The Lonely Road
Suri and I traveled 1,000 miles during days two and three, most of them very windy, with the rest being extremely windy. Here's how that feels: imagine for a moment that you're on a motorcycle and the highway stretches for miles in front of you. Everything looks gorgeous, there's hardly any traffic, and you actually consider stopping to take a photo. Suddenly, four monkeys jump on the bike! You have no idea where they came from and have no time to think about it because now you need to keep the bike upright. One of the monkeys -- the playful one -- is sitting right on the tank in front of you, and is constantly tugging and slapping your jacket sleeves in every which way. The second monkey -- the angry one -- is standing on your shoulders and is furiously trying to get your helmet off. He does that by jumping up and down and randomly smacking the top and sides of your helmet with his arms, stopping periodically only to yank and twist your helmet to one side over and over. The last two monkeys -- the twins -- they leave you alone. Instead, they climb one on each side of the motorcycle and rock it side to side as hard as they can. Most of the time they work in concert so you get the push to one side or the other so to compensate you lean the bike in the opposite direction to avoid getting shoved off the road or, worse, into oncoming traffic. Some times, though, without you noticing they both suddenly change direction and push in the same direction you're leaning, which could have the same off the road or into oncoming traffic consequences. Now imagine that battle for 12 hours each of those two days.
Rio Gallegos to Comodoro Rivadavia (484 Miles)
Day two started with a busted headlight and 25 miles in the wrong direction. As I was making my way out of Rio Gallegos, I was stopped at a police checkpoint. There was a gas station in the opposite side of the road, but in hopes of avoiding the roundabout, I asked them how far the next gas station was. They said it was 50 kilometers in the direction I was traveling. Perfect. About 25 miles down the road I found another police checkpoint and when I asked them about the gas station, they said I had left it about 50 kilometers back. The turnaround point on the highway was 10 more miles in the opposite direction and they read the concern in my face. They moved around the barricades and let me turn around on the spot.
Two hours later, after refueling and changing the headlight, I was back at my starting point. Here's the thing about the past, you can't change it. But the video monitor in my head kept replaying the conversation Russ and I had a few nights earlier. In it, Russ clearly said, "Don't take chances when it comes to gas. If you see a gas station, fill 'er up!" If only I had listened, I might have gotten to Comodoro Rivadavia two hours earlier. Luckily I arrived just before dark, which made it a little easier to find the hotel. The hotel doesn't have parking, so I needed to leave the bike a few blocks away. What it did have was a pair of hotel owners who love dogs! That made up for the parking inconvenience, since they graciously offered to watch Suri while I handled the parking, packing, and unpacking situation during my stay.
Comodoro Rivadavia to San Carlos the Bariloche (521 Miles)
I considered breaking the ride from Comodoro Ravidavia to San Carlos de Bariloche into two days, but was unable to find lodging anywhere along the halfway point. Besides, I wanted to save these potential breaks for when I make it into Chile to avoid having Suri's health certificate expire, which would mean another trip to the vet and to the Argentina agency that regulates agriculture and animal exports. That could easily add one or more days to my trip, not to mention the expenses.
In addition to the distance, this ride also included two 10- to 20-mile stretches of gravel road. I'm not simply talking about dirt roads here, but rather lose, large pebbles that resemble the shifting consistency of one of those ball pits you see at McDonald's playgrounds. My rear tire was sliding this way and the other, and I was almost certain I was going to fall. Then I saw another adventure rider coming in my direction, riding at least 3 times faster. He seemed to be carving the road. There was no uneasiness or shifting and sliding, just pure joy. So it got me thinking that my problem might be that I was going too slow, so I twisted the throttle and increased my speed. Along with my speed came even wider sliding, and this time I wasn't even trying to keep the bike upright. I just wanted to land in a way that wouldn't hurt Suri. I didn't fall and managed to slow down, but the change in speed was too fast and that made both of my tires go all over the place. After I managed to put my feet on the ground, I took a moment to gather my bearings and got back on the road. There's no turning back.
During one of our breaks Suri met a couple of bikers from Santiago, Chile, who turned out to be dog lovers. She did the introductions very formally, then proceeded to poop on the lawn. This encounter might turn out to be very fortuitous, since upon hearing the rescue mission I’ve embarked upon to find the little dog in Chañaral, Chile, they said that they have been considering adopting a dog. They don't have a lot of space, so dog size is a major factor. If I find the dog, I'll get him the vet care I know he desperately needs and also a bath, and then I'll send them a photo. If it works out, Santiago might become the dog's new home! And if not, that's totally OK, because these are two of the nicest people I've met, so the next time I'm in Santiago I shall look them up to go for a beer or coffee.
It's interesting how your mind colors your experiences. Up to this point I had been worn out and questioning myself -- am I just crazy? Is this a stupid idea? This is nothing but another failure. And the landscape, in my eyes, matched my demeanor. After conversing with these folks, though, my spirits were uplifted and the landscape changed with them. I could see how beautiful this place is! I'm cautiously optimistic. I recognize that there's a chance of failure. I might not find the dog after all. But there's also a chance of success. What's important is that I'm following my heart and giving it all I got.
The thing about San Carlos the Bariloche is that during the day the place is bright and lively, but at night it can be pitch black. That's how the area looked when I arrived, so I braced for at least a couple of hours of being lost. Luckily, the hostería had sent me very good directions and I arrived at the right place on the first try. It was almost 10pm and we were exhausted. I woke up the following morning with the joints of my knees and hands swollen and sore, so I decided to extend my stay in Bariloche by another night. This will give us an opportunity to recover and rethink our route and strategy. For example, I’m going to start using CouchSurfing whenever possible. I already found a CouchSurfing host in Santiago! We’ll see what the other cities bring.