The past few days in Ushuaia have been very different, a genuine rest and mental reset that hasn’t quite been matched since leaving Lima. In a nutshell, I probably spent 90% of my time just holed up in my hotel room, lying on my big comfy bed, and basically doing nothing. The rest of my time was spent grabbing groceries, eating the occasional meal outside, and organizing repairs to Red.
The repairs, of course, were the most critical part of this stay – there was always a possibility, however minor, that I would be leaving here on wings instead of wheels. I’m happy to say that thanks to the amazing guys at Moto Pablo, that will not be the case.
My first night in Ushuaia, I looked up moto places on the internet and found an official Honda place which seemed to be the only thing in town. The next morning I drove over only to find out that while they do sell motorcycles, they don’t have spares or a mechanic! They were able to direct me to a place down the road that is apparently the only actual motorcycle shop in town (and also happens to be an authorized Honda repair shop). I drove by to check it out, but unfortunately they were keeping winter hours and wouldn’t open until 4:30PM that afternoon!
Knowing the penchant for little places like this to open a bit late, I swung by around 5PM. I’m not sure what I was expecting, maybe a bit of a cold shoulder after Rio Gallegos, but I certainly did not expect the welcome I received; it was, for lack of any better way to describe it, like bringing Red home.
Everyone at the shop loved the motokar and no one could believe I drove it down here. One guy told me he’s seen everything from scooters to bikes and even a mule pull into Ushuaia, but never a mototaxi. I almost didn’t even need to tell them what was wrong; within thirty minutes they had crawled over it and come up with a list of all sorts of things to fix and change.
This wasn’t just about servicing a bike and getting it back on the road: these guys knew that I needed Red to hold up to some vicious driving for a long period of time, and they were all about making sure I could do that.
That evening I spent nearly five hours hanging out at the shop with them as they set to work. I got them to show me how to clean the centrifugal oil filter (a massive pain), and Pablo (the owner) explained to me that the most likely thing to fail would be a gear in the transmission, but that it was set up in a way I could take it apart, pull the bad gear ring out, and drive on without it. I learned a ton, sitting around and talking shop and life with these guys over mate (a kind of tea) and feeling so happy to find some kindred souls.
It really brought me back to the week I spent with Jake & Nick at Fritz Repair in Seattle last year, just knowing that your bike is being worked on by guys who treat it better than their own, who would jump on it and ride it the rest of the way if they could. For the first time since leaving Lima, that small weight was off my shoulders.
Just like Jake & Nick worked on the original Red when their shop was closed, Pablo worked for hours last night even though it was a provincial holiday with almost everything shut down. Today they finished everything up and Red is really, truly, reborn – stronger, better, and faster.
Here’s a rundown of some of the work that’s been done:
1. Standard overall maintenance including oil change (with racing oil), filter cleanings, carb cleanings, etc.
2. The entire drive system has been replaced. Chains and sprockets have been upgraded to racing spec o-ring chains for much more powerful bikes, the front pinion sprocket has been switched from a 15 to a 17 to hopefully allow me to cruise at 75kmh @ 7000RPM – and a spare 14 which I can swap to in less than five minutes next time I’m in the mountains for awhile.
3. Almost all the wiring had to be replaced from the complete blowout caused by one of the running light wires fraying and rubbing against the frame and my idiocy with the 25A fuse. There’s wires blown out all over the place and I’m keeping the main section that caused it all as a souvenir. (this was the last bit being finished up when I left at almost 11PM – hopefully be ready by noon tomorrow)
4. The front tire was replaced with my spare front tire under the theory a fancy tire isn’t as important there (who needs grip? I’ll just slide off icy mountains instead, it’ll be fun). The front wheel was completely rebuilt by an expert who all the local racers use, he pulled out all the spokes, ditched the bad ones, and rebalanced the entire wheel so it’s true.
5. The pusher (rear drive tire) was replaced with a wicked mud and ice tire that isn’t a full-on enduro style knobby (it’s not for racing in sand) but should be able to push Red through freaking anything and actually last a fair distance as well.
After all this, I’m pretty confident Red will hold together for a bit longer. Let’s see how it goes!
Where Do We Go From Here?
Right now, my plan is to head back up north at a fairly rapid pace. The next ultimate goal is to explore some of the brutal and beautiful terrain of the southern Bolivian desert area around Tupiza and Uyuni. I expect to ride north from Ushuaia along Ruta 3 for awhile, then cut back over to Ruta 40 around Mendoza and take it all the way north from there.
After Bolivia, I’m really hoping to meet some friends in Peru (even if I have to bus over there) in early July, after which I will need to make the final decision on whether to continue this epic journey north into Ecuador and Colombia or call it a summer and head home.