Getting Ready To Ride! 0

We decided that our Honda Goldwing was too big and heavy for the rough roads we might encounter and that our KLR650 was probably too light for the demands of extended two up travel – so after some research we decided on a Suzuki Vstrom 1000. I purchased the machine in an Ebay auction and Pam and I drove our minivan and trailer 700 miles to McHenry, MD to pick up the new bike from Deep Creek Marina. The folks at Deep Creek Marina were easy to do business with, good price, great service and very helpful. It was back to Chicago to accessorize the machine and get it ready.

Pam and dave on new bike

During the last couple of weeks of December we added a touring seat, luggage, bigger windshield, madstad bracket, crash bars, skid plate, tank bag, mirror wideners and bar backs, and lots of electrical upgrades including a GPS, mp3 player and intercom. We are finally almost ready to leave today but it has decided to snow and then cool down. We may end up putting the bike back on the trailer and head south to get out of the weather.

Vstrom ready to ride

Getting Out Of Town 0

Subfreezing temperatures combined with compact ice and snow on the road complicated our departure from Chicago. We loaded the bike on our trailer and drove south 200 miles to Springfield, Illinois where the weather was forecast to be acceptable for riding.

Loading up to get out of the snow.

Pam drove the trailer back to Chicago and I stayed in a motel. The following morning I rode South and Pam flew to St. Louis where I picked her up. We continued to the first overnight of Festus, Missouri.  Festus is one town away from Flat River where Pam’s grandmother was born. 

New Years Eve Beale Street Memphis 0

Late waking up, we missed the free continental breakfast.  Left Festus at 1120, drove through to Cape Girardeau and stopped for breakfast.  Midstate Missouri is pretty with rolling hills and interesting geologic rock formations.  Pam saw a flock of 20-30 wild turkeys, lots of red-tailed hawks, and several large flocks of starlings swarming.   Further south the land flattens out into the Mississippi flood plain, beautiful green farmland.  Crossed into Arkansas, Pam has finally visited all 50 states.  We continued on to Memphis, entering the city just after dark; it was a pretty sight crossing the river.  We drove through downtown to Beale Street, which was already blocked off for the New Year’s festivities.  After getting to the hotel we worked on tomorrow’s route, and called family to say Happy New Year.  Tomorrow we head for Baton Rouge.

Memphis To Jackson 0

Happy New year – The New Year started out with several surprises.  #1 woke up this morning to a dead battery.  (The VStrom allows the key to be removed when in the “parking light position”).  #2, AAA Tennessee does not provide jump service to motorcycles  (Letters please to the Tennessee AAA)!  We finally got a jump from a Good Samaritan and headed south to Baton Rouge.  It has been very cold in the South, low 20′s, so much that Pam have been unable to take pictures from the back of the bike, and with the late start we only made it to Jackson, MS.

Jackson To Baton Rouge 0

Dave found a Suzuki shop and was up early to get the 600-mile oil change done.  Left the motel at 1220 for Baton Rouge.  Still cold!  Pretty drive through lower Mississippi, more farms.  Crossed into Louisiana and made it to Baton Rouge by 5pm, picked up the headset extender cable that we had mailed ahead.  Dave had done some online research about shocks, as the bike still rides really low when fully loaded.  We called the best in the business Klaus at EPM Performance Imports who was very helpful; he recommended a shop in Austin Texas and we coordinated parts shipment and a service appointment to have stiffer springs for the rear shocks and progressive springs for the front forks installed on Friday.  This should make a difference when we cross “topes” (speed bumps) down south.  Had dinner at Waffle House, and a great conversation with the staff there who were all intrigued by our ride, especially given how cold it has been! 

Baton Rouge To Austin 0

Got up in time to actually have the free breakfast!  We hit the road at 08:45 and drove pretty much straight through to Austin with 3 short stops for gas and McDonald’s.  Cold all the way through the bayou country, we turned the electric vests up to high.  We made it straight through downtown Houston with no problem, hardly any traffic at all at 1 p.m..  It was pretty scenery through mid Texas, rolling hills after awhile and big open skies.  Saw several ranches for Brahman cattle and antelope.  Got to Austin just before sunset, our chosen hotel turned out to be new (good), but in the very middle of a mass highway intersection and not walking distance to anywhere (bad).  We used the coupon catalog to find a more convenient hotel just after dark

Austin Texas 0

Had breakfast at the motel, and then drove out to see Roger at OnRoadOffRoad Cycles on the west side of Austin.  Roger an ex-electrical engineer who races motorcycles works out of his garage and has quite the suspension shop set up.  While he and Dave worked on changing out the shocks, Pam did trip research on the Internet and directed all the foot traffic coming in the door to where the guys were working.  Roger is a busy guy!  Bruce, one of his friends who stopped by has a Colombian girlfriend – he is going to ask her for recommendations for Bogota and send us anything he gets.  Paul was there working on some of the other bikes and gave lots of tips for Mexico, including a way to circumvent the long immigration lines at Nuevo Laredo by going through Columbia. We spent almost 6 hours to change out the shocks, but the bike rides higher and a lot less sag when loaded.


It handles better with the stiffer spring in back and progressive springs in front.  Roger was great to work with, and we would absolutely recommend him to anyone.  After a nap, dinner, then Pam did laundry while Dave worked on the website.  We will probably be here one more day to finalize set-up and get last minute amenities before crossing the border.

Austin Texas 0

Today was a long day, the last business day before crossing the border.  After many calls, we found the right places to obtain our international cell phones, have them activated and unlocked, and to replace the battery in our laptop as both it and the spare were dead.  A welcome diversion was a late lunch at Chuy’s on North Lamar blvd while we waited for the cell phones to be unlocked.  Good Mexican food and great service, and right next door to a Triumph/BMW cycle shop.  We wandered over to Lone Star BMW / Triumph after lunch and spent about an hour shopping.  Nice people, we ended up talking with them in the parking lot after they closed.  Highlight of the stop was meeting Ardys Kellerman, a famed Beemer rider from the area.  A great lady, it was wonderful to meet and talk with her.

At last, back to the hotel to pack up and take final stock of our preparations.  Tomorrow we ship our excess poundage back home, get some cards printed, and head for the border!

Austin To Laredo 0

Today after much packing and repacking, we were able to lighten our load by about 15 pounds by shipping some extra (not really) clothes along with our stock springs and supplies back home.  The weather has turned warm and we are now geared for tropical climates, so the winter touring jackets and electrics have been packed and the mesh jackets brought out.  The winter jackets are heavy and take a lot of space in the bags (we have used vacuum bags to try and reduce the bulk).  We finally left Austin at 1:30.  It was a fast 4-hour ride through south central Texas and San Antonio to Laredo.  We followed the Colombia Toll road shortcut we had been told about, but there were no hotels on this side, so we continued on into Laredo just as the sun set.  Hotels are expensive here, in the $70-80 range; after some searching we found the Gateway Inn for $49 including wireless Internet, and a short walk to restaurants. Although we got a good parking spot right outside the room when we first arrived, Pam had to save it while Dave rode to Wal-Mart for oil by sitting on a chair in the parking spot while studying the finer points of the GPS system.  Dave changed the oil again and adjusted and lubed the chain before we cross the border tomorrow.  No more casual cell phone use as we will now be on international roaming charges, but at least we have them for emergencies if needed.  Future posts to RogoRides mayalso be fewer and farther between as regular Internet access may be harder to find from here on.

Laredo To Saltillo 0

Today we crossed into Mexico!  Got off to a late start, as we had to finalize the travel insurance and other last minute details.  We crossed at the international Bridge #2 to Nuevo Laredo at about 1:30 p.m.. no traffic to speak of; it only took 45 minutes to get our tourist cards and vehicle registration.  Then it was hit the highway to get as far away from the border and all its unsavory characteristics.


We took only a brief stop for lunch at a truck stop plaza on the autopista (toll highway).  It was very warm, in the high 80′s; glad we didn’t ship the mesh jackets home!  The highway was very straight and flat to begin with:

Straight Flat Road Just South Of Nuevo Laredo 

but gradually eased into some rugged mountains around and past Monterrey.

It is easy to imagine the tremendous volcanic activity that created them, as you can still easily see the folds and craters.  We passed a sign that said altitude 1400 meters (about 4200 feet) above sea level.  As the sun was sinking we stopped at PEMEX, the government-owned gas company for a fill-up, and got recommendations for a hotel stop in Saltillo, Coahuila.  Found a typical older hotel in the old centro, acceptable as it had secure parking for the bike.  After we settled in, we took quite a long walk around the centro historico about 7 p.m.; the streets were very lively with people just coming back out after siesta.  Saltillo is a quaint city with some very nice old architecture.  We found the market as it was closing up and walked through, breathing deep of the wonderful fresh herbs still on the tables.  Finally decided on roast chicken for dinner at a spot not too far from the hotel.  Dave bought an ice cream cone for dessert that was so big it took both of us to finish it! 

We will probably have to wear earplugs tonight as our room looks over the main street and is across from the bus station; tomorrow we will strike out for San Luis Potosi or San Miguel de Allende.

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