Our final day on motorcycles. We rode from El Calafate to Los Glaciares National Park and gave the motorcycles away at a ceremony beside the Perito Moreno glacier. The day started with nobody in a hurry, except for Jeff, our mechanic. Jeff had 13 motorcycles that had taken 10 days of hard riding and had to return them to showroom shape in just a few hours. A bunch of us pitched in and helped where we could. We drove the bikes up to the carwash five-at-a-time and got all the Patagonia dirt off of them with a time to spare.
I only went on one bike-wash trip and then I devoted a few minutes to music. I brought with me on this trip a small travel ukulele. The body of it is about the dimensions of a 10" 2x4 and it has a concert ukulele-sized fretboard. I had taken it out a few times and played it and as bad as I am, I was still the only one there playing songs. During the long boring stretches of paved road, I kept my mind occupied by writing a song. The premise of the song was to take fictional characters and put them into the setting that we all shared in the Patagonia Rally for Rangers ride. I would ride for a while, make up a verse and when we stopped, I would write it out. I ended up with about 5 versus and managed to trim it down to three with a bridge to tie them together. My goal was to sing the song for my closing interview with the media crew and time was running out. This was the last day and all I had was a few short verses and tune in my head- I still had to figure out the chords and key. I went up to our room and wrote the song out onto paper and started putting in the chords as best as I could figure out in the short time I had to prepare. Once I felt the chords were close enough, I went and sang the song in front of the camera. My first crack at singing the song out loud was recorded. I even racked-up my harmonica and played that too. I messed up a little bit, but with all things considered, I pulled it off. Dylan and Aha were very encouraging, they liked it and I felt relieved to have completed my goal of writing and singing an original song from the roads of Patagonia. The photo at the top of the page is of me singing the song later in the day. Thanks to Phil Bond for the great photo.
Next was to deliver these bikes to the rangers at Los Glaciares National Park. As we were fired up and ready to go, Steven asked me if I had my ukulele with me and I said "no". He encouraged me to grab it so I dashed back up to my room grabbed it and tossed it in the support truck and we headed to the park. The ride to the park was to be about an hour and we were told that it was going to be a really nice ride. It started off rather plain - if anything in Patagonia can be called plain- but it sure did change into spectacular in a hurry. Before heading to Patagonia, I had looked on Google Earth at all the places we would be going so I knew we were going to see a glacier at the head of a large lake. We were also told by Roberto, that this is probably the most beautiful scenery so far in the entire trip. But that did not prepare me for what a sight the Perito Moreno Glacier would be.
The flat road through the barren Patagonia tundra turned into a beautiful mountain road that wound its way along the shoreline at the mountain's edge. The climate too changed and where just a few minutes before there was hardly anything growing, now there was a lush forest that we were riding in, there was even a little bit of humidity. The road was smooth and twisty, a dream-come-true for motorcycle riders. Chuck took up the position of riding on Roberto's tail and the rest of us followed close behind enjoying the road and new vistas. I knew that eventually we would come around a turn with a view of the lake and see a glacier. What I was not prepared for was just how amazing that view would be.
After leaving this roadside "mirador", we continued down the twisty road until we arrived at the park. We checked out the sights briefly, grabbed coffee and then made our way down to the boat tours where we spent an hour getting a close-up view of the glacier with the hope of seeing it calve. Whenever our backs were turned from the giant glacier, we would hear a thunderous crack and and pounding splash but it seemed we never got to see a sizable chunk of ice fall. We did see some pieces of ice break off but they were rather small- or at least that was the perspective. The ice sheet is so huge that what looked like a small block of ice falling was actually the size of a Lincoln Navigator and it would tumble and crash its way to the lake below and a give rise to a sizable splash-wake. The whole place was incredible as were the park facilities with several kilometers of walkways along the side of the cliff overlooking the massive blue glacier.
After the boat tour, it was time to give the bikes away to the park rangers. We lined up the bikes and one at a time we rode the bikes up and presented the keys to the appreciative park rangers. It was a very gratifying experience to give the keys away after all the time and miles that we spent together. We learned that the motorcycles would be shared among other less-funded provincial parks here in the Patagonia. Los Glaciares National Park is a very well funded park and it is not really suited for motorcycle patrol, but we saw first hand in the past 9 days the vast and rugged terrain where these bikes will be invaluable tools for the parks service in both Argentina and Chile.
As we were finishing with the reception, I grabbed my ukulele from the truck and brought it down to the reception just in case a musical opportunity arose. I was not going to try and play in the the reception room as it was a small glass room with too much echo. It then dawned on me that I was at one of the most amazing places I have ever seen and I had better get a picture or a video of me singing and playing ukulele here. I mentioned to Aha that I would like to at least take advantage of the setting for a photo opportunity but he thought it prudent to take that one step further. As the ceremony wrapped up he announced that I was going to play the song I wrote back up at one of the glacier's observation decks. I didn't have the words or chords memorized so I needed a music stand. Steven volunteered to be the music stand and he held the lyrics up for me one page at a time while I sang the strange little song that I wrote.