You may have forgotten, but Annie and I actually live in the United States. Accordingly, we should probably go back there at some point. How we get there? Ay, there’s the rub.
I don’t feel like I’m being overly dramatic here.
What comes next is a huge decision.
If all goes according to plan over the coming weeks, I will successfully reach Salvador, Brazil. This coastal city will be the final song place in Latin America that I will check off of my list. Once I visit there, the only song places remaining will be in the US.
So how will Annie and I return to our home country? That, my friends, is the decision that I am faced with now.
I see two feasible ways: Either I ride all the way back, retracing paths I have already traveled or I put Annie in a crate, send her on a plane and we both fly back to the US.
In this post, I will attempt to discuss the pros and cons of both options. I’m hoping that putting it in writing will help me make the right decision as I reach this crossroad.
Option 1: Ride all the way home
Simple, right? Because of the ongoing turmoil in Venezuela (By the way, congratulations to President Nicolas Maduro who won last week’s “election” with 126% of the vote. You must be really popular…), my route back through South America would be something like this:
There’s no shorter way to get back to Colombia. The route will cover around 7,000 miles in South America, then about 4,000 more to get from Panama to my next song place, Houston, TX. So the total mileage would be around 11,000. I think I could complete it in 2-3 months.
I’ve tried to put a number on the expense of this option, including another round of Darien Gap shipping, all of the bogus border expenses in Central America, gas, food, lodging, replacement parts…it’s tough to know for sure. I think the best range I can estimate is $2,800 (if all goes well) to $4,500 (if nothing goes well),
-Probably the cheaper option.
-Get the opportunity to ride across the Amazon Jungle. Sure to be an experience.
-See things that I missed on the way down.
-Reconnect with people that I’ve met along the way (Ecuafamilia, friends in Mexico, etc..)
-More true to the song: “I’ve traveled ev’ry road in this here land.” This factor cannot be understated. I’ve tried so hard to be respectful of this experience (for example, visiting Schefferville rather than an easier place like “Schaefferville” or “Shepherdsville.”). If I’m going to be the first person to complete this journey, I want to make sure I do it the right way.
-More chance of a major mechanical issue in a place where it would be very difficult to repair.
-More time in dangerous places.
-Having to find a way around the Darien Gap…again.
-Having to negotiate all of the Central American borders….again.
-I could get so worn out that I would not be enjoying the journey anymore.
-More time away from family and friends.
-Nicaragua was calm when I went through, but there is a lot of unrest there right now.
Annie is set up fairly well for this. Only a handful of mechanical things would need to be done to do this extra mileage: One or two more oil changes, one more rear tire, one valve adjustment, new chain and sprockets, possibly one more set of brake pads. I’m getting to the point where I should probably flush coolant and replace brake fluid, but I think I have the tools necessary for those jobs.
Option 2: Ship the bike home
For obvious reasons, Annie is never going into a shipping container again. Accordingly, I would be looking at air freight to send her back home. I have sent emails to a number of companies but have yet to hear any definite responses as far as numbers. This method, too, is hard to estimate. It’s not just the cost of the shipping. I have to factor in the cost of my ticket, the port fees, lodging while waiting, etc. I estimate the total costs for this method to be $3,500 to $5,000.
-It’s fast. Almost like magic!
-There is less variation in the expense. Even though it would probably cost more, there would be less chance of unexpected costs.
-I would be able to complete my goal sooner.
-I would be back in the US in a better season to complete the rest of the places. (Though Crater Lake, Oregon is the most northern one remaining.)
-It feels wrong. It feels like I am cheating
-Probably more expensive in total.
-I would miss out on some of the things I neglected to see on the way down.
Other notes: I think I should maybe not dwell too much on the expenses. It’s going to be a substantial amount either way. I should probably let the other factors be my guide.
As much as I’ve loved my time in Latin America, it has been difficult. It is tempting to take this easier way home, especially when I consider how the final chapter of this journey will feel. Honestly, it’s going to feel like a victory lap after all that has transpired. A nice easy loop around the western US. Through places where I will probably have no language barrier. 🙂
There are other creative ways that may mix these two methods. Since the Darien Gap still lies in my path, I will have to do some shipping either way. If I ride back, maybe I could find a shipping path from Salvador to Panama? Or maybe from Bogota to Mexico City? I would be open to any of these options as well, but it’s hard to know where to start looking.
I’m feeling some pressure right now, since my upcoming route will depend a lot upon which option I choose. I almost feel a little tentative about where to go next, since it could mean that I have to backtrack later on. Because of this, I’m hoping to make a decision on this front within the next week. No pressure, right?
I’ve known for years that this decision would ultimately need to be made. I think I thought that some collection of circumstances would almost make it for me, and that I would have a clear direction upon reaching this point. Unfortunately (or perhaps, fortunately) I don’t have a strong leaning one way or the other at this point. Some days I think it seems obvious to ride back, other days I have a hard time imagining adding that many miles.
If anyone has any input about this decision I would be glad to hear it. Also, if any followers of this quality publication have access to a private jet with room for a motorcycle, let me know. 🙂
One more note:
I’m pretty sure that I am going to be making a change to one of the song places: La Paloma. I initially had this as being sort of a neighborhood in Texas, down by Brownsville, but there does not appear to be too much there.
I’ve discovered a couple more La Palomas: One in Paraguay and one in Uruguay. They are both more populous than the Texas locale, so I think they would take precedence in terms of “notoriety.” I’m leaning towards the Uruguay city at this point, as Paraguay has a $160 visa fee for US citizens.
Alright! I feel kind of bad spending so many valuable words on this when I have lots to catch up on, but I feel like this is an important turning point. Years from now, I will probably consider this choice as either the best or worst decision of the trip.