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.

And there I was in the largest city in the world, and only two days to explore it. This wasn’t the first time I realized I was going too fast, but was perhaps the most significant indicator. I stayed in a great little hostel in Coyocán. The neighborhood is wonderful, cute, relatively safe. The hostel was nice enough to let me park my motorcycle in the garage for the days I was there, and it really put my mind at ease.
My first day there was a simple exploration, on foot, and by metro. It was a 10 minute walk to the metro. Right at every entrance there seem to be countless street vendors. I bought some tacos (surprise!). I paid 30 pesos for a hearty helping, and then boarded the metro. It costs 3 pesos to go anywhere in the city. You get a small paper slip which you insert into the machine at the turnstile. In a way I prefer this system too the Bay Area’s BART. I think the fact that a human sells the tickets is a little inefficient, but the system is so dead simple, with a flat cheap rate, that it’s really no trouble at all.
There are a lot of humans underground. It’s crowded, and somewhat warm, but not downright hot (at least not the day I was there). I was surprised to see that all of the trains, though on tracks (of sorts) had tires. They work great. They’re quiet compared to bart. Never once did I have to cover my ears due to screeching wheels.
I noticed one significant difference though. I thought it was pretty amusing, a lot of the locals didn’t so much. A man walked onto the train, wearing a bloated black backpack, and holding a portable compact disc player. He hit play. Music blared out of his backpack. I feel bad for the people the bag was pointed at. The volume was set at such a level that everyone on the train could here it. It was Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony I believe. Five seconds passed. He paused the music, and announced that he was selling classical music. Next track. Yelling that he had music for guitar. Then piano. Then saxophone. Nobody said anything, but I could tell a few people weren’t happy about it. The train stopped and he hopped of, he didn’t sell anything and was looking for a new audience. Someone else hopped on. He was holding a large ring of keys. He held them up in the air, and showed everyone how nicely his keys were color coded and identifiable. He was selling those little plastic things you put on your keys in packs of three. This went on. There was gum, more music, snacks. And then I got off the train as I was somewhere near the center of downtown.
It was distracting, and if I had to deal with it every single day, probably a little annoying. But there’s something about that that I really respect. These people, had a need to make money, and were willing to work very hard, and very long for a chance at next to nothing. I’m not sure, but I bet they’re lucky to make $10 USD in an afternoon. I actually didn’t see anyone buy anything in the entire time I was riding. I wondered at this for a few minutes as I started to wander around. There were of course even more street vendors everywhere. I looked at all of their wares. I wanted to take a lot of photographs, but it didn’t feel right, I was sure I would upset someone. So I left it. I saw people eating blue corn tortillas. I think that was the thing that I was most excited about… I’m kind of food oriented in general. But I was too full to even try one.
I wandered through a few neighborhoods and watched the scenery change. Fairly suddenly I started to experience some pain in my back. Something left over from riding. Something that had been building since leaving Dana Point. I’ve never had anything quite like it. Maybe it’s a sign of getting older? But I know some of it had to do with hours and hours on a motorcycle through freezing weather. That cold air makes my shoulders tense up unconsciously. Anyway, for no good reason I started to feel some real pain. It was about noon, I figured a beer was fair game. I stopped at a pub. I saw some Mexico City hipsters sitting outside, so I thought it might the good. I got half liter of some black IPA that wasn’t bad, but I also wouldn’t really call an IPA after living in Northern California for so long.
I drank, and talked to some folks who were interviewing some musicians for their print magazine. They were quite nice to talk to. If I make it back that way, I will certainly say ‘hola’.
My next day was fairly uneventful. I spent most of my time the local neighborhood. Went to the local market. Walked around. Ate even more delicious tacos. I wished I had more time to spend there. But sooner than I knew it, it was way past my bed time. I had to get up before 6 AM to get out the door before traffic slowed to a dribble.
I got up, and was on the road in record time. There was no traffic in sight, great! I was whizzing along with the pace of traffic (about 80kph), and checking my map when possible to make sure I didn’t miss my turn off. I was heading up an overpass and was just about to shift down when my left hand grabbed air. There was no path of thought, or troubleshooting in my head. My brain knew exactly what had happened. My clutch cable had snapped. I grabbed it a couple more times just to be sure. Yep, it was deader than a zombie. Much deader than a zombie. Fortunately there was no traffic right then and there, I shifted down once by matching speeds, and I came down the other side of the overpass: traffic. Fuck. I down shifted again and again. I was now in second, trying to stay as slow as possible, the last thing I wanted was to be pushing 600 pounds of motorycle, gear and gasoline down the side of a Mexico City autopista (highway). There it was, an exit, my exit. Traffic got out of the way just in time for me to pull off. I was rolling, I found neutral. Fuck. Gridlock. Three lanes of solid traffic. Fuck. Police lights flashing just a few cars back. Certainly this was my fault in their eyes. And certianly there would be a mordida (bribe) involved. I found neutral and slowed to a stop. I knew it wouldn’t work, but I tried to get it going again by just switching into first and giving it some gas. Fuck. It died. Before I knew it I was off and pushing. The traffic actually worked to my advantage this time. It was moving at the exact pace I was able to push my motorcycle. I pulled off through the three lanes of traffic to the only bare spot on the sidewalk. Every other inch of sidewalk had some kind of street vendor booth on it. I asked the woman in the booth next to me if I could work there for a few minutes to get my motorcycle running. She then explained that the reason the sidewalk was bare, was that it was a school drop off zone. Kids promply showed up, and I was clearly in the way. I put my helmet back on and wondered what to do next. Across three lanes of gridlock traffic was a grassy area between the road and the highway. As soon as there was a break in the traffic, I made a brake for the grass. There was one problem, which was a tall curb. My front wheel went up on it with relative ease, but even all of my momentum wasn’t enough to bring the rear end up. It rested their solidly on the skid-plate with my rear tire hanging out in traffic. I tried, and tried again. I was starting to perspire. I just couldn’t get it. I took about 20 seconds to collect myself, with all of the cars squeezing by me. Finally, with one last, totally dedicated grunt, and a new technique of prying off of my knee I got the rear end up. The bike toppled over immediately with no hands to balance it. We were on the grass, and I was relieved.
I propped the bike up, and got to work. The last thing I wanted was to do was deal with the police. I was sure something I was doing was “illegal”. I had just gotten my toolkit out when I saw a police officer walking through the traffic after me. He stepped up on the curb, and I greeted him with as much enthusiasm as I could muster. I explained the situation. He smiled at me, and asked me if I was okay. I was a little surprised. I told him I was. He then asked me if I needed any help. I was even more surprised. I told him know, but probably about twenty minutes and I should be out of here. He then said goodbye and left me there.
It took me about forty minutes, but I got the new cable on there and adjusted, the whole time in disbelief that I had broken a clutch cable that was less than thirty days old. And super grateful that I had thrown the spare in there at the very last moment.
When it was all done, I stopped a woman selling churros to passing cars, and ate all four of them. I deserved those goddamned churros.

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-- Robert Pirsig

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Screen Shot 2012-12-20 at 10.44.52 AM

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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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Emotional ups and downs? Ride it.