South America!


HERE WE ARE yesterday, crossing the Scituate Reservoir in the ’49 truck.

The bride and I hauled the second of two loads of scaffolding out to a job site in Glocester, where D2’s SO2 started work on a house project today. Why rent staging when there are 25 frames and 50 cross braces doing nothing under my shed?



I tied it all down with Harley ratcheting straps. If they can hold down the mighty iron piggy I know that 800 pounds of staging isn’t going anywhere.


But that’s not why I’m writing. See that trace of fall color? That means it’s starting to get cold in North America. Which means it’s starting to get warm in South America.

So are we riding motorcycles to Tierra del Fuego or what?


I suspect we’re skunked for 2015 and looking instead at a November 2016 departure. We could still pull a rabbit out of our hat, but it’s a little less likely with each passing day.

Our plan for almost a year now, proposed by Iron Butt CCjon in Houston, has been to ship the bikes into Cartagena and ride south to the Land of Fire, nothing but water left between us and Antarctica. That was the point of my recent test ride to Labrador: discover what doesn’t work on the little DR650 piglet, fix it, then make the long run to the bottom of the world.

Events, however, seem to have stacked up against it. We needed to have a shipping container lined up months ago. Can’t seem to find other riders who want to share a container with us and then go off on their own. And we really don’t want to spend $5,000 shipping a half-empty box one way.

CCjon may have a line on a last-minute RORO deal out of Galveston. RORO, for Roll On, Roll Off. That’s where you Roll your bike On the ship over here, Roll your bike Off the ship over there.

Then you replace all your gear, which disappeared in transit, start hunting for a new gas tank, lights, all the other motorcycle parts that went missing at sea…



Here’s CCjon passing through Rhode Island on a solo endurance run this past June. Dresses well for a maniac, don’t you think? I didn’t want to ride 48 states in 10 days when I was 30, look at that smile on him at 70.

Road punchy! That’s it. After a few thousand miles you get that road punchy smile…


In the effort to get to South America around Thanksgiving, I followed, to a dead end, some bogus yah dee yah posted on Horizons Unlimited about shipping by air out of Canada. The fact is, Air Canada will fly your bike out of Montreal or Toronto to every other place in the world except South America. The airline can’t make sense of the import rules in the Latin world. Some petty official may invent them on the spot. Costs are a moving target.

Another complication: CCjon might need to be in Houston in December, to close on a deal that’s important to his livelihood.

So, given that, and having lost so much time on the shipping conundrum, we’ve been noodling on a last-ditch late arrival somewhere south of Colombia, in January instead of November.

If we were to miss the Patagonia spring and half the summer we’d have to compensate by shipping to the far end of the journey, Chile instead of Colombia, make a quick run south to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, then turn north and book it.

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Same trek, just upside down. The Antarctic winter would be closing in, we’d be scooting north ahead of it.

On the plus side, baking in the Atacama Desert would feel good after riding a few thousand frozen miles along the spine of the Andes.


Well, bottom line, I’m all-in if we can possibly go late, but it seems a shame to go for a month when you can hardly begin to see the continent in three. Most of the cost is in getting there and back, I’m told the being-there is fairly inexpensive.

I was planning on 14 weeks, CCjon was planning on flying home for about a month somewhere in the middle. I’d travel on my own for a bit, or find a place to roost and get some writing done.

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Maybe some new Phantom yarns for King Features Syndicate. I’m sure I could think of a South America thing to keep the Ghost Who Walks occupied for 18 weeks in the daily newspaper strip, or the usual 26 weeks in the Sunday strip, always a separate narrative.


On the chance that we can still pull it off, I’m going to do a low-dollar fix on the piglet’s suspension problem one of these days soon; put a stronger spring on the mickey mouse OEM shock and see if I can carry three cases when I’m done.

I had the piglet set up with three cases earlier this summer. After a rather hairy test ride on local roads, I went to Labrador with one case and a lot less gear. Her suspension was still mush and hard to handle. Between that, the OEM tread design and the 2-up highway pressure I was running on loose gravel, I had a number of brushes with a ride-ending get-off. I consider it a victory that the bike was on its side only three times in 4,000 miles, and all in low-speed circumstances. No damage to report, human or machine.

I was reluctant to air-down the tires for grip because I wasn’t set up to make more than one tire repair. Didn’t have an air compressor with me (extra weight, couldn’t carry it), had a couple of CO2 cartridges, that was it. Couldn’t afford to lose more than one tube stem by airing down, so… adapt, do your best, what else?


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Be, you know, professional!



Hopefully, I can get set up something like this again without the piglet becoming a hazard to herself and others.

Tony DePaul, October 19, 2015, Cranston, Rhode Island, USA




About Tony

The occasional scribblings of Tony DePaul, 62, father, grandfather, husband, freelance writer in many forms, ex-journalist, long-distance motorcycle rider, motorcycle wrecker, motorcycle rebuilder, collector of surgical hardware, blue routes wanderer, outdoorsman, topo map bushwhacker, handy with a wrench, hammer, chainsaw, rifle, former photographer, printer, logger, truck driver, truck mechanic, jet fueler… blah blah...
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4 Responses to South America!

  1. Jon Brush says:

    Thanks for the update. Yep, that monoshock/spring on the 650 was not cutting it. I’d vote for not pushing it, go in 2016 when both of you are ready. Disappointing though.
    I really liked the previous blog entry, about your neighbors, also.

    • Tony says:

      Thanks, Jon. We’re both pretty determined to go this year if we possibly can, even in our current state of unpreparedness.

      Others before me have said it: The adventure doesn’t start until everything goes wrong!

  2. Jan says:

    If you start riding now, you could be into Mexico in a few days… just a slightly longer ride amigo!

  3. Jim Marlett says:

    I don’t think you’ll have to worry about baking in the Atacama Desert. My experience in the coastal deserts of Southern Peru are that you might expect it to get up to the low 70sºF to low 80sºF. But nature tends to be fickle, so I could be wrong. I think you can count on it being dry, although I heard it rained last year. Pretty uncommon.

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