Bad Chain Story

April 18, Puerto Madryn, Argentina

            Last night I had pizza at a little artsy looking place called "Lizard".  Don't ever eat there.  I broke one of my rules - not to eat in places where there aren't many, or any, locals eating.  The only locals were just drinking beer and the only ones eating were a couple other tourists.  I ordered pizza with spinach and hamburger and when I started eating I somehow knew that it would make me sick and I ate less than half of the single sized portion.  The fast-poopies started in the early afternoon and now I feel like a truck hit me and my stomach hurts and I feel all whiney so I'm going to do this quick update and go to bed with my Gatorade, crackers and Ciproflaxin regimen, which I haven't needed since Mexico.

            Ciproflaxin isn't going to help my bike, it's much sicker.  The sprockets and chain are trashed.  After I got a new tire 4 days ago I noticed that the chain became loose much quicker.  I had adjusted it only 1-2 times a month during the last 7 months and have been very careful about cleaning, lubing and adjusting the chain.  The sprocket looked only very slightly worn when I examined it as I was getting my new tire in Rio Gallegos.  I've adjusted it 4 times in the last 4 days and the distance I've had to move the adjuster-thingy in the last 4 days is probably 5 times what it has been for the whole trip and the sprocket teeth are really worn down and have a bran new funny, shark-fin shape to them; I'm not an expert but I think that's bad. 

            Being that the only difference on the bike was a new tire I thought the tire guys messed up the sprocket somehow when they put the tire back on so I checked the alignment of everything, checked the front sprocket, which was warn, readjusted the chain and rode it for ten minutes only to find that it was very loose again.  Bad.  Plus the chain cylinders are loose and I can turn them and move them in ways they shouldn't move.  Bad. 

            I took it to the only bike guy in town and he agreed that it was bad and also agreed that the alignment of the wheel and sprocket and everything looked fine...  Okay, so I took a little breather from writing this thing and I think I know what it is - salt.  When I was riding from El Calafate to Rio Gallegos [April 15th] and went through the slushy snowy part I'm pretty sure I was following a salt truck for a couple of minutes.  I wasn't sure at the time because I couldn't see very well but when the truck pulled off to the side of the road, after the snowy part of the road, I glanced at it and remember that I couldn't tell what kind of truck it was - I hadn't seen any like that on the trip but I had not ridden in snow either.  I'm pretty sure it was a salt truck.

            In one of my many discussions I've had with other bikers I heard about how bikes with chains (as opposed to drive-shafts) have a hard time in Bolivia because there are some large salt flats there and salt is bad for chains because it destroys the little rubber "O" rings.  If that truck was a salt truck, and I'm thinking it was, my chain would have been completely saturated with very salty road muck and to make matters worse it was at the beginning of a 4 hour cold dry day on the road.  The salty muck probably penetrated the "O" rings and filled the cylinders with that corrosive chain-killing mixture of salt and grit.  That's all I've got to go on.  Anybody??

            The bike is running great but I've still got no blinkers or gauges [that little electrical fuse thing that I mentioned on March 27th; I'm hoping to fix it in Buenos Aires] and the low-beam headlight burned out today so the only light left on the whole bike is one bright headlight - which is what I would choose if I could only choose one so that's okay~~~ 

            The bike guy said he called everyone in Buenos Aires that might have had and two sprockets for me but hasn't found anything yet.  I don't have much confidence in this guy because he kept offering to remove a link in my chain to tighten it up - even though he understood that after I tightened the chain it was almost immediately stretching and becoming loose again.  Removing a link wouldn't make it any stronger, it may actually even make it break faster and I have no desire to find out what happens when a motorcycle chain breaks while riding down the highway; I guess the best-case scenario is that the chain would drop on the highway and I would simply coast to a stop and be stranded in that spot.  The many worse-case scenarios involve the chain getting tangled in bad places and causing the back wheel to lock up, likely causing a crash, and leaving me stranded AND injured with a broken motorcycle.  This is exactly why my new mission is to obtain a new chain and the accompanying front and back sprockets.  It's about 1,000 miles to Buenos Aires and it looks like my chain would last another 100 miles at best.

            We'll see what happens tomorrow because I'm too sick and tired-grumpy to fix or find anything right now so I'm going to shimmer and shake my butt to the lobby where they've got wi-fi and try to download this then go back to bed.

April 24, Puerto Madryn, Argentina

            Sunday I started feeling better than I had all week so I rented a car and checked out the Valdes Peninsula, just north of here.  Maybe you've seen those pictures or clips of Orcas swimming right up to the waterline of the beach and snatching seals or sea lions for a quick meal; it's mother nature at her grittiest and most real "National Geographic" moments.  Many of those images are filmed on the north end of the Valdes Peninsula between January and March, which is high season for seals and those black and white seal eaters that help expedite natural selection by weeding out the less attentive.  There are occasional sightings through April so I had to try because it was a clear sunny day.  There were lots of other critters but no Orca action.

            I see below that I said I was feeling better but a bit later I wasn't.  Up to Sunday I had that kind of sick that leaches out every ounce of energy, makes your body ache and kills motivation for anything more demanding than bed and television but I think I've finally kicked it, with Cipro's help.  And thanks to Mike G. in Seattle [I worked with his wife, Maristelle, in that Pharma firm who's name I've almost forgotten - and I know they've forgotten mine!] it looks like I've got a chain and a couple of sprockets on the way as well - on Saturday he pulled a Louis and Clark recon-expedition mission from Renton to Everett [a long way in Seattle traffic] gathering all the pieces I need, then he spent Monday dealing with the friendly folks from DHL working out the intricacies of shipping stuff to Argentina.  I also contacted DHL several times to make sure we had the details covered and my conversations with DHL and his seem consistent enough so unless customs decides to pull some surprise BS it looks like I'll have the parts within a week, that rocks.  I've gotta catch up on pictures now. 

April 24, later, Puerto Madryn, Argentina

            The downtime here has given me the chance to catch up on some of the pictures I skipped when I jumped forward to the Ushuaia pictures, starting with Santiago.

Santiago 1

April 25, later, Puerto Madryn, Argentina

            More pictures and a bran new exciting search page.

Santiago 2

April 27, Puerto Madryn, Argentina

            I'm just sitting here in the hotel lobby waiting for my motorcycle parts to arrive.  The DHL thing said the package arrived in Buenos Aires yesterday morning, and showed "Clearance processing complete" yesterday afternoon so I'm assuming it's on the way to Puerto Madryn.  I'm finally caught up on the pictures I skipped - this next page is through the Andes and the lake region of Argentina and includes some great scenery.  Wish me luck on the parts...

Argentina 1

April 29, Puerto Madryn, Argentina

            Still here with no parts.  I've been here long enough to run for mayor and I think I'll do so with the sole campaign promise of making a new rule that if DHL employees lie to their customers about their package status they have to suffer some very painful and/or embarrassing consequences.  On Thursday they told me it would be here on Friday.  On Friday they told me it would be here over the weekend but it wouldn't be delivered 'till Monday, but I would be able to pick it up at the DHL office, which is only 4 blocks away from my hotel; but it might as well be 400 miles away because it's closed all weekend.  Then on Saturday they said it was still sitting in Buenos Aires because they need my passport number to send it on to Puerto Madryn and said they were going to call me at the hotel to ask for it but they weren't able to say who would have called me, or when, or why the people I've talked to over the last several days didn't mention anything about needing my passport number.  This last part is particularly annoying because Mike G. had many detailed conversations with DHL folks to ensure that every document had every single bit of information they needed.

            The online tracking information said, on Friday and Saturday, that it is in Buenos Aires and "available upon payment of recipient" but everyone I've spoken with said they're not sure why it says that because it's clearly paid for.  Today it says that it has "arrived at the DHL facility", just like it said 4 days ago when it arrived at the B.A. DHL facility, and it also says "Delivery arranged, no details expected", whatever that means.  Today the US DHL office said it was given to a third party for delivery to Puerto Madryn within 48 hours and I'm hoping that is the right one.

            I know that is all very exciting information and your lives are enriched by knowing about it, eh?  So here I am on my birthday being a little annoyed about the shipping issues but at the same time I'm very glad to be waiting for the package here in Puerto Madryn.  It's a very pleasant, small, clean city and the timing is great because it's past the tourism prime-time of December through March so it's "muy tranquilo" and relatively cheap.  I'll be posting pictures from here in the next day or so. 

April 30, Puerto Madryn, Argentina

            I got the parts!  They arrived at the DHL office this morning and the mechanic I met last week (a different mechanic from the initial one who wanted to remove a link in my chain to "fix" things) is going to put them on the bike today and I'll be leaving for San Antonio Oeste, or maybe further, tomorrow.  I was getting concerned because tomorrow is their "Labor Day" holiday, which of course they celebrate by not working, so if I didn't get the parts today it would have been Wednesday at the earliest.  I think this the first time since Puebla, Mexico, that I've been caught up on pictures.

            As suspected, all the forms on the package were filled out with every bit of information necessary but part of the hold up was due to them taping over parts of the original forms with various customs stickers and other documents that get tagged to a package when in travels from one country to the next.

Puerto Madryn

May 1, Viedma, Argentina

            Finally in a new place!  Viedma looks like it fell asleep in 1965 and just woke up last year.  Everything looks and feels old style but it's all clean and well kept.  It's the capital of the Rio Negro province and I've actually noticed that other capital cities I've seen so far [Rawson, Rio Gallegos and Ushuaia in Argentina and Punta Arenas, Osorno and Temuco in Chile] have the same old but well kept sort of look.  The ride today was 300 miles and half of that was in the rain so I guess the new chain is really broken in now.  It hadn't rained once in the 13 days I've been stranded in Puerto Madryn, 'till today that is - what wonderful timing.  Not sure how far I'll go tomorrow.

            I was really glad to have met that mechanic - the rental car lady's son recommended him.  I showed up with the chain and my motorcycle and a couple of hours later it was all put together and he only wanted to charge me $25.  If you're ever stuck in Puerto Madryn with any mechanical issues look for Sergio "Pichon" Parra.  He's part of some group that has a website:  www.madryn.com/automovilismo

            That's it for now, I'm pretty tired.