Our Latin American chapter reaches its conclusion with the help of some new and old friends. This post covers a lot of information, as this portion of the journey ended with a bang.
Friday, October 12th, 2018 (cont.)
Taco Bell ended up providing my first meal back on American soil. Perhaps a strange choice, as I now had months worth of authentic Latin cuisine to compare it to.
Culture Shock #1: A meal now costs more than $4!
I was a little apprehensive about what was coming next. Annie was still in a box in Bogota, I only had a backpack worth of basic supplies and I no clear plan. But even as I chomped down my burrito, some caring conspirators were formulating a way to take care of me.
Intrepid readers of this quality publication may remember a brief encounter with some fellow bloggers in Panama City, Elizabeth and Jeff, way back in February.
We were getting our vehicles inspected before shipping out to different continents. Annie and I to South America; Elizabeth, Jeff and “Eldo” (their trusty Jeep Cherokee) to Europe. We had a nice time chatting, exchanged info and have kept tabs on each other’s travels during the following months. Here is their website: Travel Ur Dreams
They are Florida natives and offered to help me out once I was back in their home state. …and help they did! It was through them that I met my new friends Andreina and Jake. These people were ridiculously hospitable to agree to help out a random friend of a friend in their city.
They were very interesting people. Andreina is Venezuelan-German and speaks about ten languages. 🙂 She’s traveled a lot and has a heart for helping others. I really enjoyed getting to know her. Jake works in production for reality TV shows and was able to discuss with me the finer points of Weezer’s Blue Album. Suffice it to say, I hit it off really easily with them.
They invited me to stay at their apartment at took me out to a local watering hole that evening. I got to meet some of their friends and had a great time. It’s hard to explain, but it was the most “normal” I had felt in some months.
Culture shock #2: A beer costs $7 here!
Saturday, October 13th
I hung at Andreina’s and Jake’s through the morning, getting some work done. I was waiting for final confirmation from Veronica, my shipping agent in Bogota, that Annie would be on the flight that she had said. Around 2pm, it was confirmed that Annie was on her way. Phew!
Jake took me on a long drive over to the aiport, sacrificing a large part of his afternoon. He took me around to a few different offices until I finally found the right one. Before going into the customs office, I tried to think of all the Spanish vocabulary I would need to explain my shipping situation. Suddenly it hit me: I’ll just use English!
Culture Shock #3: I can actually say what I’m thinking here! This is amazing!
My interaction with the guy behind the desk was pretty brief.
Him: …so you’re an American citizen.
Me: Yes, I’m from Nebraska.
Him: …..you know the Huskers lost again today, right?
Me: Yes, I am aware of that. Thank you. Scott Frost will eventually lead us to the promised land.
He informed me that I could not begin the process until I had the Bill of Lading (BOL henceforth). I would only receive that after the plane had landed. He advised me to go wait at the office of the airline until it came in. It was about a mile walk through the swampy humidity, but my spirits were not dampened. I felt like things were going to go my way.
I set up shop in the lobby of the airline office, just sitting and waiting. Interestingly enough, the vast majority of business here was conducted in Spanish. Ten months prior, I would have been helplessly confused. Now I was still confused, but a little less helpless. 🙂
The ladies were patient with my repetitive questions about the location of the plane. Around 4pm, I had the news I had been so desperately awaiting. The plane had touched down. They provided me with the BOL and I hightailed it back over to customs.
Surprisingly, I noticed that I was running. I don’t think I had made a conscious effort to do so, but I was dead set to doing anything in my power to retrieve Annie this day. I barged into the customs office, a disheveled, sweaty mess, and easily received the stamps I needed on my BOL.
Culture Shock #4: Wait…no lines? No strange fees? No five hour lunch break? No full cavity search? This country is amazing! USA! USA! USA!
I jogged back to the airline office, victoriously presenting the document which would ransom this story’s high-flying heroine. I was ushered into the receiving area and instantly recognized the paneled prism containing my precious package. After a short forklift ride…
…and a little bit of crowbar action…
…we were reunited!
A number of Spanish-speaking workers gathered around to see this strange piece of cargo. I had fun telling about my trip to this wide eyed audience. A few of them helped me lift Annie onto her center stand. From there, I could do the rest by myself.
I gotta be honest. This moment was one of the best of the whole trip. When I crossed into Mexico, a part of me wondered if that was the last time Annie would be on American soil. Latin America is tough on a bike and I knew a lot of things could happen that might end her trip. This will probably sound really cheesy, but I was so proud of her.
I knew that I still had lots of work to do. Annie was further dismantled than at any point during the trip.
I wonder where all of this stuff goes?
As balmy day gave way to refreshing night, Annie put her tires down on American pavement.
Around 11pm, we were finally rolling!
(I must have been caught up in the moment. Always wear your helmet, kids.)
First time using a gas pump in ten months:
Jake and Andreina graciously allowed me to stay at their place for one more night. I can’t say enough about what these people did for a a complete stranger. I was so well cared for.
Sunday, October, 14th
After a peaceful night’s rest, is was time to get back on the road. I got some signatures before heading out. I told Andreina about the casual competition among German speakers to write the longest possible German word on Annie. She broke the record easily:
This 42 letter monstrosity, Globetrottermotorradhelmschutzsonnenbrille, roughly translates to: “The sun shade protector on the motorcycle helmet of a world traveler.” It beat out the 30-letter, “Donauschifffahrtskapitänsmütze” (The hat of the captain of a ship on the Danube river). Yeah, German is crazy.
Guess what time it is? Map time!
I had an easy ride on the day, aiming to stop in to Sarasota (place 48 of 92) for the second time on my trip. I took a little longer route which would take me through the northern part of the Everglades.
I enjoyed the swampy scenery and got to glimpse a couple of alligators on the day.
At one of the rest stops I saw a pickup camper sporting an Argentina flag. I knew I would be making some new friends shortly.
The camper was piloted by Laura and Dante, a couple from Cordoba, Argentina. I had visited this place back in THIS POST. Like me, they weren’t just traveling. They were on a mission.
They set a goal to visit every place called “Cordoba” in the Western Hemisphere. How cool! There is a Cordoba, Alaska which they had already visited. They had already covered 25,000 miles when I met them.
Here is their website: Las Cordobas
It is rare to meet people doing something as unnecessary as I am! 🙂
The rest of my ride was calm and uneventful. I did have one more culture shock moment.
Culture shock #5: People riding 80mph on the freeway with no helmet. In Latin America, they may wear flip-flops and a tank top, but a helmet is required in each country.
My destination in Sarasota was a familiar stop: My friends Roger and Wendy. They hosted me during my initial visit back in THIS POST. They were the photographers for one of my best song place photos:
…and the owners of the bathtub where I nearly met my bubbly demise:
Even though we had only spent a short time together, it felt like reuniting with lifelong friends. They took me out for a lavish (to me at least) supper and I had a great time catching up with them. They had given me a gift when I last visited which I used to purchase my current pair of boots:
In hindsight, asking them to hold these odoriferous items was not very thoughtful of me. Thanks for taking one for the team, Roger and Wendy. 🙂
Their house was full so they secured lodging for me with some church friends, Bob and Joan. I was welcomed into their abode by the sound of the Chiefs-Patriots Sunday Night Football game already in progress. This was the night when I fully began to buy in to the Patrick Mahomes hype.
I really enjoyed getting to know them and felt so honored that they would take in a complete stranger like me.
Monday, October 15th
They made me a great breakfast that would power me through the rest of the day. I tried to keep my mouth perpetually full so I would keep from making a comment about Joan’s Denver Broncos shirt. 🙂
With more precious memories from more new friends, I was ready to hit the road once more.
I had an aggressive goal of reaching NW Georgia on the day. 600 miles is nearly impossible in Latin America, but on the freeways of the US, the miles just fly by.
I received a message from Jeff and Elizabeth (the friends of my Miami hosts) who said that I should stop in Gainesville to meet Elizabeth’s Mom. I was eager to make steady progress on the day, but an invitation for lunch was too much to pass up.
Kathy welcomed me right in and we got to know each other easily. It was interesting to hear the perspective of the mother of a world traveler. She has a world map where Elizabeth brings her little charms from the places she visits. Neat idea.
Kathy’s boyfriend, Denny, joined us for a great lunch which was punctuated with Florida’s exclamation point: Key lime pie.
I’m not sure exactly how it started, but somehow we got to singing. Both Kathy and Denny have great voices and Denny can play multiple instruments. I had to at least get one short video:
Denny accompanied my singing of “I’ve Been Everywhere” with very tasteful mandolin playing. I asked if he wanted to come on the road with me, but unfortunately he had other plans. 🙂 This was another great stop on my way home. It was absolutely worth my time.
I had helmet-cam issues on the day, so I don’t have too much media. They roads were some of the most boring that I’d seen in a long time, but it was easy going.
Culture shock #6: Terrible gas mileage! The mixture of higher average speeds and (in my opinion) lower quality gas, killed my efficiency numbers. I should have shipped home some of that wonderful Ecuadorian gas.
My home in Summerville, Georgia would be with some familiar friends: Jim and Susan. I first met them behind the Hank Snow museum on a Sunday morning in Nova Scotia. They hosted me during my first pass through Georgia and were gracious enough to allow me a second pit stop at their beautiful country home. It was after 10 by the time I arrived, but they left a light on for me.
We caught up just briefly before I reintroduced myself to one of the most welcoming rooms of my whole trip.
Tuesday, October 16th
I decided to allow myself one day off on my ride home. This was it. It was hard to get a lot of work done, since I was eager to catch up with my hosts, but I think I found a good balance on the day. I showed Susan some of my left over currency from various countries and she had it sorted before I even knew it. 🙂
Again, I just felt like these were old friends that I had known forever. It was such a pleasure to be around them and they spoiled me rotten during our brief time together.
Wednesday, October 17th
I said farewell to my generous Georgians and got on the road at a decent time.
I knew I would have a day full of interstate riding, so I enjoyed my small sampling of country roads.
Spoiler alert: This would end up being the longest day of the whole trip:
It was not in plan to ride all the way home on this day, but I was definitely rarin’ to go. The day is kind of a blur as I look back on it. I passed through 9 different states en route to the longest riding day of life. 938 miles ended up being the final tally.
I don’t have too much media or stories for the day. I had one unfortunate run-in with a truck driver who apparently has never heard of zipper merging. This is the most efficient way for traffic lanes to converge. It is common throughout pretty much the whole world. I guess Northern Tennessee is an exception. He intentionally swung his truck in front of me to block my progress. Through restraint, I was able to keep my most expressive finger securely in its scabbard.
Culture shock #7: North American drivers are really over-sensitive. I could expand on this theme quite a bit, but I’m already running long on words….
The states kept flying by as I stayed focused on my task. I was really locked in. Around St. Louis, I made the final decision to make a run at home. Around Colombia, I had a nice sunset.
The lights of Arrowhead Stadium were lit up (just for me, I think) as I sped through Kansas City. I was getting really cold by this point.
Crossing the border into Nebraska felt like entering a mythical land. So much had transpired since Annie and I were in our home state.
As the lights of Lincoln came in to view I was very emotional, but not in the way I would have thought. I started laughing…and I couldn’t really stop. My mind was flooded with so many improbably moments from the year behind me. There was nothing to do but to laugh, I guess.
I honestly entertained the idea of riding up to Norfolk, where my parents live, to surprise them. I knew that would put me over 1,000 miles on the day. I was on such an adrenaline high, that I felt like I could ride all night. However, I couldn’t resist the pull of my own warm bed.
…and so ends Chapter 3.
Stay shocking, everybody
Realtime update: First things first: Happy Mother’s Day to my amazing Mom! She’s been present for some memorable moments already and I’m sure the most memorable are to come, as she will be a passenger for part of my final chapter.
Other than that, I’m feeling a little stressed at the moment. My list of things to do before I depart seems to be inexplicably growing longer. We were originally planning to hit the road tomorrow, but the 18th or 19th seems most likely. I still have some mechanical things to do, some writing to finish up, lots of correspondence to catch up on and some other business to attend to. It’s going to be a wild week.
Up next will be my third “State of the Trip Address.” I’m not sure if I’m going to wear a tie or not….