Some photos from along the route. I’ll be posting more with a recap soon!
Our last day of this 4300 mile, three country nomadic Dakar adventure ended today. It was everything that I had expected, some that I never expected and a refreshing perspective on experiencing worlds that could only be imagined.
The morning began as always with a short review of the day and GPS waypoints, etc. We stayed at a wonderful beach resort along the coast. It was definitely a place, on future trips, that I would like to spend a few days.
The last timed event or “special” was to be held a couple hundred miles north of Santiago. The ending was just outside of a small village and the crowds came out to watch. It was a great setting with the locals camping, picnicking, grilling and cheering. The Dakar is this connection where their world is part of the biggest stage in racing. With the last event in the bag, the racers took extra time to entertain and sign autographs. Anyone and everyone had their chance to have “uno photo” with a racer! There were even the showmen, like Robby Gordon, that got on top of their car and tossed what looked to be players cards, with his photo, into the crowd!
As I stood and observed all of this, I noticed a young mother with 8-10 year old son in a wheelchair. They were back out of the crowds, consuming the bright sun and dust, just taking everything in. The young boy had a look of amazement and the mother seemed to be contented with being just back from the mayhem of the fans. I observed them for a while and went over to street vendor that was selling Dakar decals and purchased one. This Dakar decal helped complete his day. His mother must have had to have pushed his wheelchair through rock, silt and sand for at least a mile, but she was going to give her severely physically challenged son the experience of The Dakar. His and her expression was first one of confusion, and then quickly switched to genuine delight and appreciation. There was no verbal language but all three of us understood what just happened.
I walked back through the crowds and watched the trucks come in for just a few minutes and then headed back to my teammates. The boy and his mother were gone. I didn’t get a photo. It didn’t fit the moment. That’s just fine, I will never forget this.
The ride to Santiago brought traffic and everything that goes with a huge city. The city outskirts has a 2 mile tunnel that had a traffic accident in the middle. Jim and I Did a U-turn and decided to go up and over the mountain. We found a fairly remote road that turned to a dirt path and then here we were at the top of the mountain overlooking the valley floor. It was our final adventure for the trip. We celebrated a bit at the top and then headed to downtown Santiago, a truly beautiful city.
I took the next couple of hours getting the bike ready for transport on a plane for Miami. My riding gear was totally gross with two weeks of dirt, rain, road oil and you can imagine the smell! The zippers were so filled with dirt that they would hardly work. I packed the jackets and pants in the panniers and threw the boots away. The boots were already well used and they were not salvageable. The bike was ready for shipping and the documents were in place.
All of the ceremonies and finish line stuff is held on Sunday but I will be on a plane heading home. I cannot wait to see Joan, and tell Lynsey and my family of my adventure. I can’t express enough appreciation to Joan for supporting the adventurer in me and everyone at work that covered for me while I was gone. (I’m not sure I was missed).
The little boy in the wheelchair made me realize that raising money for the children of The Ronald McDonald House is so worth our time and dollars. The contributions continue to come in and there are some special donations that will soon be added to the website. There will be one more post in the next few days that will let everyone know of the totals and some overall thoughts that I’ve had the last 4300 miles in third world Latin America. The site will be open for contributions until this coming Friday. Thank you.