A scary ride to Santiago
The day I recovered the bike from the police, I asked the tow truck driver for the cost to take the bike to Santiago. I knew this was an inevitability, and I wanted to shop around.
He insisted 140,000 Chilean pesos was a “super” cheap deal. I tucked that number away and decided to try everything to fix the bike myself before shelling out $230 for a tow.
And during the week between the recovery and then the discovery that the bike needs a real mechanic, an outpouring of support filled my inboxes. People recommended local mechanics and tow trucks. They sent mechanical advice, and many sent words of encouragement with generous contributions through this blog.
It all has my head spinning. And it truly puts into perspective how many people have been passively following my adventure. I had no idea. And now I feel quite ashamed for not writing more often or sharing more stories and photos. You deserve better, and I’m sorry.
The next month should be an active one because I only have an iPhone and camera — less to distract me from writing or posting a photo.
Thanks to the advice from fellow IBAR members on Facebook, I contacted a towing service in Santiago that strictly tows bikes. Roberto is the owner and operator of Moto Grua. He has serviced the greater Santiago area for three years and now has quite a reputation of professionalism and generosity among bikers — so much so that I didn’t hesitate in calling him first.
The ride to Santiago was a scary one. My 300kg (660lbs) touring bike doesn’t exactly fit in a short bed pickup truck. Even with his ramp and tailgate extender, the bike looked like it would fall or bend the tailgate in half at any moment.
The curvy ride out of Viña didn’t help my worries. Every turn, the bike leaned perilously against slack tie downs on the inside while the opposite ties tried desperately to hold the weight. Back and forth the bike went until the road finally straightened and leveled and we stopped to inspect the cargo. Just as Roberto had insisted, everything was okay. I put on blinders for the rest of the ride to Santiago.
Santiago’s BMW dealer is in the east of the city, a rich part of town known as Las Condes. It’s one of the prettiest and biggest BMW dealers I’ve seen. The white building towers over the street. New bikes and cars adorn the windows and front terrace. The entrance is gated with a security officer.
The luxury of it all has me feeling like a fish out of water. Here I am showing up dressed like a bum with a bike covered in mud and bird poop. The local Chilean BMW owners wear designer clothes and drive the cleanest bikes and cars you’ve ever seen. Inside the dealership, the workers wear suits and jackets with ties. They offer guests complimentary coffee and food — in whatever language you speak.
The experience for me was incredibly uncomfortable. I felt very out of place in my dirty shoes, hiking pants, and t-shirt. Still BMW treated me as one of their own and insisted that all will be okay.
I was fortunate enough to connect with Osvaldo at the service desk. He’s an English-speaking engineer who knows and loves working hands-on with bikes and customers. He has a heart of gold, too. His patience and sympathy for my unfortunate loss are genuine. He reassured me that his team would get me back on the road as quickly and inexpensively as possible.
Despite being full, they might be able to test the bike as early as next week, Monday or Tuesday. I’ll get an estimate with a list of parts that I can buy locally or have shipped to me from the U.S.
Osvaldo said they’ve seen other stolen bikes come in with their ECUs damaged by stupid thieves. There are two computers on board the bike, a main computer known as the ZFE and a control unit called the BMS-K. One or both could have been damaged when the thieves tried hot wiring the ignition.
In the U.S. these parts cost $600 and $1000; here those prices double. It’s also possible to buy these parts used from BeemerBoneyard.com if both are damaged. The computers work as a pair, coded to specific keys. I’m told they cannot be recoded or mixed with other units.
Regardless, I’m at least mentally prepared for the repair bill to either be miraculously low (a few hundred dollars) or incredibly high (a few thousand). At least I won’t need to buy a new bike, right?
Federico and I are in good hands. Roberto offered us his home, and he has a slew of friends ready to accommodate us while we wait for passports and bike repairs.
Of course, I still wish none of this had happened. The hidden treasure in my suffering is this opportunity to connect with Chile and its people. It’s an incredible country, and its people truly are friendly and beautiful. These are the people who represent the Chile we should all know and remember.
Thieves exist everywhere and just because I finally encountered some doesn’t mean I should mislabel the entire place as unsafe or unwelcoming.
I’m confident I will leave Chile with a smile. I’ll leave with a loving wave to the people who have helped me. But I will also leave with hope that the desperate souls who stole from us find peace in their lives.