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.