Monthly Archives: January 2017

Mexico, a Beautiful Country

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Our group evading the Policia on the boardwalk in Chapala

Before leaving Florida, Doc and Karen, who we had met earlier in the year at a Horizons Unlimited event in Virginia, invited us to a gathering of riders in northern Florida called the Poverty International riders. This was a fun event where we had the opportunity to meet and hangout with some interesting riders. While there we talked with a few guys that were headed to Mexico around the same time as we were going to be there so we all said we would look for each other while on the road.

We created a Facebook group so we could keep track of each other and while we in Aguascalientes a couple of them wondered where we were going to be over New Years. On the recommendation of some other riders, we had booked a few nights in Lake Chapala at the Hotel Perico, a great little, well-run hotel above the town of Chapala. As fate would have it, the great hosts of the hotel moved a couple people around to make room for almost all of us. Some of us paired up in double rooms and 9 of us shared cooking responsibilities, food and drink, and wrenching skills to turn this New Year into a very memorable one shared with friends. Thanks to Dick “Doc” McCormick and Karen Hudgins, Dave Hand, Jeff Shafer and his Dad, John Shafer, the Aussies Alan “Curt” Curtis and Lynette Williams for such a great few days.

New Year’s Eve we all prepared and cooked a feast on an open grill that had been setup for us by the people who run the hotel with a table high above and overlooking the lake. We ate steaks, drank Tequila and sang the night away and into the near year, me providing the backup music on my Uke, and finishing watching the ball drop in New York City on TV. On News Years day, we all rode down to the lakeside village of Chapala to wander around watching the families enjoying the festivities and promise of 2017. Riding up on the boardwalk amid stares, smiles and thumb-ups, we lined up the bikes for several photos, then quickly rode back off the boardwalk before the local Policia showed up.

A couple days later our group of friends scattered. We took off with our Aussie friends and headed first to Tequila, the home of Jose Cuervo, to check out the town and, of course, sample some Tequila. Tequila is a town in the central western state of Jalisco. The red volcanic oil in the region is well suited for growing the blue agave. Tequila, by Mexican law, can only be produced in this region of Mexico and has been produced in this region since the 16th century.

After drinking our share of Tequila, we turned our handlebars toward the Reserva Mariposa Monarca. Every autumn millions of Monarch Butterflies from the Great Lakes region of the US and Canada flock to these forested Mexican highlands, some 4500kms away, for their winter hibernation. In the warm spring temperatures of March, they mate, and the on the vernal equinox, the pregnant females fly to the southeastern US to lay their eggs. The young monarchs emerge from their cocoons in late May to finish the return journey the Great Lakes. Fascinating, if you ask me! Our hotel for the night was gated with rooms across from one another, and the little restaurant down the street, with an exposed, bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling had excellent meals and cervaza for us all. In the chilly but sunny morning, we walked back to the little restaurant for breakfast before the owner of the hotel drove us up into the mountains to the butterfly reserve. We rode horseback near the top of the mountain at 3700mts, where we walked the final bit to the reserve. The butterflies were in enormous clumps of moving orange and black. Very beautiful!

The next day sucked. On our trip with Curt and Lynette into Mexico City, population 23 million, about the same as Australia, we got separated and lost.  We decided to exit the city.  We kept being turned away from the road we wanted get out of town on by road attendants. Finally, after the fourth time trying a different road each time, we were told that motorbikes weren’t allowed on that road. It was almost dark by now and out of desperation we headed back toward a city we had passed earlier in the day that had hotels, 30kms away. It was now cold and dark and we were on a toll road and the three hotels  we stopped at, same response, NO dogs. Tense was a mild description of our moods about now as we made a wrong turn and ended up on the toll road headed back to Mexico City. Just before the toll booth, I stopped and, in poor Spanglish, tried to explain to the poor girl that I wanted to go back the other way.  I was NOT going on that road again and I was not going to pay a toll, and shut off the bike at the gate. Finally, she got the point and had me BACK UP, with a trailer, about 50mts out of the gate, while they stopped traffic behind me. Proceeding through the barriers and back the other way was good until we ended up on a toll road to the airport in a different city. We were low on fuel by this time. In the distance, we saw a Pemex sign and took an exit to get us back to the fuel station. Trying to head back the other way we drove near a Love Hotel, the kind with a garage, room service, fancy beds and sex toys for rent. Melanie got off the bike to see if we could stay there and I had already decided we weren’t going another meter, even if I had to pitch our tent in the parking lot. They said we could stay, I think Melanie hugged him at this point, so we got to our “love room”, ordered room service and, went to sleep. Ha-ha, but not too funny as it was happening.

In the morning, we headed south toward Oaxaca and then on to the beach at Puerto Angel and Puerto Zipolite, recommended to us by a Dutch traveler, Raul Breemers. It was a great, clothing optional, place to relax and Curt and Lynette joined us, followed by a couple other Aussies on an extended trip thought Central and North America, Don Lamb and Julia Day. We all shared some laughs, drinks, meals and sunsets at a wonderful location. The beach was wide with a severe beach break but perfect for incredible sunsets. The days all went too quickly, again, as we said our goodbyes and headed toward Guatemala. We will be seeing them all again in Flagstaff at the Overland Expo West 2017, in mid-May.img_20170111_184436622

Cheers,

2WANDRRS

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One Bad Road in Guatemala, Special Edition

This blog is ahead of schedule but needed a page of its own.

Well, the day started off innocent enough, leaving Panajachel at Lake Atitlan. First a ride the wrong way up a one-way street, whistle blowing and security motioning me to turn around on a crowded market street. Remember folks, the load I have. The people started to gather as the gringo was attempting to back up and do a five point turn to head the right direction. As I got the rig straightened out another whistle from a young female, police looking official who motioned me to pull over on the side of a very busy street, effectively blocking anything other than a Tuk-tuk or scooter from exiting the market. We climbed off the bike and retrieved the paperwork she had requested. Now, she only spoke Spanish and was rattling off a bunch of things I thought were probably felony charges against me that would give me some free room and board, sans tequila. The original security guard tried to intervene and I heard turista mentioned a couple times with the associated hand signals and she was just dismissed. Finally, as the cuffs were getting ready a man who worked for the organization, Mayan Families, as an interpreter, came to my rescue. He told me in English, which she didn’t understand, that a ticket is no big deal with my plates, just leave. Then he turned to her and asked her in Spanish what the issue was. She told him that she felt sorry for me as a tourist and wanted my information to give to the local police so they would know to help me when they see me around town. I almost fell over! Melanie hugged her and we said our Gracias’ and about that time a large bus laid on the airhorn so he could get by. ADIOS Pana!

The route I had chosen to get to Semuc Champey had avoided Guatemala City and went through the mountains to see the real Guatemala that I didn’t get in Pana. All the intel I could gather showed OK roads. Man, was I WRONG. The route showed an arrival time of 4 hours and 20 minutes, about 260 kms. That seemed to be no big deal as we had all day. Well 3 hours later we had gone a little over 120 kms and the road had been bad with huge pot holes and enormous, bash plate smashing topes, or speedbumps, some at least 8 inches tall. You get to the little towns and the GPS has no clue where to go as blocks are usually closed around the square due to markets and roads are one way without reason. So, you turn this way and that on crowded, cobbled roads at best hoping to come out of town near your exit road. As we were negotiating the crazy roads we commented to each other about the looks on the faces of some of the people we met on the road. Some would give us a thumb up or a wave. But several times we saw women gathering their children to them and looking at us with terror in their eyes. We would wave but it was sad to see. Here we were worried about what we might find on a deserted back road and they saw us as the threat.

So anyway, the roads continue to get worse by the kilometer until any semblance of pavement was gone. Now, I used to do a bit of off-road riding but never with this kind of special load, that I love dearly, and don’t want anything to happen to them. The road went from diesel in the road (another pucker moment in a corner), to gravel, to lose gravel climbing steeply with water crossings, to a grated bridge, then things got bad.

There were large boulders blocking parts of the road, landslides, a fire, then we came around a very steep corner on soft silt covering the road to a blocked road where a couple of mining trucks couldn’t pass on a very narrow, steep section. I grabbed the front brake as I needed my feet to keep us from falling and, you guessed it, started sliding backwards so hit the kill switch and let out the clutch to stop us. dscn0288

Melanie jumped promptly off, (you remember Portugal?) and started up the steep incline to see what the problem was. There was a small strip of road before the drop-off that I would have to negotiate if I could continue. I guess the trucks just could make it and Melanie said to come ahead and keep going until it got safe. OK, let’s give it a go. I started the bike and let out the clutch and the tire just was spinning in the silt, so I stopped. Again, I tried and with much tire spin and ass puckering I made it up over the rocks and past the trucks to a safe place. Melanie climbed the hill to me and we continued on our way. We checked our poor Gypsy frequently and one time, after a bad rocky section, the poor thing was UNDER her pad and blanket just sitting there. She is a great rider and still always like to get back on and go.img_20170121_123242395

Well, after 100 kms of these conditions, and almost 9 hours, we finally made it to our $25 a night hostel, which is considered a B and B, with comfortable accommodations and excellent hosts.  You can follow this track at https://spotwalla.com/tripViewer.php?id=12d425833415c98acf&p=2WANDRRs17 .

Cheers, and Buenas Noches from Guatemala

 

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Mexico, First Two Weeks

Well the weather finally cleared enough for us to get going toward Mexico. The skies have cleared, the temperature is above freezing and the wind has diminished to about 20 knots out of the Northwest. Gypsy is in her fleece sweater and her cover is on keeping her protected from the wind. We are full of anticipation as the miles left in Texas tick down to zero as the Mexico border appears at the Brownsville crossing.img_20161220_134637472

I hop of the VStrom and head in to immigration to get my Tourist visa while Melanie stays with Gypsy and the bike. I let too much information out about where are headed, south through Central America, leading the official to only get us a 30 day via for Mexico. No matter what I say he doesn’t budge. Oh well. The rest goes smoothly, the bikes visa/bond, Gypsy and Melanie. After about an hour and a quick check by border officials, we are on our way. img_20161222_095258227

Our route takes us down through Ciudad Victoria to a small place called La Florida, about 400kms away. We will be spending the night here in a little bungalow with horses walking around freely. A friend of mine, Marco Almaraz, has put out the word to the local IBA Rat Riders that we are traveling through so they are watching is on our SPOT to make sure all is good.

Continuing on we pass many small villages and the going is easy, except for the many huge topes, like a speed bump on steroids. We are loaded down pretty good so some of the topes have us bottoming out, no matter how slow we go over them. We knew of a waterfall that we wanted to see and headed towards it through massive sugar cane fields. As we got closer the road was getting worse by the kilometer and we finally aborted the attempt when I was bouncing off of baby heads, rocks the size of babies heads. Taking a turn south as a short cut seemed like a good idea until after about 30 kms void of people and vehicles, Melanie said, “What is that up ahead”. About a half a km ahead we saw two people in the middle of the road. My American propaganda fears came to the surface and I stopped the bike on the side of the road. Pulling a pair of binoculars out of my tank panniers I stared down the road at two young men at the roadside with shovels, and no obvious transportation.  We sat for a bit watching them and taking about what to do. We decided to follow what we knew from other travelers, that they meant us no harm. We had a plan of we were wrong and proceed cautiously in second gear ready to go. Closer and closer we got to the boys, we were ready, and when I waved they…smiled and waved back, just as we had hoped for. We stopped for a bit in the Magical town of Jalpan, checked out the cathedral and the square set up for the Christmas celebrations. Melanie gave out some stickers to the children playing and chasing each other.

Traveling by motorcycle with a dog gives a new set of problems, inexpensive hotels that accept pets. We booked ahead of time using booking.com in the Magical town of Bernal. This town has a large monolith, Peña de Bernal which is the tallest in the world and a UNESCO site, that overlooks the town. The town of Bernal has been designated a Pueblo Mágico town. We arrived at the Hotel Feregrino and were told that pets weren’t welcome at their hotel. Melanie argued and showed them their ad on booking.com and they finally agreed to let us stay. The hotel had a great view from the top of the downtown and the monolith.img_20161222_153633869

We got settled in and walked downtown and wandered around watching all the families milling about as Christmas music played through loudspeakers in the downtown area. We sat and drank Sangria and microbrewed beer while munching on a delicious wood fired oven pizza. It was so much fun to sit and watch kids playing in the square in anticipation of Christmas.

The next day we ride to our friends house in Aguascalientes, Marco Almaraz and Abby Beüger, who run the Iron Butt Association of Mexico. They welcomed us into their home with fantastic hospitality for the Christmas holiday. On Christmas, Abby put together a fantastic turkey dinner with all the trimmings. Our days there went to quickly and soon we were on our way again with the memories of spending time with our new friends.

Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel, 2WANDRRs, adventure travel, Horizons Unlimited, Mexico, motorcycle travel, Uncategorized, VStrom | Leave a comment

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