Monday, December 14, 2009

New Skip Hunt Vagabond: MEXICO 2009 Book Available NOW!

Oh man! I am SOOOOO happy with out great this book printed! As many of you know, I tend to go for the most saturated and rich coloring in my images which is not always easy to transfer in print. Well, I am pleased to report that the printing is absolutely beautiful! The images just leap off the page.

I bought the soft cover for myself, but I think I would prefer the hard cover on my next ordering. I actually lowered the price on my hard cover options to encourage that choice over the soft cover option, but it looks pretty sweet too.

Likely, I am biased but I’m confident this would make an amazing Holiday gift for yourself or anyone you think would like to take an amazing journey on a motorcycle through Mexico. Think about it, 70+ images and the best of the best journal entries all in one book!

The deadline for ground shipping to get your Skip Hunt Vagabond: MEXICO 2009 book in time for holiday delivery is Dec. 10th.

Order yours today!

Click HERE for preview and ordering

Monday, June 15, 2009

New Interview!

Did an interview for HomeWorkShop.com (evidently a popular destination for interior designers, and such!) If interested, click HERE

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

On the Road Again... Soon!

Getting excited now! Got my new front tire yesterday, and a new chain, new back tire, and new front fork seals a month ago.


Now dealing with the last few days of anxiety about going... always get that for some reason... then after I'm finally "on the road"... anxiety melts away into sublime vagabond Nirvana. Ahhhhhh!!!!


I shot mostly black & white on my last Mexican adventure, but I think I'm going to get back to HOT vivid color (like the Xochimilco image on my first post. Here's one of the b/w images from the last adventure:



NEW! Skip Hunt Vagabond Travelblog here: http://skiphuntvagabond.tumblr.com


Stay Tuned!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Skip Hunt's Mexico: "Colores"

Motorcycle tour Jan/Feb 2009

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Got a new book forsale!

Portfolio: Volume One
By Skip Hunt

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Photo Gallery of Orizaba, Mexico


The link above is to a little online photo gallery from Orizaba, Mexico. You'll need your monitor res settings at at least 1024x768. If you're using a smallish monitor, or have your screen resolution set low and can't see the bottom thumbnails when vertical images are displayed, just use the little control panel on the page to the bottom right-hand side to navigate the gallery or hit the little play button to start an automatic slide show. Disfruta!

ps. next gallery presentation coming after a few more miles down the road and likely Puebla.

Video Clips from Catemaco to Orizaba



You will need Quicktime 7 installed in order to view the clip above since I compressed it with the ipod video settings. But it's free and plays back video much better anyway so it'd be a good idea to upgrade anyhow. Just go to http://www.quicktime.com and download the latest version for your operating system.


These clips were shot at full frame, full motion video with a little Panasonic point and shoot camera. I reduced the size to make it more web friendly. ;-) Still, it's nearly 11MB so consider yourself warned. ;-)

I've had a few problems with a little sickness, some ongoing problems with the bike I'm trying to resolve and will detail in my written entries, and a little laziness :-) But, I will get caught up on the writing from the desert when and if I get there. ;-)

I do have one more new photo gallery ready to upload to tide you over for now.

Hasta!

Skip

Photo Gallery of Catemaco, Mexico


The link above is to a little online photo gallery from Catemaco, Mexico. You'll need your monitor res settings at at least 1024x768. If you're using a smallish monitor, or have your screen resolution set low and can't see the bottom thumbnails when vertical images are displayed, just use the little control panel on the page to the bottom right-hand side to navigate the gallery or hit the little play button to start an automatic slide show. Disfruta!

ps. next gallery presentation coming after a few more miles down the road and likely Puebla.

Video Clips from Veracruz to Tlacotalpan



You will need Quicktime 7 installed in order to view the clip above since I compressed it with the ipod video settings. But it's free and plays back video much better anyway so it'd be a good idea to upgrade anyhow. Just go to http://www.quicktime.com and download the latest version for your operating system.


These clips were shot at full frame, full motion video with a little Panasonic point and shoot camera. I reduced the size to make it more web friendly. ;-) Still, it's nearly 33MB so consider yourself warned. ;-)

I've had a few problems with a little sickness, some ongoing problems with the bike I'm trying to resolve and will detail in my written entries, and a little laziness :-) But, I will get caught up on the writing from the desert when and if I get there. ;-)

I do have two new photo galleries ready to upload and another video to tide you over for now.

Hasta!

Skip

Friday, January 27, 2006

Photo Gallery of Veracruz to Tlacotalpan, Mexico


The link above is to a little online photo gallery from Veracruz to Tlacotalpan, Mexico. You'll need your monitor res settings at at least 1024x768. If you're using a smallish monitor, or have your screen resolution set low and can't see the bottom thumbnails when vertical images are displayed, just use the little control panel on the page to the bottom right-hand side to navigate the gallery or hit the little play button to start an automatic slide show. Disfruta!

ps. next gallery presentation coming after a few more miles down the road and likely Catemaco.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

"Devil Boy" ~ January 17-19, 2006

(If you would like to get an automatic email when the motorcycle blog is updated with new content, there's a place on the right margin of the blog that allows you to subscribe for free!)

Mexico ~ "Devil Boy" ~ January 17-19, 2006

When will I finally learn to stop and ask directions when in doubt? Left Tampico on a beautiful day and had plenty of time to get to my next destination without rushing. Worked my way through downtown dodging wicked taxi and bus drivers, etc. Figured I'd just head back through the main thoroughfare and just wait for a sign pointing toward Poza Rica. Never saw one. Before I knew it, I'd made it all the way back to the Northern border of Tampico and had just passed the sign wishing me
"Buen Viaje".

I little rattled due to fear of that stretch of highway between Tampico and Poza Rica that's famed for being "rough", a motorcyclist killer, and riddled by constant potholes and cops on the take. Add to that, I'd just spent nearly 45 minutes dodging other motorists of all persuasions. My nerves were already shot and I was heading the wrong way when I spotted a couple bikes parked under a canopy/taco stand. Two guys waved at me and I assumed they were also touring so I turned around to compare notes and collect myself so I could get pointed in the right direction. Turns out they weren't touring at all. And, the bikes were those big crotch-rocket types. They were locales and didn't speak ingles, but they told me I had to go back the way I'd just came and cross some toll bridge, etc. All the way back through to the opposite side of downtown.

Oh shi'ite! Didn't want to hear that. Just then, I saw a sign pointing towards Poza Rica and mentioned it to the fellas. They said I didn't want to go that way because I'd have to pay a toll and it's the long way that goes all the way around the city, etc. I told them I didn't mind paying a toll or a little extra riding as long as I was going the right direction. They wouldn't hear of it. Insisted I ride with then and they'd show me the way. I tried to back out and told them I didn't want to ride back through all the traffic, etc. Tried to play to their macho side and told them their motorcycles were bigger and faster than mine and I wouldn't be able to keep up. Didn't work. They insisted we "ride" like a gang I guess. Not wanting to look like a wuss, I told them I'd ride with them, but only to the toll bridge.

The first light we all pulled up at had this large young man, at least 350 pounds with a round little head. He was wearing a full skin-tight bright-red body suit that covered him from head to toe like one of those toddler pajama get-ups. On his head was sewn two little red horns and he was holding a jug of something. I kept looking around to make sure no one was getting ready to slam into me. I nearly soiled myself and fell over on the bike when he spewed some fluid out of his mouth and lit it on fire with a small torch. The flame he threw went out at least 20 feet and I could feel the heat from the flame. What the...?! I thought to myself, "Jesus! Who gave this insane person a jug of flammable liquid, a torch, and dressed his poor ass up like that? Then I noticed that after he stopped gagging from the fuel he'd ingested, he began making his way from car to car with a little metal can for tips. Dang! For that show I should've given him a few pesos for originality... but the light changed and my Mexican motorcycle posse were peeling out leaving me in the dust.. no time to dig for change... I was just hoping that demonic clown wasn't some kind of twisted omen.

It was nice to see more of Tampico that I didn't know exhisted, but the ride was pretty harrowing. I had to try and keep up because eventually I was completely lost again. They kept weaving in and out, lane splitting between trucks and busses, etc. They'd even burn rubber at lights to show off, and ride not even looking at the road when a sexy gringa was walking along the sidewalk. I swear I saw those guys almost get nailed by people parked along the side of the road flinging open their car doors. Every time they'd swerve at the last minute and miss the collision. Really wish I'd just been a wuss and taken that longer toll road.. but it was exciting and I would've missed the devil boy had I not taken the challenge.

Obviously I made it. They did me a buen viaje and suerte as I took off and over this huge cable bridge over the port inlet and to the toll gate. Next was getting pass the stretch of highway I feared most on this coast. But, I have to say.. it wasn't really that bad. Sure there were potholes, but not so many I couldn't just swerve out the way. The whole ride went pretty well actually and no problems with cops at all. Guess I got lucky.

I'd stopped to rest a bit and get a drink somewhere inbetween. The lady who owned the little palapa asked me where I was going and I told her I wasn't sure yet. I pulled out my map and asked if there was a place near the El Tajin ruinas that'd be nice to spend a night. She mentioned a place called Papantla and said it was right be the ruinas. So I said, "Well, looks like I'm going to Papantla then to answer your question."

I asked her how long it would take to get to Xalapa from there and she asked a younger boy wearing a Metallica t-shirt. They argued a bit and then he said it would take at least 2 days. "Two days? You have to be kidding me! It's looks very nearby on the map and I could get all the way back up to Austin, Texas in 2 days if I humped it." They argued some more and she told him he was stupid. He argued some more and said it's up in the mountains with rough roads and lots of curves. I didn't want to hear that, but I figured I'd just deal with it when the time came and paid for my beers.

I thought maybe I'd just stay the night in Poza Rica, but after about 10 minutes of that town, there was nothing remotely inviting about it. I didn't see all of it, but from what I saw, Papantla had to be better.

After several kilometers and starting up into some mountainous area, it didn't look like there was any sign of a town or city coming up so I headed back to ask directions. I was told I was on the right track so I just kept going. Soon I rounded a corner and a wonderful quaint little town opened up. Wow! what a surprise! Definitely a cool little town with colorful architecture and steep cobblestone roads. Sort of a cross between San Christobal de las Casas, Taxco, and Guanajuato. I was pretty elated and decided immediately I'd stay more than a night.

Didn't take long to find a decent room with parking either. After passing through Poza Rica only 20 kilometers away I wasn't expected much, but what a great surprise.. and only 5 kilometers away from the ruins.

After I'd unloaded the bike, some young gringo dudes in the room next to mine came out to say hello. I'd seen them in Tampico on the street that morning. I remembered them because in 3 days they were the ONLY gringos I saw in that town. I asked them when they'd left and how long it took them to get here. They said they left around the same time I did and had already been there for almost 2 hours. I asked, "How the hell did you beat me here by almost two hours?". Then I remembered having to cross the entire city twice and the devil boy.. oops.. that's how they beat me. ;-)


I noticed their car had Vermont tags, but one of them said he was from Boston. They were extremely excited to be traveling in Mexico and planned to travel around for 6 months. I was pretty excited for them too and started telling them about all the places they should definitely visit. "By the way, how much dinero do you think that's going to cost you?". "We've got about $3000 dollars between the three of us for the six months." Ouch! Someone forgot to tell them Mexico isn't quite as cheap as it used to be. But, they said they'd camp a lot to save money. I launched into stories about places they could go and save money and told them how great a time I knew they were going to have.

They just kept asking me questions and seemed to listen intently to all my stories. Eventually, I really got tired of hearing my same old tired stories and hearing the sound of my own voice, but they seemed to dig it and even offered me beer and bought me coffee. I told them they should hang onto their pesos if they were going to make the money stretch that far.

One of them who looked the youngest had long curly red hair. He seemed to the the most excited out the bunch and started telling me about their own "story" thus far. He seemed particularly thrilled that the young pretty Mexican girls were whistling at him on the street. He said, "That doesn't really happen to me at home! And these girls were really pretty too!". I told him the girls don't whistle at my scowling ass anymore, but that's cool you're having a great time of it.

Later we were walking down the street and heard some cat-call whistling, we looked back and saw a couple young Mexican girls giggling. He said, "See! I told you! They're whistling at me here too!" We heard the whistling again, and I looked back. It wasn't the little chicas whistling at him.. it was the Mexican farm boys. The girls were just embarrassed and giggled. The Mexican boys were spiraling their fingers in the air as if they were tossing long red lochs of hair. I think they were just making fun of his long hair, but he didn't look back that time and I didn't have the heart to tell him the truth. :-)

We all met up every now and then throughout the day. And I spent most of the time exploring around taking photos. The next night I'd seen them drinking beers on the plaza and asked them how much they were paying. They said, "Not too bad, just around 15 to 20 pesos a bottle". I said,

"Ok, if you want to save money on beer this is how you do it. Just go to a little tienda and buy a liter. You'll have to pay a little more for the bottle deposit, but when you return the bottle to them they give you the deposit back. That's where I'm going now... grab a liter of Indio and drink it back at the hotel."

They all decided they'd tag along and see how this works. Not one of them spoke any Spanish so they were watching intently. Two of them went to the tienda near the hotel. I told them, that one only has Corona and looks like it's a tourist liquor store so the price will likely be higher. They didn't listen and thought it'd be nicer if the shop was closer to the hotel for returning bottles. The guy from Boston decided to tag along with me instead, because he wanted Indio beer too.

"You see.. this place is more of a local tienda, the prices are lower and posted on the wall."

Back at the room we compared notes.. yep.. they paid almost double what we did. But they didn't seem to mind and kept going back for more liters. I hadn't finished my one liter when they'd all finished their second liters. Ahhh to be young again with a fresh liver! ;-)

We all hung out a good while telling stories and chain smoking. They wanted to know if I could help them find some marajuanna since I spoke Spanish. And, wanted to know if it'd be dangerous. I told them I really didn't know for sure, but their best bet was too find the young Mexican hippies who where playing the drums near the plaza and ask them. Told them the slang for it in Spanish was "mota" but that I wasn't really interested dealing with the hassle myself.

About that time we decided to grab some tacos and I showed them where there was a decent indoor taco counter inside the market. They couldn't believe they'd been paying 3 times more for less food in the restaurant. "You see, if you pay attention and stay out of touristy looking restaurants on plazas.. you might just make your $3 grand last six months."

They were all fired up about the money they saved and decided to go look for mota and tequila. I went back to the room, recommended my favorite tequila (Herradura Repasado) and wished them luck. My guess is that 6 months is going to be whittled down to about 1 month if tequila has anything to do with it. But I didn't listen to anyone either when I was their age. Christ! Did I just say, "when I was their age?" Never thought I'd utter those words. Damn I must be gettin' old. ;-)


They were all up bright and early the next morning. And though they looked a bit ragged and unbathed.. it looked like they'd handled the tequila just fine. Told them I'd meet them at the little coffee shop after I'd showered and taken my bottle back to the tienda. When I got to the tienda the girl wouldn't give me my deposit back. She said my friends had returned their bottle in my place. She said they told her I would return my bottle elsewhere, etc. I knew this wasn't true because none of them spoke a lick of Spanish. She owed me 12 pesos and told her if she took bottles back from them they didn't buy from her that was her problem and not mine... now give me my deposito please." She finally gave in and gave me my deposit, but when I got to the coffee shop they asked what took me so long. I told them some returned their bottles back at the wrong tienda and took my deposit instead. The red-headed kid started to laugh and said, "That was me.. sorry. But, I made an extra 6 pesos profit than the other tienda was going to give me." I told him, "Well yes, but that 6 pesos is going to come out of that poor girl's pocket when the boss finds out." He laughed and said, "Oops! Guess we should go over a couple streets so she doesn't see me!". I couldn't believe what I was hearing.

"Are you serious? Why don't you just give her the money back and take your bottle to the right tienda? I don't want to sound like your Dad, and I'm certainly no moral cop... look... you can do what you want, but if I could offer you a little advice. I'm not really that superstitious, but it seems like every time I've got one over on a clerk or someone.. where I knew keeping the money or whatever was just wrong and did it anyway.. I ALWAYS end up paying somehow, somewhere right afterwards. I get a flat, or get robbed, or something. Now I don't know if it's ever really connected, but if I were you, this early into your trip into a foreign land... I'd certainly not risk getting pulled over by the Karma Police over 6 lousy pesos."

The kid from Boston shook his head in disgust that the red-headed kid was going to keep the pesos. "Dude, you should really take that girl her money back." He was decided not to join the other two for their mota search and tequila the night before and went back to the hotel with me since the manager had asked us to be back in by 11PM so that he could lock the gate and go to bed since it was a week night. The other two said they'd have no problem climbing up the wall and sneaking back in later. My guess is the kid from Boston is going to make out just fine after he eventually finds a way to bail the other two out of a Mexican jail. Oops! There I go again.. sounding like someone's Dad. ;-)

I don't know if they returned the money or not, but just to give my own karmic stature a bump.. I tipped the old guy at the coffee shop a bit larger than usual. I was a little bummed that I didn't get a chance to see the Indians in the region climb this giant pole that goes up about 3 or 4 stories, and spiral down on ropes while another Indian dude plays a flute. Just as I exited the coffee shop, the flute began to play, and 5 Indians began to scale the pole next to the church. Looks like the karmic tip must've worked. :-)

Next stop Xalapa (I just hope it doesn't really take two days to get there)

Monday, January 23, 2006

Video Clips from Papantla to Xalapa



You will need Quicktime 7 installed in order to view the clip above since I compressed it with the ipod video settings. But it's free and plays back video much better anyway so it'd be a good idea to upgrade anyhow. Just go to http://www.quicktime.com and download the latest version for your operating system.

These clips were shot at full frame, full motion video with a little Panasonic point and shoot camera. I reduced the size to make it more web friendly. ;-)

Photo Gallery Papantla to Xalapa, Mexico


The link above is to a little online photo gallery from Papantla to Xalapa. You'll need your monitor res settings at at least 1024x768. Disfruta!

ps. next gallery presentation coming after a few more miles down the road.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

From Texas to Tampico, Mexico Jan. 12-17, 2006


The link above is to a little online photo gallery from the first leg of this trip. You'll need your monitor res settings at at least 1024x768. Disfruta!

(If you would like to get an automatic email when the motorcycle blog is updated with new content, there's a place on the right margin of the blog that allows you to subscribe for free!)

Mexico ~ January 12-17, 2006

I don't know why it always takes be several hours to get ready and pack for one of these trips. It's always check, re-check, tighten all the bolts twice, etc. I mean, it's not like I'm going off into the void or anything. You can always find just about anything you need in countries like Mexico (except decent chain lube). But, at 2AM I was finally convinced there was no more packing and rechecking to be done.

Naturally, I didn't get on the road as early as I'd hoped. There was the last minute drop off at the post office that ended up taking an extra hour, etc. But soon I was blazing down the highway South.

The weather was a bit ominous which didn't help my launch jitters. It was overcast, grey, windy, and a bit of chill in the air. As I neared the border there was a huge fire to my right that sent a blackened-grey smoke cloud up into the already ashen sky. The smoke pillar's torso seemed to glow a dirty yellowish brown and I tried not to look at it. It sort of made me uneasy for some reason.

Every border crossing crossing I've encountered so far as been pretty straight forward with the signage. Such was not the case near Reynosa. I think there are several crossing points, but the one I happened to land at was called something like Fhatt I think. I really was skittish about crossing this time. Didn't know why, but I thought I might spend the night on the U.S. side and cross in the morning when I'd be fresh. Figured I'd pick a room close to the bridge so that I'd get up, grab a shower, and hit the Aduana with all my faculties.

I turned a couple streets and the next thing I knew was that I was inline for crossing. Oh well, no time like the present. It was already around 5PM so I thought maybe if it went smooth I'd try to ride past Reynosa and to the next town to get a room for the night. Such are the best laid plans. ;-)

There was a pretty long line to cross, but it did move pretty quick. In no time I was on the Mexican side trying to find the office for vehicle permits. You'd think it'd be right there on the other side of the bridge. There was a sign pointing left and I followed the already harried traffic until I saw a building that looked "official". A half hour later and many circles around the area, I still hadn't found it. Turns out it's only about 3 blocks away, but it's tucked behind some other buildings. Luckily someone pointed me in the right direction and again I was inline.

I should've remembered from the last trip all the hoops you have to jump through. After waiting in line for the permit, I was directed to another line for a new tourist Visa. This is where it really started to go down hill. After another wait in line, the official raised his eyebrows, counted days on his fingers, then rushed back to enter something in the computer. When he came back he told me my permit and visa had expired by six days. I explained that I knew this, and had been given instructions by both the Mexican Consulate in Austin, and Bancerito (or something like that) in Mexico City, that it was quite alright if I turned in the vehicle permit late instead of making two trips to the border. That's about when my stomach sunk as I realized he wasn't talking about the vehicle permit, but the tourist visa. He seemed pretty disgusted and said I hadn't even paid the $210 pesos for the original visa. I protested to no avail that I had paid the fee and he shook his head and said, "We know you're lying.. you have no stamp on your visa..." I again told him I paid but that the Laredo border officials must have neglected to stamp my form.

After much arguing, and a lame attempt to bribe him with "paying the fine here so I can be on my way, etc."... he sent me back to the bridge to see the immigration lawyer. Told me that that I'd have to have some kind of court the following day between the hours of 9AM and 3PM, etc. Oh boy! I think they saw me coming from a mile away. I asked if there was anyone who could help me this evening so that I could be on my way, and he said he didn't know.. "just go over to the main immigration building..."

Back at the bridge, I explained the problem to the guard on duty and explained the phone calls, etc. This guy seemed a bit more reasonable at first, then I got the same "we got your balls in a vice" sort of grin from him. Again I was told I'd have to return the next day between 9AM and 3PM to see if the official lawyer could forgive the tardiness and grant me a new visa, etc.

I said, "Look, I really love visiting your country. Heck, I wish I could live here... but I really would like to get past this little problem tonight if possible. Is there anything at all you can do to help me?". He picked up the phone and called someone. Turns out the lawyer was still there in his office and I was escorted back. The Lawyer was a short round man with white hair, expensive watch, glasses, and shoes. He smiled pleasantly and listened to my story I'd already told 4 or 5 times at this point.

When I was finished he said, "The expired vehicle permit is not a problem, but the visa fine, etc. has to be paid to the bank and our problem is the banks are closed. I'm sorry but you'll have to come back tomorrow between 9AM and 3PM to have your case heard." We stared at each other for a minute or two, and then I said,

"You look like an important enough man that you ought to be able to fix this for me tonight. How much is the fine?"

"The fine will be about $1500 pesos."

"For only 6 days late?"

He showed me some forms showing how much others had paid for 30 days late.

"Yes, but I was only 6 days late and was told by the Consulate it wasn't a problem"

"Who did you speak to?"

"I didn't get there name, but can't you be a little more reasonable about this? I really just want to be on my way as quick as possible."

He stared at me a again for moment or two then asked,

"Do you need a receipt?"

I tried not smile too big and said,

"No, I don't need a receipt."

"Well, in that case I can offer you a discount of $750 pesos if you pay tonight."

"I'll give you $50 cash right now to make this go away."

"Done, pay the guard at the front and welcome to Mexico."

FINALLY! Fours hours later I was again on my way, but it was now pretty late so I took a room a few blocks away, dumped my bags, and headed out into the Mexican night in search of a drink.

I was pretty exhausted so the search was pretty quick. Ended up chatting with a bartender in some bar called Sinatra's. The place was overpriced, but it turns out it's owned by two gringos the bartender said. The "Mexican" bars are about half this price. I didn't care, just a couple a beers and I was calling it a day anyhow.

Told him about all the hassle, the "no receipt fine", etc. and he laughed. He said, "Welcome to Mexico!"

He told me he'd lived in L.A. for almost 5 years until he got deported. Said he had his own business and 5 employees, etc. Until he got caught driving drunk and was sent back to the border. I asked him if he had to pay any fine or anything. He said no. Just a free ride back to Mexico, and if he sneaks in again and gets caught it'll be the same thing again.. just a free ride back to Mexico and he gets to keep anything he makes while he's there. I told him it seems like he should have to pay some kind of fine or at least something for the transport... "I know if I got caught somewhere in Mexico without the proper papers I won't likely just get a free ride back to the States. He said "no, likely be sitting in jail for a good while until they take everything they can get from you, but going the other way it's really pretty easy.. it's been getting harder now since September 11th though, "now they think we're all terrorists, so it's a little harder to get across.... I'm going to try again this summer I think. Too many people in L.A. but the money sure is good."

The next morning it was warm with a clear blue sky and I headed South toward Ciudad Victoria. The scenery was mostly flat and the highway straight as a pin. Didn't really look much different than South Texas until I approached Victoria where the flatlands began to give way to soft rolling hills and gentle curves. The only way I could tell I was in Mexico was when I'd stop along side the road to take a break the truckers would all honk and wave... and cars would slow down to see if I needed help... not something that happens too much on the U.S. side.

Ciudad Victoria is nestled just at the foot of the Sierras. The light is crisp and the city is very clean. Surprisingly clean.... I couldn't even see cigarette butts on the sidewalk so I tended to hang on to my garbage until I saw a can. You can't really say that about most cities in Mexico, but this one is a little different.

I took a room at a little place called Hotel California (a popular name for hotels in Mexico). It was a little beat up, but the room was large, had a TV and a very hot shower. I really liked that little town and could've stayed longer, than the two nights I stayed. Didn't even see another gringo the entire time I was there, nor did I find anyone who spoke English... a fact that hit home when I decided to buy new lenses for my glasses. It all went pretty smooth until the eye exam and the man pointed at the letters on the wall for me to read off. I know I've only been out of Mexico for 4 months, but it was a bit of a struggle to remember the correct names of the letters so I just pantomimed the letters I couldn't remember. Until, he handed me a piece of paper with text in various sizes and asked me to read the smallest paragraph. I got through it OK and I think he got the gist of it.

After 2 nights, I had my fresh new lenses, a fresh haircut, and had decompressed enough to relax a little. It was time to move on toward Tampico.

Something about Mexico, or just being on the road seems to warp time considerably for me. Only 36hrs into the new journey, and it already felt as if I'd already been gone a week or so. That's one of the things I love about traveling. It's almost like you get a bargain on life. When I'm home, my perception of a couple days time goes by in a wink of an eye. At that rate, my perceived life span would fly by before I knew what hit me. Next thing you know "ten years have got behind you, and nobody told you when to run..". But, while traveling your perceived spent time gets expanded at least 4 fold. That's a bargain any way you slice it!

I woke up screaming the first night in Victoria. I don't think there was anyone else staying there, so I doubt I woke anyone up. The dream had something to do with a small group of people who find chopped up bits of human bodies in buckets. The others and I went through the bits trying to figure out who the victims were and what had happened to them. I don't recall who the others were, but they felt like strangers. Eventually, we "pieced" together who the victims were... They were us! And, it became clear that we were in some place between the living and dead. With this horrible realization I began crying screaming, "I'm not dead! I'm not dead! I'm not dead".



Not sure what that was all about, but the next day I felt more alive than the day before. The new glasses fit nicely, snapped loads of photos, sipped coffee, etc. Next stop Tampico.

By the map it looked like the road to Tampico would be another straight boring shot. Not the case. Evidently I'd climbed to a higher altitude in Victoria without knowing it, and half the ride to Tampico was all sharp curve winding roads with drop offs overlooking Mesas and the Gulf of Mexico. Someone had told me of a place just North of Tampico called "Barra del Tordo". They'd strongly recommended I visit there and since it was sort of on the way, I figured I'd go by there first. Others had also called it a "paradise".

Stopped for gas in a little town called Aduana (I think). Someone asked where I was going on the motorcycle and I told them, "I'm going to Barra del Tordo". They seemed surprised,

"You are? Why?"

"I was told it's nice. Is it not nice?"

"No, it's nice I guess. It's only about 20 minutes more down the road."

I wasn't sure if I'd taken the correct road since sometimes the signs can get VERY confusing in Mexico. A sign will say you're on a certain highway and the next thing you know the signs will say you're on another highway. After about a half hour I figured I'd taken a wrong turn. There was nothing but farmland and no other cars, so I stopped at a little tienda for a beer and to ask directions.

"You're going to Barra? Yes, it's this way.. only about 10 more kilometers to the beach and 15 to the town."

"You sound surprised I'm going there. Are there rooms? Are there alot of people there?"

Yes, there are rooms in the town, and palapas on the beach... not too many people there though.. more come closer to Semana Santa."

We chatted for awhile and he told me he used to work in Houston. Said he made enough money laying synthetic marble to buy his house and this tienda.

"Don't tell me.. until you got deported?"

"No, I'm just too old to lay marble now. I have papers and a dual citizenship."

"But, you don't speak English? How did you get your citizenship without speaking English?"

"I just worked hard and stayed out of trouble. My employer helped me get the citizenship.. wasn't that hard. I like it here though. It's quiet."

After I borrowed his outhouse and finished my second miniature Victoria beer, I was on my way again. I couldn't wait to see this "paradise", hang my hammock, and just relax.

I passed through more farmland with cows, etc... hardly "paradise-like", but I thought maybe the pastures would give way to some drastic landscaping change as I approached the beach. I waited for it... turned the last corner and road up onto the beach. Not much. Only a line of concrete picnic pavilions and a flat beach. I thought maybe the paradise was further down and road then entire length of the playa. Nothing. Just a beat up looking palapa restaurant that didn't look like it was open, and a line of covered picnic tables. Nothing else. Hummmmm.... I suppose if you'd never seen the ocean before it might pass for a "paradise". So, I thought perhaps the town is where the paradise is. Took a couple photos, but didn't even stay long enough to take off my helmet.

Another 5 kilometers and I hit the town. Another disappointment. Just loads of garbage, beat up fishing boats, dried mud, and a few fishermen laying about in hammocks who appeared to be drunk. Hummmm... still not quite paradise unless you fancy laying about garbage strewn on the dried mud ground and hanging in an old hammock chatting it up with drunk fishermen. Maybe this was just the entrance to the town and the real "paradise" lay down the laguna a bit? Nope. Just more dried mud that gave way to your basic beach. Maybe I'd taken a wrong turn in the town so I backtracked and wound around some shanty wooden shacks strewn with more garbage. After I'd shaken off about the 6th dog trying to snag a bit of my leg, the dirt road circled back to the paved highway. Well, now I was certain. I'm sure this is paradise for someone, but not for me. Without even turning off the motor to have a smoke, I was blazing back down the highway toward Tampico.

Arriving in Tampico was again a huge disappointment.. at first. I followed the signs toward the Centro and managed to stay clear of the insane taxi drivers who evidently couldn't see me. Seeing an Office Depot, McDonald's, Church's Fried Chicken, Walmart, etc. my heart sunk a bit. All this way to find basically San Antonio, Texas.

The sun was setting and I still had my sunglasses on, but I was hoping to just pull into a hotel parking lot, grab a room and plan my escape further on down the coast in search of Mexico. A few more kilometers and the city began to change drastically. As I rode into the Centro area, the architecture looked like something out of Havana, Mexico City, and New Orleans. Just as I'd been told! It was pretty cramped with tons of people, so navigating around at 5PM on a motorcycle was a bit of a challenge.

Eventually I found a room that had a nearby parking garage, tossed my bags, and made out into the Tampico night. The city didn't initially strike me as pleasant since I'd come from such a quaint and clean city, but it does have a strange texture to it. Hard to put my finger on it. I'd only been to New Orleans once, but it didn't look like it was supposed to in my mind's eye.. wasn't as grungy, dirty, and tinged with the fragrance of VooDoo. But this town, Tampico looks much more like New Orleans was supposed to. Seems like something is lurking here behind the crooked old houses jammed inbetween large Spanish buildings. The light in the morning especially has a yellowish brown patina like the color of a pirate ghost's breath.



I've spent the last 2 days exploring the corridors in and around the old port, the old piers, and downtown. I'm really liking this city the more I'm here. And, again.. I haven't seen a single other tourist or gringo here. No one hassles me, or asks me for anything. The air is moist and warm, so I changed into my shorts for most of the hiking and only then did I get an occasional glance. Or, when I'd be studying a bit of rust on a door and then frame for a photo. I'd get asked,

"What are you looking at?"

"I'm just taking a photo of this."

"Do you own that building or something?"

"No, just taking a photo of it."

"But, why? It's ugly."

"I don't think so. I think the texture and colors are quite beautiful."

They'd just look at my shorts, shake their head, and keep walking.


I'm hoping the warm weather keeps up while I head further South. I'm told it can change drastically this time of year and turn bitter cold in just a days time. This morning I noticed all the locales shivering from cold, all wearing coats and gloves. I thought, "Oh no! And I'm not far enough South yet!" But, when I went outside it was still fairly warm. Not quite hot like it was yesterday, but still at least 75F. I guess again it's just all a matter of perspective.

I'm sitting in a little cafe called La Victoria Cafe Gourmet. Luckily they have outstanding coffee, are located right on a lovely plaza, and have wireless. ;-)

Not too interested in stopping at Poza Rica, but there are some ruins called El Tajin I might stop for on the way to either Xalapa or Veracruz... not sure which I'll go to first, but will update you when I've got another payload of "texture and color." ;-)

Hasta,

Skip

(click the link below to view a little video clip from this leg of the trip. You'll need Quicktime 7 installed to view)

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

On the Road Again!!!

It's been awhile since I've posted here. But, I got Ruby back from the dealer a few weeks ago for a complete service including the valves, etc. There was some warranty stuff too including the replacement of the left radiator fan assembly. Nothing wrong with the fan, but the metal guard around the outside of the fan fell off and lodged into the skid plate while I was blastin' down the highway.

I won't go into details, but the experience at the dealer, the cost, etc. was something less than pleasant to say the least.

I've been riding on my Bridgestone TW rear replacement and so far so good. I like it for the highway, and it's ok in the dirt, but we haven't had any rain down here in Texas so I can speak for it's wet pavement grip. I've hit a couple wet patches here and there and it does slip some, but I'll have to wait until I hit some rain before I compare it to the GP110.

Well, I don't really have the time... but I'm making the time to head back down to Mexico. Gotta get outta this corrupt fascist country for a bit. Wink And this time I'm going to head down the East coast of Mexico.

Not sure where I'm going but Xalapa for a destination seems nice. Any other recommendations are welcome for sure!

Last time I crossed the border at Laredo without incident. But, this time I might cross at Reynosa instead. Does anyone know if it's better to just cross at Laredo and work my way over to the East coast on the Mexican side? Or stay on the Texas side and cross at Reynosa for a jaunt down the coast?

Also, not sure about the terrain. I'd prefer to not be caught in mountainous regions at night since it's still basically Winter (although you wouldn't know it from Texas... I think it was about 80F today). Any suggestions or advice is much appreciated.

I didn't turn in my motorcycle vehicle permit when I crossed back into the U.S. in August because I thought I'd be able to go back down into Mexico in October. Unfortunately, I couldn't get away... sooooo.. my permit expired on the 6th of January. I called the Mexican consulate here in Austin and they said it wouldn't be a problem... to just turn it in when I go back. I asked if I'd get fined or jailed and they said "no", but they also gave me Bancito's number in Mexico City. I called them and the person I spoke with spoke VERY little English, but she also said I wouldn't have a problem turning in the permit a couple weeks late. Anyone know for sure?

Regarding my reports... I will likely continue my current "Skip's Mexican Motorcyle Blog" as if the last 4 months since I've been home have just been an "intermission". If you want to catch up start from the bottom and work your way up. ;-) I'm also going to try and add little video clips in addtion to the photos and photo galleries.

Last time I took a Canon dSLR with lenses, and a video camera. Which took up waaaay too much room. This time I'm only taking this awesome little Panasonic point and shoot called an LX1. It shoots 8MP 16:9 images and also shoots full screen 16:9 30fps video clips with sound. So the next reports will also have video samples along with the still photos and "colorful" writing. Wink

This LX1 makes wonderful sharp, hi-res images and is tiny. You can view some galleries I've shot with it so far here:

http://www.poppinfreshmedia.com/lx1v12/

This gallery is the 12th day out with it, but you can see galleries for days 1-11 in the top html navigation.

Ok, should be shovin' off tomorrow. Still scared like I was on the first one, but I'm sure that will give way to motorcycle rapture soon enough! Any tips, suggestions, or advice is certainly welcome!!!

Skip Hunt

Monday, November 07, 2005

Military Checkpoint Tip!

Hey, here's a tip for ya... if you'e riding in Mexico and get tired of all the military checkpoints, opening your bags, showing passport, permit, questions about drugs and arms, etc.... Just ask the military dude if after his inspection you can take a photo of him on your bike. He'll be THRILLED and there will be no inspection. Just a quick snap and they just wave you on your way. Just make sure you say "OK" if he asks to try on your helmet too. ;-)


Here's a photo I shot of me, myself, and I on the Baja. I was just getting ready to ride into the storm you see in the background, but missed most of it. I can't tell you just how ethereal the desert smells in the Northern baja just after a rain. The closest I can come to it is... imagine if the Mother of God were to be primping her holy self for a night at the opera... the perfume she'd wear might smell very similar to that intoxicating fragrance that rises from a freshly showered North Baja desert.

The fluid in the water jug is gasoline... didn't take a proper gas can with me, but it worked out just fine. Unfortunately, I didn't quite get the hang of pouring gas from a water just into my gas tank until about the 3rd try. Most of the gas just washed right over my entire tank and tank bag. ;-)

FYI: The bike looks so clean because the shot was taken just off the highway right before heading off-road toward Coco's Corner (about 24km of washboard and mud). And, because I'm a dork and like pretty shiny things... I borrowed some old towels and a bucket of soapy water from the posada I was staying at and cleaned ol' Ruby up real nice before the off-road portion. ;-)

Friday, October 28, 2005

8/19/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary


8/19/05

Funny story... I'd just ridden from White Sands, New Mexico via a mountain pass through Cloudcroft at about 8700 feet about sea level, ie. very cold, rainy/wet, and not so comfortable ... I arrived in Carlsbad, New Mexico after riding through 3 hrs of rain, wind, etc. and wasn't in the mood. When I rolled into Carlsbad, NM.. some Harley biker with a Banditos vest on and his girlfriend pulled up next to me at a light. They mouthed off something that didn't seem pleasant but I couldn't hear them since my headphones where blasting Interpol. I turned off the vibes to hear something about how I was a [expletive removed] for not riding a Harley and because I was wearing a helmet.

Because I was feelin' like a badass at this point... I followed their asses down the road and turned with them at the next light. Only to find 3 rows of around 150 Harley's! Was I discouraged? Heck no! I spotted a spot right in the freakin' middle and parked my Kawasaki right alongside the Harleys. At first, I got some pretty ugly looks. Then some Harley dude came up and talked to me. He also had a KLX dirt bike and was a huge fan of the KLR even though he also road a Harley for show. After I told him where I'd been... and after he spread the word... I was IN! And, even though I stated I'm a huge NON-fan of Bush, called him a bloody fascist,etc. most of the bikers were anti-bush too! Even though most of them were flyin' American colors with eagles ands stuff. Turned out it was some biker rally with folks from the Hell's Angels, Banditos, Desert Dawgs, Gypsies, etc. And, because of where I'd been, they all wanted to buy me beers! No cover charge for the bike rally, and I took this shot during a "burn out" contest.

When one of the Harley riders asked me where I was staying, I said.. "I hadn't planned on staying, but since it's raining and late... guess I'll stay at Motel 6" He retorted, "Hell no, my brothah! You'll stay at my place... I INSIST!... that is if you don't mind the couch?" His French wife insisted as well and I was treated like a king.

This image is from the rainy burn-out contest. I think these folks are "Banditos". Sorry for the grain, etc. but it was dark and I had to bump up the iso to 3200. I didn't want to use flash and call too much attention to myself... Figured, some of these chaps might not be too keen on gettin' their pictures taken. ;-) Besides... I think it kinda adds to the gritty vibe I was feeling that night. :-)


-Skip Hunt


Carlsbad, New Mexico

8/17/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary



8/17/05

Today is my birthday. I thought the day was going to go great. I left Vegas and just barely made it to the Grand Canyon by sunset doing 95mph most of the way. I spent the night at a campground and didn't know how freakin' cold it gets at 7000+ above sea-level. So, I froze in my hammock all night and didn't sleep much. But, I decided to make the best of it and catch the Canyon just after sun-rise, then hit the big Crater outside Flagstaff, stop off by the Painted Desert for shots, then on through Roswell to White Sands.

It all went downhill after waking this morning freezing in my hammock. Got to the Canyon and fired off a few shots, then went back to the bike and noticed my tire definately wasn't going to make it back to Texas. Cords were already showing... so, I cut the visit short and rode 80miles REAL slow down Hwy 180 to Flagstaff to the nearest place I could find a tire. Gets even older at over 8000 feet above sea-level by the way. but, the scenery was pretty nice. Paid almost double what the same time costs in Austin, but they did it while I waited. Trouble was... they took about 3hrs doing it. Then they inform me that my back brake pad is nearly metal to metal and they didn't have the pads for my bike. Sooooooo... had to find another shop, pay again through the nose for brake pads installed and was finally on my way.

BUT, about 30miles outside Flagstaff I realized I left my Road Atlas at the first MC shop and wasn't about to ride all the way back. Stood in line at Walmart for 40mins to buy a crummy atlas and try to at least make the Painted desert today. I was almost there when the sign says they close entrance at 7pm... is was already 6:50PM so I had to find a cheap room in Holbrook Arizona and start over fresh tomorrow.

I told the service manager at the motorcycle shop that was reaming me that it was my birthday... just so I could hear at least one person wish me one.

I told the short little Indian dude from Bombay who's wearing a giant cowboy hat and bolo tie and rented me this dodgy room for $20 that it was my birthday, and he said.. "What about a birthday cake?" I said, "Nah, just wanted you to wish me a happy birthday..." He said, "No, I mean just before you came in I was having a piece of cake. I'll split it with you as a birthday cake."

So, I shared his cake with him then moved my stuff into this room that smells like 20years of mildew. But hey! I gots me some cake.. AND he has FREE wireless!



This is one seriously freaky little town. Kinda creepy, but a writer's paradise. I went to get a bite to eat for my birthday and most of the beat up little cafes had already closed at 8pm. One was open called Mr. Maestra's. I ordered a glass of wine (since it's my birthday and all) and the "red" arrived at my table in a water glass, was cold, very sweet, and had bubbles in it. I had a headache before finishing even half the glass. And there was this old Navajo dude (Mr. Maestra I assume) who only had one leg, was in a wheel chair, wearing a cammo jungle hat and a t-shirt that said "Get Your Kicks on Route 66", and he was wheeling around in his wheelchair with a pot of coffee toppin' folks off.



-Skip Hunt

(to be continued in part 8/19/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary)

8/14/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary


8/14/05

Just made it up from San Felipe through some very odd scenery including what appeared to be an ocean of flat salt for as far as the eye could see. Thought about riding it, but when I checked it first my boot sank through the salt crust and down about a foot into mud before I retrieved it.

The border at Mexicali was a breeze. Really diggin this idea of lane-splitting. Honestly, I didn't know what "lane splitting" was, but that's basically what I've been doing in Mexico for the last 4 weeks in Mexico to combat taxi drivers. I lane slit past about 50 cars all the way to the front of the line. The guy just said, "what's in the bags? Just clothes and stuff?" I said, "Yeah, just clothes and stuff." He then just looked at my Texas tag and said "Welcome to the U.S.". I asked, "Is that it? Don't you need to see my passport or anything? Or, don't I need to pass a Mexican check points or something?" He said no, and then asked where I was going. I told him Vegas and he asked how I was getting there. I told him just over to Interstate 8, then Hwy 95 all the way up to Vegas. He told me, "You'll save a little time if you just take 111 up to 78, then over to 95.

That was it. No search or anything. Not even a stamp. There was a U.S. border checkpoint just before going into the Imperial Dunes area, but no one was there. Is this the increased border control I've been hearing so much about? Seems like anyone with a U.S. tag and the right accent could easily pass right into the U.S. with no questions asked at all. Not even a search.

After several weeks in Mexico, I arrived in Vegas only to get robbed. It all happened so fast. I barely saw it coming, but I did notice the "bandit" only had one arm. Not to bad though. I've only lost $140 so far... then dropped a nickel in a slot machine at the Belagio and won $138.75 with one pull!

Internet access on the strip is VERY pricey $5 for 20mins. But, now I'm using the internet at the LV public library for free.

I will look for a U.S. roadmap at Borders after I leave here to find a nice route back to Texas. I need to do it in about 6 days tops since my wife informed me our tickets to see Green Day in San Antonio are on the 21st and not on the 28th like I thought. Still, I should have ample time to make a few stops along the way as long as they aren't too far off course.

I will try and type up a full report with photos that includes from where I left off in Puerto Vallarta, to Mazatlan, the ferry to La Paz, down the Baja to Todos Santos, down and around the Cabos, back up through La Paz to Constitucion, across toward Melage area, up to Rosarita, West to Guererro Nego via San Ignacio, back North East to Bahia Los Angeles, up to Chapala and up the East coast via about 100 miles of Baja 1000 route that passes by Cocos Corner and up to San Felipe, then up to Mexicali with a detour due to hiway flooding to Lake Havasu, a night sleeping in an RV lot across from the AVI Indian casino in BullHead, then arriving in Vegas yesterday.

More later, if you think of any must-see spots from Vegas to Austin, Texas let me know. I'm not sure what route I'm taking, but the most direct seems to be I10 all the way into Texas. A trucker told me I40 was a nicer ride through. Will decide after I pick up a map.

Bike is still running fabulous. My rear tire is nearly bald, but I'm guessing I might have another 1500 miles left on it max before I get to the layer before tube. I might stop somewhere along the way and just get a new tire, but I'd prefer to wait until I get back so I can start fresh and take my time researching which brand to get. I'm not too wild about this GP110s performance on wet pavement, but that might just be the same story with ANY dual-sport tire. Still, I think my stock Dunlop felt better on wet pavement than this IRC. The IRC front doesn't seem to through as many rocks up at my motor or my shins as the Dunlop did, and both the front and rear IRCs do great off-road.. it's just the pavement that I'm not completely satisfied with them.


Skip Hunt


(to be continued in part 8/17/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary)

Thursday, October 27, 2005

8/12/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary


"Ok, so I've now traveled the entire Baja from bottom to top by motorcycle and I'm about to cross the border back into the U.S. Ya know... I haven't seen a single other motorcycle the entire time. I thought the Baja was supposed to be a mecca for motorcyclists?"

"It is, but they don't usually don't come until around December. They whine and cry like women and say 'it's too hot!'..."

"Oh yeah? Well, it IS pretty hot out there... but it's not THAT hot. Seems like there'd be at least one other insane person on a motorcycle out here besides me."

He points to a big round thermometer on the wall that has its needle quivering around 110F.

"Is that thing right? It's 110F? Hey, that IS pretty toasty."

"Yes, es correcto. But, that's how hot it is IN HERE! It's closer to 127F out there. Mucho calor!"

"Oh, yeah... well... I suppose that IS pretty warm then.... Otra Tecate por favor. Con limon!"

About 33km South of the Mexicali/U.S. border



-Skip

(to be continued in part 8/14/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary)

8/09/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary


Yes, I know this is just another typical sunset.. and not particularly outstanding in any way. But, I look at this and it takes me swiftly back into my hammock. Swaying carelessly under a thatch-roofed palapa on the edge of a tourquoise beach on the Baja. A beach that hasn't been developed yet and has no other vendor besides an old Mexican woman who's husband built these palapas shortly before he succombed to cancer. He wanted to leave something for his wife and children so in his absence they'd be provided for.

She has a small fresh water well and fills up your water bottle for a few pesos. And, she rents you a nice little sand-floored palapa on the beach. No hotels, no restaurants, no one selling postcards. Just a few palapas, some fresh water, a sliver of sand and watery heaven, a gentle breeze to lull you to sleep, and a kiss goodnight from el Sol.

About 50km South of Melage, Baja.



-Skip

(to be continued in part 8/12/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary)

Monday, October 24, 2005

8/02/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.12


(continued from part 8/02/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.11)

After pleading with the woman at a nearby lavanderiato please take just one more load of clothes for the day. I told her I'd already been to three other shops and they told me it was too late. She thought for a moment and then agreed to take my clothes. I thanked her profusely because I really wanted to start the Baja with sweat stench-free clothing. She weighed my load and scrawled out a quick receipt for me. When I looked down at the price I thought there might be a mistake and said, "Why is the price double for under 3 kilos?" She quipped, "Rush charge." and smirked as she whisked away my clothes before I could change my mind. ;-)

The days here in Vallarta have melted one into the other in a humid haze. The nights have been so hot that I just stand under the cold shower 2 or 3 times a night, actuallly nude ;-), and just lay in the bed under the ceiling fan until I can get to sleep. Normally I would be self conscious enough to at least close the curtains while laying nude, but it has been so hot that I didn't give a donkey's bum if anyone saw me or not. I was only planning on staying here for 3 nights and thought that would be too long. But now I'm getting ready to settle in for my 5th night. It's a strange place Vallarta. You can love it or hate it, but it's certainly like no other place on Earth. Yes, it's touristy, and hot, etc. but there's something romantic and sultry about the place. Something hidden in the sweating palm leaves. And, it always feels like you're home after just a few days. It can get a little confusing if you forget you don't actually live here and have to keep moving on. Besides, I think poor Ruby is beginning to feel neglected so I gave her frame an nice bolt and screw tightening and dropped all my sweat-soaked clothes off to the lavanderia for one last cleaning before I hit the Baja. I hope to drag myself out of bed before dawn and see if I can make Mazatlan in time for the afternoon ferry to La Paz. I thought about just going up to Guyama to catch the ferry over to Rosalitas instead about midway up the Baja since many have told me the North and East of the Baja are the most scenic. Just as many have said that same about the South, so I think I'll just try and see the whole peninsula tip to tip and decide for myself. I visited with an old friend I've made here in Valllarta named Ernie Munoz who told me the Baja is pure magic. Says in the North on the Sea of Cortez at night you can hear these strange sounds from the heavens... almost as if you can actually hear the planets themselves. He's got a beautiful gallery and I absolutely love his work. We chatted for a bit this morning catching up and I discovered his brother who'd always taken care of all the business stuff had died last November. He was still pretty saddened by the loss and seemed lost to manage the gallery, etc. on his own. I shared stories of my own recent loss of my father and tried to console him. He seemed aimless now and wanted to just sell everything and move away to maybe Toledo, Spain.. Guanajuato... or maybe Vancouver, Canada.

After a long and heart-felt conversation, I bid my old friend good-bye and told him that I hoped to see him again one day whether it was in Spain, or Canada, or right here in Mexico. He seemed touched and yelled out "Thank You!" to me as I walked down the sidewalk. I turned and asked, "Thank you? Whatever for?", he seemed to tear up a bit and said, "For taking the time to talk with an old man." I looked at him square in the eyes and said, "The pleasure was all MINE mi amigo!"


I don't know how much access I'll find in the Baja, but I will update again when possible.

Hasta,


Skip Hunt


(to be continued in part 8/09/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary)

8/02/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.10


(continued from part 8/02/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.9)

Soon Ruby and I were breezing down the last 140 kilometers toward Puerto Vallarta. As we approached the foliage got much more dense as well as the humidity and taxis cars. The cobblestone avenues that make Southern Vallarta so quaint are fairly treacherous with dual-sport tires, and the road directions aren't clearly marked so if you don't know your way around it's pretty easy to be going the wrong way down the street. I rode slow and took my time despite the fact gobs of sweat were now pouring out from under my helmet, down my riding jacket sleeves, and down my legs into my boots. I was really getting pretty faint but a room and a cold bottle of water were just around the corner. First I tried the guy who owns the Big Kahuna coffee shop because last time he'd told me the next time I come he'd rent me one of his apartments for only $90 pesos a night. But given the fact it's "temporada" and busloads of national tourists were swarming all over Vallarta, the price was now $300 pesos. He apologized, and I said, "No problemo, just thought I'd ask." I next visited an ol' pal JR, an ol' Brittish chap who lives a wonderfully simple existence in a small flat in the more "mexican" part of town. This guy never ceases to amaze me. He can trot along hiking through the jungle, riding a mule, fix it own car in the dead heat of the day, then settle down for a nice splif and several stiff drinks... AND STILL carry on a great argument with complete lucidity. Stunning to see the man in action! But I digress.. back to finding a room. JR called up a woman who'd offered an apartment to me for cheap, but the access turned out to be a bit more than I felt putting Ruby through, ie. walking her over a swinging cable bridge, down some stairs, under the bridge, through the mud, and into someone else's patio I only hoped wouldn't mind. Ruby and I probably could've have done it, but if just one little Mexican kid thought it'd be funny to watch the gringo try and keep his bike up while they stomped back and forth on the bridge to make it sway (like the little demons are infamous for), it'd be all she wrote for poor Ruby. She certainly topple off and be taking a swim in the Cuale river just after crushing her skull on the boulders below. No, better just try and get a room at my old standby, Hotel El Azteca, and sort it all out later.

The prices have risen a bit, but they remembered me from my last visit and agreed to a lower rate. And they also welcomed Ruby into the hotel's little foyer. It was a chore getting her in, but with the help of a couple passersby and some motor assistance, we put the ol' girl to rest among the potted vegetation. Ruby seemed ready for a little tropical rest and I was definitely ready for a cold shower. The shower helped for about 2 minutes and I was reminded why so many gringos give Vallarta a miss during the rainy season. The humidity is such that not only do you sweat constantly, but you almost ooze something else more viscous. JR told me it hadn't even rained it several days so there really hadn't been any relief at all. I began to really wonder why the heck I'd left Faro de Bucieras or Chamela?! Vallarta can be a virtual hell hole when the humidity hits peak season and the sun is boiling your brains out.

I popped back over to JR's place and felt it was time for one of those "medicinal" substance treatments. Soon, with the help of JR and whatever "attitude adjusters" he had handy, we were off to meet some locals and visitors at a local seaside bar. Between JR and I sat this nice woman named Pat who was smartly dressed for the occasion and had a button on identifying which "group" she was with. After both JR's and my rambling on about the government and mind control, etc. We decided Pat had probably had enough, and so we changed the subject. Another somewhat odd and older woman sort of floated over like a small cloud towards our table and took seat next to mine. She had a very serious and stern face that contrasted her loose bohemian attire. She didn't seem that interested in communicating with mere mortals and chose to focus on the setting sun instead. I made a comment about this other dude's shirt that was made up of a patchwork of paintings that looked like Diego Rivera's work, and how I liked it. His name was Ira and he said he didn't have a clue who the artist was, but that he just liked the shirt. As soon as the conversation began to dissolve into "art" the woman next to me began to come alive and join the conversation.

She began to tell me of a strange Huichol Indian ritual a girlfriend and she had participated in just down the beach the other night. She said they were two nude gringas watching as the Indians performed a strange ritual for the crops that involved sacrificing a goat. "A goat?" I said. "Yes! And it just came itself over so willfully and peaceful. Like it knew it was giving itself over to the greater good... and did I mention we were nude?". I told her that didn't sound like any ritual I'd ever heard of and that I didn't get the significance of she and her amiga being nude for it. "Well, we had simple robes on, but completely nude underneath." I told her, "Well, that's not exactly nude now is it? I mean, I too am completely nude underneath my t-shirt and shorts, but that's not really the same thing now is it?" She ignored my little quip and continued, "And I was so touched how gently this goat just gave over its life without a sound... well, actually at first the goat got away during the ceremony and the poor Huichol priests were scrambling around in the sand trying to catch it again." At this point I lost it hand laughed uncontrollably out loud at the thought of the goat getting away and disrupting the "show". The woman kept her very serious and stern face and I tried to contain myself long enough for her to finish her touching story.

(to be continued in part 8/02/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.11)

Sunday, October 23, 2005

8/02/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.9


(continued from part 8/02/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.8)

The coastal ride continued to be nothing less than spectacular along an excellent road through thick canopies of shade through mountain curves and nice straight aways. Ruby seemed content with the smooth road and wanted to continue all the way up the coast. But, I realized I'd likely not make it to Puerto Vallarta before dark so I stopped at the first roadside restaurant that sold seafood. After a splendid fish dinner at a little place called La Buda, and a couple cool papaya licuados the owner's brother asked me about Ruby and my journey. We shared less than favorable comments about each of our respective governments and he suggested I should stay on the beach there at Chamela for the night. He claimed their little playita was the most beautiful in the Pacific and that I could just stay on the beach for free. I asked if there where rooms or palapas I could rent and he said no. But that I could just put up my hammock in one of the little palapa restaurants if I wanted. He urged me to at least have a look. And pointed me down a little dirt road off the highway.

Winding down the soft dirt road as it wound around small lagunas full of water lilies and flanked by giant magical looking trees, I finally came out of the little forest onto a small inlet on a bay that hosted 9 small islands. There were about a dozen small fishing boats on the shore in front of 3 or 4 small palapa restaurants. The sun was nearly fixed to set as the light turned a magnificent golden orange. I pulled Ruby under one of the palapas, got off and inspected the premises for hammock worthiness as the owner, Gladis, and her girls watched me. I then asked without even introducing myself,

"Hey, do you folks mind if I hang up my hammock here and sleep for the night?"

They looked at each other and then she said,

"I don't see why not. Let me ask my husband if he thinks it's OK."

Her fisherman husband was lounging in a large colorful hammock and said it was fine with him. I offered to pay for the rent, and they refused. I insisted on at least $30 pesos or so. They thought about 2 seconds and then the husband said,

"Nada! You don't have to pay anything."

His wife moved a couple of the plastic tables and chairs aside from the middle of the restaurant and suggested I hang my hammock in the middle in case it rains I won't get wet. She pointed back down the dirt road into the forest and said there's a small tienda where you can by water and juice if you like, and asked if I could please try to move my hammock by lunchtime before the customers arrive. She told me they'd have fresh fish if I were hungry the next day, and they all loaded up into a truck and drove off leaving me there with the sunset. I couldn't believe it! I found heaven once again! So peaceful and quiet. I jumped onto Ruby to pick up cigarettes, water, and an ice cold Coke and made it back into my hammock just as el Sol was just kissing the horizon.

With only a few miner disruptions of crashing in the cocina that turned out to be 2 or 3 kittens rummaging for bits of fish to eat, and a fisherman or two heading out into the night to collect lobster, I had a peaceful sleep until the sun rose and the next round of fishermen were heading out with octopus spears. I just lounged for most of the morning and Gladis' husband made me coffee before he headed out for octopus himself. After a nice swim, Gladis prepared me a fresh fish lunch. She said the price was $60 pesos, but I explained I only had $50 pesos since I hadn't changed money in awhile. She said, "That's OK. I'll just give you a little smaller fish." and, winked. After I'd finished the delicacy, and handed over my $50 pesos, she said that she was only charging me $40 pesos so I could buy a nice cold Coke with fresh cut limes if I wanted.

Can you imagine?!!! A foreigner rides up to a restaurant in the States, dismounts, inspects the premises, then without even introducing himself asks if he can hang a hammock inside the restaurant to sleep for the night? My guess is that the FBI would be promptly called to investigate a suspicious character and the poor foreigner would be more or less out of luck! I'd bet a pretty peso he would not be welcomed as one of the family and made as comfortable as possible. But, I suppose stranger things have happened. ;-)

(to be continued in part 8/02/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.10)

8/02/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.8


(continued from part 8/02/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.7)

A little later, and just a few short kilometers down the road I followed Irma and her friends to the next playita where there was a single sea turtle laying her eggs. The group crowded around the tortuga as she struggled in the late afternoon sun to dig her way out and back into the sea. One of Irma's friends, a pretty young Mexican woman named Barbara seemed a bit put off from the spectacle and she worried that we were all scaring the poor thing. I snapped a few photos until little Elizabeth came running up to me and deposited a single turtle egg into my palm. I asked, "Uh.. aren't you supposed to leave the eggs be? I mean, aren't they protected here?" Irma said no, and that many of the eggs get scooped up by the locals to sell or to eat. I learned they also sell scrambled sea turtle eggs back at the palapa, but I couldn't bring myself to try them. I took a couple snaps of the egg then deposited it back into the pit the mother had worked so hard to dig and then covered it back up with sand. I entertained the thought that just maybe this little guy would make it and end up as someone's desayuno before he even had a chance. I know that at Maruata the turtles and their eggs are guarded by armed Mexican military, but evidently that level of protection is few and far between. After another vacationing Mexican family came screaming onto the beach with cameras in hand and posed for a few snaps before the ol' bird managed to drag herself back into the surf.. we were all on our way again. We visited a second beach called La Ticqua (I think), and I left the girls there while I took Ruby for a drink in the next town. That beach was also nice with bigger surf, but far too many gringos with surf boards and emply liter beer bottles strewn about for my taste.

That evening Irma informed me that the young Mexican woman, Barbara, was a skilled masseur and that she'd massage me for a bit over an hour for just 100 pesos. Perfect! Laying in the sand, lulled by the late evening breeze, and getting massaged by a hot Latina as the sun set? I can't think of anything better. :-) About that time I was again laying in my hammock when one of the other Mexican visitors came over and gave me a plate of ceviche with tostadas as a gift. I happily accepted the massage date, but after Barbara had finished most of those waiting for massages, it'd had already crept past midnight and I figured she'd be too tired so I allowed myself to slowly sway off into a midnight slumber.

For some reason, I felt I needed to keep moving on. So, after Ruby was all packed up and wiped nice a clean for the road I bid my new friends adios. Barbara said,

"You're leaving?!"

"Yes, I must continue on."

"But, I thought you wanted a massage?"

"I did, but it was so late last night I thought you might be too tired."

"You should have said something, I thought we were disturbing you with our talking so I just went to sleep. You can't leave now. Join me for breakfast."

"Ok, but I really need to be getting on the road if I'm to make Puerto Vallarta before dark."

"I have a massage after I finish breakfast, but you must allow me to give you a massage before you leave."

"Fair enough. I'll wait for a massage and then leave."

Barbara told me she was going to Oaxaca in few days and I asked her if she liked mushrooms. She said she wanted to try them sometime, but felt her head should be right before and not troubled.

"You're troubled? Why?"

"Now I'm not troubled because I'm here on this beautiful beach, but I was before."

"Well, what is your trouble?"

"Come, join me for breakfast!"

"I will if you'll tell me what's troubling you.

"Ok, I'll tell you over breakfast but I must hurry because that man is waiting for his massage."

We chatted for nearly an hour over breakfast and discussed our lives, travel, religion, love lives, etc. She told me she almost married an Israeli man named Jose, and had decided she could settle down and have children with this man. She figured that maybe she'd got too possessive of him and scared him off. This is when she broke down and started to cry.

"I'm sorry, I'm feeling very vulnerable this morning for some reason. Please excuse me."

"That's Ok. How long has it been since you were with Jose?"

"Only 2 months ago, why?"

"Just curious."

About that time Irma came running over to let us know another sea turtle had found its way onto the beach. A large excited crowd had gathered around her and I expected the worst. Surprisingly, one of the boys saw the ancient tortuga's plight and lifted her out of the pit after she'd deposited her eggs. She frantically tried to scoop sand into her pit to cover them and to my amazement all of the Mexicans joined in to help her. All the children and adults scooped mounds of sand into the pit to help cover the precious eggs and then helped her along the softer part of the beach until she could get better traction. We all watched the waves carry her off into the sea and all went back to whatever we'd been doing before.


Barbara and I sat down again with both our spirits lifted by the kindness everyone showed, and then the conversation shifted to world affairs and how she couldn't understand how this man she loved with all her soul could have killed so many Palestinians while serving in the Israeli army. "Such a beautiful man to have such a horrible past.. but, I accepted all of it." I explained to her that militaries are very good at convincing soldiers that killing people is a good idea. I mean really! Would any reasonable person, when told they should go over that hill and kill all of those people they've never met, risk getting killed themselves, and all for something as abstract as "a country"... do you really think any reasonable human being would comply with such a request? I think not, but I was in the military and I know how good they are at distorting the average person's mind set. They must make you believe that you are killing and possibly dying for a much bigger "cause", and that because you are "serving" a far superior cause than the other guy, they must be killed for the greater good. Oftentimes they don't even say in so many words that the enemy is inferior and deserves to die, but they communicate this insidiously by pumping up THEIR cause and superiority to such a level that anyone else MUST be "inferior" and not worthy by default. They also through in a little religion for good measure so that the soldier believes he is not only killing for a greater good and superior cause, but for ol' Jehovah, or Allah as well! How else could any reasonable person live with the fact they'd killed so many who'd previously never hurt anyone?

"So, you see.. I'm sure your Jose is a reasonable enough chap whose mind has been temporarily distorted by the military."

"You think so? How then has the U.S. made so many people appear agree with all of this killing in Iraq?"

I told her that personally, I believe these same techniques that have been historically used to sculpt the minds of young men to make more efficient killing machines has also been used on the American public at large. They are so kept sheltered from anyone else's cultural history from their earliest years in school. They are told they live in the greatest country the human race has ever known. Are instructed to pledge allegiance to their country in the name of God, and how so many have died to protect their freedom. It is drilled into their collective heads for so long how superior they are, that when a very few of them manages to visit another country they tend to just walk all over the locals and profess how inferior this or that country is and how they can't wait to get back to the good ol' U.S.A. Eventually they come to believe through carefully controlled media messaging that they are the true heirs of God's grace and that everyone else is essentially insignificant. So, you see... the same sort of mind sculpting that militaries have effectively used for over a thousand years to build better soldiers has now been used on the public as well. It's not that the people are bad, it's just that their minds have been twisted by an evil and greed lusty agenda.

I believe you can take the same culture, lift it up and retrofit it onto any other group of reasonable folks and you'll get a similar effect. And, it's not the first time either. How do you suppose the Third Reich was able to convince an entire country of otherwise reasonable folks that it was a good idea to exterminate millions of Jews? First cease control of all the newpapers and media outlets and begin a campaign about how superior the German was, and how inferior others were... and that for the good of the superior race and country, many would have to be done away with. Same thing. At least, that's what I think.. but don't listen to me. What the hell do I know? I'm just a dopey guy on a motorcycle who's brains have been likely scrambled by one too many drug experiments, whose screws have likely vibrated loose, and has had a melt-down from the extreme helmet heat. ;-)

During an absolutely magical massage, I thought about Barbara's lost love and asked,

"Do you have Jose's email address?"

"Yes, of course. Why?"

"Do you ever send him a note or give him a call?"

"No, never. I swore I'd never speak to him again."

"I can't tell you how I know this, but I think you should send him an email the first chance you get. But, not as a girlfriend.. just as a friend. And, no matter what don't rush back to wherever he is. Wait. Send another friendly message to let him know you're OK and what you're up to and leave it at that."

"How do you know this?!"

"Like I said, I don't have a clue why I told you that. But in the past I've been correct about such things."

She began to cry tears of joy and thanked me. Said she was going to do it. I told her not to thank me. It wasn't "me" who told her that. I was just passing on information. I tried to pay her for the massage, but she wouldn't take it. I insisted and said $10 for an hour massage on the beach by a beautiful senorita was money well spent! She asked if I wouldn't just spend one more night talking with her, but I noticed a large extended Mexican family with a dozen screaming and laughing ninos had arrived armed with what looked like enough provisions of beer and diapers to last a week. I said, "No, I think I'll move on.. something tells me our peaceful little beach is going to be a little more noisy tonight." She looked around and grimaced. "Yes, I see what you mean. I think I might try to move on South before it gets too late myself." I bid her fond adios, mounted Ruby and took off into the soft sand before Ruby began to get too jealous. ;-)

(to be continued in part 8/02/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.9)

Saturday, October 22, 2005

8/02/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.7


(continued from part 8/02/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.6)

Along this coast you could stop at a completely different playita about every 15 minutes. Each one unique and some with no more than a single palapa restaurant and nothing else as far as the eye can see. Soon I came upon a sign for Fara de Bucieras and had it claimed to be one of the most beautiful little beaches on the Michoacan coast. And, because I only had maybe another hour or so of light left I discussed it with Ruby and she seemed content to take a little siesta in the shade. The little stone road snaked around and through a small village then turned into a sand passage running along the beach with a few palapa restaurants and tiendas. Poor Ruby was having a bit of go staying upright in the soft sand patches, what with her dual-sport high heels and all, she did the best she could and I propped her up to inspect the beach. The sun was about to set and the sweet little cove was rimmed with soft golden sand and a little stone island reachable via a short wade across a sand bar. And, seated crooked atop the little island was a simple little restaurant. I went back to told Ruby to relax, we'd be staying here a night or two.

I picked a palapa at the end of the beach assuming it'd be the most quiet. Negotiated a rate of $30 pesos for the night, hung my hammock next to Ruby under the main palapa, and settled in. Ahhh! Peace at last. Until, the workers who'd been building a new tienda next door started hammering and sawing again. No problemo, it was getting late and perhaps they'd soon finish for the day. Then, the family I rented the palapa space from had a couple little ninos who felt compelled to sing tunes at the top of their lungs inbetween fits of crying and screaming. No sweat, likely the little tykes would be put to bed soon. Then mamacita cranks up the TV I hadn't seen propped up on a stack of crates just a few feet from me. I guess it was time for her stories, and in order to fight the pesky noise of ocean wave, she had to blast the TV at full volume. Oh well, guess it was time for a walk. Eventually, when all had quieted down, I settled back into my hammock to let the waves lull me to sleep. That is, until the breeze ceased and the first wave of mosquitos descended upon me. I scrambled for my repellent and discovered I had just one squirt left in the bottle. And, without the breeze it was now quite balmy so it was either endure mosquitos or slather myself in the only repellent I had left which was mixed with oily sunscreen. I opted for greasy sweating over the onslaught of mosquitos and finally drifted off.

I don't know how long I actually got to sleep, but as soon as the sun began his ascent Papa decides he needs to catch up on the news and twists the TV volume past tolerable volume and into distortion territory. And, it wasn't even 7AM yet! Time to move on, or at least to a different palapa down the beach. I slung my salty greasy self out of the hammock and stumbled down the beach half awake until I hit about the middle and sat for a cup of coffee at one of the little restaurants on the beach. I'd stopped there the night before when I went for a walk and although the restaurant was closed, the woman sympathized with my abdominal malady and agreed to fix me a couple cups of herba buena tea to settle it a bit. As I sat I noticed a few other travelers were enjoying a nice and quiet mid morning sleep in their hammocks. And, because this spot was up on a ridge of sand looking down on the beach the wind coming off the Pacific was much stronger, ie. no mosquitos! I nearly ran back to tell Ruby the good news and within minutos I strapped everything half-packed onto Ruby and in no more that 20 minutes, I was again laying in my hammock caressed my mid morning sea breeze.

A bit later a nice Mexican woman named Irma who was camping under the same palapa with her little daughter Elizabeth came over and told me about all the sea turtles they'd seen the night before on a nearby beach. Muchas tortugas! Muchas! She asked if I would want to join her and a friend for a short drive down to the next playita to see the tortugas. I said sure, but that I'd prefer to follow with Ruby. She said I could ride in their car if I wanted, but if I just wanted to ride the moto she understood. We chatted for awhile after that as she told me about the area and of the sunken ships just off coast you could snorkle to. After she'd broken the ice and gone off down to chat with her friend, her little chubby daughter Elizabeth stayed behind and stared at me for a good while. Charming little girl, but a little bit more touchy feely than I'm accustomed to. I answered most of the barrage of questions she had for me that were as intriguing as, "How much did your Zippo cost? Where did you buy? Do you think they sell them in Guadalajara? Can I have yours?, etc." Eventually her mother graciously called her away and I slipped off for a little nap in the hammock. But, that bit of peace was short-lived as well. Elizabeth put her little face about an inch from mine as I slept, then growled like a tiger at the top of her lungs. Scared the tacos outta me and rattled off something profane in English. I was embarassed at what I'd said to little Elizabeth until I realized she only spoke Spanish. I tried to slip back to sleep, but Elizabeth wouldn't have it. She just plopped herself right on top of me and nestled herself into the hammock with me like a kitten. I just closed my eyes and pretended to sleep until she finally got bored and moved on. ;-)

(to be continued in part 8/02/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.8)

Thursday, October 20, 2005

8/02/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.6


(continued from part 8/02/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.5)

After a beautiful ride over to Ixtapa to watch the sunset, I put Ruby to sleep after tightening up all her bits and pieces, and set out to find some local seafood. Les' words echoed and I decided that perhaps I should do a bit more to support the local economy too, so I located one of the touristy seafood restaurants that lined the beach. I paid 5 times more for the meal I had, and the waiter was so pleasant I gave him an exceptionally nice tip and felt good doing so. That is, until about 5 hours later when I couldn't stop going to the bano, and felt quite ill. I was determined to continue South and hoped that the abdominal pains and nausea would ease up once I was distracted by the ride. Not such a wise decision. By the time I hit Lazaro Cardenas, the sun was boiling my brain inside my helmet, the abdominal pains had become more severe, and I felt like I was going to toss my tacos right into my face shield. If that weren't enough, the dusty exhaust of Lazaro Cardenas was making me need to sneeze, and being afraid a good sneeze would bring my "support the local economy" seafood up with it. Not pleasant. And to add insult to injury, the town of Lazaro Cardenas is an absolute armpit. At least the part I road through. And everytime I stopped for directions the temperature inside my helmet would rise a few degrees and I'd begin to feel faint. I thought, "If I could just make it through this god forsaken town and back into the sea breeze, I could hang on a while longer. But, I ended up continually going in circles. I was so frustrated at one point that I was literally screaming in my helmet, "Where is the f@#king highway? Why are all the road signs painted over with green so that nothing is marked?!!!" I uttered several more profanities at full volume until I looked over to my left and saw a truck full of military personal in full gear with machine guns. Actually, I think they were more startled by the screaming gringo on a motorcycle than I was from them and it amused me mildly.

I would even pull up to an intersection and ask a group of people sitting at a covered taco stand which direction the highway North toward Puerto Vallarta and would get 3 completely different answers and one person saying just ask a taxi driver. A taxi driver!? Never!? But soon I swallowed my pride and after an hour of going in circles was set back on course. Finally, Ruby and I could breath again and the coastline made for a brilliant diversion. But there was still this nagging gastonomic issue to contend with. The breeze helped sure enough, but I was still pretty miserable and had to pull over. I spotted a simple palapa restaurant seemingly in the middle of nowhere sitting atop a cliff overlooking dramatic bluffs below. I spotted a hammock or two, and an outhouse toilet. Seemed like a pleasant enough spot to get grounded for a while, and when I asked the woman if she had any herba buena tea for my stomach, she pulled a pot off the ground growing various plants and asked if I wanted her to prepare it for me. Ahhhhh!!!! Soon the pains were subsiding and I was laying carelessly in a hammock overlooking the sea. I could have stayed there longer and would have until the woman's husband was trying to convince me to go with him up into the mountains to get some gold and silver. He said, "The hills are full of it and if you have cash, wouldn't you rather trade it for gold!?" "No, I have no use for gold. But, why don't you just carry your load of gold and silver to the city and get a buyer there?" He stammered at my curve ball and answered, "I can't get it by myself, it's deep in a well and I would need your help. But, if you don't have any use for it I'll just have to figure something else out."

A silence fell and I took the opportunity to get back on the road. One last visit to the bano for good luck, and Ruby and I were sailing down the coastline again. Dropping down to straight flat parts that hug the coastline, then twisting back up into mountain passes covered with a canopy of trees for shade. With the exception of getting bogged down by the occasional semi, bus, or dump truck overloaded with rocks or coconuts (some falling off the back). It was a fantastic ride. Getting around the trucks isn't such a problem since then bog down to a crawl on the inclines, it's just that the blind curves get pretty tight with no much room to shoot past them without risk of hitting someone head on from the other side. Not only that, but you also have to be very wary of people passing blindly from the other side as they often do and allowing yourself a few inches to get out of the way. Another tip is to be careful following too close behind the taller trucks. They scrape the top of the canopy and send fairly good sized broken branches with leaves crashing down on you. It's not too bad once you get past the trucks and get back into your rhythm curving left, right, left, etc. It's really kind of a smooth rhythm you have to get into until after an hour or so and you've forgotten you're not the only soul on this road and are startled by a huge semi rounding the same tight curve from the other side and he's using half of your lane too! Tends to wake one up from the ecstatic hypnosis. ;-)

The name Maruata came up on a sign. I'd been there before and the coves there are stunning for sure. But I was determined to stay at a new beach this time, and as I recall, Maruata is very popular with the stoned, bongo-playing, mota smokers... as well as the mosquitos. So I just blew right past without a stop. I still was enjoying the clarity of mind without "smoke" or booze and wanted to keep riding that train a bit longer. During the long hours of thought, I decided my problem had mostly been habitual. Using anything to divert my attention from regular life every chance I could instead of just taking it head on. I also figured this is where the problem is, not in the use of various plants, but in their habitual use. I realized that oftentimes I'm partake just for no reason at all. I can't deny that I have certainly enjoyed benefits from occasional "plant" use. And, a nice drink every now and then or a fine glass of wine definitely seemed almost therapudic when taken in moderation and used to enhance a given life moment. However, learning to recognize when one is using such "remedies" for a specific and controlled beneficial purpose, or just using them for the hell of it habitually without regard to purpose would prove to be the real challenge. For the moment I was content to stay clear headed and enjoy all the current textures of my life. I can understand how some might find refuge in dulling their senses from time to time in order to take a break from real life for awhile, but I can no longer understand how people can go to so much trouble to get to some remote beach, jungle dwelling, or mountain hut... and instead of soaking up every ounce of smell and sensation, they choose to dullen their every sense as quickly as possible. I've done it myself, and the only answer is that it's because I'd habitually learned to dullen myself for ANY occasion instead of just the most severe when it might be appropriate. But laying in a hammock with the cool breeze caressing every inch of skin while you're watching the sun explode into heavenly fire as he slips past the boundless horizon? I think I'll take THAT glorious cocktail... straight up.

(to be continued in part 8/02/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.7)

8/02/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.5


(continued from part 8/02/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.4)

If you are trying to make good time and cover miles, and you have a choice between a toll road (cuota) or free one (libre), take the cuota! The roads are better than most in the States, are straight with gentle curves, and most of the time you can cut your travel time by at least half if not more. It's not that the free ones are all that horrible, though some are, it's that they pass through small towns with topes. Oftentimes the topes aren't even marked, so if you see any evidence that humans dwell anywhere, you can count on a few hidden topes to slow down for. Sometimes I'd see little kids waiting alongside the bigger unmarked topes with hopes of getting a nice spark show when some unwary traveler hit the damn thing at 70mph. Luckily, I'd always see them just in time to at least stand up on the pegs to take most of the impact. Poor Ruby didn't seem to mind the jolt every now an then, so we just sailed along leaving disappointed children in the dust.

The toll road toward the coast was amazing as the mountains got less craggy, with less foilage. They seemed to roll around each other with larger masses shooting out of lakes that were rimmed by soft green marshes. I hadn't even noticed that Ruby had crept up to 95mph on the straight parts when some pendejo in a Dodge Stealth came bearing up on my tail within feet. It was a four-lane so I don't know why he didn't just go around. He backed off a little and I held at 95mph, as fast as I wanted to go. Until he came blasting by me at what had to be at least 120mph. I guess he was just showing off? Or wanted to race? No clue, but I was just glad he was gone before he ran me off the road. Until a bit later. He must have stopped for some juice or something, because he came right up on me again! Did the same exact thing. Maybe he was just being macho? Or drunk? Anyway, he eventually got tired of his little cat and mouse game and blew right past me again at an even higher velocity. How fast will those Dodge cars go anyway? Then, I finally got to see the thing I've been waiting for all my life.... passing some dimwit who shouldn't be allowed on the road explaining himself to the Mexican highway patrol! Yes! I wanted to slow down and laugh at him, but I didn't want the cop to catch on he could have caught a gringo instead. ;-)

The road gradually dropped in altitude and the curves began more gentle flanked by mountains as far as you could see. The scenery began to hypnotize me with it's constant sprawling beauty. Until I began one long curve and became disoriented. My mind stammered while it tried to figure out why all the mountains to the left had suddenly disappeared into a hazy white nothingness. And then the smell of the sea hit me and realized I'd finally hit the coast. Only a few more kilometers to Lazaro Cardenas, but Ruby seemed to be in some sort of smooth ecstasy and so she persuaded me to pull over for a smoke and rethink my destination. After a quick scan of the map I noticed Zihuatenejo to the South was only another 60 or so kilometers and I still had a few hours of daylight and no rain, so South we went.

You would think that I would have learned my lesson that the new places held much more for me than the old familiar ones, and I'd already been to Zihua a couple times before. But Ruby insisted and I already knew of a decent cheap room with a place for Ruby as well. Everything remained as I remembered and I found hotel Miriam without problems. Only if felt like the town was know less vibrant than I remembered. I had a cup of coffee at this little stall of a cafe that exports fine coffee and chatted with an American guy, Les, with a long ponytail and a substantial beer ponch who said he'd lived there for 5 years. He went on about how his ex-wife, a Brazilian gal, had taken most everything from him and that his restaurant had gone down the tubes due to economic depression. He claimed that the kinds of tourist that used to come to Zihua were getting older now and opting for the nearby touristy, all-inclusive resort town of Ixtapa. And he continued about how the gringos didn't want to pay a reasonable price for good food. Said, they had no desire to help out the local economy, bla, blah. I answered that the folks here don't seem nearly as friendly as they used to and bordered on rude. And, that maybe if they were a bit more cheery, spruced up some of the streets, and offered a fair price for things without constantly trying to gouge the tourists.. they might want to come back and stay. He agreed the folks weren't as friendly as they once were, but that they'd been burned one to many times by gringos. He didn't elaborate, and I took the opportunity to bid him farewell. Before I left I recommended a couple restaurants for seafood in case I wanted to support the local economy.

The next day Ruby and I went out for ride and up along the road that overlooks Zihua's bay to give her chain a nice cleaning with a fresh coat of lube. While I was getting Ruby all sorted out, I noticed a couple of taxi drivers sitting nearby drinking beers. They asked what was wrong with my moto, and I told them nothing.. that I was just putting oil on the chain. They looked puzzled and asked, "Why? Is it making noise?" I said, "No, it's just something you're supposed to do every now and then to make sure it lasts longer." They seemed befuddled with the idea of preventive maintenance and went back to swilling their beers. Until I asked them,

"Are you guys both taxi drivers?"

"Si! Both of us. Why?"

"Because I'd really like to know what the problem with taxi drivers is. Why are you guys so inhuman when it comes to driving... especially motorcycles!"

They laughed and just said it was part of the culture. That's just the way it is.

"Taxi drivers are the most stupid people in Mexico. I know, I am one! They don't have to have a special license or anything so most aren't the best drivers around."

"But, don't they realize that if they crash into someone there're likely only going to break their car, but if they crash into me it'll likely break ME?!"

"That's just the culture my friend. We get paid by how many fares we can pick up in a day, so the faster we can get to where we're going, the more money we make. It's not personal, we treat the Mexican drivers with little respect as well."

I watched as the other driver who didn't speak English down the last of what must've been his 5th beer and tossed it down the hillside.

"Hey, I've got a novel idea, do you suppose if the taxi drivers didn't drink mucho cervezas while they're working, they might be able to drive a little better?"

He looked down at the beer in his hand, finished it, belched, and excused himself. Said he had to get back to work.

(to be continued in part 8/02/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.6)

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

8/02/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.4


(continued from part 8/02/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.3)

Ruby was beginning to get a little irritable and reminded me of my promise to take her out for a little dirty time. So, I took the little local map the hotel gave me and we went off to find some dirt. Patzcuaro sits slightly above a lovely lake that has 3 or four small islands on it. One of the islands, Janitzio, juts out of the middle of the lake like a grand pyramid with colorful tumbling block buildings stacked haphazard around it's base with a giant stature reaching up to the sky at it's peak. There's a ferry you can take to the island, but Ruby wouldn't hear of me just leaving her there while I explored Janitzio, and because I could see through my telephoto lens that the island likely looked more appealing from a distance than up close, I let Ruby have her way and we set off to ride completely around the lake to check out all the small towns along the way. After a few kilometers the road turned to a single lane dirt road that hugged the edge of cliffs dropping down to the lake's shore. Ruby was in heaven! Dirt, mud, sand, stone, erosion, etc. Not too difficult but enough to make it interesting. Now she had her dirty makeup and let me be while she purred along. The road eventually turned to pavement and passed through several small towns and villages along the way. It must've been market day or something, because the larger towns where bustling with vendors and pedestrians.

The road turned into a very nice new blacktop that curved away from the lake and rose up into the mountains. I could feel the temperature drop as we climbed, but the curves were so fun to ride, I wasn't really paying attention to where we were going. I began to get a bit concerned when we'd gone several kilometers without seeing any signs, or gas stations and I was starting to get low. We had already passed far beyond one of the volcanoes and the road didn't show any signs of turning back to continue around the lake. I decided to take the first left and try to find someone to ask, but the road lead me through farmland down a very treacherous road full of potholes and littered with cows, donkeys, goats, and horses just wandering all over the road freely. At one point there were half a dozen cows just laying on the road and they didn't seem the slightest bit concerned that I was trying to pass. I crept on them slowly, until the motor startled a couple of the calves and they started to dart every which way. I just kept riding slow to conserve gas and was really starting to panic. I was far enough away from the last gas station I'd seen that I knew I wouldn't make it back if I backtracked. So, I just continued with my fingers crossed. Eventually, I saw a rusted, bent road sign with the name covered in grafitti and I could make out the name of a town that was on the lake. Only 30 more kilometers, so it looked like I would make it.

I wound around gorgeous farmland until I arrived at a little town overlooking the lake. It was really starting to get colder at that higher altitude, but I could now see the town ahead I knew had gas, so I didn't mind the cold so much. ;-) I believe the last town before you finish the loop and land back at Patzcuaro is also sort of an island or peninsula where you can drive across and get very near the edge of the neighboring island of Janitzio. And, that island is surrounded by smooth lush fields of green dotted with horses, herds of goats, and the color of farmers tending their crops. I stunning place to say the least.

The next day we set out for Uruapan for the afternoon, and then planned to continue toward the coast. The ride was a bit of a drone, and when we arrived I again didn't see much reason to stay. Not that it isn't a nice place, but it just looked like any other Mexican town with a little industry. Granted I only traversed 3 or 4 boulevards around the centro, but never saw anything that compelled me to stay. After a few quesadillas and coffee for me, and a full tank of 93 octane for Ruby, we were on our way again. I was told and had read that there is no high octane gas in Mexico, but that has not been the case. Most of the Pemex stations have 87 octane "Magna" and 93 octane "Premium". I was worried this was leaded gas, but was assured it was not. I've now burned it for 2000 miles without problems so I guess it's fine. Even when I hit the occasional town that only has "Magna", I've always had a half tank of Premium to mix with it so fuel hasn't been a problem at all.

A guy at the quesadilla stand told me that if I take the toll road (cuota), it would only take me 3hrs to hit the coast, but if I took the free (libre) road the trip would be 6-7hrs. I followed his directions as best as I could interpret and after passing a beautiful national park with dramatic cliffs dropping down to a lake I realized this was probably the highlight of Uruapan, but I'd seen enough mountains and lakes and was hungry for the smell of the sea. Several kilometers later I still hadn't found the autopista so I pulled over at this little tienda shack. A VERY wasted young Mexican dude stumbled up to me to offer assistance and from what I could make out from all the slurring, I had to head back to Uruapan several kilometers back to get the toll road. Then and old dude sauntered up who appeared to be a little lit up himself, but handling it better. The two argued as the old fella said I could just ride a few more kilometers and rejoin the toll road, but the younger guy insisted I had to go back. I decided to go with the older more sober man's advice and continued. I don't know who was right because the road did eventually rejoin the toll road, but it was many kilometers before it did. Granted the scenery was dramatic with narrow bridges that passed over giant gorges and rivers, with twisty curves through lush mountains, and I was tempted to just stay on the free road but was determined to make the coast by nightfall.

(to be continued in part 8/02/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.5)

8/02/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.3


(continued from part 8/02/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.2)

I noticed the rain had let up a bit to a sprinkle so I decided to make a run for the town and try to get a room pronto before the next wave hit. I handed the woman a 50 peso note to pay for my refresco, and even that seemed to piss her off that I didn't have anything smaller. So, after about 15 minutes of her running around trying to break the 50 note, it started to rain again. Thanks a lot Senora! Not a heavy rain yet, but just that rain that comes like preamble to a bigger onslaught. Each place I stopped wanted fairly high rates and even one had printed on their sign that a room was $120 pesos. A bargain! But when I pulled up the woman looked around and then told me the room is $250 pesos. "What? You sign says $120. Why does your sign say $120 if the price is $250?" She shrugged and said she didn't know why the sign said that, but today the price is $250. So, I kept on going toward the centro where the road turned into large cobblestone. Tough to ride on, but I was getting used to it. Until, the second wave of rain came and turned the streets into small rivers of mud. And, hiding all the pot-holes. I managed to keep the bike up and after realizing most of the budget hotels didn't have garages, I spotted one that had a lobby that opened up to the street. The sign said a room was $300, so I asked the woman where I might find something more economica. She was very friendly and asked if I was by myself. When I said yes she said the room is only $150 pesos a night. "Great! But, where can I put the moto?" "Just wheel it into the lobby, there is someone here all day and night."

The next trick was trying to get Ruby up a large curb into the lobby. Not such a problem with the motor to assist, but what I hadn't counted on was how slick polished terracotta tile can be when it's wet! Luckily, a passerby saw my plight and helped me over the hump. Ahhhh!! Now I could relax for a bit. The room even had a TV with loads of stations. I found that many of them were soft-core porn. Score!!!

I'm actually glad I got stopped abruptly by the rain in Patzcuaro because it wasn't anything like I expected. Yes, it's a tourist town for sure. But, I don't think I saw enough gringo tourist to count on one hand. Most were nationals and the city is really quite attractive with it's winding cobblestone streets, and all the buildings are painted the exact same color scheme, ie. sort of a brownish red ochre color up to about eye level, then white to the tiled terracotta roof. Even all the lettering is the same typeface with the first letter or two in the same ochre color, and the remaining in black. Sounds boring I know, but its really very stunning. Without all the buildings being painted every color imaginable like many Mexican towns, it gives your eyes fewer distractions and allows you to see the "texture" of the place a bit better.

The street food scene in Patzcuaro is vibrant with much variety. After few tacos, and some other eats I can't remember the name of, I settled down for a coffee on one of the smaller plazas. They had turned out all of the lights and fellows in traditional Indian garb were playing a game that resembled hockey, but the puck was a large hunk of firey coal. In the complete darkness is was spectacular. Eventually, two of the player lined up two balls of fire and smacked them with their hockey sticks sending them sailing about 50 meters to land in a fountain. I kinda hoped the fountain was full of kerosine and the fire balls would ignite the surface as a final punctuation to the performance, but they just sizzled out and that was that. Most of the other spectators started moving on as did I. Until they started lighting off those massive canon-like fireworks. I was only several feet away from the first one when the deafening boom nearly caused me to have to do laundry one day early. ;-) So, the show wasn't over yet! I moved off to a bench to enjoy the fireworks going off until one of the canon payloads exploded prematurely only about 10 meters high. The sparks and colorful fire streamed out into the crowd and I braced myself for disaster. I waited for a second, then came nothing but laughter. I didn't see anyone rolling around on the ground to put themselves out, nor did I see anyone running around screaming with their hair on fire, so I guess all was good. In the States I think there would've been much more panic and screams of terror, but here it was just an amusing foible.

Soon, the plaza lights came back up and I took a little stroll around the city. I'm not sure what it is, but this city has sort of a subtle creepiness about it at night. Not sure if it's because of my prior knowledge that this city is famous for it's day of the dead festivities, but there was a certain intangible queer feeling walking about the streets at night. For this, I think I liked this city much better at night. During the day it just seemed like any other tourist city, but at night it became something quite different for me. Something that stimulated my imagination and gave me a pleasant uneasiness. Ghosts? Quien sabe.

(to be continued in part 8/02/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.4)

Saturday, October 15, 2005

8/02/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.2


(continued from part 8/02/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.1)

One thing I've noticed thus far is that the travel info I get from male Mexicanos tends to be far more accurate than that I get from the female counterparts. Not sure why that is. Maybe the females don't drive as much but are too proud to admit they don't know? In any case, the info I got from the hotel dude was dead-on accurate down to the travel time. The ride toward Morelia was a wonderful curvy road in parts, with the lush countryside punctuated by volcanos and gentle lakes. Although most roads give you know shoulder to pull off on at all, some give you a half-lane. I'm guessing that the Mexican department of transportation felt that if they gave people a whole lane as a shoulder they'd just use it as a passing lane. Here is where I discovered why I've been told I should be able to get to where I'm going much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. A half-lane is plenty to use for passing on a bike and makes it easy to get around the loaded dump trucks and semis that slow down to a crawl on the inclines. A word of caution though... you never know when these half shoulder lanes will just stop abruptly, or if there's some campesino shoveling rocks, or a pile of coconuts just sitting there... so, you really need to use this short-cut sparingly. ;-)

I've gradually been getting a bit more cajones when it comes to riding in Mexican traffic now. If finally dawned on me that I was riding according to the U.S. system and expecting everyone else to do the same. Once I realized that it was I who was riding outside of the established system, it began to make sense why if was so treacherous. Don't get me wrong, driving in the cities is still treacherous, but the going is a bit better when you approach it more like dodge ball... just looking for a hole big enough to slip through while constantly dodging obstacles and other vehicles hurling toward you on every side. As soon as you stop assuming that everyone else is NOT following the rules you're accustomed to and just concentrate on not getting hit, the ride begins to make more sense.

Slipped into Morelia without problems and had intended on stopping for a bit, but I really didn't see much of interest to bother with. I'm sure there are very nice parts of the city that I'll have to explore at some other date. However, I was making good time and Ruby wanted to keep on going to stretch her legs out on the toll highway to Patzcuaro. I might have done better to see a bit in Morelia because as soon as Ruby and I were heading straight down the nice autopista to Patzcuaro, we could see a huge black storm in front of us that appeared to be hanging right over the city. Lightening danced all over the region as the temperature suddenly dropped. It was only 50 or so more kilometers so I figured we might make it and find a room just before the storm hit. Wishful thinking. Just 8 km outside of the city the rain came down hard with a fairly harsh wind. I pulled over to a taco stand to wait it out and was met by some Indian women who didn't seem to like the fact I'd pulled over at all. I figured maybe they think I'm not going to buy something, so I ordered a Penafiel refresco straight off. That didn't seem to appease them, so I asked if they had any seafood since their little sign said "mariscos". They said no, but there was a huge plate that looked like it was full of seafood. I asked, "what's this?" and they said, "Pulpo" (octopus). I asked, "can I get an order of pulpo?" but they said, "no."

"Well, what DO you have?"

"Tacos"

"How much are tacos?"

"15 pesos"

"15?! for one taco, or an order?"

"15 for just one."

Ok, I gave up. These ladies didn't like the looks of me, or thought I was stupid, or they just plain didn't feel up to fixing some tacos. But, it began to look like Patzcuaro was going to be unfriendly and expensive if a roadside taco stand with nothing more than a blue plastic tarp for a roof wanted 15 pesos for one little taco. I'd hoped I could just blow into Patzcuaro, take a few snaps, and keep on going to Uruapan to avoid the whole touristy scene. I still can't figure out why the more successful a town is with tourism, the more rude the locals seem to be. Seems like they'd be thrilled someone was coming to spend more money in their town.

(to be continued in part 8/02/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.3)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

8/02/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.1


(continued from part 7/20/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.6)

Forgive me father for I have sinned! It has been 13 days since my last trip report. If you aren't up to reading through all this drivel, feel free to scroll down to the end and click on the link to see a new random photo gallery sampling from this trip.

I drifted and floated about Guanajuato's craggy disjointed streets with architecture that resembles a hodge-podge of children's colored building blocks for a couple more days, looking for the spark that had given my spirit a jolt in the past. I never found it. Just wandered around the city like a ghost peeking down familiar alleyways looking for my ol' muse of yesteryear. I don't think the city has really changed that much, and the gringo infestation seemed to just be a weekend fluke. The days afterward were pretty much the Guanajuato I once knew, but she was no longer dancing for me. Strange though, I always thought the place held some inherent mystique that stimulated my psyche. Now, I think it must have been my own state of mind and the unfamiliarity of the place.

It rained off and on for most of the time I spent in Guanajuato, so going for a ride was out of the question. I could have handled a little wet pavement, but the obstacle corse that passes for Guanajuato streets kept my desires at bay. Besides, I was completely blocked in and couldn't get the bike out if I wanted. So, during one of the stronger late afternoon storms I pulled Ruby out from under her awning and decided to give her a little bath. I pulled most of the dried insectos from her hair, scraped off most of the road grime and mud off her ample frame, and buffed her to the best sheen I could with an old towel the hotel loaned me and rain water. Later, Ruby whispered to me that she felt quite uncomfortable being so clean. Said it somehow felt "false" to her and that she longed to dig her heels back into the sweet soil. I think ol' Ruby is a dirty girl at heart and promised as soon as we hit the next town I'd find a little dirty playtime for her. ;-)

Finally, I got a dry window and made my move out of Guanajuato. I got directions and travel estimates from this guy at the hotel and it looked like I might make it all the way to Uruapan before nightfall, with a stop in Morelia and Patzcuaro weather permitting. Essentially, I just decided to drive West and stop as soon as the rain started coming down. Based on the travel estimates, it looked like I had time to get a couple cups of coffee at Spanglish. It was supposed to open at 8AM but no one was there. Not so unusual for Mexico. They sort of start whenever they get around to it. I came back an hour later and still no one was there but a young gringa backpacker. We chatted for a bit and I asked why she had a giant bottle of tequila strapped to her backpack alongside running shoes. She claimed to have started that bottle 2 weeks ago and couldn't get around to finishing it, but something told me it was intended more for show. You know? Like she's one tough gringa and you better not mess with her sort of thing? Anyhow, she seemed like a good kid and told me about all the places she planned on going all the way down to Costa Rica. I explained that I'd been to all those places and that she was going to have to be doing a lot of backtracking to hit all those locales. I doubted she could see ALL of them in the time she had, so I offered suggestions on possible routes that would give her the most varied route, but not be so rushed. Every word I uttered she quickly scrawled into her notebook with markings on her map. She explained that she and a friend would be traveling some of it together and that they were going to Real de Catorce for peyote.

"Oh! I just came from there. I can give you some tips if you like?"

"Excellent! My friend has been there before, but any advice is certainly appreciated!"

About that time her friend arrived. I twenty-something gringa with dreadlocks, tattoos, piercing, etc. And, she looked at me like I was the lowest form of gringo tourist she'd ever seen. Would barely make eye contact and carried herself like she was some sort of bohemian princess. Yeah, I remember being like that a few years ago. Back then I thought I knew everything and I wasn't about to kill any time chit-chatting with some "tourist". The other girl quickly put away the notebook she'd been scrawling my advice into so that her friend couldn't see.

"Your friend tells me you two are heading for Real de Catorce for peyote?

"Yeah, what of it?"

"Oh nothing, I just came from there and have done the same thing many times. I was just going to offer some tips."

"No need. I've been there before and my friends and I just take one of the jeeps to Estacion' Catorce, then out into the desert."

"That's what everybody does, and the policia know it. You'd be better off going on down the road another 5km where the police won't bother you."

"Ok, whatever."

At first I was a little put off by her attitude, but I realized I probably would've had the same attitude just a few years ago. So, I just sat with my coffee and shut up while the dreadlock girl tried to tell me the guy that told me I could get to Uruapan in just 4-5hrs was absolutely wrong. She said it took her over 6 hours to Morelia and there was no way. I reminded her that I'm on a motorcycle and that I didn't have to take the bus routes etc. But, she still insisted my info was wrong. So, back to my coffee I went. ;-) Although I understood the girl's attitude, it still annoyed me somewhat, so I walked right up to their table and stated,

"I know you probably have everything figured out on your own and don't care to hear anything I have to say, but let me at least share one little piece of advice regarding your little 'trip'. About 6 years ago or so, I'd listened to various hippies tell me that the best way to do peyote was to fast for several days. I'd heard this over and over again and decided to give it a try.

Long story short, after about 10 days of digesting the cactus alone without food, I started losing mucho blood out my posterior region and eventually lost over 60% off my total volume. By the time I barely made it back to the states I had to be rushed to intensive care for a blood transfusion. I was told eventually, that it's very important to eat a good meal before putting something that harsh and poisonous in your system and that fasting while digesting poisonous stricnine-laden plants was too much for the human body to take. I just thought I'd share that little bit of advice with you so that you at least eat a few tortillas or something before you partake."

This time her eyes were locked on mine the entire time and it looked as if her face began to lose a bit of color. There was a little delay after the story, and then she pulled her jaw back up and timidly thanked me for the advice. "No sweat! I guess if you say my travel time estimates are severely off I better get going. Buen viaje!" And, off I went.

(to be continued in part 8/02/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.2)

Photo Gallery Mexican Motorcycle Diary 3


The link above is to a little online photo gallery from the first leg of the trip. You'll need your monitor res settings at at least 1024x768. Disfruta!

ps. next gallery presentation coming after a few more miles down the road.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

7/20/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.6


(continued from 7/20/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.5)

Fortunately, I must have just hit Guanajuato on a night there were more gringos in town, because now (three days later) the town seems closer to it's usual Mexican ambiance. However, the place now seems far too familiar to me. I'm usually arriving in this town either from the North with a little peyote still tumbling around my brain, or from the South with a few mushrooms still alight in my mind. Perhaps that's where the inspiration was coming from? I don't know, but now all I see is a tourist town. Yes, it's still a quaint and colorful montage of rich sights and sounds, but without booze, and a relatively drug free brain this time it feels like nothing more. Has the magic gone? Or, am I only just now seeing Guanajuato for what she really is? Again, I don't know... but it's now been 3 days and instead of being inspired by the place.. all I can think about is hoping for a dry clear day to get back on the open road and move on. I was planning a stop in Morelia or Patzcuero on the way to the coast, but I fear those towns will be mostly the same dreary tourist fare that Guanajuato seems now to be. Perhaps I will just head West and stop somewhere along the way in a small town whenever the mood strikes me and my bum reaches the point where a mere leg-stretching no longer relieves the spiked nervy pain. ;-)

I'll likely head out tomorrow or the next day and don't know where I'll stop next, but I'll certainly stop off in Puerto Vallarta to visit some pals for a few days and will update then. I'm sorry that my excitement had languished a bit, but I'm determined to face at least the next few days without the obsession of drogas or booze. I desperately want to wipe away the facade and rediscover Mexico and my life anew. I don't know where this desire is coming from. Perhaps it's the fact I'm reading Aleister Crowley's "Diary of a Drug Fiend" and it's at the dreary abysmal part of the story where the main characters are spiraling downward from a heroin and cocaine infused honeymoon in 1920's Europe. Quien Sabe. All I know is I have very little care for anything else and seek nothing more than pure clarity of thought.

Until then, hasta luego!

Skip Hunt

(to be continued in part 8/02/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.1)

7/20/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.5


(continued from part 7/20/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.4)

The rain isn't the main problem. The problem is that in Mexico they generally don't have efficient ways to get rid of massive quantities of rain quickly off the road like they do in the U.S. so the water just stays on the road and you're often riding in a foot or two of rushing water. This problem is compounded by the fact that Mexican taxi drivers evidently have little or no respect for human life and don't care you are only on two wheels in the rain. Either that, or they consider motorcycles a nuisance that need to be forced off the road and out of their hurried way. Why are they in such a hurry anyway? Most didn't even seem to have fares. Add to that combination, the fact that Guanajuato's city roads are a series of one-way cobblestone passages that form a senseless spider web of tunnels that run underneath the city and through snaking narrow above ground passages. If you miss your turn, you'll be riding around in circles trying to find your way back. Add to that, the old cobblestone roads and sections of cement are coated with ages of oil and various motor drippings making for a surface that is slick as snot. I almost lost it many times but managed to stay up only for fear of being overrun by the evil taxi and bus drivers. Add to all of that the fact there is absolutely nowhere to park or pull over to get out of the way and most of the hotels, posadas, and hostels don't have garages. If all of that weren't enough, the Mexican pedestrians just walk right out in front of you assuming that you'll be able to stop instantly on two-wheels and wet pavement. I hadn't thought of any of that since I'd only previously always arrived in this city by bus or taxi and paid no attention to such trivial matters.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity of being trapped in a hellish and slick labyrinth and a couple inquiries with traffic cops, I found a budget hotel (Hotel 2 Rios) with a small parking area for just $200 pesos a night. I wasn't going to argue. I just wanted off the road and out of the rain and path of those devilish taxis.

After I'd unloaded my bags, had a smoke, and stopped shaking from cold wet fear. I calmed down a bit as the rain let up a little. At last I was in my beloved town of Guanajuato that had always been a source of creative inspiration for me. I made my way to my favorite restaurant, "Truco 7" and ordered a plate of mole enchiladas. But as I waited for my food, I noticed I was completely surrounded by English-speaking American students carrying on in a mixture of exaggerated broken Spanish and English while they swilled countless beers and shots of tequila. I also noticed that the surge of inspiration that had always hit me as just as soon as I'd traversed Guanajuato's cobblestones and colorful angular architecture was somehow taking it's own sweet time reaching my brain. Had the magic gone? Perhaps a change in cafe would be wake things up. But, the next cafe was equally confounded with drunken American students. The horror! Yes, I too am an American tourist, but for some odd reason Guanajuato had always been mostly devoid of the typical gringos and I loved that about the place. Don't get me wrong, Guanajuato has for many years been a University, artisiic, historic, colonial tourist town... but for the most part the tourists were mostly well-to-do Mexicans with just a small spattering of gringos you hardly noticed. Most chose to stay in nearby San Miguel de Allende which was fine with me. Now, it seems my beloved has finally been discovered.

(to be continued in part 7/20/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.6)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

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)

7/20/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.3


(continued from part 7/20/05 Mexican Diary pt.2)

I stayed a forth night and took the bike out for what I thought would be a short run to some nearby caves and one of the world's deepest pits where swallows swirl above and then dive into the abyss at dusk. The ride turned into a fun, but grueling off-road challenge with many kilometers of eroded sand, gravel, stone, and mud. After I'd finally reached the village where the cave was, I parked the bike and began the hike to the cave's entrance flanked by village children. The heat and humidity were really taking their toll, but I enjoyed the diversion. By the time I reached the pit on the bike, I realized I was going to have to return via all those glorious off-road kilometers in the dark! So, I decided not to hike to the pit's edge and begin the ride back. Dark clouds moved over head and it began to sprinkle. The horror of all that dirt, stone, ruts, etc. turning into mud and traversing it in the dark began to concern me. And, when I realized that I'd taken a wrong turn and was hopelessly lost in the dark... well, I won't lie... it was beginning to panic a bit like a frightened toddler and since I'd not taken any provisions like water with me.... well, you can imagine my concern. Finally, I came upon a small village and asked if the trail indeed led back to the paved road. After some confused banter, the farmer calculated that I might reach the city of Queretero in about 300 kilometers or so if I continued in that direction! Ouch! Time to back track.

Eventually I found the original trail and made my way back toward the paved road after several kilometers stuck behind a Corona beer truck choking on it's exhaust and dust cloud since he didn't seem interested in letting me pass. Every time I tried to make a move the pendejo veered over to block me. What a sour sport! I guess he had a laugh or two making the foolish gringo eat HIS dust! Finally, I arrived back to Xilitla by 11ish. I was so relieved the rain held back until I made it back up the mountain to Xilitla and my cozy room.

The rain continued through the night and into the next morning so I decided to stay one more night and then move on the following day rain or shine. I ran into a young Canadian fellow and his Italian girlfriend that I'd met briefly in the desert. He asked if I wanted to get a beer with him while his girlfriend napped. I didn't really want to, but I thought the company and conversation might be nice. The beer wasn't really doing it for me, but we chatted for hours about our own life stories until the conversation became political and his girlfriend rejoined us. They had also experienced Chester's non-stop banter and he asked his girlfriend, "You remember that American man who went on and on about Costa Rica? Well, this guy (me) is just as bad!" I laughed it off and suggested to her that her boyfriend had held his own in going on about his OWN pitiful life for the better part of the last hour or so. ;-) He got me back by asking how old I was, when I told him he said, "Wow! You don't look THAT old!" Gee, how does one take a comment like that? Is is a compliment that I have a youthful appearance? Or, is it a condemnation that I'm nearly at death's door? On top of that, he kept complaining that we had to converse in English. But, I don't speak his Montreal French, and his English was stronger than my Spanish so I opted for maximum clarity. About the 3rd time he complained about having to speak English I started looking for the exit. ;-)

His Italian girlfriend had been studying international law and wanted me to explain why the Americans had reelected Bush. She shouldn't have got me started with regards to that fascist, but in the end we were all in complete agreement about the whole situation. We all speculated on how the American population had been cleverly and surrealistically bamboozled into an illegal war, etc. and each of us hoped for a change in direction for the world. They both felt that perhaps before the civilized world is reborn into a new enlightened era, there might have to be a painful transition before truth could once again come to light. Again, who knows but I'll refrain from any more discussion of this nasty business out of respect for those of you still under the illusion that your boy Bush is just a good ol' boy lookin' out for the little guy and neither he, Halliburton, Cheney nor their countless conglomerate New World Order minions care not for absolute power, control, and oil, but only for "freedom" and the good folks of the U.S.A., spreading democracy and the lovin' good word of Jesus with a little help from Rupert Murdoch's Fox News network, their wealthy corporate pals, defense contractors, and a handful of 5 ton bombs delivered with a kiss and Jesus' and George's blessings. I do sincerely hope that I'm just a "clueless, freedom-hating misinformed lefty liberal" who can't see the forest for the trees. I really do hope my eyes and ears have deceived me and that I'm utterly wrong about all of this. But, for the moment, I couldn't care less about the whole mess. I merely want only to "be" and let "be" and try to stay out of THEIR well-financed holy crusade... with the faith that it will all eventually work itself out some how, some way.

(to be continued in part 7/20/05 Mexican Diary pt.4)

Monday, October 10, 2005

7/20/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.2


(continued from 7/20/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.1)

Then, there is the fact mushrooms apparently grow there as well. I asked a group of young Mexican guys smoking grass along the trail toward Las Pozas and they claimed the hills above are covered with little bajarito mushrooms that are red with white spots! I only needed to hike up into the hills and pick them off the ground. I had a plan for the next day. ;-) I also asked one of the jewelry-selling hippies in the plaza about srooms as well and he said you can actually get them at Las Pozas as well by hiking up the mountain a little bit. But, this is where my "trip" seemed to take a turn. I don't know what happened. But, for some reason I now had an aversion to taking any drugs at all. Perhaps I've been like this for awhile and was only just then realizing it. Or, perhaps the higher planes I achieved with the peyote in the desert spoilt me? Or, the rush of being one with the motorcycle and open road has surpassed any adrenaline high I've experienced on drugs? For some unknown reason I began to be honest with myself and felt the problem with getting high is that it's just plain unsustainable. You can only fly so high for so long and then you have to come down and face the real world. Add to that, eventually the drugs don't quite get you there anymore or the place you go becomes so familiar it is no longer so interesting.

In any case, it felt like the "Skip" I have previously been and believed myself to be, was only a habitual facade going through the motions. And, I must confess... I wasn't entirely keen to take peyote this time either. I delayed several days before going out into the desert to greet Mescalito. Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed our little rave in the desert with cocoyote, but somehow the thrill was waning. I lied to myself that in a few days I'd wake up from this stupor and be hungry to rearrange my brain's chemistry once again. But it never happened. I waited, one... two... three days in Xilitla for the desire to "get off" to return. It never happened. I made excuses for myself and took little excursions by foot hoping the old "Skip" would return. He didn't.

There was an older American chap named Chester that the woman at the hotel introduced me to. At first he didn't seem interested in talking and he stayed in the same hotel in one of the dark lower, cooler windowless rooms. But soon he hunted me down at every turn and talked incessantly about the 12 years he lived in Costa Rica, how he had to leave the country in a hurry due to false immigration papers... how he'd taken a Nicaraguan wife but she now wanted to claim half of his assets... how his back was troubling him... how his blood pressure was high... and how he wanted to find a nice place to build a simple house in Mexico... etc. It was all very entertaining the first time he told me, but I heard the exact same story every time I saw him. He'd stop me in the plaza, pop into a cocina where I was drinking coffee, and eventually he'd invade my very room and begin the same story once more with only minor variations. I tried to imagine when I hit 65 and want to share my stories that I'd hope someone might be interested in listening... so I remained polite and listened again, and again, and again. Good chap that Chester, but I felt like he was stuck in his own recent past and just needed to move on with his own story. Bingo! That was my problem as well! I'd been stuck in my own recent drug-laced and alchohol-laden foggy past and it was time to move onto the next chapter in "Skip's story". I don't know if my old pals Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, and Mohammad were tapping me on the shoulder and saying, "Enough's enough old boy! Time to get on with it." Or, if they'd been there all along and I finally stopped to listen. Or, if I was finally "maturing"? Or, just plain gettin' old. Quien sabe. But as a champion of truth, I had to be honest with myself and the truth was that I no longer was interested in driving in the fog. I don't know how long it will last, and it poses a new problem, what to do with my time? Perhaps I'll finally do some of the things I've always aspired to? Or, perhaps I'll just sit and observe others and remember when. I don't know, but without a desire to "get off" or drink myself into oblivion, I find myself seeking refuge in my own clear thoughts and longing for nothing more than a good ride in the sun, a restful night's sleep, and a strong cup of coffee. For the moment that is. ;-)

(continued in part 7/20/05 pt. 3)

7/20/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.1


I left Ciudad Valles in a rush of sweltering humidity as the beat down on my helmet, the motor heat rose from below, and sweat poured across my face... under my riding jacket... and into my boots. But, soon I reached a comfortable velocity and began to rise in altitude and into cooler air. The ride from Valles to Xilitla was nothing short of spectacular with the dramatic juts of black rock mountain covered in lush greenery, brilliant blue sky, and winding twisty roads hugging majestic stony behemoths.

Within the state of San Luis Potosi is a region called Huasteca. I have been told the area held much promise, but I'd always given it a pass because much of San Luis Potosi is arid, dry, and desert like. I'd already seen much of it and had always wanted to change terrain after a couple weeks in the desert. But within what seems like minutes after leaving San Luis and climbing into the Sierras, the terrain changes quickly into a perfect blend of lush mountainous greenery dotted with rivers and waterfalls. The drops off the roadside are dramatic as well, but I tried to keep my eyes glued on the road that twists sharp left then right, then left... snaking up the mountains and flanked by damp black walls of stone and tropical foliage, dotted by occasional small villages. I felt my rear tire losing traction around the tighter corners and attributed that to slightly damp pavement, but more on that later. You could easily spend an entire trip just discovering all the villages within the Huasteca region alone!

My mind raced and soared in tune with the motor's effortless flight into a truly magical scenery as if I were gradually ascending into heaven. When I spotted the sign that read "Bienvenidos a Xilitla" I just kept going for another half hour before I turned around to sort out my lodging. Traveling on a motorcycle offers the obvious additional obstacles like where to put the damn thing. The first hotel I checked had no place to put the moto, and the second had a garage but was expensive ($550 pesos or $50 a night). The third hotel (Hotel San Ignacio) seemed out of my budget, but had a convenient covered garage space as you enter. The friendly woman said the room was only $170 pesos a night so I checked out the room. It had a nice view, private bath with hot water, TV, large soft bed, etc. I already knew I'd take the room but I asked if I might get a little discount if I paid for 3 nights in advance and she quickly dropped the price to $11 a night! Ahhhh! I was indeed in heaven and after a short walk around the town I knew I'd fallen in love with a new place in Mexico. The area is covered with coffee plantations and I could count the gringo tourists on one hand.

If feels like you're high in the Sierras but I believe the altitude is only about 2000 feet above sea level. You can sip coffee and eat delicious tamales wrapped in banana leaves in small cocinas with the local campesinos and stroll about the plaza essentially unnoticed as a tourist. One of the main attractions in the area are the magical gardens of Henry James called "Las Pozas". I'd never heard of the guy, but evidently he was an eccentric and wealthy British surrealist who poured millions into creating private gardens with bizarre towering structures in concrete resembling giant mushrooms and twisted stairways and passages leading nowhere. If you have ever scene La Segrada de Mi Familia in Barcelona, Spain... its very similar. Not quite as large, enclosed, or ornate, but the heavily tropical forest setting is quite mystical to intensify the overall effect. The grounds also include several beautiful pools fed by lovely waterfalls and the sculptures go right up to the edges of the pools and blend right into the waterfalls themselves. Pure magic! I expected to see tiny duende popping out from behind every tree and twisted imaginary habitat. The man had obviously sampled the local fungi. I thought, "What an amazing place to take mushrooms! Hell, you didn't even need them! The man had already materialized an entire sroom trip for you in concrete. Why bother with eating any?!"

(continued in part 7/20/05 pt. 2)

Photo Gallery Mexican Motorcycle Diary 2


The link above is to a little online photo gallery from the first leg of the trip. You'll need your monitor res settings at at least 1024x768. Disfruta!

ps. next gallery presentation coming after a few more miles down the road.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

7/13/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.4


(continued from 7/13/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.3)

The road was in good shape, but the curves were indeed very dramatic. Luckily there weren't many trucks so I just took it slow. Until I started noticing a strange noise coming from my rear tire. I found a little grove to pull over, rest, and have a smoke. It was quite beautiful, but when I inspected my rear tire, it seemed kinda low. I checked the pressure and it only had 5lbs psi in it!!! OUCH! I can't believe I road on those roads with a near flat tire and cactus spines stuck in it.

I pumped the tire up as much as I could with my small bicycle pump, but it took nearly 500 pumps to get it up to 30lbs. I waited for about 15mins and checked the pressure again. Only lost 2lbs of pressure so I decided to continue until I could find a small town to get more air. The first town had a small Vucanizador (tire repair shack), but they didn't want to mess with patching a motorcycle tire assembly. But, they gave me some air and said I should be able to make it to RioVerde to get it repaired.

"Gracias, but how do you say Patch in Spanish"

"Parche"

Oh! Easy enough. ;-)

I tried to keep the speed down and made it to RioVerde. The first repair shack told me they could fix it, but I had to pay them first and they'd take me to the other shop across the highway where they do motorcycles. I knew I was getting taken with the 80peso price, but $8 dollars was well worth it not to have to learn how to do it myself. When I asked the guy doing the work what the cost is, he said $30 pesos... and that the other guy was a "cabron" who'd just ripped me off. But now I knew the real price for the next time and was just glad it was going to get fixed. Plus, I could watch him and see how its done.

I looked like it was enough work that if it happens again and I can make it to a Vucanizador, I'll gladly pay someone else 100 pesos to patch it. ;-) I do have a spare tube for the front and back, but since I still have several weeks to go, I decided save the spare tubes and just go with a patch in case I have to change it myself next time.

The tube had two cactus spine holes, but after about 45mins I was on my way again. The tire dude said the road was easy from there on to Ciudad Valles and on a motorcycle I can ride fast through the curves and make Ciudad Valles within an hour and a half. WRONG!! Maybe in the daylight, but at night and a cold dark mountain curves with semis and busses riding my a$$ through the curves, it took 3.5hrs of nail-biting fear!

I made it though, but decided to take a cheap room for the night here in Ciudad Valles. Xilitla is only about 85km more so after a fresh orange juice and coffee, I'll be on my way. The little hotel let me park my bike right in the hotel lobby by bringing through two long hallways inside the hotel. The hot shower was pretty sweet too!

more later, next stop Xilitla.

hasta,

Skip Hunt

(to be continued in the 7/20/05 posting)

7/13/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.3


(continued from 7/13/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.2)

Soon, he told me that one of the girls was going to try it. I was a little fightened for her, but still intrigued. I mean, what would they do if she had some bad reaction? We were many kilometers away from any hospital and getting there would be impossible in the night. Not to mention it'd several take hours to get to Matehuala from there even if they had a vehicle.

They filled a small pipe with cigarette ash to form a small bed to put the fine DMT powder on and lighted it. They gathered around the Mexican girl to offer support as she took one long drag. Almost immediately her eyes rolled back as she kind of melted backwards into a bed of sleeping bags behind her. They all got very quiet and stayed by her sides as she sort of oozed and writhed in what appeared to be ecstasy. When she came out of it slowly, it'd only lasted about 20mins but I asked her what it was like.

"The first 5 mins felt like an eternity and I was scared. Many colores I was spitting from my tongue, and things I cannot explain. It was like my spirit had left my body and gone far away. I saw many things and faces I couldn't understand and worried I might not come back. When I slowly started to come back, I saw you and your glowing pants dancing like you were welcoming me back. YOU should try!"

"Oh no, I've already been to those places and will take a pass this time. ;-) "

We continued through the night until the sun came up. It was pure magic and mystical, but after a short nap I decided to ride back toward Wadley to prepare for departure. I thanked them all for the incredible party and set out into the desert with 3 plants Russ gave me. After a quick shower, a trip to fill up on gas, and a nap I ate the 3 plants with an orange and chilled out listening to the Beatles in my room until I drifted off into space.

The next day I packed up and paid Don Thomas. He told me I could save 150km by riding the road through the desert until I hit the highway. He said there was just 10km off road. WRONG!! It was about 50km of rough off-road through gravel, mud, and sand. It took around 2 hours just to go that 50km, but I was thrilled I'd survived the desert without a flat tire.

Several kilometers more and through several little villages I finally hit San Luis Potosi and gassed up. I was hoping to make Xilitla in Huasteca before nightfall, but that seemed impossible now. So, I figured I'd go as far as I could then find a room.

I asked directions to the highway going toward RioVerde and Ciudad Valles, but was warned the free road was very dangerous on a motorcycle. That the road was bad with steep inclines, sharp curves with no shoulders to pull off on. If I was forced off the road I'd likely go off a cliff. But, the alternative was riding back up toward Matehuala to go around the Sierras instead of through them. I decided to take the faster more dangerous route and take my chances.

(continued in part 7/13/05 pt. 4)

7/13/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.2


(continued from 7/13/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.1)

He asked if I wanted to join their party and said that they'd all discussed it and decided I was cool for riding a motorcycle alone out into the desert and that they'd like me to join them. I accepted! And when the others returned they brought me a cold coke and started preparing their total of 50 plants to make what they called Cocoayote. Basically peyote boiled down over a fire with chocolate added. Russ said he was a chef and knew how to reduce thing down and said we'd likely get 5 pots out of all these plants by reducing, adding chocolate, drinking, then adding more water for another batch. He said basically, "We're gonna get f&%ked up!".

I offered to help clean the cache with the three women as they took turns going off toward the woods to throw up. They'd all eaten raw plants too, but I was able to hold onto mine thankfully. ;-)

As the sun was setting the clouds broke for a glorious sunset. I went to the far end of the Tanke to photograph the sunset on the water with the wild horses in the background. When I returned to the camp they were playing some techno music and offered me a hot quesadilla. I was feeling a little queezy, but after the quesadilla my stomach was alright again. And, just in time for the first batch of cocoayote!

The chocolate did a fine job of disguising the bitter peyote taste and took effect quickly without any sickness. And, although I wasn't too keen to listen to techno out in the middle of the desert while taking a power plant, I began to enjoy the surrealism.

As night fell and the clouds all cleared, the sky became aluminated by a pristine myriad of diamond stars with just a crisp sliver of moon. The techno got pumped up and Russ said we were moving the party out into the middle of the oasis where they'd prepared a circle of stones and a second fire. They also brought out some glow sticks tied to twine to spin around in
geometric patterns.. swinging into the air and all around. They broke some of them and painted themselves and myself with glow paint so we could see each other in the night and pass the bound multi-colored glowsticks around in a circle.

After a while my head was going 100mph so I took a rest in my hammock to watch the glowing forms all dancing in the night. When I returned, Russ asked me if I knew about smoking DMT.

"I've read about it but never tried."

"You said you've had Auyahuasca in the Amazon... this is similar, but it takes to straight up without sickness!


(continued in part 7/13/05 pt. 3)

7/13/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary pt.1



A couple Cubans from Miami and four other Mexicanos from D.F. arrived a couple days ago. They seemed pretty cool and left two cars at Don Thomas' place. I asked Don Thomas' where they were headed and he told me Tanke Nuevo for three days. Told me I could get there by driving straight out into the desert for about an hour on the motorcycle. So I packed the essentials and headed out into the desert.

About 2 hours later I still hadn't found it and began to see my own tire tracks again. I hadn't really packed much water, and to add insult to injury.. my speedometer cable had come loose so I was no longer tracking kilometers or my fuel use. Started getting pretty nervous, especially with the water situation. I'd see a desert farmer and ask directions, but he'd just wave his hand this way and that mumble something about going straight and around the white mountain, etc.

The terrain shifted dramatically from soft powdered dust to sharp rocks to mud. After I'd seen my own tracks for the 6th time I started heading back toward the village with my tail between my legs, but then I decided to try one more time and took the only path I hadn't taken yet. Had to find some big rocks to hold down a partially fallen barbed wire fence to ride over it and kept going. Finally I saw some campesinos on an old Honda and asked directions once again. The Tanke was only about 5km away and I could now see it.

When I arrived the trees opened up to a lovely oasis of soft grass, large mesquite trees, and a small body of water. There were wild horses grazing and a herd of goats lit by late afternoon gold sun. I saw about 4 bohemians sitting cross'legged watching the vista and stopped to ask if this was Tanke Nuevo. "Si! Welcome amigo". Their eyes were all wide from Peyote with huge smiles. I noticed one other camp and it was indeed the Cuban and Mexican group of six. The were well set up with coolers, tents, fire, a big boom box, etc.

They welcomed me offered me water and asked if I wanted to join them for peyote hunting nearby. I was pretty exhausted so I hung my hammock nearby and relaxed for a bit. Soon, they were off into the desert with knives in hand so I joined them.

I wasn't sure if I was crashing their party unwelcomed or not so I held back a bit and kept to myself. After I'd found 3 peyote plants I went back to my hammock to take a break from the sun and prepare my heads for consumption. I ate all three with an orange and laid back in my hammock. Started to drift away when one of the Cubans, Russ, came back from the desert. He said he'd hit the peyote matrix and had cut over 40 plants!

(continued in part 7/13/05 pt. 2)

Photo Gallery Mexican Motorcycle Diary


The link above is to a little online photo gallery from the first leg of the trip. You'll need your monitor res settings at at least 1024x768. Disfruta!

ps. next gallery presentation coming after "7/20/05" posting.

07/09/05 Mexican Motorcycle Diary




Hey,

Made it to Mexico without problems. Took the Columbia toll road to cross the border and there was no wait, and no other cars. And, I didn´t even have to pass through Nuevo Laredo! FYI: if you want to save $2, bring a copy of your passport, vehicle registration or title, and your license so you don't have to pay them $2 for copies. You still need the originals, but they keep copies.

Continued on toll roads that were a bit pricey, ie. 180 pesos for the toll (cuota) from Laredo to Monterrey. But, after the free road I took from Monterrey to Saltillo, I figured it was worth paying tolls to not be sandwiched inbetween hundreds of semi trucks, slick road, and heavy winds in the foothills around Saltillo.

My a$$ really started to ache after the first 400 miles so I took breaks more regularly. It took me 15hrs to get from Austin to Matehuala, but that's with loads of smoke and a$$ breaks. And, a stop in a truck stop for a chile relleno. Quite sureal that place. Just me and a few Mexican truckers. Walls covered in small colorful semi truck paintings, various saints, and two large TV screens playing some VERY hard core pornography. Naturally, I had to sit for a bit longer...er uh.. to have a couple cups of coffee. ;-)

Made Matehuala by midnight and took a cheap room. Hit the desert the next morning and have been off-roading ever since. The road to Real de Catorce is MURDER! Its paved but with hugh stones, so the whole bike gets squirrely. Once in Real de Catorce its not much better, but the REAL fun starts when you go down the mountain on the other side back into the desert. Major inclines with large loose stones, hairpin corners, the road sides drop off to cliffs, and the road is a very narrow dirt and stone pass. I think I was in 1st gear and riding the break for the first 10km are the worst, and then the grade levels out a little. I've never been so terrified, but luckily I was so exhillerated and scrared, I forgot to soil myself. ;-)

The nut that holds the steering column vibrated loose and I don't know how long it had been like that, but after scouring the village for a wrench I could fit on the column to tighten it, I went to Matehuala and got some small vice grips that did the trick. Now its MUCH better! No more clanking over the bumps. Other than that the bike is holding up nicely.

I'll likely head into the desert to commune with mescalito, but I'll probably do that on foot.

Been hangin out with loads of Italians here in the desert. Can't figure out why that little nowhere place attracts so many Italians, but I'm greatful because those loco pendejos can really cook!

I can't upload photos from here, but hopefully when I get to Guanajuato. That will likely be me next stop with a short visit at the hotbaths near San Miguel de Allende.

hasta,

Skip Hunt

Hi!

I just got turned on to "blogs" the other day. I've been active in online communities since the beginning, and before the common use of the Internet when BBS's were used. I guess I just couldn't figure out what the big deal was and how it really differed that much from personal webpages and forums. But now I think I get it.

I recently went on a motorcycle odyssey in Mexico after not riding for over 10 years. And, I documented the journey via forum posts, emails, photos, etc.

So, I decided to recreated all of that in one place... this new blog. But to preserve the nature of my original updates, I'm going to only post the various entries chronologically as they were orginally presented.

Hope you enjoy.


Skip Hunt