Friday the 13th, Glacier and Snow
April 13, El Calafate, Argentina
How did you celebrate Friday the 13th? I didn't realize the date 'till I sat down to write this quick update and I just did the math and realized that it was exactly 23 months ago that I celebrated it by leaving an extra-special voice mail to my Vice President at work. I usually try to avoid celebrating this unique holiday but today I celebrated by breaking the key to my motorcycle's back storage compartment - the key broke off inside the lock. I was getting ready to ride to the Glacier again today, hoping there would be a little sun-light on the glacier for some better pictures, but instead I got to spend my Friday the 13th looking for a locksmith ("Cerrajeria") and waiting a couple of hours while he changed the nature of the locks on all three storage compartments; now I need one key for one of the bags and a different key for the other two. I was hoping for a return to "key normalcy" but at least everything works again. The locksmith didn't really seem to know what he was doing but was the only one in town. After my Friday the 13th festivities were complete it was too late for a return trip to Glacier Perito Moreno.
Yesterdays trip to Glacier Perito Moreno provided some of the most incredible scenery of the whole trip. It was 42 degrees and raining and that's part of the reason for the lock problem [the back compartment lock tends to be sticky after a ride in the rain because water and grit get into the lock. Usually it works itself out but today it caused the lock to somehow grip the front end of the key in a way that no amount of wiggling or oil could dislodge]. The glacier was absolutely amazing and made me wish I had a video camera with good sound reception. Hearing the crackling and explosive gunshot sounds as the front of the glacier releases massive blocks of ice into Lago Argentino is very dramatic and impressive. I was there for almost 5 hours waiting for the rain to stop but it never did, so the pictures were not what I would've liked but they give a general idea of the glacier.
The internet connection here is too slow to download any pictures. I'll be returning to Rio Gallegos tomorrow where I need to get a new back tire. It's gotten to the point where every time I reach my destination I feel lucky that I didn't get a flat tire because there's not much tread left. That's all for now.
April 15, Rio Gallegos, Argentina
Happy tax day! I got a little extension on my taxes so I didn't have to fly back for an emergency tax trip. But I practically flew from El Calafate to Rio Gallegos yesterday - the strong wind was at my back most of the day, except for that little snow storm. Actually I just missed the snow storm. When I left El Calafate it was 48 degrees and raining and there was a light "powdered sugar" coating of snow on all of the low hills around the town and a new bright-white, thick layer of snow on the mountains and the higher hills which surround the town.
About 15 miles west of El Calafate there's a steep upgrade that leads to the central Patagonian highlands, at about 2,700 feet above sea level. Approaching the top of that hill there was a thick layer of snow on the side of the road and slush on the road from the snow storm that seemed to have ended only about 15-30 minutes before I got there - it was the first time I've ridden in actual slush and I hope it's the last! It was about 35 degrees and there were lots of big trucks kicking up tons of slush and road-grime, making it nearly impossible to see. Luckily this messy little phase of the trip only lasted about 5 miles, then the clouds cleared and it "warmed up" to about 48 degrees and the rest of the trip was as a very gradual descent back to sea level with a strong back-wind helping my progress.
Rio Gallegos is not a touristy town but it's a relatively normal place as far as southern Patagonia goes. I made it to the motorcycle shop earlier than I needed to and finally got my badly needed back tire. It was a busy place and among the visitors were a couple of guys with BMW's that were also returning from Ushuaia. One guy had started in Miami and went to Alaska, then Los Angeles to pick up the other guy, who had one arm and a specially set up right handle grip with the break and the clutch both very close together for his single hand to operate. It was good to catch up with other bikers.
It took over 4 hours to get my new tire and I felt like I was held hostage at that motorcycle shop; when I arrived they quickly removed my back wheel and left with it, and the new tire, and didn't return for another 4 hours and every time I asked about it they said that someone was going to get it and would return soon. My BMW friends had left 2 hours into that wait. That was an annoying afternoon that led into the evening but it was the only option for getting a new tire within 1,000 miles or so and the $325 cost of the tire showed that the cocky Italian guy who owned the place knew exactly how valuable it was in my situation. The only other likely spot would have been Comodoro Rivadavia which I already checked on the way down and they didn't have one. Now I'm heading north to Puerto San Julian, a town that really made me want to leave when I was there on the way down.