Respect for Potholes

After some heavy lifting and lots of grunting the bikes had been offloaded and safely put on shore. Then came the longest custom clearance of the entire trip, it took over 5 hours of waiting, checking VIN numbers and correcting documents until we were finally cleared to leave.  I was still with my South African friends when we met Al; originally from Uruguay Al was riding from Boston to visit family in Uruguay. The six of us explored Cartagena.  Cartagena is alive! There are so many places to see, great nightlife, friendly people and lots to do. A great place to spend a few days and get my land legs back.

After saying good bye to the South Africans, Al and I spent another day in Cartagena before riding south. The road south started off amazing, fairly well maintained, twisty, fast and amazing scenery, I was having a blast. We had over a 500km ride before us and were making great time and figured we would make it to Medellin for dinner that was, until the monster pothole.

“look where you want to go” is one of the major rules for motorcycle riding, so why did I look right at a pothole? I hit the pothole while doing about 120km/hr in a corner. There was a problem right away; the sound of the impact is still ringing in my ears. My bike began to wobble, into the oncoming traffic lane; fortunately there was no oncoming traffic. The bike felt like it was about to go down and I was going to crash into the pavement. I don’t remember exactly what I did but I somehow managed to get the bike to the narrow shoulder and stopped safely. The front tire was flat and upon closer inspection I could see that the front rim was cracked and the rear rim was also damaged. Pacing up and down the road to calm my nerves and wait for Al seemed like the only thing I could do.

Al went to the next town and came back with a mechanic rather quickly. The young 17 year old got to work right away by removing the front tire. Together the mechanic and I went to another town to find a welder to fix the tire. I got on the back of his little 135cc and we raced toward the city, it had to be one of the scariest rides I have ever taken. We weaved around potholes and big trucks like they were of no consequence. I was holding the tire and trying to stay on the bike, no easy task. To make matters worse I must have run over some fresh dog shit and it was still on the tire, the smell was floating under my helmet, and I was too scared to move.  Fortunately this town had and abundance of welders, unfortunately not everyone can weld aluminum rims. We went from shop to shop until we finally found someone who could weld it.  Nobody working there was over 25 years old, but the welder seemed to know what he was doing and got to work right away. The other guys at the shop took it upon themselves to find me a Colombian girlfriend, they figured I needed one to be my GPS, and after only 10 minutes they came back with a young 19 year old. She was quite attractive and seemed interested in meeting a Canadian biker; much to my surprise my grey hair did not scare her away. I just wanted my tire fixed and was worried about Al waiting at the side of the road, it was getting late in the day and he was alone in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately for Al there are lots of women in Colombia and I am old enough to know that there will be other opportunities.

With the rim welded we raced back to the mechanics shop where he put a tube in my tubeless tire, it was soon ready to go back on the bike. We found Al, waiting calmly at the roadside, it felt like hours had passed but Al was still in high sprints. The mechanic got to work putting the bike back together, and then the rain started. It rained so hard that we could not see, but he kept working while I held the flashlight. I got my raingear on, a little late as usual and was of course, wet. The mechanic had no rain gear and was soaked, but finished just after it got dark; I paid him $35 and was on the road again. He was ecstatic to get $35 and when we drove by his shop a few minutes later all I could hear where cheer and clapping.

It was going to be 68km until the next hotel so Al and I started off in pouring rain in almost total darkness. With only our headlight and spotlights to illuminate the roadway the ride was difficult. The rain made for poor visibility and soon the fog rolled in. What I had not realized was that a mountain range was before us. We started to climb the mountains, with no street lights to guide us I had to look to both sides of the bike to see the lines in the road and make sure I did not go into the mountain side or over a cliff. We stared to hit lots of truck traffic, helping light the way but the trucks were also having difficulty. We passed several disabled trucks, many of them without flares to warn us, I almost crashed into the back of one, turning at the very last minute. Because of the heavy rains the road was also flooded from mountain run off, making the road slippery and even more dangerous.  We were only doing between 10 and 20km/hr because of the conditions.

At one point I lost Al, who was leading, and I started to get very worried. Did he go off the road and I missed him? Was he hurt? I was alone in the middle of an unlit highway, unable to see well, with a freshly repaired front tire and now my front brakes were making an awful sound. Not only were the front brakes making a funny sound but they were also not gripping well. There was no place to pull over, the only choice I had was to go forward in search of the town and hopefully I would find Al there holding a cold beer. After what felt like a lifetime I saw the taillight of a motorcycle, it was Al pulled over at a restaurant. Thankfully Spanish is Al’s first language and we got directions to a hotel, only 5 minutes away. It took 20 minutes but we arrived, safe and in one piece, there was never any sign of a town. Many times I questioned if I would make it, I think I had a Guardian Angel that night. This was by far the scariest ride of my entre adventure.

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9 Responses to Respect for Potholes

  1. Harry says:

    It looks like the rim is still bent. Will you need to get a new one?

  2. greg says:

    That photo was before any repairs, However more repairs are being done today

  3. Roberto says:

    Hi Greg,

    I see you have many trouble on this route. But you have to be thankful because fortunately nothing happened to you and the bikes problem have solution.

    Welcome to the adventurer rider world

  4. Jane Rose says:

    Um…. a bit of high adventure. After facing down the dangerous rides in the dark, you are going to be formidable! Amazing that you were able to find the welder! I hate to even suggest it, but you could use a very little bit of “dull” for a bit. 😉

    Of course, we are hearing all this stuff AFTER the fact, so, yes, it makes interesting reading —NOW THAT WE KNOW YOU ARE STILL SAFE!

    Good Travels, friend. Wonderful that you are meeting folks to ride with for some stretches — and that you had a buddy for this mishap.

  5. Pete Chester says:

    Wild ride Greg. You are for sure having an adventure. As you have found down there they know how to fix things, they are use to getting it done with out new parts. I am glad it was the moto that got busted up a little & not you. Hope the rest of the trip goes along a lot better. Pete Chester

  6. Kevin says:

    Good work Greg,
    The Adventures continue, I did the same in Guatemala, not much fun.
    There is a place called Casa Kiwi in Medellin, great place to stay.
    Plenty of places to get bikes fixed there too.
    Great city.

  7. Leah says:

    Wow! This was a great post! I’m glad I was reading it though and not living it.
    What are you planning for Christmas? It’s just around the corner now.

  8. Alvaro Martinez , .... ( Al ) says:

    lo mas lamentable es que nos perdimos el paisaje , …. ( Most unfortunately, we missed the landscape ….)

  9. greg says:

    lucky for me you were there, thanks my friend!!

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