MEGA Dominican Republic Motorcycle Adventure

cavebiker

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Feb 10, 2012
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MEGA Dominican Republic Motorcycle Adventure - Tom Junkans

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Of course, skip all the dribble if you like and just check out a few photos
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Here is just a teaser. Enjoy?
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Disclaimer:
These reports were written in 2011? while they were taking place. I see DR1 as an excellent opportunity for me to re-edit, re-live and re-post some of my favorite times in my life, life in the DR. With hope, maybe these reports and exposure of the island will do some good, the island through the eyes of a hiker, motorcycle adventurer and lover of the Dominican Republic and it?s culture, the good and the real.


All right, let?s go! I researched motorcycle rentals so my friend Tom, who is known as Hipster, has his pick of bikes when he comes to visit us. The same day he lands on the island we take a walk down main street Cabarete and there sits a Yamaha DT125 enduro, for rent. Super. We look at the bike. I look at the rear sprocket first to determine the wear and tear on the bike. It looks in good shape. Tom looks at the tires. They are worn, but he thinks they are good enough, especially for the price, $20 a day. He knows about the Honda XL650 and the Suzuki DR650 with new tires at another shop in Sasua but they are renting for $40 and $45 a day. Hipster arranges to rent this bike at 8:00 Am the next morning.


The next day we wait for the guy to show up with the bike. 9:00 AM the guy shows up. I suggest to Hipster to take a test spin first. Back from his test ride he talks about the front steering column being loose and the rim seems to be out of round. He wants me to take it for a test but I refuse and say ?It?s your bike man. If you don?t like it we have lots of other bikes to choose from? Now, anyone who knows Hipster knows he is not exactly a big spender. He decides to go with the $20 DT125, loose steering column, bent rim and all. Humm, this may add to the fun.


Hipster hands over his passport and the full payment for 8 days rental in cash to the rental guy, then hands over his credit card for the $1,100 security deposit. Everything seemed copasetic. Tommy is on the bike and ready to roll. I take off on foot back to the condo after telling Hipster ?I will see you in a minute back at the condo? A minute passed, three minutes pass, ten minutes. I drop my stuff and begin walking back to where I last saw him.


Here is the story back at the rental booth: Just after I walked off, the rental guy informs Tom that he wants to get a spare sparkplug in case the plug on the bike fouls out. The rental guy jumps on the motorcycle and rides off saying he is riding to a shop to buy the plug. I have shared many stories of cons played here on the island to unsuspecting tourists. One of our favorite sayings, Cavegirl and I, are ?This is paradise, not heaven. Bad things still can happen is paradise? Tommy is freaking out, thinking he has just been ?had?. The bike is gone, the guy with his cash is gone, his passport is gone and the guy has $1,100 charged on his credit card?


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Hipster shows up a few minutes later and we are ready to roll. Oh Yeah!
 

cavebiker

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MEGA ride continued:


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Of course Tom’s bike has no rearview mirrors (what do you expect for $20). I suggest we stop at a shop outside of town and buy a pair. I say “it will only cost you about two hundred” His eyebrows rise. “That’s under six bucks” He gets the mirrors.


My neighbor was there waiting for some work on his bike. He has an old Honda 750, four-cylinder. It is a nice bike with a new paint job. He thinks we are nuts to ride where we are planning to ride and tells a horror story robbery and murder. I agree and say “It’s dangerous everywhere, isn’t it” I grin. Tom gives me a look, he knows my style of riding.


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Now, time to put in the foundation for the days ride. Ten miles up the coast we stop in Sabaneta for a hardy breakfast at a favorite Dominican restaurant. Oh Yeah…


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In Sabanata, we turn off the north coast road and start riding up into the mountains. It soon starts to rain, and then it starts raining hard. At this point, we have been riding for over an hour and we were ready for a break. We take shelter under an awning of an empty bar / pool hall. Soon the rain slows and we can see blue sky to the north. We agree that we are chasing the rain. Soon, we turn down the dirt trail that took me three attempts to find prior to Tommy’s arriving. Here we go…


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The trail starts out steep, wet and muddy. Perfect.


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Half an hour down the trail, I discover a good spot to oil our chains and take a break. I am a freak about oiling my chain and Tom is all over that to. We take care of our machines, they will take care of us, we hope.


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The rain stops and all is good.


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The trail is way cool, a type of tropical rainforest with a small farm or primitive home every few miles.


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An hour later we arrive at a small village and a ‘T’ in the trail. My map shows the village but does not show the ‘T’. There is no one around to ask directions so we take our best guess, left.


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The trail improves to hard pack but is still steep with a few water crossings. I loss sight of Hipster in my rearview mirror, I pull over and wait. I am just past a large military tent.


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A minute later, I see Tommy pushing his bike. This is not a good sign. We have not even been on the road a half a day yet.


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Instantly two military guys jump out and start marching toward us. Oh crap!


I explain our situation the best I could in Spanish. All these guys want to do was help. One guy wants to look at Hipster’s injector oil level. Hipster could not get the oil cover off with his key so the military guy starts yanking on the cover attempting to just rip it off. I try to explain in Spanish that we just filled the oil and that should not be the problem.


“el aceite es lleno. lleno esta ma?ana” (The oil is full. Full this morning)


They finally got it and stopped trying to rip the side cover off. Tom says the engine was sputtering before it killed after he rode through some puddles. I theorize that he is having the same issue with a salty sparkplug shorting out as I had a couple weeks ago. I jump in, pulled off the sparkplug cap and began cleaning the plug and cap with a paper towel. I put it back together, Hipster kicks it over, it fires right up and he says “That was it! It’s not sputtering anymore” I thank the military guys a hundred times, we all shake hands. Tommy and I ride off…


This trail is supposed to end at highway 25. It does not end, it just continued past the military tent and turns into a slowly improving road lined with homes. After several miles, I can sense us riding down the mountain into a valley. I know this isn’t right. I pull over and suggest to Tommy that we ride back to see if we missed anything, like a turnoff. We ride back until we see the military tent. There is no missed turnoff. We turn around again and continue down the mountain. I say to Tommy “We will just have to ride on and try to figure out where the hell we are” Tom is down for that.


After riding down the mountain, we find ourselves in a larger city. After filling up at a gas station it starts raining again. Someone pops out of an office of the gas station and suggests we pull our bikes under an awning. Great and how nice was that. We pull under the awning and I begin to look at the map. I ask someone standing around what the name of this city is. I cannot find the city on the map. Soon the guy from the office invites us inside and wants to help us. He tries super hard to speak English but was having a hard time of it. We tell him we want to get to Puerto Plata. He gives us directions, half in bad English, half in Spanish. The directions are not to my liking. He was directing us to go back through Cabarete. During his directions, he mentions that Santiago was down the road the opposite way he was telling us to go. ‘Super’ I thought. The rain stops. I inform Tom about the way I think we should go, to Santiago, to the main highway, the autopista and then on toward Puerto Plata. He agrees, we ride off.


Soon we find ourselves riding through Santiago, the second largest city in the Dominican Republic, over three million people. Not an easy city to navigate through but I have been lost here before and found my way. The traffic is crazy but I am use to it. Hipster is a great rider and is fully informed on what riding in the DR is like and the importance to keeping your line while riding in heavy traffic. Tom handles it like a veteran. I pull over several times to confirm we were riding the correct way to get to the autopista. All is good. We hop on the autopista and head north toward Puerto Plata.


It s getting late so we look for a hotel in smaller cities along the way. The hotels either have no parking or are the type of hotels that rented by the hour. We ride on.


We make Puerto Plata just a half hour before dusk.A beer sea-side along the malecon is in order I say. Tommy wants to get a place to stay first but I assure him the motels are just up the road. The night is hot and the beach Tiki bars had cold beer. After, we eat some fun street food on the way to the motel, greasy burgers and hot dogs at their best, and purchased and eaten from a road-side cart in the Dominican republic, even better.


We check into a hotel just outside of town. It is a nice place but a little expensive, around $45. Hipster got a kick out of the two condoms in the room and the transparent wall between the shower and the bedroom, and the guy outside of the hotel informing us about the disco next door and all the girls we can meet there. I assure Tommy that this is all normal in the DR and that “All The Girls” will LOVE him!


Hold On, there is lots more to come…


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cavebiker

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MEGA ride continued:


All right, we start the day early in Puerto Plata. We each buy a quart of 2-cycle motorcycle oil, some road snacks and eat a large breakfast at a cafeteria. Puerto Plata is a big city but I know it well, we have no problem navigating along the ocean side road, the malecon. We pull over and park at the old fort near the harbor entrance. This is a good place to fill our oil tanks and look at a map. We are shooting for Monte Cristi today, near the Haitian border on the Atlantic Ocean.


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The plan is to ride along the north coast on dirt roads, which are said to pass some of the most beautiful beaches on the island that are mostly deserted due to the rough roads leading to them. My guidebook says the dirt road is mostly a donkey trail and is difficult to navigate. Sounds like a good time to me and knowing Tommy he will think so to. All we know is that the trail starts 10 kilometers outside of Puerto Plata and neither of us have working odometers.


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We have trouble finding the north coast trail. There are several dirt tracks near10K outside of town but no road indicated any city we can see on our maps. Back and forth, stop and look at the map, back and forth, nothing. I remember my guidebook indicating a village name we need to turnoff for. I dig out the guidebook and sure enough, Guzmancito is the name of the sign at the turnoff we want. And of course, Guzmancito is not indicated on any maps I or Tommy have. Without the guidebook, it would be almost impossible to locate the correct trail, unless of course you had days to keep trying, which we do.


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On the trail we hit dozens of water crossings.


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and deep mud. This is great, perfect for the bikes we are riding.


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I know these are donkey trails but this donkey is all alone. I guess he must know where to go.


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In the middle of nowhere, we run across a beautiful deserted beach.


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This beach has one family living onsite selling beer and fish, an island paradise.


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More great mud and dirt


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We continue to follow the Atlantic north coast


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and more deserted pristine beaches


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We pass through a small village adjacent to the above beach. ?Colmado? is the word for mini-market in the Dominican Republic. I suggest to Tommy we stop to hydrate and a little chitchat. Inside there are several people slicing and sharing cheese and sausage. They offer some to me. It is a very warm feeling. We have fun watching the three guys on horses mount up and ride off. The horse on the far left had no stirrups but the person riding it uses a large rock to step onto first before mounting.


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local scenery


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More water, More fun


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I tried to show off for this water-crossing photo by racing through.


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I guess that is the last time I try that. My engine killed from the water. A quick wipe of the sparkplug with a paper towel was is all it took to get running again.


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The trail continued to be fantastic


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and fun


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And the culture along the way interesting


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We cannot help but check out a few side trails. This one looks cool.


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cavebiker

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Luperon is a village midway between Puerto Plata and Monte Cristi. Luperon is a well-known safe harbor for sailors sailing the so-called ?thorny path?, the route against the trade winds from Florida to the Caribbean Sea. We can see the sailboat masts on the left of the photo. The famous author, Bruce Van Sante lives here. I have his book, ?The gentleman?s guide to passages south? just after I first met Heidi I planned to sail a sailboat with to the Caribbean and live onboard for a year or two. This book is known as the gospel guide on how to sail a sailboat against the trade winds toward the Caribbean Sea. Anyway, the book talks a lot about the Dominican Republic and the culture and it was my first exposure to the island talking about the friendly people and how to navigate around the island using ?gua guas?, a type of public transportation on private mini-vans that run all over the island. The book left me with a strong desire to visit and live in the DR someday.


Luperon has a kind of a ?wild-wild west? feel combining live aboard sailors, ex-pats, local Dominicans, sea and sailboats. Back in 1995? after I did my first long and solo DR motorcycle rode there. That ride was almost the spiciest chapters I ever had at that point in my live, and I mean spicy in both extremes.


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Today I know the town well and lead Tommy directly to the end of the long pier running out into the harbor.


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Back in 95? there were only a few sailboats anchored here. Today there are over fifty.


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We have a huge lunch at an open-air thatched roof restaurant, ?Captain Steve?s?. I get the largest cup of coffee I have ever had. This is definitely an ex-pat hangout. Captain Steve introduces himself along with his wife, a local woman. He invites us to play free pool or foosball and hangout as long as we like. Hipster says he would like to spend days just hanging out here in Luperon.
 

cavebiker

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We continue along the north coast. The road out of town is in good shape, we are making good time.


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Soon we ride into the village La Isabela, the first city of the new world, Columbus?s first permanent settlement. There, the road again turns to rough dirt. It is not at all obvious which way we need to go to continue along the north coast trail. I stop here to ask directions. It is just UNREAL how friendly people are here in rural Dominican Republic. They not only tell me which way to go but a whole lot of other information that we would evidently need, only a small fraction of which I understand. But I did get the distinct impression that things are going to get interesting?


We pass intersection after intersection. I ask directions after directions. Everyone is ?out of control? nice, trying to help us as much as they can, animating their explanations. If you do not speak Spanish here, you are lucky to find your way.


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OK! I knew there is something special ahead based on the help we got. I just had no idea what it is going to be. This looks like it is going to be FUN?


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And it is. I just ride onto the raft as if I know what I was doing.


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In no time I am across the river and the operator is back to pick up Hipster.


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I don?t even ask how much, I just hand him RD100, around $2.80. I am sure he expected a fraction of that but it is well worth it to us, for just the ?fun factor? alone.


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We almost immediately come to another river crossing. I say to Tom that this seems like the same river. ??
 

cavebiker

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After asking directions several more times we hit pavement again. I keep asking directions to Monte Cristi and keep receiving positive directions, plus a whole lot more. People continue to be nice far beyond expectations.


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Tommy got a big kick out of the roaming advertiser motorcycle carts. The message and music is so loud we imagine the operators being deaf at a young age. We hear and see these loudspeakers roaming everywhere we go.


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Unexpectedly, we run upon the most beautiful beach we have ever seen. Humm?. we must stop to check this out.


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Along the beach, is a line of shacks cooking food and selling beer. Humm?. We must investigate further.


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Oh, lobster , fish and platanos?


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OK, the water looks inviting and a table and chairs are waiting for us on the beach?


Tommy and I engage in some hi-level discussions --> This looks good?


We ride on along a rough dirt road looking for a hotel. Less then a mile later, we find a nice place, $30 a night.


Back to the beach we go ---->


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Tommy and I are in awe about the ride we are on. We have done so much and have had such a great time in such a short time we cannot believe it. This beach is a gem. I must see if I can find a smother route so I can bring Heidi here.


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Hipster had a little trouble navigating a slick mud puddle on the ride back to the hotel. He blames his warn tires. I agree, bearing a huge grin, saying ?yeah right! the tires?? It was a slow speed spill with only a curled front break lever as a result. After I confirm Hipster is OK I have a hard time controlling my laughter as we rode on. :O


Don?t go away, lots more to come!
 

cavebiker

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MEGA ride continued:


OK! We are starting today at the Northwest Atlantic coast near Monte Cristi. We decide to skip Monte Cristi today mainly because we were going there only to spend the night and enjoy some seafood. We accomplished that here at Punta Rucia and more. The goal today is Jarabacoa, the mountain village where MotoCaribe is based out of and is near the area where several Jurassic Park movie scenes were filmed.


First, we plan to point south toward the interior of the island and some rural roads never visited by tourists, just the type of areas I like to ride. When we reach the foothills of the large Cordillera Central Mountains, we will attempt to skirt around the foothills until we connect with a seasonal trail that leads high up into the mountains above Jarabacoa. This should be a fun day but the slow dirt roads we are riding could be a navigation challenge and reaching Jarabacoa today may be difficult. But hey, we have to set a goal, then try our best. If that doesn?t work, we will come up with a plan-B.


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Super, our $30 hotel has breakfast and coffee waiting for us upstairs. We are ready to roll early. Hipster shows concerns about his curled front break lever and the $1,100 security deposit he has on the bike. He is wondering if it can be bent back. I don?t think it can, the cast aluminum is now case hardened and it will snap off as soon as anyone tries to straighten it. He still wants to find a shop and have them try. I suggest buying a new break lever saying ?that may run you three or four dollars though? (wink)


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We ride down a rough dirt road through a small fishing village, Papayo. The scene here is tranquil and serene.


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I stop to chat with a few locals to see what?s up. This guy is getting ready to head out to sea.


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We decide to stop and turn off the bikes to wait for this herd to pass. No need to excite them.


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Moo! Notice the cracking whip.


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The terrain is arid in this part of the island. We seem to be in the middle of nowhere when we run across a biker standing next to his bike He seems to be in trouble. We immediately stop to see if we can help. We are all bikers and this is what we do. He is indicating his chain is loose and it had just fallen off. His hands were black with grease. I tell him I have a wrench and asked if that is what he needs. I get a big ?si? and a smile. I dig into my backpack, pull out the wrench and hand it over. He loosens his axial nut then begins to tighten the chain tension.


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All is good. Maybe I?m selfish because I think this is good for my karma. I don?t know if that?s true, but I do know it definitely makes me feel good,


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Tommy mentions bananas. I see a stand in a small town and pull over. I hand the store owner 25 pesos. He bags up the whole bunch and hands them over. We eat. Hipster suggests leaving the rest of the bananas behind. I say that I think that would be an insult and that we can eat them throughout the day. I stuff them in my backpack.


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The store minus a pile of bananas.
 

cavebiker

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We cruise and cruise and cruise. I see some shade and suggest we oil our chains again. Tommy agrees. Chains oiled, bananas eaten and water sucked down, a perfect ride break.


We are in constant navigation mode now. Our route today involves changing roads several times so I try to confirm directions often. Soon we find ourselves in a city we didn?t expect and couldn?t find it on the maps. We continue to push on, hard?


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I see a motorcycle shop in a small village. We pull in and park the bikes. I ask a mechanic who is outside working on a bike if Tommy?s curled front break lever can be straightened. He gives us a solid ?No? indicating that it will break off. ?Great? I think to myself, now I get to go inside another Dominican motorcycle shop, chitchat and buy motorcycle parts with someone else?s money, how great is that!


We walk inside the shop. I ask the clerk if they have a front break lever for Hipsters DT125. The woman instantly grabs a lever from a racj behind her and hands it to Hipster. Hipster is acting suspicious and wants to take the new lever outside to see if it is the right one. Now, the bad news. How much? Fifty pesos ($1.34) Oh Yeah!


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A mechanic instantly wants to install the lever for Hipster, cool. The mechanic installs it in no time. I suggest to Tommy he give the mechanic fifty peso for his effort ($1.34) Tommy hands over the fifty, everyone smiles. Life is Good?
 

cavebiker

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We ride on. We are making good time but soon found ourselves at a major intersection with some signs indicating the distance to a few cities. I have not been feeling good about the direction we have been traveling lately so I suggest we pull over, look at a map and try to see ?where the hell? we are. I park right next to one of the signs then began to look for those cities on my map. I ask Hipster if he would mind walking toward the other sign to see what cities are indicated on it. Hipster comes back and informs me the other sign says ?Monte Cristi 20 Kilometers? AHHH!


I had a bad feeling that the turn we made in a city a while back and the information two guys in military fatigues, who were trying to ignore us, was bogus. The ?Monte Cristi 20 Kilometers? sign confirms that. I look at the map and determine that we are at an intersection on the Haitian border. Now the only sensible direction for us to travel is along the Haitian border to the large border city, Dajabon. I did not want to clue Hipster into this fact just yet. I just wante him to know that I know where we are and where we need to go so we can get back on track. We blast off.


Needless to say, based on the instability and unrest and the cholera reports along the Haitian border, I did not want to spend a lot of time to take photos and dink around. I just want to get to the border town Dajabon where we will connect with another road leading west toward the Dominican Republic interior, away from Haiti.


Twenty miles later, we pull into Dajabon. At a main intersection, I see a bank on each corner. I am in need of some pesos so I pull over into a bank parking lot and told Hipster that I am going to walk across the street to an ATM. Hipster waits by the bikes while several venders on foot are trying to sell him shoes. Dajabon is a well-known town where Haitians cross the border on foot carrying loads of knock-off shoes and clothes. Dominicans from all over the country come here to trade food for the knock-off goods, and then sell them throughout the country.


While walking across the busy intersection to the ATM, I felt a little weird. I am carrying my backpack and a side pouch bulging with my good camera. As I walk into the bank, I notice people standing all around. I can feel eyes follow me the entire time. I am not naive to situations like this. I always carry pepper spray in my hip pocket and two knives, one long blade switchblade and a locking blade pocketknife. When I walk, I walk with confidence and determination. Anyone eyeing me up for no good knows that I will not go down easy, not a muggers first choice. Anyway, no big deal, this is the way I always act, nothing new and nothing happened.


Back to the parking lot where Hipster is waiting, he informs me that the vendors were mean to him when he was not interested in looking at there wears. I thought this was the time to fill him in. I say ?do you know what that is right over there? I?m pointing west. ?No, what?? I bulge my eyes out. ?Haiti? I suggest we get on the bikes and get the ?F? out of here. Tommy agrees, we ride down the road thinking we were heading out of town but of course, we find ourselves on a narrow residential side street that suddenly dead-ends. At the end there are several locals sitting around on folding chairs. I have a gut feeling that we should leave this area as quickly as possible. I do a 180 and buzz back to the intersection with all the banks. I have a feeling I know the way to get us out of town. Hipster follows. I don?t want to take the time to explain the situation. By the way I am riding, I know Hipster knows I have a plan to get us out of here. Luckily, I did and it did get us out of town and pointing the correct way into the DR interior.


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All is good. We are riding through new and beautiful country. We constantly verify that we are riding toward and through cities that we are expecting. We are back on track but far behind schedule. We both agree that no way are we going to make Jarabacoa tonight and that eventually we are going to have to develop our plan-B. Fun stuff?


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We ride hard, eat bananas, ask directions and ride hard some more. We made good time and arrive in the large city Sabaneta (not the one near Cabarete) faster then expected. I am hungry and I knew Tommy had to be hungry also. We pull over at a small market in the center of town. I buy two yogurts and a large Gatorade. Tommy gets water and a pack of Chinese cookies. We eat standing outside the market. A local comes over to see what we are up to. He is very nice. We tell him we are shooting toward Santiago and ask him what road we need to take to get out of town. He explains it but the directions are complex. He has a motorcycle parked in front of us and offers to escort us out of town, super nice. He know we do not have time to make Santiago before dark and said that he lives just up the road and offers us to spend the night at his house. He said that he is a baker and showed us, in the market window, what he bakes. We thanked him a thousand times ?mil gracias? but said we just need to be closer to Santiago before we call it quits for the night. This is another ?over the top? pleasant DR experience.


We continue to ride hard. We know we need to find a hotel soon. At the first large city, Mao, we start looking for hotels. Mao has zero hotels. The second city has only ?by the hour? hotels, the third city has only ?by the hour? hotels. We are starting to freak out a little. Next, we change directions and ride north to a major highway and hopefully some larger cities with real hotels. It is getting late and starting to get dark. I repeat to Hipster that ?I will not ride after dark? and said that we may need to camp in someone?s farm field. After many ?by the hour? hotels in Navarrete, we finely find the only legitimate hotel. It is a nice place with a bar and restaurant. We cannot believe our luck again.


Beer, great street food and more beer at a local hangout in Navarrete, an excellent way to end a great day of riding in the DR.
 

mbgmike

New member
Jan 17, 2012
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i love all cavebikers adventures,.....very good photos of areas most people do not see.
 

cavebiker

Have a dream, live it. Set a goal, achieve it.
Feb 10, 2012
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MEGA Dominican Republic ride continued


Today we wake-up in the town Navarrete, just miles from the start of the autopista, the main freeway running down the center of the country, north to south. We are shooting for Jarabacoa and Constanza today, way up in the Cordillera Central Mountains. First, we will start running down the autopista, then up the paved road to Jarabacoa. My goal was to stay off the autopista, but we are far behind schedule and now want to make up a little time. Behind schedule is not exactly a bad thing here, in fact, I pretty much expected it based on the routes we chose. I am a firm believer that any motorcycle adventure that stays on schedule and everything goes as planned, started with a tame plan in the first place, not what I do. Anyway, Hipster and I are engaging in discussion about what parts of the island we are going to skip and what parts we definitely still want to ride.


There is really nothing wrong with riding the autopista, except for the fact it is hard to get lost. (Do I need help!) The sights are beautiful, you pass local stands selling homemade clay pots, large wooden carvings, fruit and there are numerous opportunities to indulge in good Dominican food. When we woke today, there was no coffee in sight at our hotel. Our first mission after getting on the road is to find coffee and food.


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After passing this wreck, I see a small open-air road restaurant loaded with good-looking Dominican food. I order two coffees, scrambles eggs, fried cheese and a mound of mangu topped with red onions. (Mangu is a Dominican dish that resembles green mashed potatoes. It is a good source of complex carbohydrates) Tommy orders coffee. I tease him about being on a diet. He has no comeback.


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The autopista runs straight through Santiago, the second largest city in the country with a population of several million people. Somewhere, I miss a turnoff. We find ourselves on a road that peters out to nothing on the outskirts of town. I know Tom has to be hungry. I see a fruit stand so I pull over to talk about our situation.


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We buy some fruit. The owner of the stand gets two chairs for us to sit on while we eat. He asks about where we are from and what we are doing. He looks surprised when I tell him all the places we have been to and the places we are going. This is another great stop.


We backtrack into the heart of Santiago trying to see where I screwed up. When we get to the first major intersection, I think I see where I goofed up. I pull over behind a parked taxi. I jump off the bike, take off my helmet and ask the taxi driver, in my best Spanish, how to get to La Vega, the next major city along the autopista. He rattles out directions then indicates for us to follow him. I jump back on the bike. The taxi takes off with a client onboard. Several blocks later, he sticks his arm out the window, indicating for us to turn here. Sure enough, it is the entrance to the autopista. Sweeet! Good karma or just good luck, I am not sure but I will continue with my random acts of kindness.
 

cavebiker

Have a dream, live it. Set a goal, achieve it.
Feb 10, 2012
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www.justadventuretravel.net
We continue to sail down the freeway heading toward the steep mountain road that leads to Jarabacoa. We pull over for gas. I fill up with premium gas as always. Hipster fills with regular. I cannot believe my eyes and tell him so. ?The guy who rented you the bike told you to use premium! He said it runs better and gets better mileage with premium!? I guess I am not surprised, Hipster would constantly fill his Harley Davidson Sporster with regular gas when we rode together, to save money. I could never understand it then and I never hesitate to tell him so. But now, he is riding a 125cc motorcycle into the mountains on regular gas. I tell him that I do not think the twelve cents you saved on the gas is worth it here. Hipster argues that premium gas doesn?t make any difference. ?OK?.? We ride on, up the steep and twisty mountain road toward Jarabacoa.


Half way up the mountain, I pull over at a mini-mart ?colmado?. Hipster is having a hard time keeping up. He finally pulls in behind me. We rest and hydrate. All is good. Hipster starts squirting water from his camel back onto his motorcycle?s cylinder head cooling fins. I cannot help myself and say with a wide grin ?A motorcycle engine runs cooler with premium gas?? Hipster says nothing.


The higher we ride the harder it is for Tommy to keep up. I slowed down trying to keep him in my rearview mirror. We pull into Jarabacoa. Tommy tells me he wants to find a motorcycle shop to install his new spark plug.


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We find a shop in no time. I say that when I replaced my worn plug I definitely gained power.


?A plug with a wide gap requires more voltage before the arc jumps the gap. It takes longer for the higher voltage to build, resulting in retarded ignition timing and less power?


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The plug is in. Hipster and his mechanic are happy.


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I know a trail along the river running through Jarabacoa. I suggest we ride there and discuss our options. We plan to ride past Jarabacoa today to the highest part of the mountain, but it is already getting late, I think we should talk about heading to Constanza now. We plan to ride the rough mountain dirt road to Constanza but I tell Tommy that the last time I tried that route the road was under construction and closed to through traffic. Tommy agrees we concentrate on getting to Constanza, now.


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While looking for the dirt trail to Constanza we pass what looked like a popular Dominican restaurant. We pull in, took a number and get in line. This is the busiest Dominican restaurant I have ever been to


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and well worth the wait.
 

cavebiker

Have a dream, live it. Set a goal, achieve it.
Feb 10, 2012
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www.justadventuretravel.net
After jogging around Jarabacoa a little, we find the dirt road leading to Constanza. The road is steep and rough and runs through the center of the Cordillera Central Mountains. Here we go, Enjoy?


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Military check point midway between Jarabacoa and Constanza. The road improves the further we ride.


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We can feel the road going down in altitude. An official looking truck passes us then stops. The driver is sticking his arm out the window motioning to us to stop. We stop. The truck driver informs us that the road is closed ahead and we cannot get to Constanza on this road. What a nice person, his ?heads-up? maybe saved us an hour or more. Oh well, it is a great ride anyway.


Now, we need to ride back to Jarabacoa, then back down to the autopista, south on the autopista to the paved road that leads to Constanza. We need to hammer it, we don?t have a lot of sunlight left.


OK, the plan is set. Hipster is worried about his rear break and wants to take it slow back down to Jarabacoa. He tries to use his engine to slow him down but the 125cc 2-cycle motor does little good.


We make it to Jarabacoa. Tommy asks for my wrench to see if he can get anything more out of the rear break. He says it helped a little. I suggest we install some new break pads. Then I say with a grin ?That might cost you five or six bucks though? We push on down the mountain. At the bottom, I pull in for gas. Hipster rides up. His eyes looked as big as golf balls. He says ?This bike is shot! The breaks are gone! Let?s forget Constanza? I am disappointed to say the least. The dirt road leading from Constanza to the Southwest corner of the country is reported to be the worst of the worst roads in the Dominican Republic and was going to be a highlight of this ride. But, I had to agree, if Hipster is not comfortable with his bike, that is all that matters. This is his ride. I can always return later and attempt it alone.


Plan-B: We have learned that non-tourist towns have no hotels for travelers, they just do not exist. I remember while reading the guidebook about the city Bonao, Bonao has a recommended hotel. We push south along the autopista toward Bonao. We ride into town, pull over and get out the guidebook. The book talks about one good hotel and says that the budget hotels here are not good, meaning ?by the hour? type. We ride to the center of the buzzing city. I pull over and ask someone if he knows this hotel. He taps his friend on the shoulder, who was sitting on his motorcycle and tells him to lead us to the hotel. How nice was that! We are lead to the hotel. We thank the person while waving goodbye. Super, that was easy, we thought. I walk into the hotel to get us a room but the hotel was 100% full. Crap! But, the receptionist tells me, in English, that there is another hotel on the autopista. He tells me to go back to the autopista, turn left and down the road is the hotel. I double confirm. Autopista, then left, hotel. Yes!


I inform Hipster, we ride back to the autopista, we turn left and begin to crawl along the shoulder of the road looking for this hotel. 2 or 3 miles later we come across a small hotel that is closed and looks like it has been closed for a while. We crawl on, still looking. I see someone standing on the side of the road. I ask about a hotel. He tells us to exit the autopista just up the road, then up and up. Or, at least that is what I think he said.


We ride a short distance then exit on the road leading to, yah, you guessed it, Constanza. I inform Hipster that I think I remember a hotel just a short distance up the Constanza road, otherwise I know a great camping spot. Hipster wanted to turn back and keep looking for this mysterious hotel. It was getting late. I repeated ?I will not ride in the dark. If we cannot find a hotel up here we need to camp? Tommy agrees. We push on up the mountain.


We ride up and up and up, no hotel. We continue up and up, switchback after switchback. I find the camping spot and pull over. Tommy doesn?t see me and almost rides right past. I scream out. He stops. The last time I was here, I rode off the main road up a short steep lip to a ridge overlooking the valley below. This time there is hand-strung barbwire across the entrance to the ridge. Tommy and I go check it out on foot. If we could get the bikes up here, we could hide them and camp out of sight from the road.


We walk back to the bikes and talk about our situation. We see a motorcycle riding down the road with two people wearing military fatigues. One guy was carrying a rifle. As they passed us, the person on the back looks at us and shakes his finger at us, meaning ?don?t even think about camping there!? Woah!


Tommy and I formulate plan-C. We continue to ride toward Constanza while looking for a hotel or a new camping spot. We climb and climb. It starts raining and we are loosing light fast. Hipsters headlight goes out. My engine quits from the rain. I tell Hipster to keep going, and say ?I will catch up? I dry off the sparkplug with a napkin. No luck. Next, I pull out an old trick I have used in my youth. I learned it from my high school shop teacher. I pull off the sparkplug cap, them lightly put it back on the plug so the conductor does not touch the sparkplug tip. The theory here is that the voltage from the ignition coil will build up to its highest point, jump to the sparkplug tip them jump the plug gap of even a fowled plug. That worked. I blast off attempting to catch up to Hipster. I reach the top of the mountain, no Hipster yet. I buy some homemade sweets from a woman at the observation area. I push on.


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Just before Constanza, I catch up to Hipster. I get in front because I know where a hotel is and he has no headlight. It is starting to get dark. I find the turnoff to the hotel. We turn down the road. I pump the air. A short distance down the road I pull over in front of a general store. Tommy says ?is this the hotel?? I say ?No. It?s one block up. I am getting beer! Yeah!?


Rancho Constanza, we get the best room in the place, a suite on the third floor with a wide balcony overlooking the Constanza valley and all the light of the city. We see fireworks shooting off in the distance. I am on the phone with Cavegirl and she informs me that it is the Dominican holiday, Epiphany, cool!


The beer went down quick. Tommy thinks we need more beer. I agree. We walk back down to the general store. We hang around outside the store drinking beer with several others. Upstairs is an open-air disco / pool hall. While drinking, we notice some girls waving at us and giggling. Not many gringos visit this area. We wave back. Soon a young couple came down from the disco to talk with us. The girl asks where we are from. She says she lives part time in Texas. They invite upstairs to play pool. How nice is that!


I hope you are enjoying this trip report. More to come?
 

cavebiker

Have a dream, live it. Set a goal, achieve it.
Feb 10, 2012
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MEGA Dominican Republic ride continued


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The hotel has coffee in the lobby so all is well in Constanza. We enjoy a slow morning looking at maps and discussing a day?s ride-plan, fantastic.


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Hipster is worried about his motorcycle. He says it is sputtering, the rear break sucks and the front wheel resonates with a bouncing sensation at certain speeds, no fun indeed. We decide to just take it easy back down the mountain and re-evaluate the situation at the bottom. When we start to climb out of the valley, I pull over to take some photos. I wave Tom on, motioning for him to keep going so he can ride at his own pace.


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Constanza valley


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I try to catch up to Hipster before this empanada stand I knew about, but no luck, when Tommy gets going he likes to just go. But I had to stop, I buy empanadas for both of us and fresh squeezed chinola juice to go, and then blast off.


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I hoped Tom would be waiting for me at the top of the mountain at the observation overlook area. No Tommy but I had to pull over and down an empanada and some juice.


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I continue to fly down the mountain.
 

Ringo

On Vacation!
Mar 6, 2003
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Cavebiker's MOST EXCELLENT adventure. I've been checking in all day for your next post. Your going where and doing what most would not even think of going to or doing, even if they could, is awesome. Your writing detail and great photos tell and show what so many are missing. Not just ex-pats but many Dominicans also.

Your trip with meeting honest and good people. Taking some time with them, your appreciation, stopping to help others, knowing not to spook the cattle (or my ride), getting iffy fixes out of no-where and everyone is happy. Your respect for others and your spirit is.... exceptional. Bravo to you.

NOT to take away from YOUR adventure but I'll share some too if you don't mind.
Most of my best times are taking trips into the mountains where jeeps can not get to and even a motorcycle would have problems. Meeting people that don't have a T.V. Or a cell phone. Outside kitchen using wood. Outhouse for a toilet. Roof rainwater or from a stream. People that work the land, milk cows, perhaps a small garden, have chickens or fish while collecting what they can to eat and make things. They seldom see anyone outside of their close neighbors, half a mile away, or children that live nearer that have created a small grouping of homes. I've always been welcomed and offered what they have and most times it is not much..... I sometimes carry a small bag of coffee to contribute. (I guess I should take little bag of sugar too.) It can be a year or more between some of my rides to see some of these people again. But DANG... They remember my name and everything we talked about the year before.

I returned for my fouth visit to a place up in the hills with about a year between each. I was greated, hugged, chairs brought out, everyone gathered around asking questions and inquired about how my wife ***** was doing since she didn't do this ride. I introduced my main man (dark Dominican) that was riding with me and he too felt the love. We both felt like a million bucks. After talking over coffee, we had to get going. The older, main couple,? came up to me and wanted me to have... take their teenage daughter with me. I had seen her and her toddler and husband in the group. I had my man translate to clarify over and over. Ya... take the young teenager. I looked at the girls young husband and he just smiled and nodded. I could only respond that I'll try to look for work for her but could not just take her. I knew that they were asking and it was NOT ? for me to just find her a job but my main man made it that clear to me that ... .. We rode another 2 hours past our friends but had to pass them again to get back. We rode past as fast as we could with hats off ,waving and smiles. I can see it now.... ?Hi Honey! I'm home and guess what I brought with me??

I love my road trips into the outer areas. Like you I have an adventure, meet peope and see things that most don't. I just go a little slower then you................................................. I'm on a horse.

I very much look for your next post(s).
 

mbgmike

New member
Jan 17, 2012
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Hey thanks mbgmike. And yes, there is more to the Dominican Republic then just the beautiful gated beaches of Punta Cana.
My family is all dominicans and i am 60 years old there are like 150 of us ahahahah. The older family members enjoy these photos to. many have not seen the area in years they probably won't get to see them again. i only have spent time in the north. i need to get out more. My wife says we will go to the areas. thanks again. sometimes they get tired of seeing photos that make dominicans look stupid. They like yours. You are good man for posting these