Buenos Aires, Argentina 14 Mar 06
Odometer 27,394 m 44,086 km

With the right know-how--and the right friends--anything is possible. I jumped on the back of Sebastian’s bike the morning following the club’s barbecue, and we rode over to the largest and cheapest motorcycle parts shop Bahia Blanca had to offer. By U.S. standards Moto Repuestos was small, but they stocked a fair selection of rear sprockets.

Any of these beauties would have been a marked improvement over the toothless wonder I rode in on, but only the right size would fit my bike. Enter Aldo, one of the Aguilas del Camino (Eagles of the Road) motorcycle club members who owned a complete machine shop. He instructed me to simply buy one with the correct number of teeth, and he would make it work.
An after-market Honda sprocket looked close enough. With Sebastian, who was kind enough to take the day off of work to help, I took the sprocket over to Aldo’s shop. A master machinist, Aldo used his 1947 vintage lathe to enlarge the center hole. He then carefully drilled six smaller holes around the perimeter until the entire unit matched my original sprocket. Once installed, we deemed El Viento fit to ride.

It was too late to head to Buenos Aires that day, especially because we had to spend more time fighting with customs on the telephone. For some unknown reason my package of spare parts from home was hung up in the bureaucracy. Once again another Aguilas club member stepped forward.

Pony, as his friends call him, recently survived a horrible motorcycle accident when he fell asleep at the wheel, err bars. Though still limping around with a big cast on his leg, he too wanted to help. He called a friend who works in customs at the airport in Buenos Aires to see if he could pull some strings. Though Pony said his buddy was as corrupt as all the other customs officials, we could count on him to “do it for Pony.”

After some calls and further discussions about my fate, the group decided we needed to have another barbecue over at Omar’s shop. Good idea. There, Fabio presented me with a beautiful knife to carve my meat, since the local tradition calls for everyone bringing their own to these events. Also during the feast another club member named Juan revealed that he was headed to Buenos Aires in the morning and was willing to guide me to my destination.

Juan rides a big black Honda 750 Magna, which looks similar to a Harley cruiser. He met me promptly at eight the following morning. Together, we rode northeast towards Buenos Aires, his street machine replete with leather fringe--my dirt bike replete with dirt!

As we approached the city, the traffic, noise, confusion and speed all dramatically increased. Juan rode like a guy who had been there before, so I did my best to keep up. I didn’t want a repeat of Lima, Peru: no way, no how.

At the first toll booth Juan ushered me forward with his left hand, instructing me to come in close enough to kiss the bumper of the big truck in front of us. We shadowed the trucker as he inched forward in the queue, the two of us side-by-side and hidden from the tollbooth’s view.
I soon put two and two together. I looked at Juan and gestured the question, “Are we going to blow through this toll tucked behind this truck?” He nodded affirmatively and cracked a Mona Lisa smile.

I thought, great, I’m going to get thrown in some Argentine jail for who knows how long while my bike is impounded--all to save 50 cents. But hey, he was an Eagle of the Road and this was his native habitat; we gunned it and never looked back.

Even Juan had some trouble finding the obscure address to which I was headed, a small repair shop called Dakar Motos that has bunks, a small kitchen and a bathroom for traveling bikers to use while they work on their machines. Fortunately, we found it just before dark. I was thankful to have a guide.

By the time we arrived, the new sprocket Aldo had crafted the day before was already worn out. You see, unless the chain and sprockets are changed out at the same time, they mismatch, and prematurely wear each other out. Never-mind, the modified sprocket from Bahia Blanca, and more importantly the Eagles I met there, got me the 450 miles I needed to go. Their generosity will not be forgotten.

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