DR Trip Epilogue and Recap

This is sort of a random collection of thoughts, on different subjects, about the trip, in no real order...basically, things I thought about or meant to fit in somewhere, but they didn't really fit elsewhere in the trip blog.


No regrets there. They did a good job of planning, brought boxes of snacks, beach stuff, and other essentials, and it was all pretty enjoyable, without any surprises. Literally everything was paid for, minus souvenirs, Ed did a great job of leading the ride, and much fun was had. It worked out even better as with the big group canceling - this literally was a ’tour group of one,’ which added a lot of flexibility and let us ride some places we might not have done with a group.

Ed, Robert, Alida, Chris and Dana are all personable, and pretty laid back people, and definitely gave the impression of 'a real business' versus some random fly by night - the bikes were nearly brand new, little touches like the trailer awning, and a constant supply of drinks and snacks on hand were very welcome, and some good conversation was had. With the rest of this tours group re-scheduling, I could have been stuck with a trip to DR with nothing to do once I arrived (a tour group of 1, without a bike or destinations), but they still went through with it, like it was a full tour, except allowing of course, for some variances on the schedule, which were nice, such as riding down to the beach, starting a bit later on some days, and riding more before to get there later, etc.

Probably as a result of the 'tour of 1,' the 'group dynamics' were a little bit odd now and then, as Ed, Chris, and Dana have known each other for ages, as well as Ed and Chris formerly working together for years, and Robert and Alida only marginally less, but overall, it was really a great trip, and I enjoyed each of their company. Good people.

While I might have made some small changes (see below for specifics), a big thumbs up, and look forward to riding with them again in the future.

What would I have done differently?

Actually, not a whole lot. Planning a trip for people you 'know' only by common ground of riding motorcycles, with a possible wide variety of skill levels, comfort levels, personalities, and interests...can never be an easy, nor 'perfect' achievement. I think MotoCaribe did an excellent job with planning the routes and stops, but of course, there are a few things I might like to see slightly differently.

First up...I've got to take Spanish, seriously. Why I decided to take French way back when, especially when the French can so often be well, annoying, is beyond me. I know a small bit of Spanish, but I wouldn't go so far as to call it 'conversational,' and I can easily see doing more riding trips and vacations in Spanish speaking countries. Alida was very useful to have with us from that standpoint, and Chris managed to get by fairly well there as well, but it's not quite the same as speaking for yourself, in a conversation with some locals.

This one's likely highly seasonal, as well as somewhat dependent on a tours mix of people, but I would have liked to have spent a night out in Jarabacoa or elsewhere, plus a night out in Samana. Note that I could have done this one, and we did spend the last night in Jarabacoa for a bit, but with my non-level of Spanish, doing it solo wasn't quite so appealing. Elsewhere in DR, near more touristy spots, I expect it would be less of an issue, but going out for a night of local nightlife in each place would have been welcome. Likewise, neither hotel had very many people at it when we were there..I'm not sure if it's seasonal, or just spotty/random as to when people are there..it was certainly nice for the peace and quiet, but neither was exactly full of local nightlife :-)

I think I'd have liked to stop at a few more 'random local places,' whether for food or snacks..like the small fruit stand made of wood we stopped for bananas, versus some of the more 'solid' or 'comfortable' stops. I did mention this to Ed, and think it's slated to be worked into the schedule, or at the very least, the fruit stand stop...sort of a bit more 'real local culture,' if you will.

The only other thing that stands out would be perhaps a pair of relatively short 'tourist stops.' Note that we did work in my 'souvenir stop' in at Samana, but perhaps one hour or so stop in Las Galenas, and a scheduled one around Samana somewhere..

That's all I can think of, really...which, all things considered, is really a pretty small list!

Favorite parts of the trip

The first one's easy, and I've tried to describe it elsewhere...you'll either 'get it' or not. Riding through Samana with the locals, avoiding moving and road obstacles, was just truly awesome, you just sort of get in your groove and have a blast. I've called it 'dart and weave,' or 'semi organized chaos,' and Ed likes 'vehicular anarchy.' All are pretty accurate, but it's just not the same describing it, it's just a whole lot of fun.

There was another moment, I *wish* we'd gotten video of. It was one of the days we were at La Tambora, but I'm not sure when. There were more motos than usual for our rides out, in one of the towns, and after watching them swarm around us for a bit, and standing off a bit from them, we said screw it, and nudged into the middle of them for a while. People talk about 'swimming with dolphins,' and this was our version- 'riding in a swarm of locals'...it was simply excellent, with motos surrounding us in all directions, sometimes coming within inches of or indeed banging handlebars..a very cool experience.

The day at Playa Rincon was also great, as well as having fun on the sections of off-road going to the Mouth of the Devil as well as the beach just before there, having the cows 'stampede' us, the off-road section leading to Playa Rincon (ok, not including the sand so much :-) ), sections of road on the Iguana and the Samana mountains..really, too hard to pick more specifics, so much of it was great!

Random comments and thoughts on the Dominican Republic

I'm not sure where to begin on this one! The weather was generally very nice, as expected of a tropical climate, and bugs generally weren't a problem, although it's obviously better to be safe than sorry on that count. While bottled water was available most places, and the van always had a refilled supply, I mostly stopped worrying about it a day or so after arrival, as we were often getting warm drinks and a glass full of ice, showering with local water, etc...this may have been down to luck, our locations, or whatever, but thankfully, no issues for me with the water.

The food, and eating well, was completely a non-issue, even for a picky eater like me. Actually, I may have eaten too well on this trip :-)

The roads were completely random in their composition and seeming maintenance. We hadn't seen a single 'construction sign' before leaving Jarabacoa as a base, while some roads bordered on dirt trails, and seemed very unlikely to be repaired in the near future. Other roads were reasonably well maintained, but it seemed nearly random, or up to each town if they would touch the roads or not, perhaps due to the way elections and 'elected officials' work in the DR. Meanwhile, the timers on stoplights in Santiago were pretty cool. Everywhere, traffic 'laws' were mere suggestions, but there, it mostly worked, and was at least reasonably safe (and fun!), somehow.

La Policia - I can't speak authoritatively on this one, and we didn't see all that many of them, one pair that seemed to be looking for someone, pulling random people over, the DNCD 'invasion' in Jarabacoa, and very few elsewhere...but I'd say it's best to avoid them at all. I'm not saying they're corrupt, or out of control, just that I'd rather avoid finding out up close and personal, but...it's also seemingly easy enough to avoid problems, which is good.

The pace of life is certainly slower, ranging from reactions of 'this is great!' through mild annoyance, when waiting for service or at the Dominican Wal-Mart.. In general, most Dominicans seemed to range from somewhat indifferent, curious, to overtly friendly, and even when we were riding or driving around in the rain, we still often saw smiling faces, so if not happy, they generally seem at least content with their lot.

The few times I actually ran across someone giving off a 'shady' vibe, like if looks could kill, it turned out to be a group of Haitians, on at least one or two of the few times I saw anyone 'off' during the entire trip. Apparently, Dominicans have a sort of informal 'caste system,' and most Dominicans are mulattos, with fewer features typically seen in those with direct African heritage - the noses, lips, and head shapes of most Dominicans is different, and their 'informal caste system' apparently puts some level of weight to those with lighter features, while Haitians, in general, are of more 'pure' African descent. Either way, the few Haitians we saw didn't seem to look at us too kindly, while most others were pretty friendly.  Note - this is not my random thoughts here, but as explained to me by a native Dominican.

Seeing the vehicles being used was interesting, as well. Not only for the non US market vehicles and small motorcycles, but also with gas at over $6 USD per gallon, the fact that some were indeed driving small to 'regular sized'(sic) SUVs around Santiago..which was quite the shock after driving and riding around Jarabacoa, which was mostly all small motos, with an occasional tiny SUV or car, although even then, often with quite loud stereos.

It really made it hard to tell from the 'sampling' of the demographics of the country. We saw plenty of small motos, which presumably are the 'poor person's transportation,' sometimes a small 100cc moto loaded with 3 people, or 2 people, plus a huge propane tank, or anything else imaginable, and used for 'conchos' or taxis in some areas (jump on the seat and off you go), converted into sort of 'rickshaw like taxis' pulling a small platform...alongside shacks as well as smaller but reasonably ok looking open air houses, through tiny SUVs or normal trucks that seem to make sense for the area, on up to some full sized SUVs, LandRovers, and such, or the few modern import cars and the half dozen modern sportbikes we saw. I guess it's not just America that wants to 'keep up with the neighbors,' or worse, thinks an SUV is some sort of bizarre, wasteful status symbol. Robert and Ed said there's a growing middle class in the country, which certainly seems possible, although I'm not sure specifically how to tell (nor is it of great import to me how much someone may make, just curiosity due to being there..). The mall really confused things a bit further in that respect...Santiago seems much like any other random smaller city, but the mall could have been a smaller mall at nearly anywhere in America, except for the prices, as they seem to have some stiff taxes on bringing goods into the country. An iPod/iPhone speaker doc was roughly double that in the US, while Marlboro Lights were just over $2 a pack, quite good compared to elsewhere, and as I believe the tobaccos was grown and packaged in the DR, that would make sense - local labor is cheap, but imported goods are not.

The difference in geography for such a relatively small area was pretty amazing, as well. We covered a fair amount of territory, including both mountains and beach, and apparently there's also a desert area within the DR. Thinking about it, there are few places in the US within the same or similar distance having both mountains and the beach, perhaps CA, WA state, and a handful of states around NC and VA..very cool! 

Solo Vs Group or Tour Riding

This one I spent some time thinking about, before doing the trip. I'm not used to riding in large groups, and am generally not a fan of even group rides with more than 2 or 3 people in them, and sort of really like to 'pick my own destination, on the fly,' so to speak, even though some of the choices may be preceded by a whole lot of research on my behalf in some cases.

While I expect to do many more solo trips in the future, though, this was really a good trip. I know there was no way that I could have come up with the collection of places, routes and sights that MotoCaribe did, let alone lodging, and it was sort of nice to be able to travel without tools and emergency gear with me for a change. 

Would I do it again?

Yeah, most definitely. MotoCaribe is apparently in the planning stages of offering a 'desert tour,' covering the other parts of DR in the future, and that seems like a likely candidate, assuming I can get off work. Very few to no regrets on this trip, and would ride with them again any time!

Gear and misc - did I bring what I needed, and how did it work?

Besides the camera charger which turned out I had taken out of my shower bag at home, and left on the counter, and forgetting to bring a hat and thin raincoat/windbreaker, everything worked pretty well.

The camera, my Olympus 1030SW, was great overall. Most shots worked just fine in auto mode, versus specific scene settings, and while a small handful of shots came out blurry, and I forgot the charger and extra batteries, I still managed to get some 200+ pictures spanning 8 days.

My boots (Oxtar Matrix) kept me dry through the few bouts of rain we had, my Motoport mesh pants were fine in this level of heat, often not taking them off even for longer stops, and my Caberg helmet's internal sun visor was awesome, often riding with visor up but sun shade down in warmer spots.

I still love my RevIt gloves, just wish they were waterproof, and the UnderArmour gear was just the ticket to keep relatively cool, or at least not overheated.

My Teknic jacket did well enough - it's mesh, and breathes pretty well. It was hot a day or two like when starting on the way to Playa Rincone, but cools down quickly once moving, and I've ridden in it at temps up over 100*F.

I wound up not using my CamelBak, but it was nice to have, and I could well have if it turned hotter, but we had enough frequency of hydration and brief rest stops, along with the ’support van' that I probably didn't need it for this particular trip.

I'd thought about bringing my GPS, but decided against it, as I didn't have usable map data, and as it turned out, besides having some sort of route to review post-trip, it really wasn't necessary..although I would have taken it if doing the trip entirely solo, without a doubt!

My Joe Rocket 'waterproof gloves,' well, they are Joe Rocket...which means they usually look OK, but I'd prefer not to count on their gear much, and unsurprisingly, their waterproof gloves were 'sort of waterproof, for a while.' No real surprise, they've done it to me before..they're ok for a while, which is welcome, then at some point they just bleed the water through. it's time to dump them and just go to waterproof outer glove covers/liners, methinks.

I'd meant to bring along my RAM mount camera mount, but didn't, in the rush of packing. As it turns out, MotoCaribe did have a gas tank mount that might have worked, but I forgot to ask about it before we headed out, so I think it was on one of the other bikes..I thought about finally giving in and doing a lipstick video camera or video camera mount, but I think my camera would do 'well enough' with a decent mount. Coulda, woulda, shoulda, on that one, I guess - the only video I'd love to have had was around Samana one day, when Ed I were enveloped by a ton of local motos, riding in the middle of them.

My Icon Urban Assault tankbag..has done pretty well for me on my SV, with it's magnetic base, but didn't quite fit the DL650, as the front set of magnets sat on plastic fairing, versus the gas tank. With the windshield on the DLs, it's possible it would have held just fine, but really, I didn't need it when riding, as the loaded van was never more than 15-30 minutes behind any individual stop, although a single smaller tankbag would have been good, just for camera, Gatorade, and a snack. Also, something managed to melt/deform the plastic map pocket on the Icon...I'm guessing it was likely the bug repellent, with an effect like styrofoam lightly brushed with gasoline, slightly deformed and melted. Still usable, and don't know when or how that one happened, but I'll chalk it up as user error and not paying attention, and it was still a good travel bag.

My Cabellas waterproof backpack rocked, as usual..I love that thing, even if for this trip, it simply served as a gear carrier when not riding, or for checking in with the airlines. Likewise, my compression dry sack is awesome at filling with clothes, and compressing to a much smaller size, in this case, to fit into the main compartment of my tailbag.

I also brought a few microfiber camp towels, which are sort of like 'The Absorber' material you see in AutoZone, like fake chamois that absorbs a ton of water, dries relatively quickly, and again, compresses down to almost nothing for packing. I think I may need to buy stock in these things; great stuff! :-)

I have a small number of Field And Stream or similar branded super thin pants, that can have the pants legs removed, and a single shirt of the same material, plus a pair of Columbia polo short sleeve semi-wicking shirts. While most of it's non wicking, the pants are awesome gear for hot weather - the pants and shirt all compress into near nothingness for packing, they look almost business casual when worn, and air blows right through the pants. This stuff is great, and no wrinkles, ever.

Overall, I don't think I much overpacked, nor underpacked, excepting a few 'forgotten' items like my camera charger, hat and light raincoat. I probably should have left the outer liner for my riding jacket at home, as it is waterproof but simply too heavy for the temperature, but other than that, my packout was pretty close to on the money. I did, however, not pay enough attention to Ed's note about 'throwaway hiking sneakers,' for the waterfalls - my Rockports just weren't made for mud, no matter how comfortable they are in normal walking around...Oops! Besides that one, another pair of the thin convertible pants, and another short sleeve pullover, and I'd probably be good for 10+ days easily.

The Few Thumbs-Down Awards

Ironically, none of these had to do with MotoCaribe/the tour, and only one with the DR.

Miami Airport gets the #1 spot for pure suckage, disorganization, and annoyance factor. I'll fly through elsewhere if able to in the future. Followed closely was American Airlines staff at Miami International. Thanks ever so much, you have no idea how much I really was wanting to sit around that obnoxious airport for another 5 hours. Ick.

AT&T follows with their wonderful 'international plan' that I'd inquired about getting on for a month prior to the trip. I was informed that without an international plan, my ates would be $1.99 a minute, or if on their international plan, it would still be a whopping $1.69 a minute. Uhh..do people actually use phones there? I know they do, but I'm guessing the local carriers are more sane, and even Skype only gets a max of 15 cents a minute. For the double whammy, AT&T also told me I'd have limited and slow data access, for a fee of $25 for the month, for up to 20MB of traffic. Care to guess how often this worked at all in DR? You got it..never. Can't wait for that phone call to AT&T for a refund... ;-/

Internet access was, well, bizarre, or basically, the lack of it. It's obvious it's at least available in the more populated areas, as there were a handful of Internet Cafes as we passed through a few of the touristy towns, but apparently, it's just not a priority for guests at either hotel. I'd love to see that one changed, and maybe it will, but likely at 'Dominican speed,' which may not be soon. Not a huge grievance, but it would have been nice to have.


A great trip with a few minor annoyances, mostly unrelated to once I actually made it there. Hopefully I'll see the DR again sometime. :-)