Alaska – Tierra del Fuego

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Alaska – Tierra del Fuego

Alaska – Tierra del Fuego
Mission Impossible

Driving across America once is a big deal. However, doing it on Husqvarna TE 350 competition machines is a real adventure.

Jorg Barte, Markus Schmidt, Steffen Schmidt

09/03/1997

Trade in the huskies and buy decent travel motorcycles.

This is what we thought when we drove our old Enduros to the dealer and told him about the planned Alaska-Tierra del Fuego tour. We would never have dreamed that we would drive from the farm in two new Husqvarnas. “They’ll take care of it,” the trader promised with conviction. “In the worst case, I will send you each spare part individually to Cape Horn.” And it would be better to use the 350 instead of the 610, because the engine does not hit the tricky gearbox and final drive unit so badly. Nevertheless: changing the oil every 1000 kilometers and adjusting the valve clearance every 3500 kilometers did not exactly sound suitable for long-distance travel. The curb weight of 115 kilograms is all the more fascinating. Six months before we left, we got to work. The nine-liter tank gave way to a 19-liter barrel, and we replaced the aluminum rear with a self-made steel structure with an integrated luggage rack. Result of the first test drives: absolutely inaccessible. The spring elements had to be strengthened and tool containers had to be tinkered, which, screwed to the front of the engine, should bring the desolate wheel load distribution back into balance. Finally, we changed the translation and reduced the compression for any bad fuel. Despite all these measures, we booked one-way tickets at the flight counter. We didn’t want to commit ourselves when it came to the end goal. Alaska: Bad weather drives us relatively quickly on south course and over the border to Canada. It is still an unfamiliar feeling to move the once so light huskies fully packed. But we seem to have got it right with our constructions: The handling is good. The “Top of the world” highway leads us to the gold rush town of Dawson City. From there it goes through huge forests to Watson Lake and finally on the only partially asphalted Cassiar Highway. Here we see them for the first time: bears. Mighty grizzlies and black bears. Thank goodness they are no longer interested in two husky drivers. Still, the cameras almost fall from our hands with trembling. In Prince George we get the last tickets for the ferry to Vancouver Island. You have to be lucky. And, kindly, the temperatures are now climbing to summer level. USA: We are exchanging the cross tires for finer enduro tires. Highway 101 begins. Thanks to a changed translation, the 350s still work quite well. With 100 easy things we dive into the promised land: Oregon Dunes, Redwood National Park, Golden Gate Bridge, Laguna Seca, Yosemite and Sierra Nevada take us into their magic. The motorbikes hold out – we counter this with constant oil changes and valve controls. Meeting point Arizona: We happily greet our friends. Just flown in from Germany. They want to accompany us for four weeks, take a vacation on the barren pillion seats of the brave 350s. Packsacks to the back, foam rubber on the luggage rack: we hope for the stiffened rear frame. At 45 degrees Celsius we cross the border to Mexico east of Tijuana. The huskies can still manage a maximum of 90 km / h. Too little to reach our destination, Baja California, by day. We drive into the night and promptly get into a military check: questions, baggage check. We get nervous even though the soldiers behave correctly. More questions, another look in the suitcase … “todo bien”: continue. Relieved, we land on the Baja, camp on the picture-perfect beach at San Felipe. We stay on the east side of the peninsula. Coarse gravel roads lead through the barren stone landscapes of the north, which later alternate with huge cactus forests. It happens on the outskirts of the coastal village of Mulege: A dog jumps right in front of Steffen’s motorcycle, which, together with the pillion, falls heavily to the ground. While the dog dies miserably on the side of the road, a couple of Mexicans take the two injured people to a kind of hospital ward. They were lucky, like the husky, they got away with a few scratches. Then on the Mexican mainland the second breakdown. A strut gives up the ghost. As promised, the dealer sends a new one to Mazatlan via UPS. We wait a full 14 days for the package, which, according to the advertising slogan, should be at any destination in the world within 24 hours. Oh well. When it is finally there, we make our way to the Paricutin volcano, which made two villages disappear from the scene in the 1940s. Only one church was spared: Spectacularly, the lava came to a standstill two meters in front of the altar. Cancun / Yucatan Peninsula: Our friends are flying back. Except for a broken clutch basket, the huskies survived. In front of us lies the dwarf state of Belize – and with it huge rains. 20 kilometers on a soggy jungle slope cost us an hour. Completely soaked and dirty, we ask a farmer for shelter. A little later we are swinging in our hammocks under a corrugated iron roof, surrounded by pigs, chickens and cows. The next day it is even worse. Due to the heavy rains, whole parts of the street have passed. A truck is greased somewhere and the recovery is in full swing. We are laboriously working our way to Guatemala. Steffen is bad. From hour to hour he breaks down more. Malaria? A blood test gives the all-clear: it’s just an infection. At Christmas we cross the border to El Salvador at 30 degrees Celsius. Nothing to feel of the Christmas atmosphere. Thinking about home, we spend Christmas Eve in a shabby hotel bar and treat ourselves to a few beers. Along the Pacific Rim, we approach Honduras. Money changers and border brokers offer their services miles from the border. They follow us on foot and with bicycles to the barrier, talking to us non-stop. It is difficult to keep your nerves and an overview. The border guards go one step further, charging $ 240 for any road tolls and forms. Irritated, we travel in and end up directly in a police checkpoint. Bingo! Light test. In a country where half of the vehicles don’t even have headlights. The plan to spend a few days in Honduras is buried. We take the shortest route to Nicaragua. Due to a large drug discovery, the entry formalities are dragging on, but the customs officers remain fair. We get to know Alonso at the border. Alonso, who runs a melon farm with his brothers and on whose self-made rocking chairs we sit on the street with his family and neighborhood a little later. They want to hear about our trip. We learn that the only regular ferry from Panama to Colombia has sunk. The rumor is confirmed in Costa Rica. This cut off the way to South America. There is no road through the Darien Gap, a huge swamp area between the continents. So we drive to Panama City, from where an airline takes us to Quito in Ecuador for a reasonable price. At customs we are told that we have to pay a deposit of 800 US dollars per motorcycle. When you leave the country, the money will of course be paid back. We decline with thanks. The alternative: A police escort could accompany us outside of the country within 48 hours, then we would only have to bear the escort’s travel expenses. Not exactly our favorite tourist program. After several days of discussions with the Ecuadorian customs, the German embassy steps in and guarantees that we would not sell our Husqvarna in Ecuador under any circumstances. Finally we are allowed to drive. High time to leave Quito. Parliament is in the process of removing the president, a general strike is imminent and street battles have broken out in some parts of the city. We are heading for Cotopaxi, the highest active volcano on earth. With engines spitting and a top speed of just 20 km / h, the huskies puff at the edge of the ice cap at an altitude of 4500 meters. In order to get to the extreme tip of the Amazon, we cross the Andes for the first time. On our way back to Peru, roadblocks and military controls are piling up: there are warnings about terrorists. While the hostage drama in the Japanese embassy continues in Lima, we cross the city to visit the mysterious lines of Nasca and Machu Pichu 400 kilometers further south. An Inca city high up in the Andes, never discovered by the Spanish conquerors. It is now February. We’re damn late if we want to reach Tierra del Fuego before the rainy season. At Tacna we cross the border to Chile and follow the Panamericana again to Iquique on the Pacific. Then we decide to take another detour to the Andes. Within a few hours we climb from sea level to more than 4000 meters – and promptly get the receipt: nausea, severe headache – altitude sickness. The gravel road forks again and again, branches that are not shown on our maps. Nowhere is a person to be seen. We try to orientate ourselves on volcanoes or lagoons. When the fuel runs out, the road ends. I have no idea where we are. Maybe already in Bolivia. Turn around? No longer works. The last supply station is too far behind us. There is only one way: the railway tracks in a southerly direction. They look untraveled. Jumping between the rails, we truly get back on our gravel road. With the last drop of fuel we roll into the Chilean border town of Ollague, where word of two gringos with loud motorbikes quickly gets around. We also learn that the railway line is in operation. Santiago de Chile: We really seem to be able to do it. The huskies are still running. A valve adjusting screw will tear off during the upcoming inspection, but it can be secured with Loctite. One last time we get fresh tires. Then we tackle the final of our continental crossing, with the Panamericana ending in Puerto Montt. The ship takes you to the Carretera Austral, a gravel road over 1000 kilometers in length towards Tierra del Fuego. We are on this unique road for five days, accompanied by snow-capped mountains, active volcanoes, turquoise lakes, glaciers, waterfalls and forests. South of Lake Buenos Aires we have to switch to the Argentine side. Brown-green steppe grass now lines the path – the pampas: flat, monotonous. The incessant, strong wind of Patagonia sometimes almost sweeps us off the slopes. We are only getting on with great difficulty. And our buttocks are no longer what they used to be. But we do it: With a small ferry we cross the Strait of Magellan and reach Tierra del Fuego. After nine months, 14 countries traveled, 36,535 kilometers, 36 oil changes and ten valve corrections, the huskies have reached the end of the world.

From Alaska to Tierra del Fuego

A Husqvarna is a sport enduro, so it is designed for competitions and not for extreme trips. But sport enduros have a serious advantage over any travel enduro. You are light. After all the modifications, the TE 350 weighed just 150 kilograms including the case (115 kilograms standard). The convincing argument for Steffen Schmidt and Jorg Barthe: »We had a lot of time and the dealer promised to send all the spare parts. So nothing really could have happened. ”The maintenance intervals remained. “Checking the valve clearance and changing the oil is ultimately not such a big deal. We sent some oil ahead and had some friends bring it with us. And a 1.5 liter capacity is manageable «. A 19-liter tank from Acerbis ensured sufficient range, and aluminum suitcases from Gericke provided luggage storage. The stronger suspension springs come from Eibach, the rest is self-made. Instead of the light aluminum rear, there is a stable steel construction with an integrated luggage rack. In order to put weight on the front wheel, the cases were mounted as far forward as possible and self-designed tool containers with a sturdy protective plate were screwed to the engine. A specially manufactured main stand and a compression reduced by means of a thicker head gasket round off the whole thing. To ask? Telephone 06403/63952.

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