She was a 2009 Kawasaki KLR650, purchased new by a guy who had aspirations to ride off into the sunset chasing down wild adventures and living free. At 5-years old, and only 4100kms, the neglect of under 1000kms/year was wearing on him. His dreams had faded, and the motorcycle was for sale.
I knew nothing about motorcycles and tried to low-ball him on the price. He was asking around $1/km driven. The ad had been up for one day. He didn’t take my bait. He said to sweeten the deal he’d include an Arai helmet. I’d never heard of the brand Arai (one of the most popular/expensive) and said I didn’t care for the helmet. He was also including Pelican case luggage and mounting bars. In the end, I bought the bike with the kit and the helmet and loaded her into the back of my truck. The first corner I turned the bike fell over in the bed & cracked the front plastics. It seemed I still had a lot to learn about transporting motorbikes and should probably purchase crash bars.
(*After arriving home I emailed this guy with photos of the trip and thanked him for such a good bike. It's been 5-years, will see if he responds.)
That was almost precisely 5-years ago to the day. KLaiR, as she affectionately became known, now had close to 95,000kms on her. Had a change of luggage, holes in the plastics, a broken shock, signal light tied on with string, zip ties holding the dash on, broken speedo cable, hole in the rad, broken thermostat, busted tank bag, frayed clutch cable, countless weld jobs, missing cruiser foot pegs, cracked windscreen, various rust, one side of the decals worn off, and a hell of a lot of stories!
From Canada to Ushuaia Argentina myself, KLaiR, Stanley (monkey on the handlebars) had become great friends, partners in crime, a place to vent, someone to rely on, someone to get excited with, and the way I kept referring to KLaiR as my girlfriend, you’d think we’d fallen in love.
From the outside looking in, I'm sure a grown man talking to a plastic monkey, and a metal bike probably sounds like I may have dropped the bike one too many times without a helmet on. Life had become a little Cast Away style with Tom Hanks over the last couple of years, and there were actual days on end when I’d talk to no one other than KLaiR & Stanley.
I swear I was cool & popular before this solo expedition had set off. Now my friends were plastic or metal.
Considering I’d crashed KLaiR into the side of the Peruvian Andes with a suitcase and the other girlfriend strapped to her back, had her laid out by a dump truck in Panama, watched her fall face down in countless ditches puking gasoline, bent her rims pretty bad in Bolivia, blew her clutch plates out in the desserts of Colombia, filled her air box with sand in Mexico, and whatever other pleasures we endured together. She had come out of the whole ordeal running unbelievably well.
The tip-top performance of her engine I’ll credit to the Granny-style driver who checked her GPS stats after 60,000kms only to learn our top speed during that span of 65,000kms never surpassed 118km/h! Hahaha, I was the slowest guy in two continents.
Well, we had since made it to Ushuaia, and I think that KLaiR had decided that she had done her part to make this mission a success. She was starting to show her age, and my patch jobs were continuing to fail. It was in the period of about two weeks that the aforementioned shock blew, thermostat blew, radiator sprung a hole, and clutch cable frayed. Then in one single day, the speedo broke, GPS case then broke, and water bottle holder finally wore through & went rolling on the ground.
I’d stop at traffic lights, and people would yell to me that I was leaking oil (from the shock), then they'd notice the rad leak and a concerned look would meet my casual shrug before I’d set off to the next set of lights with a trail of green and black liquid behind me.
I'd spent a day at one mechanics working on the radiator, then I'd spent a good 14-hours at another shop where the mechanic would smoke cigarettes in the tiny space while we both swore at the shock. Not confident in our current patch job, the mechanic even built me a spare shock from a Chinese quad for when my repaired one would eventually give up again. The icing on the cake was that night at my AirBnB when my host noted a large puddle of oil on his beautiful clean driveway. Damnit!
The last two weeks coming into Buenos Aires from the South of Argentina, I’d gotten into a routine of filling the radiator one day, then the next day I’d spend a couple of hours taking the shock off and filling it with cheap motor oil. Then I'd fill the engine with the remaining oil as the faulty thermostat was causing her to drink motor oil like it was an open bar at a wedding.
The bike I was sure I could fix if I could get the parts mailed into Spain as I was determined to ship her across the ocean and ride off through Africa. To me, this was to be the adventure I was still starving for after what felt like the addictive appetizer of the Americas.
It was, however, becoming clear that KLaiR’s patience were thinning and I could sense the patience of my flesh-bearing girlfriend equally being pushed to their limits. Being on the road for months or end does have it’s side effects. To piss off one girlfriend at a time is daunting, pissing off two might be more than one man should attempt.
After months of agonizing over what direction to take our traveling trio, I finally tossed the coin of life and set a reservation with a shipping agent to get KLaiR back to Canada. I’d been emailing him and various other agents for over a year to get pricing on shipping into Spain or South Africa. Then I pushed all of that to the side and asked him about shipping into the USA, where I could spend a final month riding back to Canada for summer. On this day, I finally realized that shifting plans to get KLaiR back to Canada and surprise Angie at the same time might be the best of both worlds. KLaiR wouldn’t be limping across the states, and Angie would likely be surprised when I randomly showed up on her doorstep after not seeing her four months previous for Christmas.
I sent the shipper my documents, and he was able to secure a spot to ship KLaiR into Calgary, just 300kms from where Angie was in Edmonton. That night would mark my final night of camping after living an average five days a week in a tent for a couple of years. It was hoping it would also mark my final night roadside repairs for a while. I camped, woke up lake-side and pulled the shock off the bike again, to a crowd of holiday onlookers just like I had so many times before.
The weather was warm again, and things were looking good as our trio made the final push into Buenos Aries. Stopping for a roadside pee & snack as I usually do, I’d received an email from the shipper. He noted that my motorcycle documents were wrong. At the last border crossing from Chile into Argentina, they had left off half of KLaiR’s VIN#. I'd dealt with incorrect paperwork at borders before, and it was always a pain in the ass. The shipper noted I would not likely be allowed by customs to ship the bike with incorrect documents. I’d need to cross into another country, cancel the documents, then turn around and come back into Argentina getting new documents.
The options were:
A: Try to negotiate with the customs officials at the ferry port in Buenos Aries to change my documents. The task seemed easy enough. Just drive to the dock, and request to get them changed.
B: Take the ferry from Buenos Aries into Montevideo Uruguay last minute, then return the next day and ship out the following day.
C: Drive the 320kms to the border town Colon and cross into Uruguay and then cross back. This would be a pain in the ass as I was now traveling at a top speed of around 60km/h with the broken shock wrapped in a tire tube to help with dampening.
D: Show up at the airport with the documents as is, and see what happens. I was told they might still refuse me as they had to others with the same problem. But a $100USD bill in new condition had also been known to expedite the process.
I had 48-hours to solve the problem before confirming shipping, then dropping the bike off.
I first went to the ferry port to check the price of tickets to do the return ferry. I assumed about $20-$30, and I would get to see the city of Montevideo as a bonus. A last-minute return ticket with the monopoly ferry company would be about $400! As this was my original monthly budget for the first part of this trip, I was having a rough time with that figure.
OK, the customs guys. They are usually friendly and helpful, especially in Argentina. They found one guy who could translate for me with the big boss. They said it didn’t matter and if it were them, they’d et me in. I explained I was flying the bike out of Argentina into Canada, and the rules were more strict. Either way, they said no, and I was crushed.
I resolved to spend the $70 on fuel rather than $400 on the ferry and drive to Uruguay. It was too late to set off for the day, and I headed back to my dank hotel to pack for one last road trip and another final, final night of camping. 48hrs till bike departure.
That night I’d met with a parts mule I’d meet online who’d smuggled KLaiR in a thermostat, cable, filters, and bearings from the USA to Argentina. You meet the most helpful people on the internet!
We had dinner, drinks, shared stories, and I felt too guilty to tell him my plans had changed to ship back to Canada after all his hard work smuggling in parts for KLaiR.
The next day I set off for the 320kms to the border at 60km/h average. Plus pee breaks, snack breaks, and stopping to check the motor and shock oil as well as coolant; the drive took me 6.5 hours! By the time the border formalities were finished, I had decided to camp the night in Uruguay. I set up camp at dusk, then cooked dinner and drained KLaiRs coolant to replace the thermostat in the dark of night.
Making my way back to Buenos Aries the next day with the correct documents, I received a message from a man who'd seen a Facebook Marketplace advertisement I'd posted three months ago to see if there would be interest in buying KLaiR for a reasonable price. I'd forgotten all about the ad. I jokingly told the guy the truth about her condition and explained I would be shipping her out in the morning. He didn’t care and wanted to see her. Shocked, we arranged to meet when I got back to the city that night.
I quickly washed off the oil splatters and dust from the road and met the man explaining everything about the bike. He was impressed with my journey & to my surprise, he was impressed with KLaiR. He could clearly see the tire tube wrapped around the shock, the liquids on the ground and had read through my Facebook posts noting my list of recent ailments. Still, he was intrigued by her stamina and putrid beauty. He said to me in English, “If I understand correctly, the motorcycle is like your girlfriend?”
I had listed her at the price of $2800USD, not much less than purchase price 5-years and 91,000kms earlier. I really didn’t want to sell her, but with the inflation crisis and import taxes in Argentina, I knew most imported goods were selling for 4-5x the price they would in North America.
After 2-hours of explanation and negotiation, he offered me $1500USD, or $300 less than my shipping cost and about $1500 more than she could be sold for in Canada. Not that I was ever planning to sell her once she was home.
I said no on the premise that the emotional value was far greater than his offer and I'd instead ship her home than sell her cheap. We talked some more and eventually parted ways.
16-hours until shipping confirmation and 36-hours until she would be on the plane.
I headed into my AirBnB. Later, around 11 pm, the man would message me with one sentence, "I'm in love with your motorcycle." I laughed, and we bantered back and forth until 2 am. I dismissed his final offer of $1900USD — more than my cost of shipping, and more than she would ever fetch in North America.
At 10 am, starting my day. I sent him a note saying I was meeting the shipper in 4-hours to give him my money for the next day. The man said if he could come up with another $100, he would meet me at 12 pm. I said no, and thanked him.
That fired up some more negotiations, and for another hour we talked until the ax finally fell, and I agreed that if he arrived by 1 pm with $2200USD I would sell him KLaiR.
I went outside at 1 pm and found a noted taped to KLaiR and written in English was someone who had heard she was for sale and wanted me to contact them right away. I sent it to my guy, and he said it wasn't anyone he knew, someone must have seen us. He said I could call them if I thought I'd get a better price. I said this was all too emotionally taxing for me, and I didn’t want to go through negotiations again. At 1:30 pm (I've never met an Argentinian on time) he arrived, and true to his word had $2200USD or roughly $3000 Canadian at the time of exchange.
I put on my helmet and hopped on KLaiR one final time to ride her the two blocks to his friends' garage. At the garage, the two men who greeted me were impressed with my adventure and the look of KLaiR. They began asking questions, and I said I was unable to discuss the trip. I took a photo with the purchaser, handed him the keys, and burst into a mess of bubbling tears and sobbing.
The three grown men looked at me amazed, yet understood my attachment. I felt awful. I felt like I had literally taken my companion and sold her to the highest bidder. I’d bought and sold dozens of vehicles before this, but never a friend, never like this.
I said I had to leave, the men were shocked and said nothing, the guy who bought her said she would be with a good family. I hugged her, kissed her faring, and walked away with my helmet sobbing uncontrollably. I felt ashamed. I felt like I had abandoned her. It was awful.
On the walk back, a man had looked me in the eyes as I passed him as if he knew me. Then as I passed, he called out my name. I knew no one in the city; it was all very bizarre. He said hey, you're Kix. I was to meet you today to look at a tent you are selling. In my emotional disarray, I'd forgotten all about the meeting. He asked if I was OK? I explained I’d just sold my motorcycle. He looked sympathetic and said he felt the same about his motorcycle.
That night I purchased a bottle of motorcycle branded wine, bought three empanadas, and got drunk with Stanley the monkey in my room. I was texting Angie while Stan and I were hanging out, but I couldn’t tell her about what had happened. Just like always, I would spend the night sharing the moments with plastic friends and premium wine.
Having booked my flight last minute to fly into Calgary with no luggage, promotional fares. I now needed to purchase oversized luggage and arrange a rental car from Calgary to Edmonton. The next week I’d fly across the Atlantic to London England, then turn around and fly back across the Atlantic to Canada, pick up my rental car and make it to surprise Angie that evening. It was the fastest way I could get home for under $1000!
As you can imagine, the plane was delayed, the rental car wasn't there when I arrived, and my plans to see Angie by dinner had faded to trying to make it before she went to bed. Some 33-hours of travel time later I arrived on her doorstep.
I slide KLaiRs license plate under the door and knocked. No response, I knocked louder. Still nothing. With my camera ready, I banged on the door one final time and with the license plate in hand, jaw hanging from her face and pajamas on. She stood confused, or maybe that was excited? At the doorway.
***The story takes a cheesy turn from here, and in an emotional bid to save my biker reputation from being tarnished. You’ll need to ask Angie for the details on the license plate and Stanley. Or wait for the book to come out where I'll tell the full story.
2.5-years, 19 countries, close to 65,000kms, countless stories, and a world of incredible people. KLaiR will retire in Argentina, Stanley will reunite with his friends in Canada, and I will get to work on the next chapter…
*At the time of writing, I've verbally told this story five times. I’ve cried every time. It’s getting harder to maintain my rugged biker image