Tag problem

You’re kidding me, I said

So, off to the City again this morning to get my new plates. Paperwork complete, all approved and looking forward to getting my border-shortcutting investment behind me.  And Guatemalan plates will make a great souvenir at the end of the day. They’re a good blue-on-white and will complement Lucinda nicely.

Not much of a line-up and within 30 minutes I’m in front of the same guy who *helped* me yesterday. He keys stuff into the computer for a few minutes, prints out some forms, gets me to sign a couple of them, duly giving me copies of everything. Then he importantly presents me with the last one and asks me to sign and points at the clock behind him.

So, seriously, translate it yourself, here was the deal:

I had exactly 60 minutes to get out of the building, find a bank in this chaotic city, park, get in line, make a direct cash deposit to a specified bank account or the whole thing was dead and I was completely screwed. I guess I was a bit punch-drunk at this point because my reaction was to laugh out loud. And I did, which no-one in the big room appreciated. They probably thought I’d lost my mind. I thought maybe they were right. The guy in front of me smiled.

Then I regained my senses,  jumped up and made a race for the door, glancing at my watch. Fuck, I thought, this is hardball they’re playing.

Cutting this short, I got lucky. I made it with time to burn and got a time-stamped receipt.

So we’ll see what happens tomorrow, Everyday they say I will have my plates tomorrow, it doesn’t happen and the hurdles get higher. But there’s an outside, way outside, chance I’ll get the last laugh. I’ve been working on it.

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Dinosaur hunt

Well actually just snakes, geckos and bugs but we found a couple of cool things.

David and I set off after dark into the local jungle. Looks like I’m set to fend off any dino’s we run into or at least that’s the only quip I can think of right now for carrying a stupid stick (actually it’s for peeling bark back looking for scorpions, which evaded us)
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Into the dark
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Where the leaf cutters were busy

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And this

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And my brake line, brake pads etc are now in Belize, potentially
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We’re hoping that Belize is in better administrative condition than Guatemala, where this shipment got on the Miami flight and was never heard from again
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Oops

Two weeks ago Lucinda was sitting in the courtyard being bombed by avocados and wondering when her flight to LA was. We knew whatever was wrong with her was serious enough to warrant a flight out of here.

I was spending hours trying to navigate the paperwork. Here’s a sample of what life looked like:

Hi Jeremy, 

Before we can arrange the pickup we first need to have written permission from the NHSTA and EPA to move the bike into the USA. The EPA has informed it is possible to import the bike temporarily into the US for repair, BUT there is a fly in the ointment.  NHTSA has not come back with any approval or instructions at this time. They do not offer any type of automatic exemption for repair on a non-US registered vehicle. 

I will provide you with rates for this move, but I have to make it clear that we are still pending approval from NHTSA before we can ship it.  For EPA, you will need to complete the attached and send it directly to EPA.  EPA’s email is:  Imports@epamail.epa.gov

The bike cannot be imported without this letter and should not ship until it is received back from EPA.  EPA does not guarantee any type of turn-around time on issuing the letter, but we would advise that you need to express your urgent timeline to the EPA when you send the attached exemption letter to them.  Please review the letter, add the missing info, and rework the narrative if anything is incorrect.

You will need to send the form directly to EPA, along with copies of your registration, passport, license and anything else EPA comes back with in their reply to you.

I have also attached POA for him to complete, along with an EPA form.  There may be an additional form NHTSA will need, but we am waiting to hear back from them.  

I was thinking I needed to rent a time machine, un-sell my company for a day and delegate this fucking mess. That seemed as plausible as any of the alternatives.

After discussions with Jeff in LA we decided to use a bike shop in Guatemala City as a workshop, put Lucinda in an induced coma there, have a look inside and fly both the parts and the talent this way, rather than that way. Expensive but no choice.

So I just got the pictures. Here are a few. This used to be a piston
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This is supposed to be a bit straighter, like, straight
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That funny looking white line is a crack in the sleeve
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And last but not least
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So Jeff and I’ll put together a plan. No matter we come up with it’s going to be epic.

Down at N16 45.094 W96 20.079

We’re a day and a half from the Guatemalan border and leave at 7:00 sharp from Oaxaca for Tehuatepac.

The group’s fairly split up, with Peter and Fred out in front. I’m a few minutes behind them, followed by Dan, Helge, Marty and Bill in the sidecar, and David. About an hour out of Oaxaca we’re into hills and nice twisties.

At about 9:30 we pull over for a photo. I push the shutter at the wrong moment because a truck ends up in the pic. Hum, wonder what that means

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Five minutes later Peter and Fred are stopped at a pullout and I stop to chat for a few minutes. As usual I prefer to ride by myself so when it’s time to go I don’t join them and hang out for a bit.

Ten minutes later I’m going into a corner and the bike goes both loose and solid underneath me. I think I’m run over something and have lost the rear end but at the same time I feel like I’ve dropped an anchor, slowing suddenly. This feeling is completely new and I haven’t got any idea what’s going on. Lucinda veers a bit left then for a fraction of a second we’re straight, and i think ‘OK, no problem’ then another fraction of a second later Lucinda dives right and I’m high-sided off her.

Something’s blown in the right cylinder due to the overheating, we’ve been in a skid and I didn’t have the wherewithal to pull in the clutch, because I hadn’t figured it out in the partial second of time I had to prevent the crash.

As I’m flying I’m thinking, as I’ve been in this situation before, oh boy, this is really going to hurt.

So here’s the video. Riders will find this a bit nasty. I trimmed the video at the precise moment the high-side started because the flying and landing bit is too gross to watch.

video

Holy shit it’s a long flight. I land hard on my back. The impact is brutal. Way worse than any of my bone breaks. Worse even than when I broke part of my pelvis. I’ve been completely hammered and fighting for air. For a while it doesn’t come and I’m worried. A scary half minute later I can suck in enough that the panic subsides and I crawl to the side of the road. I know where I am is deadly should a car come around the corner. Up against the guard rail I look back at Lucinda. She looks fine, but down and in the middle of the road. I’m scared stiff that a car comes around now and hits her but I can’t move anymore and watch her helplessly. I’m done. I know this isn’t a standard ‘off ‘, it’s another big one.

A pick-up comes around and slows just in time. The driver jumps out and runs over to me. I guess because I’m against the rail and look normal enough when I point to the bike he runs back to it, get’s her on her feet (a rider, what luck) and wheels her over beside me.

While this is going on there are two huge thoughts messed together in my mind at the same time, fighting for control.

“Oh no. I’ve really hurt myself this time”

and

” Oh no. My tour is over”

The second thought loses the argument. Somehow I know it’s not over, that I can recover from nearly anything. I have before. I become intensely curious about what’s wrong with me, because it feels huge.

Then, as luck would have it, Dan comes around the corner. The trained medic in our group. He quickly parks and is at my side almost instantly. God what a relief I think. Off with my jacket and he goes to work. Asking questions while he checks me over, a bit at a time. It takes forever because there’a lot to check. There comes a point after maybe five minutes of this that the focus narrows. It’s my left side, front and back, from lower rib cage to top. Somehow I know that nothing inside is screwed. I have no idea how I know this. I say so. He believes me, or says he does.

To put this in perspective, in previous accidents, where things have been serious and bystanders worried, I’ve not made a fuss about it. I just shut down and wait. This time, for the first time, I was worried. What do they call it? Blunt force trauma? Now I know what that means, I think.

While this has been going on, the group that was behind is now in action. Helge’s getting Lucinda in a pick-up and co-ordinating everyone. Dan’s monitoring me. David’s on traffic control from the north, Marty from the south. The rest were ahead and of course enjoying the day, which I’ve screwed up for the present group. Damn.

There are a ton of details about the rest of the day. The short form is I go back to Oaxaca by ambulance, get XRayed, shot full of drugs, put in the Mexican chase car, driven and entertained by Mac, where I spend the next day and a half getting to Antigua. Where fortunately I had planned to spend six weeks learning Spanish and touring the countryside. So as it happens, it couldn’t have happened in a better place. The XRay checked out. I’ve just been beaten up hard and it’ll be a few weeks before I can ride again.

I’m mystified by what happened in the right cylinder. We tried to start it the following morning and it was all explosive smoke and oil being fired out. We’ll find out more when we take her apart. Poor Lucinda. She has a bent rear subframe and a shot engine. Getting her back in fighting shape is going to be the next adventure.

Trouble ahead

The first crash of the tour was crossing a creek in Texas hill country in mid-November. It was one of those fun crashes. When I do all the back posts I’ll write a bunch about this beautiful part of the South that I’d never heard of but turned into the first major stop since the few day stop in Ottawa. In the interim, for your pleasure, here’s a video of my first crash back then. Luckily I had the GoPro on

video

The second crash was doing a u-ey in sand. Low speed and unspectacular. The good news is no one saw either of them.

I have a feeling there’s another one coming.

Anyway, Lucinda’s been overheating. Not in a good way. For the last few days I’ve been looking nervously at the guage. The heat bars are at the maximum but not into the red zone. This isn’t entirely unexpected. The HPN gas tank modification includes a relocated oil cooler that runs uncomfortably hot. All the HP2 owners who’ve gone with the mod have cut off the rear of the mud guard to expose it to more breeze, so I did too.

Not exactly imposing is it? But we’re not sure it’s the problem
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I’ve never actually met another HP2 owner, let alone someone with the mod, so I have no one to email and ask if what’s happening is normal or excessive. I talk to the group about it. Helge talks about the mod and says that’s probably it. We talk about keeping the cooler cleaner and alternate possibilities – filters, hoses, etc. No-one’s sure what’s going on or whether I’m in the danger zone or not.  I decide I’ll not stop and strip the bike unless the bar goes one tick over the current high mark.

So I’m not worrying too much as we ride towards Oaxaca, but it’s on my mind.

Into the countryside. the deeper you get, the more basic the farming. Here a farmer plows his field with oxen. His horse follows him around
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Through these beautiful towns
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Stopping to eat at the typical roadside stands. The food is always excellent and costs a buck or so
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They’re harvesting sugar cane everywhere
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Loading the cane onto trucks
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And on to Oaxaca, where the story’s really strange
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Sand

First, for the riders, a little suspension history.

Back in BC, the rear Continental air shock was swapped for Ohlins. The front forks were swapped for WP 48mm’s, plus a new big lower clamp and (in Atlanta) the springs were swapped for progressives.  I detoured my route specifically to see Bobby at BMW Atlanta, owner of two (!) HP2s and perhaps the most respected mind, according to ADV, on the HP2 subject in the States. He de-bugged the hardware and gave me adjustment instructions to think about. The real work had to be done by riding it, obviously.

So I’ve been trying to dial it in. Even by Texas things were still not close, with a dead front end feel, and me pretty much blaming myself for not showing the confidence needed since my injury in the spring. But I also knew that I was having to make serious allowances, airing down to an extreme, shedding all weight, picking off-topic lines, jacking rear preload, whatever, to get the front to bite. But really I know nothing and needed help, bad. So I called Bobby again a few days ago with tales of woe. We ran through everything. Finally he left me with two things to check and one thing to change, patiently walking me through the theory, and I did as instructed.

As I rolled into Farmington yesterday there were dirt roads, ungated, leading off into the hills that looked perfect. As in sand. My recent, but not in the past, enemy.

Today, despite the promise of what’s just a day or two ahead, down the road, I took the day off to ride the roads I’d seen coming in. And things couldn’t have been better. Fixed – I have a front wheel again.

The roads I picked were packed and, on the larger ones to the BP oil/gas works all around here, graded flat, like snow, with berms off to the sides. But sand. My nerves were a bit tattered after something as straightforward as the Oldore sand washes making me feel a bit of an idiot. Off we went. And guess what, the ride was Velcro, as it should be. It was the rear rebound causing the problem with the front, exactly as Bobby said.
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Softer graded sand after an hour or so and still as easy as pavement on this very pretty road in the hills
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So we went sightseeing. Over this bridge
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And beside this bridge – ATV tracks led me out on a scenic river bed and back to it. I was expecting quicksand to China.

VIDEO

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Beside some deep cuts
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A good day.

Stopped

The plan was to visit Hueco Tanks (after an email reminder from TJ) then reverse back to El Paso and head north to White Sands. So far the ride has been completely free of non weather related screw-ups. Today we got two fails.

Arriving at Hueco Tanks we got stopped by a gate and a friendly Parks official. The park, because of the petroglyphs, is protected. The visitor limit at any one time is 70 apparently. She said there were another 30 waiting in the camp site and my chances of getting in today were about zero.
So we took a pic under a tree instead.

So after loosing a couple of hours we headed off to White Sands. According to my GPS mapping software there’s a short cut bypassing highway 70. So off we went. The first thing we see are these, about 5 miles apart.

But for some reason the wording doesn’t make sense, because it’s a road, for vehicles. Part of me says the signs mean no vehicles allowed off the road. But then we see the tank crossing signs and they’re clearly either on the road or off the road and I’m confused. In denial actually. And there’s trouble in the distance.

But we go quickly past the radar buildings and past a series of testing ranges. Clearly we’re off track.
And sure enough we come to a military checkpoint. A soldier asks why I ignored the signs and I stumble through the poor-signage-wording excuse. Somehow he was OK with that. Rather than getting bent out of shape at my bullshit he told me nicely to go back the way I came. I thought better of taking a picture of the situation. So it was back to El Paso and a quick re-planning session.