And into Mexico

I woke up on a comfy couch in Tucson. My wonderful hostess, Ashley, had made coffee. It was blue bottle coffee… I guess a friend from San Francisco had sent it to her. It was made in a drip pot, but it was still clearly blue bottle coffee. We went to breakfast at a cute little spot, and then I went back to the house to get some things sorted (Insurance, telephone, etc).

Then I was on the road again. I had had plans to stay with another host in Hermosillo. But I was having trouble getting ahold of him and decided to go to Bahia de Kino instead. Due to the fact that I was choosing a longer distance to ride I knew I’d be getting there in the dark. I didn’t know how dark.

On the road down, it was the first day on the entire trip that I was actually comfortable in terms of temperature. The whole time, with the warm temperature and the high speed freeway I was imagining my tires being torn apart by the road. My stomach was in knots. I knew logically that there was nothing to really worry about, but that didn’t change the feeling in my body. For no good reason there was a growing unease. I had a lot of things buzzing around in my head that I had heard. All horror stories.

My biggest concern was that something would be wrong with my paperwork and my motorcycle would somehow end up forfeit. Next up was having to use Spanish for the first time in years. My spanish is really bad, and on top if it, really rusty. I had planned on doing a bit more study up front to make the transition a bit easier, but that one way or another got derailed with work. Lastly… One of the first rules of adventure riding is not doing so after dark, I was already knowingly breaking this rule, and it made me a bit uncomfortable for my first day in Mexico.

Once I hit the border I turned my phone off in order to not be charged out the nose by AT&T. I wish I could have turned it on for photos, but I wanted to remove the sim card first, and I didn’t have a paperclip handy. That’s why there are no photos from this day. I bought a little extra water, fueled up, and before I knew it I was in Mexico. Street conditions turned from mediocre to pretty damn bad in a hurry. All of a sudden there were no lines or rules, and pedestrians were making a game of jumping out in front of vehicles. I was going maybe 20 mph. My heart sank a bit. How long was the road going to be this slow? It seemed to go on and on. If it stayed like this for very long, I wasn’t going to make it in by midnight.

The next thing to really get my attention were all of the police with automatic weapons. I could tell I was something of a spectacle with my shiny motorcycle all loaded with gear. Just another gringo loco. It happened several times that people would pull up next to me just to check things out, and would want to say ‘hola’. I kept on, through potholes and speed reducing devices. I must have been the only one traveling at the speed limit. I didn’t like the fact that if I were doing something wrong, everyone would notice. I’m sure a little bit of that was complete paranoia, but I really was getting a lot more attention than I would have liked. Cars here had zero respect for motorcycles. They would pull right up behind me. They would try to share the lane with me if I didn’t stay dead center in it. There were no real lanes to speak of. And then suddenly things widened up, and the road was almost as nice as the one North of the border that I had just come off of. There were just many more potholes, and much lower speedlimit.

I proceeded to kilometer 21 to get my passport stamped, and to get the temporary import permit for my vehicle. I got lucky in that there weren’t many people there. But it still wasn’t very fast. It took about two hours to get everything completed. Right at the very end, I tried to offer my credit card for the $400 deposit on the motorcycle, but somehow it was denied by the fraud department. I had called my bank which also issues my credit card to tell them that I would be traveling, but apparently the credit card belongs to an entirely different department. The woman filing my import permit closed it just as I remembered that my debit card could be run as a credit card… I had to start the process over. It was pretty discouraging. But eventually I got my papers, and got back on the road.

It wasn’t long at all before sundown. I saw a gorgeous sunset, as I rode right into it. I stopped for some roadside tacos. They were good, but not great. I rode on. It was no dark, and cold. My heated grips were working, and I was glad for it. It was only a couple of hours before I rolled into Hermosillo.

It’s surprisingly difficult to navigate here based just on street name. Not only is it difficult to remember many of them in succession, but often times, it’s very difficult to spot the signs themselves. Thus, it wasn’t long before I didn’t know where I was in Hermosillo. I operated on instinct, because I had only a printed map that showed a couple of major streets. My instinct wasn’t bad, but I ultimately realized it would be best to ask for some directions. I saw a fellow motorcyclist at a gas pump, and pulled off to ask him the direction of “Bahia de Kino”. He knew instantly, but the directions would have been complicated in english. He held up one finger asking for just a moment. He then inflated his rear tire, which clearly had a slow leak, it nearly doubled in size. Then he hopped on his bike, and I was following. It was nice to get a little first hand Mexico motorcycle etiquette from someone. I followed him for about five minutes. He was more than happy to help, and then he pointed me off in a direction, and told me to keep riding. I waved goodbye and yelled my thanks.

I soon saw signs for Bahia de Kino. I was indeed on the path. Mexico drivers seem strange to me at times. For example, when they turn on their left hand turn signal, it’s not always clear if they’re wanting to turn left, or suggesting you pass them. A flick of the high beams is something I have yet to decode, except for a couple of different circumstances. It seems that Mexicans are constantly flicking their high beams at me when riding at night. I may never know why. Perhaps it’s that my low beams are exceptionally bright?

The road to Bahia was long and straight. It wasn’t challenging, and the road was pretty good. Just a sleepy ending for a tired rider. By the time I got there I came to realize that the only map I had of the region had vanished from my tank bag. I felt for a moment like a jerk, and then I thought better of it, seeing how much garbage was already on the side of the road. I paused to buy a beer, and ask directions. I got them, but either they weren’t very clear, or I wasn’t very clear with them. I road around for a few minutes until I found the campground. It was surrounded by walls and barbed wire. As I rode around it, there was yet another pickup truck patrolling with four or so men in the back, all bearing automatic weapons. “Is that really necessary?” I wondered. If so, then am I safe here?

I got in and efficiently set up a tent, with ground pad and sleeping bag. I brought anything valuable in the tent with me. All the while I was working on a well deserved beer. I could hear the Sea of Cortez gently lapping the beach. I felt alright about the day. I fell asleep almost instantly.

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Mexico City


Getting into Mexico City was no easy task. I managed to pick rush hour. Stupid, Cory. Stupid. Once I hit the outskirts of the city, it probably took me an hour and a half to find the hostel. Mexico City is a maze to those who don't live there, and it's filled with aggressive city drivers. Imagine driving in San Francisco, another place where driving is very social, and you've really got to communicate and respond to the actions of all of the cars around you constantly, but then take it's 3 lane streets, and make them into 8 lane streets, and you've got Mexico City. Exhibit any fear and every driver on the road will do anything they can to make your world a nightmare. You've got to be merciless to drive here. Defend your lane, and growl with your throttle when threatened. In San Francisco I had the upper hand at all times when driving my car. One look at my piece of shit car, and everyone knew that they were the ones with something to lose, and promptly got out of my way. In Mexico City, almost everyone else has that advantage. I was lost for a lot of the approach, but once I got my bearings, and I got into the split, it was on. It didn't matter how wide the road, I felt quite at home. And soon enough, I was at the hostel. (more...)

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“Sometimes it's a little better to travel than to arrive”

-- Robert Pirsig

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Sometimes I wish I had a tail, I think I could express myself better.

"In a car you're always in a compartment, and because you're used to it you don't realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You're a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame."

-- Robert Pirsig

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Day 1 Came and Went


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Riding To South America

Screen Shot 2012-12-20 at 10.44.52 AM

Okay, so the day approaches. I'm about to leave on a motorcycle adventure to South America. I don't quite know how things will pan out after what I have mapped, or how close my route will be to what I have mapped. But here it is. The all of it. I've got my lists of gear, and motorcycle supplies. My route is currently mapped out as far as Guatemala, where Matt will be meeting me for a few weeks.  
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Deep Water Soloing, Poda Island


Looks like I'll be able to cross that one off of my list.

They heard me singing and they told me to stop Quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock

-- Arcade Fire

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This spot has been incredible. I've already gotten some really fun sport climbing in. Made it into the ocean. Eaten all sorts of delicious things. Seen monkeys. Made friends. Been rained on. Gotten work done. Relaxed. Shaved off a moustache. And blogged about it.

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I'm going to keep this pretty brief. I have about a dozen mosquitos buzzing around my feet. Every now and then the fan turns my way and blows them away. They then have about ten seconds to make their move. I hate to say it, but they've been impressively successful. I have to hand it to them, they're good at what they do. (more...)

Emotional ups and downs? Ride it.