Sometimes you just have to get lucky
I admit that several times during this trip I secretly hoped that the Shit Happens Express would somehow become the Shit Happens to Someone Else Express Today (SHEET). Not very adventuresome or neighborly, I admit, but both KR and I were becoming a bit weary of the mechanical travails that sometimes translated to downright scary repercussions and always translated to travel delays and hassles. This is on top of the two plus weeks and thousands of dollars lost waiting for NV. And while I kept a stiff-upper lip on the latest mechanical glitch to hit NV’s cooling system, I was wondering if we were ever going to catch a break.
Well, we did in the form of Jorge Hernandez and his team at SamMOTOS. Our string of good fortune really began with Ruben Santorino, a passionate biker from Argentina that fashioned the temporary fix on NV’s leaking radiator hose in San Pedro de Atacama. This temporary fix was so good that we made the 300 miles from SPdA to Iquique without a hint of a problem. Then I met Mauricio Mitre, the proprietor of the El Mirador Hotel, who is also a passionate biker and recommended that I postpone any fixes until I got to Iquique so I could look up Jorge. By the time I got to Iquique, I was convinced that all systems were a “go,” but, I wanted to stop by and meet Jorge anyway.
That’s when our good fortune really took a turn for the better. It’s difficult to explain Jorge and his SamMOTOS facility as he claims that repairing motorcycles is not his business, but his passion as he is an avid adventure rider. You certainly couldn’t find it without the escort that he provides. His real business has something to do with supplying parts and field services to Chile’s armed services. He has tank tracks and various military-looking stuff stacked around. It looked professional grade to me.
Well, before I could say “I need some help” Jorge and his chief technician, Ruben, were making a series of recommendations that needed to be done post-with: (1) Replace the hose of course (2) Check the cooling system (3) Replace the rear tire which was on the verge of being worn out; (4) Change the oil and filter, and (5) Lube the chain. Sometimes you just know that the person(s) you’re talking to knows what they’re doing, and I immediately sensed that with Jorge. I of course pleaded very thankful and sat down to watch the unfolding mechanical activities…
“The Chile Way. Forever!”
I won’t bore you with the all-day details, but one sequence of events was instructive and wonderful to watch. First, Ruben and his First Mate, Beto, changed the faulty hose. This was no easy endeavor and I shutter to think about doing this on the road. I made an important contribution as one of the three hoses I bought in Calama was actually the right size. Then the important part came: putting it back together and filling the radiator with coolant and making sure there was no air in the system. Sounds simple, but a BMW technician and myself had failed to do this several times before. Quicker than you can say “wimp gringo” in Spanish, the system was put back together and we turned on NV for a test.
Then my worst fear happened: within a few minutes, NV overheated to the point of flashing warning lights and shut down. Shit! Now what? Ruben was convinced it was the thermostat as they’d seen three 650s recently with bad thermostats. I told him that we’d just replaced the thermostat at the Santiago BMW dealer. He said he’d do a test. BYW, this entire conversation was done on my computer via Google Translator. Long live technology!
Ruben yanked the thermostat out and replaced it with the plastic cap from a 2 liter Coke bottle. “Chile Way!” says Ruben. But this is my Bavarian Baby I’m thinking. Back goes the thermostat housing with said red Coke bottle cap. We test the bike for 3-4 heat cycles. No problems. Ruben sums it up with, “Chile Way. Forever!” I nod agreement and NV runs with the Chile Way installed.
A couple of notes to my Technical Advisory Team (Ryan, Bruce and Ron )
- Ryan – you’ve been yelling “take the thermostat out!” for 6 weeks now. Better late than never. And now that I’ve actually watched someone do it, I might be able to do it the next time. I replaced the rear knobby with a more pavement-oriented one as the knobby was 500 miles away from being bald.
- Bruce – I would have given it the all college try to repair that hose, but it would have been a very, very iffy situation. Ruben and Beto had to remove several hoses/lines to get to the problem child and they had a bunch of the right tools. Took them more than two hours. I would have done it, but only just barely.
- Ron – they insisted that we put the radiator guard back on. I tried to explain to them your idea of drilling holes in the thing, but they either didn’t get what I was saying or they said it was not needed. Personally, I think you’re right. The guard does inhibit NV’s cooling especially at low speed (the difference is now he’s able to manage it). While I doubt finding someone who could/would drill it, I’m thinking of taking it off while I”m on the pavement and putting it back on when we get to Bolivia.
Perhaps as important as the mechanical freshening that Ruben and Beto were doing to NV, was the trip freshening that Jorge provided KR and I. We both needed a little freshening (OK more than a little. We were both tired, irritable, and low on energy.) Jorge came over to our hotel and we spread our maps out on a table and Jorge gave us his impressions/suggestions/rules to follow on our trip. What a source of knowledge! We mapped out alternatives, talked about route alternatives, what to see, when to leave the bike and take a bus, what hotels to stay at.
We sketched out the next 50 days (yes, that’s how long we have left) broadly like this: up the coast of Peru to Nazca, then through the mountains to Cuzco and eventually Machu-Picchu, then southeast to La Paz, further south to the great Salar de Uyuni. Then we turn our GPS fully east and cross the Andes heading toward Brazil. We slash across Brazil in a northeasterly direction all the way to the Atlantic coastal town of Salvador. Then its all downhill from there — we follow the coast south all the way to Buenos Aires, where we put NV on a boat and ourselves on a plane. Can we do it? Will we do it? Hell if I know.