Zen and the art of motorcycle tango

CORONA DEL MAR — Those accustomed to traveling thousands of miles with the comforts of eyeshades, flight attendants and fluffy pillows may not understand the trip Patrick Di Giacomo is planning.

But those with a sense of rugged adventure will.

When the 56-year-old money manager says goodbye to Corona del Mar on Saturday, his only luxury for the two-month trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina — a journey of nearly 6,000 miles — will be the ash-colored leather seat of his BMW 1200 GS motorcycle.

Plans for his trip began in March when he met five men in Orange at the Irv Seaver BMW dealership who were planning a trip to South America.

Di Giacomo planned a similar, but unsuccessful, trip six years ago. When he heard of their idea, he knew the timing was finally right.

Three days later, Di Giacomo bought a used bike in San Diego and rode it back to be housed in his "War Room" — the place where international maps, gloves, an onyx helmet and marathon bibs have consumed what was once his garage.

"I'm hoping I'll get [the bike] dirty really fast," he said.

His bike is covered in labels that make the vehicle identification number (VIN) visible to authorities who might be weary of travelers on potentially stolen motorcycles. The bike is also equipped with a GPS device and a first aid kit filled with clearly labeled bottles in case of a sudden illness.

Seven vaccines and a website later, Di Giacomo is almost ready. A visit to a BMW dealership also prepared Di Giacomo for the potential bumps along the road, including how to make brake and tire changes.

In addition to his day job, Di Giacomo works two days a week as a chef with the Orange County Rescue Mission, where hundreds of people will have to wait until almost next year before they get to taste his signature roasted potatoes again.

His daughter Daniela, 26, is nervous about the voyage, but his son Phillip, 23, is so enthused that he designed stickers that read "En Moto A Sur America 2011" outlined by flags from the 14 countries on the itinerary.

"It's definitely one of his dreams and I think it's a big deal [because] they're going through some dangerous areas," Phillip said. "We're going to be in communication. ... Overall I'm going to say I'm really excited for him to be going on this trip."

Di Giacomo expects to travel 300 miles a day, first riding through Baja, Mexico, before taking a 15-hour ferry to the mainland in Mazatlán to avoid some of the potentially dangerous parts of the country. The exact daily mileage is flexible, though.

"It's about how everybody adjusts," he said.

Although he'll be traveling with five Argentinians — all native Spanish speakers — Di Giacomo will be able to contribute the Portuguese he picked up in the 1970s during his two years living in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Since leaving South America, he has wanted to plan a unique trip back, but he felt the timing wasn't right when his children were younger. Now he feels it's the perfect moment for a return, albeit a temporary one.

"I always dreamed of going back in an unconventional way," he said. "Now as a 56-year-old, it's not necessarily Brazil that's calling me. It's the whole adventure."


Twitter: @lawilliams30

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