As the title suggest, this is officially the final post I will be writing on this blog. The reason for this is quite simple: I decided that my motorcycle trip would stop here in Quito, Ecuador.
On Wednesday, December 10th, I drove to a KTM shop here in town to change my oil and tires. I asked Wilson, the owner, if I could use his parking lot and a pan to change my oil. He agreed and a half hour later, I was starting the engine to make sure everything was running well. Unfortunately, it was not. The low oil pressure light was constantly on and I could hear the cam chains making noise due to lack of pressure in the hydraulic tensioners. I knew that was not good, but decided to consult with the mechanics to know what they taught about it. Wilson happened to be the most qualified mechanic as well and told me that most 990s had the same problem over 50 000km. As mine was now at 80 000km, it was not surprising to him. He told me that both the oil pressure bypass and main oil pump were getting worn out with time and I needed to replace them. To do that, I needed to split the engine in two. I asked him if he had the parts such as gaskets, o-rings, etc. He confirmed and we went through the steps I had to take in order to replace those parts.
I started to take the tanks, exhaust and covers off the bike when suddenly I stopped. It did not feel right. I felt like that was not what I wanted to do. I sat there next to the bike thinking for a few minutes. All of a sudden I realized that I had been thinking differently for the past few weeks. I realized that I lost the motivation I had in June of seeing new things and enjoy every moment of the trip. I mentally reviewed my riding in Colombia and realized that I had been riding much faster and lacked the focus I had until I hit Panama. It felt like all I wanted was to get south to Ushuaia as fast as I could. Many “do or die” situations had been happening in the past few days as a result. Where did the motivation go? Why did I change my mind all of a sudden?
My main motivations to go on this trip were to discover new ways of thinking and new cultures. While I wanted to enjoy various natural features along the way, I really wanted to get out of the world I knew and understand what makes people motivated and happy. I also wanted to have lots of time with myself to identify who I really was and wanted to be. As the months went by, answers to these questions became much clearer in my mind. Although I will probably keep working on them until I am considered too old to make sense anymore, I believe that I got what I wanted out of this trip. Going back to Montreal and then spending a week in Barcelona flicked a switch in my mind. Receiving my acceptation at IESE did nothing to help me get back in travelling mode.
Now that I had taken a year off, the question was: what do I want to do next? I had roughly 8 months until beginning of school in Barcelona. It did not take me long to sketch a rough outline of those 8 months. I had been feeling badly out of shape for the past few years. I decided that I would go back to triathlon training. My parents just purchased a lot next to a lake and they want to build a small cottage on it during the summer. Managing the project could be fun! The ideas were nothing extraordinary, but they made me feel excited to do something else. It became clear that it made sense to stop this trip right there.
I stood up to go talk to Wilson. I wanted to ask him how much he would give me for the bike. On my way, my phone rang. It was my brother. He was calling to see how I was doing and the timing was quite perfect. I told him what I had been thinking in the past two minutes. To him, it all made sense and I sounded convinced. It was good to verbalize all those random thoughts. Wilson showed interest to buy the bike, but was uncertain about the legal aspect for him to purchase a used bike from outside the country. I needed to go back to my hotel to search the web in order to understand the whole process. I asked him if I could leave my bike there and he agreed. On my way back to the hotel, I called my friend Martin to discuss my thoughts. It was good to verbalize it once more and Martin was a really good advisor as usual.
After spending 2 hours researching the web. It was evident that I could not legally sell the bike in Ecuador. I then research how much it would be to ship it back home. A couple from Vancouver had done it a few years back for $1500. They even left the contact information for the international shipping agency. I called them up and asked to speak with Roberto. He did not speak English and I was happy that I had stopped 3 weeks in Guatemala to learn some Spanish… I told him my situation and he asked me for box dimensions and total weight. I told him I would call him back after I visited the shop to take measurements.
Once back at the shop, I told Wilson that it was not possible to legally sell the bike to him. I asked him if he had shipping boxes from new bikes that I could pack my bike in. He did not, but called somebody up to know the approximate dimensions. I also took some measurements on the bike. Wilson offered to put the bike on a trailer and drive it wherever in Town I needed to go with it. He was truly a great guy! I told him that I would go and speak with the shipping guy and keep him updated as soon as I knew more information. I took a cab to the shipping office. There I met Roberto, his father and his partner. I handed him the dimensions of the box along with my estimate of the weight. He told me that he would send those information to the airline to get a quote. Then I asked him if he knew someone who could build a box for shipping. He did and told me that he would ask his contact for a quote as well. We went through the paperwork that he needed in order to complete the shipping form. I needed to put together a packing list and send copies of my passport, temporary import permit, licence, etc. He said that the bike would leave on Wednesday the following week and we would be building the box on Friday or Monday. I left in another cab heading back to the shop. After telling Wilson the whole story, I had 1h30 to work on the bike before they closed. I drained all the fluids out as required by the airline. I also put everything back together and took some pictures to elaborate my packing list. I then went back to my hotel.
The next day, I sent all required files early to Roberto. He replied with a quote from the airline that was more expensive than the other Canadian couple. I assumed that my box was bigger and volume is very important. Roberto confirmed that the final price would be according to the final dimensions and weight. He told me that his contact to build the box was out of town and that he would hear back from him on Saturday. From that point, I contacted Wilson to let him know and waited for two days… That night I announced my decision to my parents. They had been anxious and worried since the day I left in June. I was happy to announce the news as an early Christmas present. I could not keep lying for 10 days strait and wait until Christmas anyways. They were both happy and I was happy about their reaction.
On Saturday, I received another e-mail from Roberto saying that his contact would be available Monday morning. He wrote that he would be calling me early on Monday to organize where we would meet.
I spent the weekend walking around town and working on my computer. I registered to 3 races this year. The 70.3 Ironman in Muskoka on July 5th, the Timberman 70.3 Ironman on August 16th and also a more important one: the full Ironman Barcelona on October 4th. I experienced digestive issues on my last Ironman in 2010. My 10:55 time was not bad, but I was expecting to do better. Since then, I secretly had this desire to race again. I spent the weekend reading books on swimming, cycling and running. I also projected what kind of training sessions I would have to do every week leading to those events. I started stretching seriously and did some strength training in my room. Soon, the weekend was over.
On Monday morning, I received a call from Roberto. He invited me to join him and his contact at the shop to take definitive measurements. I met Henry who would be the builder. We took the measurements, but they all kept arguing with me about what could come off from the bike and what would be the resulting dimensions. I am not quite the same arguing in Spanish than I am in French or English so at some point I told them that if worse comes to worse, we would have to modify the box. The dimensions they wrote down were overkill, but I thought that bigger was better than smaller. We made plans to transfer the motorcycle to Henry’s shop on Wednesday at 10am. I then spoke to Wilson and agreed with the plan. In the afternoon, Roberto sent me Henry’s quote to build the box. $465 to have a steel frame box and $755 to have a wood frame box. I replied that I wanted the steel box and he asked me for a 70% deposit… to purchase the material. I understood that it was a different way to process than I am used to and asked him if I could pay with my credit card. He told me they did not have the system to run the cards through and sent me his bank account info. I research how I could do an international transfer and came across PayPal. My bank account was already in there and I could send a transfer through e-mail. I sent 325$ to Roberto’s e-mail. I then sent another e-mail to ask if it worked correctly. He replied that he had never used that method before. A few minutes later, he was asking me to do something else as PayPal was asking for a 48h delay to verify his information. I was a bit upset that he could not advance the money now that he had my 70% pending… Anyways, I blamed it on the culture difference. I called him to let him know I would meet him at his office in an hour. I walked to a nearby ATM to take out 3x $100 which was the limit per transaction. Once I made it to his office, he was out for some reason. His partner took the 70% and gave me an official receipt.
On Wednesday morning, I was at the shop at 9am to get the bike ready and put it on the trailer. I asked Wilson how much I owed him for the oil, the parking time and the ride on the trailer. He asked me 50$. He was such an helpful guy! I gave him a little more and headed to the shipping office with one of his mechanic. We picked up Roberto and his partner and went to Henry’s shop. We backed up the bike in an empty room that was well protected by a heavy steel door. To my surprise, there was no sign of a box anywhere. Henry asked me to come back the next day by 3pm to pack everything in the box.
On Thursday morning, Roberto forwarded me an e-mail from the airline saying that they did not want to take the bike before the first week of January. The shipping company responsible to take the bike from Miami to Montreal in a truck were closed during the holidays. Roberto then called me around 11am to let me know that the box was ready and they needed me to pack. I was there 20min later and we walked to Henry’s shop. There, I saw the box. It was made out of 1/2in tubing and although it did not look pretty, it would do the job just fine. I took the windshield and GPS off and we rolled it onto the platform. It obviously did not fit with both wheels on. I took the front wheel and front fender off. Then I explained once more that I would need a wood block to support the front axle and to prevent damage to the brake calipers. He showed me a piece of wood and I asked him to cut two small piece out of it. On their side, they worked perfectly to support the axle. I then asked Henry to groove the blocks in order to lock the axle in. He started cutting with his hand saw and I took the other block to try a different way. I cut the groove with my axe and it had a nice beaver teeth finish to it at the end. Henry then gave up and handed me the other block. It did not look pretty, put it did just fine. When the guys left to talk outside, I cut myself another piece of wood to lock the front suspension. Henry secured the blocks with nails and soon we were wrapping everything. The controls were important and were wrapped up carefully. We then positioned the front wheel, fender, windshield and my luggage around and strapped everything down. It was obvious by that point that the box was 12” too high. It represented almost 500$ of air freight and I asked Henry how much he would charge me to shrink it by 12”. He thought for a little and said 50$. That was a done deal and I paid him right away.
We took some pictures of the box and he agreed to send me pictures of the final product, lower with the plastic sides. I thanked him and told him that I was happy with his work before heading out with the two shipping agents. We walked a little before discussing how we would proceed for payment on the first week of January. After figuring out the steps we would take, I thanked them and returned to my hotel.
On Saturday, I am boarding a plane to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Sunday morning, I am flying to Santiago, Chile and I am taking another plane towards New-Zealand that same night. My family and I will be traveling the northern and southern islands for three weeks before heading back to Canada. I am looking forward to see them and enjoy our time together in this special country.
For all of you who regularly followed my adventures, I would like to thank you for your comments! Please let me know if you travel to Quebec this summer or Barcelona in the next 2 years!