Doug Ruth's 1996/97 Trip Report Summary #4
Date: Fri, 31 Jan 1997 07:20:11 -0800
To: BMW -GS motorcycles mailing list
Subject: Trip Report - December Summary
WHERE AM I NOW?
December 31 found me in Medellin, Colombia
Dec 5 - Costa Rican/Panamanian border on the Pan American Highway
Dec 19 - Panamanian/Colombian border on flight to Bogota, Colombia
BIKE PROBLEMS, REPAIR, AND MAINTENANCE
Dec 10-11 - 10K mile maintenance: changed all fluids, adjusted valves,
new plugs, checked all fasteners.
Dec 14-15 - Replace steering head bearings. They had developed a significan
notch at center, and since I found a replacement set locally,
and I had the clubhouse to work in I decided to replace them.
BIKE DROPS, SPILLS, AND CRASHES
Dec 5 - Crossing the border from Costa Rica into Panama, ny spirits were
buoyed, despite heavy rain, by the ease of the formalities, especially
given my new passport. However my mind was still preoccupied with many
things, other than just concentrating on the road and riding the
motorcycle. Not a good situation. I was still kicking myself for
the pickpocket in Todos Santos to say nothing about the theft in San
Jose. I was also wondering how I was going to get the bike to Colombia.
Next thing I knew I'm on top of a document check point, 10km or so from th
border. With my mind on things other than riding the bike I hadn't seen
it. I grab too much front brake, the front wheel locks up on the wet
pavement, possibly augmented by oil on the pavement from other cars
stopping at the checkpoint, and just like that the bike is down on it's
right side sliding along the road past the guards. I slid a while and cam
to rest in time to watch the bike slide off the side of the road onto
the shoulder, have the tires hook up enough to have the bike stand itself
up, totter there for a long second or two, then fall over onto it's left
side. If I had been quicker onto my feet, I could have caught it as it
tottered there, and then claimed the whole thing was a planned stunt.
As it was, with the guards looking on and wondering what the hell this
crazy gringo was doing, I stood up, took a deep bow, which got a laugh out
of the guards, and rushed over to the bike and had it up on two wheels
before the guards could even approach. The guards were pointing to my arm
and legs and asking if I was OK and a quick check showed I was. The wet
pavement provided a nice lubricated surface and I couldn't even find any
damage to my Aerostich. Fortunately because of the rain I was wearing the
Aerostich pants as well, something I don't always do when the weather is
nice. On the other hand if it hadn't been raining I might not have locked
up the front end. Who knows.
As for the bike, it too came out relatively unscathed. The right-side
crash bar had a slight crimp in it where it had been bent back around
the valve cover, but a few well-placed kicks got it back into a
reasonable position. Some scrapes on the bottom side of the valve cover
but no structural damage to it. The bottom beveled side of the right-side
Jessie bag had a fist-size dent, about an inch deep, in it, I believe
from when it slid over the edge of the pavement. That was it.
But I was fortunate. It could have been worse, both for the bike and me,
and I certainly can't expect to pull that kind of stunt again and get off
that easy. This time the main damage was to my pride and self-esteem.
Now, in addition to the thefts, I had another reason for self-flagellation
I hoped this wasn't the 3rd strike, as in 3 strikes and you're out.
I showed the guards my papers, waved bye, and headed south.
PROBLEMS WITH THEFT, VANDALISM, POLICE, CHECKPOINTS?
Dec 6 - The night before, in David, Panama, Peter, an American truck driver
had warned me about speed traps on the Pan-American Highway in Panama, and
had told me where to expect them. He also said that most of the radar gun
didn't actually work. However soon after leaving David, way before the
anticipated location, I hit one and was waved over by 1 of 2 cops.
The cop takes my papers, motions me to pull over to the side of the road
then he holds my papers for 5 minutes while talking with the driver of a
pickup truck he stopped going in the other direction. Other vehicles goin
in my direction were waved through. This whole time he hasn't looked
at my papers.
Finally he hands them to his partner, who motions me to follow him over to
his patrol car. He says he has to write me a US$25 ticket for speeding
and points to the radar gun lying on the hood of the car, which reads 75
kph. Now one, I knew I wasn't speeding because I had been very careful
after what Peter had told me. Two, when I was approaching this speed trap
I had been following another car and there is no way he could have got a
reading on me. Three, Peter had said that most of the radar guns don't eve
work and from the time I pulled over till now, the radar gun had been lyin
on the hood of the car and I suspected they just left the 75kph reading on
it all the time.
In my lousy Spanish but in as respectful a manner as I could muster I said
I wasn't going that fast, and that another car had been in front of me and
that that couldn't be my speed. I didn't know if that was the right
tactic, but there is never one approach for all situations and this seemed
the right approach at the time. He asked for my drivers license and I
handed him my Inter-American Ddrivers License, since my California license
had been stolen in San Jose. For good measure, as I handed him the
license, I repeated "Senor, por favor, no voy ese rapido," and let it go
at that and waited to see what developed. He handed my passport and bike
documents back without even looking at them, but proceeded to write
information from my license into a notebook. Then we walked back to the
bike, and he started asking questions about it and where I had been and
where I was going. That was a good sign, as my experience is that once
that happens you've crossed over from an official interaction to a more
personal one. After talking about 5 minutes, he handed my license back an
said I was free to go. I thanked him and was on my way. Nothing more was
said about the ticket after his first comment. I think he knew I knew, by
my comments, that he hadn't clocked me on his radar.
Later that day, another two motorcycle cops, with 2 BMWs parked nearby,
waved me over. They didn't even make any attempts to make this look like
an official stop, and didn't even ask for my papers. They just wanted to
look at the motorcycle and talk about it and my trip. They suggested my
valves needed adjustment, which was probably true since I was about a 100
miles from my next scheduled maintenance interval. After about 5 minutes
they waved me on.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE MONTH
- Volcan Poas northwest of San Jose, Costa Rica.
- Gold and Jade Museums in San Jose, Costa Rica.
- Crossing the Bridge of the Americas, over the Panama Canal, into Panama
- Road Knights Motorcycle Club at Albrook Air Force Station in Panama City,
Bill Collier the president, and Alex, his son.
- Crating up the G/S and getting the airweigh bill and my passport stamped
by Panamanian Customs.
- Landing in Bogota, Colombia.
- Getting the Colombian Customs paperwork completed and riding the G/S out
of the Challenge Air Cargo warehouse.
- Christmas Eve fiesta in Tunja, Colombia, in the Plaza Bolivar, packed with
people, dancing to the music performed by the live bands on stage.
- The road north of Tunja, which crosses a high plateau at more than 10000
- The descent into, and then back out of, the dry, parched Rio Chicamocha
canyon between San Gil and Bucaramanga, Colombia. Switchbacks galore and
great road surface!
- The road from Bucaramanga to Cucuta, Colombia, which climbs to more than
11000 feet, and passes through spectacular mountain scenery.
- The hospitality of Carmenza Restrepo and her relatives in Medellin,
- New Years Eve celebrations in Medellin, Colombia.
WHAT WAS MY ROUTE?
The following is a brief summary of my route, naming the city/town I stayed
in that night.
1-4 San Jose, Costa Rica
5 David, Panama
6 La Chorrera, Panama
7-18 Panama City, Panama
19-23 Bogota, Colombia
24 Tunja, Colombia
25 Cucuta, Colombia
26 San Cristobal, Venezuela
27 Cucuta, Colombia
28 Puerto Boyaca, Colombia
29-31 Medellin, Colombia
WHERE AM I HEADED FROM HERE?
Read next months summary and you'll know where I went.