Patagonia – Day 2: Puco’n, Chile

Date: 11/11/2014
Starting Location: Pucon, Chile
Ending Location: Pucon, Chile
Mileage Today:  67 Miles  (108 Km)
Mileage Total:  67 miles
Kilometers Total: 108
EoD Odometer Reading: 13165
Today’s Events: Practice ride and a trip to the volcano

Tinkering with the bike…

Well, yesterday’s adventure with the motorcycle illuminated a number of things about me, about our guides, and about motorcycles.  You might ask, exactly how did the “adventure” do this, well, here’s what happened…

With great optimism and enthusiasm, I left the hotel at about 5Pm with Alain, one of our guides.  In the 4×4 we traveled out of town, and made our way to the farm, where the bikes are stored.  Within seconds of entering through the security gate, I saw it.  A lava orange colored 2012 BMW F 800 GS motorcycle.  It was not just ay motorcycle, it was my motorcycle for the next 17 days.

After taking a few preliminary pictures of the bike, without ay modifications, I began my work.  I had optimistically anticipated that I could take care of all of the work, and meet the gang for dinner, back in town by 7:30.  I executed the plan perfectly, and managed to turn a 60 minute job into a 2 1/2 hour debacle.

Here’s a very important rule to always remember when working on motorcycles: Don’t drop any screws, bolts, washers, or other parts inside the bike.  As you can see, it’s a simple rule.  Any idiot should be able to read the rule, and as they say in the South, just get ‘er done.  Well, I’m afraid that this idiot couldn’t quite get it done like that.

Cliff-ScooterAAt about 15 minutes into the project, I dropped one of the bolts from the handlebar bracket down into the engine cavity, which is protected by numerous body panels, which are held on by screws, lots of screws.  So, we spent about 30 minutes trying to look for the screw, and then removed the body parts so that we could get at it.  After about 40 minutes of work, we found the screw, and moved on.

I’ve included a picture of me on the bike.  Don’t you think that the red color really works on this bike.  Keep in mind that this thing is powerful, handles like a lemur in a tree, and accelerates like a cheetah.

I installed handlebar risers, new foot pegs that lower my center of gravity by about 5/8″, new adjustable mirrors, an extension to the windscreen, and I even installed a bracket for the GPS that will need to get wired into the CAN bus of the bike.  All in all, it was about 75 minutes worth of work, but since we had to remove, and then reinstall the body panels, I managed to stretch the work to about 2 1/2 hours in total.  Let’s call this a life lesson, shall we?

A picture of the bike before the modifications have been done.

A picture of the bike before the modifications have been done.

A picture of the same bike, with all the mod's completed.

A picture of the same bike, with all the mod’s completed.

By the way, in case it wasn’t obvious, the red “bike” was not my motorcycle.  It was a scooter that is owned by someone here at the hotel.

The real bike is on the left…

Once I was done installing the parts, I asked  Eduardo a quick question, just to gauge whether I was unique in installing some pars, or whether this happened all the time.  Eduardo’s answer was that no customer had ever installed any parts on the bike before.  With a somewhat shocked look on my face, I asked a few more questions, and in the end, I discovered that, in an effort to “completely satisfy the customer” the folks at Compass had trusted me, and had allowed me to do something that no other customer had ever done.  They let me install a number of specialized parts, so that the bike would fit me perfectly.  You really have to love that kind of commitment to satisfying the customer.

With that said, I’ve got the responsibility of making sure that they don’t regret their decision, which means removing the parts at the end of the trip, while ensuring that I don’t do any damage to the bike.  The removal of all of the parts will be done once we arrive in Ushuaia, and we’re officially done with the bikes.  But that’s a long way from where we are now, and I’m not going to worry about it.  But, when the time comes, I think it’s fair to say that it’s “No problem, I got this covered”.

Trying new things can be scary

But you have to try, don’t you?

Now, being an American I’ve taken note of how other parts of world do certain things.  In some cases, I’ve experienced these things, and in others, I’ve looked on with skepticism, and decided not to take part.  Take for example bungee jumping in New Zealand.  When I was in New Zealand, I watched the Bungee jumpers leaping from a bridge towards the river below.  They looked like they were having fun, but I decided to let them do it, and just walk away with the memory of watching.

Now let’s look at rafting the Nile.  While in Uganda my son, a buddy and I decided to raft the Nile, just like other adventure seekers.  It was very risky, our raft capsized, and I was under water for close to 40 seconds, wondering the whole time where my next breath would come from, trying to remain calm.  So, it could be said that I have a thirst for adventure and I’m not afraid of much.

But, certain things that have to do with hygiene can be quite scary, and it can be quite hard to overcome your fears of these things.  That takes me to the bathroom in our accommodations.  In our room, we have a Bidet.  I looked at the Bidet, thought about it, and then figured, since I don’t get many chance to use one of these things, I would give it a try.

I was feeling pretty confident, so, I turned on the water; Warm first, then cold.  As I turned the water on, water began to come out.  First, it was a gentle stream, but then it began to shoot up in the air with greater and greater force.  Within seconds I had, what looked like a high-pressure jet shooting skyward from the base of the Bidet.  It looked like the amazing dancing fountains at Disney’s Epcot Center.

Frankly, I was scared to death.  It was that moment that I turned off the water, and decided that this is one of those adventures that looks too scary for me.  The idea of traveling 2200 miles across the desolate lands of Patagonia doesn’t bother me at all, but that damn Bidet scared the crap out of me.  Well actually if it had scared the crap out of me I might of had to rethink things, but for now, we’ll simply say that I decided not to use the Bidet, and I moved on.

Today’s ride (A test and a volcano)

Today’s ride was a test ride and a tune-up of the bikes.  Before you take bikes like these, even bikes that are very well maintained, you need to shake them down, just to see if there are any issues.  As it turns out, we had a couple of small things that needed to be taken care of.  Jim’s front rim had some damage, and was leaking air, so the wheel was removed, and replaced with a spare rim.  A few other bikes had low pressure in the tires, so we’ll need to watch them carefully to make sure that they don’t have leaks as well.

IMG_0468AWe started our day in a taxi cab, who brought us out to the farm where the bikes are stored.  it’s a short trip to the farm so the fact that there wasn’t much room in the cab was not too troubling, but just take a look at that cab, and try to imagine how I was able to stuff two feet, clad in a size 14 motorcycle boot into the cavity under the front seat.  Does the expression “Not gonna happen” express the issue clearly?

IMG_0486AEduardo and Alain gave a brief technical briefing to all of the guys that rented the F 700 bikes and then Eduardo came over to me to give me a similar briefing, but one that was appropriate or correct for the 800.  As it turns out, the F800 GS is a 2011 model year, and the controls operate virtually identical to the controls on my R 1200 GSA, so there wasn’t anything to learn at all.  Everything was very comfortable, but the way that the F800 delivers the power is quite a bit different from the 1200, so that took a little getting used to.

Today’s ride was about 30 miles of pavement and about 15 miles of off-road.  Some of the guys had never ridden off-road, and it was good to see that they were able to apply their road riding skills to the dirt, and they all appeared to be riding well within their means, safely.  Chris said that Alain, who is driving the support truck commented that everybody seems sane, and safe.  What more could you want?

A view of the volcano taken by Tom Elliott, at the edge of the lake.

A view of the volcano taken by Tom Elliott, at the edge of the lake.

After the initial ride, 5 of us traveled up towards the top of the volcano.  The total driving distance was probably about 25 miles, if you include the wrong turn that I caused.  From Hwy 199 we took a left and headed up the mountain.  After about 6 or 7 miles of tar, we came to the end of the road, and it turned to dirt.  We continued for about another 4 miles and at the lodge for the ski resort, the road became a bit more technical but we continued for another thousand yards or so, at which point Jay and I noticed that the others had stopped, and we were all alone.  We waited about 5 minutes, and when they didn’t show, we figured that they had enough, and we turned around and rejoined them.

This was the first time that Jay had ridden off-road for quite some time, and he said that he was exhausted after the ride.  I remember the first time I rode off-road that I was completely spent by the end of the ride.  It can be quite challenging to maintain your mental focus, and just as is the case in skiing, when you spend all your effort to maintain a slower speed, you’re actually expending a much higher level of energy than you would have if you could just let the bike run.

I’m pretty optimistic that over the course of the next 2200 miles, we’re all going to improve greatly.  I’m sure looking forward to honing my skills, pushing a bit, all the while maintaining the right level of safety so that no one gets hurt, including me.

Our little band of merry men (and women)

IMG_0473AI thought I might take a minute to tell you about the rest of the folks on this trip with me.  We’ve got Peter & Leslie, Tom and Chris, Dennis, and Jay, all from the Portland Area, Stan is from Australia, and Jim is from Arizona.  As I look at the group, I see a nice bunch of folks, who are hearty,and have a zest for adventure.  As it turns out, and this may shock you, I’m the youngest one in our group.  That means that we’ve got a number of folks, ranging in age from 59 – 71, all of whom are riding motorcycles across Patagonia.

To be honest, I cannot think of a better group of folks to ride with.  Just think, when my parents were at my age, there is no way on Earth that they would have ever imagined doing anything like this.  Yet,here we are, hearty souls all, about to test our mettle by riding through wind and rain, across deep gravel, and through strange cities on 700 or 800 cc motorcycles.

Both Leslie and Chris will be riding in the support vehicle with Alain, but after meeting these women, it seems to me that they could probably teach us a thing or two about being hearty of mind and body.

Over the course of the next couple of weeks I’ll try to record some interviews with these folks so that you can get a better feel for who they are, and with any luck, I’ll even get them to laugh a bit.

Fun facts about Pucon

Pucón is a Chilean city located in the Province of Cautín, Araucanía Region.  It is located about 60 miles to the southeast of Temuco and 780 km to the south of Santiago.

Pucón’s is located by a lake and volcano, which make it a great destination for adventure tourists, and the stable climate makes it a great year-round destination, however they say that you can’t find a hotel room in Pucon in the peak of the summer months.

Many people come here to see the Villarrica volcano, or to rafting or kayaking.  It is also possible to go snow skiing in the winter, although the ski season just ended in October.

Pucón spans an area of 482 sq mi and has 21,107 residents.

Pucón was established in 1883 as a fort in the aftermath of the Occupation of Araucanía when the Chilean state subdued the native population of Araucanía Region. It was a strategically advantageous spot because of its location at entrance of the Trancura Valley, where the Argentinean army had once pursued a group of Mapuches through Mamuil Malal Pass during the Conquest of the Desert.

The first hotel in Pucón was the Gudenschwager, established in 1923, but it was in 1934 with the establishment of Gran Hotel Pucón that tourism became a popular activity in the area. In 1940 the first road between Villarrica and Pucón was built and in the 1970s the road to Caburgua Lake was finished.

About the Author

Cliff Musante

Cliff Musante is a technologist, business leader, motorcycle enthusiast, father, grandfather, and more. In June, 2013 his passion for motorcycles was revitalized, and he set out to ride across Patagonia. This ‘Blog is the story of all of his adventures.

Comments

  1. I hope you remember who I am. This is truly amazing. your father would be proud of you. Your mother, I am sure, is worried and praying for you.
    Good job.

    1. Hi Carl, sure I remember you. I’m not sure how you managed to get signed up, but I love that you watching from afar. I think you’re right. My Dad was adventurous, but not in this way. He was however very supportive of all of my crazy ideas, including learning motocross when I was 12, and playing drums, when I was 9. Dad was always great like that. No matter how loud the hobby was, he found a way to make me feel like it would be great. I miss him.
      You’re also right about my Mom. Carl tells me that he’s been printing these posts and reading them to Mom, and I’m sure she will be touched by your remarks. Thanks again for helping this whole thing along. Just wait until you hear what happened today.

  2. That was pretty hilarious! Now I know what you fear next time we are in contract signing mode.

    That’s so awesome these group of people at the ages they are still have a sense of adventure and drive to accomplish something extraordinary! Inspiration!

    1. Hi Mary,
      I hope you don’t plan on using my fear of Bidets as we negotiate our way through the next contract. That’s not fair, you know too much.
      I also find it amusing how everyone is commenting on “my voice” and how it is so much like my “real voice”. As a blogger, who plans to be a writer someday, we have to find our voice, and, like so many things in live, it was with me all the time.

    1. Hi Doug,
      I was wondering who, from the list of friends, would be taken in by my little prank. As you can see from the pictures, the bike that I’m actually riding is a bit more of a beast, but as you note, the bike that I left at home would have been perfect for a trip like this.

  3. Gasp… as I read the report and looked at the red scooter I remembered that you went to a lot of trouble to get a larger bike. And I thought it was going to be a real pain traveling 2,200 miles on that toy. Glad to read later on that your real bike is larger but it still seems like it could be even bigger. And you do write just like you talk – very amusing.

    1. Burke, if I had to ride that damn red scooter all the way accross Patagonia, I would have a very difficult time maintaining a positive attitude. I’m pretty sure that I would be on the verge of suicide. Which, is what a number of you are calling this trip any way. How ironic…

  4. Hello Cliff,

    I’m a friend of your sister, Laura, whom I worked with for several years. She told me of this adventure and I have to say “Bravo” … enjoy it and take plenty of pictures/video. I, too, am a scooter nut and the wife and I are tentatively planning fairly long road trip around the USA on our GoldWing in late spring/early summer including a stop in Connecticut to visit with Laura. I’ll follow you here on the blog, and may get to shake your hand in Connecticut. Incidentally, I share your love of music as well…I play a 5 string electric bass. Keep it vertical…

    Fred Lemley

    1. Hi Fred,
      Welcome aboard, and it’s nice to know another fellow biker, and to hear about your enthusiasm. As to your dream of a long trip, I can only say that you MUST go for it.
      This is the trip of a lifetime for me, and I’m learning 2 lifetimes worth of worldliness.
      Perhaps we’ll meet some day, and I’ll be able to buy you a beer, and shake your hand.

  5. Hi Cliff:
    Your sister sent me the info on your adventure, wish I was younger, I’d like to try . I once rode the back seat of an Indian motorcycle from Trenton, NJ to Santa Monica,CA in 1943. That was an advenure.Hope all is going well.

    1. Hi Carl,
      sorry for the delay, the internet down here in S.A. is not always enough bandwidth to get anything done at all. But today, I’m in a little cafe in Porto Natales, Chile, and the Internet seems to be working well, and without delay. Hooray.

  6. As the buddy with whom you went rafting down HUGE Nile rapids and as we were collectively Maytagged and underwater longer than we had ever dreamed…..

    … well we’ll have to work on your fear of rushing water as per your Bidet story

    Dr. Raphael Freud

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