29 Nov Frio to Fuego: A Lesson In Serendipity
Community Voices: a place to share guest articles from esteemed writers, colleagues, and artists of other mediums. Spreading and sharing the travel love! Today, we’ll be hearing from Keith Porter of Motorcycle Overland Team Frio to Fuego, currently making their way south from Canada.
Hey Overlanders, I’m Keith Porter, 1/4 of the Frio to Fuego team, and I have been planning (saving for) a trip from Ontario, Canada to Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina, for the past two and a half years. I say “I have been” because although the trip is underway, there are still so many things left to be determined. As I sit here in the welcomed hospitality that can only come from fellow adventurers like Sean and Mittie, I can’t help but reflect on how so little of the parts that we plan are what make the trip the joy that it is.
Although I had initially planned this trip as a solo adventure – serendipity handed me three of the best companions I could ask for in Jake, Tommy, and Chazz. When I came up with this idea I recognized that my first challenge was a big one: I had to learn to ride a motorcycle. Luckily my college friend Jake offered to go with me to the class as he wanted a refresher to get him back on a bike after he was hit riding a few years prior. I then figured I should buy a bike and becoming comfortable riding more regularly. For some reason I also thought it would be a good idea to buy a vintage bike in order to learn how to repair it as needed. I never expected to have to deal with so many issues… When I moved to Cincinnati, OH with that plan, I posted to a local Facebook group asking if anyone had a bike that met my interest (and my budget). This post introduced me to Tommy, a motorcycle addict for whom 20+ motorcycles wasn’t even enough. He sold me my first bike, a cute little 1973 Honda CL350, and we ended up becoming close friends because of it. Finally, I had to be sure I would enjoy traveling longer distances on motorcycle. About one year later I went on my first weeklong motorcyle trip with Jake and another college friend, Chazz, who was desperately trying to escape corporate life in Chicago. During this trip we crossed 7 US state borders, riding all around Appalachia. By this point I had talked with each of them about this cross-continental trip so extensively that when I finally realized I couldn’t do this trip on my own, each eagerly committed to quitting their jobs for six months and traveling with me.
When the four of us finally hit the road, almost exactly a month ago, we anticipated that we would be in Belize by now, not northern Mexico. We hadn’t anticipated serious, repeated motorcycle failure, especially when we hadn’t even made it out of the US. However, my bike left me stuck, sputtering, and spewing oil from northern Alabama to eastern Texas. By Houston, having exhausted all other (cheaper) explanations, I admitted I needed a new top end for my engine. At this point it feels a bit unjust to highlight the help of just one person when we have been helped by friends, border patrol agents, random people in a Walmart parking lot and everyone else inbetween, but serendipity struck again when we met Brian. When I finally admitted defeat, I posted to the online adventure motorcycle community, advrider, asking if anyone in the region would be able to help with the engine work. I affectionately refer to Brian as Mr Miyagi, because after reaching out to us and offering his support, we discovered just how novice we really were when working in the shadow of a 70 year old South African bike guru like him. Five days of ‘wax on – wax off’ labor later we had four bikes that were rebuilt, cleaned, and running like Swiss watches.
While struggling to navigate our way through the Mexican border – Chazz of course didn’t have valid registration for his bike and had to pay a ‘special fee’ to get through – serendipty introduced us to Mittie. She pointed us in the right direction at customs and told us to let her know if we were passing through San Miguel de Allende so she could show us around her town. None of us expected to visit San Miguel as we were speeding our way to Mexico City to deliver Jake to a relatively urgent flight to see his family. But as we know, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. At night, in the rain, in northern Mexico, Tommy’s rear wheel bearings disintegrated and left his bike with a death wobble. The next morning, we found our group split with Jake and Chazz continuing to Mexico City for Jake’s flight while I stayed back with Tommy to get his bike repaired. Happenstance left us quite close to San Miguel and once Tommy’s bike was healthy enough to go anywhere, we reached out asking Mittie if she could recommend somewhere to stay. She did one better and offered to host us with our expectation of continuing to Mexico City the next day. That was 6 days ago. Instead of continuing to Mexico City, we had so much fun in San Miguel with our new friends that we told Chazz to backtrack and rejoin us here in San Miguel.
I look back on these isolated experiences as examples of the greater whole of the trip and feel both encouraged and excited for all of the things we have planned ahead of us and perhaps even more so for the adventures we can’t anticipate.