Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 27 Sep 06
Odometer 30,734 m 49,462 km

Getting in to Brazil was easy. Now, how do I get out? Do I flash the Federal Police my fake documents, then act important and annoyed by their audacity to pull me over? Can I convince a Brazilian babe to use her womanly ways to distract the machine-gun-toting border guards? Or should I find and quietly slip across a sparsely populated frontier under cloak of darkness?

Brazil requires U.S. citizens to have a visa to enter the country, and a Temporary Importation Permit to import a motor vehicle. I obtained both when I rode north into Brazil from Uruguay last spring. You and your wheels are then authorized to travel in country for up to 90 days, but only as a twosome. If at any time you leave the country without your vehicle, as I did last April when I flew back to the United States, the vehicle immediately becomes the property of the state.

No fines. No fees. No second chances.
I know this because I met with one of the country’s top customs officials before flying home from Rio last spring. I had wrongly assumed that my bike’s visa could be extended by simply filling out a sheaf of forms, getting it stamped by a dozen different officials in half as many offices, and maybe paying some sort of fee (err bribe).

comandante was quick to illuminate my error. “Should you choose to leave Brazil without your bike,” he admonished in his thick Carioca accent, “your motorcycle is ours.”

“How can you enforce such a Draconian law,” I sheepishly questioned
o chefe while praying he’d admit to the futility of doing so?

“Easily,” he chuckled, “we incentivize our customs officers by allowing them to personally retain any illegally imported vehicle they snag.” I sighed and sat back in the chair despondently, while having to marvel their scheme’s brilliance. “In other words,” he continued, to prevent any misconstruction, “they are highly motivated to catch guys like

Churning this through my mind while home for the summer, I spent hours forging near-perfect customs documents with different dates and signatures. I needed something that at least appeared official should I get caught up in a routine traffic stop or roadblock. I purposefully and repeatedly folded the papers in strategic places, spilled coffee on them and let the “rain” beat them up a bit.

Would they fool a trained customs agent bent on riding off on his new BMW? Hopefully. If not, he’d no doubt enjoy adding forgery to my list of jailable offenses.

Now back in Rio, I ponder the long odds of my exit strategy while preparing El Viento for the road ahead. My trusty steed has just emerged from a five-month nap in the rainforest. After scraping off a thick layer of green mold, I’ll install a new battery, fuel filter and rear suspension. But with 1200 miles between me and Paraguay, what I really need is some radar-evading stealth technology, a Star Trek cloaking device, or at least a can of invisibility spray.

Motorcycle? What motorcycle? I don’t see any motorcycle. Do you?

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