DR Day 4: In search of the sun

The next day we packed up and headed out towards Samana, up through 'Tail of the Iguana,' and through some cool roads. We rode to the Moto Caribe HQ to get the trailer and van packed out as our support vehicle. It was cloudy and misty out, but we figured it would burn off.


I've got to say, the trailer's a pretty nice setup. They packed a spare bike 'just in case,' although I don't expect the DLs to have any serious issues for some time, but it's nice to have..along with bins full of beach gear, snacks, and other stuff, plus our luggage.

We headed through town on the way out, something that was to become among my most favorite rides, and rode along the Autopista Duarte, the major highway, for a bit, then headed off towards Moca. The Autopista is interesting, in that you'd almost believe you're on a 'normal highway somewhere, with vehicles zipping along at a decent clip, until you see someone going the wrong way on either side of the road on a small moto. It's faster than a lot of riding elsewhere, especially through towns, and has some neat scenery and local signs along the way, but I wouldn't want to stay on it all day either, and merging onto it from one of the roads adjoining it is a bit more challenging than using a typical on ramp..

We'd stop every hour or so to hydrate, and wait for the van to catch up..I expect as a safety check or net, and the timing was usually fine, as we'd stop at a local place for a Coke or drink while waiting, or to take some pictures. The picture below is the busiest place we'd see on the trip, as well as the most 'traditional' roads, with pavement actually making it to curbs on each side :-)

We had some minor excitement when the van and trailer locked the brakes in front of us, passing through town..I think Robert said some kid had run out in front of them, and the trailer brakes needed some minor adjustments which were later done. I locked the rear wheel a bit, but no harm, no foul; we both got to practice our 'emergency stops' as we'd been following a bit close at that moment, something you almost have to do in DR or someone will swoop in to fill the gap before you realize it.

The 'Tail of the Iguana' was a pretty fun road. It's mostly decently paved, but not as tight as Deal's Gap/The 'Dragon.' By comparison, most of The Dragon is generally 1st and 2nd gear, and 'The Tail' is mostly 2nd and 3rd. We stopped off around halfway for a drink and to let the van catch up, at 'Rancho La Gumbre.' Not such a bad view..


It was still overcast, but it was time to lose the awful cottonball feeling, sort of waterproof Joe Rocket gloves for my RevIts, so I could actually feel the controls again. The rest of that section was some good riding..some blind turns, which I'll admit I'm sort of a wuss on, and some higher speed ones. I mostly was getting used to the bike, and trying to not push it..following someone's always odd - sometimes you wind up focusing on their line, to the detriment of seeing or feeling your own, but Ed set a decent pace, mostly not too fast and not too slow..he does a good job as lead rider.

We made it out of the Iguana, onto a somewhat traversed road, with locals waving occasionally, then pulling off to get our first glipse of...the ocean! People that haven't grown up or lived a long time near an ocean may think it's pretty, or like doing water type things, but growing up right next to it, I've always loved the ocean - whether swimming in it, boating or jet-skis, just watching it, or even in the winter, having dinner at a place on the ocean and just listening to the waves..is special, and it weaves a calming effect on me. 


You can't see it in the pictures, but erosion from storms and runoff water is a serious force in DR. There were large cement blocks dumped down over the side in an attempt to slow the erosion here, I'd wager both from the waves at high tide in storms, as well as water running off the road from above.

A pair of local Dominas pulled over in a car, right as the van pulled up, and one finally asked to take a picture with the 'motos.' We obliged, then headed on our way again. The next stop was nicknamed 'The Big Chicken,' as they had formerly had a very large chicken free roaming around the restaurant, as in 'the largest I've ever seen' type large. We made it safely there..

However, after a quick look around, Senor Chicken was nowhere to be found. Asking about him, we found out that he was indeed a tasty meal for someone, so no more Big Chicken :-( Robert and company waited for the food, while Ed and I headed out, our destination being the beach at La Entrada for lunchtime.

The beach was very nice, and the trailer proved it's usefulness. Tables and chairs were brought out, and the trailer actually has an adjustable awning that pulls out to provide shade...very cool, and very welcome, as the coconut and palm trees, while prevalent on all the beaches, simply don't provide much respite from the sun. 

The Big Chicken restaurant
Beach at La Entrada

The puppy was with us, and was highly amusing as she tried to jump down the small sand ledge going closer to the water..she'd almost make it, and then sort of tumble.

I went for a walk down the beach, and had to see what the water felt like. Oh, my - it was perfect, like bathwater. I was seriously tempted to jump in for a swim, but we'd be heading out soon, and the idea of sandy underwear while riding somehow wasn't so appealing to me at the moment...but it was still a tough call.

The roads immediately in and out of the beach were optimistically called roads, but mostly a mixture of hard dirt, clay, sand, gravel and some occasional dark spot saying that perhaps at one time asphalt may have once resided on some section of it. 


Getting ready to leave, I got a minor reminder about a few things - while I love my F650, which is very similar to the DL650s we were on, for flickability and versatility, it's heavier than you expect when riding 'sort of off-road,' and the joys of Trailwing tires, the tires everyone seems to love to hate..I'd had a set on my first DRZ, and honestly, I thought they were totally competent on road, as well as light off-road, but they freaked me out on the DRZ the first time I rode through heavy sand and mud. Can you tell where I'm going with this one yet? No? No pic, but the sand was softer than I expected, I cut the front wheel a bit too far pulling the bike out of where it sits above, and had a very nice zero MPH drop. How embarrassing. :-/ Once we picked it up, I didn't feel so bad, as even trying to take off slowly the tires were spinning and digging a small trench in seconds. I got her out of there, and we got off of the sand onto the 'sort of roads,' kinda like a Jeep trail, but not before noticing something I don't quite get. 


Trash! Now, I'm not going to say I've never littered in my life, but nowadays, I very rarely do, to the point of putting out a cigarette and putting the butts into a pocket when I'm on the road - there's just no cause to do it if it can so easily be avoided..we picked up all of our stuff for later disposal..the pile shown is very likely from locals..the beach itself was gorgeous, but I don't get why people would litter such a nice, secluded beach of all things.

We rode across the hard packed dirt for a while, which is always fun, even without jumps. We got to pass through another town or two, again becoming a favorite of mine - the sort of roads, mixed with speed bumps or large 'reverse speed bumps' across the road, add in a healthy doze of locals on small motos weaving in and out, and around everything, while cars, a few SUVs and work trucks come from behind and oncoming, all trying to avoid the potholes and staying on the 5 or 6' or so of actual asphalt. I don't think I can describe it, and I probably wouldn't advise an inexperienced or nervous rider to do it, as you're not riding in a straight line here very often, nor picking a single line and sticking to it; instead, you're taking in as much as you can visually, weaving through the mixture of potholes, gravel, dirt and locals, often finding yourself on 'the wrong side of the road,' and calculating your next immediate route through the next set of 'obstacles' as you're passing through the current one...all the while also looking out for local children or livestock that may turn up in your path at nearly any time. It's relatively slow, ranging from 1st to 3rd gear usually, again, like semi-organized chaos..it's sublime, and just a whole lot of fun, in a form you just don't get in the States. Oh yeah, and there's stuff to look at while you're doing all of the above, as well! :-)

After a stop for refreshment, we headed on towards where we'd be staying for the next few days, just past Samana. As much fun as the little towns were to pass through, Samana was moreso, at least on a bike. They've been working on a water system, to bring fresh water into the houses in the area, so there were large chunks cut out of the road every couple of hundred to couple of thousand feet or so, spanning 1/3 to 2/3rds of the width of the road, in addition to the normal Dominican road 'character' and traffic, so we were weaving even more dodging the man made obstacle course the DR had been so kind to present to us...loved it!

After going through Nagua, Sanchez, Santa Barbara de Samana during the day, we arrived at the hotel, La Tambora. It was pretty nice, very resort like, with a small swimming pool, open air restaurant with thatched roof, and with a small refrigerator in the rooms. Somewhat amusingly, the power was out when we arrived..something about a problem with the main line going back to the road, but they were effectively 'jumpering' it with a temporary cable, so we hung out at the pool for a bit. The pool was too inviting to stay out of, so I went for a swim, and just like the ocean, it was nearly the perfect temperature, as we had a few drinks brought out to us while waiting for the power to return. The power came back on, thankfully, within 30 minutes or so, so we eventually wandered in for dinner and drinks. Dinner was buffet style, and quite good...we had a similar arrangement here as the Gran Jimenoa back in Jaracaboa, all meals, drinks and rooms included, but no wine..so Cuba Libre (Rum and Coke with lime) and Cokes was the ticket.

It had been a fairly long ride for the day, 170 miles or so, which isn't very far by anyone's touring standards, but Ed made a good comment about it feeling like double here, which was certainly the case in Costa Rica, and here at times as well - some great and fun riding, but you're using a lot of mental concentration, moreso than normal riding, as well as taking in some new sights, and it does manage to wear you out at times....the next day was going to be fairly active, so I retired to the room earlyish, after trying to get an email out by sitting next to reception (single wireless access point..), and writing a days' worth for the trip blog.

Going to sleep well tonight!