The Journal  

9 March 2006


Author: Jeremiah

Photographer: Holly


The Ride III: Ushuaia to Rio Gallegos , Argentina

February 27

We left Ushuaia early in the morning, the bay water so calm that the cargo ships on it looked like reeds frozen into a winter pond. Ahead of us was 1,800 miles of Ruta 3 to the Argentinean capital of Buenos Aires , a distance we hoped to ride in four days. The first day's ride was an “easy” four hundred miles that included two border crossings, 200 miles of dirt and gravel, and one ocean crossing.


We gave Ushuaia one last look before heading out of the southern most town in the world.


Herds of guanacos graze the pampas of Tierra del Fuego.

It was a cold, but beautiful morning and we stopped twice for gas and coffee before reaching the first Argentina-Chile border. Formalities took minutes at both stations and we were on our way for three hours of dirt and gravel.


Jeremiah flashes the peace sign while we stop to take photos in Chile.

Just as we neared the ferry at the Straight of Magellan the wind began to blow. Laden down with passenger and luggage, the Guzzi acts like a big sail. We rode east, the south wind pushing us to what felt like a 45 degree angle, our necks bent to brace against the gusts.

As we queued in line for the ferry, we could see a channel unlike the one we had crossed four days earlier. The wind was pushing the water into white crested waves. The ferry rocked back and forth in its moorings as the vehicles boarded. I looked at the boat that rocked from side to side against the seaweed covered concrete dock, making the water-slick metal ramp a moving target. Holly opted to walk onto the ferry. I aimed the bike where I thought the ramp would rock to and was on the gas until the bike spun onto the ship's deck.


The return trip on the ferry was a windy and wet one. The metal floor of the boat made the ramp slippery for the Guzzi's tires.

As the ferry got underway there was nothing to brace against, Holly and I slipping as we tried to brace the bike on the slick metal deck. The horizon jumped up and down over the bow of the ship, waves breaking over the boat and spraying us with salt water in the open boat like soldiers packed into a landing craft. To make matters worse, we were parked tightly beside a tractor trailer load of sheep that threatened us with the contents of their sea sick bowels for the duration of the voyage.

We made it to the other side, both bike and riders upright. Holly walked off the boat as I rode the bike off. The rest of the way to the border along the west bound road, the wind raged, momentary breaks in the gale allowing us to brace for the next gust that would blow us to the edge of the road. The second border crossing was a welcomed break as we passed back into Argentina , the road turning north so that the wind blew against our backs.


The wind on Monday was the strongest that either of us had ever ridden in, it kept the Argentinean flag flying straight out at the border crossing.

The distance between San Sebastian and Rio Gallegos, Argentina is around 180 miles, the distance the Guzzi can go on a tank of gas when you're not driving into the wind. We decided to skip the hassle of going out of our way to find Chilean gas stations where we would have to negotiate to pay with American dollars for more expensive gas. As soon as we crossed the border back into Argentina , the low full light came on. The Guzzi can go about 35 miles after the light peeks on. The distance to Rio Gallegos was 40 miles. From the border station an open and empty Patagonia landscape opened before with no civilization in sight and passing traffic becoming less frequent as darkness settled in. I held my breath for the next 45 minutes.

The town of Rio Gallegos was on the horizon as the Guzzi's engine begin to sputter. I rocked the bike gently, sloshing a little more gas from edges of the tank. With a final cough, the engine stopped, and I pulled in the clutch as we coasted to a stop from 60 miles an hour. The bike came to a stop right at the edge of town. Holly stayed with the bike and I walked to a gas station that loaned me a gallon can of gas. I took a cab back to the bike, which took a few cranks of the engine to get gas back in the system and we rode to the gas station to fill up. In 15,000 miles of Central and South American riding we had come close, but this was the first time we had run out of gas.

We cruised the streets before finding an affordable hotel where we could park the bike. We crawled off the bike to drag ourselves and our luggage up to a second floor room, completing a 13 hour riding day.



All photographs © Holly Marcus / Page design by Robin Marcus