Saturday, July 11, 2009

Down for the Count (but not out) - July 9 - 11

Thursday 7/9 - Busted Flat in Baton Rouge

Somehow Janis Joplin's voice just keeps running through my mind. OK, I'm not in Baton Rouge,. And I'm not busted flat... at least not in the monetary sense (although with the prices here in Brazil that's not out of the question).

What I am is back in Salvador with a sick Pinguino. The bike, she's not feeling so good. Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, a sad tale but true:

I left Salvador this morning amid a nice sunny day. Getting out of Salvador was problematic, as this is about the worst driving city I've ever seen. As described elsewhere, no streets go where they should, and it's impossible to turn around to go the other direction. So after about an hour of meandering, asking questions of people with wildly different ideas as to where the road north was, and screaming obscenities into my helmet I finally found myself on the Litoral Norte... the coastal road to the north.

I figured it would take me three days to get to Fortaleza, taking it easy and stopping at a couple of beach towns on the way. All seemed to be progressing satisfactorily, and aside from a slight vibration at 5000 rpm the bike seemed to be running fine. There had been a few drops of oil on the floor this morning, but I thought that was just some residual in the system.

Then as I reached Praia de Porto and accelerated to pass a truck I noticed a huge plume of white smoke emitting from El Pinguino's rear end. I had discovered in Antarctica that penguin farts are nothing to be sneezed at (now there's an image), and the smoke emanating from my trusty steed did nothing to warm the cockles of my heart, wherever they might be. I pulled over and saw even more oil dripping from the overflow tube. This was definitely NOT a good sign.

So having a choice of returning 60 km to Salvador or continuing 1500 km north to Fortaleza, I decided that hanging a U was probably the wiser choice. So back it was, to get lost and try to find Nen's shop again. Having had faith that I would not be returning, I unwisely hadn't put the location of the shop into my GPS. After repeating my inability to navigate Salvador I finally stopped to ask a taxi driver the location of the shop, showing him Nen's card. As luck would have it, he was also a biker. He told me to wait a minute while he got his motorcycle and then led me right to the shop. Turns out he is also a customer of Nen's.

I've got to say, for all the trouble I've been having the Brazilian people have been absolutely wonderful. I am inviting the entire country to come spend Christmas with us in Panama! 200 million people in our guest room might be a bit cramped, but they deserve it. Maybe we'll put the overflow up in Cerro Azul.

After looking at the problem, Nen thinks that I might have a broken piston ring. This would explain the high pressure leaking into the bottom end of the motor and could have caused the initial problem of the broken gasket. Diagnosing and fixing this will involve completely opening up the motor... not a minor job. Unfortunately, because he had spent so much time on my bike over the last few days his other work has piled up and he can't even look at my bike until Monday. Then, if any parts are needed that can't be gotten locally we might have to get them from Sao Paulo.

So here I am... "Busted Flat in Baton Rouge", or at least stuck for a week in Salvador. I've run into three other bikers (an Australian couple and a Swiss woman) who are also awaiting parts, so I have some people to commiserate (and drink) with. I'll probably take a boat to Morrow Sao Paulo for a few days of beach relaxation, but otherwise here I am.

In "Jupiter's Travels", his telling of his round-the-world motorcycle trip in the seventies, Simon says something along the lines of "don't think of the obstacles as getting in the way of the journey... they are the journey". It's something that I've reminded myself of many times during this trip, and keeping that philosophy in mind has really helped. Guess I'll just enjoy the journey in Salvador for a while.

Stay tuned to this channel for more breaking news as it happens.

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