South America by Motorcycle

A Kawasaki Motorcycle Tour


| July/August 2010



south america 1

Dan Ricker looks out over the road to Abancay in central Peru as the Crazy Gringos head into the mountains toward the end of their trip

Photo by Neale Bayly

Customs Office, Guatemala City, Central America: Each of our four Kawasaki 550 motorcycles now has 31 different sheets of paper, ranging from photocopies of passports to typed forms with VIN and registration numbers. Thirteen people at 13 desks had to stamp each piece of paper. Mercifully, not all of them needed to be bribed.

The strain was beginning to show on our faces, along with the sweat. Maybe we had made a big mistake; maybe our motorcycles would be stuck in Guatemala City forever; maybe we should have just ridden down through Mexico.

The idea had seemed simple enough: Buy four beater motorcycles, ship them to Guatemala, and tour Central and South America by motorcycle riding as far south as we could in five weeks, but sometimes things don’t quite go as planned. Spending two days in the middle of an expensive Latin American paper chase was not the start we had envisioned in Florida during the planning stages.

Getting started

The story actually began for me in 1988. Having returned to the U.S. after riding around Australia, I was working on a new motorcycle adventure to South America. An industrial accident requiring two major spinal surgeries to correct put an end to that trip, but not the dream. Fast-forward to 1995, and while working at Precision Cycle in Sarasota, Fla., a new motorcycle tour was planned. Ron Kilma (owner of the shop), Dan Ricker, Joe Eriei and I bought four $300 mid-1980s Kawasaki 550 motorcycles and made sure they were mechanically sound before sending them on ahead to Guatemala City. With each of us riding a similar motorcycle we could carry one set of spare parts that fit all, minimizing the amount of equipment we needed to carry.

We used the shipping time to get our shots, passports and other details together and, after our wonderful Latin American paper chase on arrival, saddled up and hit the Pan-American Highway by motorcycle.

Nightfall of our first day’s riding found us on the border with El Salvador. A miscommunication caused us to ride 30 miles of incredibly rough road after dark, costing us two speedometer cables and two sets of fork seals. We certainly couldn’t afford too many mistakes of this nature. The next day things settled down, but by the time we arrived in Costa Rica, things were getting set to change.





bike on highway

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