Carlos’ Cheap Adventure

Originally from Brazil, Connecticut resident Carlos Semeghini saw our “Cheap Adventure” article (MC, Oct.) and pegged us for fans of the low-cost tour. Since he was planning a long-distance trip across America on his ‘08 Versys 650, he thought we’d be interested in seeing the bike and hearing part of the story. He was right.

Q: How is your trip going and what route did you take?

A: The trip is awesome. First of all, I am getting to meet new people. I set up things in a way that I get to be in contact with new people and not just staying alone in hotels all the time. Sometimes I camp and sometimes I use an online service where I pay a small fee and get to stay in a room in someone’s house. This way I get to meet new people all along the way. I found when camping I meet a lot of young people. I used to think that I didn’t care for young peoples’ mentality, but while on this trip I have come across a lot of good guys out there. I am happy about that.

The route wasn’t really planned. I had a destination, which is the west coast, but every day I thought about something new and changed it slightly. I started by going from Connecticut to Canada, then back down to the U.S. I headed north again where I hit bad weather, so I decided to go south through the middle of the country, which was quite hot and boring. I got into Boulder, Colorado, where things got interesting again. Crossed over the Rocky Mountains to the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone Park, and then headed up to Glacier National Park. I hit construction in Glacier so I could only go so far. Instead of returning the way I came, I decided to go back up to Canada, back down through Idaho, over to Spokane, and into Seattle. Since Seattle I have stayed along the coast looking for the most beautiful part of the Pacific coastline. There is no better part. The whole thing is wonderful.

Q: Any difficulties on your trip?

A: Not really. I am really careful not to get myself into trouble. I spent more than a year preparing the bike, replacing any worn parts. The thing that worries me the most besides traffic collisions are hitting a something alive, like big deer, elk, or even a bear.

I try not to ride at night, even though I enjoy doing so. I read articles before my trip about other riders on long journeys around the world, and one thing they pointed out was to keep your distance [from other vehicles] so there are no surprises. Sometimes if I am riding in an area with lots of wildlife, I let cars pass me so I can use them as a shield in case there is an animal on the road up ahead. They scare off animals better than motorcycles do.

Q: Tell us about your Versys.

A: I have a longer final drive [smaller rear sprocket] so the engine doesn’t scream as much at higher speeds. I used to travel with bigger bikes and more expensive gear, but this time I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it without spending a lot of money. I bought the bike brand new. It is a 650, whereas my last one was a 1000. I went to the BMW dealer and just couldn’t justify buying a GS, even though everyone says what wonderful bikes they are.

I didn’t want to spend a $1000 on new luggage specifically designed for the bike, so I rigged up a couple of generic hard suitcases to use as saddlebags. They won’t hold up in a crash, but I don’t really care. I took some smaller saddlebags and draped them over the gas tank like the Europeans do. I rewired the whole bike to make it more reliable, since I have added extra lights, a GPS, heated grips, and connectors for my heated vest. I still have to be careful not to overload the electrical system.

I have a GoPro [video camera] mounted in the front with a remote control attached to my left handlebar. I also have a semi-professional camera with a basic set of lenses to take the pictures I think are meaningful. I brought a laptop to upload photos to Facebook and my cell phone to check texts and emails on the road.

The windscreen I replaced with a custom one. I found many complaints about the windscreens, even the aftermarket ones, on a Versys forum. One got good reviews and it turned out to be guy that makes them at home in small batches. He doesn’t have a factory, so sometimes you have to wait a while until he makes the next batch.

Carlos had another two weeks left on his trip when he rode away from our office. We hope his journey eastward is equally fun. And cheap.