In 2009 when we first visited the Dominican Republic with MotoCaribe, we tried to get our fellow CanyonChasers to join us. Despite our pleadings none felt comfortable enough with the unknown to take the chance. Upon our return and the many stories we came home with managed changed everyone's mind. So when we were offered a discounted group rate, within 15 minutes of being announced to the gang, all ten bikes spoken for.
We were all, pretty much, on the same flight from Salt Lake to New York and New York to Santiago. But getting fourteen people across the country a few days after Christmas proved to be no easy task, particularly when you are dealing with Delta Airlines and a massive blizzard that was pounding the northeast. Several hours before we were to set out, Warren chose the proactive route and we rushed to Salt Lake International to see if we could find alternate routes to the small island of Hispanola.
Because of our pro-activity and some luck, our route's to the Dominican Republic ended up taking us all over the country before we all arrived together again in the Caribbean.
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- Monday - We Gotta Get Out of this Place
- Tuesday - Goin' to Miami
- Wednesday - Arrive
- Thursday - The Cuddles
- Friday - New Years Eve
- Saturday - Just Beachy
- Sunday - Jarabacoa
- Monday - Gua Gua Gua Gua
- Tuesday - Almost Haiti -or- Just a Flesh Wound
- Wednesday - Jarabacoa
- Thursday - Constanza
- Friday - Deceitful Delta
- Saturday - Viva Las Vegas
- Final Thoughts
- Robert – Normally the guy driving the van took lead while Ed (the traditional lead rider) was home with the flu
- Chip - An American engineer living in the Dominican with his local bride took over chase vehicle duties
- Alida – Local Dominican, married to Robert, knew and understood all things regarding the Dominican Republic
- Kris and I
- Eric and Dawn
- Don and Shirly
- Gary and Phyllis
- Erik and Amy
There were some very last minute shuffling of positions that resulted in Joe being unable to attend and the CanyonChasers Nugget (Lindsey) being able to take over his slot.
Lindsey paid the highest price to attend (earning her serious "cred") as she was ultimately released from employment responsibilities for taking two-weeks unpaid leave in the dead of winter during her companies least busy time of the year, earning her great respect and admiration for having a highly evolved sense of priorities.
Because this was our second trip, we felt we had a very good grasp on what it was that we should pack. The biggest challenge was traveling to a warm climate in the middle of winter. We needed to be able to stay warm on our way there and on our way back. Based on our previous experience we modified the MotoCaribe packing list like so;
- Light Mesh Riding Pants
- Thin shorts (swim trunks)/Capri's to be worn beneath riding pants
- Light Jacket
- Chaco/Teva - strappy sandals
- Helmet, gloves, boots, riding jacket, sunglasses etc...
- Toiletry's and underwears
Most of us opted against rain-gear to reduce packing load - that and Caribbean rain is still a lot warmer than intermountain west rain. We're tough - we're so tough we break Tonka toys. We figured we could handle being wet.
Because we had to all change our flights last minute, many of us ended up spending many hours hanging out at the airport waiting for our first flight. Eric and Dawn began with beer. Based on the focus of the image, you can tell what Eric is most excited about.
After several hours of waiting, we were finally ready to board. The excitement and adventure of it all had us all a bit giddy to get underway.
After a very crowded and miserable flight to Orlando (miserable because of all the screaming Disney-frantic children) we arrived in the Airport just as everything shut down and with five hours to our next flight. Not enough time to go find a hotel. We each made do in our own ways. Kris said I should be excited to already be sleeping beneath palm tree's.
Some were too excited to sleep so they took advantage of all the Disney-inspired airport decor.
After a very long, and tedious night in the Orlando Airport, we caught our next flight to Miami. It was bitter cold in Orlando, and we were hopeful that Miami would be nice and warm. Exhausted most of us fell into a fitful sleep as the airline seats were the only cushion we'd seen in many hours. However, much to our dismay, the Miami Airport was one of the coldest places I've ever visited.
Eventually, Warren and Ryan arrived in Miami. We'd all be regrouping here. To pass the time Warren brought out some airport games to help pass the time.
While waiting we noticed a bit of a fracas going on outside our window. The excitement resulted in lots of dogs, a guy in a bomb suit and lots of nervous people. Eventually several armed TSA guys in fatigues came and ushered us away from our gate. We later learned that some guy had several hundred blasting caps in his checked luggage and they started banging against each other and 'sploding. Read the News Story »
Since there was a bomb situation at the airport, and since you shouldn't really say "bomb" in the airport. We used the secret code word "potato". It wasn't a bomb it was a "potato"
More and more were arriving in Miami. Ryan and Mike showed up from Atlanta, Lindsey from Cincinnati, Erik and Amy arrived from Boston. That left only Don, Shirly, Gary and Phyllis who were re-directed to Miami via. Los Angeles.
Thanks to the magic of text messaging and Facebook, we knew their flight was supposed to land about 40 minutes before the flight left for Santiago. But as that time came and went, we began to get nervous. Eventually we boarded our final flight with none of the final four present.
Everyone was seated, the announcement to "push-back" came over the intercom when suddenly the final-four burst onto the flight. Apparently their flight from Los Angeles needed to make an emergency landing in Louisiana. With nothing to eat all day and more road-weary than the rest of us, the final-four joined the group and after much "adventure" we were finally all together and ready to begin our holiday in earnest.
We left the land of the free and home of the brave beneath our wings (and without any more pithy sayings) we headed to the Dominican.
With all the uncertainty behind us we were greeted by the MotoCaribe team, ecstatic to have finally made it!
After a quick meal at a local eatery, we loaded up into the van and dashed off to the hotel for the first nights sleep in two days. Eric was already taking off his pants. We needed to act fast.
I love the Dominican Republic, but this trip was far more exciting knowing this time we got to share it with our friends and fellow moto-enthusiasts.
We awoke the next morning to a cool and cloudy sky and for all the first times, their first view of the Hotel Gran Jimenoa located right on the river in Jarabacoa. Ryan was already working his magic, capturing the world in a way the rest of us are incapable of doing.
After a good nights sleep, a hot shower, clean clothes, and our riding gear, we finally felt like we'd arrived, and were ready to start vacationing.
Local coffee, fresh fruit, range-free eggs (in the purest sense) and all the other fresh ingredients made for an amazing breakfast and the beginning of the high quality of food we'd be eating during our stay.
With our bellies full, we crossed the river to the Dominican Convention Center, were we would be getting our safety briefing and be familiarized with local traffic patterns.
This is when Kris realized that she'd made a bit of a packing error. She didn't want to take her new motorcycle boots, so she grabbed an old retired pair. Or so she thought. She'd actually grabbed one of her old boots and one of mine. Upon realization of her error she was delighted that she had at least grabbed a right and a left boot. Imagine the discomfort of riding in two left or two right boots for two weeks.
However, the mismatched footwear did cause Kris to trip more than usual and by the end of the vacation she'd developed a unique gait where she would lift her right foot far into the air as she walked. We assumed this her body adapting to having one foot longer than the other.
This is where we learned the Dominican methodology for moto-travel. We suspect for many, adapting to the anarchy of third-world motorcycle travel to be quite difficult. For anybody who has done much track riding, its downright sane by comparison.
This was also Mike and Lindsey's first real vacation together - aren't they cute?
With the safety-briefing out of the way we loaded into the van and were carted off to the MotoCaribe compound where we were introduced to our moto companions.
Kris was pretty excited to reunite with Pearla. Fans of the site may remember the first time we met this little, plucky dog, she was recovering from a malicious poisoning. As you can see, she has fully recovered.
Warren was pretty excited to be finally meeting the motorcycles. Dawn was a little less sure...
We were given the opportunity to made adjustments to the bikes to get them to best fit our needs. Adjusting hand-controls and levers, and for most of us, putting the windscreen's in the lowest positions to reduce turbulence.
Hands-On Kinda' Girl
I enjoy working on things "hands-on", especially anything to do with motorcycles. It is just one more thing that I can say I have done. I am not the type to just sit around and watch. I believe if you want to get things done, sometimes you just need to step in and do it yourself.
The windscreen is really our biggest complaint about Wee-Stroms (V-Strom 650's). They are too far away and too tall and as such produce a lot of cavitation due to the negative air pressure behind the screen. Most of us wished the screens could have been mounted even lower.
Adjusting bikes to fit our needs
At home you take your riding position for granted, but on a new motorcycle it's very important to make sure that all your controls are in the right place for you. After adjusting the levers, bars and windscreen I had an uncontrollable urge to hook something to the battery. It's what I do. So while everyone else adjusted windscreens using the only screwdriver at camp, I attached up my GoPro camera to make sure we had fantastic footage of the roads.
This was also the perfect time to adjust the mirrors to ensure optimum rearward viewing. Gary and Phylis use a very unique method to verify mirror calibration.
Can't Keep My Eyes Off Of You
It is really hard for Gary to keep his eyes off of Phylis and I think this photo proves that.
Back home, Don and Shirly always ride their own bikes. They were a bit apprehensive about two-up riding through a foreign land...
It has become tradition to purchase the official CanyonChasers mascot, Jake "the dog", a stuffed toy at the beginning of our adventures. The toy is then placed outside the motorcycle during our travels where it picks up all the scents of the world around us, so when we return, Jake gets a wonderful souvenir that smells of all the places we've been.
Mike did the honors this year and purchased and named Jake's souvenir in the Miami airport. "Stuart" was now ready to ride!
Enough set-up already. We came here to ride, so lets ride!
We did a few runs up and down the local road to get used to the new bikes and make sure we didn't need to make any additional adjustments.
We grouped up in a large parking lot and did some MSF-style slow speed riding before heading out. Kris was really happy to be on the bikes!
The plan for the day was to tackle some typical Dominican mountain roads on our way to a local waterfall and then lunch. But first, lets take a look at some of these mountain roads.
One of the first things you notice about the small Caribbean island is how close everything is to the side of the road. Concrete, chain-link, metal containers, power poles and concertina wire, right on the shoulder of the road and one minor mistake from ruining your day.
As we got into the twisty bits, our lead rider, Robert, came up behind a slow-moving truck, slowed to match speed and followed for a very long time - this was foreshadowing into one of the biggest challenges of riding in the Dominican; convincing Robert to pass heavy laden, slow moving vehicles - more on that later...
In this case, we were fortunate that the truck pulled off the main road and allowed us to pick up the pace again. Weeee!
Our first stop of the day, and of the vacation really, was to check out a remote waterfall - but the last time we came here, I was more impressed by the third world concrete architecture than I was the waterfall...
Mike and Lindsey began competing with Don and Shirly for the most cuddle's over the course of a single holiday.
All You Need Is...
It wasn't really a competition. It is called love.
We started our quick walk to the waterfall and past this infamous "Brugal" sign.
With the stress of flying cross country behind her, Lindsey fell into the roll of group entertainer by constantly combining silly-stripper moves with dancing, posing, singing and gangster hand gestures. While we were sad that Joe couldn't make it, Lindsey was making sure we were laughing all the time.
Check out that concrete work!
As you can see, Lindsey is always entertaining.
Not quite the bridge over the river Kwai, but we'll take it.
This is the view that greeted us after our short walk. Again, not so bad, ehy?
Every time we stopped for any reason, Don and Shirly were in a constant state of cuddle. The cuddle competition started to heat up, particularly when Mike tried to pick up a few more points by cuddling Warren.
After the waterfall, we headed out to the top of a mountain for Lunch. We visited Mi Vista Mountain Resort last time and remembered it fondly.
The view from the top!
While lunch was being prepared, we were allowed to hang out next to the mountain top pool and enjoy the warmth of the day while back home another blizzard was attacking the rocky mountains.
"He did what in his cup?!?"
We enjoyed another amazing meal consisting of fresh meats, fruits, vegetable combined with the Caribbean staple of beans and rice. This was followed by another meal tradition - espresso. Lindsey "The Entertainer" was always performing, having too much fun with the itty-bitty coffee cups.
After lunch, we returned to the bikes to enjoy some more riding and to partake in a few more mountain twisties.
Don and Shirly appeared to be adapting to two-up riding without any problems and were really enjoying being on a motorcycle in the dead of winter.
Oh no! Another slow moving truck meant more slow moving for us.... *sigh*
During stops, Robert would explain local landmarks, culture and landscape. After stopping in town (Robert was pointing out a cock-fighting ring), we returned to the mountains and stopped again at a roadside spring.
Before you think us just a bunch of pigs, let me explain this photo. Some of the CanyonChasers motorcycle racing tends to overflow into every aspect of their lives. The last bit of competition involved Mike and Warren in a weight loss challenge. Both had successfully lost a great deal of weight, but two days before the end of the competition and with Mike in the lead, Warren took some extreme measures to sneak past Mike and win the challenge in the final moments. This photo is an homage to his willingness to win even at the cost of his own dignity.
Next we had our first experience at getting eleven grande moto's through congested Caribbean towns on our way to a coffee plantation. This is last known photograph of Don and Shirly before they took a wrong turn.
Because Robert was the only one who really knew where we were going, he was regularly in the lead freeing us from navigational responsibilities. But when you have eleven bikes and traffic, its easy for things to get spread out - Never fear, the CanyonChasers are extremely adept at handling such situations.
Thanks to the quick thinking of Gary and Phyllis and Warren, Don and Shirly were reacquired and back with the group before most of us were even aware that they'd gone rogue.
The coffee plantation was an opportunity to walk around and stretch out legs while allowing us to get "taking-silly-photos" out of our system.
Ryan, however, doesn't take silly photos. He may very well be one of the most talented photographers I've ever been around, so when Ryan takes a photo, most of us try to emulate as best as we can (with varied results).
Note To Self:
Add to packing list; 1) Official CanyonChasers Photographer. 2) Official CanyonChasers Registered Nurse.
More on that later...
The joke with Ryan is; "That's a nice camera, it must take great photo's". Anybody how knows photography knows that a good photographer can get great photos with the crappiest camera, but a crappy photographer will take crappy photos no matter how nice the camera is.
Based on the reaction of all the feminine CanyonChasers, the tour guide was monumentally attractive causing all the ladies to swoon and bat their eye-lashes.
After the tour of the plantation, we had the opportunity to buy the local coffee to bring home. The last time we were here, this was our favorite souvenir, so we planned to buy even more than we did last time.
This was the sort of thing I loved about the trip. Getting off your motorcycle after a fun road and experiencing local culture. The tour was educational but the coffee was amazing. I am not much of a coffee drinker, but we purchased eight-pounds of coffee. That seemed like a ridiculous amount of coffee, but since getting home I wish I would have bought 16.
Lindsey really liked how the fresh coffee smelled.
Lindsey really liked Mike's new physique after losing 25 pounds.
Lindsey really liked the idea of riding more motorcycles. (You probably wouldn't believe me if I told you this is Lindsey without having any coffee.)
We mounted up and headed back to the hotel for a very special occasion - today was Kris' birthday!
Waiting for the festivities to begin, Warren grabbed the waiter and told him that we were "Ready to order."
"Ready to order?"
"Yes, Ready to order."
A few minutes later he brought Warren this drink. We have no idea what was in it.
Ready To Order
Now, every new drink we invent we call the "Ready-to-Order".
We were all excited to celebrate Kris' entry into this world and wackiness was about to ensue.
Phyllis had presents for Kris! A nice pair of motorcycle socks.
Warren gave Kris the gift of beer.
I gave her the gift of love...
...and performed my world-famous floating fork magic trick!
Lindsey and Phylis gave Kris a lap dance.
We think Warren enjoyed the lap dance more than Kris, Lindsey and Phylis did.
But Warren gave the best gift of all - he performed his world famous "Marilyn Monroe Birthday Song"
It was the best birthday ever!
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Today we'd be heading to the north-east corner of the Island. Samana. Based on our previous trip, we knew this would be an epic day of riding.
Despite the cloud cover, the weather was wonderfully warm, and we were really happy to have several hours of riding to look forward too.
Leaving Jarabacoa behind to head down the mountain, dense vegetation created some really fantastic experiences. As seen here in this tunnel of trees.
The condition of the roads were pretty fantastic as well; better than we'd remembered the last time we'd visited.
The goal was also to try to capture photos of unique and clever uses of Dominican Republic moto's.
We needed to cross through a sizable population base, including the town of Moca, so once we made it to the other side, we all pulled over to wait for the chase vehicle to catch up.
We were told we'd only be stopped for a few minutes, but it turned into closer to 30. Not that we were complaining too much, it was a beautiful, cool morning.
Once the chase vehicle caught up, Robert let me lead the gang to the top of the mountain pass. Having former experience riding here was proving to be advantageous.
The climb up was spectacular. Tight, narrow, very technical corners working their way up intensely steep grades. Small villages dotted the way up and we stopped near the top, looking back north toward Jarabacoa, where we'd started the day.
Seemed like a perfect moment to enjoy some local coffee.
Mike and Lindsey threw out a couple more cuddle photos, putting them into lead for cuddle photo's.
Don and Shirly threw another cuddle into the competition, but Eric and Warren felt left out of all the fun, so they hopped in on the cuddle. We're not sure how to count those points, but we think this puts Don and Shirly in the lead because it technically counts as three cuddles instead of just one.
All the ladies; Amy, Kris, Lindsey, Phylis, Shirly and Dawn.
After the break, we returned to the bikes and began our charge down the hill. Robert, once again let me take lead until we'd rally up again at the bottom of the hill.
We just loved the technical nature of the roads. So much to see, and plenty of corners. Ultimate top-speed wasn't necessary as a brisk pace was plenty to keep us completely entertained.
The road runs along the spine of a ridge before it starts dropping towards to shoreline. Great views and lots of corners!
Did we mention there were lots of corners?
At the bottom of the hill we all started gathering together again. Robert would take the lead and guide us through some small towns on our way to our beach-lunch stop.
See It In Action!
The pictures not good enough? Well, check out our video of the Tail of the Iguana! Available in 720p. (Click on the four-arrows icon in the bottom-right corner for full-screen viewing)
Robert was continually warning us about Dominican traffic, but even though its fairly crowded and a bit chaotic (by American standards), there is a definite method and pattern to it. It only took most of us a few minutes to fully adapt and adopt the Dominican traffic flow.
No rules riding
There were definitively no traffic rules down there. Passing on the right side was perfectly normal.
The most important rule is to be flexible. There are no enforced traffic laws, so people just use their best judgement and with people being people, not everyone makes the best choices, but nobody gets mad at you when you use your best judgement to move happily along on your way. It really is a great system.
No rules, but a system
Riding in the Dominican Republic traffic is exactly how I feel the world should work when you ride your motorcycle. The flow is fantastic. If you can fit, you go. Use your head and blend.
Even though population centers are fairly close together, the areas between communities are pretty gosh-darn empty most of the time.
There was no complaining from us. Back home another massive snow storm is raging.
The small communities are colorful, friendly and really add to the enjoyment of the experience.
We rounded a corner and pulled off the side of the road. This stop served two purposes. First, to allow the chase van to catch up. Secondly, this was our first view of the ocean on this trip and most of us were pretty excited and finally, most of us were ready for a snack.
Mike and Lindsey take the opportunity to take the lead from Don and Shirly on the cuddle-photo competition.
Even Kris and I tried to get in on the fun, but Warren had a better idea...
This has evolved into a new CanyonChasers contest; Photo Bomb.
Everybody Saddle up! It's time to ride... But nothing happened...
Lindsey's bike wouldn't start. All the vibration and bouncing of Dominican life had done a number on the battery mounting system. It's a good thing us CanyonChasers are adept at such things.
Date Your Mechanic
Good thing I had thought far enough ahead to date my mechanic.
"No. This one goes here. That one goes there!"
Everybody teases me about my farkles, gizmos and gadgets... but as soon as a bike has an electrical problem I'm the guy they call to fix it. A V-Strom is just an sv650 with dirt wheels, and i happen to know the sv650 wiring loom like the back of my hand after racing one for several seasons and removing all "unnecessary" electrical bits from it.
~Mike (AKA: Radio Shack)
With the battery and it's terminals properly secured, we are back on the road.
A quick left-hand turn and the scenery made a dramatic turn. We were suddenly riding right along the coast.
If this were America, we'd not be allowed here and in our place would be massive hotels and privileged people. We like it better like this.
Love, Love, Love
One of my favorite things about the trip was riding less than 100 feet from the beach. I love the Dominican Republic.
As far as lunch spots go, this is okay, I suppose...
Last time we were here, Ed called this the "peel and squeal". Warren showed us how to undress without actually undressing as he prepared to dive into the warm Atlantic waters.
I wish I could say that's the only thing Warred showed us, but those photo's had to be deleted in case Warren runs for President.
Warm water and big waves, we were delighted.
The grown ups watched over us in case any of us got a cramp as it'd been less than an hour since our road side snack stop.
Phylis seemed torn between the two worlds...
That is until Warren decided to step in and help her choose which path to follow.
The food hath arrived!
Yeah, this was okay, I suppose...
All good things must come to an end, we returned to the bikes to make the rest of our way to Samana.
Sneaky cuddle brings Don and Shirly to several cuddles; Tied with Mike and Lindsey.
Warren really wanted to ride along the beach, and quickly discovered why nobody rides on the beach...
He didn't drop the bike, but we suspect he burned off all the calories he had for lunch trying to get the 450lb motorcycle out of the soft sand.
I did my much less ambitions hooligan antic. It was also much less impressive.
While this is some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen on a motorcycle, I have to admit that riding down this road was a little unnerving. I don't have much of a dirt background, and the V-Strom seemed a little big to ride in the sand. Ironically the worst thing you can do on a motorcycle is to be tense, so I focused on staying loose and keeping my eyes up. Meanwhile, Gary is two-up (in the picture above) and not even on the road blowing past us with his rear end all over the place in the sand.
While it did not do wonders for my self-esteem, it did show me that the V-Strom is very capable when ridden with confidence. Over the next few days I'd come to love riding in the sand/dirt/gravel in ways I'd never known... But I suggest all of you run out and buy dirt bikes, they make you better riders by redefining "acceptable levels of traction".
Now for some gratuitous photos. Yeah, you wish you were here, don't you? Admit it.
Traffic was a stark contrast from the quiet beach, but Kris made the best of it by interacting with the locals.
We stopped again to wait for the van to catch up and were met with some excited locals. Big motorcycles are a rarity - probably just as rare as Americans.
The final stretch of road into Samana was under construction and on it's way to becoming pristine tarmac, which wasn't all that impressive because this is a major route and devoid of many corners.
As we entered Samana we stopped at another gas station to get gas (and wondered why we didn't get gas at the previous station). The boys let the girls sit on the sidelines while we got the bikes filled.
We stopped again to take a break and enjoy the afternoon in downtown Samana.
As you can imagine, the size of our group and the size of our motorcycles quickly drew the attention from the locals.
Mostly we drew the attention of the younger entrepreneurial locals who were quick to offer services for peso's. A shoe shine or a stunt show. Take you pick, but you best pick both.
There was something about the experience; being in the Caribbean and all, that Made Lindsey feel a bit like a Pirate. Arrr.
Only a few kilometers to our resting point for the day.
Yeah, this isn't a bad place to stop for the night...
Since we were on vacation, we were quick to find our way to the restaurant/bar where goofy antics really ensued.
This resort was so inclusive that drinks were included! Can you say "free alcohol"? I thought you could.
Mike finds himself at risk for becoming a hipster. The phaux-hawk, the vintage T-shirt, the "effortlessly cool" slouch, the ambivalent gaze... All that's missing is his horn-rimmed glasses.
Meanwhile, Warren finds himself at risk for becoming a cabana boy/play-thing.
Let me bend your ear
This photo makes me laugh because it's the first time (but not the last time) that we'll all sit around this table at the pool and examine warren's ear.
Meanwhile, Ryan snuck off to capture some spectacular night-time photos of the nearby beach.
And with that image, we put December 30, 2010 into the annals of CanyonChasers history. See you in the morning.
- Mike and Lindsey: Seven Cuddles
- Don and Shirly: Seven Cuddles
- Warren and Anybody Else: Three Cuddles
Ryan was back at it first thing in the morning grabbing more photo's of the perfect Samana beach scene as the sun came up. We highly recommend bringing a professional photographer on all big adventures.
The hotel had a real plantation feel to it, with several of these buildings scattered around a compound with manicured lawns and roosters to help you wake up first thing in the morning. But not everybody was as impressed with the roosters.
Today was a short day as far as riding goes. The plan was to trundle around the Samana peninsula and check out some of the touristy offerings in the area. But who knows what I was doing? Because I sure don't, and Ryan doesn't appear to have any ideas either.
The first stop was this perfect little coastal fishing town.
A Chica on a big motorcycle draws a lot of attention from the average Dominican, so Kris received some celebrity attention upon our arrival.
I took a photo of all the couples, but when Lindsey said it was my turn Dave was nowhere to be found so I recruited some locals for my "Couple Shot".
Eric jumped right in and helped the locals launch their fishing boat.
They were very grateful for his help.
This is a very nice photo of a boat on the beach.
Soon, it was time to head on to the next stop, where we'd listen for a dragon, and dodge guano.
We started off down this narrow path that led into the Dominican jungle.
We encountered some local bovine and Robert came to a dead stop to wait for them to move. These cows are small compared to the ones we deal with, so Warren raced up to the front to teach Robert the proper way to deal with cows in the road.
Soon we were back to our regularly scheduled riding...
We stopped, parked the bikes and climbed out of our riding kit. We then broke into two groups to check out some of the attractions.
The first stop was the "bat-cave". A real live cave full of bats!
We started down a narrow, overgrown path and the first thing we encountered was the little scruffy donkey covered in burr's. I had to stop to introduce myself. He said his name was Donkey. How original.
The poor little burro seemed really glad to be getting some attention when we came by.
Shirly and Donkey got their photo together, but neither really knew how exactly to pose.
Meanwhile, Phylis took advantage of the massive rock cauldron to really go native.
A little ways down the narrow, overgrown path we found this view. It is said that a Dragon is trapped in the cove. As the waves were crashing against the rocks, air is pushed through a small opening sounding like very loud snorting and breathing.
Kris and I upped our cuddle-score by grabbing these two shots at the Dragons Cove. One at the top and one down next to the water.
Lindsey was reluctant to climb down to the water, but Mike thought she looked very impressive standing up there like that.
From there, we headed to another spot where some locals hung out selling jewelry and whatnot.
You can guess what the girls were most interested in.
Ryan took advantage of the situation and began sneaking portraits
Eventually, Ryan got caught.
Ryan had to pay up by taking some photo requests.
During our excursion, Warren revealed that he'd gotten a little too close to a pointy rock. Oops.
Back to the bikes, we headed off towards our next stop...
See It In Action!
The pictures not good enough? Well, check out our video as we came back from Boca Del Diablo! Available in 720p. (Click on the four-arrows icon in the bottom-right corner for full-screen viewing)
...and past the most unique discothèque I'd ever seen....
The road heading towards our next stop proved to be one of the fastest and most sweeping roads we'd seen yet.
We stopped and got out of our motorcycle gear while Ryan tried to sneak another photo, and got caught... But this may be one of my favorite photos of the entire trip. Note the gecko on the wall.
I noticed some movement over by a tatty red shed and discovered a litter of puppies, with one in particular who'd found his way out of the shed and was having a hard time finding his way back to his litter-mates. I was quick to come to the rescue!
We would be riding horses up to a waterfall, but since most American's have never been on a horse, we were being told that we would all need to wear helmets. Since we are from the Rocky Mountain West, most of us have extensive knowledge of horses and found the mandatory helmets to be a bit silly.
Then Warren taught us an important phrase. "No gracias." As soon as we realized the helmets were not mandatory, most of us were quick to abandon the perlescent protective kit.
Amy and Erik are not from the Rocky Mountain west, so they were a bit less sure about the horses and opted to wear their protective headgear.
We were pretty grateful to the little horses for taking us up the hill to the top of the waterfall.
Here is Ryan in the act of taking the previous photo. This is always cool.
At the top, the Nino's who led our horses up the hill would hang out and chat while....
...while the girls did more shopping. I was really starting to like the whole "price negotiation" thing. The digital calculator became my best friend until shortly after this photo was taken I was asked to leave because, as they said, "You Mafioso! You go now!". Kris surely didn't mind because she was buying enough Larimar to draw the attention of the State Department.
I didn't buy that much of it
Larimar is also called "Stefilia's Stone", it's a rare blue stone found only in the Dominican Republic. Its coloration varies from white, light-blue, green-blue to deep blue. Larimar also comes in green and even with red spots, brown strikes etc. But the more intense the blue, and the contrasts in the stone, the higher and rarer the quality. The blue color is photosensitive and fades with time if exposed to too much light and heat.
Natives, who believed the stone came from the sea, called the gem Blue Stone. A Peace Corps volunteer rediscovered the stone in 1974 and took his young daughter's name Larissa and the Spanish word for sea (mar) and formed Larimar, inspired by the colors of the water of the Caribbean Sea where it was found.
But mostly, it's pretty. And it was the perfect souvenir because I can wear it all the time to remember how much fun we were having.
While all the girls were in a shopping frenzy, the rest of us just hung out and enjoyed the fact that we were on vacation.
Once the shopping was complete (or funds were depleted), we began the long descent to the bottom of the waterfall via a long series of hand-cut steps and a cleverly assembled handrail.
As we got to the bottom the roar of the water crashing to the bottom was so loud that we had to shout to be heard.
It was rather spectacular!
This was one of my favorite parts of the trip. This waterfall was just amazing and so refreshing. It was a little piece of heaven to swim in.
The Dominican Republic in December/January isn't particularly hot or unbearable, but the mist coming off the waterfall felt spectacular. Even the local dogs seemed to really enjoy the cool air.
Don and Shirly were quick to take advantage of everyone's distraction to pick up another cuddle photo, putting them one cuddle ahead of Mike and Lindsey.
Lindsey and Phylis were inspired by the scenery to do their best "From Here to Eternity" impressions. (All while Ryan was trying to get the hang of "photo-bombing" each photo with varied results.)
Then Warren upped the ante with his "sexy" shot.
Not to be outdone, Lindsey threw in some Madonna Poses, much to Ryan's astonishment.
Ryan grabbed his under-water camera and swam to just below the water-fall, where he discovered a small cave.
As we made our way back up the hill, Warren's torn trousers, mixed with mud, made for a slightly unsightly result. Of course we all tried to bandit a photo to capture his embarrassment so we could post it onto the internet.
Then we made our way back to the horses and returned to the bikes where a traditional Dominican Republic lunch of rice and beans and Coca-Cola waited for us.
With the day waning, we made our way back to hotel (and past this fantastic home-made Tuk-Tuk!).
Because we'd made our way over these roads already today, I was allowed to lead the group back home. I made sure to stop at all the intersections to make sure nobody got left behind.
See It In Action!
The pictures not good enough? Well, ride with Mike and Lindsey on our way back from El Limon Waterfall to Samana. Available in 720p. (Click on the four-arrows icon in the bottom-right corner for full-screen viewing)
Back at the Hotel, Warren, Ryan and Gary rushed to the beach to take advantage of the high-surf and get some body surfing in before dinner.
Makes you want a water-proof camera, doesn't it?
North Dakota Native, Warren, was really starting to get the hang of it and was having a grand ol' time!
Then, one particularly large wave came. A bit larger than Warren was ready for...
Caught off guard, Warren was tossed by the wave and slammed into rocky bottom. He suffered a separated shoulder as well as a myriad of bumps, scrapes and bruises. We later learned that he even managed to perforate his Tympanic Membrane. (I think thats either his spleen or hie ear-drum).
No Girls Allowed
When we gathered for dinner and drinks we heard about Warren's experience from those who saw it. When warren didn't show up the girls all went looking for him only to be told that ne needed Ryan's help. Some things only a roommate can assist with.
Fortunately, the ever-prepared CanyonChasers had thought to pack our own Registered Nurse. Shirly was quick to come to the rescue. Added to pharmaceutical-grade resources available over-the-counter, Warren was quickly alleviated of most of his pain.
If he wasn't pain-free then, see the next photo.
Since it was New-Years Eve. Chip (A&W T-shirt) had managed to obtain a couple of varieties of rum for us to taste and compare.
Everybody was dedicated to making Warren feel better - Particularly Lindsey, who after two small sips of Rum, had lost all inhibition and began singing and dancing non-stop.
See It In Action!
Don't believe us? Here is some video proof of Lindsey after partaking in a smidgen of alcohol. (Apparently, I have no idea as to who the hell Alicia Keys is?)
Don and Shirly took advantage of everyone's distraction and nabbed another cuddle shot - putting them two-cuddles ahead of Mike and Lindsey.
Local Dominican humor and holiday entertainment is something that must be experienced first hand. There is no way to really describe it.
It went downhill from there.
As midnight approached, those of us who were still awake, made our way to the beach to call in the new year Caribbean style.
- Don and Shirly: Nine Cuddles
- Mike and Lindsey: Seven Cuddles
- Warren and Anybody Else: Four Cuddles
As you would imagine, our celebrations on New Years Eve meant that we were all in a lazy kind of a mode. Anticipating this, today was our scheduled beach day. No motorcycles today.
Once Kris and I woke up, we started the morning off with a stroll along the beach.
We all squeezed into four-wheeled vehicles and made our way to the beach. Before we arrived, we stopped off at a local Dominican convenience store to pick up supplies for the day.
This beach has been used for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition photo shoots, so we have been sworn to secrecy with regards to revealing it's location.
It was a cloudy day, keeping the temperatures in check, and as such, we weren't the only ones who enjoying the beach.
Kris was the first to take advantage of our "supplies" as she headed into the water, careful not to spill any precious Presedente into the ocean.
Kris took keeping her beer safe very seriously.
Inspired by Kris' example, the rest of us carried our beverages into the water.
After drinking enough beer, some of the guys felt their inhibitions start to dissolve. Kris was quick to grab the result of their inhibitions to ensure they weren't lost in the surf.
But at this point, Phylis didn't know anything about the giant placard.
But HA! The joke was on us. They'd managed to smuggle a giant "censored" poster into the water and waited until Phylis was desperately trying to get away from them before they let the rest of us in on the joke. (Actually, they were all wearing attire intended for the confident swimmer. i.e. they were not really naked.)
The "No Nudity" Clause
I had made it very clear before going on this trip that there was a "No Nudity" clause for the boys (mostly because Eric has a love for nudity on our trips). My insistence on "No Nudity" was motivation for these guys to plan something special.
Beach day was a lot of fun except for the one-eyed-anacondas that where chasing me. I think now, looking back, two beach days would have been even better.
Eric Wanted In
Eric didn't know anything about these plans, but was equally excited that everyone was enjoying his affinity for "roaming free", so he removed his suit and tossed it away, but was in deep water so he only scared the fish.
Eventually we had to take a break from all our horsing around to grab a bite to eat. Fresh fish, amazing chicken and adult beverages served from cored out fresh pineapples.
The slower pace gave us time to reflect on how much we were missing Joe. It sure would have been great if he would have been able to come along.
We decided to have a hand-made, beach-fresh, Piña Colada in his honor.
Apparently, I was very excited about my coconut drink.
Somebody had fun...
While everybody was off playing at the beach, splashing around in warm, Caribbean water, I got to spend a day and half stuffed into a dirty, sweaty helmet.
So while somebody was off having lots of fun, it sure wasn't me. Sometimes it's really hard to be a lemur.
As we were getting ready to leave a major rain-storm came in, so we arrived back at the hotel soaked to the bone. We all cleaned up and packed our kit to get ready to head back to Jarabacoa tomorrow. Kris and I picked up a cuddle photo to end the day.
After two very relaxing day, it was now time to head back to Jarabacoa. On the normal, seven-day tour, this means the trip is about to wind down to an end. For us, it only meant the half-way point. After the night in Jarabacoa, we'd be riding to the south-west corner of the island.
That meant we needed to get an early start in order to make our way back to the center of the island. We'd be taking the same route back, which meant Robert let me lead most of the way, so passing large moving vehicles took place much more expeditiously.
With the sun at our backs, we savored the warm riding weather (while back home another snow storm was pounding the rocky-mountain west).
Before we knew it we were off the Samana peninsula and riding along the coast line. Warm Caribbean breezes, swaying palm tree's, sunny and 72-degrees... Yeah, nobody was complaining, that's for sure.
One way to ensure that I didn't make a wrong turn and lead the group into Haiti was to stop regularly and re-group before setting forth again. Robert would also re-take the lead when we'd need to make our way through a complex city system or such. This system really worked well and allowed us to use our "Squadron" group riding techniques so that everybody was riding at the pace they enjoyed.
Of course, we all enjoyed catching photo's of the locals and their moto's.
Since our pace and our organization (due to the fact that we all ride together) allowed us to stop and enjoy the sights. Such as this crazy looking fish with very mean teeth.
The lovely Lindsey was having a wonderful time on her first real, multi-day motorcycle adventure. Her excitement overflowed onto all of us.
You Would Be Too
What can I say??? I was in paradise riding motorcycles with some of my greatest friends and the man I adore! How could one not be excited?!?!?!
Riding through the larger towns became a lot of fun as it was a real change of pace and gave us a glimpse of Caribbean life.
Another advantage to our riding efficiency was the ability to spend more time at many of our brief stops, such as this local beach.
This gave us time to play around, and who doesn't like to play around?
More locals on their mini-moto's. Children advocacy groups hemorrhage at the very thought of all this... And yet, the population still grows.
Ryan riding along. He seems to be quite content with the exception that his best girl wasn't able to make it.
If Only He'd Known
Had Ryan only known, both Amy and Lila could have rode with him just like all the local Dominicans. (See photos above).
A road-side quick-stop to let everyone catch up before we turned off the main road to head back to the beach for our lunch stop.
A little dirt? No problem!
Yay for playing on the beach!
I'm on vacation!
Why was it the grown ups were acting the most like teenagers in love?
Lindsey thought this local beach dog was very friendly, but actually the dog was grumpy that someone stole her chair.
I met a local puppy and enticed him to play by showing him a small stick.
The little puppy one-upped me by finding a coconut and teaching me how to improvise and use it like a ball.
Two Years Later
Two years after our visit, Robert returned to the beach and emailed us this photo. Same beach, same dog, only all grown up.
And since this is our site and we can do whatever we want, and since inclusion into CanyonChasers requires a love of animals, we would like to take this moment to encourage you to support your local no-kill animal shelter/humane society. Please adopt! All pooches deserve a loving, forever-home.
Meanwhile a seashell collection was started...
Someone found a very special seashell and thought that Warren would appreciate and enjoy it more than anybody else. It was a boobie seashell.
We were really getting a bit addicted to this mid-day meal and the availability of no high-fructose corn syrup soda pop. The Fanta varieties were becoming exceedingly popular.
We were bid a warm farewell as we returned to the bikes, the road and on our way to Jarabacoa.
We stopped again near the top of the "Tail of the Iguana" to regroup before heading down the hill into Moca and the traffic that was waiting down there.
See It In Action!
The pictures not good enough? Well, check out our video as we ride back down the Tail of the Iguana! Available in 720p. (Click on the four-arrows icon in the bottom-right corner for full-screen viewing)
While riding down the hill I noticed there was something strange with my motorcycle. We stopped at a local gas station and Erik discovered a missing bolt from my subframe. What's more, the other three bolts on my sub-frame were all pretty loose as well.
Understanding the bumpy life these V-Stroms lead, I grabbed some tools out of the chase vehicle and started checking everybodies sub-frame bolts and found that almost all of them were extremely loose.
Chip approached some locals to ask for any local businesses that would have a replacement bolt that would suffice.
Our mere presence drew a lot of attention from the locals, and we were more than happy to talk with them (as much as our language differences allowed).
Most everywhere you go in the Dominican Republic, you will find local security in the form of someone wielding a shotgun to keep the piece. But if you pay attention, you'll discover that most of the security guards are quite cavalier with their scatter-guns. We can't decide if this is a good thing or a bad thing.
A suitable replacement could not be found, so we had to improvise. fortunately, the sub-frame was still firmly attached with the three-other remaining bolts.
The other fortunate aspect was that we had finished riding our "b" roads for the day and had only major routes left, such as the Auto-Pista, similar to our Freeway system in many regards, but not all, as you can see by the mini-moto in the left lane. It's not uncommon to have big trucks on the wrong side of the Auto-Pista coming towards you or even horses pulling wagons, so its good to pay lots of attention.
I also tried to spend as little time as possible sitting in the seat, particularly over any kind of bumps in the road.
But we all made it back safely and were looking forward to another evening of drinking more than we really should.
Mike and Lindsey celebrated the evening in a very peculiar (and disgusting) way.
view larger map
As was no surprise, Ryan was up very early taking photos in the soft light. Today we'd be riding to Barahona.
Mmmmm, breakfast! Apparently Eric doesn't like papaya.
Leaving the hotel; today was going to be one of the bigger days of riding.
On our way down the mountain, we came to the only automobile accident we'd seen (and would see) during our entire trip. Despite the "lawless" traffic patterns, accidents appeared to be quite rare.
We rode down the mountain and got onto the Auto-Pista, but didn't go too far before stopping for our first snack. A massive road-side area similar to American truck stops. It offered everything you could imagine. Don and Shirly took advantage of the local pastry shop.
Mike took advantage of the break to rewire his motorcycle...
I was confused as to why there were still so many Christmas Tree's up and Christmas music playing on the radios, even though it was several days after the new year.
Three Kings Day
Probably bigger than Christmas, the Dominican Republic celebrates Three Kings Day (or Epiphany) on January 6th. Epiphany day is called El Día de los Reyes (The Day of the Kings), the day when a group of Kings or Magi, as related in the second chapter of the gospel of Matthew, arrived to worship and bring three gifts to the baby Jesus after following a star in the heavens.
Children polish and leave their shoes ready for the Kings' presents before they go to bed on the eve of January 6. Sweet wine, nibbles, fruit and milk are left for the Kings and their camels.
We were all supremely impressed by how fast Warren was healing after his tumble on the bottom of the ocean a few days earlier.
We were all supremely impressed that horses were trundling up and down the freeway. That would never happen in America.
Not much further along the Auto-Pista, Robert pulled off onto a smaller two-lane road. We were all happy to leave the fast, multi-lane highway behind us as none of us much enjoy "freeway-riding".
Yes, this was much better!
As with most of the roads here, they meandered through small villages. They were welcome excuses to slow and and watch the locals go about their daily routines.
The stretches between towns were welcome excuses to pick up the pace and get in some turns while winter raged back home.
The further south we rode, the more impressed the kids were with our big bikes.
Uno, Dos, Tres, Cuatro...
We often heard the kids count the bikes as we rode past.
Drawing particular attention was Kris and Lindsey. Two hot "chica's" riding their own "grande moto's". They were subjected to many cat calls, whistles and stares from the local men.
The further south, the warmer the weather, so we stopped again at another road-side establishment.
Mike was delighted to learn they had Ice Cream!
I was delighted to learn that they also sold police cruisers.
On our way to Lunch we had to pass through several larger towns. Lots of traffic meant that we became the slowest things on the road with many of the local moto's flying past us in a cloud of blue smoke.
Apparently, it gets so warm on the south end of the island that many people will only come here during "cold" winter months. We thought it was spectacularly warm and nice.
It's Gary and Phylis!
Apparently, these are very hard to pass...
We arrived, ready for another mid-day meal. We were really enjoying these long, relaxed mid-day stops.
Yes, this'll do.
Kinda' sums it up, doesn't it?
Relaxing in the glorious warmth of the sun.
Orange Soda. For. The. Win!
Ryan grabbed an abandoned camera and took an impromptu self-portrait. One that wasn't discovered until we were all home, many weeks later.
Pshh... Dave thinks I can't photo bomb. I say the true art in the photo bomb is placement. Your victims shouldn't know they are victims until the bomber has long since left the scene.
Lindsey was really impressed how the Bano's sign made every attempt to explain just who exactly would need that room and why.
Mike and Ryan went sailing away to the island of make-believe.
After lunch we had a very long stretch of busy road leading us to Barahona. There was a lot of traffic and Robert was reluctant to pass any of the banana trucks, so we all ended up behind the slowest moving vehicles on the road being passed by just about everyone. The worst was the "Gua Gua's". Gua Gua's are small busses where the driver gets paid by how many people the move, so they are motivated to get places quickly. They posted the biggest threat to us on this stretch of road, nearly taking out Eric and Dawn at one point. This proved to be the only real negative aspect of the trip.
When we made it to the other side, all frustrated and anxious Mike found it ironic that today was the day he happened to wear his CanyonChasers "Save Our Canyons from Campers and RV's" T-shirt. It was a little too appropriate.
We all stopped to fill up with gas and while there, we started capturing photo's of the locals using moto's as passenger vans.
We finished off the evening in typical fashion...
Ryan broke out the laptop and gave us some previews of some of the amazing photo's he'd been capturing. We all gathered around excited to see his fantastic work.
After dinner, we retired to the beach to enjoy some Cuban cigars. They are legal here.
After another few sips of alcohol, Lindsey was delighted to discover the see-saw's!
Lindsey Don't Play That
I wasn't drinking! I was enjoying the beach and having a great time with some amazing friends!
We awoke the next morning to cool, crisp air. Kris and I wondered to the beach, coffee cups in hand, to enjoy the sun-rise.
We all headed out to the parking lot to discover that Gary and Phylis' bike had a flat rear tire.
The worst part of the flat tire was the delay that it caused. The original plan was to ride up to the border of Haiti, but it was already looking less likely. But at least we were riding again.
The road followed the meandering of the coast-line with epic views of the Atlantic Ocean.
Not long after we had started, we stopped again to enjoy a flowering scenic viewpoint.
Robert wanted to wait for the van to catch up, but for whatever reason the van was more than an hour and a half behind us. Robert was ready to head back to look for it while the rest of us sat in the sun trying to find any shade. This second delay ensured that we would not be going to Haiti today.
However, the riding was some of the best the trip had to offer so far!
We were continually impressed by the Dominican propane distribution network.
Because Moto-Caribe doesn't come down this way during summer months, because of intense heat, the locals were less accustomed to large motorcycles in the area. The kids especially were extra friendly.
We stopped for lunch at a gathering of small beach-side buildings. It was very humble and quaint.
Yeah, not bad...
Way Better Than "Not Bad"
Such a relaxing day... Not to mention the water was the most perfect temperature imaginable.
The water was the most spectacular blue we'd ever seen, and magnificently warm.
We have no idea how Lindsey had the self-control to stay out of the water.
Don and Shirly, having grown up in Southern California, also refrained from splashing around in the Ocean.
Annunciation is key
Mike! Look! There's a Pirate Ship!
Look! a. pirate. ship.
I'm a pile of $#!t!? seriously Dave? you're floating in the ocean on vacation in a tropical paradise and you can't just be happy? you gotta call people names? why can't you just be happy? *starts peeling clothes off and coming down the stairs* I'll tell you what, pal. I'm gonna' come down there and then we'll see who the pile of $#!t is. *jumps in ocean* you've had this coming for a while now *swims towards Dave* oh, hey, look, a pirate ship!
Eventually we all sat down to an authentic Dominican meal of rice, beans and fresh fish and chicken.
Lindsey had very little experience riding in dirt and loose surfaces. I had, on multiple accounts, advised her to not try to hold the bike up if she started to loose her footing in such situations because she could potentially damage her knee. This image is to show how proud I was of her to let the bike tip and not hurt herself.
Because we'd already seen the route, Robert graciously allowed me to lead the gang back to the hotel, stopping occasionally to allow everyone to re-group and ensure nobody got left behind. Robert rode "sweep" as a second measure of separation protection.
The warm breeze off the ocean, the setting sun, the epic scenery was perfect! This is the only known photo, but fortunately Mike had his GoPro running the entire time. To ride with us along the southern coast of the Dominican Republic, watch the video below. If you pay close attention you will see as Mike gets hit by a semi-truck.
See It In Action!
The pictures not good enough? Well, check out our video as we race the sun back to Barahona! Available in 720p. (Click on the four-arrows icon in the bottom-right corner for full-screen viewing)
I didn't get hit by a truck
I prefer the term "made gentle, low speed contact". And please note that it is my trail braking here that allows me to slow to the point of gentle, low speed contact. if I had just tipped in I would surely be a hood ornament.
The trip was really starting to feel like it was winding down. Only two more days of riding, today and tomorrow. Today we'd return to Jarabacoa.
We'd be returning the same way we came, but it's always good to look at a map, even if you have no frame a reference and you can't read or recognize any of the names.
Before heading off we stopped for gas and this really nice photo of brothers Don and Gary.
The stop also gave us an opportunity to capture one of the best bikes-of-burden shots from the trip.
Because we'd come this way before, Robert allowed me to lead between large downs and intersections. Warren was of great help during this as he'd was a second set of eyes watching out for everyone and for the correct places to stop. It was kinda like a rolling treasure hunt. "Stop at the gas station, just past the concrete plant."
The scenes from the road were great. Just how many men can you squeeze into the pack of Nissan? And just how many milk crates can you squeeze into the back of the Daihatsu.
Local culture totally propagated along the side of the road, so matter where we went, we always felt most connected to the world around us when we were on the road.
After riding all morning, we were happy to stop in this small mountain village for spot of lunch.
This'll do, I suppose...
Erik and Amy had made a mistake in travel arrangements and would be leaving early, making today the last day of the trip.
Another fantastic meal of totally fresh foods. I think we'd all put on at least ten pounds by this point.
Time to get back on the road! Lets ride!
Sometimes the heavy Dominican traffic was capable of defeating the mighty motorcycle...
In order to get 10+ motorcycles through a large city in a foreign land, we did exactly what we've always done when crossing big towns that were unfamiliar with - we leave a trail of bread crumbs. At every turn, the second rider stops and waits for the last rider, when the last rider goes past, the waiting rider becomes the last rider. This pattern is repeated with every rider until everyone makes it from one side to the other.
Robert was still very reluctant to pass any large truck... *sigh*...
This is invariably what would happen when Robert would refuse to pass a large truck... We became a very long, very slow moving bit of traffic. This greatly frustrated local drivers... This was our only real complaint about the trip. But Robert responded by letting us lead as much as possible.
It doesn't really look like it, but this is a freeway on ramp. Best to get up to speed properly quick.
Riding the Auto-Pista!
"No Robert! No!" We did our best to keep Robert from getting behind any of these.
Gassing up in Jarabacoa before turning in for the evening.
Mad Skilz - that one really deserves the 'Z'.
Today was Mike's birthday, so we'd arranged a bit of a surprise for him in honor of a prank he pulled on Kris during a recent run up and over Bear Tooth Pass.
Kris had toilet papered his motorcycle!
Then we had the great opportunity to enjoy the last day of riding by riding up into the mountains to visit the town of Constanza.
Best Birthday evar!
This road was by far one of the most epic roads I have ever ridden, and the best of the best in the Dominican Republic. It was the best present anyone could have given me, until Chip told us that they are building a NEW road to Constanza.
It felt a bit more like home; huge mountains!
Then we stopped at the top of the mountain pass to enjoy the view.
A couple of kids were kicking about, enjoying the morning sun.
We parked the bike in such a was as to facilitate a nice group photo.
Nice group photo!
Not a group..."family". The most functional family I have.
Back onto the bikes for some more epic riding. They'd just resurfaced this road and the tarmac was perfect!
Then it was time for our final lunch stop...
We were sad that the trip was coming to an end, but you know the trip has been just about right when you are thinking you'd like to go home soon.
Then the gauntlet was thrown down and a grape soda taste test ensued.
Who would be crowned the victor? Fanta or Country Club?
...And the Winner Is...
FANTA!!! Real sugar Fanta Soda... Do I need to say more??
Before a clear winner was identified it was time to head back to Jarabacoa, which meant the amazing stretch of road to bring us back down the mountain.
We would miss the ease at which we could pass. Nobody got angry, nobody tried to keep us from passing. Mostly they seemed pretty impressed by the big bikes.
Not angry because of bribery
I caught this pick up truck in a technical section with no visibility, so passing was out of the question. I hung out behind the truck and waved to the little kid in the middle of the truck. This continued for about a mile, and i was perfectly content to take in the sights and wait for a safe place to pass. I was on vacation, it was my birthday. A mile turned into three and idle hands turned into the devil's playground. I dug into my jacket pocket and produced some candy, then waved at the child in the truck again. I then sped up next to the truck on the right side and passed him a treat. He was very excited, it totally made my day. With the toll paid I was then free to press on and enjoy the rest of the road.
After Mike gave them the candy the kids were so happy and the mother was so thankful. It was the cutest thing ever!
It is important to keep your eyes peeled for any wide loads you may encounter along the way.
We stopped again briefly at the top, the clouds had dropped to hide the peak, and there were more little kids excited about the giant motorcycles.
This young man and his family actually stopped on their way over the top. We had passed them on the way up. He was so excited about the "Grande Motos" that they asked for a picture. They then spent ten minutes trying to figure out how to get his cell phone to take a picture, so we just hung out. The kid obviously knows what's up, he's wearing the logo of my 2nd favorite sport touring icon, Lightning McQueen.
The riding was spectacular!
Cornering opportunities were aplenty!
See It In Action!
The pictures not good enough? Well, check out our video as we up and over the Dominican Republic Highway 12 and determine that the best roads are numbered as 12. Available in 720p. (Click on the four-arrows icon in the bottom-right corner for full-screen viewing)
At the bottom of the fantastic mountain road there's a very humble Dominican strip mall, complete with motorcycle shop. So we stopped to do some shopping...
For whatever reason, if you are a local Dominican, blue seems to be the color of choice when it comes to dressing up your motorcycle. Kris decided she wanted something blue to bring home and put on her bike. Unfortunately, we were struggling with steering the hands of the shop-owners to the items were were interested in looking at more closely, so Warren took on some part time work, stepped behind the counter and helped translate.
Kris was very excited with her blue anodized bobbins and was thinking of lots of unique uses for them - Lindsey was skeptical of many of her ideas.
This guy was a bit more appreciative of Kris' fashion sense.
With the final hours of riding remaining, Don and Shirly were really figuring out the whole "two-up-riding" thing, and in fact, they'd really gotten quite good at it.
As we blasted our way back to Jarabacoa, Warren and I did our best Ewan and Charlie Long Way impression.
Riding up the hill to Jarabacoa, our dry spell finally ran out. After two weeks of virtually no moisture, the clouds opened up and began dumping...
It was seriously soggy...
We rode back to the MotoCaribe compound to return the bikes back to where we found them.
Farewell Bike Number 1, you did your job well!
It was a bittersweet moment. We were all ready to head for home and see our loved ones, but very sad that there was no more riding to be had.
So, uhm... Going slow may be more dangerous than going fast - at least for CanyonChasers. To keep from going mad dealing with the slow pace caused by the reluctance to pass heavy laiden trucks, we decided to play a game of tag as we rode along. This shriveled role of toilet paper was passed from bike-to-bike using the same rules as a traditional game of tag. Warren was the final rider to receive the TP.
It's all fun and games...
The TP game was by far the most dangerous thing about riding in the DR, which amused me since it is self inflicted. There were several near tip-overs at stop lights.
Personally, I really enjoyed the Kill Switch game: hit a rider's kill switch while you are riding along and the bike stops making power. Simply flicking the switch back to on will get the bike running again. At one point on a stretch of autopista I managed to start at the back of the pack and shuffle up the group, hitting every kill switch on the way. I thought I was the grand champion of this game, until a missed attempt at Gary's handlebar lead to a conversation that distracted me long enough for Lindsey to sneak on my right and get my kill switch. I did not go undefeated, but I had the best score by far!
A Great way to wrap up the last day of riding!
For the final day, we all get to go out and have a special dinner. Lindsey was having a lot of fun with her camera and reviewing the photos from the past two weeks.
Warren and Ryan had also come to terms that they were the only two on the trip who were without their significant other.
Time to fly home. We all woke up early, bags packed and headed into Santo Domingo to catch our flights home. We dropped off Gary and Phylis and Don and Shirly as they had the early flight, then wandered into town to check out a few sights before our flight later in the afternoon. The first stop was at the "Monument to the Heroes of the Restoration."
In case you are not familiar with 20th-Century Dominican Republic history, a very bad man named Rafael Trujillo dictated with blood-lust and an iron fist came to power in the 1930's. It is said that more than 35,000 people were slaughtered, murdered or assassinated under his regime. In the 1940's he had this structure commissioned as a monument to himself. When Trujillo was eventually assented in 1961, (some believe the CIA orchestrated the assignation) the monument was reclaimed and refit in remembrance of the Independence Restoration War of 1863, in which the Dominican Republic regained its independence from Spain.
We each did our best to look like a Dominican hero.
Somehow, Lindsey's impersonation was better than all of ours.
After some final shopping, we were dropped off at the airport with enough time to grab one last Presidente before our flight. When we had checked in we were told that our flights out of the New York airport had been cancelled because of weather. Without access to our iPhones or the internet, none of us could verify this information but we all feared the trip home could become as eventful as the trip here.
Years of business travel has taught me two things: 1) Never freak out about changing flights, they're out of your hands. 2) By being nice but persistent you can get what you want.
While everyone else was flipping out about making a flight, I was trying to get Lindsey an upgrade to first class so we could sit together. After some sweet talking to a manager she had her first class ticket. This did not go over well for Warren, who was himself a Silver Medallion member but didn't get an upgrade. After much fighting with the gate agents and the gate manager, he demanded to know what was different between Warren and Mike.
"I am silver!" screamed Warren.
"Yes," replied the gate agent, "but he is gold".
As soon as we landed at JFK in New York, we all checked our phones. While there was no inclement weather anywhere, Delta had seen fit to cancel our flights because of the weather. If there is a weather delay, the airlines do not need to give you lodging or compensate travelers for the delay. So now were were stuck with having to find another way to Salt Lake City. With many of us returning to work on Monday, we didn't have much time to dawdle.
We had a couple of choices, one being an extra day in Las Vegas. Thinking that affordable lodging can be found in Vegas, and wanting to extend the fun as long as we could, we all managed to get our flights switched and soon we were all heading to Las Vegas.
At the ass-crack of midnight we touched down in America's playground. Viva Las Vegas! Debauchery and drunkenness was all around us!
The original plan was to all split up hotels on the strip but some huge convention was in town, taking all the available rooms. Certainly all the rooms with rates we were willing to pay. In a mix up of communication and desperation, we ended up with a hotel an hour outside of Vegas, requiring a rental car. Yay... This little side trip was becoming excessively expensive.
In a fit of frustration, Mike went all "Stig" on us. Needless to say, we were reluctant to get into the car with him. Fortunately the stench of helmet worn in the hot Caribbean for two weeks was enough to bring him to his senses and he quickly removed the helmet while the rest of us wondered where that awful smell was coming from.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway
The last time I was in Las Vegas with a helmet was for a special school with the Yamaha Champions Riding School. Those guys take rental cars very seriously. Instinct took over and I made sure I'd be ready for my opportunity for hot laps. In retrospect, putting the helmet away wet was a bad idea.
Mike was so irritated by having to drive an hour away to get a room (after having been awake for another 24 hours, that he insisted we go have fun or else there'd be hell to pay. Who were we to argue. I mean, just look at the look on his face.
So jell-o shots started things off. The rest is pretty much a blur. But I will say we all eventually made it home safe and sound.
Winter Wonder Land
All in all, this was a wonderful holiday made even better by the company! The first time Kris and I did this trip, there was a lot lost to getting to know and learning how to ride with people we'd never met before. Brining your own group with you solves that. We knew each other, we all knew how we rode and didn't have to take any time to transition. Not to mention that every one of the CanyonChasers is a highly proficient rider. This meant we were able to adapt to the constant changing conditions of riding in a developing nation much faster than your average bear.
There were some bumps along the way regarding the size of our group and the proficiency with which we were able to deal with local traffic patterns. MotoCaribe had never led a group this size and had never led a group with this high of a skill-set. This variance in understanding led to most of our frustrations. But to Robert and MotoCaribe's credit, we were able to find workable solutions that worked for MotoCaribe as well as us - the most obvious one was allowing us to ride ahead in smaller groups, meeting together at large landmarks to allow us to ride at our own pace without backing up traffic as well as prevent and of us from getting lost or separated. Thanks Robert!
Secondly, I had always thought a break in the middle of winter would help the cold non-riding season fly by. Sadly, I was mistaken. Two weeks of summer weather during the middle of a cold and wet winter made acclimating back to the snow-blanketed west even harder. And as a result, winter felt much longer. In the future, if we do a winter trip again, I think we will try to schedule it closer to our Spring riding season.
Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!
Even though I came home and a week later I was let go from my job; I didn't care. I just went on a trip of a lifetime with some amazing friends and the man that I love, riding motorcycles around in paradise. It really was one the best things I have ever done. I will hold on to this trip in my heart forever. Thank you Dave and Kris for inviting us all this wonderful adventure.
Thank you MotoCaribe for hosting Dave and Kris on an previous trip years ago so that they could come home, talk about how much fun they had, then giving them idea to share this with their fellow CanyonChasers. Oh, and thanks for putting up with all our silliness. It was a a truly remarkable experience.
Don't Expect First World Comforts while visiting the Third World
I had a fantastic time on this trip. The riding was amazing, the people were spectacular, the food was outrageous and soda was made with actual sugar. Some people may say that the accommodations were sub-par: the bed is lumpy, the food is weird, the music's in Spanish. If you don't wanna experience new cultures, stay home. I thought everything was just as it should be, and appreciated the peek into Dominican culture. I would go back in a heartbeat.
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Page Updated November 5, 2012 10:59