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My 2012: Year In Review

I’ve looked back over 2012 to see what went right, what could have gone better, and what I might like to do in the year to come. It’s been fun to reflect on the past twelve months. Here’s a brief summary of the path my life has taken:

January

The new year started with lots of preparation and excitement as I set forth to film a motorcycle documentary down in South America. I also built and launched Darien Gap Info A peer review website dedicated to crossing the Darien Gap.

Late in the month, I travelled down to Colombia to meet again with my partner Mike Thomsen of Motolombia. Together with 8 riders, we rode through the heart of Colombia. Filmmaker Andreas Munksgaard and I documented the entire journey. Capturing each days events was hard work but also a great learning experience.

The New World Ride Still Shot

Filming in Colombia for The New World Ride

February

Upon returning to the cold New Hampshire winter, it was time to make sense of the nearly 100 hours of film. I began the pain staking process of cataloging all the footage. This was slow and arduous but laid the necessary foundation for developing the documentary. To keep sane, I played volleyball one night a week with friends.

March

More computer work… During the week I spent 8am – 5pm at my day job (mostly on the computer) and then came home, cooked dinner and spent 6pm – 10pm working on the film (also in front of the computer). I enjoy editing but it was tough to spend all night on the computer after spending my of my day there as well. However, I pushed on, and each day I saw progress.

At the end of the month I took a break from the film and headed to India on another business trip for my day job. I worked with my team of programmers and business analysts to develop custom web and mobile applications to better serve our customers. The work was fun and of course I enjoyed experiencing India. Best of all was renting a Royal Enfield Bullet 350 on the weekend and getting lost in Southern India!

GoPro Motorcycle Photo in India

Riding the crazy streets of Southern India

On the way home, I spent a few days in London where I met up with Andreas. We went over some of the story I had been putting together and he also showed me all around the city. The famous Ace Cafe was high on the list amongst all the numerous historical landmarks. It may be hard to believe, but the English weather was beautiful, sunny and warm!

Ace Cafe in London

Ace Cafe in London, England

April

Back in States once again it was time to finish building the story for the The New World Ride (the name of the soon to be released Colombian Motorcycle documentary). More countless hours spent staring at the computer screen. I also turned 29 years old…

Final Cut Pro Sequence from The New World Ride

Final Cut Pro Sequence from The New World Ride

May

As spring rolled into New Hampshire, I continued building the documentary day by day. By the middle of the month, I was ready for another quick getaway. Setting my compass southwest I headed to the Overland Expo in Flagstaff, Arizona. This was my second expo and I was amazed at how much it had grown. If you want to travel the world on 2 wheels or 4, this is the place for you. With hundreds of vendors and thousands of travelers, there is no shortage of gear and stories. Motorcycle Mexico, my how-to guide for motorcycling south of the border, was on sale and I spoke at several roundtable discussions including “Borders, Bribes and Checkpoints.” It was great to catch up with old friends and make new ones.

Ben Slavin and Carla King at Overland Expo in a Ural Side Car

Riding Monkey for Carla King

June

June was a big month… I gave my 23rd and 24th presentations about my 6 month, 23,000 mile motorcycle ride from New Hampshire to the southernmost city in the world, Ushuia, Argentina. Moreover, I was recruited for and accepted an exciting new job opportunity on the west coast. It was a tough decision to leave my day job that I really enjoyed and to put so much distance between my family. But ultimately it would be a great experience in an exciting and growing industry with many new places to explore during weekend adventures. So, in three weeks, I gave my notice, Amber and I packed up everything we owned and with excitement and exhaustion we jumped on a plane headed for Europe.

Thanks to our friends Bob and Sue at Micatech, we rode all around Western Europe on their 1995 BMW K75 motorcycle. In three short weeks we cruised through France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg. Ya… I’m still working on that blog post :). It was an incredible trip. We camped each night and lived off of fresh bread, cheeses and sausages.

Crossing the Alps from France to Italy

Crossing the Alps from France to Italy

July

And finally after more than 10 years of dreaming, I finally saw the Tour de France! We followed the first few stages of the tour in Belgium and France – wow, what an experience!

Tour de France - Peleton Climb

Tour de France – Peleton Climb

From Europe we scooted back to South America for Amber’s sister’s wedding in Quito, Ecuador. The ceremony was in a tranquil mountain setting just outside the busy city. After the wedding we rented a Suzuki V-Strom from Freedom Bike Rental. Mountain twisties and serene beaches were on the agenda for the quick 5-day ride at the equator. (Yup, still working on that blog post too!)

Lunch on the beach in Ecuador

Lunch on the beach in Ecuador

With Ecuador behind us we were off to California to find a place to live in Silicon Valley. Fortunately, it didn’t take long to find a cute little duplex right in Cupertino (a 7 minute walk from the Apple campus) with a palm tree and lemon tree in the front yard!

Our House in Cupertino

Our House in Cupertino

August

I began work at AAC Technologies were we develop custom micro-speaker, microphone and vibrator solutions that integrate inside today’s smartphones, tablets and mp3 players. By the middle of the month our friend John arrived with all of our belongings. We are so thankful that he drove a 26′ moving truck 3,000 miles across the country just to help us out! For the past 2 weeks we had been “camping” in our new home waiting for all of our furniture to arrive.

House Camping

House Camping

Our motorcycles came in the same truck and we were excited to hit the ground and explore California. At the end of the month we rode through the Sierra Nevada mountains to the Lake Tahoe Adventure Motorcycle Rendezvous. Amber went on road rides with a bunch of new friends and I set out for desert dirt riding with people much more capable than me. After pushing my limits and almost dumping the bike several times we headed over Ebbets Pass on our way back to the bay area. We also hosted our first motorcycle travelers in our new place – a young couple from France.

Amber Motorcycling in Ebbets Pass in California

Amber Motorcycling over Ebbets Pass in California

September

Finally settled into our new life on the west coast, we continued exploring with weekend surfing trips in Santa Cruz, city excursions around San Francisco, road tripping to Fresno to see the Colorado football game and hiking in the Redwood Forests. I also have a bunch of friends from college in the area and it’s been great to reconnect with them too. Additionally, my sister came to live us with. She’s a certified elementary education teacher but there are no jobs to be had in New Hampshire. The hopes of gainful employment lead her to California instead.

September also brought my first trip to China since 2009. I got a custom fit suit in Shanghai before going west and then finally south to Shenzhen. In Changzhou, I climbed to the top of the world’s tallest pagoda. I was amazed at how much Chinese I remembered (still only a few phrases) and was able to pick up a little more along the way. The locals always get a kick out of it when I say something in their language.

Worlds Tallest Pagoda

Worlds Tallest Pagoda

Unfortunately however, a night out at every kids dream (a warehouse filled with trampolines), was the straw the broke the camels back and I was in debilitating back and neck pain.

October

I began physical therapy but still encountered relapses of my injured back. Not fun! I had to give up cycling, running, hiking and any other form of physical fitness. Even simple tasks like putting on my socks or sitting up in bed in the mornings were painful and demotivating.

I slowly progressed as the month went on and with the support of a kidney belt, Amber and I rode 200 miles south along the coastline on Highway 1 to attend the Horizons Unlimited motorcycle travelers meetup in Cambria. New friends like Cliff Danger reminded us of a simpler life with stories of riding Lucy, a small Minsk motorcycle, throughout Cambodia and Vietnam.

Big Sur coastline along California's Highway 1

Big Sur coastline along California’s Highway 1

Putting on my marketing hat, I revamped the Motorcycle Mexico landing page and saw a huge boost in sales conversations. It’s a gold mine of information for aspiring travelers and I get joy out of helping them ride their dreams. We also hosted more motorcycle travelers, this time a couple from Guatemala on their way back from Alaska.

Motorcycle Mexico Landing Page

Motorcycle Mexico Landing Page

And with 48 hours notice, I headed back to China for a quick business trip. At least I got to sleep in a round bed…

Round Bed in Shanghai, China

Round Bed in Shanghai, China

November

Remember that motorcycle documentary? In the summer I handed my work off to Andreas who put on the final touches. Over the following months we released mini-episodes from each day of the trip. The penultimate release was a feature length film – The New World Ride. It was a wild journey and it wouldn’t have been possible without everyone involved – To all of you… ¡MUCHAS GRACIAS!

Two hours a day of back stretching and strengthening exercises finally started to pay off and I slowly began seeing improvements. Amber and I had hoped to ride to Baja, Mexico during the Thanksgiving break but her work schedule and my health had us put it on hold. Nevertheless, we found some fun in hiking and camping in Marin County just north of San Francisco. Aside from an evening spent convinced that we were being stalked by a mountain lion, we had a great time.

Point Bonita Marin County Hiking

Point Bonita Marin County Hiking

December

My work schedule isn’t the typical 8-5. Some days are slow and others are action packed with customer meetings during the day. I’m up most nights until midnight working with my team in China. With the end of the year in sight, we headed east for a much needed vacation, exchanging our computers for the families we hadn’t seen in 6 months. It was the perfect Christmas gift.

What went well in 2012?

The past 12 months have been action packed.

  • I traveled to 12 countries (8 of them for the first time) and spoke 7 languages (granted some of them were only a few words).
  • I gave 6 speeches about my motorcycle travels around the world.
  • I did all sorts of new things like paragliding over Medellin, Colombia, motorcycling around Lake Tahoe, eating congealed pigs blood at a Chinese restaurant and shooting trap with a shotgun in California.
  • I built and released a feature length motorcycle travel documentary.

What did not go well in 2012?

Though 2012 was a good year, not everything was perfect.

For one, my Russian language learning got de-railed. A new job with a shorter commute meant no time for audio CD’s. I got through 45 lessons (the same amount of Spanish before I left on my first big trip) but it quickly faded with lack of use. I still hope to explore the now disolved Soviet Union and it will be great to use the Russian language to connect with people from many countries. I need more practice.

Also, I didn’t do a great job maintaining friendships. I spent a lot of time in front of the computer with interesting but isolating projects, and I didn’t see my family for the entire second half of the year. As I grow older, I realize how important friends and family are. I’m disappointed that I lost my way in strengthening those relationships.

Finally, I’m not happy with how things finished with my physical fitness. I reached a peak level of fitness in early May when I was playing basketball every day at lunch and running on the weekends. But then a combination of injuries, travel, and a new job with many business lunches made me a little soft. I’m carrying an extra five or ten pounds now, and my fitness levels are lower than I want them to be.

Looking Ahead

Though I didn’t set goals for 2012, I do have a few plans for the year to come. Soon, I’ll share some of my goals for the future. I have a lot in mind including travel, technology projects, friends & family, happiness, 2 wheels (without a motor), business, health and more.

What about you? How was your 2012? Are you happier now than you were the same time last year? Have you made progress on your personal goals? What went well for you this year? What could have gone better?

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Weekend of Freedom World Tour

Some Most days I daydream about riding the world. While it’s not always possible to get away, there’s still room for adventure. In order to celebrate our freedom on the Fourth of July. Amber and I packed up the bikes and headed north. Some might think of this trip as a relaxing ride through New England’s back roads. Instead, I like to think of it as a mini world tour…

First stop, the Wright Museum which exhibits artifacts illustrating the heroic efforts of ordinary people living during extraordinary times and is dedicated to celebrating Americans’ sacrifices and achievements during WWII.

Next stop, Whitehorse gear in North Conway so amber can pick up a kidney belt for back support.

The friendly folks at Whitehorse gave us a great road recommendation that took us up through Evan’s Notch in the White Mountain National Forest. Once in Maine we said hi to our buddy Paul Bunyan who was hanging out in Rumford.

The riding was mellow and fun.

Soon afterwards we crossed into Mexico. Wait, what? I’m so confused…

The plaque threw me off a bit. Shouldn’t it be in Spanish?

Sadly, there wasn’t even a Mexican restaurant in Mexico, Maine! Maybe that’s a business opportunity…  After Mexico it was off to Peru. There is no downtown – just lots rural land. Does anyone know what an ATV bottle is???

So, are we on Peruvian soil or American soil?

Having had enough of Latin America we jumped across the pond and stopped by Rome for lunch. Rome was burning so we notified the volunteer fire department.

After our civic duties were done we went east, really far east, like to the far east. Welcome to China!

Unlike mexican restaurants in Mexico, we did see plenty of chinese restaurants in China. Oddly, China looked a lot like Rome, Peru, Mexico, and Maine… Oh well. We looped back around for a quick stop in our hometown of Manchester. Well not Manchester, NH but Manchester, ME. This one goes out to our buddy Pete from Manchester, England. Last month he rode his motorcycle to every Manchester in the USA (there’s more than 30 of them). We had dinner and beers with him as he rolled through our Manchester.

With 300 miles logged we called it quits for the day and headed to Amber’s aunt’s place for some delicious homemade apple pie. mmmmmmmmm.

Awake and reenergized we set out the next morning to continue the adventure. We headed south to Lisbon, Portugal Maine. Unfortunately we were a week early for the Moxie Festival!

Lisbon was fun so we decided to see more of Europe. Next stop, Poland. I had to pee and just as I was about to take a leak by the building I caught myself. Fearing that if a local kid saw me peeing by an elementary school I would be charged as a sex offender, I decided to postpone my whiz until I could find a proper rest room facility.

We continued with the European theme and headed north to Norway.

Only a stones throw away from Norway, we found Paris. Imagine what a mini Eiffel Tower replica would do for tourism… Unfortunately, there wasn’t  much going on in Paris, Maine.

A few more miles (pun intended) down the road was Sweden. Judging by the few people we talked to, I’m willing to bet that most folks here do not know there’s a country called Sweden. The fire department had the only sign in town.

After Sweden we popped back down into mainland Europe for a quick stop in Denmark.

By that time we really started to enjoy Europe, so we shot over to see Amber’s other aunt who lives in Naples, Italy Maine. Together we celebrated our journey with a traditional Italian pizza served in an Irish pub…

The next morning I realized I had a freeloader trying to hitch a ride around the world. He wasn’t talking much…

We wrapped up our Weekend of Freedom World Tour with a brief stop in Limerick, Ireland Maine where they conveniently have a US Post Office.

Maine has several other worldly towns that were a bit out of our reach. We’ll leave Madrid, Moscow, Columbia (ya, they got the spelling wrong), Athens, Stockholm, Verona, Belfast, Lebanon, Vienna and Belgrade for another trip.

Editors note: We skipped all the English town names because just about every other town in New England is named after… Well… England…

As my friends at NEMO would say – Adventure Anywhere. Because memorable and meaningful adventures can happen anywhere from the backyard to Mt. Everest.

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“Where Are They Now” Edition

New to the site? Click here to follow the blog in chronological order. Thanks for checking out the journey, enjoy!

Hey Everyone!

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been back in the USA for over 4 months! Spending time with friends and family has been great and the summer weather has been beautiful here in New Hampshire. So… What’s been going on? Well, 6 months without regular exercise coupled with 3 or 4 daily meals of delicious fried food plays a toll on the body. I weighed myself when I returned home – I gained 15 lbs… YIKES!!! Riding the motorcycle everyday was exhausting but it wasn’t stimulating my cardiovascular system. Now back at home I’ve been kayaking, running, biking (of the pedal variety), and hiking on a daily basis and I’ve shed that baby fat. Here’s a few shots from the absolutely stunning Acadia National Park in Maine.

Have no fear though, I’m still riding the motorcycle nearly everyday. My car has only seen a few days of use this entire summer. Being stuck inside the 4-wheeled box is near torture. The KLR, a.k.a. El Burro, has been a true workhorse. He now has roughly 35,000 miles (I say roughly, because I’ve been without a spedo/odometer cable for the past 12,000-ish miles). All that traveling has taken it’s toll and I now have piston slap. It looks like I’ll be rebuilding the engine’s top end…

This Bike Climbed Mt. Washington

I recently presented the my journey through the Americas at the New Hampshire Latino Festival. Latinos and Gringos alike came up and asked all sorts of questions. “Are you fucking crazy!?” was a popular one. I met Salvadorians, Mexicans, Colombians, and Guatemalans. Their eyes opened wide as I described riding through their countries. Many young kids who are still learning about their heritage stopped by to check out my photos. Their parents would point to a picture and say “That’s our country.” Who knows, maybe in a few years I’ll inspire one of these kids to jump on a bike and ride through their country to experience it first hand. I made this highlight map to have on display.

Motorcycle Central and South America

Crucial to the success of my journey were the Micatech panniers and top case. You’ve seem then in every photo with my bike and I certainly put them to the test. With over 50 tip-overs ,they are still in excellent shape and waterproof (although a bit dirty). The boxes are made only 30 miles from my home and since returning home they’ve contracted me to do some engineering and design for new products. The projects has been fun, challenging, and engaging. Designing and building adventure motorcycling products is great. One key element in product development is field testing… Alright, so what’s next??? Ya, it’s about time for a new adventure. Well, in 3 short weeks I’ll be back on the bike, riding 3,300 miles across the country to California where I’ll be presenting my journey through the Americas at the Overland Rally. Are you interested in traveling the world by car/truck/van/motorcycle/bicycle then this is the event for you. So, if you’re in the Bay Area between September 23 and 26, sign on up and check out the rally.

Overland Rally

After the Overland Rally I’m headed south to Mexico! Wooo Hooo! I’ll be riding down the Baja Peninsula and then crossing over to the mainland where I’ll be riding for 5 weeks. While south of the border I’ll be filming for a How To Guide for Motorcycling in Mexico. I’m super excited about this project and hope to inspire others to go and ride their dream. Check out the website at www.MotorcycleMexico.com. Interested in following the new journey? Then sign-up for email updates by clicking here (because I won’t be updating this website anymore). When I make it back home at the beginning of November I’ll have put on another 10,000 miles!

Motorcycle Mexico

That’s about it… What have ya’ll been up to? Drop me a line and keep me in the loop.

Ride & Explore!

-Ben

Categories: Mexico, United States | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Welcome Home

Welcome Home

Amber and I braved the rush hour traffic into Boston. A ride that usually takes 45 minutes took 2 hours! Obeying traffic laws and being stuck in traffic was torture – get me back on that bike! First stop: American Airlines Cargo warehouse. I grabbed my paperwork and then was told I needed to go to customs for some stamps (stamps??? I thought I left Central America). The best part is that the customs office is downtown. I paid my tolls to leave the airport, headed downtown and was greeted by a customs officer with no personality. He was a bit confused why I was shipping a US registered bike from Argentina to the States. “If you did any offroading, the bike will need to be cleaned and fumigated at your expense. Did you do any offroading?” he asked me. I answered “Nope, always on the pavement” (wink wink). 30 minutes later I got my stamps and headed back to the airport. Despite the fact that I was told I’d not have to pay anything when picking the bike up in Boston I still had to pay a $30 fee (that apparently all shipments are charged). Here’s the guys bringing the bike.

Bike Return 002

Loading the bike onto the trailer.

Bike Return 008

With the bike back home it was unloaded and reassembled hassle free.

Bike Return 016

I guess it’s time to quit moving around because I’ve run out of pages in my passport. At the end the border officials started stamping over old stamps. Here are just a few.

 Passport Stamps 002

Passport Stamps 005

Passport Stamps 008

Passport Stamps 009 

Once I had the bike back up and running I met up with my friend, photographer Sid Ceaser for a post trip portrait session. You might remember the photos that Sid took just a few days before my trip started 6 months ago. Sid is a master with light and created some wonderful images. Here are a few “Before & After” photos with a few other tossed in the mix.

(1) Before:

Portrait 6

(1) After:

Post 1

(2) Before:

Portrait 3

(2) After:

Post 4

(3) Before:

Portrait 4

(3) After:

Post 5

A Few More Photos.

Post 7

Post 2

Post 6

Post 3

And of course after five and a half months without a hair cut or a shave it was time to get cleaned up a bit. (Click here if video doesn’t work)

It’s been strange getting re-adjusted to “normal life” again. It’s great to see my friends and family but the adventure meter drops to zero. And what happened to all the Spanish? English… that’s no fun. I keep putting the TP into the waste basket and when I do remember to put it into the toilet I feel like I’m doing something naughty. I find it strange that all bathrooms are stocked with toilet paper and have toilet seats. I look at my closet full of clothes and I just want to wear the same shirt and pants I’ve been wearing for the last 6 months. I pulled up to the gas station and waited around for someone to pump my gas, sadly there was no attendant. Credit cards are now accepted everywhere (even when I paid the shipping agency to ship my bike home they made me pay in cash – to a bank down the street…). I went to a restaurant at home and they had 20 different kinds of turkey dishes – I’m used to walking in and asking what they have. They say chicken. I say “OK, I’ll have the chicken” nuff said. It’s a strange new world…

Charles and I have been keeping in touch since parting ways in Ecuador. He’s been rolling south and having a wonderful journey. Then he sends me this photo… In Quellon, Chile he got in an accident. Charles has no memory before the crash (or even for a while thereafter) but based on eyewitnesses he thinks he had a mechanical failure and lost control. Fortunately(?) for him he crashed into a fire truck. He broke 3 vertebrae, and twisted up his ankles, wrists, and knees. With a broken back he somehow managed to remove the tank bag, save only half of his camera’s memory cards, camping gear, and his passport. His other belongings, as well as the bike, were complete incinerated. His story made the front pages of both the local newspapers. Charles then spent 8 days in a Chilean hospital before returning home to Colorado. He’s doing well and studying to take the Bar exam this summer. Get well buddy!

Charles Inferno

Zoomed In… (For Sale: KTM 640 Adventure – light smoke damage)

Charles Inferno

I’ve really enjoyed sharing my story with you all. Thanks to everyone who followed along and for all the comments.

Until the next adventure…

Categories: United States | 7 Comments

The United States

Day 1: On the road! I cruised through New Hampshire and Massachusetts on route to Rhode Island where I stopped over at Twisted Throttle to pick up a some mounting hardware for the GPS. That night I camped out at a campground that happened to the closed for the season but the nice folks let me tent for free.

Day 2: The fun begins… It’s 40° and raining. Twisting my head side-to-side every 5 minutes allows the visor to be cleared of the rain. In the afternoon the rain picks up and it’s getting difficult to see the road. Small patches of visibility are available from time to time and I’m trying to stay between the lines. I make the executive decision that it’s time to call it quits for the day and I’m not to interested in finding a place to camp in the pouring rain. A motel straight out of a horror movie in the middle of nowhere has a cheap rate and I crash for the night.

Day 3: The rain is still coming down so I swing by a grocery store to pick up some Pledge wipes. Rubbing them on the helmet face shield helps to repel the water and the lemon scent is a bonus. As I hit the road and the temps dropped into the 30’s. Breaking the day into small blocks is the only way to make ground. After 10 miles of riding my fingers are cold. After 20 miles they hurt. At 30 miles I find a place to stop and warm up. After about 7 of these sessions I arrive at my friend Jamie’s house in Maryland.

Day 4: Rest day! It’s Jamie and Laura’s wedding reception and I have a great time hanging out with friends. (Oh and it’s still pouring rain…)

Jamie's Maryland Wedding Reception 012

Day 5: The rain has stopped as I head south to the Shenandoah Mountains in western Virginia. Cruising up Skyline Drive is beautiful. I gain elevation quickly and soon enough it’s snowing! I shared a campsite for the night and the temps dropped into the 20’s.

United States 007United States 010

Day 6: The road is still covered in slush and I get cold quickly. Every so often I stop and jog up and down the road to get warm. However, I make it out of the mountains and head over to Virginia Beach for some warmer weather and to catch up with my friend Jon. He’s still working when I arrive so I figure it’s a good time to install the GPS power cord.

United States 012


Day 7: I follow the coast down to North Carolina’s National Sea Shore. It’s a beautiful ride and my first day without the balaclava under the helmet. Island hopping meant I had to take two ferries. Fortunately, motorcycles get to cut right to the front of the line :)

United States 021

Day 8: Working my way down the coast through Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and it’s 80 degrees! I actually get a little sunburn. It’s hard to imagine that two days ago It was 20° and snowing. I also realize that I’ve never camped in alligator country… I decide to stick to the designated camping grounds, and I find a beautiful spot along the Intercoastal Waterway.

South Carolina

Day 9: Passing through southern Georgia I had to dodge a hot tub in the middle of the road – a good test of road conditions to come. Eventually I reach Florida and stay with my Cousin, Matt, in San Fernando Beach.

St. Augustine, Florida (2) Day 10: A biker I met on the ferry recommended that I take highway A1A along Florida’s Atlantic coast. It was a nice cruise and I passed through Daytona Beach and St. Augustine – America’s oldest city where I stopped to check out the Spanish fort, Castillo de San Marcos. I end the day with my Aunt, Uncle, and Nana in Port St. Lucie. A shower, laundry, and delicious dinner are just what I needed.

Day 11: It’s off to the Florida Keys and I can’t stop singing that song… I make it to Key West and to the the southern most point in the continental United States (It counts as continental because we built a dozen bridges from island to island). I share a camping spot at the Bahia Honda State Park and take a dip in the crystal clear water! Ya… this is the life.

Florida Keys (3)Florida Keys (8)

Day 12: Goodbye Florida Keys. Hello Everglades. I head to the national park and do a few short hikes. I haven’t yet seen an alligator and I’m getting anxious. I look everywhere but unfortunately none are to be seen. What’s the deal? I thought these were everywhere? On the way out of the park, I finally get on some dirt roads and I stop by a swamp. Sure enough, I see two alligators! I realized that I don’t know their actions. Will it jump out of the water at me? Will one stare at me and the other come up from behind? Later I find out that they keep to themselves and avoid human contact. Not what I expected from those crazy National Geographic videos. (or was it Jurassic Park?)

Everglades, FloridaEverglades, Florida (13) 

Day 13: Headed up the gulf coast and I’m lucky enough to spend the night at a friend’s place in Cape Coral.

Day 14: Still headed up the coast on state highways and the bike is sputtering. Hmm… The first mechanical challenge of the trip. I make it to camp and clean out the carburetor jets. It seems to do the trick. The Micatech pannier doubles as a great mechanics seat too. I see my first armadillo. Again, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I quickly found out that all they do is makes LOTS of noise rustling around the fallen leaves trying to find grubs to eat. The camp spot is under a bunch of Hazelnut (?) trees. These are HUGE and solid and it’s the time of year they fall from the tree. All night I hear them come crashing down. I narrowly escaped a few encounters – that wouldn’t have felt good to have one land on my head.

Northern Florida (5)Northern Florida 

Day 15: Up to Florida’s pan handle and I get caught in a massive downpour. It’s the most severe rain I’ve hit so far. Fortunately the weather was warm and after about 10 miles of not being able to see past my front tire I come across a general store in the middle of nowhere and ride right under their awning. After some nice conversation with the locals and an hour gone by the rain lets up and I continue west.

Day 16: I rolled through Pensacola, Florida and through Alabama’s southern coast on into Mississippi where I meet up with a fellow ADVrider, Paul, who puts me up for the night, feeds me well, takes me kayaking and on a tour of the Hurricane Katrina damage. Here’s a picture of the lot where his house once stood. The water line can be seen on the trees about 12 feet from the ground. It’s hard to fathom what that would be like

Mississippi 007

Day 17: New Orleans!

Day 18: A rest day in NOLA to hang out with friends and go out for Halloween. I’ve been living on a tight budget (a.k.a. lots of peanut butter sandwiches) so I wasn’t interested in spending money on a Halloween custom. I looked for the only prop I had with me… the inflatable sheep. Here we have Panama Jack, Quail Man, Sheep Fucker, and Twitter. If the city goes this crazy for Halloween, I can only imagine what it’s like at Mardi Gras.

New Orleans (Halloween) 034New Orleans (Halloween) 043

Day 19: Onward to Lake Charles to meet up with another ADVrider, Darrell. After hellos he tells me to take his BMW F800GS for a spin. OK! Darrell and his wife Cher also own a scuba diving shop called True Blue Watersports.

Day 20: Houston, Texas to meet up with yet another ADVrider, Dave, who rode his motorcycle from Texas to Tierra del Fuego last year. It was great to pick his brain for all kinds of information. It’s here that I started to get scared and excited all at once! Dave was even robbed at gunpoint by banditos in Guatemala… But overall he had great things to say about the journey.

Houston Texas (David G.)  (AllTheWaySouth) 003

Day 21: I decided to stay another day in Houston to get some last minute paperwork organized. I made laminated copies of all my important documents. I’ll hand these over to officials and not the originals just incase anyone tries to bribe me to get them back. A run, some frisbee with Dave’s dog, Indy, and delicious Texas BBQ wrapped up the day.

Day 22: Austin, Texas with the hopes of running into Lance Armstrong at his bike shop, Mellow Johnny’s. No lance sightings unfortunately but I did have a chance to meet up with, yup you guessed it, ADVrider Robin and hangout with the local moto crew at the pub downtown.

Austin Texas (Robin Hodson) 002Austin Texas (Robin Hodson) 004

Day 23: The butterflies are everywhere in Texas and several of them met my helmet with a loud SMACK. Eventually I made it down to a state park in Laredo, Texas. Another run in the dry heat felt great and I organized my documents for tomorrow’s border crossing. 4,500 miles have gone by since I left home. Another 16,000 or so still to come :)

Texas, Laredo

Day 24: MEXICO!!! I packed up early in order to get through the border quickly. Dave recommended a quiet border crossing about 25 miles north of town. (Headed to Mexico? Here’s the details). I had a nice chat with the lady on the USA side of the border then rode across the bridge to Mexico. Instantly no one spoke English and none of the signs were in English. It was fun trying to talk Spanish to officials to get my passport stamp, tourist visa, and vehicle import permit. No one seemed to be in a rush. At one window there was no one present and no one I asked seemed to know when the official would be back… After 15 minutes the official arrived. Life’s a little slower south of the border… The driving rules changed too. All of a sudden it’s accepted and expected to drive on the shoulder, pass by going into the oncoming traffic’s lane and stop wherever you please. It’s been flat for the last 3,000 miles and finally I got into the mountains! I made a straight 200 mile shot through a few towns and arrived at Hidalgo outside Monterrey at La Posada in El Potrero Chico. I rock climbed here a few years ago and decided that it would be a great place to take a few days off the bike, slow life down, get used to Latin culture, and get organized. So I’m here now and eating delicious tacos. mmmmmm.

El Potrero ChicoHasta luego!

Categories: United States | 6 Comments

The Final Touches

OK, how about some updates! Upon returning to NH I had one week to put the final touches on the trip prep and hit the road. Here’s some of the action:

Micatech Install & Jetboil Farewell (10)

The folks up at Micatech set me up with some most excellent luggage. Thanks very much to Bob, Sue, and the rest of the gang.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Micatech Install & Jetboil Farewell

Up on the lift at Naults to install new brake pads, cush drive, chain, and sprockets along with an oil change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Micatech Install & Jetboil Farewell (3)

Thanks to TJ at Erwin Precision for the last minute fabrication. For some reason my kickstand leans the bike too far, so TJ made a little “lifter” and welded it on.

 

 

 

 

 

Micatech Install & Jetboil Farewell (5)

A very nice send off from all the folks at Jetboil.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like the new banner at the top of the page? NH Photographer, Sid Ceaser, is the king of portable portraits. Sid offered to take some pictures of me and the bike before I left. If the bike makes it back to the States, Sid will also take a “post-trip” portrait series.

Portrait 1

Portrait 2

Portrait 3

Portrait 4

Portrait 5

Portrait 6

And the adventure begins. Stay tuned…

Categories: United States | 5 Comments

Another Quick Update – New Orleans

After riding down to Key West I made my way back north and am headed west. I’m spending the Haloween weekend in New Orleans with friends. I promise some pictures and stories once life slows down a bit in Mexico.

Categories: United States | 3 Comments

Quick Update – Florida

Lots of long days on the road. I’ll post some pictures and stories soon. Until then, I’m stealing WiFi outside a McDonalds in Florida.

Categories: United States | 3 Comments

My Summer Vacation

Wow… What a month this has been! Let me try to fill ya’ll in on the fun that’s been had in these past few weeks.

First, I flew to San Francisco for a bachelor party for my good friend Jamie. Our crew had a blast. We rented scooters and terrorized the city and took the ferry over to Alcatraz Island. Here’s a few pictures of the mischief…

Our scooter gang parked for lunch.

Our scooter gang parked for lunch.

Rolling down Lombard St.

Rolling down Lombard St.

Tree Hugging in the Muir Valley Redwood Forest

Tree Hugging in the Muir Valley Redwood Forest

Locked up in Alcatraz... All the tourists were listening to headphone-audio tours and video taping. It was very quiet inside the prison. We decided instead to make our own tour and made up tales about the little known facts of Alcatraz. However, no one could hear us, but they will when they watch their video tape at home...

Locked up in Alcatraz... All the tourists were listening to headphone-audio tours and video taping. It was very quiet inside the prison. We decided instead to make our own tour and made up tales about the little known facts of Alcatraz. However, no one could hear us, but they will when they watch their video tape at home...

Next it was off to Squamish, British Columbia to meet up with my friend Jim and our Kiwi buddy Dave (in January 2005, the three of us traveled all around the South Island of New Zealand doing lots of climbing and tramping). Dave’s been living in Squamish all season and was an excellent host as he showed us all the best climbs and local hideouts. We even became sponsored athlete-models for Stormtech! Enjoy a few pictures from our days north of the border…

Dave working the traverse pitch on the Grand Wall.

Dave working the traverse pitch on the Grand Wall.

Jim climbing the best pitch of his life, the Split Pillar, 4 pitches up the Grand Wall.

Jim climbing the best pitch of his life, the Split Pillar. 4 pitches up the Grand Wall with only 8 more pitches to go.

Dave showing us the fine art of dumpster diving. We scored big. Heaps of vegetables, cookies, sandwiches, and bread.

On the way to the crag one morning, we were approached by some guys to be climbing models for their clothing company. The set us up with some free gear and $150 each! We rigged up their photographer to take pictures of Dave.

One morning on route to the crag we were approached by some guys looking for climbing models for their clothing company's photography shoot. They set us up with free gear and $150 each! We rigged up the photographer to take pictures of Dave climbing Excaliber.

Me working the route.

Me working the route.

After a solid week of climbing in Canada I dropped over to Missoula, Montana to catch up with yet another good friend, Mike. He’s a NYC guy who ditched the city life to enjoy Big Sky country. We had a great time catching up and doing lots of rock climbing and frisbee golfing. You know, you should see some of the pictures…

While enjoying a nice day of climbing, these fire rangers come by to usher us out of the canyon because a wild fire was rolling down.

While enjoying a nice day of climbing, these forest rangers come by to usher us out of the canyon because a wild fire was rolling down.

The tiny smoke cloud in the distance turned into a raging firestorm through the canyon.

The tiny smoke cloud in the distance turned into a raging firestorm through the canyon.

I assisted Mike with a family portrait photoshoot for some of his clients.

I assisted Mike with a family portrait photoshoot for some of his clients.

We practiced our juggling.

We practiced our juggling.

Disc Golfing

Disc Golfing

Now with a little taste of travel it was off to Utah to visit with my friend and former Jetboilian, David and his wife Haley. David and Haley were my climbing partners back in NH. In typical Utah style, the weather was absolutely wonderful and I got the grand tour of the Beehive state. We started the trip off with a canyoneering adventure in Zion National Park. We then did some spectacular basalt climbing outside St. George, toured Bryce Canyon National Park, and had a few more days climbing at Brian’s Head and Rock Canyon. Thanks, Haley, for purchasing Bahhhhbara III (a.k.a. Dirty Jo). Plenty of good photos to share…

Long story short, this is my third inflatable sheep... Here we are walking to the climbs in Rock Canyon, Provo, Utah.

Long story short, this is my third inflatable sheep... Here we are walking to the climbs in Rock Canyon, Provo, Utah.

David narrowly escaping all the bird poop holds while climbing at 9,000 ft in southern Utah.

David narrowly escaping all the bird poop holds while climbing at 9,000 ft in southern Utah.

David and I wielding our cougar clubs. We climbed at a crag called Running Scared which was named by a climber who was stalked there by a mountain lion. We also determined that we didnt have to out run the cougar, we just had to out run Haley...

David and I wielding our cougar clubs. We climbed at a crag called "Running Scared" which was named by a climber who was stalked there by a mountain lion. We also determined that we didn't have to out run the cougar, we just had to out run Haley...

Enjoying sunset at Bryce Canyon National Park overlooking all the Hoodoos.

Enjoying sunset at Bryce Canyon National Park overlooking all the Hoodoos.

Camping at Bryce in the super rad air beam tent from the folks at NEMO.

Camping at Bryce in the super-rad air beam tent supplied the folks at NEMO.

Me climbing some on some sweet basalt outside St. George, Utah.

Me climbing some on some sweet basalt outside St. George, Utah.

Haley climbing within the beautiful foliage.
Rappelling down the Pine Creek slot canyon in Zion National Park.

Rappelling down the Pine Creek slot canyon in Zion National Park.

Walking through the slot canyon. Surface temps were in the 90s. Temps in the slot canyon were in the 60s. The stagnant pools which we swam through were in the 50s.

Walking through the slot canyon. Surface temps were in the 90's. Temps in the slot canyon were in the 60's. The stagnant pools which we swam through were in the 50's.

OK, so now it’s off to the last stop, Boulder, Colorado for Jamie and Laura’s wedding and to see all my college friends. The wedding was held in the amphitheater atop Flagstaff Mountain overlooking Boulder. Absolutely beautiful! It was a wonderful ceremony and reception. I’m so happy for you two! When in Boulder I also had a chance to meet up with my riding partner, Charles, and try out his new KTM 640. FUN! After we discussed some of the finer details about the trip it started to set in… I’m riding my motorcycle 20,000 miles to the bottom of South America! YIKES! Charles has another 2 months of school left before he meets up with me – See you soon buddy! Take a look at a few Colorado photographs…

Jamie treated all the groomsmen to straight shaves. Aside from the bloody necks, pulling of each hair and missed spots, it was a great experience.

Jamie treated all the groomsmen to straight razor shaves. Aside from the bloody necks, pulling of each hair and missed spots, it was a great experience.

My friend Foxs motorcycle jacket - 667 Neighbors of the beast.

My friend Fox's motorcycle jacket - 667 Neighbors of the beast.

Hiking in my old backyard, the Flatirons in Boulder.

Hiking in my old backyard, the Flatirons in Boulder.

Jamie and Lauras wedding

Jamie and Laura's wedding

My riding partner, Charles and his KTM 640 Adventure.

My riding partner, Charles and his KTM 640 Adventure.

What a fun month this has been, and to think, the fun has just begun. I’m now back home in New Hampshire and have begun to put the final touches on the trip preparation. My goal is to depart next Wednesday, October 14, in time to make it to Jamie and Laura’s 2nd wedding reception in Maryland. Lots to do still and the clock is ticking.

Stay tuned. More to come shortly :)

Categories: United States | 1 Comment

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