Jewells in America
Monday, October 31, 2005
The Diary: Wednesday 5 October 2005 to Wednesday 12 October 2005
Wednesday - went to the BMW dealership for a press and TV presentation about our trip. Then to the SOS Childrens Village, a charity that Kevin and Julia raise money for. Our group presented over 2,000 dollars. Toured the village and met the children. Fascinating work.
Thursday - took bikes to the cargo airport for their flight to Ecuador. Removed mirrors, screen, disconnected batteries and drained fuel. Kevin dealt with lots of paperwork for us but it takes ages as there is only one person doing the airway bills and they make mistakes with the VIN numbers! We hopped into a taxi back to the hotel. It had been rescued from the scrapyard the day before . . . or so it appeared!
Friday - day off to explore Panama City. Lots of no go areas. Traffic and fumes are horrendous. Took all our clothes to dry cleaners. He said he could smell them from ½ mile away! Group meal at night at a local restaurant with Panamanian dancers.
Saturday - visited Panama Canal today. SOS Childrens Villages took us out in their minibuses. Went to Miraflores lock and visitor centre. Watched a ship go in the lock and come out. Very interesting.
Sunday - Kevin told us our bikes had flown and were already in Quito. We went to the airport today and caught our flights to Quito. South America!
Monday - its got to be a world record. GlobeBusters cleared 13 bikes through Ecuador Customs in just one day! Collected the bikes late that afternoon. Pouring with rain and had to get the bikes back to the hotel in rush hour traffic, but feels great to be back on the bikes.
Tuesday - Took bikes to BMW for servicing and more new tyres. Lots of unsafe areas in Quito. Lots of security and armed guards, even at BMW and the hotels.
Wednesday - Visited the equator today. The owner of the hotel has a Ducati and he led us there. The equator is only about 15 miles south of Quito and has a huge monument to mark the spot. That afternoon prepared the bikes to leave Quito the next day.
The Diary: Wednesday 28 September to Tuesday 4 October 2005
Wednesday - 205 miles today to La Fortuna. Lots of coffee and tobacco plantations along the road. Lots more rain today and the road around Lago Arenal was very rutted and bumpy.
Thursday - 145 miles to Sarapiqui. A very bad day as it was torrential rain the whole way and we had to negotiate steep twisting mountain roads. Past the stunning la Paz waterfall. Our stop over was at a jungle lodge in the rainforest. Julia had a fall today on one of the sharp bends and broke her arm.
Friday - day at leisure in the rain forest. Lots of birds, lizards, poison frogs. Stayed in wooden cabins on stilts. It is very humid and in the night, even more rain.
Saturday - 125 miles to Cahuita to get us close to panama border. The hotel was right on the Caribbean beach. Spent the afternoon swimming in the pool. Very Caribbean here: Bob Marley blaring out from everywhere!
Sunday - another border crossing. Central American countries are so small! Today was the infamous banana bridge and probably the most terrifying thing we have ever done. The bridge was high above the water and it was two planks of wood wide on each side of the railway track. You could not put your feet down and the planks are spaced apart so if you get it wrong your front tyre will get stuck. Not to mention missing planks, missing barriers. A real nightmare, but with teamwork and Kevins expert advice, we all made it across in one piece.
Monday - A surprise for all today. Another banana bridge and even worse than yesterdays. A train was coming when bikes were halfway across. Took us more than two hours to get everyone across and some were shaking at the experience. Even worse, the humidity and heat were intense. But the road after to Santiago was spectacular.
Tuesday - 200 miles into Panama City. All along the pan-am. Crossed over the famous bridge of the Americas and rolled into the city along the main bay. Team photo: we have made the half way point!
The Diary: Monday 19 September 2005 to Tuesday 27 September 2005
Monday - Coban today. 125 miles, 60 of which through the Guatemalan Highlands on unpaved roads. This was quite a challenge for all. Mudslides, deep ruts and oncoming trucks on a single track road with hairpin bends.
Tuesday - 176 miles today to get close to the Honduras border. A fantastic road with long sweeping bends and beautiful tropical scenery.
Wednesday - early start for border crossing into Honduras. Took us about 4 hours to get through. Very chaotic on the Honduran side. Short ride to hotel near the Copan ruins.
Thursday - day off today to visit Copan ruins. Hotel was superb with stunning views across the mountains. A great restaurant that night where everyone got a bit sozzled on 2 for 1 cocktails!
Friday - 330 miles to danli. 9 hours of riding through stunning scenery, but the roads can be full of big potholes and you need a lot of concentration to avoid them.
Saturday - border crossing to Nicaragua. Another tedious paperwork affair done in sweltering heat and 100% humidity. Lots of armed guards everywhere and even the gas stations have guards with guns.
Sunday - Granada today. 165 miles via the Masaya Volcano. We went to the top of the crater where the fumes were overpowering. Granada did not feel a safe city, and we did not like to venture out after dark, but we stayed in a beautiful colonial hotel on the plaza.
Monday - San Juan del Sur. 82 miles to the Pacific Ocean. Loads of torrential rain in the afternoon, but our memory is of sitting in a beach restaurant, drinking pina colada and eating jumbo shrimp, whilst watching the sun sink into the ocean.
Tuesday - 103 miles today to Playa Hermosa in Costa Rica. Road ran past lake Nicaragua. Another border crossing, with loads of paperwork and stamps. Hotel was right on the beach and everyone went into the ocean: waves were huge. Torrential rain all night.
The Diary: Saturday 10 September 2005 to Sunday 18 September 2005
Saturday - 155 miles to the Costa Esmeralda on the Caribbean coast. We had a great hotel right on the beach with a lovely pool. Everyone went down to the ocean for a swim and the water was really warm.
Sunday - riding to Catemaco today. Can you believe that the petrol here is only 45p a litre? We were met en route by local Mexican riders for lunch and had our photos taken by a Mexican motorcycle journalist. We rode near the coast the whole way. Everything is now much more hot, humid and tropical.
Monday - 290 miles to Palenque. About 8 hours riding all in hot sticky tropical heat, but we had a wonderful hotel waiting for us at the end of the hard day: everyone had their own cabanas with straw roofs, set in a beautiful tropical garden and a huge pool. In the evening we had dinner watching a Mayan dance show.
Tuesday - we had a day off and went to visit the Palanque Mayan Ruins, built back in 6 to 7 century AD. An incredible site set in the jungle.
Wednesday - 145 miles today to San Cristobal. In this short ride we went from the lowland tropics then climbing up to 2100 metres into cool pine forests. It even got a little chilly! We stopped off at Agua Azul, a beautiful waterfall.
Thursday - we explored San Cristobal, a lovely Mexican town and today it was a fiesta day. The town was humming and there were bands playing in the Plaza. Had a group meal and were briefed about the Guatemala border crossing.
Friday - we had to be up at 5am to be ready to go the border. It was still pitch black when we left. We arrived at the border for 8am and by midday the whole group had got through. Amazing scenery in Guatemala: lush tropical vegetation, great roads (no more topes!) Our hotel was another hit, set in its own gardens full of bright flowers and hummingbirds and just a short walk from Lake Atitlan.
Saturday - day off to explore our first Guatemalan town. For the first time we see a lot of tourists also here, with many market stalls selling blankets, rugs, shirt all in traditional Guatemalan textiles. There are also lots of mototaxis (tuk tuks), which you can use to buzz about town. The Guatemalan buses are also very brightly coloured, but can be very slow!
Sunday - Chichicastenango today. Only 25 miles. up early to get there to see the indigenous Indian market. Hundreds of stalls through narrow alleys. A lovely hotel with parrots around the centre garden.
The Diary: Saturday 3 September 2005 to Friday 9 September 2005
Saturday - today was a 300 mile ride to Nuevo Casa Grandes in Mexico. It took us all about 3 ½ hours to deal with all the Mexican formalities for passports and getting our bike permits. This first Mexican road runs through the Central Highland area. It is so different here. There is a lot of poverty and shanty towns, but also many smiling faces and people who wave at us. The worse bit about Mexico though are the speed bumps called topes. They are everywhere at every village and it is a bloody nightmare! Today was also Michaels birthday and Kevin and Julia laid on a birthday meal, with presents and a lovely chocolate cake. There was also a big bottle of tequila with some tequila shot glasses and the whole group joined in to wish him happy birthday.
Sunday - a 270 mile ride to Creel, with lots of winding mountain roads through pine forests. We stopped in Guerrero for lunch and there was a huge flash flood, with deep water collecting in the Plaza and trucks having to plough through making huge waves!
Monday - we rode to Parral today, famous for its connection with the Mexican revolutionary, Pancho Villa who was assassinated there. Stunning views through mountain roads and through lots of small villages with the hated topes! There were also a few military checkpoints but they gave us no problems.
Tuesday - This was definitely one of the hardest riding days of the trip so far. About 450 miles on Mexican roads, firstly on busy motorway around a major city in blistering heat and then a mountain road which climbed so high we were riding in fog and torrential rain and 200 miles of tight mountain bends – very tricky with some of the big trucks that come into your lane and smaller vehicles drifting across the white line too. We arrived pretty tried in the bustling Mexican city of Zacatecas, but the journey was planned to give us a day off here to recover and explore.
Wednesday - wanted to have a lay in this morning, but we were woken at 6 am by canons, fireworks, church bells and marching bands. The town is practising for a visit by its governor tomorrow as well as having a local saints festival. You cannot expect Mexican cities to be quiet places! We took a trolley tour of the city, which has beautiful old colonial churches and gardens.
Thursday - group riding today for the 230 miles to San Miguele de Allende. We stopped in a beautiful hotel with a cobbled courtyard. Walked into the plaza and listened to the mariachi bands playing.
Friday - 300 miles today through deserts filled with cacti and tropical vegetation. Lots of sharp twisting mountain bends, with little traditional villages, but again the hated topes!
The Diary: Wednesday 24 August 2005 to Friday 2 September 2005
Wednesday - Today was an early start from Cody to Vernal in Utah, about 400 miles. Beautiful scenery through Sinks Canyon and Flaming Gorge. Destination Thursday was Moab, with a ride of 220 miles over the Douglas Pass and then a spectacular road along the Colorado River, with deep red canyons and weird rock formations. We had a day off in Moab, so Mike and I took a ride up through Arches National Park and then back through Bend National Park. Incredible scenery and fantastic sweeping bendy roads.
Saturday - a short run today to Mexican Hat, through some of the best scenery yet. First was the Mokee Dugway, a steep downhill twisty gravel road with 1,100 feet drop in 3 miles and plenty of tight hairpin bends. No safety rails either! Next was the Valley of the Gods, 17 miles off road through more wonderful rock formations and some hair raising moments when we caught some sand. A couple of the group members who took a different route were overtaken on their ride by a McClaren. They followed it and it turned out to be the Ralph Lauren! That night was the first birthday celebration of the trip for Dom.
Sunday - 226 miles of riding today to Jacob Lake. We decided to take the optional ride through the dirt road in Monument Valley, the scene used for many Western films. Mike and I rode through the Valley, but there were a few heart stopping moments as the road is very sandy, some quite deep and on soft ground, but we made it through!
We had another day in Jacob Lake which gave us time to ride off and explore the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Absolutely breathtaking and not at all busy. We met some Harley riders from Italy, who were touring the USA for their holidays. In the afternoon, we relaxed back at the hotel and Emmet, who is the only one of the group with hair clippers has become the group barber and gave us both a quick trim!
Tuesday - it was a long hard ride today in over 45 degree heat. Almost unbearable but we had bought some cool vests that you soak in water to keep the worst of the heat at bay and they worked very well. Stopped in Sedona for lunch and then on the outskirts of Tucson, we were met by Maynard Hershon and other local riders who led us into iron Horse Motorcycles, where the bikes were being serviced and had new tyres. Maynard is a well known motorcycle journalist and has a regular column in Motorcycle Sport & Leisure.
Wednesday - Mike and I decided to hire a car for the three days we were in Tucson and so we were able to still be on the move and visit some of the sights. We went to Old Tucson, a famous movie location and some local museums. Thursday - a great day. Kevin had been in touch with a local gun club and had organised a morning out on the range. We had at our disposal over ½ million pounds worth of machine guns and enough ammunition to start a war. Loads of fun shooting at targets (and not each other!) Friday a day at leisure in Tucson. Collected our bikes back from servicing and we had a team briefing about the border and riding in Mexico.