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Ushuaia: El Fin Del Mundo

At the entrance to the town.

At the entrance to the town.

After almost a year of traveling (11 days shy of one year exactly), we finally arrived in Ushuaia, Argentina. It was so amazing that it was hard for me to even put into words the feelings that I experienced. The couple weeks prior to arriving in Ushuaia, the days were long, the roads numbingly straight and the winds horrendous.

The much needed photo at the end of the road.

 

 

 

 

 

 

While in Ushuaia, we went on a boat tour of some of the surrounding islands. Milton took a fly fishing trip and I did a local tour around town on one of their double decker buses.

 

Photo on island H.

Photo on Island H.

"Last" Lighthouse in Argentina.

“Last” Lighthouse in Argentina.

Bus that took me on a fun little excursion around the city.

Bus that took me on a fun little excursion around the city.

View of the mountains from the bus tour.

View of the mountains from the bus tour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During the past year I’ve had one broken foot, we’ve had three stolen motorcycles, one stolen passport, our riding partner leaving and returning to the states after only two months on the road, numerous falls as I mastered the art of riding off-road over amazing mountain passes with switch back after switch back, countless tears as I struggled through fears that I was being pushed to ride beyond my ability, and immense pride when I realized that, even through I may have fallen a few times, (okay maybe more than a few) I got back on my bike and continued to ride.

We’ve also had meltdowns at the side of a few roads, screaming in frustration into the wind a few times, and made some amazing friends along the way, and our faith in humanity is stronger now than ever before.

For the past month, our bikes seem to being telling us that it’s getting time to go home.   We’ve put a lot of miles on them, over 35,000 km in fact, we’ve ridden them hard, and they are starting to wear out.  My shock has blown, my clutch is wearing out and beginning to slip, and my battery is getting weaker and weaker to the point that now everytime I turn if off I wonder if it will start again.  Milton’s bike already had a radiator leak repaired, his carburetor repaired, his clutch replaced, electrical issues repaired, and now his shock is giving out also. We are debating whether it is even worth it to send our bikes back to the states.

Had electrical issues about 2 hours north of Ushuaia and about 35 km south of Rio Grande which left us dead in our tracks.

Had electrical issues about 2 hours north of Ushuaia and about 35 km south of Rio Grande which left us dead in our tracks.

Finally got the bike into town and into a shop.

Finally got the bike into town and into a shop.

Since leaving Ushuaia, we spent four days stuck in Rio Grande due to bike issues.  But, during this four day period the winds got up to 137km/hr so it was a good time to be stuck.  After finally leaving Rio Grande we headed out towards El Calafate. The winds blew so hard that it became dangerous and so we stopped and spent the night in Esperenza which I am pretty such exists solely to give travelers a play to stay when the wind blows too hard. The next day, while riding to El Calafate, discovered my shock leaking again which made for a fun bumpy ride in.

 

Once in El Calafate,  we stayed for two days and went on an amazing catamaran tour of the glaciers.

View from the front deck of the boat.

View from the front deck of the boat.

Perito Moreno Glacier

Perito Moreno Glacier

Upsala Glacier

Upsala Glacier

Spegazzini Glacier

Spegazzini Glacier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From El Calafate, we continued north on route 40, rode by some of the most beautiful lakes I have ever seen.  We made it as far as Bajo Caracoles, before we decided to stop for the evening and spend the night.  The evidence of stickers on the gas pump at the station was proof that we were not the first bikes to roll through.  Of course, we just had to add our sticker too.

At the gas station/hotel in Bajo Caracoles.

At the gas station/hotel in Bajo Caracoles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next morning we rolled out early but only made is as far as Paso Rio where we found a Argentinian rodeo with plenty of gauchos strutting around sharply dressed.  Since we’d already experienced a rodeo in Mexico and Guatemala (more like running from the bulls/cows in Guatemala ) we decided to stay the night and found a place to camp across the street.  They had sheep shearing contests, barrel racing and one by one I watched riders climb into the backs of horses that were blindfolded, tied to poles, and as the horse was untied, the blind fold removed and the horse tried its best to buck the rider off and the rider tried to hang on until the bell rung.  When the bell rung, if the rider made it that long, two other riders would appear right along side the rider and lift him to safety while the horse continued bucking.  The riding was amazing and the gauchos very handsome, if I do say so myself.  After the rodeo was over, the music started and in true Latin America style, the music went well into the night and early morning hours.

Rode in carrying his beer, think it's a requirement for all the riders.

Rode in carrying his beer, think it’s a requirement for all the riders.

This is just about what riding my bike looks like

This is just about what riding my bike looks like now.

And yes, he made it the whole 8 seconds.

And yes, he made it the whole 8 seconds.

Today, we sit in Esquel, Argentina and are headed up to cross the border into Chile by Mamuil Malal which is the closest border crossing to Pucon, Chile.  Our return flight home is booked for February 15, 2017. In the meantime, we are hoping that our bikes will last for a little longer without anything major giving out so we can spend a little time traveling around Chile.  For the remainder of our time,  we  are now trying to stick to pavement, not always easy down here but we’ve trying.

 

 

Stepping Off the Pavement (it’s a long one)

I am sure that many people think that I am crazy for quitting my job to join my husband on this adventure of riding our motorcycles to South America. To be honest, that thought has crossed my mind many times also. I had finally reached a place in my life where in many ways I was content. I had great friends around me, financially we were doing better than we had ever done before and the area that I struggled with the most revolved around work and I had finally reached a place where I felt like I had found my perfect job.

Since 2003, I have been nursing in the hospital setting and ever since I was a nursing student I knew I wanted to become a wound care nurse. After much hard work, I became a Certified Wound and Ostomy Care Nurse and had a job that allowed me the opportunity to advance, with a great team to help support me, and a wonderful nurse manager. Like I said, I had found my perfect job. But even with the perfect job, I was still physically and emotionally exhausted much of the time and often left work frustrated from trying to do a good job in an environment where we were often short staffed. I had always told myself that when I got hospital experience under my belt I’d branch out into the community based setting where I hoped I could slow down a little and not only provide physical care but provide more emotional care also. But, I have to be honest here and admit that community nursing does not pay as well as hospital based nursing and I got to a place in my life where I was chasing the money.

At first I was chasing the money so we could get caught up with bills. Then I was chasing the money so we could pay off all of our debt. Then I was chasing the money so we could live on one income as my husband changed careers and pursued a dream to get his real estate license. Then I was chasing the money so he could build his real estate business. After a while we found ourselves almost completely debt free, minus a really small mortgage, and a few paid for properties, and still chasing the money. We found ourselves working long hours, exhausted; and me, still with this vague feeling of discontent. Our original “why” for the hours and way we worked no longer applied to us. Our original why, simply put, was to be debt free and we were so close to that goal that instead of pushing harder to get to the finish line, I found myself making choices that were slowing the process down rather than speeding it up.

Our “why” was to be debt free so we could live a life where we could consciously choose where and how to spend our time and money rather than have some debt owed to the bank or credit card company be the decider of how many hours we worked, whether I picked up an extra shift at the hospital, or how the money was spent after we got paid. We had lived like that for years and it caused a significant amount of stress in our lives, me especially. So together, we decided we’d do whatever was necessary to make sure we didn’t ever have to live that way again and that became our focus. Pay things off, buy with cash only, and save, save, save. In the meantime, life was passing by and we watched our friends take cruises, go on vacations to warm sunny places every winter, buy bigger houses, brand new cars, or just give in and file bankruptcy. All the while we saved our money, kept downsizing in house, and drove what we had until it broke down enough times that it wasn’t worth fixing anymore and then replaced it with another used vehicle. The Dave Ramsey mantra “Live like no one else, so later you can live like no one else” became our mantra.

After some reevaluation of what we both wanted, we realized that our “why” really had not changed entirely and that we were much closer to our goal than we realized. Our ”why”, we discovered was even simpler than just being debt free; it was freedom, not just with our money but with our time. The vehicle we had been using to get there was money and now the only thing that needed to change, or add to the equation, was another vehicle, and that vehicle just happened to be sitting in our garage, in the form of motorcycles.

Ever since I started to ride my own bike, I’ve experienced pure freedom when riding. For the girl who grew up lot of “shouldn’t messages”, the feelings I experience when riding eventually began to drown out those messages until I could no longer hear them, or they at least become reduced to a dull roar. Within a month after I got my first motorcycle (a BMW R1150R), I rode from the Tacoma Washington area to Hot Springs Montana for a weekend recovery based event. On the way over, I rode with a group that primarily consisted of Harley riders because I knew they’d go slow enough for me to feel comfortable. My husband, riding a BMW K1200 RS, stayed back to wait for a straggler who rode a FJR and I knew how they liked to ride, especially on the twisties, which I definitely didn’t feel ready to take at a high rate of speed but I also didn’t trust my sense of competitiveness to not attempt it anyways.

With the slower group, the ride over was relatively uneventful minus one of the bikes breaking down, but the ride back tested my abilities, courage and had a lot of twisties. I rode through torrential rains, snow, limited visibility, and went over passes that I definitely did not want to be riding on. And, as if the weather conditions weren’t bad enough, there were animals crossing the road at the most inopportune times. Also, along that route home (highway 20) there were moments and stretches of road that took me to places that I had never been before, experiencing it in a way that I never in my wildest dreams could have imagined. When I was home safe, I felt a sense of empowerment and freedom that I had never experienced before. It was the first of many cracks in the pavement of the nice safe road of life that I found myself.

For a while after that trip, I tried to avoid riding alone but when I did find myself alone, I carefully planned my route to include only back and side roads and only in areas that I was familiar with. Things I’d take into consideration consisted of time of day, was it close to rush hour or close to getting dark, were there any hills to climb and if so, was there a possibility I’d have to stop on the hill, what was the parking upon arrival, would there be other bikes that I would have to park around or near, or would there be enough room for me to park away from the other bikes, could I pull in to park or would I have to back my bike in. I know it sounds crazy now, but, as a new rider, these thoughts went through my head every time I considered pulling my bike out of the garage.

Fast forward to the next summer, we did our Montana trip again and I found my confidence had increased significantly during the past year and even more during the trip itself. I don’t remember what the riding conditions were for that trip but not long after arriving home, I decided that I was going to spend the weekend with some friends at a women’s only recovery camping event. I rarely attended women’s only events but a couple of my girlfriends rode and were going to ride there and I wanted so much to be part of. Unfortunately, I had to work and wouldn’t get off in time to ride with them, but with the knowledge that I’d get to return back to Tacoma with them, I decided to go.

That was the first time that I rode to an event where I had to take enough stuff for a weekend trip by myself. I packed up my bike and carried everything with me that I needed. No one threw my bag in their car and took it for me and there was no chase car to make sure I didn’t have any trouble along the way. I left in the evening after I got off work, found my way there following written directions, didn’t arrive until after dark, and found a place to park my bike. I felt self-sufficient, independent, and extremely proud of myself. It was at this event, during the Saturday night main speaker meeting, that I heard this woman Jesse talk about finding that “thing” that makes your hair blow back and then doing it. I don’t remember anything else she said but that phrase stuck with me and in that moment I knew for me that “thing” is riding. The message came at just the right time for me and a seed was planted that over the next eight years would continue to grow.

Now any kind of bike grabs my attention but what makes me sit up and take notice and ignites that spark inside for adventure is not those leather clad Harley riders who look like they’re exhausted riding across town, but those riders on the dual sport fully loaded bikes wearing the Aerostich suit that make me wonder where they’ve been and what they’ve seen. Over the past few years, I’ve felt drawn further and further down this path of adventure and wanting to ride longer and farther so in 2013, I upgraded to a bike made more for long distance touring, a BMW R1200RT. Although I loved my R1150R, it had no faring, only a sport windshield (which I was unwilling to change because I loved the look) and I was windbeat and exhausted halfway through the day. After my first short weekend trip on the RT, I thought I had the bike of my dreams. No longer was I windbeat, cold, or as exhausted at the end of the day, I was in heaven.

Our vacations stretched out longer and were usually spent traveling on our bikes for as long as we could comfortable leave work for. With no kids at home any longer we began talking about goals and dreams and how we wanted to spend our time and money. It was then that my husband brought up the promise that he made his mom to spread her ashes in Mexico and how he had always wanted to ride to Tierra del Fuego and so began the plan.

As we began to make plans to take this journey to Tierra del Fuego, we began to become even more self-contained on our bikes and to ride fully loaded from sunrise to long after sunset before we finally would stop to pitch our tent. During the day, our rest stops would consist of a quick pit-stop for refueling of both bike and body and then we’d be riding again. Sometimes I wouldn’t even bother to take my helmet off because each stop would just mean less time riding and less distance covered. Always during this time those thoughts of work and home responsibilities remained attempting to drown out that the feeling of freedom and being in the moment.

When we finally made the commitment that we were going to turn this dream of ours into a reality, we picked the date March 1, 2017 and posted it on a huge poster board sized paper stuck on our living room wall and started making notes on it of what we thought we’d need. We also began to search out and put people in our lives that would help build our belief system. Our first stop was at the local BMW shop, South Sound Motorcycles based in the Tacoma Washington area where we were told about Horizons Unlimited (HU). After a quick internet search, we knew that we needed to meet some of those people involved with HU so we registered for the closest travelers meeting we could find, which was August, 2015 in Nakusp, Canada. In the meantime, I searched for a local off-road riding class I could take, we continued gathering up supplies and took short motorcycle camping trips to test out our gear.

Poster that hung in our living room

Poster that hung in our living room

Break time at the PSSOR class, exhausted but happy

Break time at the Puget Sound Safety Off-Road (PSSOR) class, exhausted but happy

Had so much fun at the first class, I took the PSSOR class again.

Had so much fun at the first class, I took the PSSOR class again.

Nakusp, Canada Horizon's Unlimited Traveler's Meeting

Nakusp, Canada Horizon’s Unlimited Traveler’s Meeting

We originally had planned to pay off our mortgage completely, rent the house out and use that income along with money from other rentals to fund our trip. In less than a week of being home, we realized that we didn’t have to wait; we just had to make one final tweak in our plan and that final tweak was to sell our Tacoma home and with that one move we could fully fund our trip, make improvements to our property in California, and still have a little nest egg waiting for us when we got back.

It took that weekend at the HU travelers meeting for us to come to the realization that we had worked this hard and long so we could be exactly where we are today; the ability to be debt free, living in a paid for piece of property with some rental income to support us. So we took the plunge and put our house on the market. In two weeks we had a full-price offer and in a little over a month, we were packed up and headed to California.

Couldn’t we both have worked a little longer to save up more money? Of course we could have. Shouldn’t we both have worked a little longer to save up more money? Maybe, but then again, maybe those shouldn’t messages (you know the ones I am talking about that say you shouldn’t do that, it’s not practical; you shouldn’t do that, it’s not responsible; and the one that stops more people in their tracks, you shouldn’t do that cause it’s not safe) would have continued to win out and we never would have stepped off the ledge and just done it.

So as a final word of warning, be very careful if you ever decide to attend a Horizon’s Unlimited Traveler’s Meeting, because you just might find yourself with a for sale sign on your front lawn.

House for sale

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