DR Day 2: Time to ride!

For this trip, they'd originally been fully booked up on riders, but the others were part of a group that couldn't get their schedules sorted, so wound up re-scheduling somewhat last minute, which meant the group for this week was basically...me! No complaints here- less schedule arguing and more flexibility in activities. I had been somewhat concerned going into the trip when I'd booked it, but thanks to Ed and MotoCaribe - it would have been impossible for me to re-schedule with booked tickets and time off of work already.

Ed said he'd call in the morning if I didn't show up, for a 9am-ish breakfast. I expect that 9am might have been earlier if we were in a full group, so another bonus for me- the so not a morning person that I am. Ironically, with no alarm set, I woke up at 7:30am, followed by the discovery that the room phones were down, so even if Ed were to call, it was pretty unlikely I'd be hearing ringing noises unless it was via telepathy or a bad hangover.

Don't get me wrong here. The lack of a phone in a hotel room is so not a concern. I expect they'd turn them on if we'd asked, but we simply didn't. Power is roughly triple the cost versus in the US, and I choke monthly at my own power bill as it is, so if it means you need to ask for things like hot water and phones...so be it. Nearly all of the bulbs everywhere, inside and out, were of the high energy efficiency coiled halogen type, which I've put throughout my own house trying to keep the power cost insanity at bay. And while I'm sure there are a few Hiltons or more 'traditional American resort hotels' somewhere to be found, this place was more of an occasional getaway for wealthier Dominicans, versus yet another cookie cutter American tourist trap. The majority of the Staff spoke minimal English, but Alida is the official translator, Chris speaks some Spanish, and every now and then some random Spanish words and phrases would stumble from my mouth, so it's all good. If you want Burger King or yet another beach with overpriced drinks at the tiki bar, you might want to go elsewhere. Not to mention, simply having air conditioning was a huge improvement over most of the places I'd stayed in Costa Rica, so I was already 'splurging.'

So, as it turns out, the 'wake up call' never came, not so surprisingly once we realized the phones were turned off. No buffet for today, but a decent menu including eggs, fresh juice, fruits, pancakes, and others, so I tried a Dominican ham and cheese sandwich, which was interesting. Costa Rica had this amazing fluffy sort of cheese that I'd love to see in the states, and DR had their own 'style' of cheese as well - pretty good, mild, and light colored like mozzarella, and the juice and fruit was great.

Alida and Robert came out, and they got the orientation set up in the karaoke room for us to wander in to after breakfast. Orientation was painless, and covered the number of motos in DR, the general lack of side roads, and some other good info, like the fact that some roads may have storm damage, and the warning about the roadside drainage ditches.

Once finished, we grabbed our stuff and headed to the house by mini-SUV, 3Km or so away. The SUV was converted to be able to run off of either propane or gas, which is pretty cool when you think about it. I've worked on vehicles forever, but never did a propane or other gas conversion, and figured it had to do with adjusting for proper mixture via jets or injector on times, but didn't realize they could be switched back and forth at will via a single switch. Cool stuff.

We geared up, and I found out my magnetic tank bag doesn't quite fit the DL as well as it fits my SV and other metal tanked bikes - the DL has a plastic shroud towards the front of the tank, and I just couldn't get all four magnets to grab metal in a confidence inspiring fashion, so I strapped it onto the back of the bike with a few bungees instead. I normally use a 'CrampBuster' on the throttle grip of most bikes, especially for longer rides, along with a pair of ProGrip Gel grips, to minimize hand cramping or numbness, and had brought it with me, but Robert pulled out something I hadn't seen before - 'Grip Puppies.' A simple but good idea, they're simply foam tube 'wrappers' for the grips, that turn the relatively small grips on the DL into a foam padded set of grips that feels more like a cruiser, with an 1/8th inch thick or so piece of foam all the way around...so, I gave them a try instead, and they worked pretty well; may be a good candidate for longer trips on my own bikes back home.

The plan was to head out, with Ed and I riding, and everyone else in the MotoCaribe van, meeting us at a waterfall later on. It looked like it was going to rain, but hey, it is a tropical climate, and we figured it would burn off in the afternoon, so headed out after picking up the bikes from the house.

The scenery is gorgeous, nice and lush, and the bike was fine. Some bikes you get on for the first time, and just know they're going to have some quirks or surprises, or just take some getting used to, but the DL is a good choice for riding here, and a stable ride. We rode through town, like running a slow speed obstacle course, in a fun way, while the locals reinforced what was already expected - traffics 'laws' are more like 'traffic suggestions,' yet in a not entirely unsafe fashion. When in Rome...so we passed other motos on the single lane road, and weaved around and in and out of the local traffic, then headed up towards the mountains and the falls, with Ed doing a good job of signaling to let me know if something unusual or unexpected was coming up..which for this part of the ride, was mainly an occasional pothole, or the road narrowing a bit, being encroached by something blown around in a storm, or just a scenic view.

We made it to a gravel parking lot, just before Salto Jimenoa, where the van was waiting for us (they'd headed out before us), and we grabbed some fluids and walked down to the waterfall. There was a pair of small turnstiles going in, under the roof of a tiny entrance booth, and a local said he was going to be our guide. That didn't last long, as I'm not sure where he went, but after crossing a few cable bridges, he managed to disappear. The bridges were fine, but in general, you didn't want to look too closely at some of the construction. There's a small hydro-electric plant on the river, which is pretty neat..nice to see people using what they have to provide power.


We made it to the falls and took a few mandatory pictures.

Note the amount of rock in the riverbed, and the steel beams bent over. Apparently the last big hurricane moved a fair amount of rock, as well as ones before it, and the beams were part of a walkway that got taken out by trees and other debris coming down over the falls!

The old bridge was among the casualties of the storm, seen below..


It started to rain on us, and Robert and Alida had pulled the van up near the entrance to the falls, so we jumped in and went back to the bikes. We figured the rain was warm enough, so I just swapped out for my rain gloves, and left the rest of the rain gear in the van, and headed out up the mountain.

We stopped for lunch at a local place that was pretty cool, with a small river passing beside it.

Apparently, these are water lines spanning the river!  There was also another suspension bridge walkway going across the water, to another part of the restaurant's property


The river was pretty calm, but a few sections had some small sections of whitewater, and soon enough, we saw a few rafts full of rafters coming downstream towards us.


I had some spicy chicken, I think, and Goat Boy again got his fix for chivo/goat. :-)

We had something whose name I can't recall, but it was like a cracker made from rice, tasted like a stiff grainy cracker, and was good with pico de gayo, and learned that there's a difference in plantains - either mature or not, with the mature ones being more close to 'ripe' as we'd expect, but often both types appearing on the menus.

I still haven't quite put my finger on Dominican service in restaurants. They're certainly not considered quick, and they're not rude, but also not like what you'd expect going into an expensive restaurant in the US - I guess they're almost indifferent, like it's 'just a job,' basically..not unpleasant at all, just not 'overly pleasant or accommodating' either. That's not a bad thing in and of itself, it's just a bit different somehow. And I think most places will give you tap water unless you stop them; probably not a great idea in general in DR :-)

After lunch, we jumped back on the bikes. The roads were interesting. They felt more substantial and somewhat better maintained than those in Costa Rica and some other places, but also suffered some levels of severe storm damage that wasn't fixed immediately, nor marked in general.  A third of one lane up the mountain was simply no longer there, washed out and slid down the mountain, and there was some road debris here and there, but the roads also had shoulders in most places, which was very rare in Costa Rica. Sections of the road would turn into unpaved gravel and dirt or large potholes for brief periods at a time, but the bikes rode over them fine.

It continued to rain, and we passed through another small town, where the road basically ended, so we turned back around, and rode to a small overlook with a small waterfall fed pool, with a single typical DR moto parked under the roof.


Note the bullet hole in the twisty sign...looks like signs are universally used for occasional target practice!

The fountain area itself was fenced off, but I managed to get my favorite picture so far squeezing the camera around the fence links.


It became obvious the rain wasn't going to let up as we had expected, and started to turn colder, so we decided to head back to the house, and would meet the van there, and head back out if it did wind up clearing up. Ed and I rode to the back entrance and waited for the van to come and open the gates. While waiting, a handful of local kids came by asking for money. We didn't give them any this time (I'm unsure either of us actually had any, with our stuff minus gear in the van regardless), they didn't speak any English, and eventually wandered off with each of them saying, 'Thank you' as they walked off. I still have no idea if that was a guilt trip, sarcasm, or the only English they knew..ahh well.

We waited a while longer then decided we must have mis-communicated, and that the van must have gone on back to the hotel, so we rode back, and sure enough, passed the van almost at the gate. It was getting to be within a few hours of dinner, so we split to happily get out of wet gear, take showers and relax for a bit before dinner. Hot water was supposed to be 'enabled' again, but no luck in my room at least. I could have gone down to the desk and had it dealt with, but just took a coldish shower instead.

Next I was about to be reminded about something else that I could have sworn I packed, as in, even remember putting my hands on it as I was packing up and leaving the house, inside my toiletry bag, as well as it being on my bike trip packing list - my camera's battery charger. Sadly, manufacturing companies really don't generally care overly much about convenience to the customer, unless it's required to make a sale. Sony does it with their inane Memory Sticks no one wants, Apple and Microsoft do it, and Olympus does it in a few annoying ways - proprietary camera storage, although to their credit, they include an SD card adapter with the 1030SW I picked up after losing my 720SW, a 'special' USB cord that not only will not charge the cameras battery via USB (duh, WHY?! Everyone else is capable of this one..), and also won't let you use a normal mini USB cord to even connect to the camera (solution - $10 USB multi-card reader, and throw out the annoying Olympus 'special' cable), and yet another proprietary rechargeable battery and battery charger. Of course, were they sane and had convenience as a priority, you'd always be able to at least charge the battery via USB.. Regardless, somehow my battery charger had gone missing, and I only had the single battery for the camera... SO not a great time to be unable to use my camera! I had tried to find one on my stop in FL, but again - ‘special’ batteries and chargers don’t always make life easy.. :(


Basically, what it amounted to was still hoping I’d manage to either find a charger, or just spare battery, somehow, somewhere, in DR - but without much hope.  The camera worked pretty well in general (an Olympus), I disabled all the ‘keep power on needlessly’ options, and sucked it up.  Yeah, my phone would have been adequate but they weren’t up to 2020 standards yet and the Olympus took much better pics then..

That night we had another excellent dinner, and our friend, the 'rhino bug from hell,' made another appearance, this time we caught him temporarily (we later 'helped him' out of the restaurant..).

Things were sort of up in the air for the next day, as the weather was questionable, with us getting the tail end of Gustav, so I headed back to the room to search for my charger one more time, then settled in for the night.

Got some somewhat warm water from the shower, which was a bathtub with a tile sitting area behind it, so converted the sitting area into a clothes washer/scrubber, and washed some of my clothes with shampoo, scrubbing them on the tile, and hung out to dry. Of course, I found out they had a washing machine at the house the next day, but..ahh well.. :-)

Tomorrow, another day of riding!