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Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Brian & Deya met in Vancouver Canada. After a few years together we were married and made choices. One was not to have children the other was not to take life for granted. The rest is yet to come.

September 28, 2011

Gumption

It takes some time to learn about a place but as we go we find there is not enough time to really find out anything. The best way to learn, despite this time gap fact, about a place, is by associating with good people. You learn about the local gastronomy, cultural perspectives, good things, bad things and usually build friendships in the process. Sitting in a hotel room offers none of this but does allow one to be focussed on the task of blasting through a region in record time. We have a time frame to follow but we are trying to balance this out with some experiences along the way too. Our time in Chile was good but the country as we’ve mentioned is expensive and reviewing our budget we got murdered on Fuel and Lodging, saved only by our amigo Mario.
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The exit from Chile started with an escort out by Mario and would eventually lead us to 29 curves of some fame as we neared the Argentinean border. I’ve seen spectacular pictures of this sight but until you get there, there is no way of knowing how unimpressive it is. Not that it’s bad but there is a lot of traffic and Chileans tend to drive badly the closer they get to Argentina, odd since they are impressive drivers in their own country. What is cool is the Ski hill and lift that go over the road. A series of tunnels allow folks to ski over top and probably get the best view of the place. That was cool.
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Entering Argentina was pretty simple as the two countries have a combined Customs and Immigration solution. We got through the process with only one problem, no insurance. The insurance of course is mandatory but foreigners can’t buy it. So we have to head into Argentina with no insurance, the police can stop you and fine you for not having it but you can’t buy it. Nonsense, but we will continue to look for it while we are in the country.
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Our first night took us to the small, semi touristy skiing village of Uspallata. We road a bit of dirt to look at more coloured dirt and that was uneventful. We headed into town, got gas and found the municipal campsite. This was only five bucks for the night. Deya didn’t like it, we were the only ones there except for some dogs and the wind blew as if to remind us of the hurricane Earl in Newfoundland.

When we arrived I found dogs, or they found me, and I knew I could test out my new dog bones on these critters to make a few new friends. To my surprise, when I offered the dogs these tasty treats, they literally pawed at them, sniffed, then looked at me like I was an idiot and walked away leaving the milky, beef tasting, slightly minty fresh bones in the dirt. How do I know what they taste like? Take a guess. I was shattered, to say the least, but would soon come to understand why these healthy looking dogs portrayed such arrogance.

The wind blew from the southwest and the trees were all barren of leaves. The leaves collected at the northeast foot of every obstacle in the winds path including our tent. A snow shovel would have worked the same trying to dig out the doorway of the tent. It was a cold night and the morning was exceedingly difficult to pack up the gear because of the frigid strong wind blowing. Breakfast would be impossible with this wind so we decided to simply escape.
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On the route through some mountains we saw a good place to pull over to make breakfast, with little wind and lots of sunshine. I love our breakfast, Katarina inspired and mentored by Archie it includes dried fruit, minute oats, powdered milk, sometimes coconut and often granola. This is our mainstay and we carry about two kilos of this mix everywhere we go. We could stay well for a week on this stuff and it actually gives us a lot of strength through the day and it is easy on our stomachs, ideal for this kind of travel.

The spot we chose to have breakfast was beside two small stone structures that had collapsed at some point. Nestled between a large mound of rocks and an old railroad bridge, a muddy river running strongly beneath it, we were obscured from the road. The wind was low and we had our own dead horse bones to ponder about. The skeleton of the horse had been picked clean and the bones were partially bleached except for the tail which was still intact. As we ate we watched two motorbikes pass slowly and wondered if they were also travellers like us.

Our next stop would be Mendoza, a major city and principle wine region of Argentina. The road there gets pretty flat as you exit the mountains and the wind blows hard. The region is naturally a desert but the level of agriculture is vast with extensive aqueducts and canals. In Mendoza we planned on visiting Carlos, the famous mechanic we met in Santiago; we had seen pictures of Carlos in Colombia and we were told about him by Kai and Annette. We needed to do some oil changes on the bikes and think about Deya’s tyre situation and the BMW recall on her front disk brake.
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“Gumption is the psychic gasoline that keeps the whole thing going. If you haven’t got it there’s no way the motorcycle can possibly get fixed. But if you have got it and know how to keep it there’s absolutely no way in this whole world that a motorcycle can keep from getting fixed. It’s bound to happen. Therefore the thing that must be monitored at all times and preserved before anything else is the gumption.” –Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig.

This problem of gumption, as Pirsig puts it, doesn’t just apply to motorcycles but to pretty much everything else. When I think of my own work ethic and some of the experiences I have had I note that many times people are looking for a silver bullet as a final solution. This bugs me, I like to stare at a problem, map it out, spit on it, call it names, walk away then come back, praise it a bit, look at it from another perspective, lift it up, put it down, prioritise it then reprioritise it again. If I have to show up for 8 hours then I should bloody well be thinking, scheming and breathing deeply about something that’s going to move us ahead. I like that but it sometimes leaves me wondering what has happened to the moment.

I know that what is required for this trip is gumption, people who are on it need it and those that don’t probably fail or struggle badly. We’ve got it but to be honest it can be slippery and after a while hard to hold onto.
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While in Santiago Deya asked Carlos about camping, he recommended “Camping Suizo” as a good place to stay, we would head there once in Mendoza but first we have to deal with the bikes pulled over on the road up ahead.
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It’s the two bikes we saw go by as we had breakfast, we passed slowly and waved, we were on the highway and it’s never easy to just stop, especially when there is no paved shoulder. We pull over about 400 metres ahead and turn around. They were just about to start going again when we pulled in. Cristian and Vanesa were travelling around South America on a 125cc and 150cc and were on their final run to Buenos Aires, home. People often look at us with our fancy bikes and technical gear as though that is what it takes, maybe we are the real travellers but the truth is these two are as much adventurers and motorcyclists as any others. To haul ass through mountains and deserts with little gear and a tonne of gumption is admirable to say the least. To show that it can be done and have a good time doing it, perfect. A beautiful couple, a short meeting, a great memory.
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We rolled into Mendoza and easily found our camping destination, 10 bucks a night, covered tent, hot showers, more attention than a hotel and very quiet, heaven. Since we were early we would try to go find Carlos’ shop and get our oil change done. The front wheel of Deya’s bike was ugly from the Panamerican Highway and to me made the steering feel awful; it really was grinding on my mind. The town is nice but in the evening there is fog or smog or sand or smoke or some kind of pollution I can’t identify. Despite this we are about to discover something fantastic.

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