Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Long Road Home

Our trip officially ended in the parking lot of the Argentinian equivalent of Walmart on Saturday March 14, 2009 at 5:46 p.m. After traversing the most spectacular and difficult terrain on earth Marty and I ended up lost in Lanus, Argentina on a Saturday afternoon and took refuge in the Carrefour parking lot. But don't cry for me Argentina, we had a friend come and lead us safely to her house in Lanus Oeste and declared the ride successfully completed. My odometer reads 23,721 miles, for a total trip of 16,768 miles or about a zillion kilometers.

The last couple of weeks have been stressful because we finally had the major breakdown we knew would come. On March 2 the fuel pump on Marty's bike just died 56 km south of Cerro Sombrero, Chile on the Island of Tierra Del Fuego. There are more remote and inconvenient places to break down I am sure, but I can't name any!! The motorcycle just died in the middle of the dirt road. We were able to push it onto an estancia and get it out of the wind in a little sheep shed.

The nice thing about Patagonia is people will actually help you. So we waived down a passing truck, got a ride into Cerro Sombrero, and the local hotel operator arranged for a guy with a truck to help us fetch the broken bike and haul it more than 200 miles to Punta Arenas. This trip would take two days and involve a ferry crossing across the Straights of Magellan.

We tested things in the sheepshed and originally thought it was the fuel pump on Monday. And a mechanic reinforced the diagnosis on Thursday. So we had been broken down for 3 full days by time we could even start to order parts. Let me say up front that the BMW dealer in Santiago was not helpful at all. If I have the chance to avoid doing business with Williams and Balfour again I will relish it. They charged $1000 for a $300 part that should not have broken in the first place, then failed to ship it. Their excuse was that they needed the original credit card. It was necessary in the end to have a friend in Santiago go to their office, pay them cash and arrange shipping. By the time it was all said and done the part arrived 4 days late on Tuesday afternoon. The only saving feature of this episode is that the part was in Chile.

By now our mechanic was out of town. So I installed the new pump and prayed that it was the real problem. It was. We had just enough battery left to crank the engine and get it to turn over. Elated is the only way to describe the feeling when the engine thumped back to life.

So the last four days of the trip took two weeks. The winds of Patagonia are now behind me. I haven't seen a Guanaco ( South American Camel) for 6 days now. The climate and landscape changed about 800 miles ago, and the end of the earth is now behind me.

We are going to ship the bikes tomorrow. They have lost that new look, but today we did bring them to the car wash to remove the protective layer of grime, sand, and dust that has held them together for the past four months. I also discovered some cracks in places there should not be cracks. And I have started the list of repairs that will be needed when we get back to Omaha.

So that's the trip, unless I get hit by a bus on the way to the port tomorrow to crate the machines.