This is as close to disaster as we’ve been in a very, very long time
For the rest of our lives one word will mean fear, confusion, bone-deep weariness, despair, desperation, and, ultimately, survival to Karen and I: “Mendoza.” The past twenty-four hours have brought much of why we like to travel ‘freestyle” and much of what we pray doesn’t ever happen to us. It’s the kind of experience that reinforces to some of you that we’re crazy. Somehow, through the help of friends, the harnessing of technology, the never-never-give-up-always-on-the-case attitude that emergencies require, the kindness of strangers and pure, unadulterated luck I’m writing you in the stark comfort of a small hotel in downtown Mendoza. I still don’t know where we are, but that’s tomorrow’s problem.
- Over 15 hours we nurse an overheating motorcycle 300 miles through 106F degree heat, making two 2-hour road side repairs by the least able mechanic I know (me). We arrive in Mendoza and literally coast off the highway as Now Voyager has expired at the city’s edge.
- Blackberry, Skype, email and Internet literally link a friend in Florida, an expert technician in Los Angeles, and me somewhere in the Western pampas of Argentina, together to brainstorm and fix Now Voyager. Sam searches for similar problems by other bikers, looks for the nearest BMW dealer, and generally acts as communications hub. My friend Ryan who happens to be an expert BMW technician, gives me blow-by-blow instructions over Skype on how to fix NV. I take pictures with the Blackberry and send to Sam/Ryan for collective analysis.
- It just keeps getting hotter and hotter. For much of the day, it’s near 100, but then it jumps to 106. I’m riding with one eye on the road and the other monitoring the temperature gauge. I’m silently praying that the needle doesn’t move, or if it does, it does just a little. This prayer isn’t answered as I’m forced to make one repair in a gas station 150 miles from Mendoza and the next under a tree at a toll booth a couple of hours later.
- We would be up shit’s creek if every gas station, toll booth, “convenience” store in Argentina didn’t have high horsepower and FREE wi-fi. I’ve never been to a country as connected as Argentina.
- We avert another kind of disaster as KR awakens from her nap (yes she sleeps on the bike) to discover the bag tied on one of the panniers has loosened and the straps are beginning to get spooled in the rear wheel. She warns me in time to come to a stop just as the rear wheel is locking up.
- We arrive in Mendoza at Sunset. We let NV cool off as we try to find a B&B or hostel to stay in. We’re both disoriented, but have two potentials highlighted. We ride less than a mile and NV severely overheats again, forcing a stop in a less-than-stellar neighborhood. It’s now somewhere close to 10 as I decide to make another repair of the heating system and KR wanders off to try and find a hotel. For the third time, I take the fairing off, open the system, and bleed the water pump. This time its not going well and I don’t seem to be making much progress.
- The street is now almost totally deserted — its maybe 11. More than a couple of nice people walk up and warn me about getting robbed. They have a seriousness of expression that makes me believe them. I’m a little unnerved. But, I can’t go because NV isn’t buttoned up. And if he was, would he run more than the few blocks he made last time?
- Finally I button him up and go looking for KR, who went off down the street looking for help. I’m cursing my stupid decision to let her wander off by herself when she reappears with vague directions to a garage that a hotel uses. We slowly creep along, running red lights and dodging buses, as the last thing I want to do is be stationery. We stop where the parking garage is suppose to be: small, narrow street. Not much lighting. No one on the street. Where’s the f___king garage! KR goes looking for the hotel as I stand near NV.
- Instead of going straight down the street, she hangs a left, totally disoriented and lost. I run after, trying to stop her, but lose sight of her. I look back and some guy’s standing next to NV so I run back prepared to use my pepper spray in our defense. It turns out he’s the garage attendant. I run back around the corner yelling at the top of my lungs, “Karen!!!” Five minutes later, she appears.
- We store NV in the basement of a building that’s either being torn down or built, but its a ruins none the less. We walk two blocks and find a hotel. We sit in the lobby totally whipped and know that we’ve skated past total disaster.
The situation as of 6:00PM, Sunday in Mendoza, Argentina. Everything’s closed today, so I’ve spent the day working. Tomorrow we tackle trying to figure out what NV’s base problem is. It might take a few days, but we’ll figure it out somehow. Next, we’re going over the Andes and then up the Atacama desert. If NV’s problem continues there, we’ll be toast.