Tag Archives: camping

An American Wereboy in Sudamerica: Year end recap.

One year on the road. Un ano. An excellent adventure and bogus journey. The throttle was turned and old New York was spied in the mirror in June of 2011. Since then we’ve spent most of our time in Latin America, through Mexico, down Central America way, over the Darien and into Colombia, then Ecuador, and now Peru. Patagonia was always the goal, and it still is, but I never really actually thought I would make it this far en serio. And indeed it is far and a long way to come on an old moto and in stinky boots.

Sure, few great truths are revealing themselves, few insights.

But look, it was never that kind of trip.

A great DJ once asked me, “Subcommandante, after all this is over, how will you adjust back to civilian life?”

The truth is that I never really adjusted to it anyway. So it’ll be more or less the same.

I’m just living my life, one peso at a time.

…but never mind that.

We’re in Peru now where the death roads bring new life when you’re staring into the eyes of the beast and crazy, muddy, rocky dirt roads with vertiginous drops blow us away like we’re listening to an old-school Maxwell tape.


On speaking Spanish:
After 8 months in Latin America I can faithfully say that I am a beginner level Spanish speaker. You hear a lot of people throw out the platitude that they can speak Spanish well enough to order food. The truth is that ordering food is one of the harder things to do while speaking Spanish in Latin America. It’s a process that is entirely different than ordering up a cheeseburger in the states. Every country and every different region of each country has different names for everything and, like an imaginary linguistic wall is set up between them, no one knows the words that other places use for different foodstuffs. Menus only exist in upscale joints and sometimes I don’t know what I’m going to get. It’s cool though and I don’t mind. The set lunch is a common thing down here and it’s something that I think we used to have in the states but disappeared a long time ago. It’s like the menu of the day but it’s super cheap, between $1.50 and $4 for the most part wherever you go and it comes with a soup, main dish with meat, starch and vegetable, a glass of juice, and sometimes a little something for desert. It’s really a great deal and it’s enough food for two people. En serio, my spanish is not that bad. It should be better, but I’m lazy. I never study my notes from Xela and I’m a loner man, a rebel, and care little for small talk anyways. And yet, I get by. Here I am.

But hey c’mon man, you got your whole life riding around in that rubbermaid top-box. What if somebody looks in there!?

Relax Billy, they won’t even know what it is man, they won’t even know what it is.

Che Guevara. Who was Che Guevara?

I dunno, some dude I guess. Latins and hipsters and gente the world over love their romantic losers, killed on mountaintops and emblazoned on t-shirts the world over. Best to die, but better to die for a cause.

I’m not going to tell you to go out and buy Che Guevara’s biography. I didn’t. I was going to, in a bookstore in Phoenix, but it was like 900 pages and weighed a metric ton. Couldn’t they have condensed it into a 200 page paperback? Louis L’Amour could’ve done it. I just wanted to know why those dreamy eyes are staring at me from a million t-shirts and car bumpers.

I read the wikipedia article and washed my hands of the whole thing. Fidel won his revolution, but there are no Fidel t-shirts and the reason is obvious. What if Guevara had won?

Che Guevara’s first name is Ernesto, but everyone called him Che because he used the word Che a lot. Che is like saying dude, or man, in American English. If Che Guevara grew up in Mexico instead of Argentina, everyone would have called him Guey Guevara. Because that’s what they say a lot in old Mexico.

I don’t care about dead revolutionaries and It’s not my fight anyway and so the mind drifts to other, more important things.


To go on forever, would be ideal.

The Salton and Camp Zero. One of the last great American wastelands which can never be forgotten.

Lusting for the sun on top of old Tajumulco down old Guatemala way, guey.

I was in Xela, Guatemala for nearly two months and everything revolved around the Miguel de Cervantes School of Spanish. They surprisingly had these neatly constructed ramps to get motorcycles up the two feet of steps and into the narrow hallway. I never fell but the thought of being pinned in the doorway with a hot exhaust pipe burning my leg to the bone was always there.

The Mexican experience summed up in this neat little sign, spied in San Cristobal.

Temascal, or Native American sweat lodge, had down in old Mazunte town.

Brain food baby. I miss Mexico…so long ago.

Free waffle breakfasts at the Roadrunner Hostel in Tucson taste alright to the desert drifter. Plans to dip south of the border materialized here. Who opens a hostel in Tucson?

Worlds tallest flag pole (it isn’t) in Calipatria, California. It was well over a hundred degrees that day and I was alright with that.

Saguaro cactus at the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Just south of Why, Arizona and bordering old Mexico, thousands of Saguaro reach and twist towards the sky in all sorts anthropomorphic shapes. I was camped out here, under a million stars, awakened by a Black Hawk border patrol helicopter hovering over my tent.

The Cabazon dinos and the end of the road for the great American adventure.

The Alvord desert. We had finally done it, reached the true West after the Alaskan adventure. A memory never fleeting, the Alvord will always reign supreme.

Dude, the Arctic Circle. Way up North. An incredible day really. I would do the Dempster in the rain and in the mud all the way up to Circle and back without pause. Over 500 miles and skies that stretch forever.

Hyder, Alaska. No small feat indeed. Hyder is this little thumb of America reachable by road that juts into British Colombia off the Cassiar Highway on the way to real Alaska. It felt good to be back on American soil, if only for an hour or so, and out of stinky ol’ Canada.

Ah, the melodious mambo beats of Captain Louis Prima. Who can forget lil’ Kevin and his homestead up in Northern Maine? I can’t, what with all his pianos and what not. This guy was a real surprise. An original.

It’s hard to beat Abi’s Adirondack cabin for a first night’s lodging’s. First day out was cold and wet and awful and my rain pants ripped to shreds, a harbinger of things to come.

This weird tomato from Morelia still makes me giggle and the memory of seeing a little girl that looked like French actor Jean Reno just minutes after purchase will forever be intertwined.

Ceiling of the LA Metro. Thousands of real reels line the ceiling for as far as the eye can see. I thought this was a nice touch. Each station has something different adorning the ceilings or walls.

Canyon of the Gods. No great American road trip can ever be complete without visiting the Grand Canyon. Check it off the list dog.

Teacup terrier shots are the thing to do on one’s 29th birthday in Los Angeles.

Why, Arizona. A great campsite under a great tree. The CB looks so cleeeeeean, a handsome ride.

Where’s the beef? The food in Mexico was amazing, inspirational even, the best in Latin America and the best I’ve seen yet in the world. I haven’t seen anything like it since, not even in Ecuador where they gobble down guinea pigs for breakfast. Sure, that’s different, but I don’t really want to eat guinea pigs. I just ate one because it’s the thing to do. But I could eat head tacos everyday. American food is boring, bland even, but the things we do we do well. New York pretzels and pizzas, a cheeseburger at any diner in America, a cheap fat steak, and a good beer are the things I miss most here in Latin America. They sell pizza in Latin America, but it’s universally terrible, and usually expensive because of the price of cheese. Most of it is sort of like Elios type stuff. The pizza place I used to work at on Long Island would cut the good cheese with the cheap to save money, the good sauce with the bad. I don’t want to know what they do here. Beef is expensive here too, and the hamburgers and cheeseburgers are always thin joints, all slathered in sauces and messy, salty, and disappointingly small. They use “super” a lot to describe the ones that come with cheese but they’re never super, and I always feel just a little bit sorry for my latino brethren because their super cheeseburgers aren’t super at all, but sad. Pitiful even. Maybe  as we inch closer to the pampas the beef situation will get better. No se che, vamos a ver.

But yea, I just miss the regular stuff about being an American in America. Bacon and eggs for breakfast, taking a shit in a clean bathroom, being comfortable and warm and snug, and even the law and order of it all I miss at times. Les extrano mis amigos and amigettes.

But I wouldn’t be here in Latin America if I didn’t want to be.

I’m going to miss Latin America wherever I go next. A lot. The people here might be xenophobic dicks sometimes(who isn’t?) but they are unpretentious and you can ride a motorcycle nearly anywhere. On the sidewalk, through buildings, or down one-way streets and no one cares. Motos are looked at here kind of like the way bicycles are in the states. And go ahead and climb a live volcano if you want to because no one will turn you away.

And when all this is said and done, I don’t know where I’ll end up. Probably America. There are no jobs down here in Latin America anyway. You can teach English and make $5 an hour and scrape by, or rent out your abs to washerwomen for less, but neither is a real option; maybe for a little while.

Just remember that wherever you go, people are going to be the same, no matter the tongue.

Predictable.

There are scant originals out there, though it’s been told that but a few hooligans still roam the roads, searching for something that they will never find.

strangers in a strange land

…with thoughts of the West continuously swirling inside their heads.

That’s it yo.

No regrets…well, maybe a few, but the trip isn’t over yet and they will be made up for.

The heat is on and it’s never been hotter.

See you in Patagonia putas.

Meet me across the sky.

On the ubiquitousness of the common “Bic” lighter

Bic

The all-too common Bic lighter

Ah, the common “Bic” type lighter. Know that this is the most useful and practical fire implementation device on the markey today. Now, I know what you’re all thinking Amigo, that the Zippo is the best and most practical and sexy fire starting, cigarette lighting device on the market today and the only one that fits the archetype of the sexy lone traveller. Of course, the Zippo-type lighter fits the archetype. There is nothing chillingly cooler than lighting a stranger’s cigarette with a Zippo (or a cleverly struck Ohio blue-tip match for that matter). However, anyone that has ever owned a Zippo recently knows that they are cumbersome little beasts that are inconsistent fire makers at best. Zippos run out of their fuel, a lot. Even if you dont use them often, the fuel will evaporate and you will need to fill them up again. The flint needs replacing often. Sometimes you have to change the wick. If you’re travelling that means you have to carry all this shit around with you or buy it somewhere, if you can find it. It is expensive, all this stuff. So you have to ask yourself, do you own the lighter or does the lighter own you Amigo?

The simple plastic lighter can be found everywhere on earth. They last nearly forever and cost around $1. I have never ran out of fuel in one of these things. I’ve always lost them first. They are like pens. Occasionallly we run out of ink but we usually lose our pens first (Both items made by Bic, also). They are nearly indestructible. I found one on the beach recently that worked and I took it home. Indeed, these things can be left in a pocket or a drawer for years and they will light up as if they were new. They are the harbingers of a new, brave world! The modern age!

Ha, yes but they actually work! There are few new age plastic disposable gadgets that trump old-timey craftsmanship. Godamn Zippos are beautiful contraptions, shiny and bright and sexy, but in practicality they are beat on all fronts by the ubiquitous plastic lighter. Know that plastic lighters and pens will survive the upcoming apocalypse and surprise even the cockroaches with their post-mortem practicality.

On the Ubiquitousness of the Common Bandanna

 

Bandanna Usage

No great expedition is ever completed without someone wearing a bandanna. Look, if you don’t want t wear your bandanna around your neck like a real adventurer that’s fine I guess. However, the usefulness of this common everday item cannot be discounted. Bandannas can be had at nearly any gas station or olde tyme 99 cent shoppe anywhere on earth. They are cheap and cost less than or equal to $1. Worn about the neck or tucked into the back pocket, they are an indispensable tool that the pilgrim can use to fight the powers that be.

With a bandanna you can do many things.

You can check your oil with it.

You can wipe your hands with it.

You can blow your nose in it.

You can put it over your nose and mouth to disguise yourself or filter air.

You can wrap it up with a plastic bag, put some grease on it, roast it over the fire, and use it as a dirty susan.

You can use it as a sling.

You can shield your neck from the wind with it.

You can filter water with it.

You can use it as a rag.

Your bandanna washes easily and dries quickly.

Your bandanna is durable and may outlive you.

Your bandanna weighs nothing and is a simple imperative tool.

Do not be caught without it.

Sir Tarps-a-lot

Pilgrims of Pleiades set up their Ultimate Tarp*

*Pilgrims of Pleiades, the original Tarpmasters who first turned me on to the sheer usefulness of the tarp. True Kings of the Road, the Pilgrims are rubber trampin’ it throughout the Universe.

On the importance of staying dry:

No great expedition is completed without one getting at least a little bit wet. However, the novelty of getting a bit wet is different than the experience of getting fucking soaked and being cold. This will ruin a day and can destroy your mindset. Whether backpacking or on a bike, you are out in the world at all times and living wet is no way to live. Remember this: humans are land mammals with scant hair and no gills.

The boy scout motto applies in this regard: always a carry a fucking tarp.

Tents with waterproof rain flys are, of course, a requirement; however, you need to carry some sort of tarp if you are serious about your expedition. You can try to cook in your tent but it is not advisable due to the possibility of fire.

Travel tip: Do not cook in your tent.

If you set your tent on fire you may also catch on fire. Even so, your sleeping bag and all your other shit (sleeping pad, clothes, passport, money, etc.) will also catch aflame and be destroyed. And even more so, all the aforementioned shit is expensive and hard to replace for the cheap road warrior. Tarps can be had anywhere for a pittance (and at times improvised or found) and therefore it is not a death spell if your tarp catches on fire.

Travel tip: Do not light your tarp on fire.

Spending time in your tent with the rain fly on and the sides zipped up is fine at night when it is raining and cold and dark. Spending time zipped up into your tent at most other times is a terrible way to live, especially if all your shit is wet.

Know this and you will always bring your tarp.

Repeat if over and over again like a mantra so that you never forget.

You can string up your tarp and cook under it.

You can put your clothes and boots under it.

You can put it under your expensive tent as added protection against rocks and sharp things.

you can cover your bike with it.

You can make a lean-to with it.

You can wrap yourself in it like a bivvy.

You can drape it over some freshly cut saplings and make a sweatlodge in it.

Your tarp weighs nothing and packs small.