The Pack Track entered Africa with great excitement and trepidation. There is so much to see in Africa, such different cultures to explore. But it is a challenging continent (roads, climate, poverty) and a volatile continent (conflict). We had rested enough in Europe and felt ready for the next adventure, not to mention warmer climates!
We took the Trasmediterranea ferry from Algeciras to Tangier Med. This is the slow, run-down looking ferry and coincidently the cheapest option at €77 for 2 people and 2 motorbikes. We'd checked the prices online which indicated a cost for dogs but decided not to book online after our recent ferry debacle in England resulting in a missed ferry, additional 600km+, hotel expenses and more riding in the cold, wet, England rain. So, when we turned up to the ferry terminal in Algeciras we were happily surprised the dogs were allowed on for free and when we were on the ferry, motorbikes tied down in the parking area, the girls were allowed to sit inside ...
After nearly two years of exploring the America's, it was time to move on. We hadn't seen everything by a long shot but there was more of the world to see. So we needed to get two people, two dogs and two bikes from the US to somewhere, anywhere in Europe.
We'd dreamed of taking the Cunard's Queen Mary II (QM2) cruise ship across the Atlantic since we first heard about it. We were already a fan of cruises having first experienced one for our honeymoon and then sailing on two others, each one just as good as the previous. Being dog lovers we were quick to research if dogs were ever welcome aboard but it was limited to just one ship on one particular transit, the QM2 from New York direct to Southampton (and occasionally on to Hamburg).
The QM2 had 12 kennels on board and availability was competitive. We booked Weeti in 12 months in advance as was suggested on Cunard's official website, but even then it was too late and we were placed on a waiting list. Luckily it didn't take long to b...
The dilemma was to move Stu's motorbike from Los Barriles in the south of Baja, 2,000km to Los Angeles where it would be shipped to Europe. However, after the accident Stu was unable to ride. In addition his bike had a serious oil leak and wasn't in a state for anyone else to ride it to California. So the decision was made to truck the bike to Tijuana where it would be ridden the last 200km to Long Beach. In theory it was simple, but events needed to line up for this plan to succeed. And by succeed we mean boarding the Queen Mary 2 Cruise Ship from New York to England on the third of January that would transport us and the girls across the Atlantic Ocean knowing the motorbike was with the shipping company in LA ready to ship.
We were in San Diego when the large car carrier semi-trailer with a full load left La Paz on schedule with Stu's bike on board. It left early in the morning and was expected to arrive the following day at which point we would collect the bike from the depot in ...
Maybe it was an error, but it was booked and paid for online, one way car hire from California to New York for under $300. We were picking up from and dropping off at out of the way shops so maybe this has something to do with the cheap price but it was a bargain we couldn't pass, especially as the next best deal was well over a thousand dollars. When we walked into the car rental shop we fully expected to be told that an error had occurred and that we would need to pay substantially more. But this didn't happen, they of course tried to upgrade us to a larger model car but we resisted. We drove out of the parking lot before anyone could stop us feeling like we'd pulled off the heist of the century.
Our little blue hire car
We just squeezed all the luggage in
Weeti & Shadow's spot for the drive
We only had one commitment on this trip, to give a presentation in Dallas for a friend who'd been following us from the start. John had been excited about us giving a talk to the local b...
I left Los Barrilles on the 04 December, with my girls on board, nervous and thrilled. The alternative had been driving or flying out with Stu but I really didn't want either of those options, I wanted to continue riding in Mexico for as long as possible, even if it was more or less back the same 2000km we'd arrived from Tijuana. Mexico is a beautiful country where I always felt safe and welcome. I had a really nice send off from everyone staying at Chris's place then I was off with my dogs. It was a beautiful sunny day and I settled in to riding quickly. I was determined to enjoy the ride, I didn't want to rub it in Stu's face but this was an opportunity for some girl time and to run everything at my pace including stopping for photos whenever I wanted.
Chris, Paige & Stu's Farewell
Janell & the Girls ready to ride
The route was fairly straightforward, I stayed on the main road through Baja. I knew places to camp from our trip south and my friends in Los Barriles had arra...
Throughout the USA we had been using a forum thread called TentSpace on ADVrider.com to find hosts that would let us set up a tent in their yard for a few nights at no cost. The reality was, however, that we never once used our tent, the hosts were very welcoming and always had a spare bedroom for us and the girls to use. In San Francisco we stayed with Paige, a very experienced rider and very interesting person. She didn't have a spare room, but she did have a 3-storey haunted house next door that was ours for a few days over Halloween. We spent a bit of time chatting with Paige and she convinced us to return to Mexico and ride the Baja peninsula. She even organised accommodation for us at the bottom if we made it, staying with her friend Chris in Los Barriles. Remaining always flexible and having such fond memories of Mexico we were easily persuaded.
Head On Collision in Mexico route through the United States and Mexico
The ride down the 1700km highway was pretty uneventful exce...
We arrived in San Francisco the day before Halloween and intended to stay just two nights before heading south but instead hung around for six days. Who can resist San Francisco, right? A great city is one thing, but what makes a stay "frantastic" is the company. We'd contacted Paige through TentSpace a few days before arriving, Paige had a no bullshit attitude, you wanted to stay with her you picked up the phone and called. We knew from the outset we were going to like Paige. Calling a TentSpace host is actually unusual, most contact to hosts is made via messages, in fact we'd never spoken to a host before arrival in all our prior experience with TentSpace.
Janell's bike outside San Francisco's Painted Ladies
Paige was a chef and part time property developer. What a combination, not only did she cook amazing meals, she put us up in a house next door which she had recently purchased to renovate. The house wasn't anything to write home about, or was it? There was limited power and no...
Our route was to take us along the northern states to Seattle and then head south along the coast. We still had a lot of ground to cover and it would start with The Great Plains of the Dakota's.
The speed limit was a whopping 85mph (over 135km/hr), normally we wouldn't entertain the idea of travelling so fast, not with a Pillion Pooch attached, but the road quality was superb and the winds nonexistent. This also gave us an opportunity to experiment with fuel consumption and what impact the Pillion Pooch had on drag with one bike fitted with a Pillion Pooch and the other not. We took our measurements over a range of two fuel stops covering around 800km. Our first conclusion was that from the riders point of view the presence of the Pillion Pooch was not noticeable, we'd easily creep up to 90mph and have to deliberately back off. The second conclusion was that the difference in fuel consumption between the two setups was barely measurable and with weight difference taken into account ...
We were feeling very positive about the future of The Pack Track. Weeti was recovering well from her seizures and was slowly getting back to her old self again. It was only a few months now until we were to depart the America's bound for Europe and we still had so much to see. Our voyage across the Atlantic would be in the Queen Mary 2, the only cruise ship in the world with kennels on board. We had so far booked a single kennel for both Weeti and Shadow, but having lost Cinnamon just after her birth and seeing how distraught Shadow became at this loss, we decided that she should keep her surviving baby. So we booked another small kennel, or more correctly we went on a waiting list but to our surprise we picked up a spot in only a matter of weeks. So our plan was now to have Weeti in a kennel by herself and Shadow and Maple sharing.
But for now we were still in Wisconsin and heading towards northern Minnesota. We were slowly making our way over to Yellowstone while seeing as much o...
Our next stop was visiting Door County which we had been looking forward to since Patagonia eight months earlier. Back then we had a great time in Ushuaia, a two week wait for a replacement sleeping bag meant a forced break from the riding. What better place to wait than the end of the road, a place of daily celebrations as someone new arrived having endured the long road by car or by bike, motored and human powered, or arriving by sea. Not only was the city full of adventurers but there was usually a cruise ship or two docked or anchored in the harbour. During the day the high street was bustling with tourists while at night, with the cruise ships having set sail for their next destination the bars were loaded with bikers, cyclists and backpackers from everywhere. It was here that we met Erin, a solo traveller who had shared sections of road with various other adventure riders and now celebrating her arrival in Ushuaia. Like a lot of people, we saw her come and go in our time but o...
We hadn't seen Stu's brother since he flew down to Cancun right at the start of our trip. We'd also never met his new girlfriend Diana or seen him in his new life in Ottawa. So after spending a lovely time with Janell's family in New York, we felt spoilt to be riding to Greg and Diana for more family time. We had planned to spend a few nights with them and then ride up to see Montreal, Quebec City and some more to the east before making our way west, but Shadow had something else in mind.
Since finding Shadow, 6 weeks previous, she had started to put on weight and was looking more like a guinea-pig than a dog. This is to be expected when you take a dog from the streets but she was so ravenous. Its uncharted territory when you adopt a street dog, nobody can tell you anything about it and Shadow was so much smaller than any dog we'd ever had so we had no idea how much food she should eat. She reduced the food she was eating but the tummy still got bigger.
Can you guess what was goi...
We were back in the US in a new state for us, Florida. After the eventful departure from Botoga it was nice to enjoy a relaxing flight and collect our babies on the other side, safe and sound. We must admit, the LAN staff at the airport in Bogota were very helpful, we were really messed around with the dogs flights so they waived their pet freight fee ($50 per dog) so the girls got a free ride. Thanks LAN.
The process for collecting the girls after the flight was very different at Miami Airport compared to Dallas where we flew in with Skyla from Australia. The girls were in their crates literally sitting next to the conveyor belts in the baggage claim. Anyone could have walked past and taken them. When Skyla flew in from the US she was taken to a separate secure location and we had to get a heap of stamps and approvals before they released her to us. It was one extreme to the other but it was also the difference between travelling as cargo and checked luggage. Our preference would ...