The time has come. A note to family and friends and riding buddies. A little summary of what has happened recently and the adventure we are now initiating. As most of you know, I retired from Hughes Aircraft 2˝ years ago. I started at Hughes in 1976, and I feel very fortunate to have made it to retirement based on the fact that from 1989 to my retirement in June of 2003, it was layoff after layoff. I witnessed the complete closure of the Fullerton facility where 17,000 people once worked. It is now a mall and high priced homes. I transferred to the Delco division, located in Santa Barbara, from 1992 to 1997. That plant has also been closed, along with the 1,500 people that worked there. In an attempt to make it to retirement, I transferred to the Satellite Division in El Segundo, California. I finally made the numbers and retired. The job was good, but the commute nearly killed me. A lot of you know the story. If you don’t, this link will explain the near end of my career (http://www.ploung.com/rough_landing.htm).
As luck would have it, I worked for 2˝ for Tom Greninger and WorldLink Insurance. The goal was to sell his company. The task is now complete and the company is sold. It was this opportunity that is making possible this next adventure and chapter in life.
Ten years ago Sandy and I rode our motorcycle through Mexico to the Yucatan Peninsula, then on to Belize and Guatemala. It was great adventure. Thirty days and 8,000 miles. The only problem was that it should have been a 6 month trip.
After the airplane crash referenced above, we had extra cars to dispose of. In January of 2003 we drove our Oldsmobile as far south as you can. That trip included Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and finally Panama. It was an exciting trip. We came within 15 miles of a kidnapping in the Darien Jungle. On the same day we ventured into the Darien Jungle, the author of our guide book, Robert Pelton, was taken hostage by Columbian rebels. They released him 10 long days later. His Indian guides were murdered. The name of the guide book was “The World’s Most Dangerous Place”. Ironic?
In August of 2003 we drove our red Oldsmobile as far north as possible. My sister and her husband joined in on the trip. Again, the only problem was we drove to northern Alaska in 2 weeks. It should have been a 2 month trip. We swore that we would never compress a trip into a restrictive time frame.
We are embarking on the first part of traveling around the world on a motorcycle. The adventure will be over the next 4 to 5 years. Based on the physical requirements and age issues, we will be doing the roughest part of the journey first. For the next 1˝ years we are off to South America. The motorcycle has been crated and shipped. It is now clearing customs in Miami. As soon as it clears customs and is loaded on a ship bound for Guayaquil, Ecuador, will we be off to wait for its arrival in Ecuador. Our goal is to head south from Ecuador, through Peru, Bolivia and Chile during the balance of this year. We will return home for Christmas. Then, during 2006, we head back to Chile, then Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil and Venezuela. At times I am sure we will get lonely for family and friends, but during February of 2006 we have 3 riding buddies joining us for our travels through the Lake District of southern Chile. Should be fun!
Preparing for the adventure has been much more intense than we thought. Every waking hour during the last 6 months has been spent getting ready (well, almost…. I have squeezed a few rides in here and there). We have had to prepared and equip the old BMW motorcycle, negotiate with doctors to get 6 months of prescriptions, purchase evacuation insurance, purchase a world phone which will work in all the countries of South America, purchase and learn how to use a Satellite phone (if needed for emergencies in the jungles or in the Andes), purchased a ruggedized laptop computer and GPS. We have both had $1,000 worth of shots for illnesses which we can’t pronounce. And paper work! Foreign travel on an airliner is relatively easy. Transport, export and importing motorcycles into 3rd world countries is not!
In addition, we have scanned 100's of pictures out of our collection of old books on South America. Part of our plan is attempt to locate the exact location of the pictures and then take pictures from exactly the same angle as that of many years ago. A kind of "Then and Now" photo journey!
The Reason or “The Finger Pointing”
Why are we doing it? During the last few weeks I have been asking myself the same question. I have woken up at night trying to identify the answer. We have been studying for the trip for the last ten years. If you have seen my office at home, you have seen our library with over 300 travel adventure books printed from the mid 1800’s to the mid 1900’s. But doing research for an adventure is different than actually heading off for 1˝ years.
I believe the answer to the reason why we are going is music. As a small child, my parents would drive from Minneapolis to Acapulco, Mexico. At home they would listen to Perez Prado and other Latin performers. I am sure they enjoyed the music, but it also reminded them of their travels south. I have always enjoyed Latin music. Seventy percent of our CD’s are Latin, and the rest are jazz. So I point the finger at my parents! My father would load the accordions in the trunk of the car, which my brother and I played, and drive deep into Mexico. My brother and I were too young to drink. My father wasn’t. Dad quickly found out that if we played the accordions in a Mexican bar, he got free drinks! I am sure that the free drinks did not outweigh the cost of the music lessons, but he was always looking for a deal. I played accordion and saxophone and loved Latin music. Then something new came along in the early 60’s. It was the 60’s with the Beatles, the Doors, Cream, the Loving Spoonful, Mama’s and Papa’s, the Buckingham’s, and the Association. Rock and Roll! But not for me!
The music that I became obsessed with was the “NEW” Bossa Nova, from Brazil!
In 1962, Antonio Carlos Jobim recorded a song which has had a profound affect on me. It was a Bossa Nova called Girl from Ipanema. It was recorded with Stan Getz (saxophone) and Astrud Gilberto. For the last 43 years I have envisioned myself in Rio, listening to Bossa Novas at a seaside, open air bar.
For me, one of the main drivers for traveling somewhere is the desire to hear the music of the region. I once made a list of where I wanted to travel and I realized it was for the bossa novas of Brazil, or the flute music of the Andeans Indian in Peru, or the trumpets of Mexican Grupo’s. I have never had a strong desire to visit Germany, but somebody has now informed me that the Polka is not the only music performed there. Maybe I will rethink Germany!
So it is Adios for now. If you are interested, we will be updating and posting pictures on our web site located at www.Ploung.com. We will also be getting email regularly and would love to hear from you. A note or letter every so often will help make the separation from home a little easier……….
A book by Glen Heggstad called “Two Wheels Through Terror” was interesting reading. He did the same trip during 2001 and 2002. He was held hostage in the jungles of Columbia by the ELN rebel group for 6 weeks. After our close call in Panama, we will be skipping Columbia. Other then Columbia we will be traveling nearly the same general course, but taking 18 months to do the trip he did in 9 months.
We plan on renting apartments in some of the cities such as Buenos Aires and Rio and resting for a month every so often. I will include a link to where you can purchase the book on our web site during the next week. I am including the preface of the book, because his views on travel are very similar to mine. Retiring and watching television is not part of our plan. Driving around and passing strip malls is getting old.
I fell that if I don’t keep moving, and attempting to do things which are exciting and stimulating, I would get fat and die. Not an attractive option. I retired 4 weeks ago and have never been so busy. As part of getting ready for the trip, I have also lost 14 pounds during the last 4 weeks. It was about time! Feeling good!
The research to prepare for the trip resulting in collecting a library of books during the last ten years. Some of the books date back from the late 1800's
The button marked "The Books" takes you to a listing of many of the books. Some of the books are about motorcyclist riding South America including Hedge Pederson's "10 Years on 2 Wheels", Che Guevara's "Motorcycle Diaries", Ted Simon's "Jupiter's Travels", Ed Culberson's "Obsessions Die Hard" (the book that got me thinking about this trip), Greg Frazier's "Riding South", Glen Heggstad's "Two Wheels through Terror" and Danny Liska's "Two Wheels to Adventure". There are also books of people walking, canoeing, flying and do the trip on rails.