Adventure to Argentina

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DiGiacomo with his bike near his home a few days before leaving for Argentina.

Corona del Mar resident Patrick DiGiacomo will head out on his sport motorcycle on Saturday and two months, 9,000 miles and 13 countries later he will arrive in Rosario, Argentina.

DiGiacomo, 56, is embarking on the journey with five friends, all over the age of 50, all on BMW bikes and all in the name of adventure.

“[I’m looking forward to] the whole adventure,” DiGiacomo said. “The whole idea of turning off my cell phone and seeing places that I’ve never seen before through these eyes, on the motorcycle.”

No road is too long with good company and riding alongside DiGiacomo will be Juan Carlos Gianola of Fontana, Luis Aguirre of Los Angeles, Alberto Tancredi of Glendale, Sergio Otero of Upland, and Juan Costantino of New York.

“They all have a great joy for life,” DiGiacomo said.

The group will meet at DiGiacomo’s house in Corona del Mar on Saturday morning, where friends and family will see them off. DiGiacomo will have friends housesit while he is away and his assistant will take care of any business needs, all anxiously awaiting his return to see photos and hear stories from his adventure.

The group will be riding down the Baja peninsula to La Paz and taking a ferry across to Mazatlan. It will take a several more days until they reach Guatemala, then on through Central America. From Panama, they’ll fly or ferry over to South America. They’ll continue their coastal route into Chile and then cut over to Rosario, Argentina.

Once the guys reach Rosario, they’ll stay for a while before heading back home. DiGiacomo may head further up to Rio De Janeiro independently, another almost 3,000 miles, to visit friends and family before flying back to Orange County.

Maps of Mexico, Central and South America, were also packed into his BMW sport motorcycle.

DiGiacomo actually had a very similar trip planned with a different group about six years ago, he said, but it was canceled last minute after all the other guys had to back out for various reasons.

DiGiacomo met this group of guys, all of whom are originally from Rosario and are family or longtime friends, earlier this year at a motorcycle event at Irv Seaver BMW in Orange. DiGiacomo noticed a sticker on one of their bikes promoting their trip to South America. They got to talking, DiGiacomo told them he’s wanted to take a bike trip into South America for some time and just like that he was invited along on the ride south.

Within days of confirming that, yes, the rest of the group was indeed serious about taking this trip, DiGiacomo bought a new bike, a used 2007 BMW 1200 GS.

“It’s the perfect bike for this trip,” he said.

It’s more of a road bike, he said, but it has enough off-road capability that if needed, he could clear bumps or curbs. It can easily do 70 mph all day long without any worry. It’s like a donkey, DiGiacomo joked, strong and sturdy and has a handful of spots to hook bags or anything else onto. It’s comfortable, durable and easy to work on, he added. He even took classes at Irv Seaver to learn how to change the tires, work on the brakes, and do basic maintenance.

He’s gone on several shorter trips recently, racking up 5,000 miles on his new bike in the last four months, in preparation for the long trip south. All of these shorter trips, to San Luis Obispo, San Francisco, and Bakersfield to name a few, have been to get to used to everything from the position of the gadgets attached to his dashboard to the type of pants he has to wear in order to stay comfortable. He has also found out that the bike rides very differently when it’s packed full of luggage.

Now, seven months after DiGiacomo met and joined the group, they have a website, ridingsouth.com, which DiGiacomo plans to update and add photos to periodically during the journey. The website also includes a guestbook and a link to a mapping program that connects to DiGiacomo’s GPS so anyone can follow the group’s trip. They also have stickers and banners with a logo designed by DiGiacomo’s son.

They’ve gotten their shots, legal papers and all necessary arrangements made. The guys have planned a few specifics for the trip, like sleeping arrangements the first few nights, their ride along the Baja peninsula, and a few towns to visit, but a lot of it will be made up as they cruise. That’s part of the fun, DiGiacomo said.

A random assortment of items to bring along on the journey sits on a table in DiGiacomo's garage or "command center."

They’re packed and prepped to go. DiGiacomo has gone over his checklist so many times he practically has it memorized, he joked. His garage is now his “command center” that is stock full of cameras, batteries, walkie talkies, GPS, maps, medicine, clothing, handi-wipes, cords, clips, locks and more.

Plan for the worst, hope for the best, that’s the attitude DiGiacomo is taking on about this journey. The worst: Getting kidnapped or crashing, especially accidents within the group since they‘ve never ridden together before. The best: Smooth riding all the way until Argentina. And be ready for everything in between.

Among his “just-in-case” things: First aid kit, head lamp, tools, tire repair kit, mosquito net, a handful of extra keys and Anti-Monkey Butt powder.

The group of guys and some of their friends and family prepare for the trip during their sendoff party on Saturday.

Although he’s packing a tire repair kit and replacement tire tubes, some of the other guys are bringing spare tires. A fully packed bike can go about 8,000 miles before the tires get worn out, DiGiacomo said. The bike itself weighs about 500 pounds plus 90 pounds of luggage and gear, not to mention the rider himself. And some of the roads might be a little rough, which will also wear down the tires, he added.

Despite all this preparation, there’s one thing he can’t practice.

“My biggest challenge is probably going to be disconnecting…From everything,” he said.

DiGiacomo, a financial advisor, equity trader, money manager, professional chef, and head volunteer chef for the Orange County Rescue Mission, will still communicate with friends and family but for the most part he will be detached from work and will be focusing on the adventure at hand.

DiGiacomo, who has been riding since he was 8 or 9 years old, said this is by far the longest trip he has ever taken. He’s ridden many relatively local trips, to Vail, Colo., and Yosemite National Park for example, as well as two weeks riding around Italy, Switzerland and France, but this trip will be the most miles he has ever logged in one journey.

And while he’s been riding for nearly 50 years but has never taken a long trip, some of the other guys are fairly new to riding but are used to long haul trips since all of them are in the trucking business.

The group takes off, Argentina-bound.

They plan on riding about 300 to 350 miles a day, or at least that’s the goal, DiGiacomo said, and they’ll be stopping and taking in the sights along the way.

“We want to go into the smaller cities and get to know the culture,” DiGiacomo said.

He’s also looking forward to interacting with the local communities, DiGiacomo said. Meeting new people, having new experiences, creating new memories and learning about other cultures. He’s excited for all of it.

“We’re going to learn a lot from this trip… I’ve been to [some of these places] before, but I don’t know what’s in between here and there. I’ve flown there. This is a whole other experience,” DiGiacomo said. “I am embarking on the motorcycle adventure of a lifetime.”

The group poses for photos before hitting the road, minus one who was having some last minute mechanical issues and met up with them later.
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