10. Dirt by Justin Chatwin

 

 

Santiago Ducati, bless them, were generous enough to loan us street racing bikes to drive to the least appropriate place on earth for them . The condition being that we keep them on the pavement.  No 'gravel' roads.

"But theres no paved road that goes all the way to the bottom.."

"You'll figure it out"

This sounded like a challenge.   

"Don't threaten me with a good time" Nik said.  

End of the pavement 

End of the pavement 

We were falling behind on time and needed to tally up some mile markers, so Nik and I left after eggs and toast.  The plan was to meet Drew and John an hour down the road at the end of the pavement.  We waited a few hours down the road.  We ate.  We gassed. We napped. We rode past motorcyclists dressed up as the wild hogs cast. Stopped and napped again.  We passed John Travolta and his cast mates once again.  Still no Drew.  My mind raced through all the horrible scenarios of what happened. The summertime sun was getting lower in the orange sky.  Which meant it was probably about 8pm.  Nik was face timing his girlfriend as I noticed two short skirt hitch hiker girls get into the back of an eighteen wheel disco truck. Lime green, eighteen wheels. Lots of hitching going on down here.  Lots of fluorescent going on down here. Every girl I saw on the dusty road was beautiful.    I don't even have a girlfriend, but I missed her anyways.  It would be nice to have some female companionship right about now.  We always hit this threshold on every trip.  And anyone who spends time on the road knows what I'm talking about.  The cocktail of anger and loneliness making your foot tap a little harder.  Then I usually meet a girl and that lasts about a day or two before I need to flee.

Nowhere is a place

Nowhere is a place

The Chevy cobalt arrived and drew stumbled out.  'I couldn't tell how much whiskey I had drank till I got out of the car'. 

Drew says he shoots better when he's under the influence.   And I'm sure whatever he shot today was nothing short of genius except the fact that his subjects were no where to be seen.   Not to mention Drew turns into an Argentinian street hooker named 'Consuela Franchesca' after a couple drinks.  Well they do say that Patagonia shows you what you're truly made of.

"Suzanne's fired" said John. 

I put my arm out to steady Consuela's wobble "who's Suzanne?!"

"Our gps.   We named her Suzanne." Said Drew his voice now four octaves higher.  "And she brought us down the old hwy 40.  That was all dirt" Consuela said as she pulled out her manhood and peed on the dirt. 

"So you took the stagecoach path from 1902?"

"For like 200 miles" he looked proud.

"Amazing." I shook my head. "And it's dirt you said.  Not gravel"

"what are you getting at?" 

"Well it says no gravel in the Ducati contact" 

We took off and were hauling at a good clip down the road when I had to swerve to an armadillo who tried to commit suicide under my tire. Normally I won't swerve because that's how you go down on a collision.  But Past trauma came up from when I accidentally beheaded a suicidal dog in Colombia from not swerving. Launching two feet in the air, this story didn't end well for my old bike nor the dog.

I can do snow, rain, even hail, but the one thing I hate is wind.  It hit us hard the next day.   We rag dolled it a few hundred miles across the barren tundra, dodging mentally ill highway alpacas, into another hour long lineup for gasoline.   This is good practice for what the apocalypse will be like.  He who has the gas has the power.  Here we met a man named Luis who felt like we needed to see his tattoo of Jesus on a motorcycle on his shoulder.   And we definitely did. He told us how to ride the Patagonian wind in the dirt further south.  The rule was get gas wherever possible.  

Jesus rode a motorcycle. 

Jesus rode a motorcycle. 

My map got us lost, which was fine.  We were used to it by now.

But we ended up backtracking a hundred miles, which wasn't fine.  We needed all the gas we had.  I stopped at the entrance to what I thought was the eighty mile stretch of dirt, not gravel, road.  I looked down and my tire was completely bald.  The threading was exposed now which meant I had a hundred miles till tire combustion. 

John called me over.

"It looks like the detour just turned eighty miles of gravel into a hundred and eighty.   

I looked around.  There was a cow.  An orstrich.  A giant sky.  Endless fields.  Two ducatis and a Chevy cobalt.

"This is where the fun begins".

9. Outlaw County by Justin Chatwin

Drew Beetlepoop and his mistress, the blue demon four door Chevy cobalt, drove 18 hours straight down the unpaved hwy 40 out of Mendoza.  His mantra, he said, was "how the hell did they ride this on a Ducati?!" Which we didn't.

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When he found us he hasn't slept in 36 hours and we were just outside the Andean lake town of Bariloche. He sorted us at the side of the road getting a finger pointing from a woman police officer.   I was so stoned from adrenaline and my own stench that it was nearly impossible to absorb any of her frustration.  I repeated 'peligroso' over and over again because I kept seeing that sign on corners. I meant to say I will go slow.   However, I said to her 'yo soy peligroso' which I think meant 'i am slow' but later realized that 'peligroso' actually meant danger.  Which was why I felt so much passion between the two of us.

I was elated to see our sauced cameraman, Drew, and then meet our new tribe member, and the transporter, John of Washington. 

Nik was pretty deflated the next morning at the state of his tire and also at the state of the town's accessibility to having access to a new one.   Once we finally sourced a tire, we realized we didn't have the special tool.   And Ducati said it would take 5 days to send across the border.  Even if this is as far as we made it, it was worth it.   The friendships, the stories, the pointless mile markers we added up everyday.  Every mile was a new vista on the tally board. 

Happy dance

Happy dance

Nik and I are far from mechanics.  I can play one on tv. But I still rely on the Special skills of the undervalued craftsmen and blue collar men of the Americas.  So we left our bikes at Honda Patagonia and went and sat at a cafe.  We were Powerless over a lot of things that were happening.  When Nik gets grumpy it's usually girl or motorcycle or food related.  He had two going against him this morning.  Maybe all three. His Tatoo reads 'simple man'.  And it really is that with him. Easy going and simple life.  Girl.  Motorcycle.  Food.  Repeat.  In what order you'll have to ask him.  We gave into the stress by giving up a bit and drank a little Yerba matte with Drew and Jon while they ate some eggs and toast. 

Nik disappeared and came back on his bike with a brand new tire and I could finally see him smiling again.  You can always count on a Dirtbike store.  I looked at my giant diavel tire and thought "it's not a problem till its a problem". 

Tire testing

Tire testing

Drew and John took off towards highway 40 an hour or two before us.   I threw on a new pair of underwear which felt so good.   And Nik lit up his new tire in his signature burnout which also felt so good. We took off fully inspired in the wrong direction but eventually made up time that afternoon on the long mountain passes on the 40.  We almost rocketed by the Chevy blue demon but pulled back to join as one unicorn galloping south into the craggy cordillera spines of patagonia.    The towns got smaller and so did our conversations.   We were finally doing the trip.  And seeing the Patagonia we had fantasizes about.  Arctic landscapes began to arrive on the road.  We would stop.  Smile.  Smoke.  Piss. Drew would exchange a word or two.  John would giggle at the ridiculousness of everything. But the rest of us were in our own worlds processing what we were seeing and feeling.  

John accidentally led us into the small outlaw valley of Cholila.   Which wasn't an accident because this is where we found the old ranch that apparently belonged to Butch Cassidy.  Although he was rumored to have died in Bolivia, locals here apparently knew an outlaw Butch Cassidy from America who lived and ranched cattle well into his seventies.   For more on this see "in Patagonia" by Bruce Chatwin.   We walked a mile and finally found it hidden in the foothills of a mountain. There were skulls and a creek and even a backyard escape route.  It was a little slice of heaven.  Sitting in this turn of the century house, we could feel the ghosts of Cowboys past, as our imaginations ran wild about what went down here.   Not to mention the fact that they did the same route we just did but on horseback a century earlier.  What drove them to this part of the world? Was it the same thing that drove us?

Butchs place  

Butchs place  

At nightfall we followed smokey skies south into a forest fire and a small town called Escuela with blaring sirens.   We went to twelve hotels but everything was full due to evacuating towns.    This was an all time record for finding a last minute hotel.  John the driver had hit all of his places, Nik was searching for wifi as usual and Drew Beetlepoop was so drunk he looked like he was getting off a fishing boat.   A middle aged woman, very flirty and tipsy, approached us and John translated that we could sleep in her guest house for thirty dollars.  Drew said this is the part where this either turns into a horror movie or a whore movie.  When I got to her little hobbit guest house in the Escuela suburbs she cornered me, talking a mile a minute.  Non stop giggling and very flirtatious.   My non Spanish charades skills didn't pay off here.  At all.  She just kept rapid firing question after question as her spandex groin slowly moved in on mine. I felt so uncomfortable and pregnant from her stare that I bolted down the street to where the boys were yelling at me.   It was a strange midnight.  My boundaries had been violated.  Zombie sirens were blaring.  We hadn't eaten all day and clearly our surburban senorita hadn't all year.