7/20/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.4
(continued from part 7/20/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.3)
I returned to my room, packed my bags, ate a few chocolate huevitos, and had a wonderful night's sleep despite the unwanted alchohol coursing through my veins. Only, to awaken to a torrential downpour. I figured sooner or later I was going to get caught in the rain.. I mean, it is the rainy season an all and I can't avert a wet ride forever. Luckily, after a couple final cups of coffee and tamales, the clouds separated within an hour and I was on my way again.
The ride wisking down the steep and curvy mountain road on wet pavement was at once terrifying AND exhilerating. I tested my brakes and throttle to confirm my new tires just are not quite up to snuff when it comes to wet pavement, but I continued anyway and tried to keep the visions of losing it and careening off a cliff out of my brain. I cranked up my headphones to "The Smashing Pumpkins" and sang along to "1979" will every ounce of air my lungs could produce. Again, I was flying without a care in the world... or, at least not a care that I let creep into my mind. ;-)
For some reason every time you ask a locale how long a given drive is, they seem to assume that because you're on a motorcycle you can travel at twice the speed of anything else and estimate the travel time as such. The woman at the hotel told me the ride down the mountain to Queretero would only be 4 hours and another hour to Guanajuato. If you're in a heliocopter maybe, but when you have to slow down for hairpin curves on slick pavement, stop for the military checkpoints, gas, etc.... you can count on adding at least 2-3hrs to any local estimation of travel time. I knew the woman's figures were off because in the past the bus from Leon to Guanajuato has always taken at least 1.5hrs and that's the midpoint between Queretero and Guanajuato. Yes, I stopped for a photo or two, gassing up, and to stretch my legs... but the kindly woman's estimate of 5hrs total turned into just over 11hrs.
I passed through several quaint towns like Jalpan that would certainly make great stops on future trips, but I wanted to get some miles under my belt on my way toward the coast. Again, within what seemed like minutes, the terrain as I descended down the mountain changed drastically back to a barren rocky mountainous, desert vista with a complete absence of foliage. Just dry, hot, and harsh. I already missed the lush forests, but the sudden change in scenery was also welcome. Just blasting along, again leaning hard to the left, then right, then left again.. through the sharp curves all the way down until the highway became flat again and I could open her up to maximum velocity.. alone on the road with the exception of the occassional military checkpoint in which they consistently just waved me through without a stop. You really have to keep your mind intensely focused and off of auto-pilot because every curve is different from the one before... sharper, rounder, tighter with an occassional stray bolder or truck coming around the blind curve and hugging a bit or YOUR lane! I did eventually stop off at a town called Bernal that is seated at the base of this giant rocky stone mountain in the middle of the desert. I took a little break and just took in the seemingly spiritual glory of this monstrous oddity. It seemed the big rock has spurned the town itself as it's own tourist attraction. I snapped a few photos and forged on down the road toward Guanajuato.
After what seemed like endless kilometers of highway, I stopped along side the highway outside of Queretero to stretch my legs and noticed my chain was mostly dry. While I sprayed lube on it, I noticed I was now being attacked by swarms of flies. There was an odor in the air that smelled like a combination of death, rotting garbage, and manuer. I picked up my helmet to try and scrape some of the squashed insectos off the face shield only to find my helmet now covered with flies feeding on their splattered brethren. They had even invaded my tank bag and were covering my CD player. I tried to swat most of them away, and mounted the bike pronto to get back into wind and away from the swarm.
As I approached Guanajuato, there was a giant blackm cloud in the same general direction with lightening shooting down all over what I dearly hoped was NOT the city of Guanajuato in the distance. I was wrong. I was riding straight for a wicked storm and there was no way around it. I throttled to maximum speed to try and make maximum ground and hopefully the city before the downpour but it was useless. A cold rush of wind tinged with droplets began to fall and then just before the clouds let go of their payload, I pulled over under an awning of a closed shop. It came down cold and hard and as the wind picked up it blew the rain sideways right under the awning and threatened to even knock the bike off it's stand. At first I thought I'd just sit and wait for it to pass, but it didn't show any signs of letting up. After a couple damp smokes, I decided to gear up for rain and cover my bags. This was it, I was either going to have to spend the night under that windy damp awning, or brave the rain and find a room. As I was only about 8 miles outside of Guanajuato, I decided to go for it.
(to be continued in part 7/20/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.5)