We checked out of Guatemala with ease. After 30 minutes we crossed the bridge into El Salvador. At first, we thought we were getting the run around. We arrived at lunch time so no one was doing much. We handed our documents to some guy with a big shot gun and watched him walk away… As the time went on the guys became more helpful and we had all of our papers squared away in about 90 minutes time. We have a 60 day free visa for our travels in El Salvador.
It was strange to see US dollars being passed around everywhere. The national currency of El Salvador is now the US dollar. And it’s tough getting used to the prices. I keep comparing everything back to Mexican pesos. The math is more difficult too with fractions. All the math in Mexico and Guatemala was with integers. The people have also changed. It’s fascinating. Just over the border, some random line on the map, the people look completely different.
Of course we had to take some border crossing photos before we departed.
As we prepared to leave, a very strong gust of wind came by and blew my bike over. CRASH!!! Not good, I thought, but not terrible either. I picked up the bike and noticed the kill switch had broken apart. NOT good now… On the bright side, my Micatech luggage barely even got a scratch.
I opened the switch with desperate hopes of jumping the wires to get it to start. No luck (and I may have made things worse). After 2 hours of trouble shooting with Charles and Justin. We decided it would be best to get to a hotel where we could get on the internet and do more work. At the border we talked to a guy with a crappy old pick up. I agreed to $15 for a tow to the town of Ahuachapán about 25K from the border. After loading the bike into the back of the truck I jumped in with it and we set off.
Being in the back of the truck gave me an opportunity to take some riding pictures of Charles and Justin.
That night we unloaded the bike and began troubleshooting it in the hotel lobby. Justin and Charles were great as we studied the wiring diagrams and consulted ADVrider for help. We had a few different ideas but we kept blowing fuses. I went into the streets to try and find a store open on Sunday night. No luck. I asked dozens of tuk-tuk drivers and finally jumped in with one and we saw a few local dirt bikers on KTMs. I asked them where I could get some fuses and they just gave me a few. Super nice guys! Eventually we figured out the correct wiring to bypass the kill switch but we still had no spark… UUUGGGGHHHH…..
Also that night I talked with Alisa (MotoAdventureGal), who has been riding south since Rhode Island (but early this year rode the Trans America Trail and the Continental Divide Trail) and is currently in El Salvador. Alisa is raising money and awareness for breast and ovarian cancer cures – if you’d like you can make a donation. She set me up with an awesome local El Salvador rider, Carlos.
In the morning Charles and Justin tried pushing me down the wrong way of a one way street so I could try and bump start the bike. It didn’t work; there was no spark. However, Carlos was able to arrange a pick up for me from Ahuachapán to the capital, San Salvador. The driver wanted $100 but I got him down to $65 for the 2 hour drive. He was a character and we talked about everything – politics, geology, women, cars, currency, and traveling or so I could best understand. He was proud of his 1973 Nissan pick up (even though it had to be jump started by crossing wires under the dash).
Later that morning I unloaded the bike at Motor Imports Kawasaki Dealer in San Salvador. The guys were friendly and 2 spoke fluent English but they told me the mechanic was out but would start looking at my bike first thing the next morning. While I was at Kawasaki I got word that Alisa was at the KTM dealer across town getting her bike fixed up. Victor at Kawasaki and I jumped on his 125 and we sped through town over to see Alisa. We got some lunch and chatted all afternoon about the bikes, the trip so far, and the plans for the rest of the trip. By late afternoon we met up with a local El Salvador rider, Mario. Mario offered for the two of us to stay at his beach house about 30 minutes from the city. Certainly! I jumped on the back of Mario’s new model KLR and Alisa followed on her Suzuki DR650. Last year he did a 16 day trip from El Salvador to Colorado and back. That’s fast! Here’s the sticker on his front fairing that pretty much sums it up.
There’s a family that lives on and takes care of the property. They were super friendly and fun to chat with. We got some dinner at another house down the street and then called it a night. Bright and early the next morning Alisa and I mounted her bike and made our way back to San Salvador. It was a tight squeeze with two people…
Being on the back of the motorcycle was a completely new experience. By the time we arrived in town, we were both extremely glad to be off the bike. Back in town and at the dealer the mechanic is looking at the bike. After a few hours he thinks the CDI is fried (very bad – $340). They don’t have a spare in stock. OK, so they call around and they can’t find one. They call Guatemala and I’m told it’ll be $500 (this is WAY too much). A few more hours go by and I understand that the problem might not be the CDI but instead they think it could be the stator (bad, but not as bad). All afternoon we’re waiting for some guy called “The Mad Scientist” to come by and take a look at it. He never comes. As the shops about to close Mario and Alisa come by. The shop is going to bring the stator to an electrical specialist in the morning.
That night Alisa and I are back to riding 2-up down to the beach. There’s rumors of turtles on the beach and Alisa really wants to see one. We talk to the little girl at the house and ask her if she’s seen any recently. Yes, she says. We ate some the other day… Alisa no longer wants to go searching for turtles. The next morning it’s the same back to the shop. Eeeeeek, I need to get my bike fixed up…
The guy is supposed to pick up the stator at 8. He shows up at 9:30. Around 10 I learn that he took a look at it and right away he said it was fine. My hopes drop. I’m getting even more depressed now but Mario and Alisa are here and Carlos will be down soon. At least I’m in good company. Carlos shows up soon after and jumps right in with swift and calculated actions. He studies the electrical diagrams and has the bike put back together. It’s still not working but I’m starting to think we just might figure this thing out.
Carlos has to leave for the afternoon but Mario has found guy in town who has an older style KLR (like mine). The guys comes around 2pm.
First we swap out the kill switch. It didn’t do the trick. Next, we swap out of CDI (and kill switch). VVVVRRRRRRRRROOOOOMMMMMMM!!!!! What a beautiful sound! I haven’t had a smile this big in quite a few days. I’m ready to throw my legs over the bike right now and ride away. OK, now to see if this guy will sell me his CDI and kill switch and/or if I have to order a spare from the USA and have them shipped here. Unfortunately, the day is over and we’ll have to wait for tomorrow. Alisa has headed off toward Honduras so I find a small hotel just a half block from the shop. I spend most of the night researching boats crossing the Darien Gap from Panama to Colombia. All this lack of riding and lots of stress has me exhausted.
Day 5 in El Salvador. 8 am back at the shop. Every morning and at every greeting the Salvadorians always shake hands. I really like it and I feel a great sense of respect. Michael talks with man who owns the KLR and he has agreed to give the parts. In exchange, the Kawasaki dealer will order new parts for his bike and I will pay for them. He’s given me a great deal and I won’t have to pay (or wait) for shipping. What generous offers! $400 dollars later… (there goes the budget). The mechanic, Frank, spends the morning putting the bike back together along with a few odds and ends that needed attention (like my nasty air filter).
The broken CDI and Kill Switch.
OK! The bike is reassembled and packed up with all my junk. Raul, who’s been around the shop daily (and has traveled the world extensively by motorcycle) has offered to take me across town to buy some new tires for my bike. But first, it’s time for a group shot with all the guys from Motor Imports Kawasaki.
I follow Raul on his city-commuter whip (a 125 Yamaha scooter that’s super cool) through the city.
I want another set of Michelin Anakees but they’re too expensive. I settle for a rear Michelin Sirac and a front Metzeler Enduro 3 Sahara. $141 for both tires mounted. Finally, some fresh rubber with deeper tread. Ya, these are bad pictures…
With fresh rubber I’m about to hit the road and ride down to the beach to meet Charles when disaster strikes (ok, it wasn’t that dramatic). Raul noticed that my headlight didn’t turn on. Not good, because it’s getting dark. Bummer, I follow Raul back to his house and we’ll take a look at it. On the ride over, my headlight flickers on and off and my tachometer is all over the place. I turn the bike off and then try to turn it back on. Nothing, no lights and the engine doesn’t turn. Before I can even get angry I drop the bike and fall into the middle of the road where I almost get hit by a car. PUTA!
Raul calls the shop guys and they come by with a pick-up truck and we load it into the back. This is my 3rd tow of the trip now. However, I’m very fortunate to have been with Raul and to have the help from the guys at the shop. I could have easily headed toward the beach, alone, in the dark, with no lights, and then have the bike die…
Before we leave, Raul takes me to his “Motorcycle Room” and shows me all his toys. He has some beautiful motorcycles and he’s ridden them from Alaska to Sturgis to Tierra del Fuego to Africa and then some.
We get the bike back to the shop and call it a night. We’ll start work on it in the morning. I joke to the guys that I might trade my bike in for a tuk-tuk and continue south. They think it’s a good idea.
I walk back to the hotel a 1/2 block away and say hi to the ladies who run the place. They started laughing at me. Last night I told them it would only be a one night stay. Then tonight I say the same. S-U-R-E they say. It’s fun talking with them in my terrible Spanish.
Day 6? Who knows. Back at the shop at 8 am. Frank pulls the bike apart and we find a blown fuse. This is my fault. We ran out of 20A fuses the first night so we started playing around with other sizes. I left in the 10A fuse. It worked fine for testing but under the load it wasn’t strong enough. So we went to the hardware store down the street to get some new 20A fuses.
Popped in the new fuse and she started right up. Frank spent another hour un-taping, reviewing, and re-taping most of the electrical wires on the bike to check for and prevent damage. He found one intermittent wire connection and fixed it up. I did a lap around the block and everything worked fine. My smile returns! Charles arrived at the shop late morning and by noon Raul arrived to show us the way out of town. It was great having a local guide. Without him we surely would have spent hours trying to find our way out of the city. Going through the city I see this sign everywhere. Every Wendy’s, barber shop, shoe store, grocery store, and hotel in the city has an armed guard standing by. Safety first!
We drove quickly for 3 hours until we hit the border with Honduras. Eventually I leave El Salvador, the country that I planned to spend only one night in but ended up staying nearly a week. Sure, at times it was challenging but I also met great people and made good friends.
I must give thanks to everyone who helped me out: the ADVrider community, the KLR650.net community, all the guys at Motor Imports Kawasaki, Local riders Mario, Carlos, and Raul, and my riding partners Justin, Charles, and Alisa
Thanks so much for everything. Charles and I are in Honduras tonight. More adventures to come. Stay tuned!