Uyuni, Bolivia 19 Nov 06
Odometer 35,303 m 56,815 km

In America, instant gratification takes too long. If you want it, find it; if you need it, buy it; if it’s broken, replace it. Delay is no longer necessary. Indeed, patience itself has become nothing but a quaint relic, rusting away like so many typewriters in the already forgotten dustbin of history.

Not so in most of the rest of the world. Here, the broad availability of cheap consumer goods is unknown. If something brought in from the States is lost, stolen or fails, it cannot be replaced and only rarely repaired, because no parts or knowledgable service centers exist. That lifetime warranty you were counting on? Forget about it.

Consider my computer. I type this post on an external keyboard that took me
three days to ferret out in Bolivia’s largest city. My laptop’s original keys began failing one-by-one after a daily dose of dust, shock and vibration. Were I unsuccessful in unearthing this remote work-around--the previous story would have been my last.
Without finding this external keyboard (blue), the stories would have ended.
The motorcycle is no different. It’s a complex contraption that requires regular maintenance, specialized parts and knowledgeable mechanics, rarely available outside Europe and North America. To get around on an uncommon bike in other parts of the world you have to be mechanically savvy and keen to improvise.

Take, for example, my recent ride across the high plains of Bolivia from Cochabamba to Uyuni. Cruising carefree down a deserted byway my clutch cable suddenly snapped. No cable = no transmission = no transport. I drifted to a stop while questioning the wisdom of traveling alone.

A closer look yielded bad news. Though I packed a spare cable, the tension adjuster had over time become bent and stripped, causing the original steel cable to be slowly sawed in half. Without the ability to turn the adjuster, the new clutch cable was

Meanwhile, billowing thunderheads were building all around me. I was at 13,000 feet elevation. A gust front was blowing away anything not tied down. And dry lightning crackled within a stone’s throw of my exposed location. There was no traffic in either direction to flag down, no AAA to call.

think, I reminded myself.

If the damaged tension adjuster is beyond repair and the cable is too long to disengage the transmission without it, then a replacement must be
The recently replaced wheel bearings turned out to be defective, requiring the hunt for yet another replacement set.
As the thunder, lightning and wind intensified it began to hail. Soon, night would fall. I had to act fast or be forced to bivouac under the nearest rock shelter I could find.

I decided to remove one of four hard rubber bushings used to mount my windscreen to the bike. I slit the bushing longitudinally to allow the clutch cable to run through its center hole, then used a hose clamp to hold it tight. I then slit several spare metal washers open with my hacksaw and slid them around the cable as spacers on either side of the bushing to allow for rudimentary adjustment. A webbing strap held the cable in place.

The jerry-rig functioned perfectly and two days later I reached a town with a machine shop capable of fabricating a new tension adjuster from scratch. But while replacing my worn tires at the same time the new part was being made, I discovered my rear wheel bearings were shot! Though one more obstacle to surmount, it was better to deal with it here than somewhere out in the boondocks.

Freshly equipped with the new clutch cable and adjuster, tires and bearings, I departed for points south where the dirt roads promised to be even rougher. Soon after skipping town, however, a strange noise emanated from the rear hub. I “solved” that problem by simply inserting my earplugs.

By the time I bounced into Uyuni, some 10 hours later, the unmistakable sound of metal on metal had overwhelmed my ignorance-is-bliss strategy. My worst fears were confirmed by a quick spin of the wheel while propped up on the bike's center-stand.

“Mal, mal, mal; muy mal (Bad, bad, bad; very bad),” a local mechanic thoughtfully proclaimed as he shook his head and grimaced. The replacement bearings were obviously defective.

And so the search was on for yet
another set of bearings. In a tiny dustbowl town. On a Sunday morning. In a Third-World country. Where no one speaks English.

Maybe patience should stage a comeback. Now.

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