South to the Land of Fire in 2015



Jan Daub in Houston says I threw down the gauntlet. My recollection is, I saw it at my feet, picked it up and threw it back. Anyway, it’s been thrown. Around November we expect to set out for the bottom of the world. We hope to get there for the longest summer light they have. We’ve both ridden to Alaska for the summer solstice, happened to meet about a year and a half ago on the boat south out of Haines, AK.

After you’ve motorcycled into the north polar region, what’s left to arouse your sense of adventure except the south polar region, that other Alaska they call Patagonia. No bears or muskox or woods bison, hence no opportunity for a mauling or a goring, that’s good. They do have penguins in the wild, just a pecking to be aware of while you’re snoozing in the weeds.



Given that we’ll traverse thousands of miles of unpaved roads, through rain forests and deserts, across coastal plains and up into the Andes, I bought a more Patagonia-oriented bike last week. Depending on time constraints we may ship our rides to Colombia and start from there, but who knows.



It’s not that the iron piggy couldn’t make Patagonia from Colombia, or from Little Rhody for that matter. She absolutely could. But we may sell our South America rides down there and fly back if getting them out proves too costly. I wouldn’t leave the iron piggy in South America, so that’s where mi puerquita comes in. “My little piggy!”

She’s a 2013 Suzuki DR650 thumper, has a mere 1,750 miles behind her.

She’s tall, I can barely flatfoot her. She’s got half the motor of the iron piggy, but half the weight, too. Found her on Cape Cod. That light front end with the 21-inch wheel won’t plow into unpaved earth as readily as the iron piggy’s 16-inch wheel. Piggy does well enough on graded gravel, we’ve ridden plenty of it in Alaska, Montana and the Canadian Maritimes, but it’s risky to ask piggy to do things she wasn’t designed to do. She’s too heavy to forgive carelessness. Make a mistake and she may not want to break your heart but she will. And maybe your head, neck, back and arms and legs.

Well, you do take your chances whatever the ride. As Henry David Thoreau said, “I went to the motorcycle because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Yesterday, my friend Mike Connelly volunteered his time and his truck and we hauled the new piglet from Waquoit, Massachusetts to the humble manse.



Today, in a freezing rain, she took refuge on the front porch. Piggy, too wide to fit through the screen door and too heavy to get up the steps, is still snoozing away the winter under a tarp on the back of the ’49 truck.

I’m certain I need to build another shed, now. At the top of the hill this time, and with two stalls.


Screen Shot 2014-12-13 at 1.00.17 PM

The start of the South America thing is three seasons away yet, but I can use the time to outfit the piglet. She needs a sturdy skid plate underneath to protect her motor when we’re climbing up and over rocks; needs engine guards, heated grips, panniers and highway pegs. And I should probably use the time to learn a little Spanish. Jan’s fluent. He’s traveled widely in Latin America, has even lived there for long stretches.

I probably won’t attempt to speak much Spanish, but I don’t mind doing others the respect of understanding the common phrases, Hands up, gringo; Gimme yer dough, gringo; Say yer prayers, gringo. Already I can see that much of it will probably be intuitive; just look at how the Spanish word for gringo is spelled exactly the same as the English one!

Like most of you, I studied languages in high school and college. Learned just enough German, Spanish and Italian to pass an exam and then promptly forget it. Language is a real-world thing, doesn’t really lend itself to the in-school learning method. All they do in the classroom is teach you how to say, “Can you tell me how to get to the biblioteca,  por favor?” Never anything memorable like, “I’m gonna bust you for those three bags and I’m gonna nail your ass for picking your feet in Poughkeepsie.”

I don’t want to make too much of the Patagonia thing, given that it’s a ways off. Details remain uncertain and either one of us could get hit by a space rock tomorrow. Anyway, it’s no big deal, the motorcycles do all the work. It’s not like we’re walking.

Dig it, here’s a guy who is walking—around the world! Set this link aside for when you have time for a nutritious read.

And check this out: Brandon Bernadet, son of Craig Bernadet, a biker bud in Saskatchewan, just walked from Mexico to Canada. He hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, almost 3,000 miles. Brandon kept a blog of his travels. Scroll down and hit the play button on the video that appears on this page.

Finally, you might enjoy a minute or two of Patagonia scenery. These guys flew in from Canada and Europe and traversed the land of fire on a KLR650 and a DL1000.

Tony DePaul, January 18, 2015, Cranston, Rhode Island




About Tony

The occasional scribblings of Tony DePaul, 63, 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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28 Responses to South to the Land of Fire in 2015

  1. brad says:

    Looks like you made a good choice on the piglet. Farkle time.

    • Tony says:

      Just the mounts for hard panniers run something like $300. Got a welder, I could probably fabricate my own for $50. But time is tight, for the next month I’ll be scribbling like mad.

  2. Jan says:

    I had one of those, awesome dual sport.

  3. Pat says:

    This could be a fine adventure. Take a little time to read about the Sena 20S headsets and the Hero camera attachment from Sena. You could record video and your conversations as you ride.

    Stock up on duct tape and spare tubes.

    I hope you guys do get to do this.

  4. Jon Brush says:

    Fantastic plan, gramps!!!

  5. David Kroth says:

    You realize the ideal number of riders for South American trekking is three, right?

    I humbly offer my services as the number three rider!

  6. stevelyon says:

    The Piglet looks like a pretty sweet little ride, Sir. I look forward to seeing your farkling / skid-plating progress. Will the big Piggy get jealous?

  7. Jorge says:

    Andale andale….. yeehaw!

  8. Kerry Kohring says:

    Try to go via Cuba – it’s open now and right on the way.

  9. Vincent Ogutu says:

    I recommend the Pimsleur method for some quick serviceable Spanish. $10 for the starter kit (just make sure to sign off of the automatic enrollment to the full course when the first kit arrives).

    • Tony says:

      Thanks for the recommendation and the heads-up on the fine print, Vincent. Please give my regards to Broadway! But if Herald Square doesn’t remember me, I wouldn’t go out of your way to, you know, remember me to Herald Square.

  10. Michael Dailey says:

    Have a look at the Uclear bluetooth coms setup as well.

    • Tony says:

      Will do. Thanks, Mike. What I also need to figure out is how to dump text into a digital voice recorder while on the road, either via wire or bluetooth. I’ll be bringing some writing work with me to help finance the trek, would like to pull into camp with my day’s notes recorded and ready to go.

  11. Jeff Day says:

    Great choice on the bike Tony. Nice find and it is basically a new bike. I have the DL 650 Wee Strom and love it. Are you thinking late November for the start? The race season will be over just before Thanksgiving and if you would have me I would seriously want to go on that trip.


    • Tony says:

      Hey, Jeff! Funny, Dave Kroth from the old Garage said the same thing. I thought he was joking, now I wonder. Well, dunno about a departure time but I would guess it’s a month’s ride from Colombia to Tierra del Fuego, assuming we want to see things and not just blast on through. That puts it around Thanksgiving if we want to arrive for the solstice. I don’t know what Jan’s thinking about additional riders but will absolutely ask him. As we speak, he’s on the road somewhere between Houston and Los Angeles; he’s trailering out after the bike he wants to acquire for the trek.

      I didn’t know about the Wee bike. Why was I thinking you rode an FJR?

  12. Alix Williams says:

    Hi Tony, Wow! This would be a very interesting journey. I’m looking forward to the images to come. Maybe you will write a book about it. There was a travel writer (uh, it may have been Theroux) who wrote a book ages back about his trip to Patagonia by train.
    All the best, Alix

    • Tony says:

      I had to look that one up, Alix. Indeed, it was Paul Theroux. Looks interesting! I had to resist the urge to order it, too many other books sitting here unread at the moment.

  13. hugo says:

    Happy new year, granddad! Exciting stuff. I’m sure everyone has read this, but growing up in England, this was a great read about the most distant land imaginable:

    • Tony says:

      The Chatwin book is a gap in my education, Hugo. Many thanks for the heads up! Will put this one on my list, in addition to the Patagonia-by-rail book mentioned by my friend, Alix. My best to the Mundays!

  14. Jon Brush says:

    Just watched the video. Pretty amazing. If you want, I can find out if some of our connections in Lima are still good. You may not pass through Costa Rica but I may know some there too.

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