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Old 06-20-2012, 05:05 PM   #1
ManChild OP
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The Blur: San Francisco to Costa Rica? Then a U-turn home. 10,000 miles, mas o menos

San Francisco, CA to somewhere in Central America. Mexico, Guatemala...a U-turn in Honduras? Nicaragua? El Salvador? Costa Rica? 10,000 miles, mas o menos. 3-4 weeks. Solo. When it is time to turn around and boomerang the long-and-different route back home, it will be time. There is no specific destination, just the blur of a long travel ahead.

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent upon arriving." - Lao Tzu

2000 Miles to “Buen Viaje”



“Senior Kelly. It seems we have a problem”, said the permitting agent at the Nogales, Mexico border station.

Enthusiasm and Possibility clattered like loose pesos at my feet at those words. I kept my “Happy-to-be-here-without-any-troubles!" face and my "There’s-no-problem-we-can’t-fix” attitude on through the next exchange. “This is a 1200cc BMW motorcycle you have here, si?”
“Si.”
“But we have a record in our system for a permit for a 650cc BMW motorcycle from last year.”
“Oh yes. No problem. That was the motorcycle I permitted last year while here in Mexico for a month. This year I brought my 2005, and left the 2001 at home. Thank you for clarifying. Not a problem.”
“Ohhh…But it IS a problem! We can only issue one permit at a time, and the old permit must be cancelled first.”
“I understand. What must I do in order to satisfy the requirements now? What is the best way to solve it and make the problem go away? Is there a permit fee?...A fine?...”
“Hmmmm….There is nothing I can do without the other motorcycle. Perhaps the Aduana.” He pointed to the head officials office a dozen empty lines and one vacant building down. And thus the next step of the labyrinth of paperwork.

The Aduana complex was virtually empty. No tourists. Nobody but the skeleton staff of clerks waiting for somebody to want to cross the border. But who? Odd and eerie. Either this was a highly efficient operation that got everybody through quickly, or no one was following protocol for getting vehicle permits to drive within the country, or no tourists were coming into Mexico.

21 kilometers earlier, I stopped at the border crossing. Picked up immigration papers. Paid bank fees. Got clearance to pay more fees for my permit so the bank could stamp my paperwork and then the immigration officer could do the same. All good to go. No wait. No hassle. Relatively cheap. “As you leave town, 21km South, is the permit office.” The friendly immigration official said simply, without directions, as if he were stating a basic fact like, “There is a green cottonwood down the road.”

That’s what brought me here to this empty parking lot of this customs office (Aduana), empty-lined outpost 21km south of the border station. No one telling me I had to stop or forcing me over. All seemingly volunteer. I could-a blown right by….should-a blown right by…

The head of the Aduana, a young cosmopolitan looking female with blond highlighted streaks cascading over chic rhinestone-studded glasses, grudgingly pushed open her window to allow me to speak with her. First she had to put her friend on cell phone hold (the pink cellphone indicated it wasn’t for work purposes). I explained the situation to her and she simply and dispassionately offered, “You must bring your other motorcycle here to cancel the first permit before a new one can be issued.” Her attitude made it clear that I was getting in the way of her phone conversation and forcing her to rack up valuable cell minutes with her friend on hold.
“I filed the proper paperwork to get into the country in Mexicali. I checked out at the border with the guards, in Nogales when I exited. They inspected my documents and searched everything. I was told of no other needs at the time.”
She looked at me blankly as if I were a stain on the wall.
“Surely there is something that we can do to take care of this situation now,” I offered.
She tried to dismiss me by staring into her well-manicured pink fingernails.
Calmly and steadily I said, “The other motorcycle is at home…over 1000 miles away.”…”Almost 2000 kilometers away!” I converted for her for support. “Each way!” I added for exclamation.
“You still own the other motorcycle?”
“Yes.”
“Then you must bring it here.” She said. Clearly she didn’t have the same appreciation for distance and units that I did. “That is almost 4000 kilometers round trip,” I calmly tried to reinforce the point. “How can I take care of the paperwork needs here and now?”
Nada.
“If I no longer owned the motorcycle? Could not bring it here?”
“Then you would need to send paperwork to Mexico City for approval…But that would take a very long time – a month or more.” She again inspected her pink fingernails.
“That is 2000 kilometers!” I repeated steadily and calmly again.

What I really wanted to do was SCREAM a long list of hardships: “Look Senora, last year I came through here at midnight. I was gone a month. I broke my foot 10 days and 2000 miles before, under a boat ramp. 70km from the Border, I had to tear my bike apart to fix an electrical problem with a headlamp, under the fluorescent glow of an all-night pharmacy that apparently had such valuable cold medicine they covered all their windows in thick steel bars. The ‘helpful’ local that offered to escort me through two darkened alleys to an ‘all-night’ auto parts store, sent me into internal sweats. The first border crossing was ‘Closed’. I was escorted to here by a kind young soldier who never said anything about ‘canceling vehicle permits’. The officials who stopped and searched me and my motorcycle and checked all paperwork never said anything about CANCELLING VEHICLE PERMITS! And if someone in your role can’t help someone like me solve a problem so I can revisit your beautiful country of wonderful people, your parking lot will remain EMPTY. Your lines here will remain EMPTY. And soon your office will NO LONGER BE NEEDED. Your co-workers and YOU will NO LONGER BE NEEDED.”

But I knew my pathetic whimpering would get lost in translation and would serve no purpose. So I simply and calmly exclaimed again, “That is 2000 kilometers...Each way!”

I stood there for a bit longer, if for no other reason than to ensure that her patient on-hold friend was burning more of her pink-phone cell minutes. And then I quietly walked out of the still-empty Aduana complex. I wheeled my motorcycle out of the vacant lot, gave quick thought to continuing the southern journey by simply turning right and South. But I knew that if I were stopped in the next 2,400 miles down the length of Mexico, and/or once I tried to cross the Guatemalan border, I was not stacking the odds in my favor.

I knew it was time to do what most red-blooded adventure lovers would do: I rode home. 1,011 miles. Almost 2,000 kilometers.

Which is also what brings me back here. Almost 24 hours to the minute after arriving at home, I left again. I prep’d my 2001 BMW (the partner in my apparent crime from last year ) for an 8,000-10,000 mile solo journey through Central America. In those 24 hours at home, I dressed her up for a long adventure: 2 new tires; New chain, sprocket and cog; Brakes bled; Fresh oil; Fluids topped; Cables checked; Electrical checked; GPS wire harness transferred; Adorned with new mirrors; Bathed and loaded with transferred gear from the other BMW.

96 hours and 2022 miles after meeting with Pinky at the Nogales Aduana, I’ve crossed the Border...Again! Greeted with a pleasured surprise, a smile, and my first name, the male clerk exclaimed, “D-a-v-i-d, you are back!” And it all went smoothly. I'm back on track for the next 8000+ miles through Central America.
What of Pinky? On exit I waved and said “Adios!” Not a word left her lips, she looked blankly at me and then off to the South. I’m sure what she was really wanted to do was wish me “BUEN VIAJE!”

ManChild screwed with this post 07-02-2012 at 05:45 PM Reason: clarity for posting
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Old 06-20-2012, 06:19 PM   #2
Slowphil
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Ah well, remember the old saying, ROUGH START MEANS A GOOD RIDE. Well it sounds good anyway even if I did make it up. Good luck and have a great ride.

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Old 06-22-2012, 04:38 PM   #3
ManChild OP
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Thank you Slowphil for the encouraging words. The option of "staying home" would have been a much rougher one. :-)

And so the journey continues:

The beckoning mountains that fringe the Sonora-Chihuahua States carry some of the longest, windiest, emptiest, funnest roads in the world.


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Old 06-22-2012, 04:54 PM   #4
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A CHECKPOINT of 'BEAUTY' and Aventura



“China…It is beautiful, Si?” This was a surprising question coming from a military commander at an ad hoc roadside checkpoint in the remote mountain region of Chihuahua, Mexico. He looked every bit the part: thick-chested, straight-waisted, with massive forearms emerging from camouflage sleeves. My passport looked extra-deep United States-blue in his browned chorizo-shaped fingers.
I was unsure how to sum up my reaction to the scope and scale of China in a single response, but “Si. Muy bonito!” made sense for the moment.
I had passed the first tests of questions and a gear search: “Where are you from?”; “Where are you going?”; “Business or pleasure?”; “No weapons?”; “No drugs?” Then the commander led me into an unexpected arena of a two-language conversation that went from rough to semi-smooth.
“New Zealand…Many times you go there!” He stated with soft surprise.
“Si. Fourteen...fifteen times...catorce, mas o menos.”
“I have also heard it is very beautiful. I should go there,” he volunteered as he continued to leaf through my passport.
“Si.” I nodded to both parts.
“You have been many places!?”, he half-stated and half-questioned as he continued leafing through my passport.
“Si. There are many beautiful places to see in the world.”
“And my country Mexico?”
“Of course. Muy magnifica! That is why I come back…retorno..umm...volver...uhh, vuelvo?...yo vuelvo! Es mui bonita y grande. And much ancient history…y la historia antigua mucho,” I struggled as I surpassed my abilities with Spanish.
“Now you go to Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua…para la vacaciones?...Solo? Why?
“Si, vacation...vacaciones. Perhaps Costa Rica…es posible. I have heard of the beauty of those countries, and the people. But I have not been before – only Belize y El Salvador. I go for the…la aventura.
“Ahhh…you go for the adventure!” he confirmed.
“Si. I go…solo…solitario…because I am curious…porque soy curiosa. Sometimes, curiosity cannot wait for a partner.” I imagined I saw him wistfully agree, confirmed by his hovering response.
“Ahhh…Siiii!...’Aventura de la Curiosidad’!”
Out of a white gap-toothed smile - and clearly out of line – one of the other three hereto-silent soldiers standing behind the commander clucked, “Aventura de los L-o-c-o-s!” Two of the three soldiers giggled like school boys - briefly. The commander sharply cocked his free hand into a silencing gesture. He crisply extended his other hand and gently released its chorizo’d grip on my passport.
“Buen Viaje! You must enjoy your Aventura de la Curiosidad!”
How could I refuse an order like that. 5 minutes from Stop to Go. Vroom-vroom. Zoom-zoom.

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Old 06-22-2012, 05:15 PM   #5
Animo
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Definitely in
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Old 06-22-2012, 05:18 PM   #6
ManChild OP
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Priceless


small emery board – 2 pesos
mini Bic lighter – 10 pesos
toothbrush – 27 pesos
2-part Aluminum Epoxy Putty – 66 pesos
Successful roadside repair on a punctured radiator and exit from a Chihuahua “Hot Spot” – Priceless!



It may look like bubble gum, but it most certainly is nothing to chew on.

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Old 06-22-2012, 05:32 PM   #7
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A friendly face in a questionable place



A friendly face along the sinuous Sonoran-Sinaloan mountain road. She "assisted" during one of my mid-day roadside repairs. She and I both knew the shade was the place to be. Her smile helped cool me through the head-scratching frustrations of the ailing bike and my sense of urgency to keep moving...must keep moving...
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Old 06-22-2012, 05:48 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Animo View Post
Definitely in
Gracias Animo! It is an "Aventura" after all.
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Old 06-22-2012, 05:54 PM   #9
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Let me know if you make it around Quintana Roo. In the meantime, great start so far, I can't wait to see the rest of your journey
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Old 06-22-2012, 06:13 PM   #10
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Old 06-22-2012, 06:49 PM   #11
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get in touch if you're passing through Cuernavaca!

Looking good so far! Good luck!
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Old 06-22-2012, 07:34 PM   #12
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La aventura es el destino ... have a great one Manchild

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Old 06-22-2012, 10:18 PM   #13
miguelito
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In! I'm in the States now, but will be back in Mexico around the middle of July. PM me if you come through the San Miguel de Allende area around then or after then. First beer's on me.
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Old 06-23-2012, 04:13 PM   #14
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In! I'm in the States now, but will be back in Mexico around the middle of July. PM me if you come through the San Miguel de Allende area around then or after then. First beer's on me.
Gracias miquelito. We may miss each other, as my calendar says I need to be back in home in mid-July. But, like with maps, calendars only tell partial truths - part of the adventure is to determine which part is "truth", which part is "untruth", and how much we should place our faith in either.

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Old 06-23-2012, 04:15 PM   #15
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La aventura es el destino ... have a great one Manchild

In
Si pizzaboy, you translate the notion perfectly: "la aventura es el destino".
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