Griffin (barely) survives South America

Todd Stewart

Jeff Griffin is glad to be back on his home soil and not deep in the Peruvian jungle.

On paper, the details of Jeff Griffin's recent FMX show trip down to Peru, South America seemed legit. A fun-filled trip exploring tropical new places, people and culture, all while riding his dirt bike and getting paid for it. Unfortunately for Griffin, 27, this wasn't the case. After an eight-hour flight, which landed at midnight, he had a four-hour layover until his next short flight took him to what seemed like a never ending ten-hour bus trip, just to get to the first stop of his trip.

After an exhausting travel experience, Jeff Griffin was at his first jump show the very next day.

Upon arriving at the show, the riders learned that the ramps and landings were stuck at a border checkpoint. When the ramps finally did arrive drastically late, it then took two hours to build. The fearless South American riders were the first to hit the makeshift ramp and landing, supported by anything they could get their hands on, from wood to benches to chairs and tables. They first set the ramp 30-feet away from the landing and moved it back in 10-foot increments until they got to 75-feet. Griffin's approach is the opposite -- he's comfortable at the 75-foot mark, but has found that shorter distances are nothing but trouble.

Once the ramp and landing were in place, Jeff watched the riders continue to hit the extremely sketchy setup that had a two-foot safety deck and no air bag. Every time they would land, pieces and parts of the landing would start flying off. There was also a gap in the landing. Griffin knew that since he was a bigger rider, if he were to land in that gap, he would have shot straight through it. According to Griffin, they tried to solve the problem by putting 1/4" plywood on the landing. "Then they told me that everything will be fine and that the landing won't split in the middle," he continued.

It was at that point that Griffin decided to call it off because he felt his safety was in jeopardy.

Courtesy Jeff Griffin

Here you can see just how sketchy the set up was. One minor mistake could be very costly.

Jeff's luck did not improve. The bike he was to ride for the trip was a brand new 2011 YZ250 off the show room floor, and in order to make it functional as an FMX bike, he brought several custom parts down with him. After getting the bike dialed, the Yamaha shop owners who supplied Jeff the bike took it to transport it to the next show. Jeff assumed the bike would be waiting for him at his next show located in Satipo, Peru, only to find out that the bike was seized by customs during transport because of something the custom agents found suspicious. This left Jeff bike-less for the remainder of the trip, meaning he rode zero FMX shows when he was scheduled for three. To top it off, the van that took them from show to show was constantly breaking down and getting flat tires. On top of being bike-less and driving in a sketchy van, Griffin fell ill.

After surviving three weeks in Peru, Jeff finally thought his nightmare had come to an end. He would at last be on his way home when customs informed him that his bike parts were still under inspection and would not be released for another week. Jeff decided to bite the bullet and made the long trek home, empty-handed and with a hidden and developing case of pneumonia. Currently, his bike and parts are still being held by custom agents.

Rather than dwell on the negative aspects of his trip, Jeff Griffin took it all in and created positive memories from the trip. He was humbled, comparing what he had here in the states to South America. He was able to disconnect from the social scene, the fast paced U.S. lifestyle of working and making money. He was able to see how the people lived their lives, taking in the beauty of nature while hiking and exploring the Peruvian countryside. He was able to realize how good he really has it and to appreciate what he once took for granted before his trip.

And once Jeff kicks his illness, he will be back on the bike riding under the Bakersfield, Calif. sunshine.

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