As motorcycle enthusiasts, we all have our own reasons for swinging a leg over a bike and going for a ride. Motocross, off-road, dual sport, or street – take you pick. For some, the rides may be short or infrequent. For others, the rides may take them further, and be longer in duration. For a few, the ride will take a year or more, cover great distances, and may include many tense or painful moments. Last summer, I wrote a story that spoke to the virtues of dual sport motorcycle riding. Shortly after the story was published, I received a letter.
I enjoyed your article about dual sport riding. My wife Carrie and I have recently returned from a one year trip on a pair of BMW F650GS motorcycles. We traveled through 24 countries in Latin America. We drove over 50,000 kms and traveled a total of 86,000 kms. We experienced many ordeals from a broken leg in the jungle to dealing with a pit viper, tarantulas, sickness, etc, but loved every minute of it. Now back home, we still ride as often as possible. We will be selling photo packages and more…
Meet Carrie and Brent Larose.
Todd: This is a trip of epic proportions. Who came up with the idea, and what was your motivation for planning this type of trip?
Carrie: At the age of 23, I made what now would be considered a bucket list. Included on that list was to see all 68 wonders of the world. I had been planning this trip prior to meeting Brent and once I had met him, I had placed all on hold. After some time into our marriage, the subject started to surface again. I wanted to go, and Brent wanted to go on a motorbike. I simply said if that is what it will take I will do it. Now I just needed to learn to ride a motorbike!
I had been struggling with work… I worked hard and came home exhausted. I was losing touch with friends and family – this was not what I had set out for myself. I wanted to be successful but I could not understand why people in other countries – Mexico, large parts of Europe and some of the Middle East seemed not to struggle with this exhaustion. They would be out at night visiting, dancing with friends and eating at around 9 to 10 pm, about the same time I was heading for bed. My big question is – how come?
I want that in my life, I had seen way too may people die young; they never once talked about the great car they had or that huge house. They talked about their experiences in life, they talked about the people that they cared about, they talked about what truly matters in this life and it had nothing to do with the JOB they had!- What I discovered is they (people in these other countries) work long, long hours but the pace at which they do things, the intensity in which it is done, and the fact that it seem to be okay to have a visitors stop by for coffee, creates an environment of less stress and I do not think that is where there focus is, it is the after work that is the focus.
I am not saying that is the case for everyone but it is just a general observation. The saying would go “Mañana, Mañana – Tomorrow, Tomorrow” it will get done eventually…
Brent: Carrie had only held her motorbike license for about a year before we took off. We also wanted to prove this type of trip could be done as middle class working people. We worked hard, saved hard, and rented the house out while we were gone. Everyone always wants to know how much it cost – about $50,000.00 in the thirteen months that we were away.
Todd: With a travel total of 86,000 kilometers, where did you go, and what was your route?
Brent: We rode from Calgary to Miami. We flew the bikes from Miami to Venezuela. Then we drove through Venezuela. Leg break in Guyana. Recovering in Guyana, we went to St-Lucia, Barbados, St-Vincent – one week each. Then back through Guyana into Brazil. At this point Carrie is riding with her cast from the Brazil border to the start of the Amazon (Manaus) to the end of Amazon (Belem). Then we rode an additional 2000+ km to a beach town called Pipa-then we cut the cast off.
Then we covered Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile and Easter Island, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and the Galapagos, then Columbia. From Columbia we sailed the bikes to Panama and covered all of Central America. From Central America we drove into Mexico. From Cancun we flew to Cuba for one week. Finished the rest of Mexico. We celebrated one year on the road in Las Vegas-then home!! Whew!!
Todd: A broken leg, Carrie? A spectacular crash? I would have been heading home at this point.
Carrie: The crash wasn’t that spectacular. We were riding through a sandy section. I was following Brent. He slowed down a bit, so did I. My foot came off the peg, and my leg got caught up with one of the panniers.
Brent: I turned around to see what had happened. I asked Carrie if she was OK, and she said that her leg was broken. I asked her how she knew it was broken.
Carrie: I heard it break! It took over 12 hours to find a hospital, and getting to the hospital wasn’t exactly pleasant, either.
Brent: To give you an idea of what we were up against at this point in the trip, an hour before she broke her leg, we encountered a pit viper, and stinky anacondas waiting in the bottom of the big puddles and mud holes. We were lucky to see one or two vehicles a day on this part of the trip.
Todd: Given the tough and varied terrain, did you experience any mechanical issues?
Brent: No problems until Mexico – lots of flat tires. The clutch died in Belize, and I limped along until Cancun. I had to fix the clutch myself, and used the BMW’s dealer’s shop. Their mechanic had 20 years experience, but had never done a clutch. Fortunately, I intervened just before he was about to break something, so I ended up finishing the job myself. We chose the BMW bikes because there was a dealer in almost every country.
Todd: Did you ever fear for you lives?
Brent: No… but there are military check points everywhere. They’re looking for drugs. Someone always had there hand out, looking for cash, but I never paid out. Pretend you don’t understand Spanish. We were stopped 9 times for speeding in Costa Rica, for no reason. Columbia was great – very beautiful, no tourists. The people are glad to see you, because no tourists go there. I felt totally safe in Columbia, and I would go back.
Todd: For a trip of this magnitude, do you have tips for others?
Brent: Know your bike – how to fix it, know how to change a flat tire. Get as much Spanish as possible before you leave. Get your paperwork in order. Take a good camera. There are many ATM’s, so getting cash is no issue. Internet is available.
There are many long days of nothing in between the interesting places. Border crossings take forever – all these booths with no names on them, you need a local kid to take you through. Some crossings cost $10.00, some cost $130.00. Have patience.
You will probably get food poisoning a few times – we both did. It is easy to talk about the tough points, but there were so many great times and sights on this trip. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.
We would like to extend thanks as well to our families and friends for their fantastic support. My brother Ron and his wife Pam flew us to meet them in Mexico from Lima, Peru at Christmas time during the trip
Carrie: I guess to sum all this up “Life is short, squeeze all that you can out of it, be happy, experience life for all that it can offer. Tomorrow may not be here.”
Todd: What an adventure! Is there another biking trip on the horizon?
Brent: Australia. New Zealand next, perhaps 3 years from now. There are normal roads and English-speaking people. We’ll probably ride “double up” on a different bike.
Carrie and Brent are selling DVDs of this incredible trip for $20.00 a set. The scenery is unbelievable, and there are shots of the good times, and the rough spots. For more information, contact Carrie and Brent at firstname.lastname@example.org.