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Last week four Stromtroopers and their spouses went on a great riding tour of the central mountains and the north coast of the Dominican Republic with Robert Cooper and his wife, Alida (AL-eeda), of Motocaribe. We totaled about 600 miles of riding mainly two lane country roads with some congested city riding and small town & village riding. The mountain roads are great riding with 1st & 2nd gear curves, but often with obstructed sight lines, so no peg scraping. You never know when a truck is broken down in your lane around that curve, or a goat in the road, or anything unexpected at all. The coastal roads have great views, as do many of the mountain roads. If I rode fast here, it cuts down the sight seeing, and I can ride fast at home. One couple each rode a strom, two couples rode as rider/pillion, and my wife rode in the van with Alida. (My wife who never before showed any interest in being on two motorized wheels now thinks she should learn to ride pillion and we go back in two years! I'm thinking that she should take a scooter riding course to learn the dynamics, then we practice riding double before we head south. Maybe she'll even want her own scooter....)

We flew into DR's #2 city, Santiago, where Robert and Alida met us and drove us to their base camp in the mountain city of Jarabacoa (Hara-bah-co-ah). They put us up in the best hotel in town for two nights. We rode two days of mountain riding in that region, then packed up and rode to the Samana (SAH-mah-nah) Peninsula and a luxo resort my wife thought was like a landlocked cruise liner. Many European travelers come there and never go outside the gates. We, of course, got on our bikes around 8:30 each day and rode. Rode to beautiful perfect Caribbean beaches with no one around. Rode to a horse ride to a waterfall were we swam in the pool at the bottom. Rode to more beaches and along twisty coastal mountain roads. Three days in Samana with one non-riding rest day at a great beach with almost no one around, really good beach cafe for lunch, then rode back to Jarabacoa--two more days there with two more days of mountain riding.

Robert's photos on his motocaribe.com web site are accurate--we were there. Here's a short slide show we put together of shots we took before our card was full:
Dominican Republic by Moto | Roxio PhotoShow

Summary---great fun, very good outfit, we'll likely go with them again.
 

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Hey Ken,
It was great meeting, and riding with, you! ...and Beverly, too!

Tell Beverly that I think she did a GREAT job on the slideshow.
I'll get around to putting some photos up one of these days (we took over 1500 -- many of which are crap) . . .

I am always behind on projects...
. . . and swamped at work . . .









.
 

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Very nice slide show. We just arrived home yesterday. Robert asked if we had one word to describe this trip what would it be? We sat for awhile in a silent van as all of us tried to find the word that would sum it up. After having more time to think about it I have found the word that works for me.

EPIC!

If you are on the fence about doing a tour then get off of it and go. This is not for the meek weekend rider. You will need to be comfortable with riding a bike for extended periods and never knowing what may be around the next corner. (There are very few straight roads in the DR.) It can be anything from a moto, to an overloaded truck, to a stray animal, to the road turning to dirt, a missing manhole cover, and list can go on and on.

Life in the DR happens on the road. When you pass homes it is not uncommon to see the entire family and their pets sitting in front of the house with their feet on the road. With stands pedaling anything you may want or never knew you needed you have to be prepared that a vehicle in front of you will stop in the road to make a deal with the proprietor. In the USA you would have a melt down if this happened but in the DR you just give a couple toots of the horn and go around.

There are no hard and fast traffic rules. One way streets, stop signs, speed limits, stop lights, are merely suggestions as are the lines on the road. Warning signs for hazards are a luxury and usually its a stick in the road warning you of a hazard. It is not uncommon to see vehicles going the wrong way or using the on coming lanes of traffic to avoid the many obstacles I have listed above. Your idea of personal space must be adjusted as the roads are used very different here. What we think of as a two lane road in the states is really a three lane road (or more) in the DR. It is not uncommon to split lanes with two way traffic and have less then 6" on each side. I called it combat riding. It all seems like chaos but it really works. You spend little time sitting still and your always on the move making your way to your destination. My wife loved riding this way. She was laughing and honking her horn all over the place. If someone in front of you was slow you went around them. Even with an on coming vehicle you just went. (In the DR this is normal). You do not have to worry about the drivers freaking out or any kind of road rage and most of the time you will get a beep of a horn and maybe a wave and yes they will use all of their fingers. In our whole time there we never saw a traffic accident.

The food was amazing and fresh. There were stands and stores everywhere. You could pick out what you wanted to eat on the hoof and be cooking it in a matter of hours. The fruit could be cut right in front of you for you to enjoy. You will not go hungry here. Mostly chicken and pork, rice and beans, always with a helping of fresh cut fruit. I came with the expectation that it would be a Mexican food type of diet but it is not. It is just fresh made great tasting food.

For the ladies considering this ride - words from the riding wife - you have three options; You can ride your own bike, you can be a passenger on your partners bike or you can ride in the van. The bike is a 650 V-Strom and is perfectly suited to the environment. I have had thousands of street miles and extra training and will not suggest riding it yourself unless you are very experienced, trained and unafraid of the bigger bike. It handled like a dream and I had no troubles. You will ride in the rain - no liners necessary for us - and the mud and the sun and the hot and the humidity and in the rocks and up the hills and on blacktop. You will not have clean bathrooms on the road, if at all, and may not always have running water while touring. You WILL see amazing things, taste amazing food and ride like you have never ridden before. Sharing this with my riding spouse was extra special and something we will never forget. I suggest learning or brushing up on your Spanish, as it allowed us much more interaction and we stayed a few extra days on our own. This time is a car, which was also fun (I drove that, too). Feel free to ask me questions from the female perspective, as it is never quite the same.

This is a 2nd world country. Everything that we take for granted each day are not always available on demand in the DR. You will have some power outages, water is only to come from safe sources (No worries for you Robert and Alida provide you with all you need just don't forget and drink a glass full in your room), there are vehicles that you know would be condemned on our streets still running on DR streets. You ever wondered what happened to all those air cooled two strokes? Or street legal two strokes? They are alive and well working in the DR. Ah yes the smell of mixed gas it is heavy in the city streets of the DR. You can stand in one place and watch the clouds of it rising up into the air. There are a lot of vehicles that we called crop dusters.

You will also be entertained by all of the vehicles that are available to the DR that we just don't get to see. It was awesome to see the small trucks with little diesels in them. I never knew Volkswagen made a truck to compete with Toyota and the many cleaver ways people use them. I even saw a guy riding on a cab of a truck to make sure the tarp did not fly off of the load. And a Toyota Corolla with about 15 people in it. You will see a whole family on a scooter Mom, Dad, and all three kids on a Honda spree.

Thanks to Robert and Alida for this opportunity. It is now time for us to return back to our normal lives. To start saving for our next adventure. Maybe even the Southwest DR tour!

We will post some of our pictures here soon.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
The city driving was interesting, and in some ways easier than U.S. driving where everyone thinks they own their space--and some to yours as well. It was sort of a give a little and take a little experience. People move over for you, 'cuz that's just the way things are done. And we move over for others for the same reason. The only egos on the road are the big trucks, big buses, and rich guys' SUVs--let them by and enjoy the ride. Almost nobody has motorcycles the size of the DL650s in the Motocaribe fleet and folks were kind'a surprised to see us, so we rode fairly tightly together through the city traffic and room was made for the group of us. The DR military has bikes this size, and maybe they thought we were military, or rock stars, or something.
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
Dragan had an amazing story. He is a native of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and was evacuated from the city at the age of 7 to Germany, along with his mother and perhaps siblings--men were not allowed to leave. When Germany kicked out the refugees he went to the U.S. and is now a U.S. citizen and working as an IT professional. From Wikipedia:
The Bosnian war resulted in large scale destruction and dramatic population shifts during the Siege of Sarajevo between 1992 and 1995. Thousands of Sarajevans lost their lives under the constant bombardment and sniper shooting at civilians by the Serb forces during the siege.

The Siege of Sarajevo is the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare. Serb forces of the Republika Srpska and the Yugoslav People's Army besieged Sarajevo, the capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina, from 5 April 1992 to 29 February 1996 during the Bosnian War.

After Bosnia and Herzegovina had declared independence from Yugoslavia, the Serbs, whose strategic goal was to create a new Serbian State of Republika Srpska (RS) that would include part of the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, encircled Sarajevo with a siege force of 18,000 stationed in the surrounding hills, from which they assaulted the city with weapons that included artillery, mortars, tanks, anti-aircraft guns, heavy machine-guns, multiple rocket launchers, rocket-launched aircraft bombs, and sniper rifles. From 2 May 1992, the Serbs blockaded the city. The Bosnian government defence forces inside the besieged city were poorly equipped and unable to break the siege.

It is estimated that nearly 10,000 people were killed or went missing in the city, including over 1,500 children. An additional 56,000 people were wounded, including nearly 15,000 children. The 1991 census indicates that before the siege the city and its surrounding areas had a population of 525,980.


Anyway, Dragan is a great guy and was fun to have along on the trip.
 
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