|12-18-2010, 10:28 AM||#123|
Joined: Dec 2008
Location: Rockville Maryland and Hollywood Maryland
We recently rode F650GS's from La Paz Bolivia to Ushuaia and I was the unlucky recipient of ~12 flats, all on the rear.
The 'bead breaker' method we found most efficient was to use the side stand of another F650. It works really well. Also having some soap solution for reseating the tire is a good idea.
As an FYI, when we ran out of functional rear tubes, I used a front tube (read wrong size and diameter) and it worked for about 900 miles until it was replaced. So, in a pinch you can try using a wrong size tube until you acquire the right size. your results may vary.....it was a heavy duty tube.......
|12-18-2010, 01:04 PM||#124|
Where are my tools?
Joined: Jul 2010
Location: Los Angeles, CA
2005 KLR 650 A bit beat up but works just fine. Powered by really angry canaries. - Actually it's a bit dead right now.
1990 DR350S Smaller. Lighter. Slower.
1985 Suzuki GS700E Some assembly required
1977 Cimatti City Bike. What, you call that a build thread? Officially stalled...
|12-18-2010, 01:20 PM||#125|
Joined: Jan 2007
Location: On the wrong side of the river
If you are fixing a ford, use ford parts. If you are fixing your body, use what its made from. Joan Matthews
|12-18-2010, 05:44 PM||#126|
Joined: Dec 2009
Location: Binghamton, NY
Loving your reports and just wishing I was there to tag along. I've read many of the reports here and you guys will be fine once you get into the groove. You've had your share of misfortune so far so it's bound to get better. Hang in there and enjoy your adventure. I'm sure I'll have the same feelings on my first crossing so reading about yours getting better as you go is going to help me and many others that have stayed stateside. Ride on friends...and definitely have that beer on the rooftop suggested.
― Tom Waits
Don't you know there ain't no devil, it's just God when he's drunk.
|12-18-2010, 07:16 PM||#127|
Joined: Jun 2009
Location: Cambridge, MA
Day 11 - Kay's addendum
And addendum to Day 11 since Dachary had the plug last night... but this is what I had to add.
When I think of Adventure riding I don't think of the army swarming into the gas station where you stopped and pouring over every car. I don't think of military checkpoints along the way with sometimes over a dozen men with machine guns, bullet proof vests, and masked faces.
I think of the smiling man who told me ( in a language I can't speak ) that no, I really didn't want dos pollo because it was way too much food, who's face lit up when his wife happened into the room.
I'm not sure what I expected from Mexico. Endless empty fields with only a handful of trees along the edge of the road and swarms of army men was not it. It's poor in a run down kind of way, and the land isn't inviting. There's no land left really. It's just huge production fields of who-knows-what.
The dog we saw killed today: it was disturbing, and sad, and as we rode down the road afterwards Dachary said, "I don't like it here." But, I've seen the same neglect back home in the US. I don't think it speaks badly of Mexico, or Mexicans, just humans. I'm not sure what to think about it. Death happens. People don't take care of their pets, and there's not much we can do about it.
I think Dachary said something to the effect of "I don't feel like I know what I'm doing here." I feel the same. This is not the start I'd imagined.
a Corporate Runaway
|12-18-2010, 08:22 PM||#128|
Joined: May 2010
Day 12 - Crossroads in Mexico to Ciudad Vallos - 284 miles
Got the flat tire fixed in a jiffy by the vulcaniziador, and after all of our futzing around, and it took us a while to re-pack the bikes and get on the road. All told, it was around 10am when we finally left. We ran to the Oxxo convenience store next door to grab some breakfast - I got a pre-made sandwich with some kind of spicy shredded meat (we're still not sure what kind), and some pink-fruit-filled buns, and Kay got some biscuits that were tasty but surprisingly dry. We also grabbed some cookies that had a picture of the Quaker Oats guy on the front, which it turns out was surprisingly tasty, but didn't seem to involve oatmeal or granola. This cost us around $5.
The ride from the crossroads where we found the hotel to Ciudad Victoria was surprisingly uneventful. I was feeling better about my lack of Spanish, as I had a nice moment of connection with the guy who was patrolling the courtyard where our bikes were parked. Kay was explaining to him that we needed a tire repair guy, and pointed out that we'd gotten the bead broken on one side of the tire (es bueno) and that we couldn't get the bead broken on the other side (es NO bueno!) The guy nodded along, and told us that there was one basically right in the plaza with the hotel (although we didn't realize that was exactly what he was saying - we just got "that way".)
Kay went in to get up to ride the tire off, and I stayed with the bike, picking up our tools. The guy was standing there watching, and said a word which I sadly cannot remember. I explained that I didn't understand ("no entiendo") and he nodded, then said the word again and made an angry face, balling his hands up into fists and growling. I suddenly understood that he was trying to convey that it must be frustrating, and I responded with "Si! Si! Yes, very frustrating." We both smiled because we'd communicated, even though we didn't have a shared language.
I was surprised and happy that he empathized, and he and the other guy who were working on the property cheered for us when we got the tire mounted again. It was really great. I didn't mind, so much, not being able to speak Spanish at that point. We'd still managed to communicate and still shared a little victory together.
So the morning's riding was uneventful - I was just relieved to have Nargo back in one piece. Even though the flat was frustrating, it was really a relief to realize that it was something as simple as a flat tire that we could easily fix. I love my bike, and I know it's bound to break down sooner or later, but it hasn't let me down so far and I was relieved that the problem was so easy to deal with.
After we passed Ciudad Victoria, we got onto 85 to Ciudad Mante and Ciudad Valles. The riding from Ciudad Victoria to Ciudad Mante was REALLY nice. Some of the best riding of the trip so far. The map shows it as a major route, but it's only one lane in each direction and it crosses over some short mountains (or tall hills). It's full of just enough twisties to keep you on your toes, but not enough to make you work really hard. (And we mostly laugh at the Curva Pelligrosa! signs we pass, because the curves don't seem very dangerous to us on motorcycles. The biggest danger is the trucks coming from the other direction that don't stay in their lanes.)
The riding between Ciudad Mante and Ciudad Valles was less enjoyable. We were almost constantly in a 60km per hour speed limit (not quite 40MPH) and the roads did not appear to warrant that - they were mostly flat and straight and could easily have been taken at a faster pace. When we did get up to 80, we'd celebrate, but were almost immediately back down to 60KPH. The road also stopped being interesting - the hills were behind us and the lush vegetation had thinned out. All of the slowness on a road that didn't warrant slowness and wasn't particularly interesting was beginning to get frustrating by the end of the day.
We didn't really have a plan for the night, although I think Kay and I were both expecting that we'd try to hidey-camp. We're far enough from the border now that neither of us feels nervous about that, and we only passed one police checkpoint and one military checkpoint today (neither had us stop) so we weren't feeling particularly threatened by authorities, either.
But we did discover a problem - the road we were traveling was too major and too well traveled for me to feel comfortable pulling off onto a dirt track and trying to find a place to hidey-camp. There were cars more-or-less constantly, and I though it would look suspicious for two big, foreign, heavily-loaded bikes to be turning off onto a small track. It was also pretty populated - we encountered a few areas between little villages that were probably sparse enough to hidey camp, but the further we went, the more little villages we ran into. I didn't feel comfortable trying to pull off on a track and have it go right into some village, or right up to someone's house. It's not that there was a dense population, it was that there was a frequent population.
I was expecting us to be traveling on more isolated roads when we tried to hidey-camp, or to find intermediary dirt roads that would take us into more sparsely-populated areas and wouldn't look so suspicious for two heavily-loaded BMWs to be turning onto. Kay says the types of roads we were on today are the types of roads we'll be likely to be traveling for much of the trip, since we have so much ground to cover and a limited amount of time to do it. If this is the way it continues, I'm either going to have to change my criteria for hidey-camping, or we're not going to get very far because we'll spend all of our money on hotels.
(Kay thinks it's important that I add a note in here stating that my mental capacity was compromised at this point. We'd just had an argument about hidey-camping and Kay thinks that affected the way I handled this traverse...)
We did make one attempt at pulling off on a track - Kay spotted one that was very overgrown - basically two tire tracks and tall grass in between. It probably wasn't driven very often, and looked like it hadn't been driven in quite some time. There was donkey poop at the beginning of the track, and Kay rode on ahead and reported in the headsets that he was passing someone's house. Upon later reflection Kay suspects it was probably an abandoned storage shack (circular, made of sticks, and about 15 feet tall with one door). In the meantime, I stood with my bike at the top of the track staring down at it in horror, and when I made a pass at it, I was screaming and cursing in my helmet almost the entire time.
The track descended a short hill, and then ascended another, longer hill on the other side. The descent and the ascent were intimidating enough for me, with my very limited off-road experience, but the tire tracks were rutted and full of big rocks and stones. My bike kept hitting them and skipping off to one side or another. Sticks and twigs were bouncing off my helmet, and I kept running across the big grass berm in the middle of the track because the rocks were bouncing me around.
In all, I felt like I had zero control over the bike, and I panicked. I got halfway up the ascent on the other side, had a decent place to stop, so I did. I totally wussed out. I walked back to the road, and made Kay ride both of our bikes back down the hill and up again to get out of the track.
It was a combination of negative factors that led me to completely overload. Had it been a track with two tire tracks and a lot of rocks on relatively flat ground, I would have made a go at it. Had it been a track with two tire tracks and no rocks with the ascent and descent that this path had, I would have tried to power through. But combine the ascent/descent and the rocks in the ruts and I in my off-road inexperience totally freaked out.
At this point it was pretty much dusk and we had run out of options. It was either try to find an easier track and keep our fingers crossed that there would be a good "hidey-camp" spot, or ride into Ciudad Valles and find a hotel. We were only about 10 kilometers from the city at this point so hotel seemed like the best option.
So here we are again, spending money, and I have to figure out some way to wrap my head around this "hidey-camp" thing and adjust my expectations to enable us to do it effectively in the areas we're passing. I've gotta get over this desire to find a less populated spot and just go for it. But it's way past my comfort zone, and I had a hard time with it tonight. I assume I'll be better prepared tomorrow - or else we're gonna run out of money real fast. (Tonight's hotel - around $40 (US) with free wi-fi and secure parking for the bikes. Plus a coupon for the attached cafeteria in the morning. Not a bank-breaker, but doing this every night would be.)
Correction on this morning's post about the tube damage:
There were actually 2 quarter inch slashes and one 1/2 inch slash on the tube, plus a number of tiny cuts in the vicinity.
|12-18-2010, 08:27 PM||#129|
Joined: Jun 2009
Location: Cambridge, MA
Day 12 - Observations on Mexico
* Speed limits are rules of thumb, but the local and federal police will pull you over for traffic violations.
* The speed limits on anything other than major highways are maddeningly slow. This is probably the reason they are treated as a rule of thumb.
* Mexicans drivers are reasonably sane but generally incapable of adhering to the maddeningly slow speed limits.
* When two or more people live, or set up shop, alongside the road it is a town and the speed limit drops to 60 kph. When 100 people or more live, or set up shop, alongside the road it is a city and the speed limit drops to 40 kph. When 1000 people live, or set up shop, alongside the road it is a major city and the speed limit drops to 20 kph. I suspect in Mexico City the speed limit is negative 50.
* If someone is driving below the speed limit it is because their vehicle is incapable of exceeding it.
* Vehicles are passed whenever people feel like passing them. The presence of a Police officer does not affect this. It simply results in getting pulled over afterwards.
* Finding someone who drives the speed limit is statistically equivalent to finding a white tiger.
* Signage on the roads is excellent.
* 80% of the time the next speed limit sign will be less than or equal to the last sign.
* 50% of the time when the speed limit rises to what seems a reasonable speed it will halve itself within 250 meters.
* Mexicans are terrified of speed bumps. It's the only explanation for how slowly they traverse them.
* Mexican sign makers are terrified of curves. They are all "Peligroso".
* That totaled car of yours that the insurance company wrote off is now living in Mexico, being happily driven.
* If anyone in Iowa is missing a car it is in Mexico (surprising number of Iowa plates).
* License plates are optional.
* Going to the USA, purchasing a shit car/bus, filling it with broken bicycles, appliances, wheelchairs, and / or mattresses and bringing it back to Mexico is a popular business plan.
* Army guys searching for drugs don't like to be filmed (duh).
* Unless you're way past the time when you should have eaten, keep driving and you will eventually find a guy with some sort of makeshift barbecue.
* The surprise military and police checkpoints don't seem particularly interested in adventure riders (so far).
* The poor people don't quite *get* commerce. The logic seems to be: Bob is selling X. I have, or can get, X. I should set up a stand selling X next to Bob's. Oh look, Bob and Mary are selling X. I have, or can get, X. I should set up a stand selling X next to Bob's and Mary's. Repeat until there are 8 stands selling exactly the same thing less than 200 feet from each other. Nothing else is for sale unless there happens to be a convenience store along the same section of road.
* Mexicans drink oil. It is the only explanation for the sheer number of stands selling bottled oils.
* When Mexicans aren't drinking oil they're drinking beer. It is the only explanation for the sheer number of roadside beer stores.
* Signs displaying the Coca-Cola logo are purely for tourists because drinking soda would cut into the oil and beer consumption and the roadside economy would collapse.
* Mexican Pizza places think 8pm is a good time to close.
* Adventure riders in full gear and loaded bikes do not generate particularly more interest than they do in the US, although no-one has a clue what we're wearing.
* Our 40 year old copy of Berlitz Passport to Spanish (with a helpful section on finding the Telegram office and sending telegrams) has been incredibly helpful. I copied important sections of it to a folded six panel sheet along with a few extra phrases and stuck it in our tank bags. I'll post it to our site.
* Getting along with only a handful of useful phrases and being able to count to 1000 is surprisingly easy.
* When you order two of the same item and say "Quanto Cuesto?" they will tell you how much one of them is, not both.
* Food here isn't notably cheaper, it just costs what it ought to in the US.
* non-sketchy Hotels aren't notably cheaper.
* the going rate for the kiss-no-tell motels is $100 Mex for 4 hours. This is frequently noted as 100x4 on the signs. It's probably the most secure option if you're concerned about your bike.
* You need never change your own tire, or repair your own tubes except in a dire emergency. There is always a Vulaniziadora (possibly also called Tepulche?) around the next corner, although most of them appear to be of very questionable quality.
* Mexican hotel beds are incredibly hard. This is a rule. Just accept it.
a Corporate Runaway
|12-19-2010, 12:12 AM||#130|
Joined: Jun 2010
Travel in Mexico
Kay, my wife and I spent a year traveling around Mexico in a Volkswagen Westphalia. We are both born and raised westerners, done a whole lot of time "hidey camping" in the American west.
Some things to think about.
Border areas are usually not the nicest part of a country. You are in a part of Mexico that is very simiiar to the part of America you left from. From your posts it didn't sound like you enjoyed south Texas much... Well, Until you get out of Tamaulipas and into San Luis Potosi don't expect much to change. Much of the east coast is industrial farmland or oil extraction and processing. Kinda like Texas....
The further south you go the cheaper it is. A nice basic hotel will be 10-20$. There will be much more camping available. Many times on the coast we stayed in the parking lots of the beach restaurants where we ate. There is very little "public" land. Most is owned by Ejidos, the complex system of communal land ownership in Mexico. Be prepared to negotiate. Almost everything is negotiable in Mexico! Just ask.
Food is tortillas. Very cheap and baked fresh every day. Subsidised by the government. Ask for a half kilo. (Medio kilo). Everything else is a bonus. The pollo places you have already found are great but once you get on Mexico time eating out every day will get expensive. Most markets have pre-marinated meat that's perfect on the grill or mixed into beans on those tortillas...
Spend some time every day learning a little Spanish. Even just trying will change how people perceive you. Do not be the ugly American. Just a few words in Spanish and a frown will turn to a smile. "I'm sorry, I do not speak Spanish. Can you help me? Thank you very much" is a good place to start. It's all too easy to just be the two of you and speak English all day. An old berlitz book is not what I would recommend, Rick Steves, Lonely Planet and Rough Guides all make good modern pocket size language books. Most state capitols have a university and a selection of bookstores. Maybe the best 10$ you spend on the whole trip. Try Ciudad Victoria.
If you are headed to Xilitla I guess you know about Las Pozas. An amazing place, we camped outside the gates at the bend in the road for days with a group of people from all over the world. http://www.eyeconart.net/mexico/pozas.htm . Great swimming holes on the river, bring your swimsuit...
We had the same initial reaction to the chaos you have had. Is this really what we want? Have we made a huge mistake? We grew to love it. It will be harder for Dachary, it is a very macho culture. Stay calm and take it as a compliment. As far as the dog goes, it can be hard coming from our super rich country to see how little attention is paid to the lives of others.
Do not ride after dark. No really. Just don't.
There are internet cafes everywhere. Uploading photos may be hard but keeping up a blog is easy.
Look for prepaid phones with in-country data plans.
The good; JB weld eyeglass repair.
The bad; Dachary riding outside her comfort zone. Safety is the only thing that matters. So what if you run out of money? So what if you don't make it all the way to the tip on your first try? Success is coming home safe.
The unknown; Mexico is a very wealthy and organized country compared to some of the places you are going to see!
Remember I am just an ignorant gringo. YMMV, as well it should.
Life is cheap and toilet paper is expensive.
"A strange unintelligible yearning drove them out into the desert." TE Lawrence
Ranchworld screwed with this post 12-19-2010 at 12:32 AM
|12-19-2010, 12:52 PM||#131|
Joined: Dec 2009
Location: Austin, Tx.
Hope you'll re-read it.
"You don't take photos for yourself, you take them for the old man you will become - if you are lucky." - Falang
"As long as there's a horizon and I can see it, then I want to know what's there, mentally, physically and visually" - rtwpaul
|12-19-2010, 03:45 PM||#132|
Joined: Sep 2010
Location: Cupertino, CA
Word Lens that you should check out. It won't speak Spanish for you, but it sounds like you could use some help reading signs and such. You should check it out.
You just point it at text and it live translates it in place for you. It's free + $5 for a Spanish-English dictionary.
|12-19-2010, 04:01 PM||#133|
Joined: Nov 2009
Location: Little Rhody
Sounds like wisdom coming from RanchWorld. I used to like to say to my buddy Joe-it's all good,we're on vacation.
Dachary, unlike Kay,this motorcycle stuff is kind of new to you,so feeling comfortable riding your motorcycle in a foreign country has got to be a bit of a "head" challenge,but after meeting you,I'm sure your going to do it-just stay with in "your" comfort/riding level,and remember----your on vacation:) Cheers to the both of you.
|12-20-2010, 08:20 AM||#134|
Joined: Aug 2010
Location: Southern California
I have a feeling this is exactly why most ADV riders head down Baja CA and ferry over to the mainland rather than traverse the Eastern side of the country.
Big Trip to Washington, Vancouver Island and British Columbia
So Cal Day Trips
2012 Suzuki DL1000 V Strom
2007 Suzuki GS500f - Don't underestimate (and don't take it in loose rocks!)
2004 Suzuki LS650 "Savage" - Either stolen or ran away from home.
|12-20-2010, 09:43 AM||#135|
Joined: Nov 2008
Location: Washington DC
You are completely right about the speeds being way too slow, its very frustrating. Straight, pristine road with a 60kph sucks! I treated the speed signs as if they were in MpH and fared well.
The novelty of driving through Mexico never wears off I think. Everyday there is something new and bizarre!
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