every hard labor chore imaginable. These very same men take many women, and some have more than 12 children with no income to speak of. Women are forced to raise the kids on their own. The mothers are often malnourished themselves with no breast milk to speak of. Coffee and tortilla, the only two food staples at hand, are made into a mush to feed the babies. In three weeks, the babies are so sick and skinny that many of them die in the jungles before reaching their first month. The government figures of the fatality rate for children in El Salvador are inaccurate as most of these babies are born without ever having a birth certificate let alone a death certificate.

To make it worse, the malnutrition programs are run by the government and when admitted to the hospitals, eight out of ten babies will never make it out. The governmental hospitals typically only treat the presenting illness but do not treat malnutrition nor provide any education or help to the families.

While in San Salvador, we were hosted by a super nice Salvadorian family and they showed us the utmost hospitality. Claudia Aguirre and her father run the KMPG office in San Salvador. (KPMG is a global financial institution in a nutshell). They put us up in a hotel and drove us all around the town for our every need. Over the mealtime, when they found out that we are raising awareness for world hunger, they arranged for us to visit their friends who run a malnutrition clinic (the report on this visit will be in the next post). El Salvador is a beautiful country with wonderfully hospitable people. So far on the trip, El Salvador is the place that has felt most like home.

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