Thursday, September 29, 2011

Dinner in Zacualtipan, Mexico

All this for 65 pesos($5). Ridiculous!

Xilitla, Mexico and the Edward James Garden

I arrived in Xilitla. The town is nestled between the sides of two hills and curves around a crevice. Xilitla is know for two things - natural springs for swimming and the Edward James Garden. The two just happen to be next to each other.
After a two hour ride I was ready for some cooling off in the springs, the gardens could wait. I don't know why I'm tending to gravitate to water holes, but I have yet to be disappointed by the beauty and quality of the springs in Mexico.
When I arrived at the springs I didn't waste time, I stripped down to my shorts and jumped in. There were actually about three pools at different levels all stacked along the hillside. At the the top was a cascada (waterfall) that was feeding the pools. I suppose that the waterfall was being fed by a spring at the top.
I relaxed for about an hour. Some more people showed up, so I decided that it would be a good time to check out the garden.
Edward James was a patron of the arts and an artist himself. He was friends and greatly influenced by Salvador Dali. He and a friend Plutarco Gastelum build a huge garden with a collection of surreal structures. He didn't finish the garden nor all the structures so the site is part garden and part relic.
Entrance to the garden.
Sculptures or relic... you tell me?
Collection of pieces
Art is in the eye of the beholder.

After spending time in the springs and garden I found a nice hotel in Xilitla and decided to settle for a day or two.

Ruinas de Tamtoc

I left the quite and peaceful area of El Cielo for something a little different. First, Tamtoc is a collection of ruins built by the Huastecas. It was a medium sized site with three plazas, a few alters and a large carved calendar. Since I was the only visitor I got a personal tour.
Entrance to Tamtoc Ruins
Tamtoc Ruins Plaza A
Tamtoc Carving of Three Wives - carvings include three wives, two without heads, anamorphic shapes and calendar.
Moises (Moses) mentioned that this carving was dedicated to a king called Cinco Caricoles (Five Snails). He said that there was more to this story. Your guess is as good as mine.

After visiting Tamtoc I rode a short distance to a town called San Vicente for lunch. Then on to Xilitla.
- Troy

Monday, September 26, 2011

Believe It or Not?

Believe it or not, I'm in this little town near the Tantoc ruines. I rode about 150 miles from Gomez Farias to see the ruines at the suggestion of Jean Louis.

But unfortunately it's Monday and it appears the all the archeological sites are closed on Mondays. Hmmm... just one of those things.

So I decided to take a break at this little tienda (store). Scoooooore! They had wireless Internet and the owner provided me the key. So I'm posting all the post that I've written on my iphone over the past week at one time

Wow... I'm sitting here using the Internet and it's around dinner time. And the owner brings out for me a plate of arroz con pollo y tortillas.

Isn't Mexico great!

I'll have to add the photos later

A Day of Dual Sport Riding in Alta Cima, Mexico

I got up today with the goal of going to the towns of Alta Cima and possibly San Jose. These towns were up the mountain in the biosphere reserve of El Cielo. The road was wicked good... for dual sport riding that is. Some gravel, some rocks, curvy, sheer drop offs, some steep grades, beautiful views and lots of butterflies.
However, one of the things I've learned about dual sport riding is to ride within my limits and the limits of my bike. Emi is a great girl and will go just about anywhere. However the load of gear that I was asking her to carry was weighing her down. This trail was challenging her and me. I'd say the trail was probably a 3 out of 4 in terms of difficulty. I realized that I was pushing my limits. After some time and considering that I was miles from help or a good bike shop I decided to turn around.
I made my way back to the town and safety of Gomez Faria and treated myself to some ceveche and a beer. I camped at La Poza Azul. It was a great day of dual sport riding. Great day overall. Best part... I lived to tell about it.

El Cielo y El Centro Interpretativa Ecologico

I woke up rather early at about 7am. When camping and sleeping outside my body usually adjust to the cycles of nature. I wake when the sun rises and sleep once it gets dark. It rained a little bit during the night so I needed to allow my tent to dry before I packed it up. I decided to take another visit to La Posa Azul. I hiked the quarter mile through the forrest. It was amazingly quite from man made sounds, but nature was doing it's thing. I could hear birds, frogs, insects... it was peaceful and a little disconcerting that I was the only one around. I arrived at the spring and shoot some photos and video. Of course the images will not do justice to the real thing, but you'll get the idea. I took one last swim or bath.

I returned to my camp and packed up my things. I passed through Gomez Farias and arrived at the Centro Interpretativa Ecologico (CIE). There was a group of the staff out front assembling bird feeders. Nice!

As I dismounted from Emi, a Gentleman named Jean Louis greeted me. He said that I could lock up my things, but he would also make sure that his staff would watch my bike. Emi would be alright on her own.
He and a guide named Oscar showed me around the center. A two on one personal tour. It was amazing. Everything at the center was designed with green building principle. They had designed in water collection, solar electricity, solar windows, recycled materials, etc, etc. The center is in the middle of the forrest so all around I could see orchids, insects, birds, butterflies and even a six foot boa constrictor. The reserve also has armadillos, jaguars, ocelots and black bears. I didn't get to see any on this visit, but perhaps next time. The biosphere has something like 500 of the 600 species birds that exist in Mexico. If you like experiencing nature this is a must see.
Golden web spider

After walking around a bit a film maker named Noe Vargas showed me a film he made about El Cielo and the interconnection with Ecology. I enjoyed it and it was actually pretty well made. I could sense his passion for the subject.

After going through the center I went back up to the administrative offices to say goodbye to Jean Louis. We ended up talking a while and he shared about his life, his work and his passion for ecology. We went out for lunch and continued the conversation.
After lunch we said goodbye. As soon as you can you should visit El Cielo and the CIE. It's a great biosphere center with extremely friendly people. It is certified under the Man and Biosphere program of UNESCO. It is definitely worth the visit.

For more info check out www.elcielobiosphere.org

El Cielo, Mexico and La Posa Azul

The highway to El Cielo was fantastic. It was more of a two lane country road that cut through forrest land on both sides. To say that it was curvy would be an understatement. It's the kind of road that most motorcyclist dream about riding. It went up some mountains and down some valleys with sweeping curves and s curves and it went on and on for about two hours.

I arrived in the town of Gomez Farias at around 4 pm. It was a little late to see the Centro Interpretativo Ecologico or Center for Ecological Interpretation so I decided to camp in a area near by called La Posa Azul.
I found a nice camping area and set up camp. The Posa Azul or Blue Spring is a natural spring that feeds a river. There was a family relaxing and playing by the river so I struck up a conversation. They invited me to see the spring. Their teenage kids guided me down a trail for about a quarter mile to the isolated spring and swimming hole. There was no one else but us. It was pretty ideal. After some swimming and bathing for me, I returned to my camp site. I hadn't made arrangements for food and the restaurant was closed. I bought some jugo (juice) and mani (peanuts) and had a nice meal.

I have some video of La Posa Azul that I'll post.

La Pesca, Mexico

My first stop in Mexico was a small fishing village along the eastern coast called La Pesca. La Pesca translates to The Fish in English. I chose the town because it seemed like it would be a calm and peaceful place. And, it was near the ocean. It didn't disappoint. The town centered around the one road which ran through it. Along the road there were a number of restaurants, hotels and shops.
At the end if the road was the playa or beach.
I had my first meal in Restaurante Costa Lora. It looked like a clean and bright restaurant in the center of town. I had a nice plate of shrimp with tomato sauce and frijoles. It was delicious.

I ended up meeting and talking with the owner Marco Antonio. He gave me some great tips on things to do around the area. Namely, visit a turtle conservation project and a biosphere park called El Cielo (The Heaven).
I camped on the beach under the stars for my first night in La Pesca, Mexico. It was magical. I woke up early, went for a swim in the ocean and tried a little fly fishing unsuccessfully.
I dropped by the turtle project and the staff gave me a personal tour of the place. The center is hatching Kemp's Ridley and Green turtles, I believe that both are endangered species.
Turtle Hatchery
These little guys are cute.

Afterwards, I tried unsuccessfully to use an ATM to get some Pesos. The attendant said that they only had a relationship with six banks. Oh well.

Off to El Cielo.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Crossing From Texas to Mexico

My plan for crossing the US / Mexico border was to cross the border from McAllen into Reynosa and ride south to the town of La Pesca. I was not sure how long the lines might be and how long the immigration and customs tramites (paperwork) might take, but I wanted to give myself enough time to pass through the checkpoint and ride 4 or 5 hours to the town of La Pesca. So I got up early and hit the road. I rode along the freeway and there were signs directing me to the international border.
I arrived at the check point and parked. I was a bit surprised by how modern the facility appeared. Previously, I had crossed into Mexico from El Paso, Texas and San Deigo, California and remembered those border checkpoints as being somewhat old and dirty. This checkpoint was modern and clean. My first border crossing of my adventure. I looked around and saw a number of video surveillance cameras monitoring the facility. I decided to leave my baggage on my motorcycle and only take in my small tank bag.
I entered and found that the facility was pretty empty. I believe that there may have been 3 or 4 people in total. I guess my plan to cross early in the day paid off. There were a few windows that I needed to pass by. I started on the far end and passed by Immigration first. Easy. Then I passed by Customs. At Customs I had to show my license, motorcycle title and proof of insurance. I also had to pay a $400 deposit for my motorcycle. I was told the deposit would be refunded when I present the appropriate documentation when I exit from Mexico. Let's hope so.
In total it only took about 15 minutes. Pretty easy. Then I hit the road. It was a little challenging finding the highway route out of Reynosa, but I eventually found the Hwy 97 which would connect to Hwy 180 then to Hwy 52. Ahh... Mexico!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Staging in McAllen, Texas

I made it to McAllen, Texas today. The day started out a little bit hectic. I was finishing up my packing, cleaning and vacating my house, storing a few more items and looking around at motorcycle shops for a spare inner tube. I got it all done and set off at about 10:30am. It was later than I wanted to depart, but I think that fortunately I missed some traffic because of the late start. The ride was pretty uneventful. I left Austin taking hwy 183 south. I passed through Lockhart, Luling, Beeville, Sintun and a few random places. I reached McAllen at around 6pm. Cleaned up and ate dinner. I found a nice Country Inn Suite to stay at.
I've repacked to make my gear fit a little better and easier to access. It's an art and not a science. I hope to do a video on packing once I get my system down. Now, it's a night of good rest. Tomorrow I cross the border into Mexico.

First stop... BBQ at the City Market in Luling, Texas

First stop Luling City Market BBQ for a little bit if Texas goodness. I highly recommend the ribs.
- Troy

The Adventure Begins... Tejas a la Tierra

The day has finally arrived. The adventure begins for Tejas a la Tierra. I'm heading south from Austin, Texas to Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. I've resigned from my job, sold many of my worldly possessions, cleaned out my house, modified my motorcycle, packed my bags and said my fair wells. I'm uncertain as to what exactly lies ahead. At this moment I'm feeling ready, but somewhat apprehensive. I've double checked my packing list. I sure that I've left something behind. Oh well, I'll just have to pick it up on the way. Or, better yet, just do without it. The planner in me wishes that I could take more. The free spirit in me wishes that I could take less. I had to cull a few items that I was planning to take - an extra pair of pants, some liner socks, some duplicates of tools. But overall I've been able to fit everything onto my bike. Most importantly I had a good night of sleep and I'm ready to go.

Thanks for all the support and well wishes. This whole trip wouldn't be possible without the support of my family and all my friends that helped me get ready.

The Adventure Begins...Now!

- Troy

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fijase


Fijase is a Spanish word often used in Guatemala right before someone shares with you some bad news. I think the literal translation is equivalent to "fix yourself" as in brace yourself. But the common usage lends more to a translation of "pay attention". As in "listen, I have something to tell you".

So, Fijase... it looks like I'm not leaving on Tuesday. Chip, a rider that will be riding with me for a while is having some issues with his bike, so we're going to wait until he can get the issues sorted out. Stuff like this happens, it's just part of the adventure.

I'm actually glad to wait an extra day or two. It gives me a little more time to wrap things up and prepare.

Also, it just so happens that September 20th is my birthday! It would have been great timing if I could have set off on this adventure on my birthday. However, now I can spend it with some friends. Sometimes God plans these things out perfectly.

So on Tuesday I can prep a little more, spend some time with friends and eat fish tacos for $2 at the happy hour of a local restaurant in Austin called Quality Seafood. Y'all want to join?

It will be a happy hour, birthday and send off party all wrapped up into one.

- Troy

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Day!

It looks like the departure day will be Tuesday, September 20th!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Friday, September 9, 2011

Best point and shoot camera for travel - Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3?


Could this be the best point and shoot camera for adventure travel, the Panasonic DMC-TS3? It sure is loaded with features. It has a compact waterproof and shockproof body, built-in GPS, altimeter, barometer, compass, 12MP CCD, a 2.7 inch LCD, a 28-128mm equivalent lens, 1080i60 HD movie capability and 3D photo mode. Nice!

For more info see DPReview.com

Review:
After future review of this camera I have determined that it is not the ideal adventure travel camera. There are two shortcomings that prevent this camera from making the grade. First, the battery life of this camera is terrible. I purchased an extra battery to use with this camera. But, even with the extra battery I often found that the batteries could not last a full day of shooting, much lest a weekend or week of backcountry shooting. It is not worth evening bringing a camera if the battery will not last to the end of your journey. Fail! Second, after three months of use and a few submersions in water, the camera stopped working. I followed all the instructions about depth and cleaning. The camera just stopped working. And it is not easy to send a camera in for warranty work form the Amazon jungle in Ecuador. Fail!

Gear Review - Canon EOS 7D



Troy reviews the Canon EOS 7D DSLR camera. The camera is a prosumer level camera with a weather sealed body, 18 mp, 8fps, 6400 iso, 100% viewfinder and full HD video. The standard lens is an EF 28-135mm, f/3.5-5.6 IS USM. The camera retails for about $1,899.

Detailed specifications and more informatiom is available at:
Canon.com
DPReview.com

Gear Review - Thermarest NeoAir Mattress



The Thermarest NeoAir Mattress is a light weight comfortable inflatable mattress that is ideal for backpacking, camping and travel. It packs down to a very small size of about 8 x 4 inches and only weighs 14 ozs. It retails for about $149. Check it out.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Gear Review - The Coleman Exponent Multi-Fuel Stove



Here's my first gear review video of the Coleman Exponent Multi-Fuel Stove. The stove is a versatile, durable and reliable stove for backpack, car, kayak and motorcycle camping. The unit can use mutiple fuels such as gas, white gas or kerosine. It is not the smallest nor lightest stove on the market, but it is easy to use and reliable. Check it out.

Search Amazon.com for coleman multi fuel stove

Right This Minute





On Friday I got this phone call out of the blue. First, it was unusual because it came in over my land line. I think that I get maaaaybe 2 or 3 phone calls each month on my land line. Why do I still keep that thing? Not for long!

Anyway, I diverge.

It turns out that the call was from a lady named Mayra. She was calling from Right This Minute. It turns out that Right This Minute is a new news program that will be launching this month. And Mayra and her team wanted to interview me about my little adventure. She came across my website and wanted to know what's up.

We talked a little and I agreed to do it.

Why not? For this next year I'm going to make it a habit to say Yes much more than No... or Si en vez de No.

We have it scheduled for Tuesday. The network is scheduled to launch later this month. I'm not sure exactly when it will air, but if I find out I'll post it here.

Click here for more info on Right This Minute

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Top Road Trip Songs


So I was listening to some music while driving today and thinking to myself... What would be a good playlist of road trip songs? I started to make a mental list and then tought it might be fun to ask y'all what you might play. Here are some of my all time favorites. I tend to like folk songs, but I listen to it all. Some inspire me to travel. Some are just great to listen to when moving down the road. So, what would be on your playlist?

Pop
Changes In Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes by Jimmy Buffet
Roam by The B52s
Every Day Is A Winding Road by Sheryl Crow
Watch The Wheels by The Beatles

Rock
Where The Streets Have No Name by U2
Fly Away by Lenny Kravitz
Take It Easy by The Eagles
Born To Be Wild by Steppenwolf

Folk/Country
Like A Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan
I've Been Everywhere Man by Johnny Cash
On The Road Again by Willie Nelson
This Land Is Your Land by Woody Guthry

Easy
What A Wonderful World by Louie Armstrong
Come Away With Me by Nora Jones
Inspiration by Gypsy Kings
Homeward Bound by Simon and Garfunkel

Alt
Get Your Freak On by Missy Elliot
Loose Yourself by Eminem
Drive by Incubus
Low Rider by War

Friday, September 2, 2011

This just in...

One month after launching The Adventure Begins website it has received just over 3000 pageviews. The majority of the viewers have come from a handfull of sources - advrider.com, horizonsunlimited.com, drriders.com and google searches. There are viewers from the US, Germany, Australia, Argentina and many more countries.

Thanks to all of you that have stopped by to read my posts.

Within the coming weeks I'll be linking a Facebook page and YouTube page. Also, I'm working on some camping gear review videos and some how to videos about packing. Hopefully you'll enjoy this content.

There is still so much to do, but I'm still planning to leave in the middle of September.

Once again, thanks for stopping by, stay tuned for more!

Troy

Thursday, September 1, 2011

108 reasons to ride

Now that my bike has most of the modifications needed to be an adventure motorcycle, I decided that it was time to test out the rider. That's me.

Over the past year I've learned the basics of dual sport motorcycling by riding on a combination of streets and trails. Everthing from the urban roads of Austin to rock ravines of Big Bend National Park. On city streets one must be aware of other drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians, oil spots and the rules of the road. On trails one must be aware of varying surfaces such as dirt, sand, gravel and rocks. Also one must be aware of thorns, branches, critters and mother nature.

Adventure motorcycling requires skills learned from dual sport motorcycling as well as simple durability. Sitting for extended periods, standing for extended periods and withstanding the elements are part of the joy and pain of adventure motorcycling.

So yesterday I thought that I'd test my durabilty.

I needed to go from Austin to Houston for some personal business. Normally this is a pretty easy and enjoyable ride in a car that is about 150 miles or 3 hours. To make things interesting, I decided to do the trip in a single day... so that would be 300 miles and 6 hours of riding. And finally, this would take place during one of our bright beautiful summer days with the temperature reaching 108 degrees.

Here's a few pics...
Along Highway 71.
Emi is up to the task.
After a long day we return to the Austin City Limits.

Both bike and rider performed fine.

How To Build a Suzuki DR650 Adventure Motorcycle

In August 2011, I purchased a new 2011 Suzuki DR650 motorcycle for a trip through South America. The engine, exhaust, chassis and suspension have been maintained in the original (stock) configuration. This approach was chosen to increase reliability and facilitate repair or replacement of items with original parts while traveling. The modifications were only made to the motorcycle to add durability, safety, comfort and protection. The prices listed below were the original costs of the items. The prices are listed to serve as a reference point for the cost of the build.


Stock Specifications: [$6,000]
Type: 4-stroke, air-cooled, single cylinder, OHC
Displacement: 644cc
Fuel System: MIKUNI BST40, single
Starter: Electric
Ignition: Electronic ignition (CDI)
Transmission: 5-speed constant mesh
Final Drive Chain: DID525V9, 110 links
Suspension Front: Telescopic, coil spring, oil damped
Suspension Rear: Link type, coil spring, oil damped
Brakes Front: Disc brake
Brakes Rear: Disc brake

Tires Front: 90/90-21 M/C 54S, tube type
Tires Rear: 120/90-17 M/C 64S, tube type
Fuel Tank Capacity: 13.0 L (3.4 US gallons)
Fuel Tank Capacity California: 12.0 L (3.2 US gallons)
Overall Length: 2255 mm (88.8 in), Low 2235 (88.0 in)
Overall Width: 865 mm (34.1 in)
Wheelbase: 1490 mm (58.7 in), Low 1475 mm (58.1 in)
Ground Clearance: 265 mm (10.4 in), Low 225 mm (8.9 in)
Seat Height: 885 mm (34.8 in), Low 845 mm (33.0 in)
Curb Weight: 166 kg (366 lbs)
MPG: 56 or KMPL: 20


Modifications: [$1,679]
IMS gas tank (4.9 gallons) (added 250 mile range) [$260]
Locking gas cap (added safety) [$33]
Pingel Fuel Petcock (added 250 mile range) [$93]
Seats Concepts dual sport seat (added comfort for long rides) [$160]
ProCycle wide and low foot pegs,(added 2 inches of leg space, comfort for standing) [$140]
Fly Racing tapered bar and Protaper wide bar mounts, (added comfort, control and strength) [$100]
ProCycle bar extenders, (added 1 inch in height, comfort for standing) [$33]
Moose Racing handguards (added protection for hands from brush and cold) [$105]
Suzuki spare brake and clutch levers, (added spare parts for safety) [$23]
BikeMaster bar end mirrors, (added enhanced rear view, safety and crash protection) [$50]
Moose Racing quick turn throttle, (added easier throttle response) [$40]
Skid plate (added crash and rock protection) [$80]
ProCycle engine armor, right and left side (added crash protection) [$80]
Tokai Designs rear light kit (added sleeker design and crash protection) [$90]
ProCycle fuel filters (added internal engine protection) [$4]
TwinAir reusable air filter (added internal engine protection and ease of maintenance) [$31]
BikeMaster magnetic oil drain plug, (added internal engine protection) [$12]
Ball Bearing chain roller (added safety) [$15]
Pat Walsh Designs rear cargo rack (added extra secure cargo area) [$125]
Pelican Case (added extra secure cargo area) [$150]
Shortened kickstand ¾” removed (added for more stable parking/leaning) [$55]
Crampbuster throttle cruise assist {$9}

Expendables: [$296]
Pirelli MT40 tires front and rear (2000 miles of use) [$180]
Chain, Front and Rear sprocket (4000 miles of use) [$110]
Extra Chain Master Link (added safety) [$6]

Extras: [$80]
Tools [$75]
Spare plastic gas tank (10 liters, adds 100+ miles extra) [$5]


Gear: [$3,080]
Arai XD3 Helmet [$540]
Olympia Mesh Jacket [$320]
Olympia Airglide Pants [$230]
Marmot Precip rain jacket and rain pants [$120]
Alpinestar Gloves [$80]
Gaerne G Adventure Motorcycle Boots (size 10-1/2) [$250]
Giant Loop Great Basin Bag [$435]
Giant Loop Fandango Tank Bag [$160]
Garmin GPS and Ram mount [$435]
GoPro video camera [$300]

Dirt not included… just joking.

For more information about this build and testing check out... The Moto.